Saturday, March 13, 2010

Calling on Obama: Get Tough on Israel--The Doha Debates Chez Chiara


As indicated by this photo, this Doha Debate, on the role in Israel of the US under Obama, was held at Georgetown University in Washington, DC on March 25, 2009. 10 Qatari high school and university students were invited to travel to the US to be part of the audience, and to do their own student-student debate with Georgetown peers on the topic of quotas for women in parliament. Their travels and activities are the subject of a photojournal here.

Recent events in Israel, including the revelation of  major increases in home building by Israel in Palestinian East Jerusalem, and closing off the Occupied West Bank, seemingly in the face of US efforts at peace negotiation, and timed to coincide with the visit of Obama emissary Vice President Joseph Biden, give this ongoing subject of the US role new currency, and perhaps urgency. For that reason, as well as having planned to do so as indicated in the post, Israel Apartheid Week: 1-4 weeks focused on Palestine, I am proposing this Doha Debate for readers to participate in here. While the focus is on the US, the involvement of other countries is addressed, including Saudi, Kuwait, Iran, the GCC, the European ones, and Canada.

For more information on The Doha Debates generally, which follow Oxford Union debating rules, see the website of  The Doha Debates, for more information on The Doha Debates and the Doha Debates Chez Chiara see the introductory post, and the blog Category Doha Debates (DohaDebates) on the sidebar. The following includes excerpts from the panelists' biographies, the debate transcript, and the final result. A summary statement precedes each of the dialogues with a particular audience member whose photo is included. Full information for this debate is here. The full transcript may be read here. The full debate may be viewed here.


The Motion
This House believes that it's time for the US administration to get tough on Israel.

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening to you and welcome to a very special edition of the Doha Debates coming to you for the first time from the United States and sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. We're in Washington on the campus of Georgetown University which was founded in 1789, the same year that the US constitution took effect, and it's no coincidence that so many of Georgetown's students went into politics including Bill Clinton, former CIA director George Tenet, and the current US Defence Secretary Robert Gates. Our focus tonight though is on Middle East politics and the special relationship between the United States and Israel. Will it change with President Obama at the helm, and should it change? Is Israel simply in need of support and encouragement from its closest ally, or should the US take a tougher line on issues such as the Israelis' policy on settlements? Our motion tonight: ‘This House believes that it's time for the US administration to get tough on Israel' - and as ever our panellists bring with them very different views.

Speaking for the motion


Michael Scheuer is the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit.

He worked for the CIA for almost 20 years and was involved in covert action and national security issues related to Afghanistan, South Asia, and the Middle East before resigning in 2004.

Mr. Scheuer is the author of several books including ‘Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq’ which was published in 2008, ‘Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terrorism’ and ‘Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical Islam, and the Future of America’.

MICHAEL SCHEUER
Washington's involvement prolongs the Palestinian-Israeli religious war, and its justification of unqualified support for Israel blinds it to the Islamists' motivation. The new administration can serve US interests and facilitate the war's end by breaking ties with both sides. Non-intervention will remove the adult hand that permits recklessness and will leave the combatants solely responsible for fighting until one, the other or both are destroyed, or peace is made. This is a wise policy, and lessons always sink or swim by their own actions. No nation has a right to exist, and the war's outcome is irrelevant to America. Post-war, Washington can consider requests for restored relations. Palestine's request would be mostly pro forma. It does not threaten America. Israel is a different story, with an ominous historical parallel. In 1861, Lincoln said America had faced three questions of survival. Two were answered. Independence had been won and the government administered the nation. The third question: can rebellion by election losers be crushed? was answered positively in 1865. But Lincoln also faced a fourth question: can subversion be defeated? He did so by neutering disloyal Northerners called 'copperheads' who overtly and covertly aided the rebellion. Today's question is identical: can America defeat a pro-Israel fifth column of US citizens, neo-copperheads if you will, that corrupt US politics and form policy-making and amount to the most lethal threat to the State of Israel? For renewed post-war ties, Israel must take five actions to help destroy the fifth column that has made Israel the most arrogant, avaricious and treacherous US ally. Americans have always served God in Caesar but a poor fellow citizen serving a foreign Caesar, as some now subordinate US interests to their Jacobin-like assessment of Israel's. Four public Israeli government actions will focus loyal US citizens on the disloyal. Those who want their taxes spent and soldier children killed and a religious war Israel must lose if the status quo continues.


