Jews against Zionism

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Heaps upon Heaps

Jenny Diski

Lion’s Honey: The Myth of Samson by David Grossman [ Buy from the London Review Bookshop ] · Canongate, 155 pp, £12.99

Look at Chapters 13 to 16 of the Book of Judges, and what do you see there? Is it Samson the hero, Samson the lummox, or Samson the poster boy for gang moronics, for self-destructive, incommensurate revenge? According to David Grossman, all Jewish children when they first hear the story learn to call him Samson the Hero. He is wrong about this, but then my Jewish childhood was not in Hebrew or in Israel. I recall the Samson story mainly as an early introduction to the power of three. ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson,’ Delilah says three times (just as, probably in the same Ladybird series, God called Samuel from his sleep three times before Eli the priest realised Who was on the line). The Samson story fitted comfortably into the familiar format of traditional tales and myth I was reading then (and I suppose too that it readied me for the present-day storytelling of ‘education, education, education’ and suchlike sorry political rhetoric). A grown-up reading of Samson a few years ago (the same King James Version that is offered at the beginning of Grossman’s translated essay) left me initially bewildered and remembering a large, blandly handsome boy of very little brain at school who, when I was 11, was my first boyfriend for about three weeks before he dropped me, and I experienced my first guilty relief at escaping the boredom between the trial-and-error French kisses, even as I smarted at the insult and missed having a hunk for my own to flash at my far more glamorous sisters-in-prepuberty.

Samson: the very occasionally touching knucklehead who hasn’t the faintest idea what he is doing or why, and has all the muscles of Superman and all the insight of a brick. You could imagine him doing what he’s told in an army patrol, or hanging out at a loose end on a street corner with some equally dim-witted friends, except that Samson doesn’t seem to have any friends. He has parents, he has a wife for a while, he has relations with prostitutes and he has a girlfriend who finally does for him, but almost invariably he acts and walks alone. Well, it’s not surprising: he hasn’t had a haircut since birth and he’s given to acts of viciousness generally out of all proportion to any insult done to him. On the strength of an early one-man massacre he judged Israel for twenty years, which is surprising until you remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger is governor of California. Samson, though, on second thoughts, is more psychopath than gangbanger or lovable dolt. One thing I wouldn’t call him, then or now, is hero.

The thing about the Bible, though, particularly the Hebrew Bible, is that it provides a surface story into which the reader can dive and come up with all manner of interpretations. There can’t be very many books in the world with which a reader can have such fun. Like a playground with all the right equipment but not too much of it, it offers the imagination as much scope as it can use for speculation. Jump in anywhere and read the empty spaces, the unspoken, the roaring silences, repetitions and patterns with as much care as the words (especially in a good modern translation that is true to the laconic language of the original), and you’ve got a narrative wonderland at your disposal. The old rabbis understood well enough about the gaiety of conjecture. Ambiguities throughout the Torah caused and permitted them to speculate and then to argue with previous (and even forthcoming) speculations, building an enchanting dialogue of maybes and what ifs. Worried about the problem of fish when God decided to destroy all life by flooding the world? The rain that fell for forty days and forty nights was hot and the fish in the sea were boiled to death, one commentary argues. Oh no, says Rabbi Yaakov Culi in the 18th century: ‘The only creatures that survived the flood were the fish. The Torah informs us that “everything on dry land died,” specifically to exclude the fish, which did not die. The fish survived even though the water of the flood was boiling hot. They were able to escape to the depths of the sea, where the water remained cool.’ This is the delight of poetry and riddle, which reading at its best – coupled with writing at its best – produces. And the Bible, of all writings, even for those of us who can only read it in translations, provides unlimited possibilities for close, quirky readings that lurk in the crevices of the language.

What I find very hard to see in the Pentateuch is any suggestion of the transcendental. After a couple of beginnings of the world where geography and biology are set in motion, and the bad behaviour of Adam and Eve, Genesis describes life starting over with Noah, who is a disappointment, and then once again with Abraham, in the search for an individual to stand as founding father for the people called the Hebrews. The God seeking out his people offers only posterity, never an afterlife, just like any secular leader. But then it’s a story told by the Hebrews themselves to account for themselves. A history, you might say, or a myth, if you will – anyway, a story. The Pentateuch is the narrative of the developing nationhood of a small group of people who came from Mesopotamia and settled in the south on the land of other already established nations: Midian, Canaan, Moab, Amon and Philistia.

At the time of Judges, the Hebrews are divided into 12 tribes who live with different amounts of tension between themselves and their neighbours in the land they call Judea. In Judges, the Jews tell themselves why they have not been welcomed with open arms by those who were already there. It was, the biblical narrator explains, not because people object to incomers taking land that is already inhabited, but because the Children of Israel repeatedly sinned against their sponsor, Yahweh, and with each sin the Lord arranged punishment in the form of conquest by the strangers on the Israelites’ borders. Geopolitics will not do for Yahweh’s People: only their own solecisms can account for loss of territory or sovereignty. Once you have a god on your side, nothing can go wrong unless you activate his anger and he strengthens the Philistines against you. Consequently, the Israelis repent and Yahweh has to find a way to expel the outsiders who are oppressing his now forgiven people. In turn Gideon, Jephthah, Ehud, Shamgar and Deborah become the nation’s warrior liberators and then judges. Samson’s turn comes, but he is an anomaly who can’t be said to have chosen to liberate his people by his actions so much as kill a lot of Philistines because they happen to annoy him: ‘Strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.’ God seems to have forgiven the Hebrews again so he obliges Samson and ‘the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.’ An unintended national liberation on Samson’s part; a somewhat casual attitude to life on the part of God.

Some modern commentators, though, write Samson up as a ‘tough Jew’, one who strikes back at his enemies and nails the calumny of Jewish victimhood. When his fellow Judeans, cowering under the yoke of the oppressing Philistines, are prepared with a shrug of apology to give Samson up to them as they demand, he allows himself to be led into the enemy’s midst and smites them good and proper. He lets rip with a handy jawbone. ‘And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.’ But this is only the middle of a long inventory of smitings. First Samson killed 30 men of Ashkelon for their clothes to pay off a bet made with his wedding guests who had wheedled the answer to his riddle out of his Philistine wife. Next, after he went home to his parents to sulk and his wife went off with someone else, he set fire to three hundred foxes tied tail to tail and burned all the growing and stored foodstuff of the Philistines. When they retaliated by burning his wife and her father for bringing the disaster on them, Samson in response ‘smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter’ and then, in a brief spasm of wisdom, went to live up on a hillside out of the way. At which point the men of Judah come to him and tell him that he is causing too much trouble for them, they only want a quiet life – who doesn’t? – and could he please give himself up. Certainly, Samson says, and a thousand men, heaps upon heaps, pay the price.

David Grossman situates the ancient image of Samson the hero, and his modern interpretation as the tough Jew (how could he not?), in modern Israel. Those who would see Samson as a tough Jew, Grossman explains, ‘esteemed . . . his ability to apply force without any restraints or moral inhibitions, an ability which history withheld from the trod-upon Jews for millennia, until the establishment of the state of Israel’. ‘Samson’s Foxes’ fought in the 1948 War of Independence; a ‘Samson’ unit was created during the first Palestinian intifada in the 1980s; Israel’s nuclear weapon programme was once known as the ‘Samson Option’. Samson’s shadow, the suicide bomber, is noted. Clearly, Samson doesn’t represent the same thing to an Israeli Jew as he does to a Jew from the Diaspora.

But Grossman is equivocal. He acknowledges ‘a certain problematic quality to Israeli sovereignty that is also embodied in Samson’s relationship to his own power’. But it isn’t a case of not knowing one’s own strength: the problem arises from a lack of practice. ‘The reality of being immensely powerful has not really been internalised in the Israeli consciousness, not assimilated in a natural way, over many generations.’ It leads to giving ‘an exaggerated value to the power one has attained; to making power an end in itself; and to using it excessively; and also to a tendency to turn almost automatically to the use of force instead of weighing other means of action’. Grossman’s discomfort as an Israeli is clear, but he is still apologising for Samson’s and Israel’s excesses by suggesting that they are victims of victimhood. Tough Jewry but with mitigating circumstances. The fault lies with history and always and for ever Jews can be no more than their reaction to what has happened to them.

The essay dissolves into a distressing mixture of popular psychoanalysis and sentimentality: a plea for understanding that pulls out all the emotional stops. Samson’s thuggery is a result of his extraordinary experience, ultimately a lack of maternal love that leaves him a stranger in the world, who will never find his place and settle. At the heart of it is a notion of the family and how it ought to be. It’s a recognisable image but as mythic as the Samson story itself. Manoah, his father, is weak, vacillating and suspicious. His mother, who is not given a name, is visited either by a messenger of God or has an affair with (could it be?) a Philistine, and although barren becomes pregnant. She tells her husband that the child is to be a Nazarite, dedicated to God: no alcohol, no haircuts. Manoah exhibits disbelief and demands to see this messenger for himself, though when he does, he stops arguing, overpowered by the power of the man/angel. A bad beginning. A doubtful origin and different from the other kids.

But the true centre of Samson’s problem, according to Grossman, is his mother (of course) who tells Manoah of the special role of the forthcoming child with the words: ‘For the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ In Grossman’s view, this is a child who will not truly belong to his mother and her realisation of this causes her to freeze emotionally. No woman, apparently, can contemplate the natural death of the foetus within her. It is, says Grossman, against the ‘natural instincts of parenthood’. The formerly barren wife of Manoah knows ‘with a deep womanly intuition’ that the child is to be a public event and therefore she distances herself from it, ‘something inside her is blocked, stunned, frozen.’ He imagines her thinking: ‘Will I be able to give him the bountiful, natural love that for so long I have yearned to give a child of my own?’ This ‘will not be a child who can be raised according to one’s natural instincts alone’ (though for that you might think any child would be grateful). As a result Samson ‘will always lack the capacity for simple human contact that comes so naturally to most people’. The pages are filled with such unexamined social and psychological expectation, with the assumption of what must be normal and what the consequences must be of a falling short of this picture of family harmonics.

