A Hundred Years Later by Uri Avnery

written by:Uri Avnery
March 22, 2014

A Hundred Years Later

THERE IS an old Chinese curse that says: “May you live in historic times!” (If there isn’t, there should be.)

This week was a historic time. The Crimea seceded from Ukraine. Russia annexed it.

A dangerous situation. No one knows how it will develop.

AFTER MY last article about the Ukrainian crisis, I was flooded with passionate e-mail messages.

Some were outraged by one or two sentences that could be construed as justifying Russian actions. How could I excuse the former KGB apparatchik, the new Hitler, the leader who was building a new Soviet empire by destroying and subjugating neighboring countries?

Others were outraged, with the same passion, by my supposed support for the fascist gangs which have come to power in Kiev, the anti-Semites in Nazi uniforms, and the American imperialists who use them for their own sinister purposes.

I am a bit bewildered by the strength of feeling on both sides. The Cold War, it seems, is not over. It just took a nap. Yesterday’s warriors are again rallying to their flags, ready to do battle.

Sorry, I can’t get passionate about this side or that. Both, it seems to me, have some justice on their side. Many of the battle cries are bogus.

THOSE WHO rage against the annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation and compare it to Hitler’s “Anschluss” of Austria may be right in some sense.

I remember the newsreels of ecstatic Austrians welcoming the soldiers of the Führer, who was, after all, an Austrian himself. There can be no doubt that most Austrians welcomed the “return to the fatherland”.

That seems to be the case now in the Crimea. For a long time the peninsula had been a part of Russia. Then, in 1954, the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, a Ukrainian himself, presented the Crimea as a gift to Ukraine. It was mostly a symbolic gesture, since both Russia and Ukraine belonged to the same Soviet state and were subject to the same oppression.

But the main point is that the people of the Crimea were not consulted. There was no referendum. The majority of the population is Russian, and undoubtedly wishes now to return to Russia. It expressed this wish in a referendum that, on the whole, seems to be quite authentic. So the annexation may be justified.

Vladimir Putin himself brought up the precedent of Kosovo, which seceded from Serbia not so long ago. This may be a bit cynical, since Russia strenuously objected to this secession at the time. All the Russian arguments then are now contradicted by Putin himself.

If we leave out cynicism, hypocrisy and great power politics for a moment, and stick to simple moral principles, then what is good for the goose is good for the gander. A sizable national minority, living in its homeland, has a right to secede from a state it does not like.

For this reason I supported the independence of Kosovo and believe that the same principle applies now to Catalonia and Scotland, Tibet and Chechnya.

There is always a way to prevent secession without using brute force: to create conditions that make the minority want to stay in the majority state. Generous economic, political and cultural policies can achieve this. But for that you need the wisdom of farsighted leaders, and that is a rare commodity everywhere.

BY THE same token, Ukrainians can be understood when they kick out a president who wants to bring them into the Russian orbit against their will. His golden bathroom appliances are beside the point.

Another question is what role the fascists play in the process. There are contradictory reports, but Israeli reporters on the scene testify to their conspicuous presence in the center of Kiev.

The problem has confronted us since the Tunisian Spring: in many of the “spring” countries the uprisings bring to the fore elements that are worse than the tyrants they want to displace. The revolutions are started by idealists who are unable to unite and set up an effective regime, and then are taken over by intolerant fanatics, who are better fighters and better organizers.

That is the secret of the survival of the abominable Bashar al-Assad. Few people want Syria to fall into the hands of a Taliban-like Islamic tyranny. That is also the fate of Egypt: the liberal democrats started the revolution but lost the democratic elections to a religious party, which was in a haste to impose its creed on the people. They were overthrown by a military dictatorship that is worse than the regime which the original revolution overthrew.

The emergence of the neo-Nazis in Kiev is worrying, even if Putin uses their presence for his own purposes. If they are supported by the West, overtly or covertly, that is disturbing.

EQUALLY WORRYING is the uncertainty about Putin’s intentions.

In many of the countries surrounding Russia there live large numbers of Russians, who went to live there in Soviet times. Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Moldova, Kazakhstan and other countries have large Russian minorities, and even majorities, who yearn to be annexed to the motherland.

No one really knows Putin. How far will he go? Can he control his ambitions? Will he be carried away by his successes and the lack of wise policies in Western capitals?

Addressing his parliament about the annexation of the Crimea, he seemed restrained, but there was no mistaking the imperial trimmings of the event. He would not be the first leader in history who overestimated his successes and underrated the power of his opponents.

And on the other side – is there enough wisdom in Washington and the other Western capitals to produce the right mixture of firmness and restraint to prevent an uncontrollable slide into war?

IN THREE months the world will “celebrate” the hundredth anniversary of the shot in Sarajevo – the shot that ignited a worldwide conflagration.

It may be helpful to recount again the chain of events that caused one of the most destructive wars in human history, a war that consumed millions upon millions of human lives and destroyed an entire way of life.

The shot that started it all was quite accidental. The assassin, a Serb nationalist, failed in his first attempt to kill a quite insignificant Austrian archduke. But after he had already given up, he came across his intended victim again, by chance, and shot him dead.

The incompetent Austrian politicians and their senile emperor saw an easy opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of their country and presented little Serbia with an ultimatum. What could they lose?

Except that Serbia was the protégé of Russia. In order to deter the Austrians, the Czar and his equally incompetent ministers and generals ordered a general mobilization of their vast army. They were quite unaware of the fact that this made war unavoidable, because…

The German Reich, which had come into being only 43 years earlier, lived in deadly fear of a “war on two fronts”. Located in the middle of Europe, squeezed between two great military powers, France and Russia, it drew up a plan to forestall this eventuality. The plan changed every year in the wake of military exercises, but in essence it was based on the premise that one enemy had to be crushed before the other enemy had time to join the battle.

