CrossTalk: Norman Finkelstein vs. Israel (ISRAEL IS A NATIONAL PARK!!!)

Israel’s Disgrace in Gaza

Jewish girl tries to criticise Dr. Norman Finkelstein

NEW WORLD ORDER: US loses global credibility (while Israel get´s more zionistic)

Israel’s open and deliberate refusal to do as the US demands over settlements in East Jerusalem reflects Netanyahu’s fundamental opposition to a two-state solution

Uncomfortable at the spectacle of the Obama administration in an open confrontation with the Israeli government, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman – who represents the interests of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party on Capitol Hill as faithfully as he does those of the health insurance industry – called for a halt. “Let’s cut the family fighting, the family feud,” he said. “It’s unnecessary; it’s destructive of our shared national interest. It’s time to lower voices, to get over the family feud between the US and Israel. It just doesn’t serve anybody’s interests but our enemies’.”

The idea that the US and Israel are “family” with identical national interests is a convenient fiction that Lieberman and his fellow Israel partisans have worked relentlessly to promote – and enforce – in Washington over the past two decades. If the bonds are indeed familial, however, the recent showdown between Washington and the Netanyahu government may be counted as one of those feuds in which truths are uttered in the heat of the moment that call into question the fundamental terms of the relationship. Such truths are never easily swept under the rug once the dispute is settled. The immediate rupture, that is, precludes a simple return to the status quo ante; instead, a renegotiation of the terms of the relationship somehow ends up on the agenda.

Sure, the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government are now working feverishly to find a formula that will allow them to move on from a contretemps that began when the Israelis ambushed Vice-President Joe Biden, announcing plans to build 1,600 new housing units for settlers in occupied East Jerusalem. He was, of course, in Israel to promote the Obama administration’s failing efforts to rehabilitate negotiations toward a two-state peace agreement, a goal regularly spurned by Israel’s continued construction on land occupied in 1967.

Once again, as when Obama demanded a complete settlement freeze from the Netanyahu government in 2009, the Israelis will fend off any demand that they completely reverse their latest construction plans. Instead, they will shamelessly offer to continue their settlement activity on a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” basis, professing rhetorical support for a two-state solution to placate the Americans, even as they systematically erode its prospects on the ground.

There is, as former Secretary of State James Baker has noted, no shortage of chutzpah in this Israeli government. “United States taxpayers are giving Israel roughly $3bn each year, which amounts to something like $1,000 for every Israeli citizen, at a time when our own economy is in bad shape and a lot of Americans would appreciate that kind of helping hand from their own government,” Baker said in a recent interview. “Given that fact, it is not unreasonable to ask the Israeli leadership to respect US policy on settlements” (1).

Sooner or later, the present imbroglio is likely to be fudged over, but make no mistake, it opened Washington up to a renewed discussion of the conventional wisdom of unconditional support for Israel. It also brought into the public arena the way US administrations over the past two decades have enabled that country’s ever-expanding occupation regime and whether such a policy is compatible with US national interests in the Middle East.

Back in 2006, the foreign policy thinkers John Mearshimer and Stephen Walt provoked a firestorm of ridicule and ad hominem abuse for suggesting in their book, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (2), that the goals pursued by the two sides were, in fact, far from identical and often at odds – and that partisans motivated by Israel’s interests lobbied aggressively to skew US foreign policy in their favour. Israel partisans also heaped derision on the suggestion by the Iraq Study Group commissioned by President George W Bush that the US would not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East without first settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Petraeus weighs in

Response to the reiteration of the idea that Israel’s behaviour might be jeopardising US interests has been strikingly muted by comparison. That’s because it came from General David Petraeus, commander of US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees America’s two wars of the moment. He is the most celebrated US military officer of his generation, and a favourite of those most ferocious of Israel partisans, the neocons.

Petraeus told Senators: “The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbours present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in [Centcom’s] AOR [Area of Responsibility].” He added, “The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of US favouritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of US partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaida and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilise support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.” He also stressed that “progress toward resolving the political disputes in the Levant, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict, is a major concern for Centcom.”

Normally, any linkage between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a wave of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is pooh-poohed by neocons and other Israel partisans. Typically, they will derisively suggest that those who argue for the linkage made by Petraeus are naïve in their belief that al-Qaida would give up its jihad if only Israel and the Palestinians made peace. That, by the way, is a straw-man argument of the first order: the US has done plenty on its own to antagonise the Muslim world, and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not in itself resolve that antagonism. The point is simply that a fair solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for repairing relations between the US and the citizenry of many Muslim countries.

Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, who has made a profession of trying to negate the difference between anti-Semitism and criticism of (or hostility to) Israel, gamely ventured that “Gen Petraeus has simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the US and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and blaming extremist activities on the absence of peace and the perceived US favouritism for Israel”. His conclusion: “This linkage is dangerous and counterproductive” (3).

You can hear the pain in Foxman’s admission that “it is that much more of a concern to hear this coming from such a great American patriot and hero”. That Petraeus chose to make his concerns public at the height of a public showdown between Israel and the US, and to do so on Capitol Hill, where legislators seemed uncertain how to respond, signalled the seriousness of the uniformed military in pressing the issue.
The most powerful lobby

Longtime Washington military and intelligence affairs analyst Mark Perry caught the special significance of this at Foreign Policy’s website: “There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers – and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the US military” (4). He noted as well that, in a January Centcom briefing of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, Petraeus had evidently suggested the Palestinian territories – over which Israel continues to exercise sovereign military control – be included under Centcom’s area of responsibility, a prospect that would make Israel’s leadership apoplectic.

It’s not that, as far as we know, Petraeus harbours any particular animus, or affection, for the Jewish state. It’s that, in his institutional role as the commander of hundreds of thousands of US troops stationed across what Washington strategists like to call the “arc of instability”, he is concerned about aggravating hostility towards the United States.

The idea that Washington needs to rein in Israeli expansionism and force a political solution to its conflict with the Palestinians is hardly novel for America’s unsentimental men in uniform. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and former US Mideast envoy General Anthony Zinni, both of whom had their formative experiences of the region in the course of massive US military deployments there, were on the same page as Petraeus is today.

Lieutenant General Keith Dayton is the US officer responsible for creating and training the Palestinian Authority security force that has cracked down on West Bank militants and restrained them from attacking Israel over the past few years. He was no less blunt than Petraeus in a speech in Washington last year. He emphasised the premise on which the force was built, and withstood charges from within its own community that it was simply a gendarmerie for Israel: its soldiers believed themselves to be the nucleus of the army of a future Palestinian state. The loyalty of his men, he warned, should not be taken for granted: “There is perhaps a two-year shelf life on being told that you’re creating a state, when you’re not.”

Vice-President Biden, too, was quoted in the Israeli press as having berated Netanyahu – behind closed doors – over his plans for settlement expansion, warning that it would put at risk the lives of American personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Tough-love solution

In public, of course, Biden offered familiar pablum direct from Joe Lieberman’s “family” album: “From my experience, the one precondition for progress [in the Middle East] is that the rest of the world knows this – there is no space between the US and Israel when it comes to security, none. That’s the only time that progress has been made.”

In fact, the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict suggests that the reverse is true. The origins of the peace process the Obama administration is now trying so desperately to resuscitate do not lie in the unconditional American support for Israel that has become a third rail in national politics over the past two decades. They lie in the national interest based tough love of the administration of President George HW Bush.

Grounded in a realist reading of American national interests across the Middle East – at a moment when a military campaign to eject Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces from Kuwait had put hundreds of thousands of US troops on the ground there – the first Bush administration recognised the need to balance Israel’s reasonable interests with those of its Arab neighbours. That’s why, in 1991, it dragged Israel’s hawkish Likud government under Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid conference, and so broke Israel’s “security” taboo on direct engagement with Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

The Bush administration also made it clear that there would be immediate and painful consequences for Israel if it continued building settlements on land conquered in the war of 1967, construction which the US was then willing to term not only “unhelpful” – the preferred euphemism of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and now Barack Obama – but illegal. Under the direction of Bush family consigliere and Secretary of State Jim Baker, Washington threatened to withdraw $10bn in loan guarantees if Israeli colonisation of Palestinian territory continued. In the resulting political crisis, Israelis – mindful of their dependency on US support – voted Shamir out of office and chose Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister.

Rabin has been rightly lionised as a leader who took a courageous decision to change course in the face of bitter domestic opposition. To understand how Israel started down the path of peace, however, it’s necessary to clean the Vaseline off the lens of history and quiet the string section.

Only three years earlier, Rabin had ordered Israeli troops to use baseball bats to break the limbs of stone-throwing teenagers in hopes of stopping the Palestinian intifada. He certainly did not embrace the Oslo peace process with the PLO out of some moral epiphany. He changed course thanks to a cold-blooded assessment of Israel’s strategic position at the time.

The United States then had a growing stake in creating a regional Pax Americana that required Arab support. Given the end of the cold war, Israel’s value as an ally was diminishing, while its expansionist policies, antagonising Arab public opinion and making it more difficult for vulnerable regional governments to ally with Israel’s enabler, were increasingly a liability for Washington.

Rabin had reason to believe that US support for Israel at the expense of its neighbours would prove neither unconditional nor eternal. At the same time, the PLO had been weakened by years of Israeli military attacks and by a disastrous diplomatic blunder – it had aligned itself with Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf war. It was a fortuitous moment, he concluded, to press for a political solution with the Palestinians on favourable terms, by trading the West Bank and Gaza for peace.
Where are the consequences?

Rabin acted because the consequences of maintaining the status quo seemed increasingly unpleasant, which takes nothing away from his courage in doing so. The same could be said for South Africa’s last white president, FW de Klerk. He opted to negotiate an end to apartheid with Nelson Mandela’s ANC because the collapse of the Soviet Union had removed the most persuasive rationale the US and other western powers had for backing his white-rule regime. Similarly, it’s unlikely that the Soviet political system would have put Mikhail Gorbachev in power if the KGB hadn’t determined that far-reaching changes were necessary to prevent Moscow from being eclipsed as a superpower, thanks to western economic and technological advances.

If US pressure and the spectre of isolation and opprobrium pushed Israel onto the path of a two-state solution, the easing of that pressure and the creation of the “familial” notion of US-Israel ties have coincided with a steady movement away from completing the peace process. Even at the height of the Oslo era, coddled by Clinton, the Israelis kept on expanding the settlements that jeopardised geographic prospects for Palestinian statehood.

The Israeli opposition, led by Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu, sought to prove Rabin wrong. They were convinced that American support could be maintained without conceding Palestinian statehood – by making constant end runs around the Oval Office and appealing directly to Capitol Hill and US public opinion.

Sharon and Netanyahu were vindicated in spades when the suicide-terror strategy taken up by the second Palestinian intifada and the attacks of 9/11 led George W Bush’s administration to re-conceptualise the world on the basis of its Global War on Terror. This, in turn, led Washington’s political class to accept Israel not as just another ally in that war, but as a model for how to conduct it.

In the Bush years, the peace process and the two-state solution became a hollow catechism that could be mouthed by Israeli leaders (and their supporters in Washington), while getting on with the task of smashing the Palestinian national movement and expanding settlements. In real terms, the peace process – the series of reciprocal moves designed to build confidence for concluding final status talks and implementing a two-state solution – died when Ariel Sharon came to power in February 2001.
Grand guignol

Even his 2005 withdrawal of Jewish settlements from Gaza was never conceived in terms of a peace process; it wasn’t even negotiated or coordinated with the Palestinian Authority. Sharon, in fact, imagined his unilateral withdrawal as a substitute for a peace agreement. It was designed, as Sharon’s top aide Dov Weissglass so memorably explained, as a dose of “formaldehyde that’s necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians”.

Despite mounting Arab exasperation, the Bush administration put no pressure on Israel to bring the peace process to a conclusion, limiting itself to the Grand Guignol of the “Annapolis process”. With all external compulsion to conclude a peace agreement removed, domestic political pressure in Israel not surprisingly collapsed as well. The Palestinians were now largely locked behind the vast separation wall that winds through the West Bank and the siege lines of Gaza. Their plight is once again invisible to Israelis, only 40% of whom, when asked by pollsters, even express an interest in seeing the peace process restarted. Only around 20% believe that such a move would bring any results.

“Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights,” wrote Israeli political commentator Gideon Levy in Haaretz on 18 March. “Israel does not truly intend to pursue peace, because life here seems to be good even without it. The continuation of the occupation doesn’t just endanger Israel’s future, it also poses the greatest risk to world peace, serving as a pretext for Israel’s most dangerous enemies. No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent and condescending Israel of today.”

The Obama administration can’t be under any illusions on this score. And they are being forced to confront it by another kind of pressure. The bills are coming due for Bush’s War-on-Terror adventurism. Those responsible for maintaining the US imperium in the Muslim world are now raising warning flags that the price to be paid for continuing to indulge Israel in evading its obligation to offer a fair settlement to the Palestinians could be high – and, worse than that, unnecessary.

Israel’s leaders, and its voters, have amply demonstrated that they will not voluntarily relinquish control of the Palestinian territories as long as there are no real consequences for maintaining the status quo. Sure, you can tell them that the status quo is untenable, but the whole history of Israel from the 1920s onward has been about transforming the impossible into the inevitable by changing the facts on the ground. Building settlements on occupied territory in violation of international law after 1967 seemed untenable at the time; today, the US government says Israel will keep most of those major settlement blocs in any two-state solution. It is precisely in line with this sort of improvisational logic that Sharon calculated he could hold on to the settlements of the West Bank if he gave up the settlements of Gaza; the same logic allows Netanyahu to say the words “two states for two peoples” while always winking at his base that he has no intention of allowing it to happen.

A peace process that requires Israel and the Palestinians to reach a bilateral consensus on the distribution of land and power under the prodding of US matchmakers is a non-starter – and therefore unlikely to lead to a goal which is of increasing urgency in America’s national interest. Arguably, it’s increasingly important even for the Israelis, since the status quo has already eroded prospects for a two-state solution to the point where both sides may be consigned to an even longer and more bitter conflict.

Hence the necessity of correcting Vice-President Biden: progress in the Middle East will not come until the US changes Israel’s cost-benefit analysis for maintaining the status quo. The only Israeli leader capable of accepting the parameters of a two-state peace with the Palestinians, which are already widely known, is one who can convincingly demonstrate to his electorate that the alternatives are worse. Right now, without real pressure, without real cost, with nothing but words, there is simply no downside to the status quo for Israel. Until there is, things are unlikely to change, no matter the peril to US troops throughout the Middle East.

Ref: Le Monde

A MUST READ: A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties

A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties
by Oded Yinon (with a foreword by, and translated by Israel Shahak)

Foreword

The following essay represents, in my opinion, the accurate and detailed plan of the present Zionist regime (of Sharon and Eitan) for the Middle East which is based on the division of the whole area into small states, and the dissolution of all the existing Arab states. I will comment on the military aspect of this plan in a concluding note. Here I want to draw the attention of the readers to several important points:

1. The idea that all the Arab states should be broken down, by Israel, into small units, occurs again and again in Israeli strategic thinking. For example, Ze’ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha’aretz (and probably the most knowledgeable in Israel, on this topic) writes about the “best” that can happen for Israeli interests in Iraq: “The dissolution of Iraq into a Shi’ite state, a Sunni state and the separation of the Kurdish part” (Ha’aretz 6/2/1982). Actually, this aspect of the plan is very old.

2. The strong connection with Neo-Conservative thought in the USA is very prominent, especially in the author’s notes. But, while lip service is paid to the idea of the “defense of the West” from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial Israel into a world power. In other words, the aim of Sharon is to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.

3. It is obvious that much of the relevant data, both in the notes and in the text, is garbled or omitted, such as the financial help of the U.S. to Israel. Much of it is pure fantasy. But, the plan is not to be regarded as not influential, or as not capable of realization for a short time. The plan follows faithfully the geopolitical ideas current in Germany of 1890-1933, which were swallowed whole by Hitler and the Nazi movement, and determined their aims for East Europe. Those aims, especially the division of the existing states, were carried out in 1939-1941, and only an alliance on the global scale prevented their consolidation for a period of time.

The notes by the author follow the text. To avoid confusion, I did not add any notes of my own, but have put the substance of them into this foreward and the conclusion at the end. I have, however, emphasized some portions of the text.
Israel Shahak
June 13, 1982

This essay originally appeared in Hebrew in KIVUNIM (Directions), A Journal for Judaism and Zionism; Issue No, 14–Winter, 5742, February 1982, Editor: Yoram Beck. Editorial Committee: Eli Eyal, Yoram Beck, Amnon Hadari, Yohanan Manor, Elieser Schweid. Published by the Department of Publicity/The World Zionist Organization, Jerusalem.

At the outset of the nineteen eighties the State of Israel is in need of a new perspective as to its place, its aims and national targets, at home and abroad. This need has become even more vital due to a number of central processes which the country, the region and the world are undergoing. We are living today in the early stages of a new epoch in human history which is not at all similar to its predecessor, and its characteristics are totally different from what we have hitherto known. That is why we need an understanding of the central processes which typify this historical epoch on the one hand, and on the other hand we need a world outlook and an operational strategy in accordance with the new conditions. The existence, prosperity and steadfastness of the Jewish state will depend upon its ability to adopt a new framework for its domestic and foreign affairs.

This epoch is characterized by several traits which we can already diagnose, and which symbolize a genuine revolution in our present lifestyle. The dominant process is the breakdown of the rationalist, humanist outlook as the major cornerstone supporting the life and achievements of Western civilization since the Renaissance. The political, social and economic views which have emanated from this foundation have been based on several “truths” which are presently disappearing–for example, the view that man as an individual is the center of the universe and everything exists in order to fulfill his basic material needs. This position is being invalidated in the present when it has become clear that the amount of resources in the cosmos does not meet Man’s requirements, his economic needs or his demographic constraints. In a world in which there are four billion human beings and economic and energy resources which do not grow proportionally to meet the needs of mankind, it is unrealistic to expect to fulfill the main requirement of Western Society,1 i.e., the wish and aspiration for boundless consumption. The view that ethics plays no part in determining the direction Man takes, but rather his material needs do–that view is becoming prevalent today as we see a world in which nearly all values are disappearing. We are losing the ability to assess the simplest things, especially when they concern the simple question of what is Good and what is Evil.

The vision of man’s limitless aspirations and abilities shrinks in the face of the sad facts of life, when we witness the break-up of world order around us. The view which promises liberty and freedom to mankind seems absurd in light of the sad fact that three fourths of the human race lives under totalitarian regimes. The views concerning equality and social justice have been transformed by socialism and especially by Communism into a laughing stock. There is no argument as to the truth of these two ideas, but it is clear that they have not been put into practice properly and the majority of mankind has lost the liberty, the freedom and the opportunity for equality and justice. In this nuclear world in which we are (still) living in relative peace for thirty years, the concept of peace and coexistence among nations has no meaning when a superpower like the USSR holds a military and political doctrine of the sort it has: that not only is a nuclear war possible and necessary in order to achieve the ends of Marxism, but that it is possible to survive after it, not to speak of the fact that one can be victorious in it.2

The essential concepts of human society, especially those of the West, are undergoing a change due to political, military and economic transformations. Thus, the nuclear and conventional might of the USSR has transformed the epoch that has just ended into the last respite before the great saga that will demolish a large part of our world in a multi-dimensional global war, in comparison with which the past world wars will have been mere child’s play. The power of nuclear as well as of conventional weapons, their quantity, their precision and quality will turn most of our world upside down within a few years, and we must align ourselves so as to face that in Israel. That is, then, the main threat to our existence and that of the Western world.3 The war over resources in the world, the Arab monopoly on oil, and the need of the West to import most of its raw materials from the Third World, are transforming the world we know, given that one of the major aims of the USSR is to defeat the West by gaining control over the gigantic resources in the Persian Gulf and in the southern part of Africa, in which the majority of world minerals are located. We can imagine the dimensions of the global confrontation which will face us in the future.

The Gorshkov doctrine calls for Soviet control of the oceans and mineral rich areas of the Third World. That together with the present Soviet nuclear doctrine which holds that it is possible to manage, win and survive a nuclear war, in the course of which the West’s military might well be destroyed and its inhabitants made slaves in the service of Marxism-Leninism, is the main danger to world peace and to our own existence. Since 1967, the Soviets have transformed Clausewitz’ dictum into “War is the continuation of policy in nuclear means,” and made it the motto which guides all their policies. Already today they are busy carrying out their aims in our region and throughout the world, and the need to face them becomes the major element in our country’s security policy and of course that of the rest of the Free World. That is our major foreign challenge.4

The Arab Moslem world, therefore, is not the major strategic problem which we shall face in the Eighties, despite the fact that it carries the main threat against Israel, due to its growing military might. This world, with its ethnic minorities, its factions and internal crises, which is astonishingly self-destructive, as we can see in Lebanon, in non-Arab Iran and now also in Syria, is unable to deal successfully with its fundamental problems and does not therefore constitute a real threat against the State of Israel in the long run, but only in the short run where its immediate military power has great import. In the long run, this world will be unable to exist within its present framework in the areas around us without having to go through genuine revolutionary changes. The Moslem Arab World is built like a temporary house of cards put together by foreigners (France and Britain in the Nineteen Twenties), without the wishes and desires of the inhabitants having been taken into account. It was arbitrarily divided into 19 states, all made of combinations of minorites and ethnic groups which are hostile to one another, so that every Arab Moslem state nowadays faces ethnic social destruction from within, and in some a civil war is already raging.5 Most of the Arabs, 118 million out of 170 million, live in Africa, mostly in Egypt (45 million today).

Apart from Egypt, all the Maghreb states are made up of a mixture of Arabs and non-Arab Berbers. In Algeria there is already a civil war raging in the Kabile mountains between the two nations in the country. Morocco and Algeria are at war with each other over Spanish Sahara, in addition to the internal struggle in each of them. Militant Islam endangers the integrity of Tunisia and Qaddafi organizes wars which are destructive from the Arab point of view, from a country which is sparsely populated and which cannot become a powerful nation. That is why he has been attempting unifications in the past with states that are more genuine, like Egypt and Syria. Sudan, the most torn apart state in the Arab Moslem world today is built upon four groups hostile to each other, an Arab Moslem Sunni minority which rules over a majority of non-Arab Africans, Pagans, and Christians. In Egypt there is a Sunni Moslem majority facing a large minority of Christians which is dominant in upper Egypt: some 7 million of them, so that even Sadat, in his speech on May 8, expressed the fear that they will want a state of their own, something like a “second” Christian Lebanon in Egypt.

All the Arab States east of Israel are torn apart, broken up and riddled with inner conflict even more than those of the Maghreb. Syria is fundamentally no different from Lebanon except in the strong military regime which rules it. But the real civil war taking place nowadays between the Sunni majority and the Shi’ite Alawi ruling minority (a mere 12% of the population) testifies to the severity of the domestic trouble.

Iraq is, once again, no different in essence from its neighbors, although its majority is Shi’ite and the ruling minority Sunni. Sixty-five percent of the population has no say in politics, in which an elite of 20 percent holds the power. In addition there is a large Kurdish minority in the north, and if it weren’t for the strength of the ruling regime, the army and the oil revenues, Iraq’s future state would be no different than that of Lebanon in the past or of Syria today. The seeds of inner conflict and civil war are apparent today already, especially after the rise of Khomeini to power in Iran, a leader whom the Shi’ites in Iraq view as their natural leader.

All the Gulf principalities and Saudi Arabia are built upon a delicate house of sand in which there is only oil. In Kuwait, the Kuwaitis constitute only a quarter of the population. In Bahrain, the Shi’ites are the majority but are deprived of power. In the UAE, Shi’ites are once again the majority but the Sunnis are in power. The same is true of Oman and North Yemen. Even in the Marxist South Yemen there is a sizable Shi’ite minority. In Saudi Arabia half the population is foreign, Egyptian and Yemenite, but a Saudi minority holds power.

Jordan is in reality Palestinian, ruled by a Trans-Jordanian Bedouin minority, but most of the army and certainly the bureaucracy is now Palestinian. As a matter of fact Amman is as Palestinian as Nablus. All of these countries have powerful armies, relatively speaking. But there is a problem there too. The Syrian army today is mostly Sunni with an Alawi officer corps, the Iraqi army Shi’ite with Sunni commanders. This has great significance in the long run, and that is why it will not be possible to retain the loyalty of the army for a long time except where it comes to the only common denominator: The hostility towards Israel, and today even that is insufficient.

