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A worthy conversation? On Jacob Amir and Gilles d'Aymery's discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Dear Mr. d'Aymery,
First, thank you for the time and effort given to this debate with Dr. Amir. As
one raised in a Jewish/Zionist home the hardest work I've had to contend
with is learning and studying the history through locating the out of print
publications that discuss what Ben Gurion said/meant and what Jabotinsky
was really about, etc. I felt as if the "veils" were ripped from my eyes
at the beginning of this Intifada as I learned what Zionism really meant,
in particular to the people who lived in Palestine long before the Yishuv
started taking over Eretz Yisrael.
My only sister's suburban daughter married a guy who converted and took
her from "oppressed" New Jersey to become a settler in the West Bank because of the
housing and tax abatements, etc. It didn't take long for him to "adapt"
and begin sending me e-mails about the Palestinian "animals" and
"cockroaches" just as if he'd been there for decades. I have heard such
racist remarks for years and know a racist when I hear one. No amount of
debate will change many of the settlers who believe and accept many racist
notions and that is why they chose to live there. There is no question
how many parallels I've found when comparing the "Manifest destiny" of
white settlers in the US West and their views of "heathen redskin savages"
who slowed their westward movement. There is little time spent on
discussing the WHYs of Arab/Palestinian resentment of Zionists (not Jews,
per se) until the 1930s...because it was then that larger numbers of
Ashkenazic/Eastern socialist Jews started arriving in Palestine...with
cultural and gender differences that were certainly cultural affronts to
the indigenous people there, who had been accepting and welcoming to
newcomers for years, until the handwriting was clearly on the wall...just
as Native American Indians began realizing that the enormous waves of
European immigrants was endless -- that they began fighting in
earnest...prior to that realization there were minor skirmishes but no
outright resistance. I think that for years people like myself bought
into the Zionist propaganda (hasbara campaigns) that Arabs always wanted
to kill Jews...but that is not true...and why wouldn't anyone begin
resisting the influx of thousands of newcomers who were taking over the
land? I'd be in the front line of resistance fighters. After all, it was
THEIR land and -- notwithstanding the "generosity" of the Brits to divide
THEIR land and repatriate WW2 victims to the Middle East was a great
solution to the European Jewish "problem," when, in reality, repatriation
of that war should have allowed folks from Displaced Persons (DP) camps to go "home."
In a book called Taking Sides by Stephen Green, he talks about Zionist
"strong-arming" within the DP camps to ensure that they got sufficient
numbers of young healthy unmarried males to go to Palestine to "fight the
Arabs" (before 1948). In fact they used to lock the camp gates to prevent
them from leaving camps, trying to marry and emigrate to the U.S.
etc., because they were hell bent on getting "fighters."
Zionists brought with them an internalized opinion of Third Worlders that
was typical of the times and Imperial European culture. In fact many
felt that Herzl was able to gain Imperial support in Europe for an exodus
of Jews to Palestine because he would "get rid of their Jewish
problem" while gaining a foothold in the Middle East. Having a Euro-foothold in
the region solved a few problems...but that is another layer of discussion.
At any rate I wanted to say THANK YOU for your willingness to take on this
debate with Amir. You have far more patience and skill than I have after
having my head knocked one too many times by such Israel Firsters. The
willingness of Americans and Zionists in particular to accept whole,
whatever it is the Israeli government chooses to offer as an explanation for
what is being done in our names, with our tax dollars to support an
INSUPPORTABLE expansionist, racist, and cruel military occupation must be
turned around. I've been on both sides of the Green Line several times.
I've learned that Israel has no permanent borders and no respect for
Palestinians as human beings and has treated them with racist cruelty for
decades. I'd put my faith in whatever Norman Finkelstein has to say and
has written and completely disregard the bologna that Dershowitz spouts.
If one is a Jew who refuses to drink the Kool Aid, like Finkelstein,
Neumann, Reinhart, Pappe, et al., you are "self hating" at best, and if
you are non-Jewish you are assuredly tagged as anti-Semitic...for
questioning, challenging, or debating any Zionist precepts. I offer you
my deepest appreciation for taking on this issue for your readers to read
and reflect on. I wish you (and Greenspan) enormous success. If I
can help you check some references or some literature cross checks please
let me know. (I'm a retired librarian) and have a personal library about
the struggle of hundreds of "disappeared" books...and e-mail
contacts/friends hither and yon who are extremely knowledgeable and
willing to lend a hand.
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA - March 13, 2006
Gilles d'Aymery responds:
Thank you very much for your comments and appreciation of what I am doing, Mrs. Adams. I highly recommend that you read Michael Neumann's latest book, The Case Against Israel. It's a lucid and rational analysis of the situation put in historical context. It's worth noting that much too often discussions over the Israeli-Palestinian predicament are loaded with emotionalism. The recent exchange between Finkelstein and Dershowitz (that was produced for Democracy Now!, but has not been broadcast to my knowledge, and was on Finkelstein's Web site, before, apparently, being removed...I supposed as a matter of copyrights issues) was a clear testimony to the idiocy of emotionalism, and this great American exercise (though not limited just to Americans, I'm afraid) of wanting to score points by shouting louder and louder and attacking the perceived "enemy" of one's position. Finkelstein made a fool of himself, not through his argumentation, but by his disdaining arrogance. Dershowitz was...just plain Dershowitz, the whining self that he's been for so long... (Remember the debate with Chomsky?) In that sense, Neumann's work is a breath of fresh air. He understands the notion of irrelevancy.
