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May-06-2010 05:22printcomments

Israeli Website Hijacks Salem-News.com Content to Slam Peace Activist

Israel; media has a habit of attacking the messenger.

Snap of the News 1 story from Israel about Gila Svirsky
Snap of the News 1 story from Israel about Gila Svirsky

(JERUSALEM / SALEM) - Gila Svirsky of Jerusalem, is the founder of the Coalition of Women for Peace and also the former CEO of the New Israel Fund. She visited the U.S. last September, and we connected with her here in Salem, Oregon. We had a wonderful interview, and in turn I provided her point of view to our viewers[1].

Israel's News 1 published an article titled, B'Tselem calls on Chairman Obama to pressure Israel, that portrays Gila's visit last summer in a poor light; they are angry that Gila Svirsky issued a letter to President Obama asking for help in their effort to help bring real peace to Israel, in part by highlighting where the massive American taxpayer funds are actually going, and what they are being used for. The article's writer or writers seemed especially riled over the fact that Gila's trip had a strong impact in the U.S. and on Capitol Hill[2].

This news agency in Israel appears to be solidly pro-government, and that means that they are 100% behind anything that Israel does. What Netanyahu's government is doing is committing an act of genocide based on religion. Those are my words, not Gila's, but they are true either way - if based on sheer numbers alone.

When our writers who are Jewish or Israeli write frankly about Israel's politics, they are called "self-hating Jews". Those of us who are not Jewish, are called "Nazis" and "anti-Semitic" If we write anything negative about Israel, which is utterly ridiculous, not containing a shred of truth. All of this, when in fact, Israel's entire existence is based upon having people of a particular religion occupy a designated area, citing Biblical scripture. It is wrong by any standard, that there should be a set of laws in Israel for Jewish people, and another set of laws for those who aren't.

The Israeli settlements are the manifestation of ultimate insult; they are salt in the wounds of a disadvantaged people. These colonies are built intentionally on the tiny amount of remaining Palestinian land that is left, and occupied by the fanatical Zionists who fundamentally oppose the right of Palestinians to even exist.

These 'settlers' routinely harass native Palestinians, even doing unconscionable things like assaulting Palestinian children walking to school; it happens constantly, according to the Christian Peacemakers Teams, who keep people based in the area to offer protection to Palestinians.

The Jewish organization Mishmeret Yesha operates a cell in
Yizthar training adults & young children in paramilitary tactics
for raiding Palestinian homes. They avoid men and target women
and children. How they might differ from Islamic terrorists is hard
to define, but it certainly seems to qualify as religious warfare.

In fact, settlers are now setting up training cells to specifically indoctrinate, train and militarily equip followers of their fanatical religious philosophy. They justify this as 'defense' when it is merely another tool to press the occupation, oppression and undeclared warfare. In nearly every case, these settlers are the ones spreading the horrors, not the Palestinians. Something in my gut tells me this is not what God had in mind when he made the "Chosen People" statement[3].

And as harsh as we are about the settlements, B'Tselem director Jessica Montell states in the News 1 article that, "B'Tselem does not take political positions related to any settlement of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict."

So why go after Gila Svirsky News 1? Why ridicule B'Tselem at all? Do you want to know what many of Oregon's Palestinian supporters had to say about Gila? She is one of you guys, that's what. They could barely see past that fact. I sensed Gila's genuine spirit before meeting her though; I read her work that was published online and knew then as I know now, that she is a person of the highest caliber, and the highest ideals. She does not slam Israel in concept, she laments the horrible unnecessary deaths that Israel's people have also suffered, and also has heart for the Palestinians. In any real sense, that is the only proper way for an Israeli to feel about it.

Regarding the situation there, Gila said, "Many of those on the left and in the human rights community of Israel are under fire from Israel's growing extremist culture."

Just today, Ameer Makhoul, an Arab-Israeli head of a human rights organization, was arrested, but a gag order was placed on the arrest.

Or is it all a game of dominance?

Salem-News.com publishes a lot of critical assessment of Israeli politics, because a travesty of humanity is taking place right in front of our eyes, and yet the world community seems frozen in its ability to bring any type of relief to the embattled Palestinian people.

An Israeli soldier stops a young Palestinian boy during a night
time round up of Palestinians. Photo: Christian Peacemaker Teams

They are segregated, subjugated, harassed, injured and killed in simply trying to carry out their daily lives. Everything was very different here when the Israelis came in 1947. Now the Palestinian people are kept behind walls, caged like animals, and there is no remorse on behalf of Israel as a nation.

But there is enormous grace on the part of many Israelis; this is our most valuable asset in conveying the real message of peace, and one of those people is our friend Gila Svirsky in Jerusalem. We stand behind her efforts to raise awareness in Israel and abroad, and we share her hope for a day when peace is real, not just some politically convenient word that is whispered out one side of the mouth, as the other side calls for more war and more attacks in the name of "self defense" and "security".

Here is the letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, delivered on the eve of Gila Svirsky's U.S. visit in September 2009. News 1 complains that her letter is spurring economic and military pressure on Israel. If that is the case, then Gila is seeing success, and the world could possibly be that many steps closer to eventual peace, and the elimination of apartheid laws that Israel, a nation of one time refugees, keeps building and enhancing.

I asked Gila what the impact of this is for her. Her walk is surely an uphill struggle.

Gila said, "No one in the peace or human rights community is being intimidated by the growing McCarthyism in Israel. If anything, it just distills and clarifies the importance of our work."

