Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The Political Situation as it unfolded in 2002

The Middle East had been radically transformed by what Israelis exemplified through their incursion in April 2002 and what they have continued to do since then: imposing their terms of security and development upon the Palestinians people and this without heeding world opinion.

The impact of Israel’s defiance and the Palestinian-Arabic non-committal response to the quest for peace upon world affairs and international relationships has been as great as the events linked to 11th of September, but not really understood world wide as of yet.

The issue of terrorism tends to obliterate more this issue while immediate military retaliation measures may obscure the objectives of Israel seeking a secure existence in the region, but behind all these overt actions there is a failure to come to terms with the complexity of the situation.

It appears as if for want of a political sophistication in handling important issues faced by the region, all actions aim but to cover up real failures. That is why the ‘cycle of violence’ feeds on a wish not to make any real analysis, while upholding a fruitless blaming game because then no one has to take any responsibilities for all the failures to be counted in people killed, wounded and maimed for life.

If Israelis do not realize soon this failure, then they will have to face as a result of their continued defiance of the world many more questions than what can be anticipated right now.

Even if many Israeli tend to think like their current government with Sharon as Prime Minister, it is impossible to defy the world opinion and to continue acting singularly in such a militarily equally fanatic way (justifying ‘brutal force’). They have to realize that to foster the belief the military option is the best way to safeguard their own life, is but inviting many more problems, including violent retaliations from the side of the Palestinians. As the saying goes, if you chase a rabbit into a corner with no possibility of escape, even such a frightened animal will bite back.

If it but underlines the reason for more violence due to a continual neglect of the questions the Palestinians ask and even threatens them more than ever before, how would be peace conceivable in the Middle East under such harsh circumstances? It is not only Israelis that feel threatened, but the Palestinians are themselves threatened in their daily existence and this not merely recently but ever since the state of Israel was imposed upon the region.

Yet life cannot be divided and nothing can be imposed upon people. Free life allowed to unfold is sacred whether based on Judaism, Islamic or Christian beliefs. As one Christian visiting Bethlehem April 15th and upon seeing all the destruction, but also how uncompromising both sides are, stated, ‘these conflicts are not new; as a matter of fact one of the holiest, if not the holiest place in the world has seen over and again battles’. These battles have been referred to already in the bible.

In view of that, one needs to ask anew what breaks first the ground: the plough or the sword?

Headlines in May 2002

Steven Erlanger, “Likud vote not critical for Sharon – bar to Palestine state called a party matter”, for the New York Times, reprinted by International Herald Tribune, May 14, 2002

Joel Greenberg, “Damage from Israeli offensive put at $361 million”, International Herald Tribune, May 16, 2002

Michael R. Gordan,  “Israel needs to retain role in occupied areas, official says”, International Herald Tribune, May 17, 2002

Associated Press, “Arafat calls for vote within six months”, International Herald Tribune, May 17, 2002

Thomas L. Friedman, “This war is only about a border”, International Herald Tribune, May 17, 2002

Editorial comment by New York Times, “Palestinian Reform”, International Herald Tribune, May 18 – 19, 2002

Associated Press, “Suicide bomber kills 2 in mall near Tel Aviv – 3 weeks after leaving, Israeli forces are back in Bethlehem with dragnet”, International Herald Tribune, May 28, 2002

Some of the key high lights:

- From siege to exile

After the siege in Bethlehem was lifted, it was still for a long time unclear what Europe shall do with the 11 Palestinian militants that were flown out to Cyprus; the question was only resolved May 23, 2002 after the EU foreign minister had agreed on a common procedure e.g. they are not allowed to travel and shall not be granted political asylum. The agreement included stipulations to which EU member states they shall be distributed.

- Another suicide attack but restraint by Israel

After one suicide bombing attack at the beginning of May the Israeli army does not enter the Gaza strip; it is said international pressure, in particular by the Americans but also by the Europeans, plus the experiences in Jenin where unexpected resistance was met, explain the cautious move to wait until further developments indicate what can stop these bombings by other than overt military measures.

- Night raids: aimed assassinations by Israel’s special forces

One of these other measures is the use of night raids or focused operations with the purpose to assassinate militant leaders charged with either planning or assisting in attacking Israel. This means aimed assassination as method of counter attacking potential Palestinians planning something are being continued. These Israeli operation units are justified by Israel because the threat of suicide bombing attacks has not receded despite five weeks of lull.

- From Suicide bombing to other kinds of attacks

Still another suicide bombing mission ended in killing 3 Israelis and wounding 20 outside Tel Aviv May 22, 2002.

After that it became known that luckily a huge explosion was avoided due to a truck carrying not highly explosive gasoline but crude oil exploded near a gas refinery. It became known that officials had tried to remove without success the depot for years now with the argument of being a safety hazard but to no avail. The explosion was triggered by a mobile phone being used as remote control to trigger off the bomb. It may indicate other forms of attacks to come. Also people feared such an escalation.

- An issue forgotten

The issue of settlements has come and gone in terms of news headlines or as made into an issue by President Bush. More refined arguments point out that even if the land is given back, this will not defuse the violence Palestinians threaten to use against Israelis.

- Economic damage assessment

Damage assessment on both side continues e.g. tourism for Israel way down from 200 000 visitors to 60 000 with restaurants, hotels etc. suffering the consequences so that the overall growth rate is down from + 6% to – 1,5%, while the world bank has made some first analysis of damages created in the Palestinian area where perhaps up to 60% of the population is affected in terms of jobs and income resources altering the political landscape with Hamas organization getting increasing popular support (up to 25%)

- reform of Palestinian Authority and the next free elections

Apparently the key debate is about reform of the Palestinian Authority due increased international pressure. It was first made a condition by Sharon for negotiation (in addition to his no violence precondition). There is now a sharing of diplomatic efforts with the Arabic nations under the lead of Saudi Arabia and Egypt willing to influence the voices of Palestinians with the main question being what is possible independent from Arafat and his style of leadership. This ambivalence is reflected in what role the Palestinian National Liberation Front should play in near future. At the same time, there are being raised questions whether or not the Americans can deliver their side, that is exert such pressure upon Sharon that the Arabic nations do not feel their efforts are in vain. There is real fear in terms of their own population and what is after all the stature of Arafat amongst the people of the Middle East. Constant evaluation is going on as to which policy ought to be adopted to deal with the after effects of the Israel’s incursion into the Palestinian territories and what new measures are allowed to gain still further control over the ground.

