[News] A Jewish Woman Speaks Out

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Wed Jun 2 09:05:54 EDT 2004

Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 4:48 PM
Subject: A Remarkable Jewish Woman Speaks Out -

Shockingly honest

A Remarkable Jewish Woman Speaks Out -- Shulamit Aloni

She founded and was Chairperson of Civil Rights
Party/Ratz 1973-95, and was a Member of the Israeli
Knesset from 1974-96.  In 1973-74 she was Minister
without Portfolio for Human Rights, in 1992-93
Minister of Education and Culture, in 1992-96 Member
of The National Security Council, in 1993-96 Minister
of Communication, Science and Art (and in 1995-96
Second in the Cabinet).  She was born in  1929.

This interview was given to Attila Somfelvi of Ynet --
the Web site associated with Yediot Aharonot Israel's
largest circulating daily newspaper.  The Interview
was translated by Sol Salbe from the original (see
bottom for additional attributions).

Former Meretz Leader Shulamit Aloni has established a
reputation for her critique of modern Israeli society.
  Recently, in front of hundreds of supporters of Yossi
Beilin, who had just been elected head of Yahad,
Shulamit Aloni -- "Oum Meretz" [The Meretz Mother (in
Arabic)] -- settled accounts with everyone: stylishly,
sharply and in her own inimitable style.

No one escaped her acerbic tongue.  They all 'caught
it': the government, apathetic Israeli society, the
army and even her left-wing colleagues who have fallen
asleep at the wheel.

"Stop being politically correct!" she lashed out.
"It's time to tell the truth to the people, straight
to their faces!"

Now, following the election of Beilin, whom she
supported, Aloni has given an exclusive interview to
Ynet, explaining why she endorsed him ("he's been
consistent on the issue of peace") but why she does
not believe that the Left could recover anytime soon

She warns against the disintegration of Israeli
society ("gross insensitivity"), rules out any
comeback in politics ("I don't miss it"), and states:
"I am beginning to understand why a whole nation (the
Germans) was able to say:  'We did not know.""

Q: What do you mean when you say that you understand
the Germans?

Shulamit Aloni (SA): These days you meet people around
the country who say:  "I don't want to know, I have
given up reading the papers."  Do you know how many
people are unwilling to read Gideon Levy and Amira
Hass [Haaretz reporters in the Occupied Territories]
because they simply don't want to know what is
happening there?  They do not deny the accuracy of
these two journalists' articles, but they simply don't
want to know.

We have always angrily and justly rejected the
Germans' claim that they "did not know".  They simply
didn't want to know.  They worshipped the Fuehrer and
their army.  We also have people who do not know and
do not want to know.  What they know is that they must
display their patriotism.  And what is more patriotic
than a war?

So now we have the national flag and coat of arms in
every classroom, and we teach the students the anthem.
  There is even a fool [religious Likud MK Leah Ness]
who proposed to write "In God We Trust " on our
currency.  Had she known that the Nazi army's belt
carried the message: "God with us", she wouldn't have
associated the Jews' God with money.  But a patriotic
hysteria is pervading here, and people just keep

Q: You do raise quite a complex concept with that

SA: Our society is being undermined by gross
insensitivity and by adulation of force.  I am
disturbed by our moral disintegration.  I am disturbed
by the arrogant and light-hearted way in which we kill
and murder Palestinians.  I am disturbed that when 400
olive trees were uprooted in the Territories, no one
was held to account.  I cannot find any peace of mind
anymore, when I see this Wall that we are building.
We are pillaging the land and destroying the way of
life of people who have lived in the same place for
centuries.  When Ariel Sharon's mates had their land
expropriated, they received huge compensation.  Yet we
are busy destroying greenhouses, plantations and the
vital infrastructures of three million people, and
then pretend that we are the victims.

