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Monday, 30 January 2012

A Jewish State or a Democratic State?

Settler leader Benny Katzover no longer pretends to support democracy

When Rabbi Meir Kahane was elected to the Knesset for Kach, a Jewish Nazi party, Zionists who opposed him feigned shock when he said that Israel could be either a democratic state or a Jewish state. Yet all Kahane was doing was to be honest.

Either Israel is a Jewish state or a democratic state. Is it a state of its own citizens or only its Jewish citizens plus Jews in the rest of the world? The Zionist movement is quite clear about this. One of the most important Zionist organisations, the Jewish National Fund, has had more than its fair share of bad publicity recently.

This is an organisation which, with the Israeli Land Administration, owns and administers 93% of land in Israel. As the JNF only leases or rents land to Jews, it was not happy when in 2005, the High Court ruled in the Kadan case that the Israeli Lands Administration must sell or lease land to Arabs as well as Jews. The JNF was not best pleased as their web site indicates: We are told that:

A survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.

In fact the JNF originally put on their site the sentence that ‘for 2,000 years the Jewish people have not dreamed of a democratic state but a Jewish state.’ but clearly thought better of it. But the reaction of Arieh Eldad MK was to say that ‘Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has violated the declaration of independence by choosing a democratic Israel over a Jewish state.’ Land Decision Slammed - Politicians rage over Attorney General decision to sell JNF land; Shinui and Meretz welcome change

And following this up the Knesset passed the first reading of a JNF Bill by 64-16 (only 10 Jews were among the 16 against) which defined the leasing of land to Jews only as not being discriminatory. As simple as that! A well-known army refuser and pacifist, Jonathan Ben-Artzi, wrote an open letter to members of the Knesset which was printed in Ha’aretz:
‘I`d like to save you some work phrasing the new law regarding purchase of JNF lands. I hope you will be able to appreciate the help.
In May 4th 1939 a law was implemented, forbidding a certain minority in a certain country from purchasing and leasing the majority`s lands in that country. Instead of re-writing this law now, why don`t you translate and implement that law?’
[Ha’aretz Monday, July 23, 2007]
It doesn’t take much effort to work out which country Ben-Artzi is referring to.
But it was realised that the JNF Bill as proposed was too crude and might even be struck down by the High Court. Instead in March 2011 an ‘Acceptance to Communities Bill’ was passed which allows ‘community standards’ committees to reject applicants to live in a town or village based on the prejudices of existing residents. It is clear that this is aimed at Arabs, but other minorities such as single parents, gay couples etc. will be caught.

Today it is recognised openly by the present right-wing Zionist administration that if your key aim is the preservation of a Jewish state, then Arabs inside Israel can never be allowed to form a majority. After all how can you have a Jewish state if the majority of its inhabitants re not Jewish? In 1948 this conundrum was solved by the expedient of expelling ¾ million Arabs from their homes – the Nakba. Today this solution is also desired but at present isn’t politically possible. The alternative is pretty much what we’ve got. A mini-bantustan in the West Bank run by Mahmoud Abbas, his unelected Prime Minister Fayad and the various Palestinian security forces. The solution in other words is a form of ‘autonomy’ which justifies denying 3.5 million Palestinians the vote while continuing to rule over them. In other words Israel runs a nakedly Apartheid state in the West Bank and a more subtle on in Israel itself. That is why those who support a 2 State solution, whether they realise it or not, are doing the work of Zionism for it by advocating a position which reinforces Israel’s position as a ‘Jewish’ state.

But in Israel there is a ‘demographic fear’ not only in respect of the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories but within Israel itself, where there are 1.4 million Arabs. They are not wanted but tolerated for lack of any alternative, though a ‘peace agreement’ would be the signal to transfer most of them to the newly set up Bantustan.

Tony Greenstein

Settler leader Katzover no longer pretends to support democracy

Benny Katzover, one of the founders and prominent leaders of the settler movement, takes off all masks. He declares himself in clear and unambiguous words to be a sworn enemy of democracy, striving to dismantle and destroy the democratic regime in Israel and replace it with a "Jewish" dictatorship of a nationalist – theocratic – racist character. Katzover no longer sees any need to pay even lip service to democracy, as he and his friends did for many years. He now speaks openly and brazenly, without apprehension of being hurt by this candor. He sees and feels that the liquidation of democracy has now become a tangible and realistic option on the Israeli public agenda.

