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Israeli cyberspace is a large and eclectic place, including Israel government sites, sites of political parties and movements, on-line editions of Israeli and Jewish newspapers and magazines such as Ha'aretz, The Jerusalem Post and The Jerusalem Report, personal pages, and Jewish organizations in the United States and around the world, as well as a number of e-mail services providing news and views. These present the "Israeli side" and the "Jewish side" in the broadest sense, covering religion, history, business and tourism in Israel, anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, the workings of the Israeli government, Zionism, peace efforts and the Palestine-Israel conflict, and spanning opinion from the extreme right to the extreme left. This review focuses on the presentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and peace issues.

Distorted View

Reality in the Middle East includes much hypocrisy and fanaticism, punctuated by quixotic idealism. The presentation of the Israeli side of the Palestine-Israel conflict on the Internet reflects this reality in a distorted way. It includes the glib materials prepared by the government; the well-funded, slick but often shrill arguments of the Israeli right; and also the persistent voice of the Israeli peace camp, joined, in some cases, by Palestinians. The centrist mainstream ("Labor-Zionism") is barely heard from at all. The case for Israel, in terms of positive achievements, is covered rather briefly in histories of Zionism. The positive case for Greater Israel is presented by only a few organizations, but they do so in revealing and nakedly chauvinistic texts. Terror is featured widely as the major, if not the only, Israeli security issue.
The most effective propaganda put out in the battle of the government and Greater-Israel groups against the peace process has been documentation of Palestinian extremist statements and acts, taken from Palestinian National Authority (PNA)-controlled media. The Palestinian Covenant (the original version including clauses about the destruction of Israel) and the Hamas Charter are featured prominently. PNA television shows and Fateh summer camps, where children are urged to be shaheed (martyrs) and taught to reconquer Beersheba and Haifa, are major attractions at more than one Israeli or Zionist Web site. These items portray the Palestinian people as a group as bloodthirsty terrorists, who will use any land returned to them as the base for a staged plan to destroy Israel.

The Israel Government Sites

The Web site of the Prime Minister's Office: http://www.pmo.gov.il/english/index.html is a good place to begin a tour of Israeli cyberspace. Here you will find abundant pictures of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his family, greetings from the prime minister (audio, visual or text), Government Press Office press releases, presentations of the cabinet and/or past prime ministers, guidelines of the Israel government, background papers on Hebron, the refugee issue and much more. You can also write to the prime minister at pm@pmo.gov.il. The treatment of the refugee issue is illustrative of the government's position. The background paper on refugees cites Arab sources to prove that the Palestinian refugees left of their own accord in 1948, encouraged by the surrounding Arab countries. The paper reminds us that Israel has absorbed nearly 600,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab countries. Correspondingly, the government guidelines suggest that the solution of the refugee problem must be undertaken upon the responsibility of the Arab countries.
At the Israel Foreign Office site (www.israel-mfa.gov.il), you can find a guide to the Middle East peace process (significantly, it was last updated in October 1997), a rather detailed, if not exhaustive list of Israeli Web sites (hidden under the title Hot List at www.israel-mfa.gov.il/sites.html), and news about Israel under Updates. When there is good news (for Israel), Updates is updated. There is also an extensive history of Zionism, detailing the beginnings of the Zionist movement, the Holocaust, the struggle for independence, the ingathering of the exiles, the achievements of the fifty-year-old state, and the various wars. There is a Web page devoted to the memory of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, with touching quotes from youths who visited the grave site, but with no mention of why he was assassinated. The history of the 1948 war manages to avoid the refugee issue entirely.
At the Knesset Web site (www.knesset.gov.il/knesset/engframe.htm), you can learn about the workings and history of the Knesset (Israeli parliament), send e-mail to members of the Knesset (you will probably not get an answer), and view the Beilin-Eitan agreement concerning the conduct of the peace process. All Israel government sites also provide links to sites of the other government offices.
These sites are intended to give an impression of an open democracy at work, pursuing peace and constructive goals; however, in the guidelines of the government, we read that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish people, whose democratic government guarantees equality for all its citizens. Yet, under the Government Press Releases Media section, there is an article by Nadav Ha'etzni entitled "Another Ticking Bomb," reprinted from Ma'ariv, suggesting that Arab and, particularly, Bedouin citizens of Israel are becoming increasingly disloyal under the influence of Islamic fundamentalism. Some visitors may wonder why a democratic government posts an article that casts aspersion on large segments of its own citizenry.
We can also read in the government guidelines that freedom of worship and access to the holy places will be guaranteed to members of all faiths. However, the guidelines continue: "The Law of Conversion shall be changed so that conversions to Judaism in Israel will be recognized only if approved by the Chief Rabbinate." Apparently, Reform and Conservative Judaism are not included in "all faiths," and do not come under the protection of "freedom of worship."
The Israel Foreign Office site, the Zionist organizations of America and various press services relate in detail the inflammatory contents of PNA television programs, newspaper articles and official pronouncements, reminding us that all of these are violations of the Oslo Accords. In the many pages devoted to this topic at the Israel Foreign Office site, we can find quotes such as the following:
"They brought Russian Jewish girls with AIDS to spread the disease among Palestinian youths." - Abdel-Razek Al-Majeeda, Commander of the Palestinian General Security Services in Gaza, quoted by the official PNA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeedah, May 15, 1997; "Laboratory tests made on seven brands of Israeli gum smuggled into the West Bank and Gaza showed they contain a sexually stimulating adrenaline substance." - Saleh Abdulal, Director of the Inspection Department of the PNA Ministry of Supplies, quoted by the official PNA newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadeedah, May 26, 1997.

