29 March 2009

Israel’s Fascist Foreign Minister

The Israeli State has chalked up a unique and golden milestone. It has appointed a kosher fascist, paid-up racist as well as small-time thug to be its next Foreign Minister.

Of course this is not the views of everyone. Russian-Israeli-Swedish anti-Semite, Israel Shamir, whom Gilad Atzmon once described to me [e-mail 12.6.05] as ‘an extremely charming man and rather entertaining… a unique and advanced thinker.’ [this correspondence has been omitted in Atzmon’s edited version of a correspondence we had, and also in what Atzmon calls the ‘unabridged version’.

Shamir criticises Saree Makdisi's The Rise of Israel's Avigdor Lieberman for his claim in 2006 that "Avigdor Lieberman, leader of YB, is the real winner of the Israeli elections and a potential kingmaker". Shamir argued that ‘the reality is very different: Lieberman’s party has a great difficulty to enter any coalition, neither it is sought by Olmert or Peretz, the leaders of the biggest Israeli parties. Far from being "a potential kingmaker", Lieberman is an outsider…’

In fact Lieberman joined Olmert’s coalition in October 2006 as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Threats. Apparently Makdisi’s claim that YB is a "racist party" was nothing less than ‘weird’ because ‘YB is the least Jewish nationalist party in the Knesset outside the Arab block, as it is the party of the Russian, heavily non-Jewish community in Israel.’ Apparently Russian Christians claiming to be Jews are somehow not racist whereas the opposite is the case. Their being white Europeans is why they were in effect fasttracked into being Israeli Jews. Liberman’s meteoric rise, and the willingness of the shameless Israeli Labour Party to sit in a coalition with him, which Histadrut’s Chairman, Ofer Eini , urged [surely the death of any idea that ‘Labour’ = ‘socialist’ or even progressive?] is another watershed for Zionism.

In fact, contrary to Shamir's crazy views (a case of one racist defending another) Lieberman was a member of the youth wing of Meir Kahane's Kach Party, an openly Jewish Nazi party that called for the criminalisation of sexual relations between Jews and non-Jews. Such is the background to Israel's Foreign Minister.

Tony Greenstein

Neve Gordon 26 March 2009

Thanks to Binyamin Netanyahu`s overweening ambition, Israel is to be saddled with a foreign minister who is a national disgrace.Imagine a country that appoints someone who has been found guilty of striking a 12-year-old boy to be its foreign minister. The person in question is also under investigation for money-laundering, fraud and breach of trust; in addition, he was a bona fide member of an outlawed racist party and currently leads a political party that espouses fascist ideas. On top of all this, he does not even reside in the country he has been chosen to represent.

Even though such a portrayal may appear completely outlandish, Israel`s new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, actually fits the above depiction to the letter.• In 2001, following his own confession, Lieberman was found guilty of beating a 12-year-old boy. As part of a plea bargain, Lieberman was fined 17,500 shekels and had to promise never to hit young children again.• In 2004, Lieberman`s 21-year-old daughter Michal set up a consulting firm, which received 11m shekels from anonymous overseas sources. Lieberman, according to the police, received more than a 2.1m-shekel salary from the company for two years of employment. In addition, according to an investigation by Haaretz, he allegedly received additional severance pay – amounting to hundreds of thousands of shekels – in 2006 and 2007, while he was minister of strategic affairs and deputy prime minister. According to Israeli law, this is illegal.•

Lieberman is an ex-member of Meir Kahane`s party, Kach, which was outlawed due to its blatantly racist platform. Moreover, his views towards Arabs do not appear to have changed over the years. In 2003, when reacting to a commitment made by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to give amnesty to approximately 350 Palestinian prisoners, Lieberman declared that, as minister of transport, he would be more than happy to provide buses to take the prisoners to the sea and drown them there.•

In January 2009, during Israel`s war on Gaza, Lieberman argued that Israel `must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in the second world war. Then, too, the occupation of the country was unnecessary.` He was referring to the two atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.•

Lieberman does not live in Israel according to its internationally recognised borders, but rather in an illegal settlement called Nokdim. Legally speaking, this would be like US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton residing in Mexico and UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband living on the Canary Islands.And yet, despite these egregious transgressions, newly-elected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has no qualms about appointing Lieberman to represent Israel in the international arena. Netanyahu`s lust for power has led him to choose a man who actually poses a serious threat to Israel. Both Lieberman`s message and style are not only violent, but have clear proto-fascist elements; and, as Israeli commentators have already intimated, he is extremely dangerous.

Politics being politics, most western leaders will no doubt adopt a conciliatory position towards Lieberman, and agree to meet and discuss issues relating to foreign policy with him. Such a position can certainly be justified on the basis of Lieberman`s democratic election; however much one may dislike his views, he is now the representative of the Israeli people. Those who decide to meet him can also claim that ongoing diplomacy and dialogue lead to the internalisation of international norms and thus moderate extremism.These justifications carry weight.

However, western leaders will also have to take into account that the decision to meet Lieberman will immediately be associated with the ban on Hamas, at least among people in the Middle East. In January 2006, Hamas won a landslide victory in elections that were no less democratic than the recent elections in Israel. While Hamas is, in many respects, an extremist political party that espouses violence, its politicians are representatives of the Palestinian people and are seen as struggling for liberation and self-determination.If western leaders want to be conceived as credible, they must change their policy and meet with Hamas as well. Otherwise, their decision to meet Lieberman will be rightly perceived as hypocritical and duplicitous, and the pervasive perception in the region – that the United States and Europe are biased in Israel`s favour – will only be strengthened.

Neve Gordon is chair of the department of politics and government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

The Destruction of Al Quds Hospital - Zionist Barbarism

Below are a few photographs of Israel's civilising mission, as is appropriate for 'the most moral army in the world.'

As people will be aware, Zionist propagandists are having to do their best to explain away the stories of their own soldiers that they shot civilians in cold blood. Every excuse is being trotted out including the fact that it's all a bit of bravado. Unfortunately they have over 1,400 bodies (including that of 400+ 'terrorist' children) to explain away.

Tony Greenstein

27 March 2009

No biopsy, straight to chemo - The Fate of Migrant Workers in Israel

This is a particularly shocking story, by Ran Reznick of the Israeli daily, Haaretz (Feb 4, 2009) sourced from the website of Kav Laoved, Workers Hotline, which defends the rights of migrant and Palestinian workers in Israel. Of course Histadrut, the racist Zionist trade union, refuses to defend or support in any way such workers. That is why trade union activists in Britain are committed to severing links between this racist settler union and British trade union. It is also a salutary lesson to those who think that insurance cover is an alternative to the UK's National Health Service, which New Labour is busily trying to dismantle.

Tony Greenstein

Last October, 32-year-old Arlyn Rose Malyonas, a caregiver from the Philippines, came to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv with severe abdominal pains. She was hospitalized in the gynecology ward, and doctors suspected she was suffering from cancer that had metastasized. However, in order to obtain a conclusive diagnosis, they determined she would need a biopsy. But Malyonas' insurer, Med Health Services for Foreigners, a subsidiary of the Phoenix Insurance Company that serves foreign workers, decided this was not necessary.

"It can be said with a high level of certainty that this is a matter of a metastasized malignant cancer ... even without a certain tissue diagnosis," the company's Dr. Ronit Barak and Dr. Motti Bachar wrote on November 16. "There is no call for surgical intervention, and it is best avoided."

