The Terrorist Grandmother, the Terrorist Child and Harry Potter

by Adam Keller, Crazy Country,  13 november 2015.

The following was written before the horrible events in Paris
tonight. It is far too early to predict what the effects over here will
As it happens, these events have touched me personally –
close family members, on holiday, were in a Paris restaurant this
evening – close enough to clearly hear the shooting, fortunately far
enough to be hit.
“It’s not an intifada.” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon insists and
reiterated that this is not an intifada, that an intifada is something
entirely different. Currently, the Israeli media remain convinced. They
do not call it an Intifada, they continue to call it “The Wave of
Terror”. A wave of terror that lasts and lasts and lasts and whose end
no one can see. But in fact, does it make so much difference exactly
what it is called? What is clear is that Palestinians in increasing
numbers, regardless of gender and age and social background, are rising
up against the Israeli occupation which is quickly approaching its
fiftieth anniversary.

A week ago at Halhul Junction, north of Hebron, Israeli soldiers opened
fire, killing the 72-year-old Thawarat Ashrawi of Hebron while she was
driving her car. According to the soldiers Ashrawi, a widow and
grandmother, had tried to run them over in her car, and they had
therefore acted in self defense. This was taken up unhesitatingly by the
Israeli media, who were quick to define her as a terrorist “even if
one with a rather unusual profile.” Palestinians trying to cast doubt on
the official Israeli version were rejected out of hand – “It seems that
the desire to carry out attacks is stimulating not only the young but
also their grandparents. There can be no doubt of her complicity, after
all she was a member of a terrorist family, her late husband was killed
by soldiers in Hebron during the first Intifada.” (In those days there
had been no doubt about using the term “Intifada”…)

Thawarat Ashrawi  a few months ago – photo: Resist4pal

Rasha Awissi, 23-year-old student from Qalqilya, was killed by soldiers
at the Eliyahu Checkpoint west of her hometown – two weeks before the
time she was going to get married. The soldiers said she had tried to
stab one of them. In the letter found on her body Awissi wrote: “I don’t
know what will happen to me at the end of the road. I am doing this
with a clear mind, because I can’t stand any more what I see. I am doing
it for the defense of my homeland, to protect the boys and the girls.
I’m sorry for what will happen to me, I’m sorry that this is the way I
will end. Father, Mother, my brothers and sisters, please forgive me for
what I am going to do. I love you all. Especially my fiancé.” The
letter was widely quoted in the Israeli media – especially as conclusive
proof in this case there was indeed an attempt to harm soldiers. 

The 14 year old Ali Alkam, a resident of the Shuafat Refugee Camp in
northern Jerusalem, tried on his way home from school to stab a Light
Rail security guard. “I did it to avenge the killing of my cousin by
soldiers” he said in police interrogation. His brother Muawiyyeh Alkam,
11, who also participated in the stabbing attempt, could not speak and
explain himself and his actions. He was shot by the security guard, and
was taken to hospital in serious condition, sedated and on a respirator.
The headlines had much to say about “The 11-year-old terrorist” and
commentators expressed their concern about the fact that children aged
11 are not criminally responsible – which meant that “the Palestinians
might have found a legal loophole”. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has
promised to try to plug this loophole, and look for legal ways to lower
the age of criminal responsibility.

And immediately after the 11-year-old terrorist, the headlines shifted
to the Undercover Unit, the celebrated Mista’rvim soldiers who know how
to dress up as Arabs and mislead Palestinian passers-by until the
moment they pull out their guns and charge. This time they have
surpassed themselves when penetrating into the Al-Ahli Hospital in
Hebron and there detaining (or kidnapping – terminology depends on who
does the reporting…) the 20-year old Azzam Shalaldeh, suspected of
stabbing and wounding an Israeli settler two weeks ago. Abdullah
Shalaldeh, Azzam’s cousin, tried to resist the soldiers and was shot
dead on the spot. Israeli media praised the resourcefulness and
creativity of the undercover troops, one of whom was dressed up as a
heavily pregnant woman and put on a wheelchair, while others pretended
to be relatives of the “woman” and so manage to penetrate deeply into
the hospital without arousing suspicion. The concern was raised that
once the Palestinians published the footage taken by the hospital
security cameras, the faces of undercover soldiers will be become known
and their usefulness be at an end. But a specialist reassured TV
viewers, “Their talent for acting and disguise is virtually unlimited
undercover, next time they will look very different, completely

To the growing collection of photographs fitting into the genre of “The
Pornography of Death” were added the photos of the pools of blood
covering the floor of the Al-Ahli Hospital, which were published by
several media outlets and spread with lightning speed through the social

Unlike other cases, the undercover soldiers did not take with them the
body of Abdullah Shalaldeh, the cousin shot to death. His funeral was
organized within hours, with a crowd of thousands following his coffin
and chanting calls for revenge. In the following days there were more
demonstrations in Hebron’ leading to clashes with Israeli forces. When
soldiers shot at one of these, another young man was severely injured
and taken to the same Al Ahli Hospital, where he died of his wounds. In
his funeral were renewed calls for revenge. While I was writing this
article an armed Palestinian was waiting at the side of the road, a few
kilometers south of Hebron and opened fire at a car of Israeli
settlers. Two settlers – a 40-year-old father and his 18-year old son –
were killed. The army began conducting extensive searches in all the
surrounding villages, and on the news there was an ominous talk of “the
need to impose limitations on the Palestinians’ freedom of movement”.