Grossman is entitled to his interpretation of the text like anyone else, and the notion of the strangeness and loneliness of Samson and his inability to understand it is intriguing, but the normative assumptions and their presentation are as cloying and unconvincing as the saccharine family moment Grossman imagines when, on the way to his wedding, Samson scoops the honey from the belly of the lion he killed. The biblical text reads:

And, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion. And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat; but he told them not that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.

Grossman says:

They say nothing, do not ask, he doesn’t tell, and nevertheless it is so appealing to imagine Samson waving his hands high, and his parents, doubtless smaller than he is, jumping at him with their mouths wide open and tongues hanging out, and Samson howling with glee, playing with his parents, touching them and dancing for them and laughing with them like any normal person, with the honey dripping, flowing down a cheek, sliding to the chin, being licked up, as the laughter swells to the point of tears.

It is Grossman’s contention that Samson is the emotionally disfigured child who becomes the frustrated artist (the honey episode, the killing of the 30 men for their coats, the tying and burning of the foxes’ tails all a kind of performance art), whose work turns murderous when he cannot receive love, desperate as he is ‘for the embrace of a caring, compassionate parent’ and betrayed always by the women in his life. And somewhere in all this is the state of Israel. The Samson state, not properly born and nurtured and therefore given to violent tantrums and excessive – though hardly artistic – behaviour to those it feels unloved by.

And, liberal though I am, I come up against the thought: what about behaving decently to others? Just that. Even if you’ve been unloved. Or especially if you’ve been unloved. What about making an art of empathy, or simply an elementary human choice not to cause suffering just because you’ve suffered, or because you figure it’s a good enough excuse to behave just like everyone else? Perhaps Grossman would say that the unloved Samson can’t help himself and is not in control of his emotional responses. He is probably right. Many people aren’t and clearly Samson wasn’t capable of control, but the individual Samson and the state of Israel are actually not bound by the same emotional imperatives. We ought perhaps to try much harder to keep separate the lives and passions of individuals and the behaviour of nations. But analogy is apparently irresistible, though the Palestinians might be forgiven a hollow laugh at Grossman’s conclusion that Samson’s final act, killing three thousand partying Philistines and himself into the bargain, set a precedent:

There is no escaping the thought that Samson was, in a sense, the first suicide-killer; and although the circumstances of his deed were different from those familiar to us from the daily reality of the streets of Israel, it may be that the act itself established in human consciousness a mode of murder and revenge directed at innocent victims, which has been perfected in recent years.

Jenny Diski’s On Trying to Keep Still, a travelogue and memoir, appeared recently. She is the author of Only Human, about a patriarch and his wife, among other novels.

Monday, April 17, 2006

We had just heard about the explosion and were busy making phonecalls: "Wanted just to know you are okay. You heard about the bombing, did you?" Then we saw an email coming from overseas to the Gush Shalom mailbox, a very short one:
"Any comment on the latest terror attack assholes?"
As a matter of fact - yes.

One o'clock. In the noon news magazine on the radio, the commentator speaks in a rather bored way of the ongoing army raid into Nablus, words nearly identical to the reports of yesterday and of last week: "The Palestinians claim that the boy shot in central Nablus was unarmed... The soldiers assert that they had shot only at armed militants, as per orders... This is part of a continuing operation to root out terrorists in Nablus and Jenin, which is already going on for several weeks... When soldiers arrive, dozens of youngsters start throwing stones, which complicates the detention of wanted terrorists..."

Suddenly: "We interrupt this report. A large explosion just occurred at the Old Central Bus Station in Tel-Aviv. Dozens of casualties. Stand by for further details"

The Old Central Bus Station. The least fashionable part of Tel-Aviv. The lively dirty streets which are the haunt of migrant workers one jump ahead of the notorious Immigration Police and the most poor and disadvantaged among Israel's own citizens. The place where people have again and again to endure suicide bombings, too. Today, once again.

As always, the dilemma: Should we go there, to the scene where six people have just perished and forty others wounded, a place which is just a short bus ride away and where we just a few days ago went to buy sandals? Go there, as Israelis and human beings and and peace activists - but to do what? To say what?

Sure, we are horrified by the senseless random killing. But we have also something to say about why it happened, how it might have been prevented, how the next one can still be prevented. But how to say it on this day and in that location? How to make comprehensible, to shocked and angry and traumatized people, that the occupation is the root cause of our suffering as well as the Palestinians'? How to explain convincingly that we must dry at source the oppression which makes young Palestinians don explosive belts and throw away their lives together with those of others?

In the end, we don't do anything except stay tuned to the non-stop broadcasts on radio and TV. At least the extreme-right people, who in past years used to rush to such scenes with their hate placards, are not there either today. It seems that they no longer find the public so receptive to their simplistic "solutions".

The flood of news reports continues. The number of fatalities has grown to nine, and doctors at Ichilov Hospital are still fighting to save the life of a very severely wounded sixteen year-old boy. At least two of the women killed were foreign migrant workers, and the Israeli consulate in Romania is trying to locate the family of one of them. Responsibility was claimed by the Islamic Jihad, and the perpetrator was a young man from the West Bank town of Quabatiya. In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian boy (age not mentioned) was killed in an Israeli artillery bombardment (probably, somebody again instructed the artillery to decrease the range to the Palestinian inhabited areas...)

The bombing had targeted the very same cheap restaurant which was attacked in the previous Tel-Aviv bombing, three and a half months ago. Three and a half months ago. Nobody seems to remember the time when suicide bombings were taking place every week, or also several times each week. Nobody mentions that that had been when Hamas was the main initiator of suicide bombings. Nobody mentions that Hamas has been carefully keeping their one-side truce for more than a year now, that Jihad is a small organization with limited resources, that the Hamas self-restraint has saved the lives of quite a few Israelis in the past year.

A TV, reporter speaks smugly from the scene of the bombing: "The police had carried out massive detentions of Palestinian workers. Illegal Palestinians were found in all the restaurants and workshops around the site of the bombing. Why couldn't the police arrest them before it happened? (Because they had absolutely nothing to do with the bombing, because they came to Tel-Aviv for no other reason than to feed their families - but nobody says this on the air...)

In Jerusalem, the swearing-in ceremony of the newly-elected Knesset goes ahead as scheduled, and is broadcast live. The eternal Shimon Peres is Acting Speaker. Not always our favourite among politicians. But in his speech today, he at least admits that the Palestinians are not solely to blame for the absence of peace, and that some Israeli mistakes also have something to do with it. This is not nothing, especially on such a day.

The late night news is sometimes less tightly controlled than the prime time. The commentator reports about Defense Minister Mofaz holding consultations with his generals on the coming military response, and remarks: "So, there will be a retaliation, and the Palestinians will retaliate to the retaliation, and we will retaliate again, and then what?" No answer was forthcoming.

Adam Keller
April 17, Tel-Aviv

Friday, March 17, 2006

Scroll down for Matrix in Bilin

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Matrix in Bil‘in
Capital, settlements and civil resistance to the separation fence, or: a story of colonial capitalism in present-day Israel*

Gadi Algazi, Tel Aviv

One by one, awestruck reporters flock to witness the miracle and the newspapers are filling up with their stories. At last, we have high-tech for the religious, a remedy for unemployment, and respectable work for ultra-orthodox women. Software companies like Imagestore and CityBook are recruiting ultra-orthodox Jewish women to work. Leading the trend is the software services company Matrix, one of the largest in Israel, that has opened a development center called Talpiot – apparently named after the elite combat unit of the Israeli army – and is bringing in ultra-orthodox women. They already number 150 and are expected to reach 500 during this year. “This is a development center close to home, in a homogeneous environment, and sensitive to the women’s special needs,” writes the Matrix CEO on the company’s website.1 The rules of Kashruth are observed there, and there are separate kitchens for women and men. There is also a “pumping room” for women to nurse their babies, provoking curiosity among the journalists and embarrassment among the “girls,” as they are called there. The Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor has also approved a professional course for 35 of the women, and the finance ministry subsidizes the project to the tune of 1,000 shekels [215$] per month for each worker.2 “If you are used to thinking of high-tech workers as secular yuppies who make at least twice the minimum wage, you should see the technological employment projects in the ultra-orthodox city”, wrote one orthodox reporter: here they “employ ultra-orthodox women in technological occupations, some quite ‘hightech’, such as programming and code development,”3 – clearly under the spell of high-tech aura, forgetting to mention how much the women actually earn.

Modi‘in Illit versus Bil‘in

Where is this wonderful place where, as if this were not enough, two of the entrepreneurs are also trying to establish on-site daycare centers, with special government assistance, in order to better serve the workers?4 Most Israeli workers can only dream of an on-site daycare center at their workplace. In Modi‘in Illit these dreams have come true. All of this is taking place in the occupied territories. The articles praising the projects promoted by public relations agencies throughout the recent months invariably ignore this one

* First Hebrew version published on HaOkets website ( and translated into English by Daniel Breslau, to whom I wish to thank warmly. This is a modified and corrected version.