Political Parties, Rightist Organizations

Several of the Israeli political parties maintain Web sites, though they do not always update them. You can view the platforms of the Likud and Labor parties (www.likud.org.il/) and (www.inter.net.il/~avoda/) in English. If you understand Hebrew, you should also visit the sites of Meretz (www.meretz.org.il/) and Hadash, the Israel Communist party (www.gezernet.co.il/chadash/). The differences in platforms are instructive, particularly for those who believe there aren't any differences between the Likud and Labor. The Likud platform does not discuss returning any land to the Palestinians and specifically rules out a Palestinian state. Moving leftward, the Labor party mentions a Palestinian state, and extending Israeli sovereignty over 10-15 percent of the West Bank. Meretz favors a state and withdrawal from "most or all" of the West Bank and Gaza, while Hadash favors withdrawal from all territories occupied since 1967.

Right and Center

Mainstream opinion usually echoes the opinion of the government in power. In the current circumstances, Jewish and Israeli political opinions are usually those associated with the right. "Virtual Jerusalem" and its links at http://www.virtual.co.il/, features the Web news service of the settlers' radio station, Arutz-7. A good site for links is the Complete Guide to Israeli Internet (it isn't, but they try) at www.iguide.co.il/english/. Politics and Peace pages at this site provide a wide variety of opinion from different political parties and movements, as well as links to numerous memorial pages honoring the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Do not miss the Web site of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) at http://www.zoa.org/. The titles of successive ZOA press releases taken at random show a remarkable tendency to focus on the same issues - PNA violations of the Oslo agreement and terror: July 22, 1998 - ZOA to Congress: "Palestinian Legislative Council Visitors Have Records of Extremism"; July 15, 1998 - ZOA: "PA's New Scholarships for Relatives of 'Martyrs' Glorifies Anti-Israel Violence"; July 15, 1998 - Oslo Accords Architect: "Upgrading of PA's Status at UN Is 'Flagrant' Violation of Oslo"; July 14, 1998 - "Achille Lauro Mastermind Says Klinghoffer 'Provoked' Terrorists to Murder Him." While you are at the ZOA site, you will not want to miss the study by President Mortimer Klein which purports to show that the Deir Yassin massacre never took place, and was largely an invention of the Israeli left.
Several sites deal with so-called security issues, like IRIS (Information Regarding Israel's Security: www.netaxs.com/~iris/). The more extreme sites are more outspoken in their advocacy of the cause of Greater Israel. From Americans for a Safe Israel (www.covesoft.com/afsi/), we find out that "Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan are integral parts of Israel." And according to Professors for a Strong Israel (www.aquanet.co.il/web/psi/), "The Land of Israel is the Homeland of the Jewish People: Judea, Samaria, Gaza, and the Golan Heights are integral parts of the Land of Israel. Every Jew has an inherent right to live in security and under Israeli sovereignty in any part of this land." They are joined by many others, including the Organization of Rabbis for the People of Israel (www.virtula.co.il/org/orgs/ichud/irindex.htm), where one can learn that "the people of Israel are the Chosen People... The land of Israel, blessed with a unique sanctity, was given by God to the Jewish people for all generations... It is a Torah commandment for all generations to conquer the Land of Israel, to settle it and to preserve it."
Lest anyone mistake which part of Israel is intended, the Rabbis have on display a halachic ruling regarding return of territories: "...in the area held and controlled by the IDF, the commandment to settle the Land of Israel is being fulfilled. The areas abandoned by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fall under the yoke of non-Jews and this is an arrogation of a positive commandment."
The Rabbis may be unaware that their statements exactly parallel similar statements concerning Palestine and Islam in the Charter of the Hamas movement. The site of the Amana settlement organization at www.aman.co.il offers little ideology. Instead, it boasts a cutesy-cosy applet of a house that you can click on to choose a town in which to settle in "Judea and Samaria." Presumably, this offer is limited to members of the "Chosen People."
