Chris Whitman is a masters student at Hebrew University in occupied East Jerusalem. In October Israel announced that it was going to create an index to measure Palestinian incitement that would tally actions such as naming streets after martyrs/terrorists. The following is a response from Whitman discussing the absurdity and hypocrisy of such claims.
For now almost a year I have been living Palestine and attending a MA program at Hebrew University in Modern Arab Politics/Economics. A frequent question I hear when people find out my politics is “why do you go to Hebrew University in Israel with your political views?” My common response to this revolves around “knowing your enemies,” (a poor way to mean those who disagree with you) “what good is talking to people you only agree with,” and “they offered me the most amount of money after Beirut turned me down” (for reasons I will not get into now.) All this said I must admit there is a more fundamental and important reason why I took it upon myself to go to the beacon of Zionist education and my article today hopefully articulates the point. One of the main issues in the Palestinian (and Arab)-Israeli conflict is that of hypocrisy but is rarely addressed… In this conflict we are ripe with hypocritical assessments which range from advancing the needs of one community over the other to justifying atrocities on the other. Today’s case example is a perfect example of hypocrisy to me at least and I feel that it is rarely addressed adequately if at all. This issue happens to be that of historical symbols or national heroes in society and their usage in the present sense. Israel whenever it seems to be beginning “peaceful dialogue” in addition to requiring many concessions or conditions seems to try and demonize the other as “not ready for peace.” This comes in various forms but with the death of Arafat in November 2004 the usual “terrorists cannot be peacemakers” label just does not seem to fit as well to Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad as it did to Arafat. The issue that has arisen the past months and comes up every now and again starts like this “how can we make peace with a peace who do not put Israel on their map,” or “they have street names dedicated to terrorists, what kind of dialogue can we have with these people?” This is very interesting to me personally since I go to Hebrew University and see maps and street signs all the time that fit this same criteria but here is the kick, they are not Palestinian but Israeli. Here I will only use examples from Mount Scopus which is where the University is located as a small example of a larger hypocritical problem.
[tweetmeme] There are 4 many roads on the Mount Scopus environs and all have a very interesting background history to them. The first is “Lehi Street,” which is named after the Jewish underground terrorist organization (as designated by the British) that was responsible for car bombings, assassinations, lynching of enemies, massacres (during 1948 and before) illegal military hardware/immigrant funneling, etc. Although the mainstream Zionist movement (meaning MAPAI and MAPAM) used them for their convenience there was still a genuine fear and hostility towards this group, along with the Irgun (which will be discussed later).
The second street name that is of interest here is the of Lohame Hagetaot which stands for “Underground Fighters.” This is a general umbrella for the Lehi, the Irgun, and other terrorist organizations that were present during the British Mandate. Another street name is dedicated to the Haganah which was the predecessor to the IDF during the Mandate as well. Now you may be asking “how can an army be considered a terrorist organization?” I feel this is quite simple but will stick to a different argument. In 1947-1950 the Haganah either initiated or let happen the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from over 400 villages in what became the State of Israel.
The last street sign is of a less known person in Zionist history but a significant one none the less and is entitled “Aharon Katsir Street.” Aharon Katsir was a Zionist scientist who was tapped by Ben Gurion in 1947 to develop chemical weaponry for anticipation of the war with Palestinians and surrounding Arab armies. He developed a chemical that did not get accomplished in time for usage that would blind people for 24 hours and possibly for life, the full effects were not known at the time. Ilan Pappe was the first person to really analyze the interaction between Katsir and Ben Gurion and has become sort of a controversy to some such as Benny Morris, for elaboration see here.