Avraham Burg has been a leading figure in Israeli politics for more than 20 years and a senior member of the Labour Party.

In 1999 he became the youngest speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, a position he held until 2003.

He left the parliament for several years in 1995 to become the Executive Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He also served as Deputy Chairman of the World Jewish Congress and Co-Chair of the World Jewish Restitution Organisation.

Mr. Burg is the author of several books including ‘The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise from Its Ashes.’

AVRAHAM BURG
I'm in favour of the motion. If tougher means opinionated, involved, caring, a different rather than an indifferent United States of America, I'm all for it. The history, at least the lessons learned from our history is that each and every time the United States of America was involved and actively so in our affairs, it was good for the region, it was good for the United States of America, and it was good for Israel. So it was the case in '56 in which the United States of America made Israel and forced Israel to withdraw from Gaza. This was the case in '78 in which Jimmy Carter forced Israel and Egypt to finish the peace accord between the two of us, so was the case with Madrid and so many other cases in the history, and each and every time, the United States of America was away from the region and let us have like the last eight years a cowboy, isolationist, indifferent, arrogant policy. It was bad for the region, it was bad for the United States of America, it was bad for the world, it was bad for Israel. And therefore I welcome this kind of caring, opinionated, active United States of America. The Middle East is one of the most dangerous, volatile places in the world - for itself, for its residents and for the well-being of Western civilisation, and ours is one of the causes of this conflict, and after 100 years of war, it's a century of war, one of the longest in history, it's about time to say: "enough," it's about time to say: "let's think differently about it." Now, everybody knows what would be the solution, everybody knows the outline of the future. We are there, but the depths of the previous mistakes, the missed opportunities, the traumas, the fears and the hatred made both sides lock horns and we cannot move anywhere because we are so locked into each other. So using President Obama's language, alone, no we cannot. It's impossible for both sides to redeem themselves alone, and time is not an ally any more. Time is not working for the benefit of the region. America is getting weaker, the era of a one superpower world is over, and the days of the two-state solution are numbered, and therefore we must do an impossible effort to redeem us and to redeem the region and maybe to introduce peace, tranquillity and reconciliation to the trigger of the next nuclear, potential nuclear round in the area. And only a dramatic turnaround can make it, and only, maybe nobody can do it, but if somebody can do it, and unify a different alternative world international coalition that comes with a logical policy to the Middle East and persuade, and pressure is about persuasion, and there are ways to talk, Mr. Gold. Talk and talks, so it depends how you talk the talk President Obama, and how you talk the talk, United States of America, and if it is a talk according to the new language we heard during the campaign, this is exactly the waiting of the majority of both societies, waiting for the responsible adult to come to the region, maybe tougher like a father sometimes, a parent sometimes has to be tough. A parent who doesn't know how to say "no" to a child is a bad parent. An American president who allows everything to the children in the Middle East to do is a bad president for the world, and only then a tougher president, who can stand the challenges, will not run away from the little traps we'll put ahead of him, who will separate and unlock the locked horns of both sides, is a United States of America which is the leader of the free world that reintroduced hope into the region. Will give back hope to myself and my children, and my children's children, and if this calls for some tougher measures, so be it.

Speaking against the motion


Dr. Dore Gold is President of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs and a former Israeli advisor and diplomat.

He was the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations from 1997 to 1999 and served as an advisor to two former prime ministers, Benjamin Netayahu and Ariel Sharon.

Dr. Gold has been involved in several peace initiatives including the 1998 Wye River negotiations between Israel and the PLO and the Madrid Peace Conference.

He has written numerous books and articles on the Middle East, including ‘US Military Strategy in the Middle East’ and ‘The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City’.

