Questions for Seder Night

Rabbi Ismail used to say: Anyone who doesn’t say these words on the night of closure has not fulfilled his obligations. These words are: robbery, siege and bitter herbs...

Ashkenazi Jews Are to Blame for Israel’s Ethnic Rift

Ashkenazi Zionism has always known how to foment trouble, in order to continue holding the reins of power...

Two states for two languages

Excluding a fifth of Israel’s citizens from their political calculations is not worthy of being called the left."

Jewish and degenerate

Racism and chauvinism, regardless of which side they come from, destroy every bit of gray matter in the human brain...

The Crimes Of The Regime And Of The Opposition

What is happening now in the Syrian arena, and has been happening for months, is the best proof of the ruin and desolation [that afflict] this land...

Boycott the election

What are they finding so interesting here about Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman running on the same ticket? After all, both of them have been in the same coalition for many years now and no one is able to point to any ideological difference between them.

Salman Masalha || Boycott the election

They see not, nor know

 'Neutralizing' East Jerusalem:
A day before the start of Operation Pillar of Defense, Nir Hasson revealed the Nature and Parks Authority's plan to establish a national park on the eastern slopes of Mount Scopus. According to Peace Now, the park "is meant to create a corridor of Israeli presence from East Jerusalem towards E-1."

Salman Masalha || 'They see not, nor know'

Barak and Hussein are waiting for Obama



 Mr. President, if you do not bring an end to this bloody conflict, you will be asked to do something else: return that Nobel Prize given to you when you started out.


Salman Masalha ||
Barak and Hussein are waiting for Obama

Preparing the ground for the big Iranian operation

 War on Gaza: Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Defence
The current operation in Gaza can be called 'the little southern Iranian operation,' since it's designed to paralyze Iran's power in Gaza.

Salman Masalha ||
Preparing the ground for the big Iranian operation

Rabin was murdered as an Israeli


In order to achieve the Israeli-Zionist goal he crossed the red lines drawn by the standard bearers of the Jewish tribe.

Salman Masalha || Rabin was murdered as an Israeli


There's no one to vote for


For Israeli Arabs, there's no one to vote for:
A secular, liberal, democratic and fair-minded Arab citizen can't vote for either parties that support the Butcher of Damascus and his ilk, as Hadash and Balad do, or a separatist Muslim party like UAL.

Salman Masalha || There's no one to vote for


Royal corruption


Is it conceivable that foreign governments are buying political parties and public figures in Israel?

Salman Masalha || Royal corruption


About The Latest French Stance


Archive: Al-Hayat , 2003/12/28

There is no doubt that any progressive Arab should bless the French president in his attempt to protect France's secularism.


The Arab League Between Internet And Grammar


Archive: Al-Hayat  1/02/2004

The Internet revolution might be a double-edged sword. In fact, Internet might be the ultimate source of knowledge that links the four corners of the planet by the means of a computer. However, Internet might also be a tool to spread ignorance and vulgar taste.

Salman Masalha ||

The Arab League Between Internet And Grammar


Many are the articles written in the Arab media about the information revolution and the importance of keeping pace with it to cope with the progress. In order to reach this target, Arab societies need institutions, ministries and governments that seek the achievement of this objective and allocate the necessary budgets to realize it.

The Internet revolution might be a double-edged sword. In fact, Internet might be the ultimate source of knowledge that links the four corners of the planet by the means of a computer. However, Internet might also be a tool to spread ignorance and vulgar taste. Hence, in front of the huge amount of information, one should be armed with the adequate tools to enter this world in a right way. In addition, anyone who wants to own a site should offer surfers information they might need.

I want to discuss here one of the Arab sites that was not supposed to be the way it is; it's the Arab League site. What does it offer to its Arab or foreign surfer; all the more it displays the information in English in addition to the Arabic language?

The site contains many pages as if the designers wanted to facilitate the surfer's mission to enter it.

The site contains a page entitled Arab issues. It displays the issue of the weapons of mass destruction and then the statement of the League ever since 1989, 1991 Damascus' meeting and the 1991 resolution to welcome Kuwaiti sovereignty. What does that mean? It means that over a decade of time was omitted. A second page is entitled the Arab Solidarity. It encompasses the solidarity statement with Sudan, the Republic of Comores and Somalia. This is all about the Arab solidarity in the Arab League site. Another page is entitled 'Other Issues.' It displays information about the occupation of Iran of the UAE islands, the water issue, the situation between Iraq and Kuwait, the Sino-Arab relation and the Arab-African cooperation. In order to show that the Arab League does not give up decisive Arab issues, the site displays a page about Jerusalem.

The site contains another page entitled the Arab civilization. Aren't we pretending we are a civilized nation? However, the page contains some Arabic antique words in addition to news about Amro Moussa.

This is the Arab civilization according to the Arab League. As for the page about Arab Youth and Society, it is empty. Yes, empty!

This is all what the Arab League site is about. It is better you check. The question is: where are the millions of dollars spent in the Arab League? Isn't it better to spend these huge amounts of money on schools and real needs? This institution is a useless one that could be easily cancelled with no repercussions.
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Published: Al-Hayat, 2004/02/1
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For Arabic, press here

The dwarfs of Oslo


The Oslo Accords were merely a trick, a deception. The Israelis sought to maintain the occupation, while the Palestinians sought to regain legitimacy.
Salman Masalha || The dwarfs of Oslo

In 1993, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two African leaders: Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk. The award went to them for bringing to an end the apartheid regime in South Africa by peaceful means. These two leaders were certainly deserving of the prestigious prize. A year later, in 1994, apparently because of the inertia in the committee in charge of the “peace” department, the prize was awarded to three leaders from the Middle East: Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, on account of the accords between them, named after the Norwegian capital of Oslo.

The fundamentalist right in Israel has coined the phrase “the criminals of Oslo” and attached that name to the Israeli leaders who supposedly tried to promote an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Benjamin Netanyahu, the orator, was also there when the campaign of incitement against the “Oslo criminals” was taking place. I was reminded of those “criminals” this week because I happened to have been at the Grand Hotel in the heart of Oslo, and I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize laureates stay there when they come for the award ceremony.

It is worth recalling that the Oslo Accords that were signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Israeli government were not the result of a true and earnest desire on the part of the leaders for peace. The two leaderships of the two conflicted nations sought, each in its own way, a means of escape from the imbroglio in which they found themselves following several decades of mutual lack of recognition. The Oslo Accords were merely a trick, a deception. The Israeli government was looking for a way to continue the occupation, and thought that calming down the area, which had flared up during the first intifada, would help. The Palestinian leadership was seeking a way to regain legitimacy after the political defeat it suffered when Arafat embraced Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

Netanyahu, who took every opportunity to publicly speak out against the “Oslo criminals,” has become prime minister for the second time. As a student of Yitzhak Shamir, Netanyahu continues to earn his living from doing nothing. A short while ago, he even repeated the mantra of his teacher and guru about “the same sea and the same Arabs.” But it turns out the situation is actually the opposite of the one he spoke about: The sea is the same sea, the Israeli government is the same government, and what was then is what is now.

Nobel laureate Shimon Peres, who was responsible for preparing the ground for the settlements in the 1970s, is now, many years later, continuing to hand out kashrut certificates for all the evils of the Israeli right. From time to time, he serves as the glowing showcase for the Israeli government, with its plethora of members that at no time ever intended to promote any kind of peace process.

The Oslo saga has not ended. A few years ago, when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, before he had done anything whatsoever toward the objective of the prize, the members of the committee hastened to grant him the Nobel Peace Prize. Among the reasons cited for the honor was the objective of strengthening the cooperation between the nations. But now, four years later and in retrospect, the prize that was awarded to Obama can also be seen as ridiculous.

If the committee continues in this fashion, if there are more peace prize laureates of this kind, we shall be lost. Compared with Mandela, the prize winners from the Middle East look like dwarfs. That being the case, the time has come to speak about the real Oslo criminals. These are in fact the members of the selection committee for the prize, who make a mockery of the dream of peace and trample uncaringly on the principles of the prize when they award it to those people that have not done a thing to earn it.
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Published: Opininons-Haaretz, September 10, 2012

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For Hebrew, press here

The Third Lebanon War


The decision-maker is trying to kill two birds with one war. The first is neutralizing the threat from the north and the second – returning Iran to its proper place in the East, vulnerable to pressure.

