Sie schenkten mir Dornen – Ausgegrenzt im Land der Verheißung von Susan Nathan

Vortrag am 22.5.09 im Rahmen der Palästinatage 2009 im Gasteig, München
Der letzte Absatz gehört zum Beginn der Diskussion.

Susan Nathan und Übersetzer Tim Slater

Susan Nathan ist die Autorin des Buches “Sie schenkten mir Dornen – Ausgegrenzt im Land der Verheißung”, das im Jahre 2005 auf Englisch unter dem Titel “The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish-Arab Divide” (Die andere Seite von Israel: Meine Reise über die jüdisch-arabische Trennungslinie) erschien. Frau Nathan lebt als einzige Jüdin in dem von israelischen Palästinensern bewohnten Ort Tamra im nördlichen Israel.

Ich bin aufgefordert worden, darüber zu reden, wie ich zu dem Entschluß kam, nach Tamra zu ziehen, sowie über die Auswirkungen, die die diskriminierende Politik der israelischen Regierung auf die palästinensischen Bürger des Staates hat. 

Ich bin 60 Jahre alt und wurde im Januar 1949 geboren. Ich gehöre also zu der ersten Gruppe jüdischer Kinder, die nach dem Holocaust geboren wurden und bin im Schatten des Holocaust aufgewachsen. Dieser war ein wesentlicher Bestandteil meiner Kindheit. Jede Woche bekamen wir die jüdische Zeitung, in der wir Listen von Leuten sahen, die nach Verwandten oder Familienangehörigen suchten, die in Konzentrationslagern oder Gettos gewesen waren. Das war eine grauenhafte Erfahrung. 

Mein Vater, der ein bekannter Arzt war, wurde, als die Konzentrationslager entdeckt wurden, von der britischen Regierung gebeten, nach Deutschland zu gehen und dort im Zusammenhang mit der Auflösung der Lager zu arbeiten. Er hatte die Verantwortung für die Indentifizierung der Wärter durch die Gefangenen. 

Schon als Kind konnte ich nicht verstehen, wie so viele Deutsche behaupten konnten, sie hätten nichts gewußt. Eine der treibenden Kräfte war für mich, in Israel oder in Südafrika, wo ich auch politisch sehr aktiv war, niemals ein Leben zu führen, bei dem ich sagen könnte, ich hätte nichts gewußt.

Viele Juden in der Diaspora gerieten aufgrund der Kriegsereignisse unter den Einfluß der zionistischen politischen Ideologie. In Großbritannien gab es offenen Antisemitismus auch noch in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren. Man hat mir meinen Platz in einer Elite-Schule verweigert, weil die jüdische Quote erfüllt war. Meine Eltern durften dem Country Club nicht beitreten, weil sie Juden waren. Wenn man in einer solchen Atmosphäre aufwächst, ist die Idee eines jüdischen Staates so etwas wie ein Traum. 

Als ich so zwischen zehn und zwölf Jahre alt war, habe ich beschlossen, eines Tages nach Israel auszuwandern, das, wie man mir zu glauben beigebracht hatte, ein Land ohne Volk für ein Volk ohne Land war. Die Tatsache, daß in diesem Land seit Jahrtausenden Palästinenser wohnten, hatte für mich als in der Diaspora aufgewachsene Jüdin überhaupt keine Bedeutung. Und als ich 50 Jahre alt wurde, hatte ich die Gelegenheit, nach Israel zu übersiedeln und ich nahm sie wahr.

Ende der Sechziger Jahre hatte ich in Südafrika ein Medizinstudium aufgenommen und war bald in den Anti-Apartheidskampf verwickelt, was mir eineinhalb Jahre Einzelhaft einbrachte.

Kurz nach meiner Aufnahme in die israelische Gesellschaft wurden wir im Jahr 2000 mit der Intifada konfrontiert, bei der 13 palästinensische Staatsangehörige kaltblütig von der Polizei erschossen wurden. Für mich war das ein Warnzeichen. Das hatte ich zuvor in Südafrika gesehen. Zu meinem Entsetzen zeigten alle meine Arbeitskollegen in Tel Aviv auf die Palästinenser und sagten: “Da siehst du es, die verdammten Palästinenser. Die erstbeste Gelegenheit nutzen sie zu Unruhen und Problemen, schmeißen Steine. Wir können ihnen nicht trauen.”

Und sie haben die Intifada völlig von sich ferngehalten, während ich die Intifada wahrgenommen und verinnerlicht habe. Nach der Intifada wurde eine Ermittlungskommission eingesetzt, die Or-Kommission. Sie veröffentlichte ein Positionspapier, das ungefähr 50 schwerwiegende diskriminatorische Maßnahmen aufführte, denen die palästinensischen Bürger in Israel in ihrem täglichen Leben ausgesetzt waren. 

