Thursday, June 28, 2007
Gilad Atzmon - Taking the Piss Envoy
Maybe it isn’t such a bad idea. Seemingly, his partner from Washington may have sussed it all out. It is rather possible that when peace is at stake, it is actually the warmongers, the bloodthirsty criminals, the men who know no mercy and compassion who may provide the goods. At the end of the day, a rapist may know more about sex abuse than an innocent detached judge. We should never forget that for the Bushman, even Sharon, the mass killer from Sabra and Shatila was nothing less than a ‘Man of Peace’.
Who knows the truth of such complicated matters? It is rather possible that Bush is correct. It is feasible that pouring blood in such a vast quantity may have qualified Blair to be a peacemaker. Yet, there is a slight problem here. Just a marginal issue that should be addressed before Blair lands in Gaza International Docks or Ramallah’s busy Heliport. The democratically elected Hamas, the party who was voted by the Palestinian people isn’t really happy with the new envoy. If I could have a word with him, I would say, “You see Mr Blair, as things stand it is actually Hamas you have to talk to. And what about the Lebanese, did you think about them Mr Blair? Will they welcome to their country the man who just less than a year ago enthusiastically approved the total destruction of their country’s infrastructure, capital and southern regions.”
“Thus, I have a little suggestion for you, Mr. Blair. Just before you become a dove, just on your way to your first peace mission, pop over to The Hague for a few days, put yourself on trail. Prove to us and our brothers in the region that you are indeed a man of harmony and peace. You shouldn’t be too worried, you always believed in what you were doing. You always claimed to believe that liberating the Iraqi people was the right thing to do. You believed as well that destroying Lebanon’s infrastructure would bring stability to the region. You believed that dismissing the democratically elected Palestinian Government was an act of humanism.”
Don’t cave in, Mr. Ex-PM, you can have your two closest friends beside you. You will probably appoint Lord Goldsmith to fight your legal battle. He’d be on your side, when it comes down to it, he was the man who gave you the legal approval to start your ‘little’ illegal war. You shouldn’t worry about money either. Lord Levy, your No 1 Fundraiser will take care of the costs. Now when your New Labour’s under-the-table trading with those giving loans so that they could be nominated peers has become public knowledge, there is nothing to be afraid of.”
I am sure that by the time our dearly beloved, newly born dove will be vindicated by the international court of Justice, he will be far more effective as a peace maker. He may even be the first to bridge the gap between the foes in the region. This is an opportunity we cannot miss and even if he fails this shouldn’t be a major concern, Baba Bush can always appoint him as the new Iraqi Prime Minister. I do not think Blair will be missed but he will be remembered.
A further thought struck me while I was summoning up my words to Mr Blair: if it is true that he is really the new Middle East Peace Envoy, then I would like to apply for an appropriate roll for myself. I am hoping to become the Chief Rabbi of Britain.
Geneva Convention, PART II-GENERAL PROTECTION OF POPULATIONS AGAINST CERTAIN CONSEQUENCES OF WAR, article 13-The provisions of Part II cover the whole of the populations of the countries in conflict, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, nationality, religion or political opinion, and are intended to alleviate the sufferings caused by war.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Gaza under Israeli Fire
Please make maximum effors to get the real story out. Do contact people in Gaza, including the phone numbers given below.
Subject: For Immediate Release--Gaza Under Israeli Fire
Press Release 27.6.2007
Since last night, and only one day after the much celebrated Sharm El Sheikh summit, the Israeli Occupation Forces have been attacking the Gaza Strip-Khan Younus and Shijaeyya neighbourhood-- with Mirkava tanks, Apache helicopters and F16. Instead of sending the promised "humanitarian aid" to the people of Gaza, as the Sharm El Sheikh leaders decided, Israel so far has killed 10 civilians, including a 10 year old child.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms these heinous crimes and call upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it for its 40 years of military occupation of Palestine. We also call on the international community and the Arab and Islamic worlds, to take up their responsibility to protect the Palestinian people from this heinous aggression and immediately terminate the continuing Israeli policy of collective punishment.
We demand the immediate halt of the Israeli Occupation Forces' attacks on the Gaza Strip and an end to the closure and isolation of the Strip, both of which are exacerbating an already desperate humanitarian situation inside the Strip.
The National Boycott of Apartheid Israel-Gaza
One Democratic State Association
University Teachers' Association
For Comments contact:
+972 599 880608
+ 972 599 441766
+ 972 599 322636
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Freedom of Speech is Under Attack! The People's Voice Needs Support!!
Well, they're at it again. This time a gang of crazies at the Daily Kos have managed to convince Google News to remove our site. They may have had help from the extremists at 'Little Green Footballs' or 'Elder of Ziyon', two other sites that want to shut us down. They falsely accuse us of anti-Semitism when we are fiercely opposed to bigotry and racism in all it's forms. They falsely label us as holocaust deniers, but there is not one denial of the Jewish holocaust on our site. They falsly accuse us of being a hate site because we have posted a few constructive articles by writers that they want to silence. We post excellent articles by many different people and from journalists risking their lives to bring us the non-corporate truth about the Occupied Palestinian Territories. That is what we are about, giving people a voice on the net to speak out on environmental political and social justice issues. We want the writers who submit their articles to us to know that our hits have decreased only marginally and the majority of our traffic remains unaffected. Here are some of Google News's rules about content: "Although Google News doesn't proactively review articles or images for adult content, violence, or hate speech, we depend largely on user reports to identify articles containing these materials. We appreciate any feedback with regard to these types of content appearing in our News index. Contact Google News"
Unfortunately Google News isn't using terms like 'prejudice' or 'racist' speech to describe what is unacceptable to them. Those definitions have clear meanings and can not be used by special interest groups to skirt the U.S. Constitution and deny people their freedom of speech. Taking their cue from the tiny mob making all the noise, Google subscribes to the nebulous and ever-changing rules of "hate speech". Once used to label white supremist web sites, the term, "hate speech" has now expanded to include sites like thepeoplesvoice.org. Irregardless of the flimsy evidence of our so-called anti-Semitism, our accusers are actually attacking us because we are openly critical of Israel's genocidal treatment of the Palestinian people. If this kind of labeling and silencing of legitimate activist news sites continues, the term 'hate speech' could expand further to include sites that criticize the government or Bush. It is our sincere belief that a handful of people who seek to inhibit freedom of speech cannot equal the power of the majority of the people. If you like what we are doing and want more people to see the articles on our site please write a few words or a letter to Google News. Tell them that you like the site and to please put thepeoplesvoice.org back on Google News. Contact Google News
Patrick Seale - Israel is determined to dig its own grave
All efforts of Israel to break the democratically-elected Hamas government have failed. Its policies of boycott, siege and starvation, of bombing and shelling, of extra-judicial murder, of withholding tax revenues, of the systematic destruction of Palestinian institutions have served only to create a time-bomb of hunger, despair and defiance on Israel's flank.
Yet Israel appears to have learned nothing. Instead of seeking peace with the Arabs - instead of seizing their outstretched hand - it persists in rejecting all peace overtures, preferring to rely on force and still more force, and on its ability to manipulate its American ally.
In Washington this week, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert managed to abort a tentative American initiative to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He persuaded George W. Bush - a president painfully out of his depth in Middle East politics - that this was not the time for peace talks with either the Palestinians or the Syrians.
The appointment of Ehud Barak as the new defence minister of Israel is another ominous sign that wars rather than peace talks lie ahead.
Condoleezza Rice, the unfortunate US Secretary of State whom some had thought was planning a new push for Arab-Israeli talks, has clearly been outgunned by pro-Israeli hawks, such as Elliott Abrams at the National Security Council.
The word from Washington is that combating "terror"remains the US-Israeli priority. President Mahmoud Abbas has been instructed to join the war against his Palestinian brothers, if he is to earn a few crumbs from the rich man's table.
To most independent observers it seems plain that Israel's aggressive and expansionist policies have resulted in a steady deterioration in its strategic environment.
It has acquired, or rather created, enemies on several fronts - Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, large numbers of dispossessed, brutalised and radicalised Palestinians, Syria, Iran and radical groups such as Al Qaida.
It could then continue its West Bank land-grab and its destruction of Palestinian society without risking any serious Arab reaction.
So, is Israel rethinking its strategies? There is no sign of it. It refuses to see that the regional balance of power may be changing. It continues to believe that it can uproot Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and defeat Syria and Iran - or get the US to do the job on its behalf.
To avoid peace talks which might involve ceding territory, it continues to depict Hamas as a "terrorist organisation" bent on Israel's destruction, thereby resorting to the well-worn trick of saying, "How can you negotiate with someone who wants to kill you?" Is Hamas, in fact, a terrorist organisation or is it a legitimate resistance movement to occupation and oppression? The Americans have swallowed the terrorist line and so has the timid and cowardly European Union, although several of its members now regret it.
Hamas is now busy restoring law and order in Gaza. It is disarming the gangs which lived on extortion and blackmail (such as the Doghmush gang which is holding the BBC correspondent Alan Johnston). And it is seeing to the immediate needs of the sorely-tried population of 1.4 million, densely-packed in a small territory which Israel has turned into the world's largest outdoor prison.
This is what Esmail Haniya, the Hamas leader and now the effective ruler of Gaza, told the French newspaper Le Figaro recently:
"Our programme is clear. We seek the creation of a Palestinian state within the frontiers of 1967: that is to say in Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital. The PLO remains in charge of negotiations on this point. We undertake to respect all past agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority. We would like to see the introduction of a reciprocal, global and simultaneous truce with Israel." Would that Olmert or any of his colleagues said anything as sensible! Instead, Israel is planning to continue, even to intensify, its policy of sealing off the Gaza Strip.
Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister recently urged the ministers to continue to isolate Hamas while easing the pressure on Fatah by ending the 15-month financial boycott of the West Bank. But will this be enough to save Abbas? Can a policy of feeding the West Bank while starving Gaza succeed?
It does not seem likely. Israel's security establishment will not agree to remove the hundreds of road blocks which make Palestinian life a misery. Israel's powerful colonists' movement will not agree to freeze the colonies, let alone remove them. And Israel's political leaders will move heaven and earth to avoid negotiating peace with the Arabs on the basis of the 1967 borders.
As a result, Abbas will move into ever greater illegality and will be seen more and more as a quisling; Fatah will continue its terminal decline; and Israel and its neighbours will be doomed to decades more of violence and war.
As an astute observer remarked to me this week, "The Middle East today is like Europe on the eve of the Great War of 1914-18. It needs only a spark to set the whole region on fire."
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Ramzy Baroud - The Palestine Experiment
For years I have been warning of a civil war starting in Gaza. I had good reason to infuse my ominous prediction. I wrote about it my last book: The Second Palestinian Intifada. I warned in every media platform available that there are too many lurking hands working very astutely to ensure the demise of the Palestinian national project from within and without.
I urged Palestinians not to fall into rhetoric and to refrain from delving further into their slogan-inundated ways. I saw very clearly that the national fragmentation of the Palestinian national identity — an outcome of two combined realities, one stemming from the post-Oslo political culture, and another from the predictable harm of Israel’s endless physical boundaries between Palestinians: the Bantustanisation of the West Bank and the total isolation of Gaza — is almost perfected. I’ve toured many cities in many countries taking on Palestinian factionalism: "I am worried that Palestinians will reach a point where they no longer identify themselves as such, but as ideological and tribal extensions of actions and sub-factions." In recent months I became utterly belligerent — in the eyes of some — in my frankness. Not one public speech of mine would ever conclude without a few Palestinians abandoning the crowd, either Fatah loyalists furious over my chastising of Abbas, Dahlan and the rest of the clique for their corruption and deviation from the aspirations of their own people; or Islamists, angry for suggesting that Hamas shouldn’t act as sole proprietor of the Palestinian narrative or political discourse, despite their Parliamentary majority, but merely as a conduit for Palestinian constants and the will of the Palestinian people. My comments were not always popular: it ruffled many feathers, and more recently, it cost me my job.
The devastating embargo imposed on Palestinians after the Hamas landslide win in January 2006, didn’t produce the intended results. To the contrary, it greatly hampered the American ‘democratic’ experiment in the Middle East. Everywhere I have travelled since, I have witnessed a sense of giddiness, and a lot of hope being pinned on the Hamas’ political rise. It was resolved that Hamas had to be removed, and the Abbas’ Preventative Security Forces, riddled with corruption, was entrusted with the task. Mohamed Dahlan, the man of the hour, was given the Israeli and the American nod. His Palestinian ‘Contras’ wreacked havoc: kidnapping, assassinating and provoking endless fights. One can imagine what the impact of such meddling, knowing that Gaza is essentially a huge open-air prison. I was a prisoner there until the age of 21. I remember how people picked fights for no convincing reason; isolation, hunger, hopelessness lead to much more. The US and the EU took part of the recent Palestinian siege and embargo, and Israel’s bombardment never ceased, not for one day; Hundreds of besieged Palestinians were blown to shreds by Israeli bombs. Their only mechanism of defence was pathetic Qassam ‘missiles’ that killed a dozen Israeli in six years. Thousands of Palestinians were killed in Gaza during the same period. Gaza bore all the signs that warned of disaster; the civil war was looming, it was one assassin’s bullet away, one provocative statement, one kidnapping. The pressure Hamas faced as a result was insurmountable. But their dialectics were simple: the movement had reached the limits of political concessions; any more concessions would be considered a retreat from its political platform and could lead to fragmentation within its own ranks — fragmentation that was already being discussed in the Israeli media.
Yet the state of isolation from within — Fatah’s total control over the 10 branches of security apparatus —and from without — the US-led international embargo — were sure to weaken Hamas and eventually deprive it of its popular support.
The decision was thus made that Hamas must take its chances and push for what it termed as the "second liberation of Gaza." Now the situation is very bleak.
Hamas is in control of Gaza, and Abbas and Fatah arei n control of as much as Israel allows in the West Bank. This places Palestine’s destiny back in the US neoconservative experiment room: "This turn of events would free Abbas to focus on the much more manageable West Bank, where he can depend on the Israel Defense Forces to suppress challenges from Hamas, and on Jordan and the United States to help rebuild his security forces," according to Martin Indyk, the pro-Israel lobbyist in Washington, writing in the Washington Post, June 15, 2007. In fact, most American mainstream editorials and commentators are sounding the same message; they still refuse to see Palestinians as human beings, deserving of dignity, peace and security. Various Arab governments, the EU, the US and Israel are flocking to back Abbas: money, weapons and political legitimacy is heralded at him from all directions. The once irrelevant leader is now the darling of the international community; the sanctions are set to be lifted on his emergency government which he has appointed after sacking the unity government, an unconstitutional act by all standards. Israel is now pressure-free. Israeli officials cannot imagine a more satisfactory scenario. The new experiment suggests that the West Bank will be lavished with aid and Gaza will be starved further.
This is the pinnacle of injustice, and as always the US and Israel take centre stage in directing the show; but there is no denial: Abbas and his men are the true heroes here, and are already making their debut as the true and legitimate face of Palestinian democracy, one that is determined by Condoleezza Rice and Ehud Olmert, not Palestinians themselves; the latter are mere subjects for an experiment; and a brutal one, indeed.
Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian American author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com; his latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London).
Friday, June 22, 2007
Remi Kanazi - All in the Family: Disharmony in Gaza
This backyard beating prompted Israel and the US to embark on a new strategy. The two nations are bolstering Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and head of Fatah, because of a new "window of opportunity." This opportunity is claimed to be the chance to embrace so-called Palestinian moderates. The US and Israel believe they can rejuvenate the corrupted peace process, which is about as alive as Ariel Sharon, by helping to consolidate Abbas's power in Fatah's heartland—the West Bank. What these think tank geniuses forget to mention is that this window had been open in the same capacity after the passing of Yasser Arafat. Furthermore, they persist in pushing forth a vision of paradise in the West Bank, with children dancing in the street greeting their new liberators with flowers and candy, reminiscent of the vision of the fall of Baathism—minus the 650,000 deaths and actual civil war.
The propaganda machine in the US has been working at full steam to enlighten its citizens on just why Hamas is filled with foaming-from-the-mouth jihadists. Only a few anti-Semites have come out to criticize America's policy towards Hamas, namely ex-Ku Klux Klan member Jimmy Carter. In plain terms, this "violent" and "fundamentalist" organization cannot be allowed to function because it's a terrorist organization, with terrorist values, terrorist roots, and a terrorist vision of the future. The only problem with these labels is Hamas's lack of terrorism. The group, infamous for its history of suicide bombings, hasn't been behind such an attack in more than three years. The group imposed and abided by a unilateral cease-fire with Israel even before it came into power and held onto the cease-fire while Israel continued to attack the organization. The group only ended the cease-fire after persistent Israeli attacks on it and the civilian population of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Nonetheless, when Hamas ended the cease-fire it didn't revert back to suicide bombings, but rather engaged in some firing of Qassam rockets, which are about as deadly as a Roman candle at a Fourth of July beach party.
The Western press fails to recognize that outside of its dream world, where Paris Hilton is queen and real news is crap, Hamas is the democratically elected majority party in the Palestinian territories. This makes the accusation that Hamas staged a coup against Fatah all the more silly. George Bush can't stage a coup against the president; he is the president (no matter what Dick Cheney says). Furthermore, Hamas only took action against Dahlan and his clan of thugs after a major buildup of Dahlan's militia by the US and Egypt. The international community is reveling in the breakdown of Palestinian society because it feels it can now impose more desirable realities on the ground. Yet, contrary to the thought of most Westerners, Palestinians do value democracy, as long as it doesn't come with a side of cluster bombs and forced starvation. Abbas's illegal appointment of a new government is going to sit as well with Palestinians as Jerusalem's gay pride parade sat with ultra-Orthodox Jews.
The fact remains, the international community, specifically Israel and the US, missed a huge window of opportunity after the election of Hamas. The group had significantly moderated, ironically much more in action than words, and deserved a chance to govern without being bankrupted and imprisoned. Now Hamas is being told, oddly enough like democrats and republicans tell Iraqis, that they are to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and govern in Gaza without the basic means of survival. Granted, Gaza can't function with the world's strongest nations investing in its failure, but so what, get 'em next time right?
Rubbing Hamas' face in the dirt (along with the 1.4 million people of Gaza) like schoolyard bullies may seem like an after school delight, but it will only foment more hatred against Israel and more disgust with Fatah. There won't be three states, four states, or any other "new solution" to combat the power of Hamas: any vision for the future will ultimately have to pass a unified Palestinian litmus test for it to stick. Abbas can pretend that Gaza is now Hamas's mess, but he was elected as head of the Palestinian Authority, and will be held to account politically if he keeps treating Gaza like an unwanted stepchild. Even for someone who likes international popularity and money more than George Bush likes bombing brown people, Abbas will eventually come around to engage with Hamas. Whether Abbas likes it or not, his brothers are in Hamas, and no matter how well he gets along with his neighbors, if he doesn't make peace in Palestinian society, the rest of his family is going to think he's self-serving sellout.