Below is the text translation of the letter. It was translated into Hebrew and then back into English by me tonight, with the use of technology; please forgive us if the wording is slightly off, either way you get the point.

__________________________________________________________

"Dear President Obama,

Dear President Obama,

I’m an Israeli peace activist and I really need your help. I’ve been working for over twenty years to make my country – Israel – a safe place for my children, and now is the first time I think I really have a chance to get there. Because you’re in the White House.

I know we‘re on the same page: Divide the land (more or less on the pre-1967 border) so that we end up with two sovereign states – Israel and Palestine – where both can live in peace and security. Divide Jerusalem so that Arab neighborhoods become the Palestinian capital and Jewish neighborhoods remain the Israeli capital – and ensure access to the holy sites for people of all religions. And apply the obvious and practical solutions to the other outstanding issues – water (a rational and equitable distribution), refugees (resettlement and reparations), and arms (control and security for both sides).

I’m not the only one in the Middle East who thinks this way: For a decade, polls have consistently shown that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution as part of an overall peace agreement. So do public opinion polls of Palestinians. And most would go along with any arrangements that could be worked out between the sides because, well, we’ve all lost enough loved ones to this conflict.

One of the key problems seems to be that most politicians have given in to the demands of the extremist Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories – people who prefer to live by the sword on someone else’s land than forge a compromise that both sides can live with.

So many U.S. presidents – following the lead of Israeli prime ministers – turned a blind eye to the expansion of these colonies, expansion that led to deeper entrenchment of the occupation and greater Palestinian bitterness and rage. What a recipe for bloodshed! One cup occupation plus one cup violent resistance – and the killing will go on for generations, as it has.

It was a relief, Mr. President, to hear your clear statements in Cairo: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements…It is time for these settlements to stop.”

And then Prime Minister Netanyahu affirmed his own acceptance of a two-state solution, meaning that the Israeli settlers would ultimately have to return to Israel, making room for the sovereign state of Palestine. What else could “a two-state solution” mean?

But somehow the need to “freeze” settlement construction – which Israel promised to do in previous agreements and our prime minister has been trying to sell to his coalition partners – has now “thawed”, as our government approved the construction of 455 more homes in the Occupied Territories. What is it about “It is time for these settlements to stop” that Netanyahu did not understand?

Therefore, Mr. President, I am coming to visit Eugene - and Portland, Salem, and Corvallis - to talk with some of the citizens there and, through them, to appeal to you to use your good offices to be a true friend to Israel by telling Netanyahu the truth: Occupation is not compatible with peace. Settlements are not compatible with a two-state solution.

The United States has the power to get it done: Your military aid – some $4 billion dollars a year – gives you the right and obligation to demand that Israel stop building the settlements and start withdrawing the settlers. Without U.S. financial aid, Israel would not have the wherewithal to keep building and protecting the settlements (at the expense of our schools and hospitals). Without U.S. backing in international arenas, Israel would be alone in pursuing its policies of occupation.

Mr. President, you can write a historic chapter of peace in the Middle East, if only you don’t back down from your demand that both sides engage in good-faith negotiations. Don’t let the extremists continue to set the agenda.

This occupation, like every other in history, will ultimately come to an end. I want that to happen before my two beautiful little grandchildren are also called up for duty.

Sincerely,
Gila Svirsky, Jerusalem

Following in the heels of this, it was announced today, Ameer Makhoul, an Arab-Israeli head of a human rights organization, was arrested. However, a gag order was placed on the arrest.

What we know is that this morning at 3:10 a.m., Israeli Security Agency (ISA) agents accompanied by Israeli police raided Ameer Makhoul’s family home in Haifa and arrested him. Mr. Makhoul is a human rights defender and serves as the general director of Ittijah – The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations and as the Chairman of the Public Committee for the Defense of Political Freedom in the framework of the High Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel.

This is the direction things are moving in. Israel is not reducing its tactics, it is increasing them. Israel needs to consider its national plight and compare it to that of the Palestinians. Nobody deserves to live they way they do.

[1] Sep-26-2009: Tim King Interviews Israeli Peace Activist Gila Svirsky - Tim King Salem-News.com

[2] May-05-2110: יו"ר בצלם קוראת לאובמה ללחוץ על ישראל (News 1 article)

[3] May-01-2010: Israeli Settlers and the 'Price Tag' CampaignTim King Salem-News.com

Past articles by Gila Svirsky on Salem-News.com:

Apr-08-2010: How Israel Gagged on its own Gag Order - Gila Svirsky for Salem-News.com

Jan-24-09: Gila Svirsky: God Bliss - Gila Svirsky Special to Salem-News.com

====================================

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com




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Sanity May 8, 2010 1:42 pm (Pacific time)

Stay home. Let them fight it out... both are wrong and unreasonable.

Editor: We do not think Gila is wrong, if that is what you mean.  Peace and the end of violence is not wrong.  Oppression and racism are wrong.


Josh Akers May 7, 2010 5:42 pm (Pacific time)

I'm on her side. Peace. Love. Awareness. Equality. It's not just for hippies it's also mathematics because it's the only formula that works. I don't believe major war is necessary on Earth anymore. It was, at one time. Today, all we need is 10 SEALS and the problem's solved! Big wars are so incredibly out of date.


gp May 6, 2010 6:39 pm (Pacific time)

thanks for continuing to fight racism and hate in your work, lots of us are counting on you everyday.

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