Die palästinensischen Bürger Israels sind die vergessenen Menschen in dieser Krise. Sie erfahren die Entwürdigung, in einem Land zu leben, das vorgibt, die einzige Demokratie im Nahen Osten zu sein. Die meisten von uns, die im Nahen Osten leben, haben keine Vorstellung davon, was das Wort Demokratie wirklich bedeutet. Ist das etwas, was Amerika in andere Länder implantieren kann wie ein Brustimplantat? 

Bei meiner Indoktrination in die zionistische Welt von Israel fragte ich mich nach der Intifada: Wo sind diese Palästinenser? Warum sehe ich sie nicht am Strand von Tel Aviv? Warum sehe ich sie nicht in den selben Läden, in denen ich einkaufe? 

Es mag Ihre Vorstellung von uns in einer islamischen Welt herausfordern, aber ich habe neun Jahre dort verbracht und habe beschlossen, in dieser Welt zu leben. Ich fühle mich dort wohler. Ich finde, daß Araber meine Vettern sind. Islam und Judentum haben dieselben Wurzeln. Wir haben die gleichen Gewohnheiten, unser Familienleben ist sehr ähnlich und auch die Art wie wir kommunizieren. 

– 2 –

Meine Zweifel an der Gesellschaft, in der ich lebte, trafen mit einem Arbeitsangebot einer jüdisch-palästinensischen NGO zusammen, in den USA eine Finanzierung zu beantragen. Man sagte eines Tages zu mir: wir würden gern damit beginnen, etwas über den arabischen Teil von Israel zu schreiben, und ich mußte gestehen, daß ich darüber eigentlich nichts wußte. Deshalb zog ich in den Ort Tamra, wo ich immer noch zuhause bin. 

Auf dem Weg nach Tamra fuhren wir an einer wunderschönen, auf einem Hügel gelegenen jüdischen Siedlung vorbei. Wir sahen schöne Häuser mit Gärten, Swimming Pools, Spielplätzen, Straßenbeleuchtung, Müllabfuhr, wunderbar gepflegten Straßen. Eine wohlhabende Gemeinde. 

Als wir nach Tamra hineinfuhren, konnte man denken wir beträten einen anderen Planeten. Es war deprimierend, dreckig, überall Müll, riesige Ratten in den Straßen. Das Wohnen dort ist sehr beengt. In Tamra leben 30.000 Menschen auf 100 Hektar Land. Bis 2020 werden es 40 bis 45.000 Menschen auf der selben Fläche sein. In der Siedlung, die ich gerade beschrieben habe, leben 600 Menschen auf 400 Hektar Land, viermal so viel. Tamra erfährt den sozialen Zusammenbruch, die Desintegration und die Fragmentierung, die eine Stadt und eine Gesellschaft erlebt, die unter zwei wesentlichen Problemen leidet:

1. Sie ist sehr stark unterfinanziert und auf jeder Lebensebene vernachlässigt.

2. Die Hauptgruppe der Gesellschaft in ihrem eigenen Land, wo ihre Menschen geboren wurden, sendet die ständige Botschaft, daß diese Menschen hier unerwünscht sind.

Die israelische Regierung mit ihren augenblicklichen Maßnahmen der Landaneignung, Unterbudgetierung, ständiger Herabwürdigung der palästinensischen Staatsbürger, die sie als subversive Größen in unserer Mitte darstellt; alles fördert die Entstehung von Extremismus. Und es kommt daher nicht von ungefähr, daß wir z.B.in Umm al Fachem, der größten arabischen Stadt in Israel, mächtige islamische Bewegungen haben. 

Als ich vor acht Jahren in Tamra ankam, trug kaum ein Mädchen den Hidschab. Heute ist das anders. Wir müssen uns fragen: Tragen Frauen den Hidschab, weil dies wirklich ein Teil ihrer Religion ist oder tragen sie ihn, weil die Hauptrichtung der Gesellschaft ihnen zu verstehen gibt, daß sie unerwünscht sind. Die einzige Möglichkeit, wie sie als menschliche Wesen ihre Selbstachtung finden können, besteht darin, sich eindeutig als Angehörige des Islam zu präsentieren, als eindeutig palästinensisch.

