Israel’s Troubled Conscience

In my latest piece for Souciant, I look at the very wide gap between Israel’s collective stance on the Palestinian Nakba and the understanding of events most Israelis have of that piece of history. It has been my experience that, while the average American, Jewish or not, is quite ignorant of the facts surrounding the departure of the majority of Palestine’s Arab population from 1947-1949, the average Israeli is not, and this was so even before the so-called New Historians blew the cover off the narrative that Israel continues to cling to publicly.

The Oslo Syndrome

In my latest piece for Souciant, I continue with my recent theme of where to go now that the two-state solution has been rendered moot. Using a recent article by Yossi Alpher as a foil, I examine some of the reasons the Oslo process failed, a process that need not have been the only route to a two-state solution. But since it was, its death brought with it the death of a two-state future, at least as it was envisioned. As a two-stater, I never supported the Oslo process and formulation which was flawed from the outset, and in this piece I explain why, and hopefully draw some lessons about where we can go from here.

Home and Garden: Iceland, Avishai and Palestinian Right of Return

In my latest piece for Souciant, I explore the meaning of Iceland’s resolution recognizing both Palestinian statehood and the Palestinian Right of Return and Bernard Avishai’s recent piece on RoR, which I posted here.

For readers’ reference, since RoR is such a controversial subject, my own view of the issue can be seen in this piece from last year.

Avishai: ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN Toward a right of return for Palestinians

Harpers’ Magazine only put this in their print edition. I offer here a pdf file of Bernard Avishai’s piece exploring the question of the Palestinian Right of Return. I’m not sure about his proposed solution, but the very fact that the subject is being taken seriously in a mainstream US publication and by the pen of a noted Zionist dove is important. For too long, the subject of Palestinian refugees has been shunted aside to be dealt with “later” or addressed in vague, unsatisfying terms that has let the ideological battle simmer. I applaud Avishai for taking this issue on.

My own view on RoR can be found here. But what is important is not where one stands on this issue, at least not right now. What is important is that the question be brought into the light of day and grappled with openly and consistently, as has been done on other issues regarding this vexing conflict.

Bibi Tries To Give Obama His Marching Orders

When writing about President Obama’s speech on Thursday, I got one thing very wrong. I wrote:

“Bibi will not have anything here to fight with Obama about tomorrow.”

Well, that was wrong; but not as much as you might think.

Bibi lectured and bossed around Obama. So far, the President has just sat there and taken it.

As MJ Rosenberg pointed out in his Friday column, a lot of this anger is contrived, and geared toward attaining a political goal.

We need to understand what that goal is and what Netanyahu’s reprehensible hubris on Friday after meeting with the President of the United States, was meant to achieve.

We can start with a basic fact: this tumult is not really about Obama’s statement regarding the 1967 borders. This is a contrived controversy, based, to begin with, on a willful distortion of what Obama said.

The President did not call for a return to the 1967 borders. He merely stated what is obvious, what has been American de facto policy all along and the fundamental truth of any two-state solution: that negotiations must start with the 1967 borders, and whatever modifications may be agreed to start from there.

So, what was the purpose of this intentional distortion and elaborate theater by Netanyahu, one which was subsequently lauded and backed by the ultra-right wing Israeli cabinet and a drove of Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle?

In fact, it was a bold, albeit clumsy, gambit by Netanyahu to rework the entire framework of what is generally understood to be the framework for negotiations.

Netanyahu is hoping to re-create the change wrought by George W. Bush with his 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon. In that letter, Bush went some distance toward pre-determining the outcome of final status issues by promising Sharon that Israel would not have to go back to the pre-1967 borders and that Palestinian refugees would not be able to return to Israel. Continue reading

Netanyahu Rejects Obama Proposal on Pre-1967 Borders

My latest piece for IPS News is up. It looks at the meeting today between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama and the fallout from it.

Correcting the Historical Inaccuracies: Bibi vs Abu Mazen

Once again, history becomes the battlefield in the Israel-Palestine conflict. And as usual, both sides in the debate have their self-serving versions.

In 2011, there is a lot less gray area in this history. Most of the history of 1948 is clear as far as the facts are concerned. Serious students of those facts can still disagree on

Neither Abbas (l) nor Netanyahu can be called a historian

matters of interpretation, and honest scholarship, which is nonetheless influenced by the students’ own points of view as it is in all matters of history, is still often divided by the lines of the scholars’ sympathies.

What does get tiresome, though, is the willful distortion of history by politicians.

Both Mahmoud Abbas, in his New York Times op-ed, and Benjamin Netanyahu, in his ranting response, distort the factual record.

Let me try to set the record straight, at least for my readers. And let’s start with Abbas.

He wrote: “In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative [regarding partitioning Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state]. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.”

There’s plenty of context missing here, of course. One cannot expect a textbook reading in the limited space of an op-ed. But it’s simply not the case that the UN passed its plan and the Zionists simply started expelling Arabs. Continue reading