- rights of the Palestinian people

It is an open question as to what are the rights of the Palestinian people facing more controls, checkpoints and limitations to their movements than ever before. Added to that question has to be the matter of moral justification or what is under such tighter circumstances ‘legitimate resistance’ against Israeli forces, especially if not yet a state, but on the road of a nation state project as favored especially by America?

Israeli – Palestinian relationships

As a matter of fact human, social and political relationships between Israelis and Palestinians have deteriorated further since the end of the incursion. By this is meant a sharpening of the border while UN resolutions are not observed or completely ignored, in order to create more facts on the ground. The defiance of the world can be seen out of a Palestinian perspective as Israel having the support of the House of Congress in America and, therefore, conceivable such support as to be able to undertake such actions. Precisely because Israel has also per say no written or unwritten constitution due to the blockage by the religious groups present in the Knesset, there is justified fear that fundamentalist position linked to the five books of Moses and a rigorous military strategy of further occupation hidden under the general slogan of ‘the Right to defend ourselves’ will leave peace prospects aside due to one-sided or ‘unilateral’ actions and claims. (See, for example, the article by Marwan Bishara, “Israel’s pass laws will wreck peace hopes”, International Herald Tribune, May 22, 2002).

Altogether the points of contention in March have become after April 2002 new sources of frictions and conflicts. It is said also that the Palestinians are beginning to question the Second Intifada since it has brought more pain and set-backs than gains even if those may be just ‘symbolic’ ones.

Irrespective of the damages to the Palestinian and also the Israeli economy, the army and the government of Israel pose now stricter terms and preconditions as to what Israel considers to be safe borders with its neighbors and what it expects of the Palestinian Authority.

Monitoring the relationship

1)      What were checkpoints leading to humiliation of Palestinians in March, have become absolute borders shutting equally life out as much as in, thereby ending ‘intercultural dialogues’ about citizens’ rights based on cross-cultural references to ensure a common life between Palestinians and Israelis.

2)      Humanitarian actions are increasingly transformed into alleged sabotage of IDF control. For instance, the army did not let through ambulances with wounded people to be brought to hospitals. The army fears ambulances can be misused to smuggle suicide bombers past control posts. They no longer wish to take any risks.

3)      Neither does the army let through trucks having as a haul generators for hospitals running out of electricity. Distances in such a region are relative: while a flight to Zurich takes but a few hours, a truck may require 8 hours or more to pass just four different control posts. The same goes for people working in one Palestinian town, but living in another. The time loss ends in loss of work, study and contact to relatives, friends, social contacts etc.

4)      All movement are restricted due to curfew. If anyone tries then to go out into the streets, there is the risk to be shot immediately by snipers lying on roofs or else in helicopters hovering above to ensure that the curfew is being observed.

5)      Water, food and medical shortages intensify the pains of the population. Many of them are made homeless while almost every family has someone killed, wounded, arrested or else been confronted by the army’s power to dictate who goes where.

6)      Palestinians do not enjoy the same rights as Israelis.


Failure of UN Commission to inquire into Jenin

Rather than contributing towards thwarting further tragedies, the fact that this mission did not come about adds only to the ongoing controversies between both sides. Hence further tragedies can happen anytime.

Economic plight

Due to the decline of the economy, there are many more pressing needs to be faced. That comes with more people living at or well below the poverty line. It is said there are many surviving on but $2 a day.

Reform of the Palestinian Authority

Next to stopping all violence has now been put in place the demand for thorough reforms of the Palestinian Authority: a near impossible task given the various power factions in the Middle East, but also the conditions under which the Palestinians have to survive.

End of political dialogue

Hopefully Israelis reflect upon the fact that to be quite alone is not that easy to cope with than what is made to believe out of defiance of the rest of the world. Friendships have been severely tested before but in March they have been foolishly abandoned or lost out of not wishing to listen to critical advise just to support the military response to the suicide bombing attacks. There was no willingness to enter in March any political dialogue about their causes. Some critical intellectuals, even people having suffered personal losses in Auschwitz, tried still even after the incursion had started to challenge state terrorism. They drew attention to the fact that the Palestinian Authority and Arafat were being hit, but not so much the Hamas as if the build-up of one-sided enemy pictures were needed to justify the military actions.

Suicide bombers – threats to security

The real tragedy after the incursion by the Israeli army has not yet been realized. One clear indication is that after the Israeli army has made this massive move to defend the citizens of Israel, the Israeli citizens feel not more but less secure.

If the case, then this means ‘feelings of insecurity’ is not merely connected with suicide bombing missions. Already in March, a more general and definite form of frustration could be noted. People thought they had given everything they could to the Palestinians and still they wanted only to kill Israeli citizens. In response to that ungratefulness after having been nice to them, there has accumulated on the side of Israelis a total denial of the Palestinians as acceptable neighbors.

Still, this cannot explain the entire feeling of unease in Israel. The economy is doing badly as well after having experienced in the nineties a definite boom. More likely is that there is a general, but not well-articulated unease about the directions recent developments are taking.

For instance, the enforced pace of building ever new settlements outdistances the political consensus a very fragmented Israeli society may be able to create if left on its own, that is without any external threat

For after what the Israeli army did in April 2002, Israelis have even less reasons to feel safe. Not only because the incursion has not removed the constant threat of suicide bombers but especially after what the Palestinians went through, there are many more decided to volunteer to hit back.

Report about Assassination threat
An extreme right-wing organization, going by the name of 'Gilad Shalhevet,' threatened Friday to assassinate singer Yaffa Yarkoni, if she performs at Saturday's peace rally at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. The threat was made in a telephone call to the Peace Coalition, which is organizing Saturday's rally. A Peace Coalition activist reported the incident to police, who have begun investigating.”

'Gilad Shalhevet' has claimed responsibility for a series of anti-Arab terror attacks last year, including the shooting attack in which a Palestinian truck driver was killed near Mishor Adumin”.