The company refused to fund the surgery and added, "Since [Malyonas] will not be able to return to work within 90 days, it is best she return to her home country."

The insurance company's refusal led Ichilov's doctors to apply to the non-profit Physicians for Human Rights, which also urged that the patient be given a biopsy. The issue also received coverage on Army Radio, in a report by Lana Bond. At that point, the insurance company arranged an examination with surgeon Dr. Avinoam Shkolnick, the general manager of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, at his private clinic in Tel Aviv on November 9. "There is no doubt" that she had ovarian cancer, he wrote. He rejected the possible diagnosis of tuberculosis, and added that performing a biopsy was superfluous, "and is liable to cause complications such as bleeding and infection." Ichilov's Professor Yossi Lessing contacted Shkolnick to stress the importance of diagnostic surgery, but to no avail.

In November, the patient began chemotherapy at Laniado Hospital. Only then did her insurance company agree to let her undergo a biopsy - which showed that she did not have cancer, but rather tuberculosis that had spread to her abdominal organs.

Doctors stated that this means the she did not need chemotherapy - which can have side effects and severe medical implications - and the chemotherapy was given based on a mistaken diagnosis. Malyonas is now receiving daily antibiotic treatment at the League for the Prevention of Lung Disease in Tel Aviv, which will continue for at least half a year.
Even before the biopsy, the doctors from Med Health Services for Foreigners informed her that "she was suffering from ovarian cancer that had spread to her liver."

In the wake of this, the heads of Physicians for Human Rights complained to the Health Ministry about Dr. Shkolnick, Dr. Bachar and Dr. Barak. Five senior doctors who volunteer with the non-profit, along with Ran Cohen, the head of the department for emigrants and individuals without status at the association, signed on the complaint against Dr. Shkolnick.
Professor Yossi Lessing, head of the gynecology and obstetrics department at Ichilov Hospital, complained as well.

The case is currently being investigated by the Health Ministry ombudsman and the Israel Medical Association ethics bureau. Ethics bureau head Professor Avinoam Reches has already to written to Dr. Yael Merrick, the director of Laniado's oncology unit, stating that parts of the patient's file at Laniado, which stated that cancer had been diagnosed at Ichilov, are "in the best case fundamentally mistaken and in the worst case erroneous and deceptive," and that "taking into consideration the aggregate of events surrounding this patient, this is particularly grave."
Professor Reches also wrote to Dr. Merrick, stating he would like to know "whether [Laniado] usually gives chemotherapy treatment the way this patient received it, without a clearly histological diagnosis, and whether an Israeli patient would have been given chemotherapy under such circumstances."

Professor Reches also contacted Dr. Shkolnick and asked him to answer a series of "particularly distressing questions" concerning the affair, such as how "it appears that the insurance company 'expropriated' the patient from Ichilov and blocked essential medical measures, apparently for financial reasons," and "how it is possible to plan follow-up medical treatment in a clearly oncological case ... after a necessary diagnostic procedure has been prevented."

Oncologist Dr. Bella Kaufman told Haaretz that in this case, "there are doctors who have forgotten that that their supreme commitment is first of all to the patient. They took a foreign, weak woman and told her that she has cancer even though she did not receive all the necessary, customary diagnosis tools. This is shocking treatment."

Gynecologist Dr. Ilan Gal, one of the founders of the non-profit organization, said, "the state has placed, and sometimes abandoned, medical services for foreign workers in the hands of insurance companies with economic interests. We hope to revoke the existing law and transfer health services for foreigners to the health maintenance organizations."

26 March 2009

The Bedouin - Victims of Israeli Apartheid

Below are 2 articles on the Bedouin of the Negev, Israel's southern desert. They are the victims of Israel's policy of 'Judaification' - the purification of the ethnic composition of key areas of Israel - the Galilee and East Jerusalem are the other major areas.

Israel's standard lie as to why Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza get the treatment they do is because they support 'terrorism'. No such excuse can be applied to the Bedouin of the Negev, Israeli citizens, who are deprived of the most basic facilities and whose villages are 'unrecognised' and liable to demolition at a moment's notice.

The article below has just been published in the British Medical Journal and the article beneath that on Electronic Intifada.

Tony Greenstein

Israeli Bedouin villages have severe shortages of medical services
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich

Tens of thousands of children from Israel’s southern Bedouin population living in "unrecognised" villages lack the service of a single paediatrician, says a new report.

The report, from the groups Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and Women Promote Health, says that just 12 community health clinics serve 34 villages with a combined population of 83,000, 60% of whom are children.

The report says that 80% of children hospitalised at Soroka University Medical Centre in Beersheba are from the villages, although they make up just a quarter of children in the area, indicating that there is poor or little healthcare provision in this community.
The 12 clinics have no obstetricians, gynaecologists, paediatricians, or pharmacies, says the report, and in most of them staff do not speak Arabic. Also, the number of hours the clinics are open is much less in the villages than in the region’s townships or the Jewish suburbs of Beersheba (1.9 physician hours per 100 patients in Bedouin villages and 5.2 in Jewish settlements).

Because of crowding and delays, only 55% of Bedouin women visit the villages’ medical clinics with their children; others rarely or never attend, because of inaccessibility. Some have to take their children on foot for two hours to reach a clinic.

The infant mortality rate in the Bedouin population in the Negev region is among the highest in Israel. In 2005 the rate was 4.7 deaths in every 1000 live births among the Jewish population in the region and 15.5 in 1000 among the Arab population.

The report calls for Israel to officially recognise the villages and provide them with basic infrastructure, including water and electricity supplies, to allow them to refrigerate drugs, among other things. Primary care services in the Bedouin villages should be equivalent to those provided in other settlements and should be culturally sensitive to residents’ needs, it says.
The report adds: "The state must initiate and implement planning programs aimed at reducing the morbidity and mortality rates among the residents of the unrecognised villages in general and their children in particular, in a culturally adapted manner."

Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1209
Published 23 March 2009

Unrecognised villages in the Negev expose Israel's apartheid policies
Bangani Ngeleza and Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 21 December 2005

Eighty thousand Palestinian Bedouin Israelis live in unrecognised villages in the Negev desert in the south of Israel. The villages are deprived of basic services like housing, water, electricity, education and health care. With the adoption of the Israeli Planning and Construction Law in 1965, 45 villages in the Negev were not declared as existing. Recently, Bangani Ngeleza and Adri Nieuwhof visited the region. They write about the serious consequences this has had for villagers in these "unrecognised villages".

The majority of the villages existed at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948 and some were established in the early 1960's when Israel evacuated Bedouins from northern Negev to the south of Beersheba. Comparisons between the experiences of Palestinian Bedouins in the unrecognised villages and black South Africans in the informal settlements in apartheid South Africa is striking. Apartheid policies in South Africa were adopted to ensure the priviliged position of white South Africans. Israeli government policies are targeted to secure the priviliged position of Jewish Israelis. A government that divides its people and deprives part of its citizens of basic human rights does not show a serious commitment to peace.
Unrecognised villages in the Negev

The 80,000 Palestinian Bedouins living in unrecognised villages in the south of Israel are citizens of Israel. They have the right to vote in national elections and when they have a job or operate a business it is their duty to pay taxes. The majority have lived for generations in villages on their land in the Negev. Following the adoption of the Planning and Construction Law of 1965, the villages did not appear on any Israeli map. They were not recognised by any official government and ignored by all government planning projects.