Remi Kanazi is the co-founder of the political website http://www.poeticinjustice.net/. He is the editor of the forthcoming book of poetry, Poets for Palestine, for more information visit Poetic Injustice. He can reached via email at email@example.com.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Omar Barghouti - The Light at the End of the Ramallah-Gaza Tunnel
Apparently, neither of the two warring factions succeeded in transcending the being "like the oppressor" part. The lightening success of Hamas in forcefully taking over the supposed symbols of Palestinian power in Gaza cannot and ought not obscure the fact that, given the overbearing presence of Israel's military occupation, the bloody clash between the Islamist group and its secular counterpart, Fatah, and irrespective of motives, has descended into a feud between two slaves fighting over the crumbs thrown to them, whenever they behave, by their common colonial master.
There is no doubt that a faction within Fatah -- overtly funded, trained and steered by the US and Israel -- is the primary suspect behind the flare-up of this bloody internecine strife, which many observers view as a thinly veiled attempt to destabilize Hamas's democratically-elected government, coercing it into accepting Israeli dictates that it had so far balked from. Furthermore, any decent legal expert will readily admit that the so-called "emergency government," declared by the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, in response to Hamas's take-over in Gaza, violates several articles in the Basic Law, the equivalent of the PA's constitution.
While the corruption, lawlessness, profiteering and even betrayal of sections of Fatah have been known and well documented for some time now, the brutal, reckless and in some cases criminal tactics used by armed groups within Hamas were fresh reminders to neutral bystanders who were willing to give the group the benefit of the doubt that it, too, contains a strong, power-hungry faction that is eager to sacrifice principles and human rights to reach its political objectives. Hamas cannot be exonerated from the accusation that, by participating in the legislative and municipal elections according to laws and parameters set by the Oslo agreements, it has already contributed to legitimizing the products of those agreements and forsaken its claim to being a resistance movement that is primarily dedicated to realizing the main tenets of the Palestinian national program of liberation and self-determination. On top of that, and unlike the far more sophisticated and responsible Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas, in the last year and a half of ruling at various levels, has revealed its inherent tendency, like all Islamist movements, to impose its exclusionary ideological and social order, and to dismiss and whenever possible suppress diverse views and cultural outlooks that conflict with that order.
Such a scenario may either lead to threatening the very survival of the Palestinian national movement and the completion of the well-underway disintegration of Palestinian society or trigger a renaissance of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. For the latter to occur, however, two difficult but realistic conditions must be met: first, Palestinian structural democratization and political reform and resetting Palestinian national priorities; and second, a critical review and revamping of the Palestinian resistance strategy, both from moral and pragmatic perspectives. Both are urgently called for, to realign the Palestinian struggle with the international social movement and to put the question of Palestine back on the world's agenda as essentially a morally and politically justifiable and viable liberation struggle that can -- again -- capture the imagination and support of progressives and freedom lovers the world over.
In order to counter Israel's dual strategy of, on the one hand, fragmenting, ghettoizing, and dispossessing Palestinians, and, on the other hand, reducing the conflict to a dispute over a partial set of Palestinian rights, the PLO must be resuscitated and remodeled to embody the claims, creative energies, and national frameworks of the three main segments of the Palestinian people: Palestinians in the OPT, Palestinian refugees, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. The PLO's grassroots organizations need to be rebuilt from the bottom up with mass participation, and they must be ruled by unfettered democracy and proportional representation. This process must entail a well-planned transfer of power from the withering PA back to a rejuvenated PLO, including the entire spectrum of the Palestinian political movement.
As to resistance strategies, one cannot and should not strictly separate means from ends. If the struggle for freedom in Algeria, Northern Ireland and South Africa taught us anything, it is this fact. Irrespective of the right of Palestinians to resist foreign occupation by all means, as granted in international law, we have a moral duty to avoid tactics that indiscriminately target innocent civilians and inevitably corrupt our own humanity. Concurrently, and with full deference to the first principle, we have a political obligation to select methods that maximize our gains. Given the ongoing nihilistic abuse and utter futility of Palestinian armed resistance, the uniquely harsh geo-political context of the Palestinian resistance movement, and the de facto fragmentation of the Palestinian people and isolation of its resistance core from potential sources of supply and logistical support, civil resistance that has the potential of engaging and mobilizing the Palestinian grassroots seems not only morally but also pragmatically preferable.
The young Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, modeled after the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, has already shown ample evidence that it has the potential of unifying Palestinians and international solidarity movements in a resistance strategy that is moral, effective and sustainable. In the last few years alone, many mainstream and influential groups and institutions have heeded Palestinian boycott calls and started to consider or apply diverse forms of effective pressure on Israel. These include the British University and College Union (UCU); Aosdana, the Irish state-sponsored academy of artists; the Church of England; the Presbyterian Church (USA); top British architects led by Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine (APJP); the National Union of Journalists in the UK; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU); the South African Council of Churches; the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario; and dozens of celebrated authors, artists and intellectuals led by John Berger, among many others.
The intensification of Israel's colonial and racist oppression of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, with unprecedented impunity was the main trigger for the spreading boycott. With its wanton destruction of Palestinian infrastructure, willful killing of civilians, particularly children, apartheid wall, Jews-only colonies and roads, incessant confiscation of land and water resources, and horrific denial of freedom of movement to millions under occupation, Israel has shown the international community its total disregard to international law and fundamental human rights. This latest dose of American -- Israeli-inspired -- "constructive chaos" in the occupied Palestinian territory may well wreak havoc on US-Israeli policy in the region. With the imminent dissipation of the illusion that a national Palestinian sovereignty can be established under the overall colonial hegemony of Israel, many Palestinians are now seriously questioning the wisdom of the two-state mantra and considering to repose their plight as one for equal humanity and full emancipation, within the framework of a unitary, democratic state solution in historic Palestine. After almost three decades of "searing into the consciousness" of Palestinians that only a two-state solution can deliver any of their demands, the US and Israel are harvesting what they sowed: the collapse of any semblance of independence and integrity of the PA -- which was all along charged with relieving Israel's colonial burdens vs. the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank and Gaza -- and the mounting Palestinian discontent with, if not yet revolt against, the game of unilateral Palestinian compromise leading only to insatiable Israeli demands for further compromise, with the simultaneous loss of land, resources, freedoms and the bleak -- and real -- prospects of social breakdown.
The demise of the two-state solution should not be mourned. Besides having passed its expiry date, it was never a moral solution to start with. In the best-case scenario, if UN Resolution 242 were meticulously implemented, it would have addressed most of the legitimate rights of less than a third of the Palestinian people over less than a fifth of their ancestral land. More than two thirds of the Palestinians, refugees plus the Palestinian citizens of Israel, have been maliciously and shortsightedly expunged out of the definition of the Palestinians.
It is now clearer than ever that the two-state solution -- other than being only a disguise for continued Israeli occupation and a mechanism to permanently divide the people of Palestine into three disconnected segments -- was primarily intended to induce Palestinians to give up the inalienable right of their refugees to return to their homes and lands from which they were ethnically cleansed by Zionists during the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe).
A secular, democratic state solution is increasingly being perceived by Palestinians and people of conscience around the world as the moral alternative to Israeli apartheid and colonial rule. Such a solution, which promises unequivocal equality in citizenship, as well as individual and communal rights, both to Palestinians (refugees included) and to Israeli Jews, is the most appropriate for ethically reconciling the ostensibly irreconcilable: the inalienable, UN-sanctioned rights of the indigenous people of Palestine to self-determination, repatriation, and equality in accordance with international law and the acquired and internationally recognized rights of Israeli Jews to coexist in the land of Palestine -- as equals, not colonial masters.
Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political analyst.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Karma Nabulsi - The people of Palestine must finally be allowed to determine their own fate
There is nothing uglier and more brutal to the human spirit, nothing more lethal to that universal hope for freedom, than to see a people struggling for liberty for such a long time begin to kill each other. How and why did we get here? Above all: how do we get out of here? These are the questions everyone watching events unfold in Gaza and the West Bank are asking themselves. But before answering them, it is essential to understand just what we are witnessing.
This is not at its heart a civil war, nor is it an example of the upsurge of regional Islamism. It is not reducible to an atavistic clan or fratricidal blood-letting, nor to a power struggle between warring factions. This violence cannot be characterised as a battle between secular moderates who seek a negotiated settlement and religious terrorist groups. And this is not, above all, a miserable situation that has simply slipped unnoticed into disaster.
The many complex steps that led us here today were largely the outcome of the deliberate policies of a belligerent occupying power backed by the US. As the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Alvaro de Soto, remarked in his confidential report leaked last week in this paper: "The US clearly pushed for a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas, so much so that, a week before Mecca, the US envoy declared twice in an envoys meeting in Washington how much 'I like this violence', referring to the near-civil war that was erupting in Gaza in which civilians were being regularly killed and injured."
How did we get here? The institutions created in occupied Palestine in the 1990s were shaped to bring us to this very point of collapse. The Palestinian Authority, created through negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation in 1993, was not meant to last more than five years - just until the institutions of an independent state were built. Instead, its capacities were frozen and it was co-opted into performing the role of a security agency for the Israelis, who were still occupying Palestine by military force, and serving as a disbursement agency for the US and EU's funding of that occupation. The PA had not attained a single one of the freedoms it was meant to provide, including the most important one, the political liberty of a self-determining sovereign body.