1 Mordechai Gutman, “Off Shore in Israel – The New Direction in Developing Software for Organizations at High Quality and Low Cost”, Matrix Website:
2 Galit Yemini, “Indian Labor? Matrix is hiring Orthodox Women,” Haaretz, 17.1.2005.
3 Eli Shim‘oni, “Who can Find an Orthodox Java Wife?,” YNet, 23.9.2005.
4 Ruth Sinai, “Will Day-Care Centers Solve the Problems of Working Women?”, Haaretz, 25.9.2005.

simple fact: Modi‘in Illit is a settlement that lies in the occupied West Bank, on the land of five Palestinian villages: Ni‘lin, Kharbata, Saffa, Bil‘in, and Dir Qadis.5 In fact, Modi‘in Illit is the fastest-growing settlement in the West Bank at the moment, and is soon to be granted the status of a city. Today its population numbers more than 30,000 and the housing ministry projects 150,000 residents by the year 2020. The expansion of Modi‘in Illit has been the ruin of the Palestinian farmers of the village of Bil‘in. The separation fence that is being built between Modi‘in Illit and Bil‘in swallows up about half of the village’s lands, about 2000 dunums (445 acres), in addition to those that had been robbed in the past. The peasants of Bil‘in are dispossessed for the sake of the future expansion of the colony.

Since February, 2005, the inhabitants of Bil‘in have been leading a popular, nonviolent struggle against the separation fence robbing them of their lands. Together with Israeli peace activists and international volunteers, they have demonstrated each week, hand in hand, in front of the bulldozers and the soldiers. They have joined a series of Palestinian villages directly affected by the building of the separation fence – Jayyous, Biddu, Dir Ballut, Budrus, to name but a few – who for the past three years have led arduous campaigns of nonviolent resistance against the wall. Almost unknown outside Palestine, these campaigns, often coordinated by the local Popular Committees against the Fence, have had modest, but significant gains – from impeding or slowing down the advancement of the fences eating up their lands and condemning them to a life in small and middle-sized enclaves, through changing its course and regaining some of their lost vineyards and fields, to making popular, nonviolent resistance and joint Israeli-Palestinian struggle a viable political option under deteriorating conditions.

More than one hundred and fifty people have been injured in the violent dispersal of the joint Israeli-Palestinian demonstrations in Bil‘in, and many have been arrested under various pretexts. Forces of the Israeli Army, the Border Guard, Israeli police, and private security firms have been used against the protesters. Clubs, teargas, rubber bullets and live fire have taken a heavy toll on them. With late night sweeps and arrests, Israeli forces have tried to deter the members of the popular committee of Bil‘in, who, even in these times of hatred and fear, steadfastly adhered to the principles of nonviolent resistance and open cooperation with Israeli opponents of the occupation.6 The prison service even sent in its special forces (the Masada unit) – infiltrators disguised as Arabs who participated in the demonstrations and tried to whip up the crowd and incite demonstrators to use force against the soldiers.7 Only
the determination of the members of the popular committee of Bil‘in prevented these
provocations from causing an uncontrolled escalation, which may have ended with the loss of life. The fence needs indeed heavy protection – from the nonviolent protest of Palestinian villagers and their allies. And the fence is there to protect the colonial project – Modi‘in Illit.

In fact, the fence is being built on the lands of Bil‘in in order to safeguard the future expansion of the settlement, for the construction of new neighborhoods, most of which do not

5 Nir Shalev, “The Wall in Bil‘in and the Eastward Expansion of Modi‘in Illit,” Indymedia/HaGada HaSmalit, 11.9.2005;
6 Meron Rapaport, “Symbol of Struggle,” Haaretz, 10.9.2005.
7 Meron Rapaport, “Bil‘in residents: Undercover troops provoked stone-throwing,” Haaretz, 14.10.2005; David Ratner, “Bil‘in Protesters say bean bags are latest riot-control weapon,” Haaretz, 7.11.2005.

even have an approved plan. Here, on Israel’s wild frontier, it is possible to build thousands of housing units without building permits or approved master plan. But no less important is the fact that the settlement of Modi‘in Illit is not a project of the nationalist-messianic settlers and their political representatives: It is the product of a heterogeneous social-political alliance that links real estate developers interested in land, capitalists seizing the opportunity to profit from
land confiscation and government subsidies, politicians driving forward the colonization project under the umbrella of Sharon’s ‘Disengagement Plan’ – and captive labor.

Settlements and Real Estate

The partners in the expansion of Modi‘in Illit merit closer scrutiny. The main entrepreneurs are Danya Cebus firm (a subsidiary of Africa-Israel Corporation owned by one of Israel’s most powerful businessmen, Lev Leviev, also involved in building many other settlements);8 the businessman and former head of the Contractors Association, Mordechai Yona, the orthodox businessman Pinchas Salzman, and Tzifcha International. Serious financial interests are hence involved in the struggle over the lands of Bil‘in. There is profit in the fence; the investors insisted on this particular route of the fence, which separates the villagers of Bil‘in from their land, in order to ensure their investments.

Modi‘in Illit was founded in 1996 at the initiative of private entrepreneurs, originally as Kiryat Sefer; the various neighborhoods were later consolidated as Modi‘in Illit (in Hebrew: Upper Modi‘in). As with other settlements, the name is misleading, suggesting that it is located not in the West Bank, but like the city Modi‘in, within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Many Israelis have discovered only recently – as a result of the sustained protest of the inhabitants of Bil‘in and the scandal over the investors’ methods of seizing their land – that Modi‘in Illit was in fact a settlement.9 Its founders were two entrepreneurs, adherents of the rabbi Shach, who were looking for cheap housing for ultra-orthodox families. The close
cooperation between the Modi‘in Illit Council and powerful private entrepreneurs, who were granted special benefits and no-bid contracts, is well-documented in the state comptroller’s report: again and again the council sought to justify its close cooperation with the investors, arguing that the private contractor “has already built housing units and other projects in the area,” and that there is “an urgent need to complete the project.” In Israel’s Wild East, the need to establish facts on the ground gives developers a free hand; the political urgency of the colonization process works in tandem with investors’ attempts to secure quick profits.

The state comptroller determined that the Modi‘in Illit Council collected 10% of the
taxes that the developers owed on the lands and that the Council “offset the debts it was owed” from the two main developers of the settlement “by means of shady bookkeeping involving future building projects, even before receiving the required permits for their construction.” Thousands of housing units were in effect built in Modi‘in Illit in violation of

8 In their websites, Africa-Israel Corporation and Danya Cebus ignore their involvement in building settlements in the occupied territories and only mention building “throughout the State of Israel”:
9 Akiva Eldar, “Official: Mofaz approves construction in West Bank Settlements,” Haaretz,14.12.2005.

the law – and with the ex post facto approval of the local council.10 In one area, the council whitewashed the illegal construction by making retroactive adjustments to the zoning plan. According to a 1998 investigation, the entire “Brachfeld Estate”– built on the lands of Bil‘in – was built without construction permits. Is there any need to mention that not one of these houses was demolished?11 During the appeal by Bil‘in’s residents to Israel’s High Court of Justice Much of the sewage from the neighborhoods of Modi‘in Illit flows into the Modi‘in stream and pollutes the area’s water resources. All this is not a matter of mere corruption or mismanagement, but a structural feature of the colonial frontier: unregulated settlement activity creates possibilities for making vast profits at the expense of the human and natural environment. The settlement itself, however, is kept clean. As a well-tended city, Modi‘in Illit won the “Beauty Star” award from The Council for a Beautiful Israel. Officials in one of its main neighborhoods claimed that “on principle and for the sake of security,” they did not hire Arabs.12

The residents of Bil‘in evidently face a powerful alliance of political and economic
interests. The two neighborhoods to be built on their robbed lands comprise together some 5,500 housing units. The “Green Park” project is being constructed by the Dania Cebus company, controlled by Lev Leviev and his business partner, the American real-estate investor and Lubavitch-adherent Shaya Boymelgreen. It is a massive project, with 5,800 apartments planned, a 230 million dollar enterprise.13 The revenues of Africa-Israel, the real estate investment firm owned by Leviev, recorded a sharp increase in 2005; its operating profits grew by 129% and stand at 1.1 billion Israeli shekels [2391 million dollar] for the first three quarters of the year.14
But it is also worth paying attention to the identity of the strange developers, who claim to be the legal owners of the lands on which one of the new neighborhoods is being built.

These developers are none other than Israel’s Custodian of Absentee Property15 and the hardly

10 See Israel’s State Comptroller’s Report, No. 51a (2000), pp. 201-218.
11 In December 2005, Bil‘in activists also built a small house on a Palestinian plot of land lying behind the separation fence, arguing that as long as not a single of the illegal building projects in the settlement is demolished, they have a right to build on their land. The little house was named a Center for Joint Struggle for Peace, and has enabled farmers to reach the lands that they are about to lose with
the completion of the fence. Meron Rapaport, “IDF completes evacuation of Bil‘in ‘outpost’,” Haaretz, 23.12.2005.
12 Tamar Rotem, “The Price is right,” Haaretz, 23.9.2003.
13 Sharon Kedmi, “Dania Cebus is to build in Modi‘in Illit,” Globes, 15.8.2004.
14 Recent data:

known Land Redemption Fund. The settlers’ Land Redemption Fund (LRF), established some twenty years ago, coordinates the takeover of Palestinian land in several key areas earmarked
for the expansion of the settlements. The fund was established by some of the ideological leaders of the radical settlers: Zvi Slonim, former secretary general of Gush Emunim, the settler’s movement; Avraham Mintz, former aide to Ariel Sharon when he was housing minister, and Era Rapaport. Rapaport, a settler from Brooklyn, was one of the founders of the Jewish terror network that operated in the occupied territories in the early 1980s; Rapaport served several years in prison for his personal involvement in the assassination attempt on Bassam a-Shak‘a, mayor of Nablus, who lost both legs in the attack.16 The Fund’s acquisition methods are described in a detailed investigation carried out by two Israeli journalists: “The
Fund’s intelligence network is made up of former [Palestinian] collaborators who were
burned [=i.e., unveiled] and returned to their villages, retired Israeli General Security Services operatives who are information contractors for pay (they can find out, for example, who owns the land in practice and who works it), and former military governors, such as the late Yehoshua Bar-Tikva, who had been the military governor of Tulkarm, and after he retired the LRF used him and his connections in the villages.” Arab straw-men act as mediators in the land deals; they usually pose as buyers, while the lands are purchased “funded by money from right wing Jewish millionaires such as Lev Leviev, the Swiss tycoon Nissan Khakshouri.”17

