Ofra Yeshua-Lyth is an Israeli writer who recently reviewed Amos Gvirtz’s book Don’t Say We Didn’t Know.
Amos is a native Sabra who still lives in his kibbutz with his conscience in tact. He has spent the last number of years defending the Bedouins of the Negev who are constantly harassed by the Israeli government, always attempting to steal their ancient land. Now the Negev is out of the way and out of sight to most israelis—but not to Gvirtz.
Gvirtz is not naïve. He does not really believe that if he brings all the facts to the attention of the privileged Jewish-Israeli community, we might no longer think we only have a “hasbara” (propaganda) difficulty. A problem that a few hundred million dollars – some say a whole round billion that will line the pockets of our coherent spokespersons – and the enthused support of American billionaires will earn Israel back its standing as the public’s favorite. (The very same public that those very same spokespersons tag as “born anti-Semites and therefore incorrigible). Gvirtz knows very well that everyone knows: from their military service, even from the media which – in spite of its good will – cannot always censor everything that takes place right under our very noses. He is also very aware of the fact that our collective blind eye is no unique, local phenomenon.
Two points must be made here. Many Israelis are disgusted at the brutal racist policies of their government.
Gvirtz is heartsick about the betrayal of his left wing,socialist cultural Zionism which might actually become l’or goyim a light unto the nations. Instead it has become a global embarrassment. And Gvirtz is angry enough to challenge the willfully blind of his own country with the ironic trope—used by blind Germans—we didn’t know what was going on. Gvirtz says I am telling you, you live an hour’s drive from this barbaric inhumane treatment of human beings and you do not want to know. Israel is being dragged into the mud by your indifference.
The reviewer Yeshua-Lyth is a Jew of conscience, an Israeli who can hardly bear what has become official policy, a radical denial of both democracy and universal humanist values. She writes:
It is a project that does not really recognize the ‘green line’, the ‘purple line’, or the Separation Wall. The State of Israel’s violent, institutional brutality designates real and imaginary enemies possessing either a blue or orange ID according to their religious and ethnic affiliation. “As soon as Israel decided that regarding certain issues its army would not follow international war norms, it jeopardized it by turning it from a military force into a crime syndicate”, Gvirtz explains, and proceeds: a criminal organization is after all an organization that “violates the rules of morality on its way to achieve its goals”. When lands are routinely declared “firing zones”, “nature reserves”, or “archaeological sites”; when acre after acre are simply transferred from Palestinian hands to Jewish real estate mongers with the right connections; when the legal system and the parliament lend a hand to a “series of land laws that in fact mean land-grab”, as has been customary in Israel since the 1950s to our very day, clearly “laws serving racist-nationalist purposes…impact people whose only sin is being Palestinians under rule of the Jewish State”, as the writer simply puts it. The implementation of such legislation makes “the Israeli army commit war crimes as it enforces them in the Occupied Territories and Israeli police – likewise – when it enforces them inside the state.” Did anyone NOT know this?
Independent Jewish Voices add this:
Imagine being evicted from your home and having your lands expropriated from you. Imagine that the lands you were evicted from were given to another people, who declare they have exclusive rights to these lands, despite the fact that you still hold onto the deeds or have aerial photographs documenting your longstanding presence.
This is reality for thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. They were forcibly displaced by Israel in 1948, again in the 1950’s, and over the last several years have experienced either house demolitions, or the threat of demolition. Entire Bedouin villages have been literally wiped off the map by Israel, with the aid of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) (1).his is reality for thousands of Bedouin citizens of Israel. They were forcibly displaced by Israel in 1948, again in the 1950’s, and over the last several years have experienced either house demolitions, or the threat of demolition. Entire Bedouin villages have been literally wiped off the map by Israel, with the aid of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) (1).
Join me in calling on Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion to demand that Israel permit the residents of Atir, Umm al-Hiran and dozens of other “unrecognized” Bedouin villages to remain on their lands. Israel must treat Bedouin citizens equally with Jewish citizens.