As there is no municipal authority that governs the villages, the Bedouin Palestinians cannot vote or be elected for municipal representation. Villagers are deprived of basic infrastructure and services like roads, sewage, running water, electricity, clinics, kindergartens and welfare services. The families in the villages mostly live in shacks under zinc roofs where the temperature can reach as high as 55 degrees Celcius. There is no authority that can decide upon permits for the construction of properties. The building of houses in the villages is therefore unlicensed and they are at all times under threat of demolition. A former captain of the Negev police remarked that "there is an imbalance since there is only a destroying authority and no authority issuing construction permits".1

Half of the population of the Bedouins - about 40,000 - in the unrecognised villages is under the age of 18. In 2002, the infant mortality rate was 17.1 per 1000 births, as compared to the rate of 4.5 among Jewish infants. The absence of sewerage and garbage collection systems leads to unhygienic living conditions, a major cause of diseases among children.

Children of the unrecognised villages have to travel sometimes between 40 to 60 kilometres to school. They have to walk from the village to the main road to wait for transport. The majority of the children do not attend kindergarten, because there is no one in their village. This is against a law that rules that education is compulsory for four year old children. Specifically, the Compulsory Education Law requires the government to provide free and compulsory education for every child aged between 5 and 15 years, regardless of whether a child has been registered in the Ministry of Interior's Population Registry or even if the child's parents are illegal residents. Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs proudly claims this as part of its commitment to social and welfare rights.2

Yet 40 per cent of the children drop out before finishing high school, and of the children who manage to go to high school only 27 per cent pass the matriculation exams.
Policy of removal

The policy of removal of Palestinians from Israel is as old as the creation of the state in 1948 and is illustrated by Prime Minister Ben Gurion, who said during a visit to Nazareth, "Why are there so many Arabs here? Why didn't you chase them away?"3
After lifting the military rule that was in force from 1948 to 1966 in the Negev and the Galilee, Israel's policy continued to target the removal of the Bedouin population. During this period, over 50,000 Bedouins were transferred to seven townships that were planned specifically for this group. The townships are densely populated and uprooted the Bedouin families from their traditional way of life. The "concentration towns" are the poorest and most neglected towns in Israel. In the process of removal the land belonging to the Bedouin families was confiscated.
In April 2003, a six-year plan was approved by Sharon's government with the stated aim to change the population's condition, settle land disputes and bolster law enforcement in relation to the Bedouin sector in the Negev. The plan was developed without consulting the Bedouin community in the Negev. In practice, the focus of activities within the plan for the coming years is "enforcement", which means massive house demolitions.

Large sums of the budget are allocated to the Israeli police force. The cabinet of Sharon approved a $250 million budget to force Bedouins from 45 unrecognised villages to leave their homes. At the same time, the government is planning the development of new Jewish settlements throughout the Negev. According to fieldworkers of the Regional Council of Unrecognised Villages in the Negev, every week a few shacks are demolished by Israel's giant Caterpillar bulldozers. The strategy is to demolish a few houses there, avoiding large scale demolition of villages. The message to the Bedouins is that they had better move soon or be removed forcefully.

Informal Settlements in South Africa

The existence of informal settlements in South Africa today reflects an apartheid legacy that stripped Africans of their right to live where they wished. It will take the present government years and significant amounts of capital investment to address the housing backlogs.

There are disturbing similarities in living conditions between unrecognised villages and informal settlements under apartheid. These include lack of access to adequate potable water, lack of proper sanitation facilities, absence of proper road infrastructure, the lack of educational facilities, houses built of corrugated iron sheets (in some cases of black plastics and cardboard) etc.

The similarities are striking between racially based policies that lay behind the creation of white settlements under the apartheid regime in South Africa then and the estabslishment of Jewish settlements by the Israeli government.
Policy Rationale in Apartheid South Africa

The policy of influx control was introduced in South Africa in the 1960's as a mechanism for limiting the number of black Africans within 87 per cent of the land area that was designated as "white South Africa" under the 1913 Land Act. This policy had three components: (a) the Group Areas Act, which prohibited Africans from being present in South Africa for more that seventy two hours without official permission; (b) labour bureaus, which matched African workers with specific jobs and then granted them the required official permission to work for a specific employer and live in a designated township; and (c) strict enforcement of the Group Areas Act.4

This policy was implemented with zeal by the apartheid regime, with an extraordinary number of 5.8 million prosecutions under laws restricting movement in the decade between 1966-75. Effectively, this policy restricted African citizenship to 13 per cent of the poorest land area that was declared as part of its so-called "homeland" policy.

Forced Removals

The influx control policy was pursued in South Africa through expulsions. These saw the forced removal of over 3.5 million black people (Africans, "Coloured" and Indians) during the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's. In the 1950's, over 600,000 people were forcefully removed from Johannesburg and dumped in a labour reserve/township, known as the Southwest Township (SOWETO) in overcrowded conditions. SOWETO was located 10 kilometres away from Johannesburg, initially with no amenities.

Forced removals also happened in Cato Manor (Mkhumbane) in Durban and District Six in Cape Town where 55,000 people were forcefully moved. The influx control policy meant that only those Africans that had permits to be in South Africa could remain within these reserves. Those who were found without such permits were regularly rounded up, detained and then trucked to the borders with homelands where they were dumped. This was effectively a measure to secure the demographic imperative of ensuring a white majority in the so called "white" South Africa. It was a policy similar to that of the Israeli government in securing a Jewish majority in Israel through mass expulsions.
The emergence of the informal settlement phenomenon

The repeal of influx control legislation during the last years of apartheid saw a movement of African people from the impoverished rural areas (homelands) to urban areas (which were erstwhile reserved for "whites") in search of a better life (employment, education etc). From 1976, the apartheid regime did not construct any new housing stock to accommodate black people in urban areas as part of its racial policies of limiting black movement. The result of this urbanisation phenomenon was the creation of shanty towns where people settled informally, in the backyards of township dwellings, in open spaces adjourning townships and closer to cities and in border towns next to homelands. In 1994, when the African National Congress government came to power in the country's first democratic elections, there was one housing unit for every 43 Africans as opposed to one for every 3.5 whites. The housing backlog was estimated at 1.3 million housing units, with between 7.5 and 10 million people in informal dwellings.5

The future of Israel lies in the end of apartheid

Apartheid policies in South Africa were adopted to ensure the privilaged position of white South Africans, as Israeli policies are targeted to secure the priviliged position of Jewish Israelis. A government that divides its people and deprives some of its citizens basic human rights does not show a serious commitment to peace. With the continuation of these divisive policies, it is difficult to take Sharon's rhetoric about working for peace seriously. The challenge for Israel is to arrive at a solution that will guarantee equality for all its citizens regardless of race, gender, religion and so on, within a democratic state. Pressure must be put on the state of Israel to abandon its apartheid policies, including its refusal to recognise the existence of villages composed of its own citizens living within its national borders.
The material conditions of Bedouins living in unrecognised villages brings into sharp focus the sense of outrage that moved Nelson Mandela who, on the occasion of the Rivonia trial in 1964 at which he and other ANC leaders faced the possibility of the death penalty said,
"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunties. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and wish to achieve, but if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die".
Bangani Ngeleza and Adri Nieuwhof are independent consultants from respectively South Africa and the Netherlands. Ngeleza participated in the liberation struggle of the ANC to overcome apartheid in South Africa, and Nieuwhof supported the struggle as a member of Holland Committee on Southern Africa the ANC in achieving its goals.
[1] More information is available on the website of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev: www.rcuv.org
[2] See Yoram Rabin, A Free People in Our Land: Welfare and Socio-Economic Rights in Israel, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1 April 2005); CRC factsheet: Israel, CRC/C/8/Add. 44 (27 February 2002)
A Middle East View by Mennonite Church Liaison (PDF), Glenn Edward Witmer (November 2005)
The Instruments of Apartheid: Dealing with the "Black Threat"
[5] Richard Knight

24 March 2009

STEVE COHEN - Don’t Rest in Peace Comrade – Keep Fighting!

