“The nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains”

by James M. Wall

Yitzhar Laor, writing in Ha’aretz, says the Israeli people are eager to know many things. But the one thing they do not want to know is that for 43 years they have oppressed another people.

They prefer to live in denial. To the vast majority of Israelis the “territories are far away. The Palestinians live far away,”

This is an hallucination, of course, an hallucination that can be attributed to the walls, the separation roads, the army and the TV news.

The settlers live among us. There are photographs of them, their homes are photographed. They are in the army. They are the army.

But the separation between those who are very close, who have the right to vote, weapons, rights and state financial support, and those who live at the same physical distance but must be left far away, on the other side of the walls, the fences, the roadblocks – this separation is made with the aid of the refusal to know. The denial.

Human rights organizations are persecuted – simple as that – exactly in the name of the refusal to know. “It is forbidden to know” means that it is forbidden for our consciousness to move freely among the facts, the scenes, the voices, the options.

All these were supposed to comprise the awareness of the Israeli who lives five minutes from these unimaginable things – 43 years of military dictatorship over another people.

After 43 years of practice on the “others”, Israel is extending the tactics of  occupation to include its own citizens, starting with the Arab Israeli population.

There are still folks out there who don’t know it, but the state of Israel, according to the latest figures from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), includes 1.54 million Arab citizens, who comprise 20.4% of Israel’s total population.

In its annual report, the CBS reports that Israel has a population of 7.59 million, of whom 5.72 million are Jewish; 1.54 million Arab; and 313,000 from neither category.

These figures do not include those Palestinian Arabs who have no Israeli citizenship, and who live in the Occupied Territories or in refugee campus in surrounding Arab states.

There is considerable evidence that Israel is currently stepping up its campaign to harass, intimidate and possibly force the departure, of as many of its troublesome 1.54 million Arab citizens from the self-described Jewish state as it possible can.

The Electronic Intifada‘s Ben White describes a series of confirming incidents.

White starts with news of  the arrest of a prominent Palestinian Israeli citizen, an arrest that was initially a “secret”.

Last Thursday [May 6], in the early hours of the morning, a Palestinian community leader’s home was raided by Israeli security forces. In front of his family, the wanted man was hauled off to detention without access to a lawyer, while his home and offices were ransacked and property confiscated.

While this sounds like an all-too typical occurrence in West Bank villages such as Bilin and Beit Ummar, in fact, the target in question this time was Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and head of the internationally-renowned nongovernmental organization network Ittijah.

After being snatched last week, Makhoul’s detention was subject to a court-enforced gagging order, preventing the Israeli media from even reporting that it had happened.

This ban was finally lifted yesterday, as Israeli newspapers were being forced to report on angry protests by Palestinians in Israel without explaining the specific provocation.

Another Palestinian citizen of Israel, Balad party activist Omar Said, had also been arrested, and interrogated by the Shin Bet since the end of April.

Now, both Makhoul and Said are to be charged with espionage and “contact with a foreign agent” — namely, Hezballah. . . .

The gagging order recalls the Anat Kam case, where for several months it was forbidden to report that the former [Jewish Israeli] soldier was under house arrest and being investigated by the Shin Bet for “leaking classified military information.”

The facts about Kam were first circulated by bloggers and campaigners, something repeated in Makhoul’s case (including the Facebook group [created by Richard Silverstein] “Free Ameer Makhoul and Omar Said”.

The arrests and detentions of Said and Makhoul are part of a larger development, including night raids, interrogations and random arrests of Israeli Arabic citizens.  Ben White gives more details:

Makhoul had been prevented from leaving the country in April, according to an order by the interior minister.

Days later, a West Bank Palestinian nonviolent resistance organizer, Iyad Burnat, was also banned from traveling at the Jordan crossing, en route to, among other things, a conference on the Geneva conventions.

Several examples now point to an uncomfortable reality for the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East”: practices that have long been routine in the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are being used in Israel to suppress dissent and limit civil liberties.

The green line is increasingly blurry.

There are the Sheikh Jarrah protests, where marches and rallies against the eviction of Palestinians from their homes have been targeted by the police, including the arrest of an organizer at his home — only for him to be released without charge and no evidence presented.

Then there is the trend towards repressive legislation, with the so-called nakba law making its way through the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, that will ban state funding for any group that marks the expulsions of Palestinians in 1948.

Two weeks ago, a new bill was proposed by more than a dozen cross-party members of Knesset (MK), which would outlaw any organization “if there is a reasonable basis to conclude that the organization is providing information to foreign bodies or is involved in lawsuits abroad against senior officials in the government in Israel and/or officers in the Israeli army regarding war crimes.”

Adalah, one of the groups specifically targeted, stated: “Only a state that commits prohibited acts would be interested in such legislation.”

