Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
"Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. "So...what would Finkelstein have said? I asked him, and this is what he wrote:
"I would have argued it as a purely pragmatic issue, with Palestinians having the final say on whether they accept the settlement insofar as on the basis of international law all the concessions would be coming from their side. I didn't prepare anything because Tryl never got back to me. I had no idea what was going on."On Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, Finkelstein said:
Since the mid-1970s, there's been an international consensus for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Most of your listeners will be familiar with it. It's called a two-state settlement, and a two-state settlement is pretty straightforward, uncomplicated. Israel has to fully withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, in accordance with the fundamental principle of international law, cited three times by Mr. Ben-Ami in the book, his book, that it's inadmissible to acquire territory by war. The West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, having been acquired by war, it's inadmissible for Israel to keep them. They have to be returned. On the Palestinian side and also the side of the neighboring Arab states, they have to recognize Israel's right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. That was the quid pro quo: recognition of Israel, Palestinian right to self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem. That's the international consensus. It's not complicated. It's also not controversial. You see it voted on every year in the United Nations. The votes typically something like 160 nations on one side, the United States, Israel and Naru, Palau, Tuvalu, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands on the other sideThis would not have been to the liking of the pro-Israel crowd. Finkelstein would have argued for the two-state solution, and at the same would have argued that Israel's policies have thwarted the two-state solution. Which is what I argued in my previous post...
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Dear Dr Finkelstein, ...Many people expressed concern that the debate as it stood was imbalanced and people felt that as someone who had apparently expressed anti-zionist sentiments that you might not be appropriate for this debate. I tried to convince them otherwise but was accused of putting forward an imbalanced debate and various groups put pressure on me. I received numerous emails attacking the debate and Alan Dershowitz threatened to write an Oped attacking the Union. What is more he apparently attacked me personally in a televised lecture to Yale. I hope that you understand my position, this is not ideal and I would be happy to welcome you as an individual speaker to the Union in a forthcoming term. I know that the President-Elect Emily Partington would be keen to host you in Hilary. I just did not want to see the debate compromised and given the Irving Griffin Controversy I couldn't fight a battle on all fronts. Best wishes Luke.So, who's to blame? Well, in my opinion, the blame falls pretty squarely on Tryl. Dershowitz was Dershowitz -- a pit bull that misrepresented the debate (it was not a debate about the legitimacy of Zionism), Finkelstein, and the Union. But because of an unflattering op-ed in FrontPage and the Jerusalem Post, you disinvite a speaker? As if that weren't enough, when the debate was held -- with most of the players changed -- the Union did not repeat to the audience what Tryl had written to Finkelstein. Instead, they said that they had mistakenly invited Finkelstein, not knowing what his views were, or something to that effect. That's how it works. Either you hang tough or you don't. Tryl folded. Clearly, Dershowitz and UK Peace Now's Usiskin thought it was more important to get Finkelstein off the panel -- because they simply are incapable of understanding how an anti-Zionist can favor a two-state solution -- then allow the invitation to get through. I gave up on Dershowitz a long time ago. Apparently UK Peace Now has gone over to the neocons as well. Time to give up on the Oxford Union. It's High Noon all over again.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Wisse should ask why no Israelis are writing Hebrew versions of "Jews and Power," and why there is no public in the Jewish state for such books. Or why nobody in Israel under the age of sixty writes the history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict the way she does, unless associated with Shalem Center or Bar Ilan.So my question here is: is this indeed a generation thing? Are we looking at a generation of American and Canadian Jewish intellectuals, who, picked on when they were brainy little Jewish kids in their public school in the forties and fifties, not cool because they were Jewish, with lingering guilt over their inability to connect unselfconsciously to their Judaism, as had their parent's generation, bought into the Zionist mythology, appropriated Black victimology, and used their often considerable talents of writing, to fight back against the antisemites and the self-hating Jewish liberals --only to find themselves embraced by Christian evangelicals, shunned by respectable intellectuals, banished to a Commentary ghetto, and belittled by the Israeli establishment? Has the danger passed? Part of me says yes. Part of me says that there is just no continuation of the