Alongside the Arabs, split as they are, the other Moslem states share a similar predicament. Half of Iran’s population is comprised of a Persian speaking group and the other half of an ethnically Turkish group. Turkey’s population comprises a Turkish Sunni Moslem majority, some 50%, and two large minorities, 12 million Shi’ite Alawis and 6 million Sunni Kurds. In Afghanistan there are 5 million Shi’ites who constitute one third of the population. In Sunni Pakistan there are 15 million Shi’ites who endanger the existence of that state.13

This national ethnic minority picture extending from Morocco to India and from Somalia to Turkey points to the absence of stability and a rapid degeneration in the entire region. When this picture is added to the economic one, we see how the entire region is built like a house of cards, unable to withstand its severe problems.

In this giant and fractured world there are a few wealthy groups and a huge mass of poor people. Most of the Arabs have an average yearly income of 300 dollars. That is the situation in Egypt, in most of the Maghreb countries except for Libya, and in Iraq. Lebanon is torn apart and its economy is falling to pieces. It is a state in which there is no centralized power, but only 5 de facto sovereign authorities (Christian in the north, supported by the Syrians and under the rule of the Franjieh clan, in the East an area of direct Syrian conquest, in the center a Phalangist controlled Christian enclave, in the south and up to the Litani river a mostly Palestinian region controlled by the PLO and Major Haddad’s state of Christians and half a million Shi’ites). Syria is in an even graver situation and even the assistance she will obtain in the future after the unification with Libya will not be sufficient for dealing with the basic problems of existence and the maintenance of a large army. Egypt is in the worst situation: Millions are on the verge of hunger, half the labor force is unemployed, and housing is scarce in this most densely populated area of the world. Except for the army, there is not a single department operating efficiently and the state is in a permanent state of bankruptcy and depends entirely on American foreign assistance granted since the peace.6

In the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt there is the largest accumulation of money and oil in the world, but those enjoying it are tiny elites who lack a wide base of support and self-confidence, something that no army can guarantee.7 The Saudi army with all its equipment cannot defend the regime from real dangers at home or abroad, and what took place in Mecca in 1980 is only an example. A sad and very stormy situation surrounds Israel and creates challenges for it, problems, risks but also far-reaching opportunities for the first time since 1967. Chances are that opportunities missed at that time will become achievable in the Eighties to an extent and along dimensions which we cannot even imagine today.

The “peace” policy and the return of territories, through a dependence upon the US, precludes the realization of the new option created for us. Since 1967, all the governments of Israel have tied our national aims down to narrow political needs, on the one hand, and on the other to destructive opinions at home which neutralized our capacities both at home and abroad. Failing to take steps towards the Arab population in the new territories, acquired in the course of a war forced upon us, is the major strategic error committed by Israel on the morning after the Six Day War. We could have saved ourselves all the bitter and dangerous conflict since then if we had given Jordan to the Palestinians who live west of the Jordan river. By doing that we would have neutralized the Palestinian problem which we nowadays face, and to which we have found solutions that are really no solutions at all, such as territorial compromise or autonomy which amount, in fact, to the same thing.8 Today, we suddenly face immense opportunities for transforming the situation thoroughly and this we must do in the coming decade, otherwise we shall not survive as a state.

In the course of the Nineteen Eighties, the State of Israel will have to go through far-reaching changes in its political and economic regime domestically, along with radical changes in its foreign policy, in order to stand up to the global and regional challenges of this new epoch. The loss of the Suez Canal oil fields, of the immense potential of the oil, gas and other natural resources in the Sinai peninsula which is geomorphologically identical to the rich oil-producing countries in the region, will result in an energy drain in the near future and will destroy our domestic economy: one quarter of our present GNP as well as one third of the budget is used for the purchase of oil.9 The search for raw materials in the Negev and on the coast will not, in the near future, serve to alter that state of affairs.

(Regaining) the Sinai peninsula with its present and potential resources is therefore a political priority which is obstructed by the Camp David and the peace agreements. The fault for that lies of course with the present Israeli government and the governments which paved the road to the policy of territorial compromise, the Alignment governments since 1967. The Egyptians will not need to keep the peace treaty after the return of the Sinai, and they will do all they can to return to the fold of the Arab world and to the USSR in order to gain support and military assistance. American aid is guaranteed only for a short while, for the terms of the peace and the weakening of the U.S. both at home and abroad will bring about a reduction in aid. Without oil and the income from it, with the present enormous expenditure, we will not be able to get through 1982 under the present conditions and we will have to act in order to return the situation to the status quo which existed in Sinai prior to Sadat’s visit and the mistaken peace agreement signed with him in March 1979.10

Israel has two major routes through which to realize this purpose, one direct and the other indirect. The direct option is the less realistic one because of the nature of the regime and government in Israel as well as the wisdom of Sadat who obtained our withdrawal from Sinai, which was, next to the war of 1973, his major achievement since he took power. Israel will not unilaterally break the treaty, neither today, nor in 1982, unless it is very hard pressed economically and politically and Egypt provides Israel with the excuse to take the Sinai back into our hands for the fourth time in our short history. What is left therefore, is the indirect option. The economic situation in Egypt, the nature of the regime and its pan-Arab policy, will bring about a situation after April 1982 in which Israel will be forced to act directly or indirectly in order to regain control over Sinai as a strategic, economic and energy reserve for the long run. Egypt does not constitute a military strategic problem due to its internal conflicts and it could be driven back to the post 1967 war situation in no more than one day.11

The myth of Egypt as the strong leader of the Arab World was demolished back in 1956 and definitely did not survive 1967, but our policy, as in the return of the Sinai, served to turn the myth into “fact.” In reality, however, Egypt’s power in proportion both to Israel alone and to the rest of the Arab World has gone down about 50 percent since 1967. Egypt is no longer the leading political power in the Arab World and is economically on the verge of a crisis. Without foreign assistance the crisis will come tomorrow.12 In the short run, due to the return of the Sinai, Egypt will gain several advantages at our expense, but only in the short run until 1982, and that will not change the balance of power to its benefit, and will possibly bring about its downfall. Egypt, in its present domestic political picture, is already a corpse, all the more so if we take into account the growing Moslem-Christian rift. Breaking Egypt down territorially into distinct geographical regions is the political aim of Israel in the Nineteen Eighties on its Western front.

Egypt is divided and torn apart into many foci of authority. If Egypt falls apart, countries like Libya, Sudan or even the more distant states will not continue to exist in their present form and will join the downfall and dissolution of Egypt. The vision of a Christian Coptic State in Upper Egypt alongside a number of weak states with very localized power and without a centralized government as to date, is the key to a historical development which was only set back by the peace agreement but which seems inevitable in the long run.13

The Western front, which on the surface appears more problematic, is in fact less complicated than the Eastern front, in which most of the events that make the headlines have been taking place recently. Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precendent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unqiue areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today.14

Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.15

The entire Arabian peninsula is a natural candidate for dissolution due to internal and external pressures, and the matter is inevitable especially in Saudi Arabia. Regardless of whether its economic might based on oil remains intact or whether it is diminished in the long run, the internal rifts and breakdowns are a clear and natural development in light of the present political structure.16

Jordan constitutes an immediate strategic target in the short run but not in the long run, for it does not constitute a real threat in the long run after its dissolution, the termination of the lengthy rule of King Hussein and the transfer of power to the Palestinians in the short run.

There is no chance that Jordan will continue to exist in its present structure for a long time, and Israel’s policy, both in war and in peace, ought to be directed at the liquidation of Jordan under the present regime and the transfer of power to the Palestinian majority. Changing the regime east of the river will also cause the termination of the problem of the territories densely populated with Arabs west of the Jordan. Whether in war or under conditions of peace, emigrationfrom the territories and economic demographic freeze in them, are the guarantees for the coming change on both banks of the river, and we ought to be active in order to accelerate this process in the nearest future. The autonomy plan ought also to be rejected, as well as any compromise or division of the territories for, given the plans of the PLO and those of the Israeli Arabs themselves, the Shefa’amr plan of September 1980, it is not possible to go on living in this country in the present situation without separating the two nations, the Arabs to Jordan and the Jews to the areas west of the river. Genuine coexistence and peace will reign over the land only when the Arabs understand that without Jewish rule between the Jordan and the sea they will have neither existence nor security. A nation of their own and security will be theirs only in Jordan.17

Within Israel the distinction between the areas of ’67 and the territories beyond them, those of ’48, has always been meaningless for Arabs and nowadays no longer has any significance for us. The problem should be seen in its entirety without any divisions as of ’67. It should be clear, under any future political situation or mifitary constellation, that the solution of the problem of the indigenous Arabs will come only when they recognize the existence of Israel in secure borders up to the Jordan river and beyond it, as our existential need in this difficult epoch, the nuclear epoch which we shall soon enter. It is no longer possible to live with three fourths of the Jewish population on the dense shoreline which is so dangerous in a nuclear epoch.

Dispersal of the population is therefore a domestic strategic aim of the highest order; otherwise, we shall cease to exist within any borders. Judea, Samaria and the Galilee are our sole guarantee for national existence, and if we do not become the majority in the mountain areas, we shall not rule in the country and we shall be like the Crusaders, who lost this country which was not theirs anyhow, and in which they were foreigners to begin with. Rebalancing the country demographically, strategically and economically is the highest and most central aim today. Taking hold of the mountain watershed from Beersheba to the Upper Galilee is the national aim generated by the major strategic consideration which is settling the mountainous part of the country that is empty of Jews today.l8

Realizing our aims on the Eastern front depends first on the realization of this internal strategic objective. The transformation of the political and economic structure, so as to enable the realization of these strategic aims, is the key to achieving the entire change. We need to change from a centralized economy in which the government is extensively involved, to an open and free market as well as to switch from depending upon the U.S. taxpayer to developing, with our own hands, of a genuine productive economic infrastructure. If we are not able to make this change freely and voluntarily, we shall be forced into it by world developments, especially in the areas of economics, energy, and politics, and by our own growing isolation.l9

From a military and strategic point of view, the West led by the U.S. is unable to withstand the global pressures of the USSR throughout the world, and Israel must therefore stand alone in the Eighties, without any foreign assistance, military or economic, and this is within our capacities today, with no compromises.20 Rapid changes in the world will also bring about a change in the condition of world Jewry to which Israel will become not only a last resort but the only existential option. We cannot assume that U.S. Jews, and the communities of Europe and Latin America will continue to exist in the present form in the future.21

Our existence in this country itself is certain, and there is no force that could remove us from here either forcefully or by treachery (Sadat’s method). Despite the difficulties of the mistaken “peace” policy and the problem of the Israeli Arabs and those of the territories, we can effectively deal with these problems in the foreseeable future.
Conclusion

Three important points have to be clarified in order to be able to understand the significant possibilities of realization of this Zionist plan for the Middle East, and also why it had to be published.

The Military Background of The Plan

The military conditions of this plan have not been mentioned above, but on the many occasions where something very like it is being “explained” in closed meetings to members of the Israeli Establishment, this point is clarified. It is assumed that the Israeli military forces, in all their branches, are insufficient for the actual work of occupation of such wide territories as discussed above. In fact, even in times of intense Palestinian “unrest” on the West Bank, the forces of the Israeli Army are stretched out too much. The answer to that is the method of ruling by means of “Haddad forces” or of “Village Associations” (also known as “Village Leagues”): local forces under “leaders” completely dissociated from the population, not having even any feudal or party structure (such as the Phalangists have, for example). The “states” proposed by Yinon are “Haddadland” and “Village Associations,” and their armed forces will be, no doubt, quite similar. In addition, Israeli military superiority in such a situation will be much greater than it is even now, so that any movement of revolt will be “punished” either by mass humiliation as in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or by bombardment and obliteration of cities, as in Lebanon now (June 1982), or by both. In order to ensure this, the plan, as explained orally, calls for the establishment of Israeli garrisons in focal places between the mini states, equipped with the necessary mobile destructive forces. In fact, we have seen something like this in Haddadland and we will almost certainly soon see the first example of this system functioning either in South Lebanon or in all Lebanon.