Yarkoni was interviewed last week on Army Radio, where she was highly critical of the actions of some soldiers during Operation Defensive Shield. Her words created a public outcry, with many people calling for a boycott of the veteran signer.”
”In response to the threat, the Peace Coalition called on ‘the moderate Israeli public not to give in to the extreme right.’"

(Reported by Indymedia 11.5.2002)

Morality of the State of Israel and its army (IDF)

Also by going against their own principles despite warnings out of their own ranks, and clearly the power of the army has been abused, many more Israelis are no longer able to trust many from their own side. This is but one of the negative consequences.

Political mood

It is said that this development has affected also left wing people living on Kibbutz. Since the incursion many have tilted towards the Right but one cannot be sure.

When in May a peace demonstration in Israel gathered 50 000 people on the street to protest against the official policy, the Sueddeutsche (13.5.2002) took note that there is at least some hope.


As the military operation of the Israelis in various forms from full tank incursions to special night raid operations shall continue, the predicted suicide bomb and other forms of counter attacks, responded to by assassination attempts and erecting of still stronger barriers will not abide. Everything shall be done according to well-known but also secret canons of control with Israel trying to impose an ever harder control. That means the key source of the Palestinian readiness to respond violently shall not be removed, but enhanced further. For acts of humiliation will continue not only in various, but sharper degrees. That will leave people speechless but all the more radical in their anger and anguish.

Still, as the problems to cope in strictly existential terms shall appear insurmountable, positive steps towards seeking solutions will be impossible. But even if things prove to be more difficult to be still justified due to an increase in world criticism and such calls as an independent investigation by the United Nations, things are even turned around: now that Israeli soldiers used civilians as shields when combing through room after room, people’s lives are used in a fraudulent way to gain victory over fear.

After the incursion

Again the terms have changed – now Sharon makes negotiations conditional upon the reform of the Palestinian Authority being charged as corrupt, inefficient and undemocratic. By May 18th contradictory declarations by Arafat as to when the next elections shall be held for the Palestinian legislature – within six months or by the beginning of 2003 – is transformed into a new precondition: only once Israeli troops have withdrawn can elections be held. Again the charges fly from the other side, but this a mere pretext.

Questions of state legitimacy

Israeli forces, by destroying makes up a livable and viable community of the Palestinians, continue to uproot entire societies and communities. It is a deliberate attempt to gain control over what is thought to be the source of terrorism. But there is the serious question whether or not that leads to Israel committing ‘state terrorism’.

Such uprooting has taken place many times since 1948 but now the escalation means also a systematic extension of the settlements. Israeli wishes to leave the phase of merely occupying the territory behind and establish its presence forever.

Of interest is that the founding of the Jewish state is no longer questioned by the Israelis, but defined as to what the world needs to understand: nothing more, nothing less.

Still, in their fight with the Palestinians and Arabic nations in a larger sense, Israelis take recourse to the fact that their state is still being threatened by movements like the Hamas who swear allegiance to an ideology aiming not to accept the Jewish state on Muslim soil. There is much doubt in the minds of many Israelis that the Extremists on the Arabic side will ever give up that promise and, therefore, they shall wait until they can drive all Jews of the land and into the sea.

Debate about the Middle East

Quite another debate determines now the course of history in the Middle East. It is really not about giving the Palestinians their own state, but how intolerance and lack of understanding leaves Israelis and Palestinians interlocked while the rest of the world is confounded by not knowing how it should respond. There is a deeper crisis in the making than what had been over centuries the Jewish question.

Responsibilities of those wishing to settle down in the region

Out of that historical viewpoint there follows one crucial question, and that the Israelis need to answer directly, for anyone coming to that region can only claim something, if not adding to violence, but in helping this region to develop out of ashes and endless pain another concept of life, one not linked to religion or to any form of fanaticism. There is the need to show to the rest of the world that the Middle East does not get melancholic, if there is no violence to justify the highly exaggerated and shrill voices of those beating on the souls of people as if war drums.


Things overlooked before April

(Propaganda – Public Diplomacy affecting mentality of people)

As one Jewish artist living in America, but of Mexican origin charges:

you must be naive to think there is no connection with the terror  against the USA and Israel.
Haven't you seen the burnings of both, the USA and Israel's flag in TV.
Haven't you seen demonstrations in front of USA's and Israel's embassy’s
in several countries? Everything comes from the same source!

Remember the boat that was caught not long ago by the Israeli army? What can you say or argue about all those facts!!”

B.G. April 6, 2002

In the age of globalization based upon an Information Society using much more the language of images to unify by simplifying, the ‘war against terrorism’ has become a particular one in Israel. With all the claims that go with it, it is certain that the questions about the CIA having trained ‘freedom fighters’ for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union shall never be answered satisfactorily. There is belief that these ‘trainees’ had after 1989 new reasons to turn against the West. At least, the analysis of terrorism since the 11th of September points in that direction. It may be very well a part of the self controllable war by which someone paid plays the role of a bad guy – a convenient enemy needed to justify going to war in the first place. No solution means perpetuating the war machinery and everything else that goes with it.

Yet if Palestinians are linked with Bin Laden’s organisation, then other dimensions are evoked, as it is always the intention of propaganda to put the other side on the defensive. Israel is allowed to arm itself with the help of not only America, but the matter of ‘legitimate resistance’ on the side of the Palestinians is not pondered upon when this accusation is made.

Exactly the arms shipment has been evoked over and again as proof of the bad intentions of the Palestinians. It is used as a ‘fact’ to argue Arafat and the Palestinian Authority had no honest intention when it comes to honouring any peace agreement.

When people mistrust everything, then such facts are used to contradict plain truth. It means precautionary measures are preferred to those that would be build up confidence and trust. There is such an absence of political wisdom. Even once Sharon handed over the proof showing allegedly Arafat’s involvement in the financing of terrorism, American officials were reluctant to accept it.

Then there are the suicide bombing missions, but that they are an integral part of the ‘cycle of violence’ that official Israelis but equally the ‘foot soldiers’ do not wish to see. That is the case because neither side wishes to give in, to show remorse or some human weakness like mourning without wishing to take revenge.

Ways of fighting terrorism

The simple question of a doctor trying to treat a Palestinian wounded, but hindered by an Israeli soldier, is the question of any normal person infuriated by the sign of force and power: ‘but do you think this is the way to fight Terrorism?’

