MideastWeb Middle East Web Log
Like you, and like many Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews who have invested so much hope in the prospect of peace, I have been following the events of the past year with increasing distress.
I was appalled and disappointed when the great opportunity opened by the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza turned into a nightmare: Palestinian Arabs under siege, the Negev towns bombarded by Qassam rockets, greenhouses turned into arms smuggling tunnels. The Israeli government, for its part, wasted opportunities to bolster Mahmoud Abbas's position, and continued to build settlements and invest in a future that is not a future. Then the Palestinians elected a Hamas government, and in so doing they sealed the fate of the Oslo peace process. The Palestinian National Authority that was created to negotiate peace, is now in the hands of an organization that has sworn to never make peace.
The boycott of the Palestinian Authority by the donor nations is causing great distress to the Palestinians, as we all know. It is greatly exacerbated by the fact that the Palestinian government uses whatever funds are smuggled through to pay for arms and to pay the salaries of "security" groups. You could not expect the donor nations to behave any differently. Their support was supposed to help build peace. It was to be given to a Palestinian authority committed to peace, not to a Hamas led government committed to the destruction of Israel at any cost.
I was distraught over the accidental killing of nineteen innocent civilians in Gaza, as I was distraught that a Qassam rocket strike killed an Arab Israeli women in Sderot. With each week, the perennial "situation," what we Israelis have called "hamatzav" since before there was an Israel, has deteriorated.
One ray of hope still flickered in the darkness at the end of the tunnel. That hope was that the moderate Fateh and the forces that are represented by Mahmoud Abbas, would form a unity government with the Hamas and that that government would pledge itself to keep to all previous agreements, to recognize the right of the Jews to live as a free people in Israel, and in so doing, gain for themselves the right of the Arabs of Palestine to live as a free people in their own land - lihiyot am hofshi be'artzenu as the Israel national anthem proclaims. I am sure that you, like me hold to this right.
Now it seems that Mahmoud Abbas may agree to form a unity government, but that that government will not recognize the right of Israel to exist, and will not honor the previous agreements of the Palestinian National Authority.
I looked forward to reading your article about the Palestinian and Israeli situations, knowing that you are committed to coexistence between our peoples, and hoping that you would show us a way of the impasse.
Unfortunately, I must confess that I was very disappointed and fearful for the future after reading your article, Walid. The reason is that you represent for me one of the most moderate Palestinians, who genuinely wants peace, and if this is what you think, then there is truly no hope at all.
Perhaps you really don't know, what you need to do for peace. If you do not know what is necessary, and you do not lead a peace movement among Palestinians, who will? If I talk to Palestinians about what they must do for peace, it will surely be perceived by them as "Zionist propaganda." If you try to tell Israelis what we must do for peace, it will be dismissed as "Palestinian propaganda." In any case, nobody will tell Olmert to talk to Hamas, as there is currently nothing to talk about, and talking to Hamas will undermine Mahmoud Abbas. It is the job of people like myself and other Israelis to ask Israelis to make sacrifices and change attitudes for peace. It is the job of Palestinians like you to ask Palestinians to make sacrifices and change attitudes for peace. You are not doing your job, and you cannot do our job.
And that is the root of the impasse and of all the impasses. Your view of history begins in 1967. That is the big problem of your narrative. As I was alive before 1967 I can tell you that history did not begin then, and that the evil did not begin with the occupation. Your "narrative" is like the German history of 1925 or 1933, which began in November 1918. In that view, the Germans did nothing bad, because no history happened before 1918, when the bad allied countries conquered Germany unfairly. The evil, Walid, began about 1920 or before. Maybe it began with the little kids who threw rocks at my great grandfather in Jerusalem, a hundred and twenty years ago, or maybe began with Hajj Amin El Husseini and his people, who refused to accept any Jewish presence in Palestine. It continued with the war in 1948 and with the foundation of the Fatah about 1957 and the PLO in 1964 with the announced goal of destroying Israel by terror attacks. All this happened before there was any occupation. So the evil did not begin with the occupation. It was that evil that the Oslo accords sought to undo, and the basis of the accords was mutual recognition by Israel and the Palestinians. That has been undone by Hamas. Because you do not understand the root of the evil, you do not understand the real problem that will cause the failure of the unity government and doom any negotiations.
But Walid, there can never be any "permanent solution" unless and until the Hamas and the Palestinans are willing to recognize the right of Israel to exist as the national home of the Jewish people. So we are right back where we started. It might as well be 1948 again. Without that willingness, there cannot not be a "permanent solution" in 3 years or in 3 millennia. Apparently, even the most moderate Palestinians, like the emigres of the French Revolution, have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.