The plan in place in 1914 was to crush France before the cumbersome Russian mobilization could be completed. So when the Czar announced his mobilization, the German army invaded Belgium and reached the outskirts of Paris in a few weeks. They almost succeeded in defeating France before the Russians were ready.

(25 years later, Hitler solved the same problem in a different way. He signed a sham treaty with Stalin, finished France off and then attacked Russia.)

In 1914, Great Britain, shocked by the invasion of Belgium, hastened to the aid of its French ally. Italy, Japan, and others joined the fray. So did the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine. World War I was underway.

Who wanted this terrible war? Nobody. Who took a cool-headed decision to start it? Nobody. Of course, many national and international interests were involved, but none so important as to justify such a catastrophe.

No, it was a war nobody wanted or even envisioned. The flower of European youth was destroyed by the sheer stupidity of the contemporary politicians, followed by the colossal stupidity of the generals.

And in the end, a peace treaty was concocted that made another world war practically inevitable. Only after another awful world war did the politicians come to their senses and make another fratricidal war in Western Europe unthinkable.

A hundred years after it all started, it is well to remember.

CAN ANYTHING like this happen again? Can an unintended chain of foolish acts lead to another catastrophe? Can one thing lead to another in a way that incompetent leaders are unable to stop?

I hope not. After all, during these hundred years, some lessons have been learned and absorbed.

Or not?

God Bless Putin – Written By Uri Avnery

Written by Uri Avnery
March 8, 2014

God Bless Putin

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is very good at making speeches, especially to Jews, neocons and such, who jump up and applaud wildly at everything he says, including that tomorrow the sun will rise in the west.

The question is: is he good at anything else?

HIS FATHER, an ultra-ultra-Rightist, once said about him that he is quite unfit to be prime minister, but that he could be a good foreign minister. What he meant was that Binyamin does not have the depth of understanding needed to guide the nation, but that he is good at selling any policy decided upon by a real leader.

(Reminding us of the characterization of Abba Eban by David Ben-Gurion: “He is very good at explaining, but you must tell him what to explain.”)

This week Netanyahu was summoned to Washington. He was supposed to approve John Kerry’s new “framework” agreement, which would serve as a basis for restarting the peace negotiations, which so far have come to naught.

On the eve of the event, President Barack Obama gave an interview to a Jewish journalist, blaming Netanyahu for the stalling of the “peace process” – as if there had ever been a peace process.

Netanyahu arrived with an empty bag – meaning a bag full of empty slogans. The Israeli leadership had striven mightily for peace, but could not progress at all because of the Palestinians. It is Mahmoud Abbas who is to blame, because he refuses to recognize Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.

What…hmm…about the settlements, which have been expanding during the last year at a hectic pace? Why should the Palestinians negotiate endlessly, while at the same time the Israeli government takes more and more of the land which is the substance of the negotiations? (As the classic Palestinian argument goes: “We negotiate about dividing a pizza, and in the meantime Israel is eating the pizza.”)

Obama steeled himself to confront Netanyahu, AIPAC and their congressional stooges. He was about to twist the arms of Netanyahu until he cried “uncle” – the uncle being Kerry’s “framework”, which by now has been watered down to look almost like a Zionist manifesto. Kerry is frantic for an achievement, whatever its contents and discontents.

Netanyahu, looking for an instrument to rebuff the onslaught, was ready to cry as usual “Iran! Iran! Iran!” – when something unforeseen happened.

NAPOLEON FAMOUSLY exclaimed: ”Give me generals who are lucky!” He would have loved General Bibi.

Because, on the way to confront a newly invigorated Obama, there was an explosion that shook the world:


It was like the shots that rang out in Sarajevo a hundred years ago.
The international tranquility was suddenly shattered. The possibility of a major war was in the air.

Netanyahu’s visit disappeared from the news. Obama, occupied with a historic crisis, just wanted to get rid of him as quickly as possible. Instead of the severe admonition of the Israeli leader, he got away with some hollow compliments. All the wonderful speeches Netanyahu had prepared were left unspeeched. Even his usual triumphant speech at AIPAC evoked no interest.

All because of the upheaval in Kiev.

BY NOW, innumerable articles have been written about the crisis. Historical associations abound.

Though Ukraine means “borderland”, it was often at the center of European events. One must pity Ukrainian schoolchildren. The changes in the history of their country were constant and extreme. At different times Ukraine was a European power and a poor downtrodden territory, extremely rich (“the breadbasket of Europe”) or abjectly poor, attacked by neighbors who captured their people to sell them as slaves or attacking their neighbors to enlarge their country.

The Ukraine’s relationship with Russia is even more complex. In a way, the Ukraine is the heartland of Russian culture, religion and orthography. Kiev was far more important than Moscow, before becoming the centerpiece of Muscovite imperialism.

In the Crimean War of the 1850s, Russia fought valiantly against a coalition of Great Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia, and eventually lost. The war broke out over Christian rights in Jerusalem, and included a long siege of Sevastopol. The world remembers the charge of the Light Brigade. A British woman called Florence Nightingale established the first organization to tend the wounded on the battlefield.

In my lifetime, Stalin murdered millions of Ukrainians by deliberate starvation. As a result, most Ukrainians welcomed the German Wehrmacht in 1941 as liberators. It could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but unfortunately Hitler was determined to eradicate the Ukrainian “Untermenschen”, in order to integrate the Ukraine into the German Lebensraum.

The Crimea suffered terribly. The Tatar people, who had ruled the peninsula in the past, were deported to Central Asia, then allowed to return decades later. Now they are a small minority, seemingly unsure of where their loyalties lie.

THE RELATIONSHIP between Ukraine and the Jews is no less complicated.

Some Jewish writers, like Arthur Koestler and Shlomo Sand, believe that the Khazar empire that ruled the Crimea and neighboring territory a thousand years ago, converted to Judaism, and that most Ashkenazi Jews are descended from them. This would turn us all into Ukrainians. (Many early Zionist leaders indeed came from Ukraine.)