Podhoretz-Ozick-Wisse-Foxman-Klein-Levin generation. Even the rightwingers coming up in the ranks (I see them at ZOA meetings at Hillel) cannot use the same slogans and cling to the same myths as the older group. Ruth Wisse can barely use the term "Palestinian". This indeed is a generational thing. But let's not be too happy too soon. I fratelli Hazony, David and Yoram, Michael Oren, and a whole bunch of AIPAC youngsters, are still there. The profile has changed -- most of the rightwingers are now products of modern orthodox day schools -- and the talk is now less of "Arabs" than of "radical Islam". There is less idealization of Israel, but just as much demonization of the Arabs (though not of the Palestinians, who are considered whiners and schlemiels, terrorists who can't bomb straight.) More Jewish rightwingers are studying Arabic, and Middle East Studies after 9/11 -- and they are not doing it out of a desire to learn the history of Islam, either They are doing it because of the influence of Lewis, Pipes, Oren, et al., the "Clash-of-Civilization" thang, and the desire to protect the interests of Israel, the US, and the Republican party (no need to assign priority; they are all the same interests) But why stop there? As readers of this blog know, I am not much happier about the "leftwing" of the Israel lobby, neither the think-tanks like the Brookings Institutions' Saban Center for Middle East Policy and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, nor the liberal columnists like Tom Friedman and Richard Cohen, nor Democrats like Hilary Clinton (who was recently, and not surprisingly, endorsed by Charles Krauthammer as the "least objectionable of the Democratic candidates", or words to that effect). In short, one generation comes, the other generation goes --to paraphrase Yizhak Shamir -- it is the same sea and the same Jews. Yes, Walt and Mearsheimer's book is a best-seller, but so is Podhoretz's book (I forget the title -- something like, "How To Start A World War By Bombing Iran," if I am not mistaken) -- and this, even after the ongoing debacle in Iraq, for which Podheretz and Co. should take some responsibility. I would like to think that things are changing, but I see no light at the end of the tunnel, except for... Except for the resistance to the Occupation going on in Israel, and supported by people of good will everywhere. Except for the Human Rights organizations that are recording the daily violations of Palestinian life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Except for the Israelis and Palestinians, and their supporters, who fight injustice within Israel and the Occupied Territories. Except for the Palestinians, the children and grandchildren of the Nakbah survivors, who are able, despite all odds, to become lawyers, doctors, engineers, film-makers, and then to become articulate spokespeople for their people. And we will be seeing more of them. Except for the Palestinians who will not leave their land, who cling to it, and who continue to embrace its life. And except for the Israelis, who, willy-nilly, will have to learn to live with the inhabitants of the land and their descendants. Perhaps it will take generations, but the time will come. If Iron Curtains can fall, then so can Iron Walls. And, finally, except for those Jews who have resisted the temptation to become nationalist Zealots, who do not hold up Simeon and Levi as role-models, who do not forget that according to traditional Judaism, "pride" is a sin and "Jewish pride" an oxymoron.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Last week, Zacaria Sadah, field worker for Rabbis for Human Rights, along with an RHR volunteer, were chased by cars driven by Itai Zar and settlers from the Havat Gilead outpost who sought to drive them from the road. When RHR called the police, the police arrested Sadah and the volunteer based on a complaint by Zar that Sadah had started a fire in Havat G il ead. They have been jailed for the evening and will be brought to court tomorrow. Sadah and the volunteer were not in the vicinity of the fire. Farmers from the Palestinian village of Tel have been working today at the intersection of the approach road to Havat Gilead and, thus, were not in the area of the fire. Despite our complaints none of the settlers were arrested. It should be pointed out that this is not the first time that Itai Zar has made false accusations against the staff and volunteers of Rabbis for Human Rights. Three years ago he accused RHR's former field worker of attacking him, but police photographs showed that this was not the case.For Arik Ascherman's recent follow-up, see here And please take a minute to look at the Youtube clip posted two days ago. You see how the extremist Noam Federman, a former leader of the Kach party, breaks up a tour led by Bne Avraham that has stopped next to the grave of the mass-murderer Barukh Goldstein's. As you will see in the video, Federman shoves the tour-leader (a complaint of assault was subsequently filed), and drowns out the tourguide's explanations. Federman later charged that Yehudah Shaul, who is known here as the founder of "Breaking the Silence" was attempting to urinate on the grave. The charge is absurd, but it has to be answered -- counter-complaints were filed. Please circulate the video. Of course, there are much worse on Youtube. Do a search on Hebron or settlers, and what you see will nauseate you. Why do Jews only mobilize for Darfur, when these things are happening in their back yard --and in their name?
