Monday, March 2, 2009

ZOA-Sponsored Speaker on Campus: Israel Should Speak With Hamas

It's Palestine Solidarity Week at the University of Maryland, and the student branch of ZOA is bringing Khaled Abu Toameh to campus. Abu Toameh, a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, is the Palestinian journalist beloved by the right wing. He says what the neocons want to hear: that the PA is corrupt; that Hamas will never change; that Israel has no Palestinian partner; and that we are in conflict management rather than in conflict resolution mode. When the ZOA sponsors a Palestinian speaker, it is either a "former terrorist" or a "former reporter for the PLO." One day they may find a former Arab to speak.

I can't blame Abu Toameh for being sponsored by an organization that claims that there is no Palestinian people, that the Arabs don't have any right to a state in Palestine; that none of the Israeli settlements, much less the outposts, are illegal. After all, it is hard to be a Palestinian journalist under any circumstances – if Abu Toameh can't liberate Palestine, he can at least liberate some of his honoraria money from the Zionists and their neocon allies.

But what the Maryland ZOA'ers probably don't know is that about a month ago, Abu Toameh gave a briefing to a group of American Israel advocates, on a tour sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, in which he said that Israel should offer the Palestinians a state on 98% of the West Bank, and to speak with Hamas.

Khaled Abu Toameh: If I were an Israeli Jew I would go to the Palestinians and say "Listen, folks. I'm prepared to give you a Palestinian state and the Israeli majority approves of that, not because we love the Palestinians, but because we want to be rid of the Palestinians."

There's a majority of Jews today who want to disband most of the settlements and take only two percent of the West Bank. My Israeli Jewish friends say to me, "You know, Khaled. You Arabs can take whatever you want. Just leave us alone. It's no longer a territorial dispute for us. We'll give you anything you want if you just go and leave us alone." Some of them even go further than that. Some of them say "Just leave us Tel Aviv, the airport, and the beach."

In the wake of these positive changes that have happened inside Israel, all you need is a strong partner on the Palestinian side. There is some hope, but only if there is a strong partner on the Palestinian side.

General Tom McInerney: But not Hamas.

Khaled Abu Toameh: I don't care. If I were Israeli I would talk to any Palestinian who wants to talk to me, and I would shoot any Palestinian who shoots at me. I wouldn't ask if they were Hamas. You know what? Believe me, if you listen to Hamas and Fatah in Arabic there isn't much of a difference, especially these days. Fatah fought alongside Hamas in Gaza. Today they said they lost 36 fighters and fired 900 rockets at Israel. Fatah.

Mario Loyola: Hamas pretends its casualties are lower, and Fatah pretends its casualties are higher.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Look. Look. As I said before, let's stop saying "Fatah" and "Hamas." Talk to anyone who wants to talk. Talking to Hamas does not mean that you recognize Hamas or that they become your buddies. The funny thing is that Israel went to war against a party that it doesn't recognize. And in the end Israel made a cease-fire unilaterally and negotiated with the Americans and the Egyptians for how to end it. And Hamas is still sitting there.

The entire "briefing" was published by rightwing blogger Michael J. Totten on Feburary 1. But later Totten took down the post, at the request of Abu Toameh and placed this note instead:

A Minority Report from the West Bank and Gaza (Deleted)

I had published the transcript of a talk and follow-up interview with a prominent and respectable Palestinian, and it caused a bit of trouble that neither he nor I anticpated or wanted. The transcript has been removed at his request.

The transcript of the "briefing" can be read in the comment section (!) of Phil Weiss's blog here and on another blog, here.

Should I speculate that Abu Toameh asked Michael J. Totten to take down the post because he didn't want to offend his rightwing hosts who bankroll his appeances? Who knows? Abu Toameh, is, after all, a man of principle. When he was threatened by Fatah, he didn't back down.

On the other hand, maybe ZOA's carrot is better than Fatah's stick


Anonymous said...

I, as what you would call an "extreme Right-winger" agree with what Khaled said.....if the Arabs came forth with a Sadat-style approach to Israel, with, say, Kings Abdallah of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Assad and Abu-Mazen coming to the Knesset and saying "if you agree to a withdrawal to the pre-67 and agree to accept some limited number of refugees (e.g. 250,000), we will agree to make full peace agreements with you and announce the end of all further demands" ANY Israeli gov't, even one of the Likud would have no choice but to go along with it. This includes transferring control over the Kotel HaMa'aravi to Palestinian control in return for 'guarantees' for Jewish access. I think everyone knows this. SO WHY DOESN'T IT HAPPEN? You and all the "progressives" along with the Arab side blame Israel for instransigence, but when Sadat did this he got every inch of the Sinai back, without really having to give up anything, except put up with an Israeli embassy in Cairo. (of course, he did give up his life, maybe that is an answer to my question). This was in spite of the fact that polls showed a majority of Israelis opposed a complete withdrawal from the Sinai. It would be the same this time. Thus, even if you want to blame Israel, an offer like this would completely change everything....people who oppose it would be painted as warmongers and opponents of peace, those who oppose giving up the Kotel would be asked by someone like Peres or certain prominent Rabbis "what is more important, the lives of our soldiers or some holy place that they promise we will be able to continue to visit anyway?".

So, again I ask you, why do the Arabs refuse to go in the path of Sadat and get everything they say they want?

Anonymous said...