DORE GOLD
I believe in the proposition being put forward that it's time for the US to get tough with Israel is fundamentally a US decision, a decision the United States will have to take. I am a former Israeli diplomat and I'm an Israeli citizen, and therefore I can't make a recommendation about what you're supposed to do, but I can address the underlying assumptions that those who believe in a policy of pressure against Israel are moved by. First, most people who put forward the proposition that it's time to get tough with Israel assume that somehow if that happens and Israel is pressured, you will reduce the flames of radical Islamic rage, affecting organisations like Al Qaeda that attacked you on 9/11. It's assumed that somehow the strength of groups like Al Qaeda, the intensity of their hatred, are principally affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict, obviously pushing us to make concessions in that conflict would reduce that. But is that really true? After all, when was Al Qaeda formed? Was it formed in 1948 when Israel was established? No. Was it formed in 1967 when Israel captured Jerusalem? No. Was it formed during the 1973 Yom Kippur War which the Arabs called the Ramadan War? No. It was formed in 1989, and what happened in 1989? What happened in 1989 was that the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan and withdrew, and that happened thousands of kilometres from Israel and had absolutely nothing to do with Israel. Let me go on to a second assumption of those who believe in getting tough with Israel. They also contend that muscular American pressure is necessary for us to make the first move in the peace process, but I want to remind you, when Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel, launched the peace process with Egypt and sent Moshe Dayan to Morocco to meet with Tohami, the representative of Anwar Sadat, that was done actually without telling the United States and was done by the motivation of the Prime Minster of Israel. And when Yitzhak Rabin authorised Shimon Peres and for him Uri Savir to go to Oslo, Norway, to meet with Abu Ala to begin the Oslo track, it was done as a free-will act of Israel without any pressure from outside or from the United States. So I believe that had the United States inserted itself at those critical times, back in 1977, before Moshe Dayan got to Morocco or before the Israeli team got to Oslo, those negotiations probably wouldn't have happened - in other words it would have defeated peace. Third point: I believe that those who advocate that pressure be put on Israel to make it withdraw, to make it make concessions that it might not make otherwise, are actually taking the position that's fundamentally unfair. They've forgotten that Israel has taken enormous risks for peace since 1993. It signed the Oslo Agreement. It thought that Yasser Arafat was the Nelson Mandela of the Palestinians, and was willing to jettison armed struggle. It turned out that that wasn't the case. But we've lost over a thousand innocent Israeli civilians to suicide bombings that emanated from territories under Mr. Arafat's jurisdiction. Now, we didn't give up on peace. Arial Sharon went ahead and tried something new since the negotiation with the Palestinians wasn't working. He unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but instead of creating the basis for a Palestinian state, we got an increase in suicide attacks against, excuse me, an increase in rocket attacks against Israel by 500 per cent.


Alan Dershowitz is a well-known lawyer and the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Newsweek has called him “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer and one of its most distinguished defenders of individual rights."

He is the author of 27 books including the New York Times bestseller, ‘The Case for Israel,’ as well as ‘The Case for Peace’ and ‘The Case Against Israel's Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand in the Way of Peace’.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ
First thank you so much for inviting me to the best university in America. I'm an American.
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's not a vote-winning clause.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
I'm an American, I love my country despite the fact that Michael Scheuer includes me among those disloyal Americans who constitute a fifth column. I have to tell you, my grandmother who came over from Poland and took the pledge of allegiance, would be very, very disturbed at hearing those words used about somebody who loves his country as much as I do. I strongly support our new President and our new Secretary of State in their policy of engagement, engagement with their adversaries, with Iran, with Syria, with Hamas. In the face of this new policy of engagement with our enemies, there could be no worse time to get tough with our strongest ally in the Middle East, to single out Israel as the one nation to get tough with. Getting tough with Israel will be perceived as weakening Israel's security. A weakened Israel would be more susceptible to attack by over-confident enemies. A weakened Israel would be less likely to offer peace to Syria and to the Palestinian Authority. Getting tough on Israel is more likely to produce bloodshed than to produce peace. Israel has always made peace from a position of strength, as it did with Egypt and Jordan, and as it offered the Palestinians in 2000 and 2001. You know, getting tough with an ally may make us feel macho, but it's a simple-minded solution to a complex and multi-dimensional problem. We need to be smart with Israel, not tough. We need to be smart with all the countries in that complicated and difficult neighbourhood. Public opinion polls show that Israelis overwhelmingly want to make peace. They are prepared to give up virtually everything including the settlements, including a united Jerusalem, for a real and enduring peace. We don't need to be tough with them. They are tough enough on themselves. We need to give them the security necessary to offer peace to dangerous enemies, many of whom are still sworn to their destruction. Being tough for tough's sake has failed with our enemies. It will surely backfire with our friends. Now, Michael Scheuer takes the view that we shouldn't be tough with Israel. We should ignore Israel. And Avraham Burg takes the view we should offer carrots to Israel. I think they're on our side of the debate. America is a democracy. Its citizens overwhelmingly support Israel because they know that it too is a democracy that wants peace with security. Tough won't bring about peace. Smart will. I urge you to reject this simple-minded proposition.