My "patience" should be extended to Dr. Amir. He too has been quite patient with me. We present two differing narratives of this predicament. He accepted to have this open discussion, and we have managed to not get at each other's throat (a relative exception in the debate that has gone on for decades). I do hope readers will make their own opinion, though I am fully aware that people tend to search for a reaffirmation of their personal "beliefs," and that chances are this exchange will not sway many of them (and Swans is such a small entity, anyway...). Nevertheless, I find Amir's perspective quite instructive. Like everything, in this kind of correspondence, you need to read between the lines. Let's see:
I do not know whether Dr. Amir is a Sabra or an Olim. I don't know who he is and where he comes from -- I never ask people to send me their resumes, their frame of references in regard to politics, religions, belief systems, etc. I know, from our exchange, and from letters he has written to other publications, that he is an "ardent Zionist" who wanted very much Israel to exist from the sea to the Jordan River, but has been willing to compromise, were the Palestinians to reciprocate (in his own frame of references). From what he writes, he was in sync with Begin and thus, I presume, disagreed with Ben Gurion's views (as he states them). I further note that, according to his statements, he came to the conclusion that he had to abandon his dream and accept the two-state solution within the fought-over real estate; that his change of views occurred in the 1970s; that his desire for a democratic state and a Jewish state was deeper than a binational state extending all the way from the sea to the Jordan River.
Now, I may be naïve and the object of another "manipulation" by a Mossad agent (Jacob Amir and I have just gone through an instructive and sickening exchange with an individual who -- I won't characterize or name him in this space now -- advocated that Dr. Amir "departs with it" -- it being Israel) -- conspiracies worthy of an HBO sitcom -- but I find it instructive that this, I suppose elder man, beside being an MD and ordering me to stop smoking -- a man who, by training, wants to save lives -- has come to the realization that survival of his societal dream requires the ablation of a cancer that is destroying his own society. Amir does not acknowledge the repugnant Israeli policies in the OT -- he explains or defends them in the name of the "3,000" dead Israelis -- but he knows intimately (remember, he is an MD) that the policy does not square, is detrimental to Israeli society, and horrifying (dehumanizing, violent) toward the Palestinians. (Keep in mind that to this date most French have not acknowledged the brutality their military afflicted upon the Algerians during the Algerian War of Independence. Same could be said of Americans with Vietnam or Iraq, etc.)
I am gratified that both of us are patient people, for what purpose would it have served to haul insults or accusations at each other? I'm always bewildered by the attitude in which people strenuously object, for instance, to the demonization of Muslims or Arabs by say the neocons, but turn around and demonize their own "enemy" du jour relentlessly.
As to racism: I've had the opportunity, like you, to go back and forth over the Green Line. I worked in the OT. I traveled through the OT. I saw with my own eyes the dreadful racism that's taking place there time and again (and I strongly object, let it be known, that the situation is due to the "3,000" dead Israelis, whatever Dr. Amir wants readers to believe, or believes himself). I know all that. But racism is not an "Israeli specialty." Stating this evidence does not excuse the culprits, but is a recognition that war and occupation breed racism. The French did a good job at it in Algeria (and Vietnam, and Africa). Think of the Brits... Look at your own mirror: Americans are universally known for their genocide of the Indians that lived in what is now the USA, and have, ever since, demonized the "other" to promote and safeguard their own interests (cf. the latest adventure in Iraq). Israelis are no different, as illustrated by the results of a recent poll released by the Center for the Struggle Against Racism (see "Poll: 68% of Jews would refuse to live in same building as an Arab," Haaretz, March 22, 2006). Sad but true. There are Israelis who are fully aware of the dire situation, for instance Amira Hass or Gideon Levy (Levy just wrote a piece on that very issue: "One racist nation," Haaretz, March 26, 2006). However, I am convinced that once the occupation is reversed and the Palestinians are at long last granted sovereignty, this racism and hatred will abate.
I've always found the debate between Zionists and anti-Zionists intriguing but never felt the urge to participate in it; and I don't think that it makes much difference whether the IDF uses US helicopters and ordnances or French, Russian, British, etc. Accusations of anti-Semitism have no effect on me. I'm totally immune. (See The Politics Of Anti-Semitism, Part I: Smear, Slander, And Intimidation - 4/26/04.)
Thank you again for your comments. I will not hesitate to consult you the next time I need references checked.
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Continuing Discussion between Dr. Jacob Amir and Gilles d'Aymery
I checked and "verified" the quotation from Bar-Zoar's book. The
quote is authentic. It appears on the top of page 158 not 157, and is not
connected with the citation from Ben-Gurion's diary from July 18, 1948,
which appears in the middle of page 157. That is why I missed it.
Jerusalem, March 13, 2006
Thanks for confirming the authenticity of the citation. The page
discrepancy may have to do with the various editions (Hebrew or French vs.
English?). Anyway, it's not fundamental, but I'm glad you verified it with
your own eyes. Trust and verify is a good adage. I'd hope trust would take
over suspicion, eventually. So where did we leave the discussion, due to
my persisting cold and more importantly the publication of the last
Swans issue? I wish I could hear your good doctor's order.
Smoking is a drug that's killing me and to which I've been addicted for
some 40 years. I acknowledge my utter lack of self-control and will
power. Our local veterinarian, a wonderful man who tries to alleviate our
dog's ailments, is on my case every time he sees me (of course, I'd rather
not see him too often, not because of his admonitions, but
because it means that every time my dear Priam faces yet another physical
problem -- and this close, beloved friend is only 6 and a half years old!).
Okay, let's get back to the discussion and your e-mail dated March 7,
2006, published in the Letters to the Editor on March 13. I'm not sure
what's the best format to follow-up. Your e-mail is packed with
explanation and statements about how you see the course of history in the
past 100 years. Should I take each statement and respond accordingly, or
should I remain more general? Should I cut each point you make and answer
them individually or should I take a wider perspective? I'm going to elect
the latter and avoid the tit-for-tat, "he said-I said," that I sense won't
get us anywhere, if there is a place where we can meet.
First, let me clarify something about Philip Greenspan. I do not know
whether he thinks or believes that Zionists want an Israel from the Nile
to the Euphrates. He's never said a word about this. So, let's avoid
putting words in his mouth, or let's ask him what he believes. As a
personal policy, I publish what regular contributors have to say, with
extremely, and I do mean extremely, rare exceptions. It does not
mean that I necessarily agree with, or espouse their opinions, the same
way I expect them to let me present my own views even when they do not
match theirs necessarily either -- this is one of the foundational tenants
of Swans. We publish what is not found in the main media and we
do have regular contributors who have quite different opinions, indeed. I
do agree with Phil, however, that Israel has still not abandoned the dream
of getting as much as possible of the land within the West Bank, and I'll
get back to this point below; but, no, I do not think that Israelis as a
whole want to see their country from the Nile to the Euphrates (though I'm
sure there must be a few fanatics who advocate that historical chimera).