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
'Failure Risks Devastating Consequences'
By Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lee Hamilton, Carla Hills, Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, Thomas R. Pickering, Brent Scowcroft et al.
The following letter on the Middle East peace conference scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland, in late November, was sent by its signers on October 10 to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The statement is a joint initiative of the US/Middle East Project, Inc. (General Brent Scowcroft, chairman, International Board, and Henry Siegman, president), the International Crisis Group (Gareth Evans, president), and the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program (Steven Clemons, director).
The Israeli-Palestinian peace conference announced by President Bush and scheduled for November presents a genuine opportunity for progress toward a two-state solution. The Middle East remains mired in its worst crisis in years, and a positive outcome of the conference could play a critical role in stemming the rising tide of instability and violence. Because failure risks devastating consequences in the region and beyond, it is critically important that the conference succeed.
Bearing in mind the lessons of the last attempt at Camp David seven years ago at dealing with the fundamental political issues that divide the two sides, we believe that in order to be successful, the outcome of the conference must be substantive, inclusive, and relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians.
The international conference should deal with the substance of a permanent peace: Because a comprehensive peace accord is unattainable by November, the conference should focus on the endgame and endorse the contours of a permanent peace, which in turn should be enshrined in a Security Council resolution. Israeli and Palestinian leaders should strive to reach such an agreement. If they cannot, the Quartet (US, EU, Russia, and UN Secretary General)—under whose aegis the conference ought to be held— should put forward its own outline, based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Clinton parameters of 2000, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, and the 2003 Road Map. It should reflect the following:
Two states, based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with minor, reciprocal, and agreed-upon modifications as expressed in a 1:1 land swap;
Jerusalem as home to two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods falling under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty;
Special arrangements for the Old City, providing each side control of its respective holy places and unimpeded access by each community to them;
A solution to the refugee problem that is consistent with the two-state solution, addresses the Palestinian refugees' deep sense of injustice, as well as provides them with meaningful financial compensation and resettlement assistance; Security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty.
The conference should not be a one-time affair. It should set in motion credible and sustained permanent status negotiations under international supervision and with a timetable for their completion, so that both a two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative's full potential (normal, peaceful relations between Israel and all Arab states) can be realized.
The international conference should be inclusive:
In order to enhance Israel's confidence in the process, Arab states that currently do not enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel should attend the conference. We commend the administration for its decision to invite Syria to the conference; it should be followed by genuine engagement. A breakthrough on this track could profoundly alter the regional landscape. At a minimum, the conference should launch Israeli-Syrian talks under international auspices.
As to Hamas, we believe that a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation; it could be conducted, for example, by the UN and Quartet Middle East envoys. Promoting a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza would be a good starting point.
The international conference should produce results relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians: Too often in the past, progress has been stymied by the gap between lofty political statements and dire realities on the ground. The conference therefore should also result in agreement on concrete steps to improve living conditions and security, including a mutual and comprehensive cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza, an exchange of prisoners, prevention of weapons smuggling, cracking down on militias, greater Palestinian freedom of movement, the removal of unjustified checkpoints, dismantling of Israeli outposts, and other tangible measures to accelerate the process of ending the occupation.
It is of utmost importance, if the conference is to have any credibility, that it coincide with a freeze in Israeli settlement expansion. It is impossible to conduct a serious discussion on ending the occupation while settlement expansion proceeds apace. Efforts also should focus on alleviating the situation in Gaza and allowing the resumption of its economic life.
These three elements are closely interconnected; one cannot occur in the absence of the others. Unless the conference yields substantive results on permanent status, neither side will have the motivation or public support to take difficult steps on the ground. If Syria or Hamas is ostracized, prospects that they will play a spoiler role increase dramatically. This could take the shape of escalating violence from the West Bank or from Gaza, either of which would overwhelm any political achievement, increase the political cost of compromises for both sides, and negate Israel's willingness or capacity to relax security restrictions. By the same token, a comprehensive cease-fire or prisoner exchange is not possible without Hamas's cooperation. And unless both sides see concrete improvements in their lives, political agreements are likely to be dismissed as mere rhetoric, further undercutting support for a two-state solution.