Why did we get here? Once the exact nature of its purpose emerged, the Palestinians began to resist this form of external control. Israel then invaded the West Bank cities again and put President Yasser Arafat's compound under a two-year siege, which ended with his death. Under those conditions of siege the international "reform" process created a new institution of a prime minister's office and attempted to unify the security apparatus under it, rather than that of the president, whom they could no longer control. Mahmoud Abbas was the first prime minister, and the Israeli- and US-backed Fatah strongman, Mohammed Dahlan, was appointed head of security. After the death of Arafat, Abbas was nominated to the leadership of the PLO, and directly elected as the president of the PA.
Arafat had followed the strategy of all successful liberation movements: a combination of resistance and negotiation until the conclusion of a comprehensive peace treaty. Abbas's strategy was of an entirely different order: no resistance in any form and a complete reliance on the good faith of the Israelis. After a year of achieving nothing - indeed Ariel Sharon refused to negotiate with him and Israeli colonisation was intensified - the Palestinian people's support for this humiliating policy of submission wore thin. Hamas, polling about 20% in previous years, suddenly won 43% of the vote in 2006.
This popular reaction was a response to the failure of Abbas's strategy as much as the failure of Fatah to present any plausible national programme whatsoever. The Palestinians thus sought representation that would at least reflect their condition of occupation and dispossession. Although the elections were recognised as free and fair, the US and Britain immediately took the lead in applying sanctions against the Hamas government, denying aid - which was only needed in the first place because the occupation had destroyed the economy - and refusing to deal with it until it accepted what had become, under these new circumstances, impossible "conditions".
The US administration continued to treat Fatah as if it had won the election rather than lost it - funding, arming, and directly encouraging agents within it to reverse the outcome of that democratic election by force. The Palestinian president brought pressure to bear on Hamas to change its position on recognition of Israel. Palestinians refused to participate in this externally driven coup - indeed, the vast majority of Fatah cadres rejected outright an enterprise so clearly directed at destroying the Palestinian body politic. Both the prisoners' document and the Mecca agreement signed in Saudi Arabia creating a national unity government took place because Palestinian society insisted on a national framework. Yet a small group has brought us to this point. The outcome is what we have before us today, similar to what the Americans were seeking to create in Iraq: the total exclusion of democratic practices and principles, the attempt to impose an oligarchy on a fragmented political society, a weakened and terrorised people, a foreign rule through warlords and strongmen.
How do we get out of here? For the west, the path is both obvious and simple. It needs to allow the Palestinians their own representation. It can look to the terms of the Mecca agreement to see the shape that would take, and to the 2006 prisoners' document for the political platform the Palestinians hold. It needs to urgently convene a real international peace conference, which no one has attempted since 1991, as recommended in the Baker commission's report on the Iraq war, de Soto's end of mission report, and as championed by President Jimmy Carter. And it needs only to look to the Beirut Arab peace initiative to find everything it has been seeking, if indeed it is seeking peace.
For the Palestinians, the path is also clear: we have come to the end of the challenging experiment of self-rule under military occupation. We now need to dissolve the PA, mobilise to convene direct elections to our only national parliament, the Palestine National Council, in order to enfranchise the entire political spectrum of Palestinians, and thereby recapture the PLO, transforming it into the popular and democratic institution it once had a chance of becoming. This is already a popular demand of all Palestinians. Palestinians in exile must take their turn again in lifting the siege inside Palestine, as the inside did for the outside after the almost total destruction of the PLO in 1982 in Lebanon and the siege of the refugee camps there in 1986: we are one people. The Palestinians have a long history of struggle in which each generation has had to break out of the coercive prison imposed by British colonial, Arab, Israeli, and now American rule, and we will do it again.
· Karma Nabulsi is fellow in politics and international relations at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace NGO Conference in Florence: A Fraud and a Mystification
Yesterday, I was asked by an Italian journalist why the Alternative Information Center (AIC) is not participating in the Florence conference entitled “Peace NGO Conference.” I gave her two answers: first, because the AIC was not invited, which is not surprising, and second, because even if we would have been invited, we would have declined the invitation. There are two major reasons to oppose, or better—to ignore, the Florence initiative. The first one is related to its platform, the second reason to its very nature.
According to the organizers, the Palestinian-Israeli peace they are promoting should be based on, among other things, the Geneva Initiative and the “Ayalon-Nusseibeh agreement.” In both cases, we are dealing with substantial departures from the PLO platform for peace, which represents the Palestinian consensus, or at least the position of the huge majority of the Palestinian people. One has only to remember the angry Palestinian popular reaction to Sari Nusseibeh’s “compromises” to his friend Ayalon, or the decision of most of the Palestinian actors of the Geneva Initiative to back off when they discovered, upon their return from Geneva, the lack of any support for their initiative.
What mandate or what popular support allows Nusseibeh or Yasser Abed Rabbo to add compromises to the substantial ones already made by the official representatives of the Palestinian people? And to whom? To Israeli politicians who are not the government and will not, in the foreseeable future, be more than a fifth wheel in a right-wing government?
Only the elected representatives of the Palestinian people are empowered to make, at the table of negotiations, the compromises that they believe necessary in order to achieve freedom and independence. Not individual personalities who are not accountable to their people, and under permanent pressures of their Israeli and international friends. One may ask: “why do you care, if they represent only themselves?” The answer to that question was given, in the real world, throughout the Oslo process: in the eyes of the Israeli negotiators, the “individual compromises” were supposed to be the Palestinian starting point of the negotiations and when Yasser Arafat and Saeb Erekat came with the official PLO positions, and not Abed Rabbo or Nusseibeh’s “improved” ones, they were immediately considered as extremists who don’t really want to make compromises—kind of saboteurs of the peace process. The case of the Right of Return of the refugees, a fundamental demand in the PLO platform, is an enlightening example: according to many witnesses who were at the Camp David summit, the Israeli negotiators were really surprised and angry when Yasser Arafat raised “again” the issue of the refugees; they thought that the issue has been dropped by the Palestinians… because people like Nusseibeh had promised so! And indeed, in the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document (written after the fiasco of Camp David), the Right of Return is explicitly abolished.
A conference based on a sell-out initiated by people who do not own what they are selling (at a very cheap price) is definitely not an event which justifies spending time and money. Moreover, it focuses the attention and the energies of many decent people away from what should be, today, their priorities.
Promoting Peace or Fighting Occupation
The Florence conference is part of a long series of internationally sponsored initiatives to bring Palestinians and Israelis to meet and speak peace. Why is it extremely negative and dangerous? Because it is a typical example of escapism, when the reality is replaced by fantasies, and our real tasks by fake ones.
Israeli-Palestinian peace is not on the agenda, but rather occupation, colonization, repression and, concerning the northern front, a planned war, maybe as soon as the coming summer.
The struggle against occupation and colonization should be our central concern and the core of our strategies, not fantasizing imaginary peace plans, disconnected from any real peace process. Fighting against the real risk of a military aggression against Lebanon or Syria, raising awareness against the dangers of a major crisis with Iran—these are our duties in June 2007, not spending energies in writing peace scenarios.
Initiating peace conferences like the one being hold in Florence is not only out of focus, but also distracting attention from the real world and the burning duties which should be on our agenda: the settlements’ drive, the Wall, political prisoners, including many elected leaders of the Palestinian population, the dramatic situation of the refugees in Nahar el-Bared and Ein el-Hilweh, the attack on the Palestinian citizens of Israel, civil liberties etc.
On these issues, however, there is no agreement between the Palestinians and most of the Israelis who have been invited to the NGO Peace Conference. But isn't it obvious that these are the real concerns of the Palestinian people, and not the various paragraphs of the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document?
What to do now in order to change reality, improve the relation of forces and then to make possible, ultimately, the renewal of a peace atmosphere—that is the real sequence, and not the other way round. The real international peace movement, the one which mobilizes against wars and occupation, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, offers an alternative way to the one suggested in Florence: to coordinate a global campaign aimed to put pressure on Israel to end its politics of occupation and colonization, and to sanction its systematic violations of international law and United Nations resolutions.
Following the recommendations of the International Court of Justice, to call the international community to boycott the occupation, sanction Israel and divest, as long as the Palestinian people will not be allowed to be free in their own sovereign state. This is our alternative to the diversion of the so-call NGO peace conference.
(2) See Charles Anderlin, Le Reve Brise –histoire de l'Echec du Processus de Paix au Proche Orient, Fayard 2002
Robert Fisk - Welcome to Palestine
Who can we negotiate with? To whom do we talk? Well of course, we should have talked to Hamas months ago. But we didn't like the democratically elected government of the Palestinian people. They were supposed to have voted for Fatah and its corrupt leadership. But they voted for Hamas, which declines to recognise Israel or abide by the totally discredited Oslo agreement.
No one asked - on our side - which particular Israel Hamas was supposed to recognise. The Israel of 1948? The Israel of the post-1967 borders? The Israel which builds - and goes on building - vast settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab land, gobbling up even more of the 22 per cent of "Palestine" still left to negotiate over ?
And so today, we are supposed to talk to our faithful policeman, Mr Abbas, the "moderate" (as the BBC, CNN and Fox News refer to him) Palestinian leader, a man who wrote a 600-page book about Oslo without once mentioning the word "occupation", who always referred to Israeli "redeployment" rather than "withdrawal", a "leader" we can trust because he wears a tie and goes to the White House and says all the right things. The Palestinians didn't vote for Hamas because they wanted an Islamic republic - which is how Hamas's bloody victory will be represented - but because they were tired of the corruption of Mr Abbas's Fatah and the rotten nature of the "Palestinian Authority".
