I have been a political activist for most of my adult life. In all these years, I have believed deeply that the unbearable and unacceptable reality of Israel and Palestine could only be changed from within. This is why I have been ceaselessly devoted to persuading Jewish society—to which I belong and into which I was born—that its basic policy in the land was wrong and disastrous. As for so many others, the options for me were clear: I could either join politics from above, or counter it from below.
I began by joining the Labor Party in the 1980s, and then the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash), when I declined an offer to join the Knesset. At the same time, I focused my energies on working alongside others within educational and peace NGOs, even chairing two such institutions: the left Zionist Institute for Peace Studies in Givat Haviva, and the non-Zionist Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies. In both circles, veteran and younger colleagues alike sought to create constructive dialogue with our compatriots, in the hope of influencing present policy for future reconciliation. It was mainly a campaign of information about crimes and atrocities committed by Israel since 1948, and a plea for a future based on equal human and civil rights.
On August 2, 2009, after cordoning off part of the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem, Israeli police evicted two Palestinian families (more than 50 people) from their homes, allowing Jewish settlers immediately to move into the vacated houses. Although Israeli police cited a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court, the evicted Arab families had been living there for more than 50 years. This event which, rather exceptionally, did attract the attention of the world media, is part of a much larger and mostly ignored ongoing process.
Two years later, not much has changed. On October 16, 2011, Israel announced plans to build 2,600 new homes in southern Jerusalem, despite condemnation from the UN, the EU, and Britain. If implemented, the plans would not only divide the Arab section of the city from the rest of the occupied West Bank, but also severely undermine the chances of a viable Palestinian state and hamper the everyday life of Palestinians. The conclusion is obvious: while paying lip-service to the two-state solution, Israel is busy creating a situation on the ground that will render a two-state solution practically impossible. The dream that underlies this politics is best rendered by the wall that separates a settler’s town from the Palestinian town on a nearby hill somewhere in the West Bank. The Israeli side of the wall is painted with the image of the countryside beyond the wall—but without the Palestinian town, depicting just nature, grass, trees ... Is this not ethnic cleansing at its purest, imagining the outside beyond the wall as it should be: empty, virginal, waiting to be settled?
In this extract from The Least of All Possible Evils, Eyal Weizman details the dyanamic of the transport of provisions between Israel and Gaza, comparing it to a reverse Milgram experiment - a classic psychological experiment in power and authority and the capacity to inflict pain on ordinary people.
Milgram in Gaza
The legal petition against the further reduction of provisions into Gaza was rejected at the end of January 2008. ‘This is the difference between Israel, a democracy fighting for its life within the framework of the law, and the terrorist organizations fighting against it,’ the High Court stated, as if it were a state spokesperson. The court performed the task of an administrator rather than an adjudicator, a partner in the calibration of how much pain Gazans are to be made to legitimately feel. As such, acts of torture and terror aimed at forcing civilians into political compliance conferred on their makers a dignified image. Those proportionaly admin- istering the level of pain could now see themselves as being responsible for the necessary and tragic task of calculating and responsibly choosing the lesser of all possible evils.
An extract from A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys Through Urban Britain by Owen Hatherley
The reason why this is all able to occur is easy enough to discern; it’s there in front of you, everywhere you turn in Poplar, with that air-traffic alerting light flashing on and off the pyramid at the top, winking mockingly at you. Canary Wharf, like the first City, is breaking its banks, and spreading bankster colonies all over the borough of Tower Hamlets. As we have grown to expect, the financial crisis they triggered (Lehman Brothers and AIG did their naughtiest things here) has not led to any noticeable contrition or humility. From Poplar we could make our way into the Isle of Dogs itself, to peruse its glass and steel, or to jeer at the way that the kitsch of the ’80s still sits around it, dating the place horribly; we could walk around the mean, low-ceilinged shopping mall that sits under the central phallus of One Canada Square, the pyramidal erection dubbed at the time ‘Thatcher’s Cock’. We won’t, however. We ’ll head away from this Thatcherite landscape with its Fosterian Blairite appendages to a much purer space of New Labour, just to finally give them their due, for their most large-scale experiment in the planning of a wholly new, tabula rasa district of the capital.
I ought to be brief, or as brief as possible, on the subject of the Olympic Site.