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The Israeli Terror

I was in Olympia, Washington driving towards Evergreen State College
when I got a phone call from someone in the occupied West Bank of
Palestine.
The Israeli Terror

I was in Olympia, Washington driving towards Evergreen State College
when I got a phone call from someone in the occupied West Bank of
Palestine. An Evergreen graduate named Rachel Corrie had been killed
a few days before by an Israeli soldier in an armored bulldozer, and
someone with an Australian accent on my cell phone named Tom was
wondering whether it was OK for the International Solidarity Movement
to use the lyrics to a song I had just written about the incident on
their website. Rachel's murder was followed quickly by the murder of
a British ISM activist named Tom Hurndall.

And now, almost six years to the day after the murder of Rachel
Corrie, my friend and comrade Tristan Anderson has been critically
injured by the IDF. He joins ISM activist Brian Avery, who was also
shot in the face. Brian survived, seriously disfigured but otherwise
intact. Tristan lies in a coma in a hospital near Tel Aviv and may or
may not be as lucky as Brian. His brain was exposed by the tear gas
canister fired at close range at his face, and as I write, large
parts of his frontal lobe have had to be removed by the surgeons.

Rachel, Tom, Brian and Tristan join the ranks of the thousands of
Palestinians and Lebanese civilians killed and the tens of thousands
maimed by the IDF since 2000 alone. Being privileged foreigners (at
least before they were killed or maimed), they did not have the
opportunity to join the ranks of the millions of Palestinians and
Lebanese who have been driven into desperate poverty, malnourishment
and homelessness by the Israeli invasion and occupation of their
lands.

There are many other contemporary and historical examples of
genocidal regimes. A few of them  contemporary Turkey, Indonesia or,
chiefly among them, the United States  lay claim to the notion that
they are democratic countries. Others, such as Saddam's Iraq,
apartheid South Africa, and Nazi Germany also made such claims, but
nobody believed them. It's challenging to make comparisons between
them, at least in terms of trying to figure out which one should
deserve the title of Most Genocidal Regime. There are issues of
scale, longevity and historical circumstances that make such
judgements difficult. Other types of comparisons, though, are not
only easy to make, but seem as unavoidable as the elephant in the
living room.

It probably didn't help that as the Israeli military was laying siege
to the Gaza Strip two months ago I was on a tour of Australia, free
from my responsibilities as a father and thus with more free time
than I ever have when I'm home these days. I did then what I normally
do in my free time  read. The book I happened to be reading at the
time was one I had been meaning to read for decades, which I had just
picked up at a book store during a visit to Canada  William Shirer's
1,200-page tome, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. As Israel's
massive armored divisions and ultra-modern Air Force was laying waste
to an already-occupied walled ghetto filled with nearly starving
refugees armed with nothing more than rocks and the occasional small
arms, mostly home-made, I was reading about the siege of the Warsaw
Ghetto.

The comparisons are not exact. At the height of what was then widely
known as the Nazi Terror, in Auschwitz the SS killed thousands of
Jews and Russians every day. No such gas chambers exist or have ever
existed in Israel. But for those of you reading this who have not
already decided that I am a self-loathing Jew or some kind of
anti-Semite, I would like to share with you some of the streams of
consciousness that were passing through my head as I was attending
protests in Australia against the bombing of Gaza, in between the
unavoidable visits to the ubiquitous Australian war memorials and the
next chapter of Shirer's history of Nazi Germany.

There I was, bearing witness to the siege of a walled ghetto already
under occupation. There have been many sieges of cities over the
centuries, but sieges of already-occupied walled ghettoes are far
fewer, and for any student of history the similarities are obvious,
the comparisons inevitable.