When Ukraine was a part of the extensive Polish empire, many Polish noblemen took hold of large estates there. They employed Jews as their managers. Thus the Ukrainian peasants came to look upon the Jews as the agents of their oppressors, and anti-Semitism became part of the national culture of Ukraine.

As we learned in school, at every turn of Ukrainian history, the Jews were slaughtered. The names of most Ukrainian folk-heroes, leaders and rebels who are revered in their homeland are, in Jewish consciousness, connected with awful pogroms.

Cossack Hetman (leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who liberated Ukraine from the Polish yoke, and who is considered by Ukrainians as the father of their nation, was one of the worst mass-murderers in Jewish history. Symon Petliura, who led the Ukrainian war against the Bolsheviks after World War I, was assassinated by a Jewish avenger.

Some elderly Jewish immigrants in Israel must find it hard to decide whom to hate more, the Ukrainians or the Russians (or the Poles, for that matter.)

PEOPLE AROUND the world find it also hard to choose sides.

The usual Cold-War zealots have it easy – they either hate the Americans or the Russians, out of habit.

As for me, the more I try to study the situation, the more unsure I become. This is not a black-or-white situation.

The first sympathy goes to the Maidan rebels. (Maidan is an Arab word meaning town square. Curious how it travelled to Kiev. Probably via Istanbul.)

They want to join the West, enjoy independence and democracy. What’s wrong with that?

Nothing, except that they have dubious bedfellows. Neo-Nazis in their copycat Nazi uniforms, giving the Hitler salute and mouthing anti-Semitic slogans, are not very attractive. The encouragement they receive from Western allies, including the odious neocons, is off-putting.

On the other side, Vladimir Putin is also not very prepossessing. It’s the old Russian imperialism all over again.

The slogan used by the Russians – the need to protect Russian-speaking people in a neighboring country – sounds eerily familiar. It is an exact copy of Adolf Hitler’s claim in 1938 to protect the Sudeten Germans from the Czech monsters.

But Putin has some logic on his side. Sevastopol – the scene of heroic sieges both in the Crimean War and in World War II, is essential for his naval forces. The association with Ukraine is an important part of Russian world power aspirations.

A cold-blooded, calculating operator, of a kind now rare in the world, Putin uses the strong cards he has, but is very careful not to take too many risks. He is managing the crisis astutely, using Russia’s obvious advantages. Europe needs his oil and gas, he needs Europe’s capital and trade. Russia has a leading role in Syria and Iran. The US suddenly looks like a bystander.

I assume that in the end there will be a compromise. Russia will retain a footing in the coming Ukrainian leadership. Both sides will proclaim victory, as they should.

(By the way, for those here who believe in the “One-State Solution”: Another multicultural state seems to be breaking apart.)

WHERE WILL this leave Netanyahu?

He has gained some months or years without any movement toward peace, and in the meantime can continue with the occupation and build settlements at a frantic pace.

That is the traditional Zionist strategy. Time is everything. Every postponement provides opportunities to create more facts on the ground.

Netanyahu’s prayers have been answered. God bless Putin.

Ariel Sharon

The Imperator – by Uri Avnery (Thank you Uri for your great insight)

