Walter's World with Walter Bingham - every Sunday on Israel National Radio

Walter Bingham is a veteran journalist and broadcaster from London who now lives in Jerusalem. His weekly radio programme, Walter´s World, can be heard on Israel National

Monday, July 17, 2006

Israel's Black September

Sept. 18, 2005
Walter Bingham

Black September was a little-known terror group until they murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. They took their name from the battles between the Jordanian army and Palestinian terrorists in September1970, when a great number of them were expelled from Jordan and then moved their operation to Lebanon, where they started to ferment that country.
For the USA, September will always be associated with the terror attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, and recently, with the floods in her southern states and the loss of so many lives on those occasions. It will indeed be a black memory.
Israel, too, has its Black September, but it started in August this year, when nearly 10,000 of her citizens were made homeless. But not by a tsunami or catastrophic floods, or another natural disaster decreed by G-d. No, they were forcefully dragged from their homes and synagogues with the help of water canons and allegedly debilitating chemical substances. Was it done by Palestinian terrorists or an enemy force? Again, no. It was the Israeli police and our own defence forces that carried out the dastardly act. It has to be said here that many of the uniformed personnel were forced to act against their consciences. They were not resolute enough to refuse and join others in uniform who did, and who had to pay the price of their freedom.
There is no need to once again review the reasons for this expulsion, they have been discussed and condemned ad nauseam (instead of having evoked national revulsion to the point of a general strike, which would have, in my view, prevented Ariel Sharon's reckless and irresponsible excursion). For the moment, it's done. The houses and most large buildings have been raised to the ground. Despite opposition from some quarters, the shells of synagogues were left to the Arabs to desecrate; the people have gone and the voices of the many happy children that were constantly heard to echo around those streets are still.
Where are they now? In new communities, prepared in advance, with equivalent homes and similar facilities to those they built up during the past 20-odd years, and which they had to leave behind?
Absorbed into existing communities with homes of the same size as those from which they were expelled?
Are their many children enrolled in kindergartens, primary or high schools for the new school year that started early in September?
No to all that. One thousand of the 1,500 families are languishing in hotel rooms around the country, accommodation that, in the kindest terms, has to be described as totally inadequate.
I thought this expulsion had been on the cards for quite some time and the government made the necessary arrangements. You might justifiably ask about that.
Ask you may, but answers are not forthcoming. And those answers that are offered are couched in meaningless terms, which are effectively lies, because the government has no explanation for its neglect. It is becoming clearer by the day that the only well-prepared and extremely effectively organised action was the relentless clearance of anything Jewish from Gaza. Not much thought was given to the plight of the now-homeless.
Oh yes, figures of compensation have been bandied about and I believe that some moneys have been distributed. However, the monetary value of the expellees' properties in Gaza, on which compensation amounts are based, will buy you a storage shed in some parts of the country, unless they move to other so-called settlements in disputed areas, to maybe - G-d forbid - be forced out again if the present government has its way. Many of the now homeless were once before expelled. They came from the Yamit area in the Sinai to Gaza after the peace treaty with Egypt in March, 1979.