When I first visited Israel in 1999 I was struck by what a nation of
trauma survivors it was. I was reminded immediately of my first visit
to Ireland some years before, where the great famine that wiped out
half the population over a century before seemed like it had happened
perhaps a generation ago. In Israel the Nazi Holocaust seemed to have
happened yesterday, and in the mindset of many Israelis it seemed as
if it were carried out by Palestinians rather than Germans. I
encountered anti-Arab racism daily in Israel. When I sang songs about
the horrors of the sanctions against Iraq (around a half million Iraqi
children dead as a direct result at that point according to UNICEF) I
was told by middle-class, middle-aged Israeli folk music fans that
killing Iraqi children was OK because they were just going to grow up
to become terrorists anyway. I was told that the Arab mindset was
hopelessly backwards and that They just wanted to drive us into the
sea. (I even heard Israeli Jews refer to Latin numerals when it
was clear from the context that they meant Arabic numerals  a
Freudian slip I'm sure.)

Most of the Israeli Jews I met seemed confident of the historical
persecution of Jews in the Middle East. Actual history bears no
resemblance to their version of it, but this did not get in the way
of their fantasies. It was in Europe where the Catholic Church and
the Nazi movement carried out pogroms and built death camps, not in
the Muslim world, but these Jews identified culturally with their
European inquisitors, not with their historical Muslim and Christian
friends with whom their Arab and Persian Jewish brethren had lived in
peace for thousands of years.

And now after decades of the so-called peace process Israel's new
Foreign Minister openly advocates for the ethnic cleansing of Israel,
for the driving out of the million or so Palestinians living within
Israel's 1948 borders. In this nation of survivors of the Nazi
Terror, race laws reign supreme. There is one set of laws for Jews,
and another set of laws for everyone else. As in Nazi Germany,
everyone else is then divided into groups with relative privileges
in comparison with each other (for example, Israeli Arabs vs. West
Bank Palestinians vs. those condemned to live in Gaza, the world's
largest open-air prison and the most densely-populated place on
Earth).

Like the Zionists, the Nazis also came to power on the backs of
trauma and claims of victimhood. For decades, history has been
written by the victors, so it is hard to imagine how well Hitler was
able to sell the case to the German people (and to many others around
the world) that Germany was a nation oppressed by their neighbors as
well as by the enemy within, the Jews.

Millions of Germans had been slaughtered -- along with millions of
Russians, French, Brits, Australians, etc. -- in the War to End All
Wars (WWI). German Jews were disproportionately of a leftwing
persuasion, and many of the leaders of the social democrats who
signed the Treaty of Versailles were, in fact, Jewish. Thus the Jews
could be blamed for Germany's defeat (never mind the Kaiser's
imperial ambitions) and could also somehow be blamed for the
devastating economic depression that followed it (never mind the fact
that much of the rest of the world was also in the throes of a
similarly devastating depression). The Nazi solution to the Jewish
problem was to create a society based on racial laws that
systematically discriminated against Jews, took away their property,
prevented them from joining the military or doing any number of other
jobs, drove them out of the country or into ghettoes around which the
Nazis built walls, and then ultimately invaded many of the countries
into which the Jewish refugees had fled, laid siege to the ghettoes,
starving and ultimately killing most of the residents.

Fast forward a few years to 1948, to Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm
Emanuel's father and others in the Zionist movement. The propaganda
to try to encourage Jewish emigration to Palestine was that Palestine
was a land without a people for a people without a land, but the
Zionist movement actually on the ground in Palestine knew better. For
them, the Palestinian people were all too real, and were an obstacle,
a problem to be fixed through systematic, brutal ethnic cleansing.
The Zionist movement in Palestine, followed by the State of Israel,
dealt with the Palestinian problem (that is, the problem of the
existence of Palestinians), by creating a society based on racial
laws that systematically discriminated against Palestinians, took
away their property, prevented them from joining the military, drove
them out of the country or into ghettoes around which the Jews built
walls, and then ultimately invaded many of the countries into which
the Palestinian refugees had fled, laying siege to their cities,
ghettoes and refugee camps, starving and killing thousands upon
thousands of the residents, oftentimes in the form of wholesale
slaughter that in some instances rivalled the intensity of the Nazi
genocide.

The Irgun and other groups whom the British administrators of
Palestine referred to as terrorists blew up buses full of Palestinian
civilians, attacked Palestinian towns and cities with naval
bombardment, laid siege to towns with tanks and automatic weapons on
three sides in order to force the residents to flee. This is how the
Zionist movement formed their state, this was the Israeli war of
independence.