Details accumulate that Israel’s rightward political march has corrupted the moral soul of a nation which has turned centuries of suffering by its own people into a rationale for inflicting major suffering on others.

Richard Silverstein, who has followed the Said-Makhoul story from the start, published on his site, Tikun Olam, excerpts from Israeli Judge Einat Ron’s May 10th decision, when she partially lifted the gag order.

Silverstein refers to Judge Ron as Israel’s Shin Bet judge, suggesting that when the Secret Service agency wants a gag order placed or lifted, they know where to go for quick action.

She has denied that outside pressure influenced the lifting of the gag, but Silverstein notes that the Judge “clearly confirms that the exposure of the gag order here [in Tikun Olam], in Facebook, and other websites” have rendered the gag obsolete.

Further, by lifting the gag only partially and in a very limited way, Judge Ron has kept signficant details to herself and to Shin Bet.

Details, for example, like the answer to the question, who, specifically, was the “Lebanese individual”, alleged to “belong” to Hezbollah with whom Makhoul and Said were supposed to have met. That information and other details remain under the seal of the gag order.

Moshe Yaroni, writing in Forward’s Zeek, an American “Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture”, is very conscious of the danger Israel faces.

Yaroni wrote before the gag order was lifted on Makhoul and Said, but alerted to what was going on by bloggers, he reminds his readers that BDS is a major irritant to Israel’s leaders:

No doubt, Makhoul is a figure the Israeli government would love to keep quiet. He has been an outspoken critic of Israel, and he supports the international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the state.

A year ago, he was interrogated by the Shin Bet for a day, and released, but he has never, as far as I can determine, been convicted of any crime or been demonstrated to have ties to any sort of terrorism.

This would, then, seem to be a case where the state is obliged to publicly disclose the reason and nature of this arrest. At this point, and lacking any information from the Israeli government, it seems very much like Makhoul is being detained and severely harassed for exercising his right, under Israel’s Basic Laws, to free speech and political expression.

Makhoul is one man, and perhaps we will learn something in the coming days that offers some sort of explanation for what looks right now depressingly like KGB tactics.

But the trend in Israel is moving toward a very frightening future; a future where most Jews will no longer be able to support Israel.

Yitzhar Laor, in his Ha’aretz column, tells a story of the principal of a Tel Aviv school who wanted to take his teachers on a field trip to see the roadblocks that stifle movement within the Occupied Territories.  The teachers reacted angrily, and demanded that he be called for a hearing.

Laor concludes:

The few prophesies of Karl Marx that came true included one that he wrote about in a short article in 1870:

“The nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains,” he said.

There is no better historic moment to demonstrate this prophesy than the moment we are now living.

The picture above of a Palestinian woman watching an excavator at work is by Anne Paq of Active Stills

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
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5 Responses to “The nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains”

  1. Larry George says:

    Great work, Jim! Not only is Israel applying its well-“practiced” totalitarian tactics now against its own citizens, as you so clearly point out. It is also , via Lieberman, Feinstein, Schumer, exporting them effectively to the US. The logic connecting this with your 2 previous postings (re Lieberman and Schumer) is chilling.

  2. Harris Fawell says:

    Jim: We appreciate your good works in telling the full story about Israel’s misdeeds. Indeed, the nation that oppresses another nation forges its own chains. How can it be otherwise? Hopefully, Obama is fully aware of all that is happenng in Israel.

  3. Patricia Pynchon says:

    still have time to read your articles and voicing my opinion to my representatives. This contains good detail.

  4. Rich Littleton says:

    Jim Wall’s reference to the Israeli Arabs who have less than full rights inside of Israel is very relevant. One of the best possible clarifications of this fact is a book by Susan Nathan, “The Other Side of Israel.” Ms. Nathan is a Jewish woman who migrated to Israel and saw the apartheid reality of the government, and even of the society. She moved to an Arab city (Tamra) and wrote about her experience, about the current laws that openly discriminate against the Arabs, about the history of how this developed inside Israel, and about the fundamentally discriminatory land control in that state.

    The fact that Ms. Nathan’s book focuses on the Israeli Arabs inside Israel is important, because it completely nullifies the excuse of security as a false justification for Israeli discrimination. Thus it shows the apartheid in clear, raw form in law and culture, openly and subtley clearly revealing with narration and well-documeted specific laws and events that show the horrible reality. Well written and easy reading.

    Rich Littleton
    Seattle, Washington

  5. Bill Gepford says:

    Jim as usual, you are right on target. I recently attended a meeting of authors and attornies concerned about peace between Israel and Palestinians. The concensus of the meeting was that the vast majority of Americans just don’t know the details of this conflict from beginning to the present. Also with us was the author Alan Hart who has just finished his excellent three-volume fully documented story starting from 1948. I highly recommend it. “The forging of the chains” is clearly depicted.

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