Second, I'm becoming wary of the use of citations used to support one's
point of view when they are taken out of context. I just got reminded of
this wariness through a letter I received from a Turkish gentleman who
took exception with my latest piece on the passing of Slobodan Milosevic.
He used a 25-word citation from a 1,900-word speech, out of literal and
historical context, to make his point. You'll be able to read his letter
and my response [see below]. It also clearly reminds me of a piece I wrote, "Context And Accuracy" (March 28, 2005) about the
repeated use of George F. Kennan's famous "quotation." Don't take me
wrong. I'm as guilty as everybody else. My point is that we can always
find a citation that will serve the purpose of our argumentation. For
instance, take what Benny Morris said regarding the 1948 transfer of
Palestinians (what we now call "ethnic cleansing," an expression that came
to vogue in the 1990s during the carving up of the former Socialist
Federation of Yugoslavia) and that you quoted in your last e-mail: "The
Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or
Arab. It was largely a by-product of Jewish and Arab fears and of the
protracted, bitter fighting that characterized the first Arab-Israeli war;
in smaller part, it was the deliberate creation of Jewish and Arab
military commanders and politicians." That is an accurate reflection of
what he thought at the time he became a "new historian." But travel in
time to the future. In 2004, he clearly stated that Ben-Gurion was a
"transferist;" that there was, in 1948, a deliberate policy, albeit an
unwritten one (with some exceptions -- Moshe Carmel on the Northern Front,
Yitzhak Rabin in Lod), to get rid of as many Palestinians as may be. And
in a very symptomatic mental evolution, Morris advanced that in his own
view Ben-Gurion had suffered "cold feet" syndrome. He was a
"transferist," says Morris, but he should have gone all the way, meaning
expulsing all Palestinians in 1948, not just from the portioned land ("the
whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River") so that Israel would
not be stuck with the current situation. Had Ben-Gurion gone all the way,
things would be more stable now. He even goes so far as positing that
under the right circumstances (existential menace) a full transfer of the
Palestinians from the OT, or Israel proper, could happen. (See "For the
record," The Guardian, January 14, 2004 --
and "Survival of the Fittest?" An Interview with Benny Morris with Ari Shavit --
http://www.logosjournal.com/morris.htm, Winter 2004 -- Please note that the interview seems to have appeared first in Haaretz, but I do
not know the date.)
So, here we are, using citations that serve our demonstrations, leaving
aside the context, historical or otherwise, and the fact that people's
thinking does evolve over time (at least for those of us whose brain is not
firmly anchored in concrete posts). Let us endeavor to eschew the practice
if ever possible, or at least place our citations in context (and provide
a link to the text when it is on the Web). By the way, Benny Morris's
remarks in the last part of the interview are frightening -- his
apocalyptic vision, his views on Islam, the Palestinians, the Arab
world...all so close to the narrative of the hard-core Christian
fundamentalists in the USA. Do you share his pessimism and dooms-day
I find your "what if" scenario revealing of your position. You may be, of
course, correct. Had the Palestinians accepted the UN partition they would
have had their own state for 58 years. Indeed, you may well be correct,
but it's totally irrelevant. We have a saying in French: Avec des scies
on mettrait la Tour Eiffel en bouteilles. In French, a scie means a
"saw," but it is pronounced like the conjunction si, or "if." So, in
English it reads, "With ifs one could bottle the Eiffel Tower" (one could
put the Eiffel Tower in bottles...by sawing it in tiny pieces). Sure, by
all means, let us use the convenient ifs. If the Brits had not been
adjudicated Mandatory Palestine on the Ottoman dead corpse, and Mr.
Balfour had been still-born, Israel might not have been created. If
Israel had not settled the West Bank and Gaza and had withdrawn from the
OT in the 1970s, as you wished, the situation would be entirely different
today. (I could go further and submit to you that if we could stay away
from the Huntingtonian clash of civilizations that Benny Morris appears to
espouse and stop adding fuel to the fire we all could deal with other
actualities, like for instance, soil erosion, water scarcity, abject
poverty, global warming, death of the oceans, and the long list of curses that are befalling
Evidently, the Palestinians did not buy the "deal." One need not be a
shrink to fathom the psychology of the historical process. Their land was
being taken away from them; their destiny subjugated by an alien culture.
There was no rational reason for them to accept the truncation of their
real estate. There were plenty of rational reasons for the newcomers to
accept the truncation. One side was losing real estate. The other was
gaining. Aside from perceiving the newcomers as European crusaders, there
was a profound emotional dimension to their rejection.
No, I am not "'implying' that the Yishuv 'invited' the Arabs to attack so
that they could be defeated and expelled." I am saying that the Yishuv
knew that the Arab armies would attack and the Palestinians revolt; that
the Yishuv was well prepared and knew it could defeat the Arab armies and
the Palestinians (cf. Ben-Ami), notwithstanding the heavy cost in human
lives, with the consequence of the transfer of some 700,000 Palestinians
through both expulsion and flight.
This is where I find Michael Neumann's analysis quite compelling (have you
read his book yet?). The Palestinians were in a bind. They could not
accept to be governed by a state whose clear and stated purpose was to be
in majority Jewish -- a state of, by, and for the Jews, if you will, with
minority rights preserved as well or as poorly as it is most often the
case with minorities in democratic nations. They could not accept a
minority status because they were the majority. They could see that the
Zionist project was an expansionist one, as it certainly was, and
therefore had good reasons to distrust the offered "deal" that was
essentially imposed by the European powers (and the U.S.). They were being
dispossessed... So, from their perspective -- and that was a reasonable
perspective -- they considered partition and the creation of Israel as a
"mortal threat," to use Michael's expression. You may disagree.