The Zionists who were flooding into Palestine and quickly changing
the demographics of Palestinian society claimed they were being
persecuted. There were many isolated incidents that could be called
persecution, and many more incidents of Zionist settlers in pre-1948
Palestine persecuting the residents with whom they were sharing a
country. By the same token, the Nazis made mostly baseless claims
that German-speaking citizens of Poland and Czechoslovakia were being
persecuted  the Germans were being persecuted and had to defend
themselves by invading their neighbors. By the time the Nazis invaded
and occupied France, and Britain finally decided to make good on its
treaty obligations and fight fascism, the Nazis could  quite rightly
 claim that they had been attacked by Britain. The Germans were the
victims of Britain was the Nazi line.

Fast forward again to 1948. The Arab countries neighboring Palestine
belatedly sent in a force to defend their fellow Arabs from the
Zionists  a force that was numerically and militarily no match for
the Zionist army and was quickly defeated. But in the annals of
Zionist propaganda this was not Arabs coming to the defense of their
brethren who were being slaughtered and driven from their land, it
was an unprovoked attack, like the British assault on poor Germany.
Like the Germans surrounded by hostile neighbors bent on keeping the
Germans down, the Arabs wanted to wipe Israel off the map.

One of Hitler's favorite methods of managing, at least in the
Nazi-run press, of appearing to be the voice of reason in the face of
his war-mongering European neighbors was to make a pretense of
peace negotiations which were generally last-minute ultimatums that
could be accepted or not without any actual negotiating at all. For
example, Czechoslovakia (and its ostensible allies, Britain and
France) was told it could give up the Sudetenland and other Czech
territories and thus avert destruction at the hands of the German
military. It actually acquiesced to all German demands (with the
encouragement of Britain and France) and was annexed by Germany
anyway, on the grounds that the Czechs were being unreasonable, that
Czechs were terrorizing ethnic Germans within its borders, etc.

Similarly, the Israeli government regularly asserts that if countries
like Syria and Lebanon and political movements like Hamas would only
recognize Israel's right to exist then there could be peace. The
Arab states are consistently portrayed by Israel as the unreasonable
parties, and any efforts on the parts of Arab countries to obey the
will of the majority of their people and stand up to Israel's daily
theft of Palestinian land and slaughter of Palestinian people is
portrayed by Israeli leaders as proof that they want to wipe Israel
off the map. Yet when the Israeli government is asked the very
simple question, where are your borders, no answer is forthcoming.
Like Nazi Germany, the neighboring countries are expected to
acquiesce to all Israeli demands or be portrayed as the aggressors.
But how can any reasonable country be expected to recognize a nation
that will not itself recognize its own borders? What is Israel, and
where does it end and its neighbors' lands begin? Also, on what
grounds should Israel be recognized, when it is daily involved in
violating all sorts of international laws, daily involved in theft
and murder, daily involved with the subjugation of the Palestinian
people, and refuses to give back land it took by force of arms from
Lebanon and Syria?

Resistance to Nazi tyranny within Germany or in occupied countries
was dealt with through incredible brutality. Entire families of
dissidents would routinely be sent to concentration camps and often
killed. If an occupation soldier was killed, collective punishment
was the modus operandi of the Nazi regime. Oftentimes a hundred
people in a village would be killed in retribution for the murder of
one German soldier.

Similarly, whereas the families of partisans would be sent to the
camps, the houses of the families of resistance fighters from the
West Bank and Gaza are routinely destroyed. An attack on Israeli
territory is routinely responded to (even when the attack itself was
generally a response) with massively disproportionate collective
punishment, including attacks by helicopter gunships on
densely-populated areas where multiple families are killed in order
to take out one Hamas or other political leader. Border closures
resulting in loss of employment for hundreds of thousands are another
routine Israeli response to any resistance to their occupation.
Thousands of children and adults are routinely arrested and held
indefinitely in Israeli prisons without ever being charged (in courts
that are themselves illegitimate anyway). As in Nazi-occupied Europe,
no Palestinian man or boy can ever be confident that he will not be
dragged out of bed on any given night, taken from his home and
arrested.