Salman Masalha || The Third Lebanon War


Once again the gears of war are turning and the pressure is ratcheting up, as everyone knows that every seven to 10 years, as though in obedience to some law of nature, a new-old war breaks out in this battered region. And the land is in ferment.

This is the impression created by the flood of reports and news items about the progress of the Iranian nuclear project, about the “immunity space” and about the national fortitude needed in these fateful times. It appears that a war is at the gates. It is hard not to smell the fumes of jet fuel in the air.

However, since no one has real information about what is truly happening behind the scenes, all the commentaries that are being published are just speculations or commentaries on someone’s behalf.

So allow me, too, to present a speculative commentary, one that is somewhat different.

Israel is not a major power. Israel is not the United States, which can declare so publicly its intention to use military might against a distant country. Certainly Israel cannot name dates when such an attack will take place. When the Iraqi reactor was destroyed, that became known after the fact. This was also the case with the Syrian reactor. This being so, only incorrigible, messianic and megalomaniac true believers – and total idiots – can make belligerent statements of the sort we have been witnessing of late.

Therefore, it is more reasonable to assume that all the talk about Iran is aimed achieving two goals. The one is to increase the pressure on Tehran and the other is to serve as a distraction maneuver, from the school of “the decision maker,” aimed at lulling another, closer arena to sleep. That is, the aim hiding behind such talks is to arrive at a different “war of compromise.”

The next war of compromise is not the First Iran War but rather the Third Lebanon War. On the one hand, the belligerent discourse on the Iranian issue is aimed at obtaining firm guarantees from the United States that it will deal with the Iranian atom. On the other hand, it is aimed at causing the United States to give Israel a green light to deal with Hezbollah.

Thus, it is not to the east that we should be looking, but rather to the north. Only a fool – with respect to strategy – would rush into a war move of such magnitude against targets that are located far to the east. This would require around-the-clock deployment of the Israeli air force, leaving the civilian home front vulnerable to that distant countr’s minions who have an arsenal of tens of thousands of missiles and rockets.

The conditions for dealing with Hezbollah are riper than ever. The collapse of the Syrian regime is bringing the moment closer. The pretext for such an attack in Lebanon is ready and waiting; in recent months there has been much talk of Syrian chemical weapons trickling into the hands of various elements as a red line that must not be crossed.

When the final moment of collapse comes for the Syrian regime, which is supported by Hezbollah and Nasrallah as faithful emissaries of the ayatollahs, every blow Israel inflicts on the Shi’ite organization in Lebanon will be greeted with rejoicing by many Sunnis, in Syria and elsewhere. It is possible many Syrians will dance on whatever remains of the rooftops of Homs and Deraa and maybe they will even hand out sweets to celebrate the misfortune of those who collaborated with the murderous Ba’ath regime and destroyed their cities, slaughtered their old people, raped their women and mercilessly killed their children.

The decision-maker is trying to kill two birds with one war. The first is neutralizing the threat from the north and the second – returning Iran to its proper place in the East, vulnerable to pressure.
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Published in Hebrew: Opinions-Haaretz, August 20, 2012

The Crimes Of The Regime And Of The Opposition


What is happening now in the Syrian arena, and has been happening for months, is the best proof of the ruin and desolation [that afflict] this land – except that this desolation, which is essentially a moral desolation, is not new.




Salman Masalha 

The Crimes Of The Regime
And Of The Opposition


Recently, many websites, especially YouTube, have posted a series of films documenting the murder and mutilation of bodies [perpetrated against] the followers of the fascist Ba'thist regime, who were themselves part of the mechanism that brutally oppressed the Syrians who rebelled against this same criminal regime. These films are similar to the films which documented the crimes of the [Syrian] regime's shabiha and army against the Syrian citizens. In other words, we are [only] now witnessing the reality which this oriental country [Syria] has been experiencing for a year and a half. The ultimate goals of Assad's 'Alawite regime, which used the fascist pan-Arab [Ba'th] party as a no more than a rhetorical tool, was to consolidate [Assad's] tribal, sectarian rule. Now this regime is facing the ugly outcome of the sectarian, tribal seeds it sowed. We are now facing a reality that is best described by the old proverb 'you reap what you sow.' The Assad regime is the source of all this sectarian, ethnic destruction.

What is happening now in the Syrian arena, and has been happening for months, is the best proof of the ruin and desolation [that afflict] this land – except that this desolation, which is essentially a moral desolation, is not new. It is part of the character of this region, which has never been characterized by the virtues of modern civilization. The great scholar Ibn Khaldun, may he rest in peace, recognized this character a long time ago – [a character] that has always been incapable of embracing civilization. [He wrote:] 'Whenever the Arab nomads conquer a place, destruction soon follows, because they are a barbaric people. The habits of barbaric existence have taken hold of them and have become [part of] their nature, and they like it that way… This nature is the very antithesis of civilization… For example, if they need stones to place beneath their cooking pots, they will destroy a building to use its bricks… Therefore, their very presence is incompatible with construction, which is the basis of civilization' [Muqaddimat ibn Khaldun, p. 146].

In this discussion of Arab nomads, Ibn Khaldun speaks of the material [aspects of] civilization. However, we should extend his approach to a new domain, and speak of other [aspects], namely of the non-material [aspects of] civilization. While Ibn Khaldun speaks of stones, I wish to extend his reasoning to human beings. Whether the crimes that the world is witnessing on the modern media are perpetrated by the brutal henchmen of the fascist [Syrian] regime or by those who oppose it, any member of the homo sapiens race is shocked by the enormity this human brutality. While Ibn Khaldun speaks of the stones that the Arab nomads placed under their cooking pots, I [wish to] speak about human beings that the Arabs used as support for their pots. Because today's crimes, which the Arabs and the whole world are witnessing, can be traced back to the cultural legacy upon which generations of Arabs were raised.

For example, let's read what previous generations have recorded for us about [renowned military commander] Khalid ibn Al-Walid, known as Allah's Sword, and how he ordered to cut off the head of [tribal chief] Malik bin Nuwayra in order to place it under a cooking pot used by his army. [The source says:] 'Malik was the hairiest of men, so when the soldiers placed their pots on the heads of the slain enemies, all the heads burned as soon as the fire touched them, except for his. His head did not burn even when the food was already cooked, because his hair protected the skin from the heat of the fire.' And that isn't all. Cultural heritage teaches us that Khalid ibn Al-Walid did this because he desired Malik's wife, of whom it was said, 'no legs were more beautiful than hers.' And indeed, [according to the source,] 'it is said that Khalid ibn Al-Walid married the wife of Malik and consummated the marriage, and this fact is agreed upon by all historians.' This historical report is found in [a number of] sources, such as Tabari's Tarikh Al-Rusul Wa'l-Mulouk, Ibn Kathir's Al-Bidaya Wa'l-Nihaya, Ibn A'tham's Kitab Al-Futouh, Ibn Hajar's Isaba, and many others.

As another example, let us read about the head of [the Prophet's grandson] Al-Hussain ibn 'Ali. It has been recorded by ancient writers that [Umayyad provincial governor] 'Ubayd Allah bin Ziyad placed Hussein's head upon a tray and started to play with it, using his cane. This report, [too,] can be found in a number of sources… And there are many more bloody [stories] of this kind in the heritage upon which generations of Arabs were raised.

What is clear in all the Arab countries that emerged out of the ruins of the Ottoman [empire] and later out of the colonial rule, is their absolute failure to cultivate the non-material aspects of civilization, that is to say, cultivate an integrated humane civilization. These countries grew out of one kind of autocracy and replaced it with another kind of autocracy, which purported to be nationalist when in fact it was tribal and sectarian. In other words, these countries exchanged foreign colonialism for a tribal colonialism under those called 'family.'

The ancient Arab poet put his finger on an essential human truth when he described injustice coming from one's family as the hardest to bear. Yes, discovering the falseness of family is hardest to bear, and leads one to despair and depression. When one is surrounded by injustice, it leads one to distrust all of mankind, [and] this distrust of mankind is the source of [all] ruin. It is the source of the moral desolation, which, in turn, leads to spiritual disintegration. Yes, this is the very opposite of humane civilization. This, essentially, is the great failure of all the regimes that are [now] gradually perishing in the so-called Arab countries. For none of these various regimes succeeded in building an integrated people. Every one of them is based on tribal and religious tyranny. And since religious and tribal tyranny is the opposite of freedom and of human spirit, it cannot last. It is a temporary state, which soon collapses when faced with the outburst of a call for human freedom. Ultimately, freedom is the [true] human nature.

