The Myth That Stays With Us: Camp David 2000

06barakclintonarafat.jpgAlthough I’m something of a historian by trade and inclination, in this space I try to keep to current events. But some historical events are of particular importance because they continue to shape today’s events. This is especially true of the failed attempt at Camp David in 2000 to cobble together a final peace agreement based on the Oslo process between israel and the Palestinians.

The common view that Arafat was solely responsible for the Camp David failure is false, but it is widely believed and that belief has colored the politics of the conflict to this very day. But some alternate versions, where Arafat is held blameless and painted as an innocent victim of American and Israeli machinations are equally false.

These questions arose in an e-mail sent to me recently, and I reprint below some of that exchange, edited to be more readable in this space. Except where otherwise noted, my view of the events at Camp David in 2000 is based on the following sources. I draw from all of them to try to synthesize a reasonable picture, and what emerges does not match any of them perfectly:

Clayton Swisher, The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story About the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process
Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace
Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy
William Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967

And the articles in the New York Review of Books which featured interviews and exchanges between Ehud Barak, Dennis Ross, Gidi Grinstein, Robert Malley and Hussein Agha. These can found on the web by clicking on the following links:

Exchange between Grinstein, Ross, Malley and Agha
Article by Malley and Agha
Barak interviewed by Benny Morris
Malley and Agha respond to Barak
Barak and Morris respond to Malley and Agha

When Bush came into office the context was that the Palestinians had rejected Clinton’s whirlwind effort to broker a deal.”

As many times as this myth gets repeated, it remains false. Both the Palestinians and Israelis greeted the Clinton protocols with a guarded, but positive response, one which each called “acceptance with reservations and conditions”. A joint statement issued from Taba indicated that “peace had never been closer.” The talks were ended by Ehud Barak, not Arafat. They were ended because the Barak government had fallen and the new elections were at hand. Sharon had already stated publicly that he opposed the Taba talks and would not continue them nor honor their results. After the Taba talks ended, Barak publicly declared that the results of those talks were “not binding on the new (Sharon) government.”

For their part, the Palestinian negotiators, like their Israeli counterparts, were working in good faith, but they, again like the Israelis, knew full well that they did not have the support of their public in the talks. By this time, the second intifada was raging, with major social and political upheavals resulting both in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The Taba talks were doomed from both sides before they ever began, and it is to the credit of both the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators at Taba that they were able, under those difficult circumstances, to reach the agreements they did, which eventually evolved into the Geneva Accords.

But, though often repeated, it is simply untrue that the Clinton parameters and the Taba talks were summarily rejected by Arafat. In fact, neither side truly rejected the Clinton parameters, they led to the Taba talks, which were terminated by Israel and disavowed by Barak, not Arafat.

The prevailing view from everyone was that there was nothing more to do. Clinton went on a speaking tour and said that the peace talks failed for two reasons: 1. Arafat had no vision for peace, and 2. everyone underestimates the effect of the teaching of hate in the Arab world.”

Quite true that Clinton, as well as Barak, did indeed repeat this far and wide. This was, actually, a breach of the commitment they made to Arafat, and this gets to the heart of the real failure of Camp David, which neither side wants to talk about. I will elaborate.

The Camp David talks were very much the child of Clinton and Barak. Arafat was essentially dragged to them. The reasons for the different attitudes were clear.

Clinton was a lame duck president, and his second term had been marred by the impeachment. Here was his last chance to put some real shine on his legacy, as the president who brokered the final peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He had nothing to lose at Camp David and everything to gain, but he needed to make it happen quickly.

Barak had been elected on a peace platform. His ending of the 17-year old Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon was a piece of fulfillment of this promise. But that withdrawal also sent the Israeli right wing into full battle mode. Barak had accelerated the withdrawal after the assassination of the leader of the South Lebanon Army and the chaos in the ranks that caused. This heightened the impression that both Hezbollah and the Israeli right (Likud in particular) were cultivating, of Barak running away, or retreating. This added to a major campaign financing scandal had put Barak’s shaky coalition on the razor’s edge. He very much needed something to bolster his position, and a deal with the Palestinians would have cemented it.

For Barak, unlike Clinton, this was also a risky proposition. Success would put him in as strong a position as any Israeli Prime Minister had ever been in. Failure was virtually certain to bring down his government. But since inaction seemed to be leading to the same end, it made sense for Barak to take the chance.

Arafat’s situation, however, was totally different from his interlocutors. In the six years since his return, his people had grown increasingly bitter and angry at the entire Oslo process.

Their standard of living had dropped dramatically in those years. This was due to a combination of factors. The two biggest ones lay one each on either side of Israel and Palestine. On the Israeli side, there was a move after the first intifada to bring in more foreign workers, from places like the Philippines and Thailand to replace Palestinian laborers on the lowest rungs of the labor force. This was done because one of the chief and most effective tools of the first intifada was the strike. Cheap Palestinian labor was an important piece of the Israeli economy and the Palestinians exploited this dependence with strikes. Israel found the need to rid itself of this vulnerability. Palestinians continued to work in Israel and in the settlements, but the number was greatly reduced. And, while the Palestinian economy was seeing some growth in those years, it was relatively small growth, not close to being able to accommodate the loss of so many jobs.

On the Palestinian side, corruption and cronyism severely marred the Palestinian Authority and its ability to build a functioning economy under the extremely difficult conditions of Israeli occupation. Funds were often short, sometimes because promised donations from other countries were delayed for long periods, diminished or simply never delivered; sometimes due to corruption; and sometimes due to incompetence.

These factors, among others of less impact, combined with the explosive and unprecedented growth in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the Oslo years, created a pressure cooker of rage and feelings of betrayal among the Palestinians.

Arafat did not handle this situation well. Over the six years of the Oslo process (1994-2000), he established a largely autocratic regime in the Palestinian Territories. After the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Arafat was faced with an Israeli government that was determined to undermine both him and the Oslo Accords. His only real tool of response was to strengthen or lessen his work in combating attacks on Israelis. And he did this.

Arafat faced growing opposition from within Palestinian society and a stubborn Netanyahu government in Israel. His priority was always to maintain his position as the leader of all the Palestinians and to become the first leader of an independent Palestinian state. This meant he needed to walk a very fine line, maintaining broad support for his leadership among Palestinians and continuing to work with Israel and the United States.

One of the results of this was that, when it came to the most difficult of final status issues with Israel, Arafat gave mixed messages. This was especially true of the refugee issue. He would trumpet the right of return, but would also talk to Israelis and Americans of the ability to compromise on the issue. In fact, the centrality of the right of return was just as strong in 2000 among Palestinians as it had ever been, and little public dialogue had happened around it. This was the crux of Arafat’s reluctance to attend Camp David.

Arafat realized that the Palestinian people were not, in fact, at all prepared to make the kind of compromises that a peace with Israel would require. He had not done anything to make them ready for compromise on the refugee issue, if indeed such a compromise can be accepted. For his part, other circumstances, especially the settlement expansion, repeated closures of the Territories, and other Israeli actions that are simply routine parts of the occupation made it quite impossible for him to try to broach the topic of compromise on the refugee question in public. But he was not given to admit this to the Israelis and Americans. Perhaps Barak and Clinton would not have pressed him to the summit as they did if they had a better understanding of these dynamics. One cannot know now. But one can say that a little more attention to Palestinian politics in Tel Aviv and Washington might have helped.

It’s easy to see why Arafat did not wish to engage in final status talks at that point. But neither the Clinton or Barak Administrations seem to have understood his position–not that he helped them in this regard. But this was why Arafat only agreed to go to Camp David on condition that he not be blamed if the talks failed. I’m sure he knew they would fail. And this is why, to Dennis Ross and others who have written extensively about the failure at Camp David, it seemed that Arafat was refusing to make an agreement. He knew very well the absolute minimal demands of Israel would be the forfeit of any Palestinian return to Israel proper, other than perhaps a tiny, token number. It’s impossible to envision any other Israeli stance. And he knew that his people were not going to accept that.

This is a good reminder about the centrality of the refugee issue, something which is often lost in our ponderings of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It is the core issue, the place where the irresistible force of Palestinian nationalism collides head-on with the immovable object of Zionism. There is no more difficult issue between the two parties. The conflict will not end until it is resolved. I don’t believe it can be resolved, though, as long as it is being discussed between an occupying power and an occupied people, unequal except for their passion for this root of their perceived national existences. That’s why I have maintained that, while ending the occupation does not end the conflict, the process of ending the conflict cannot be seriously undertaken until the occupation ends.

As to the second point your friend makes above, regarding the “teaching of hate”, both sides teach their national narratives, with all the biases and prejudices that implies. The accusation that Palestinians “teach their children to hate” is easily belied. One, all you need to do is go to a Palestinian refugee camp and talk to the kids there. You’ll see the attitudes that have been taught to them, and they don’t include hate. Second, as Uri Avneri once put it, a little girl woken in the middle of the night and forced to leave her home before it is demolished does not have to be taught to hate the people who do that. But the best way, third, is to check out the report done by Prof. Nathan Brown of George Washington University. You can see the report here.

In fact, what has struck me as most remarkable in my years of doing this work is that Palestinians are not much more filled with hate for Israelis and Jews than they are.

“The Saudis blasted Arafat for not making the deal at Taba.”

Not exactly. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia “blasted” Arafat for walking out on the Camp David talks. In this, he echoed Barak and Clinton. Arafat couldn’t make the deal at Taba, as I explained above.

But Arafat did blunder in his entire attitude and response at Camp David. No one should make him out an innocent victim there. On the other hand, the dominant narrative which puts all the blame on him is simply wrong. If one reads the various accounts of Camp David, I think a picture starts to emerge. Even Dennis Ross paints Barak as somewhat mercurial at the talks, switching between obstinacy and conciliation and being difficult in the negotiations. He presented offers to Arafat that were very far from minimal Palestinian demands as take-it-or-leave-it deals. More than once do we hear of Clinton’s frustration with both sides. To any observer with a working knowledge of Palestinian politics and who followed events at that time closely, it is apparent that the American team did not come in with a good understanding of the Palestinian political scene (in some ways, they were a ways behind even on the Israeli scene). Both the Israelis and the Americans showed a clear underestimation of what a bare minimum for Palestinian popular acceptance of a deal would be.

The Camp David offer that was put on the table as the most Israel would give provided for a continued Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, a lopsided land swap that left the major settlement blocs intact and cutting deep into the West Bank, virtually no accommodation on refugees and Israeli sovereignty in almost all of East Jerusalem. Although both Clinton and the Israeli negotiators would dramatically improve this offer, it was presented to Arafat as a final, take-it-or-leave-it offer.

So Arafat chose to “leave it.” Subsequent events made it clear that Israel could have gone farther. The fact that Arafat didn’t respond with any kind of counter-offer was a grave error on his part, and opened the door to Clinton and Barak going back on their word not to blame the failure on him. But in truth, the summit failed because of missteps by all the parties. No one comes out of an honest assessment of Camp David looking good.

But since then, this has been distorted into Arafat leaving Camp David and starting the second intifada. As if Ariel Sharon’s deliberate provocation of going to the Temple Mount with an enormous entourage of armed police and soldiers had nothing to do with it. As if the Israeli soldiers’ lethal response to stone-throwers the following day had nothing to do with it. On the other side, the myth that Arafat was trapped by the Israelis and Americans and was simply their helpless victim ignores Arafat’s own role in creating false expectations. It ignores the years of weapons smuggling into the Occupied Territories in anticipation of a more violent uprising than the first intifada. And it ignores the widespread Palestinian disappointment and disillusionment in the Arafat-led PA and its corruption, cronyism and human rights abuses which worsened the already terrible Palestinian economic plight and helped to make the Territories a powder keg of rage and hopelessness.

