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Quelques morceaux d’anthologie

Lettre ouverte (et +) à Angela Merkel, chancelière de la RFA

par Günter Schenk

mercredi 21 février 2007

Sehr geehrte Frau Bundeskanzlerin Dr. Merkel
sehr geehrter Herr Bundesaußenmister Steinmeier
sehr geehrter Herr Minister Erler

ich gehe davon aus, dass die Ihnen von Ihrer Presseabteilung ausgewählten Informationen nicht diejenigen unser amerikanischen Freunde von den JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE sind. Es ist jedoch wichtig zu wissen, nicht nur bei uns in Deutschland und in Europa gibt es zahlreiche herausragende jüdische Stimmen, die von offiziellen jüdischen Organisationen verschwiegen werden. So haben sich in den Vereingten Staaten von Amerika verantwortungsbewusste Juden bei der JVP zusammengetan. Gerade die sind es aber, die der Welt Licht nach Jahren der Finsternis geben, die sich nicht damit begnügen, mit immer neuen Forderungen, auch finanzieller Art an ihre Regierungen heranzutreten sondern, sinnvoll abgewandelt, das zu tun, was John Fitzgerald Kennedy seinen Landsleuten zurief :
Fragt nicht, was Eure Gesellschaft für Euch tun soll, sondern fragt, was ihr für die Zukunft Eurer Gesellschaft tun könnt.
Die JVP können auch Ihnen, sehr geehrte Frau Bundeskanzlerin, sehr geehrte Herren Minister, Wege zum gerechten Frieden in Nahost aufzeigen, weitab von den ausgetretenen Pfaden des sogenannten Quartetts, besonders der jetzigen (!) US-Administration.

Sie finden in dieser Mitteilung, heute, zahlreiche Links, die ich Ihnen besonders zur Beachtung empfehle. Besonders empfehle ich Ihnen den Artikel über den kürzlich verstorbenen ehemaligen Bürgermeister von Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek zur Lektüre. Autor ist der bekannte Journalist von Haaretz, Gideon Levy.

Für weitere Rückfragen stehe ich Ihnen gern zur Verfügung.


Günter Schenk
5 rue des cigognes
F-67930 Beinheim
Tel. +33-388 862 665
Fax +33-388 864 835
- Mitglied der Deutsch-Arabischen Gesellschaft
- Aktionsbündnis für einen gerechten Frieden in Palästina
- Mitglied der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (1966)
für das « Collectif judéo-arabe et citoyen pour la Paix » Strasbourg

es folgen die Jewish Peace News vom 20. Februar 2007 :
February 20, 2007

Check out the new blogs from Jewish Voice for Peace :

The Third Way —In-depth analysis on all aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Check out the latest, an extensive examination of the Camp David II myth.

Muzzlewatch —Tracking efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy. Including new material on the American Jewish Committee’s attacks on progressive Jews.

Click here to let your friends know about JPN.

The views expressed here are those of the editors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Will the Real Defense Budget Please Stand Up (MK Avshalom Vilan) on Israel’s disproportionate defense budget, with additional context by Rela Mazali

Occupation and Aid (Alternative Information Center) how the international community’s aid enables Israel to continue the Occupation

Growing Bitterness in Gaza (Amira Hass) new update on Gaza

Into the Valley of Death (Meron Rapaport) The mythical Mitla Pass heroism - exposed as myth

Brandeis Donors Exact Revenge for Carter Visit (Jewish Week) Major donors of Brandeis University threaten to withhold contributions

Teddy Kollek : The Greatest Settler (Gideon Levy) on this famed mayor of Jerusalem and the Settling in the city

More Important Articles Links to other important news articles for today

[JPN Commentary : In a piece titled (in Hebrew) « Enough of this army that has a state too » (published Feb. 7, in the business daily The Marker), Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan of Meretz and also of the Knesset’s joint defense and budget committee, says a recent « study … shows that for the first time in Israeli history, low earners are becoming less patriotic. They are starting to detach from the Israeli narrative, as is shown by their increasing reluctance to serve in the army ».

Vilan cites this as evidence of the risk Israel is taking in systematically neglecting the needs of weakened sections of its society and prioritizing alleged « national security » projects over the true security of good education, healthcare and welfare. Notably, though himself a member of the body of elected representatives who approve Israel’s defense budget, Vilan represents himself as powerless, stating, « Israel’s priorities regarding the budget and its size are not determined in proper debate » and, « the real defense budget is far greater than the figure approved by government ».

In an op-ed published yesterday in the Hebrew version of Ha’aretz, Amnon Dick, former CEO of the Israel telephone company Bezeq, characterized today’s Israel as three disjointed states, the economy-state, the social-state and the government-state. According to Dick, as the economy-state flourishes the social-state, education included, is sinking into deeper and deeper trouble. Meanwhile, the government-state is increasingly dysfunctional—"disappointing, apparently corrupt, unstable". « Make no mistake, » Dick wrote, « these three states cannot conduct separate existences for long. … The failing government and leadership, Israel’s impaired national strength, and the weak social state can drag the economy down too, very deep » [translations mine].

Dick, writing critically of economic actors’ obliviousness towards social needs, in turn totally un-sees a fourth « state »—the non-state of occupied Palestine—whose suppression is intimately linked both with the prolonged decline in Israeli social welfare spending/policy and with the corruption of almost every aspect of Israeli government. This major elision (or illusion) notwithstanding, Dick’s claims partly overlap the central point being made by Vilan, i.e. that things have gone badly wrong in Israel as regards the distribution of resources and the processes through which it is determined. « It is time to change the way decisions are made, » Vilan writes, « [in order to] truly preserve our national security, which boils down to the right balance between army, economy, and society ».

These overviews of a process eating away at the state of Israel are offered not by radically dissenting speakers but, as stated, by a senior politician on the one hand and a top business executive on the other. Each in its own way casts serious doubts upon the capacity of Israel’s government to meet the needs of the state. And not just of its current government ; « the government-state … must undergo systemic change » says Dick, while Vilan is critical of « the way decisions are made ».

In my view, continuing Israeli militarization and colonization are, first and foremost, destroying Palestinian society and people, trampling their human rights. However, through different means, these processes are also destroying Israeli society and people, as well as the vestiges of democratic government in Israel. This process of destruction—unchecked to date—is evident in these harshly critical, mutually resonating analyses. Yet they are merely today’s pickings. Many similar items could be added to the list. While debate of this type is audible and ongoing in Israel, limited though it may be, and popular opinion is increasingly mistrusting of government, it seems curious that a majority of Jews outside Israel still tend to disbelieve or reject as « anti-Israeli » any claim that Israeli « defense » is self-destructive. RM]

Will the real defense budget please stand up
By Avshalom Vilan

February 2, 2007

Every year, when the cabinet and Knesset come to vote on the state budget, the demand to cut defense spending arises anew. The basic argument is that the defense budget is too big for a country of Israel’s small size. In rebuttal, defense officials claim that the existential threats to Israel are alive and well, requiring it to maintain its high level of defense expenditure.

In the last decade, basic defense spending (including on the various intelligence forces) has remained steady. But it gets augmented each year by sundry extras and additions, resulting from developments in the field. And thus, budget reserves generally wind up being spent on defense.
There are plenty of examples. In 2000, as the second intifada began, the defense budget received an extra NIS 3 billion. Later the government approved the construction of the fence, at a cost of NIS 10-12 billion, split over several fiscal years. Then came the disengagement plan, which cost the taxpayer a tremendous NIS 10 billion and counting. And in 2006 the war on the border with Lebanon erupted overnight and there went another NIS 8 billion.

Two lessons arise from this. One is that the real defense budget us far greater than the figure approved by government. Two : Israel’s priorities regarding the budget and its size are not determined in proper debate. They are the result of changing circumstances.

Despite the ideological talk about cutting public spending, it’s being dramatically expanded via national projects.