The way out of this bloody Arab whirlpool is obvious, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The Arab needs only to look at the world around him in order to clearly see the way. The Arabs urgently need to base their societies upon foundations that transcend the boundaries of religious, ethnic and tribal affiliations. Such a development can only be realized in civil states, which transcend all such affiliations. This does not mean non-affiliation; it only [means] building the social structure upon stronger foundations: those that underlie modern civilization.

For this reason, there is also an urgent need to reevaluate [the entire annals of] Arab life and civilization since its appearance on the stage of history. Everything published about the crimes committed in Arab countries, whether they are committed by the regime or the opposition, shows that there is a thin but powerful line connecting all these crimes that have been documented by Arabs since ancient times, examples of which we have given above. Anyone who truly wishes for a way out of these bloody Arab whirlpools must sever this line and sever the connection with those crimes. Indeed, there is an urgent need for an Arab self-examination. And for this self examination to have an effect on the Arab fate in future generations, it must be held publicly. It must be absolutely frank, and everything must be subjected to public questioning and discussion, without hiding any dirt under the carpet. Because only through frankness one can make peace with oneself and with the other. Without such an examination, [the Arabs] will have no way [forward], except the way towards ruin and moral desolation.

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English translation by MEMRI

For Arabic, press here
For Polish, press here

Social injustice by popular demand


Time has come to say these things loud and clear: I do not have the slightest shred of sympathy for the bearers of slogans like “social justice,” “equality in the burden” and other such utterances from the Zionist workshop and its ilk.

Salman Masalha ||
Social injustice by popular demand

It has been decreed, we are told, that we must pay the salaries of the cabinet ministers, the deputy ministers, the Knesset members, the council heads and the last of the parasites who run our lives, as well as the price of the luxury cars they drive. And that is not all. It has been decreed, by all the above-mentioned functionaries, that we must also pay for the tax breaks granted to corporations, tycoons and all kinds of people with very large bank accounts and very sharp elbows in the corridors of government.

“There are no free lunches.” The prime minister tossed this slogan into the air as a teaser for the new economic decrees. The hand of the self-satisfied Israeli refusal front government is still outstretched to decree the fates of citizens in the near future. There are no free lunches, asserted the man who certainly knows what he is talking about, yet it is very strange that this slogan is issuing from the mouth of a man about whose payment morality for all kinds of free lunches at restaurants much has been said.

It’s not political, the pullers of the social protest strings have declared repeatedly. “The new Israelis” is what some have called the people who took to the streets. But this protest has given rise neither to Israelis not to anything new, but rather to old-time Jews and new Zionists with seasoned shticks. They fled from “the political” so they could all gather together, the settler from Hebron with the harasser from Migron, the slacker from Rishon Lezion with the “homeless” from north Tel Aviv and along with them the lands robber looking out over the natives in the Upper and Lower Galilee. This is the face of the so-called “Israeli” social protest.

These professional protest activists are demanding nothing just and nothing social. Indeed, if it is justice they are seeking, then why does this justice stop inside what is called the Green Line and also the Blue Line, the Jewish line? And if it is something social they want to awaken, then would they please be so kind to explain to an ignoramus like myself for exactly what Israeli society, if indeed any such animal exists, they are seeking justice.

Social justice cannot go hand in hand with the continuation of the Israeli occupation. Justice cannot go hand in hand with the Israelis’ continued harassment of an entire people. Anyone who divorces the demand for social justice from the need for an immediate end to the occupation is an active collaborator with the occupation.

And there is more. Social justice does not go along with the inbuilt discrimination against Israel’s Arab citizens and against the Arab locales in the land of the Green Line. Therefore it must be clearly and unambiguously said that as long as there is not an explicit demand for ending the occupation on the one hand and on the other for total social and civil equality in Israel, equality that consists of equal rights and obligations for all citizens regardless of ethnicity, religion, race and sex – nothing good will come of one sort of protest or another, now or ever.

Therefore, the time has come to say these things loud and clear: I do not have the slightest shred of sympathy for the bearers of slogans like “social justice,” “equality in the burden” and other such utterances from the Zionist workshop and its ilk. As far as I am concerned the entire Israeli middle class can shatter into fragments and go to hell. I may add that this would not be any great comfort from the perspective of the lower classes in the cities, the villages, the outlying locales, the moshavs and the development towns who are crawling on all fours or sifting though garbage bins.

You are invited to eat your fill of this porridge called the legislature and the government, which you elect and cook up for yourselves time after time on Election Day, until the taxes and the decrees are coming out of all your pores. I have no sympathy for people who are not prepared to listen, not prepared to learn and not prepared to change their bad electoral habits.

You call yourselves a chosen people. You deserve this choice of yours.
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Published: Haaretz-Opinions, August 5, 2012


The pit and the pendulum


Archieve (2001):
In those days, we did not drink four goblets of wine, because everything that gladdens the human heart is not a part of our custom.


Salman Masalha ||
The pit and the pendulum

Memory isn’t made of metal and therefore it does not rust. To put it mildly, this might sound strange. However, for us, the second generation of the Nakba, the Festival of Freedom, Passover, is the symbol of the liberation from that round lump of dough baked with a pit or pocket in the middle. No one ever bothered to explain the meaning of that pit and with time I simply accepted that it would remain a gap in my education.

In those days, when there was nothing to spread in the pit, parents would hoodwink their children with a common Arab trick, They would spread some oil in the pit and sprinkle sugar on it to sweeten our daily bread, which would come to be known in our language that has no “p” in it as “bita.”

When matza appeared in the village, we gave thanks that it saved us from the pit in the pita. Matza came to us as a savior, first of all for the simple reason that it is fragile and refuses to be folded and secondly, but just as importantly, it does not have a pocket in it. On the contrary, it is made up of tiny holes, rows and rows of pinpricks. The traditional trick was no longer available to our ancestors and thus we became aware of the existence of various spreads that had made the pilgrimage to our dreams from the cold lands of the north.

In those days, we did not drink four goblets of wine, because everything that gladdens the human heart is not a part of our custom. Moreover, we did not have goblets, never mind gladness. However, we knew very well how to bless freedom, indeed we did: For I have expelled, I have exiled, I have robbed, I have exploited, I have redeemed, I have taken, I have murdered and I have inherited. Not just words, but a dictionary of freedoms was engraved in our minds rather than the four goblets; the wars and any trouble that could land on our heads.

Nevertheless, how is this night different from all other nights? Now – as Ariel Sharon stands at the top of the pyramid and Shimon Peres is continuing to upholster our region with dreams of the world to come and I for some time have been a free man – there is reason to talk about another pit.

It has been nearly three decades since I tried to persuade Ariel Sharon of the existence of the Palestinian people in its homeland. In the 1970s, Sharon stood in a Hebrew University auditorium and claimed, as a disciple of Golda & Co., that they don’t exist – neither a Palestinian people nor a Palestinian entity. I, as a disciple of freedom and liberty, challenged him then: The Palestinian people c’est moi and now would he please be so kind as to prove to the audience in the auditorium that I do not exist.

I did not get an answer from him then, of course. The answer came that same night when “Jerusalem’s finest” knocked on my door with a search warrant signed by a judge, as proper in a land of law and order. The report listed the “dangerous items” found in my apartment: four pamphlets issued by Matzpen, “The Socialist Organization in Israel.” The Palestinian people in it entirety – c’est moi – spent the night in the police lockup in the Russian Compound. The pit that gaped in the relations between me and matza spread rather than healed.

Memory is not made of metal, and therefore it does not rust. Nights went by and the days were the days of Yitzhak Rabin’s first government, and Shimon Peres as minister of defense, and the days were the days of Land Day, and the days were the days of the month of Nissan when Passover falls and the days were the days of hurt and bruising and shemura matza, watched over by eagle-eyed yeshiva scholars from the moment of milling the wheat to the moment of baking lest the slightest trace of leavening action contaminate it.

Behind bars, my opinion of matza had undergone a pendulum swing. Suddenly, the pit in the “bita” looked to me like the axis around which my national experience revolved. Though it was just a pit, it became clear to me that it was my pit and only mine. Sitting in a different pit, where the dough closing in on me felt like it was made of concrete, I penned a letter to Shimon the defense minister at that time and at this time the foreign minister.