Similar methods were also used in order to take possession of the lands of Bil‘in.18
The project is thus inextricably economic and political: Promoting annexation and
colonization brings fat profits. Among the Fund’s donors can be found the same capitalists who appear in other settings as settlement builders and real estate investors. They donate considerable sums to the radical settlers’ Fund not out of political conviction alone, for there is a profit to be made. The same alliance can be encountered elsewhere in the West Bank. The Land Redemption Fund, for instance, is also the investor behind the expansion of Tzufin settlement on lands robbed from Jayyous – another Palestinian village to lose most of its resources with the construction of the separation fence. Here, the eleven fold expansion of the settlement is under way. The developer in this case as well is a real-estate company controlled by the same Lev Leviev.19

The areas on which the Fund has chosen to focus – Nirit, Alfei Menashe, Tzufin, and
Modi‘in Illit – are also significant: “Its main project is to blur the Green Line [Israel’s pre-1967 border] by linking the settlements to communities inside the Green Line and expanding

15 A governmental body officially entrusted with the management of ‘absentee land’, this agency has played a key-role in taking possession of Palestinian land, especially belonging to refugees within Israel and recently, in the Occupied Territories as well. During the discussion of Bil‘in residents appeal to Israel’s High Court of Justice to change the route of the separation fence, it was revealed that this governmental body served as a straw-man for the settlers’ fund, disguising their identity. In a special report, two Israeli human rights organizations uncovered these ‘revolving transactions’: the settlers “transfer the land they purchased to the Custodian, who declares it state land. This enables theplanning process to start. The Custodian allocates the land to the purchaser in the framework of the planning-authorization agreement, and then for development, for no consideration.” See Bimkom/B’Tselem, Under the Guise of Security: Routing the Separation Barrier to enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank, December 2005:
16 Shalom Yerushalmi, “Every Prime-Minister who gave away Eretz Yisrael – was hurt (an Interview with Era Rapaport,” Ma‘ariv, 5.4.2002.
17 Shosh Mula and Ofer Petersburg, “The Settler National Fund”, Yedioth Achronoth, 27.1.2005; English translation:
18 Akiva Eldar, “Documents reveal West Bank settlement Modi'in Illit built illegally,” Haaretz, 3.1.2006; Eldar, “State mulls criminal probe into illegal settlement construction,” Haaretz, 8.1.2006.
19 Ada Ushpiz, “Fenced out,” Haaretz, 16.9.2005.

communities inside the Green Line in the direction of the territories” in order “to create facts on the ground.”20 These settlements are part of a larger project begun in the 1980’s, to dissolve the Green Line by creating upper-class settlements for non-ideological settlers. The project was resumed around 2003 after the completion of parts of the separation fence, leading to the de facto annexation of parts of the West Bank lying between the fence and Israel. In these areas, one could now promise higher living standards, in an area made safe for investors and settlers as Palestinian communities were made to disappear behind the wall.21 Israel’s settlements near the Green Line and adjacent to the separation fence hence have
a strategic significance. They complement the project of establishing a system of fences by effectively annexing parts of the West Bank to Israel. But they are also the strategic location where a powerful political and economic alliance between capital, settlers and government politicians takes shape.

The Fence Coalition Moves Forward

The pro-fence coalition is currently crystallizing around Sharon and his heirs – a political alliance of devotees of gradual annexation (“Israel should keep the settlement blocs”) and “reasonable” colonial expansion (who can only look reasonable and nice when compared to their friends-and-rivals, the “bad”, uninhibited ideological settlers), all united under the banner of ethnic separation and economic privatization. It promises Israelis peace through unilateral pacification and partial annexation by dismembering the West Bank and breaking it up into fenced-in enclaves. It took some time for the Fence Coalition to take shape in the political arena – and its adherents can be found well beyond the party formed around Sharon’s legacy, Kadima (“Forward”, or in ancient Hebrew: “Eastward”), but in Modi‘in Illit and
elsewhere in the West Bank, one could see its social and economic counterpart at work for some time: Its core is formed by an unholy alliance between settlers and state agencies subsidizing and advancing the fences, real-estate companies and high-tech entrepreneurs, the old economy and the new. The settlements which are currently being built and expanded in the vicinity of the separation fence are the place where these important alliances are forged.

Precisely because they are not based solely on the messianic fervor of hardliner settlers, but also offer answers to real social needs – quality of life for the upper middle class, or jobs and subsidized housing for those underprivileged who badly need them, these settlements are able broaden the power base of the settlement movement and link additional constituencies to it: first and foremost, the real fence profiteers, contractors, capitalists and upper-class non-ideological settlers seeking quality of life in new gated communities, far from the poor and shielded from the Palestinians. Yet in addition, they also tie to the colonization project those who seek a way out of hardship, large families looking for cheap housing or new
immigrants depending on government subsidies and seeking social acceptance. It is they who are pay the price – the hostility and hatred that the fence generates, and the complete dependence on capitalists and politicians.

In Modi‘in Illit, the old economy of contractors and developers meets the new economy
of high-tech. Both are closely tied to the state: last June, Mordechai Gutman, CEO of Matrix,

20 Mula and Petersburg, Yedioth Achronoth, 27.1.2005.
21 Gadi Algazi, “The Upper-Class Fence,” HaOkets Website, 15.6.2005; English translation:

in a discussion in the science and technology committee of the Knesset with finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu, requested state assistance in order to deal with competition from cheap programmers in India.22 State subsidies indeed sustain Matrix’s project in Modi‘in Illit.23 “Like the finance minister,” said the chair of the Knesset committee, to representatives of high-tech firms, “I also think that the range of interests you represent here, around the table, is also the interest of the state.” The contractors and the high-tech firms are sustained by the colonial project, which puts at their disposal cheap, stolen land, as well as state subsidies and public resources, policemen and soldiers securing their investments – and captive and disciplined labor force. For it is in these nearby colonies such as Modi‘in Illit, 25 minutes from Tel Aviv, that Matrix has found an alternative to cheap Indian labor. The solution is called “off-shoring at home”; it takes place nearby, in Israel’s backyard, on its colonial frontier. Israeli capitalism does not float in a digital world. As it is increasingly integrated into the global market, it renews itself through its involvement in the colonial project, from which it draws resources and support.

It is sometimes suggested that with the modernization of Israeli capitalism, it would be able – and perhaps even required – to abandon its attachment to old-style colonialism. The case of Matrix in Bil‘in demonstrates that Israeli capitalism can be both colonial and digital, to move back and forth between global markets and colonial settlements, campaigns for unbridled privatization and heavy government subsidies.

Left to itself, it is not capable, nor predisposed to extricate itself of the colonial swamp – or to exert enough pressure on the state that sustains it to do so – that is, as long Israel’s colonial project does not become irrevocably a net liability and resistance by the colonized and their allies forces a change of course.

Global, Digital and Colonial

How much do they pay the women that work for Matrix’s development center in Modi‘in
Illit? They are described as diligent and efficient, exceptionally productive workers: “What an assembler elsewhere can do in a crazy week of pressure and sleeping at work, the girls here can easily accomplish in three days,” said the head of the Matrix center in Modi‘in Illit to a journalist.24 But their wages are less than half the wage of a programmer in Israel’s center.

Matrix offers its customers the labor of its employees for 18-20 dollars an hour. A starting worker in Matrix’s development center receives minimum wage – about four dollars – for an hour’s work. An Israeli journalist, Yoni Shadmi, did the math:
The girls in Matrix’s development center specialize in the programming languages
Java and For the sake of comparison, a starting programmer with the same
specialties can earn 10,000 Israeli shekels [2,175$] a month in Israel. A slightly
more experienced programmer, who is not ashamed to negotiate his salary, can get 15,000 shekels [3,260$]. And an excellent and experienced programmer, of which there is surely more than one in the modest offices in Modi‘in Illit, should receive, without too much effort, more than 20,000 shekel [4,350$] a month. An

22 Protocols of the Knesset’s Parliamentary Commission on Science and Technology, 29.6.2004.
23 Israel’s government subsidizes the salaries for five years:
24 Yoni Shadmi, “Globalization Killed the High-Tech Star”, Ma‘ariv, 11.11.2005.

American high-tech worker earns an average of 26,000 shekels [5,650$] per month. In Matrix’s development center in Modi‘in Illit, by comparison, which enjoys workers that adhere to almost Japanese standards of punctuality, industriousness, and effort, pays its women less than 5,000 shekels [1,085$].

Over the first half-year of their work, which includes a comprehensive course that
prepares them for the job of programmer, the girls earn 2,000 shekels [435$] per
month. Afterwards they receive the minimum wage, which for October 2005 stood at 3,335 shekels [725$] plus expenses. Beginning in their second year the girls receive 4,800 shekels [1,045$] per month. The state pays the company 1,000 shekels [215$] per month for each worker […] and thus finances part of the girls’ wages. Beyond that, they are tied to the company for at least two years. You want to quit? You have to pay a fine equal to two months’ salary. There are no bonuses.25
One of the heads of the ultra-orthodox sector explained to another Israeli reporter: “The ultraorthodox community is used to living on nothing, so making a little is a lot for them.”26

The company’s spokespersons are careful to explain to journalists that this has nothing to do with the exploitation of cheap labor. The wages paid to the ultra-orthodox women of Modi‘in Illit, they argue, do not reflect their relative productivity or the worth of the product that they produce in the international market, but rather, “their low cost of living” (a remarkable, though not wholly unfamiliar, theory of value!).27 Life is cheap in the colonies; this is the Israeli answer to globalization. But when addressing customers or boasting of their achievements to foreign businessmen, Matrix managers speak clearly and describe the ultraorthodox women as “a cheap, local labor force”.28 They represent the entire project as their answer to the rapid globalization of high-tech industry, an ingenious answer to competition from cheap labor in India or Romania, for example: ‘offshore outsourcing at home’, is their formula. Hiring distant programmers to carry out assignments for customers across the sea in order to reduce production costs is becoming a prevalent solution in the new global economy. But it also brings special difficulties, they argue, “due to both geographical and cultural
distance” between the customers, the employers, and the employees: different work days, different language, and a different “work culture.” Here, Matrix managers claim, we are not only saving travel costs. The company offers services at a “similar cost to those available from Asian countries, but with the advantages of working with a local development center, enjoying geographical and cultural proximity.” This is not completely accurate. “Geographical proximity” disguises the specific advantages of locating the project in a colonial setting, and it is precisely the “cultural differences” that are exploited here in order to get the most out of labor.