However, it seems to me that your narrative, or view of the historical
events, contains an inherent contradiction. To have a state with a Jewish
majority in a real estate populated by a non-Jewish majority you either
have to bring enough Jews to overcome the demographic deficit or you need
to have the non-Jewish majority become a minority in one fashion or
another. Do you know of any other alternative?
So, in a bizarre historical twist, the war of 1948, that was launched
because of the inability of the Palestinians and the Arab countries to
accept the imposed "deal," allowed the new state of Israel to expand its
territory, all the while getting a Jewish majority within this expanded
territory. These facts on the ground led to further resentment and beliefs
that the now Jewish state would indeed try to keep expanding. It led to
further resistance, and it also led within Israel to the belief that the
"Arabs" would never, ever, accept Israel's right to exist.
Interestingly enough, these events created both the refugee problem AND
Then there was the little "escapade" in 1956 with the Brits and the Frogs
that was reversed real fast when the U.S., slowly becoming the leader of
the "Free World," decided to rein in that little colonial adventure to
avoid a confrontation with the Soviet Union (and to tell the French and
the Brits to shove it). Ben-Gurion was "glad" to oblige... Palestinians
were not a party to this minuet.
But in 1967, they sure were -- the second "mortal threat." Israel took
control of a wide swath of real estate and kept on to it. You submit with
accuracy that Begin gave back the Sinai, of no interest to the
Palestinians...though it took Saddat, the dismissal of the 1971 Jarring
initiative (you did not comment on this point), the 1973 War that was not
as much of a cakewalk as the Six-Day War, and the Carter Administration to
Nothing of the sort happened with the West Bank and the Gaza strip.
There, the Palestinians were directly concerned, and the beginning of the
settlements confirmed their long-held belief that Israel was bent to take
over the whole piece of real estate. There's this figure of speech in the
so-called pro Israel camp that says the Arabs/Palestinians want to "throw
the Jews to the sea." On their side of the ledger, there's also a figure
of speech that says that the Israelis (or the "Jews" when animosities
flare) are up to "taking all the land from the sea to the Jordan River" (a
tiny few add, "and beyond").
I say so-called pro Israel camp because from where I stand I do not
consider Christian fundamentalists or "Christian Zionists" pro Israel.
Fundamentalist Jews would certainly disagree with my stand. But then again
I do not believe in rapture, Armageddon, and all these silly -- but wholly
destructive -- tales. The predicament here is that you (Israeli society)
screwed up magisterially. Instead of getting out of the West Bank and
Gaza, Israel decided to settle them in spite of the Geneva fourth
convention (See "Israel's Tragedy Foretold," by Gershom Gorenberg, NYT
Op-Ed, March 10, 2006 -- if you don't have it, I'll e-mail it to you.) and
all international laws that have been ignored for so long. This trend has
produced a series of consequences. In very short:
- Alternate violent and peaceful reactions from the Palestinians.
- Subsequent justification for Israel to pursue the settlement policy.
- Intifada #1.
- Harsh repression of that revolt by Israel.
- Beginning of Israeli isolation in the world's public opinion.
- Subsequent Israeli alliances with the most reactionary elements of Western societies.
- Further Israeli isolation, even within Jewish opinion (see, Lenni
Brenner's "Catch-up on the sociology of American Zionism,").
- Continued occupation and settlements.
- "Negotiations" with the "enemy" all the while pursuing the settlement policy.
I could go on and on. You'll probably disagree anyway. One thing that's
evident to me (perhaps not you) is that you cannot negotiate with someone
when all the while continuing the very policies that created the
predicament in the first place.
Carrying on in that direction will eventually bring what the crazies so
much dream of.
It seems to me that the Ben-Gurion approach that Arabs only understand
force needs to be at long last retired. Try, for a change, a little
understanding. I'd welcome the Prime Minister of the coming new Israeli
government to state publicly and unequivocally to the Palestinians, the
various countries in the region (try the Arab League), and the entire
We, Israel, want to withdraw from the West Bank, as we recently did from
Gaza. We will abide by the 2000 Clinton precepts. We are ready to sit with
Hamas or any political entity that represents Palestinians. If this is not
possible, we are ready to sit with the International community, say the
Quartet supplemented by the Arab League, to organize the logistics of our
withdrawal. In exchange, we want a signed treaty among all belligerents
that recognizes the right of Israel to exist. If we cannot get such
agreement, if we cannot have partners to sit at the table, we will still
withdraw unilaterally according to the 2000 Clinton precepts. Israel has
no intention to expand its territory -- none whatsoever. We will get back
within the 1967 Green Line with minor adjustment for the major settlements
and we will give the same amount of land back elsewhere. We agree to see
East Jerusalem be the capital of our Palestinian brothers but need special
arrangement for the Temple Mount. We agree to compensate, with hopefully
the help of the international community, the dispossessed Palestinians and
we hope that our dispossessed Jewish brethrens will also be compensated
for the losses they occurred over this long and tragic period, but we
won't let the latter be a precondition. We want to get out of this vicious
circle of violence and blame. Israel exists. Palestine will exist within
the next 12 months. Jewish settlers who wish to remain in the new
Palestinian state, according to Palestinian laws, should be welcome to
stay. If not, we will repatriate them within Israel proper. Finally, the
state of Israel will continue to defend its territorial integrity and its
citizens. If we have to keep the separating fence, known as an apartheid
wall by many observers, we will. When Palestinians and Israelis live in
their respective states as good neighbors do we will remove that
I am not a politician and my wording certainly reflects that deficiency.
However, were the Israeli government willing to craft such a statement and
implement its content, it would a) tell the world including people like
Philip and myself, that indeed Israel is not about grabbing more
territory, b) give the Palestinians a light at the end of a very long and
dark and unjust tunnel, c) help abate the hatred and extinguish the fires
that are spewing up all over the Middle East
And if Israel could go back to its socialist roots, it would really make
this tiny Don Quixote happy. Talking about socialism and what ifs, you
should know that when I was in my teens, in the mid 1960s, I very much
wanted to go and live in an Israeli Kibbutz. It did not happen. Instead,
fleeing emotional violence, I ended in a land that does not fit much of
who I am...but, then, I would never have met Jan...and that is proof that
within this imperfect world one can find some solace.