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Steve Cohen - socialist and anti-racist - on Sunday 8th March. I am posting below an obituary from his close friend and another indefatigable anti-racist campaigner, David Landau. But I would like to give my own recollection and personal appreciation.

I first heard of Steve when, over 30 years ago, he came to speak at a fringe meeting on immigration controls at NUS Conference. At that time a big campaign had been mounted to keep an Asian woman, Anwar Ditta, in this country.

I didn’t meet Steve again until the Barbed Wire Europe Conference in Oxford in September 2000. I was shocked to see him with a walking stick suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and obviously in pain. The last time we saw each other was at the Trade Union Conference against Immigration Controls in Liverpool nearly 2 years ago. His condition had obvious deteriorated but nonetheless his determination to fight against racism and injustice was undiminished. His strength and courage were an example to all.

Steve and myself were ideological sparring partners for some 20 years. I never accepted his thesis of ‘left anti-Semitism’. If you’re on the left you oppose racism – period. If you make exceptions, choose to turn a blind eye or remain indifferent, you are no socialist. Nor are you on the left.In the early 1980’s I wrote a pamphlet ‘Zionism – anti-Semitism’s twin in Jewish garb’. Although there are things I would change in it, the essence of the argument I made, viz. that Zionism was the most reactionary response of a small section of the Jews to anti-Semitism remains correct. And in so far as it adopted the ideological framework of the anti-semites it was inevitable, given its imperial alliances, that its bastard child – Israel – would turn out to be racist, as we can see with Avigdor Lieberman set to take over as Israel’s Foreign Minister.

Steven never turned a blind eye to racism, but I felt that in his pamphlet ‘That’s Funny you don’t look anti-Semitic’ he ignored the reality of what Israel had become and where it was going. In it he criticised both myself and Lenni Brenner for our arguments that Zionism’s record during the Nazi holocaust left a lot to be desired – to put it mildly. Steve disagreed with this, though in private correspondence with me he accepted that Rudolf Kasztner, leader of Hungarian Zionism had indeed betrayed the Jews of Hungary.

We fought over our different interpretations of Zionism and anti-Semitism in the pages of Big Flame in particular (much to the annoyance it seemed of the rest of the Collective!). The core of our differences were Steve’s belief that the initial phase of Zionism, its reaction to anti-Semitism, could be divorced from how it turned out. On the latter there was really no difference between us. As he said in an article on the Beyond the Pale Collective site: 'I cannot see how Zionism in its triumphant form (the Israeli state) is anything except essentially racist.’

I also disagreed with Steve's formulation of being an ‘anti-Zionist Zionist’. To me this was as much a contradiction as being an anti-racist racist. But the reality is, despite the attempt of the anti-boycott Engage to claim his name for their cause, that Steve was someone with a romantic vision of ‘old’ Zionism coupled with a horror at what Israel had become. 'Engage' on the other hand utilises ‘anti-Semitism’ as a means of attacking any and all support for the Palestinians.

Steve was the product of the holocaust, with all its contradictions. The lessons he learnt were anti-racist ones, but the enormity of the Nazi crime were such that he saw Israel, in the same way as Isaac Deutscher, as a ‘lifeboat state.’ Wrongly but understandably.

I was therefore very happy when, at the beginning of last year, when I launched a fight to cleanse Indymedia of the anti-Semitic outpourings of Gilad Atzmon, that Steve was someone (with Lenni Brenner!) who joined forces with me. He wrote the following message to IM UK when the battle was at its height:

‘As a hitherto supporter of Indymedia I am writing in total support of Tony Greenstein's attribution of anti-Semitism Some political positions are so clear that they require no reflection to asceratain their meaning. Nazism is one such position. What you have published is another.

To talk of "Judaic world view" (ie attributing to all Jews the same view - the conspiracy theory) and refering to the "unpopularity" of Jews in Nazified Europe (a form of holocaust minimisation which virtually coincides with denial) as well as "their holocaust"( the holocaust was perpetrated ON Jews - and others. The perpetrators were the Nazis)...all this is clear,unarguable anti-Semitism. Just as "kill the Yids" is clear,unarguable,anti-Semitism. But yet you claim a) it is open to interpretation b) even if it were anti-Semitic you need a "consensus" as to what to do if anything - a somewhat unique position on fighting racism c) in the meantime you feel quite prepared to print this junk (which incidenetally in identifying anti-Semitism with Palestinian liberation puts you in antagonism to all progressive Palestinian thought).

Of course you can continue to use your energy going down this obnoxious path. Or else you can print an apology.

steve cohen ‘

Although even during the battle we kept up our internal polemic, Steve writing to me (13.11.07) that:

‘Actually I could write a more "considered" reply. I think there are two issues on which we disagree(d). They are linked but separate. One is the nature of zionism itself (you say it is racist. I agree but say it is also anti racist). The other is whether anti-zionism equals anti-semitism. My position always was/is that the two are theoretically distinct but in practice can merge. Your position seem(ed) to have been they can never merge. However I do think that with the rise of Islam then by and large virtually everything that passes for anti-zionism is anti-semitic. FTP represents this. You shouldn't be surprised. In the past you kept bad company and now they are letting you down. Is that a cruel thing to say? I don't mean it to be. But hasn't your recent fights with the PSC made you reconsider some of your past positions/alliances. It is a genuine question - not point scoring. If point scoring was the isue then overall politically I'd be about 5-0 down.


Steve is someone I shall always remember with genuine fondness and now sadness that I didn’t manage to visit him before he died. Steve was one of the few socialists who stayed true to his ideals and didn't waver throughout his political life, unlike the gaggle of ex-far lefties who took New Labour's shilling

Steve was a genuinely warm and humorous person. I have no doubt that wherever he has gone the fight will continue.

Tony Greenstein

16 JULY 1945 - 8 MARCH 2009

Steve Cohen was committed to struggle against all forms of oppression, for justice and for socialism. This commitment was expressed both in activities and in the application of his formidable intellect to progressing struggles, often in the form of publications. No short account of his life, even one focussing solely on Steve's political activities, can begin to do justice to the breadth and depth of these commitments. I will try to highlight some key themes.

After studying law at Trinity College Oxford and at Birmingham University, Steve trained as a barrister and in 1970 went on to set up an adventure playground in Moss Side Manchester (!). In Birmingham Steve got involved in organising the Balsall Heath rent strike. They talked about the Balsall Heath Soviet in those heady times.

Critical Trotskyism Steve joined the International Marxist Group in 1968 and left at the end of 1974. He was attracted to this group rather than the other myriad of tendencies on the left at the time, because of its dynamism, openness to ideas and discussion and the seriousness with it took oppressions that the rest of the left either avoided - such as questions of sexuality and gender - or which they didn't see as fundamental; such as racism. He was also impressed by the robust anti-imperialism of the IMG regarding Ireland.