25 Shadmi, Ma‘ariv, 11.11.2005.
26 Yemini, Haaretz, 17.1.2005.
27 Gutman, “Off Shore in Israel”.
28 Efrat Neuman, “Begorra, it’s the hora,” Haaretz Online, 6.9.2005.

Plunder and Discipline

“The Lord will bring this charge against the elders and officers of His people: ‘It is you who have ravaged the vineyard; That which was robbed from the poor (gzelat
he-Ani) is in your houses’.” (Isaiah 3:14).

The Matrix development center is strictly kosher. Two local rabbis – one of married the Matrix employee who initiated the project – supervise the site. The rabbi’s seal is important: “We painstakingly uphold every kosher rule,” say the company’s directors, “so as not to lose rabbinical approval.” Beside the legitimate and vital consideration of the workers’ way of life and their values, rabbinical support plays a crucial role in this capitalist enterprise: the working women “live according to a complex religious and professional code;” this rigorous code, workers report, is ‘in the air’.29 “Although many are mothers of six, they miss fewer days of work than a mother of two in Tel Aviv,” said an Imagestore project director in Modi‘in Illit to a journalist: “These women have no issues. They just work. No smoking or coffee breaks, chatting on the phone, or looking for vacation deals in Turkey. Breaks are only for eating, or pumping breast milk in special room. Some women can pop home, breast-feed and come back.”30 Visiting journalists were struck by the silence at the workplace:
“Personal conversations in the work room of Matrix’s development center are forbidden, not only between men and women, but among the women. They pay you for eight hours of work,” says Esti [one of the workers], “so they expect you to work. If someone is talking too much or surfing the web, someone else will tell her ‘hey, that’s theft [gezel],’ as though we are taking from the company. Once we asked if we could take a break of five minutes for prayer, but the rabbi said that the ancient Sages didn’t take a break but would call out the Shma‘ [the essential daily prayer] while working, and thus we can put off the prayer until after the working day.”
All in all, the girls are every human resource manager’s dream. As Hila Tal
relates: “They came to me and asked ‘are we allowed to speak to each other? Are
we allowed to talk on the telephone?” The management replied that they were
allowed, but within limits. The punctilious adherence to the rules is maintained
even when the bosses are not present. Esti’s group supervisor is usually in Petach
Tikva. But even so, with the ecology of mutual pressure among the girls, the rules
are upheld. “We are accustomed to rigor and obedience,” she says with half a
smile, “we have gotten used to not doing forbidden things even when no one is
looking, because there is someone watching from above.”31
In exchange for the rabbinical seal, the investors get disciplined, kosher girls. The rabbi is there to instill obedience to capitalist time discipline. The ominous term gezel – a loaded
moral term in Jewish religious tradition, meaning taking by force and robbery, is not applied

29 Shadmi, Ma‘ariv, 11.11.2005.
30 Ruth Sinai, “Modi‘in Illit: The Zionist Response to Off-shoring,” Haaretz, 19.9.2005.
31 Shadmi, Ma‘ariv, 11.11.2005.

to the lands of Bil‘in, but to ‘stealing’ employer’s time through idle talk. The conquest of Palestinian lands for the establishment of Modi‘in Illit was accomplished by a partnership of private capital and Hassidic land-redeeming entrepreneurs; similarly, one encounters here a no less fascinating alliance between the new economy and traditional authority. Like the rabbis that gave their seal of approval to the theft of land, there is no doubt that the Matrix rabbis are establishing important religious rulings: to converse with one another during work hours is theft, since time is money, and time belongs to the company. At Matrix, one is experimenting with new combinations – a mix of reciprocal social control among workers (mutual censorship is an efficiency-minded manager’s wet dream), of surveillance and discipline, with rabbinical authority.

Reading the words of the reporters who have covered Matrix’s development center
gives one the impression of an encounter with a remote and exotic tribe. The women of the tribe are pleasant, but their customs are strange; they keep a strict code of rituals and have many children. Despite their strange ways, the writers emphasize, they can be trained for productive labor. They are content with just a little. They are disciplined and obedient, thanks to the priests of the tribe, among other things, who have added their authority to the employers’ command. There is no doubt: great is the fortune of Israeli capitalists. Facing the challenges of globalization, they have no need to search for such tribes in distant colonies. Their scouts have found them in the nearby, colonial backyard.

These descriptions are clearly reminiscent of debates about workers’ religious ethos and labor discipline at the beginning of the twentieth century. Should one cite Max Weber’s short invocation of pious female workers in his Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism? Yet one should not take these idealized representations – manufactured at the junction of public relations experts, interested self-descriptions by workers, and journalists’ exoticised depictions – for everyday reality. The ultra-orthodox women working for Matrix and its equivalent would surely find ways to circumvent both interested rabbis’ injunctions and shopfloor control. Moreover, one must not forget that there are also material reasons for the worker’s great motivation and the labor discipline that seems to prevail. Where else can they work? One of the female managers of the project openly states: “There is no work in Modi‘in Illit, and women do not have cars to travel anywhere else. Most of them have no driver’s license, making it crucial that there is a place of employment close to home.” The rate of car ownership in Modi‘in Illit is indeed among the lowest in the country – 60 vehicles per thousand population, and there are no industrial areas.32

Let us ignore the aura of high-tech that has already faded with the transformation of the high-tech industry, and focus on the oppressive work conditions, the subordination to a close alliance between contractors and employers (one of the contracting firms boasts of having initiated the link between real-estate developers and high-tech companies),33 the lack of alternate sources of employment and the use of “traditional” social control – is all of this not reminiscent of the work conditions in the development towns of the fifties, the factories that claimed to bring salvation to new immigrants? In both cases, integration in Israel’s colonial
project, populating its frontier, was precondition to access to fundamental social rights; then, new immigrants from the Arab world were portrayed as unskilled workers lacking any

32 Shim‘oni, Ynet, 23.9.2005.
33 See their website:

competence, just as ultra-orthodox women are now depicted as emerging from darkness to light, from consignment to family household to the benefits of the modern capitalist enterprise (ignoring both their actual level of education and the fact that ultra-orthodox women have traditionally been working and earning a living in addition to caring for their families).34 In present day Israel, a high price has been exacted from the new settlers malgré eux. Frontier colonialism reinforces the relations of dependence and subordination to the contractors, the state, and the capitalists.

Cannon fodder for the Colonial Project

Most of the residents of Modi‘in Illit are ultra-orthodox and have many children; two years ago, speaking to a reporter from Haaretz, some emphasized that they did not consider think of themselves as settlers. It is the housing shortage that pushed large ultra-orthodox families to the settlement project. There they find the government assistance and public housing that do not exist within Israel. In the settlement of Betar Illit (which is likely to be the site of the next struggle around construction of the separation fence) and in Modi‘in Illit a two-bedroom apartment costs less than $100,000. “And what would they do anyway? Go to Tel Aviv, move to [upper-class] Afeka?” said Professor Menachem Friedman, an expert on the ultra-orthodox population, to Haaretz reporter: “Their situation was so desperate, that they were prepared to move anywhere.” This is precisely what the settler leaders are counting on. “But even if they didn't come here for ideological reasons,” said the spokesman for the Settlers’ Council with confidence – “they won't give up their homes so easily.”35 Thus, at certain stages of the process, the mechanism which incorporates people in the colonial process and makes them settlers despite themselves is openly talked about. In 2003, the mayor of Betar Illit, Yitzhak
Pindrus, went so far as to tell the reporter that the ultra-orthodox were sent to the occupied territories against their will to serve as “cannon fodder.” Their importance should not be underestimated: By now, these two ultra-orthodox settlements – Betar Illit and Modi‘in Illit comprise together more than a quarter of the Jewish settlers’ population in the West Bank – and remain the fastest growing colonies – and at the same time, in comparison to Jewish communities within Israel and its settlements in the West Bank – they are the poorest of all.

