Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 21, 2009

Rolf Verleger: Gaza: The Bad, Bad Neighbor - (Revised Version)

In comments here Parviz pointed to this piece written in German and Sabine kindly translated it to English. It is by Rolf Verleger, a German psychology professor and Jewish activist. The original was published on January 5 in the German magazine Hintergrund.

Update note: Rolf Verleger asked me to post his revised version of the piece. The old version in English is available here. His revisions in the German version were adopted to the English one by me and posted below on January 22, 9:00am EST. - b.

Update II: A revised translation was posted  below on January 30, 7:00am EST. -b.


What would you do – the Israeli historian Professor Fania Oz-Salzberger wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – if your neighbour constantly threw stones and Molotov cocktails at your apartment? Wouldn't you eventually pick up a gun and put an end to such activity? And if this neighbour surrounded himself with his children so you couldn’t attack him, wouldn't you then use a gun with telescopic sights? Didn’t Hamas behave in Gaza just like this neighbour when it fired rockets at Israeli cities? Therefore, wrote Professor Oz-Salzberger, Israel’s current war against Gaza was a just war.

With such an example, one can indeed get across plenty of things with considerable clarity. For simplicity, let us call you and the family terrorized by the bad neighbour the landlord, and let us now look at the curious circumstances in the apartment house. The neighbouring apartment is Gaza.

1) Three years ago you took away your neighbour’s key.

Without your approval as landlord, your neighbour’s family is not allowed to leave the apartment, either for work or for study, or for travel or for shopping. Without your approval as landlord, your neighbour receives no mail, nothing to eat, no electricity, no gas and no visitors: the apartment is locked, you as the landlord have the key, and your bad, bad neighbour is locked in. All this since 2006, almost three years ago.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

What was the mistake made by the bad, bad neighbour and his friends in the other apartment house? They had voted for the wrong party!

And this, despite the fact that you were so nice to the neighbour four years ago in 2005, when you voluntarily moved off his balcony with the seaview which you’d taken away from him earlier. Of course, you didn’t deign to give your neighbour a word or a look when you moved out. And you also demolished the balcony furniture. Whatever would become of us if we actually talked with our neighbours? And now you tell the whole world that you have vacated the balcony. But you don’t mention that you still have the key to the apartment.

2) Two years ago you sent a gang of thugs to your neighbour.

In 2007, you and your North American friends from the Homeowners' Association quartered a bunch of thugs in the neighbour’s apartment, the Mohammed Dahlan gang. This gang was supposed to deprive your bad neighbour of his apartment. However, nasty as he is, the bad neighbour defended himself successfully. And you were pretty bitter about it. Afterwards you tried to make everybody believe that the bad neighbour had violently and illegally taken control of his apartment without any reason. You yourself were surprised at how many journalists spread this lie.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

3) You have not invoiced the running costs correctly.

For years you, as landlord, have collected duties and taxes due to your neighbour, but have not paid them to the neighbour completely and on time.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

4) You have already killed many people from the neighbour’s apartment.

That was in 2006. There were hundreds of dead in the neighbour’s apartment. Fortunately the wind did not come from the south, otherwise the stench would have reached your apartment.

Thereupon, your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

5) You took your neighbour’s work and car away.

Once the neighbour used to go fishing. You stopped that. He once had factories. Those you bombed in 2006. He practised agriculture. You ruined that by forbidding exports. He once had an airport – built with funds from the European Union. You broke that up: bad neighbours don’t need airports. The bad neighbour who only wants to shoot should not fish, should not work, should not till the fields, should not travel. Your bad neighbor should shoot at you so you can shoot back.

And that is what he did.

6) Courts confirmed the neighbour’s case.

Ignorant non-locals, alleged experts in Neighborhood Law, like Amnesty International, UN experts, Nobel peace prize winners unanimously say that your action as landlord towards your neighbour violates law and justice. Fortunately these people have no police to enforce their so-called law and justice. As Stalin already asked, ‘How many divisions has the Pope?’