Camp David has taught all the wrong lessons. What should have been learned from it was that the Israeli, Palestinian and American leadership have all failed to make a just peace possible. Until leaders weigh both sides equally, recognize that justice must be done for all, understand the political climates of both sides and deal with these difficult matters in a more realistic fashion, such failure will only be repeated.

38 thoughts on “The Myth That Stays With Us: Camp David 2000

  1. Isn’t the real issue Barak and Arafat’s response to Clinton’s post-Camp David proposals, made in Dec. 2000, which went significantly further?

  2. To quote from the piece above:
    “They [the 2000 peace talks] were ended because the Barak government had fallen and the new elections were at hand. Sharon had already stated publicly that he opposed the Taba talks and would not continue them nor honor their results. After the Taba talks ended, Barak publicly declared that the results of those talks were “not binding on the new (Sharon) government.”
    According to Dore Gold’s newly published book, “The Fight for Jerusalem”, http://www.amazon.com/Fight-Jerusalem-Radical-Islam-Future/dp/159698029X/sr=8-1/qid=1172071868/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-3154219-4496132?ie=UTF8&s=books
    The above statement is both incorrect and misleading. While it is true that the Barak led government had already undergone a vote of “no confidence”, that did NOT mean that the negotiations were over, or, being conducted in “bad faith” because the new elections had not yet occurred and Mr. Sharon had NOT yet won enough seats to speak on behalf of the Israelis.
    Mr. Barak was engaged in a high-stakes gambit. If Mr. Arafat were to agree, Barak believed he could sell the plan to the Israeli voters and the next elections would then become a direct referendum on the outcome of the agreement. Were Mr. Arafat to refuse the new offers, (which the Israelis already knew was going to occur) then, Mr. Barak believed that nothing new was lost and no commitments were binding and he could at least say to everyone, the Israelis, the Clinton administration and the world that he went further then anyone expected and still got no where. In reality, the Peace talks ended over the uncertain status of the 5+ million so-called refugees that Mr. Arafat insisted on “re-patriot-ing” as voting and some as land owning Israeli citizens. Mr. Clinton offered $30 billion in aid to handle the status of these people, who, by the way, started out as 750,000 (in 1947) and were 285,000 persons, above the 465,000 Middle Eastern Hebrews, who fled various Arab countries following the 1947 U.N. Resolution. In every other conflict in history (As Prof. Bernard Lewis points out), displaced persons at the conclusion wars found some method to settle and commence normal lives. The U.N.H.C.R. was actively PROHIBITED from helping this population to resettle for the past 60 years, so that they be useful only (and exclusively) as a ‘dilution factor’, against the Jewish majority in Israel.
    The post continued:
    “For their part, the Palestinian negotiators, like their Israeli counterparts, were working in good faith, but they, again like the Israelis, knew full well that they did not have the support of their public in the talks.”
    The reason (and only reason) that the Israeli negotiators lacked enough support of the voters was because the average Israeli already knew that Jerusalem was only to be the ‘appetizer’ for Mr. Arafat. Had there been a full and comprehensive agreement, there is a good chance it could have been sold to the Israeli voters. At any rate, we shall never know, but it is unfair and wrong to draw the above conclusion.
    “As if Ariel Sharon’s deliberate provocation of going to the Temple Mount with an enormous entourage of armed police and soldiers had nothing to do with it”
    “armed police”
    Do you know of any ‘unarmed’ police?
    Mr. Sharon’s attitude may have been one of “Bring it on” but there was clearly and undeniably something already in the Arab works, to be ‘brought on’. The French police (for example) do not enter certain Arab and Muslim neighborhoods, as not to “provoke” the residents. This situation may one day soon change, as the violence continues to spill out onto the streets of Paris. Your essay also does not mention the riot of stone throwing, onto the Jewish worshipers below the Western Wall. This point should have been mentioned, in any fair report of events.
    Even Mr. Rabin was steadfast on one point: The Israelis do not permit civil violence and will use up-to deadly force to stop it.
    Mr. Arafat was not simply corrupt. He kept international funding in the hundreds of millions of dollars back from the rightful Arab residents, NOT BECAUSE HE WANTED THE MONEY (he lived in Ramalah). He simply wanted to keep his people BAREFOOT AND HUNGRY enough to revolt at the earliest possible moment and not become comfortable. The Israelis also knew this. Which helps explain their reluctance to trust Mr. Arafat. It also explains why Mr. Arafat saw Mr. Clinton’s offer of $30-Billion in compensation as a profound insult. Such money might have actually calmed the situation, and that is the LAST thing Yasser Arafat wanted. Clinton could have offered $300-billion and it would have only PISSED MR. ARAFAT OFF 10 TIMES WORSE.

  3. Isador – Since you wrote at length on, as you put it, ‘so-called refugees’, I thought appropriate to illuminate your error. Your gross generalization of refugee repatriation is not correct. It is a fact that refugees do indeed return home in large numbers to their countries during war, or after the conclusion of hostilities. Indeed many more refugees return home than settle in other countries for two reasons. Most of them want to go home, and most states do not want large numbers of refugees.

    A 1997 USAID paper prepared by Professor Barry Stein of Michigan University states that 14 million refugees returned home to conflict or post conflict situations in the 1990s alone. In some cases refugees unwillingly return to their home country, as was the case of half a million Rwandan refugees who were forced to return to Rwanda from Zaire in 1996 when civil war broke out there.

    Often the problem is refugees who do not want to return home and are seeking asylum in their host country or a third country, which usually doesn’t want them.

    The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced just last week that more funds are needed to help repatriate refugees of the Democratic Republic of Congo who are currently in camps in Zambia. the UNHRC also said that they recently repatriated 70,000 Angolan refugees. Over 8 million Afghans have been repatriated from Pakistan since 2002. This list can go on . .

    The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country”. Note that it does not say ‘state’. Common usage of the word ‘own country’ is the geographic location of origin.

    Since no-one disputes that the Palestinian refugees originated in the territory that became the state of Israel, the question is really moot as to whether they have the right to return home. The decision to brand them as ‘Absentees’ under new laws of the new Israeli state, and place their property in a state trust was the result of political decisions, not based on any UN laws or customary behavior of refugees.

    It’s interesting to note that the State of Israel never actually confiscated most of the refugee property, but turned it over for administration to the ‘Custodian of Absentees Property’. Even under Israeli law, the title to the said properties is still vested in the Palestinian owners. They are just barred from exercising their rights as owners.

  4. Fred Schlomka:
    Re: Refugees:
    This is an inherently murky and complex subject. To do a proper job of briefing would take ½ a week to research and compose and the other half to check and perfect. If I believed that anyone reading would be inclined to be either moved or impressed my this amount of work, I would do it anyway. Since that is not my belief, you shall have to make due with a sloppy and paraphrased reply, which, rest assured is still as good or better then yours.
    1. The United Nations defines what is a “refugee.” Even this language is hard to follow:
    “(2) As a result of events occurring before I January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
    In the case of a person who has more than one nationality, the term “the country of his nationality” shall mean each of the countries of which he is a national, and a person shall not be deemed to be lacking the protection of the country of his nationality if, without any valid reason based on well-founded fear, he has not availed himself of the protection of one of the countries of which he is a national”
    http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/o_c_ref.htm
    To repeat in pertinent part:
    “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality”
    There is a genuine dispute as to the circumstances of the departure of 750,000 Arabs after 1947 but before 1951.
    Were they: “outside the country of his nationality” due to “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”?
    Those who departed for other reasons (and their descendants) loose their rights under these provisions and therefore, never acquire any status as “refugees”. Those who departed due to military strategy against those who remained, would not be so titled. The logical problem with the assumption that the mass departure was due to “Israeli intimidation and terror” is that in many zones of Israel, the Arabs experienced no problems whatsoever. The ethical problems with your position include:
    2. What is to be made of the 465,000 Hebrews who left Arab countries? Do they (and their descendants) get to go back and re-claim citizenship, land and property? One of my good friends was the youngest son in the single richest Jewish family in Iraq, who’s roots went back to 600-BC. His family rode around in a Rolls Royce with a shoffer. After his sister was placed under a death warrant for “conspiring” to leave for Israel, the entire family bought their way out and moved into a stinking tent in Tel Aviv, with holes in their shoes and nothing from their previous lives. Even though there may have been more total Arabs exchanged then Hebrews (750k vs. 465k), the forfeited Hebrew property value was probably 5 times the value of the Arab’s. And for at least one very good reason. Many of the Arabs who resided in the Jerusalem area in 1947 were not legitimate residents, and/or had only lived their for 5, 10 or 15 years previously. Joan Peter’s book, “From Time Immemorial” is very dispositive on these facts. The United Nations actually modified its longstanding status rules to accommodate as many of these people as possible.
    You wrote:
    “The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country”. Note that it does not say ’state’. Common usage of the word ‘own country’ is the geographic location of origin.”
    I do not understand your point. Are you asserting that the word “country” merely means “not the city”?
    You wrote:
    “Since no-one disputes that the Palestinian refugees originated in the territory that became the state of Israel. . “
    What about the so called “refugee” camps inside the PA zones? If their country is ‘Palestine’, then how can they be “refugees” inside their own country? The whole purpose of a bifurcation of land it to create two states where only one existed before. The general assumptions of who came from where is therefore not applicable is such circumstances. By the way, as I am told, the newly formed constitution of Iraq specifically excludes Jews from right-of-return, as did the Jordanian laws that dealt with the acquired inhabitants. In fact, the Jordanian laws go one step further and pro-actively exclude even those Jews who never even moved out. Were that same law applied to the Arabs of Israel, not one would qualify as a citizen, let alone vote.
    You quoted:
    “A 1997 USAID paper prepared by Professor Barry Stein of Michigan University states that 14 million refugees returned home to conflict or post conflict situations in the 1990s alone. In some cases refugees unwillingly return to their home country, as was the case of half a million Rwandan refugees who were forced to return to Rwanda from Zaire in 1996 when civil war broke out there.”
    I quote:
    “One of the characteristics of the anti-Jew as distinct from the pro-Arab is that he shows no other sign of interest in the Arabs or sympathy for them, apart from their conflict with the Jews.” “ . . That the problem was not solved like others elsewhere in our brutal century, by a combination of re-settlement and some re-patriation, was due to an act of will on the part of the Palestinian leadership and of the Arab states. It was indeed a CONSIDERABLE FEAT to have preserved the refugee camps and their unhappy inhabitants for so long . .” “ . . He is completely unmoved by wrongs suffered by the Arabs, even Palestinians, under any but Jewish auspices, whether their own rulers or third parties . . the thousands of Arabs slaughtered at Amman, at Tell ZacAtir, in Hama and the many wars in Yemen, Lebanon, the Gulf and elsewhere that have tormented the long-suffering Arab people.” — Professor Bernard Lewis (Princeton).
    While you are correct that many displacements do result in repatriation, not all do and not all that do, result in total repatriation. Certainly, after 60 years, the displaced Arabs do not qualify under the general principles or common usage of the term. Many of these people could have long ago been settled in very comfortable settings, in such places as The Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, etc., etc., etc.
    Moreover, it is NOT even in the best interest of the Israeli Arab citizens, to have 5+ million of their displaced ‘cousins’ competing with them for space and resources.
    For these 5+ million to return as demanded, would obliterate the core nature of the Jewish National Homeland and render the Hebrews a minority, if not at once, very soon thereafter. This demand is therefore not remotely reasonable. The Arabs gained their independence in dozens of separate countries and they are a vast majority is all of them. In Lebanon, which was set aside to be a Christian nation and the constitution is written with that in mind, the Christians are now very nearly a minority. So now we hear the Muslims demanding to change the Lebanese constitution. How can this be an argument about Equity? In Saudi Arabia, the only constitution is the Qur’an and Jews are not permitted at in all, and no houses of worship (other then Mosques) are allowed to stand.
    You guys really need a cold dip in an icy river, to gain back some sanity.