IN THE middle of the 70s, Ariel Sharon asked me to arrange something for him – a meeting with Yasser Arafat.
A few days before, the Israeli media had discovered that I was in regular contact with the leadership of the PLO, which was listed at the time as a terrorist organization.
I told Sharon that my PLO contacts would probably ask what he intended to propose to the Palestinians. He told me that his plan was to help the Palestinians to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy, and turn Jordan into a Palestinian state, with Arafat as its president.
“What about the West Bank?” I asked.
“Once Jordan becomes Palestine, there will no longer be a conflict between two peoples, but between two states. That will be much easier to resolve. We shall find some form of partition, territorial or functional, or we shall rule the territory together.”
My friends submitted the request to Arafat, who laughed it off. But he did not miss the opportunity to tell King Hussein about it. Hussein disclosed the story to a Kuwaiti newspaper, Alrai, and that’s how it came back to me.
SHARON’S PLAN was revolutionary at the time. Almost the entire Israeli establishment – including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres – believed in the so-called “Jordanian option”: the idea that we must make peace with King Hussein. The Palestinians were either ignored or considered arch-enemies, or both.
Five years earlier, when the Palestinians in Jordan were battling the Hashemite regime there, Israel came to the aid of the king at the request of Henry Kissinger. I proposed the opposite in my magazine: to aid the Palestinians. Sharon later told me that he, a general at the time, had asked the General Staff to do the same, though for a different end. My idea was to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank, his was to create it in the East Bank.
(The idea of turning Jordan into Palestine has a generally unknown linguistic background. In Hebrew usage, “Eretz Israel” is the land on both sides of the Jordan River, where the ancient Hebrew tribes settled according to the Biblical myth. In Palestinian usage, “Filastin” is only the land on the West side of the river. Therefore is quite natural for ignorant Israelis to ask the Palestinians to set up their state beyond the Jordan. For Palestinians, that means setting up their state abroad.)
AT THE time, Sharon was in political exile.
In 1973 he left the army, after realizing that he had no chance of becoming Chief of Staff. This may seem odd, since he was already recognized as an outstanding battlefield commander. The trouble was that he was also known as an insubordinate officer, who despised his superiors and his peers (as well as everybody else.) Also, his relationship with the truth was problematical. David Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary that Sharon could be an exemplary military officer, if only he could abstain from lying.
When he left the army, Sharon almost single-handedly created the Likud by unifying all the right-wing parties. That’s when I chose him the first time as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year and wrote a large biographical article about him. A few days later, the Yom Kippur War broke out, and Sharon was drafted back into the army. His part in it is considered by many as pure genius, by others as a story of insubordination and luck. A photo of him with his head bandaged became his trademark, though it was only a slight wound caused by hitting his head on his command vehicle. (To be fair, he was really wounded in battle, like me, in 1948.)
After the Yom Kippur war, the argument about his part in that war became the center of “the battle of the generals”. He started to visit me at my home to explain his moves, and we became quite friendly.
He left the Likud when he realized that he could not become its leader as long as Menachem Begin was around. He started to chart his own course. That’s when he asked for the meeting with Arafat.
He was thinking about creating a new party, neither right nor left, but led by him and “outstanding personalities” from all over the political landscape. He invited me to join, and we had long conversations at his home.
I must explain here that for a long time I had been looking for a person with military credentials to lead a large united peace camp. A leader with such a background would make it much easier for us to gain public support for our aims. Sharon fitted the recipe. (As Yitzhak Rabin did later.) Yet during our conversations it became clear to me that he had basically remained a right-winger.
In the end Sharon set up a new party called Shlomtzion (“Peace of Zion”), which was a dismal failure on election day. The next day, he rejoined the Likud.
The Likud had won the elections and Begin became Prime Minister. If Sharon had hoped to be appointed Minister of Defense, he was soon disabused. Begin did not trust him. Sharon looked like a general who might organize a coup. The powerful new Finance Minister said that if Sharon became commander-in-chief, he would “send his tanks to surround the Knesset.”
(There was a joke making the rounds at the time: Defense Minister Sharon would call for a meeting of the General Staff and announce: “Comrades, tomorrow morning at 06.00 we take over the government!” For a moment the audience was dumfounded, and then it broke out into riotous laughter.)
However, when Begin’s preferred Defense Minister, the former Air Force chief Ezer Weizman, resigned, Begin was compelled to appoint Sharon as his successor. For the second time I chose Sharon as Haolam Hazeh’s Man of the Year. He took this very seriously and sat with me for many hours, in several meetings at his home and office, in order to explain his ideas.
One of them, which he expounded at the same time to the US strategic planners, was to conquer Iran. When Ayatollah Khomeini dies, he said, there will begin a race between the Soviet Union and the US to determine who will arrive first on the scene and take over. The US is far away, but Israel can do the job. With the help of heavy arms that the US will store in Israel well before, our army will be in full possession before the Soviets move. He showed me the detailed maps of the advance, hour by hour and day by day.
This was typical Sharon, His vision was wide and all-embracing. His listener was left breathless, comparing him to the ordinary little politicians, devoid of vision and breadth. But his ideas were generally based on abysmal ignorance of the other side, and therefore came to naught.
AT THE same time, nine months before the Lebanon War, he disclosed to me his Grand Plan for a new Middle East of his making. He allowed me to publish it, provided I did not mention him as the source. He trusted me.
Basically it was the same as the one he wanted to propose to Arafat.
The army would invade Lebanon and drive the Palestinians from there to Syria, from whence the Syrians would drive them into Jordan. There the Palestinians would overthrow the king and establish the State of Palestine.
The army would also drive the Syrians out of Lebanon. In Lebanon Sharon would choose a Christian officer and install him as dictator. Lebanon would make official peace with Israel and in effect become a vassal state.