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

7) For years you have driven your bad neighbour’s friends out of their apartments.

Unfortunately the bad neighbour still has telephones and mobiles. Thus he learns every day how his friends and relatives who live in the West Bank apartment houses are being driven out of their apartments. One of the ways you have of doing this is building a big wall, meant basically for your protection – at least that is what you claimed in your building application. But actually you built this wall not around your apartments, but right through the apartments of your bad neighbour’s friends. What do they need two living rooms for? One is quite sufficient. In the other one your friends could live – demented Americans who are so forgetful that already after only one day of living in somebody else’s apartment claim this to be their true home. And if the relatives of your bad, bad neighbour, in their own little apartment, have to go through a security check on their way from the living room to the bathroom, what is the problem? In the end, all of life is a waiting-room! And who ever demonstrates peacefully against it may get the Ossietzky Peace Prize in Germany, but at home will get tear gas again, and with bad luck may get shot for security reasons while demonstrating. Naturally, some friends of your bad neighbour went to court on account of the partition through their apartment. The then Foreign Minister of Germany, a complacent man named Fischer, called that ‘not helpful’. Naturally, your bad, bad neighbour won the case, but again, naturally, there are no police to enforce the law.

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

8) You took possession of the neighbour’s house sixty years ago.

A long, long time ago your neighbour's grandfather was the owner of the whole house. At that time your grandparents came into the house, in despair, persecuted; it was a good shelter against the storm. Soon they built a house in the courtyard; after all, the courtyard did not belong to anybody, did it? The fact that the others were no longer getting from one house to another – did that matter so much? After all, they were only Arabs. Occasionally a few humanistic weirdos came by, named Ahad Ha’am, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, and a few more, who said one should live with those house owners in peace, but, in the name of Marx and Bakunin, these Arabs were certainly too primitive for living together in communal flats, and one cannot be friends with such yokels. And later when Marx was no longer in fashion, one said: for God’s sake, these Arabs have the wrong religion, what do they actually want here in this Holy House? There are enough other houses; they can go elsewhere.

And then, from 1947 on, your parents took away most of the apartments from the parents of your bad, bad neighbour, when these fled in fear, panicking in the face of the armed terror of your parents. And now many descendants of these people live in this one apartment, in the most densely populated spot on earth, in Gaza. Well, just why is it so densely populated?

Thereupon your bad, bad neighbour became furious.

And therefore the German Chancellor and Professor Oz-Salzberger said: The exclusive responsibility for this war rests on your bad, bad neighbour.

9) Concluding remarks

In 1890 when the first Zionists came to what is today Israel, they were fleeing discrimination, pillage and murderous pogroms in the Russian czarist empire, and searching for a free, self-determined life they were not allowed to live in their old homeland. This was not a conflict of good against evil, but rather the struggle for a piece of land that was home to the Palestinian Arabs and at the same time appeared as the only possible homeland to the immigrants.

The struggle was won by the Jewish side, at the price of a constant state of war. However, a peace plan has been on the table for a long time. It consists of the Two-State Solution, with Israel’s borders those of 1967, and a mutually acceptable regulation of the problem of the Palestinian refugees, and a mutually acceptable agreement on Jerusalem. This was proposed to Israel in 2002 by the member states of the Arab League and recently reconfirmed. Israel does not agree, because it cannot decide whether it would rather keep the illegally occupied land on the West Bank and extend it. As long as Israel does not say ‘yes, we’d rather have peace, and end the occupation,’ there will be no peace.

The position of Germany in this conflict is ambivalent. But can the fact that we European Jews were victims of a great injustice that was perpetrated by Germany give the Jewish state the right to commit injustice to others now? Do German politicians really believe that it is a compensation for the murder of my Jewish relatives that Israel now can do anything it wants, without limits and without restraint?