”It is time to start calling it an Intifada” wrote the military
commentator Amos Harel in Haaretz, noting that the IDF Supreme Command
has already concluded that the forces of the regular army would not be
enough. Four battalions of reservists have already been mobilized, and
the army plans to bring tens of thousands more of reservists in the
coming year, working on the assumption that the confrontation will last a
long time. Meanwhile, TV broadcast a long favorable news item on the
young women combat soldiers who take a major part in standing at the
checkpoints during the day and raiding deeply into the villages at
nighttime. “This is women’s empowerment at its best, a Feminist dream
come true” gushed the reporter.

And amidst all the events of this week, the Israeli Prime Minister met
with The President of the United States. Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu
was asked for the meeting to take confidence-building measures toward
the Palestinians, so as to help calm down the situation. The Inner
Cabinet met and duly resolved to increase the number of permits for
Palestinians to work in Israel, approve zoning plans for a number of
Palestinian villages where hitherto houses had been destroyed as having
been “built without a permit”, and allow the establishment of a
Palestinian cell phone system which the Israeli authorities had delayed
for many years. “These measures will help to separate the terrorists and
inciters of violence from the silent majority of Palestinians, who just
wants to live their daily life” announced the PM. But he firmly refused
any idea of a settlement freeze as a good will gesture to the
Palestinians, explaining that any attempt to go in this direction would
immediately lead to the collapse of his government.

Obama will not press on the issue of a settlement freeze. In fact, he
just did not press. Both Netanyahu and Obama had an interest in
presenting to the media a show of reconciliation after their head-on
confrontation over the agreement with Iran. So the meeting was held –
“very good meeting” (according to Netanyahu) or “an OK meeting” (Obama).
It was agreed that Israel would receive an increased military aid
package from the US, the details to be negotiated later.  On the
Palestinian issue, Obama condemned the violent attacks by Palestinians
on innocent Israeli civilians (not mentioning attacks by Palestinians
armed with knives on Israeli soldiers armed with rifles). Netanyahu, for
his part, declared himself to be “still committed to the vision of
peace, based on the principle of two states for two peoples”. So that no
one will take this statement too seriously, a clarification was
published in a banner headline of “Israel Today”, the PM’s personal
newspaper – “Netanyahu: there is no peace, because of the Palestinians –
when we meet leaders ready to recognize a Jewish state, there will be

The most interesting part of Obama’s meeting with Netanyahu was the
media briefing by the President’s top aides ahead of his meeting with
the Israeli PM. White House Middle East Coordinator Rob Malley told
reporters not to hold out for a major announcement: “For the first time
since the first term of the Clinton Administration, we face a reality
where the prospect of a negotiated two-state solution is not in the
cards for the remaining time [of the Obama presidency].”

”Since the first term of President Bill Clinton.” It was in Clinton’s
first term that the Oslo Agreement was signed with a burst of hope and
enthusiasm on the White House lawn. A historic handshake took place in
front of the cameras between the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin,
for whose assassination the twentieth anniversary was marked last week
at a mass rally in Tel Aviv, and PLO leader Yasser Arafat who died ten
years later under circumstances that remain controversial, with his
headquarters surrounded and besieged by Israeli soldiers. Over the
twenty-two years since that handshake, the Americans kept to the same
format – trying again and again to get Israelis and Palestinians
sitting at the negotiating table, in the hope and expectation an
agreement will result. Apparently, Washington has now arrived at the
conclusion that this model is bankrupt. You can push the Israeli
government to sit down at the negotiating table – this does not
necessarily mean any real intention or inclination to end the

What, then, is the conclusion? The radical columnist Michael Schaeffer
Omer-Man has a clear answer: Netanyahu has won. By accepting that the
two-state solution will just have to wait until Israel is ready to
accept it, the White House has effectively conceded to Netanyahu’s
strategy: declare support for two states – in theory – while continuing
to deny Palestinians their most basic rights and liberties”.