  5. Isador – The Palestinian Arabs who remained inside Israel after 1948 were under military rule for almost 20 years. Thus there brethren who were refugees definately had a well founded fear of persecution.

    You stated that: “is that in many zones of Israel, the Arabs experienced no problems whatsoever.”. This is hardly correct in view of their ongoing status under military law, with their freedom of movement, and freedom to live where they chose tightly restricted. In addition about one third of the remailing palestinian Arabs were declared ‘internal absentees’ and refused the right to return to their homes in Israel despite the fact that they never left the country and eventually became Israeli citizens.

    The Hebrews who left Arab countries and lost lands and property are certainly entitled to the right of return if they chose, and/or compensation. I am in complete agreement with you on this matter.

    I emphasized the word country rather than state since many arguments against the return of Palestinian refugees are based on the fact that they had no citizenship or nation-state at the time of the Nakbah. Compromise is usually the name of the game in negotiations. I don’t think anyone in Israel, Arab or Jew, wants to see a mass return. However a well planned program of repatriation, resettlement in third countries, and compensation, would go a long way to solving some of the issues. Ur Avnery once proposed allowing the return of 50,000/year for ten or more years. That might be a good starting point.

    As someone who lives in the Middle East I am certainly concerned with the ongoing despotism and radical regimes in some of the surrounding countries. However as a citizen of Israel my main concern is the development of my own country.

    Not many icy rivers around here. I personally prefer the local hot springs. Keeps me sane – no mean feat in this crazy part of the world.

  6. Fred:
    I will address the last part of your posting first and come back later with more comments.
    You wrote:
    “Not many icy rivers around here. I personally prefer the local hot springs.”
    Exactly my point. What Jerusalem needs is an ‘icy river’. The entire ritual of ‘baptism’ was invented in your region. The practice was initally done in deep underground rivers, while not “icy” per-se, was probably cold enough to wake the soul from sleep-walking.
    “China treats Internet ‘addicts’ sternly – Leaders see ‘a grave social problem’; treatment includes electric shocks” –MSNBC
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17251571
    Perhaps this treatment would be an adequate substitute for a mountain river.(???)

  7. to Mitchell:

    Nice job on this, thanks for your patient analysis and ongoing dedication to getting th the truth out. A couple of comments. Shlomo Ben Ami is generally an unbiased reporter of the facts. Clayton Swisher, a Washington supporter who turned after observing and uncovering the Syrian and Palestinian tracks can be trusted even more. Dennis Ross, on the other hand, reputed expert as he might be, is clearly exposed by Swisher as one of the most destructive variables in the so-called U.S. “honest broker” approach. None of what he has to say should be trusted by anyone wanting to get to the bottom of all this. And what about Norman Finkelstein’s take on all this in his debate on Democracy Now with Shlomo Ben Ami. He makes a compelling case, on all four issues at CD, i.e., refugees, borders, Jerusalem, and settlements, that the Palestinians were the ones who made clear compromises in every area GIVEN THE BASELINE OF THEIR RIGHTS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW. On the other hand, while Barak did go “farther” than Israel had done before, their “compromises” were only in relation to “what Israel wants”. Clinton and Barak claims that these “compromises” were far reaching, is a smoke and mirrors claim. And throughout Swisher’s book it is clear that the Palestinians ALWAYS made their position clear that the pre 1967 borders and 242 must be the starting point for negotiations, a position rejected by Israel. That position seems resoundingly clear to me, unless Swisher is biased and is pumping it up, but his book is so documented with quotes from so many people from all three teams, it doesn’t seem so. There IS another factor. Given the corruption that we can take for granted in the Palestinian government, which is found everywhere in the world in poor societies which have so little so that when leaders get to the top, and even while they are clawing their way up, what can you expect. And given that this situation WAS CREATED by Palestinians dispossession by Israel and exacerbated (to say the least) by the occupation, just why are the Palestinians to blame for not being in the same organized position as Israel and the U.S. were going into Camp David. There was no parity in regard to preparation. Note Swisher’s accounts of how Israelis showed up at meetings with laptops and the whole show, the Palestinians with notepads and no lawyers, until the EU made some accessible to them. But why blame the victim for this? Your piece is quite fair. But not quite fair enough. Would be interested to hear your thoughts on this, particularly on Finkelstein’s analysis.

  8. To Isidor Farash:

    Dore Gold and Bernard Lewis? Just who, besides the Zionist choir, do you think you are trying to “educate” using these sources? Can you find a few non-Jewish sources who would support these, excluding the Christian right? On the other hand, Tanya Reinhart, Nathan Weinstock, Ilan Pappe, Shlomo Ben Ami, Norman Finkelstein, Israel Finkelstein, Geoffry Aronson, Neville Mandel are all either Israeli or Jewish sources I have used to back up my points. Try, if you can, to break outside the architects of the Zionist narrative if you want to convince people who don’t buy the Zionist narrative.

  9. Carl Zaisser:
    You wrote:
    “Just who, besides the Zionist choir, do you think you are trying to “educate” using these sources?” Can you find a few non-Jewish sources who would support these, excluding the Christian right?”
    Do you hear yourself speaking?
    What difference is it that these people are Jewish? Does that make them liars?
    I am neither Jewish (by religion), a “Zionist” or a Member of the “Christian right”.
    Bernard Lewis is a professor emeritus of Mid East history at Princeton University. Dore Gold is a member of the Likud party of Israel. You heap them together as Jews, not as academics, or even as “Zionists”.
    When I quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, you blew a gasket.
    When I say: Joan Peters, I hear someone else say “Fraud”. When I say Joseph Farah (An Arab) http://www.wnd.com/ you will undoubtedly say: “Christian Fundamentalist”. If I say: Max Dimont: http://www.amazon.com/Jews-God-History-Max-Dimont/dp/0451529405/sr=8-1/qid=1172256183/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/105-8426267-1738039?ie=UTF8&s=books
    You say what?
    Your positions are to the ‘left’ of even Ralph Nader (A Lebanese, who actually was very supportive of Israel in the 1960’s).
    Would you like to hear from Michael Wany, http://www.truthpeace.zoomshare.com/album/TruthPeace%2006-2006%20WANY%2c%20HIMMLER/images/b2497a1712cdbc2a5d0fe413530dfa97_11534004550/:album?css=/lib/style/type_album.css&css=/lib/style/couriernew.css a runaway slave from the Sudan, who’s family was butchered in front of him and he was sold (for a few pounds of goat meat) to an Arab farmer in the north?
    Here ya go:
    http://www.truthpeace.zoomshare.com/2.shtml
    Ask him who lifted a finger to stop the genocide: Only the USA and Israel. The only difference between his people and the Israelis is:
    Apache choppers (quite sadly but most truly).

  10. Brother, you are discombobulated. Again, consider, 90 years of this project and look how well it’s worked out. Keep trying. Surround the country with a wall. That’s surely the way to keep it going for the long term. Dore Gold? the former media face of Ariel Sharon? And trust me, I know who Bernard Lewis is and wholeheartedly not impressed. Nor am I impressed with how atrocities committed by people who are Arab in other geographic locations somehow paint all Arab people and causes as inherently without merit. THAT is the kind of argument Lewis loves to use, that Zionism is more meritorious than Arab nationalism because of what they did with the country, swimming pools in a water scarce environment notwithstanding. ANY attempt by Israel to help put an end to a genocide anywhere is ludicrous as long as the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine (see Ilan Pappe) beginning in 1948 and continuing with the settlements against international law which are intended to squeeze Palestinians remains the official program of the government supported by its population. By the way, what is Nader’s position on all this NOW, forget about the 1960’s when everyone was under the spell of the creation myth of Israel.

  11. Carl:
    While speaking of “90 years”, the 90+ year old people who still drive in Miami, FL are (ironically) less of a danger to themselves then they are to other drivers. This is the same dynamic that your statements have on the uninformed. You will never learn because that is not your intent. This was quite a challenge for me to come to a web site where most people profusely agree with one another and be the voice of descent. By all rights, you should have a veritable tabernacle chorus of support from the people who call this place home.
    When I tried to challenge the power-base of the NJ Green Party a few years ago, the shock was NOT that I was unsuccessful. The shock came when a vote was called and I got 40% in favor. The leader of that group was no less then incensed. Why? Because I was no longer to be labeled a ‘fringe-element’ or a “wrecker” or a freak. This is the same problem you face. You enjoy agreement from a few others who police this site. As I can see, you are the most ‘zealot’ of the lot. You readily equate Israel, who’s very existence is directly owed to their traditional role as a habitually endangered species, with despots, war-lords, colonial powers such as England in the mid century and before, genocidal maniacs and war criminals such as Slobodan Miloševi? and basically, anyone and anything you can find that makes a persuasive sound-bite. You may be convincing yourself and possibly reinforcing the minds of those who have them already made up, like you but in the end, most of the people in the world are base reasonable and many therefore don’t buy it. The beauty of the blog forum is that by its very nature, the participants are average or above average intelligence. When they hear you say that A Princeton Mid-East History Professor does not impress you because he is Jewish, please, keep speaking that way because it is the best and fastest road to loosing support from your base.
    Rarely do you ever debate asserted facts. More often, you just change the subject, or the topic, or, quote someone who supports your position. Nor are you long with specific facts yourself. It is not the role of each independent author to list facts that may run contrary to the theme of their writing. So, for example, you may read Lewis’ to chronicle Arab atrocities against Jews and he may not pay adequate attention to Jewish atrocities against Arabs. That alone does not discredit an author. The same is to be said of Dore Gold. He has his political platform and it is not his role to be a chief rabbi and tell both sides how right they are.
    Both Gold and Lewis’ job is to be truthful and not alter or even massage the facts being purported. In that, I believe they do a fine, make that excellent job. But you don’t debate their facts. Both these authors have written several well known books and I have yet to hear you once say that:
    Gold said: “ XYZ” and this is false and the truth is . . and the proof is . . .
    Or the same for Lewis, or the same for Peters or Dimont or the same for Chesler.
    Come on now, even the most honest and well researched historian should still be found factually wrong a few percent of the time. According to you, these people should be wholly disregarded, not merely questioned or corrected. But you make no specific case as to where they err. Why am I not surprised?
    For example, when Dore Gold reports that on April 2, 2002, 13 Armed militants including some from Chairman Arafat’s Tanzim militia, seized the (Catholic) Church of the Nativity, held priests as hostages along with about 100 unarmed civilians, destroyed the place and its holy relics and left 40 explosive devices behind, do you deny this as historical fact? If so, how? If not, how do you explain this affront against and attack on one of Christianities holiest sights? The one group who certainly could not be found inside that church were any Jews.
    And so it is exactly with those obsessed with the Israel / Palestine dispute.
    Everything else in the world is either insignificant by comparison or, can be directly blamed on the Jewish oppressors or their American ‘puppets’.
    If you read my comments on the title subject essays on this blog, you will find that while my writing is often stylized and I do interject both opinions and conclusions, the core of my comments generally relate to factual inaccuracies or statements that I believe to be misleading and I explain why.
    I do not discredit Mr. Plitnick as a self-hating Hebrew. But that is your big defense against Princeton Historians, only in reverse, by attempting to make their ethnic identity more important then their advanced degrees.
    An Arab blogger (whom I debate) on an Islamic site, who came from Lebanon and now lives in Kuwait, actually references Prof. Lewis in order to support some of his pro-Arab points: He wrote on Oct. 28, 2006:
    “You ever hear of St. Thomas “the butcher” Aquinas?
    Second, Muhammad never claimed to be God. He said up to his very death that he was simply a messenger and reminder to the Christians of their polytheistic ways. Sorry but one plus one plus one equals three, not one.
    Go look up F.E. Peters, Karen Armstrong, BERNARD LEWIS to get a historical Islamic history.
    P.S. I do love your use of Islamophic and hate sites as your new frame of reference. You are typical.
    Posted October 28, 2006 – 03:34:58 AM by A.I.”
    End of quote–