No, I wasn’t thinking then about the pit in the pita or the hole in the ozone layer but rather about freedom and the right to oppose the occupation. To date I have not received an answer from Peres either but I have reason to believe that the letter did reach high places. Several years later a friend who had been summoned for questioning told me that my letter had been read out to him and he was questioned about the relationship between us. To reassure me, my friend told me he had denied any connection between us, on the grounds that it was a superficial acquaintance since we happen to be “from the same village.”

About three decades have passed since then and we have not yet lost hope, as the Israeli national anthem declares. Maybe when the foreign minister retires (if such a thing is even conceivable to him), he will yet find time to answer my letter. If he finds the afikomen, the matza hidden to keep children awake and interested at the Passover table, he is promised a prize: At long last I will send him an emotional letter declaring my support for his idea of the new Middle East. And if he does not, I will write a poem denouncing him as practicing coitus interruptus in his capacity of sanitation worker in the garbage dump of Sharon’s policies.
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Published: ”Yidiot Ahronot“, April 6, 2001

For Hebrew, press here

The lie about rights and duties


The injustice that is being done to the Druze is an in-built Zionist matter.


Salman Masalha || The lie about rights and duties

We are not going to discuss how to get the desert to bloom here but rather how the public discourse in Israel is made devoid of content. Many people with bad intentions take part in the attempt to cover our eyes and block our ears. Because after all, there is no greater lie than that sold by populist politicians, the cynical and "engaged" media, and those who tell all kinds of stories. Anyone who draws a link between granting civil rights and fulfilling duties will no doubt be surprised to read what will follow here.

We are not talking about the ultra-Orthodox who evade the draft but rather about citizens who fulfill their duties of loyalty to the state. These are citizens who serve in the army, pay with the blood of their sons, and who have been doing so for many decades, but it does not seem that any kind of social justice is knocking on their doors.

All the claims of rights that will be given to citizens in return for duties will be refuted when we examine what has happened to the Druze citizens. Because the injustice that is being done to the Druze is an in-built Zionist matter. The lack of social justice is obvious to all - you just have to stretch out your hand to touch it.

It is the central government that is responsible for this, through its arbitrary allocation of municipal areas of jurisdiction. Its aim is to exclude the Arab citizens and separate them from the areas and the lands that belong to them. By giving widescale areas of jurisdiction to the Jewish regional councils, they prevent any possibility of future development in the Arab communities, and this of course includes the Druze villages. But there is more to this. As we all know, a considerable percentage of the local councils' income is derived from the "arnona," or local property tax, that is paid by industrial areas, factories, government offices and institutions, army bases, prisons, and so forth. But lo and behold - when a large industrial area like the Tefen industrial zone, for example, is established in the vicinity of Druze villages, (Jatt, Kisra, and Kfar Sami'a ) the Jewish brain finds an ingenious way to ensure that the "arnona" will not be paid to them. This is how the industrial regional council was born.

And here is yet another example. This time it is the Merom Hagalil regional council. This local council has control of very large areas, starting at the border with Lebanon in the north and extending to Tiberias in the south, and stretching from Safed in the east to Carmiel in the west. Some 11,000 citizens live there, the vast majority of whom are Jewish. However what is most upsetting to see is that the areas of jurisdiction of this council cover some 200,000 dunams. By contrast, in the Druze town of Maghar in Lower Galilee, there are 20,000 residents. The town is located in the third cluster of the socio-economic scale which means that it is at the bottom of the scale. And even though the number of residents in Maghar is double the number of the residents living in the Merom Hagalil regional council, its area of jurisdiction is a mere 20,000 dunams in total. That is to say, it is only ten percent of the area of the Merom Hagalil council. And as if that were not enough, part of the lands belonging to the residents of Maghar have been added so to speak, to the area under the jurisdiction of the Merom Hagalil council. But there is still more to the story. A military base was set up on the lands of Maghar, and in recent years, the large complex of the Hermon and Tzalmon prisons was also built there. These institutions almost touch the homes in the town but for some strange reason, the "arnona" payments of these institutions do not go into the coffers of Maghar.

Indeed, these facts in the field cry out for all to hear. All the governments in Israel, from the very start, have taken pains to try and restrict the development of the Arab local councils and the injustice that has been done to the Druze community whose sons pay for their civic duties with their blood, is a conspicuous example of that. So don't let them tell you stories about rights that depend on fulfilling duties.

Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 18 July 2012

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A pinprick in the “equal burden” balloon


Sometimes the use of the oriental imagination is needed like air to breathe. I have often argued that attributing oriental imagination to the Arabs is tantamount to slander...

Salman Masalha

A pinprick in the “equal burden” balloon

One fine day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu awoke from a bad coalition dream and discovered the incredible. He scratched his brain until he saw the light at the end of the government tunnel. Suddenly he remembered that there are Ishmaelite parliamentarians serving in the Israeli Knesset, sent there by a large Arab public to swear loyalty to the state of Israel. For nearly seven decades now they have been sent there time after time and time after time they swear their loyalty.

Netanyahu, who has also been roaming the Knesset corridors for many years, is certainly aware that there are elected legislators in the Knesset who are not among the voters for the Zionist parties. However, for some reason he has never taken these Knesset members into his calculations. The truth is that not only he but also all his predecessors, both from the left and from the right, never counted the Arab voters of the sort who vote in their clan ballot boxes of their Zionist parties.

And now, all of a sudden, when the Zionist quandary – religion or state? – has once again become visible to everyone the scheming prime minister has recalled the same tricks that have always served him well. Everyone has to share in the burden, including the ultra-Orthodox and the Arabs, he declared, and he also picked up the phone and spoke personally with some of them, as has been reported.

But to paraphrase a comment made by Netanyahu in another context – is it possible that the prime minister has forgotten what it means to be a Zionist? No, he has not forgotten. As his late father testified about him in an interview to Channel 2: “Benjamin does not support a Palestinian state, except on conditions the Arabs will never accept. I heard this from him.”Now too, in the context of “equal sharing of the burden,” it is clear that all the talk about conscripting Arabs, in one way or another, is empty talk no one intends to implement. After all, this issue didn’t just crop up today for the first time. It has been accompanying the state since its first steps.

Things happened in the past and they are engraved in the chronicles of the Knesset. As is well known, the Israeli Communist Party welcomed the founding of the state of Israel and even saw it as “a victory for all the forces of freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” in the words of Knesset Member Tawfik Toubi in a speech in the Knesset in 1949. And not only that. Back in 1950, MK Meir Wilner of the Israeli Communist Party, in a speech in the Knesset complained of the delay in the conscription of Arabs under the Defense Forces Law.

His Arab party comrade Toubi also expressed his anger at that time and attacked the non-implementation of the law, calling the non-conscription of Arabs a manifestation of discrimination: “Why is the government excluding the Arab citizens of conscription age from military service, even though many of them have evinced willingness to fulfill their obligation as citizens demanding to benefit from all rights? There is no doubt this is one of the most blatant phenomena of the racial discrimination in the government’s policy, which is inimical to every effort to gain the friendship of the Arab masses.”

Sometimes the use of the oriental imagination is needed like air to breathe. I have often argued that attributing oriental imagination to the Arabs is tantamount to slander, for if the elected representatives of Israel’s Arab citizens were blessed with even only a tiny bit of oriental imagination, they would be able with the stroke of a single declaration to take the populist wind out of the Zionist sails. They would declare that they are adopting MK Tawfik Toubi’s 1950 speech in the Knesset.

It would take only one declaration, one small pinprick, to expose the Zionist lie that inflates from time to time. When that happens, we shall see what the champions of “equal sharing of the burden” have to say when the fraudulent Zionist balloon busts in their faces.

Published: Opinions-Haaretz, July 8, 2012

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Under his vine and under his anthem


Before we arrive at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s utopian vision, even in a small way, it is necessary first of all for the wolf and the lamb to live each of them under his own respective vine and respective national anthem.

Salman Masalha || Under his vine and under his anthem

Some people think the situation in the territories is irreversible and is leading to the vision/nightmare of a bi-national state. Indeed, no one disputes that the continuation of the occupation and above all the continued building in the settlements are exacerbating the situation more and more. However, the bi-national state slogan is an empty slogan. Why? The answer is simple. For the idea of a bi-national state to be justified there must exist some prior conditions from which it will derive its strength. So here’s a scoop: There is still a long way to go for a state where “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid … and the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox,” as in the Prophet Isaiah’s vision.

