My published reply to the above comment was:
I write in response to Tim Goodman’s criticism of your cartoonist, Malcolm Evans (Letters, January 7).
Evans is one of the few cartoonists who understand that the Palestinians are, in reality, a captive, powerless and oppressed people.
Calling for “negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians is like calling for negotiations between a lion and a one-legged lamb over what to have for dinner.
Having already eaten three of the lamb’s legs, and found them very much to his liking, the lion can’t wait to devour the rest of the poor animal.
The only problem is: How to hoodwink the world into believing the lion is the champion of righteousness, while the lamb is a dirty rat that richly deserves its fate.
That’s where the Orwellian Zionist propaganda machine steps in.
NOTE: The cartoon appeared in the Manawatu Standard on January 3, 2013. Tim Goodman’s letter appeared on January 7, 2013. I have no record of when my letter was published.
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The above editorial, from The Dominion Post of March 18, 2010, is sadly typical of the Western mainstream media’s comments on the Israel/Palestine issue. From the first sentence, with its reference to the (fraudulent) “peace process”, it is disingenuous if not actually deceitful.
Israel’s announcement of a new Jewish housing development in East Jerusalem “also raise[s] questions even among those sympathetic to Israel [about] whether its current leadership has any intention of reaching a negotiated settlement”, the editorial says – as if some other leadership might act substantially differently on the issue of the expropriation of Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories.
By now, one thing should be clear to everyone: the ultimate goal of Zionism is the annexation of the territories and the expulsion of all the Palestinians, by means of what is euphemistically referred to as “transfer”. There is no “settlement” that would satisfy the Zionists, short of one that gives them everything they want. In the Zionist vision, there is no place for the Palestinians in historic Palestine – except, perhaps, in a scattering of walled ghettos, in which they might have a role as slave laborers for the Zionist state.
Next we have the truly staggering statement: “The more houses the Israelis build in disputed territory, the less likely it is that they will relinquish control of that territory in any future negotiations.” For crying out loud, Mr/Ms Editorial Writer, have you only just worked that one out? It’s to make a return of the Occupied Territories impossible that the houses are being built. That’s the whole purpose of the creeping land grab, of the process of creating what the Israelis call “facts on the ground”. And by the way, Mr/Ms Editorial Writer, the land in question is not “disputed territory” (a Zionist term); under international law, it is occupied territory. There is no doubt whatsoever about that.
The above statement about Israel’s building in “disputed” territory leads to a fatuous elaboration of the earlier questioning of Israel’s sincerity: “It throws into doubt the depth of the current Israeli regime’s commitment to following a peace process built on a two-state solution.” It is an established fact, the editorial writer would have us believe, that the Israeli regime has a commitment to a two-state solution; it is only the depth of that commitment that is doubted. You would never imagine that everything that Israel has done during the past three decades or so has been designed to make a genuine two-state solution impossible.
But that is not, of course, the full extent of the nonsense. It never is. In the Zionist narrative – or the quasi-Zionist narrative of this editorial and other, similar writings – it is de rigueur to pin on the oppressed Palestinians at least some of the responsibility for their plight. Thus, we have: “Palestinian violence against Israel and vows to wipe it from the map do nothing to promote the peace process either. Nor have the Palestinians showed (sic) any inclination to offer tradeoffs of their own to get the talks started again.”
You would never imagine, from the above, that Israel was an invader and occupier of the territories of a people who were in no way responsible for the events (in 1967) that led to the invasion and occupation. You would never imagine that an occupied people, whose lands are being settled (in contravention of international law) by citizens of the occupying power, have a right to resist. You would never imagine that there has been an Arab Peace Plan on the table since 2002 (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Peace_Initiative), which the Palestinians would certainly have to abide by if it were implemented. (Israel has “never formally accepted or rejected” this plan, as the Wikipedia article points out.) And finally, you would never imagine that the Palestinians have already lost so much (see map below), it is downright insulting to suggest that they should be prepared to surrender even more.
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The above cartoon appeared in today’s edition of the Manawatu Standard in Palmerston North, New Zealand.