Inflicting still further injustices upon other people, that are really your own people, does not make sense. Also no logic in the fight against Terrorism suffices since the enemy is not known. That leads to a different quality of fear linked to the usual cited fact that even Pizza places or popular cafes are no longer save in Jerusalem or elsewhere in Israel. It indicates that everyday life is no longer normal or simple. That leads to a special anger on the part of Israelis of having their simple wish for enjoyment of life be denied once again. It leads to a particular mental block when peace prospects are offered but not trusted due this gap between simple needs and an overcomplicated situation no longer knowing which conditions would lead to a stable peace, if fulfilled first.

Given then a war situation not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world due to this ‘war against terrorism’, the fear of the unknown unleashes all possible and conceivable forces. Killing is then no longer just an act to make the enemy vanish, but a sign of still more furious efforts to make that invisible enemy to finally show its face.

The fear is all that stronger because such an army coming crushing down upon innocent people is defeated by such an enemy that has the courage not to show its true face. It will entangle itself in a fight that it knows is in vain.

Hence the unwillingness to admit that military measures will not solve the problem of terrorism, the search for political solutions is not taken serious enough to make any progress on the ground. Instead all measures deployed to impose an ever stricter order incite but more violence. This kind of violence shall not be less of the kind feared in the first place as connected with suicide bombers, but will become worse as tactics and strategies alter in defiance of all odds and of life itself.

Obscure object of violence

Everyone supposed to be looking out for him- or herself, but since Bunel had shown already in his film ‘The obscure object of desire’, terror and bombs in crowded places like shopping malls go together with a bourgeoisie having grown indifferent to the fate of those who do not have that income by which idle time and going shopping goes together with an artificial layer of life that allows no longer any extrapolation but the terror itself when seeking not pleasure, but the ‘kill’.

The totalisation of Hatred and Revenge as the global despise of the world people are forced to live in, all that fuels the ‘cycle of violence’.

The unleashing of hatred as an institutional way of channeling fear into aggression was the way Sharon could exploit the situation created by the suicide bombers. Still, the obscure objectives of his campaign underline the lack of political vision and clarity. Thus the measures decided upon to retaliate reinforce the fact that objects of violence become obscure.

It seems as everything is being prepared to let just hatred and violence unload itself as soon any suitable object can be found. For lack of definition, this means above all innocent people are hit. It expresses the representative warfare being taking indirectly to others without challenging really those in power.

All this resorting to fake power (in reality sending someone off on a suicide bombing mission is nothing but cowardice) is an expression of those who feel they are completely powerless, but in their imagination would like to invoke so much power, that they have finally all the say.

Jean Pierre Faye when speaking about the use of ‘totalitarian languages’ making people become so malleable that they start hating themselves for adapting to everything, that is without showing any spine, explains why resorting to violence is already a part of the corruption of the mind. Even worse, in terms of the Israeli mentality, there is the added risk to loose the prerequisite of freedom, namely a clear conscience. As key tenet of all value systems, the free conscience gives, institutionally speaking, to the individual being the ability to stand up to him- or herself while able to resolve conflicts peacefully.

But once that possibility is ruled out, then a suitable object has to be found to unload all the pent up hatred and guilt feelings. As a matter of fact, Arafat has become a kind of personal scapegoat for all failures in the Middle East.

By finding such an obscure object of violence, then all aggressive potential can be deflected away from the Israeli people and the Palestinians blamed for having accepted such an impossible leadership. As such they become the relived horror of the Jews finding themselves throughout history in the role of the scapegoat.

Here then is the complete reversal of a historical role: no longer victims or oppressed, but victimizers within their own state trying to secure its borders, this conversion reminds of what Paulo Freire said in his book about the ‘Education of the Oppressed’: once emancipated they have as a model of behavior to go on only the one internalized from their oppressor. It is most difficult to seek and to define emancipation as meaning to go beyond that what had been projected upon all over the years and centuries as a desirable alternative to one’s own life in the present.

Consequently it was of interest that Israelis expressed at the end of March and therefore at the beginning of the army’s incursion the wish to have no longer any reservations in what they feel must be done to secure their territory. They no longer wish to show any restraint but act just as bad or extreme as all their previous oppressors have done so. Sharon himself speaks about 4000 years of prosecution that needs to be unloaded off the backs of the Jewish people.

By being finally free to act in a ‘bad’ way, they think whether rightly or wrongly to become finally ‘normal’, that is like all others, including the possibility of being corrupt and willing to use inhuman methods to assert own wishes to live the way one wants to, that is without anyone else able to interfere on how one goes about it to realize such an utopian dream.

Relative morality

In such a situation in which ‘being bad’ is assumed to be needed counterweight to what the world always expects of oneself, this kind of defiance makes everything subject to a relative morality. As if the past counts to explain the actions in the present, it is not seen nor readily accepted that human conduct has always to be rational, just and considerate of the others.

Such social, ethical and political considerations no longer count in situations once they have become completely distorted by the politics of the powerful becoming entangled with the ways the oppressed have to fight back. Here the Palestinians need to emancipate themselves from the kind of slave language that Ernst Bloch speaks about, when referring to the slave talking always in one way when facing the master and quite differently when behind his back. Ernst Bloch draws attention to the fact that within such a slave language a curse can well be a compliment, while vice versa praise can mean really a curse.

All this conjoins with Israel playing the role of the master in the Middle East and marked by Israel’s wish that only a certain truth is upheld. This is not merely expressed in the wish to have the existence of the state of Israel be recognized, but upholds a terrible truth out of which is born all the heroics of surviving under impossible conditions. There is a brutal sense in all these lies, but well covered up by all sorts of fashions even though the toughness being demonstrated daily is in itself also no such toughness to be really afraid of. But like all illusions made more powerful due to projections upon them by those who fear to be caught in their own exaggerations, they add to the vindictiveness of the master. Consequently not merely Israelis, but staunch supporters of Israel take special pride if the slave reacts with fear once imprisoned by the fear of the whip. That then seems to the strategy of Sharon, namely to conditioning the minds of Palestinians in such a way that to the suicide bombings they add themselves to an overall sense of self-defeat. By trying to drive out all kinds of resistance, the ‘cycle of violence’ continues to explode every time some move is made to break away from such a pattern of compliance to the logics of violence.