A number of sites, some with considerable resources, and all rightist or ultra-rightist, specialize in gathering and presenting newspaper and media reports, and there are several e-mail news services, including JTA and Arutz-7 (Settlers' Radio) that can be accessed from the Virtual Jerusalem site, and the Freeman Center and Media Watch. Titles of sample reports: "Biased Information at CNN and Time Magazine" (July 1998); "Biased Report about Hebron by the Israeli Press" (July 1998); "Anti-Semitic/Anti-Religious Cartoons in Israeli Media" (regularly updated), June 1998.
The IMRA service run by Likud stalwart Aaron Lerner provides excerpts from the Al-Ahram English weekly newspaper, as well as interviews with Israeli and PNA officials and public figures. These materials are archived at http://join.virtual.co.il/cgi-win/imra.exe. The service is available by e-mail and other media.

The Fringe

Two sites deserve special attention because they represent the extreme of right-wing political opinion that is beyond the pale of respectability and legality in Israel. One is the site of the Kahane Hai (Kahane Lives) organization, successor to the party founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, at www.kahane.org. They publish the Judean Voice, an e-mail journal that includes an electronic petition asking that their party, currently outlawed as racist, be allowed to participate in Israeli elections. Women in Green (Women for Israel's Future) also has an impressive site at www.womeningreen.org. The highlight is a fantasy by founder Nadia Matar about Israel in the year 2048, relating that after the Israeli peace movement advised the PNA to use terror to advance its cause, the Israeli government arrested and executed Yasser Arafat and jailed Shimon Peres for life.

Peace, Cooperation, Dialogue

Israeli cyberspace is not completely devoted to the government line and right-wing organizations. There is a large and varied selection of sites devoted to peace, including sites of Israeli peace organizations and cooperative Palestinian-Israeli efforts. The Ariga site (www.ariga.com) is devoted to "Business, Pleasure and Peace" in Israel. Robert Rosenberg, who has placed selections of his own writings on view, hosts a number of Israeli and joint Israeli-Palestinian peace pages and has assembled links to sites of virtually every group in the Israeli peace movement and joint Israeli-Palestinian efforts, to personal Web pages devoted to peace, Palestinian and Arab sites, a variety of joint Jewish-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian ventures, important documents, such as the Oslo Accords at the Herzog Center and the Copenhagen Declaration, and to different peace foundations. In these sites, you will find information and statistics, scholarly articles, dialogue, political action initiatives and petitions, documentation of land expropriation, house demolition, the plight of the refugees. When I visited the main Ariga peace page, the features items were an invitation to join in Gush Shalom's petition for sharing Jerusalem, and links to BiBiWatch (an incisive commentary on the government, now discontinued) and PeaceWatch (successor to BiBiWatch, produced by the PEACE dialogue group).
Several Israeli and Jewish organizations devoted to promoting peace and dialogue are represented on the Internet. These include, among others, the Shimon Peres Peace Center at http://www.peres-center.co.il/; the Giv'at Haviva Center at www.inter.net.il/~givat_h/givat/g_table.htm; the Re'ut/Tzadaka Arab-Israeli youth group at http://www.israelpages.co.il/reut/; and Neve Shalom/Wahat Es-Salaam, a community of Jews and Arabs in Israel that promotes dialogue and hosts dialogue groups at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/nswas/.
The Israel-Palestine Research Institute (IPCRI), run by Dr. Gershon Baskin and Dr. Zakaria Al-Qaq, researches issues related to the peace process and economic cooperation. Their site at http://www.netaxs.com/~expweb/peace.html features position papers and results of research about the refugee problem, attitudes concerning a final settlement and Jerusalem. MERIA (Mid-East Review of International Affairs), edited by Professor Barry Rubin, is a scholarly review devoted to economics and peace. The journal and free books are on display at the MERIA Web site (www.biu.ac.il/SOC/besa/meria.html) and available by e-mail. The Palestine-Israel Journal is available at www.pij.org.