By Rabbi Michael Lerner
While doves in the American Jewish community are lining up to support President Obama in his supposed confrontation with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the hard-nosed supporters of the Occupation can sigh with relief. Nothing proposed by Obama is likely to change the realities on the ground in the West Bank.
Obama’s insistence that negotiations begin again between Israel and the Palestinians toward a final settlement agreement sounds “tough” and “standing up to Israel” only to those who have no historical memory. But Netanyahu and the Israeli right-wingers who now run the Israeli government remember very well the willingness of a previous Likud prime minister (and former underground terrorist) Yitzhak Shamir to participate in just such negotiations in the early 1990s. Shamir explained to his constituents that he could sit in such negotiations for the next twenty years and still never concede anything that would resemble a viable Palestinian state: that is, one not still dominated by Israeli settlers, with their own exclusive roads and military protectors, which would make such a state nothing more than a string of Palestinian cities isolated from each other.
Why then will Netanyahu resist such negotiations? Why will the 50% of the Congress that showed up at the AIPAC conference — to prove their loyalty to Israel’s most extreme rightist government ever — also do everything they can to block Obama were he to decide to demand for Israel to start negotiating a two-state solution? Because the Right has learned that it works to press for far more than they can settle with, and then appear to be “compromising” when they are actually giving little more than what they really wanted in the first place.
Over the past several decades, by vehemently staking out extreme positions, the Right in both Israel and the U.S. have managed to shift the center of public discourse far to the Right. Positions once advocated by centrist Labor Party people in Israel (dismantling all the settlements in the West Bank, not just the so-called “illegal settlements”) or by centrist Democrats like Clinton in the US (universal health care) are labeled “extreme leftist” views (health care is now called “socialism,” for example).
In response, yesterday’s centrists, now stuck with the label “left of center,” think they are doing well if they can achieve success by “winning” concessions that were once the positions of moderate Republicans or moderate Likudniks. So the Democrats in the U.S., and now the peace forces in the Jewish community, imagine that they are winning some serious victory if they get those peace negotiations started again, when there is no reason to believe that they would lead to the kind of Palestinian state that is economically and politically viable, and to a just settlement for Palestinian refugees — the only outcome that could actually provide the preconditions for lasting security for Israel.
Don’t put it past Netanyahu to make a dramatic “concession,” either when he meets with Obama at the White House or when Obama visits Israel: that Israel IS willing to acknowledge the goal of a two-state solution and even to start negotiations again, if the Palestinians (including Hamas) renounce all violence (something the US won’t do in regard to its mission in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan) and if they agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state (though the US would never recognize, say, Saudi Arabia as a Muslim state — because we’d never want to impose a particular religious or ethnic identification on any state we recognize). Still, I don’t put it past Netanyahu to let go of these demands at some point in the process, because he is a wily negotiator who knows how to deal with U.S. pressure — namely to appear to be making huge concessions while actually implementing none of them. Thus, when he was Prime Minister in the 1990s, he acceded to Bill Clinton’s desire to appear to be making peace, but after a torturous process agreed to Israel to allow Palestinians some autonomy (not sovereignty) over about 2/3 of the West Bank (less than 14% of pre-48 Palestine). Meanwhile, he encouraged expansion of settlers so that between the signing of the Oslo Accord at the White House in 1993 and the time that the second Intifda began in 2000 the number of settlers on the West Bank had actually doubled (though to be fair, part of that process took place with the blessings of Rabin before he was murdered by an Israeli right-wing religious fanatic and by Ehud Barak who now serves at Defense Minister in Netanyahu’s government). The point here is that Netanyahu knows how to play “cat and mouse” excellently, and unless the US is prepared to impose a fair settlement agreement, Netanyahu could easily agree to start negotiations again and then produce nothing that would satisfy even the most beaten-down and ready-to-compromise Palestinian Authority leadership.
So should the Obama administration suddenly start acting tough, using the power of the U.S. purse to pressure Israel to make significant concessions? Would that be the equivalent on the Left of the successful strategies of the Right in recent decades?