Continued expansion

As one Israeli official was quoted by journalist Michael R. Gordon, “Israel needs to retain a role in the occupied areas” because “with all the setbacks that come along the way, we are going to keep driving forward.” (International Herald Tribune, May 17, 2002). But then this would mean confessing to a kind of imperial military role in the region driving forward as Jewish settlements continue to expand in the ‘occupied territories’.

What lies ahead - Silence

All this crushing of peace prospects provokes but silence. Too weak have become the searches for alternatives as to be considered still realistic. Nothing pays more to go in that direction. As a honest prosecutor from Los Angeles would say in an action film, ‘only the bad guys earn money, the good ones stay poor’.

Asymmetrical relationships

So on how to realize peace prospects, if these asymmetrical enemies are unable to come to any sort of agreement in time? That leaves the policy of Ariel Sharon to be but a simple negation of peace, since it becomes ‘necessary to send more tanks into the city, if the few send already were unable to destroy all the houses’. The tank as a symbol of non-agreement because inapproachable leaves someone like Herbert Riehl-Heyse searching in the rubble for some left over notes of optimism. Yet the ‘radically new forms needed for finding peace’, he speaks about, have not yet come into existence. (see Herbert Riehl-Heyse, “Die vielen Fratzen eines Monsters” – ‘The many faces of a monster’ – in Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 20./21. April 2002)

Crucial distinctions

By trying to describe the sequence of events leading to further incursions with tanks, it serves the purpose of keeping alive the memories not merely as to what has happened, but more so what measures apply when it comes to judging the course of future events. For everyone the crucial distinctions will be whether still alive in a war that wants terrorists preferably dead rather than alive.

Tasks ahead

Given all the evidence of non-agreements having lead to violence, retaliation and counter violence, the difficult tasks ahead are how to restore some common sense based on trust and confidence. It goes without saying that equally a friendly attitude counts despite a world teaching its children if not to hate, then not to trust strangers. Growing up in a world filled by people who still know something about love in relationship to honesty seems then to be all the more difficult. For much of that seems to have been lost in the course of these and other events. Yet Greek poets in Ancient Greece would say anyone trying to undertake something positive should be judged out of the realization that to bring about a ‘just society’ is no easy task, and, therefore, it is time to take measure for the tasks ahead.

Distortions of human measures

Measures or ‘metron’ in Greek meant then as now human measures which have been distorted not merely by use of technology, but the type of organization that goes with it. Adorno and Horkheimer in their interpretation of the Myth of Odyssey point out that the modern division of labor began when pleasure and work were divided and only Odyssey could hear the beautiful song of the sirens, but not follow their treacherous path since bounded to the mast. His sailors, the workers had to row on and not obey their master, so as not to be tempted by anything but a kind of obedience to disobedience. Thus they followed instructions not to follow specific ones once in the situation of peril.

Toughness as hostile normality

David E. Sanger, reporting for the New York Times from Berlin during Bush’s first day visit to Germany, quotes the President with following words:

Even though we’ve had some initial successes, there’s still danger for countries which embrace freedom, countries such as ours, or Germany, France, Russia or Italy. As an alliance, we must continue to fight against global terror. We’ve got to be tough.”

(David E. Sanger, “’Got to be tough’ on terror. Bush says, starting tour”, International Herald Tribune, May 23, 2002)

Underneath the formal layer of justification, there is a cult of toughness. It seems to be compatible with wishes for peace as much as with the desire to experience life as an adventure. It is a sort of crazy mixture of escapism from boredom and a world no longer appearing all that hostile with its air conditioned cars, bars and luxurious entertainment forms everywhere.

In such a setting any action becomes by virtue of imitation and suggestive images displayed in the media and television a sort of power play with the notion that no other life is desirable but a tough life. In it killing becomes as easy as kissing the girlfriend goodbye before heading off to another mission.

If it were not for the seriousness of the situation, such tautology could well be the fulfillment of an advertisement campaign based on not trusting anybody but your own self. This need for toughness justifies then the demand for complete security when doing what one likes the most. As a note of innocence is then added that this may involve just a simple pleasure such as eating a pizza or drinking coffee in one of your favorite shops.

It is a demand not wishing to reflect or to discuss what goes with the demand to return to such level of innocence, namely the shutting out of the entire reality that goes with such a life style and form of existence. Most telling are the strict separations and rules in need to be observed, for in a bar no one talks about business since that is not professional.

Toughness is matched, therefore, by the ability to draw the line between private pleasure and business. No one, but no one ought to disturb the pleasure seeking adventure as everything should be done to mind your own business or else just do everything asked for to enhance one’s own business. Easy equations of expectations are then linked to how codes of behavior are defined. Anyone upsetting these rules looses first of all the myth of being tough and secondly the privilege of being one of us.

Obviously here come other things to mind such as the settlers’ aim to shut out of millions of other people to make their dreamt life in all innocence possible. How angry they become when reality puts limits to those dreams, says something about the nature of violence in such a biotope.

Human scale of things

Consequently things within such societies are perceived as if something natural and normal, when in fact these actions and assertive forms of behavior are way outside any human scale of things. Here also the Israeli society begs to differ insofar as it claims that their charity organizations work for the benefit for the poor or excluded, while politically this can be perceived as an outcome of ‘compassionate Conservativism’ aiming to educate the poor into being eternally grateful if they receive some donation. Such organizations are needed in Israel in order to counter criticism by immigrant Jews who after having arrived from Hungary, experience themselves as third class citizens in Israel. Their denial of equality and a life in dignity forces many to return to Europe. But they have that possibility, not the Palestinians.

Fitness programs transformed into survival hunts in the wilderness may become dangerous pastimes the moment there is a demand to test that in real life conditions. Often the demand for religious tolerance is combined with exploiting such freedom to the extreme. As a matter of fact they exploit one contradiction to the fullest when religious based fanatics demand tolerance although they base their drive on not tolerating anything that does not agree with their convictions.

To understand how these more hidden layers make possible Right Wing ideologies to take a hold of people’s minds, some further analysis is needed of what is generally described as a way to justify things.