Matrix in Modi‘in Illit

Matrix is one of the largest software firms in Israel; it is traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange with a value of half a billion shekels and employs about 2,300 workers. According to reports, its profits in the first quarter of 2005 rose by 61%, and in the third quarter by 76% compared to the same quarter of the previous year.36 Among its clients in Israel are banks,

34 They have recently been described as ‘agents of social change’, entering new professions and undermining traditional hierarchies. See Menahem Friedman, “The Ultra-Orthodox Woman,”, in: A View into the Lives of Women in Jewish Societies, Yael Atzmon ed. (Jerusalem: Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1995), pp. 273-290; Yossef Shalhav, “Ultra-Orthodox Women between Two Worlds,” Mifne no. 46-47 (May 2005), pp. 53-55.
35 Tamar Rotem, Haaretz, 23.9.2003.
36 Data according to

public institutions, the security services, and private clients. Matrix IT is controlled by Formula Systems, of the Formula Group, with worldwide sales of 500 million dollars.37

Matrix is hence quite vulnerable to public criticism and boycott. Global entrepreneurs have a soft spot. Matrix is, for instance, the primary distributor of one of the most popular commercial version of the Linux operating system – Red Hat. What will it do if Linux users boycott Matrix, demanding that it withdraws its investments from the occupied territories, or put pressure on the public institutions that are among its clients (among others, the Hebrew University, the Weitzman Institute of Science, Ben Gurion University, and Tel Aviv University, where I work, have all purchased Red Hat licenses from Matrix)?38 What will happen if users threaten to boycott the companies – like Oracle39 – who use the services of the
development center at the settlement of Modi‘in Illit? This does no apply to Israel alone: Matrix represents some of the most important international companies;40 all are vulnerable to public pressure from opponents of the settlements. And what about Formula Systems, which owns Matrix? Formula Systems is very sensitive to its public image. It takes pains to present itself as a company that contributes to society and technological education, and also supports the center for the advancement of social and environmental responsibility of businesses in Israel. Its customers too can demand that Formula stop supporting the building and expanding of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Stick and the Carrot

And what about the women of Modi‘in Illit? Only a few years ago, the ultra-orthodox settlers malgré eux in Betar Illit still saw themselves as “cannon fodder,” but now, with the approaching fence, they are more likely to set their hopes on the wall – to seek security in its shadow and identify with the dispossession project.41 Similarly, some of the women of Modi‘in Illit are likely to see Matrix as their savior which provides their livelihood. This is the law of the stick and the carrot (and the stick is the same stick – unemployment and poverty – that also drives Arab workers, in Israel and the occupied territories, to participate as day laborers in building the settlements and the separation fences). But, nonetheless, they are victims of colonial capitalism, like many others who are being incorporated into the colonial
process through the exploitation of their social distress. But what future awaits them and their children, as long as their existence is based on theft of land and serving as a human wall, a target for the hatred of the dispossessed Palestinians? What kind of dignity is there in their subordination to the software giants who exploit their situation, given that these corporations would not hesitate to relocate their investments the moment they find cheaper alternatives?

38 Source:
39 “Oracle Invests in Talpiot Development Center,”14.11.2005:
40 A partial list on Matrix’s website includes PeopleSoft, BMC Software, Red Hat, Compuware, Business Objects, Verity, Vignette, IONA, WebMethods, BindView, among others:
41 Tamar Avraham and Efrat Ben-Ze’ev, “Batir, Hussan, Wadi Fukin and Nahalin: Four Palestinian
villages soon to be encircled by fences,” Ta‘ayush website:

The case of Matrix in Bil‘in hence not only reveals the social alliance profiteering from the separation fence and the expansion of the colonies, but also should give opponents of the Israeli occupation pause for thought. Should they fight for the work conditions of the women of Modi‘in Illit? They are, after all, settlers who are living on the lands of Bil‘in and the adjacent villages. They are usurpers – but also victims. It would seem that there are no simple solutions to this quandary. But it is one of the most glaring cases of the link between capital and settlements or between the two of them and the political establishment, and also the link between the anti-colonial struggle – against the dispossession of the Palestinians and expansion of settlements – and the struggle for social justice within Israel’s borders. The
renewal of subsidized construction of public housing for low-income families within Israel – religious and secular, without distinction – will bring a drastic decline in the willingness to move to settlements such as Modi‘in Illit.

There are also alternatives to the compulsory professional courses that the company
offers – in public education. If the state provides professional courses and a general education for all who need it, unconditionally – without having to join the settlement project, and without going through Wisconsin-plan humiliation, without being necessarily from the right ethnic background and the right gender and born to the right parents – the social mechanism that ties workers to their employers and places them at the mercy of the company’s management would be seriously undermined. Then those who have already sought housing solutions in the settlements will also be able to find work within Israel. Raising the minimum wage, enforcing labor laws, restoring the national insurance benefits, ending the organized importation of cheap labor from abroad that is indentured to manpower companies, ending the employment of workers through those exploitative companies, in other words setting up a real welfare state – that grants social rights unconditioned by ethnic identity or participation in the colonial project – will empty major settlements, such as Modi‘in Illit and Betar Illit and parts of Ma‘ale Adumim and Ariel. No one will want to build one’s house on stolen lands and become part of a living human wall. Then, Palestinian citizens of Israel will also no longer have to work on the bulldozers building the fence or serve as subcontractors in settlement expansion.

At the moment the ultra-orthodox workers begin to demand even part of what they
deserve, you will see the lords of Matrix turn pale. With in all their social concern and national responsibility they will move their projects in the blink of an eye to India or wherever they will find cheap labor force. Only a consistent demand for social justice can break the political-social alliance between capital and settlements, between the new oligarchs and the old territory-craving nationalists, and create an opening for all the dispossessed of Israeli society to extricate themselves from the grip of Matrix, real estate tycoons and the nationalist
knights of “land redemption.”

Globalized capital transforms not only the landscape of the occupied West Bank but
also Israel’s social landscape, and the two processes are intimately linked. Take Lev Leviev – one of the main investors in Modi‘in Illit – as a concrete example: a powerful capitalist, presenting himself as an ultra-orthodox adherent of a modern, globalized Jewish religious sect (Chabad), he built his fortune on the exploitation of the diamond treasures of Africa and the14 suffering of its residents.42 Think of the million persons who live in the Lundas province of Angola, digging diamonds by hand, in areas ruled by the private armies of the diamond companies, as is described in the detailed report of human rights worker Rafael Marques.43 Leviev has now also gained complete control of the political representation of Jewish communities in Russia.44 His company, Africa-Israel prizes itself as “pioneered the establishment of gated communities” in Israel, upper-class enclaves fragmenting public space and intended to meet “the needs for high quality living with security and peace of mind.”45 Leviev is directly involved in the establishment of settlements, in financing radical settler’s associations in the occupied territories, but also operates shopping malls, has recently won the contract for operating the first private prison in Israel.46 In Israel, separation fences and privatization campaigns go hand in hand. Social resistance to both is weakened by both the deep imprint of the colonial past on Israeli society – and the colonial process under way in the
West Bank. Hence the importance of the current moment, as the pro-fence coalition and the privatization lobby are converging. Here’s a challenge for Israel’s social activists – not only to expose those whose fortunes are built on the production of suffering and its exploitation, but to target the alliance between the managers of the state and capital in order to de-legitimate the lords of unemployment and privatization.

It is all too easy for opponents of the occupation and peace activists in Israel to imagine that they are facing fanatic, nationalist settlers, while they themselves are exemplars of enlightenment and progress. But in fact they are up against an elaborate coalition, of hard and soft, wild and civil colonialists. It extends from the messianic nationalist right to the defense industries and reasonable capitalists, from the radical ideological settlers the “quality of life settlers”, living in their isolated and clean towns on both sides of the Green Line. Here the struggle is harder precisely because the social origins and class position of those on both sides
are not very different.

But the challenge is yet more complex. The colonization process is built on social
misery and poor people’s pressing needs, just as the separation fence is built on fears, real and imagined, amplified by daily propaganda. It draws in young couples from the slums of Jerusalem and it enrolls new immigrants from the Russian Federation, who found themselves in the heart of the West Bank, in Ariel, for example, sent to settle the frontier like the new immigrants to Israel during the fifties; and the large ultra-orthodox families too, gaining access to appropriate subsidized housing only by joining the project of settlement and conquest of the West Bank. All of these can find themselves defending the occupation in order to defend themselves, in the short term – the fragile social existence that they have built

42 Boaz Gaon, “Black Diamonds,” Maariv 24.10.2005; Yossi Melman and Assaf Carmel, “Diamonds in the Rough,” Haaretz 24.3.2005.
43 Rafael Marques, “Lundas – The Stones of Death: Angola’s Deadly Diamonds,”9.3.2005:
44 On Leviev’s patronage of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, see Yossi Melman, “No Love Lost,” Haaretz 12.8.2005.
45 “Real Estate in Israel – Residential Properties,” Africa-Israel Website, accessed 23.1.2006:
46 Aryeh Dayan, “Leviev Promises to treat his Prisoners nicely,” Haaretz, 28.11.2005.

for themselves under the guidance of government authorities, the settler movement, and private capital. But they are not the enemy of the opponents of Israeli occupation, but themselves victims of the colonial process who have been dragged into the project and caught in it, instruments in the process of organized dispossession, endangering their own future. Hence the real political challenge for the opponents of occupation: how to build bridges among all of its victims, Palestinian and Israeli, Jews and Arabs, in order to halt colonialism and to build a different future for all.

posted by Levi9909 @ 11:41 AM   

Friday, March 03, 2006

From the Jewish Chronicle:Critics blast Board over Ken

02 March 2006

By Daniella Peled

The Board of Deputies has rebutted communal criticism of its decision to report Ken Livingstone to the Standards Board for likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard, which led to the Adjudication Panel for England imposing a four-week suspension on the London mayor.

As Mr Livingstone obtained a last-minute High Court decision to freeze the suspension — which had been due to take effect on Wednesday — Zionist Federation president Eric Moonman told the JC that the Board’s decision to report Mr Livingstone over his remark to the Evening Standard’s Oliver Finegold could bring an “extremely serious” backlash against the community. The Board has received dozens of antisemitic emails since the panel’s verdict last Friday.

Recent events such as the imprisonment of revisionist historian David Irving for Holocaust denial in Austria had created the impression that Jews demanded special treatment, Mr Moonman argued.

“If I was an official of the Board, I would probably have felt enormous pressure to do something,” he acknowledged. “But it would have been much more skillful to get a number of people to campaign on our behalf.

“We need to have some serious strategy about how the Jewish community deals with the mayor of London. He’s much more media savvy than anyone on the Board.”

Facing legal costs approaching £80,000, Mr Livingstone accused the Board of utilising “McCarthyism updated for a new age,” and persecuting him to silence his outspoken criticism of Israel.

The suspension has been criticised by political foes as well as allies. His legal challenge will be heard later this month.

