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Israeli witch-hunt, this time from Likud

By Ariel Natan Pasko
web posted July 12, 2004

For years, there's been a slogan in Israel, "Only the Likud can..." I've always wondered, "Can what?" Now I've learned what. Likud, it's leaders, can persecute its political opponents just as slyly, just as deviously, just as undemocratically as the Left and the Labor Party can. Except, they don't persecute the Left or Labor, they persecute those who oppose their Likud-cum-Left disengagement (i.e. expel the Jews) policy.

Through insinuation, conjecture, theory, and downright exaggeration, Sharon's government, with the help of Israel's left-leaning amen-corner media, has "warned" of the possibility, of maybe, someone, might-think, of doing grievous bodily harm to the prime minister or a minister in the government.

Get the picture?

If you think of opposing Sharon's plan to expel Jews from Gaza, if you tell someone else that you disagree with it, you might be accused of "incitement". Incitement to what? I don't know, it's never spelled out in Hebrew; they just use the phrase "Hasata" incitement. I think they mean violence; but I'm not quite sure. In a supposedly democratic country, what I'm writing right now, might land me in jail for a "conjectured thought of violence" as the Israeli thought police creep around inside my head to determine what I "intend" to do.

For the last couple of days, since the head of Israel's General Security Service (like the FBI) Avi Dichter told the cabinet that there were threats against the prime minister's life from right-wing extremist elements; there's been a media frenzy in Israel. Since Dichter's statements, most of the radio and television time has been spent discussing the "issue".

"The activities of Israel's extreme right have escalated," Dichter said, without documenting his statements. Dichter claimed that persons on the right could pose a threat to the prime minister's safety, trying to prevent implementation of his unilateral disengagement plan in Gaza. His depiction of the situation drew objections from army and police elements.

In fact, a couple days later, Israeli Army Radio quoted security sources that said there is "no information in the General Security Service (GSS) or the police, regarding intentions to harm the prime minister or any other senior personality." Also a senior police officer from the Judea and Samaria District said the police don't share Dichter's assessment that right-wing extremism is on the rise. "He may know something that we don't, but according to information we have, the situation has stayed the same and we don't know of any rabbis or public figures who have become extreme and have turned into a threat," the officer said.

Yet, Prime Minister Sharon - playing the victim role well - spoke to the Shinui Party Knesset faction the day after the cabinet meeting, "It pains me that, as someone who all his life defended Jews in the wars of Israel, I now need defense against Jews, for fear someone might try to harm me."

He seems to miss the irony of it all, planning to harm thousands of Jews rather than defending them, since he now plans to expel Jews from their homes...

Turning to Justice Minister Yosef Lapid, Sharon said, "Speaking to you not as a friend, but as justice minister, this is something that must be uprooted. All these conferences and rhetoric cannot be allowed."

In other words, Sharon wants to bring an end to free speech and dissent in Israel. No one will be allowed to meet in groups to discuss their opposition to the disengagement plan, let alone actually oppose it. The right to free speech is only loosely protected in Israel, and the concept of non-violent civil disobedience almost non-existent. When Moshe Feiglin's "Zu Artzeinu" blocked traffic in the mid-1990s in protest over the Oslo agreements, the police treated the non-violent protesters as revolutionary extremists. Feiglin himself was tried and convicted of sedition.

Imagine, blocking traffic in protest for a couple hours, is now a "revolutionary," "violent," and "seditious" act, that threatens the national security of the state. But that was under the Rabin government, the Left.

Many thought a Likud or "right-wing" government would be different.

Back in the mid-1990s, my wife and I were drawing political cartoons. In response to one of Netanyahu's speeches, outlining what he would do if he were prime minister, I suggested to my wife doing a Siamese twin "Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee" cartoon, labeled Labor and Likud. My wife didn't quite agree, but I prevailed and we did it. I insisted at the time (c. early 1995), that there really wasn't that much difference between what Netanyahu and Likud were promising, and what Rabin was doing till then. I'm sorry to have been right.

And it continues.

After Dichter laid his "stink bomb," Sharon said, "Oh my my they're after me," and the Left jumped on it's chance to attack everyone else not "Them". Likud Minister of Internal Security, Tzahi Hanegbi, then threw fuel on the fire and said that in his opinion, "There are already people who have made the decision that if/when the time comes, they will 'save the Jewish people' and will try to kill a minister, a Prime Minister, an army officer or a policeman."

Then Carmi Gillon, who served as head of the GSS when Rabin was assassinated (he was the person who ran GSS plant Avishai Raviv, who incited Rabin murderer Yigal Amir), said that Hanegbi was right about an impending extremist threat. "The next murder is on the doorstep," Gillon, who is now mayor of Mevasseret Zion, told Israel Army Radio.

Why all the incitement against the Right?