By 2002 the new Right Wing phenomenon experienced not only in Israel, but elsewhere in America and Europe is more wide spread than usually presumed. It is made up of people who appear to revolt against this constant need to justify themselves. They appear to be tired of having to explain over and again something they believe is self understood.

They do not realize that what philosophy would call setting a value premise, is in terms of toughness of life and survival a justification to be not only that way but why there is no longer needed any extra effort to understand the other. The viewpoints of the other are not so important as the possibility of putting own views into practice and to be praised for that. Lost in that drive is the initial meaning of ‘justification’.

Human reality is constituted through the realization that there are certain things man cannot do because it is impossible to justify these specific actions. One of the most basic tenets is that no man shall kill another human being nor him- or herself. It is called the sacredness of life. Going against it can never be justified.

Unfortunately out of this sacredness there has been made in history and in politics quite often a coercive principle. This coercion can go so far until the oppressed has but one possibility to defend him- or herself, namely by risking or even taking directly the personal life as less important compared to the cause that may restore eventually freedom or dignity to the people.

Consequently by taking one’s life, it is sought to free oneself from the power seeking to do anything with oneself and to which is given in to the point of self-hatred just for the sake of staying alive. Out of that develop numerous justifications why it is worthwhile not only to die for a worthwhile cause, but also to go even a step further by trying to take as many other lives with oneself to death, in order to exploit to the extreme the internalized self-hatred for not knowing any other solution but to give in always to the oppressor. How that logic works in the mind needs to be understood in terms of the justifications given when someone is prepared to go beyond that sacred line and against his or her personal responsibility to do everything to uphold life.

Obviously in the Middle East the turning point has been reached a long time ago amongst the Palestinian people. For instance, the suicide attacks in March 2002 aimed to demonstrate the helplessness of Israeli power despite having the superior capacity to kill and to suppress any opposition to its claim over the land. Israel’s state is being justified by now not only out of the founding years of independence since 1947-48, but linked by now to religious interpretations of the land being the birthplace of the Jewish people and this in particular relates to the spirit of justifications given for the increase in settlements in the occupied territories since 1967.

In the case of the ‘foot soldier’ there is a difference between murder by a terrorist and a soldier shooting a terrorist in self-defense. By making it appear that the latter is justified as a natural right of self defense,

Justification is firstly a way to establish accountability. In German philosophy, it is implied that for every action there is a need to give a reason. Before it can be expected that this action is both acceptable and understandable, that reason must be grasped.

Since the failure of Enlightenment, and in particular after the analysis by Adorno and Horkheimer, it was clear after 1945 that even once Fascism was defeated, it would not mean that xenophobic forces would cease to create ‘avalanches of stupidity’.

Recognition of reason and acting according to reason are, therefore, not at all self understanding prerequisites for politics now as it was not then, and particular not after 1933 in Europe. Especially if people start believing everything is working against them and instead of justice they experience more and more injustices. They claim that politics has no objective interests in mind. Instead politics represents and initiates merely still greater tendencies towards still more injustices. This inflicts upon people loss of jobs, promotion, freedom of expression, and responsiveness to tasks ahead. In short, they feel all this negativity is being demonstrated daily by especially a political elite having gone corrupt. The negative headlines in the news but add to a general impression of a world having gone from bad to worse.

Once that conviction takes a hold, then ‘justification’ of one’s action is no longer an inter-subjective reason for doing something, but simply a demand and point of view claiming to be to the point when put into practice without consultation of the other.

Although filled with impatience, it is not the same as playing out actions against words, practice against theory. Rather it is a wish to put as said just a moment ago ‘views into practice’ without wishing to be confronted by opposing forces. The term applied to this at international level of foreign policy is ‘unilateralism’, something that the United States of America seems to be practicing increasingly more so since Bush was elected to become president.

At the other scale of counter measures are warnings of immanent terrorist attacks that Thomas L. Friedman describes as equally terrorizing the public not to be normal, that is an ‘open society’. By that he means, “if we’re going to maintain an open society, all we can do is take all reasonable precautions and then suck it up and learn to live with a higher level of risk. That is our fate, so let’s not drive ourselves crazy. Remember it’s supposed to be Al Qaeda that’s running scared, not us.

(Thomas L. Friedman, “The warning binge does more harm than good”, International Herald Tribune, May 23, 2002)

The problem is as criticism grows as to what the US administration knew prior to the 11th of September, these warnings seem to serve equally a purpose of distracting the critics or silencing them out of civic duty to stand together due to an immanent danger. That then is the crucial question Friedman asks: “what are we Americans supposed to do with this information?” He means these warnings announced by Cheney and others without saying when, how and where these attacks may occur.

In his assessment Friedman is quite realistic when stressing the factor ‘fate’ for “the nature of this war against small groups and individuals bent on terrorism is that you can never win it definitely. It will be with us forever.”

Thinking through solutions

Always it is the responsibility of those not faced by the immediate threat of violence, poverty, natural catastrophe, political injustice etc. to seek for solutions by thinking through possible actions that might take everyone out of that situation.

The world has known such cases as after martial law was declared in Poland, that humanitarian aid meant also not to leave the Polish people alone and stranded in a situation of food shortage, new work and police suppression with many of the intellectual leaders arrested.

As the world has come to know, there are as many cases of outside interventions as it is impossible to find a solution if the people themselves do not contribute. After Kosovo and Afghanistan, but not forgetting Northern Ireland and Cyprus, the world should attempt diplomatic solutions and a clear way of supporting both sides provided they do not resort to violence to settle old and more recent disputes.

The Palestinian question

Now that the state of Israel exists, there is the Palestinian question linked to the Middle East being really a biotope of violence.

Back to the headlines

Monday, 17. June 2002

Survival today

Avraham Sela writes in the Sueddeutsche, how Palestinians are now facing the difficulties of survival: in despair while weakened politically and economically. He sees a need to overcome inner conflicts while going through their worst crisis since 1967.