It is obvious that the above military assumptions, and the whole plan too, depend also on the Arabs continuing to be even more divided than they are now, and on the lack of any truly progressive mass movement among them. It may be that those two conditions will be removed only when the plan will be well advanced, with consequences which can not be foreseen.

Why it is necessary to publish this in Israel?

The reason for publication is the dual nature of the Israeli-Jewish society: A very great measure of freedom and democracy, specially for Jews, combined with expansionism and racist discrimination. In such a situation the Israeli-Jewish elite (for the masses follow the TV and Begin’s speeches) has to be persuaded. The first steps in the process of persuasion are oral, as indicated above, but a time comes in which it becomes inconvenient. Written material must be produced for the benefit of the more stupid “persuaders” and “explainers” (for example medium-rank officers, who are, usually, remarkably stupid). They then “learn it,” more or less, and preach to others. It should be remarked that Israel, and even the Yishuv from the Twenties, has always functioned in this way. I myself well remember how (before I was “in opposition”) the necessity of war with was explained to me and others a year before the 1956 war, and the necessity of conquering “the rest of Western Palestine when we will have the opportunity” was explained in the years 1965-67.

Why is it assumed that there is no special risk from the outside in the publication of such plans?

Such risks can come from two sources, so long as the principled opposition inside Israel is very weak (a situation which may change as a consequence of the war on Lebanon) : The Arab World, including the Palestinians, and the United States. The Arab World has shown itself so far quite incapable of a detailed and rational analysis of Israeli-Jewish society, and the Palestinians have been, on the average, no better than the rest. In such a situation, even those who are shouting about the dangers of Israeli expansionism (which are real enough) are doing this not because of factual and detailed knowledge, but because of belief in myth. A good example is the very persistent belief in the non-existent writing on the wall of the Knesset of the Biblical verse about the Nile and the Euphrates. Another example is the persistent, and completely false declarations, which were made by some of the most important Arab leaders, that the two blue stripes of the Israeli flag symbolize the Nile and the Euphrates, while in fact they are taken from the stripes of the Jewish praying shawl (Talit). The Israeli specialists assume that, on the whole, the Arabs will pay no attention to their serious discussions of the future, and the Lebanon war has proved them right. So why should they not continue with their old methods of persuading other Israelis?

In the United States a very similar situation exists, at least until now. The more or less serious commentators take their information about Israel, and much of their opinions about it, from two sources. The first is from articles in the “liberal” American press, written almost totally by Jewish admirers of Israel who, even if they are critical of some aspects of the Israeli state, practice loyally what Stalin used to call “the constructive criticism.” (In fact those among them who claim also to be “Anti-Stalinist” are in reality more Stalinist than Stalin, with Israel being their god which has not yet failed). In the framework of such critical worship it must be assumed that Israel has always “good intentions” and only “makes mistakes,” and therefore such a plan would not be a matter for discussion–exactly as the Biblical genocides committed by Jews are not mentioned. The other source of information, The Jerusalem Post, has similar policies. So long, therefore, as the situation exists in which Israel is really a “closed society” to the rest of the world, because the world wants to close its eyes, the publication and even the beginning of the realization of such a plan is realistic and feasible.
Israel Shahak
June 17, 1982
Jerusalem
About the Translator

Israel Shahak is a professor of organic chemistly at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the chairman of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights. He published The Shahak Papers, collections of key articles from the Hebrew press, and is the author of numerous articles and books, among them Non-Jew in the Jewish State. His latest book is Israel’s Global Role: Weapons for Repression, published by the AAUG in 1982. Israel Shahak: (1933-2001)
Notes

1. American Universities Field Staff. Report No.33, 1979. According to this research, the population of the world will be 6 billion in the year 2000. Today’s world population can be broken down as follows: China, 958 million; India, 635 million; USSR, 261 million; U.S., 218 million Indonesia, 140 million; Brazil and Japan, 110 million each. According to the figures of the U.N. Population Fund for 1980, there will be, in 2000, 50 cities with a population of over 5 million each. The population ofthp;Third World will then be 80% of the world population. According to Justin Blackwelder, U.S. Census Office chief, the world population will not reach 6 billion because of hunger.

2. Soviet nuclear policy has been well summarized by two American Sovietologists: Joseph D. Douglas and Amoretta M. Hoeber, Soviet Strategy for Nuclear War, (Stanford, Ca., Hoover Inst. Press, 1979). In the Soviet Union tens and hundreds of articles and books are published each year which detail the Soviet doctrine for nuclear war and there is a great deal of documentation translated into English and published by the U.S. Air Force,including USAF: Marxism-Leninism on War and the Army: The Soviet View, Moscow, 1972; USAF: The Armed Forces of the Soviet State. Moscow, 1975, by Marshal A. Grechko. The basic Soviet approach to the matter is presented in the book by Marshal Sokolovski published in 1962 in Moscow: Marshal V. D. Sokolovski, Military Strategy, Soviet Doctrine and Concepts(New York, Praeger, 1963).

3. A picture of Soviet intentions in various areas of the world can be drawn from the book by Douglas and Hoeber, ibid. For additional material see: Michael Morgan, “USSR’s Minerals as Strategic Weapon in the Future,” Defense and Foreign Affairs, Washington, D.C., Dec. 1979.

4. Admiral of the Fleet Sergei Gorshkov, Sea Power and the State, London, 1979. Morgan, loc. cit. General George S. Brown (USAF) C-JCS, Statement to the Congress on the Defense Posture of the United States For Fiscal Year 1979, p. 103; National Security Council, Review of Non-Fuel Mineral Policy, (Washington, D.C. 1979,); Drew Middleton, The New York Times, (9/15/79); Time, 9/21/80.

5. Elie Kedourie, “The End of the Ottoman Empire,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 3, No.4, 1968.

6. Al-Thawra, Syria 12/20/79, Al-Ahram,12/30/79, Al Ba’ath, Syria, 5/6/79. 55% of the Arabs are 20 years old and younger, 70% of the Arabs live in Africa, 55% of the Arabs under 15 are unemployed, 33% live in urban areas, Oded Yinon, “Egypt’s Population Problem,” The Jerusalem Quarterly, No. 15, Spring 1980.

7. E. Kanovsky, “Arab Haves and Have Nots,” The Jerusalem Quarterly, No.1, Fall 1976, Al Ba’ath, Syria, 5/6/79.

8. In his book, former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said that the Israeli government is in fact responsible for the design of American policy in the Middle East, after June ’67, because of its own indecisiveness as to the future of the territories and the inconsistency in its positions since it established the background for Resolution 242 and certainly twelve years later for the Camp David agreements and the peace treaty with Egypt. According to Rabin, on June 19, 1967, President Johnson sent a letter to Prime Minister Eshkol in which he did not mention anything about withdrawal from the new territories but exactly on the same day the government resolved to return territories in exchange for peace. After the Arab resolutions in Khartoum (9/1/67) the government altered its position but contrary to its decision of June 19, did not notify the U.S. of the alteration and the U.S. continued to support 242 in the Security Council on the basis of its earlier understanding that Israel is prepared to return territories. At that point it was already too late to change the U.S. position and Israel’s policy. From here the way was opened to peace agreements on the basis of 242 as was later agreed upon in Camp David. See Yitzhak Rabin. Pinkas Sherut, (Ma’ariv 1979) pp. 226-227.

9. Foreign and Defense Committee Chairman Prof. Moshe Arens argued in an interview (Ma ‘ariv,10/3/80) that the Israeli government failed to prepare an economic plan before the Camp David agreements and was itself surprised by the cost of the agreements, although already during the negotiations it was possible to calculate the heavy price and the serious error involved in not having prepared the economic grounds for peace.

The former Minister of Treasury, Mr. Yigal Holwitz, stated that if it were not for the withdrawal from the oil fields, Israel would have a positive balance of payments (9/17/80). That same person said two years earlier that the government of Israel (from which he withdrew) had placed a noose around his neck. He was referring to the Camp David agreements (Ha’aretz, 11/3/78). In the course of the whole peace negotiations neither an expert nor an economics advisor was consulted, and the Prime Minister himself, who lacks knowledge and expertise in economics, in a mistaken initiative, asked the U.S. to give us a loan rather than a grant, due to his wish to maintain our respect and the respect of the U.S. towards us. See Ha’aretz1/5/79. Jerusalem Post, 9/7/79. Prof Asaf Razin, formerly a senior consultant in the Treasury, strongly criticized the conduct of the negotiations; Ha’aretz, 5/5/79. Ma’ariv, 9/7/79. As to matters concerning the oil fields and Israel’s energy crisis, see the interview with Mr. Eitan Eisenberg, a government advisor on these matters, Ma’arive Weekly, 12/12/78. The Energy Minister, who personally signed the Camp David agreements and the evacuation of Sdeh Alma, has since emphasized the seriousness of our condition from the point of view of oil supplies more than once…see Yediot Ahronot, 7/20/79. Energy Minister Modai even admitted that the government did not consult him at all on the subject of oil during the Camp David and Blair House negotiations. Ha’aretz, 8/22/79.

10. Many sources report on the growth of the armaments budget in Egypt and on intentions to give the army preference in a peace epoch budget over domestic needs for which a peace was allegedly obtained. See former Prime Minister Mamduh Salam in an interview 12/18/77, Treasury Minister Abd El Sayeh in an interview 7/25/78, and the paper Al Akhbar, 12/2/78 which clearly stressed that the military budget will receive first priority, despite the peace. This is what former Prime Minister Mustafa Khalil has stated in his cabinet’s programmatic document which was presented to Parliament, 11/25/78. See English translation, ICA, FBIS, Nov. 27. 1978, pp. D 1-10. According to these sources, Egypt’s military budget increased by 10% between fiscal 1977 and 1978, and the process still goes on. A Saudi source divulged that the Egyptians plan to increase their militmy budget by 100% in the next two years; Ha’aretz, 2/12/79 and Jerusalem Post, 1/14/79.

11. Most of the economic estimates threw doubt on Egypt’s ability to reconstruct its economy by 1982. See Economic Intelligence Unit, 1978 Supplement, “The Arab Republic of Egypt”; E. Kanovsky, “Recent Economic Developments in the Middle East,” Occasional Papers, The Shiloah Institution, June 1977; Kanovsky, “The Egyptian Economy Since the Mid-Sixties, The Micro Sectors,” Occasional Papers, June 1978; Robert McNamara, President of World Bank, as reported in Times, London, 1/24/78.

12. See the comparison made by the researeh of the Institute for Strategic Studies in London, and research camed out in the Center for Strategic Studies of Tel Aviv University, as well as the research by the British scientist, Denis Champlin, Military Review, Nov. 1979, ISS: The Military Balance 1979-1980, CSS; Security Arrangements in Sinai…by Brig. Gen. (Res.) A Shalev, No. 3.0 CSS; The Military Balance and the Military Options after the Peace Treaty with Egypt, by Brig. Gen. (Res.) Y. Raviv, No.4, Dec. 1978, as well as many press reports including El Hawadeth, London, 3/7/80; El Watan El Arabi, Paris, 12/14/79.

13. As for religious ferment in Egypt and the relations between Copts and Moslems see the series of articles published in the Kuwaiti paper, El Qabas, 9/15/80. The English author Irene Beeson reports on the rift between Moslems and Copts, see: Irene Beeson, Guardian, London, 6/24/80, and Desmond Stewart, Middle East Internmational, London 6/6/80. For other reports see Pamela Ann Smith, Guardian, London, 12/24/79; The Christian Science Monitor 12/27/79 as well as Al Dustour, London, 10/15/79; El Kefah El Arabi, 10/15/79.

14. Arab Press Service, Beirut, 8/6-13/80. The New Republic, 8/16/80, Der Spiegel as cited by Ha’aretz, 3/21/80, and 4/30-5/5/80; The Economist, 3/22/80; Robert Fisk, Times, London, 3/26/80; Ellsworth Jones, Sunday Times, 3/30/80.

15. J.P. Peroncell Hugoz, Le Monde, Paris 4/28/80; Dr. Abbas Kelidar, Middle East Review, Summer 1979; Conflict Studies, ISS, July 1975; Andreas Kolschitter, Der Zeit, (Ha’aretz, 9/21/79) Economist Foreign Report, 10/10/79, Afro-Asian Affairs, London, July 1979.

