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University of Haifa
Avraham Oz (theater) on "His Awful Country"

05 October 2005 | Professor Avraham Oz | PSC

Dear friends,

This is my country: As it is commonly known, "the only democracy in the Middle East." This is my country: Where conscientious citizens objecting to atrocities perpetrated in their name by generals, officers, and soldiers in active service and reserves, are pursuing their bringing to international justice for war crimes, since the Israeli justice system shuns its moral obligations (please read attorney Michael Sfard's op ed in Haaretz below). And where such citizens are threatened by a senior Likud MP Steinitz (a former colleague at my university - where else?) who attempts to legislate a "treason law," remindful of dark ages, whereby such conscientious citizens will be prosecuted and serve jail for their initiative.

This is my country: Where not a single police officer of the many who shot into demonstrations of its Palestinian citizens, killing 13 and injuring many others, is found accountable as much as to be brought to court - not even for a minor negligence, let alone more serious offence - even though a very lenient and mild official investigation commission did find fault with police behaviour five years ago. Nor, probably, would any soldiers injuring almost daily demonstrators at Bil'in village against the building of the separation wall which makes the life of West Bank Palestinians misery. At the same time, a young woman, Tali Fahima, is serving jail for months and is standing trial for some mysterious allegations, boiling down to her choosing to serve as a human shield for a Palestinian resistance leader in his refugee camp during the notorious Jenin operation from becoming a direct target for killing by the Israeli security forces.

This is my country: Where the alleged suffering of settlers evacuated from homes, lands, and water resources stolen from the Palestinians is staged dramatically all over the media, while the families of the Palestinians murdered and injured in cold blood by acts of terrorism perpetrated by settlers and their supporters, in protest against that evacuation, have no right to the regular compensation given to terror victims, since the letter of the law in my democratic country defines an act of terrorism as a crime directed against the State of Israel, whereas Jewish murderers are not considered such to whom that definition applies.

This is my country: Where a bare building which used as a synagogue by the settles of an evacuated settlement (out of which all sacred relics have been officially taken out) is buried in the ground in a papgan-like military ceremony, and similar constructions, contrary to opinions of rabbis, not demolished to provoke the Palestinians after the evacuation,who don't see any reason to treat those empty constructions as sacred places; and while crying havoc on the "desacration" of such unholy buildings, I do remember very well our favorite playground when a little child, on a little hill by the sea in the north of town, where we little kids would find the occasional bone on the ground: our parents called that hill "the Moslem cemetry." Years later, I graduated from a university built on the ruins of an Arab village called Sheikh Muanis, and attempts to commemorate that village (by a women group called ZOCHROT - "remember" in Hebrew) are defamed as subversive.

This is my country: One which brags being "the only democracy in the Middle East," but whose Prime Minister proclaims he will sabotage the democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority, because he resents the platform of one of the parties (objectionable as it may be) standing for elections.

This is my country: Where a university, where classes on democracy are given, is opening a military program of studies for intelligence cadets to study on campus in uniform, appropriating a whole section of the students dormitories (far from answering the needs of Arab and needed Jewish students), to become military quarters of sorts (you guessed right, my own university); while still not recognizing the elected Arab students committee (representing about 20% of the students), nor the demand to put signs in Arabic (an official language in Israel) on campus, closing down its theatre for mounting plays in Arabic, or forbidding a Christmas tree to be placed near a HANUKKA lamp while the two religious holidays concur; and rather, using its dwindling budget to hiring private law firms to prepare the legal grounds why NOT to put such signs in Arabic, or to dispute a recent court ruling preferring transparency to privileged secrecy of proceedings (which grant immunity to administrators to get rid of faculty far from the public eye).

This is my country: Where the expression "a state of all its citizens" is deplored by its official government, the "only democracy" in the region is suppressing school curriculae because they (marginally) contain some Palestinian writers such as Edward Said, Azmi Bishara, or Mahmoud Darwish, lest the idea that other than Jews could be equal citizens would spoil the proper education of its youth. And then cries of shock and bewilderment are heard whenever a youth thus officially educated to regard fellow citizens as unequal resorts to violence, even murder, on ethnic or religious grounds.

This is my country: While the evacuation of a few settlers from the occupied Gaza strip causes a political havoc, threatening to overturn the government which has democraticall voted for it, millions are pumped into strengthening the majority of settlements on the occupied West Bank: the government did not approve even the removal of sporadic "illegal settlements" (as if there were "legal" ones), building new roads leading to them and providing electricity; and a wall of hatred (just approved by the Israeli supreme couirt in spite of foreign decisions to the contrary) is built to separate Palestinian villagers from their lands, children from schools, and any hope for a lasting peace from reality.

This is my country, sometimes friendly reproached, regularly amicably patted as an enlightened democracy in the Middle East. I wonder whether this is the kind of lesson of ive democracy currently taught by the democratic world by force in my country's neighbouring countries nowadays.

For better days, A. Oz Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature University of
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