Freedom with Slavery

In the "sticker war," in which Israel's drivers express their political preferences on the windscreens of their cars, instead of Peace Now slogans like "Better peace than a Greater Israel," the tendency is to place stickers like "The people is with the Golan or Hebron now" and for ever. Recently a counter-attack has been launched and large road signs sponsored by government supporters reading: "We want peace" (rotsim shalom in Hebrew) have appeared all over the country.

The catch phrase to which I personally most object says quite simply "Peace with the Golan." Now since the Golan Heights belong to Syria, this makes this sort of slogan akin to Equality with Discrimination or Freedom with Slavery. Can 13,000 Golan settlers prevent about five million Israelis and twelve million Syrians from enjoying the benefits of peace between their countries?

The Fanatics

Rabbi Shlomo Goren, a former chief rabbi, declares that according to Halacha (religious law), since Israel is a Jewish state, decisions on the future of Eretz Yisrael which rest upon the votes of non-Jews, i.e., democratically elected Arab Knesset members, are invalid. Goren also issued a Halachic ruling that every Jew is commanded to kill Yasser Arafat according to the Biblical precept that "thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor" (Lev. 19:16).

Another respected rabbi and educator, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein of the Alon Shvut Settlement, called Baruch Goldstein of the Hebron massacre "a Jew who is killed because he is a Jew - a martyr," comparable to a Holocaust victim - "a God-fearing man who did good deeds, loved people and saved lives."

Which Holocaust?

Anyone who participated as I did in the invasion of France in 1944 can never forget the 50th anniversary of what heralded the beginning of the liberation of occupied Europe from the Nazis. However, this mighty Allied action came too late for European Jewry: six million Jews, one-third of the Jewish people, including over a million children, were slaughtered in the Nazi Holocaust.

Ever since then I have been accompanied in my life by a sense of identification with the six million and by a quest to reach an understanding of the significance of the Holocaust. Ironically, five decades after the event, the theory that the Holocaust never took place, or has been exaggerated for Jewish and Israeli propaganda purposes, is becoming increasingly fashionable. I read that in Europe it is claimed, for instance, that Anna Frank's diary was faked by her father Otto, who was the only member of the Frank family to survive the death camps

Now Anna Frank's diary, which was translated from the Dutch into over 30 languages, has brought the Holocaust home to countless millions for whom the figure of six million is too enormous and monstrous to comprehend. For many readers from new generations, Anna Frank, who died in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945 at the age of sixteen, was the personification of the Holocaust.

The "revisionist" historians are still outside the mainstream and often have to defend themselves in court. However, could all this not change as the survivor generation dies out, leaving no personal witnesses to the Holocaust?

Hitler wrote exactly 70 years ago in Mein Kampf (My Struggle) that "the great masses of the people ... will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one."

The Shamgar Report: An Evasion of Responsibility

After four months of work, 31 sessions and 106 witnesses, the mountain called the Shamgar Commission of Inquiry produced a mouse. Against expectations, the Shamgar report turns out to be a miserable failure.

The Commission accepted at face value Chief of Staff Ehud Barak's statement on the unpredictability of Dr. Baruch Goldstein's massacre of 29 Muslims and the wounding of 125 in the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on February 25, 1994 as "a bolt from the blue." It thus failed to attribute direct responsibility for the event to anyone. In this, it deviated from the precedents of former and more effective inquiry commissions, like that on Sabra and Shatila, which demanded that those responsible pay for their failure. No wonder that in Kiryat Arba', the Jewish settlement near Hebron where Goldstein lived, the head of the Local Council, Zvi Katsover, said on receiving the report that "a weight has been taken off our shoulders."

Yet, 12 years ago, the report of Deputy-Attorney General Yehudith Karp on violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories had already reported on the need for "a radical reform of the basic concept of the rule of law in its broadest and most profound sense." The Karp report stated that "the reaction of Kiryat Arba' residents is tantamount to civil rebellion," an "ugly atmosphere" prevails between the settlers and the Palestinian population and "self-defense must not serve as grounds for immunity before the law."

In face of the stated and restated record of blatant inequality before the law of Jews and Arabs, the Shamgar report, while noting that "the massacre was one of the harshest expressions of the Jewish-Arab conflict," fosters a "business-as-usual" atmosphere, proposing only cosmetic technical, logistical and organizational adjustments.

Apart from Goldstein himself, nobody bears responsibility for the massacre and there is no call for any radical re-evaluation of the situation which enabled the massacre to take place.

As for the occupation, the report seems almost to take it for granted, perhaps like the weather, where there can always appear a bolt from the blue. Was Goldstein's action so unpredictable? Not only the Karp report, but also the facts on the ground indicate otherwise. Students were killed by settlers in the past in cold blood at Hebron College, shopkeepers were shot, market stalls overturned, West Bank mayors maimed, and there was even a conspiracy to blow up the Dome of the Rock.

Five years ago Goldstein wrote that "the land belongs to us and the Arabs don't belong to us, so the land we should keep and the Arabs we should let go. The Arab mind is not the Western mind. They are a cruel people who want to spill blood. I don't feel toward a people like that we have obligations."

Reading the report leaves us with a surplus of details but a total lack of overall explanation of the background: the consistent policy since 1967 not to punish the Jewish settlers for breaking the law, while rigorously enforcing the law against the Palestinian population, with the help of the same settlers.