Swans Commentary » swans.com September 25, 2006  



Ecstasy of Peace
Jacob Amir's Improbable Redemption


by Gilles d'Aymery





"I am not going to allow anybody to pull me so low as to use the very methods that perpetuated evil throughout civilization. I'm sick and tired of violence. I'm tired of the war in Vietnam. I'm tired of war and conflict in the world. I'm tired of shooting. I'm tired of selfishness. I'm tired of evil. I'm not going to use violence no matter who says it!"
—Martin Luther King, in a meeting in 1966 as black power was rising with the likes of Stokely Carmichael.


(Swans - September 25, 2006)  Jacob Amir ponders: "It would be very interesting to see how [Mrs.] Tennenbaum will do talking to Nasrallah. Or for that matter, yourself." I don't think Jacob has any genuine interest in finding out what we would do. His many past correspondences with me, and Swans' contributors and readers who wrote Letters to the Editor, show much contempt for any positions that differ from his own. He is so convinced of his fabricated narrative, made of emotionalism and propagandistic cloth, that he cannot have an open mind to other possibilities. To him, the world is colored in either black (the enemy) or white (the ally). Like many Jewish people, the Holocaust is the defining moment of his life. Never again is the leitmotiv. This frame of mind leads him, and sadly too many other Jewish Israelis and Jewish people in the "Diaspora," to espouse the most violent and reactionary policies exacted by the forces of greed. So, whatever I say will be dismissed on whatever account. Yet, I shall hereby attempt to present an alternative to his catastrophic blindness, and I would respectfully ask him to not only open his eyes, but let his mind be free.

I can't evidently talk on behalf of Mrs. Tennenbaum, whose comments I found quite a propos and humane. I don't know her, never met her, and can't find her e-mail address. So it must be clear here that the following does not represent Mrs. Tennenbaum's views.

One should not focus on the latest dragon, Sheik Nasrallah. One should not focus on the latest crisis and the deciders (Bush, Nassrallah, Olmert). There is a continuum in the Middle East where everything is related. It's all these related issues that need to be dealt with in order to find a peaceful and equitable, life saving, and enhancing solution.

I would ask Jacob and the entire Israeli society to reflect on the causes that have thwarted all roads to an equitable peace. I would ask Jacob and the entire Israeli society to reflect not from their point of view, but from the other side's. I would ask them to put aside for a few weeks their frames of mind. I would ask them to ignore, or put aside, again for a few weeks, the inflammatory statements made by their perceived enemies and those made on their side -- just put them aside. I would ask them to refrain from bringing to the fore what happened two thousand years ago, or even what happened one hundred years ago, or sixty. Just go back to the early 1990s and ask yourselves why Oslo did not work, without recurring to the usual narrative. Look into yourselves. See whether you could have done something differently. Then, move on to 2000 and go through the same exercise. Jacob should take a few steps from his home and go talk to his neighbor, Moshe Amirav, an Israeli, former Likudnite, I worked with for a short while in the early 1990s. Ask Moshe what happened in 2000. Ask him about Barak's reference to the "Holy of Holies." Question everything, especially your own belief system and the policies of the respective Israeli governments. Question your own prejudices. Question the presumed eternal support of corporate America. Question even your own questions. And, please, and I suspect this is the hardest request, stay away from the Holocaust syndrome. It may be impossible to do, but PLEASE try your utmost.

Then ask yourself the following three questions: First, are you willing, is the Israeli society really willing, to accept a withdrawal from ALL occupied territories gained in 1967? (Don't worry, territorial adjustments can be negotiated.) Second, can you come to terms on whether you are a Western country implanted in the heart of the Middle East or you have resolved yourselves to be an integral part of the region? You cannot be an integral part of the Middle East and of the West at the same time. Finally, can you once and for all stop building more settlements?

If you answer yes to the first question and yes to the second part of the next question, and stop those darn settlements, then I would submit to you that you should look back, again, into proposals offered by the other side. Look at the 2002 Arab League offer, recently repeated. Look at the Iranian statement, also repeated, that a Palestinian agreement to the end of the occupation will be agreeable to them.

In other words look at the positive.

You may want to dig into Menachem Froman, the rabbi of Tekoa. Look and support his initiative to find a common ground with the leaders of Hamas.

Jacob asks what I would do. I should not have to do anything. He and his government should do the talking, should engage all parties concerned. If they cannot come to terms with the basic notion that one has to talk face to face with the perceived enemy, then give the opportunity, the chance to others, to do it on their behalf. The quartet could do it. Neutral countries like Finland or Switzerland could do it. People diplomacy, firmly attached to peace and justice (or the most achievable justice in an unjust world) -- attached as strongly to the existence of Israel in peaceful relationship with its neighbors -- could do it. Were he, his government, his society, and their patrons in America to give it a chance, here is what I would do, assuming again that Israel would agree to withdraw from ALL occupied territories gained in 1967, and would openly agree to let a fair negotiation happen: I would ask for four diplomatic passports. These passports would be granted to Mrs. Tennenbaum, Michael DeLang, Milo Clark, and myself (assuming they would agree). If Jacob deems me too biased, he may choose any one of the other contributors to Swans or any professional diplomat of his choice.

These four people, not predicated on violence or profits from military conflicts, would travel to all the countries in the region, as well as in America and in the European chancelleries. They would promote, offer a grand bargain -- a grand compromise -- to all the peoples in the region. Here is a short outline.

Everything is related. Peace with the Syrians and the Palestinians are intertwined. Poor Lebanon keeps being smashed in the midst of that historical conflagration. You need to express publicly on the international scene that you are willing to reach such a grand compromise.