16. Arnold Hottinger, “The Rich Arab States in Trouble,” The New York Review of Books, 5/15/80; Arab Press Service, Beirut, 6/25-7/2/80; U.S. News and World Report, 11/5/79 as well as El Ahram, 11/9/79; El Nahar El Arabi Wal Duwali, Paris 9/7/79; El Hawadeth, 11/9/79; David Hakham, Monthly Review, IDF, Jan.-Feb. 79.

17. As for Jordan’s policies and problems see El Nahar El Arabi Wal Duwali, 4/30/79, 7/2/79; Prof. Elie Kedouri, Ma’ariv 6/8/79; Prof. Tanter, Davar 7/12/79; A. Safdi, Jerusalem Post, 5/31/79; El Watan El Arabi 11/28/79; El Qabas, 11/19/79. As for PLO positions see: The resolutions of the Fatah Fourth Congress, Damascus, August 1980. The Shefa’amr program of the Israeli Arabs was published in Ha’aretz, 9/24/80, and by Arab Press Report 6/18/80. For facts and figures on immigration of Arabs to Jordan, see Amos Ben Vered, Ha’aretz, 2/16/77; Yossef Zuriel, Ma’ariv 1/12/80. As to the PLO’s position towards Israel see Shlomo Gazit, Monthly Review; July 1980; Hani El Hasan in an interview, Al Rai Al’Am, Kuwait 4/15/80; Avi Plaskov, “The Palestinian Problem,” Survival, ISS, London Jan. Feb. 78; David Gutrnann, “The Palestinian Myth,” Commentary, Oct. 75; Bernard Lewis, “The Palestinians and the PLO,” Commentary Jan. 75; Monday Morning, Beirut, 8/18-21/80; Journal of Palestine Studies, Winter 1980.

18. Prof. Yuval Neeman, “Samaria–The Basis for Israel’s Security,” Ma’arakhot 272-273, May/June 1980; Ya’akov Hasdai, “Peace, the Way and the Right to Know,” Dvar Hashavua, 2/23/80. Aharon Yariv, “Strategic Depth–An Israeli Perspective,” Ma’arakhot 270-271, October 1979; Yitzhak Rabin, “Israel’s Defense Problems in the Eighties,” Ma’arakhot October 1979.

19. Ezra Zohar, In the Regime’s Pliers (Shikmona, 1974); Motti Heinrich, Do We have a Chance Israel, Truth Versus Legend (Reshafim, 1981).

20. Henry Kissinger, “The Lessons of the Past,” The Washington Review Vol 1, Jan. 1978; Arthur Ross, “OPEC’s Challenge to the West,” The Washington Quarterly, Winter, 1980; Walter Levy, “Oil and the Decline of the West,” Foreign Affairs, Summer 1980; Special Report–“Our Armed Forees-Ready or Not?” U.S. News and World Report 10/10/77; Stanley Hoffman, “Reflections on the Present Danger,” The New York Review of Books 3/6/80; Time 4/3/80; Leopold Lavedez “The illusions of SALT” Commentary Sept. 79; Norman Podhoretz, “The Present Danger,” Commentary March 1980; Robert Tucker, “Oil and American Power Six Years Later,” Commentary Sept. 1979; Norman Podhoretz, “The Abandonment of Israel,” Commentary July 1976; Elie Kedourie, “Misreading the Middle East,” Commentary July 1979.

21. According to figures published by Ya’akov Karoz, Yediot Ahronot, 10/17/80, the sum total of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the world in 1979 was double the amount recorded in 1978. In Germany, France, and Britain the number of anti-Semitic incidents was many times greater in that year. In the U.S. as well there has been a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents which were reported in that article. For the new anti-Semitism, see L. Talmon, “The New Anti-Semitism,” The New Republic, 9/18/1976; Barbara Tuchman, “They poisoned the Wells,” Newsweek 2/3/75.

Criminal State – Part 2 of 3: A Closer Look at Israel’s Role in Terrorism

This series is based on an article by Jeff Gates, who is a widely acclaimed author, attorney, merchant banker, educator and consultant to governments worldwide, who served for seven years as counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. He is the author of Guilt by Association, Democracy At Risk and The Ownership Solution. See his website http://criminalstate.com/

VIDEO: I AM ISRAHELL!

I am Israel. I came to a land without a people for a people without a land. Those people who happened to be here, had no right to be here and my people showed them they had to leave or die, razing 480 Palestinian villages to the ground, erasing their history.

I am Israel. Some of my people committed massacres and later became prime ministers to represent me. In 1948, Menachem Begin was in charge of the unit that slaughtered the inhabitants of Deir Yassin, including 100 men, wome, and children. In 1953, Ariel Sharon led the slaughter of the inhabitants of Qibya, and in 1982 arranged for our allies to butcher around 2,000 in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla.

I am Israel. I was carved in 1948 out of 78 percent of the land of Palestine, dispossessing its inhabitants and replacing them with Jews from Europe and other parts of the world
. While the natives whose families lived on this land for thousands of years are not allowed to return, Jews from all over the world are welcome to instant citizenship.

I am Israel. In 1967, I swallowed the remaining lands of Palestine – the West Bank and Gaza – and placed their inhabitants under an oppressive military rule, controlling and humiliating every aspect of their daily lives. Eventually, they should get the message that they are not welcome to stay, and join the millions of Palestinian refugees in the shanty camps of Lebanon and Jordan.

I am Israel. I have the power to control American policy. My American-Israel Public Affairs Committee can make or break any politician of its choosing, and as you see, they all compete to please me. All the forces of the world are powerless against me, including the United Nations as I have the American veto to block any condemnation of my war crimes. As Sharon so eloquently phrased it, “We control America.”

I am Israel. I influence American mainstream media too, and you will always find the news tailored to my favor. I have invested millions of dollars into PR representation, and CNN, The New York Times, and others have been doing an excellent job of promoting my propaganda. Look at other international news sources and you will see the difference.

I am Israel. You Palestinians want to negotiate “peace!?” But you are not as smart as me; I will negotiate, but will only let you have your municipalities while I control your borders, your water, your airspace and anything else of importance. While we “negotiate,” I will swallow your hilltops and fill them with settlements, populated by the most extremist of my extremists, armed to the teeth. These settlements will be connected with roads you cannot use, and you will be imprisoned in your little Bantustans between them, surrounded by checkpoints in every direction.

I am Israel. I have the fourthstrongest army in the world, possessing nuclear weapons. How dare your children confront my oppression with stones, don’t you know my soldiers won’t hesitate to blow their heads off? In 17 months, I have killed 900 of you and injured 17,000, mostly civilians, and have the mandate to continue since the international community remains silent. Ignore, as I do, the hundreds of Israeli reserve officers who are now refusing to carry out my control over your lands and people; their voices of conscience will not protect you.

I am Israel. You want freedom? I have bullets, tanks, missiles, Apaches and F-16s to obliterate you. I have placed your towns under siege, confiscated your lands, uprooted your trees, demolished your homes, and you still demand freedom? Don’t you get the message? You will never have peace or freedom, because I am Israel.

Ref: Daily UW

Hashem Said is an officer in the UW Palestinian student group Hayaat. Opinions expressed here are his own.

Perspective; Brothers in arms – Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria (Israeli apartheid)

During the second world war the future South African prime minister John Vorster was interned as a Nazi sympathiser. Three decades later he was being feted in Jerusalem. In the second part of his remarkable special report, Chris McGreal investigates the clandestine alliance between Israel and the apartheid regime, cemented with the ultimate gift of friendship – A-bomb technology

Several years ago in Johannesburg I met a Jewish woman whose mother and sister were murdered in Auschwitz. After their deaths, she was forced into a gas chamber, but by some miracle that bout of killing was called off. Vera Reitzer survived the extermination camp, married soon after the war and moved to South Africa.

Reitzer joined the apartheid Nationalist party (NP) in the early 1950s, at about the time that the new prime minister, DF Malan, was introducing legislation reminiscent of Hitler’s Nuremberg laws against Jews: the population registration act that classified South Africans according to race, legislation that forbade sex and marriage across the colour line and laws barring black people from many jobs.

Reitzer saw no contradiction in surviving the Holocaust only to sign up for a system that was disturbingly reminiscent in its underpinning philosophy, if not in the scale of its crimes, as the one she had outlived. She vigorously defended apartheid as a necessary bulwark against black domination and the communism that engulfed her native Yugoslavia. Reitzer let slip that she thought Africans inferior to other human beings and not entitled to be treated as equals. I asked if Hitler hadn’t said the same thing about her as a Jew. She called a halt to the conversation.

Reitzer was unusual among Jewish South Africans in her open enthusiasm for apartheid and for her membership of the NP. But she was an accepted member of the Jewish community in Johannesburg, working for the Holocaust survivors association, while Jews who fought the system were frequently ostracised by their own community.

Many Israelis recoil at suggestions that their country, risen from the ashes of genocide and built on Jewish ideals, could be compared to a racist regime. Yet for years the bulk of South Africa’s Jews not only failed to challenge the apartheid system but benefited and thrived under its protection, even if some of their number figured prominently in the liberation movements. In time, Israeli governments too set aside objections to a regime whose leaders had once been admirers of Adolf Hitler. Within three decades of its birth, Israel’s self-proclaimed “purity of arms” – what it describes as the moral superiority of its soldiers – was secretly sacrificed as the fate of the Jewish state became so intertwined with South Africa that the Israeli security establishment came to believe the relationship saved the Jewish state.

Afrikaner anti-semitism
Apartheid sought to segregate every aspect of life from the workplace to the bedroom, even though whites in practice were dependent on black people as a workforce and servants. Segregation evolved into “separate development” and the bantustans – the five nominally “independent” homelands where millions of black people were dumped under the rule of despots beholden to Pretoria.

When the Nationalist party government first gained power in Pretoria in 1948, the Jews of South Africa – the bulk of them descendants of refugees from 19th-century pogroms in Lithuania and Latvia – had reason to be wary. A decade before Malan became the first apartheid-era prime minister, he was leading opposition to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany entering South Africa. In promoting legislation to block immigration, Malan told parliament in 1937: “I have been reproached that I am now discriminating against the Jews as Jews. Now let me say frankly that I admit that it is so.”

South African anti-semitism had grown with the rise of Jews to prominence in the 1860s, during the Kimberly diamond rush. At the turn of the century, the Manchester Guardian’s correspondent, JA Hobson, reflected a view that the Boer war was being fought in the interests of a “small group of international financiers, chiefly German in origin and Jewish in race”. Fifty years later, Malan’s cabinet saw similar conspiracies. Hendrik Verwoerd, editor of the virulently anti-semitic newspaper, Die Transvaler, and future author of “grand apartheid”, accused Jews of controlling the economy. Before the second world war, the secret Afrikaner society, the Broederbond – which included Malan and Verwoerd as members – developed ties to the Nazis. Another Broederbond member and future prime minister, John Vorster, was interned in a prison camp by Jan Smuts’s government during the war for his Nazi sympathies and ties to the Grey Shirt fascist militia.

Don Krausz, chairman of Johannesburg’s Holocaust survivors association, arrived in South Africa a year after the war, having survived Hitler’s camps at Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen when much of his extended family did not. “The Nationalists had a strongly anti-semitic platform before 1948. The Afrikaans press was viciously anti-Jewish, much like Der Stürmer in Germany under Hitler. The Jew felt himself very much threatened by the Afrikaner. The Afrikaner supported Hitler,” he says. “My wife comes from Potchefstroom [in what was then the Transvaal]. Every Jewish shop in that town was blown up by the Grey Shirts. In the communities that were predominantly Afrikaans, the Jews were absolutely victimised. Now the same crowd comes to power in 1948. The Jew was a very frightened person. There were cabinet ministers who openly supported the Nazis.”

Helen Suzman, a secular Jew, was for many years the only anti-apartheid voice in parliament. “They didn’t fear there would be a Holocaust but they did fear there might be Nuremberg-style laws, the kind that prevented people practising their professions. The incoming government had made it clear that race differentiation was going to be intensified, and the Jews didn’t know where they were going to fit into that,” she says.