I recall years ago being summoned to the home of a PA official whose walls had just been punctured by an Israeli tank shell. All true. But what struck me were the gold-plated taps in his bathroom. Those taps - or variations of them - were what cost Fatah its election. Palestinians wanted an end to corruption - the cancer of the Arab world - and so they voted for Hamas and thus we, the all-wise, all-good West, decided to sanction them and starve them and bully them for exercising their free vote. Maybe we should offer "Palestine" EU membership if it would be gracious enough to vote for the right people?
All over the Middle East, it is the same. We support Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, even though he keeps warlords and drug barons in his government (and, by the way, we really are sorry about all those innocent Afghan civilians we are killing in our "war on terror" in the wastelands of Helmand province).
We love Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, whose torturers have not yet finished with the Muslim Brotherhood politicians recently arrested outside Cairo, whose presidency received the warm support of Mrs - yes Mrs - George W Bush - and whose succession will almost certainly pass to his son, Gamal.
We adore Muammar Gaddafi, the crazed dictator of Libya whose werewolves have murdered his opponents abroad, whose plot to murder King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia preceded Tony Blair's recent visit to Tripoli - Colonel Gaddafi, it should be remembered, was called a "statesman" by Jack Straw for abandoning his non-existent nuclear ambitions - and whose "democracy" is perfectly acceptable to us because he is on our side in the "war on terror".
Yes, and we love King Abdullah's unconstitutional monarchy in Jordan, and all the princes and emirs of the Gulf, especially those who are paid such vast bribes by our arms companies that even Scotland Yard has to close down its investigations on the orders of our prime minister - and yes, I can indeed see why he doesn't like The Independent's coverage of what he quaintly calls "the Middle East". If only the Arabs - and the Iranians - would support our kings and shahs and princes whose sons and daughters are educated at Oxford and Harvard, how much easier the "Middle East" would be to control.
For that is what it is about - control - and that is why we hold out, and withdraw, favours from their leaders. Now Gaza belongs to Hamas, what will our own elected leaders do? Will our pontificators in the EU, the UN, Washington and Moscow now have to talk to these wretched, ungrateful people (fear not, for they will not be able to shake hands) or will they have to acknowledge the West Bank version of Palestine (Abbas, the safe pair of hands) while ignoring the elected, militarily successful Hamas in Gaza?
It's easy, of course, to call down a curse on both their houses. But that's what we say about the whole Middle East. If only Bashar al-Assad wasn't President of Syria (heaven knows what the alternative would be) or if the cracked President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad wasn't in control of Iran (even if he doesn't actually know one end of a nuclear missile from the other).
If only Lebanon was a home-grown democracy like our own little back-lawn countries - Belgium, for example, or Luxembourg. But no, those pesky Middle Easterners vote for the wrong people, support the wrong people, love the wrong people, don't behave like us civilised Westerners.
So what will we do? Support the reoccupation of Gaza perhaps? Certainly we will not criticise Israel. And we shall go on giving our affection to the kings and princes and unlovely presidents of the Middle East until the whole place blows up in our faces and then we shall say - as we are already saying of the Iraqis - that they don't deserve our sacrifice and our love.
How do we deal with a coup d'état by an elected government?
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Remi Kanazi - Prism of Peace: The Failure of the Israeli Left and the Two-State Solution
Nonetheless, there must be a clear understanding that only one people is living under occupation—many after being dispossessed in 1948 and again in 1967. By even phrasing today’s climate as a conflict, it lends support to the assumption that this is a dispute between two equal sides, with equal grievances. The complexities of the Palestine question is further complicated by issues beyond the 40 year occupation, including the Palestinian right of return, the Israeli settler movement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and the third class status of Palestinians living in a Jewish state.
Supposed peace activists find solace in verbally condemning the settlement movement and the harsh conditions that emanate from occupation. Yet most aren'’t doing anything to actively stop it, and when moral fiber is truly urgent, as was the case during the Lebanon war or the continuing debilitating sanctions and bombardment on the Palestinian people, they remain silent. Condemnation after a war isn'’t moral reflection, it’s cowardice. There is no difference between hawkish and dovish policy in Israel, only a divergence in the approach to implement it. Those on the “far left,” who are the brink of being classified as “self-hating Jews,” including self-styled humanitarians such as Meretz MK Yossi Beilin, only serve to massage their own egos and consciences by portraying an image that they are fighting for peace. In reality, these people assign themselves to the same racist and exclusivist ideology that came into form long before the creation of the state of Israel.
The discourse that frames the parameters of debate pertaining to the Palestine question is disturbing on multiple levels. Take for example, the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip. Nine Israelis have been killed in Palestinian rocket attacks over the last seven years, while last year alone, 700 Palestinians—half of them unarmed civilians—were killed throughout the occupied territories. Reading the news columns, be it in Israeli or Western newspapers, one would think it was the Israeli people who were occupied and being indiscriminately killed. The opposite remains true: when one woman is killed in Sderot, it consumes the Israeli media and immediately becomes headline material for nearly every Western newspaper.
The cease-fire between occupied Gaza and Israel is another case in point. Hamas eventually ended its unilateral recognition of a cease-fire because of continued attacks by Israeli forces inside of Gaza and the West Bank. The demand for a Gaza/West Bank cease-fire by Hamas is seen by Israel as the same old story, where “conventional wisdom” suggests that the obstinate, overreaching Arabs insist on the fulfillment of unreasonable demands, when they are in no position to do so. Yet, calling on the Palestinians (including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade), to accept a truce localized to the Gaza Strip, giving Israel impunity to act within the West Bank, is tantamount to asking Hamas not to fire rockets at Sderot and the Negev, while remaining free to bombard Tel Aviv and Haifa. The Palestinians are a people, no less than the Israelis are a people, and a death in Ramallah is as significant as a death in Gaza City.
Every problem afflicting Palestinian society, be it the expansion of the Apartheid Wall, checkpoints, flying checkpoints, curfews, or the restriction of goods and access to education, is characterized as necessary measures for Israeli security. Nonetheless, many non-partisan organizations, including the World Bank, the United Nations, the Hague, Amnesty International and a number of other institutions have condemned Israel and its tactics on levels of morality, legality, and effectiveness. Logically, if one is looking for peace with a society, economic strangulation and imprisonment will not create an environment conducive to peace. The Wall is not being built on the internationally recognized green line and encroaches so far into the West Bank that thousands of Palestinians have been kicked out of their homes, lost their land or have been split from their towns, workplaces, and schools. Even if one were to justify the Wall, which the Israeli Shin Bet has called an ineffective means of protection, why not build the Wall on Israeli territory? “Punishing” the Palestinian people by creating a greater refugee problem and economic deprivation is hardly an incentive for Palestinians to resort to more preferred tactics of resistance. Furthermore, settlements continue to grow, far surpassing the number of settlers that were removed from Gaza, and even with the basic cessation of suicide bombings, restrictions in movement have markedly increased in the West Bank.
The issue of the 400,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is particularly startling. Policy in the United States has slowly shifted from a two-state solution on the basis of the green line, with no Jewish settlers within Palestinian territory, to the vast majority of settlers staying in place, with effective Israeli control of half of the West Bank for an indefinite period of time. The prevailing truth that Israel and America want people to accept is that time creates “indisputable” facts on the ground, meaning: if a crime is committed for a long enough period of time, the international community and the victim must recognize the crime. It is to the bewilderment of the Palestinian people that they are seen as the uncompromising ones when they are asking for no more than international law provides. Sadly, it was the Labor party—the party that many purported peace activists are members—that propped up and legitimized the settler movement, leading to one of the many disputes Palestinians and Israelis find themselves in today.
Many so-called Israeli peace activists point to Camp David 2000 as the quintessential example of Arab rejectionism. One is told that Israel offered the Palestinians 95 percent of the occupied territories, including a grand compromise on East Jerusalem. Let us suppose this is true and forget the Palestinian narrative, that by engaging in Oslo, the Palestinians had effectively relinquished the right to 78 percent of historic Palestine (a “generous” compromise in their minds). Even looking through the Israel prism, one should ask themselves, if Israel was interested in peace (added to the fact they are the occupying force with the upper hand), would it not be reasonable with peace at the forefront of one’s mind, to give up all of the occupied Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as 5 percent of the Negev? While Israel has much empty land, an abundance of resources, power and capital, an Israeli could claim that on principle alone, the state could not commit to such a plan. But is principle really an option when peace could be just over the horizon or even a remote possibility? If the offer failed, the Israeli left could point out further Arab rejectionism, could it not?
The way in which one is expected to digest the so-called “facts” of the Israeli occupation and the Palestine question hinders any rationale debate and demonizes any individual calling for an end to Israel’s racist and hegemonic policy, as was the case with former US president Jimmy Carter. If there were a 100 suicide bombings in Tel Aviv tomorrow, it would not diminish the Palestinian right to see an end to the occupation, nor would it minimize the urgency. Furthermore, Israel is not occupying Palestinian land as a punishment. It is not as though a suicide bombing struck Tel Aviv 40 years ago by a Palestinian group and the Israel army decided it was time to clamp down on Palestinian society. Rather after a preempted strike on neighboring states, Israel colonized a land that the international community, including the United States, insisted it had no business occupying.