On the contrary, it would do Israel infinite good if it could be shown the way out of its fantasy position of eternal victim and become, like every other state, part of a network within an international system of law. This means that the occupation of the West Bank, the years-long siege of Gaza and the mass murder of the inhabitants of Gaza since the 27 December 2008 should give rise to sanctions and boycotts. The European Union should assess Israel on its progress in observing international law and human rights, just as it does – justifiably or not – Serbia and Turkey. And a legal assessment in the cases of Olmert, Barak and Livni should take place in the same way as those of Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic – in The Hague.


This text, in its German original, will soon appear in the new edition of the book by Rolf Verleger "Israels Irrweg. Eine jüdische Sicht" ("Israel’s wrong way. A Jewish view", PapyRossa-Verlag, Cologne). It was first published in a slightly changed version on January 5, 2009 at

The author: Prof. Dr. Rolf Verleger is a psychologist at the University of Lübeck. He helped to build up the Jewish Community in Lübeck and the Jewish State Association of Schleswig- Holstein and he has been the delegate of the State Association in the Central Council of the Jews in Germany since the year 2006.

Translated from German: Marie and Peter Voss, Munich.

Posted by b on January 21, 2009 at 12:41 UTC | Permalink


It just shows how much one can achieve with satire. Thanks, Sabine, for generously devoting your time to the translation.

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 21 2009 13:24 utc | 1

thank you so much for the translation sabine. this should be published outside of germany.

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 14:26 utc | 2

Culling, like I said...

'I felt it was my duty to protest'
The Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe,

"It was," he concedes. "I thought long and hard before using it, and my publisher [Oneworld Publications] hesitated. But I don't think that the military and political elite has given up on the policy of ethnic cleansing. They think that the survival, and certainly the prosperity, of the Jewish state is connected to its ability to minimise the numbers of Palestinians living within its borders - although it has not yet decided where those borders should be."

In 2005, Pappe and two friends wrote a warning online that Israeli settlers were being moved out of Gaza to allow government forces a free hand to bomb the residents of that overcrowded strip of land. When the current bombardment began at the end of last year, the Israeli government argued that it was trying to protect its citizens from rocket attacks by Hamas. But, says Pappe: "Those rocket attacks didn't start until after Israel had blockaded Gaza."

I am so tired of Israel framing the argument for the world leaders.

They throw sand in everyone's eyes. They are still winning the war of words because everyone still seems to accept the framing.

Posted by: mattes | Jan 21 2009 14:53 utc | 3

Thanks for making this available. This needs to be hammered into the thick sculls of my fellow americans.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a fellow at the bar/flyfishing shop where I like to enjoy an afternoon cup of coffee. We started with talking about gun laws and ended when he started talking about how great israel was "defending" itself against the Palestinians.

I couldn't believe the guy was an israel supporter, being the location we were at and how he was earlier going on and on about some white supremacist group in Oregon and how cool he thought they were. Talk about a confused freak (not me, not this time.) I don't usually hang with guys spewing white supremacist crap, but I wanted my coffee and I continued to ask how he could support a state created by terrorism. He didn't want to talk facts and quickly ended the conversation, leaving the place.

The owner was pissed-off about the guy, Bob, leaving but I sometimes guide trips at the shop so the owner couldn't get too pissed-off. He generally has the personality of a grizzly bear with PMS and is always angry about something anyways.

Bob is just another of my fucking idiot country men (one of millions) who are smart about business (and greedy), but have no understanding of history pre Ronald Reagan. They have no real understanding of government other than what Fox news tells them; no idea about what war is except from Rambo movies and the worse part is they don't care. Their minds are simple like children's books, but full of dark, blurry pictures and they are constantly on the look-out for some parental figure to explain life in a simple, black and white way.

Beware of these sorts, they'll smile as they shoot you in the name of their god. Why these crazy christians smile I've never understood. At least in the muslim religion allah spells out the sort of heaven a guy might think he'd want (at least until the 70 mother-in-laws came to visit, there is always that fine print.)

Someday maybe real logic will rule the land, until that distant future arrives, I'd suggest finding safe covers to hide under...