I saw the places in Yivol and Yated, some five kilometers from the Egyptian border, where some 400 families were to be accommodated in mobile homes, and I walked in 18 inches of loose sand. I saw some of the necessary public services in the process of being installed, but having been expelled from their spacious homes, surrounded by beautiful greenery and civic infrastructure, and sent to this place, is, to put it mildly, a traumatic experience of immeasurable proportions. Just imagine yourself in their place. Even in ordinary circumstances, it is said that, after bereavement, moving is the most traumatic event in one's life.
This government has adopted an important pillar of Judaism, but, as with most of their actions, got it all wrong. I am talking about "Na'aseh v'Nishmah - we shall do and we shall act, and only then listen and ask questions (Exodus 24:7). This maxim applies to our relationship with the Almighty, when we accepted his Torah, not to our daily interaction with our fellow Jews.
It is interesting that when it comes to the government's actions that affect those who are determined to wipe us off the map, the Palestinians, it invariably acts according to the concept that the end does not justify the means. So that to remove Arabs from Jewish land, even in an exchange – to relocate Arab villages from northern Samaria to Gush Katif, for instance - is against the government's principles. But to throw Jews out of their homes, some from the centre of the country, for some obscure political manoeuvre has fallen within the principles of this corrupt and rotten government, led by the dictatorial General Pinochet-Sharon. Yes, like Pinochet of Chile, Sharon of Israel has committed a crime against humanity and should be brought before the courts to justify it. But then, the judiciary in Israel does not act as independently as it should. An analysis of their judgements of late clearly indicates a political empathy with the present government. The cases are too numerous to list.
I am, of course, not privileged to be present throughout cabinet meetings. nor do I have access to classified information, but I want to say this: Let's assume for one moment, just for one moment, that there were compelling, valid reasons for a retreat from Gaza. Would it not have been right and proper to first disclose it to the communities affected, and for the very man who personally encouraged them to settle there, Ariel Sharon himself, to also personally explain to them the reasons for his proposed action? Instead of , the Disengagement Plan was publicly announced at the Herzliyah Conference. Another example of this uncaring and heartless administration - if one were needed. To borrow a phrase from Abba Eban, 'His ignorance is encyclopaedic!"
Now that Sharon's dirty work is complete, the expellees feel abandoned – and probably are: 'Here are a few dollars, now go and fend for yourself.' Most of them were farmers or horticulturalists. Where are they going to get the equivalent volume of land of which they were robbed? Even if they would be resettled in the Negev, the southern part of Israel, whatever compensation they receive would be a drop in the ocean considering the months, even years, of labour required to make the desert arable. On the other hand, it recently came to light that Sharon allegedly received a grant of NIS 600,000 from government funds for some project on his farm. The whole business of the so-called disengagement from Gaza was a disgraceful act and as far as the humanitarian aspect was, and still is, concerned, mismanaged from beginning to end. Heads must roll, including that of the prime minister, because the buck stops with him; in fact, it all started with him.
Those members of Knesset who place themselves into the camp of the opposition must unite to bring about the fall of this government. They must act unselfishly, without regard to their political careers and their next seat in the Knesset. If they want to demonstrate their loyalty to Israel and its future, they must put their money where their mouth is; otherwise they will be publicly accused and shamed.