There is a lesson here for those of us who do not hate and keep the human
spirit alive, whatever the mistakes we make along the journey.
Jacob, please, Israel needs to get out of the OT and accept final
territorial borders. The older we get the more we understand the meaning
of finality -- and the next generations take over... But at this stage of
humanity's story, it's not the fate of one's people that's at stake. It's
the well being of all.
Boonville, March 17, 2006
I will try to relate to the points you raise, but first I hope you
are feeling better and that you have stopped smoking. (It is very
Very few Israelis agreed with Benny Morris when he became a "new
historian" and very few do today, when he changed directions. Of course,
the Jews in Palestine wanted to have a state which includes as much as
possible of Mandatory Palestine. And, as I wrote before, the Revisionists
wanted it also to include Transjordan. But, on the political scene of the
Zionist movement, the Revisionists were a minority and remained a minority
after the state was established. You can even say a miniscule minority.
(14 members of parliament out of 120). That is why Ben-Gurion was able to
convince the movement to accept the partition plan, which gave away 46
percent of Mandatory Palestine and even gave up Jerusalem. I have no doubt
that if the Arabs had recognized Israel at some point after 1948,
Ben-Gurion would have accepted the Green Line as the final border, in
spite of the noise made by people like Begin (and myself...).
Ben-Gurion, when confronted by his opponents, telling him that
the Jewish state would have a large Arab minority (40 percent) said very
clearly: "We will bring millions of Jews and we will have a comfortable
majority." That was based on his deep belief in the Zionist ideology.
From his point of view, there was no need to expel any Arabs because
plenty of Jews would come.
Yes, I agree with Morris that the situation is serious but I
disagree with his pessimism. Having known where the Palestinian Jews stood
in 1947 and knowing where they stand today, I am more optimistic than he
is. He is right that the radical Islamists are a formidable enemy,
precisely because they do not value life as others do, and it is very
difficult to fight people who look at death as an achievement. But, in
spite of that I think we will prevail.
I liked the French saying about the si and the Eiffel tower.
In Hebrew it goes like that: "Si ma grand-mère avait des roues, elle serait
un autobus" (Excuse the mistakes) [ed. no mistake in Dr. Amir's French -- in English: "If my grandmother had wheels, she would be a bus."]
I believe that Israel would have been created even if Balfour
had not been born, or if the British had not become the Mandatory Power in
Palestine. I agree that in pre- and Mandatory Palestine we had the clash
of two national movements. But there was a Jewish presence in Palestine
for many centuries. In Jerusalem, there are families that go back more
than 500 years. And the local Arabs did not consider themselves a separate
national entity. They thought of themselves as part of the Arab nation and
many of them claimed that they were a part of Greater Syria. An Arab
historian who testified in front of the Peel commission (I forgot his
name) even claimed that the term "Palestine" was a Zionist term. The clash
between these two peoples continues to this day. I do not think that the
Arabs objected to the Jewish state because they were afraid of its
expansionist plans. They simply refused to accept the legitimacy of a
Jewish state, regardless of its size. When they rejected the UN plan and
tried to prevent it by force they were absolutely sure that they would have
no problems whatsoever defeating the Jews. Even if they were sure that
Israel did not want to expand further, they would not have accepted a
Jewish sovereign state in what they considered a Muslim Waqf. Only after
1967, with the Oslo Accord, did some of the Palestinians accept the
legitimacy of Israel. And then came Egypt and Jordan. Which explains why
the "Iron Wall" concept of Jabotinski has been fully justified. Only when
the Arabs are convinced that they cannot destroy Israel by military
force, will they accept it and make peace. What is unfortunate is that we
did not understand that we cannot rule another people and remain a
democracy. Unfortunately it is very easy to be a Monday morning quarterback...
Israel responded to the Jarring initiative by agreeing to start
peace talks with Egypt, before any withdrawal takes place. As far as I
remember Egypt refused. It is very possible that Israel should have
withdrawn at that time, even without a peace accord. This would have
prevented the Yom Kippur War.
The overwhelming majority of Israelis feel that their state was
not "born in sin" and they will not give it up for anything.
I agree with you that all those "ifs" are irrelevant. What is
important is what we do NOW.
And, as I wrote before, we and our neighbors made a lot of
mistakes for which we (and our neighbors) are paying dearly and will
continue to pay. Today, the official platform of the Kadima party states
that it will continue to withdraw, unilaterally if necessary,
from parts of the West Bank. If you add the Labour, Meretz, and Arab
parties, you end up with a parliamentary majority that supports withdrawing from large parts of the West Bank and supports the two states solution. This was not the case in the
previous parliament. Still, it will be very difficult because we have a
substantial number of people who truly believe that settling the land is a
religious command and that it should not be given up. But, easy or not, it
will be done.
I hope that not many people, on both sides, will have to lose
their lives until an agreement is reached.
Jerusalem - March 20, 2006
Gilles d'Aymery responds:
Thank you for your latest thoughts. I like your Monday morning quarterback analogy, though I wish to submit to you that some of us have been quarterbacking for at least 25 years -- that's just about 1,300 weeks of quarterbacking. Others have been at it much longer, but, in a nutshell, those of us, Monday morning quarterbacks, and in the huge majority not Israel or Jewish haters, have been asking and begging from you, from the Israeli society, and the state of Israel, that you please, please, please, rein in the lunatic minority (9%), stop the settlements, and get out of the OT.
This occupation has created mayhem and a human tragedy.
I don't think it would be useful at this point to keep repeating our respective narratives, which must be quite clear to the readers who have been following our exchanges since you first commented on my review of Michael Neumann's book two months ago. And you are correct: "What is important is what we do NOW."