Many South African Jews were soon reassured that, while there would be Nuremberg-style laws, they would not be the victims. The apartheid regime had a demographic problem and it could not afford the luxury of isolating a section of the white population, even if it was Jewish. Within a few years many South African Jews not only came to feel secure under the new order but comfortable with it. Some found echoes of Israel’s struggle in the revival of Afrikaner nationalism.

Many Afrikaners saw the Nationalist party’s election victory as liberation from bitterly hated British rule. British concentration camps in South Africa may not have matched the scale or intent of Hitler’s war against the Jews, but the deaths of 25,000 women and children from disease and starvation were deeply rooted in Afrikaner nationalism, in the way the memory of the Holocaust is now central to Israel’s perception of itself. The white regime said that the lesson was for Afrikaners to protect their interests or face destruction.

“What the Nats were trying to do was protect the Afrikaner,” says Krausz. “Especially after what was done to them in the Boer war, where the Afrikaner was reduced almost to a beggar on returning after the war, whether it was from the battlefield or some sort of concentration camp. They did it to protect the Afrikaner, his predominance after 1948, his culture.”

There was also God. The Dutch Reformed Church, prising justifications for apartheid out of the Old Testament and Afrikaner history, seized on the victory over the Zulus at the battle of Blood River as confirming that the Almighty sided with the white man.

“Israelis claim that they are the chosen people, the elect of God, and find a biblical justification for their racism and Zionist exclusivity,” says Ronnie Kasrils, South Africa’s intelligence minister and Jewish co-author of a petition that was circulated amongst South African Jewry protesting at the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

“This is just like the Afrikaners of apartheid South Africa, who also had the biblical notion that the land was their God-given right. Like the Zionists who claimed that Palestine in the 1940s was ‘a land without people for a people without land’, so the Afrikaner settlers spread the myth that there were no black people in South Africa when they first settled in the 17th century. They conquered by force of arms and terror and the provocation of a series of bloody colonial wars of conquest.”

Anti-semitism lingered, but within a few years of the Nationalists assuming power in 1948, many Jewish South Africans found common purpose with the rest of the white community. “We were white and even though the Afrikaner was no friend of ours, he was still white,” says Krausz. “The Jew in South Africa sided with the Afrikaners, not so much out of sympathy, but out of fear sided against the blacks. I came to this country in 1946 and all you could hear from Jews was ‘the blacks this and the blacks that’. And I said to them, ‘You know, I’ve heard exactly the same from the Nazis about you.’ The laws were reminiscent of the Nuremberg laws. Separate entrances; ‘Reserved for whites’ here; ‘Not for Jews’ there.”

For decades, the Zionist Federation and Jewish Board of Deputies in South Africa honoured men such as Percy Yutar, who prosecuted Nelson Mandela for sabotage and conspiracy against the state in 1963 and sent him to jail for life (in the event, he served 27 years). Yutar went on to become attorney general of the Orange Free State and then of the Transvaal. He was elected president of Johannesburg’s largest orthodox synagogue. Some Jewish leaders hailed him as a “credit to the community” and a symbol of the Jews’ contribution to South Africa.

“The image of the Jews was that they were following Helen Suzman,” says Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Pretoria. “I think the majority didn’t like what apartheid was doing to the blacks but enjoyed the fruits of the system and thought that maybe that’s the only way to run a country like South Africa.”

The Jewish establishment shied away from confrontation with the government. The declared policy of the Board of Deputies was “neutrality” so as not to “endanger” the Jewish population. Those Jews who saw silence as collaboration with racial oppression, and did something about it outside of the mainstream political system, were shunned.

“They were mostly disapproved of very strongly because it was felt they were putting the community in danger,” says Suzman. “The Board of Deputies always said that every Jew can exercise his freedom to choose his political party but bear in mind what it is doing to the community. By and large, Jews were part of the privileged white community and that led many Jews to say, ‘We will not rock the boat.'”

Common aims
Israel was openly critical of apartheid through the 1950s and 60s as it built alliances with post-colonial African governments. But most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the government in Jerusalem began to take a more benign view of the isolated regime in Pretoria. The relationship changed so profoundly that, in 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster – a former Nazi sympathiser and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler – to make a state visit.

Leaving unmentioned Vorster’s wartime internment for supporting Germany, Israel’s prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hailed the South African premier as a force for freedom and made no mention of Vorster’s past as he toured the Jerusalem memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. At a state banquet, Rabin toasted “the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence”. Both countries, he said, faced “foreign-inspired instability and recklessness”.

Vorster, whose army was then overrunning Angola, told his hosts that South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of western civilisation. A few months later, the South African government’s yearbook characterised the two countries as confronting a single problem: “Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.

Vorster’s visit laid the ground for a collaboration that transformed the Israel-South Africa axis into a leading weapons developer and a force in the international arms trade. Liel, who headed the Israeli foreign ministry’s South Africa desk in the 80s, says that the Israeli security establishment came to believe that the Jewish state may not have survived without the relationship with the Afrikaners.

We created the South African arms industry,” says Liel. “They assisted us to develop all kinds of technology because they had a lot of money. When we were developing things together we usually gave the know-how and they gave the money. After 1976, there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies.

“We were involved in Angola as consultants to the [South African] army. You had Israeli officers there cooperating with the army. The link was very intimate.”

Alongside the state-owned factories turning out materiel for South Africa was Kibbutz Beit Alfa, which developed a profitable industry selling anti-riot vehicles for use against protesters in the black townships.

Going nuclear
The biggest secret of all was the nuclear one. Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa’s development of its nuclear bombs. Israel was embarrassed enough about its close association with a political movement rooted in racial ideology to keep the military collaboration hidden.

“All that I’m telling you was completely secret,” says Liel. “The knowledge of it was extremely limited to a small number of people outside the security establishment. But it so happened that many of our prime ministers were part of it, so if you take people such as [Shimon] Peres or Rabin, certainly they knew about it because they were part of the security establishment.

“At the UN we kept saying: we are against apartheid, as Jewish people who suffered from the Holocaust this is intolerable. But our security establishment kept cooperating.”

So did many politicians. Israeli cities found twins in South Africa, and Israel was alone among western nations in allowing the black homeland of Bophuthatswana to open an “embassy”.

By the 1980s, Israel and South Africa echoed each other in justifying the domination of other peoples. Both said that their own peoples faced annihilation from external forces – in South Africa by black African governments and communism; in Israel, by Arab states and Islam. But each eventually faced popular uprisings – Soweto in 1976, the Palestinian intifada in 1987 – that were internal, spontaneous and radically altered the nature of the conflicts.

“There are things we South Africans recognise in the Palestinian struggle for national self-determination and human rights,” says Kasrils. “The repressed are demonised as terrorists to justify ever-greater violations of their rights. We have the absurdity that the victims are blamed for the violence meted out against them. Both apartheid and Israel are prime examples of terrorist states blaming the victims.”

There are important differences. Israel faced three wars of survival, and the armed struggle in South Africa never evolved to the murderous tactics or scale of killing adopted by Palestinian groups over recent years. But, from the 1980s, the overwhelming superiority of Israeli military power, the diminishing threat from its neighbours and the shift of the conflict to Palestinian streets eroded the sympathy that Israel once commanded abroad.

White South Africa and Israel painted themselves as enclaves of democratic civilisation on the front line in defending western values, yet both governments often demanded to be judged by the standards of the neighbours they claimed to be protecting the free world from.

“The whites [in South Africa] always saw their fate in a way related to the fate of the Israelis because the Israelis were a white minority surrounded by 200 million fanatic Muslims assisted by communism,” says Liel. “Also, there was this analysis that said Israel is a civilised western island in the midst of these 200 million barbaric Arabs and it’s the same as the Afrikaners; five million Afrikaners surrounded by hundreds of millions of blacks who are also assisted by communism.”

When Israel finally began to back away from the apartheid regime as international pressure on the Afrikaner government grew, Liel says Israel’s security establishment balked. “When we came to the crossroads in ’86-’87, in which the foreign ministry said we have to switch from white to black, the security establishment said, ‘You’re crazy, it’s suicidal.’ They were saying we wouldn’t have military and aviation industries unless we had had South Africa as our main client from the mid-1970s; they saved Israel. By the way, it’s probably true,” he says.

Forgetting the past
Shimon Peres was defence minister at the time of Vorster’s visit to Jerusalem and twice served as prime minister during the 1980s when Israel drew closest to the apartheid government. He shies away from questions about the morality of ties to the white regime. “I never think back. Since I cannot change the past, why should I deal with it?” he says.

Pressed about whether he ever had doubts about backing a government that was the antithesis of what Israel said it stood for, Peres says his country was struggling for survival. “Every decision is not between two perfect situations. Every choice is between two imperfect alternatives. At that time the movement of black South Africa was with Arafat against us. Actually, we didn’t have much of a choice. But we never stopped denouncing apartheid. We never agreed with it.”

And a man like Vorster? “I wouldn’t put him on the list of the greatest leaders of our time,” says Peres.

The deputy director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, Gideon Meir, says that while he had no detailed knowledge of Israel’s relationship with the apartheid government, it was driven by a sole consideration. “Our main problem is security. There is no other country in the world whose very existence is being threatened. This is since the inception of the state of Israel to this very day. Everything is an outcome of the geopolitics of Israel.”

When apartheid collapsed, the South African Jewish establishment that once honoured Percy Yutar – the prosecutor who jailed Mandela – now rushed to embrace Jews who were at the forefront of the anti-apartheid struggle, such as Joe Slovo, Ronnie Kasrils and Ruth First.

“I received these awards from international Zionist organisations claiming that it was my Judaic roots that had driven me,” says Suzman. “When I said I didn’t have a Jewish upbringing and that I went to a convent which didn’t influence me either, they said it was not actively but instinctively.”

For Kasrils, the embrace was short-lived. “They spent years denouncing me for ‘endangering the Jews’ and then suddenly they pretend they’ve been at my side all through the struggle. It didn’t last long. As soon as I started criticising what Israel is doing in Palestine they dropped me again,” he said.

Nowadays, the language of the anti-apartheid struggle has found favour with the Jewish establishment as a means of defending Israel. South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, has called Zionism the “national liberation movement of the Jewish people” and invoked the terminology of Pretoria’s policies to uplift “previously disadvantaged” black people. “Israel is an affirmative-action state set up to protect Jews from genocide. We are previously disadvantaged and we can’t rely on the goodwill of the world,” he said. Rabbi Goldstein declined several requests for an interview.

In 2004, Ronnie Kasrils visited the Palestinian territories to assess the effect of Israel’s assault on the West Bank two years earlier in response to a wave of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people. “This is much worse than apartheid,” he said. “The Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armoured vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale.”

Petition of conscience
More than 200 South African Jews signed a petition that Kasrils co-authored with another Jewish veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Max Ozinsky, denouncing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and drawing a parallel with apartheid. The document, called A Declaration of Conscience, prompted a furious debate within the community. Arthur Goldreich – one of Mandela’s early comrades-in-arms who also fought for Israel’s independence – was among those who signed but he attached an addendum recognising the impact of the suicide bombings on how Israelis view the Palestinians.

Kasrils acknowledges the effect of the bombers but says that Israel’s “apartheid strategy” was under way long before the suicide attacks began. He notes the resemblance of the occupied territories to South Africa’s patchwork of homelands – the bantustans – that were intended to divest the country of much of its black population while keeping the best of their land.

Today, about six million Israelis live on 85% of the area that was Palestine under the British mandate. Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians are confined to the remaining 15%, with their towns and cities penned between Israel’s ever-expanding settlement blocks and behind a network of segregated roads, security barriers and military installations.

You might say that Israel and the old South Africa were caught out by history.

And if Israel was fighting for its life and forcing Arabs out of their homes at the same time, who in the west was going to judge the Jews after what they had endured?

But colonialism crumbled in Africa and Israel grew strong, and the world became less accepting of the justifications in Pretoria and Jerusalem. South Africa’s white leadership eventually accepted another way. Israel now stands at a critical moment in its history.