Who will participate in this war? Perhaps it can be another war like 1967. That war helped the Palestinians a great deal, no? Do you imagine that Egypt will come to the aid of the Hamas? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Iran might participate. And what was the result of the 1967 war, and of the 1948 war? Did the Palestinians gain anything??
And what will happen if the donor nations recognize this genocidal unity government, that would be sworn never to make peace with Israel, and Israel is forced to give in to all of the Hamas demands? An irredentist Palestinian state will be born, a state that will never be satisfied until it has fulfilled the goal stated in the Hamas charter, to wipe out Israel. And when they try to do that, won't there be an even bigger war?
The Fateh and Mahmoud Abbas understood very well at one time that the way of the Hamas is a dead end. That is why Abbas insisted that any unity government would undertake to honor all previous agreements. However, when fighting among Palestinian factions got out of control, this cardinal point was forgotten. The object became to form a unity government, as if unity in folly would solve all the problems. The real concessions were made only by Fatah and Abbas, and by you and others, who are now willing to give up every principle in order to achieve "unity." "Unity" is good if everyone is united to achieve a worthy goal. If everyone is united in the goal of destroying another people, in a project that can only end in disaster, unity is very bad indeed.
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Replies: 16 comments
First of all it appears highly clear to me that this website has gone from being a place of compromise to being another Palestinian-Israeli fight site. It's sad really but the articles that Mideastweb now has is filled despar and hopelessness.
There were some flaws in your writing.
1. The Israelis and the West did not give the Palestinians an election. It was no gift but rather a demand the US has made for the past few years.
2. You claim that a Palestinian state will never be satisfied until it achieve the goals of the Hamas charter. Palestinian society has several veiws as their polls reflect. To bunch Palestinian views in line with of a Hamas charter is overgeneralization.
3. If anything the quartet forgot its own point of view. The US wanted Hamas in the Palestinian government and even recently Secretary Rice said she prefferred Hamas in government rather than on the street. The Palestinians at least some the views of the quartet member the United States. The quartet could have opposed Hamas' entry into the elections but instead endorsed or were indifference to it. Israel also accepted Hamas' entry into government.
On another note Robert Malley and Hussien Agha reported in New York Review of Books in 2003 that Yasser Arafat understood Israel demographic problems. To suggest that their is no Palestinian willing to recognize Israel as a home for Jews. However Israel must first accept that democracy and a Jewish state cannot be achieved with the demographics present. Democracy requires an element of racial, religious, and ethnic equality that Israel was not meant to be. William Bradford of the Puritans regarded his people as a chosen people colonizing in present day Massachuesetts. He viewed the New World as a New Canaan and viewed the Native Americans as heathens. Toward the end of his life Bradford saw his strictly Puritan America turn into a multicultural and religious society. He did not like it but sadly the demographics no longer favored the Puritans. There is precedence in what Israel is trying to achieve and perhaps there are successes in history of people creating ethnocracies but be warned there is the failure of the Puritans.
Posted by Butros Dahu @ 11/21/2006 07:10 PM CST
Posted by Rod Davies @ 11/21/2006 09:29 PM CST
Israel is a colonial-settler state.
Posted by Ted Turner @ 11/22/2006 03:46 PM CST
The land allotted in the UN partition plan for a Jewwish state already had a Jewish majority, albeit a slim one.
There were indeed atrocities committed by the Jewish forces in the 1948 war, yet you suggest that they occured in a vacuum absolving the Palestinians of any responsibility. You forget that the invading Arab armies also destroyed many Jewish communities and that the one hundred thousand strong Jewish community in the Old City of Jerusalem was expelled by the Jordanians.
Furthermore there were many Palestinian Muslim and Christian attacks on the Jewish community before 1948, e.g. the Hebron massacre.
The mass exodus and in certain cases expulsion of the Palestians while horrible is not balanced, as eight hundred thousand Jews were expelled from the Arab world following the war. Of those eight, six hundred thousand were settled in Israel.
With regards to a nuclear arsenal, Israel was supplied with the means to produce them by the French and the UK not the USA.
Lastly anyone who truly believes that the Iraq whore was all abou oil should read this http://www.ejectejecteject.com/archives/000136.html.
Posted by Ariel @ 11/22/2006 04:36 PM CST
Obviously there is no value in arguing about who did what to whom and when and how many were killed or expelled.
Posted by John @ 11/22/2006 10:33 PM CST
Firstly your argument falls back to one that has been previously covered - that of a state created for one ethnic group. By your argument France cannot remain a French state as non-French will be treated as second class citizens.
Secondly, Israel was created for a religion but the Jewish people. Most of the founders of Israel were athiest and maybe even anti-religious.