In Israel haben wir auch palästinensische Abgeordnete in der Knesset. Wir hatten sogar einen stellvertretenden Sprecher der Knesset. In Wirklichkeit sind sie machtlos, sie sind rein dekorativ. Israel ist wie erwähnt keine wirkliche Demokratie. Wir leben in Israel in einem Land, das dabei ist, eine Ethnokratie zu werden. In dem Augenblick, wo man sagt das Land sei jüdisch und demokratisch, definiert man bereits eine Ethnokratie, denn hier in Israel ist meine Religion meine Nationalität. Als ich in Großbritannien oder in Südafrika lebte, konnte ich sagen: Ich bin eine südafrikanische Bürgerin,  aber meine Religion ist jüdisch. 

Das bringt viele Menschen wie mich in einen Konflikt. Das Judentum ist eine Religion, die vom Erhalt der menschlichen Würde spricht. Rabbiner Hiller sagt: Du sollst anderen nichts antun, was du nicht selbst erleiden willst. Und trotzdem befinden wir uns in dieser Ethnokratie, in der die Palästinenser der gleichen Diskriminierung ausgesetzt sind, die wir in Europa erlebt haben. Wir wissen alle, dass Israel sich nicht um internationale Gerichtshöfe oder um die UN schert und seine eigenen Gesetze macht.

Wir erleben, was in Gaza passiert ist. Aber wir haben doch die moralischte Armee der Welt! Wir erleben, was im Westjordanland passiert: Dass Menschen den ganzen Tag damit verbringen, an Kontrollpunkten anzustehen, mit alten Menschen, kranken Menschen, Frauen mit Babys – wen interessiert das? Und diese Krankheit der israelischen Gesellschaft wird aus einem Schuldgefühl heraus von Deutschland unterstützt. Das war einer der Gründe, weshalb ich beschlossen habe, in Deutschland zu sprechen. Die deutsche Bevölkerung, die versteht, was in Israel geschieht, muss es auf sich nehmen, die Dinge auszusprechen. Wenn Sie nichts sagen, machen Sie sich zu Komplizen. Ich bin sehr betroffen über die deutsche Außenpolitik. Es macht mich krank, wenn ich Angela Merkel sagen höre, dass Deutschland auf ewig Israels Freund sein wird, komme, was wolle. 

– 3 –

Warum gibt es so viele Menschen, die ihre Stimme nicht erheben? Weil sie herausfinden könnten, dass sie ihre Arbeit verloren haben. Sie könnten herausfinden, dass es schwierig ist, eine Unterstützung zu erhalten.. Die Dinge spielen sich im Hintergrund ab. Man kann ständig abgehört werden. Es gibt viele Möglichkeiten, auf Menschen Druck auszuüben und sie zu brechen. In Südafrika habe ich das alles gesehen und erlebt. Es sind wenige Menschen, die es sich leisten können, keine Angst zu haben und ihre Stimme zu erheben; ihre Zahl wird kleiner. Deshalb sind die Aussichten für Frieden im Nahen Osten im Augenblick absolut gleich Null. 

Die Situation der Palästinenser in Israel wird wirtschaftlich mit jedem Monat schlechter und schlechter. Fünfzig Prozent der Menschen in meiner Stadt Tamra sind arbeitslos. Ihnen ist vielleicht nicht bekannt, dass die sozialen Sicherungssysteme in Israel die Palästinenser bei der Ausgabe von Unterstützung benachteiligen. Es gibt alle möglichen Löcher im Gesetz, die verwendet werden, um ihnen die Unterstützung vorzuenthalten. 

Vor zwei Jahren, beim Krieg gegen den Libanon, sind 64% der Israelis, Palästinenser und Juden für indirekte Verhandlungen mit der Hisbollah eingetreten. Es gibt Israelis, die das Land in eine andere Richtung führen möchten und sich außerhalb des Landes mit der Hamas treffen. Das zeigt, dass es in Israel Menschen gibt, die eine Vision haben, wo sie unser Land in fünf oder 10 Jahren sehen wollen. Israel hat eine levantinische Geschichte und eines der Probleme mit der sogenannten jüdischen Rückkehr ist, dass es versucht, sich so darzustellen, als wäre es der östliche Arm von Europa. Aber es ist kein europäisches Land! 

Ich habe sehr klar gemacht, dass Tamra in jeder Hinsicht unter einem Mangel an Finanzierung leidet: das Gesundheitswesen, die Erziehung, die gesamte Elektrizitätsversorgung. Viele Menschen haben keine Genehmigung für ihre Häuser. Hauszerstörungen finden nicht nur im Westjordanland und in Gaza statt, in meiner Stadt sind zurzeit 150 Gebäude für die Zerstörung vorgesehen. Viele Menschen müssen zehn, fünfzehn Jahre auf eine Baugenehmigung warten. In 10 oder 15 Jahren wächst die Familie, also baut man – und das bedeutet, dass man illegal baut. Und dies ist die Waffe, die die Regierung gegen sie verwendet. Trotz massivem internationalem Druck, trotz der Berichte der Europäischen Union über Häuserzerstörungen und über den Transfer von Palästinensern in Ostjerusalem scheint niemand in der Lage zu sein, die Brutalität der israelischen Regierung aufzuhalten. 