Indeed, it's impossible to go on avoiding a decision. Either the military and settler dictatorship already in existence in the Territories would penetrate into all parts of Israeli society, eliminating what is left of democracy in Israel and eventually bringing about an end of Israel itself - or the sane forces in the Israeli society will rally at the last moment to put an end to the occupation and settlement, maintain and strengthen democracy and achieve peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab World. Between these two choices there can be no bridging and no compromise.

Contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson 054-2340749

Settler leader: Democracy must be dismantled
Sunday, January 8 2012|Yossi Gurvitz

Haaretz reports that settler leader Benni Katzover calls for dismantling democracy and “bowing to Judaism,” and the leader of the right-wing coalition aids “price tag” activists. Can we discuss the treason of the right yet?

The veteran settler leader, Benni Katzover, was caught (Hebrew) telling some meshigene Chabad paper, “Beit Mashiach”, that
I would say that today, Israeli democracy has one central mission, and that is to disappear. Israeli democracy has finished its historical role, and it must be dismantled and bow before Judaism. All the events nowadays are leading to the realization that there is no other way except putting the Jewish issue before any other issue, and that is the answer to all the situation and the threats.”
Referring to the struggle against gender exclusion, Katzover sailed on the seas of conspiracy, saying, “The leftist activists are cooking timed campaigns against anything that smells of holiness, and they have two goals: One is political – undermining the government and gathering bonuses in public opinion, and the other is to act against all the foundations of Jewish faith.” It’s an interesting look into a leading settler’s world: On the one hand, gender exclusion is “holiness”; On the other, leftists are Erev Rav – Amalekites who pretend to be, or believe themselves to be, Jews, who are seen as such, and yet whose whole existence is undermining “anything that smells of holiness.” Katzover, when asked for comment by Haaretz, confirmed his comments.

Benni Katzover (R) with Yair Lapid on a tour of the West Bank (photo: Yesha Council)
Katzover gains a point for no longer pretending, as most settler leaders still do, that he values democracy. Religious Zionism, as that pig who shows his cloven hoofs so that people will mistake it for a kosher animal, always claimed to support “Jewish democracy.” As anyone who actually studied in that world knows, democracy is described there as a Greek construct, alien to Judaism. When democracy is spoken of, the rabbis kept mentioning the biblical injunction “thou shall not follow a multitude to do evil.” It would be interesting to know how many settler leaders think like Katzover, but do not, as yet, dare say so openly.

This isn’t the only time Katzover was mentioned in the news lately. On Friday, Shahar Ginossar – who is showing himself to be one of the bravest reporters around – demonstrated in “7 Yamim”, Yediot’s weekend supplement, that Katzover, together with Gershon Messica, inspire the “price tag” campaign. The two of them discussed the attacks on the IDF and random Palestinians openly on some internal settlements publications, arguing that without “price tag” attacks, the settlers cannot prevent the removal of illegal outposts. The local council of Shomron, led in the past by Katsover and now by Messica, transferred funds – government funds – to finance what could have led to “price tag” attacks. Messica and Katsover also refrained, time and time again, from denouncing those attacks.

You didn’t have to be a strategic genius to believe that the “price tag” activists, breathlessly described by the media as anarchists over whom the settlement establishment has no control, are in fact Yesha Council of settlement’s special forces. After all, the weapon the Council used to threaten Israelis with for the past 30 years was the “extremists” over which it ostensibly “had no control.” Well, it seems at least some of its members did have control over them.

Will the Yesha Council cast out Katzover and Messica? That’s a funny one. Its disavowal of “price tag” attacks is only meant to preserve its normal position as the political arm of Jewish terrorism. It’s time to remind people that the legendary Yesha leader, Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, is a convicted terrorist. In the early 1980s, he tried to blow up a Palestinian activist, Dr. Ahmed Natsha. The device didn’t go off, and due to “health concerns,” Hever – then called Friedman – got off with just 11 months in prison. Hever’s terrorist past didn’t harm him any, and that’s an understatement. At the time, of course, the leadership of Gush Emunim spoke of “extremists” just as it does now, while trying to conceal the metaphoric hissing fuse coming out of its pocket.