To manage a rational policy regarding the true budget in general and the defense budget in particular, two things must happen in parallel. One is to prepare a long-term defense plan, including calculation of routine needs and costly future development plans, plus a hefty amount for unforeseen developments. That reserve would only be tapped when the need arises, for instance if war breaks out.

The other thing is to commence a long-term debate in government and Knesset over the true goals of Israeli society. Education in Israel, from kindergarten to university, is key to our security. But the true importance of education, not to mention healthcare and welfare, are not demonstrated in the budget : they are not part of the long-term debate on budgetary needs.
The result is that we’re turning into an army with its own state, and worse, with our very own hands, we are hurting our future ability to protect ourselves and maintain our edge over the enemies.

A study conducted at the Interdisciplinary Center of Herzliya shows that for the first time in Israeli history, low earners are becoming less patriotic. They are starting to detach from the Israeli narrative, as is shown by their increasing reluctance to serve in the army.

It is time to change the way decisions are made on the budget and national security. The government should make the National Security Council prepare budgetary alternatives, and consider how investment in security impacts society and welfare. Decisions should be made with the long-term in view and adjusted each year as needed.

If we change our mind-set and build the process properly, there is a chance that the people making decisions based on political ground will make more balanced considerations, will allocate the last few billions to the right things in each fiscal year and will truly preserve our national security, which boils down to the right balance between army, economy, and society.

The author is a member of the Knesset’s joint defense and budget committee.

[JPN Commentary : The below is a nuanced overview, by Shir Hever, of economic processes in the Palestinian areas controlled by Israel. In particular, it outlines how the international community facilitates Israel’s (relative) economic impunity, given the expense of continuing occupation.

Shlomo Svirsky, in his important The Price of Occupation (2004) described the related but somewhat similar effect of US financial backing for Israel, in 2003 :

« the American administration allowed Israel to conduct its military operations against the Palestinian Authority under highly favorable domestic political conditions. The government was not forced to strain the local capital market or to raise taxes, steps that would have distressed Israel’s more affluent stratum … the very stratum that, if faced with … a heavier financial burden, might have been able to press the government to consider changing its policy regarding the occupied Palestinian territories. » (p. 90)

As Hever points out, humanitarian aid to Palestinians, regardless of Israel’s huge « cut », is both desperately needed and somewhat empowering. All the more so, I believe, as the Israeli-US-led siege on the Palestinian Authority continues and the only point of interest for world media, in an insulated Gaza, seems to be internal Palestinian violence (itself facilitated by US armament of Fateh).

It is seriously debatable, however, just who and what are empowered by direct aid to Israel by the US and Europe. According to a « Peace Index survey » published February 8, a large majority of Israel’s public believe that « corruption is more widespread in Israel than in the Western countries » and view cleaning up a corrupt administration as the state’s most urgent goal. Another goal deemed urgent, as echoed by other sources (for instance : ), is reducing the gaps between rich and poor. As is typical of corrupt regimes, these have grown consistently over recent years with poverty rates in Israel among the highest in the west. Various indicators show that the recent economic boom supported to some extent by foreign (mainly US) aid to Israel, benefits a small and consistently limited « upper crust » of Israel’s society. Perhaps only bypassing the social violence of poverty, this aid actively feeds and helps maintain the state violence of occupation, armament and conflict. RM]

Occupation and Aid
By Shir Hever, Alternative Information Center (AIC)

For the whole paper, including graphs, go here :

This paper was presented by AIC economist Shir Hever, at the United
Nations Seminar on Assistance to the Palestinian People, held in Doha on
5-6 February 2007

There is no need to go into details, once again, about the extensive damage caused to the Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces. We have heard much already of the mounting poverty rate, that GDP has fallen by 9% during the first half of 2006, that 25% of the Palestinian work force is suffering from a severe loss of income due to the sanctions on the PA, and that welfare payments have fallen by US$180 million. Moreover, Per-capita consumption in Palestine has fallen by 12%. Deep poverty is reaching alarming proportions, in Gaza it is already at 79.8%. Additionally, food insecurity is also at very high levels, reaching up to 41% in Gaza.

This information is readily apparent from the UN and World Bank reports. But, in this talk, I would like to focus on two separate questions.

One, what are the economic interests behind the devastation of the Palestinian economy ?

Two, what can we expect to see as the long-term consequences of the occupation on the Palestinian economy ?

1. Israeli Interests

Due to the « Paris Economic Protocols, » signed as the economic appendix to the Oslo agreements, Israel enforces a customs union on the OPT, and only goods moving between Israel and the OPT are exempt from customs while Israel alone has the right to collect customs. At the same time, Israel ’s promise to allow Palestinian workers to enter Israel freely and work there remains unfulfilled.

The result of Israel ’s devastation of the Palestinian economy, accompanied by severe limitations on the movement of people and merchandise, is that the Palestinian economy has become hostage to the Israeli economy.

The Palestinians’ ability to work, produce and earn an income has been severely limited, and the only thing staving off massive hunger and disease is the emergency humanitarian assistance coming in the form of foreign money. The current official unemployment level in the OPT is 30%, but unofficial unemployment levels are much higher. In fact, only 31% of working-age Palestinians have any kind of employment.

At first glance, it seems that this humanitarian assistance is a blessing to the Palestinians, as it supports a minimum standard of living and prevents further disaster. However, the aid is in fact co-opted by Israel as a source of income that helps fund the occupation.

Whenever Palestinians import goods using this foreign aid, they must either buy from Israeli companies or buy from international companies and pay customs to the Israeli government (as noted, 73% of all imports to the OPT come from Israel). Even when goods from Jordan or Egypt might be available at cheaper prices, administrative hurdles on the movement of goods and customs force Palestinians to buy the more expensive Israeli products.

Meanwhile, Israel maintains control over utilities (such as water, electricity and phone services) in the OPT and in 2004 alone, confiscated US $15.8 million from aid sent to the OPT for utility bills owed by Palestinian municipalities. A recent report showed that Israel charges exorbitant prices for these utilities ; despite the low income of the Palestinians, they actually pay more for electricity than Israelis.

Foreign aid to the OPT, then, effectively perpetuates the situation in which the Palestinians are a nation of consumers who are unable to produce and unable to compete with the Israeli economy. Israel ’s government and various Israeli companies reap the profits, while the international community pays the bill. The Palestinians’ desperate need is turned into a lever to promote the prosperity of their occupiers.

Furthermore, the humanitarian foreign aid to the OPT temporarily relieves Israel of the need to face its responsibility for destroying the Palestinian economy, and allows Israel to continue its assault on the OPT without having to answer to the international community for creating a humanitarian disaster.

But despite the economic benefits it gains, Israel also interferes with the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. The interference is so great that U.N. agents have complained that « we don’t know of another conflict area in the world where we’ve had these problems - even in Kosovo. » UNSCO claims that while aid is currently indispensable, closures, which increase humanitarian deprivation and make aid more necessary, also reduces the effectiveness of aid by blocking access to those in need. The obstacles placed by Israeli authorities on the delivery of humanitarian assistance is evidence that international aid does indeed empower the Palestinians in certain ways, and that it does threaten Israel’s continued control over the OPT, even as it perpetuates it. But while piling on barriers that block aid from Palestinians and Palestinians from aid, in its public face to the international community, Israel acts fervent in its support of humanitarian aid.

Early in 2004, Israel ’s defense minister held a meeting with representatives of the donor countries and international organizations working in the OPT, and asked them to pull together and increase their donations to prevent the complete collapse of the Palestinian Authority. He asked them not to abandon the OPT now, because « we cannot shut our eyes to the deterioration of the Palestinian Authority, which could result in the disintegration of the Authority and its institutions, and will undermine the chances for peace. »

This tone has changed, following the election of the Hamas to the PA government, and Israel immediately called for international sanctions on the democratically elected Palestinian government. A few weeks afterwards, it became apparent that the sanctions were working all-too
well, and Israel found itself scrambling to restore aid to the Palestinians, in order to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe among the population under its responsibility, without actually paying for it.