Und deshalb müssen wir uns fragen, wo wird das enden und wie wird das enden und wie können wir es aufhalten? Und trotz allem, was ich heute gesagt habe, möchte ich nicht, dass hier irgendjemand diesen Raum verlässt in der Meinung, ich liebte mein Land nicht, und dass ich nicht stolz wäre, eine Israelin zu sein. Wofür ich mich schäme, das ist die Politik meiner Regierung. Ich glaube, dass wir Mitgefühl mit die Menschen beider Seiten zeigen müssen, sowohl für Palästinenser als auch für die Juden. Wir müssen Mitgefühl zeigen mit beiden Seiten, aber wir müssen aufhören, uns als Opfer zu sehen. Wir müssen voranschreiten.

Das Problem ist heute, dass die Welt nicht auf regimekritische Juden hört. Ich selbst habe Glück gehabt, weil einige Menschen in hohen Regierungsstellen mein Buch gelesen haben. Ich bin gerade aus den Niederlanden zurückgekehrt, wo ich vor dem holländischen außenpolitischen Komitee einen Vortrag gehalten habe. 

Einer der Minister sagte zu mir: “Unterstützen Sie die Art wie Hamas menschliche Schutzschilde verwendet?” Er wurde sehr emotional. 

Ich sagte zu ihm: “Wie denken Sie über die Frauen in Gaza? Wenn ich mit den Frauen in Gaza rede, bedecken sie ihr Gesicht vor Scham und sie erzählen mir, wie sie versuchen durchzukommen, wenn sie ihre Periode haben.” 

Daraufhin sagte er: “Warum gibt es keine Monatsbinden?” 

Ich antwortete ihm: “Das kann ich Ihnen erklären. Weil die alle in einem verdammten Lastwagen auf der anderen Seite der Grenze festgehalten werden. Und wenn Sie beschließen, Druck auf Israel auszuüben, kann die Versorgung durchkommen, so dass die Frauen in Gaza sich sauber halten und menschenwürdig leben können.” Das war ihm äußerst peinlich. Und ich sagte zu ihm: “Das ist in der Tat ein peinliches Thema. Aber die Welt muss es hören.”


The Other Side of Israel by Susan Nathan

Lecture on May 22, 2009 during Palestine Days 2009 at Gasteig in Munich
The last paragraph belongs to the beginning of the discussion

Susan Nathan is the author of the book “The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish-Arab Divide”, which was published in 2005. 

I have been asked to talk about how I came to my decision to move to Tamra and the effect of the discriminate policies of the Israeli government on the Palestinian citizens of the state. So I am going to talk a bit about that but also about the general situation in the Middle East, because I think everybody is also concerned about that. 

I should begin by saying that is is a long time since I have been in Germany. I am 60 years old and born in January 1949. So I am one of the first group of Jewish children to be born  after the holocaust. It was a big decision for me to come here to Germany at the time when the rights to my book were being sold. There was a lot of demand from German publishers to buy and in fact the book went for a publishers` auction here in Germany and it went to the highest bidder. I am going to say things that you may find very uncomfortable, but I think it is important to speak honestly, otherwise it is a waste of my time being here.

As I said, I grew up in the shadow of the holocaust. And it very much was a major part of my life as a child. Every week we would receive the Jewish newspaper in which we would see lists of people looking for relatives and family who had been in concentration camps and ghettos. It was a very harrowing experience. My father, who was a very well-known doctor, was asked by the British government to come to Germany when they discovered the concentration camps and to work here, dealing with the sheer mass of the problem. And as a child  I started to internalize what the holocaust meant for me as a Jew, too. I couldn’t understand why is it that so many Germans said they did not know. And in fact, it’s been a major driving force all through my life to not live a life in Israel/Palestineor or either in South Africa where I was also politically very active, where I would live a life where I  would say that I did not know.

And to this day I find it very difficult to be sleeping here in Munich knowing that there is a concentration camp down the road which is the one in fact that my father was sent to upon liberation, where I am very happy to say – you might find this very difficult – where he was responsible for helping the prisoners identify their guards, and actually sending the guards to work clearing up the bodies of people with typhus, so that they would catch typhus and die.