A quick and just two-state resolution to Israel/Palestine may sound like an oversimplification, but if supposed steps towards peace were made and “offered” at Camp David 2000 and at the following talks at Taba, the same type of directive could be taken today. But let’s be honest with ourselves, the two-state solution is dead. It is a figment of the imagination of the Israeli left and of the multitude of Palestinian leaders and diplomats who have gone enormous lengths to sell out the Palestinian people. That is the danger of looking at the two-state solution and Israel/Palestine through an Israeli prism: it draws the parameters of practicality, affecting even those who support the Palestinian plight. Israel does'’t want peace, not under a Barak government, a Sharon government, an Olmert government or a Peres government. It’s been forty years, and yet Israel has become married to the settlements and to an ideology that sees a Jewish state with inherent rights over its non-Jewish citizens, but more critically it as an expansionist state that believes in the right to permanent domination of the lands it controls.
The only way to break down a racist and exclusivist structure is to chip away at its base and force an alternative reality. This would require not only ending the occupation, but looking internally at the Israeli state, a Jewish state, a state which does’t and can't function as democracy for all its people. Many Palestinians leaders and supporters within Israel have come to realize this and have been ostracized for bringing this notion to light, namely Azmi Bishara, while many more will be undermined and attacked in the future. Yet, divestment, boycott, and sanctions coupled with a movement forward for both Israelis and Palestinians to live as equals in a shared society is the only hope for true peace. This new path must run counter to the Oslo mentality of submissiveness and acquiescence: a model much like South Africa, Northern Ireland and Belgium. It is time for an end to the occupation, but more importantly, it is time to look through a new prism, one that sees a better solution for Israel/Palestine.
* Remi Kanazi is the co-founder of the political website www.PoeticInjustice.net. He is the editor of the forthcoming book of poetry, Poets for Palestine, for more information visit Poetic Injustice. He can reached via email at remroum@gmail
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Complete Abraham Burg Interview: Leaving the Zionist Ghetto
By Ari Shavit
We met 25 years ago. Exactly 25 years ago. Avraham - Avrum - Burg and I were then part of a small group of reserve soldiers and officers who came out against the First Lebanon War. "Soldiers Against Silence," we were called. Very quickly Avrum was taken from us. In the great demonstration of the 400,000 [the peace rally in Tel Aviv following the September 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Chatilla camps in Beirut], he became a star and immediately turned to politics. At first he was one of Shimon Peres' smart young men. Then he was the great hope of the Labor Party's Young Guard. After that the chairman of the Jewish Agency, Speaker of the Knesset, a candidate for the Labor leadership.
And then, suddenly, three years ago, Burg got up and left. Went to feather his nest. Got entangled in a problematic and failed privatization deal. Was slandered in the papers, scrutinized by the state comptroller, investigated by the police. And all this time he was writing a book.
All this time he was formulating the bold insights of "Defeating Hitler."
Burg will not admit it, but from his point of view the book he is launching now, to coincide with Hebrew Book Week, is a book of prophecy. A book that is intended to vest the kingdom with prophecy. For others, the book will not be easily definable. It contains deep thoughts about Israel and Zionism, a prolonged comparison between Israel and Germany, trenchant criticism of Eichmann's hanging, reflections on Judaism in the age of globalization and memories from his father's house.
Yosef Burg, the refugee from Dresden, accords the book a certain softness that is not to be found in the angry words of his son. True, toward the end the optimist Avrum tries to transform his eulogy into a paean, but the attempt is not entirely convincing. The Israel of "Defeating Hitler" is a very harsh place. Brutal and imperialist, confrontational and insular. A shallow place, thuggish, lacking spiritual inspiration.
I was outraged by the book. I saw it as a turning away of an Israeli colleague from our shared Israeliness. I saw it as a one-dimensional and unempathetic attack on the Israeli experience. Still, the dialogue with Avrum was riveting. We got angry at each other and raised our voices at each other and circled each other warily like two wounded gladiators in the arena. You can't take away from Avrum what he has. You can't take away the education or the articulateness or the ability to touch truly painful places. Maybe that's why he is so infuriating. Friend and predator; brother and deserter.
Avrum Burg, I read your new book, "Defeating Hitler," as a parting from Zionism. Am I wrong? Are you still a Zionist?
"I am a human being, I am a Jew and I am an Israeli. Zionism was an instrument to move me from the Jewish state of being to the Israeli state of being. I think it was Ben-Gurion who said that the Zionist movement was the scaffolding to build the home, and that after the state's establishment it should be dismantled."
So you confirm that you are no longer a Zionist?
"Already at the First Zionist Congress, Herzl's Zionism was victorious over the Zionism of Ahad Ha'am. I think that the 21st century should be the century of Ahad Ha'am. We have to leave Herzl behind and move to Ahad Ha'am."
Does this mean that you no longer find the notion of a Jewish state acceptable?
"It can't work anymore. To define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It's dynamite."
And a Jewish-democratic state?
"People find this very comfortable. It's lovely. It's schmaltzy. It's nostalgic. It's retro. It gives a sense of fullness. But 'Jewish-democratic' is nitroglycerine."
We have to change the national anthem?
"The anthem is a symbol. I would be ready to buy into a reality in which everything is fine and only the anthem is screwed-up."
Do we have to amend the Law of Return?
"We have to open the discussion. The Law of Return is an apologetic law. It is the mirror image of Hitler. I don't want Hitler to define my identity."
Should the Jewish Agency be dismantled?
"Back when I was chairman of the Jewish Agency, I suggested changing its name from the Jewish Agency for the Land of Israel to the Jewish Agency for Israeli Society. There is room for philanthropic tools. But at the center of its experience it have to deal with all of Israel's citizens, including the Arabs."
You write in your book that if Zionism is catastrophic Zionism, then you are not only post-Zionist but anti-Zionist. And I say that since the 1940s, the catastrophic element has been integral to Zionism. It follows that you are anti-Zionist.
"Ahad Ha'am made the charge against Herzl that his whole Zionism had its source in anti-Semitism. He thought of something else, of Israel as a spiritual center - the Ahad Ha'am line has not died, and now its time has come. Our confrontational Zionism vis-a-vis the world is disastrous."
But it's not just the Zionist issue. Your book is anti-Israeli, in the deepest sense. It is a book from which loathing of Israeliness emanates.
"When I was a boy I was a Jew. In the language prevalent here: a Jew-boy. I attended a heder [religious school]. I was taught by former yeshiva students. After that, for most of my life I was an Israeli. Language, signs, smells, tastes, places. Everything. Today that is not enough for me. In my situation today, I am beyond Israeli. Of the three identities that form me - human, Jewish and Israeli - I feel that the Israeli element deprives the other two."
On the face of it, your position is conciliatory and humanistic. But out of that approach you develop a very harsh attitude toward Israeliness and Israelis. You say terrible things about us.
"I think that I have written a book of love. Love hurts. If I were writing about Nicaragua, I wouldn't care. But I am coming from a place of tremendous pain. I see my love withering before my eyes. I see my society and the place I was raised in and my home being destroyed."
Love? You write that Israelis understand only force. If someone were to write that Arabs understand only force or that the Turkmen understand only force, he would immediately be condemned as a racist. And rightly.
"You can't take one sentence and say that this is the whole book."
It's not just one sentence. It is repeated. You say that we have force, a great deal of force and only force. You say that Israel is a Zionist ghetto, an imperialistic, brutish place that believes only in itself.
"Look at the Lebanon War. The people returned from the field of battle. There were certain achievements, there were certain failures, things were revealed. You would expect people in the mainstream and even on the right to understand that when the IDF is allowed to win, it doesn't win. That force is not a solution. But then comes Gaza, and what is the Gaza discourse? We will smash them, we will erase them. Nothing has sunk in. Nothing. And it's not just between nation and nation. Look at the relations between people. Listen to the personal conversation. The graph of violence on the roads, the discourse of the battered women. Look at the mirror of Israel's face."
What you are saying is that the problem is not just the occupation. In your eyes, Israel as a whole is some sort of horrible mutation.
"The occupation is a very small part of it. Israel is a frightened society. To look for the source of the obsession with force and to uproot it, you have to deal with the fears. And the meta-fear, the primal fear is the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust."
That is the book's thesis. You are not the first to propose it, but you formulate it very acutely. We are psychic cripples, you claim. We are gripped by dread and fear and make use of force because Hitler caused us deep psychic damage.
Well, I will counter by saying that your description is distorted. It's not as though we are living in Iceland and imagining that we are surrounded by Nazis who actually disappeared 60 years ago. We are surrounded by genuine threats. We are one of the most threatened countries in the world.
"The true Israeli rift today is between those who believe and those who are afraid. The great victory of the Israeli right in the struggle for the Israeli political soul lies in the way it has imbued it almost totally with absolute paranoia. I accept that there are difficulties. But are they absolute? Is every enemy Auschwitz? Is Hamas a scourge?"
You are patronizing and supercilious, Avrum. You have no empathy for Israelis. You treat the Israeli Jew as a paranoid. But as the cliche goes, some paranoids really are persecuted. On the day we are speaking, Ahmadinejad is saying that our days are numbered. He promises to eradicate us. No, he is not Hitler. But he is also not a mirage. He is a true threat. He is the real world - a world you ignore.
"I say that as of this moment, Israel is a state of trauma in nearly every one of its dimensions. And it's not just a theoretical question. Would our ability to cope with Iran not be much better if we renewed in Israel the ability to trust the world? Would it not be more right if we didn't deal with the problem on our own, but rather as part of a world alignment beginning with the Christian churches, going on to the governments and finally the armies?
"Instead, we say we do not trust the world, they will abandon us, and here's Chamberlain returning from Munich with the black umbrella and we will bomb them alone."
In your book we are not only victims of the Nazis. In your book we are almost Judeo-Nazis. You are careful. You do not actually say that Israel is Nazi Germany. But you come very close. You say that Israel is pre-Nazi Germany. Israel is Germany up to the Nazis.