    What you obviously fail to understand is that for every right-wing Israeli Jew, there are at least 100 non-Jewish “westerners” who are past ready to push-the-button on the entire Arab race. Many of these same people ARE NOT fans of Israel (or of Jews in general) and believe me, if they thought that feeding Israel to the Arabs would solve anything, they would do it in a Hollywood nanosecond. They simply remember that such a solution was already tried and failed. It was called World War Two.

    So, while you may think you are the ‘peace maker’ in this group, I too consider myself a peace-maker. I just do not resort to means that I would consider unethical, such as fabricating positions out of innuendo and actively avoiding any substantial discussion of facts while doing so.

    As I have said before, to the Dore Gold’s and Ariel Sharon’s of the world, I am merely one of you. So my interest in your intellectual wellbeing is somewhat selfish in that I do not wish for the association, no matter how approximate, to be more embarrassing to myself then it otherwise has to be.

    PS> Re: Ralph Nader. I have cruised around the web and can not locate any statement he has made that specifically stated:
    “Israel to return to pre-1967 borders.” Can you? If not, I suggest that his overall position is (today) closer to mine then your’s.

  12. to Isidor Farash:

    try on this excerpt from Norman Finkelstein on who made the compromises at CD, contrary to your assertions above to Mitchell Plitnick. And also notice, how at the end of their debate (you can get the entire dialogue on Democracy Now), Shlomo Ben Ami, an exacting historian himself as is Finkelstein, his train of thought in discussing an extra-legal approach to resolving the conflict gets rather nonplussed and wobbly.

    I am really not interested in Ralph Nader’s views. You are the one who brought him up, not me. While he is generally a thoughtful person, that’s clear, if it wasn’t for him in 2000, Gore would have been elected and though Afghanistan would probably happened, the war in Iraq would not have. I have no interested in what either he, nor MLK said in the 1960’s, as I said, a period in which the Israeli national creation myth prevailed widely (particularly with black preachers, i.e., MLK, who relate the Old Testament to their own historical struggle)AND a period in which the 40 year occupation of Palestine and the building of settlements hadn’t even begun and so were nowhere on the radar screens of either Nader or King.

    I consider myself a peacemaker ONLY in the sense that if your want peace, you must work for justice, you must make a noice. Frankly, let me know how your peacemaking works with the Arab gentleman you quoted whom you met in the Muslim blog. My guess is, from what he said about the divergence of his and your view on Palestine, as soon as he gets hip to your bottom line, which is to “educate, educate, educate” according to your own view and not his, the friendship will at best slow down. Don’t you think?

    I am sure you can track down Norman Finkelstein’s email and go back and forth with him on the views he expresses below. If you wish to do so, and if you get respsonses from him, please do post them. Perhaps you can change his mind vis-a-vis international law.