The reason I tell you this is because this (illustrates to you how the power,)  helps to illustrate why so many Jews who live in the diaspora fell under the spell a the power of the Zionist political ideology. The political ideology that was conceived by Theodor Herzl in 1895 in Basel in Switzerland and spoken about at the conference in Vienna about the founding of a Jewish state. And when you have grown up the atmosphere that I just described, the notion of a Jewish state is something like a dream. You know you heard in the introduction that I was denied my place in a British school because the Jewish quota was full. My parents were not allowed to join the country club – so I could swim – because we were Jews. And this is in Britain after the war. OK? After all the horrors of the war this was still going on in 1950s and 1960s Britain. 

So when I was aged between ten and twelve years old I decided that one day I would emigrate to Israel, which I had been educated to believe was a country, “a land without a people for people without a land” and here was a country that was designed for my needs as a Jew. The fact that Palestinians had been living in this land for thousands of years was totally irrelevant to me as a Jew growing up in the diaspora. And when I became fifty years old, just before I became fifty years old,  I had the opportunity to move to Israel and I moved.

My father originally came from South Africa. And when I came to the university level of my education, I had chosen to start at Capetown university doing medicine, following in my father’s footsteps. And this was in the late sixties and very much in the brutal period of apartheid. And it was during my first university year I became very active in the ANC, extremely active. I was running a safe house, I hid people who were gun running. It was very, very dangerous underground work. And it was this experience – what happened was that in the end after a year I was arrested and I spent a year and a half as a political prisoner in South Africa, all of it in solitary confinement.

After my absorption into Israeli society we were suddenly faced with the intifada of 2000 when 13 Palestinian citizens of the state were shot in cold blood by the police. And this to me was a warning sign. Where had I seen this before? I had seen it in South Africa. And to my horror all of my colleagues that I was working with in Tel Aviv were pointing a finger at the Palestinians and saying: look, you see, bloody Palestinians, the first instance to cause rioting and problems, there they are throwing stones. We can’t trust them, this and that. And they totally externalized the intifada, whereas I saw the intifada and I internalized it and I said: “where am I as a Jewish citizen here in Israel? What is my contribution to this uprising?”

So after the intifada of 2000 this sent an enormous shockwave through Israeli society. And when I say Israeli society, I am also including the Palestinian citizens of  Israel in this as well. And the outrage was so great that the government was forced into opposition where it had to organize a commission of inquiry called the Or Commission. And the Or Commission under justice Theodor Or published – and I was one of the researchers – a position paper which came from Dr. Asad Ghanem from the Haifa University School of Political Science in which we listed maybe 50 serious discriminatory policies that affected Palestinian citizens of  Israel in their everyday life. And this is forgetting about the Westbank and Gaza. I’ve been critized worldwide for not writing about the Westbank and Gaza. And I will tell you very clearly: the Westbank and Gaza have had millions, trillions, zillions of words written about it. OK. And still the situation remains the same if not worse. 

The Palestinian citizens of Israel are the forgotten people in this crisis. They are undergoing the indignity of living in a country which purports to be the so-called only democracy in the Middle East. Most of us living in the Middle East have no notion really what the word democracy means. What is democracy? Is it something that America can implant into other societies like a surgeon doing a breast implant? Is this what it is? Is it somehing that we are supposed to wake up tomorrow and swallow and say: “Oh that’s OK, I like that. That’s what I paid my taxes for.” No it’s not. And sadly Israel is now moving further and further to the right. In my indoctrination to the Zionist world of Israel, I started to ask myself after the intifada: where are these Palestinian citizens, where are these people in Umm al Fahm who’ve been shot? Why don’t I see these people on the streets of Tel Aviv? OK? Why don’t I see them shopping in the same shops were I shop? OK? And this is maybe challenging your notions of us in the Islamic world, and I say us, because I have lived now for eight years in the Islamic world and I choose to make my life in that world. I am more comfortable in that world. I find that Arabs are my first cousins. Islam and Judaism are from the same root. We have many similar practices and so on, our family lives are very similar, the way we communicate is very similar. It was a terrible …, I could feel that year we had a gap. Here there was something not right. 

And it so happened that it coincided my starting to become nervous about the society I was living in, coincided with a job offer from a Jewish and Palestinian NGO to start writing funding applications to the United States, because English is my mother tongue. And I wrote an application to a feminist organisation to the United States in San Francisco, how would I change my society as a woman with 50,000 dollars? And wow! you can change the world with 50,000 dollars. But anyway it was a very sucessful article and we received 50,000 dollars and we did indeed set up women’s empowerment groups in Arab towns and villages in Israel and also in deprived Jewish areas. Let us be honest and let me explain to you that Jews from Arab countries, probably known to you as sephardi Jews, suffer from the same social policies that Palestinians suffer from. My family, my own family, e.g., I have two cousins who emigrated to Israel in 1960 from South Africa and their children married Maroccan Jews who are black as night. And what is the first language, so our second cousins are black and what is the language we speak in the home? Arabic. So this gives you some idea of how schizophrenic Israel society is. 

