After Germany’s reunification, Stasi and other East German intelligence agency leaders were put on trial. In 1993, Ilana Dayan and the editorial board of the weekly TV investigative report Uvda (Fact) wanted to interview Markus Wolf, the former head of East Germany’s counter-espionage agency who had succeeded in planting his agents at the highest levels in the West, including in the German Chancellor’s bureau and NATO headquarters.
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Since I had published an interview with Wolf in the daily Maariv on the eve of his trial in Berlin, Ilana Dayan asked me to help her obtain an interview for Uvda. We flew to Berlin together. I observed her interviewing and, in her usual manner, enthusiastically assailing the man who had collaborated with the dark regime of informers, exploiting the vulnerabilities of lonely secretaries and senior still-in-the-closet officials with the help of a web of infamous moles, which he operated using the cheerful codename “Romeos.”
"But how could you live with your conscience," she insisted in her by-now-familiar emphatic intonation, the voice that so well reflects popular opinion, while at the same time creating and shaping it – something Noam Chomsky called “manufacturing consent.”
How is the Israeli consensus manufactured? It happens when awful facts associated with 50 years of occupation, discrimination and systematic land theft are never “exposed” in prestigious investigative programs such as Uvda. It is achieved by the decisive voice of the “objective truth” touting a “democratic and Jewish state” (barring a few weeds,) a moral IDF, even when it bombs civilians and massacres children, with statements such as an “anti-Semitic world,” “the Arabs want to annihilate us,” “there is only one Holocaust and its ours” and “we all want social justice” (except for a few corrupt ones who we exposed in our program.)
Without the collaboration of Ilana Dayan and her ilk in the media (such as Ari Shavit,) without diverting the conversation from the harsh reality to controlled “exposés,” Israelis would not be able to ignore the scope of killing and destruction, the extent of the poverty and the insult to human dignity and freedom for which we are responsible in the occupied territories.
This is the criminal responsibility which is whitewashed on TV Channels 1 and 2, on Army Radio and by the High Court of Justice, in the “country’s newspaper” (Yedioth Ahronoth) and the tycoon’s mouthpiece (Yisrael Hayom). Since the nature of hidden guilt is such that it gnaws and eats away while the rot grows, we’ve reached the Israel of 2016, with Uvda serving the purposes of the right-wing Ad Kan group, which is operated by the Judea and Samaria Council.
Ilana Dayan, the shaper of consensus, opened witch-hunt season by guiding the heavy hand of a dark regime against a group of non-violent human rights activists: A wave of arrests, all under gag order, interrogations, threats by violent gangs and the imposition of fear (of informants and wiretapping, by friends and neighbors,) all of which have hitherto been the lot of Palestinians.
Now, I’ll ask you, Ilana Dayan: How will you live with your conscience?
Markus Wolf told you then that it was war – the cold war between East and West – and that he operated by using means that were legitimate in wartime against the enemies of his country, just as all spy agencies do everywhere. He served the ideology he believed in – the consensus existing in his totalitarian state – and lived peacefully with his conscience until his death at a ripe old age. The question is what war are you fighting, what ideology do you serve, and who are the enemies you entrapped with the help of the sophisticated network of Ad Kan “moles”?
The battle, embarrassingly, is over TV ratings. That is the truth, not lofty proclamations about the search for truth. No doubt there is some underlying ideology – Zionist, democratic, Jewish, liberal or some phony ones.
However, a discriminatory regime which harasses its subjects, steals their land and dignity and executes their children, imposing religious and racial laws on its own citizens at an accelerating rate, is not democratic. Democratic window dressing, as in the prestigious investigative reporting of Uvda and the actions of the Supreme Court, in which the honorable Justices sit in judgement of residents of occupied territories who have no civil or human rights, that is the cover which enables us to continue living here, living well. Just as the ideology Markus Wolf served was a convenient pretense for the preservation of privileges enjoyed by himself and his circles in a totalitarian state. And, finally, the enemies: Ta’ayush, a tiny group of activists operating in the hills south of Hebron. I am one of them.
What do we do? Not much. We set out on Saturday mornings to accompany Palestinians living in this arid region (shepherds, farmers, villagers, cave-dwellers or people living in tents or huts, as well as some land-owners from more distant locations,) assisting them in their obstinate struggle to survive. It’s as simple as that – hanging on against the wishes of a mighty, armed and rich system of occupation.
We have a few cameras (all out in the open.) There is no organization, spokesman or fund-raising apparatus behind us and we are obviously unarmed. None of us has ever raised a hand or stone to strike anyone. If you wish to verify these facts all you have to do is rise early one Saturday and join us, walking or sometimes running a bit. You’ll find that sometimes we are beaten or stoned or detained, with weapons often pointed at us. We are also targets of curses and threats alluding to rape or ISIS.
Our presence sometimes deters the army and the settlers, but usually it doesn’t. It doesn’t deter them from harassing Palestinian residents or driving them away from their land surrounding settlements or “illegal outposts,” such as Mitzpeh Yair, Havat Ma’on, Havat Mor and others. Our presence doesn’t prevent them from demolishing houses, an outhouse or a common outdoor cooking stove at Khirbet Umm al-Kheir, from poisoning wells at Sussya, from burning a meager crop of wheat and a few olive trees at Umm al-Arayis, from beating children on their way to school at al-Tawani, from shooting and injuring a boy who went out to shake the snow of some trees in a grove at Rahiye, from shooting and killing a boy who went out to pick a few plants for food in Touba.
We have a few small, hard-won successes as well: Half a field that was restored to its owners here, a shepherd allowed to graze there, a few meters laid in a dirt track, some olive picking and wheat reaped, a few moments of fraternizing with our Palestinian friends in an unshakeable hope that one day we’ll be able to live together (Ta’ayush in Arabic.)
And we have Ezra – his sense of freedom, generosity and courage are irrepressible. So is his big and unruly mouth. Our friend Ezra Nawi, the one and only person who arrives weekly, year after year, coming to every remote corner in this area, helping anyone in need who calls in the middle of the night, transporting, bringing things, releasing from detention, supporting, the person sticking his finger in the dam of the occupation.
He was entrapped in the “Romeo” trap set by your “mole”, Ilana Dayan. You bought the blurred visual material and the snatches of conversations. You didn’t bother to check the facts. Now these facts, and we, are being investigated in interrogation cellars.
The writer is an activist with Ta’ayush