The fact that the parties and the international community appear—after a long, costly seven-year hiatus—to be thinking of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is welcome news. Because the stakes are so important, it is crucial to get it right. That means having the ambition as well as the courage to chart new ground and take bold steps.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter
Lee H. Hamilton, former Congressman and Co-chair of the Iraq Study Group
Carla Hills, former US Trade Representative under President George H.W. Bush
Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, former Senator
Thomas R. Pickering, former Under-Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton
Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Adviser to President Gerald Ford and President George H.W. Bush
Theodore C. Sorensen, former Special Counsel and Adviser to President John F. Kennedy
Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the US Federal Reserve System
Friday, October 12, 2007
According to data collected by human rights group B'Tselem, Israel is responsible for killing more than 850 Palestinian children and teenagers since al-Dura was killed, including 92 in the past year alone. Last October, we killed 31 children in Gaza.But ask many Israel-supporters about killing Palestinian children and they will respond that the IDF was not responsible for the shooting of Mohammed al-Dura, the poster child of the Intifada al-Aksa, the only Palestinian child that the world remembers. Al-Dura's death meant something because the video of the death, which may or may not have been doctored, "blackened" Israel's name in the world. Such supporters will spend hours trying to prove that the whole thing was an anti-Israel libel. How much time will they spend talking about the other 849-plus children killed by the Israelis? Beyond the stock answers ("Palestinians don't value the lives of their children; they exploit them to make the Jews look bad"), not much. Which reminds me of the "Jenin Massacre" libel -- no, I don't mean the Palestinan claim that there was a massacre in Jenin; rather, I am referring to the Jewish libel that the Palestinians continued to claim that there was a massacre past the first 48 hours of battle fog. As soon as the facts were known, every single Palestinian news agency and official accepted that there was no massacre. And yet you still hear Israel supporters bringing up the libel. No, Fatima, there wasn't a massacre in Jenin. Whoopee! But there were massive war crimes -- but hey, who cares, as long as there wasn't a massacre. Which brings me back to Peliyah Albeck, the legendary head of the civil department in the State's Attorney's Office, who, like the railroads' lawyers in all those B-westerns who used dubious arguments to drive the homesteaders off their land, used legal tricks to expropriate Palestinian land.Albeck in 1991 rejected a demand for compensation by a Palestinian whose wife had been "inadvertantly" killed by the IDF. Her argument: since he had one less mouth to feed and to support, he was financially better off by his wife's death and not deserving of compensation. I swear, I don't make this stuff up... http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article574648.ece
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
It is certainly the right of Mearsheimer and Walt to advance these arguments, and their analysis of Camp David in particular echoes that of Robert Malley, one of the American mediators there. There is no lack of Israeli culpability in the Middle East morass, most obviously for the settlement enterprise. Still, one can leave this book with only the faintest realization that the political majority in Israel had been prepared to withdraw from most of the occupied territories to conclude a peace agreement with a Palestinian state -- until the Al-Aksa intifada brought terrorism as deeply into sovereign, pre-1967 Israel as the Tel Aviv beachfront. Having withdrawn from all of Gaza in 2005, Israel received a steady barrage of rocket attacks, which undermined public support for further disengagement from portions, at least, of the West Bank. The authors do not have to concur with the Israeli reaction to those events, but they prove their intellectual dishonesty in barely even mentioning them...Thus, while Mearsheimer and Walt endorse a two-state solution, they still lump into the nefarious Israel lobby some of the very diplomats -- Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross, to name two -- who tried to negotiate precisely such a peace agreement.Here you have, in a nutshell, the faith of the liberal Zionist. Israel is indeed responsible for much of the Middle East morass, “most obviously for the settlement enterprise,” as if everything pre-1967 was just hunky-dory and could be solved by a simple withdrawal to the 67 borders -- by ceding “much of the occupied territories,” and concluding it all in Geneva or Camp David with a peace agreement. It seems that according to Freedman, the Israel-Palestinian conflict could have been solved via Oslo, were it not for the al-Aksa intifada, “that brought terrorism as deeply into sovereign, pre-1967 Israel as the Tel Aviv beachfront.” Aside from the fact that this factually incorrect -- Palestinians blew up Israeli civilians in Tel Aviv before, during, and after Oslo, it assumes that Israelis were ever willing to conclude