I duly published all this, and nine months later Sharon invaded Lebanon, after lying to Begin and the cabinet about his aims. But the war was a catastrophe, both militarily and politically.
Militarily it was a demonstration of “the Peter principle” – the brilliant battle commander was a miserable strategist. No unit of the Israeli army reached its objective on time, if at all. The Israeli-installed dictator, Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated. His brother and successor signed a peace treaty with Israel, which has been completely forgotten by now. The Syrians remained in Lebanon for many years to come. The Israeli army extricated itself after a guerrilla war that lasted 18 full years, during which the despised and downtrodden Shiites in Israeli-occupied South Lebanon became the dominant political force in the country.
And, worst of all, in order to induce the Palestinians to flee, Sharon let the barbarous Christian Phalangists into the Palestinian refugee camps Sabra and Shatila, where they committed a terrible massacre. Hundreds of thousands of outraged Israelis protested in Tel Aviv, and Sharon was dismissed from the defense ministry.
At the height of the Battle of Beirut I crossed the lines and met with Yasser Arafat, who had become Sharon’s Nemesis. Since then, Sharon and I did not exchange a single word, not even greeting each other.
IT LOOKED like the end of Sharon’s career. But for Sharon, every end was a new beginning.
One of his media vassals, Uri Dan (who had started his career in Haolam Hazeh) once coined a prophetic phrase: “Those who don’t want him as Chief of Staff, will get him as Minister of Defense. Those who don’t want him as Minister of Defense, will get him as Prime Minister.” Today one could add: “Those who did not want him as Prime Minister, are getting him as a national icon.”
An ex-general, Yitzhak Ben-Israel, told me yesterday: “He was an Imperator!” I find this a very apt description.
Like a Roman imperator, Sharon was a supreme being, admired and feared, generous and cruel, genial and treacherous, hedonistic and corrupt, a victorious general and a war criminal, quick to make decisions and unwavering once he had made them, overcoming all obstacles by sheer force of personality.
One could not meet him without being struck by the sense of power he emanated. Power was his element.
He believed that destiny had chosen him to lead Israel. He did not think so – he knew. For him, his personal career and the fate of Israel were one and the same. Therefore, anyone who tried to block him was a traitor to Israel. He despised everyone around him – from Begin down to the last politician and general.
His character was formed in his early childhood in Kfar Malal, a communal village which belonged to the Labor party. His mother, Vera, managed the family farm with an iron will, quarreling with all the neighbors, the village institutions and the party. When little Arik was injured in a fall on a pitchfork, she did not take him to the village clinic, which she hated, but put him on a donkey and led him for several kilometers to a doctor in Kfar Saba.
When rumor had it that the Arabs in neighboring villages were planning an attack, little Arik was hidden in a haystack.
Later in life, when his mother (who still managed the farm) visited his new ranch and saw a low wall with holes for irrigation, she exclaimed: “Ah, you have embrasures! Very good, you can shoot through them at the Arabs!”
How could a poor army officer acquire the largest ranch in the country? Simple: he got it as a gift from an Israeli-American billionaire, with the help of the finance minister. Several dubious large deals with other billionaires followed.
SHARON WAS the most typical Israeli one could imagine, embodying the saying (to which I modestly claim authorship): “If force does not work, try more force.”
I was therefore very surprised when he came out in favor of the law dispensing with the military service of tens of thousands of orthodox youngsters. “How can you?” I asked him. His answer: “I am first of all a Jew, and only after that an Israeli!” I told him that for me it was the other way round.
Ideologically, he was the pupil and successor of David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan, leaders who believed in military force and in expanding the territory of Israel without limit. His military career started for real in the 1950s when Moshe Dayan put him in charge of an unofficial outfit called Unit 101, which was sent across the border to kill and destroy, in retaliation for similar actions committed by Arabs. His most famous exploit was the massacre of Qibya village in 1953, when 49 innocent villagers were buried under the houses which he blew up.
Later, when requested to put an end to “terrorism” in Gaza, he killed every Arab who was caught with arms. When I later asked him about killing prisoners, he answered: “I did not kill prisoners. I did not take prisoners!”
At the beginning of his career as commander he was a bad general. But from war to war he improved. Unusual for a general, he learned from his mistakes. In the 1973 war he was already considered the equal of Erwin Rommel and George Patton. It also became known that between the battles he gorged himself on seafood, which is not kosher.
THE MAIN endeavor of his life was the settlement enterprise. As army officer, politician and successively chief of half a dozen different ministries, his central effort was always to plan and set up settlements in the occupied territories.
He did not care whether they were legal or illegal under Israeli law (all of them, of course, are illegal under international law, for which he did not give a damn).
He planned their location, with the aim of cutting the West Bank into ribbons which would make a Palestinian state impossible. Then he rammed it through the cabinet and the ministries. Not for nothing was he nicknamed “the Bulldozer”.
The “Israel Defense Army” (its official Hebrew name) turned into the “Settlers Defense Army”, sinking slowly in the morass of the occupation.
However, when settlements obstructed his plans, he had no compunction about destroying them. When he was in favor of peace with Egypt, in order to concentrate on the war with the Palestinians, he destroyed the entire town of Yamit in North Sinai and the adjacent settlements. Later he did the same to the settlements in the Gaza Strip, attracting the enduring hatred of the settlers, his erstwhile proteges. He acted like a general who is ready to sacrifice a brigade to improve his overall strategic position.
WHEN HE died last week, after lying in a coma for eight years, he was eulogized by the very people he despised, and turned into a shallow folk hero. The Ministry of Education compared him to Moses.
In real life he was a very complex person, as complex as Israel. His personal history is interwoven with the history of Israel.
His main legacy was catastrophic: the scores of settlements which he implanted all over the West Bank – each of them a landmine which will have to be removed at great risk when the time comes.