The answer is no. Not at this point, given the current configuration of American and Israeli politics. To do so would require Obama to spend lots of his political capital on an approach that is unlikely to succeed, given the likelihood that such pressures would be undercut by the AIPAC-subservient Congress and would not be understood or supported by the American people. Such pressure would be resisted massively by an Israeli government made up of parties that made no attempt to hide their opposition to the creation of a viable Palestinian state anytime in the foreseeable future (their sole goal: delay, delay, delay). And count on the extremist elements in Hamas, themselves quite content to let Israel continue the Occupation and make it so hard on Palestinians that more and more will be driven to Hamas’ Islamic fundamentalist worldview or to its “armed struggle” perspective (though we do remember that Hamas has offered a twenty-year cease-fire with Israel within which time a final settlement could be negotiated if Israel were to stop its violence against Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank and release Palestinian prisoners held without trial under horrific conditions), to take some kind of provocative violent actions to undermine any movement for peace, just as extremists among the Israeli settlers have been doing quite consistently in the past several years.
A far more effective strategy would be for the Obama Administration to forget about positioning itself as a neutral convener of negotiations, and instead develop and popularize in the U.S. and Israel the details of what a fair and just solution would be: 1. the creation of a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza (with small border modifications mutually agreed upon to allow Israel to retain control of the historically Jewish parts of Jerusalem and to incorporate some border settlements, in exchange for giving Palestine equal amounts of land) that had full control of its own borders, 2. an international force that would protect both countries from the terrorist fringes in both populations that will likely resist any peaceful accommodation, 3. generous reparations for Palestinian refugees as well as for Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries, 4. fair sharing of the water and other resources, 5. Israeli settlers allowed to stay in their West Bank homes, but only as citizens of Palestine with no vote in Israel and subject to the laws of the Palestinian state without recourse to Israeli courts or armies, 6. a Truth and Reconciliation commission empowered to require testimony and to stop all teaching of hatred or demeaning of the “Other” in schools, media and religious institutions.
Obama could take another step that would help make this case to the American public: he should start a series of high-profile meetings with those in Israel and the US who have been advocates for peace and for a genuine reconciliation of the heart between Israelis and Palestininas. The American people must be exposed to the voices and experiences of all the stakeholders, especially the many moderate Palestinians. But also let Obama introduce the American people to the vigorous debates that go on within Israel and within the worldwide Jewish diaspora itself, so that AIPAC is not the only voice being heard. Let Obama bring to the attention of the American public Israeli voices like Avrum Burg, Yossi Beilin, Uri Avnery, Rabbi Arik Aschermann, and American organizations like J Street, Brit Tzedeck, the American Friends Service Committee, the Rabbis for Human Rights, Churches for Middle East Peace, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, the Shalom Center, and Tikkun. And don’t underestimate the impact that Obama could have in Israel itself were he, on his visit in June and in subsequent visits, to explain to the Israeli public and the Palestinian public how to understand the way the other side sees their situation, why both sides need a fundamental new attitude of open-hearted compassion and genuine repentance, and why, if both sides can approach the issue from that standpoint and accept the points articulated above, both sides could achieve what they need: peace, security, and self-respect. Such a compassionate discourse, if it became the center of a serious campaign to change public opinion in Israel, Palestine and the U.S. (with the kind of money behind it that the US used to try, during the surge in Iraq, to change its image among Sunnis and Shi’ites), could even have the impact of weakening the public support that Hamas has been building in the past decade, though we can be sure that they and their counterparts among Israeli ultra-nationalist and Jewish fundamentalist extremists will do all they can to undermine this kind of peace-generating effort.
If Obama were to teach the American public and Israeli public how to understand both sides of this struggle as having legitimate claims and legitimate anger, recognize their need to overcome past humiliations and trauma, and simultaneously advocate for this solution, he might foster the kind of American and Israeli majorities that would enable him, at some later point, to use American power to impose peace if the two parties can’t get there any other way.