Steve's disenchantment with the group was around largely the same issues that attracted him. There were limits to how much the group supported self-organisation of oppressed groups, particularly when raised in relation to the internal life of the organisation. There were limits to the extent ideas outside the Marxist cannon could be introduced from feminism, psychoanalysis and new ideas emerging from the Black movement which we marshalled, for example, in trying to develop an understanding of fascism. The emphasis on debate sometimes just promoted clever debaters to the top and despite the apparent freedom of discussion and plethora of internal tendencies, there was, Steve felt, an authoritarian streak running through the group. Everyone in the IMG shared a concern about the lack of an organic link with the wider working class, but Steve others, including myself, felt that there was a retreat towards the economism that marked out so many other groups at the time, which we never believed was the key to working class politics. And he noted with irony, that as the organisation tried to make a 'turn to the class', there were comrades who were rooted in the working class who became more marginalised or dropped out, while the 'intellectuals' tried to make a 'turn to the class'.

Despite leaving the IMG Steve did value his experience in theory and practice in that organisation. Steve always had a high regard for Trotsky's ideas and would often refer to the influence of these ideas, commenting that his views were often more in line with what Trotsky argued than the Trotskyist groups themselves. He developed strong criticisms of positions he had held before in the IMG. In particular the idea of unconditional but not uncritical support of anti-imperialist movements around the world bothered Steve. Those movements which were Stalinist had often been responsible for murders of thousands of political opponents; often left wing opponents in the communities they claimed to represent. Or they promoted a nationalism that would come to show its vicious side to minorities in the future. Later he argued that this prepared the way for uncritical support for groups driven by religious fundamentalism by sections of the left in recent times. Steve became very interested in the debates between Trotsky, Cannon and Shachtman around these questions. These important debates had been lost to the generation of Trotskyist in the IMG, or appeared in a very distorted form - not entirely surprisingly as Shachtman's later evolution made his positions easy to demonise. These debates sit at the core of an unpublished novel that Steve wrote and was editing at the end of his life.

Steve questioned Trotskyist and Leninist ideas about democratic centralism, dictatorship of the proletariat and so forth believing that we have to learn from other traditions such as anarchism and bundism.

Ireland. A positive thing that Steve absorbed from the IMG days was an appreciation of the centrality of Ireland to the struggle for socialism in Britain - although he later became self-critical regarding the unconditionality of our support for some of the politics and actions of the Republican movements. He made an important contribution to this struggle, linking it to the struggle against racism in general, focussing on the treatment of Irish people in this country. He wrote a pamphlet against the Prevention of Terrorism Act entitled "Apartheid in Britain". In these days of 'war on terror' and the racism that surrounds this, Steve's pamphlet anticipated a phenomenon which has spread and eaten deep into the body politic since then.

In 1976 he was invited to speak at a meeting organised by the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) about this pamphlet. The meeting was broken up by fascists and Steve was knocked unconscious.

He got to know Moira O'Shea through his work at North Manchester Law Centre on Mental Health. When Moira was herself accused of terrorism Steve was heavily involved in her campaign.

Jewish Socialism, Anti-Semitism and Zionism. Being Jewish was always important to Steve. Not in a religious way. But in recognising an important history, being part of a refugee people, a persecuted people and recognition that anti-Semitism is still very much alive. This has informed his opposition to racism, fascism and immigration controls. As the saying goes "two Jews, three views". Steve regarded heterodoxy as a central part of his Jewish identity as well as of his socialism, and he challenged the 'machers' - the self appointed leaders of the Jewish community who claim to speak for all of us, but usually say things we are trenchantly opposed to - at every opportunity. Steve was a member of the Jewish Socialist Group off and on over a number of years and was a member when he died. His approach to life and his humour were quintessentially Jewish.

From his IMG days onwards Steve championed the rights of the Palestinian people. Steve was more radical than many in this regard in trenchantly opposing the 'two-state solution' on the grounds that it was inherently racist and could only be achieved through ethnic cleansing, apartheid or a combination of both. Exclusive states, Jewish or otherwise, were anathema to Steve.

Steve took the fight into the Jewish community itself, getting physically thrown out of a synagogue in the 80s.

But at the same time Steve felt that there was an anti-Semitic strain contaminating the anti-Zionist movement. Some times this was a deliberate use of the anti-Zionist flag of convenience under which anti-Semitic ideas were peddled. More often it was unconscious, old anti-Semitic notions would emerge. Analyses and leaflets appeared where the tail wagged the dog, Zionism strode the international stage as a thing in itself, higher than capitalism, manipulating the great military powers such as the USA. A throwback to the old World Jewish Conspiracy ideas. He wrote a pamphlet in 1983 entitled "That's Funny You Don't Look Anti-Semitic" about anti-Semitism on the left. This infuriated many. Not even the Jewish Socialist Group would publish it although it was eventually published by the Beyond the Pale Collective.

Whilst Steve looked back critically at "That's Funny...." he believed that the central thesis remains even more pertinent today, when there are sections of the left who sing the praises of Hizbollah and Hamas. And he was very concerned that there appeared to be an exceptionalism about how Israel is talked about and acted upon, compared to other equally or more appalling regimes. He has recently characterised himself as a Zionist anti-Zionist. Zionist, not because a Jewish state is a good thing, but because of a recognition that Jews live in a hostile world in which they need protection and recognising that this a moving force behind support for Zionism. Anti-Zionism, because of the occupation, the racism and so forth of the Israeli State. He saw these as two dialectical anti-racist poles.

He argued that campaigns and actions in solidarity with the Palestinians should always explicitly have opposition to anti-Semitism as part of their platform.

Fighting Immigration Controls Steve's work at North Manchester Law Centre opened a door for him on the world of immigration controls. People were coming in facing deportations, or fighting to bring in other members of their families, falling foul of internal controls through refusal of welfare, educational, health rights and so forth. What before was a theoretical opposition to immigration controls for Steve became a living issue for him as a community lawyer. He soon realised that a key to success was open campaigning and developed a partnership between community campaigns and the legal battle. He was soon involved in a number of high profile campaigns. Nasira Begum, Anwar Ditta, Said Bibi, Nasreen Akhtar in the late 70s, and later Viraj Mendi, Florence Okolo, the Rahman family campaign to name just a few.

All this got Steve researching into the history of immigration controls and re-discovering the anti-Semitic campaigning that led to the introduction of the Aliens Act back in 1905 and bringing attention to the proto fascist group at the turn of the 19th/20th century, the British Brothers League.

Steve saw the necessity of bringing the lessons of these campaigns and of the history immigration controls to wider public and wrote a number of pamphlets whilst at the law centre. Steve also saw the necessity of a specialist centre of resistance and legal support and campaigned for the establishment of the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit, of which he was the first co-ordinator for many years.

Steve saw the weaknesses in the movements resisting different aspects of immigration controls: the idea that there can be some kind of fair and non-racist controls; not seeing the need to marry forthright campaigning with legal tactics; and a lack of knowledge in different professions about how immigration controls impact and what to do about it. Steve set about dealing with these by writing a series of books. 'Immigration Controls, the Family and the Welfare State', 'No One is Illegal', 'Standing on the Shoulders of Fascism' and 'Deportation is Freedom' which draws close parallels with the 'newspeak' described by George Orwell in 1984 and the discourse of the 'immigration service' (there's a good example), the Home Office and Government.