Netanyahu won. Here’s how to beat him

This, however, is not the only possible interpretation. It might be more
than a coincidence that two days after the meeting between Obama and
Netanyahu, the European Union at long last made the decision which had
been talked about for several months already. The European Commission,
the EU’s executive arm, adopted the guidelines for marking products from
settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, presented at retail
chains all over the continent. Under the guidelines, a product’s origin
in a settlement should be clearly marked with the words “Product of
the West Bank (Israeli settlement)” or “product of the Golan (Israeli
settlement).” Omitting this essential geographical information would
constitute misleading the consumers. The guidelines would be binding in
regard to fruit and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, poultry,
organic products and cosmetics. In addition, the Guidelines document
states that the EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty beyond the
1967 lines, regardless of the status of those territories under Israeli
law, and that regulations and legislation in Europe should reflect this
position. Enforcement of the guidelines will be entrusted to the
authorities in the 28 EU Member States

Nowhere in the European resolutions is the word “boycott” mentioned. No
ban of any kind was imposed on the entry of settlement products to the
European market, the decision whether or not to buy them left entirely
to the personal preference of the European consumers. Nevertheless, from
ministers and Knesset Members of the Netanyahu Government, as well as 
parts of the “Opposition” came the highly predictable chorus of angry
responses: “A reward to terrorism!” “An anti-Israeli and and anti-Jewish
resolution!” “European hypocrisy and hatred for Israel!”,
“Anti-Semitism!”, “Reminiscent of the Nazi Yellow Star!” “We should
impose a counter-boycott of European products!”. The most sophisticated
response were self-righteous expressions of commiseration with
Palestinian workers employed in the settlements, who might now lose
their jobs. David Lahyani, head of the Jordan Valley settlers – who are
the ones most involved in agriculture – said that “in fact the boycott
began long ago. Until about six years ago, Europe was taking up some 80
per cent of everything we produce, about 450 million Shekels a year. But
it dropped to 10 to 20 percent nowadays – the UK has started marking
products already eight years, the EU does not recognize our certificates
for organic produce, does not recognize our veterinary certificates,
even before the latest decision they have found plenty of ways to hurt

Obama refused to condemn the action of the Europeans, and in fact gave
it his backing: “The United States opposes a boycott of Israel, but the
European decision should not be considered a surprise, in light of the
continued Israeli settlement construction. We understand that the goal
is to provide EU consumers with correct information about the origin of
products, as required by European law. The EU made it clear that the
measures do not constitute a boycott and that the EU opposes a boycott
of Israel. The EU does not regard the settlements as part of Israel.
Neither does the United States.”

26 United States Senators signed a letter of protest addressed to the
European Union. In this case, it is the number which is significant. 26
Senators who signed mean, by definition, that 74 Senators did not sign.
It seems that AIPAC, battered in the hopeless struggle against the
agreement with Iran, lost the ability it once had to obtain the
signatures of at least 80 Senators on virtually any text it chose.

In the UK, there was in recent weeks a particularly stormy debate about
the boycotting of Israel. Petitions and counter-petitions were published
in the British press. London Mayor Boris Johnson held a highly
publicized visit to Israel, where he dismissed the adherents as “a very
small minority of foolish corduroy-jacketed lefty academics”, while in
the streets of his city there were stormy demonstrations protesting the
participation of British chefs in the “Round Tables Culinary Show”
sponsored by the Israeli government and the Tel Aviv municipality. An
opinion poll conducted among British Jews indicated an increasingly
sharp criticism of Israeli government policies,  particularly among
younger people. A quarter of those polled expressed their support for
economic sanctions against Israel, if that would help achieve peace in
the Middle East.

JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter books, was inadvertently caught in
the eye of the storm when she signed a petition opposing a cultural
boycott of Israel and called instead for “a cultural dialogue”. She was
flooded with angry protests of Harry Potter fans, who compared Israel
with the evil wizard Voldemort. Vainly did Rowling try to appease the
angry readers by expressing solidarity with the Palestinians: “The
Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality. I
want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice
and brutality. Boycotting Israel on every possible front has its allure.
It satisfies the human urge to do something, anything, in the face of
horrific human suffering. What sits uncomfortably with me is that
severing contact with Israel’s cultural and academic community means
refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are most
pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government. Those are
voices I’d like to hear amplified, not silenced. A cultural boycott
places immovable barriers between artists and academics who want to talk
to each other, understand each other and work side-by-side for peace.”

Rowling’s position in favor of the Palestinians caused great
disappointment in the Israeli mass media. Yedioth Ahronoth published an
extensive news item entitled “Harry Potter no longer on our side” –
while at the same time, many pro-Palestinian fans continued to attack
Rowling for her “unforgivable” opposition to boycott.

In one well-known episode of the Harry Potter series, the British Prime
Minister discovers that there are in his country real magicians and
wizards, capable of doing powerful magic. Naively, he thinks that a
solution was found to all the Kingdom’s problems: “You can do magic, you
can do anything!”. The head wizard is quick to dampen his enthusiasm:
“Unfortunately, Mr. Prime Minister, the other side can do magic, too”…