With Ariel Sharon in a coma, it is unlikely that we will ever know how far he intended to carry his “unilateral disengagement” strategy after the withdrawal from Gaza and a part of the West Bank. Like FW de Klerk, who initiated the dismantling of apartheid, Sharon might have found he had set in motion forces he could not contain – forces that would have led to a deal acceptable to the Palestinians.

But to the Palestinians, Sharon appeared intent on carrying through a modified version of his longstanding plan to rid Israel of responsibility for as many Arabs as possible while keeping as much of their land as he could.

While Tony Blair was praising the Israeli prime minister for his political “courage” in leaving Gaza in August last year, Sharon was expropriating more land in the West Bank than Israel surrendered in Gaza, building thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements, and accelerating construction of the 400-plus miles of concrete and barbed wire barrier that few doubt is intended as a border.

Palestinians said that whatever emasculated “state” emerged – granted only “aspects of sovereignty” with limited control over its borders, finances and foreign policy – would be disturbingly reminiscent of South Africa’s defunct bantustans.

Take the roads. Israel is rapidly constructing a parallel network of roads in the West Bank for Palestinians who are barred from using many existing routes. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, describes the system as bearing “clear similarities to the racist apartheid regime that existed in South Africa”.

The army, which describes roads from which Palestinians are forbidden as “sterile”, says the policy is driven solely by security considerations. But it is evident that the West Bank road system is a tool, along with the 400-plus miles of barrier, in entrenching the settlement blocks and carving up territory. “The road regime is not by legislation,” said Goldreich. “It’s by political decision and military orders. When I look at all of those maps and I look at the roads, it’s like Alice in Wonderland. There are roads that Israelis can go on and roads Palestinians can go on, and roads Israelis and Palestinians can go on.” The roads, the checkpoints, the fence – all “by edict. I look at it and ask, what is the thinking behind this?”

Three years ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the former Italian prime minister, Massimo D’Alema, as telling dinner guests at a Jerusalem hotel that, on a visit to Rome a few years earlier, Sharon had told him that the bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. When one of the guests suggested to D’Alema that he was interpreting, not repeating, Sharon’s words, the former prime minister said not. “No, sir, that is not interpretation. That is a precise quotation of your prime minister,” he said. With Sharon out of politics, his successor Ehud Olmert has pledged himself to carrying through the vision of carving out Israel’s final borders deep inside the West Bank and retaining all of Jerusalem for the Jewish state.

So is it apartheid?
Stepping into modern Israel, anyone who experienced the old South Africa would see few immediately visible comparisons. There are no signs segregating Jews and non-Jews. Yet, as in white South Africa then and now, there is a world of discrimination and oppression that most Israelis choose not to see.

Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate and harass Palestinians at checkpoints and settlers paint hate-filled slogans on the walls of Arab houses in Hebron. The police stop citizens who appear to be Arabs on West Jerusalem streets to demand their identity cards as a matter of routine.

Some Jewish communities refuse to allow Arabs in their midst on the grounds of cultural differences. One Jewish settlement mayor tried to require Arabs who entered to wear a tag that identified them as Palestinians. In the 1990s, rightwingers menaced shopkeepers into sacking Arab workers. Those who complied were given signs declaring their shops Arab-free. Sometimes the hatred is explained away as religious discrimination, but the chants at the football matches go “Death to Arabs” not “Death to Muslims”.

The Israeli press largely ignores the routine of occupation despite the fearless reporting of some journalists on the disturbing number of children who die under Israeli guns (more than 650 since the second intifada broke out in September 2000, of which a quarter were younger than 12 years old); the abuse of Palestinians by settlers, and the humiliations meted out at the checkpoints.

The eight-metre-high wall driven through Jerusalem is almost invisible to residents of the Jewish west of the city. Because of the geography, most of the city’s Jews do not see the concrete mammoth dividing streets and families, and the demolished homes – just as most of South Africa’s whites steered clear of the townships and were blind to what was being done in their name.

Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem, I was invited for dinner at the home of a liberal Israeli family. The guests included an American magazine publisher, a prominent historian and political activists. The conversation turned to the Palestinians and degenerated into a discussion of how they do not “deserve” a state. The intifada and suicide bombings were seen to justify 37 years of occupation and offset whatever crimes Israel may have committed against the Arabs under its rule.

It was all very reminiscent of conversations in South Africa, and indeed the popular Israeli view of Palestinians is not so far from how many white South Africans thought about black people. Opinion polls show that large numbers of Israelis regard Arabs as “dirty”, “primitive”, as not valuing human life and as violent.

Sharon recruited into his government men who openly called for wholesale ethnic cleansing that would more than match apartheid’s forced removals. Among them was the tourism minister, Rehavam Ze’evi, who advocated the “transfer” of Arabs out of Israel and the occupied territories. Even the Israeli press called him a racist. Ze’evi was shot dead in 2001 by Palestinians who said his policies made him a legitimate target.

But Ze’evi’s views did not die with him. An influential member of the Likud central committee, Uzi Cohen, said Israel and its western allies should demand that a part of Jordan be carved off as a Palestinian state and that Arabs in the occupied territories should be given 20 years to “leave voluntarily”. “In case they don’t leave, plans would have to be drawn up to expel them by force,” Cohen told Israel radio. “Many people support the idea but few are willing to speak about it publicly.” Cohen is among 70 Israeli MPs who have backed a bill to establish a national memorial day for Ze’evi and an institute to perpetuate his ideas.

In 2001, Sharon appointed Uzi Landau as his security minister, a position from which he openly advocated that Palestinians should be forced to move to Jordan because they were in the way of Israeli expansion in the West Bank. “For many of us, it’s as though they [the Palestinians] are encroaching on our very right to be there [in the occupied territories],” he said.

Sharon rarely objected to the expression of such views, and when he did it was not because they were racist or immoral. The prime minister told Likud party members who pressed him to expel Palestinians that he could not do so because the “international situation wouldn’t be conducive”.

“We’ve always had the fanatics talking of greater Israel,” says Krausz, the Holocaust survivor in Johannesburg. “There are blokes who say it says in the Bible this land is ours, God gave it to us. It’s fascism.”

Colonial dispossession
Yossi Sarid, a leftwing Israeli MP, said of a cabinet minister who agitated for the forced removal of Arabs: “His remarks are reminiscent of other people and other lands which ultimately led to the annihilation of millions of Jews.” They are also reminiscent of comments by PW Botha, who went on to become South Africa’s president. Speaking to parliament in 1964 as minister for coloured affairs, he said: “I am one of those who believe that there is no permanent home for even a section of the Bantu in the white area of South Africa and the destiny of South Africa depends on this essential point. If the principle of permanent residence for the black man in the area of the white is accepted then it is the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it in this country.”

There was a time when large numbers of Israelis agreed with Ze’evi and Cohen, but over the past decade they have come to support the creation of a Palestinian state as a means of ridding themselves of responsibility from the bulk of Arabs. Separation. Apartheid.

But South African apartheid was more than just separation. “Apartheid was all about land,” says John Dugard, the South African lawyer and UN human rights monitor. “Apartheid was about keeping the best parts of the country for the whites and sending the blacks to the least habitable, least desirable parts of the country. And one sees that all the time here [in the occupied territories], particularly with the wall, now, which is really a land grab. One sees Palestinians dispossessed of their homes by bulldozers. One can draw certain parallels with respect to South Africa that, during the heyday of apartheid, population relocation did result in destruction of property, but not on the same scale as the devastation in Gaza in particular, [or in] the West Bank.”

Arthur Goldreich resists the temptation to use the comparison. “It is a viable, even attractive, analogy. I have in the past been very reluctant, and still am, to make the analogy because I think it’s too convenient. I think there are striking similarities in all forms of racist discrimination,” he says.

“I think to describe, let us say, the bantustanism which we see through a policy of occupation and separation: they all have their own words and their own implications and it is not necessary to go outside to find them.”

Kasrils agrees. “Yes, there are enormous parallels with apartheid, but the problem with making comparisons is it actually distracts from the Palestinian context,” he says. “We have to look for another definition. What struck me is dispossession, colonial dispossession. Most colonial dispossession took place over centuries through settlers and forced removals. In South Africa, that was a 300-year process. Here, it’s taken place in 50 years; 1948, 1967 and the present in terms of the heightened nature of militarism in the West Bank and Gaza leading to the wall, which I don’t see as a wall of security but a wall of dispossession.”

Hirsh Goodman emigrated to Israel three decades ago after his national service in the South African army. His son moved to South Africa after completing his conscription in the Israeli military. “The army sent him to the occupied territories and he said he would never forgive this country for what it made him do,” says Goodman, a security analyst at Tel Aviv university. He says Israel has a lot to answer for but to call it apartheid goes too far. “If Israel retains the [occupied] territories it ceases to be a democracy, and in that sense it is apartheid because it differentiates between two classes of people and separates and creates two sets of laws which is what apartheid did. It creates two standards of education, health, of dispensing funds. But you can’t call Israel an apartheid state when 76% of the people want an agreement with the Palestinians. Yes, there’s discrimination against the Arabs, the Ethiopians and others, but it’s not a racist society. There’s colonialism, but there’s not apartheid. I feel very strongly about apartheid. I hate the term being abused.”

Daniel Seidemann, the Israeli lawyer who is fighting Jerusalem’s residency and planning laws, says that he used to reject the apartheid parallel out of hand but finds it harder to do so nowadays. “My gut reaction: ‘Oh, no! Our side? My goodness, no!’ I think there’s a good deal to be said for that reaction to the extent that apartheid was rooted in a racial ideology which clearly fed social realities, fed the political system, fed the system of economic subjugation. As a Jew, to concede the predominance of a racial world view of subjugating Palestinians is difficult to accept,” he says. “But, unfortunately, the fact of the absence of a racial ideology is not sufficient because the realities that have emerged in some ways are clearly reminiscent of some of the important trappings of an apartheid regime.”

So perhaps the better question is how Israel came to a point where comparisons with apartheid could even be contemplated. Is it a victim of circumstances, forced into oppression by its need to survive? Or was the hunger for land so central to the Zionist project that domination was the inevitable result?

Krausz worked in Israel for several years soon after the birth of the state. “I recognised the conflict in trying to take land that the Palestinians had lived on for centuries. I realise the 1948 war of independence wasn’t a right-and-wrong situation: a lot of Arabs not only fled voluntarily but were also encouraged to do so. What they would have done if there hadn’t been a war, I don’t know,” he says.

“I know that where I drilled for oil was the site of an Arab village. Being South African, I used to go and visit family and friends on a kibbutz that was started by South Africans, including my cousin. I used to go roaming about the countryside there and I went through one abandoned and blown up Arab village after another.”

States of fear
In Israel, at least until the late 1970s, the threat from its Arab neighbours was all too real. But fear also played a role among white South Africans, who watched with growing horror, and then terror, the tide of empire receding and black rule sweeping Africa. The accounts of white women raped in newly independent Congo and, years later, the scenes of whites fleeing Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia, were used by South Africa to terrify its white citizens into accepting increasingly oppressive measures against black people. Nevertheless, the fear among whites was real. They, like Israelis, saw themselves as in a struggle for their very existence.

Israel’s critics say that as the threats to the Jewish state receded it came more and more to resemble the apartheid model – particularly in its use of land and residency laws – until the similarities outweighed the differences. Liel says that was never the intent.

“The existential problems of Israel were real,” he says. “Of the injustice we did, we’re always ashamed. We always tried to behave democratically. Of course, on the private level there was a lot of discrimination – a lot, a lot. By the government also. But it was not a philosophy that was built on racism. A lot of it was security-oriented.”

Goldreich disagrees. “It’s a gross distortion. I’m surprised at Liel. In 1967, in the six day war, in this climate of euphoria – by intent, not by will of God or accident – the Israeli government occupied the territories of the West Bank and Gaza with a captive Palestinian population obviously in order to extend the area of Israel and to push the borders more distant from where they were,” he says.

“I and others like me, active after the six day war on public platforms, tried desperately to convince audiences throughout this country that peace agreements between Israel and Palestine [offer] greater security than occupation of territory and settlements. But the government wanted territory more than it wanted security.

“I am certain that it was in the minds of many in the leadership of this country that what we needed to do was make this place Arab-free. Mandela said to me once at Rivonia, ‘You know, they want to make us unpeople, not seen.'”

