Letters to the Editor

(March 27, 2006)


[Ed. As a reminder to Letter writers: If you want your letters to be published, you must include your first and last names and your city and state of residence. Thank you.]

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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.

Miriam Adams
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
Hi Gilles,

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

Dear Jacob,

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 scenario (Armageddon)?

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 humanity.)

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 Palestinian nationalism.

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 convince Begin.

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 world:
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 separation fence.
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

Hi Gilles,

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 easy...)

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:

Dear Jacob,

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


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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.


Peter Byrne
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.

Margaret Wyles
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.

David Kuehn
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 Ottoman period.

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.

Yours Sincerely,

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.

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.
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.

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!

Robert Wrubel
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!

Michael Kenny
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,

Mary Kiraly
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."
[Full: http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=194


Brian Souter
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!

Kerry Teats
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.]


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Published March 27, 2006
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