Hanegbi later admitted that he didn't know of any specific threats and his statements weren't based on any intelligence reports, but just the general situation and Dichter's remarks to the cabinet. But while the Left, Likud (who is Centrist), and others flay around looking for their "boogie-men," the Ynet news Internet site (affiliated with one of Israel's leading daily newspapers) featured a "hit-list" of "right-wing extremists," including Baruch Marzel, the Yesha Rabbis Council, Women in Green, the "hilltop youth," and others.

I hope they aren't inciting some left-wing extremists to attack them...

Not only politicians from the Left have been warning of a civil war (a tactic they used in the post-Rabin assassination period to frighten people and quell any opposition to their "peace policies"), but Sharon himself said recently that in the current atmosphere over the disengagement plan, it gives him the feeling of a country on the eve of a civil war, and that everything must be done to prevent this. Sharon called the incitement by the Right a "dangerous development," that will be met with "all seriousness." Sharon claims he has the support of the majority of the country to go through with the disengagement plan, and intends to do so. "I am determined to follow through," he said.

Yet MK Tzvi Hendel, of the right-wing National Union Party, blamed Sharon rather than Dichter for the enflamed situation. He pointed out that snipers were present when outposts were dismantled and warned that Sharon could order snipers to open fire on settlers resisting a Gaza withdrawal. "Sharon has recently succeeded in crudely trampling every democratic initiative in every area, I'm afraid that with a prime minister so undemocratic, he could order a civil war," Hendel told his faction, "We have to do everything possible to prevent Sharon from bringing a civil war on the people of Israel."

And, after Dichter's cabinet statement, the Yesha Rabbinical Council termed it "incitement and provocation to hatred against an entire public." It also charged that for years, "law enforcement agencies have ignored repeated law-breaking by leftist extremists," yet they are now preparing to suppress opponents of Sharon's disengagement plan.

But at the same time, Likud MK Roni Bar-On called on the settler leadership to stick to the legitimate rules of protest in a democratic country. "The struggle for the land must be conducted only through legal proceedings [not violence]," he said.

Why the reminder when there's no real threat? Is it to hem-in their right to protest, to shut them up?

Finally, in this "theater of the absurd witch-hunt" with both Dichter and Hanegbi later admitting they knew of no concrete threats, the GSS head called a meeting with settler leaders from the "Council of Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza" also called the Yesha Council.

And what did they talk about?

Following their meeting, the Yesha Council leaders said Dichter clarified that during his briefing to the government, warning of increasing extremism among the anti-evacuation public, he was referring to far-right extremists not representative of the settler public. "What I was talking about was a core group of Jewish extremists that have crossed the line, and the GSS is dealing with them. I did not include representatives of the general settler or Jewish public in this group," Dichter told the Yesha Council leaders.

"Yes, but the general public does not understand it this way. For the past three days the media is in a frenzy, and everyone is pointing the finger at us," the settler leaders told Dichter. The Yesha Council leaders told Dichter they "will not give in to the delegitimization campaign being waged by the Left and by [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon's associates."

Notice how the witch-hunt tactics have paid off.

Without any real threats in existence, Sharon through the GSS has pacified the Yesha Council leaders. "Dichter didn't intend to malign the settlers or their leaders but just the anarchists and the marginal extremists," Benzi Lieberman, head of the Yesha Council said following the meeting. Now "re-educated," Lieberman spoke up in Dichter's defense, the GSS head "understands what we have gone through over the past few days."

In one fell swoop Sharon (the ultimate bomb-thrower, that's his leadership style), created a crisis, floated "perceived" threats, allowed the entire settler and right-wing of the Israeli political spectrum to be blackballed and frightened, then pacified their leadership, his only serious opposition.

Sharon's learned well from Labor and the Left. He's absorbed the lessons from those heady witch-hunt days right after the Rabin assassination, when half the country (the Right) was accused of aiding and abetting Rabin's murderer. Back then, they all apologized and beat their breasts, even though only one person pulled the trigger.

The real question is, has the Right (i.e. rabbis, other settler leaders, and the general Jewish public alike, who support the Jewish people's right to their homeland) learned its lesson too, not to cower this time around?

P.S. A recent study done by the University of Haifa's National Security Studies Center, asked 1,016 Jews in Israel, "When there is a political disaster ahead and other forms of protest have not brought improvement, physically injuring politicians is forgivable." While 8.2 percent of respondents living in pre-1967 Israel (within the Green Line) agreed with the statement, only 3.3 percent of "settlers" (those Jews living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza) did so. Dr. Ami Pedahzur, research director at the center concluded, "The connection the media makes between the radical right and the settlers is inappropriate."

Thus proving my witch-hunt argument.

Ariel Natan Pasko is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko (c) 2004/5764 Pasko

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