You can personally help by sending these ideas to the White House yourself. Ask your local and national media to carry this kind of analysis as well as their more limited pro-AIPAC views, and also by challenging your own elected Congressional representatives (in the House and Senate) to realize that this approach is the best way to achieve peace and security for Israel — not the way of capitulating to the AIPAC demand that the US never put forward a substantive analysis of what we in the US are for in terms of a settlement agreement! You could also circulate this to people on your email lists, and you could JOIN, as a dues-paying member, Tikkun/Network of Spiritual Progressives and help us raise the money to hire organizers to build the organizaiton that puts forward these ideas (at http://www.spiritualprogressives.org). You can help us get interns to volunteer for the summer of the September 09-June 2010 year, and you could volunteer time yourself to help us do outreach from your own computer and your own telephone (in which case, contact Kay@tikkun.org). Donations to Tikkun are tax-deductible, and you can also put Tikkun in your will as a charitable bequest.
Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine www.tikkun.org , chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives www.spiritualprogressives.org and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, TIKKUN Magazine
510 644 1200 Office
Dear President Obama:
In approaching the task of addressing you directly about a personal issue, I feel daunted by the abyss that separates the two of us in status and power. I am a retired public health physician, attempting to maintain a hold on his sanity and physical health by puttering around his garden in a Palestinian village in Galilee. You are the president of the nation most of humanity envies and desires to join, burdened with the task of saving the world from economic and political chaos and now from nuclear war.
Yet I find enough shared experiences between us to embolden me to speak to you as an equal in humanity if in no other regard. Like you, I am a product of Hawaii , where I attended university at the time your late parents did, and of Harvard, where we both received our professional training. I subsequently returned to my village and worked among my people to treat their illnesses and improve their wellbeing physically, mentally and socially with varying degrees of success and frustration. Unlike you, I came up fast against the glass ceiling set very low for Palestinian citizens of Israel like me. I have written a book of memoirs (see last below) that documents my professional struggle over three and a half decades. It would be a great honor for me if you were to read it as part of your education on the issues of my community and of our potential as a bridge for peace in the Middle East .
Now to the subject of my message, Mr. President: The newly-elected prime minister of Israel , Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and his foreign minister, Mr. Avigdor Lieberman, plan evict me from my home and to take away my garden. These two persons and their fellow ministers were democratically elected to their positions and will use ‘democratic’ means at their disposal to legitimize my disenfranchisement as have previous Israeli governments done in the past. The difference is that the current leaders are explicit and aggressive about disadvantaging me based on my ethnicity. They have devised a way to blame me for my victimhood. They intend to ask me to sign an oath of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state, a state that defines itself as exclusive of me and my people.
Democracy, Mr. President, may be the best political system, but, alas, it is no guarantee of justice and equality when it is abused to give unrestricted power to an exclusivist majority. My community, citizens of Israel since its establishment, makes up a fifth of the country’s population but owns a constantly shrinking share of the land that currently stands at 3% of the total. Our towns and villages receive 3-5% of municipal budgetary allocations. Our infants and children die at over twice the level of our Jewish co-citizens — and the relative ratio is rising of late. Our two communities continue to live in racially segregated residential areas often separated by walls and barbwire. Mr. President, I am not writing of the West Bank or Gaza but of neighborhoods in ‘mixed cities’ within the Green line.
You are the lead protector and promoter of true democracy in the world. As such, I call on you, Mr. President, to stand up to such corrupting practices presented to the world under the guise of sound democratic principles.
And as a fellow human being, I ask you, Mr. President, to put yourself momentarily in my position and consider how I should react to the racially-based transfer designs of these politicians. Here, in the person ofAvigdor Lieberman, is another presumably equal co-citizen of Israel who calls openly for my disqualification from our shared citizenship because I want to be equal to him under the laws of our common country. He insists on having me step down from our presumed common stand of equality and kowtow openly to his privileged status as the son of a certain race and religion. Would you do that, Mr. President, were it to be demanded from you by a fellow American citizen, be he Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic or Asian immigrant, or even a Native American?