Disasters: The Media and Israel's Government

Oct 23, 2005
Walter Bingham

The whole world was shocked, and rightly so, by the disasters that have recently befallen many countries. I am referring to the earthquakes, the tsunami, the hurricanes and floods and the creeping woodland fires. The news coverage was excellent. On each occasion, the news media showed not only the actual devastation, but it also concentrated heavily on the plight of the affected population, the personal stories about the loss of their homes, jobs and livelihoods, the uncertainty of where they are going to settle and the lack of funds for food, etc.
Those stories and pictures have aroused tremendous sympathy and most relief agencies quickly established aid distribution in those areas. In many countries, public appeals have been launched with an almost unprecedented response, ranging from schoolchildren who donated their savings, to large amounts of money from corporations. National stockpiles of emergency equipment, tents, food, clothing, bedding and other necessities are still today being shipped out by air. The value of this generosity amounts to billions of dollars. Israel is usually early in offering material, manpower and expertise wherever it is needed, which by proportionate size comparison with other donor countries is much more than can be expected. I am really happy to see that in this materialistic world, nations can still raise compassion for those in need, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.
Sometimes, however, there are exceptions to this rule. There are times when political and even religious considerations override desperate need, on the one hand, or compassion, on the other. For instance, despite extensive recent contacts with Israel, Pakistan expressed the wish to have Israeli aid channeled via a third country. Isn't that the paradigm of hypocrisy?
One of the recent events in Israel was the so-called Disengagement Plan; the forced evacuation, or expulsion, as I prefer to call it, of approximately 10,000 Jewish men women and children from their homes in the Gaza Strip and from a part of Samaria in the centre of Israel. Perhaps 50% were children under 16. Natural disasters are decreed by the Almighty and cannot be averted, but this disastrous expulsion was carried out by Israel's government. I have, on other occasions, written and spoken about this disaster at length and want here to concentrate on the media and world response.
The deliberate, premeditated and unprecedented phenomenon of a government making its own subjects homeless by destroying their houses, and forcing them to leave the are that was their home for the past 20+ years, was to be the media event of the year. Ever since the date was announced, networks from all over the world, from Japan to the US, Europe and Australia, all competed for space to accommodate their crews as near as possible to the centre of the proposed action. They hoped for bloody battles, and even shooting, between the residents and the expelling forces - but instead, saw only non-violent, passive resistance, which was an anticlimax for them, considering their expenditure. So, they concentrated on the soldiers and police carrying struggling people out of their houses, or on defiant young residents and sympathisers sitting in synagogues or standing on rooftops, determined to make it as difficult as possible to expel Jews from their legitimately owned homes.
One might have speculated that the areas were required by the government for strategic installations or military purposes or for the establishment of such important industries as water desalination plants so urgently needed here; in other words, absolutely unavoidable use for the defence of the nation or its life-preserving necessities. But there was none of that.
The land was handed without conditions to the same enemy who has daily sent rockets and mortars in the direction of these and other Jewish-populated areas. It was an effective unconditional surrender; exactly the line that the Palestinian terrorist organisations overtly publicise and celebrate - and the PA leadership quietly applauds as a first step to further withdrawals.
To have expelled Jews for the purpose of unilaterally giving to the enemy the land under fire, was 'adding insult to injury'. The last time I wrote those words was in connection with the burning down of synagogues by the Nazis during Kristallnacht on the night from the 9th to the 10th of November, 1938 (which I witnessed), when payment was demanded from the Jewish community, to make safe the remaining dangerous structures.
The extended parallel is striking.