That compromise would entail the following:

1) The withdrawal of all the territories conquered by Israel during the Six-Day War of 1967 -- Golan (including the Shebaa farms -- let the Syrians and the Lebanese debate over that little piece of real estate), West Bank, and Gaza. Again, small adjustments can be negotiated, so long as it's a give and take -- e.g., 3% of the West Bank around Jerusalem is kept by Israel and 3% of pre-1967 territory of Israel is given to the state of Palestine. Total land equity. Definition of final international borders.

2) Recognition of the State of Israel by the members of the Arab League and Iran with peace treaties from all involved. Parties that cannot recognize Israel for religious reasons must agree to a 100-year truce with Israel ("hudnah"), with no belligerence and suicide attacks. Respect of the integral territoriality of Israel's neighbors (no military fly-overs, sonic booms, military incursions).

3) Commitment from countries all over the continents (not just the Western world) to dispatch, if necessary, peace-keepers under the aegis of the U.N. along the then internationally recognized borders of Israel and her bordering states, on both sides of these borders, for a period of 15 years. Call it a buffer of sorts to allow tempers to subside and peaceful relationships to flourish.

4) Jerusalem: A tough one to crack. It must be at the same time divided, to allow both nations to have their respective capital there, and united, to allow what so many people consider the holy places of religions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) to not be impeded by politics. The city should be internationalized creatively. West Jerusalem will become the official, internationally-recognized capital of Israel. East Jerusalem will be the Palestinian counterpart. The religious sites can either be separated, managed in common by a religious council composed of members of the three faiths, or become an international domain managed by both sides and the United Nations, the latter making Jerusalem, with the accord of both Israelis and Palestinians, the new seat of the organization (moving it from New York City to Jerusalem). Jerusalem appears much too important to much of the world to be controlled by just one party. It must be shared, open to all, made an example of the amazing multi-cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity of the city, and become a city of Peace for the world.

5) Right for Palestinians to return to Israel and Right for Jewish settlers to stay in the Palestinian state: I tend to conflate both for I think that Palestinians are fully aware of the demographic conundrum. Not all Palestinians can come back if the Israeli state is to remain a multi-cultural and multi-religious state with, however, a Jewish national majority. On the other hand, many of the current settlers, but not all, are, to put it mildly, rather extreme in their views of the Palestinians. These may have to be repatriated within Israel proper, but a substantial minority could remain so long as it accepts the laws of the Palestinian state. Let some Palestinians back in Israel and let some Israelis stay in Palestine. Compensate all others. I have no preconceived idea of the numbers or the compensations -- the latter I'll revisit infra).

6) Water Resources: The Israeli government has long diverted water from the West Bank to Israel proper and lavished the settlers with abundant water resources while limiting those to the Palestinians. This situation has to change and be the subject of a wider regional agreement (see below).

7) Exchange of students, professors: I would include this as a part of the grand compromise. Kids who grow up appreciating the similarities of the other kids next door tend later on to exercise respect, friendship, and the search for compromise when a dispute arises.

Personally, I would first go and talk to the much maligned and demonized leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah. I would emulate Rabbi Menachem Froman and go beyond his honorable steps. I would respectfully request an audience from Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Ismail Haniyeh. I would be honored to meet them, as I would be honored to meet the Israeli leadership. I would ask also an audience from the Syrian president and the Lebanese prime minister and all involved leaders to present them the grand bargain. I would also be honored to eventually meet with president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran (though efforts should concentrate first on the Syrians, the Palestinians, the Lebanese, and the Israelis). I would not side with any one party, but remain committed to all. I am absolutely convinced that such an approach would result in a non-violent positive outcome. Once a political compromise is achieved, I am certain that there are plenty on apolitical experts in the international arena, including in the region, that will be able to paper out the fine dots.

Back to financial compensations for a moment, and by extension a longer-term vision. This grand compromise cannot be realized without the firm commitment of the world community to make it happen. If the political compromise must be decided by the parties involved in that long conflict, it will require help from many nations around the world, in the form of substantial financial aid and, as said, willingness to serve as a buffer, if necessary, for a reasonable period of time. But for very few, though powerful interests, I would think that most of the world would want to help. The world is indeed tired of this seemingly intractable conflict.

Furthermore, I would offer a vision for the future that would entail the creation of a regional common market and the possibility of an eventual federation of independent states in the region. The European model could be used as a template.

Evidently, listening to the speech of the Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Tzipi Livni, at the 61st General Assembly of the United Nations or the many comments made by various Israeli politicians and pundits (e.g., Mr. Netanayu's at the Sixth Annual International Conference on Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, or MK Effi Eitam's on the need "to expel the great majority of the Arabs of Judea of Samaria") I suppose that my approach will be received with a contemptuous smile by the proponents of force and violence under the guise of defending one's country, and viewed as naïve and unrealistic. I would simply remind them -- and Jacob Amir (who does not advocate population transfers and keeps repeating that he is in favor of a compromise) -- that their approach has brought little success but much misery to their much cherished shared land and its vicinity. It is more than time to try another tack.

I am also reminded of January 22, 1963, when French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the French-German Elysée Treaty, sealing the reconciliation of the two people and the development of the construction of Europe through an unprecedented cooperation between the two countries. To see these two historical statesmen, heads of states that had been arch-enemies in (also) long seemingly intractable conflicts, embrace, and agree that "it [the treaty, the reconciliation] is good for our children" gives me hope that a peaceful future is indeed possible if the will is there to realize it.


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Internal Resources

Ecstasy Of Blindness: Jacob Amir's Suicidal Neurosis, Gilles d'Aymery, September 11, 2006

Israel & Palestine


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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Published September 25, 2006