As an alternative, Mr. Lieberman wants me transferred out of the country though I have lived on land I inherited legally from forefathers who almost surely have better claim to descent from the ancient Hebrews thanhis. And mind you, Mr. President, my residence in the home he wants me evicted from predates the establishment of the state he wants to appropriate as his, and his alone, while he is a recent immigrant fromMoldova . Would you, Mr. President, take a loyalty oath confirming your second-class status?
Mr. Lieberman’s best-case scenario for tolerating my existence in his vicinity is to have the homes of the likes of me re-zoned into one of the Bantustans he envisions, to be created and run by remote control from behind an ethnic separation wall. Would you succumb gracefully, without protest, to such a scheme, Mr. President?
You have to understand, sir, that I speak here of life-and-death issues for me and my family. Mr. Lieberman, Israel ‘s Foreign Minister, attained his impressive status through an openly racist election campaign that featured mass rallies at which calls of “Death to Arabs” were standard. Would you trust such a man with your future in the international arena, Mr. President? I surely hope not: but the majority of Israeli citizens seem to have done exactly that.
That is where I sense danger, sir; in the assigning of my fellow countrymen of responsibility for our common future to fascist and untrustworthy representatives. Past injustices, and those were many and massive against my people, were never so clearly foretold as the ones the current Israeli government threatens to perpetrate against me, my family, my village and my people. It is with this clearly articulated plan of my transfer in mind that I call on you to use the undeniable prestige of your office to stop such plans from being implemented. I ask you, sir, to reassure me that you will never permit such schemes to be on any agenda discussed in the presence of representatives of the United States of America . I need that in order to be able to sleep, Mr. President.
With my best wishes for a peaceful and happy Easter for you and your family and for all of humanity, I remain,
Hatim Kanaaneh , MD , MPH
Author of ‘A Doctor in Galilee : the Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel ‘, Pluto Press, 2008
Active Blog: a-doctor-in-galilee.blogspot.com
A note to those with compassion who have read this note. As editor of Tikkun, I get letters of this sort every single day from people in the West Bank and Gaza pleading for help, often simply help to get water or food or electricity. And I get letters from others in Africa and Asia suffering from malnutrition or inadequate health care. And yes, it creates for me a great deal of pain, because mostly there I can do nothing but what I’m doing with this letter: passing it on to our 150,000 readers and hope that you will do what you can (e.g. by sending this letter yourself to Obama and to your elected representatives, and to rabbis, leaders of the Jewish community, and religious leaders of all communities–asking them to speak about these issues. And, of course, you can also donate to our efforts to organize a national movement of people committed to a peace based on a reconciliation of the heart (e.g. you could join the Tikkun Community or the Network of Spiriutal Progressives.
Meanwhile, please consider the following other ways to help us:
1. publicize our (unforutnately unpiad) internships to work with me to build the Network of Spiritual Progressives (June-Aug,2009 and/or Sept 2009-June 2010).
2. help us find volunteer editors to help in building our archives
3. help us find young people with excellent web skills who can help us most effectively use the web to spread our ideas
4. tell us that you’d be willing to write letters to opinion shapers about our Domestic and Global Marshall Plan, our Strategy of Generosity, and our 2010 conference to Support Obama to be the Obama You Voted For, Not the Obama of Inside-the-Beltway Geithner-logic.
5. tell us that you’d be willing to volunteer to make phone calls for us from your home to do outreach on behalf of the Network of Spiritual Progressves (call email@example.com)
6. pray for the welfare of all humanity, the animals with whom we share the planet, and the planet itself
Love and blessings,
Rabbi Michael Lerner
P.S. Are you aware that every Monday night at 6 p.m. Pacific, 9 p.m. Eastern we have a conference call (open to any member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives or subscriber to Tikkun magazine) in which one of our Tikkun authors discusses some fo the themes s/he has raised in her/his recent writings in Tikkun, followed by discussion by the participants in the call. To get on the call: dial 1-888-346-3950 and then when promoted to enter the code, hit 11978#. It is a special benefit of membership in our community! To find out who is talking on any given night, , look at the top of www.tikkun.org (the home page).