2. Consequences to the Palestinian Economy

Despite all that has been said above, however, the Israeli economy, as a whole, does not profit from the occupation. Israelis are paying (even after including various forms of income from the occupation), about US$ 9 billion every year to maintain the settlements and Israel ’s military control over the Palestinians. The Israeli economy is experiencing great difficulties as a result of this long-enduring expenditure. Only a handful of arm dealers, real-estate speculators and construction companies, as well as the settlers themselves, reap economic benefits from the occupation.

The situation of the Palestinian economy is clearly worse, and heading steadily towards further deterioration. The international donations during the 1990s, intended to foster the development of an independent Palestinian economy, were countered by Israeli measures, resulting in the monies achieving no actual development. The donors, however, have yet to demand restitution from the Israeli government for their squandered investments, so Israel has yet to suffer any consequences for its interference.

However, as the Palestinian economy is denied any any ability to develop or gain independence, and as the cost of the occupation continues to weigh heavily upon the Israeli economy, we begin to see a new trend in the economic structure of the occupation.

It appears that the prospects for an independent Palestinian state, economically speaking, continue to recede. At the same time, the complete evacuation of all the settlers from the West Bank, though required by international law, seems increasingly difficult for the Israeli economy to bear.

A new direction that is gradually (according to recent polls) gaining support among the Palestinian population, is a renewed turn towards the idea of a one-state solution. A solution which will obviously include the full implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return, full citizenship to all the people living in Palestine and compensation to the Palestinians for confiscated lands.

Israel ’s responsibility for the wellbeing of the Palestinians is not diminished by its disregard for their lives, and the debt of Israel to the Palestinians continues daily to swell. It can only be paid in full once the occupation ends.

[JPN Commentary : While Israel claims to be taking measures to ease up the hardship in Gaza, what it does in reality is making life easier for a special class of people, thereby encouraging suspicion and animosity, and enhancing the chances for a civil war. - RG]

Growing bitterness in Gaza

By Amira Hass

The wave of killings in Gaza on Thursday of last week was sparked by a suspicion : Hamas members feared that containers Israel allowed to enter Gaza held weapons for the Presidential Guard. They fired on the trucks, killing four members of the Guard, and Gaza once again entered a lethal whirlpool : 30 dead and more than 200 wounded.

No rifle or bullet was displayed for the TV cameras, which made it clear to everyone that Hamas propagandists either lied or relied on false information. The containers held only routine equipment, not weapons, for the Presidential Guard.

Surely the attackers would have greeted the trucks with flowers had they known the trucks held equipment designed to « improve the fabric of their life. » What is the connection between security equipment, the Presidential Guard and an improvement in everyday life ? It can be found in a document the Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) presented on January 12 regarding the « easing of daily life. » One of its headings : ’The comprehensive plan for improving the Palestinian population’s fabric of life."

The first paragraph is « Steps to empower Abu Mazen, » and it includes : « Coordination with the PA chairman’s office and those subordinate to him - Approving entry of donations (security equipment) for the Presidential Guard by expedited procedure ; easing the movement of VIPs and senior Palestinians.... »

From the document we cannot learn about « easing of conditions, » but rather about the mentality of an occupier. The document demonstrates that the security establishment continues to adopt methods that played - and still play - a decisive role in the accumulation of tremendous bitterness among the Palestinian public toward senior Fatah officials.

It is not important whether the document presented referred to that very security equipment. The important thing is that when the war between the Palestinian security services threatens to turn into a civil war with numerous victims, the security establishment identifies the « empowerment of Abu Mazen » with the strengthening of a security apparatus, and both with an improved « fabric of life. »

There is no mention in the document of possibly allowing Gaza residents to go to work in Israel, because there is no intention of allowing them to do so. But in the Gaza Strip if thousands could earn a livelihood, that would help Abu Mazen more than security equipment.

It is also unimportant whether senior Fatah officials Mohammed Dahlan and Nabil Amr crossed checkpoints in the West Bank and traveled to Mecca as VIPs. What is important is that they traveled without delays, while the Israeli authorities at the Allenby checkpoint delayed the exit of Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Al-din Al-Shaer and of acting Finance Minister Samir Abu Eisheh on their way to that crucial meeting in Mecca by a day.

What is important is that the security establishment is easing the travel restrictions for some chosen individuals who are close to senior Fatah officials, teaching the public to be suspicious of anyone who receives such favors and to identify them with the clandestine game of « give and take. »

Three pages in the document deal with the arrangements for the entry of citizens of Western countries (most of them of Palestinian origin) to the territories. While the diplomats were promised in December 2006 that, in effect, their citizens, mainly the non-Jewish ones, would not suffer discrimination, the Interior Ministry continues to block their entry.

For example, Mahmoud Ali, 70, from Chicago, wanted to see his wife, a resident of the West Bank. On January 20, his entry was denied. Abd al-Jammal, 67, and Qawthar Ali, 52, flew from Florida to visit their daughters. After seven days of detention at Ben-Gurion International Airport, they were flown to Amman on January 16.

In reply to a question about the contradiction between the promises and the reality on the ground, a COGAT spokesman said that "the procedure for the entry of foreigners is being formulated jointly with the Interior Ministry. Today exceptions are approved at the recommendation of COGAT, under the aegis of the Interior Ministry.

This is the essence of the easing of restrictions : Basic rights are enjoyed by « exceptions, » according to the decision of the security establishment. And, thus, the exceptions become suspects. The Palestinians ask themselves : What made these people acceptable to the occupation authorities ? Why were they lucky ? And if this is not suspicion, what we have here is bitterness, jealousy and animosity - surefire components for any civil war.

[JPN Commentary : Here is what Shraga Elam, an Israeli activist who is about 60 years old, writes about this story :

"The myth of Yehuda Ken Dror was very central for my generation. It was actually more important for us than the Shoa.

In recent years even the IOF admits that the battle of the Mitla Pass was - « a heroic but unnecessary battle, » in which 38 soldiers died for nothing (Ha’aretz 29.10.2006 ).

More and more Israeli soldiers are realizing, especially after the last Lebanon war that they have been sent to die by some idiot of an officer/politician, who’ll afterwards tell lies and will build his career on the blood of their comrades.

The new Ken Dror story is important, because it destroys also an the myth that the officers present there, who became to belong to the leading elite of the Israeli army, volunteered to implement this suicidal mission.

Many similar incidents happened during the war of 1973, for example in the « Chinese Farm ». Some of the survivors are leading now a struggle against their commanders.

I myself was sent with my unit to conquer two « very important » Egyptian dunes at the eve before ceasefires was declared. All the odds were against us, because with less than a battalion we attacked an Egyptian division and the commandant who gave us the order, in coordination with the highest possible generals cannot admit till today that he sent us towards a certain death for nothing. He cannot even today admit that ours attack was the 8th. futile one against these « very important » sand hills and that he and the High Command by then should have known how many Egyptian troops were stationed there. I heard that the Egyptians erected on one of these hills a monument for the Israeli foolishness.

After the last Lebanon war more and more Israeli soldiers realize that they are cheated by the generals and this is a ticking bomb about to explode". (End of quote).

I agree that the significance of the Mitla Pass story cannot be overstated (I belong to the same generation as Shraga). But it’s important to underline that it’s really not only of importance for men-soldiers, since the state completely depends the cooperation of women to keep the web of
myth and deception alive and well. I’ve known for quite some time, of course, that the Israeli army is very far from « pure ». I know about many of the atrocities which took place during the war of ’48, the war of ’67, and times in between and thereafter.

Yet, this story shook me up, and only when I read Shraga’s account I understood that it exposed a new level of deception : I still held (unconsciously) to the belief that at least the Israel army used to treat its own soldiers decently. Probably if someone mentioned it to me out-loud, I would have realized that it’s something in need of closer scrutiny. It’s the assumptions that we cling on without an awareness that we’re doing so which tend to persist for the longest time.