a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would create a strong, secure Palestinians state. As I have written before, this is pure balderdash. Nobody in Israel, except those on the extreme left, have ever supported the establishment of a Palestinian state -- rather, they support an emasculated demilitarized “state” that could survive only because of its neocolonial relation to Israel, and that would never pose a threat to the security of the Jewish state. That the state of Israel would pose a threat to the security of the Palestinian state is dismissed -- after all we are Jews, and we honor agreements. Freedman, qua liberal Zionist, seems to believe that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. That is also balderdash, as many people have written many times. Israel never “withdrew” from Gaza; it redeployed its troops for the most part on the other side of the "Green Line" and later imposed a crippling siege against Gaza, when the Palestinians elected Hamas. So what really happened was that the Israelis who felt that Gaza could be most effectively controlled by the presence of settlers and IDF troops lost out to the Israelis who felt that Gaza could be most effectively controlled by withdrawing the settlers and the IDF. But the control of Gaza "for the security of Israel" was never once in doubt. This is the classic Zionist debate – the sort of “Jew vs. Jew” that Freedman should have written about: How does one control the maximum amount of territory with the minimum responsibility for the native Arabs? Had Ariel Sharon been interested in giving peace a chance – and, to his credit, he never once even hinted in that direction – he would have negotiated a withdrawal with the PA, and, more importantly, he would have negotiated a final settlement. But the Gaza withdrawal was never about paving the way to peace – and Sharon had the guts to say that. In fact, the unilateral Gaza withdrawal was intended to humiliate the Palestinians by implying that negotiating with them made as much sense as negotiating with wild animals. (Remember the liberal Zionist Benny Morris’s solution for the Palestinians in his interview with Ari Shavit – put them in cages.) Only a liberal Zionist, who identifies troop-redeployments with peace overtures, can spin the Gaza withdrawal as an opportunity for peace. Because Freedman is a liberal Zionist – and I criticize not him for that, only the editors who asked him to review the books without demanding him make full disclosure -- he is shocked that Walt and Mearsheimer lump Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross in the Israeli lobby. How dare they throw these two liberal peacemakers into the same camp as Abe Foxman, AIPAC, Daniel Pipes, and Norman Podhoretz? I mean, how many times were Indyk and Ross called self-hating Jews by the rightwing? And how hard did they labor for peace? But the truth is that virtually all Jews in the US, from the far right to the Peace-Now-Meretz-Tikkun left, are a part of the Israel Lobby, or if you don’t like that term (I don’t), they are strong supporters of Israel, each in their own way. Again, this is not a criticism – believe me, some of my best friends are liberal Zionists (full-disclosure: I am a card-carrying member of Meretz, although, in my defence, I joined the party just to vote for Yossi Beilin in the primaries) . To see how deeply Zionist a Dennis Ross is, one needs only read a few pages of The Missing Peace. The fact that he doesn’t share the “Islamofascist” neuroses of Podhoretz and Pipes doesn’t make him into a centrist on Israel-Palestine. So, who is really in the middle and not just in the "middle"? Well, Walt and Mearsheimer, Carter, Chomsky, Khalidi, for a start. They are all willing to allow a strong Zionist state in Palestine -- more than I can say for most Israelis with respect to Palestine. In fact, most of the one-statists I know of are in the center -- they do not call for a transfer of populations against their will. If you are for transfer -- either Palestinian or Israeli Jewish -- then you are most definitely not in the middle. If your willing for your national self-expression to come at the expense of the other group's national self-expression -- then you are definitely not in the middle. Because the Zionist narrative has been accepted by the mainstream liberal press in the US, (but not by Middle East experts), one doesn’t need an AIPAC or a Foxman or a Dershowitz to make the case for Israel. The latter will always serve as the “bad cops” to “good cops” like Tom Friedman, Richard Cohen, Dennis Ross, etc. The real question is – and Walt and Mearsheimer don’t raise it – why has Israel been so successful in getting the Zionist narrative accepted? It is not just the alleged political clout or money of an Israel Lobby. There may be many factors -- liberal Christian guilt for Christian antisemitism, sympathy for the Jews after the Holocaust, the shared Judaeo-Christian heritage on the Bible (the secret weapon of the Zionist), the success story of Jews in the US, including the high intermarriage rates, which makes it more difficult for Christians to act against members of their family. The Palestinians have failed to make the same impact on the consciousness of American non-Jews as have the Jews. They haven't been around as much. And they are "oriental" in the a way that ashkenazi Israelis are not. And they are Arab, and, mostly, Muslim.