Yesha Council’s quiet support of Jewish terrorism is not limited to attacks on Palestinians. In January 1996, two months after the Rabin assassination, a yarmulka-wearing young man, Ohad Bart, tried to run Meretz minister Yossi Sarid’s car off the road. He was then a Bnei Akiva instructor. He kept his status – which he would have lost had he been caught eating in a non-kosher restaurant – and ten years later, in 2006, he was a Yesha Council functionary and a Knesset candidate on behalf of Ha’Ichud Ha’Leumi, a settler party.
We’re not finished yet. Katzover and Messica, along with their local council, may have inspired and supported “price tag” attacks, but today we learned (Hebrew) that the pogromchiks had a very prominent collaborator: MK Ze’ev Elkin, the chairman of the coalition. He does not deny passing information to “price tag” people telling them where the army was not planning to act, enabling them to deploy their forces in a more accurate manner.

Now, Elkin is obviously not a spy, just as the “price tag” people who gathered information on the army’s activities aren’t. The question whether Elkin is a traitor, however – in the moral sense of the word, not, naturally, the legal one – is more complicated. Elkin took an oath to maintain “loyalty to the State of Israel and to faithfully execute [his] calling in the Knesset.” When he gave information to the “price tag” people, which was supposed to derail military activity ordered by the lawful government, did he commit treason, or not? Let’s just say that Elkin is lucky to be a Jew and not an Arab; Otherwise the Knesset would already be discussing the removal of his immunity. As he is a Jew, it’ll be a surprise if even the Ethics Committee bothers itself with his perfidy.

So: We have a senior Yesha Council operative saying Jewish democracy must be dismantled or killed, while conspiring with another to support “price tag” attacks – aided and abetted by the leader of the right-wing coalition. Isn’t it time we asked some hard questions about the loyalty of the right, particularly the religious right, to Israeli democracy?

Settler leader calls democracy an obstacle to Israel's higher calling

Veteran settler leader Benny Katzover: 'We didn't come here to establish a democratic state.'
By The Associated Press

Israel's democracy has long been a point of pride for its citizens, setting the country apart in a region of autocratic governments. But veteran settler leader Benny Katzover says democracy is getting in the way of what he believes is a higher purpose.

Katzover has been at the forefront of a religiously inspired movement to take over the West Bank, helping build a network of settlements over four decades that are now home to hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

Today, he argues that democratic principles, such as equality before the law, have become an obstacle to deepening Jewish control over all of the biblical Land of Israel - though he stops short of calling for dismantling Israel's democratic institutions. They are disintegrating on their own and losing legitimacy in the eyes of the public, he believes.

"We didn't come here to establish a democratic state," Katzover says. "We came here to return the Jewish people to their land."

Katzover's comments appear to reflect a growing radicalization among some right-wing religious groups, coming at a time of a rise in attacks on Palestinians by vigilante settlers and an increase in complaints by liberal Israelis that the country's right-wing parliament and government have launched an unprecedented attack on the pillars of democracy.
Katzover, 64, led the first group of settlers into the northern West Bank in the 1970s and helped establish the settlement of Elon Moreh in 1980. Like other prominent settlers, he has been a confidant and informal adviser to a string of prime ministers over the years.

"Across the country, these ideas, that democracy needs dramatic change, if not dismantling then at least dramatic change, these ideas are very widespread," he says.

The mainstream settlers' umbrella group, the Yesha Council, distanced itself from Katzover's comments, first made in a small ultra-Orthodox publication and picked up by Haaretz earlier this month. The Yesha Council was firmly committed to democratic principles, said its chairman, Dani Dayan.

Yair Sheleg of the Israel Democracy Institute said the radicalization of hardline settlers accelerated after Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Israel uprooted nearly two dozen settlements, including four in the northern West Bank, and the operation was deeply traumatic for the settler movement.

Sheleg said he was surprised by Katzover's tough tone, if not the content of his remarks. "We should be very worried," he said. "Benny Katzover was considered to be historically one of the mainstream leaders of the settler movement, and this really illustrates the way, the very far way, those mainstream settler leaders went."

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