Peace Movements

You can view the pages of the several Israeli and joint Israeli-Palestinian peace movements from links at Ariga, or directly. These include B'Tselem, Bat-Shalom, Dor Shalom, Gush Shalom, Peace Now and others. Peace Now and American Friends of Peace Now are represented at www.peace-now.org and http://www.peacenow.org respectively. Peace Now is the oldest Israeli peace movement and claims to be the largest. Their Settlement Watch reports give details of new settlement construction and expenditures on the settlements. Other postings deal with issues of Jerusalem and Har Homa/Jabal Abu-Ghneim.
Dor Shalom (Generation of Peace) was set up after the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and is headed by his son, Yuval. The presentation at their site, www.dorshalom.org.il, appeals to the Israeli center. It reminds us that there are still positive goals to be attained, and that Zionism is not necessarily synonymous with the Greater Israel Movement. It speaks of the values of peace, tolerance, democracy and social justice, so that citizens of Israel will be able to live in peace, among themselves and with their neighbors, but doesn't mention efforts of Dor Shalom for peace.
The Gush Shalom group, hosted by Uri Avnery, has an impressive Web site at www.gush-shalom.org where they publicize activities, such as their boycott of products made in the settlements, and their campaign against house demolition, which includes rebuilding demolished houses again and again, as well as letter-writing and demonstrations.
A visit to the peace camp side of cyberspace should include the Web pages devoted to dialogue in Israel and throughout the world. Len and Libby Traubman, founders of the California Living-Room Dialogue group have assembled an impressive set of documents, press releases and links at http://www.igc.org/traubman/. The Jewish-Palestinian dialogue in Basle, Switzerland, has a site at http://www.access.ch/isra-pal-peace/ that includes a jointly prepared declaration regarding principles of a final settlement that visitors can sign. The PEACE Dialogue, co-founded by Ameen Hannoun in Jordan and Ami Isseroff in Israel, has sister Web sites at http://members.tripod.com/ash74/index2.htm and www.geocities.com/Capitol/Hill/Senate/5455/; in a manner of speaking, "Israeli" cyberspace has invaded Jordan, and "Arab" cyberspace has invaded Israel. Professor Ada Aharoni of the Technion has a homepage devoted to dialogue through culture at http://tx.technion.ac.il/~ada/home/html.

Parting Thoughts

Different visitors will see Israeli cyberspace through different eyes. The messages I got from the major portion of Israeli cyberspace, including Israeli government sites, was that Zionism was synonymous with opposition to the peace process and with concessions to the Palestinians; that the major justification is fulfillment of the Commandments of the Lord; and that Israel's security and welfare require, and are almost solely dependent upon, the retention of all the occupied territories beyond the 1948 borders. As a Zionist of a different school, I was appalled. I was struck by the dreary symmetry of arguments offered by extremists of either side. The pronouncements of the Organization of Rabbis for the People of Israel exactly parallel those of Hamas, and those of groups such as Professors for a Strong Israel might be adopted by any secular Palestinian extremist group, simply by substituting "Palestine" for "Israel" as appropriate. The sites of the peace camp and those representing cooperative efforts provide a bit of light in this dark space of cyberspace.

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