I also want to own up to the fact that whenever another piece of the mythical edifice beats the dust, I experience a lot of pain, and yes - rage ! Rage at the manipulation we were all subjected to ; the unbelievable cost in human lives and suffering ; and the fact that there were those who benefitted from it all, and still do. - RG]

Into the valley of death

by Meron Rapaport

Ha’aretz Friday Magazine
February 9, 2007

Even after more than 50 years, Benny Broida can’t get this image out of his mind. It’s the image of Yehuda Kan Dror, his buddy in the Paratroopers’ trek through the Sinai desert, driving to his death. « I look at Yehuda and I see that he’s going, » Broida, then a wireless radio operator in the jeep of which Kan Dror was the driver. « I give him a strange look. Even now, when I talk about it, after 50 years, I get the chills. You’re with someone for a few days, you become pals, friends, and you know he’s going to his death. And Yehuda went. »

What Yehuda Kan Dror did has entered history. In fact, it’s gone beyond history and achieved mythic status. The myth of the heroism and self-sacrifice on which the IDF continues to educate its soldiers. The myth of the battle of the Mitla Pass.

On October 31, 1956, on the third day of the Sinai Campaign, as it was called, a force of paratroopers was caught in an Egyptian ambush in the Mitla Pass, a narrow defile between hills leading from central Sinai toward the Suez Canal. Part of the patrol, which was sent out by Ariel Sharon, then the commander of the Paratroops Brigade, found itself stuck in the pass, unable to move or to evacuate its dead and wounded. Aharon Davidi, then the commander of a reserve battalion which was stationed outside the Mitla Pass, decided to send in a jeep that would draw the enemy’s fire and thereby disclose where the Egyptian troops were hiding. Kan Dror, according to the grounds for the Medal of Valor he was awarded posthumously, « volunteered to drive in an open jeep through the defile in the face of the fire of at least six medium machine guns, machine guns, rifles, bazookas and rifle-mounted grenade launchers. »

« It is important to study this battle, because it contains many aspects of the IDF’s fighting spirit in that period, » states a study pamphlet prepared years later by the IDF’s Education Corps. « It contains elements that are important to learn and to educate [soldiers] in their light. » One of those elements, the pamphlet noted, was « volunteering for dangerous missions. »

The pamphlet adds : « Yehuda Kan Dror volunteered for a mission from which his chances of emerging alive were nonexistent. Nevertheless, he volunteered to drive his jeep into the Egyptian ambush in the defile. The knowledge that his buddies were in great danger, with no way to pull them out, made him realize that it was crucial to perform an action that would bring about a turning point in the battle. Here it is important to note that some four other officers, among the most senior in the field, volunteered for the mission. » Broida is not familiar with this pamphlet. But he is familiar with the Mitla story from being there. He lives the events as though they happened yesterday, in all their vivid details. And he remembers a completely different story from the one the pamphlet tells, different from the one that is related in the victory books of the Sinai War, different from what generations of high-school students and soldiers have heard in commemorative assemblies, different from what appears on the official Web site of the Paratroops, different from what Aharon Davidi, now 80 but entirely lucid, tells with absolute certainty.

« One time I came across an article on the battle of the Mitla, » Broida recalls. « It said that everyone volunteered. I read the article and thought to myself : Who made this up ? It’s just not true. No one volunteered. It’s an outright lie. Yehuda Kan Dror didn’t volunteer, he was sent. But I didn’t tell anyone about the article. I only told my wife : Listen, there’s something here that is a lie. My wife isn’t exactly interested in this stuff. Today, too, she asks me : Why are you going to talk about it ? Is it important to you ? I told her that for me, it’s important. »

And didn’t it bother you all these years that this was the official version ?

« My feeling was always that it had to come out one day. So now, by chance, God wanted to give me an opportunity to get it off my chest. »

The grunts’ version

The opportunity to get the story of his chest was given to Broida by Corrina the Writer. Corrina looked him up when she was working on a book of monologues by people who knew two of her friends, Eli Greenfeld and Amnon Abukai, who were killed in Israel’s cross-border reprisal raids in the 1950s (see box). « Corrina told me that she was taping the conversation, » says Broida, a retired Dan bus driver who sometimes still drives the Kfar Sava-Tel Aviv route. « I told her that I didn’t care, I’m not hiding anything. »

Broida’s monologue appears in the book and he stands behind every word, including the horrific stories of the killing of Egyptian prisoners of war on the way from the Israeli border to the Mitla, a distance of about 250 kilometers. He also stands behind the story of how Kan Dror went to his death. The essence of Broida’s account is this : Davidi said he needed someone to drive a jeep and draw fire. No one volunteered. At this point Davidi turned to Kan Dror, who was his personal driver, and said : You will go. Kan Dror consented and set out for what everyone knew was certain suicide. « I say this as a first-hand source, because I was sitting there and heard every word. If anyone tells me I am lying, I will stick to my guns. »

Tzlil Gorali, from Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, confirms Broida’s account. Since the Sinai War, Gorali, who was also a wireless radio operator in Davidi’s unit, has met Broida only once, when Broida came to his kibbutz years ago on a vacation. In a phone call to his home on the kibbutz, it takes a few seconds before Gorali remembers Broida. « A tall guy ? » he asks. Then, even before he is told Broida’s version of the events at the Mitla, Gorali describes an almost identical situation using almost identical words.

« Davidi stood there with the whole headquarters of the brigade, with the officers, » Gorali relates. « He asked for someone to go and draw fire. No one volunteered. So Davidi said, ’Where are the drivers, there’s no one here.’ He saw Kan Dror standing next to me on the side - we were grunts - and he told him, ’Take it and go.’ And he went. »

A similar account was published 20 years ago, in an article by Zvi Gilat in the (now defunct) daily Hadashot. Rafi Efrat, who served as a jeep driver together with Kan Dror, told Gilat that he heard Davidi shout, « I want a driver with a jeep, » and then Kan Dror went over to him and he asked Kan Dror whether he was willing, and Kan Dror replied affirmatively. From these three uncoordinated testimonies (Broida and Gorali did not read the article in Hadashot), a version emerges. It’s not necessarily the absolute truth, but it’s a different version, the version of « the grunts, » the simple soldiers, as Gorali put it, in contrast to the official version, which is handed down from generation to generation, all the way to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In his remarks in the Knesset three months ago, marking the 50th anniversary of the Sinai War, Olmert mentioned Kan Dror’s volunteering as « an exemplary act in the light of which many generations of IDF soldiers have been educated. »

His brother was killed in ’48

Broida knew Kan Dror only briefly. In October 1956, the Tel Aviv-born Broida - who came to loathe David Ben-Gurion and love Menachem Begin after he heard the roar of the cannons firing on the arms ship Altalena, which Begin and his colleagues had anchored off the coast of Tel Aviv in 1948 - was serving at the Paratroops base in Tel Yeruham. « We didn’t know anything about the Sinai Operation, » he recalls. « Suddenly we were told to get ready on the double, to grab our equipment and get the jeeps moving. We had no idea where we were going. » It was only on the way that they were told that their mission was to hook up with the battalion of paratroopers under the command of Rafael ("Raful") Eitan, later the chief of staff, which had parachuted into the Mitla Pass in the war’s first hours.

Broida met Kan Dror, a reservist, in the jeep. It was Kan Dror’s first call-up for reserve duty. The 21-year-old Jerusalem-born Kan Dror, who had volunteered to serve in the Paratroops, was an unusual figure in a unit which at the time consisted largely of kibbutz members and members of settlement « core groups. » His elder brother, Eli, was killed at Kastel, outside Jerusalem, « a minute before the state was declared, » on May 15, 1948, as his cousin, who bears the same name, Yehuda Kan Dror, relates. « His parents didn’t want him to serve in the Paratroops, especially after they had already lost a son, Eli, » the cousin notes. Another brother, Yehoshua, who is no longer alive, told Hadashot that under their parents’ pressure, his brother Yehuda agreed to transfer to the vehicles unit, where he became Davidi’s driver.