"Yes. I started the book from the saddest place. As mourning, but for the loss of Israel. During most of the writing the book's title was 'Hitler Won.' I was sure it was finished. But slowly I discovered the layer of not everything being lost. And I discovered my father as a representative of German Jewry that was ahead of its time. These two themes nourished the book from beginning to end. In the end I am an optimistic person, and the end of the book is also optimistic."
The end may be optimistic, but throughout its entire course the book repeatedly equates Israel with Germany. Is that really justified? Is there sufficient basis for the Israel-Germany analogy?
"It is not an exact science, but I will describe to you some of the elements that go into the stew: a great sense of national insult; a feeling that the world has rejected us; unexplained losses in wars. And, as a result, the centrality of militarism in our identity. The place of reserve officers in society. The number of armed Israelis in the streets. Where is this swarm of armed people going? The expressions hurled publicly: 'Arabs out.'"
What you are actually claiming is that we have viruses of Nazism within us.
"The term 'Nazism' is extremely charged."
Avrum Burg writes in his new book: "It is sometimes difficult for me to distinguish between the primeval National-Socialism and some national cultural doctrines of the here-and-now."
"There is a difference between saying 'Nazi' and saying 'National-Socialist.' Nazi is an ultimate icon; in us it goes to final and terminal places."
OK, we will leave Nazism. Are you concerned about a fascist debacle in Israel?
"I think it is already here."
Do you really believe that the racist slogans which, appallingly, do indeed appear on the stone walks in Jerusalem are akin to the slogans of the 1930s in Germany?
"I see that we are not weeding out those utterances with all our might. And I hear voices coming out of Sderot .... We will destroy and kill and expel. And there is a transferist discourse in the government .... We have crossed so many red lines in the past few years. And then you ask yourself what the next red lines that we cross will be."
In the book you both ask and answer. "I feel very strongly," you write, "that there is a very good chance that a future Knesset in Israel ... will prohibit sexual relations with Arabs, use administrative means to prevent Arabs from employing Jewish cleaning ladies and workers ... like the Nuremberg Laws ... All this will happen, and is already happening." Didn't you get carried away, Avrum?
"When I was Speaker of the Knesset, I heard people talking. I conducted in-depth conversations with members from all parts of the House. I heard people of peace say -I want peace because I hate Arabs and can't stand to look at them and can't tolerate them, - and I heard people on the right use Kahanist language. Kahanism [referring to the ultranational doctrine of Rabbi Meir Kahane] is in the Knesset. It was disqualified as a party, but it constitutes 10 and maybe 15 and maybe even 20 percent of the Jewish discourse in the Knesset. These matters are far from simple. These are roiling waters."
I will tell you frankly. I think we have serious moral and psychological problems. But I think that the comparison with Germany on the eve of the rise of Nazism to power is baseless. One example: There is a problem with the place of the army in our lives and with the place of the generals in our politics and in the relations between the political echelon and the army. But you are likening Israeli militarism to German militarism, and that is a false comparison. You describe Israel as a Prussian Sparta living by the sword, and that is not the Israel I see outside. Certainly not in 2007.
"I envy your ability to read the situation as you read it. I very much envy you. But I think we are a society that in its feelings lives by the sword .... It is not by chance that I make the comparison with Germany, because our feeling that we are obliged to live by the sword stems from Germany. What they deprived us of in the 12 years of Nazism necessitates a very large sword. Look at the fence. The separation fence is a fence against paranoia. And it was born in my milieu. In my school of thought. With my own Haim Ramon. What is the thinking here? That I will erect a big wall and the problem will be solved because I will not see them. You know, the Labor movement always saw the historical context and represented a culture of dialogue, but here we have terrible pettiness of soul. The fence physically demarcates the end of Europe. It says that this is where Europe ends. It says that you are the forward post of Europe and the fence separates you from the barbarians. Like the Roman Wall. Like the Wall of China. But that is so pathetic. And it is a bill of divorce from the vision of integration. There is something so xenophobic about it. So insane. And it comes just at a time when Europe itself, and the world with it, has made such an impressive advance in internalizing the lessons of the Holocaust and has fomented a great advance in the normative behavior of nations."
The truth is that you are a salient Europist. You live in Nataf but you are all Brussels. The prophet of Brussels.
"Completely. Completely. I see the European Union as a biblical utopia. I don't know how long it will hold together, but it is amazing. It is completely Jewish."
And this admiration you show for Europe is not accidental. Because one of the riveting things in your book is that the sabra Avrum Burg turns his back on being sabra and connects very deeply with some sort of yekke [a reference to Jews of German origin] romanticism. Zionist Israel comes across as a vulgar baron in the book, whereas German Jewry is the ideal and the paragon.
"You are dichotomous, Ari, and I am inclusive. You slice off and I try to contain. Therefore I do not say that I am turning my back on being sabra but that I am turning in a different direction. And that is true. Completely true."
I have a bone to pick with this romanticism. You describe a thousand wonderful years of German Jewry. In large measure you view German Jewry as a model. But it ends in Auschwitz, Avrum. It leads to Auschwitz. Your yekke romanticism is understandable and attractive, but it lies.
"Is there a well-grounded romanticism? Is your Israeli romanticism grounded?"
My Israeliness is not romantic. On the contrary: It is cruel. It stems from understanding necessity. And you blur the necessity. Emotionally, you prefer the move from Dresden to Manhattan over coping with the Jewish-Israeli fate.
"We do not want to accept this, but the existence of the Diaspora dates from the beginnings of our history. Abraham discovers God outside the borders of the Land. Jacob leads tribes to outside the borders. The tribes become a people outside the borders. The Torah is given outside the borders. As Israelis and Zionists, we ignored this completely. We rejected the Diaspora. But I maintain that just as there was something astonishing about German Jewry, in America, too, they also created the potential for something astonishing. They created a situation in which the goy can be my father and my mother and my son and my partner. The goy there is not hostile but embracing. And as a result, what emerges is a Jewish experience of integration, not separation. Not segregation. I find those things lacking here. Here the goy is what he was in the ghetto: confrontational and hostile."
There really is a deep anti-Zionist pattern in you. Emotionally, you are with German Jewry and American Jewry. They excite you, thrill you, and by comparison you find the Zionist option crude and spiritually meager. It broadens neither the heart nor the soul.
"Yes, yes. The Israeli reality is not exciting. People are not willing to admit it, but Israel has reached the wall. Ask your friends if they are certain their children will live here. How many will say yes? At most 50 percent. In other words, the Israeli elite has already parted with this place. And without an elite there is no nation."
You are saying that we are suffocating here for lack of spirit.
"Totally. We are already dead. We haven't received the news yet, but we are dead. It doesn't work anymore. It doesn't work."
And you see in American Jewry the spiritual dimension and the cultural ferment that you don't find here.
"Certainly. There is no important Jewish writing in Israel. There is important Jewish writing in the United States. There is no one to talk to here. The religious community of which I was a part - I feel no sense of belonging to it. The secular community - I am not part of it, either. I have no one to talk to. I am sitting with you and you don't understand me, either. You are stuck at a chauvinist national extremity."
That is not completely accurate. I am aware of the Jewish richness you are talking about. But I am also aware that the basic Zionist analysis was correct. Without Israel there is no future for a non-Orthodox Jewish civilization.
"Take the purest Israeliness there is. Moshe Dayan, for example. And we will shed all the Avrums from him. Totally immaculate Israeliness. No nudniks. No effete types. Nothing. Are you sure that this living-in-order-to-live will endure? Take on the other hand the 'kites.' Martin Buber, George Steiner. You say that these [ethereal] kites will not get anywhere. But my historical experience tells me that these kites get farther than the troopers."
You are actually preparing tools for exile.
"I have been living with them from the day I was born. What is it when I say in prayer that because of our sins we were exiled from our land? In Jewish history the spiritual existence is eternal and the political existence is temporary."
In this sense, you are essentially non-Zionist. Because the energy needed to establish and maintain this place is tremendous, and you are saying that we must not give our all to this place.
"There is no Israeli whole. There is a Jewish whole. The Israeli is a half-Jew. Judaism always prepared alternatives. The strategic mistake of Zionism was to annul the alternatives. It built an enterprise here whose most important sections are an illusion. Do you really think that some sort of floating secular Tel Aviv-type post-kibbutz entity will [continue to] exist here? Never. Israeliness has only body; it doesn't have soul. At most, remnants of soul. You are already dead spiritually, Ari. You have only an Israeli body. If you go on like this, you will no longer be."
Israeliness is far richer, Avrum. It has energy and vibrancy and diversity and productivity. But you fled from Israeliness. You defected from Israeliness. You were an Israeli. You were more Israeli than I was. But no more.
"No more. I think that the 'non-Israeli' is not an alternative to the whole Jewish existence of two thousand years that I am talking about. That is why I wrote this book. Because I cannot leave this world while lying to myself. I told you: There is no Jewish existence without a narrative. There is no such thing. And here there is certainly no narrative. But what is even graver is that there are no forces that will draw out a narrative from within.
"Accordingly, I am going to the world and to Judaism. Because the Jew is the first postmodernist, the Jew is the first globalist."
You really are a globalist now. You really are going out to the world. You have taken a French passport, and as a French citizen you voted in the French presidential elections.
"I have already declared: I am a citizen of the world. This is my hierarchy of identities: citizen of the world, afterward Jew and only after that Israeli. I feel a weighty responsibility for the peace of the world. And Sarkozy is in my eyes a threat to world peace. That is why I went to vote against him."
Are you French?