The longer duration

In the same German newspaper there can be found a report about a Warszawa building constructed after the design by Frank Gehry. It is a Jewish Museum. The aim is not to leave behind the general image of Poland being but a single cemetery. Instead the initiators of such a museum want to relate much more to the history of Poland. The narration of this tragic history should be done in a modern media way. Frank Gehry, known for his constructive design (e.g. Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao ) to focus on unusual places with a combination of tight and open lines, will want the design of that museum to fall into a form adjusting to the image needed to unearth the forgotten Jews in Poland. It would mean also reconciliation between Catholics and Jews.

White House drift

In its editorial, published by the International Herald Tribune, the Washington Post refers to Bush as having promised the American people an ‘adult’ administration (in obvious contrast to the Clinton administration), but this is to be taken as senior officials being able to disagree and to debate in the open prior to decisions taken by the executive. Instead differences are not heard because many of them are left out of the picture, while the public appearance of ‘ragged’ whole sales efforts of policy matters seems not to come to terms with the deeper and much more worrying issue, namely that “the lack of coherence seems to go deeper” than assumed until now.

The Washington Post emphatically states “the resulting gap between rhetoric and reality is an embarrassment to the United States, as on too many foreign policy issues: when President George W. Bush issues an ultimatum to the Israeli prime minister (meaning Sharon defiance to pull back immediately Israeli troops) and then lets it slide, for example; …But that threat raises the stakes for government: A mistake can be unimaginably costly; a success is measured in lives saved. In such an environment, mature governance requires more than staying on message and preserving secrecy. It takes decisive leadership.”


Anti-Palestinian fence is popular in Israel

John Kifner reports from Kfrar Salem, West Bank in the International Herald Tribune, Monday, June 17, how construction of a fence to keep out suicide bombers is proceeding. Already that fence / wall is a measure of fear on the part of the Israelis that they cannot stem the tide of suicide bombers around. Hence “the fence is a physical manifestation of the concept – increasingly popular among the Israelis – of ‘unilateral separation’; Israel, many believe, must simply break off all contact with the Palestinians.”

While everyone knows that ‘fences don’t work’, there is a sense of the land being divided up to isolate people.

Sharon rejects idea for ‘interim state’

As ever new preconditions seem to delay everything – peace initiative linked to a regional conference and a concrete time table for establishing the Palestinian state – it does not come unexpected when the John Kifner reports for the International Herald Tribune that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has rejected over the weekend the idea of a provisional Palestinian state. Given the expectation of what President Bush wishes to announce as his Middle East peace plan, all indications are that the closer it comes to such an announcement, the murkier the idea gets.

Even the Palestinians reject the idea. The Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Maher supports such a stance. He considers this proposal to be not at all understandable and bears the risk of letting such an interim state exist one day while vanishing the next.

At the same time, rifts in the Israeli cabinet indicate that the construction of the fence is not without controversy; this time the Rightest members of Sharon’s coalition object.

While Israel remains in jitters about potentially more suicide bombers planning their attacks, at the bottom of that article painting a dismal picture because Hamas releasing yet another tape of a suicide bomber being even kissed by his mother as if sending him off not to death, but to paradise, there is reference made to Israel acquiring three submarines that can be armed with newly designed cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.


Tuesday June 18, 2002

Suicide bomber blows up near beginning of Israeli fence

John Kifner reports from Jerusalem:

“a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up Monday in the West Bank area where Israel is building a new security fence. Israeli officials warned that more bombers were on the way.

Both Jewish settlers and Palestinians – mortal enemies – object to the plan to build the elaborate 360-Kilometer fence of ditches, barricades, walls, censors, patrol roads and other obstacles. It will run roughly along the old Green Line marking Israel’s pre-1967 border from the land it conquered from Jordan in the Six-Day-War.”

Yet if a person blows himself up in a fence made out of Nato-like mesh wire, then the kind of ‘unilateralism’ leading to cutting off Israelis from Palestinians will in effect over-alienate everyone from a land known for its strange beauty of dryness and yet fertile potentiality.

Already Arafat describes it as a sign of ‘racism’, that is as a “Fascist apartheid measure”.

Jewish settlers on the other hand denounce the fence as the ‘Great Escape’ by the current government’, implying the risk to abandon settlements in Judea and Samaria.


Wednesday June 19, 2002

By the time the next day begins, the headline screams out the horrible fact:

“Suicide bomb kills 19 on bus in Israel”. Written by James Bennett for the New York Times, and printed in the International Herald Tribune of that day, Sharon is quoted as saying that Israel plans not merely retaliation, but wishes that the Bush administration puts any peace proposal for an interim Palestinian state on hold. He made that demand after having viewed himself personally a row of a dozen black body bags. “What Palestinian state are they talking about?”

Of interest is that some Israeli officials and politicians urged restraint in retaliatory measures, at least for the next 24 hours, so that the news of the suicide bomber’s attack could sink in rather than be off-set by media coverage of Israel’s retaliatory measures – an obvious indication that news coverage does count in this war of have also everyone on your side while having the world condemn the other.

That this restraint is not easy, can be measured on hand of what Michael Kleiner, a far right member of the Israeli Parliament was quoted as saying when demanding a fierce response: “For every jew who is buried as a result of an attack, we must make sure 1000 Palestinains are killed.”

“Israeli officials were comparing the latest suicide bombing to the only one to exceed its death toll in this conflict, an attack in Netanya’s Park Hotel on March 27 that killed 29 people. The bombing Tuesday was the deadliest in Jerusalem since Feb. 25, 1996, when 26 died in a bus explosion.”

The Hamas organization claimed responsibility, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority condemned the act, but Uzi Landau, the minister of public security, held Arafat responsible. In no uncertain terms he stated: “Arafat is of course no different than Bin Laden. The PLO and the Palestinian Authority is equal to the Al Qaeda.”

Hamas identified the bomber as Mohammed al Ghoul, 22, from the Al Faraa refugee camp near Nablus, in the West Bank. He was described as masters student in Islam at that city’s An Najah university.”

All this is to say the situation is becoming tighter for Sharon as well. The incursion by the army in April has not brought about the desired ending of suicide bombing attacks but instead the degree of despair on both sides has risen as the futility of any kind of measure is proven daily by these new attacks.

Motivation of suicide bomber

The suicide bomber identified by Hamas as Mohammed al Ghoul, 22, left a note according to his father saying that he is happy if his body shall soon into an explosive shred mill turned against Israelis.