The international news media acted as one. None concentrated on the plight of the now-homeless. There were few, if any, interviews with expelled residents. There was no hint of compassion in the reporting on the English and German networks that I monitored. Oh yes, crying women were shown, publicly venting their anguish and distress in Hebrew, without translation or comment. It was very different from the reporting of the events in New Orleans or southeast Asia.
The news media has the power to either produce factual and objective reports, or to colour the reporting so as to introduce a bias. This can be achieved by flavouring the commentary to specially selected footage or even staged photographs. The effect is that it favours and excuses one side over another regardless of the truth. Worse still, pictures have been captioned fraudulently, as in the case of Tuvia Grossman, a Jew who was depicted as a wounded Arab youth cowering next to an angry Israeli policeman holding a baton, when, in fact, he was being protected from an Arab mob that had earlier attacked him.
Bias can also be accomplished by omission, by failing to explain the background to an event. Omission is not discernable by those readers, listeners or viewers who usually choose to get most of their news from the same source, same network or newspaper, and accept everything as fact. That, unfortunately, is the majority.
In the forefront of the guilty media are the major networks that propagate anti-Israel bias by pandering to populism and thus create a vicious circle in the race for viewer figures. An extensive and academically produced report in 2002 by Trevor Asserson, a lawyer in London, showed conclusively how the BBC distorted the facts. His report so unsettled this giant network, that they asked to meet with him in the British House of Commons chaired by a member of Parliament. As a result, there were some improvement in the commentaries of BBC Middle East correspondents, but they soon reverted to their old ways. Mr. Asserson is continuing to make waves.
Did the events of August/September 2005 in Israel arouse the compassion of the world's relief agencies? Did any large charities offer help or did any country launch a public appeal to aid the displaced homeless? To my knowledge, not one. Perhaps they would have done; but they too get their information from media reports and from the reaction of world governments. With the onset of the colder weather, it is time to look for the winter wardrobe. Admittedly, the belongings of the victims of the Disengagement Plan were packed into containers, but they are now inaccessible, except against a large payment. So most expellees have no home, no jobs, no money and no clothes.
Instead of compassion for the homeless, world leaders fell over themselves to congratulate Israel's prime minister on his 'courageous' step to surrender to the pressure of their oil-hungry countries and to the demands of their politicians, who are vying for the votes of the cuckoo in their nests, the masses of their new Muslim citizens. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, thirsty for glory, is lapping it all up, like a purring cat at the milk dish. With the adulation of the world heaped upon him, there is the great danger that he will continue this path of dismantling Israel, for which thousands died. It is sad that in his own country, this once-great general will only be remembered for his folly in Gush Katif and Samaria.
The Yom Kippur prayer Ashamnu, Bagadnu is one that Sharon should have said with great concentration and devotion. It is written in the plural, because Jews are responsible for each other, and it very much applies to this prime minister and his cabinet:
We have acted treasonably, aggressively, and slanderously;
We have acted brazenly, viciously and fraudulently;
We have acted wilfully, scornfully and obstinately;
We have acted perniciously, disdainfully and erratically. Turning away from your good precepts has not profited us.
The government bears the great burden of responsibility for all of us.
So, on our High Holy Days and festivals, when we say the prayer Ribon Ha'olam before removing the Torah scrolls from Holy Ark, we ask the Lord of the Universe to inspire the leaders of our government to be good to us. Well, if last year we were deemed unworthy of that, I pray that this year, the Almighty will weigh the result of their actions and fulfil our request. It would, of course, be better still if those leaders themselves would display the character of every decent politician who has failed his or her country; but then, it seems that in Israel that is too much to expect, when so many undeserved perks go with the job.