I cannot live with the fact that our sharpshooters are
killing people.  I cannot live with the way we
continually wail that we are the victim, and do not
examine our own morality.  It's important to realize
that appalling as suicide bombings are, aerial
bombardment kills more.  While we feel the pain of our
900 dead, we tend to forget that we have murdered 3000
Palestinian civilians.  We are the violent ones; we
are the cheats.  Our very foundations have been
undermined by our adulation of force, and all this is
called a democracy.  There cannot be democracy when we
rule over three million people who have no voice.  We
simply have to get out of there.  We do not even try
to understand that what the Palestinians want is
sovereignty and human rights.

Q: This gross insensitivity that you keep talking
about, where does it come from?

SA: There's an absolute moral thoughtlessness that
stems from the powers that be.  When General [Amos]
Yadlin, the head of military colleges, writes an
article stating that it is moral to kill women and
children while carrying out a targeted liquidation,
and a moral luminary like Professor Asa Kasher
endorses his view, then you have a problem.  Israeli
Arabs get detained at the international airport, and
their luggage is taken apart.  There are instructions
for more and more Left activists to be held up on
their way abroad to force them to remain silent.  Why?
  What is happening to us?  But people remain silent so
as not to get into trouble.

Things happen here that drive you mad.  Why was there
no inquiry following the death of the American
protester Rachel Corrie, who was run over?  Why didn't
the government condemn it?  Why was there no inquiry
when journalists were shot, which made it OK to murder
left, right and center?  The army uses sharpshooters
who practice by shooting Arabs.  The moral
disintegration of our society is the direct
consequence of what is happening in the Territories.
We are responsible for the shedding of Jewish blood.

Q: What does that mean?  Is somebody making sure that
Jewish blood gets shed as well?

SA: In Yediot Aharonot, Nahum Barnea wrote the other
day that Sharon had told him (and it wasn't only
Sharon) that Jewish blood is the most efficient cement
for maintaining a national consensus.  When terrorism
is on the wane, then people feel free to ask
questions, critics can be heard and the spirit of
defiance grows.  There's no mileage in non-existent

I ask you, wasn't it obvious that there would be a
response to our savage operations in the Gaza Strip?
Everyone knew that there would be a response.  Who,
then, is responsible for the Jewish blood that is
shed?  We are.  We, with all our might, continue to
hit more and more.  They use terrorism and we do the
same, only harder.  Our strategy is the strategy of
force and not of reconciliation.

Had we chosen the path of reconciliation, we would not
have stuffed up [former Palestinian Authority Prime
Minister] Abu Mazen during his period in office.
These days, everyone agrees that the government and
army were wrong in tripping him up.  But in our
country, we treat the army as sacred, as if it were a
value in and by itself that unites us, and is our
raison d'etre.  There are many who think that it is
not the state which has its army, but the army which
has its state.

Q: How is this expressed?

SA: We have just bought extremely sophisticated planes
that cost umpteen billion dollars.  Who needed them?
We could have spent this money on health and relieving
poverty.  We are in peace with Egypt and Jordan.
Syria is seeking peace and is no longer a factor.
Iraq is not a threat, and Iran is the problem of the
whole world.  But [Iranian-born Defense Minster] Shaul
Mofaz has already jumped up and threatened the
Iranians, in Persian, that he would bomb their nuclear
reactor.  What's he getting excited about?

For the past 37 years, our Jewish paranoia has been
stoked by brainwashing.  We get told that they want to
exterminate us.  Who are "they"?  We are at peace with
Egypt and Jordan, and these two countries do not
threaten us anymore.  So who is going to throw us into
the sea ... the Palestinians?  But this is the kind of
paranoia that is being fostered here.  The present war
is not a war of survival, but a colonial war.

Q: When you say that everyone remains silent, do you
include the Israeli Left?

SA: Yes.  It was wrong for members of the Left to lash
out against the refuseniks.  In a morally degenerated
state that forces women to give birth by the roadside,
we ought to be praising our refuseniks, instead of
attacking them.  But everyone wants to be careful
because everyone wants to show how patriotic they are.