Looking closely at the state of affairs among all the various and variegated kinds of communities dwelling throughout the land, one can reaches the obvious conclusion: There aren’t two sides here but rather very many sides. In this land there is a huge admixture of tribes that are quarrelling among themselves. In other words, in Israel-Palestine the two nations have not yet sufficiently crystallized to reach a bi-national state.

The religious, cultural and tribal tensions exist within both the “imagined communities” as well as between them. It can also be said that the tensions between the two communities constitute the major, not to say the only, adhesive holding together the fragments of the human mosaic within each of them.

The occupation in the wake of the Six Day War complicated the matter considerably. Despite the transfer plans from the schools of various and sundry Zionist leaders, the Arab demography did not stop. Moreover, the occupation gave impetus and a great deal of help to the formation of the Palestinian identity vis-à-vis the occupying community. On the other side, as the occupation grew deeper a change came about in the identities of the communities called Israeli.

Ironically, this occupation ultimately brought about a halt in the development of the Israeli national identity. Thus, in face of the galloping demography the slogan of “a Jewish and democratic state” came into being, with the emphasis on Jewish. Thus, in place of the national definition the communal-religious definition rose to the surface and in full force.

Since the two communities are intertwined with each other for better or for worse, everything that happens in one of the communities immediately has implications for the other. And when Jewishness superseded Israeliness as a major definer of the Israeli communities, on the other side Islamism arose as a major definer of the Palestinian communities.

Both of the “national” identities – Israeli and Palestinian – are still embryonic and developing and are in need of nurturing. Therefore, in order to attain the utopian bi-national vision it is necessary first to bring the two “nations” back to history for the national embryo to develop in a natural way.

In this history it has to be remembered that Israeli nationalism is an integral part of the definition of Palestinian nationalism and Palestinian nationalism is a very important element in the definition of Israeliness. The one nationalism defines the existence of the other, and in the absence of the existence of one of them, the existence of the other as a crystallized national identity is cancelled.

Before we arrive at the fulfillment of Isaiah’s utopian vision, even in a small way, it is necessary first of all for the wolf and the lamb to live each of them under his own respective vine and respective national anthem. If not, the handwriting is on the wall: Either a South African future or a Balkan future awaits both of them and their descendents.
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Published in Hebrew: Opinions-Haaretz, June 27, 2012




No Grass in the Arab world


The murderous Ba’ath regime, which pretended to be the standard bearer of Arab nationalism, is the bloody testimony to the failure of that nationalism.


Salman Masalha || 
No Grass in the Arab world

When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came into power in Iran, the well-known Syrian poet Adonis hastened to publish a paean of praise of the Islamic Revolution. Here is what he wrote: “How shall tell Iran of my love /When my words are inadequate to express my sighs?/ How shall I sing to the city of Qom so it will become a firestorm over the Gulf? / The Iranian people is writing to the West / Here is your collapsing face, O West, / O West, here is your dying face.”

For more than a year now Syrian President Bashar Assad has been sending out his army and sowing destruction and reaping death in the cities of Syria. Every day we read about yet another massacre here and more slaughter there. Assad keeps asserting that these things never happened and blames terrorist gangs for the crimes. Apparently he knows whereof he speaks. The crimes are indeed being committed by terrorist gangs – the Shabbiha, the tribal Ba’ath regime’s murderous “combat support” gangs of thugs.

The murderous Ba’ath regime, which pretended to be the standard bearer of Arab nationalism, is the bloody testimony to the failure of that nationalism. This fraud is evident for all to see in the horrors being perpetrated daily throughout Syria. The world, including the part of it called “the Arab word,” continues to sit and do nothing. And the Arab world is waiting for foreign, non-Arab, countries to come and help “our Arab brothers” who are being slaughtered by Arabs.

Ironically, the Syrian poet who wished for the death of the West found nowhere but Paris, in that very same West, to live as a free person. Not too long ago a media storm raged over a poem concerning Iran published by German writer Gunter Grass. The poem, of course, awakened many sleeping dogs. However, as weighed against the Syrian poet it would seem that the balance in fact tips in favor of Grass.

Years ago, before the “Arab spring,” a delegation of writers traveled to Yemen to participate in a conference called “An Arab-German Cultural Dialogue,” with the participation of Grass, the late Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis and others.

The Yemeni president invited the participants to his palace. After greeting the writers in “poor Arabic,” as one of those present at the meeting subsequently related, he announced he was going to award the Yemeni medal of honor to Grass. Grass, however, surprised the president by standing up and declaring he would not be able to accept the award as long as the president did not release a young Yemeni writer who had been arrested for expressing his opinion.

The “Arab” president was in fact very embarrassed, as he was not accustomed to statements like that at such events. However, the consternation should in fact have been the lot of all the Arab writers because by this act the German writer revealed the group of intellectuals in all its worthlessness. Once again it was “the foreigners” who had the courage to come out in defense of their Arab “brothers’” freedom of speech.

Adonis, of course, continues to enjoy the pleasures of Western freedom in the City of Lights. However, his freedom is fraudulent, since he has never internalized the values of freedom. On the contrary, Adonis remains imprisoned in the tribal world from which he comes. We learn this from his thunderous silence about what is happening in the land of his birth, Syria. Again and again he squirms and does not gather the courage to come out against the murderous regime in his country. In an interview he granted recently Adonis went so far as to try to defend the butcher of Damascus. He asserted that France is betraying the values of the French Revolution by supporting the reactionary forces in the Arab world – as though the butcher in Damascus were the paragon of liberty, equality and fraternity.

However, we need only remember that Adonis belongs to Assad’s Alawite tribe in order to understand the root of the evil in the Arab world. The poet’s squirms and evasions in light of the horrors in Syria exemplify his betrayal of the values he pretends to represent. Compared to Grass, Adonis and his ilk are part of the Arabs’ problem and not part of its solution.
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Published in Hebrew: Haaretz, June 13, 2012
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Nakba not yet lost


The Nakba is alive for both Jews and Arabs:


Salman Masalha || Nakba not yet lost

Let's set aside for a moment the discourse about human rights and the debate about natural rights, because no salvation will come from them. Moreover, they will never lead to a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the contrary, they pour oil on the flames and encourage people to continue wallowing in the mud. In the never-ending fire, the growing occupation with the issue of the Nakba ("catastrophe," the Palestinians' term for what happened to them when Israel was founded in 1948 ) proves more than anything that it is a living event, among both the Arabs and the Jews. This country's emotion-laden past is a dangerous swamp. Those who choose to go back to the past to remain there find themselves up to the neck in the mud of bygone years.

It must be stated openly: All the disasters connected with this country are shared by the Jews and the Arabs. They are shared because they make all of us lose sleep over them and have an influence on the way of life of all the people, regardless of religion, race or sex.

It is worthwhile to understand the root of the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy. Because the disaster of this land, or, to be more exact, of those who inhabit it, Jews as well as Arabs, stems from the wide abyss between the two opposing concepts of the charged term "homeland."

The Jewish Zionist conceives of the entire land as his homeland in which he can move from place to place, settle down and live. On the other hand, the Palestinian thinks of the specific village, the specific tree and well that no longer exist. In other words, the Jewish Zionist is not attached to a certain private plot of land while the Arab is too attached to a certain restricted piece of land.

To illustrate the difference between these two conceptions of homeland, let's look at Hebrew and Arabic poetry. The poet Aharon Shabtai, for example, expresses his familiarity with the homeland in every grain of sand from Dan to until Eilat: "In every grain, from Dan until Eilat, the homeland stretches/ and I cannot be found in any place except in the homeland/ If someone asks me: 'Where are you?' I shall reply: 'In the homeland'/ and let's assume he takes a sledgehammer and hits me on the head/ and some Tom, Dick or Harry comes and asks:/ 'Where is that stupid man you killed?'/ the response will necessarily be: 'Even now he is in his homeland'/ because Aharon, because Aharon, because Aharon is only in the homeland." (From "Artzenu [Our Land] - Poems, 1987-2002." ) Contrary to this broad concept, there exists the Palestinians' limited concept. The most outstanding expression of it is given by Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian national poet: "I am from there and I have memories/ I have a mother/ And a house with lots of windows/ I learned all the words and I pulled them apart to put together one word/ it is homeland." However Darwish's "homeland" is not a political homeland, it is not Gaza or Ramallah - as he said once, "Neither Dan nor Eilat," but a very small and limited place: "I love to go/ to a village that did not hang my last night on its cypresses." Darwish's homeland is merely a small village in Galilee: "I shall throw a great number of roses before I arrive at one rose in Galilee." This is how the national poet reveals the substance of the homeland in Palestinian consciousness.