    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I want to put aside for a moment the question of Hamas and just return to the previous point, namely, the relevance or not of international law. It’s not an abstract question, and it’s now a question fortunately only to be left to lawyers. It’s a question which bears on the last third of Dr. Ben-Ami’s book, namely, who is responsible for the collapse of or the impasse in the negotiations at Camp David and Taba? Whereas, in my view, when Dr. Ben-Ami wears his historian’s hat, he gets everything right; when he puts on the diplomat’s hat, he starts getting things, in my opinion, wrong, and it’s that last third of the book where I think things go seriously awry.
    Now, I can’t look into Mr. Arafat’s heart, and I don’t know what he did or didn’t believe, and frankly I have no interest in it. My concern is let’s look at the diplomatic record, the factual record. What were the offers being made on each side of the Camp David and in the Taba talks? And the standard interpretation, which comes — which is — you can call it the Dennis Ross interpretation, which, I think, unfortunately Dr. Ben-Ami echoes, is that Israel made huge concessions at Camp David and Taba; Palestinians refused to make any concessions, because of what Dr. Ben-Ami repeatedly calls Arafat’s unyielding positions; and that Arafat missed a huge opportunity. Now, it is correct to say that if you frame everything in terms of what Israel wanted, it made huge concessions. However, if you frame things in terms of what Israel was legally entitled to under international law, then Israel made precisely and exactly zero concessions. All the concessions were made by the Palestinians.
    Briefly, because we don’t have time, there were four key issues at Camp David and at Taba. Number one, settlements. Number two, borders. Number three, Jerusalem. Number four, refugees. Let’s start with settlements. Under international law, there is no dispute, no controversy. Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, it’s illegal for any occupying country to transfer its population to Occupied Territories. All of the settlements, all of the settlements are illegal under international law. No dispute. The World Court in July 2004 ruled that all the settlements are illegal. The Palestinians were willing to concede 50% — 50% of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That was a monumental concession, going well beyond anything that was demanded of them under international law.
    Borders. The principle is clear. I don’t want to get into it now, because I was very glad to see that Dr. Ben-Ami quoted it three times in his book. It is inadmissible to acquire territory by war. Under international law, Israel had to withdraw from all of the West Bank and all of Gaza. As the World Court put it in July 2004, those are, quote, “occupied Palestinian territories.” Now, however you want to argue over percentages, there is no question, and I know Dr. Ben-Ami won’t dispute it, the Palestinians were willing to make concessions on the borders. What percentage? There’s differences. But there is no question they were willing to make concessions.
    Jerusalem. Jerusalem is an interesting case, because if you read Dr. Ben-Ami or the standard mainstream accounts in the United States, everyone talks about the huge concessions that Barak was willing to make on Jerusalem. But under international law Israel has not one atom of sovereignty over any of Jerusalem. Read the World Court decision. The World Court decision said Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory. Now, the Palestinians were willing, the exact lines I’m not going to get into now — they are complicated, but I’m sure Dr. Ben-Ami will not dispute they were willing to divide Jerusalem roughly in half, the Jewish side to Israel, the Arab side to the Palestinians.
    And number four, refugees. On the question of refugees, it’s not a dispute under international law. Remarkably, even fairly conservative human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, in 2000, during the Camp David talks, they issued statements on the question of the right of return. And they stated categorically, under international law every Palestinian, roughly five to six million, has the right to return, not to some little parcels, 1% of Israel, which Israel is about — which Israel would swap, return to their homes or the environs of their homes in Israel. That’s the law. Now, Dr. Ben-Ami will surely agree that the Palestinians were not demanding and never demanded the full return of six million refugees. He gives a figure of 4-800,000. In fact — I’m not going to get into the numbers, because it’s very hard to pin it down — other authors have given figures of the tens of thousands to 200,000 refugees returning. That’s well short of six million.
    On every single issue, all the concessions came from the Palestinians. The problem is, everyone, including Dr. Ben-Ami in his book — he begins with what Israel wants and how much of its wants it’s willing to give up. But that’s not the relevant framework. The only relevant framework is under international law what you are entitled to, and when you use that framework it’s a very, very different picture.
    AMY GOODMAN: If you can bear to make this response brief, Dr. Shlomo Ben-Ami.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yes, yes. Okay, the last third part of the book, as Dr. Finkelstein says, there is the diplomat, and this same diplomat still behaves in a way as a historian when he says in this book that Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well. This is something I put in the book. But Taba is the problem. The Clinton parameters are the problem, because the Clinton parameters, in my view —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Maybe you could explain to them what that is. I don’t think most people will know the Clinton parameters.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, the Clinton parameters say the following. They say that on the territorial issue, the Palestinians will get 100% of Gaza, 97% of the West Bank, plus safe passage from Gaza to the West Bank to make the state viable. There will be a land swap. The 97%, which I mentioned, takes into account the land swap, where they will get 3% on this side, within the state of Israel, so we will have the blocks of settlements and they will be able to settle refugees on this side of the border.
    About Jerusalem, it says what is Jewish is Israeli, and what is Palestinian is — sorry, and what is Arab is Palestinian. It includes full-fledged sovereignty for the Palestinians on Temple Mount, on the Haram al-Sharif, no sovereignty, no Jewish sovereignty on the Haram al-Sharif, which was at the time and continues to be a major, major problem for Israelis and Jews, that these things mean to them a lot. And then, with the question of refugees, it says that the refugees will return to historic Palestine, to historical Palestine, and that Israel will maintain its sovereign right of admission. That is, it will have to absorb a number of refugees but with restrictions that need to be negotiated between the parties. But the bulk of the refugees will be allowed to return to the state of Palestine. This is the essence of the Clinton parameters.
    What Dr. Finkelstein said here about international law, I want to make it clear, it is important, it is vital for a civilized community of nations to have an axis of principles based on international law, around which to run the affairs of our chaotic world. It is very important. It is vital, etc. But at the same time, when you go into political issues, and you need to settle differences, historical differences, differences that have to do with political rights, security concerns, historical memories, etc., it is almost impossible to do things on the basis of international law, but rather, on something that is as close as possible to the requirements of international law. The very fact that, as Dr. Finkelstein rightly says, the Palestinians were ready to make this or that concession is the reflection of them understanding that there is no viability, there is no possibility really to reach an agreement that says let us apply automatically and rigidly the requirements of international law.
    So we need to find a way. I believe, I really believe, that at Camp David, we failed to find that way. I say it very clearly in the book. It is my conviction that through the Clinton parameters, that were not the sudden whim of a lame-duck president — they were the point of equilibrium between the negotiating positions of the parties at that particular moment, and the President sort of looked for a way between the two positions and presented these parameters. They could be fine-tuned, obviously. We tried to fine tune them in Taba. We made some progress. But eventually, because of a number of reasons, among them the political qualitative time that was missing, both for the Americans and for the Israelis, and because of the consideration of Arafat that he really believed that he can get a better deal. I think that he will not get a better deal. The conditions are not there. I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future. So he lost the opportunity of having a deal that is imperfect, inevitably imperfect, will always be imperfect, because this is the way peace processes are done all over, and he sent his nation into the wilderness of war and back in the time machine to the core of the conflict. This is what we face today.
    AMY GOODMAN: Norman Finkelstein, a quick response, and then I want to ask you about your — one of the main theses in your book, and that has to do with the issue of anti-Semitism.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, just for the sake of your audience —
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: If I may, just brief —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: — because I do mention, obviously, the inadmissibility of acquiring — or the acquisition of land by force, but this is not my invention. This is what 242 says.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Exactly.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: This is what 242 says, but, again, let us look at the nuance. When the Israelis accept 242, they accept it because this expression of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of land by force is tempered by the concept — through the concept of borders that are defensible and recognized, and the security borders. That’s the equilibrium, which is not international law, but it is give and take in a negotiation.
    AMY GOODMAN: Professor Finkelstein.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I don’t want to get now into the interminable question of what 242 meant. I will simply state the International Court of Justice in July 2004 ruled on that question. It stated Israel has to fully withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza, including Jerusalem. To my mind, it’s no longer a matter of dispute, however you want to interpret 242.
    Let’s now turn to, just quickly, the last issue. It’s going to be hard for a lot of your listeners, because even though I have read two dozen books on the topic, I keep getting things confused. Camp David accord talks are in July 2000. Clinton parameters are roughly December 23rd, 2000. Taba, in January 2001. Now, Dr. Ben-Ami says Camp David, I can understand why the Palestinians turned down. Unfortunately, in his book he keeps referring to Arafat’s unyielding positions, even though now he acknowledges Palestinians made concessions at Camp David. In fact, as I said, all the concessions, within the framework of international law, came from the Palestinians.
    Let’s now turn to those Clinton parameters. Dr. Ben-Ami accurately renders their content. I don’t think he accurately renders in the book what happened. He states in the book that at Taba, Israelis accept — excuse me, at the time of the Clinton parameters, the Israelis accepted the Clinton parameters. Arafat didn’t really accept the Clinton parameters. He said he did, but he didn’t. What actually happened? What actually happened was exactly as what was announced by the White House spokesman on January 3rd, 2001, the official statement was both the Israelis and the Palestinians have accepted the Clinton parameters with some reservations. Both sides entered reservations on the Clinton parameters. Dr. Ben-Ami leaves out in the book both sides. He only mentions the reservations by the Palestinians.
    Number two, I was surprised to notice one of the books Dr. Ben-Ami recommends is the book by Clayton Swisher called The Truth at Camp David. I looked in the book. On page 402 of Clayton Swisher’s book, when he’s discussing the issue of entering reservations to Clinton’s parameters, he quotes none other than Shlomo Ben-Ami. You acknowledged — you call them relatively minor, but you acknowledged that Barak entered — you called it several pages of reservations. In fact, Barak sent a ten-page letter of reservations to the Clinton parameters. It was exactly symmetrical. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to the Clinton parameters with some reservations.
    Wait, one last point. One last point. Dr. Ben-Ami left out another crucial point in his account. He doesn’t tell us why Taba ended. It ended officially when Barak withdrew his negotiators. It wasn’t the Palestinians who walked out of Taba. It ended with the Israelis walking out of Taba, a matter of historical record, not even controversial.
    AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ben-Ami.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, well. You see, as somebody who was a part of those who prepared the Israeli document that was submitted to President Clinton, I can say that the bulk of the document was an expression of our — the comparison that we made between our initial positions and what was reflected in the Clinton parameters. It was not a series of reservations. It was basically a mention of the difference, the way that we have gone. This was an attempt to impress the President, more than an attempt to say that these are reservations, sine qua nons. There were no real reservations in our document, whereas in the Palestinian document, there were plenty of them, with the refugees, with the Haram al-Sharif, with what have you. I mean, it was full of reservations from beginning to end. Ours was not a document about reservations, it was a statement, basically, that said these were our positions, this is where we stand today. we have gone a very long way, we cannot go beyond that. This was essentially what we sent.
    Now, with regard to Taba, you see, we were a government committing suicide, practically. Two weeks before general elections, the chief of staff, General Mofaz, who is now the Minister of Defense, comes and in a — I say that in the book — in something that is tantamount to a coup d’etat, comes and says publicly that we are putting at risk the future of the state of Israel by assuming the Clinton parameters, and we accept them, we assume them. And then I go to Cairo and I meet President Mubarak, and President Mubarak invites Arafat to see me in Cairo, and I say to Arafat, “We are going to fine tune this in a meeting in Taba, if you wish.” And then we go to Taba, and we negotiate in Taba. And in Taba, Prime Minister Barak instructs me to conduct secret negotiations with Abu Alla. Within the negotiations, we had the second track trying to reach an agreement, and he even agrees to all kind of things that he was not very open to before that.
    Now, this was the end. We saw that we are not reaching an agreement, and we need to go back, even if for the electoral campaign. I mean, we were a week before the elections. I mean, we were practically nonexistent. Our legitimacy as a government to negotiate such central issues as Jerusalem, as Temple Mount, the temple, etc., was being questioned, not only by the right that was making political capital out of it, but by the left, people from our own government. “Shlomo Ben-Ami is ready to sell out the country for the sake of a Nobel Prize.” This is what Haim Ramon said, one of the labor ministers, so it was unsustainable. We could not go any longer. So, to say that we — now the whole thing collapsed because we put a helicopter at the disposal of the Palestinians to go and see if we can rubricate some basic peace parameters on the basis of our negotiations, that they didn’t want it, Arafat didn’t want it.
    Anyway, the thing is that we need to understand that with all — frankly, with all due respect for the requirements of international law, at the end of the day, at the end of the day, a peace process is a political enterprise. And there are things that governments can do and things that they cannot do, because if you do things that leave you without political support, then you can do nothing. You can write poetry, not make peace. And we have been writing poetry ever since, because we are not in office. We have been advancing all kind of peace dreams. It is only when you are in office and you have a political support that you can move ahead. This is the only way that peace is done. We have done our very best. We went to the outer limits of our capacity for compromise without disintegrating entirely our home front, and this is an exercise that Sharon decided not to make, precisely because he learned from our experience. He said, “Listen, we are not going to do that. I am going to be unilateral. I don’t believe in negotiations.” It’s very bad, but this is the lesson that he learned from the sad experience of the collapse of the peace process in the last year of Clinton’s presidency.
    AMY GOODMAN: We don’t have very much time, and I wanted to ask you, Professor Finkelstein, about your thesis, the “not-so-new new anti-Semitism.” What does that mean?
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, actually, I think it’s useful to connect it with the conversation we’ve just had. Namely, I think when honest and reasonable people enter into a discussion about this topic, you will have large areas of agreement, some area of disagreement, and frankly — and I’m not saying it to flatter; I say it because I believe it; I don’t flatter by nature — I’m quite certain that if Palestinians — if representatives of the Palestinians were to sit down with Shlomo Ben-Ami in a room, weren’t subjected to the sorts of political pressures that Dr. Ben-Ami describes from Israel, I think a reasonable settlement could be reached, and I think he’s reasonable, in my opinion. We can disagree on some issues, but he’s reasonable.
    The problem is when you get to the United States. In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they’re still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me,” and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world.
    There is no evidence of a new anti-Semitism. If you go through all the literature, as I have, the evidence is actually in Europe, which is Dr. Ben-Ami’s half-home ground, Spain, but throughout Europe, the evidence is, if you look at like the Pew Charitable Trust surveys, anti-Semitism has actually declined since the last time they did the surveys. They did it in 1991 and 2002. They said the evidence is that it’s declined. And the same thing in the United States. What’s called the “new anti-Semitism” is anyone who criticizes any official Israeli policies. In fact, my guess is had people not known who wrote Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, that book would immediately be put on the A.D.L.’s list of verboten books, an example of anti-Semitism, because he says things like the Zionists wanted to transfer the Arabs out. That’s anti-Semitism. It has nothing to do with the real world. It’s a public relations extravaganza production to deflect attention from the facts, from the realities, and I think this afternoon in our exchange, there were some areas of disagreement for sure, but I think a lot of what Dr. Ben-Ami said would not go down well with most of American Jewry, and that’s when they’ll soon be charging him with being an anti-Semite.
    AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Dr. Ben-Ami? And do you see a difference in the dialogue in Israel than you do right here?
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: On questions of anti-Semitism? Well, Israel is the result of the Jewish catastrophe. There is no doubt about it. If there were no Jewish catastrophe, there would not be a state of Israel. And I think that during the first years of — or before the creation of the state, especially for the figure of Ben-Gurion, the Jewish catastrophe needed to be enlisted for the cause of the creation of the state. You see, Ben-Gurion was a Leninist in some way. He was a Lenin-type. By this, I mean that he had only one central idea in his mind, and that is the creation of the state of Israel. All the other considerations were subservient to that goal, which is the reason why he rushed to reconcile the Jewish people or the state of Israel with Germany, because this was vital for the state of Israel. He was a revolutionary in that sense with — all the other issues were instrumental to that. I think that the Shoah has become not only a defining event for the Jewish people —