Illness forced him to leave the Unit but he continued to write. He became increasingly aware of the need for a voice which openly called for the abolition of immigration controls and with the assistance of a few of us comrades wrote the No One Is Illegal Manifesto. This led to the establishment of No One Is Illegal group which has organised conferences, published a number of pamphlets, pushed for defiance of controls amongst the caring professions and so forth. Since then there has emerged the No Borders Network and the Campaign Against Immigration Controls all strongly influenced by the ideas of the manifesto and in the last year of his life Steve was concerned to find a way to bring these all under one umbrella.

Mr No Polltax Steve played a small role in the monumental struggle that brought down the Thatcher's Poll Tax. Under the name of Mr No Polltax, Steve entered into a protracted legal correspondence with Bury Council as to why he would not and could not pay his poll tax. Ironically Steve was one of the few who would be slightly better off under the poll tax than under the old rates system, but he saw it as a matter of principle to resist an unjust system.

Disability - fighting His System and The System In 1995 Steve developed chronic rheumatoid arthritis with intense acute episodes. Over the years these became increasingly debilitating and intensely painful. This required medicines which progressively weakened his immune system leaving him vulnerable to infection and other illness. This led to him being in and out of hospital in the last few years of his life.

Did this stop Steve fighting? No it didn't. He still went to Lithuania, taking me as his carer, to investigate the role it had as a buffer state in terms of immigration control and alert students to the evils of developing controls. Whilst in Lithuania he took the opportunity to research the fate of his own family during the Nazi era, visiting the shtettle (Jewish village) where a branch of his family came from.

What his illness did do was present him with a new battlefield. What he found were many wonderful dedicated workers in the health service and in the local authority caring service on the one hand, and institutions which could not properly come to grips with or even understand the issues of disability on the other. He had a series of battles large and small. One was to fight for a different design of chairs in the hospital as the existing design was unsuitable for many disabled people. Steve got involved in disability groups, bringing to their attention relationships between the struggle for disability rights and the fight against racism.

Steve's last battle was against the New Labour policy of privatising home care in the name of choice. The only choice he wanted - to keep his existing regular carers - was not on offer. He managed to win the battle in his own case but saw this as the opening salvo against a system in reaction and a union in retreat. So that war has yet to be won and has lost one of its most militant soldiers.

Culture Steve often found literary expression to his political involvements. From his little book of poems "From the Jews to the Genitals" in 1975 through to a novel he just finished (as yet unpublished) just before his death relating to all of the themes above and more.

Steve lived his life according to the No One Is Illegal motto DEFIANCE NOT COMPLIANCE. He will be sorely missed by his children, Rachel and Tom, his daughter-in-law Cecilia, his two grandchildren, Fintan and Ellen, his friends and comrades.

Lotta Continua.

David Landau
21 March 2009

22 March 2009

The Nazification of the Israeli Army

The articles below speak for themselves. Having gone to Gaza and committed their war crimes, with the encouragement of senior officers and military rabbis alike, it is only natural that the soldiers should want some momento to remind themselves of what it was like when you could shoot a pregnant Palestinian woman and her child dead and be told how brave you are.
‘Jokes’ like ‘2 kills, one bullet’ with the picture of a pregnant Palestinian woman are just the stuff of which SS humour was made. Thus the ‘Jewish’ State comes full circle.

Tony Greenstein

The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit's insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children's graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques - these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription "Better use Durex," next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter's T-shirt from the Givati Brigade's Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, "1 shot, 2 kills." A "graduation" shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, "No matter how it begins, we'll put an end to it."

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, "Bet you got raped!" A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies - such as "confirming the kill" (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim's head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants.

In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit's commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, "We won't chill 'til we confirm the kill" were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn't exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

The slogan "Let every Arab mother know that her son's fate is in my hands!" had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit's shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

"It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town," he explains. "The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him."

Does the design go to the commanders for approval?

The Givati soldier: "Usually the shirts undergo a selection process by some officer, but in this case, they were approved at the level of platoon sergeant. We ordered shirts for 30 soldiers and they were really into it, and everyone wanted several items and paid NIS 200 on average."

What do you think of the slogan that was printed?

"I didn't like it so much, but most of the soldiers wanted it."

Many controversial shirts have been ordered by graduates of snipers courses, which bring together soldiers from various units. In 2006, soldiers from the "Carmon Team" course for elite-unit marksmen printed a shirt with a drawing of a knife-wielding Palestinian in the crosshairs of a gun sight, and the slogan, "You've got to run fast, run fast, run fast, before it's all over." Below is a drawing of Arab women weeping over a grave and the words: "And afterward they cry, and afterward they cry." [The inscriptions are riffs on a popular song.] Another sniper's shirt also features an Arab man in the crosshairs, and the announcement, "Everything is with the best of intentions."

G., a soldier in an elite unit who has done a snipers course, explained that, "it's a type of bonding process, and also it's well known that anyone who is a sniper is messed up in the head. Our shirts have a lot of double entendres, for example: 'Bad people with good aims.' Every group that finishes a course puts out stuff like that."

When are these shirts worn?
G. "These are shirts for around the house, for jogging, in the army. Not for going out. Sometimes people will ask you what it's about."

Of the shirt depicting a bull's-eye on a pregnant woman, he said: "There are people who think it's not right, and I think so as well, but it doesn't really mean anything. I mean it's not like someone is gonna go and shoot a pregnant woman."

What is the idea behind the shirt from July 2007, which has an image of a child with the slogan "Smaller - harder!"?

"It's a kid, so you've got a little more of a problem, morally, and also the target is smaller."

Do your superiors approve the shirts before printing?

"Yes, although one time they rejected some shirt that was too extreme. I don't remember what was on it."

These shirts also seem pretty extreme. Why draw crosshairs over a child - do you shoot kids?

'We came, we saw'

"As a sniper, you get a lot of extreme situations. You suddenly see a small boy who picks up a weapon and it's up to you to decide whether to shoot. These shirts are half-facetious, bordering on the truth, and they reflect the extreme situations you might encounter. The one who-honest-to-God sees the target with his own eyes - that's the sniper."

Have you encountered a situation like that?

"Fortunately, not involving a kid, but involving a woman - yes. There was someone who wasn't holding a weapon, but she was near a prohibited area and could have posed a threat."

What did you do?

"I didn't take it" (i.e., shoot).

You don't regret that, I imagine.
"No. Whomever I had to shoot, I shot."

A shirt printed up just this week for soldiers of the Lavi battalion, who spent three years in the West Bank, reads: "We came, we saw, we destroyed!" - alongside images of weapons, an angry soldier and a Palestinian village with a ruined mosque in the center.

A shirt printed after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza for Battalion 890 of the Paratroops depicts a King Kong-like soldier in a city under attack. The slogan is unambiguous: "If you believe it can be fixed, then believe it can be destroyed!"

Y., a soldier/yeshiva student, designed the shirt. "You take whoever [in the unit] knows how to draw and then you give it to the commanders before printing," he explained.