“His explosive belt was packed with ball bearings, tiny metal marbles that tore through flesh. The explosive charge itself was powerful enough to peel back the top of the bus like a giant can opener and leave it tipped on its side, burned out and blackened. Inside the bus, the bodies of three women, one wearing a blue flowered dress, were still in their seats, but their heads were gone. There were arms and legs, recognizable body parts, strewn around the bus, and a pool of blood on the road under the back door.”

(John Kifner and Joel Greenberg, “He got on fast, he didn’t pay – then he exploded).

Palestinians offer U.S. a peace proposal with concessions

Hardly noticed, but still a point of discussion in this week has been an initiative by Arafat to return all of a sudden to the agreement worked out at Camp David with Barak under the auspices of then President Clinton .

Karen DeYoung reports for the Washington Post tha the Palestinians handed a written outline to President Bush stating a new willingness to make some important concessions in two of the most controversial issues: Jerusalem and the refugee question.

The plan follows the Saudi-Arabia peace plan as decided upon at the summit in Beirut, March 27 by 22 Arabic countries while incorporating elements of the Clinton peace plan.

The response from the Israeli side was again one of disbelief: “no one believes the lovely words coming from the Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat.”

The main elements of the Palestinian document given to Powell include Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 armistice line, with an allowance for minor, reciprocal adjustments and security cooperation arrangements in which ‘international forces will play a central role’. Israel has rejected such plans.

For the first time in a Palestinian proposal, there is no specific demand for a ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel; the proposal calls for ‘a just and agreed solution’ to the problem. Although it reiterates that East Jerusalem would be the capital of a Palestinian state and West Jerusalem the Israeli capital, it says ‘the Palestinian side will transfer sovereignty over the Jewish Quarter and the Wailing Wall sector of the Western Wall in East Jerusalem to Israel’.

Whether or not that concession is taken up, that depends whether or not events are not overshadowed by still further suicide bombing attacks and Israeli Defense Forces starting another retaliation attack.

Thursday 20.June 2002

2nd bomb in 2 days kills 7 in Jerusalem – Attack comes hours after Sharon vows to retaliate by seizing Palestinian land

Mideast: Bomber strikes hours after Israel edict on retaliation is issued

Israel builds up navy to face missile threat from neighbors

Bush to set 3-yer goal for Mideast boundaries

As if predictable, blow after blow to any peace prospect lets the situation escalate with apparently no measure being certain to meet the demand to resolve the situation of continual violence although announced with resolution and determination. As if will against will, determination against determination, there seems to be no end to this determination to let finally everything be sabotaged by another act of violence followed by an outrage and still harsher reprisal measures.

At least seven people plus the bomber were killed and more than 30 were wounded Wednesday in the second suicide blast in Jerusalem in as many days and just hours after the Israeli government announced a new policy to seize and hold chunks of Palestinian land each time Israel suffers a terrorist attack.

In the blast Wednesday, the suicide bomber detonated himself during the evening rush hour near a crowded bus  stop and hitchkiking spot in northern Jerusalem. The bomb went off as a border policeman rushed to intercept a man who stepped out of a car and dashed toward the milling commuters.”

Despite security guards and surveillance cameras on the spot, the attack could not be prevented. As if events in March are but repeated, but this time more desparation and less nerves to stomach still further violence brings things into a stage of a cliff-hanger or presumable end-game like moves.

The measure announced by the Israeli government strikes the Palestinians not so much as an effective deterrent but appears in their eyes just another kind of rationalization as to what the Israelis are doing any way to their land.

In the meantime, as events explode, Bush has decided to postpone his speech and what kind of 3-year goal for the Mideast he would like to announce. The dilemma is obvious: while Sharon and the Israeli’s wish to avoid any definite time commitment, the Arab leaders and the Palestinian people need something concrete, including the commitment to tangible results within a definite time limit.


Friday June 21, 2002

As one week unfolds, followed by the next one, a repetition is becoming obvious and so the difficulty to still make out in the subtle nuances were still an understanding counts and were in sheer despair everything is put on the table and nothing at all.

Yet some dissonance is making the cracks become visible.

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports that the pending military operation is disputed in the Israeli cabinet while Arafat’s appeal to the Palestinians to stop all suicide bombing missions was read on the Palestinian radio. He declared specifically that the killing of innocent Civilians, whether Israelis or Palestinians, would but damage the goal of an independent Palestinian state.

Israeli leaders split on taking back land

Again John Kifner reports for the New York Times that while Israeli troops went into the West Bank and rounded up there hundreds of Palestinians, the new policy of seizing land for every new suicide bombing attack was disputed by Ben-Eliezer, Israel’s defense minister and member of the Labor Party in Sharon’s coalition government.

Difficult to follow the army’s movements since journalists were not allowed to enter the zone, the general picture was of tightening security measures once again. Especially no Palestinian workers were allowed into the settlements although they constitute the needed cheap labor force for construction and other menial work.

Such security measures follow events exploding into a series of ”extraordinary violence …as an infiltrator entered the West Bank settlement of Itamar and opened fire. At least four people in the settlement were confirmed dead.”

The fifty-five

The fifty-five Palestinian intellectuals who signed a petition to end all suicide bombing missions were commented upon extensively by Petra Steinberger in the Sueddeutsche. It is important that they made their appeal public in the Palestinian daily Al-Kuds. They state that they believe such attacks do not lead to the freedom and independence of Palestine. Rather it will only deepen the already existing hatred between the two sides. Above all they demand those pulling the strings behind the scene to reflect upon what they are doing and that they should stop abusing the Palestinian Youth.

More Palestinian suicide

In a joint editorial by the New York Times and the Washington Post, as printed by the International Herald Tribune, 21.6.2002, the key comment is that while this appeal is good and fine, ‘it comes too late’.

Such then is the resignation that the daily events overshadow any effort to come to terms with the situation prior to making any proposal for a solution.

Sharon’s nose-dive in August

As indicated by the things that follow March and April, it was already then clear that the military incursion shall fail to resolve any of the critical issues but makes things only worse. By August most of the Israelis who were behind Sharon are no longer supporting his war policy. His previous popularity has taken a nose-dive once it becomes clear to all Israelis despite heavy military and only military measures, their life has not become any more secure.

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