And Israel likes to present itself to the world as a vey united society, but infact the truth is that it is only united if there is a war. Although there are worldwide hundreds of thousands of Jews who think like me, when it comes to the isue of war our voices are sandbagged by the government’s. And so it is very easy for people worldwide to think that there are no voices of Jewish dissent inside Israel. In fact it is not true. It was after I started working with this NGO that one day they said to me we would like you to start writing about the Arab part of Israel and I said I can’t, because I don’t really know anything about it. So they said: I would like you to go to the town of Tamra which is now my home. And as we drove off the main highway we were driving past this very beautiful Jewish settlement which was situated on a hill and I said to the driver: Let’s go in here. And looked at beautiful homes with gardens, some with swimming pools, little play areas for the children, street lighting, garbage collection, beautifully tended roads. It was a wealthy community. And it was nestling in the hills next to Tamra where I was going. 

As we entered to Tamra you would think that we had entered into another planet. It was depressing, filthy, there was garbage everywhere, there were rats like this, this size in the streets. There is very, very high density living. There is 30,000 people in Tamra on 1000 dunams (100 hectars) of land which I suppose to you would be equal to would be something like six football pitches (note: it is actually quite a bit more). By 2220 there will be 40 to 45,000 people on the same amount of land. In the settlement that I have just previously described there are 600 people on 4000 dunams of land. Four times the amount of land. By 2020 Tamra – and I am only going to take Tamra because Tamra, not only is it my home, but it is also totally representative of every mayor Palestinian locality in Israel, suffers from all of the social breakdowns and disintegration and fragmentation that goes with a town, a society that suffers from two major problems:

1. it is grossly underfunded and neglected at every level of life and

2. the mainstream society of its own country where its own people are born and own land, sends a continuous message that you are not wanted here.

And what two things happen as a result of all of this: one is Hisbollah and the other is Hamas. And you don’t have to have a PhD in political science to understand, if you have read adequately and if you have travelled in the Middle East and you understand the social framework of the Middle East and our life there that the Israeli governmennt in its current form with its current policies of land appropriation, of underbudgeting, of constant vilification of Palestinian citizens, of continuously presenting them as if they were subversive entities in our midst, all goes to make for extremism. And it is not for nothing that we have very, very powerful Islamic movements in Umm al-Fahm, the major Arab town in Israel which is led by Scheich Rad Salad. I have great respect for him. He is one of the few Palestinians leaders in Israel that is really able to stand up to the government and speaks the truth. Not for nothing has he been imprisoned 18 months. But if I look around me in Tamra – when I first arrived in Tamra eight years ago hardly any little girls wore the hijab. Now this is not an attack on women who wear the hijab –  after all I live in Arab society. 

But there are two issues here: One we have to ask ourselves. Are women wearing the hijab because they feel that this is really a part of their religion and they feel they need to wear it or are they wearing it because the mainsteam society is telling them that they are not wanted here. And the only way they can find their self-respect as a human being is by presenting themselves as definitely being a member of Islam, definitely Palestinian and definitely putting two fingers in the edge of the government. Anybody here who has been in university and studied philosophy may know or should know and if not should start reading now the philosophy of John Rawls, who explained very strong rules that human beings find their self-respect and their way to express themselves in society by their political identity. This is a very, very important point. But here in Israel it is true we have Palestinian members of the Knesset, we even have or we did have had a deputy speaker of the Knesset, Dr. Achmed Tibi. They are actually powerless. They are purely decorative. The Arab vote inside Israel is purely decorative. Because Israel presents itself and wants to remain a Jewish state that Palestinians, unless they go along with the concept of political Zionism and voting for a Zionist party, their vote is really null and void. 