What is the soldier holding in his hand?
Y. "A mosque. Before I drew the shirt I had some misgivings, because I wanted it to be like King Kong, but not too monstrous. The one holding the mosque - I wanted him to have a more normal-looking face, so it wouldn't look like an anti-Semitic cartoon. Some of the people who saw it told me, 'Is that what you've got to show for the IDF? That it destroys homes?' I can understand people who look at this from outside and see it that way, but I was in Gaza and they kept emphasizing that the object of the operation was to wreak destruction on the infrastructure, so that the price the Palestinians and the leadership pay will make them realize that it isn't worth it for them to go on shooting. So that's the idea of 'we're coming to destroy' in the drawing."

According to Y., most of these shirts are worn strictly in an army context, not in civilian life.

"And within the army people look at it differently," he added. "I don't think I would walk down the street in this shirt, because it would draw fire. Even at my yeshiva I don't think people would like it."

Y. also came up with a design for the shirt his unit printed at the end of basic training. It shows a clenched fist shattering the symbol of the Paratroops Corps.

Where does the fist come from?

"It's reminiscent of [Rabbi Meir] Kahane's symbol. I borrowed it from an emblem for something in Russia, but basically it's supposed to look like Kahane's symbol, the one from 'Kahane Was Right' - it's a sort of joke. Our company commander is kind of gung-ho."

Was the shirt printed?

"Yes. It was a company shirt. We printed about 100 like that."

This past January, the "Night Predators" demolitions platoon from Golani's Battalion 13 ordered a T-shirt showing a Golani devil detonating a charge that destroys a mosque. An inscription above it says, "Only God forgives."

One of the soldiers in the platoon downplays it: "It doesn't mean much, it's just a T-shirt from our platoon. It's not a big deal. A friend of mine drew a picture and we made it into a shirt."

What's the idea behind "Only God forgives"?

The soldier: "It's just a saying."

No one had a problem with the fact that a mosque gets blown up in the picture?

"I don't see what you're getting at. I don't like the way you're going with this. Don't take this somewhere you're not supposed to, as though we hate Arabs."

After Operation Cast Lead, soldiers from that battalion printed a T-shirt depicting a vulture sexually penetrating Hamas' prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied by a particularly graphic slogan. S., a soldier in the platoon that ordered the shirt, said the idea came from a similar shirt, printed after the Second Lebanon War, that featured Hassan Nasrallah instead of Haniyeh.

"They don't okay things like that at the company level. It's a shirt we put out just for the platoon," S. explained.

What's the problem with this shirt?
S.: "It bothers some people to see these things, from a religious standpoint ..."

How did people who saw it respond?

"We don't have that many Orthodox people in the platoon, so it wasn't a problem. It's just something the guys want to put out. It's more for wearing around the house, and not within the companies, because it bothers people. The Orthodox mainly. The officers tell us it's best not to wear shirts like this on the base."

The sketches printed in recent years at the Adiv factory, one of the largest of its kind in the country, are arranged in drawers according to the names of the units placing the orders: Paratroops, Golani, air force, sharpshooters and so on. Each drawer contains hundreds of drawings, filed by year. Many of the prints are cartoons and slogans relating to life in the unit, or inside jokes that outsiders wouldn't get (and might not care to, either), but a handful reflect particular aggressiveness, violence and vulgarity.
Print-shop manager Haim Yisrael, who has worked there since the early 1980s, said Adiv prints around 1,000 different patterns each month, with soldiers accounting for about half. Yisrael recalled that when he started out, there were hardly any orders from the army.

"The first ones to do it were from the Nahal brigade," he said. "Later on other infantry units started printing up shirts, and nowadays any course with 15 participants prints up shirts."

From time to time, officers complain. "Sometimes the soldiers do things that are inside jokes that only they get, and sometimes they do something foolish that they take to an extreme,"

Yisrael explained.

"There have been a few times when commanding officers called and said, 'How can you print things like that for soldiers?' For example, with shirts that trashed the Arabs too much. I told them it's a private company, and I'm not interested in the content. I can print whatever I like. We're neutral. There have always been some more extreme and some less so. It's just that now more people are making shirts."

Race to be unique

Evyatar Ben-Tzedef, a research associate at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism and former editor of the IDF publication Maarachot, said the phenomenon of custom-made T-shirts is a product of "the infantry's insane race to be unique. I, for example, had only one shirt that I received after the Yom Kippur War. It said on it, 'The School for Officers,' and that was it. What happened since then is a product of the decision to assign every unit an emblem and a beret. After all, there used to be very few berets: black, red or green. This changed in the 1990s. [The shirts] developed because of the fact that for bonding purposes, each unit created something that was unique to it.

"These days the content on shirts is sometimes deplorable," Ben-Tzedef explained. "It stems from the fact that profanity is very acceptable and normative in Israel, and that there is a lack of respect for human beings and their environment, which includes racism aimed in every direction."

Yossi Kaufman, who moderates the army and defense forum on the Web site Fresh, served in the Armored Corps from 1996 to 1999. "I also drew shirts, and I remember the first one," he said. "It had a small emblem on the front and some inside joke, like, 'When we die, we'll go to heaven, because we've already been through hell.'"
Kaufman has also been exposed to T-shirts of the sort described here. "I know there are shirts like these," he says. "I've heard and also seen a little. These are not shirts that soldiers can wear in civilian life, because they would get stoned, nor at a battalion get-together, because the battalion commander would be pissed off. They wear them on very rare occasions. There's all sorts of black humor stuff, mainly from snipers, such as, 'Don't bother running because you'll die tired' - with a drawing of a Palestinian boy, not a terrorist. There's a Golani or Givati shirt of a soldier raping a girl, and underneath it says, 'No virgins, no terror attacks.' I laughed, but it was pretty awful. When I was asked once to draw things like that, I said it wasn't appropriate."
The IDF Spokesman's Office comments on the phenomenon:

"Military regulations do not apply to civilian clothing, including shirts produced at the end of basic training and various courses. The designs are printed at the soldiers' private initiative, and on civilian shirts. The examples raised by Haaretz are not in keeping with the values of the IDF spirit, not representative of IDF life, and are in poor taste. Humor of this kind deserves every condemnation and excoriation. The IDF intends to take action for the immediate eradication of this phenomenon. To this end, it is emphasizing to commanding officers that it is appropriate, among other things, to take discretionary and disciplinary measures against those involved in acts of this sort."

Shlomo Tzipori, a lieutenant colonel in the reserves and a lawyer specializing in martial law, said the army does bring soldiers up on charges for offenses that occur outside the base and during their free time. According to Tzipori, slogans that constitute an "insult to the army or to those in uniform" are grounds for court-martial, on charges of "shameful conduct" or "disciplinary infraction," which are general clauses in judicial martial law.

Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy, of Bar-Ilan University, author of "Identities in Uniform: Masculinities and Femininities in the Israeli Military," said that the phenomenon is

part of a radicalization process the entire country is undergoing, and the soldiers are at its forefront. I think that ever since the second intifada there has been a continual shift to the right. The pullout from Gaza and its outcome - the calm that never arrived - led to a further shift rightward.

This tendency is most strikingly evident among soldiers who encounter various situations in the territories on a daily basis. There is less meticulousness than in the past, and increasing callousness. There is a perception that the Palestinian is not a person, a human being entitled to basic rights, and therefore anything may be done to him.

Could the printing of clothing be viewed also as a means of venting aggression?