When he returned to Ramallah in the wake of the Oslo Accords, Darwish declared in a May 1996 interview with The New York Times that he wants to ask for Israeli citizenship. And he added: "I shall accept any document that will give me the right to be there." That is how the Palestinian "national" poet sums up his yearning and the substance of the homeland. The two opposing concepts of the term "homeland" are the root of the tragedy. On the one hand, the Jewish Zionist concept, which is a broad approach that spreads over the face of the land, an explosion which is growing and is expansive. On the other hand, the Arab Palestinian way of thinking, which is restricted and introverted, and which collapses backward into a black hole.
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Published:Opinions-Haaretz, May 31, 2012

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For Jews only

Israel's new cabinet is driven by Jewish messianic fervor...

Salman Masalha || For Jews only

Our lawmakers had a sleepless night last week, although it was much ado about nothing. There is nothing new under the Israeli political sun. Ehud Barak may have feared losing his commanding position. Maybe Shas' chief feared the lion breathing down his neck, and Kadima's leader might have worried about Yair Lapid nipping at his heels. The prime minister may have been worried, too, about any change in the status quo.

I must admit, I don't understand what the pundits are complaining about. We simply went to sleep with elections in the air and woke up with a severe national-unity hangover. The night's "stinking maneuver," which supposedly surprised everyone, was no more than one small chord in a basic melody on which the pundits base their musical world. The people who for years ensured that the public was blasted by the mendacious melody called the Jewish democratic state shouldn't be surprised to wake up one morning with a Jewish undemocratic government.

From the moment the pundits followed in the footsteps of the politicians, both large and small, they carried this noxious melody everywhere. They were part of legitimizing the illegitimate in Israeli politics. Well, the new national unity government is the bitter result of that slogan that is rooted so deeply in Israeli society.

Let's remember that Shaul Mofaz was elected to head Kadima in part due to crates of votes from Arab clans; that has been the custom in these parts from time immemorial. But he didn't remember the favor his Arab voters did for him. When all the votes from the primary were counted, he discounted them. He did this because he never forgot "what it is to be Jewish," to borrow a phrase from another Jewish man Mofaz has joined in the coalition.

The sense of disgust from the conduct of politicians and small-time wheeler-dealers, regardless of religion, race or gender, isn't easy to bear. Whoever staged this behind-the-scenes maneuver and stopped the election from happening poses the real danger to Israeli democracy.

Some called this maneuver political sleight of hand from the school of the magician Benjamin Netanyahu. But Netanyahu's flip-flop isn't a reflection of strength. He had neither Iran nor the Tal Law in the front of his mind. The last straw came from an unexpected place: the High Court of Justice's ruling requiring the evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood in the Beit El settlement. If Netanyahu hadn't called off the elections, that ruling would have put him on a collision course with the rule of law and a vociferous opposition.

The Jewish messianic understanding of the "Land of Israel" is what dictated the move. Now Netanyahu will surely find a way around the High Court with general Jewish support.

This isn't a national unity government. It's a mono-national government applying the slogan "Jewish democratic." This is the bitter truth, if we recall Labor Party chief Shelly Yacimovich's statement that she doesn't rule out joining the Netanyahu government after the next elections. Arab MKs have their own task - that of the fig leaf that covers the Jewish democratic nakedness.

So when Netanyahu marches securely in this Lilliputian country, when almost all the Jewish MKs bow to him while the pundits ride along on their commentaries, who needs elections and opinion polls? The game is fixed. Fixed for Jews only.
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Published: Opinions_Haaretz, May 17, 2012

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The reluctant philanthropists


Horsemen of the handout:

Today the halukkah comes from the working public. This public - both Jews and Arabs - pays taxes and bears the burden, and in recent years it has taken the place of the 'new philanthropist.'

Salman Masalha || The reluctant philanthropists

In the middle of the eighth century, the Muslim caliph, Hisham Ibn Abd al-Malik, sent a special emissary to the king of Turkistan. The king asked his translator to clarify what the emissary wanted. The emissary explained the caliph's request to the king, saying that he wished for him and his subjects to adopt the Muslim faith. "And what is this Islam?" the king asked him. The emissary expounded on the commandments and the prayers, and explained what was permitted and what was prohibited by Islam.

Ten days later, the king returned accompanied by ten flag bearers and asked the emissary to join him. "We rode a full night until we reached a hill," the emissary related, "and when the sun came up, the king ordered every flag bearer to wave his flag. Whenever a flag bearer waved his banner, 10,000 armed cavalry would arrive in the valley below and their commander would approach the king and salute him. The ceremony continued in this manner until 100,000 cavalry had gathered in the valley." We shall return later to the king's response to the caliph's emissary. It is not important whether events like that really took place. The story is merely an allegory for what has been bothering the public in Israel these past few years. From time to time, the social tension between the ultra-Orthodox and secular people comes to the fore. For example, when it was proposed to split Beit Shemesh into two separate entities, Interior Minister Eli Yishai immediately began protesting: "The Haredi town will be without income, without taxes and without industry," he declared in an interview with an ultra-Orthodox radio station. "It is not right to do that."

Tzuriel Krispel, mayor of the predominantly Haredi town of Elad, also explained the danger of having a separate entity for the ultra-Orthodox. In a Haredi town, he said, most of the residents get reductions in their property tax, and a town cannot exist in that fashion. Therefore it was preferable that the ultra-Orthodox live with secular people.

Living at the expense of philanthropists is not a new custom in this region. Once upon a time, it was known as halukkah [distribution of charity]. The people of Jerusalem, for example, lived that way - not only now, but from a long way back. This is what was written about them in 1887: "The halukkah is almost a partner to all the people of Jerusalem ... A Jerusalemite views the halukkah as a national fund that must not be revoked from him, as a secure inheritance from his forefathers, and as a right that must not be doubted. It has never occurred to any one of them to do without it ... Most of them see in the halukkah a basic means of existence." That is how Dr. Chaim Hissin described the charity culture, in his diary.

Hissin added: "It distracted the masses from the struggle for existence of every individual, [who would otherwise] have to earn a living with his own capabilities and look for his bread honestly." Moreover, Dr. Hissin summed up what he had observed as the nature of the Jerusalemite: "It is not sufficient that he does not give, but he also receives and his sense of honesty remains completely unperturbed." (from "The Diary of a Bilu Member," 1925." )

Today the halukkah comes from the working public. This public - both Jews and Arabs - pays taxes and bears the burden, and in recent years it has taken the place of the "new philanthropist." A large percentage of a constantly-growing population remains idle and eats at the table of those who work in Israel.

Let's go back to the story of the king of Turkistan and the caliph's emissary. When the tens of thousands of horsemen were lined up in the valley before him, the king turned to the translator and said: "Tell the emissary to explain to his master that among all of these men, there is not even one healer, one shoemaker or one tailor. If they take on the Islamic faith and adhere to the commandments of the religion, where will they get food?"

And in that context, it is worth mentioning to all of those who insist on adhering to the halukkah: "If there is no flour, there is no Torah." And to paraphrase the words of the king of Turkistan - if they "become Muslims," what will they eat?

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Published: Opinions-Haaretz, May 6, 2012

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Welcome, racists

Inaction over Syria reveals anti-Arab racism in the West:
Rather than the fly-in serving as a 'Welcome to Palestine,' as the organizers called the protest campaign, it was aimed at expressing solidarity with Israel and stressing the extent to which Israel belongs to the activists' cultural family.
Salman Masalha || Welcome, racists

Israel responded to the weekend fly-in by the so-called "pro-Palestinian" activists with hysteria bordering on stupidity, at best - because, even if it sounds strange, these activists are in no way pro-Palestinian or pro-Arab. Rather than the fly-in serving as a "Welcome to Palestine," as the organizers called the protest campaign, it was aimed at expressing solidarity with Israel and stressing the extent to which Israel belongs to the activists' cultural family.