« Yehuda was a very sociable fellow. He was good-hearted and liked to help, » says his namesake cousin, the owner of a family construction materials business. He was a « mountain of a man » but gentle, a nature lover who hiked in the hills and caught animals, especially snakes. « We grew up together until he went to the army, » Yehuda Kan Dror recalls. « He always liked the army, never complained. Always loving things. He didn’t say much - he was a bit secretive. There were other guys from Jerusalem in the Paratroops, too, from the poor neighborhoods in fact, and they were received very well. » They saw each other for the last time two days before the war, when they went to see a movie at the Eden Cinema in Jerusalem : the two cousins and a friend. Yehuda had a girlfriend, he says, but she didn’t go with them to the movie that evening.

Two days later, Kan Dror was in the jeep with Broida, Kan Dror up front, behind the wheel, Broida in back, with the wireless. « I didn’t know him before, » Broida says, « but when I met him, I said to myself that I had run into a really good guy. He was a real champ, a guy who knew how to get along. If something was needed, he would come with me to the kitchen and say, ’Give him this.’ We were friends for only a few days, but I believe that if he was still alive we would be in touch to this day. »

Do you remember what you talked about ?

« About all kinds of things. I remember one conversation. We talked about bullets that whistle by your ear and you don’t know if they are next to you or a long way off. Kan Dror said that if you hear the bullet, it means you weren’t hit. »

He didn’t tell you that his brother was killed in the War of Independence ?

« No. So his parents lost two sons ? He never talked about that. I can only say that I lost a friend. »

Everyone got a bullet

The first dramatic event occurred at Kuntilla, an Egyptian outpost close to the Israeli border, a few dozen kilometers northwest of Eilat. Their jeep hit a shoe mine. A hole was torn in Broida’s seat and one of the back wheels of the jeep was bent out of shape. Kan Dror got uptight, concerned that he would have to pay for the wheel. « Arik [Sharon] came over to see what happened and Yehuda told him he wanted a chit for the wheel, » Broida relates. « Arik told him : Forget it, this is war. »

What Broida remembers of the trek from Kuntilla to the Mitla Pass is few battles and a great many Egyptian soldiers killed - killed in battle or after the battle. "A lot of [Egyptian] soldiers were always showing up along the side of the road with their hands up and shouting « Water ! Water ! » Broida told Corrina. « Whoever showed up got a bullet. The guys didn’t leave a single one alive. Until the next camp we reached, until Nakhl, we didn’t take one prisoner alive. »

One such event has lodged in Broida’s memory. He shot and killed a fleeing soldier. He then went over to the dead soldier, who turned out to be an older man with several battle decorations. From the dead man’s pocket Broida took out a letter with a photograph of an infant. « Someone who knew Arabic told me it was a letter from his wife, who had written, ’Since you were home, the boy has already learned how to walk and talk.’ When the letter was translated for me I had tears in my eyes, but that’s war. » According to Broida, there was no order to kill captives - on the contrary : the order was to guard them. But that’s what happened in practice. He saw two instances personally. The first was at Thamad, a small camp on the way from Kuntilla to the Mitla. « There were a few prisoners, » Broida told Corrina. « A barbed wire fence was erected and the prisoners were kept inside it. Suddenly a MiG 19 approached and fired at us. One of the shells hit one of the prisoners and tore him to shreds. The prisoners began to go wild and the guys shot them and killed them all, about 10 people. »

The second event occurred next to the Mitla Pass. The meeting point with Rafael Eitan’s battalion was at the Parker Memorial, a few kilometers east of the Mitla. « When we got to the Parker Memorial, there were maybe 30 or 40 Egyptian workers there with shovels, who were leveling the road, » Broida relates. « Someone who spoke Arabic told them to sit on the side of the hill. Two guys with machine guns watched over them. They [the Egyptians] sat there on the hillside and waited. Then they heard people speaking Hebrew. They started to riot, to shout - they didn’t know there was a war - ’We will kill you.’ The guys emptied two magazines into them. Arik Sharon saw this and he said, ’Guys, what have you done ? Unarmed people.’ That was the end of it. »

No officer denied it

It happened, apparently, before things at the Mitla Pass started to go awry, before the battle that was later described as « heroic but unnecessary, a glorious victory in a battle into which [the soldiers] were needlessly sent. » After the forces that parachuted and those that arrived by land were united, Sharon was left idle with the Paratroops Brigade at the Parker Memorial. The chief of staff, Moshe Dayan, didn’t want him to move - certainly not westward, toward the Suez Canal, where the British and French forces were operating. Sharon was impatient. He didn’t understand how Dayan could leave what Sharon regarded as the IDF’s elite force out of the fray. He asked for authorization to capture the Hittan and Mitla Passes, which lay to his west. Dayan refused.

In the end, Rehavam Ze’evi, the chief of the Southern Command, arrived and authorized Sharon to send a « patrol » into the passes. Sharon, who was certain that there were no Egyptian forces in the passes, sent a « beefed-up patrol » of a few companies. The Egyptians, who were dug in well in trenches and niches in the cliffs, opened up with lethal fire. Part of the force, under the command of Mordechai Gur (later chief of staff), was pinned down in the pass, unable to extricate itself or its wounded. The « patrol » turned into the bloodiest battle of the entire war : of the 177 soldiers killed in the Sinai Campaign, 34 fell at the Mitla Pass.

At this point Aharon Davidi, at the time a renowned if slightly older lieutenant colonel, went into action. Davidi managed to get out of the Mitla and position himself on a hill a few hundred meters from the entrance to the wadi. With him were commanders of improvised forces that were co-opted to his unit. Their main problem was that he and his officers did not know where the Egyptians were hiding. It was then that the idea was raised of sending vehicles into the wadi to draw the Egyptians’ fire ; the Egyptians would reveal their positions and Davidi and his aides could devise a plan of attack. Davidi relates that he and the officers who were seconded to him stood on a small hill and observed the opening of the defile. And then he came up with the idea of the jeep. « I remember that when I said it, there were at least eight officers standing around me, two of whom were later chiefs of staff - Moshe-and-a-half [Moshe Levy’s nickname because of his height] and Raful, » Davidi recalls. « They all volunteered, every single one of them, without hesitation. That’s what I remember. I can’t comment on someone else’s memory - everyone remembers what he remembers. No officer denied the fact that he volunteered, and I suppose it’s true, because I know these people. »

Davidi has already heard the allegation that Kan Dror did not volunteer but was sent. « There were some who said to me afterward that Kan Dror did not volunteer but that I gave him an order, » Davidi says. « Here, too, I am not going to argue. But what I remember is that he volunteered. Those people saw the briefing I gave him before he set out and maybe that looked to them like an order. I explained to him how to drive so that the Egyptians would open fire at him all together and not snipe, as they would if he were to drive slowly. »

And he agreed to go ?

« Of course, what kind of question is that ? He was a bit pale, but he volunteered. His lips were tightly closed and I saw a determined personal decision. That’s what I saw, at least. »

Did you know his brother was killed in 1948 ?

« I did not know that. But that would not have affected my judgment, either. The man volunteered and went. »

No ’I don’t want’ in the army

Broida saw the events completely differently. Not only did Kan Dror not volunteer, not only was it Davidi who « asked » him to drive into the Mitla Pass in an open jeep, but he himself, Broida, was in the jeep and it was only at the last minute, when he was certain that he was about to go to his death, that he was ordered to get out of the vehicle. « I was sitting in the jeep and Davidi was near the jeep, about 10 meters from us, » Broida recalls.

And you heard him ?

« Of course I heard him. He said : Guys, I need someone to take the jeep - he was apparently referring to his jeep - and draw fire. Now, when you hear something like that, it means suicide, that’s the truth. No one said a word. There was total silence. »

The Paratroops’ memorial site and many other places maintain that Raful was the first to volunteer, then Haim Nadel and Moshe-and-a-half.