Bibi and Libie by Uri Avnery


Written by Uri Avnery – a wonderful Israeli whom I greatly admire.
Bibi & Libie

PERHAPS I am too stupid, but for the heck of me I cannot understand the sense of the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
On the face of it, it seems like a clever trick by Binyamin Netanyahu to divert attention from the real issues. If so, the Palestinian leadership has fallen into a trap.
Instead of talking about the independence of the putative State of Palestine and its borders, its capital in Jerusalem, the removal of the settlements, the fate of the refugees and the solution of the many other problems, they quarrel endlessly about the definition of Israel.
One is tempted to call out to the Palestinians: what the hell, accord them this damn recognition and be done with it! Who cares!?
THE ANSWER of the Palestinian negotiators is twofold.
First, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State would be an act of betrayal towards the million and a half Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, If Israel is a Jewish State, where does that leave them?
Well, that problem could be solved by a provision in the peace treaty stating that irrespective of anything else in the agreement, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will enjoy full equality in every respect.
Second, that the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness would block the return of the refugees.
That argument is even less valid than the first. The solution of the refugee problem will be a central plank of the treaty. The Palestinian leadership, at the time of Yasser Arafat, already tacitly accepted that the solution will be an “agreed” one, so that any return will be at most symbolic. The recognition issue will not affect it.
The debate on this Israeli demand is entirely ideological. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian people accept the Zionist narrative. The Palestinian refusal is based on the Arab narrative, which contradicts the Zionist one on practically every single event that happened during the last 130 years, if not the last 5000.
Mahmoud Abbas could just come forward and announce: OK, if you accept our practical demands, we shall recognize Israel as whatever you want – a Buddhist State, a Vegetarian State, you name it.
On September 10, 1993 – which happened to be my 70th birthday – Yasser Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, recognized the State of Israel, in return for the no less momentous recognition of the Palestinian people by Israel. Implicitly, each side recognized the other as it is. Israel defined itself in its founding document as a Jewish State. Ergo, the Palestinians have already recognized a Jewish State.
By the way, the first step towards Oslo was made by Arafat when he told his representative in London, Said Hamami, to publish in the “Times” of London on December 17, 1973, a proposal for a peaceful solution, which stated among other things that “the first step must be the mutual recognition of these two sides. The Jewish-Israelis and the Palestinian-Arabs must recognize each other as peoples with all the rights of peoples.”
I saw the original draft of this statement with corrections in Arafat’s hand.
THE PROBLEM of the Palestinian minority in Israel – about 20% of Israel’s eight million citizens – is very serious, but it has now acquired a humorous twist.
Since his acquittal from corruption charges and return to the Foreign Office, Avigdor Lieberman is at it again. He has come out supporting John Kerry’s peace efforts, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu, who does not.
Why, for heaven’s sake? Lieberman aspires to become prime minister some day, as soon as possible. For this he has to (1) unite his “Israel Our Home” party with the Likud, (2) become leader of the Likud, (3) win the general elections. But over all these there hovers (4): obtain the approval of the Americans. So Lieberman now supports the American effort and peace.
Yes, but under one condition: that the US accept his master plan for the Jewish State.
This is a masterpiece of constructive statesmanship. Its main proposal is to move the borders of Israel – not eastward, as could be expected from an arch-nationalist, but westward, slimming Israel’s narrow hips even further, to a mere 9 (nine!) km.
The Israeli territory that Lieberman wants to get rid of is the site of a dozen Arab villages, which were given Israel as a gift by the then king of Jordan in the armistice agreement of 1949. Abdallah I, the great-great-grandfather of the current Abdallah II of Jordan, needed the armistice at any price. Lieberman now wants to give these villages back, thank you.
Why? Because for this stalwart of Jewish Israel, the reduction of the Arab population is a sacred task. He does not advocate expulsion, God forbid. Not at all. He proposes attaching this area, with its population, to the Palestinian state. In return, he wants the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank to be joined to Israel. A transfer of areas with their populations, reminiscent of Stalin’s redrawing the borders of Poland, except that Lieberman’s borders look completely crazy.
Lieberman presents this as a peaceful, liberal, humane plan. No one will be displaced, no property expropriated. Some 300 thousand Arabs, all of them ardent supporters of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, will become Palestinian citizens.
SO WHY do the Palestinians in Israel cry out? Why do they condemn the plan as a racist assault on their rights?
Because they are far more Israeli than they care to admit, even to themselves. After living in Israel for 65 years, they have become accustomed to its ways. They don’t love Israel, they don’t serve in its army, they are discriminated against in many ways, but they are deeply rooted in the Israeli economy and democracy, much more than is generally recognized.
“Israeli Arabs”, a term they hate, play a significant role in Israeli hospitals and courts, including the Supreme Court, and in many other institutions.
Becoming citizens of Palestine tomorrow would mean losing 80% or 90% of their standard of living. It would also mean losing the social security net enjoyed in Israel (though Lieberman promises to continue payments to those currently eligible(. After being used for decades to fair elections and the lively give-and-take of the Knesset, they would have to get used to a society in which, as of now, important parties are forbidden, elections are postponed and parliament plays a minor role. The place of women in this society is very different from their role in Israel.
The situation of the Palestinians in Israel is unique in many respects. On the one side, as long as Israel is defined as a Jewish State, the Arabs will not be fully equal. On the other side, in the occupied Palestinian territories, these Israeli citizens are not accepted as fully belonging. They straddle both sides of the conflict. They would like to be mediators, the link between the two sides, bringing them closer to each other. But this has remained a dream.
A complicated situation, indeed.
IN THE meantime, Netanyahu and Lieberman are hatching another plan to make Jewish Israel even Jewisher.
There are today three factions in the Knesset which derive their votes from the Arab population. They constitute almost 10% of the Knesset. Why not 20%, to reflect their part in the general population? First because they have many more children, who have not yet reached voting age (18 years). Second, their rate of abstention is significantly higher. Third, some Arabs are bribed to vote for Zionist parties.
The part of the Arab MKs in enacting laws is negligible. Any bill they introduce is almost automatically voted down. No Jewish party ever considered including them in a government coalition. Yet they have a very noticeable presence, their voice is heard.
Now, in the name of “governability” (a trendy new term that can be used to justify any attack on human rights), Bibi & Libie, as someone called them, want to change the minimum share of votes that any election list needs to enter the Knesset.
I was elected three times to the Knesset when the threshold was 1%. Later it was raised to 2%. Now the plan is to raise the threshold to 3.25%, which in the elections a year ago would have equaled 123,262 votes. Only one of the three “Arab” parties crossed this line – and then only barely. There is no assurance that it could do so again.
In order to survive, they would have to unite and form a large Arab bloc. Many would think that this was a good thing. But it is very difficult to accomplish. One party is communist, another Islamist, another secular-nationalist. Also, competing extended families play an important role in Arab electoral politics.
The Arab lists may disappear altogether. Or two may unite, eliminating the third.
Some Israeli leftists fantasize about a dream party – a united parliamentary bloc that would include all the Arab parties with the Labor party and Meretz, turning it into a formidable challenger of the right wing.
But that would be too good to be true – no chance at all of this happening in the near future.
IT SEEMS that Kerry and his Zionist advisors already identify with the Israeli demand for recognition as a Jewish State or, worse, the State of the Jewish People (who were not even consulted).
The Palestinian side is unable to accept this.
If the negotiations come to naught on this point, Netanyahu will have achieved his real aim: to abort the negotiations in a way that will enable him to blame the Palestinians.
As long as we have a Jewish State – who needs peace?

Northern Gateway Pipeline (my comments to WWF)

Good morning WWF
I have a different opinion about the pipeline than most people and I thought I would share it with you with the hope that my ideas might broaden the discussion of our quest for oil and it’s movement around the world.
I am an artist.I have spent the last fifteen years devoted to peace. I made several trips to Iraq at my own expense to find out the truth. I learned so much about our world after that first life altering journey to Iraq and from my first visit to the Ameriyah bomb shelter in Baghdad, where several hundred people were shredded and incinerated into smoke vapour.
Our world is a glutton for oil and we are willing to do anything, including killing people by the tens of thousands, to get a steady supply of it. Most of us have no idea or couldn’t care less how the gas got into the tanks of our car.
And I see very little being done to change that. We use it in our cars,trucks,planes, trains, ships to transport food,shelter,raw materials,and in every aspect of our lives. We change the colour of our walls simply because we want a new colour. Not because it needs painted. We rip out cabinets because they are “dated”. We renovate and change our homes on a constant basis just because we don’t like the look of it anymore. I am not any better. I have done these things myself. I’ve flown around the world just for pleasure.
But I do know that everything must change and that what we are doing is unsustainable.
I am of the opinion that our backyard is not any more precious than someone else’s back yard. I believe that if we truly care about our world then we would care about the dripping mess in all pipelines. I believe that we should care about the fact that we slaughter people around the world in order to get our oil at a cheap price.
The best and only real way to stop pipelines is to stop using oil.
Every effort should be made to build alternative energy sources and new technologies to replace oil in every form in our day to day lives. This is the only way.
I believe that trying to stop one pipeline here and one there is like attempting to mop up the basement when it is flooded with water… when in fact…..we should be going upstairs to shut off the tap where the water is coming from in the first place.
The pipeline will be built. Why? Because people are not being encouraged to understand the whole picture.
What I am hearing from your organization is that you are focused on the possible leak that could happen in your backyard and that your backyard is somehow more precious than someone else’s.
Hope this idea challenges your thinking in some way.
I don’t want the pipeline.
Thank you for your time.
Deryk Houston