The Judiciary in Israel

Walter Bingham
Oct. 31 2005

For most of my life, I lived in England and learned to trust the legal system, because there, judges are not appointed by the political establishment of the day. They evolve from the ranks of distinguished lawyers. Politics plays no part whatsoever. Therefore, the judiciary is not beholden to any government policy, and is totally independent and fair. They scrupulously carry out the legislation laid down by parliament and in case law.
Now, what about Israel's judiciary? The slogan on their web site is very interesting. It quotes Isaiah 1: "Zion will be redeemed with justice, and her captives with righteousness."
Recent events have turned this slogan on its head. You know that they imprison children for demonstrating and hold them without trial? They call it "protective custody". It's a term that was used by the Nazis to imprison Jews and other opponents of the regime without trial. Draw your own conclusions. One of the better-known names is Chaya Belogorodsky, who was freed in September after 40 days, but only into settlement-arrest, a severe restriction on her movements. To this day, no trial date is fixed. And there is the case of 18-year-old Shimshon Cytryn, who has now been in prison for four months charged with attempted murder; in fact, he is the main suspect in a 'lynch' attack on an Arab youth.
Now that's a very serious charge, lynching; but if we look into the facts as they have become known, we find nothing of the sort. During the period of the Gush Katif expulsion, he was, with others, occupying an old, disused building on the beach, when he was attacked by Palestinian youth. Rocks were thrown by both sides. A photo journalist took a picture of an Arab youth who was hurt and on the floor. It was claimed that a rock, thrown by Cytryn, totally incapacitated him, nearly killed him.
But the Arab youth was soon seen to get up and walk away unaided. It is alleged by Cytryn's defence that the Arab himself said it was the butt of a rifle that caused his injury and not a rock. Yet he, a participant in the attack on the Jews walks free, while Shimshon Cytryn is languishing in jail, still without trial.
So much for the slogan on the web site. Several appeals for Cytryn's release on bail were turned down, probably because, like 14-year-old Chaya Belogorodsky, he is deemed to be a danger to the State. Isn't that utterly ridiculous, and a feeble, unconvincing excuse?
Those cases, together with many others, are examples of the judiciary's political bias, because the Supreme Court is stacked with government appointees, and the government carried out the expulsion in Gush Katif. So, those who exercised their democratic right to peacefully demonstrate and oppose are treated harshly, as an example, to dissuade other right-wing political opponents from being too active.
Thousands were arrested illegally and the Supreme Court approved legal and political processes that cement its position as an arm of power, rather than as an independent judicial authority.
Sometimes, just sometimes, someone will persist in getting justice. Like Noam Federman, who, for more than a year, was either kept in protective custody or sentenced to house arrest. At one time, he was free to move by day, but at night, he was deemed a terrorist and restricted to his home. Another ridiculous order. After uncountable court appearances, each adjudging him guilty or dangerous, with a similar negative outcome, the court of appeals finally overturned it all - and awarded him a substantial sum in compensation for unlawful detention.
Now that this precedent is set, similar awards should follow. What a waste of tax payer's money - to keep innocents in prison in the first place and then to have to pay compensation.
Here is another example. According to a report on Ynet, David Axelrod, who was convicted for treasonous statements on the radio in connection with the murder of Yitzchak Rabin, requested a retrial on the basis of the outcome of the trial of Mohammed Yousef Jabarin. Jabarin is an Arab poet who praises terrorist murders in poems and who was apparently acquitted. I quote from an article in Ynet:
"Aharon Barak, the Chief Justice didn't like the request, to put it mildly, and sent the appealer to request a presidential pardon. The prosecution agreed, but Moshe Katsav, himself a well-worn politician who probably has plans of returning to politics, understood that one doesn't play games with the Rabin assassination. He rejected the request for a pardon. Now, Chief Justice Barak has no choice, and on the eve of the Sukkot holiday, despite the unfortunate timing – a few days before the tenth anniversary of the Rabin murder – Barak asked Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to acquit Axelrod. If Mazuz refuses, Barak will [have to] order a re-trial."
Our courts are serving the government, and the way our judges are appointed will never lead to a truly independent judiciary.
Just as the selection of Knesset members must be radically overhauled to achieve accountability if Israel wants to display democracy in action and not only in name, so must the judiciary be overhauled and judges' terms of office predetermined.