« No one volunteered. There was a group of people next to Davidi, a lot of people, soldiers. No one said a word, there was silence when he said that. If previously someone had spoken, at that moment no one said anything. »

Why ? Because the implications were clear to everyone ?

« It’s as though I were to tell you, ’Look, go and get killed.’ So Davidi said, ’Yehuda, I want you to do it.’ I am quoting his words. Those were his words. And then Yehuda said, ’All right,’ in a kind of I-have-no-choice tone. And he starts the jeep and I know, this is it, we are going to be killed. »

You remained in the jeep ?

« I was in the jeep, in the back. When Kan Dror put it into gear, Davidi shouted to me, ’Get out of the jeep, one person killed is enough for me.’ Those were his words. And then I jumped off the jeep. »

Did you speak to Kan Dror ?

« No, I didn’t speak to him. I didn’t speak at all. I knew we were going to be killed there. And then Davidi shouted and I got out of the jeep. I looked at Kan Dror and saw that he was moving. »

What were your thoughts while you were still on the jeep, before you got off ?

« I didn’t think anything. I thought we were going to be killed. There are two types in war : either you become frightened and shell-shocked, or you are indifferent, with a kind of feeling that they’re shooting, so let them shoot me. I had a kind of feeling : so let them shoot me, I’m not afraid. It’s a feeling you get only in moments like that. If you were to tell me today, ’Go and be killed,’ I would say to you, ’No way.’ But there it’s war, people are being killed, so who will notice if one person more or less is killed. »

You will notice.

"I will notice, but what will I say ? I don’t want to do it ? There is no such thing. In the army, there is no « I don’t want.’ »

Davidi remembers nothing of what Broida has described. Of the shooting of the Egyptian workers near the Parker Memorial, Davidi says he is not familiar with the story. « We reached Raful on Tuesday evening and there were no Public Works people there or anything else. » He does not remember Broida, either (which is not surprising, as Broida was a wireless operator who was seconded to his battalion at the last minute just a few days earlier). Nor does he remember the episode in which he ostensibly ordered the wireless operator to get off the jeep. But Davidi says he had many things on his mind just then, « so I’m willing to buy someone else’s memory in the face of mine. » Davidi also has a different recollection of the topography. As far as he can recall, he was on the hill and the jeep was below, so that even if Broida was in the jeep it would have been hard for him to hear what Davidi said.

Broida insists on his version even after Davidi’s account. Gorali, too, reiterates his account. Gorali only says that it’s possible that a few officers did in fact volunteer, because Davidi was standing off to the side with them, while he, a grunt, was not part of that circle. « Did you volunteer ? » Gilat asked Rafael Eitan in the Hadashot story. « I thought it was necessary to go, scout, return and report, » Eitan replied. « I thought that it had to be done, so I had to do it. »

The historical literature contains only one account : that of the officers who volunteer one after the other, of Kan Dror who also volunteers, and of Davidi’s choice of Kan Dror. Mordechai Bar-On, who was the head of Dayan’s bureau, says that he heard the story about the volunteering immediately after the fighting. « Maybe [the journalist] Uri Dan wrote about it in [the IDF magazine] Bamahane, » Bar-On, who afterward became a historian, says. « We in the General Staff viewed the story as a fact. »

Kan Dror’s namesake cousin also heard about the episode later, when he was still mobilized in the war. This is the version that appears in the grounds for awarding Kan Dror the Medal of Valor and in all the books that described the incident, from Shabtai Teveth’s volume, which was written immediately after the war, to Uri Milstein’s book about the Paratroops Brigade, published in 1968. And it’s also the version that appears in the Education Corps’ lesson, which gives Davidi’s account in full, including the description of Kan Dror’s paleness.

Everyone thought he was dead

Kan Dror’s jeep drove about 100 meters into the wadi. « It took a minute or two, » Broida relates. « I saw the jeep. It was daylight. Suddenly I heard shots, bursts of fire, and the jeep stopped. » Broida was certain that Kan Dror had been killed, an assumption shared by Davidi and all the officers. Milstein writes in his book that the heroic act was of no use. « Kan Dror’s suicide drive did not help locate the sources of the firing, » Milstein writes.

Davidi maintains that what Kan Dror did was of critical importance. « The officers had binoculars and they identified the targets, and without that we would not have known where the enemy was, » Davidi says. « An assault on the enemy without information about where they were would have had only a slim chance of success. » The assault Davidi is referring to began when dark fell, at about 7 P.M. Kan Dror had set out about four hours earlier. What Davidi didn’t know was that during all this time Kan Dror lay bleeding by the roadside. His jeep had turned over on its side and he had rolled out of it and managed to crawl to a ditch. The commander of an IDF halftrack that passed by the jeep during this period was certain that Kan Dror was dead, and in any event, Davidi says, « he was not allowed to stop because he took fire from a high place, which entered the halftrack, so he did the smart thing by not stopping. »

But Kan Dror was a strong young man, as his cousin relates. Even though his body was « punctured like a sieve, » he survived for hours, and later, with indescribable strength, he managed to crawl out of the pass. Broida has tears in his eyes as he describes the sight. « Kan Dror crawled to us in the dark, » Broida says. « Suddenly we heard a weepy voice : ’Help, help. » We went to collect him. And then Davidi said, ’A stone fell from my heart.’"

Other sources, such as Shabtai Teveth’s book, tell a similar story of Kan Dror’s self-evacuation. Davidi does not know this account. He says that after the success of the night attack, his soldiers went to Kan Dror’s jeep and found him lying next to it. « We did not leave him by himself, » Davidi says.

Kan Dror was taken to Kaplan Hospital in Rehovot, where he died six weeks later. His intestines were riddled with bullet holes and the physicians didn’t give him much chance. His cousin Yehuda did not get to visit him because he was still mobilized. His parents and brothers visited. Yehoshua, his late brother, told Hadashot that Yehuda told him how he extricated himself from the wadi by crawling. He also said that Davidi had told him he was going to certain death, but he - according to what Yehoshua says he heard from his brother - told Davidi, « I volunteered. » His namesake cousin relates that Kan Dror’s mother, Simha, once went to visit her son by bus, taking with her a chicken to be slaughtered for atonement. « The chicken died on the way and the mother felt that he had died, » Yehuda relates. He says that his cousin spoke very little and was barely conscious.

Today it wouldn’t happen

Yehuda Kan Dror refuses to believe that his cousin did not volunteer. « I don’t know of anything like that, » he says about Broida’s description. « I’m positive. As soon as the word was said, Yehuda leaped up. Everyone was silent and he leaped up. Not by order, as a volunteer. I’m one million percent sure. It’s hard for me to believe [the other story]. I wasn’t there, but I’m convinced he leaped up. He knew two hundred percent that he was going to die. »

The Kan Drors are a large Jerusalem family, six generations in the city, Yehuda, the cousin, says. He himself was born in the « neighborhood of the tins, » meaning Mahane Yehuda, Nahlaot. He remembers the eldest son, Eli, and the blow that befell the family when he was killed. He also remembers that his cousin Yehuda became a symbol. « A world symbol, » he says. « Every year, a week before Independence Day, his photograph would appear in the papers and ceremonies would be held. » But the parents, Yehuda says, did not take part in these events. They sent the brothers to represent the family, and one year even sent him. The family « was still shattered from the loss of the eldest son, » Yehuda says. They were broken from the first incident, and the second one finished them completely. The father was totally broken. It’s not easy to lose two sons, and both of them were flowers, too, they hadn’t even married yet."

Didn’t the parents ask questions ?

« They wanted to avoid that as far as possible. The army also tried not to pour salt on the wounds. They didn’t want to make things harder for them. It wouldn’t happen today. »

Were they angry ?