The law of return is not unique to Israel. Many nations contain a Law of Return for descendents or ex-patriots who wish to return to their country of origin such as Germany and Israel.
The common justification of religion is mostly wielded by right-wing Zionist orginizations. The fact of the matter is the Israeli's built a country for themselves, with Palestinian labour being minor from an econoimic view, and that gives them a claim to the land.
The Palestinians have indeed paid a high price, but thier own refusal to reach a comprimise before 1947 is also part of their own undoing and they will unfortunately have to accept a state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Lastly and horrible a person Mr. Lieberman is, his ideas are not unigue to ethnocentric states. people with far right views appear in even the most secular countries such as Japan Le Pen in France. They make their views very public.
That non-Jews are treated like second class citizens then is not because of the Israeli law but is a social problem that has been accepted that excists and needs to be changed.
Posted by Ariel @ 11/23/2006 08:26 AM CST
Culpability for the failure of both assimilation and separatism within host nations remains firmly with the communities that the Jews lived with, and the nations that chose to ignore the rise in anti-Semitism after WW1. The worlds nations could have opened their doors to the Jews and provided an escape route. The fact is that they didn't. The reality was that although "Liberals" around the world might have voiced their concerns, they certainly didn't want millions of Jews arriving on their doorsteps.
It is not good enough to complain about the creation of the state of Israel unless you are going to also direct equal (if not greater) opprobrium towards the other nations around the world who stood by and watched millions of Jews murdered, not just in the Holocaust but over centuries. Further it is hypocrisy to criticise Israel for grabbing land when undoubtedly you live in a state which only exists because it has done the same. I would point out to you that none of the Native American languages are officialy recognised in the USA, Cymraig has only recently acquired legal status in the UK, Aboriginal languages do not have status in Australia. Whereas despite Israel's overwhelmingly Jewish identity, Arabic has always had legal status and has always appeared on banknotes etc.
To a certain extent the Palestinians are paying a price. But is it the price for hundreds upon hundreds of years of violence and oppression of Jews by Christians and Muslims. To make Israel irrelevant and redundant, you and those like you need first to address the impulses within your own societies that created the impulse for Zionism in the first place.
Posted by Rod Davies @ 11/23/2006 09:34 PM CST
Let me see if I understand this correctly.
Jews are not necessarily adherents of Judaism (in its various forms) but rather they are an "ethnic group" maybe even a "race".What characteristics define this group (or race)? What authority determines the members of this group (or race)? In my dictionary it defines a Jew as "a person of Hebrew descent or whose religion is Judaism".
The ongoing injustice committed against the Palestinians (starting with the al Nakba) is okay by Rob because of the "hundreds upon hundreds of years of violence and oppression of Jews by Christians and Muslims".
Yes the European colonizers committed "crimes against humanity" ("genocide"?)all around the world and stole the land of indigenouus people but it is not hypocrisy or "anti-semitism" to criticize the injustices committed today by this colonial-settler state as it expands its borders.
Posted by John @ 11/25/2006 05:00 PM CST
However Zionism is an entirely rational reaction to the realities of this world. The action which caused this reaction was the centuries of violence directed towards Jews by Muslims and Christians. If the Palestinians are paying a price, they are paying for that millenia long oppression by a world almost entirely composed of non-Jews.
The on-going violence is caused principally by the failure of the Palestinian nation to coalesce into a coherent form and to produce effective leadership able to engage with the Israelis, and the practice of Palestinian administrations to use "proxy" forces to carry out acts of violence with the object to obtaining leverage in negotiations or deflecting attention from the PNA's maladministration.
Posted by Rod Davies @ 11/27/2006 11:03 AM CST
Rod is absolutely correct in stating that the US has become more violent and racist rather than the so called "melting pot". Native Americans are just as hated today as we were durring the whites move west when they cleared us from "thier" lands. Anyone who lives near a resevation or areas populated by native americans will hear the same racist comments that is usually heard in the urban areas in regards to other races. Our culture (USA) has only found legal means of attacking those of other races and cultural backgrounds. Political correctness is a scourge upon the US, the more we become apolagetic of our natural thoughts the more we become intollerant of eachother. Isreal and Palestine will face the same as it is human nature. the best way for them to co-exist is through segregation, though this would require a great amount of relocation of the Isreali peoples, as the current concentration camp style land alotment to the Palestinian people will not work. Israel must come to the conclusion that the Palestinans are human beings and deserve the same respect the Israelis give eachother.
Posted by OMFG @ 11/27/2006 07:23 PM CST
Just as an aside:-
"By 1946 it was evident to all but a few Jews that Zionism was the only game in town."
This looks to me like nonsense. Can you support it with opinion poll results or anything else substantial? Obviously once the Jewish state came into existence most Jews supported it, but that's not the same as seeing Zionism as the only option for world Jewry before the fact.
