Archive for January, 2007

Jimmy Carter’s latest op-ed in the Washington Post starts off with this: “I am concerned that public discussion of my book “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” has been diverted from the book’s basic proposals: that peace talks be resumed after six years of delay and that the tragic persecution of Palestinians be ended. Although most critics have not seriously disputed or even mentioned the facts and suggestions about these two issues, an apparently concerted campaign has been focused on the book’s title…”carter.jpg

Carter has repeatedly said that he titled the book as he did in order to stir discussion. Clearly, while that has happened, the result was not what Carter intended. The debate has been dominated by the title, rather than the substance of his book.

One can debate whether so provocative a title was even necessary. When a former president writes a book about a controversial topic, that usually gathers attention. But even if provocation was needed, this was the wrong way to do it. An outcome where the title became the story, rather than Carter’s points, was entirely predictable, and it’s not because of any “lobby”. The flash point, the easily understood, if misleading headline, always wins out in American discourse.

There was much of merit in Carter’s book. Yes, there were factual inaccuracies and mistakes, although contrary to most of Carter’s critics, many of those inaccuracies were actually favorable to an Israeli point of view. But Carter wasn’t writing a history book or a textbook of any kind. He was relating his personal views, experiences and observations for the most part. In any case, much of this has been lost in the public discourse. Fortunately, the book remains a best-seller, so at least many in the general public are getting a chance to get past the title and the silliness of the public “debate” and judge the book on its own merits. (more…)

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The January 16 edition of Ha’aretz revealed that some intrepid Israelis, Syrians and international supporters of peace had come together and cobbled out a document that would serve as the framework for a peace agreement between the two old enemies. It is reminiscent of the early days of the Oslo Accords, before the lawyers (and perhaps more importantly, the Americans) got involved in earnest. In the backwoods negotiations in Oslo, there seemed to have been an honest search for a peace that would produceIsrael-Syria-Lebanon Palestinian independence and Israeli security. The actual accords would not provide a framework for such a vision, but from all accounts, the initial meetings were idealistic and truly geared toward such an outcome. The Israel-Syria document was probably easier to write up. The terms in it are pretty much what has been understood for some time to be required of both sides for peace. Israel returns the whole of the Golan Heights, Syria ends its belligerence, including material support for Hamas and Hezbollah and pledges not to divert water from the Jordan River or Lake Tiberias. All of this is guaranteed by the international community, led by the United States, which would monitor the border on the ground.

The agreement is so obviously beneficial for all involved that one cannot help but be appalled that it is not immediately embraced by both sides, and more so that something similar was not agreed to a long time, and many lost lives, ago. Still, as with all political matters, even if Israel and Syria did agree to this framework, there would be complications. (more…)

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What “Third Way?”

The subject of the Middle East and its conflicts has always been a heated one and has also always been of greater interest to more people than many conflicts around the globe. But in recent years, and especially since September 11, 2001, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians as well as the larger, turbulent world of the Middle East has assumed an even more central position in people’s minds and hearts.

Since it involves 9/11, and because of the great passions stirred on all sides by the question of Israel/Palestine, the great majority of material in the media, in governments, in blogs, in short, everywhere is highly partisan. Most material is written from the point of view that one side or another comprises “the good guys.”

In this space, I hope to provide something different. Through my job as Director of Education and Policy for Jewish Voice for Peace, I am exposed to news and views from a very wide variety of sources. From corporate, mainstream news to reports from regular people on the ground in the Middle East; from alternative press to the New York Times; and from governmental and media sources from the US, Israel, the Arab press, Europe and around the world, I endeavor to piece together a reasoned and fair analysis.

I don’t claim to have some superior ability to be balanced that others lack. Like anyone else, I bring my own views to my analysis. Having for years been privileged to have my views published on the web, in journals, newspapers, on the radio and on television and through my regular column in Tikkun Magazine, I can only say that I’ve received both praise and angry messages from supporters of all views and sides. I take that as doing something right.

I will point out here that the analyses that will appear in this space are all my own and do not necessarily reflect the stances of Jewish Voice for Peace. I hope that people who comment in response do so in a civil tone. The articles that will follow are meant to stimulate thought and, I hope, build support for a reasoned, realistic political push for more productive and just policies in the Middle East. I thank you for reading and welcome you to this forum.

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