« Not at first. But later, yes. They didn’t want to show it, but they were angry, how could they not be ? To send the son to his fate like that ? It’s totally irresponsible. With all the heroism, it’s death not of a hundred but of two hundred percent. They were angry day and night at the way let him and the way he agreed, until their last day. »

Kan Dror’s father, Shlomo, died first, in 1979 - « of grief, » says the cousin. His mother, Simha, died a year later.

Weren’t they proud to have a son who was a hero ?

« I imagine that inside they were proud, but the pain overcame the pride. It wasn’t fair, it was murder. Think about it. I’m not saying it was done deliberately, but he was absolutely murdered. To send a person to his death, knowingly, with certain knowledge. »

Despite the anger, Yehuda Kan Dror refuses to even contemplate the possibility that someone ordered his cousin to drive to his death. « There aren’t any people like that today, he was one of the rare ones, » he says. "The parents kept asking « Why ?’ The eldest son who fell - he fell. But the grief was greater for Yehuda, because he volunteered. But not by order, that’s out of the question. »

And if it should become clear to you that it was by order ?

« If it was an order, it was the height of effrontery. I don’t believe it. The height of effrontery by the person who gave the order. Why didn’t he go himself ? He should have gone if he was such a hero. »

[JPN Commentary : Major donors reportedly withholding funds from Brandeis University, sparking fierce free-speech debate on the Massachusetts campus.

« I think everyone was surprised at how well he was received, » said Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust scholar and historian unaffiliated with Brandeis. « That may be the most important part of the story. Instead of coming as partisans, they listened to Carter attentively, asked tough questions and gave him an audience. The Jewish community may have a more significant generation gap than they understand between what young people are prepared to hear and what older activists are prepared to hear. » - RG]

Brandeis Donors Exact Revenge For Carter Visit

By Larry Cohler-Esses

The Jewish Weekly
16 February 2007

Major donors to Brandeis University have informed the school they will no longer give it money in retaliation for its decision last month to host former President Jimmy Carter, a strong critic of Israel.

The donors have notified the school in writing of their decisions — and specified Carter as the reason, said Stuart Eizenstat, a former aide to Carter during his presidency and a current trustee of Brandeis, one of the nation’s premier Jewish institutions of higher learning.

They are « more than a handful, » he said. « So, this is a concern. There are evidently a fair number of donors who have indicated they will withhold contributions. »

Brandeis history professor Jonathan Sarna, who maintains close ties with the administration, told The Jewish Week, "These were not people who send $5 to the university. These were major donors, and major potential donors.

« I hope they’ll calm down and change their views, » Sarna said.

Sarna indicated he knew the identity of at least one of the benefactors but declined to disclose it. He said only that those now determined to stop contributing include « some enormously wealthy individuals. »

Eizenstat said his information came from discussions Tuesday with university administrators, who did not disclose to him who the donors in question were, or how much was involved.

Kevin Montgomery, a student member of the faculty-student committee that brought Carter to Brandeis, related that the school’s senior vice president for communications, Lorna Miles, told him in a meeting the week before Carter’s appearance that the school had, at that point, already lost $5 million in donations.

Asked to comment, Miles replied, « I have no idea what he’s talking about. »

Miles said that university President Jehuda Reinharz was out of the country and unavailable for comment. The school’s fundraising director, Nancy Winship, was also unavailable, she said.

« I have not heard anything from donors, » said Miles. « I don’t know where Stuart’s information is coming from. I don’t think there is any there there, in your story. »

The apparent donor crisis comes on the heels of a series of Israel-related free speech controversies on the Waltham, Mass., campus, of which Carter’s January appearance is only the latest and most high-profile. Critics of Israel last year protested Reinharz’s removal of an art exhibit from the school library containing anti-Israeli paintings — denounced by some as crude propaganda — by youths from Palestinian refugee camps.

The university got flack from the other side when it awarded an honorary doctorate in June to renowned playwright and frequent Israel critic Tony Kushner, who once referred to Israel’s founding as « a mistake. »

The run-up to Carter’s appearance was also punctuated by acrimony when the former president declined an initial invitation to appear in a debate format with Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz. Instead, Dershowitz appeared only after Carter left the hall.

Yet, the school has also won notice for a course it offers on the Middle East conflict co-taught by Shai Feldman, a prominent Israeli strategic analyst, and Palestinian Khalil Shikaki, a leading West Bank demographer. It also conducts an exchange program with Al Quds University, a Palestinian school in East Jerusalem. The Brandeis student body of about 5,000 is about 50 percent Jewish but also contains a significant population of Muslims.

Nevertheless, the free-speech controversies seemed to pit Brandeis’ commitment to maintaining its status as a top-tier, non-sectarian university —with all the expectations of untrammeled discourse this brings —against its determination to remain, in Reinharz’s words, a school under « continuous sponsorship by the Jewish community. »

The alleged action by some top donors has now sharpened the tensions between those two goals, intensified by the school’s commitment to the ideals of its namesake. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, a founder of American Zionism and one of the judiciary’s fiercest free speech defenders.

« The American Jewish community understands the visit by Carter to Brandeis to be reflecting a heksher » — a stamp of approval — « from the university, » said Sarna, whose field is American Jewish history. "They see it as a statement that Brandeis certifies him as kosher.

« The faculty views it very differently, » he said, "that Brandeis is a forum ; that views are uttered in that forum, some of which we agree with and some of which we don’t. But the faculty does not view his appearance as a heksher.

« It’s that gap in perception that seems to require greater dialogue between the two entities so at least one understands the other, » said Sarna.

But the Carter event may have instead opened the door to greater tensions. Emboldened by it, a group of left-wing students are now seeking to bring to campus Norman Finkelstein, a controversial Holocaust scholar who charges that Jewish leaders exploit the tragedy to fend off and silence criticism of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. He charges, too, that Jewish organizations have inflated the number of Holocaust survivors to inflate reparations payments.

A group of right-wing students has invited to campus Professor Daniel Pipes, an Arabist and policy analyst who writes often of the security threat he sees to the United States and Europe from Muslim immigrants. Pipes has also founded Campus Watch, a program that seeks to monitor what professors teach in class and publicize those it regardsas extremists. This has provoked charges he is a McCarthyist, which he denies.

In a contentious meeting with faculty after the Carter event, Reinharz denounced Finkelstein and Pipes as « weapons of mass destruction, » according to a report in The Justice, the Brandeis campus newspaper. His executive assistant, John Hose, explained, « These are people who tend to inflame passions, whose mission is not so much discussion and education as it is theatre, a show ... If you want serious discussion, there’s lots of resources available for that already at Brandeis. »

At the Feb. 5 meeting, Winship, the school’s chief fundraiser, also alluded to the brewing problem with donors. The e-mails from them « kept coming and coming, » The Justice quoted her as saying. « We’re just trying to repair the damage. The Middle East is just this trigger of emotions for our alumni and for our friends. For the most part, the donors who come to us come through the Jewish door. »

Reinharz sharply criticized the committee that brought Carter to campus for leaving the university with $95,000 in logistical and security costs, according to The Justice.

« Faculty members should not be allowed to invite whoever they want and leave Brandeis with a huge bill, » Reinharz complained, according to the paper.

The school’s budget for 2005, the latest year for which tax records are available, was $265.75 million against revenues of $310 million.

Members of the sponsoring committee protested that Reinharz had earlier assured them money would be no barrier to bringing the first U.S. president to Brandeis since Harry S Truman’s 1957 commencement speech there.

« I think Jehuda [protested the cost] because he wanted to distance himself from Carter, » said Montgomery, the student member of the Carter committee. « I feel this is Jehuda’s attempt to appease the harsh donor critics. »

The Brandeis president did not attend the Carter event, with his office making it known that Reinharz was out of town.