Posted by: David | Jan 21 2009 15:22 utc | 4

two recent chomsky articles

"Exterminate all the Brutes": Gaza 2009

Undermining Gaza

Posted by: b real | Jan 21 2009 16:11 utc | 5

Yes... This is a great analogy. Thanks to Sabine & Parvis. It's too bad we are preaching to the choir here, because this should be read by many in the U.S. and in Israel.

Posted by: Rick | Jan 21 2009 16:33 utc | 6


Absolutely brilliant piece. Many thanks for making it available.

Posted by: da | Jan 21 2009 17:21 utc | 7

Adding my thanks too, sabine.

Posted by: beq | Jan 21 2009 17:46 utc | 8

thanks B, i was not sure the translation did the original justice.

Parviz, you owe me one box of sweets. :-}

Rick, but what about the lurker lurking?

Posted by: sabine | Jan 21 2009 17:57 utc | 9

My jaw dropped yesterday when a good friend of 40 years announced she was "pro-Israel". Do I send this to her or not? She's intelligent but absolutely clueless on this.

Posted by: beq | Jan 21 2009 18:05 utc | 10

This reminds me of the analogy of the father lecturing his child about what one must do when he sees his neighbor beating his wife as a reason for the Iraqi invasion that made the email rounds during 2003-2004.

After the invasion, I wrote back to a friend who'd emailed me (perhaps for the tenth time) the story and I responded:

"Little Billy should have replied is that the proper thing to do was to go over and kill the abusive spouse and his entire family and set his house afire".

War is unspeakable mass insanity that no analogy from personal life can compare to. International law should mandate that any leader who advocates war be institutionalized and medicated for the remainder of his or her life.

Posted by: Obelix | Jan 21 2009 18:19 utc | 11

Why these crazy christians smile I've never understood.

because otherwise that be sitting in a corner bawling their eyes out in fear of the god the believe in.

i grew up in a convent (ward of the state), one of the consequences being raised and educated by nuns only is that i have trouble "reading" peoples faces and body languages (still). Believe me a true christian especially a happy one has this sort of placid face, without ever showing to much happiness nor sadness nor anger, peaceful one could say.
These show of xtian on tv shouting and sprouting.........ack.

Posted by: david | Jan 21 2009 18:26 utc | 12

@ beq

I wouldn't if I were you. this is a bit hard to understand and too much too soon. I would have her read the piece that Malooga wrote a couple of days ago and get her reaction to that. If she shows any interest in seeing more of the story you can gently provide readily verifable facts in a calm and non threatening way.

there is a lot of expensive manufactured consent in the way nearly everyone in the US views Israel. For a lot of people, reading the above would be like getting told everything they know is wrong.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 21 2009 18:28 utc | 13

sorry the last post was me, why i put david in the name field i do not know, must be looking like an adressfield to me.

Sorry, not enough coffee, and preview is my friend

Posted by: sabine | Jan 21 2009 18:31 utc | 14

thank you Sabine and b,

copied and circulated.

Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Jan 21 2009 18:54 utc | 15

In terms of the propagandized, I favor a combination of insolence and information, in equal measure.

Enough is enough.

Posted by: Thrasyboulos | Jan 21 2009 18:55 utc | 16

Thanks b & Sabine, have posted in its entirety at my shack. Really good piece that takes a simple rationalization and rebuts it with it's simple context.

Posted by: anna missed | Jan 21 2009 19:16 utc | 17

Just published in ireland, with MOA and Sabine credited, alongside a little action I was involved with monday night:

Posted by: drunkasarule | Jan 21 2009 19:18 utc | 18

beq, send it. i thought of her immediately when i read this.

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 20:02 utc | 19

Sabine, I can only offer the box of sweets to you 'virtually', but if one day there is world peace and all MoA posters come out of the closet I'll buy you a crate of vintage Haut Brion.

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 21 2009 20:05 utc | 20

if one day there is world peace and all MoA posters come out of the closet

a bunch of us met once before parvis, a couple years ago in hamburg. we must do it again someday, it was an excellent adventure.