You know what needs to be done. You (Israel) hold all the cards. You have the power, militarily, economically. The entire Arab world, the entire world, wants a two-state solution. You can make it happen at a snap of the fingers. Painful realization, painful abandonment of a long-held dream... There is this old German adage, "Es könnte auch anders sein" (it could have been different) that comes to mind. There could have been, perhaps, some kind of binational state within the entire Mandatory Palestine (Israel/Palestine plus Transjordan) had it not been for the European powers oil interests and the adamant will to have a Jewish majority in that new state. It certainly could have been different.
But too much blood has drenched the land. You cannot expel the Palestinians -- I mean, you have the military power to do so but I am convinced you know that it's morally unfeasible and would lead to unending violence, total isolation, and pariah status. You cannot practically have a binational state -- too much blood again and the demographic dilemma. So, what's left? To perpetuate the occupation is to prolong immense suffering and to delay the inevitable.
Please, Jacob, Israel must leave the OT.
"Muss es sein?" Le faut-il? Must it be done?
"Es muss sein." Il le faut. It must be done.
(And that's the full extent of my knowledge of German!)
You say that "it will be done," and I hope it will. But my optimism is much tempered by the continued "facts on the ground" that Amira Hass keeps detailing (see "Israeli restrictions create isolated enclaves in West Bank," Haaretz, March 24, 2006), and yesterday's comments by Ehud Olmert -- "We want to set the permanent borders of Israel, and to do so, we must separate from the Palestinians." . . . . "In order to separate from the Palestinians, we must define for ourselves our red lines." He talks about "an internal negotiation, first of all, so that we within the state of Israel will know what we want." . . . . followed by negotiations over "borderlines such that all of
the international community would support, including the United States of America." (See http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/698657.html.) and that means more time wasted, more delays, more facts on the ground, more violence, more bloodshed... As former US President Jimmy Carter recently wrote, "The preeminent obstacle to peace is Israel's colonization of Palestine" (he means the OT) -- see http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/695187.html. Somehow, I don't think that the Israeli polity, in its majority, has fully internalized that central fact.
Finally, reading your comments on how the Palestinians only understand force reminded me of my childhood on the one hand, and on the other, of my dog. Treat a dog with decency, reason, and love and it will be a wonderful companion; beat him repetitively and it will bite. What works with dogs works as well with humans, which is what Palestinians are...human beings.
Many thanks for this discussion. One of these days, I would be glad to discuss with you the concept and reality of Jewish people -- its meaning, its need. Personally (I think I have already mentioned this), I endeavor to avoid referring to Israel as the Jewish state or Israeli as Jews, the same way that I do not refer to France as a Christian state or French as Christians, etc. But this should be the object of another discussion if you are willing to entertain it.
Note: I'd like to apologize for having involved you in the exchange I've had with that unpalatable individual, but thinking of it, the best way to silence these people would be to get out of the OT, would it not? And regarding the latest brouhaha about the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., there is an excellent article in Al-Ahram Weekly of 23-29 March 2006, "Blaming the lobby," by Joseph Massad, an associate professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University -- worth reading.
To stop smoking is easy, eh? I am feeling better, thanks.
Boonville - March 26, 2006
Want change? Make it happen...and, please, help us help YOU make a difference.
Never Dull, Always Pertinent; stick to theatre, dear Charles: Charles Marowitz's The Love Extortionists
To the Editor:
I used to watch Charles Marowitz's work on the stage off Tottenham Court
Road, London, in the 1960s. Nothing he did was dull and everything he
said pertinent. Could he not continue to tell us exclusively about the
theatre? No one does it better. Any Californian can serve up airy social
criticism and state-of-the-nation fillers.
Lecce, Italy, - March 15, 2006
Where is the "Truth"? Gilles d'Aymery's Slobodan Milosevic, 1941-2006: A Cursed, Blasted Statesman
Good commentary. I don't know what to say other than that I'm happy to
see the truth is out there somewhere.
Arcata, California, USA - March 13, 2006
Yes, a few people get it... Gilles d'Aymery's Slobodan Milosevic, 1941-2006: A Cursed, Blasted Statesman
Dear Mr. d'Aymery,
Thank you for your wonderful article on Milosevic. It is encouraging to
read a realistic article on this fine person.
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA - March 13, 2006
...And others do not. Gilles d'Aymery's Slobodan Milosevic, 1941-2006: A Cursed, Blasted Statesman
To the Editor:
Dear Sir: Having read Gilles d'Aymery's eulogy for Slobodan Milosevic, I felt the
strong urge to compose a retort to yet another attempt at hagiographic
revisionism that sees Milosevic as "no superman . . . [but as someone who]
tried to keep Yugoslavia whole . . . [as someone who] tried to hold to a
socialist, humane idea of life."
The fact that Mr. Milosevic was a master at manipulation of the media
stands at the basis of his success as an "ethnic entrepreneur" (to use
Joseph Rothschild's coinage). The battle at Kosovo Polje served Mr.
Milosevic in his attempt to transform himself into the ultimate champion
of the Serbian cause, championing the Serbs as eternal victims of
unwarranted aggression and oppression. The speech he delivered at
Gazimestan on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of King Lazar's defeat
at the hands of the Ottomans (28 June 1989) not only catapulted Milosevic
into the limelight of the Serbian media (media controlled by Mr. Milosevic
himself incidentally), but also constituted the opening move of his
further designs of carving a place for himself in Serbian history. In
Gazimestan, Mr. Milosevic said that "[s]ix centuries later, we are in
battles again. And facing new ones. They are not armed battles, though
such battles should not be excluded yet." These prophetic sentiments
became reality after Croatia's Franjo Tudjman initiated his bid for
Croatian independence and a purely Croatian territory ethnically cleansed
of Croatian Serbs. But rather than pursuing Croatia, Mr. Milosevic turned
his attention to Bosnia instead (after apparently having reached a tacit
agreement with Mr. Tudjman to divide Bosnia between a greater Serbia and a
greater Croatia). Arkan and his Tigers started the operation by killing
Bosnian Muslims in Zvornik and Bijeljina, with tacit if not active support
from Mr. Milosevic in Belgrade. The Bosnian war fought between 1992 and
1995 consists of a veritable catalogue of terror and abuse, terror and
abuse perpetrated by Serbia and primarily inflicted upon Bosnian Muslims.