    AMY GOODMAN: Shoah, you mean Holocaust.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: The Holocaust has become not only a defining issue — event for the Jewish people, but something that Israel has — not Israel, but perhaps some politicians in Israel have abused. Begin used to compare Arafat to Hitler. He must have been probably a very nasty guy, but certainly not Hitler, just as I don’t think that Saddam Hussein was Hitler. I think that President Bush father likened him to Hitler. We are — we go very lightly with these things. I mean, we do these kind of comparisons unnecessarily. The capture of Eichmann, for example, was very important to David Ben-Gurion, because he wanted a sort of pedagogical exercise for the young generation.
    I explain this in the book, why he needed to reconcile himself with the Shoah, which didn’t interest him very much at the beginning. He was much more concerned with other issues. He suddenly discovered that through the ethos of the new Israel, of the Sabra, you cannot build a cohesive nation, because people were coming from different parts of the world, so you needed to resort to Jewish memory, to Jewish values, to Jewish catastrophe, as a way to unite the newborn nation.
    Today, it seems to me that the problem of anti-Semitism, when it happens, for example, in France, and synagogues are being attacked, etc., if this happens through the hands of Muslim youngsters in the suburbs of Paris, for me it is very difficult to define this as anti-Semitism. I can define it as hooliganism and manipulation of the conflict in the Middle East in order to perpetrate all kind of nasty acts against Jewish holy places, but this is not what we understand as anti-Semitism, which is a European malady, as it were. I think it was there always. It will continue to be there, but I am not in the business of counting how many incidents happen, because there is an institute in Tel Aviv University that will tell you how many incidents happen every year. I don’t believe also that the number of incidents, as such, is the reflection of whether or not anti-Semitism is growing. I believe that it is there, I believe it will stay there as a sub-cultural current in many European societies, but I’m not scandalized by anti-Semitism today.
    I can see more xenophobia against North Africans, against foreigners throughout Europe. And in a way, in a way, I can even see a reconciliation of Europe with its Jewish past. There is hardly a European country where you will not find today a museum of Jewish history. Not in only Germany, you will find it in Poland, in France, all over the place. So, Judaism is being endorsed more and more, or the Jewish history, as part of the whole European legacy. The problem today is, in my view, much more that of the Arab, the Muslim immigrants from North Africa, from the Middle East and other parts.
    AMY GOODMAN: Being discriminated against.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yeah, absolutely.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Totally agree. No disagreement at all.
    AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of language, terrorism — Arafat called terrorist, Hamas called terrorist — how will you describe the Israeli state when it attacks civilians in the Occupied Territories? Or how would you describe Ariel Sharon?
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, let me tell you what is my description of terrorism. Terrorism, in my view, is an indiscriminate attack against civilian population. If I, personally, or my son, God forbid, is being attacked, being in uniform in Palestinian territories, by a Hamas call, I would not define this as terrorism. I will define as terrorism if they go into a kindergarten or a mall, explode themselves and cause injuries and death among civilian population. This to me is —
    Now, the problem of the response of a state is much more difficult to define, because a state needs to go not against the civilian population. It needs to go against military targets, ticking bombs. This is what states can do and should do. The problem is that when you have a fight, not against armies, which is the case of Syria, Egypt, we never spoke about terrorism, state — Israeli state terrorism against the Egyptians. We spoke about wars between two military sides. This is very difficult in the conditions prevailing in places like Gaza or the West Bank, where you have militias, you have arsenals of weapons, etc., and the army attacks them and there is collateral damage to civilian population. To me, this is very difficult to define as state terrorism. It is attacking military objectives or sort of military objectives, an army which is not a real army but can cause damage and you need to fight back and defend your population, and it is very, very unfortunate that civilians are hit. But if Israel targets intentionally civilians, this is a different matter. This can be defined as terrorism. I don’t believe that we have done it. Normally, the practice is that things happened collaterally.
    AMY GOODMAN: I would like to get your response, Professor Finkelstein, and also if you could include in that, you have a chapter in Beyond Chutzpah called “Israel’s Abu Ghraib.”
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, on the issue of terrorism, I agree with Dr. Ben-Ami’s definition. It’s the indiscriminate targeting of civilians to achieve political ends. That’s a capsule definition, but I think for our purposes it suffices. What does the record show? Let’s limit ourselves to just the Second Intifada, from September 28 to the present. The period for that period, the record shows approximately 3,000 Palestinians have been killed, approximately 900 Israelis have been killed. On the Palestinian side and the Israeli side — I’m now using the figures of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories — on the Palestinian and the Israeli side roughly one-half to two-thirds of the total number were civilians or bystanders. And if you look at the findings of the human rights supports — B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, and so forth — they all say that Israel uses reckless indiscriminate fire against Palestinians, and B’Tselem says when you have so many civilian casualties, you have, you know, 600 Palestinian children who have been killed, which is the total number of Israeli civilians killed. 600 Palestinian children killed.
    They said when you have so much, so many civilians killed — I don’t particularly like the phrase “collateral damage” — when you have so many civilians killed, B’Tselem says it hardly makes a difference whether you are purposely targeting them or not, the state has responsibility. So, you could say Israel — using numbers, now — is responsible for three times as much terrorism in the Occupied Territories as Palestinians against Israel. That’s the question of terrorism.
    Let’s turn to an ancillary issue: the issue of torture. Now, the estimates are, up to 1994-1995, that Israel tortured — and I’m using the language of Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem — Israel has tortured tens of thousands of Palestinian detainees. Israel was the only country in the world, the only one, which had legalized torture from 1987 to 1999. The record on torture, on house demolitions and on targeted —
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: 1999 is when we came to office.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I wish that were — I wish that were the saving grace, but the fact of the matter is, being faithful to historical record, the record of Labour has been much worse on human rights violations than the record of Likud. It’s a fact that the only Israeli government during the period from 1967 to the present which temporarily suspended torture was Begin from 1979 to 1981. On the record of house demolitions, Mr. Rabin used to boast that he had demolished many more homes than any Likud government. Even on the record of settlements, as Dr. Ben-Ami well knows, the record of Rabin was worse in terms of settlement expansion than the record of Yitzhak Shamir, and a fact he leaves out in the book, the record of Barak on housing startups in the Occupied Territories —
    AMY GOODMAN: Building more houses?
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah — was worse than the record of Netanyahu. It’s a paradox for, I’m sure, American listeners, but the record on human rights, an abysmal record in general, an abysmal record in general, and in particular, the worst record is the record of Labour, not Likud.
    AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ben-Ami?
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, he’s — Dr. Finkelstein already said what needs to be said about the end of the practices or the legal status of tortures in 1999. When it comes to the difference between Labour and Likud, I make this point in a different way in the book, and that is that Labour was always much more keen to advance the defining ethos of Labour, which is settling the land. This was never the ethos of the right. The right dreamt about greater Eretz Yisrael, but did nothing to implement it. You know, in the Camp David — first Camp David agreement, that is with Sadat, the right that was in office dismantled the settlements of Yamit in northern Sinai. The left, that was in opposition, couldn’t swallow that collapse of the ethos of settling the land. The right was more biblical, was more sort of religious, less practical in its attitude to the territories, so it was always the case, and this is the point that I make in the book, that the settlements were, in fact, started by Shimon Peres when he was the Defense Minister of Yitzhak Rabin. But you see —
    AMY GOODMAN: Of Labour.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Of Labour, obviously. Now, but one circumstance that needs to be emphasized, however, is this, that at least as from 1988, I make the point in the book that, surprisingly, until 1988 there was hardly any difference in the political attitude of Labour and Likud. You couldn’t really discern any difference in the attitude.
    Things start to change in 1988, and I do give credit to Arafat here, contrary to what I do, according to Dr. Finkelstein in the last chapter. Arafat was the pioneer in many senses. He invented the peace process, what we call the peace process, by his declaration of 1988, and it is from that moment that those in Labour who continue to settle are the very people that think that, okay, at the end of the day we will have to find some sort of agreement with the Palestinians, where we might even have to dismantle these settlements, which is in itself an interesting march of folly, that is, that you create settlements knowing that at some point you might have to compromise.
    The difference between the settlements created by Sharon and those created by Rabin is this, that Sharon created settlements in order to torpedo a future agreement, whereas Rabin drew a distinction between what he called — I agree, it was an internal Israeli game — but he drew the distinction between political settlements, that is, settlements that were created in order to derail the possibility of an agreement, and other kind of settlements that might become part of the state of Israel in the context of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. So, this is a very vital difference that, at the end of the day, was accepted by the Palestinians. The fact that, as you yourself say, that in Camp David and elsewhere they accepted the concept — they assumed the concept of blocks of settlements, it only vindicates the position of those Labourites that said, ‘Okay, building settlements in areas that make sense will become in the future part of the state of Israel.’
    AMY GOODMAN: And the issue of torture of tens of thousands of Palestinians by Israel?
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: To tell you the truth, I don’t know about the numbers, and we have seen different governments in — the British have done it. What the British did in Palestine in the ’30s, there is nothing new in what we did that the British didn’t do before us, and the Americans now in Iraq and elsewhere — what I find very, very uncomfortable is really this singling out Israel that lives in a very unique sort of situation in comparison with other countries, but —
    AMY GOODMAN: Well, Norman Finkelstein makes the point, “Israel’s Abu Ghraib,” so that’s making reference to what America did in Iraq.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, okay. But if you — if you would come from another planet and examine the resolutions of the U.N., the Security Council, you might reach the conclusion there is only one sinner in this planet, and it’s the state of Israel, and not anybody else.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But I am quoting your own human rights organizations. You know, B’Tselem is not the United Nations.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, that’s okay. I mean, I’m not — but it speaks in favor of Israel that we have human rights, we have B’Tselem, and we criticize ourselves.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Right.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: And we want to change things, but the solution —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I will agree with that, but then you have to say it doesn’t speak too much in Israel’s favor that it’s the only country in the world that legalized torture. It was also the only country in the world that legalized hostage taking. It was also the only country in the —
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: It wasn’t legalized —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, yes. As your chief justice called it, “keeping Lebanese as bargaining chips.” Israel was the only country in the world that’s legalized house demolitions as a form of punishment. Those things have to also be included in the record.
    AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Ben-Ami.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: In addition to — I totally agree with you, it’s to Israel’s credit that it has a B’Tselem, an organization for which I have the highest regard and esteem. I agree with that.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, but the thing is that the conditions where Israel has to operate, this is — we do not have a Sweden and Denmark as neighbors, and we have neighbors that have taken hostages, and have taken hostages that forced us to exchange things that were not very popular. Rabin himself gave away 1,500 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers, and Sharon gave away 400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for four bodies of Israeli soldiers. So we are living in that kind of place.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But that may tell you that’s because they take so many people prisoner that they have a lot to give back. Right now, as we speak, there are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: This is because we live in the conditions that we live. We are not, as I said — this is not Scandinavia.
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But, Dr. Ben-Ami, you know, as well as I do, international law does not apply to some countries and not to others and some continents and not to others. Either it applies to everybody, or it applies to nobody. So to use the excuse, “Well, in our neighborhood we don’t have to recognize international law,” is simply a repudiation of international law.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, I’m not saying — No, no, I’m not saying that we do not have to recognize international law. I say that the conditions —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, then, it applies —
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, no. I mean, there are conditions where you cannot apply these lofty principles, which are very important, but you cannot apply them. And the British — and the British —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The British is an interesting example.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, it’s an interesting example. They didn’t —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: B’Tselem did a comparison —
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: They did it in Gibraltar —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The British — that’s right.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: They did it in the Falklands. They did — anywhere —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: B’Tselem did an interesting comparison. It compared the British policies of torture in Northern Ireland with Israeli policies of torture. In the 1970s, there were thousands of terrorist attacks by the I.R.A., and B’Tselem’s comparison showed that the Israeli record is much worse than the British on the question of torture. That’s the facts.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yeah. You face now in this country a challenge of terrorism, so you go to PATRIOT Act and you go to —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But you won’t find me justifying torture.
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: These are the conditions that can be very dire, very difficult —
    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No conditions justify torture.
    AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask Dr. Ben-Ami, on the issue of the United States, as you look here, coming here for a few days, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, do you feel there are problems with the detention of the hundreds of men that are being held at Guantanamo without charge and what happened at Abu Ghraib?
    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, I cannot condone that. I mean, I think that, obviously, it is a violation of international norms. There is no doubt about it. But I don’t follow the internal American debate. I don’t know if this society is scandalized by what happens and what is the degree of civil opposition, civic opposition, and if you have here organizations like not only B’Tselem, even Shalom Achshav, which is a centrist — it’s not a leftwing — organization that exposes the seams of your own government, I don’t know. Maybe yes.
    I think we are a society in the middle of a very complicated conflict. As I do admit, in this conflict many atrocities were committed by both sides, however, but I do recognize our own shortcomings, blunders and things. And the only solution to this situation — the only, the only solution — is to try and reach a final settlement between us and the Palestinians. There is no other way. There is no other way: to split the land into two states, two capitals, trying to find the best way to end this conflict, because much of the instability of the Middle East has to do with our condition. You don’t need to be a bin Laden or a Saddam Hussein, who tried to put on themselves the mantle of the vindicators of the Palestinian cause in order to say that the Palestinian issue is a platform of instability in the region that needs to be solved.
    But even when it is solved, let us not fool ourselves. Many of the problems that the West is facing today with the Arab world will persist. The Palestinian issue has been used frequently by many Arab rulers as a pretext for not doing things that need to be done in their own societies. But for the sake of the Israelis, I am not — I am not — when I say that we need to make concessions, it is not because I am concerned with the future of the Palestinians or because I am concerned with international law. I want to say it very clearly, it is because I define myself as an ardent Zionist that thinks that the best for the Jews in Israel is that we abandon the territories and we dismantle settlements and we try to reach a reasonable settlement with our Palestinian partners. It’s not because I am concerned with the Palestinians. I want to be very clear about it. My interpretation, my approach is not moralistic. It’s strictly political. And this is what I’m trying to explain in the book.
    AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both very much for being with us. Shlomo Ben-Ami, former Israeli Foreign Minister, author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, and Dr. Norman Finkelstein, professor at DePaul University, author of Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, thank you both for joining us.