I read the full transcript on Mondoweiss. I'm not sure what Abu Toameh believes regarding the "there's no one to to talk to" argument. He says Israel should negotiate with Hamas - or anybody it can - after earlier stating that Hamas was not a viable partner for peace.
On Israel's war in Gaza he is clear: 1. It will not act as a deterrent to Palestinian violence in the long run. 2. The war has strengthened the radical Palestinians.

I wonder if the ZOA supports the same plurality of opinions in the Jewish community as it is fostering in the Arab community?

Anonymous said...

Love the moniker 'respectable Palestinian'. From the perspective of the author of the phrase, an oxymoron.
Read: a house darkie for Israel.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Y Ben David, I am not sure I buy your notion of "ANY Israeli gov't, even one of the Likud would have no choice but to go along with it" You are right that it may sway a lot of people, but I don't see how it could still prevent a mini civil war in Israel. The reasons why the Arab leaders won't do it are pretty obvious: the same reasons why an Israeli leader would never say the flip image of the same declaration from the Israeli side. You are basically demanding a pretty high, I'd say unrealistic bar for the move. Sinai is not a real precedent here, since the territory itself was never as important to the Jews and had much fewer obvious problems (such as hundreds of thousands of settlers and infrastructure + refugees) to make the withdrawal too complicated. And even in that case you admit that most of electorate opposed the move - thus, essentially, almost negating your own argument. If in the end only a strong leader or a heavy outside pressure could cause Israel to cede territory, then the need for the dramatic Arab gesture becomes moot.

Shirin said...

ummmm - Y. Ben David, are you really unaware that the Arab League has been unanimously offering exactly what you described since 2002. They have offered everything Israel claims it wants - peace, recognition, and normal diplomatic relations. In exchange they ask Israel to withdraw to the 1967 boundary, accept and independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a just resolution to the refugee problem to be agreed upon by the parties. This peace proposal was unanimously approved by the Arab League member states in 2002, has been unanimously renewed, and has never been taken off the table.

Why doesn't it happen? It doesn't happen, Y. Ben-David, for the simple reason that Israel refuses to even use it as a basis for negotiation.

There really IS no peace partner on the other side.

Shirin said...

Peter wrote: "The reasons why the Arab leaders won't do it are pretty obvious..."

As I just pointed out, the Arab leaders HAVE done it. Unanimously. For seven years in a row.

The real question is why Israel refuses to even discuss it with them.

Anonymous said...

I'm not jewish, but I have to say that don't understand the pro-palestinian jews/israelis. I mean, isn't there enough pro-palestinian propaganda already, and too much anti-Israel sentiment?
Why not letting the arabs, the europeans and the media do it? They seem to be doing a great job so far.

I mean, I see many jews and israelis worrying about the palestinian rights, but I have never heard of an arab blogger worrying about jews and terrorism against jews in Israel.

No criticism implied, I just find it strange.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Shirin, I referred to Y. Ben David's demands for the Arab leaders to come to speak to the Knesset and saying this and that (read his comment for details)

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Anonymous from March 7, 2009 8:19 AM

First, I don't agree that there is enough pro-Palestinian coverage in the media. The situation is definitely better in Europe, but in the US the MSM is very biased towards Israel.
What's more important, though, is that we are not doing it to create some sort of artificial balance. (You maybe did not mean to criticize or offend, but this implicit assumption is very offensive.) We do it because we see injustice and want to fix it.

Shirin said...

Peter, they made the offer formally and unanimously of everything Israel claims it wants. And that is not enough for you? They must now come to Tel Aviv and bow down before the Knesset? And after they bow down before the Knesset what additional action will you require of them? And after that what? And after that...?

The entire Arab world has unanimously offered you peace, recognition, and normal relations, but that is not good enough for you it seems. They have to appear before the knesset it appears.This is not the attitude of a country that wants peace.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Shirin, you must have a problem distinguishing between my comments and those of Y. Ben David. You are not having an argument with me.

Shirin said...

"Shirin...You are not having an argument with me."

Oh, but I am. You stated that "The reasons why the Arab leaders won't do it are pretty obvious: the same reasons why an Israeli leader would never say the flip image of the same declaration from the Israeli side..."

And I pointed out that the Arab leaders HAVE done it. They have made exactly the declaration that you seemed to believe they have not made, and they made it unanimously. They have not been invited to go in front of the Knesset with their very generous offer, nor is it likely that the Israeli government would admit them into the country. However, they have made precisely the declaration that you say they have not made.

I understand that you, too, were arguing with Y. Ben-David, though on a different basis. However, you did not appear to be aware of the fact that for seven years the Arab leaders have had on the table exactly the peace offer that Y. Ben-David insists that ANY Israeli government would go along with. The reality is that for the last seven years EACH AND EVERY Israeli government has given the middle finger to exactly the offer Y. Ben-David described.

So I hope now that you will change your argument slightly to fit the fact that you have been informed that starting in 2002 the Arab League has formally offered Israel everything it says it wants, and for seven years Israel has given the middle finger to the offer.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Shirin, all I can say is, pick your fights. You waste your breath to convince me of something I know already; that's your loss.
Y Ben David wants a Sadat-style declaration. For it the Arab leaders need to engage Israel in secret negotiations to "prepare the ground" etc, then coming to Israel (humiliating themselves) which in itself is an additional concession to Israel which would seem as a betrayal by their street and by the Palestinians, at the time when Israel doesn't feel like making any concessions at all. For the likes of YBD, they have always to start first and whatever they do will never be enough (ask him, he himself claims that even if such steps as he describes were made, they would be nothing more than a trap to lure Israel into false peace as a prelude to attacking it again.)