Sasson-Levy: "No. I think it strengthens and stimulates aggression and legitimizes it. What disturbs me is that a shirt is something that has permanence. The soldiers later wear it in civilian life; their girlfriends wear it afterward. It is not a statement, but rather something physical that remains, that is out there in the world. Beyond that, I think the link made between sexist views and nationalist views, as in the 'Screw Haniyeh' shirt, is interesting. National chauvinism and gender chauvinism combine and strengthen one another. It establishes a masculinity shaped by violent aggression toward women and Arabs; a masculinity that considers it legitimate to speak in a crude and violent manner toward women and Arabs."

Col. (res.) Ron Levy began his military service in the Sayeret Matkal elite commando force before the Six-Day War. He was the IDF's chief psychologist, and headed the army's mental health department in the 1980s.

Levy: "I'm familiar with things of this sort going back 40, 50 years, and each time they take a different form. Psychologically speaking, this is one of the ways in which soldiers project their anger, frustration and violence. It is a certain expression of things, which I call 'below the belt.'"

Do you think this a good way to vent anger?
Levy: "It's safe. But there are also things here that deviate from the norm, and you could say that whoever is creating these things has reached some level of normality. He gives expression to the fact that what is considered abnormal today might no longer be so tomorrow."

Israeli Army T-Shirts Mock Gaza Killings
3:45pm UK, Friday March 20, 2009
Dominic Waghorn, Middle East correspondent, Sky News

The Israeli army is at the centre of a second controversy over the moral conduct of its soldiers in as many days. The printed t-shirts were discovered by an Israeli newspaper

The revelations centre on t-shirt designs made for soldiers that make light of shooting pregnant Palestinian mothers and children and include images of dead babies and destroyed mosques.
The t-shirts were printed for Israeli soldiers at the end of periods of deployment or training courses and were discovered by Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

One, printed for a platoon of Israeli snipers depicts an armed Palestinian pregnant women caught in the crosshairs of a rifle, with the disturbing caption in English: "1 shot 2 kills".

Another depicts a child carrying a gun also in the centre of a target.

"The smaller, the harder," read the words on the t-shirt.

According to a soldier interviewed by the newspaper, the message has a double meaning:

"It's a kid, so you've got a little more of a problem, morally and also the target is smaller."

Another shows an Israeli soldier blowing up a mosque and reads "Only God forgives".

T-shirts printed for Israeli soldiers mocking the shooting of Palestinian women and children are revealed by an Israeli newspaper. Above a ninja figure, yet another shirt bears the slogan "Won't chill until I confirm a kill".

The revelations, coming so soon after Israel's offensive in Gaza in which hundreds of civilians were killed - many of them women and children - are causing outrage. Perhaps the most shocking design shows a Palestinian mother weeping next to her dead baby's grave, also in the crosshairs of a rifle. It suggests it would have been better if the child had never been born, with the slogan "Better use Durex".

The controversy follows more revelations by other soldiers about abuses and the shooting of civilians during Israel's offensive during the Gaza offensive. Ex-soldier and campaigner with Breaking The Silence, Michael Maniken, told Sky News Online this week's revelations suggest a pattern of immoral conduct in the army.

"The army keeps on saying we're talking about a few rotten apples but it seems the army doesn't understand there's a norm in this kind of action," he explained.

"We're hearing about this time and time again and the army seems disconnected from reality."
A spokesman for the
Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) told Sky News Online, the t-shirts were printed on the private initiative of the soldiers and their designs "are not in accordance with IDF values and are simply tasteless. This type of humour is unacceptable and should be condemned".

Hebrew version omitted from English language translation
The sniper sees a woman and children approaching him across the tracks over which they told him no one was allowed to approach. He shot straight at them. At any rate, what happened finally­ he killed them. They advanced and suddenly he saw them, people moving in an area in which it was prohibited to move. I don't think he felt particularly bad about this, because from his point of view he did his job according to the orders given to him. The atmosphere in a general sense among my people [in such a situation] was to go out and speak with them [Palestinian civilians] I don't know how to define it. Lives of Palestinians, let's say, are something far, far less important than the lives of our boys. That's how they, from their perspective justified this.

Another commander from the same company told about an incident in which an officer shot and killed an adult Palestinian woman who walked along the road at a distance of 100 meters from a house the platoon captured. He said he was forced to argue with his superior officer about the permissive terms for opening fire which made possible the cleansing of the homes with rifle fire, without prior warning to the residents. After the orders were changed, the soldiers under this officer complained about it, reasoning you had to kill every human being found there. Anyone found there was a terrorist. [Note [TG]: The Nazis when murdering every Jew or person in a house would use the term 'cleansing' - strange how racists think alike.

According to him, you don't sense from the captains that there's any logic to this [the order to open fire on anything that moved], but they didn¹t say anything. To write sentences on the wall: Death to Arabs, to take family snapshots and spit on them, to burn everything belonging to the family, just because you could. I think that this was the most central thing: to understand how much the IDF had fallen concerning its ethics. No matter how much we say that the IDF is a an ethical army, let's just say it didn¹t work that way in the field, not at the regimental level. That's the thing I will most remember.

The head of the preparatory program, Danny Zamir, said he didn¹t know beforehand what the soldiers would say at the conference and that the content struck them dumb. He approached the chief of staff and warned him of his fear of a severe degradation of ethics in the IDF. Zamir got the impression that the IDF intended to deal with the issue seriously: They don't intend to cover it up, he said.

An IDF spokesperson provided a response: in light of Danny Zamir¹s approach to the chief of staff, a meeting was set up between the former and the chief educational officer, who informed him of the activities that happened before, during and after the operation intended to impress upon the troops and their officers the ethical considerations involved in battle.

The chief education officer added that the IDF was preparing profound and fundamental investigations and that officers were encouraged to have discussions about these subjects. The IDF had no knowledge that confirmed these events. It will investigate their truth as needed.
The human rights group, Yesh Din, called tonight for the chief military prosecutor and the government¹s legal advisor to announce the formation of an external body to investigate these incidents. The group declared further that it was necessary to give this body the necessary tools to bring criminal charges, whose clear purpose would be to establish blame and responsibility.
Up till now, one and a half months after the Operation, not a single criminal investigation has been opened despite there being hundreds of testimonies which raise a clear suspicion that there were violations of the laws of war and war crimes. These published testimonies cast a dark shadow not only on the soldiers who participated in the operation, but the senior echelons who created the rules of engagement for opening fire. As has become clear recently [a reference to the indictment of Sudan's president], in the event that the State of Israel fails to investigate its own abuses other nations will [do it for them].

One thing that strikes me here is the almost nostalgic yearning among the troops and Zamir for a truly ethical IDF, harkening back to an earlier era when such things were taken much more seriously (supposedly). Both Zamir and the IDF education officer speak with the gravest seriousness about the subject when it should be clear to them, as it is to most of the rest of the world, that ethics are a lost cause as far as the army is concerned. There is lip service paid. Words are uttered. Intentions are confirmed. But as anyone who is a serious observer of the IDF knows, words are cheap. Deeds are the currency of the realm. And the IDF's deeds in Gaza and its refusal to investigate them tell you how much value the army really places on ethics.

Something about the entire closing portion of this story in which the army and Zamir each share their profound concerns about ethical violations, reminds me of an elaborate charade carried out for the benefit of the impressionable young boys who witness such terrible events in Gaza. The goal seems to ease troubled consciences rather than getting at justice. For the IDF, justice is a dead Palestinian and a live Israeli. All else is meaningless.