We are told by the Israeli government not to pay attention to the
numbers, that proportionality doesn't matter. There often seems to be
a clear effort on the part of the IDF and its political leaders to
kill a hundred Palestinians for every Israeli killed, as was the case
in the most recent Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. If
proportionality is irrelevant and morality has no numerical measure,
then presumably it would be morally justifiable from the Israeli
government perspective if a hundred Israelis were killed for every
Palestinian the IDF shoots, but if such a thing were to happen we
could be sure to hear from the Israelis all about Palestinian
monstrousness, no doubt. This, however, is extremely unlikely ever to
happen, since there is no Palestinian military, no Palestinian tanks,
no Palestinian Air Force, etc. It's jet fighters versus home-made
bombs and ineffective rocklets that rarely hit any target.

The Nazis became famous for, among other things, developing methods
of torture that make the Spanish Inquisition look humane. Israel has
also excelled at developing new ways to cause horrible physical and
emotional suffering to human beings. During the most recent Israeli
war against Lebanon, among the many buildings demolished from the
air was the old Khiam Prison in southern Lebanon. When I visited
Lebanon in 2005 I toured the Khiam Prison, which was in an area
abandoned by the Israelis in 2000 after years of fighting between the
IDF, their Lebanese collaborators, and Hezbollah. In Khiam Prison one
could see where the US military got its ideas for torturing Iraqis at
Abu Ghraib. There were specially-designed boxes just big enough for a
man to kneel, far too small to stand up or lie down, in which men
would be held for weeks at a time and subjected day and night to loud
music, regularly taken out of their boxes to be beaten.

We are told by the Israelis that the massive civilian death toll
among Palestinians is unavoidable, since Palestinian terrorists
hide among the civilian population when they carry out their attacks
on occupation soldiers. We are also told that the Palestinians are
targeting civilians in the (now almost nonexistent) suicide attacks
inside Israel. It's an interesting form of two-faced logic, since the
main form of transportation used by Israeli soldiers are public buses.
This is abundantly obvious to anyone who takes a public bus in Israel.
In this highly militarized society where most men and women over the
age of eighteen are either active-duty soldiers or reservists, you
can hardly find a public bus that is not transporting at least one
uniformed soldier with a machine gun hanging off of his shoulder.

It's also an interesting form of dual logic, since the ghetto
fighters of Warsaw so justifiably revered by Israeli society were
fighting entirely from civilian areas, since they were themselves
civilians, fighting from and for their homes, armed with home-made or
occasionally smuggled weapons, just like the Palestinian fighters
today.

The Nazis found collaborators within the Jews of Warsaw, who became
their Jewish Police, or Judenrat. Prior to the Warsaw Ghetto
Uprising, it was the Judenrat who arrested or rounded up Jews wanted
by the Nazis, and brought them to the border of the ghetto, to be
safely (for the Nazis) handed over, and generally sent to their
deaths. Taking a page from this history, the Oslo peace process
involved a dividing up of Palestinian territory into areas A, B and
C. Area A is the downtown, or the area within the ghetto walls that
now surround so many of the bombed-out shells that were once thriving
Palestinian towns and cities. Area A is the part that Israelis have
generously allowed to be policed by Fatah, which has increasingly
become, in the eyes of many Palestinians, Israeli collaborators.
Israel regularly invades Area A parts of the West Bank whenever it
wants to, but otherwise it tries to get the Fatah police to do their
policing for them.

Hamas, which refuses to go along with the program, is then painted as
a terrorist group that simply must be wiped out, because they doggedly
refuse to be collaborators. Like the Jewish Fighting Organization (the
ZOB was their Polish acronym) in Warsaw, Hamas does not deal gently
with collaborators or with the Israeli occupation forces. Facing
impossible, overwhelming odds and essentially certain death, Hamas
does what they can to mount some kind of a resistance to the Israeli
Terror. ZOB fighters referred to themselves as the walking dead.
Like the ZOB and other valiant resistance groups throughout the
history of every continent, Hamas also embraces martyrdom. Embracing
martyrdom is often painted by Israelis and others as some kind of
peculiar trait of Islamic fundamentalists, which is ridiculous and
completely ahistorical, as well as an insult to the memory of the
very ghetto fighters in Warsaw who helped inspire the Zionist state
in the first place.

