Monday, July 6, 2009

Exporting Utopia (Sasa) and Public Relations for Torture

Kibbutz “Heh” – i.e., the fifth letter in the Hebrew alphabet – was the name given way back in 1943 by the Ha’shomer Ha’tsair (Young Watchman) socialist- Zionist movement in the United States because it was the fifth such group organized for the purpose of emigration, or aliyah, from North America. In 1949, the group eventually established a new settlement in the former Arab village of Sasa whose indigenous residents were forced to flee during the 1948 war.
The youngsters from the US had an exceptionally rough time in the rocky fields of the upper Galilee, close to the Lebanon border. Many left over the years but the U.S. “kernel” or garin received reinforcements over the years from Israeli and European members of the same youth movement. It turned out that the place had potential that enabled it to become over the years the wealthiest kibbutz in Israel.
The kibbutz movement in Israel is presently in the throes of a vicious wave of privatization that has engendered a severe moral, social and economic crisis of serious dimensions. Paradoxically or not, a few of the more prosperous kibbutz settlements, have remained full scale producer-consumer cooperatives and escaped the vicissitudes of a process of long and continued degradation. Be that as it may be, our Sasa is still a kibbutz in every sense. But alas, its role in the long and arduous path of humanity to utopia has become a bit problematic.
Working for the Yankee Dollar
Our kibbutz is still a full scale kibbutz, but you have to make a living some how. Well, with a bit of business savvy, Sasa converted its plastic factory into an industrial plant specializing in the production of technology for the reinforcement of military vehicles. The technical term is “add on armor sytems.” It appears that the company, Plasan Sasa (see Google ) has just what the United States Army needs, technology to minimize the damage when its vehicles are blown up. And so business is booming. Sasa which has found itself unable to create a just society in Israel has decided to help the US forces establish a utopia in Afghanistan. Sales in 2008 reached I.S. 2.8 billion, and that’s a lot of money even in shekels – about 700 million dollars. Seven hundred workers in Israel and another 400 in France and the U.S. are employed. This, in these quarters, passes somehow for success in advancing the cause of “socialism”, though there is a bit of suspicion about the means chosen. The pioneers had other, better dreams when they came to build a commune in Sasa in 1949. It may well be that when they closed their eyes to the fate of the Palestinians who lived in Sasa before them, only to become refugees over the border, they began to develop Sasa’s current case of myopia. (For information on the business success of Sasa, see the The Marker, Economic Supplement Ha’aretz, July 5, 2009)
Public Relations for Torture
The people who talk to the media on behalf of torturers are not usually endowed with a surplus of intelligence. This might explain the distasteful sense of excessive pride evident in their declarations to Ha’aretz (July 3, 2009) by Fatah and Palestine Authority spokespeople bragging that they already have “detailed confessions” regarding a recent plot to kill Mahmoud Abbas. A report on the break-up of Hamas cell by Ha’aretz correspondent, Avi Issaarcharof, is based on information received from Fatah spokesman, Fahmi Zarir and a statment by PA Secretary, Taib Abd-Arahim. The two were eager to trumpet the success of the PA security forces in foiling a plot by Hamas conspirators “to assassinate Abbas and sow confusion in the West Bank with the intention of disrupting unity talks between Hamas and the PA held in Cairo.” Conveniently, the Hamas activists were caught with weapons, maps and photos of senior Fatah people including Abbas. Even more conveniently, it is reported that “the Palestinian security forces have detailed confessions.” Desiring to “save” what sounds like a fishy story, Issacharoff comments that “if this is true, it is evidence not only of Hamas’ intention to scuttle reconciliation with Fatah, but also to stage a coup of sorts against the PA.” This probability of a “coup of sorts” is a bit far fetched, so the reporter informs the reader that the culprit is the “Hamas military wing that has an extremist agenda, while the Hamas political leadership …is thought not to have been aware of the plot.” Issacharoff filed the story, but implies that things are a bit more complicated than the information he received from his sources. (Ha’aretz, July 3, 2009, p.A3)

Getting Detailed Confessions
A recent report, dated July 1, 2009 from the Israeli human rights group, B’tselem, shows the way to achieve “detailed confessions” such as those mentioned above:
On 11 June 2009, Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank detained Haitham ‘Amru, 33, a resident of Beit a-Roush al-Fauqa, a village in Hebron District. ‘Amru, who was married with three children and worked as a nurse, belonged to Hamas and was a board member of the Islamic Charitable Society. He was taken to the detention facility of the General Intelligence Service (GSS) in Hebron, and PA officials denied his family’s requests to visit him there. On 14 June, at night, ‘Amru was taken, in critical condition, from the detention facility to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron, and was pronounced dead within a few hours of arrival. His body was taken to the Abu Dis Forensic Institute for an autopsy.
A fieldworker for the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, who saw the corpse before it was buried, reported that there were signs of severe injury all over the body. These signs, clearly evident in photographs obtained by B'Tselem and in a video broadcast on Al-Jazeera, raise concern that ‘Amru died as a result of torture he sustained at the GIS’s interrogation facility.
At first, GIS officials told the media that ‘Amru had jumped from the second floor of a building in an attempt to escape from the detention facility…(
For the record, we have seen reliable reports of parallel criminal acts against human rights by the Hamas authorities in Gaza. This kind of behaviour, whosoever the perpetrator, is not only a violation of the International Declaration of Human Rights, it is a crime against the Palestinian people and its unity.