Another communal critic of the Board’s action was Institute for Jewish Policy Research director Tony Lehrman, who warned that “when people want to act in the name of the Jewish community, they need to think carefully about the consequences.

“My feeling in relation to the incident [with Mr Finegold] was that it was clearly offensive. It would have been better if he had apologised, but I question the wisdom of turning it into a major public incident.”

Board director-general Jon Benjamin dismissed the suggestion that the mayor’s views on Israel had been a factor in its complaint. Mr Livingstone’s remark to Oliver Finegold had attracted widespread condemnation, with Tony Blair among those offended.

“It is quite bizarre that we should be criticised by going through the route placed there by Parliament,” Mr Benjamin maintained.

While supportive of the Board’s action, the Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Barry Marcus cautioned: “I think the community needs to keep quiet now. The more we react, the more we keep him in the public eye.”

Maidenhead Reform’s Rabbi Jonathan Romain believed it had been right to report Mr Livingstone, but feared that “there may be a short-term loss in that he’s getting a lot of public sympathy.”

posted by Levi9909 @ 4:17 PM   

Saturday, February 18, 2006

From the Jewish Chronicle

Strong nerves needed

16 February 2006

By Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks illuminates the ideals that lie behind prayer — one of the three pillars of the High Holy-days, along with charity and repentance

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks argues that British Jewry must remain calm in the face of recent, highly disturbing events, and continue to engage with the wider community

The strength of a people is tested in troubled times. These are troubled times. Events have succeeded one another at breakneck pace: the Iranian threat to wipe Israel off the map; the election by the Palestinians of Hamas, a group committed to the destruction of Israel; the violence following the publication of the Danish cartoons; and the Abu Hamza trial.

Locally there was the vote of the synod of the Church of England to heed a call to divest from companies associated with Israel; the Populus poll of British Muslims; and Guardian articles accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. These are of altogether lesser consequence, but they have added to our sense of vulnerability. How should we respond?

First let us acknowledge our an-ger and pain. Israel has taken great risks for peace, yet it seems at every stage to be rewarded with further hostility. The Jewish community in Britain has contributed immensely to national life, yet after 350 years we still feel at risk. Nor are our fears ungrounded. We have long and bitter memories. We recognise danger when we see it.

To feel anger and pain is natural. To act on it, though, is another matter entirely. It is what our enemies anticipated. Often, it is what they intended. Action in the heat of emotion can be rash and ill-judged. It can make things worse. It can lead people to focus on the moment instead of thinking long-term. Especially if a group is small, it must choose its battlegrounds carefully. Wherever possible, it should not fight alone.

It must win friends, and make its case from the highest of moral grounds. That is not weakness but wisdom. Be deliberate in judgement, said the sages. They might have added: especially when the stakes are high.

We carry with us decisive grounds for courage. The Jewish people has survived longer than any other religion or civilisation the West has known. It was threatened by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, ancient Greece and Rome, the medieval empires of Christianity and Islam, and in the 20th century by the Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Each once bestrode the narrow world like a colossus, but all were eventually consigned to the pages of history. The Jewish people — seemingly small, weak, powerless — still lives. These encounters were not without their human cost, sometimes immense. But after each, the Jewish people rebuilt itself, never more
so than after the Holocaust. If the strength of the people is tested in troubled times, ours is a people of awe-inspiring strength.

We must now work together as a community, developing strategies, pooling our wisdom, cultivating our allies, sharing our strengths. Several meetings to this end have already taken place in recent days, and the work will continue in the coming months. We must respond with dignity and calm, thinking long-term, avoiding predictable reactions, never stooping to the level of our opponents. In tense times, the advantage goes to the group with the strongest nerves. After all that has befallen our people, we have strong nerves.

The most important fact about the present situation is that on the big issues, neither Israel nor the Jewish people stand alone. An Iran with nuclear capability is a threat not only to Israel but to the world. Condoleezza Rice and Tony Blair have seen this clearly. So too have Jacques Chirac and Angela Merkel. Chirac’s statement on January 19 that France was prepared to launch a nuclear strike against any country sponsoring a terrorist attack against French interests, and Angela Merkel’s
comparison of Ahmadinejad to Hitler, were immensely significant signals. These
politicians know that the diatribes against Israel are a thinly disguised attack on
the West and its freedoms.

As for the election of Hamas, this became inevitable because of the corruption of the previous regime. Every Palestinian knew this. The point, though, is that so did leading European politicians, who none the less continued to fund the Arafat administration. The politics of “sup with the devil so long as it’s the devil you know” works in the short term but never in the long. America discovered this after funding the mujahideen radicals — Osama Bin-Laden’s early associates — in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Europe must not make this mistake again.

The violence following the Danish cartoons exceeded all bounds. Rightly, key
representatives of the British Muslim community have dissociated themselves from it. The cartoons should not have been published. But if free speech has limits for the Danish press, it has limits for those who protest against the Danish press. As John Locke, the architect of tolerance, said more than three centuries ago: “It is unreasonable that any should have a free liberty of their religion who do not acknowledge it as a principle of theirs that nobody ought to persecute or molest another because he dissents from him in religion.”

On all these issues we take our stand with those prepared to fight for tolerance, non-violent conflict resolution, moderation, mutual respect, self-restraint and the civilities of a free society. This is not a Jewish struggle but a human one, and we will work with people of goodwill, whatever their faith or lack of it.

The vote of the synod of the Church of England to “heed” a call to divestment from certain companies associated with Israel was ill-judged even on its own terms. The immediate result will be to reduce the Church’s ability to act as a force for peace between Israel and the Palestinians for as long as the decision remains in force. The essence of mediation is the willingness to listen to both sides.

The timing could not have been more inappropriate. Israel has risked civil war to carry out the Gaza withdrawal, the first time in the history of the Middle East that a nation has evacuated territory gained in a defensive war without a single concession, even the most nominal, on the other side.

Israel faces two enemies, Iran and Hamas, open in their threat to eliminate it. It needs support, not vilification.

For years I have called on religious groups in Britain to send a message of friendship and coexistence to conflict zones throughout the world, instead of importing those conflicts into Britain itself. The effect of the synod vote will be the opposite. The Church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East, over which it has no influence, knowing that it will have the most adverse repercussions on a situation over which it has enormous influence, namely Jewish-Christian relations in Britain.

That is why we cannot let the matter rest. If there was one candle of hope above all others after the Holocaust it was that Jews and Christians at last learned to speak to one another after some 17 centuries of hostility that led to exiles, expulsions, ghettoes, forced conversions, staged disputations, libels, inquisitions, burnings at the stake, massacres and pogroms. We must not let that candle be extinguished.

The Church could have chosen, instead of penalizing Israel, to invest in the
Palestinian economy. That would have helped the Palestinians. It would have had the support of most Israelis and most Jews. Indeed it is an Australian-born Jew, James Wolfensohn, former head of the World Bank, who is supervising the reconstruction of the Palestinian economy on behalf of the Group of Four, and who personally raised the funds to buy for the Palestinians the Israeli agricultural facilities in Gaza. The Church’s gesture will hurt Israelis and Jews without helping the Palestinians.

As a community, we must engage more actively in the promotion of good community relations, especially at the local level. We must teach ourselves and others the full history of our people’s 4,000-year bond with the land of Israel; how we were ousted by empire after empire but always returned; how Israel in the days of the prophets and today tirelessly sought peace, only to be rewarded with war. We must cultivate the friendship of people of generosity of spirit in all faiths. We must work with journalists who know that truth is never partisan. We must seek the support of politicians who speak to the highest, not the lowest, instincts of the public. We have enemies, but we have many friends.

Above all, we must take our stand on the value system Abraham and Judaism conferred on the world. The crisis humanity faces in the 21st century is not just political or economic, military or diplomatic. It is moral and spiritual.

Can we be true to our faith while being a blessing to others regardless of their faith? Can we heed the call of God to mend not destroy?

Aggression is the child of fear, and the only lasting antidote is the faith that
says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no
evil, for You are with me.”

We will never cease to love Israel, pray for peace, and work for the benefit of humanity. Our nerves must stay strong, our judgment calm and our language cool. And we will win. For if Jewish history has a message to the world, it is that there is something in the human spirit that cannot be defeated — something that gave and still gives our tiny, afflicted, tempest-tossed people the strength to outlive all its enemies while enlarging the moral imagination of mankind.

posted by Levi9909 @ 3:01 AM   

LEADER From the Jewish Chronicle.

Interfaith ties at risk
The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, is known for his moderation and distaste for public bickering. Indeed, his supporters often chide him for failing to speak his mind. So for the Chief Rabbi to call a Church of England synod decision ill-judged, and to warn, in an article written especially for this newspaper, that the synod’s vote to heed a call to divestment from certain companies associated with Israel will have “the most adverse repercussions” on Jewish-Christian relations in Britain,
constitutes, in his vocabulary, a severe tongue-lashing.

The Church of England, and in particular, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who voted in favour of the divestment call, deserve no less. In an extraordinarily convoluted letter to the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop wrote that it was “especially unfortunate” that the synod motion was voted on at a time when antisemitism “is a growing menace and when the state of Israel faces some very particular challenges” both in terms of Hamas’s election victory and the worrying developments in Iran. This obviously begs the question as to why then the Archbishop still felt it necessary to lend his support to a motion that could only cause hurt to the British Jewish community.

The Chief Rabbi is correct in saying that in the post-Holocaust world, one ray of light has been the improvement in Christian-Jewish relations. But these closer ties should not be taken for granted, either by Jews or Christians. The organised leadership of the British Jewish community needs to make sure that the Jewish community’s friends in the Christian world, and we do have friends there, are aware of this hurt. It will then be up to the Church to find a positive way to make amends for the regrettable and damaging synod decision. If it does not, the Jewish community should then begin to re-assess its ties with the Anglican world.

posted by Levi9909 @ 2:57 AM   

Chief Rabbi lambasts Church over Israel policy

16 February 2006

By Simon Rocker

Sir Jonathan Sacks has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Church of England over its Israel policy, accusing it of pursuing a course it knew would damage Christian-Jewish relations.