"In many senses I am European. And from my point of view, Israel is part of Europe."
But it isn't. Not yet. And you are an Israeli public figure who is taking part in the French presidential elections as a Frenchman. That is a far-reaching act. A pre-Zionist Jewish act. Something that neither an Englishman or a Dutchman would do.
"True. It is completely Jewish. I am moving forward to the Jewish condition."
Do you recommend that every Israeli take out a foreign passport?
But in this, in this too, you are dismantling the Israeli mutual surety. You are playing with your multiple passports and your multiple identities, which is a course not available to many others. You are dismantling something very basic.
"Those are your fears, Ari. I suggest that you not be afraid. That is what I say in the book. I propose that we stop being afraid."
But you are not only the book, Avrum. You are also the person outside the book. And there is a contradiction between the purism of the man who wrote the book and the political life you lived here.
"A terrible question. Terrible. And it's true. For some of those years I lived a lie. For many years I was not myself. At the outset of my political path I had the energy of the struggle for religion and state and the struggle for peace. I had the precise wind of [the late Prof. Yeshayahu] Leibowitz in my sails. Those were my years of honesty. That was me. But afterward, for long years I was a Mapainik [Mapai, forerunner of the Labor Party]. I was there just to be. And I was no longer me. I was false to the tenets."
And now that you are free of the limitations of politics, you are going all the way with the Leibowitz in you. You describe the targeted assassinations as acts of murder. You are happy that your mother's grandson is not a fighter pilot who kills innocent people. You describe the occupation as an Israeli Anschluss. An Israeli Anschluss?
"That is what we are doing there. What do you want me to say about what we are doing there? That it's humanism? The Red Cross?"
And the targeted assassinations are murder?
"Some of them, certainly."
We are being dragged into carrying out war crimes?
"I have no other way to see it. Especially if there is no horizon of dialogue. The Israelis are very calm. One more Arab, one less Arab. Ya'allah, it's alright. But in the end, the pile grows high. The number of innocent people is so large that it can no longer be contained. And then our explosion and their explosion and the world's will be infinite. I see it happening before my eyes. I see the pile of Palestinian bodies crossing the wall we erected so as not to see it."
And you are not only Leibowitz. You are also Gandhi. You say that the right reaction to the Holocaust was not Anielewicz [Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising] but Gandhi.
"I believe in the doctrine of nonviolence. I do not think that to believe in nonviolence is to be a patsy. In my eyes, Gandhi is as Jewish as there is. He embodies a very ancient Jewish approach. Like Yochanan ben Zakkai, who asked for Yavneh and its sages. Not Jerusalem, not the Temple, not sovereignty: Yavneh and its sages."
And your Gandhiist approach has a political expression: You believe Israel should be relieved of nuclear weapons.
"Of course, of course. The day the Bomb is dismantled will be the most important day in Israel's history. It will be the day on which we get such a good deal with the other side that we will no longer need the Bomb. That has to be our ambition."
Avrum, your book is that of a man of peace. Almost a pacifist. How did it happen that when a man of peace like you left politics you tried to buy from the government a factory that manufactures tank parts?
"I am a businessman. I deal with companies. With bringing them back to health. Privatizations. I like this job and I am also good at it. One of my main projects was Ashot Industries in Ashkelon, 40 percent of which manufactures arms. My intention was to close down that production line and expand Ashot's involvement in the world of civil aviation. I will not be responsible for manufacturing arms for one day. The challenge I saw was to take a place that makes spears and beat them into plowshares."
That deal raised serious questions. It led to an investigation by the state comptroller and by the police. But I don't want to ask about its criminal aspect, because the case was closed and you were exonerated. I want to ask how it can be that the first thing a politician who presented himself as an anti-Thatcherite and as a sworn enemy of privatization did after leaving politics was to try to earn a huge personal profit from privatization.
"I set out to do the most anti-Thatcherite thing. The state sold badly but I wanted to buy well. The state wronged the workers and I wanted to ensure their rights. I wanted to show a different model of partnership between employees and owners. So I think it is unjust that the State of Israel took this deal away from me. When I left politics, the temptations were great. I could have sat on this board or that board. People wanted me to open doors and close doors. But I said no. I went to the old [type of] industry. To the periphery. I am now producing corn in Hatzor Haglilit. Show me another person like me who emerged from politics and is doing work like this. I am not sitting in Kiryat Atidim [a high-tech industrial zone]. I am not sitting in the slick places. I am sweating my guts out every month to pay my 600 employees. Their salary."
It's not exactly right that you decided not to open doors or close doors. In your joint venture with businessman David Appel you were supposed to open doors so he could reincarnate the 'Greek Island' tourist project in southern Italy.
"Nothing came of that project. Not even a business opportunity. But if something had come of it - so what? Because 20 people don't like David he is unacceptable? Because terrible things are said about him in the judicial system but nothing is proved? That is violence I cannot tolerate. It is simply an executioner's approach. Israeliness as executioner, and we really love it - it sells papers."
Are the allegations against you concerning Ashot Industries and David Appel part of an Israeli executioner's approach?
"There is a gallows society here. First we'll hang you and when you breathe your last breath we will clarify why it was your last. How it left your body. We are now living in the equivalent of the 1950s in America. In a McCarthyite era. The assault on corruption is McCarthyism. It is important that we set boundaries. In the past we swiped things from the chicken coop, and today that is impossible. Once we asked girls, When you say no, what do you mean? - and today sexual harassment is forbidden. But the way it is being done - the style, the vulgarity, the populism, the superficiality. The inability of those who are under attack to fight back properly."
You do know how to fight back. For example, Salai Meridor [former Jewish Agency chairman] decides that there is no justification for him and you to enjoy the baseless privilege of a service car with a chauffeur for life, and you go to court to fight for that privilege with all your might.
"As a former chairman of the Jewish Agency, I have pension rights just as you have pension rights. One day they are suddenly gone. Out of the blue. Think that part of your pension is to receive Haaretz free and one day Amos Schocken [the publisher] suddenly takes it away. Wouldn't you fight? Wouldn't you go to the workers' committee?
"But every person is allowed to fight when something is taken from him - only Avrum is not allowed. Why? Because. This whole thing is such a pittance in money terms that it doesn't even exist. But the level of principle sent me up the wall."
We're talking about NIS 200,000. And about your behavior, which the judge found disgraceful. And about the fact that even though you talk high and mighty about morals, you don't see the moral flaw in the fact that 10 years after leaving the Jewish Agency you are driving on your business trips throughout the country with a Jewish Agency chauffeur driving you everywhere. On top of which, today you are so alienated from everything the Jewish Agency stands for.
"I have something to say about what the judge said. But I will not counterattack. I will not correct violence with violence. We are talking about a person's basic right. About a pension right."
Was it worth it? What will remain engraved in people's memory is that Salai Meridor was fair and modest, and Avrum Burg was a hedonist who coveted benefits.
"What remains of all this is that I am at peace with myself. Everyone who feels good with secret violence or hidden knifing or with being an open or covert Sicarius [name given to Second Temple Jews who used a dagger, sicarius, to dispose of collaborators with Rome] - good luck to him! Well and good. I am not going to educate the world. What's important for me is that I am at harmony with myself."
But there is a question mark here which has accompanied you all along. You speak so impressively. Not only articulately but morally. And now you have written a book that is all morality. But your activity in the world is different. In political life you were sophisticated, cagy and snakelike, and in the business world, too, you are far from being a saint. The disparity between your language and your deeds is disturbing.
"The disparity is in the eye of the beholder. I do not ask myself how Ari Shavit sees me. I am finished with the world in which I care what you think of me. I live in a world in which I care what I think about me. For many years I lived with the Moloch of what people would say. That Moloch led me to wrong places. To places of a very large gap between the inner me and the outer me. Today I live with my truth."
Maybe the things connect. You really are a man of peace who rejects the militarist, nationalist, brute-force Israeli. But when you reconnect to the Jew, you are connecting not only to the spiritual Jew but also to the Jew of money.
"True. Life is not just to be a pioneer with a hoe and a bold fighter at Lion's Gate. Life is also to be a merchant in Warsaw. Unequivocally, that is a richer totality in life."
Still, you haven't given up the political. You are a close friend of Prime Minister Olmert. Do you continue to support him even after the Second Lebanon War?
"The story of Ehud Olmert is a terribly great tragedy. Of everyone in the generation that is slightly older than me, he is the most talented. The most experienced. There is a great fondness between us. I like him very much. He is one of the most humane people and most moral people in regard to relations between people, and in terms of his relations with his family. But his ability to translate into practical terms what he has is impossible because of the declaration of the war. The Bush-like notion that war is the first option is a mistake that colors all of Olmert's other essential qualities. I still pray that he will correct this by means of a great political drama. Hamas or Syria or the Saudi initiative. I tell him not to entrench himself in the mistake. It is still possible for a great healing to come out of the blunder."
Who do you support in the Labor Party primaries?
"He has already proved once that he is ready to go beyond the Israeli Rubicon. And there will be Rubicons to cross here. His ability to do that is very important to me."
Do you see yourself returning to politics?
"An open question. Only in 2010 will a new political era begin in Israel. After the Olmert-Barak-Bibi [Netanyahu] generation comes to its end, the turn will come of a new generation who will come from the economy, the academy, the arts. Maybe then there will be a place for me."
A place in the Prime Minister's Bureau?
"Once I wanted very much to be prime minister. It burned like fire in my bones. I didn't know what I wanted to do there, but I wanted terribly to be there. Today I say that I have lot of marathons to run before that can happen."
But you are in the marathon?
"All my life."