It is possible that some of these activists are good, naive people who wish to mend the world. It is also possible that some of them came with the intention of blackening Israel's already blackened face. And even when the world is busy with more urgent matters, it is proper to remember the sad plight of the Palestinians and not to let the prolonged Israeli occupation be forgotten. This is indeed an important matter.

However, it is clear that the civilized and politically correct world of these activists is infested with racism - not against the Jews but against Arab and Muslim culture, because the protest shows that the organizers' premise completely contravenes any identification with Arab suffering.

There is a grain of truth in the cynical letter the Israeli government prepared for any of the activists who, despite all of Israel's attempts to keep them out, managed to land here anyway. In that letter, the government says the protesters could have focused on the actions of Syria, Iran or Hamas, but chose Israel instead. Indeed, were these activists to have waved the banner of human rights in general and Arab human rights in particular, they would certainly have found somewhere to express their "moral" commitment in other places in this region. There is no dearth of such objectives in recent times.

For a year or more now, Syrian President Bashar Assad has been massacring Syrian Arab citizens who are demanding freedom. The rest of the world, which for some reason is considered cultured, has been observing this atrocity with its arms folded and has done nothing to stop the killings and destruction in Syrian cities. This is the civilized world to which these activists belong, and they appear to be acting according to the moral codes of this world of theirs.

Those who divide the world, and the human beings who populate it, into two categories - some to whom universal moral rules apply and some to whom they don't - cannot be called moral. Universal morals must be applied to everyone. The morality of anyone who excludes any group of people who are not required to act according to moral codes is in itself dubious.

Is it a kind of multicultural racism that prevents these and other activists from displaying solidarity with the Syrian Arab citizens who are being slaughtered? Do Syria and other countries like it in the Arab world belong, in the eyes of these activists and others like them, to a different cultural world, one where universal moral codes do not apply?

Human rights activists of this kind, who cannot find the time to hold demonstrations of solidarity with Arab citizens who are being massacred on a daily basis in Arab countries, in effect reveal anti-Arab racism through their inaction. For them, the Arab and Muslim world belongs to a different cultural world that behaves according to different moral codes, which are not part of "our" lofty Western moral codes.


To the way of thinking of these activists, Israel is something else. Israel is part of their family. That is why they come to demonstrate here, rather than in Syria or other Arab countries. This fly-in, and similar demonstrations, shoul
d be renamed "Welcome to Israel."
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Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 17 April 2012

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Patriot games

Letting Israeli expats vote is a political manipulation:

The Israeli legal system desperately needs an important new law, and this electoral law must include a very 'patriotic' clause - that any Israeli who has a foreign passport will not have the right to vote here.

Salman Masalha || Patriot games

The Knesset elections are drawing near and associated issues are in the air. It is not only primaries, opinion polls and new parties that have sprung up like mushrooms after the summer social protests. Legislation is also being promoted about who has the right to vote.

A controversial old initiative has recently been resurrected. Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser is taking steps to promote a law that would extend the right to vote to Israelis living abroad. The number of such citizens is estimated at approximately 700,000. Or, in electoral terms, two more seats for Knesset members of the ilk of Zeev Elkin and Yariv Levin (both Likud MKs).

As was to be expected, the initiative has aroused opposition because it raises suspicions that the initiators wish to garner votes from abroad so as to prevent any possibility of government change.

A group of intellectuals have gotten together and called to end efforts to promote it. They point out that the proposed legislation would help parties get votes from abroad on the basis of the Law of Return, which grants immediate citizenship to Jews. "The [right to vote] from abroad will encourage taking on citizenship in order to vote," they write, adding, "Organized groups of Jews from abroad will decide about the lives of Israelis."

The political manipulation in this proposal is very obvious, and that is why it is being opposed by what is known here as "the left." As a general rule, any talk in Israel about "left" and "right" is a delusion, since there is neither a Jewish, nor an Arab, left-wing here. On the Jewish side, it is difficult to discern any difference between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud ), Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) or Shelly Yachimovich (Labor ) with regard to anything relating to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the Arab side, too, it is difficult to spot any difference between Knesset members Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash), Jamal Zahalka (Balad) and Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al).

It is possible that, among the Zionist parties, there are people who oppose granting citizenship in order to vote, but all of them continue to support citizenship in order to expropriate - especially to expropriate lands belonging to those who are known in the Zionist lexicon as "non-Jews." Any disparity between the many Zionist parties is therefore reduced to the distinction between the handful of people on the right who are somewhat liberal with regard to trifling civic matters, and the vast majority of nationalist and fundamentalist right-wingers. It must be admitted that a true leftist - from the political, social and cultural points of view - exists only in theory. No real left-wing can exist against the backdrop of the prolonged nationalist conflict in this land.

One needs an especially fertile imagination in order to fight against the delusions of the rightists. But if patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, the scoundrels should be supplied with pure patriotism and their spiritual world undermined.

The Israeli legal system desperately needs an important new law, and this electoral law must include a very 'patriotic' clause - that any Israeli who has a foreign passport will not have the right to vote here. Moreover, anyone with a foreign passport will not be allowed to vote, or be elected, in municipal elections, and will not be allowed to serve in any position in the civil service.

By promoting a law of this kind, it will be possible to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, people will be elected whose sole loyalty is to the citizens who live here. And on the other, all those dubious and contemptible "patriots" will be exposed for all to see.
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Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 9 April 2012


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Fata Morgana


Salman Masalha
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Fata Morgana

Vanishes into mist
Roams like rain that pours
He’s holding in his fist
A book from years of yore
Appears, then is no more
Like dew in the day’s first blush
In stories shared aloud
His soul behind a door
Half his heart is melted cloud
The other half is crushed

Only vanishing exists
O, what kind of news is this!
Here a day, his hair turned gray
Though he’s bent, he still persists
Like a mirage he fades away
Into his fevered mind
For return he longs
In some other songs

In love
In youth
In dust
In stone

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English: Vivian Eden
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For Arabic, press here

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Between the devil and Iran


Israel's occupation fills an ancient Mideast need for evil:
Among other things, the Arab-Israeli conflict serves as a tool of manipulation for the Iranians in their drive to restore Persian glory.


Salman Masalha || Between the devil and Iran

First of all, when it comes to Iran, it should be acknowledged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right. Since the ayatollahs took power Iranian leaders haven't stopped talking about Israel, referring to it as "the Little Satan" at every opportunity. And when these leaders, whose spiritual world is constrained by such messianic shackles, use such a loaded expression it's clear they must take active steps to deal with such a Satan, even a little one. But in saying that Netanyahu is correct, that's as far as it goes.

As the opium of the ignorant masses, religion has always been used by manipulative politicians to achieve their profane goals. The term "evil" served U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1982 when he labeled the Soviet Union "the evil empire." The term "crusade" served another American president, as the proper Christian response to the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001.

Every ideology that claims to possess absolute truth and absolute goodness needs an opposing, weighty, ideological enemy to flourish. Islam developed in the Arabian Desert on Jewish-Christian foundations and is totally immersed in theological polemic vis-a-vis the Jews and Christians. In essence, Islam combines Jewish monotheism and Christian missionary ideology. If it were deprived of its relationship with Jews and Christians nothing would be left of it. Contemporary Islamic discourse finds an equivalent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, like the primordial Muslim confrontation with "Ahl al-Kitab," the People of the Book, which from a Muslim perspective includes both Jews and Muslims.

When it comes to Iran, it is no coincidence that Shi'ite doctrine took hold among the Persian peoples. From the outset, Shi'ism was an internal Islamic arena serving to promote Iranian national goals vis-a-vis the Arabs who conquered Persia and forced its inhabitants to convert. It is therefore no wonder that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders make repeated reference to the Iranian nation in their speeches.

Testimony to the deep historical animosity between the Persians and Arabs can be found in Shi'ite literature relating to the end of the world. One traditional tract relating to the appearance of the Mahdi, the Shi'ite messiah, states: "Woe unto the Arab dictators for the punishment that is approaching." And in his reappearance, he will actually start taking care of the Arabs: "When the Mahdi appears, there will be nothing but the sword between him and the Arabs and the Qureish [Mohammed's tribe]," as another traditional account states.

Sunni-Arab Islam fights back and accuses the Shi'ites of basing their doctrine on Jewish collusion. It relies, of course, on Shi'ite literature itself, which also speaks of the Mahdi "imposing the justice of David and Solomon." And, if that's not enough, when he reappears "he will issue the call to prayer by explicitly invoking the name of Allah in Hebrew," as another traditional saying has it.