Tommorow Never Comes

Nov. 24 2005

In almost every speech that Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has delivered since the implementation of his order to expel 10,000 of his Jewish fellow citizens from their legally owned homes in a legitimate part of Israel, he has referred to it as a "painful decision". Painful?
It was indeed a ruling that caused immeasurable pain, mental and physical, to the victims of his ruthless decision. But observing Sharon since then, I have not been able to detect any manifestation of the pain he flaunts on every possible occasion.
On the contrary, he is cheerfully and obediently carrying out every instruction he receives from Condoleezza Rice, whose false smile betrays her real intention of reducing Israel to a size that will hardly be able to sustain itself economically, politically, militarily and even demographically. Rice's allies, the EU and the Quartet, are already seeing to it that the Palestinian Authority shall be neither short of money nor weapons. Dr. Rice is a smart cookie and it is my belief that she will be a Republican contender for the presidency of the United States. If she were to succeed to that position, she would quickly and efficiently finish the task she set herself for this region of the Middle East.
There is, of course, still time left to remedy the situation, but not a lot.
Now that Sharon has resigned from the Likud and the 16th Israeli parliament will be dissolved, the chance for the nation to speak has arisen earlier than anticipated.
It is hoped that the inevitable wheeling and dealing of the smaller right-wing political parties will bring about a united front, and that their leaders will for once put aside any thoughts for their personal gain and prestige, and act in the interests of the electorate and the country. That would make it possible for the votes of their supporters to actually carry weight and prevent the emergence of either Ariel Sharon or the new radical left-wing leader of the Labour party, Amir Peretz, to become the new prime minister.
The State of Israel, under the leadership of either of these two intellectual dwarfs, would be manoeuvring herself into such a tight corner that she would find it difficult to extricate herself. Unfortunately, it is too much to hope that MK Uzi Landau and Moshe Feiglin would withdraw as contenders for the leadership of the Likud and instead join the united front, which would then have a more-than-excellent chance to emerge the victors at the ballot box.
I have to confess that the third alternative is also not ideal, because, human nature being what it is, even in victory there would not be unity. Changing coalitions within the 'united' front would inevitably stifle many good policy proposals.So, I go for the fourth alternative and the only sensible solution, the party that will treat the cause and not the symptoms: Hazit, the Jewish National Front. Here is a part of its manifesto:
1. Consistent with strategic as well as religious reasons, we categorically reject the surrender of any part of the Land of Israel to non-Jews.
2. We categorically reject the idea that Jews can lawfully divest themselves of Jewish land by means of a national referendum, as proposed by various members of the Knesset. (Abraham Lincoln echoed Jewish law when he said "a people has no right to do what is wrong.")
3. We demand that the government abrogate the Oslo Accords, or Israel-PLO Agreement, which has been constantly violated by the PLO and has resulted in the murder of more than 1,500 Jews.
4. We categorically reject the government's immoral policy of self-restraint vis-a-vis Arab terrorism. This policy makes the lives of an indeterminate number of Jews expendable. We therefore demand that the government pursue a policy of zero tolerance for Arab terrorism.
5. We categorically reject the release of Arab terrorists, which is a violation of international law: "No crime without a punishment."
In addition, Hazit advocates electoral reform, so that the members of Knesset and local councils will be accountable to the constituents who vote them into power. The lack of accountability is the cause of the corruption that is rampant in Israel.
With those points in mind, after the next general election, which is expected to take place in March of next year, Israel needs to quickly reestablish herself as the nation she once was: proud, asserting her independence as a sovereign state, and defending herself as she thinks fit, resolutely and without fear. Sadly, fear seems to have overcome her. Fear of the displeasure of George Bush and Rice, for whom the continuing supply of Arab oil is paramount and supersedes everything; fear of disobeying what was after-all only an advisory ruling of the International Court of Justice at the Hague about the route of the security fence; fear of hurting Arab civilians from behind whom the terrorists are operating, in their houses and their fields. Judging by the tactics of US forces in Iraq, the dictate to Israel is "do as we say not as we do."
This attitude has now reached intolerable proportions, to the extent that the government would rather put Jews at risk than mount an attack against an enemy who is gaining not only strength, but also confidence, by the day. The proposal to reinforce the roofs of schools and other vulnerable buildings in towns and cities that are within range of Palestinian rockets is the most wasteful and inefficient strategy that could have been devised. Soon, Israel will no longer be in a position to prevent delivery of more powerful weapons to the Palestinians, so that in the not-too-distant future, the whole country will be within range. Is it proposed to progressively strengthen roofs everywhere? That is the same as just giving painkillers to a patient with stomach ulcers, instead of cutting them out before the body stops functioning. Regrettably, Israel's leaders, many of whom come from the ranks of the military, are excellent tacticians, but poor strategists. In other words, solve the problem of today - tomorrow never comes.
Sustained terrorism has scored one important success. It is the effect on a large part of the Israeli population, who have grown tired of wars and terrorism. They fall easy prey to the left-wing rhetoric that land-for-peace will bring peace after the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State. The vociferous left-wing lobby, in this instance led by Shimon Peres, also disseminates the belief that if Israel facilitates a strong Palestinian Arab economy, their population would be content and desist from supporting aggression against Israel. That sounds absolutely plausible, because generally, you wouldn't bite the hand that feeds you. However, these well-meaning people are overlooking one very important fact. In negotiations with today's Arab leaders, we cannot apply Western logic.
It is said that "clothes make the man." True enough in appearance, but not in the Arab leaders' hearts. Their hatred of anything Jewish will no more dissipate under a collar and tie as it did under a kaffiyeh. In the London, and probably also the New York and Tel Aviv diamond exchange, a handshake and a few Hebrew words suffice to seal the deal; it's cast iron. Not so with our so-called 'peace partners', who have up to now dishonoured every agreement; not made with a handshake, but written, signed and sealed. That, I suggest, is what Messrs. Bush, Rice, Wolfensohn and the rest have to learn quickly.