But, as ordinary Israelis discovered, such a system cannot survive unchallenged. Apartheid collapsed in part because South African society was exhausted by its demands and the myth of victimhood among whites fell away. Israel has not got there yet. Many Israelis still think they are the primary victims of the occupation.

For Seidemann, the crucial issue is not how the apartheid system worked but how it began to disintegrate. “It unravelled because it couldn’t be done. Apartheid drained so much energy from South African society that this was one of the compelling reasons beyond the economic sanctions and pressures that convinced De Klerk that this was not sustainable. This is what is coming to Israel.”

Or perhaps the conflict will evolve into something worse; something that will produce parallels even more shocking than that with apartheid.

Arnon Soffer has spent years advising the government on the “demographic threat” posed by the Arabs. The Haifa university geographer paints a bleak vision of how he sees the Gaza strip a generation after Israel’s withdrawal.

“When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day,” he told the Jerusalem Post.

“If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.”

Ref: Guardian

Was Arafat the Problem?

One thing nearly all pundits seem to agree on is that Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the land-for-peace offer made by Ehud Barak at Camp David in the summer of 2000 was indefensible. This conventional wisdom has been a great asset to Ariel Sharon. Its implication—that Arafat was never really interested in a two-state solution to begin with—has helped turn many former peaceniks in both Israel and America into hard-liners.
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An example is Rabbi Martin Weiner of San Francisco, president of the Rabbinical Association of Reform Judaism. “For most of us Prime Minister Barak’s proposals seemed so generous,” he explained on NPR’s All Things Considered. He can’t understand how Arafat could have “rejected the Palestinian state that was offered to him in the summer of 2000.” Given this rejection, and Arafat’s subsequent sponsoring of terrorism, Weiner is “sadly coming to believe” that Yasser Arafat’s goal “is now and may have always been the destruction of Israel.”

In this week’s Nation, political scientist Richard Falk contests the standard view that Israel’s offer at Camp David was eminently fair. But Falk’s argument, embedded in a larger critique of American foreign policy, doesn’t get deeply into the nuts and bolts of the issue. If you want to see Camp David from Arafat’s point of view, a better place to look is a New York Review of Books piece that appeared back in August and was co-authored by Robert Malley, special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs in the Clinton administration. Malley was at Camp David and found Arafat’s behavior there intensely frustrating, but he doesn’t buy the interpretation that is favored on the right—that Arafat’s rejection of the deal amounts to rejection of a two-state solution.

So, are Falk and Malley right? Is Arafat’s Camp David behavior even remotely defensible?

There were actually two Barak offers to Arafat—one at Camp David, and a more generous one that took shape over ensuing months, culminating in failed negotiations in Taba, Egypt, in January of 2001. Most Arafat critics, like Rabbi Weiner, focus on Camp David. So, let’s look at Camp David first and Taba second.

David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem Report, recently said on the NPR show To the Point that Barak offered “basically all the territory the Palestinians were purporting to seek.” This is a widely repeated claim—that Israel offered something like the “pre-1967 borders” that had long been the mantra of Palestinians who favored a two-state solution. But for Palestinians to get all the territory that had been under Arab control before the war of 1967 would mean getting a) all of what we now think of as the West Bank; b) all of East Jerusalem (which some consider part of the West Bank); and c) all of the walled “Old City” that lies between East and West Jerusalem. Barak never offered any of those things—not at Camp David, not at Taba.

As a practical matter, he couldn’t. The problem wasn’t just the famously provocative settlements that Israel’s government had long been sponsoring in the West Bank. Barak was willing to dismantle some of those and consolidate others. But there had also been more organic, more “innocent” settlement, in the greater Jerusalem area and elsewhere. Further, for political reasons, Barak couldn’t possibly surrender control of the part of the Old City that contains the Western Wall of the Second Temple—the wall you see Jews praying at in file footage.

So, Barak hung on to key parts of the Old City and proposed that, before surrendering the West Bank, Israel would annex 9 percent of it, leaving 91 percent for the Palestinians. That was his last, best offer, at Camp David.

But wait. Didn’t Barak, as his defenders say, offer Arafat land from Israel proper in return for the annexed 9 percent?

Yes. But the terms of the trade bordered on insulting. In exchange for the 9 percent of the West Bank annexed by Israel, Arafat would have gotten land as large as 1 percent of the West Bank. And, whereas some of the 9 percent was choice land, symbolically important to Palestinians, the 1 percent was land whose location wasn’t even specified.

I’m trying to imagine Yasser Arafat selling this 9-to-1 land swap to Palestinians—who, remember, are divided into two camps: the “return to 1967 borders” crowd and the “destroy the state of Israel” crowd. I’m not succeeding. And Arafat would have had to explain other unpalatable details, such as Israeli sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif (site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque), which had been under Arab control before 1967 and is the third-holiest site in Islam.

The Camp David offer also had features that kept it from amounting to statehood in the full sense of the term. The new Palestine couldn’t have had a military and wouldn’t have had sovereignty over its air space—Israeli jets would roam at will. Nor would the Palestinians’ freedom of movement on the ground have been guaranteed. At least one east-west Israeli-controlled road would slice all the way across the West Bank, and Israel would be entitled to declare emergencies during which Palestinians couldn’t cross the road. Imagine if a mortal enemy of America’s—say the Soviet Union during the Cold War—was legally entitled to stop the north-south flow of Americans and American commerce. Don’t you think the average American might ask: Wait a minute—who negotiated this deal?

I’m not saying any of these things aren’t defensible from an Israeli point of view. I’m just saying it takes very little imagination to see why Palestinians might balk, after three decades of nursing a grievance centered on—at the very minimum—the right to have their very own state defined by pre-1967 borders.

Another big issue was the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees. The Israeli fear is certainly understandable: If all Palestinians who once lived in Israel—and all of their descendants—were allowed to return, Israel might wind up with an Arab majority. Accounts differ on how hard a line the Palestinians have taken on this issue at various negotiations. Malley and his co-author, Hussein Agha of Oxford University, say Arafat showed unprecedented flexibility at Camp David. In any event, by early 2001 Arafat was showing flexibility, advocating in a New York Times op-ed “creative solutions to the plight of the refugees while respecting Israel’s demographic concerns.”

Malley and Agha do a good job of illuminating Arafat’s psychological state at Camp David, notably his lack of trust of the Israelis and his sense that the Israelis and Americans were ganging up on him. The portrait at times borders on the patronizing—Arafat comes off as almost childish in his insecurity and pride compared with the cool, linear-thinking Barak. But this is the kind of portrait Arafat’s harshest critics have been known to paint when they’re not busy depicting his Camp David demurral as the coolly rational act of an evil mastermind.

Arafat’s complex psychology may help explain the most valid criticism of his conduct in the summer of 2000, routinely cited even by his defenders: the failure to offer a distinct counterproposal, or, after Camp David, to tell the larger world exactly what was wrong with the Israeli offer. Certainly the latter failure was a public-relations disaster, and it is one reason Arafat has been depicted as the problem ever since. (An aide to Arafat has said that he kept quiet after Camp David out of respect for Clinton’s interests. )

As for the failure to be clearer at the negotiations themselves: In the Malley and Agha account, this reticence—which Malley found maddening—emerges as a product not just of Arafat’s peculiar psychology, but of a specific Palestinian concern. In any event, depicting the Palestinian silence at Camp David as signifying opposition to a two-state solution doesn’t mesh well with subsequent events. In the ensuing months, Palestinian negotiators got quite explicit about their position. By the time of the Taba negotiations, they were drawing maps and talking numbers: Israel could annex 3 percent of the West Bank and compensate Palestine with the same amount of land from Israel proper.

The Israelis, for their part, had sweetened the pot considerably by the time they got to Taba—most notably in accepting Palestinian sovereignty over Haram al-Sharif. They also made the land offers more generous. But they didn’t really offer “97 percent of the West Bank,” as has been asserted not just in such right-wing outlets as National Review and the Fox News channel, but in Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. The Israelis offered 94 percent of the West Bank—a 6-percent annexing—and then offered to compensate the Palestinians with land from Israel proper equaling 3 percent of the West Bank. That is, they offered a total land mass as large as 97 percent of the West Bank.

Taba was a big step forward. A 2-to-1 land swap sure beats a 9-to-1 swap. But it still left Arafat having to answer the obvious question: Um, why not 1-to-1? If Israel really accepts the principle that pre-1967 borders are a valid goal except where rendered impractical by demographic “facts on the ground,” then shouldn’t it offer fair recompense for the land being withheld—especially since it created those facts on the ground, in some cases cynically? Israel’s Taba position also left in place some details—no Palestinian military, for example—that made the term “statehood” a bit misleading.

More important, by the time of Taba, the whole political environment had changed. In September, Barak had allowed Ariel Sharon to make his famous visit to Haram al-Sharif, which many observers consider the spark that ignited the current intifada. Given the only deepening mistrust between Arafat and Israel, America was, more than ever, a vital guarantor of any deal. Yet President Clinton was by then a lame duck, and comments from President-elect Bush had made clear his limited enthusiasm for Middle East peace brokering.

Arafat may also have been troubled by the fact that Barak seemed doomed to lose upcoming elections to Ariel Sharon, who probably wouldn’t honor a Barak-negotiated deal. Maybe Arafat can be blamed here. Assuming he realized that a deal at Taba was the only thing that could save Barak’s government, thus keeping Sharon out of office, maybe he should have decided that, for the sake of his people, he would seize the moment, notwithstanding the shaky foundation of an America-less deal. But the question before us isn’t whether Arafat is a humane, creative, visionary leader—he’s roughly the opposite along all three dimensions. The question is whether Arafat’s behavior at Camp David and afterward are incomprehensible unless we assume he never really wanted a two-state solution. This is the interpretation favored by Ariel Sharon and many others on the right—as well as such former peaceniks as Rabbi Weiner. And, in my view, this interpretation just doesn’t survive close scrutiny of the facts.

So, how did it arise?

In late 1988, during the first (and essentially nonviolent) intifada, I was in Israel. One afternoon I had a drink with the legendary Teddy Kollek, mayor of Jerusalem. I asked Kollek what he thought the Palestinians would accept in the way of territory. He looked at me with a conspicuous lack of concern and said knowingly, “Whatever they can get.”

Ideologically, Kollek was no Ariel Sharon. So, I’m guessing that he was reflecting a mainstream Israeli view: that Israel was in the catbird seat and could eventually cut a nearly painless deal with the Palestinians. That would explain why, when Camp David hit the airwaves, the papers were full of stories about how a taboo had been broken in Israel: There was now serious discussion of ceding parts of Jerusalem! Never mind that the parts of East Jerusalem Barak was willing to cede didn’t constitute nearly what had been under Arab control before 1967. The idea of actually returning to anything like the much-discussed “pre-1967 borders” simply hadn’t been taken seriously in Israel before.

So, it’s natural that many Israelis would share Rabbi Weiner’s view of Barak’s offer as “so generous.” They had never looked at things from the Palestinian point of view. Barak’s proposals were, in the context of Israeli politics, path-breaking and courageous. But, as Malley wrote in a New York Times op-ed that is a CliffsNotes version of his NYRB piece, “[T]he measure of Israel’s concessions ought not be how far it has moved from its own starting point; it must be how far it has moved toward a fair solution.”

Of course, the bias was symmetrical. Palestinians, by and large, had never looked at things from Israel’s point of view. One of many valid criticisms of Arafat is that he had never tried to change that—never paved the way for the various compromises that would ultimately be necessary; he had never really been a leader. Still, if many Israelis were shocked in the summer of 2000 to hear that parts of Jerusalem were on the bargaining table, it would seem that Israel’s succession of leaders hadn’t done much road-paving, either.

You can call Yasser Arafat many bad things and can use the Camp David negotiations to justify a number of them. But so far as I can tell, these negotiations don’t justify what they’re now being used to justify: the claim that the Palestinians will never accept a two-state solution, so Ariel Sharon’s search-and-destroy policy is the only option Israel has left. If it’s true that negotiations are now hopeless—and I genuinely don’t know if it is—that is largely due to things that have happened since the beginning of the second intifada. And here, as with Camp David, it would be naive to place the blame on either side alone.

Ref: slate

no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial

“Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.”

— Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 25 March, 2001 quoted in BBC News Online