If that's the case, things in this part of the world are not so simple, to say the least. As the only son in the region of the American "Great Satan," and its beloved ally, Israel is playing in the big league and continues to kick the Palestinians. The prolonged Israeli occupation fulfills the need for the existence of evil, of Satan and the prospect of divine justice. It is the fuel that turns the wheels of manipulation of the seminaries of the monotheistic religions' high priests.

Among other things, the conflict serves as a tool of manipulation for the Iranians in their drive to restore Persian glory. Against the backdrop of ancient Muslim animosity toward the Jews, and through use of the Palestinian pretext, they gain a following among the Arab masses. Christian and Jewish messianists attempt to force the issue and bring on the arrival of their messiahs. Israel is therefore situated at the vortex of the major confrontation connecting the pieces of this monotheistic constellation of forces.
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Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 28 March 2012

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For Hebrew, press here
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The decay in the Arab world


Assad is a symbol of The decay in the Arab world:


With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.


Salman Masalha || The decay in the Arab world

Bashar Assad, who is continuing to massacre Syrian civilians, is not only the president of an important country in that region called "the Arab world," but above all, he is the most prominent symbol of the rot in that Arab world. It should be recalled that the incumbent President Assad received the post of Syrian president on a silver platter drenched in the bloodletting committed by his father, President Hafez Assad.

Assad Senior's junta, which took power in a military coup, drew the blood of thousands of Syrians as well as Lebanese and Palestinians living in Lebanon. And behold that knight in shining armor, this ophthalmologist and young heir, instead of bringing relief and enlightenment to his people, has for many months been sending his army and gangs of shabiha thugs to sow destruction and death. In every direction, he has been drawing more and more of the Syrian people's blood.

This Western-educated president has spurned whatever he witnessed or learned or experienced in the West. He has returned to his tribal roots to perpetuate the bloody legacy of his forefathers. And the Arab world has been looking at this spectacle and hasn't lifted a finger to stop the killing of Arabs. It is waiting for salvation to arrive from the West, which is nothing new. The Arab world has always been like that, inasmuch as the entire Arab world is a stinking corpse.

Just over a week ago on this page, Gideon Levy lamented Israel's apathy in the face of the horrors taking place on the other side of the border ("The monster next door," Feb. 26 ). "The minimum should be a resounding call to our absolute ally, the United States, and to Israel's other friends - do something, right now," Levy implored in his column. "Forget for a moment the Iranian threat and the Israeli occupation. Join in a rescue of which none is more important."

There is something even more serious than Israel's silence, and it's actually those who are not holding their tongues. There are those in our midst, our own Arab flesh and blood, who have long had no conscience. They sit there serenely in the Knesset, both those holding respected government positions and those on the upholstered opposition benches, and decry the injustices of Israeli governance, rightly of course, in every possible forum. Nonetheless they have no shame in holding forth or rushing to appear on Syrian television in service of the interests of the butcher of Damascus.

Those poor souls, irrespective of their political affiliations, have lost any moral right to speak about freedom and human rights as a result of their actions. No one will buy their line anymore, not their hypocrisy and not the bill of goods emanating from their mouths. This Assad, who has become the darling of Arab public figures and Knesset members, is the most prominent testimony there is to the resounding failure of Arab nationalism.

The pretentious Ba'ath Party slogan "one Arab nation with an eternal mission" is crumbling within sight of everyone. In fact with such a deadly mission, there is no need for external foes. The Arab world is worn out, faltering and above all exploited and confused. The regimes that were called "national" never learned how to build a single nation-state worthy of its name, and maybe never intended to.

The greatest treason against the Arab peoples is the treason of the intellectuals, who never summoned the courage to propose another way. They always worked in the service of the repressive and corrupt regimes, and consigned opposition to corrupt and rotten regimes to the Islamists. That is the deep-seated explanation for the recent rise in these countries of what has been dubbed the Arab Spring.

As long as the younger generation of Arabs doesn't manage to establish and propose a different, sane civil alternative, the choice will remain between fraudulent murderous Arab nationalism, such as the Syrian Ba'ath movement headed by Assad, and Islamic forces who take the name of Allah in vain, people with malignant ideologies and beyond cure. With great sadness, it can be said that in the absence of a sane civil alternative, the Arab world will continue along this path.
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Published: Opinions-Haaretz, 6 March 2012

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For Hebrew, press here

Ebrahim Nabavi || A Contract Between the Ayatollahs and God

Ebrahim Nabavi :
A Contract Between the Ayatollahs and God


It was recently reported in the Iranian press that Jaafar Shajooni, a mid-level but influential cleric who heads the prayer leaders association had said that God had signed a contract with the ayatollahs, entrusted much to them. Here is my take on the text of such an agreement.


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Contract Between God and the Ayatollahs

This contract is signed between God and the ayatollahs to cover the affairs of people who live on planet Earth and in Iran, who together will be generally referred to as “people” in this agreement.

Article One. For God to establish relations with people (residents of Iran and the world), he is required to pursue such activities through the ayatollahs. Reciprocally, the ayatollahs undertake to tell people whatever they wish on behalf of God.

Article Two. God must announce his decisions regarding people only through the ayatollahs. The ayatollahs undertake to announce, or not announce, any parts of such notices as they please, or as they dislike, or to retract whatever they may have said in the past at any time they wish, or to unexpectedly announce that they had forgotten to declare something or anything in the past, while God has no right to interfere in the ayatollahs’ relations with the people.

Article Three. Ayatollahs have the right to impose taxes on people as the fees for their services, or wages, and pronounce these as the rights of God. God gives the ayatollahs the authority to spend, or not to spend and expend this income for people in any way they like. God has no right to question them on this.

Article Four. God undertakes to consider all the instructions prescribed in the Quran (the original agreement), but nobody except the ayatollahs have the right to announce the views of God to the people. God himself must ask the ayatollahs (specifically the public relations office of ayatollah Khamenei) about the interpretations of the Quran. God is responsible to note the names of all those people who personally, as a group, through non-Shiite groups, as dervishes, or other corrupt groupings interpret God’s views from the Quran, prevent them from entering Heaven and to cooperate with (Iran’s) judiciary to prosecute them.

Article Five. God is responsible to act according to the view of the ayatollahs on the political issues of Iran, international affairs, the US and Africa. Russia and China are exempt from this agreement until further notice. In return, the ayatollahs commit to keep their media to themselves and to prevent the publication or the broadcasting of anything against God and his associates which the ayatollahs consider to be incorrect.

Article Six. Allowing people to enter or exit Heaven or Hell is God’s prerogative. But in view of the expert views of the ayatollahs, he is obliged to respect the views of the ayatollahs in letting someone into or out of Heaven and Hell.

Article Seven. In view of those actions that are attributed to Satan and which are carried out through groups such as Satan Lovers, artists, intellectuals, women, the youth, and Westerners, God is committed to inflict pain on these individuals after they die and to refrain from engaging in negotiations with them, listen to their grievances, and establish any personal relations with them for as long as they live. If he decides to provide any assistance to them, he must first coordinate this with the appropriate authorities.

Note on Article Eight. Generally God does not have the right to directly act to fulfill the prayers and wishes of people and must do so only through cooperation with the appropriate authorities.

Article Eight. Since some former ayatollahs have been deceived by Satans or those associated with him, and have attempted to establish personal relations with God under the guise of being religious intellectuals, priests, Brahmans, Kohanims, or bishops, and who may act outside this agreement, God is thus responsible to pursue all of his merciful acts, graceful acts, divine acts, or any financial assistance and contributions, or even sexual services only through the ayatollahs. Coordination with the ayatollahs on these and other acts shall take place through the supreme leader (specifically the public relations office of ayatollah Khamenei).

Article Nine. The dispatch of any prophets, imams, representatives, etc by God must be announced to the ayatollahs at least two years prior to the act and coordinations must be made with the ayatollahs regarding the purpose and goals of such dispatches with the ayatollahs, and any redundancy regarding this should be avoided.

Article Ten. This contract is effective and valid for seven thousand Earth years from the time it is mutually signed. It shall be signed in two original copies and its scope shall include all other planets, moons and galaxies in addition to Earth.

Signatures:

God: Allah

Jaafar Shajooni: Ayatollah Khamenei’s representative for agreements

February 28, 2012
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Source: Rooz