Hamilton Child Care Centre Public Art Project

Birds, Bird Houses, fish, Cats, and nest like structures for Site 01
Emphasis on recycled and found objects, durability and fun.

Hamilton Child Care Centre Public Art Project (Richmond, BC, Canada)







Hamilton Child Care Centre Public Art Project


We are a father and son team and have created several large scale sculptures for public spaces in the past. We have a proven record of working with city staff and engineers and are registered with work safe BC and carry insurance. All our projects have been completed on time and on budget.


We would like to propose a combination of a 2D and 3D design for this project, providing a whole new range of possibilities of interaction with the visitors and the children.

Our design would feature a multiple series of Stainless Steel, whimsical birds, bird houses, fish and cats that would rest on one and a half inch, slightly wavy shaped, stainless steel poles attached to the outside fence.

These would rise up into the space “above” each fence areas. (Site 01 sections of fence.)

The artwork would be enjoyed from both sides of the fence which we feel presents a whole new dimension to the work.

Technically this would raise the height of the fence and so we would be applying for a variance  permit. We do not foresee a problem getting a variance on the fence height.


Each pole would have stainless steel branch like shapes and large spoons attached and other found objects to create a sense of leaves or stems and patterns against the wood fence.


The idea would be to provide a stimulating series of images that catch the eyes of both the young and the old. Each section of fence area would have a theme of either birds, birdhouses, fish, cats, and simple nest like, tangled structures.

An emphasis would be placed on using recycled stainless steel spoons, forks, bowls, nuts, bolts, chain,

musical instruments etc. Final designs of each would depend on available found objects.

There would be 26 structures in total.


The “Main sculptures” (13 pieces) would be comprised of either a bird, a birdhouse, a fish, or a cat.


The “Backdrop Filler sculptures” would be nest like , tangled structures. ( simple bundles of steel whimsical shapes). The backdrop filler sculptures would add high visual and artistic value to the overall design and yet be simple enough to allow us to provide a significant eye catching impact for a large area and yet still stay within the limited budget of ten thousand dollars.

These structures (birdhouses, etc) would be approximately two feet tall plus the height of the poles. Total height would be discussed with everyone.The artwork would be enjoyed from both sides of the fence which we feel gives a whole new dimension to the work.


The three smaller width fence areas would each have three “Main Sculptures” and three “backdrop filler sculptures”.

The single widest fence area would have four “Main Sculptures” and four “backdrop filler sculptures”.


Materials: Stainless steel, with large emphasis on found stainless steel objects, such as kettles, stainless steel water supply lines, copper lines, providing a permanent art installation with no maintenance required.


Each structure will have exaggerated shapes and visually effective textures to add visual interest, such as holes drilled into the surface, ribbons of steel for the contours to define shapes, the use of wavy panels, spoons, forks, found stainless steel objects, shredded stainless steel shavings from recycled lathe cuttings, acorn head bolts, screws, multiple layers of steel sheets etc etc.

All structures would be designed to be visually stimulating when viewed from either side of the fence.


Thank you for your time and consideration.


Deryk Houston and Samuel Houston

250 598 9908

Woodwynn Farms labyrinth, Peace sanctuary sculpture Park

2013 has been an amazing year for our family. We have been busy working on the creation of the labyrinth and Peace Sanctuary sculpture park at Woodwynn Farms.
We are very grateful to our friends who have donated time and money to help get this project underway.
I am slowly getting to know more about the farm and the people who work and live there. I can’t imagine a better place to be at this stage of my life. I have so much to learn. For most of my life I have spent my time working alone in my studio. This is a whole new experience for me and I love it.
It has been a ton of work digging out the blackberries that cover the large area that we are transforming. There has also been a lot of soil and piles of blackberry stalks to move. Thankfully, the founder of Woodwynn Farms, Richard LeBlanc, has been able to help by using his tractor to move a lot of the soil. I also have had the help of volunteers who came out and helped cut down the blackberries. My wife Elizabeth and our son Samuel have also helped in many ways. It is very much a team project.
The first section is almost completed and so we are on schedule. Our goal this year was to cut down and dig up all the roots of the blackberries in the large pit area and then level the area. We added two big truckloads of high grade top soil once we got the area levelled to the desired slope. We then planted rows of the apple trees to form a nice walkway that leads to a beautiful view of the valley.
My son Samuel will be welding stainless steel markers for the trees with the name of each person who supported our project by paying for an apple tree. Anyone who wants to donate $100.00 can have the same marker.
Email me at derykhouston@shaw.ca for more information.
I also built a log bench made from logs found at the beach and that was set up as well. We planted red twig dogwoods around the bench which will grow thick and tall providing a nice quiet and reflective space to view the walkway down through the apple trees.
The next stage will be to build a viewing area at the bottom of the apple trees. This will involve a simple log fence made from logs found on the beach. We have melted turquoise blue glass flowers and these will be set on wavy, eight foot tall steel poles. These will be worked into a nice free flowing design and anchored into the fence in a way that will be interesting but also act as a block for the deer who will want to eat the apple trees! The blue glass flowers were made by first breaking large glass Gin bottles. These broken shards of glass were then laid out on the bottom of our kiln in a round, plate like shape and are fused together by the heat. These processed shapes are then laid on top of clay plant pots and melted again. The heat melts the glass enough that they fold over the clay pot and form a flower shape. Elizabeth helped me find the right combination of heat and timing in the kiln.
Anyway….. the glass flower and fence stage is a whole other story.
We are just happy to have completed the first stage in a timely manner. Thanks to everyone who helped with the funds and with the volunteering time. It would have been difficult to do it without this help! Thank you so much.
Here are some photos (mainly taken by Elizabeth) that document some of the work.

