Despite diplomatic moves by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams to play down last week’s vote on divestment at the Church’s synod, the Chief Rabbi went on the attack in an article in today’s JC.

Condemning the synod action as “ill-judged,” he said its timing could not have been more inappropriate.

Israel had risked civil war to make unilateral territorial concessions in Gaza and was facing threats from two enemies, Iran and Hamas, openly vowing to eliminate it. “It needs support, not vilification,” he wrote.

Sir Jonathan continued: “For years, I have called on religious groups in Britain to send a message of friendship and co-existence to conflict zones throughout the world, instead of importing those conflicts into Britain itself.

“The effect of the synod vote will be the opposite. The Church has chosen to take a stand on the politics of the Middle East, over which it has no influence, knowing that it will have the most adverse repercussions on a situation over which it has enormous influence, namely Jewish-Christian relations in Britain.”

The policy, he wrote, would immediately “reduce the Church’s ability to act as a force for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Dr Williams voted for last week’s resolution, which re-opened the issue of whether the Church should withdraw its £2.5million investment in Caterpillar amid complaints that the company’s bulldozers are used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes. The Church’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) last year decided against divestment.

In an effort to limit the damage, Dr Williams wrote to Sir Jonathan last Friday, conveying “deep regret” at the distress caused by the resolution. Stressing that no decision had been taken to divest, he explained that to register concern about the demolition of Palestinian homes was “emphatically not to commend a boycott, or to question the legitimacy of the state of Israel and its rights to self-defence.”

Nor did the resolution “endorse any kind of violence or terror against Israel and its people, or compromise our commitment to oppose any form of antisemitism at home or abroad,” he added.

Replying to Dr Williams by letter on Monday, the Chief Rabbi gave no hint of the strength of feeling expressed in today’s article, but suggested that the Archbishop’s “clarification” would aid understanding between Jews and Christians.

Sources at the EIAG, which next meets in May, have indicated it is unlikely to recommend pulling out of Caterpillar unless new facts emerge.

But Jewish leaders began planning a collective response to the Synod move at a meeting on Tuesday called by Sir Jonathan and attended by representatives of Reform, Liberal, Masorti, the Spanish and Portuguese, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council. The Board has agreed to carry out an investigation into attitudes within the Church of England.

Reform movement head Rabbi Tony Bayfield, a co-president of the Council of Christian and Jews, commented: “There is a clear problem of anti-Zionist, verging on anti-Semitic, attitudes emerging in the grassroots, and even in the middle-ranks of the Church.”

The sharpest reaction came from Federation of Synagogues president Alan Finlay, who called on the Chief Rabbi to withdraw from interfaith dialogue with the Church until it issued a public apology and dismissed previous attempts to lobby it as “arrant nonsense.”

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who blasted the Synod vote last week, this week compared it to the Danish cartoons of Mohammed. Both were “essentially swipes at another faith which only deepen conflict an open fresh wounds,” he told a Three Faiths Forum meeting.

Meanwhile, former Labour Friends of Israel Lord Hogg has publicly urged the Church of England not to vote for divestment later this year, which “is not only morally and practically wrong, but…will do nothing but hurt our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

posted by Levi9909 @ 2:50 AM   

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Arabs Will Hate "Munich"
By: Ray Hanania

Leaving aside the fact that Mr. Hanania has not seen the movie in question, his tirade against the Arab world is a most interesting indicator of how Zionist HASBARAH has infected so many corners of the media world we now live in.

I will accept Hanania's characterization of the Arab world as lacking in the freedom of speech that we have in the West.

The question is: Will Hanania accept that there is a similar lack of freedom inside the Jewish community and its various media satellites?

In addition, while it is quite easy to pick on the Arabs for their dictators and their religious extremists, it is quite difficult to actually identify and articulate the idea that the Jews as a whole, have organized themselves into a bloc that speaks in one voice and attempts to block any attempt to create a pluralistic discourse.

The "Munich" episode is just such an example of this phenomenon. There have been many attacks on Spielberg's film prior to its release. I have received e-mails promoting boycotts of the film. This is quite interesting because those involved in writing and directing the film are all Jews. But the Right Wing Jews calling for the boycott are deeply concerned to enforce a certain regulated discourse on the matter of Israel. According to this model of discourse, anyone who removes themselves from the Right Wing Zionist consensus opens themselves up to smears and hate of unimaginable viciousness no matter their own Zionism or fidelity to Jewish causes.

Hanania does well to point out that Arabs can be as hypocritical as any other ethnic group, but he does not balance his argument out with what goes on in the Jewish community.

I am quite aware that it is hard to say that the Jews control the media; perhaps it is better to say that a certain part of the Jewish community has been able to control all discourse about Jews and Israel and to make sure that dissenting voices are either not heard or not given legitimacy. I believe that this would be a judicious way of putting it.

And for those Sephardim who continue to march in lockstep with the Ashkenazim and just as consistently continue to cry and whine about their disenfranchisement as Sephardim, they only have themselves to blame. The priorities and values of the Sephardic community not only have very little in common with the tyrannical Ashkenazim, but they are often completely in conflict with those of this Ashkenazi majority of Jews who more often than not act in a demeaning and paternalistic manner towards us.

Steven Spielberg has made a film that will serve to reflect the values of Ashkenazim on the Left and the battle waged with the Ashkenazim on the Right only reinforces the dysfunctional way in which the intolerance of this community plays itself out.

That Hanania seeks to valorize these misplaced and often damaging values is something that is quite inexplicable to me.


Let’s set aside the criticism from Israelis and Jews that the film isn’t tough enough on the Arabs or Palestinian terrorism, or that the film focuses on Israeli assassins and portrays them as being vengeful and cruel. Rather, let’s focus on the Arab reaction.

Even if Israelis hate the film, Arabs will hate it more. Because even if the Israelis look bad in Munich, the Arabs will probably look even worse. Arabs will blast the film and claim, as they always do, that “the Jews control the media and Hollywood, too.”

As a journalist, the term “media” includes anything that has to do with communications. That includes the news media, Hollywood movies, the New York book publishing industry, television sitcoms and most entertainment.

To most Arabs, Spielberg’s film is just another part of the vast "Jewish media conspiracy." They believe that the "Jewish media conspiracy" theory best explains why so many in the Western World sympathize with Israel over the Palestinians.
So, what’s stopping Arabs from making their own movies? Why don’t the Arabs control the news media?

Are not those more important questions to ask? Can’t the Arabs come up with a great movie that will move audiences to tears and support for our causes, than to simply respond by always blaming “the Jews”?

All I ever hear is that “the Jews control the media.”

Arab World doesn’t believe in free speech

That upsets me, not because I believe it is true. It is not true. It may be true that there are many more Jews in American journalism than there are Arabs. But, who’s stopping the Arabs from becoming journalists?

What upsets me most is that if the Jews control the media, then that means the Arabs either think the media is not worth controlling, or, more likely, we don’t know how to control the media.

Does it therefore mean that Jews are smarter than Arabs? Does it therefore mean Jews are more talented than Arabs?

It certainly means that while the Arabs don’t control the media, they love to complain about it.

Is it that we Arabs are so poor that we can’t afford to buy or launch our own newspapers, television stations or produce our own compelling Hollywood films? Part of the problem is the Arab World itself. Arabs come from societies that are not free in a real sense. Yes, we are “freer” than we used to be, but we are far from really being “free.”

The Arab World doesn’t believe in free speech because if they did, Arab filmmakers would not only be making movies bashing Israel and promoting Arab and Palestinian causes, but they would also be bashing the tyrants who dominate our world. They would also be exposing the lies that drive the corruption of government and the sins of our society, such as Honor Killings and the restrictions we impose on women.

Arabs losing the war of words

Spielberg’s film isn’t the first film to project an Israeli tragedy on the Western World. Israelis and Jews have eloquently told their story dozens of times or more in compelling narrative that captures the hearts and minds of audiences around the world -- every subject from the Holocaust to hijackings, the killing of Israelis and Jews to the creation of Israel.

One of the most popular is the Hollywood movie "Exodus." The movie Exodus is fiction, yet it probably has defined for most Americans the fundamentals of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The film is based on the fiction novel by prize-winning author Leon Uris. Uris was commissioned by a publicist hired by supporters of the state of Israel.
Fiction is a powerful medium. So why haven’t Arabs used it?

No. Arabs prefer “the truth” to “fiction.” We prefer to write boring, academic books that are as thick as encyclopedias and stuffed with “facts” and “statistics” and prose drowned in footnotes and smothered with dry analysis.

Let’s face it. Edward Said was probably the Palestinians' most brilliant author. Yet, the truth is, his books were only read by a relatively small circle of academics, students, Middle East activists and advocates. Meanwhile, the majority of Americans NEVER HEARD OF HIM. They never read any of his books.

What is the point of writing a historically accurate book that no one will read. People don’t want to read the boring truth. They want to be swooned by compelling literature that captures their hearts, their minds and has a soul.

The Arab World has essentially surrendered the news and Hollywood media without a fight. The sole exception is al-Jazeera which has failed to achieve its goals because it continues to broadcast in Arabic to the “Arab choir.” The West is so poisoned against al-Jazeera that if they ever do launch a professional English-language news broadcast – a big if – it might be too late.

Arabs are losing the war of words, and their only response is to slander Jews.
In the West, particularly in America, perception is often reality. The pen is mightier than the sword.

Until Arabs recognize those important points, we all might as well just calm down, sit back and enjoy the popcorn. Although the film may promote Israel’s historical narrative, it will be far more compelling than anything the Arab World can produce.
From Ynet News, December 28, 2005

posted by Levi9909 @ 11:09 AM