Mr. Milosevic's designs went further than simply killing Bosniaks, he and
his henchmen were bent on completely destroying Bosnia's Islamic heritage
(the list of Ottoman buildings destroyed is long and makes for tough
reading), inclusive of Sarajevo's National Library that housed numerous
valuable manuscripts as well as archival documentation pertaining to the
Mr. Milosevic's further policies in Kosova eventually led to his demise.
Albanian refugees forced to flee their homes following the start of
Serbia's pre-emptive offensive on 22 March 1999 told harrowing stories.
They spoke of being visited by Serb thugs who gave them a choice between
on the one hand, staying and dying, and on the other, leaving and living.
Whatever the merits or defects of the NATO campaign in Kosova (24 March -
10 June 1999), the fact that Mr. Milosevic had again manipulated Serbia's
public into following his lead remains beyond doubt. The reasons behind
calling Mr. Milosevic a "multiculturalist," as Diana Johnstone has done, or
ascribing humane ideals to him, as Mr. d'Aymery seems to do in his piece, do
not appear to be rational or even intelligible. The alternative of
demonising Mr. Milosevic seems equally ill-judged, yet somehow closer to an
even-handed assessment of his achievements.
Dr. Can Erimtan, ACI
Istanbul, Turkey - March 16, 2006
Gilles d'Aymery responds: I thank Dr. Erimtan for expressing his views, views that I do not share. I have discoursed at some length on the Yugoslav tragedy, and do not feel necessary to rebute Dr. Erimtan's analysis. Mine can be found on Swans, in the archives: The Balkans and Yugoslavia. However, Dr. Erimtan quotes a very short excerpt of Mr. Milosevic's speech delivered on June 28, 1989 to reach the conclusion that Mr. Milosevic was not a "multiculturalist," but an ardent nationalist bent on creating a "Greater Serbia" through ethnic cleansing (known in earlier times as population transfers). That speech has been, and remains, consistently used by Milosevic's detractors and Serb bashers. In that speech, Mr. Milosevic made some telling comments about unity among people and multinationalism within the Yugoslav federation. To wit:
Serbia has never had only Serbs living in it. Today, more than in the past, members of other peoples and nationalities also live in it. This is not a disadvantage for Serbia. I am truly convinced that it is its advantage. National composition of almost all countries in the world today, particularly developed ones, has also been changing in this direction. Citizens of different nationalities, religions, and races have been living together more and more frequently and more and more successfully.
The particular citation Dr. Erimtan refers to has been brandished many a time by the anti-Serb crowds over the years. Always the same citation rehashed again and again -- 25 words out of some 1,900 utterly removed from the text and context in which they were pronounced. What's so remarkable about this speech is how much it has been used to demonize the Serbs but for some bizarre reason it never has been published in the corporate "mainstream" media in the U.S. (I'll be glad to stand corrected), so that people are ignorant of the actual content of what Mr. Milosevic actually said. Readers can judge for themselves. Here is the full text: Kosovo Polje Speech, June 28, 1989.
Socialism in particular, being a progressive and just democratic society, should not allow people to be divided in the national and religious respect. The only differences one can and should allow in socialism are between hard working people and idlers and between honest people and dishonest people. Therefore, all people in Serbia who live from their own work, honestly, respecting other people and other nations, are in their own republic.
After all, our entire country should be set up on the basis of such principles. Yugoslavia is a multinational community and it can survive only under the conditions of full equality for all nations that live in it.
The crisis that hit Yugoslavia has brought about national divisions, but also social, cultural, religious and many other less important ones. Among all these divisions, nationalist ones have shown themselves to be the most dramatic. Resolving them will make it easier to remove other divisions and mitigate the consequences they have created.
For as long as multinational communities have existed, their weak point has always been the relations between different nations. The threat is that the question of one nation being endangered by the others can be posed one day -- and this can then start a wave of suspicions, accusations, and intolerance, a wave that invariably grows and is difficult to stop. This threat has been hanging like a sword over our heads all the time. Internal and external enemies of multi-national communities are aware of this and therefore they organize their activity against multinational societies mostly by fomenting national conflicts. At this moment, we in Yugoslavia are behaving as if we have never had such an experience and as if in our recent and distant past we have never experienced the worst tragedy of national conflicts that a society can experience and still survive.
Equal and harmonious relations among Yugoslav peoples are a necessary condition for the existence of Yugoslavia and for it to find its way out of the crisis and, in particular, they are a necessary condition for its economic and social prosperity. In this respect Yugoslavia does not stand out from the social milieu of the contemporary, particularly the developed, world. This world is more and more marked by national tolerance, national cooperation, and even national equality. The modern economic and technological, as well as political and cultural development, has guided various peoples toward each other, has made them interdependent and increasingly has made them equal as well [medjusobno ravnopravni]. Equal and united people can above all become a part of the civilization toward which mankind is moving. If we cannot be at the head of the column leading to such a civilization, there is certainly no need for us to be at is tail.
It should also be noted for the record that I have never taken a position in regard to the 600-year-old conflict between the Ottoman Empire and Serbia. Neither have I placed the responsibility of this tragedy on the Bosniaks (as Bosnians of Muslim background are now known) or the Croats or the inhabitants of Albanian background (Muslims and Christians) in Kosovo...or the Serbs. That responsibility, in the latest analysis, falls on the European powers (principally but not exclusively Germany) and the United States of America, those countries that most profited from the destruction of Yugoslavia. What I certainly did, and will continue to do, is to strenuously object to the demonization of an entire nation.