Peace Sanctuary Sculpture Park first stage

We have been busy working on the first section of the tree section of our sculpture park.
The first task has been cutting down the blackberry bushes which have taken over a good corner of the .7 acres on Woodwynn Farms. I have had some wonderful help from young volunteers from Uvic and also from people working on the Farm as regulars. There is so much to do but by breaking the job down into sections it should be very manageable.
We have used the Canadian “Kickstarter” fundraiser program and this has proved to be a good way to raise funds for this project. I am so grateful to my friends who have stepped in to help by donating and we have exceeded our set goal which will allow us to do the job right.
Funding has always been an issue and in the past I have muddled along. I’ve always had help from friends and for that I am most grateful. People have given me support spiritually, emotionally, and in so many other ways.
I couldn’t do my work without you.
And so I keep plodding away, one step at a time. It is somewhat overwhelming if I look at all the area at once needing attention, but by breaking it down into sections, I find it very exciting and manageable.
I have a general overview plan but at the same time I am feeling my way carefully and keeping many options open. As I spend more time on the land, understanding certain view opportunities etc, it helps me plan for the next stage. I want to avoid having a preset plan and simply producing that. This is very much the same way I paint. I enjoy the process and being led by what happens as I work out the structure of a painting. But there is always the underlying plan that keeps things together and makes sure that one is not in a total free for all.
Anyway. I wanted to thank everyone who has helped us in this project and I hope I can do you all proud.
If you would like to help fund this project go to this link.


This “kicktstarter” fundraiser ends on Oct 16th but if you are reading this at a later date then e mail me at derykhouston@shaw.ca and I will explain what we are doing further and also accept your donation. If you wanted to do some landscaping work…raking, laying out paths, moving soil, etc then let me know that also. Thank you!

You can also find further info about the project at http://peacesanctuarysculpturepark.org/

Sowing the seeds of Peace

Sept 26th 2013
I am very grateful to Sarah Petrescu and the Times Colonist for taking the time to write about my project at Woodwynn Farms.
I totally agree with the Central Saanich councillor, Alicia Cormier, comments about making sure that good farmland is put to good use.
That is why my work on the farm supports that idea by making sure that every facet of this project is about the edible plants. The first and foremost thought has been focused on the idea that food will be the experience. The area chosen for the site has been an unused portion of the farm that is now going to be put to productive use by growing herbs,fruits and grains. I believe that people will see the interesting sculpture as the background scenery and serve as a draw to attract people who will enjoy the fruits of peoples labour.
I grew up on a farm and I was always dazzled by the art I saw forming before my eyes as a tractor cut the hay and left beautiful creative lines across the field.
The world famous Yorkshire sculpture park, set on farmland in England recognizes these beautiful relationships between life, people, art and farmland. I hope this work will do the same for everyone here in Central Saanich.

Anyone who wants to support our project might wish to log into “Kickstarter” at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/305508954/treed-path-peace-sanctuary-sculpture-park-at-woodw

Take care and thanks for everyones support.
Deryk Houston

Rebranding Canada

I wanted to write this all down as a blog after reading CBC’s question on how to “Rebrand Canada”.
I think the best way to is to participate. It is not about what we say, it is what we do that counts.
For example: I made several trips to Iraq during the period that Canada (under Lloyd Axworthy’s office) was enforcing crippling sanctions on the Iraqi people. Several hundred thousand children died as a direct result of those sanctions.(UNICEF REPORT 2002)
It is these sorts of things that create hate against Canada. We traded those Iraqi children’s lives for lumber sales and other trade with the USA.
I believe that this is not the way to brand Canada.
By going to Iraq, meeting the people and sharing my art with the Iraqi people, I feel I portrayed Canada as a caring country. The mothers holding their dying children asked me to tell Canadians what was happening. I did that. Through my artwork, The National Film Board of Canada documented my work in the documentary “From Baghdad to Peace Country” and it aired across Canada many times as well as in the States.
My work in Iraq was extremely difficult for me. But I feel it made a difference. CISIS came to my door and questioned me why I been in Iraq. I told them. I made sure my government knew that I had seen many things in Iraq that did not come close to matching what our government was telling the Canadian people.
I have been invited back to Iraq to participate in art shows now that Iraq is slowly getting back on it’s feet. I have made friendships with many Iraqi people and it builds good relations all round.
This is how we “brand” Canada. By our actions. Not by coining fancy labels.
I believe that our prime minister, Stephen Harper, has inflicted terrible damage to Canada’s world reputation and that he has put all Canadians in greater danger because of his international  behaviour.

I am not happy with Lloyd Axworthy either. Canada should never have supported those sanctions knowing full well that children were dying in such huge numbers. I was there as a witness on the ground talking to the doctors in the hospitals. What is the good of saying that medicines are allowed if you know full well that the total infrastructure for distribution is in ruins. No fridges to store fragile cancer drugs. No electricity nine times out of ten times. No refridgerated trucks to move these kinds of goods. No workers with the skills or expertise to fix computers or refridgeration units. Few doctors because those that could left. No nurses because they left. Our governments knew all this and yet they would look coldly into the news cameras and claim that “medicines were allowed”.
If we want to rebrand Canada then we should simply obey international law and do the right thing.
Make peace and not war. Treat other people fairly.