Posted by: annie | Jan 21 2009 20:14 utc | 21

And here's yet another brilliant Finkelstein article on the Gaza bloodbath:

"Behind the Bloodbath in Gaza"

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 21 2009 20:14 utc | 22


maybe some local sweets in your country one day with tea?
our 'leaders' make it hard for us, don't they?

Posted by: sabine | Jan 21 2009 20:14 utc | 23

Actually, Sabine, Americans visit here and tour the entire country without any problem, saying it's the most hospitable place on Earth! You'd be amazed how different Iran is from its image. The most frequent tourists are German, and they rave about the place and cause ever more Germans to visit in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Robert Baer, a self-confessed ex-CIA agent, was amazingly granted a visa to visit in 2008 ("Glasnost"???) and just published his brilliant book "The Devil We Know" which, but for its scary title, praises Iran's culture and society, blames America's problems on a combination of Neocons/Zionists and "degenerate, lazy Gulf Arabs" (his words, not mine), and urges the U.S. to alter course with Iran 180 degrees. His analysis is superb and the book has caused a stir.

DAMNED POLITICS ................

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 21 2009 20:28 utc | 24

annie, I visit Germany from time to time. Let's hope b can coordinate another visit. I'd love to meet you all.

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 21 2009 20:31 utc | 25

drunkasarule (18), it looks great on the Blog. Great job!

Posted by: Parviz | Jan 21 2009 20:34 utc | 26

i have thought about visiting Iran for some time now. maybe somehow on my next trip from germany, btw. i am in nz, not in usa.
since the invasion of Iraq, i have been annoyed with me, i should have gone there before the country got bombed, the gate of ishtar - visit some of the mosques and admire the mosaic, i so wanted to see the sites, sit by the river and eat some local delicatessen, go shop for some pretty things. but alas, to late now

if there is another meeting organized i try to come and join. it would be fun indeed.

Posted by: sabine | Jan 21 2009 20:42 utc | 27

What I thought was cool about the satire is that it starts out looking like it is going down a different road enough to make some one who is in favor of Israel's policy against Gaza nod their head in affirmation.

Then, come(s) the sucker punch(es) as the piece not only shows its satirical lining but also is tinged with acid sarcasm.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Jan 21 2009 23:06 utc | 28

Channel 4 video: Gaza villages Wiped Off The Map - recommended

Posted by: b | Jan 22 2009 7:54 utc | 29

Thanks to Sabine and parviz for highlighting and translating Verleger's article, to b real for the Chomsky links, and to parviz again for the link to Finkelstein's comments.
It needs hardly be observed that writers like these take their rightful place of honor in the authentic prophetic and ethical tradition of Judaism. In particular, Chomsky's straightforward appeal for consistent application of moral standards in judging "our" actions and "their" actions has an almost mathematical lucidity.

I note, without condemnation or endorsement, this Gazan view of Obama's inauguration from b real's link.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Jan 22 2009 9:33 utc | 30

Well, b, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes even pictures fail to grasp it.

But sometimes a single phrase sticks out, like this one: "They killed the chickens and the turkeys -- they even killed the cats"

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Jan 22 2009 11:51 utc | 31

I have just update the piece above at Rolf Verleger's request. Comments above refer to the old (nearly similar) version, comments below this one, to the new version above.

Posted by: b | Jan 22 2009 13:53 utc | 32

The typical Israeli version of a ceasefire: Palestinians: Shell fired from Israeli gunboat wounds two in Gaza

A Palestinian medical official on Thursday said that an Israeli gunboat firing off the shores of Gaza City has wounded a man and a girl.

The Israel Defense Forces said it was firing to deter a Palestinian fishing vessel that had strayed off limits.

Dr. Moaiya Hassanain said a shell fired by the boat hit a house in a beachside refugee camp, adding that the two who were wounded were walking in the street.

Another shell landed 100 yards (meters) away in an empty area near a UN aid distribution center.

Three gunboats were operating off Gaza City's coast Thursday.

Gunboats have been firing off Gaza's shore for several days despite a cease-fire that has ended a three-week offensive against Gaza rocket operations aimed at Israel.