And this is not a true democracy. What we live in in Israel is a country that is becoming ethnocracy. The major argument that is going on now, because we don’t have a written constitution in Israel, but then I should remind you that neither does Great Britain and they seem to manage quite well, I don’t say it is perfect but they manage quite well. The minute you say the country is Jewish and democratic this is already you are defining an ethnocracy, because here in Israel my religion is my nationality. When I lived in Britain or South Africa I can say I am a South African citizen, but my religion is Jewish. But in Israel being a Jew is my nationality. And what has happened is that this has brought many Jews who are at the forefront of the battle for change like me and a few other people before. But this has brought us into direct conflict with the values of our religion, with the ethical traditions and values of our religion. Judaism particularly is a religion that talks about preserving human dignity, respectful human life. It says very clearly in the Thora, Rabi Hiller said; thou shalt not do unto others that what you would not have done unto yourself. And yet we find ourselves through this ethnocracy, bringing about on the Palestinians the very sort of discrimination which we ourselves have undergone in Europe. If Lieberman is to have his way, people who think and speak like me will be stripped of our citizenship. This, of course, is something that will be challenged if it happens to Jews who think like me and will be taken to the International Court in The Hague. We all know that Israel does not take any notice of any of the international courts or the UN and is a law unto itself. 

And what is very alarming is that in a recent piece of research I have been making for a book about something quite different I came across the legal concepts of the Third Reich during the rise of the Weimar republic. About how they would deal with the final solution. And that because of the way in which it would be done, they would not be responsible to any international courts and therefore they were not guilty. This all came out during the Eichmann trial. And this is  the identical,  identical, situation that is happening now in Israel.  We have what’s happened in Gaza – Oh, but we are the most moral army in the world: we’re not responsible for that. We have what happens in the West Bank: that people spend all their day standing in a line with old people, sick people, women have  babies at checkpoints – who cares? And this, this is a sickness in Israeli society that sadly, Germany feeds, and the reason you feed it is because of your foreign policy and because of your guilt.  And what you are doing with your guilt and your foreign policy is actually helping us to self-destruct. And this is one of the reasons why I decided it was so important to come to speak in Germany. The German population who understand what is happening in Israel have to take it upon themselves to speak out. By not speaking out, you are complicit. You’ve been complicit once, are you going to be complicit twice? There’s a very nice way in which the German education authorities have started to teach the Holocaust in schools, and it’s something which applies very much to Israeli society. The way in which they explain it now is that there was this society during the third Reich – this was the economic situation of Germany, this was going on, that was going on, and society and people in it have choices. And that was the choice that you made. And what we do in Gaza and the West Bank is the choice that we’ve made. And we have the choice not to be complicit in that. Like I have stepped out of my society. I’m outside the consensus of Jewish society. And I feel so strongly about German foreign policy. I feel so sick when I hear Angela Merkel say that forever Germany will be Israel’s friend, right or wrong. And it is this sort of nonsense, this sort of feeding us honey all the time, when inside you know that it’s morally wrong. People don’t speak out. And yes, and what does it mean?  It means that people weren’t wiser, that people don’t speak out, in Israel as well. You know, since I’ve moved my life to Tamra, I meet hundreds of Jews inside Israel and around the world who think like me. 

But if we confine it to the Jewish population inside Israel who think like me, why are there many people who don’t speak out? Because we can find that we lost a job. I don’t have a job to lose, so it’s OK. Uhh, we can find that find that maybe it’s difficult to claim benefits if you need them, also, so things go on behind the scenes. You can have your telephones listened to endlessly. There are all sorts of ways of applying pressure to people to break them down. And I think that, it’s no doubt that having been in the prison in South Africa, that I have seen it all and been there. And so, people like me are totally unafraid. And it’s the people who are not afraid who are going to be left to speak out. Because it’s the people who are afraid, and who don’t speak out, who are the ones they pick on. And the number is getting fewer. Uhh, the prospects of peace in the Middle East at the present time are absolutely nil. 

The situtation of Palestinians  in Israel is growing economically worse and worse every month. Fifty per cent in my town are unemployed. Perhaps you didn’t know that the social security services in Israel discriminate against handing out benefits to Palestinians. There are all sorts of loopholes in the law which they use to deprive them of their benefits. Recently, I can give you a very good case, all the Arab security guards on the train system, railway system in Israel were suddenly given an order that they were going to lose their jobs, just like that! And why? because they haven’t served in the army. Well, excuse me, nobody asked them if they wanted to serve in the army. Nobody created the sort of state where they might feel that they have something to lose, that they have something to contribute to. If you ask any young Arab in Israel today, they will say, Yes, I would have served in the army if I was a truly equal citizen here in every single way, and my country valued me. I probably would have served in the army. But they were never, ever offered that.