I regard myself as very patriotic, but a true patriot
is one who voices disapproval of our moral
degeneration.  I am told that we need to be populists;
we have to be popular, grovel to the masses in order
to attract them.  It's easy to sway the mob.

There`s a tendency around the world to frown upon
nationalism, but in our country we nail it to our
mastheads.  It's a sin committed by all the political
parties.  The Left is so besotted with returning to
power that it is willing to adapt the Right's agenda
to get there.

Q: Will the election of Yossi Beilin as head of Yahad,
in reality the Left, change anything?

SA: I can't see any changes for the moment.  I am out
of politics, and one shouldn't offer advice without
accepting responsibility.  I supported Yossi because
he has been consistent in his struggle for peace.  I
do not believe that we can renew and rebuild Israeli
society on the basis of liberty, justice and peace
without first making peace.  It's our worst, most
festering wound.

Q: Do you think the Left can find a new track?

SA: I am not a believer.  I do not believe anymore.  I
only hope that the dynamics [of the situation] will
push it forward.  But those dynamics will only arise
when [Beilin's opponent in the ballot] Ran Cohen),
Beilin and [Knesset member] Chaim Oron and the whole
gang wake up.

In recent times the only Meretz voices heard were
those of [left- wingers] Zahava Gal-on and Roman
Bronfman.  But their voices were those of individuals,
not of a party.  I want everyone to wake up, to relate
to the groups that are fighting for peace, to speak
out, to attend meetings, to criticize the government.

It's time we set up political stalls in the streets.
One has to be daring, and not be constrained by
political correctness.  We have to tell the truth; to
state that our struggle with the Palestinians is a
colonial struggle.  We have to declare that what we
are doing in the Territories is terrible.  We have to
admit that we too bombed the British people when they
occupied us.  We must show that we are taking money
for the poor and investing it in the Territories.  The
minute there's an outcry on this subject, when there's
criticism of resources being wasted, that's when the
country will begin to change.

If it were up to me, I would take the residents of
[poor development towns] Dimona and Yeroham to the
Territories and show them the settlers' nice houses
surrounded by greenery with matching green roofs.  Let
them see the destruction [of the Palestinian
infrastructure], the settlers-only roads, and that
monstrous fence.  Let them see, so that they would
never be able to say that they didn't know.  When they
see it, and remember that they haven't been paid their
wages for months, they may stop voting for the Likud.

Q: Do you see yourself making a comeback in politics?

SA: I do not see myself coming back.  I raise my
voice, I lecture and I write articles.  But I am not
coming back.  I don't miss politics.  The fact that
Sharon and Peres are still at it at their age does not
obligate me to do likewise.  Spain has got a
44-year-old Prime Minster.  Tony Blair wasn't quite
fifty when he came into power.  It' s about time we
let the new generation develop.  Let's not cut them
down.  Remember what they did to Mitzna.

Q: Who is an appropriate leader: Barak, Netanyahu?

SA: Ehud Barak was a real disaster, and I hope they
never let him set foot in politics ever again.  He
failed, because he was always up to tricks.  Barak
totally misunderstood people's attitudes.  When the
throngs shouted "anyone but Shas", he did not
comprehend what they were seeking.  As a result, we
have the growth of the [secularist but redneck]
Shinui.  He brought disaster upon disaster down on us.
  He never implemented the agreements [with the
Palestinians] that the Israeli government had signed.
He even poked fun at Netanyahu, who had given [back]
Hebron, and boasted that in his time in office he had
given nothing to the Palestinians.  As for Netanyahu,
I do not subscribe to his economic policy, but at
least Netanyahu is a man of action.  Barak had nothing
but words.

[Translated by Sol Salbe from the original Hebrew.
Salbe used a structure provided by Edith Rubinstein of
Women in Black (Belgium), who had in turn used a
French translation by Pascal Fenaux.]

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