  13. to Isidor Farash:

    Below is the perfect example of how you mischaracterize what I have said, and even demonstrate that you don’t get the point of what I have said:

    you said I said:

    “When they hear you say that A Princeton Mid-East History Professor does not impress you because he is Jewish, please, keep speaking that way because it is the best and fastest road to loosing support from your base.”

    I didn’t say Bernard Lewis has no credibility because he is Jewish, I said it is because he one of the main historians contributing to the architecture of the Zionist myth and reason for being. And over 50% of the historical texts I read have either been written by Israeli Jews or Jews from other places. I do this so that I am just not reading writers, such as closet anti-Semitics or Arab and Islamic writers who might be biased because of the ongoing conflict with Israel. I mentioned a number of these writers in a previous email. Notice how I have never mentioned Edward Said in any of these emails, though I could have as well as other Palestinian writers. Oh, and wasn’t Said from Columbia U? And isn’t Chomsky from MIT? So what’s so special about Princeton? Anyway, Paul Krugman is an economist there and he rips apart U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East on a regular basis.
    One thing I have noticed about Lewis is that his argument can be, in parts, inherently racist. When he makes claims about how Arabs are bad and so Israel is more deserving, that is specious logic for a historian. Similar to what you did about the story of how very bad things have been done in Sudan by Arabs, so that somehow gives Israel leverage to do the same kind of destructive things to Palestinians. One would expect more from a nation who was a major victim of genocide, wouldn’t one. Having undergone a genocide doesn’t provide a licence to survive by any means necessary, or in Begin’s thinking, “Never again”. I wholeheartedly agree with Begin’s goal but NOT the means.
    And you really shouldn’t assume that just because I have a LOT TO SAY BACK TO THE LOT THAT YOU HAVE TO SAY that I am one of the more extreme voices on the JVP postings. A more accurate way to state it would be to say, like yourself, I have made it a point to read and study more about the issue than the majority, and therefore am in a position to refute your often disconnected logic. Sorry to say. But I do recognize and honor your dedication.

  14. To Isidor Farash:
    Wish I didn’t have to actually write a second (the first was in the postings over the Carter article by Mitchell) posting addressing your completely inaccurate accusations about the content of my postings and style, but since as I have already told you I recognize that an important part of your argument constructs includes trashing the character and style of people writing to oppose you, here goes:
    Example of YOUR own changing of topic and circumlocutions. You wrote:
    ”While speaking of “90 years”, the 90+ year old people who still drive in Miami, FL are (ironically) less of a danger to themselves then they are to other drivers. This is the same dynamic that your statements have on the uninformed. You will never learn because that is not your intent. This was quite a challenge for me to come to a web site where most people profusely agree with one another and be the voice of descent. By all rights, you should have a veritable tabernacle chorus of support from the people who call this place home.
    When I tried to challenge the power-base of the NJ Green Party a few years ago, the shock was NOT that I was unsuccessful. The shock came when a vote was called and I got 40% in favor. The leader of that group was no less then incensed. Why? Because I was no longer to be labeled a ‘fringe-element’ or a “wrecker” or a freak. This is the same problem you face. You enjoy agreement from a few others who police this site. As I can see, you are the most ‘zealot’ of the lot.”
    Example of exaggerations and outright fabrications. The ONLY THING I ever wrote in this regard was presenting from scholarly, historical documents, including a number of Israeli historians, information on the terrorist activities of Menachem Begin, Yitzak Shamir, Ariel Sharon, and of course the OBVIOUS long term relationship of Zionism with the British government before and during its colonial involvement in Palestine. All the rest, like Milosevic, is all your own fantasy about what I actually said. And of course, I absolutely do recognize and agree with you about the persecution of Jews throughout history, including by the church by accident of birth I happened to grow up in, the Catholic Church. But, you wrote:
    “You readily equate Israel, who’s very existence is directly owed to their traditional role as a habitually endangered species, with despots, war-lords, colonial powers such as England in the mid century and before, genocidal maniacs and war criminals such as Slobodan Miloševi? and basically, anyone and anything you can find that makes a persuasive sound-bite.
    Example of outright lies since I have gone into great detail with historical facts contrary to your own. And by the way, NO ONE wants to hear either your or my personal opinion, or anyone else’s. Rather, people who might be interested, are interested in hearing the historical facts and scholarly opinion on those facts. That is why I “quote someone”, and usually Israeli or Jewish commentators. But you wrote:
    ”Rarely do you ever debate asserted facts. More often, you just change the subject, or the topic, or, quote someone who supports your position. Nor are you long with specific facts yourself”.

    Example of how you contradict yourself. Earlier, perhaps on the Carter posting and not above, your quoted B.L. as saying something like that “Zionism is a stick used to beat Jews.” This is an example of the PERFECT CONVERSATION STOPPER to crush any legitimate debate on the political and military policies of Israel, which by the way SHOULD BE the interest of every American since the relationship has such huge consequences for our tax dollars and our foreign policy. Now if that isn’t massaging of the facts by Lewis, please tell me how it relates to historical truth and open debate about U.S. and Israeli policy. You wrote:
    ”Both Gold and Lewis’ job is to be truthful and not alter or even massage the facts being purported. In that, I believe they do a fine, make that excellent job.”
    Example of history half told. While no one, certainly not I, would dispute these facts, what you do not disclose, and I am certain Mr. Gold did not either, was the context of this event, the continuing campaign of Ariel Sharon to squash Palestinian political identity, begun with his war against the PLO in Lebanon in 1982, and continued in the spring of 2002 with his invasion of the West Bank to destroy the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the failed peace processes of the 1990’s, which he was always opposed to. It is important to remember that the event Gold describes after Israel and the United States rejected the Arab League Saudi plan of COMPLETE normalization of relations with Israel for a complete withdrawal to the June 1967 lines and creation of a sovereign Palestinian state on that 22% of Palestine. How do I explain this event? Consider the outrageous imbalance in the military power of the two sides and you can come up with an explanation for yourself. You fight a massively superior lethal force any way you can. You wrote:
    “Dore Gold reports that on April 2, 2002, 13 Armed militants including some from Chairman Arafat’s Tanzim militia, seized the (Catholic) Church of the Nativity, held priests as hostages along with about 100 unarmed civilians, destroyed the place and its holy relics and left 40 explosive devices behind, do you deny this as historical fact? If so, how? If not, how do you explain this affront against and attack on one of Christianities holiest sights? The one group who certainly could not be found inside that church were any Jews.”

    Example of you inventing make-believe views THAT I HOLD. Not sure where you got this since I would agree with you IF you were to admit that prejudice and racism against Muslims in the post 911 U.S. is the last bastion of socially acceptable racism by many, many people. You wrote:
    “What you obviously fail to understand is that for every right-wing Israeli Jew, there are at least 100 non-Jewish “westerners” who are past ready to push-the-button on the entire Arab race. Many of these same people ARE NOT fans of Israel (or of Jews in general) and believe me, if they thought that feeding Israel to the Arabs would solve anything, they would do it in a Hollywood nanosecond. They simply remember that such a solution was already tried and failed. It was called World War Two.”

    Example of more make-believe facts about me. As I said in a previous posting to you above, I never said I was a “peacemaker” and see myself as being one ONLY in the context of working to make sure people are aware of JUSTICE, HISTORICAL JUSTICE, first. Then comes peace. As Mitchell said, you won’t ever get peace as long as the Israeli occupation of Palestine isn’t eliminated FIRST. And, I would submit to you, as I have tried in detail in this posting, that by you spending an inordinate amount of time making up stuff about me, and calling other writers’ comments things like “crap”, instead of perhaps, “inaccurate”, if you believe so, YOU are indeed unethical. And Brother, if you haven’t been able to recognize my comments and arguments as “substantive”, you are discrediting such a wide body of scholars from Ben Ami, to Pappe, to Sanders, Weinstock, to Aronson, to Reinhart, to Finkelstein, to Segev, to McMillan and all the others whose works I have used to adduce them that you might as well pack up your pen and inkwell and enjoy your retirement. You wrote:
    “So, while you may think you are the ‘peace maker’ in this group, I too consider myself a peace-maker. I just do not resort to means that I would consider unethical, such as fabricating positions out of innuendo and actively avoiding any substantial discussion of facts while doing so.”
    The last word: DROP THE SIDESHOW OF ATTACKING THE MESSENGER and deal with the MESSAGE.

  15. To Carl Zaisser:
    Look– You blog your way and I shall blog my way. I have given up trying to convince you of anything and so perhaps the sum-total of people reading shall draw their own conclusions. My earlier point was that given the forum, you should expect a vast ‘organic’ advantage.
    As for your accusations against Israel, when you say: “Ethnic Cleansing”, this was an expression developed by Slobodan Miloševi?, or at the very least, it became a household-word as a quote from himself.
    The reason you can’t tolerate Dore Gold or Bernard Lewis is because they have written volumes and volumes of both accurate and pertinent information and while we appear to agree that their stories are not balanced, the fact is that there is no metaphysical way to balance the two stories because, while the Hebrews have been far from angels, the entire book of historical data that condemns them is a pamphlet size, compared with the encyclopedia Britannica of gruesome details of the actions of the various Arab factions.
    Additionally, another (separate) Encyclopedia Britannica sized chronicle exists of misdeeds that Arabs and Muslims have done to each other. Probably larger then the set of facts regarding how they have turned the Israelis into a hunted and haunted society. Just one conflict alone, the Iran – Iraq war, ran 5 years and costed 2-million (2,000,000) lives, most conscripted and many as young as 13 years old. Just today, we got to see a pile of eyeballs on TV, after the bombing at the University in Baghdad. And people like you call that a “war”.
    To Israel, a war of attrition will eventually be a loosing war because their ability to defend themselves is directly related to their economy.
    Lastly, the British were no friends to the Israelis or the Jews. They converted a “caretaker” position (Mandate) to that of a title-holder and gave 37,000 Sq. Miles of land (which was titled to the Jewish nation) to become Jordan, in return for the Jordanian military allegiance. When they left, they did so in violation of the United nations because it was their responsibility to draw secure borders around recognized neighborhoods. Instead, they left the Arabs and Israelis at each other’s throats, where they remain to this day.