I was going to say that two years ago when I was in the States and we had the problems with Lebanon, and I live not far from the border, so we really were involved in that war, and it was terrible. Sixty-four per cent of Israelis, Palestinians and Jews, wanted to enter into direct negociations with the Hezbollah. There are Israelis now, at the forefront of the struggle to take the country in another direction, who are already meeting with Hamas outside of the country. I’m not free to go into more details, but it is taking place. And this shows you that there are people in Israel who have a vision for their country: a vision of where we would like to see our country, in five years’ time, in ten years’ time. Five years ago, I wrote an article about how I would like to see my country be led to a Middle East Union.  I’m more interested in how my relationships are with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Irak, Lybia, Egypt, and all of the Arab countries, and far more interested in that than whether I make trade with Germany or France. OK? Because I don’t live in Europe. I live in the Levant. And Israel has a Levantine history, and one of the problems of the Jewish return, so-called return, to the State of Israel is that Israel tries to project itself as if it were the eastern arm of Europe. And it is not a European country!

And there’s no doubt in my mind, after lots of meeting with government ministers at high level, hundreds of meetings around the world, and conferences, that eventually, but probably not in my lifetime, that this is what will happen. But it won’t happen before there’s a bloody fight. And I predict a lot more trouble before it comes to an end. I also predict a lot more administrative detention in Israel against Jews. Here perhaps you don’t understand what “administrative detention” is. Israel, amazingly enough, is still run by the laws laid down by the British during the Mandate in 1945. Which means that anybody who is suspected of any sort of act against the government can be held without trial. Without access to a lawyer and without any access to the files that the security services will have fabricated against this person. And this is a sobering thought. And they too actually – I could go on for hours about…

I think I’ve made it very clear that Tamra suffers from lack of funding in every area, so when I say every area, I mean health care suffers, education suffers, you know, all of  the electricity and all the wiring is all above the ground. Many people don’t have permits for their homes, home demolitions don’t only take place in the West Bank and in Gaza, there are 150 homes at the moment scheduled for demolition in my town. And why is this? Because the government has never actually made proper legal arrangements for Arabs to build, there is no government subsidized housing project for Arabs. Arabs have to build their own homes. This means that many people have to wait ten, fifteen years for a permit to build. In ten or fifteen years, your family grows. So you build – so that means you are forced into building illegally. And this is the weapon that the government uses against you. Despite massive international pressure, despite European Union reports on home demolitions and transfer of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, nobody seems to be able to stop the Israeli government in its brutality. And so we have to ask ourselves, where is it going to end and how is it going to come to an end and how are we going to stop it? 

And despite everything I’ve said here today, I don’t want one single person here to go away from this room thinking that I don’t love my country and that I’m not proud to be Israeli. There are many amazing achievements in Israel in 61 years. We have one of the best health care systems in the world, which I can safely tell you is totally without discrimination inside Israel, and we have phenomenal hi-tech industry and research into science. What I’m ashamed of is the policies of my government, and the shame that so few people have the courage to speak out. And I believe that in solving this conflict we have to show not anger with Jews, well, even like me, who have returned under the so-called law of return, but I believe that we have to show compassion for people on both sides: both Palestinians, who’ve lost everything in the Nakba and both Jews who’ve also lost everything from the holocaust, and who have unwittingly been brainwashed by this terrible political theory which is totally outmoded for a modern world, and we have to show compassion for both sides, both historical narratives, but we also have to stop seeing ourselves as victims. And to move forward.

What is wrong is that the world doesn’t listen to the voice of dissident Jews. I have been exceptionally lucky because I had for some – God must have smiled on me – that a few exceptional type people in the world at very high level in government happened to read my book. And this gave me the opening I needed to be able to speak in the EU and to speak … 

Like I have just returned from the Netherlands where I gave a special presentation to the Dutch Foreign Affairs Committee. And we talked about this guild. 

And one of the ministers said to me: “Are you saying that you support the way that Hamas used human beings as human shields?” And he got very emotional. 

And I said to him: “How do you feel about the women in Gaza?” – the only way to make people listen is to take things down to the most basic, basic level. So I said: “Listen, when I speak with the women in Gaza they cover their faces in shame and they tell me how they try to manage when they have a period.” 

So he said: “Why aren’t there sanitary napkins?” 

And I said: “I tell you why. Because they are locked in a bloody lorry on the other side of the line. And when you decide to put pressure on Israel, so the supplies can come through, the women in Gaza can clean themselves up and live like dignified human beings.” And he was very embarrassed. And I said to him: “Yes, it is an embarrasing subject. But the world needs to hear it.”

Der Vortrag wurde vom MAPC veranlaßt und betreut. Ed Rudledge schaffte es, Susan Nathan nach München zu bringen. Tim Slater übersetzte während der Veranstaltung,  Marie und Peter Voss transkribierten den Vortrag und übersetzten den Text. Marion von Hofacker war wie immer für die Sendung verantwortlich.

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