Survival of Democracy in the U.S.? Michael Doliner's Totalitarianism Then And Now
To the Editor:
Thanks to Michael Doliner for his article on fascism. It's not easy to
distill the ideas of a really complex thinker like Hannah Arendt. We
tend to think of fascism as something imposed from the top, by force or
manipulation (stealing an election by rigging voting machines, or
packing the Supreme Court, for example), but the more critical
ingredient is the alienated mass psychology which precedes the fascist
coup. Doliner observes this produces a politics that is disconnected
from any class interest, or self-interest, and looks to political
leaders who merely echo its inarticulate rage.
Doliner comments that the typical Bush follower likes him because he
(Bush) "doesn't give a shit." To the left, Bush's lies, failures and
indifference to them are grounds for impeachment, while to his alienated
base they are marks of the hero. (Pete Rose pops into my mind here --
the crappier his public behavior, the more his fans loved him.)
If America survives as a democracy it will have to navigate a truly
frightening Scylla and Charybdis, corporate power on the one hand and an
alienated mass on the other. Corporate power (theoretically) can be
blocked by law, but the mass has to be compassionately transformed.
What a challenge!
Sausalito, California, USA - March 13, 2006
Excessive Accusation Against Poor James Petras regarding Flemming Rose and the Sayanim: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #34
To the Editor:
I think that your accusation of Judeophobia in regard to James Petras is
excessive. The cartoon thing was very obviously a stunt which blew up in
the faces of those to set it up. Clearly, it was intended to provoke
Muslim Europeans to violence and thereby foment hatred of them in Europe,
with a view, one supposes, to turning European public opinion around to
supporting military action against Iran. At that point, it is perfectly
legitimate to ask who exactly might have been behind it, other than Daniel
Pipes, and Mossad is an obvious candidate. All the intelligence services
operate like that and I don't see why Mossad would be any different.
Indeed, there is an increasing mystery about the true identity of Flemming
Rose and that that name might be an intelligence agent's cover is
beginning to look credible. In fact, he seems to have no existence before
the University of Copenhagen. The year of his birth is in doubt, the place
of his birth is in doubt, his religion is in doubt, we don't know if he's
married, has children, has brothers or sisters etc. Also, there is a very
determined campaign to suppress any discussion of the possibility that he
might be Jewish, while very carefully avoiding a direct denial that he is
or revealing his actual religious background.
There is a very interesting debate about all of this going on over at
Wikipedia in which Rose himself has intervened but has carefully avoided
revealing any verifiable fact about himself. Oddly, the claim that he is a
Ukrainian Jewish immigrant was removed from the web page for lack of
evidence (as if Jewishness was a crime of which one is entitled to be
presumed innocent!) but subsequently, a photo of Rose was added. Hold on
there! This man is in hiding, protected by the police, and fears for his
life. Why then does he allow Wikipedia to broadcast his picture to the
entire world, so that some lunatic can dispatch him à la Theo Van Gogh?
Indeed, I can find no other picture anywhere of him!
On the currently available evidence, therefore, my theory is that
"Flemming Rose" is the cover of a "sleeper," perhaps a Mossad sleeper or a
KGB sleeper that Mossad "turned." He is, thus, very probably a Ukrainian
Jew. My guess is, though, that we'll never really know. I suspect we'll
never hear of him or from him again!
Luxembourg - March 22, 2006
[Mr. Kenny works at the Court of Justice of the European Communities. This is his personal views.]
US elective "democracy" through rigged elections: Milo Clark's To Ignore Is To Participate
To the Editor:
Please thank Milo Clark for his analysis of what happened in Hawaii in the last
election. I agree that the potential outcome in 2006 suggests frightening
possibilities. I cannot understand the silence from Democratic
"leadership" on this issue. Out of that frustration: that we must change
the dynamic, I launched volunteerstrike.com.
I am very much afraid that the well-funded, well-organized operatives who
work to suppress the Democratic vote are perfecting their techniques and
inventing new ones with each passing election. In addition to failing to
have our winning presidential candidate inaugurated again in 2004,
Democrats "lost" four more Senate seats, and three in the House. Pretty soon,
there will be no hope for a legislative remedy for this crisis.
With my thanks,
Bethesda, Maryland, USA - March 13, 2006
Bird Flu, Anyone?
To the Editor:
I've not seen you report on the recently revealed
information that factory farming is the likely cause
of bird flu. A very important article was published in
Grain.org on this topic, yet it's had very little media
coverage (which in itself is very interesting). Perhaps
you would care to post it on Swans. It's called "Fowl Play":
Fowl play: The poultry industry's central role in the bird flu crisis
GRAIN | February 2006
"Backyard or free-range poultry are not fuelling the
current wave of bird flu outbreaks stalking large
parts of the world. The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu
is essentially a problem of industrial poultry
practices. Its epicentre is the factory farms of China
and Southeast Asia and -- while wild birds can carry
the disease, at least for short distances -- its main
vector is the highly self-regulated transnational
poultry industry, which sends the products and waste
of its farms around the world through a multitude of
channels. Yet small poultry farmers and the poultry
biodiversity and local food security that they sustain
are suffering badly from the fall-out. To make matters
worse, governments and international agencies,
following mistaken assumptions about how the disease
spreads and amplifies, are pursuing measures to force
poultry indoors and further industrialise the poultry
sector. In practice, this means the end of the
small-scale poultry farming that provides food and
livelihoods to hundreds of millions of families across
the world. This paper presents a fresh perspective on
the bird flu story that challenges current assumptions
and puts the focus back where it should be: on the
transnational poultry industry."
Canberra, Australia - March 23, 2006
So much "leftist" crap on Swans
(reproduced as is -- i.e., unedited.)
To the Editor:
I fully believe in free speach but do you really think think that most
common folks beleive the crap that you are spewing? you are a lousy
leftist the exact thing that has drove the middle class to the right!
Hampton, Illinois, USA - March 13, 2006
[ed. Mr. Teats should enroll in any local or national spelling bee. On the merits of his argument: I suppose that, in Mr. Teats's mind, were we to spew rightwing crap it would drive the famed US middle class to the left.]
Remember, support Swans. It only will hurt your wallet, not your freedom to be heard.
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