Now in addition to street signs in the Mount Scopus area there are interesting signs for names of places or information about Mount Scopus. The first is the renaming of part of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Palestinian East Jerusalem (where Palestinian families have been forced out for the past year by the Israeli courts to give houses to Jews whose families lived there before 1948, yet not one Palestinian has had the similar right) done in the 1990s. The area is where government buildings and a massive police station are located on occupied Palestinian land and the area is called Begin Governmental Square. Now you may be asking yourself “Begin was a Prime Minister what is wrong with that?” Well Begin was also in charge of the Irgun mentioned earlier, had strong ties with the Stern Gang, and was in charge of the car bombing of the King David Hotel which killed 100 British, Palestinians, and Jews in an act of terrorism. He also was in charge of the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948 which killed upwards of 250 Palestinians in a brutal manner and was authorized by the Haganah beforehand even though the village was of no significance and had told of its want for neutrality. After invading and killing the couple soldiers who were meant to protect the villagers, they then sorted out the villagers and brought the men to West Jerusalem where they paraded them around on trucks with signs. While this was going on Irgun fighters raped a number of women and young girls and subsequently killed them. After the men were brought back they shot them as well and then demolished the village. Begin wrote about the events from his side with no remorse and no sympathy for what he had done but he still deserved to be Prime Minister and get many things in Israel named after him.
The next sign I wish to discuss is one on Mount Scopus at the University which is very interesting to me and anyone else who has ever been to Hebrew University and gone through orientation. During orientation they gather all the new students into an auditorium and try to scare them to death about Palestinians and the risks of Palestinians. I will not go into too much detail unless there is a great demand but one thing of interest during the thing was peaked in me when the director talked about the history of the University. He talked about the founding and maintenance until 1948 when Jordan conquered and administered over East Jerusalem and there was an agreement between Jordan and Israel about access to the University. In a nutshell Jordan allowed students/faculty/staff to go to and from the University everyday as long as no weapons or military personal were stationed at the university (This of course was omitted). The director negated this and talked about the 19 year siege and occupation of peaceful Mount Scopus. He referenced on 3 times “the peaceful educational atmosphere that was apparent on campus” until the occupation by Jordan. He said “there was no reason for this, it just shows the barbarism of the other side to attack, occupy, and cut off a University that had no military function or justification.” He also followed up by trying to make a comparison between Masada and the University during 1948 about how they were “strangled, cut off, occupied and had to have their goods shipments controlled by Jordan” (sounds like a current situation somewhere around here, just cannot think of it) So after this beautiful and eloquent speech I was walking back to the dorms when I saw this sign that described what the function was of Mount Scopus for the Haganah.
The last topic in general I wish to discuss is that of maps and their use for propaganda. Anyone who goes through the West Bank or even the greater Arab world notices Israel lacking from the map and instead Palestine is there in its entirety with the Arab names of Israeli cities. This is used by Zionists and its defenders as “proof they do not recognize Jew’s rights to a state,” which is amusing in the first place but after being in the University, studying Hebrew (forcibly) and doing much reading from all sides at the University I find a familiar trend. There is a complete lack of Palestine on the maps in Israel as well and Hebrew names for Palestinian cities in the West Bank. The term West Bank is rarely used by Israelis, especially of the right-wing variety who are the majority and the biblical terms “Judea and Samaria” are used instead. No Israeli map I have ever seen, and I have seen dozens upon dozens says the West Bank or Palestine. Gaza is called “Aza,” Nablus named “Shechem,” Safed named “Tzfat,” and Al Khalil (the Palestinian name for Hebron which only shows the implant in American society of the Zionist narrative) is named “Hebron.” The apartheid wall is not on the map, nor are the border lines of 1967 which are supposed to be the future borders of a Palestinian state. Settlements are named as if they are natural. If you are lucky, and I truly mean lucky the map will have a color area for what falls under Area A in the Oslo Accords (17% of the West Bank) where the Palestinian authority has full control. Usually the color they choose is just a shade off as to not confuse indoctrinated Israelis. I do not even feel the need to discuss the Occupied Syrian Heights to further establish the point and it seems obvious now after all this anyways.
Photos by Chris Whitman, 2010