At the faculty meeting, Susan Lanser a professor of English, complained, « I know many, many faculty who do not feel they can speak freely about the Middle East » in public forums. And in an interview with The Jewish Week, Mary Baine Campbell, another English professor, spoke of « the chilling effect of knowing one speaks about things unwelcome by the administration in charge of working conditions and pay. They could be angels. I don’t know. It’s a slightly chilled atmosphere. »

Lanser said the administration’s warnings about donors had reinforced that sense. « I’m not saying that was the intent of the meeting, » she said. « I think Brandeis is committed to open intellectual inquiry. But this issue gets complicated because of the strong feelings of some donors. »

This vexed aftermath contrasted sharply with the widely praised tenor of the event itself. The university audience of almost 2,000 received Carter with notable civility and even gave him several standing ovations. At the same time, student questioners challenged him with tough and critical queries.

The focus of hostility toward Carter — his new book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — has led to no less than Anti-Defamation League leader Abraham Foxman charging him with « engaging in anti-Semitism. » Many others have echoed this.

The protests start with the book’s title, « Palestine : Peace Not Apartheid, » implicitly comparing Israel’s policies towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza to apartheid-era South Africa. The book itself contains gross factual errors, charge critics, and a lopsided bias that lays blame almost exclusively on Israel for the failure to resolve the conflict.

Critics object especially to Carter’s claim that pro-Israel forces in the United States have a disproportionate and stifling impact on public debate of the issue — denounced by Foxman as « the old canard and conspiracy theory of Jewish control of the media, Congress and the U.S. government. »

At the event, Carter defended himself against such charges. Interviews with audience members suggested their ovations stemmed more from respect for Carter’s former office and their acceptance of his basic integrity and good faith than agreement, necessarily, with his views.

« I think everyone was surprised at how well he was received, » said Michael Berenbaum, a Holocaust scholar and historian unaffiliated with Brandeis. « That may be the most important part of the story. Instead of coming as partisans, they listened to Carter attentively, asked tough questions and gave him an audience. The Jewish community may have a more significant generation gap than they understand between what young people are prepared to hear and what older activists are prepared to hear. »

[JPN Commentary : To most Israelis, not all settlements in the Occupied Territories are created equal. In fact, many settlements (’hitnahaluyot’ in Hebrew) aren’t seen as settlements at all - which is why the late Teddy Kollek, who was responsible for more settlement-building on post ’67 occupied land than anyone else isn’t considered a settler, and no obituary has characterized him as one. The issue of who has been responsible for settling the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories) is an important one, and this article helps, hopefully, in breaking through the misconception that the « right wing » was the main culprit, and that the « left » (Labor) has basically consisted of people of another stripe. Not so. - RG]

Teddy Kollek : The Greatest Settler

By : Gideon Levy

Among the many obituary notices published by various groups after the death of Teddy Kollek, one group’s notice was conspicuous in its absence : the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements. It is a bit difficult to comprehend this ingratitude by the settlers toward the person who brought approximately 200,000 Jews to the occupied territories - perhaps more than any other person. The settlement enterprise owes a great historic debt to Kollek. Neither Rabbi Moshe Levinger nor Hanan Porat nor Aharon Domb nor Ze’ev « Zambish » Hever are responsible for settling so many Israelis beyond the Green Line as Kollek, the enlightened Viennese liberal.

The fact that most of the eulogies for the former Jerusalem mayor left out this detail and that Yesha did not embrace the mega-settler Kollek is no coincidence. Israeli society has adopted sundry and strange codes to whitewash the settlement enterprise. The settlement of the occupied territories in Jerusalem has never been considered hitnahalut (the term used for Jewish settlement in the territories). And the gargantuan neighborhoods of the capital, which were built during Teddy’s term and span extensive Palestinian territory, have never been considered a controversial issue.

The fact that almost no one in the world recognizes this enterprise and the new borders it charts does not change a thing : In our eyes, but only in our eyes, not every settlement is the same and each settlement has its own moral code. But this is a game we play with ourselves. Every home built beyond the Green Line - in Yitzhar or Itamar in the West Bank, in Nov in the Golan, or in French Hill in Jerusalem - is built on occupied land and all construction on occupied land is in violation of international law. Occupation is occupation. Not everything is legal, even if it is anchored in Israeli law, as in the case of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.

The Israelis invent patents for themselves, but this sophisticated semantic laundering will not meet the legal and ethical test. The Ramot neighborhood is a settlement. There is no difference between the « neighborhood » of Pisgat Ze’ev and the « settlement » of Givat Ze’ev. This artificial distinction does not end with the Jerusalem region. In the West Bank, distinctions are also made between settlements and « illegal outposts, » another virtuoso but groundless exercise in semantics with regard to an enterprise that is entirely illegal. There are also no settlements (hitnahaluyot) in the occupied Jordan Valley, but rather yishuvim, a generic word for settlements, unrelated to the 1967 borders. An ethical blemish has never been attached to the residents of these Jordan Valley settlements. Why ? Because this is the way it was determined by Labor governments at the time, when they established moshavim and kibbutzim in the Jordan Valley - not « settlements. »

Does this make any difference from the perspective of international law ? Certainly not. Were the moshavim in the Jordan Valley not built on the land of residents who were disinherited ? Have they not crushed the surrounding residents ?

With regard to the Golan Heights, we went up another level in the word game we play with ourselves. There are no hitnahaluyot there at all. Why ? Because we decided so. There are towns, kibbutzim and moshavim, just like in the Jezreel Valley. But no word game or Knesset legislation can alter the unequivocal fact that the Golan Heights is occupied Syrian land and all of its residents are settlers and that international law regards them as criminals.

This phenomenon reached its peak in Jerusalem, which will celebrate 40 years of its « unification » this year. This act of unification was an act of occupation and the fact that a charming and charismatic figure like Kollek presided over it does not change a thing. Kollek demolished a neighborhood in the Old City and built the new neighborhoods on Palestinian land for Jews only - apartheid at its worst - and this should also be remembered in the balance of his considerable achievements.

The Jerusalem mayor Kollek left behind is a divided and wounded city, despite and because of its enormous development, replete with explosives that will yet explode in our faces. In fact, it was never unified. Like any colonialist city, there is a dark backyard for the natives. To this day, most Israelis do not set foot in Palestinian neighborhoods and the Palestinians avoid Jewish neighborhoods. The city remains divided, despite all of the lofty words about its unification for eternity. Regarding equality, there is nothing to say of course. It is sufficient to travel to the Shuafat camp or even to Sheikh Jarrah to note the outrageous disparity between the services in the eastern and western parts of the city.

Societal neglect, piles of garbage, no playgrounds or community centers, no sidewalk and no streetlights. Gaza in Jerusalem, all on the basis of abominable ethnic discrimination. This did not begin with Ehud Olmert nor with Uri Lupolianski. This began with the wily Kollek. A city whose rule in the Palestinian section is conducted through the strength of arms, with surprise checkpoints and hundreds of violent Border Policemen routinely patrolling the streets, and whose residents are subject to prohibitions that violate their fundamental liberties, is not a « unified » city. Teddy is responsible for this.

The history of the occupation, which has already lasted more than twice the amount of time than the years the state existed without it, is full of « men of peace » from the « left » who are responsible for this injustice. What would the settlement enterprise be without Yigal Allon and Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir and Yisrael Galili and, of course, Shimon Peres ? Kollek must now be added to them, belatedly. He brought the wide world to Jerusalem but only to its Jewish part. He loved his city very much, and built and developed it in an impressive way, but on the downtrodden back of half of its residents. Moshe Amirav wrote in his article on Thursday ("Division, where unification failed") that Kollek said to him in his waning years : « We failed to unify the city. Tell Ehud Barak that I support dividing it. » Better late than never, but why did we not hear a word about this in the lofty eulogies ?

More important news articles :

U.N. racism panel queries Israel

Palestine, Israel must make real steps to settle conflict - Lavrov

Congress puts Palestinian funds in limbo

PFLP to boycott Palestinian unity government

Study : 57 percent of East Jerusalem residents are Arab

Jewish Peace News Editors :
Judith Norman
Alistair Welchman
Mitchell Plitnick
Lincoln Shlensky
Rela Mazali
Sarah Anne Minkin
Joel Beinin
Racheli Gai

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