Posted by Spike @ 11/29/2006 05:16 PM CST
When hundreds of Palestinans are being slaughtered by the IDF, Ami describes the putative unity government of the Palestinians as "genocidal"?
We do seem to be in a fantasy world.
A few essential facts about conflict resolution seem to have been forgotten here. The first is the very sensible maxim that we make peace by talking to our enemies, not our friends. A final deal with Hamas might, possibly, require them to recognise Israel. Initial talks do not.
Secondly, does peace even require "recognition"? Argentina has never "recognised" Britain's claim to the Falklands. North Korea does not "recognise" South Korea. The IRA never agreed to "recognise" the union between Britain and N. Ireland. OK those situations are not ideal today, but they are workable compromises and people are not shooting at each other. Why the fetish for "recognition" on the part of Israeli liberals? As long as people stop blowing up buses and lobbing rockets over the border who cares about the form of words used?
On the point of when history started, I would expect better from a historian than the suggestion that "the evil" began with Hajj Amin El Husseini. As we're supposed to be understanding each other on this site, it should not be to hard to understand that his concern was to pre-empt the Zionist enterprise precisely to avoid the situation we have in the present day. My understanding is that it was Jewish immigration he opposed, not the existence of Jews in Palestine. It's pretty clear that the conflict as a whole started when the Zionist project became a going concern, and for pretty obvious reasons.
In a situation where most Palestinians support a two-state solution, refusing to consider a course of action which would stop the shooting, allow a 'peace dividend' to accrue and hopefully result in the eventual election of a government in tune with considered Palestinian aspirations (rather than angry reaction) seems extremely irresponsible.
Posted by Spike @ 11/29/2006 05:50 PM CST
Posted by Rod Davies @ 12/05/2006 08:49 PM CST
The fact is that both sides are to blame for the impasse in this conflict. Both Jews/Israelis and Palestinians/arabs need to face the music, and own up to the choices they have made. Israel, for pragmatic reasons, cannot hold onto the west bank. It must give most it up to the palestinians, as painfull as this will be, and it must resettle the Jewish inhabitants in Israel Proper. Israel also needs to give the palestinians territorial contiguity. It would not be fair, to say the least, to deny that, how can you have a state without territorial contiguity?
For the right of return, this is something the palestinians also cannot have, and they must accept this. Israel is a Jewish state, and exclusively so. If Muslim arabs can have Muslim states, then the Jews can have a Jewish state. Any large influx of non-Jews into Israel would upset the balance of Jews and threaten a Jewish majority. FOr this reason, no arabs can 'return' to Israel Proper. Israel should be prepared to compentste financially any arab paleastinain not returning to the westbank in light of these facts.
I think this is a common sense approach to the problem, and its too bad the Palestinians are rejecting many aspects, opr varioations on the aspects I have put forth, and it is too bad that the Israelis have yet to come to grips with the fact that they need to give any palestinian state territorial contigutiy. I say this as a Jew who shutters at what would happen if the tables were turned, I wouldnt want a broken-puzzle peice state of Israel, and I understand why the palestinians dont want that either.
Posted by Scott Kabakoff @ 12/06/2006 06:12 AM CST
Well, Rod, this is from "Palestinefacts" which is a fairly right-wing Zionist site:-
"As a young man, al-Husseini worked with a native Jew, Abbady, who documented this comment:
Remember, Abbady, this was and will remain an Arab land. We do not mind you natives of the country, but those alien invaders, the Zionists, will be massacred to the last man. We want no progress, no prosperity. Nothing but the sword will decide the fate of this country."
Scott, Israel is not an exclusively Jewish state, 20% of the population is Palestinian. I reckon every state should be the state of its citizens; I have great difficulty with any other formulation.
Posted by Spike @ 12/12/2006 03:17 PM CST
Also (from Wikipedia):-
"Al-Husayni's role in the 1929 Hebron massacre was hotly disputed at the time. The Jewish Agency charged him with responsibility for inciting the violence, but the Shaw commission of enquiry concluded that "no connection has been established between the Mufti and the work of those who either are known or are thought to have engaged in agitation or incitement. ... After the disturbances had broken out the Mufti co-operated with the Government in their efforts both to restore peace and to prevent the extension of disorder"."
No dispute that he later collaborated with the Nazis and that this went way beyond the usual "my enemy's enemy is my friend" approach adopted by Chandra Bose in India. But that was later. If the Grnad Mufti had not existed, someone else would have filled the role. People do not take kindly to immigrants arriving in their country with a declared project to take it over as their own.
Posted by Spike @ 12/12/2006 04:34 PM CST
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