A "a Palestinian fishing vessel that had strayed off limits" is any fishing vessel that touches water.

Posted by: b | Jan 22 2009 14:32 utc | 33

thanks B, that reads much more like the original intended. Especially the last part.

Posted by: sabine | Jan 22 2009 17:57 utc | 34

Thanks Rolf Verleger for this excellent article and to Sabine for the translation.

Posted by: Jean | Jan 23 2009 20:39 utc | 35

It begins like a Kafka's novel. One morning, without you having ever done anything, someone's knocking at your door.
It's a guy who says he was living in your flat at a time when the building wasn't even constructed.
He explains you that the owner had promised it to him, and that the town hall gave him the approval to "go back " to it. You say to him that he is no way there, but he already has established himself in the guest room. The following day, you call your neighbour to helps you to evict him, but your "guest", who already picked in the refrigerator and is installed at the table, defend itself. Soon, his cousins, nephews, uncles and aunts arrive and occupy all rooms. Your wife and your children are obliged to leave the flat and to take refuge farther in the area.
Uneasy because of all the neighbours who support you (even if one of them seized the oportunity to pinch you your garage), your "guest", thanks to the concierge who is entirely acquired to him, takes over the entire building, from top to bottom, in order to feel more in security.
As you get angry, your "guest", who is stronger than you, locks you up in the toilets, without giving you anything to eat and never allowing you to go out.
He yells to you across the door that the property manager agrees with him.
After a while, you are so angered that you set the toilets on fire. The firefighters come to put out the fire which partly devastated the flat and where some members of the family of your "guest" also perished.
When the firefighters take out your horribly burnt body on a litter, your "guest" spits on you, treating you as "terrorist ".

From the French book "J'ENFONCE LE CLOU" (published in 2004) by Marc-Edouard Nabe

(approximately) translated from French by myself.

Posted by: Bertrand Du Gai Déclin | Jan 23 2009 21:12 utc | 36

Here's the original version (which is far better) of Marc-Edouard Nabe's text for those here who can read French :

"Ca commence comme un roman de Kafka. Un matin, sans que vous ayez jamais rien fait, on tape à votre porte. C'est un type qui affirme avoir habité dans votre appartement à une époque où l'immeuble n'était même pas construit. Il vous explique que le propriétaire le lui avait promis, et que la mairie lui a donné l'autorisation d'y "retourner". Vous lui dites qu'il n'en est pas question, mais il s'est déjà installé dans la chambre d'amis. Le lendemain, vous appelez votre voisin de palier pour qu'il vous aide à l'expulser, mais votre "hôte", qui s'est servi dans le Frigidaire et a mis les pieds sous la table, se défend. Bientôt, ses cousins, neveux, oncles et tantes arrivent à leur tour et occupent toutes les chambres. Votre femme et vos enfants sont obligés de quitter l'appartement et de se réfugier plus loin dans le quartier. Mal à l'aise à cause de tous les voisins qui vous soutiennent (même si l'un deux en a profité pour vous piquer votre garage), votre "hôte", grâce à la concierge qui lui est tout acquise, s'empare de tout le reste de l'immeuble, de la cave au grenier, afin de se sentir davantage en sécurité. Comme vous vous fâchez, votre "hôte", qui est maintenant plus fort que vous, vous enferme dans les WC, sans vous donner à manger et sans jamais vous laisser sortir. Il vous hurle à travers la porte que le syndic est d'accord. Au bout d'un moment, vous êtes tellement en colère que vous mettez le feu aux toilettes. Les pompiers viennent éteindre l'incendie qui a ravagé une partie de l'appartement et où des membres de la famille de votre "hôte" ont péri aussi. Quand les pompiers sortent sur une civière votre corps carbonisé, votre "hôte" crache dessus en vous traitant de "terroriste"."

Marc-Edouard Nabe, "J'ENFONCE LE CLOU", 2004

Posted by: Bertrand Du Gai Déclin | Jan 23 2009 21:27 utc | 37

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