Hitler loved to portray his Aryan soldiers as icons of morality and
good behavior, which of course was nonsense. Like the IDF, the German
soldiers fought very well and bravely, especially from the inside of
a tank. And like the IDF, who are also widely viewed within Israel as
the world's most moral army, the German soldiers consistently engaged
in acts of sadism against civilians throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.
And like the IDF, they were almost never punished for such acts.

Reminders of the sadism that permeates the Israeli military are never
far away, and are often described most eloquently by former occupation
soldiers who turned against their commanders in the Knesset.
(Thankfully, there are many such soldiers. Unfortunately, there
aren't nearly enough of them to make a difference.) The tendency of
IDF soldiers to shoot children in the head with live ammunition is
well-known and well-documented.

I vividly recall the outrage of many of my Jewish Israeli fans when
Ariel Sharon visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque, along with hundreds of
soldiers, prompting some stone-throwing from local Palestinian
youths, to which the soldiers responded with live ammunition, killing
many, leading to the Al-Aqsa Intifada and thousands more deaths,
overwhelmingly of Palestinian children.

My fans weren't outraged at Sharon, however, they were outraged at me
for writing my first of a series of songs about the Israeli
occupation, Children of Jerusalem. What many people took particular
offense to was the line about the general (Sharon) grinning. They told
me this couldn't be accurate, because IDF soldiers carried out their
duties with a grim sense of necessity, never enjoying the killing of
the kids who were always shot because they were in the way of the
ubiquitous Palestinian gunmen who were always firing first, at the
poor defenseless tanks which for some reason were in the middle of
their cities. For my outrageous accusations they called me a fascist
and all sorts of other things.

But unfortunately they're wrong. The soldiers often are grinning.
Like the smirking soldier who was standing in the ambulance that was
trying to transport Tristan Anderson to the hospital just a few days
ago, refusing to move to allow the medics to close the door. Tristan
was only one of a multitude of victims of the Israeli Terror, and
this sadistic soldier was only one of many other sadistic Israeli
soldiers obeying the whims of a government run by sadistic, racist
men and women.

Israel bears many of the hallmarks of a fascist regime. What's more,
it is, like Nazi Germany, a very popular regime among its people.
Like Nazi Germany, it is justly reviled by people around the world,
but actively supported by so many of its people. Like Nazi Germany,
governments and corporations around the world prefer to profit from
trading with it rather than standing up to it and isolating it. Like
Nazi Germany, it is dependent on the outside world for food, fuel and
other basic necessities of life.

Unlike Nazi Germany, Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons.
Unlike Nazi Germany, Israel is not going to be defeated militarily.
But it can be defeated if the people of the world  especially in the
US -- pressure their governments to recognize Israel for the
aggressive, racist state that it fundamentally is and has been since
1948, cut off the aid and impose trade sanctions of the sort that
were imposed on South Africa under apartheid. The beginning of the
process of isolating this small country from the world community that
allows it to prosper is to educate people about the true nature of
Zionism.

The Middle East has been and must be shared by Muslims, Christians
and Jews as it was since long before the Zionist armies expelled
700,000 Palestinians from their lands in 1948. Nothing, including the
Nazi Holocaust, justifies what has been done and, most importantly,
continues to be done to the Palestinians. The time is long since past
to call the Jewish state out for the fundamentally racist regime that
it is. In the name of the ghetto fighters of Warsaw, let us strive to
see a world where no one needs to die with a stone in their hand
trying to defend a starved, walled ghetto against an army of tanks
and planes, where people like Tristan don't need to have their brains
blown out for trying to prevent a wall from being built around yet
another ghetto.

David Rovics is a singer/songwriter, father, and occasional essayist
based in Portland, Oregon. His website is  http://www.davidrovics.com

homepage: homepage: http://www.davidrovics.com