By Adam Keller, Crazy Country – 16 Apr 2011
In June 1967, the occupation regime in the Palestinian territories was only a few weeks old. Most citizens of Israel were still in the grip of nationalist euphoria at the military victory and admiration for the victorious army (including, it must be noted, also the author of these lines). But even in those days there were people – a small group, and at the time very isolated – who came out in protest at the newborn occupation and condemned it in graffiti written at night on the walls of Tel Aviv.
“The Socialist Organization in Israel” was the official name by which they called themselves, those pioneers of the anti- occupation struggle, but the media – which often attacked and condemned them – usually called them “Matzpen” (“Compass”), the name of the paper which they published with considerable effort and sold on the streets (an act often involving a very real risk).
One of the most prominent among this group was Oded Pilavsky, whom I always saw in demonstrations against the occupation during all the years in which I participated in them – and who had participated in a wide variety of demonstrations and struggles, long before there was an occupation, long before I was born. Last week, his brave and generous.heart stopped beating
From the article which he wrote about his life and his long and complicated political path, I chose to bring two excerpts, which are still highly relevant today.
Taking possession of “the abandoned harvest”
Kibbutz Mashavim (now “Mashavey Sadeh”) of which I was a member belonged to Hakibutz HaMeuhad (United Kibbutz Movement), and there was a strong Left Zionist atmosphere. At the celebration marking two years of the Kibbutz’s foundation we placed, at the corner of the hall where the celebration took place, a large wooden box inscribed with “Donations to support the Sailors’ Strike”. Representatives of two Bedouin tribes who lived nearby, Abu-Rgayyek and A-Sana, were also invited to take part in the celebration. They were given seat at the front of the hall, near the stage…
Soon after that, at the end of the planting season in 1950, the Israeli Army expelled several Bedouin tribes from the Tel-Arad region across the Jordanian border. And that was not an isolated case. At the Negev Heights, other Bedouin tribes were deported across the border with Egypt. I was called upon to take part in what was termed “Harvesting the abandoned fields” near Tel – Arad. My participation in that act affected me deeply and sharpened my perception of the Zionist practice of ethnic cleansing.
That is how it was: The winter of 1950-1951 was exceptionally blessed with rain. The barley which the Bedouins had sown before their expulsion yielded a magnificent crop whose like is seen in this part of our country only once in a decade. It was the kibbutzniks, led by the army’s Negev command, who immediately took possession and started harvesting the flourishing high corn, fruit of the labor of the Bedouin Arabs who had been expelled from the country after sowing. A tent camp was established there, for several weeks, to provide housing and meals to those who industriously carried out this task.” Each Kibbutz was assigned a plot to be harvested. The barley grain was taken by trucks to the market. The proceeds distributed among the participating kibbutzim in proportion to their contribution to the common effort of the stolen (“abandoned”) harvest.
I was among the porters, taking up with great effort the full sacks of barley and transporting them from the fields to the camp and then onto the trucks to the market. Suddenly, in the middle of loading, the scales fell from my eyes and I finally started to comprehend what was happening there. A collectivist bunch imbued with socialist ideals, equipped with the best of agricultural machinery purchased on credit from the Jewish Agency, was reaping- robbing the fruit of the labor of poor Arabs who had been expelled from their land and their country…
Who am I?
Toward any anti-Semite, I am a Jew
To adherents of Greater Israel, a Palestinian
To white supremacists, I am black
In face of rampant Israeli nationalism, I am a diaspora Jew
To Jewish megalomania, a gentile
For European Neo-Nazis, let me be an Arab, a Turk and a Kurd
To Xenophobes, a migrant worker
To women haters, a feminist
In the presence of aristocrats, I am a commoner
And with smug generals, a conscientious objector
Oded Pilavsky, 2002
Oded Pilavsky had no funeral. He chose to donate his body to science. Instead, his family and friends will hold a memorial evening on Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 pm, at Beit Sokolov, 4 Kaplan Street, Tel Aviv.
Moshé Machover: Comrade Oded (Odik) Pilavsky
Oded Pilavsky: How I arrived to Matzpen