  16. PS>
    I am at the wrong computer at this moment so I can not unarchive the exact dates and places. However on or about 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm, whilst in Turkey (Istanbul ???) made a famous speech wherein he called for and pledged Germany’s support behind an independent Jewish nation in Palestine.
    Why would this matter?
    For one thing, no one was speaking of independence for the Arab peoples at that point in time.
    But there is a story behind the story. And here it is:
    England had been allies with Turkey for 2-300 years prior. Their close relationship abruptly ended over what has been described as a ceremonial violation of a treaty between the two nations, without a shot being fired by either side, at either side. Reportedly, British war ships entered the Crimean Sea.
    In steps Germany as the Turk’s new best buddies. Make any sense? It will in a minute.
    The Turkish-Ottoman ruler ship consisted of a network of “Sultans”. What few people know and fewer are willing to admit, is that over the couple of hundred years just prior to 1905, some of the “sultans” who had risen to power in Turkey were either Hebrews (who had converted to Islam) or more often, their children, grandchildren, great grand-children, etc. While these people were technically Muslims, they may have had more in common with their extended Jewish brethren then they had with many of the Arab tribes.
    WW1, was therefore, while primarily a war to re divide the oil fields of the Mid East to Euro-American control, was also a war to put an end to this ‘injustice’ and affront that I just mentioned. Namely, a consolidated mid-east cartel, controlling most of the known oil at that time, under the partial stewardship of even previous Jews. The Sultans would have certainly ruled the world. The question is . . . would the world have been better off? Its impossible to know but one thing’s for sure, the Jews would have absolutely been better off.
    People who think that the British, with their disingenuous “Balfore” declaration [read: Stall tactic], were doing the Jews any favor — have it backwards. They are either grossly misinformed . . but some part of this mass-hypnosis is also the continuing result of the need the world has always had, to blame everything on the Jews.

  17. Britain was the controlling world power, Britian passed the legislation authorizing their government to implement the BD with British troops. If it wasn’t for Britain, there would have been no troops, nothing to vote on at San Remo or Paris, and no possibiltiy of the growth of ANY colonization program in the Arab Levant, by Zionists or anyone else. It was completed through British willpower at British gunpoint. In 1947 when Britain gave up, there was one British soldier for every six Jewish persons in Palestine (Collins and Lapierre, “O Jerusalem”). This sort of dependency on a military superstructure was openly predicted 30 years earlier by the King-Crane Commission Report, which Britain and France paid no attention to and forced Wilson to delay publication of from 1919 to 1923.

    you wrote:
    “… (Britian) they did so in violation of the United nations because it was their responsibility to draw secure borders around recognized neighborhoods.”
    Interesting that you hold violation of the United Nation’s designated responsibility so high here. Anything to say about UNSC 242 or perhaps UNGA 194? The bottom line for all of this is that world powers IGNORE the UN whenever they need to. Britain did, the US continues to do so, at Israel’s peril. I trust you are preparing comments on Norman Finkelstein’s depiction of Palestinian compromises on ALL four areas of dispute at Camp David vis-a-vis international law. Ben Ami acknowledges him, but goes on to essentially inferring that power trumps international law. Again, this time, at Israel’s peril.

    As far as the entire picture of the Ottoman thinking about Zionist colonization, again, see Neville Mandel’s (another Jewish writer) “The Arabs and Zionism Before WW1”. And, was Kaiser Wilhelm calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Ottoman Palestine because he was being benificent toward Jews, irrespective of who was actually living on the land in Palestine at that time, or did he have other motivation, perhaps economic or racist? And which of Lewis’s books, since you didn’t mention any sources, documents the story of the sultans being Jewish so god forbid that Middle East oil should fall into the hands of Jewish sultans in Istanbul? This kind of ironic twist wouldn’t surprise me very much anyway since Nathan Weinstock (Israeli) in “Zionism: False Messiah”, also reports the switching of faiths in people of the Galilee.

    you wrote:
    “…there is no metaphysical way to balance the two stories because, while the Hebrews have been far from angels, the entire book of historical data that condemns them is a pamphlet size, compared with the encyclopedia Britannica of gruesome details of the actions of the various Arab factions.
    Additionally, another (separate) Encyclopedia Britannica sized chronicle exists of misdeeds that Arabs and Muslims have done to each other. Probably larger then the set of facts regarding how they have turned the Israelis into a hunted and haunted society. Just one conflict alone, the Iran – Iraq war, ran 5 years and costed 2-million (2,000,000) lives, most conscripted and many as young as 13 years old. Just today, we got to see a pile of eyeballs on TV, after the bombing at the University in Baghdad. And people like you call that a “war”.”
    From what I have seen of Lewis, this is the kind of “merit” argument he likes to engage in. Try telling that to the Palestinians.

  18. Carl:
    This will be the last time I waste any of my time debating with you. If you like to comment on my posts, that is of course your right (at least in our free society). Were you writing from certain Mid East societies, you might be doing so under threat of incarceration or religious reprisals.
    You keep repeating U.N. 242. It does not say what you assert it says and by now, you should know that and probably do. Non Security Council resolutions are merely popularity contests and have no binding weight under international treaty law. I think you already know that too.
    The Israelis have abided by U.N. 242 while the Arabs never have.
    As President Lyndon Johnson said on September 10, 1968, “We are not the ones to say where the other nations should draw lines between them that will assure each the greatest security. IT IS CLEAR, HOWEVER, THAT A RETURN TO THE SITUATION OF JUNE 4, 1967, WILL NOT BRING PEACE. THERE MUST BE SECURE… BORDERS”
    “From a strictly military point of view, Israel would require the retention of some captured territory in order to provide militarily defensible borders.” —Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, June 29, 1967
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/lbjpeace.html
    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/UN/meaning_of_242.html
    In a statement to the General Assembly October 15, 1968, the PLO, rejecting Resolution 242, said “THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SAID RESOLUTION WILL LEAD TO THE LOSS OF EVERY HOPE FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF PEACE AND SECURITY IN PALESTINE AND THE MIDDLE EAST REGION.”
    President Reagan: “In September 1982, in my initiative, I said that we base our approach squarely on the principle of an exchange of territory for peace, an exchange which is enshrined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. THE PLO HAS REFUSED TO ACCEPT THAT PRINCIPLE and also refused to recognize the right of Israel even to exist. I don’t see how an organization which has written off the one principle accepted by the parties and which refuses to recognize the existence of the party with whom peace must be negotiated can play a constructive role in the search for peace.”
    Jimmy Carter:
    “EVERY U.S. ADMINISTRATION SINCE THE SIX DAY WAR has acknowledged the need to return to pre 1967 borders”
    You: (in essence)
    [Whatever Carter says must be true.]
    Calling you delusional would be an insult to the mentally ill of the world.

    You wrote:
    “Britain was the controlling world power”
    Not in 1905 when Turkey owned the entire Arab pennusilia.
    “Britain passed the legislation authorizing their government to implement the BD with British troops. If it wasn’t for Britain, there would have been no troops, nothing to vote on at San Remo or Paris, and no possibility of the growth of ANY colonization program in the Arab Levant, by Zionists or anyone else”
    England faced a problem. Part of their explanation for fighting Turkey was veiled in support for the independence of the local peoples of the region. They were the military victors after WW1 and had the majority of troops on the ground. However, and I keep stressing this and you keep ignoring it, THEY DID NOT OWN TITLE TO PALESTINE. They were merely trustees. The same way that a minor child may have a court appointed trustee to insure the security of his/her inheritance. It was not theirs to give to Jordan, as they did. Palestine belonged to the Jewish people of the region, who, could form any government they wanted with any immigration standards they wanted. Balfore was merely a tactic to forestall more affirmative action by the League of Nations. The League (and its members) accepted it, the Jews accepted it, the USA accepted it. It was England that ultimately rejected its own declaration, when it seeded 4/5ths of the ‘Mandate’ to become Jordan. Had the Allied powers not started WW1, there is a quite good chance that the Jewish National Homeland would have been born in Palestine, while the rest of the Arab tribes were still subjects of Turkey, without their independence. WW1 (and the colonial force of arms) reversed this.
    I am not going to argue with you anymore. You are not being honest.

  19. Clinton’s book “My Life” says: “Right before I left office, Arafat, in one of our last conversations, thanked me for all my efforts and told me what a great man I was. “Mr. Chairman,” I replied, “I am not a great man. I am a failure, and you have made me one….Arafat’s rejection of my proposal after Barak accepted it was an error of historic proportions”. (Page 944)

  20. From Bill Clinton’s “My Life”: “On the twenty-seventh, Barak’s cabinet endorsed the parameters with reservations, but all their reservations were within the parameters, and therefore subject to negotiations anyway. It was historic: an Israeli government had said that to get peace, there would be a Palestinian state in roughly 97% of the West Bank, counting the swap, and all of Gaza where Israel also had settlements. The ball was in Arafat’s court”. (pg 936) “The parties continued their talks in Taba, Egypt. They got close, but did not succeed. Arafat never said no; he just couldn’t bring himself to say yes.” (pg. 944)

  21. The history of “peacemaking” is always interesting but, it seems to me, off the main point, which is the character of the occupation. “Peacemaking” is a bumper-sticker of a word, the sort of thing politicians would like to be responsible for accomplishing, and so we hear a lot about it. But given the intransigence on all sides, we’d be well advised not to hold our breath. Peace is probably a chimera, an illusion.

    But the occupation has gone on since 1967, for 40 years (and Israel itself was only 19 years old in 1967!), so the occupation is not only “real” but is actually the real issue, not peace or peacemaking. And of course the rigors of this increasingly repressive occupation are a tool (a bludgeon) of the US-Israeli “peacemakers”, so the character of the occupation is doubly important.

    I’d recommend that we all blow our trumpets for an occupation conducted in a manner compliant with all international law (especially the Fourth Geneva Convention), and compliant with the 7/2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Thus, we should loudly blow our horns for the removal of the wall [where it lies within occupied territory] and for the removal of all settlers from occupied territory [settlers were declared illegal by the ICJ].

    It is far easier to ask Israel to do something that (in principle) is non-discretionary than to ask Israel (or the PA or PLO or the US) to do anything at all that is wholly discretionary, like “peacemaking”.

    Today, Olmert asked the AIPAC to demand that the US avoid precipitous removal from Iraq, in the interest of Israel’s safety. OK, good enough, but only if Israel does something for US safety, like conducting the occupation in a legal fashion and [thus] respecting the human rights of those Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation.

  22. Peter Belmont:
    “Israeli occupation”
    This is a much abused concept and is at least as much of a “bumper-sticker” as any other sound-bite (approximation) of reality.
    Since Palestine was never before a nation, Palestine can not be under formal “occupation”. Since Jordan did not hold legal title to the disputed areas either, they too are outside the rhelm of the generally understood meaning of “occupied”. The situation being debated is atypical and simply does not fit into the cookie-cutter form, that the U.N. and ICJ would like to contend. Points can be made on both sides and interestingly, interpretations have morphed greatly over time but the bottom line continues to be:
    1. Israel will not willingly loose its core character as the Jewish National Homeland. This means that it will not be accepting large numbers of new non-Jewish citizens. Some call this racism and others call it refuge.
    2. In the interum, Israel will not be in the position of “non-violent-resistor” to the unabated attacks from various Arab factions. This translates into a wall and other counter-terror measures that some people consider excessive. But, I proclaim this with absolute certitude, namely that most of the people who make issue about the security fence and quote from the U.N. and ICJ (in their larceny), really wish that Jews become a minority group within Israel. Because, at the end of the day, that is what the dispute is really about and there is no way to settle it the way Ghandi would.

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  33. I saw Yoram Peri (an advisor to Rabin) speak in Toronto on the 5th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination. He said that on his way to Toronto he had met one of his opposite numbers from the Palestinian side at an airport.

    They were on good terms and Peri asked him why the Camp David Talks had failed.

    The fellow said that “the old man” had just refused to go through with it. His team was surprised. They didn’t know why. But Peri was sure that any future peace deal would have to return the the Camp David plan.

    How can this story be true when you’re saying that the reason for the failure at Camp David and Taba was very clear: it was the refugee issue.

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