Audience Input


What does it matter whether the US gets tough or not, Israel goes its own way anyway?
AUDIENCE (F)
Good evening. I'm from Qatar. First my question is, what difference does it make whether the US is tougher or not on Israel? Honestly if Israel had its own interests and agenda, don't you think it would carry on with those interests regardless of any US involvement at all? And second, the gentleman that just spoke now mentioned ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, let's just take one question, there are a lot of people who have questions so I'm going unfortunately just give you one. Avraham Burg, would you like to take that question?
AVRAHAM BURG
No.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Go ahead please.
AVRAHAM BURG
Okay.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Give it a go.
AVRAHAM BURG
As much as it is my perception every now and then that Israel is a stand-alone operation, it is not. It is part of the larger universe, and the relationship between the United States of America and the State of Israel are crucial, both to the psychological and the strategical positioning and set of mind of the country and the people and the decision-makers, and therefore it is very, very important - the nature of the fabric of life between us and the administration. And then when you think about it, about the kind of debates, who belongs where, which Alan Dershowitz is right. I mean, it's a mixed group because we agree and disagree on various fields. It's a cross, it's a cross situation. I'll say the following: the United States of America I think invested in Israel in the last 60 years more than it invested in the Marshall Plan in Europe right after the war. To Europe it had something to say at the time: "change here, change there, constitutions, structure, etc. etc. etc." Say something. What is this something? Alan, I think you are wrong when you say that Israel made peace only out of positions of power. Unfortunately, I don't like it because I fought in some of these wars, Israel made peace only after it was... suffered some blow on the battlefield.
TIM SEBASTIAN
The question was what difference it would make if the US got tough on Israel.
AVRAHAM BURG
Israel, and you are right, is highly motivated, and the Palestinians are highly motivated but both ...
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Some of the Palestinians.
AVRAHAM BURG
But both - some Israelis.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
But Hamas is not highly motivated.
AVRAHAM BURG
Hang on. Both societies were abducted by religious extremism. We're having a religious, eschatological, Messianic one-state solution, and both societies develop Stockholm syndrome of affection to the abuser, and if the United States of America and the world community will not help both sides with persuasion and help and pressure, to redeem themselves out of these kidnappers, then Hamas on one hand, the settlers on the other hand, you will never see ...
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Let me respond to that please. Hamas is a 100 percent zealous, religious organisation. Israel is one of the most secular countries in the world, far more secular than the United States.
AVRAHAM BURG
But not the Messianic part of it.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
82 percent of Israelis regard themselves as completely secular. The settlers are very unpopular in Israel. They are constantly ...
AVRAHAM BURG
They just won the majority in the elections.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Listen, very unpopular.
AVRAHAM BURG
Very unpopular, for what?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
You have to understand the way the Israeli system operates. No, Tzipi Livni won, the centrists won, she got more votes, but because of the crazy Israeli political system.. I have to tell you, the one thing I would agree with you where the United States should be tough on Israel: to reform its political system ...
AVRAHAM BURG
Let's vote.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
.... so as to not allow small minorities both on the left and the right to have a megaphone effect. I wish they could borrow America's democracy, but they are a democracy, they are a secular democracy. This is not a religious war. Michael Scheuer totally distorts the notion that Israel is a religious society. The Iraq War fought by the United States may have been a religious war, but Israel's wars are wars of self-defence.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, I'm going to let Dore Gold just come in briefly. We've got a lot of questions.


DORE GOLD
Avraham I have to fundamentally disagree with you. Avraham, I think you're guilty of something called moral equivalence. You're comparing groups that can't be compared. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It supports a world caliphate whether you're an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, or Hamas. They support the obliteration of Israel. Now, we do have all kinds of also religious groups. They are not at the centre of our political system. The largest parties, Kadima, Likud and Labour are not, and I'm sorry, you can't just say it's the settlers who won the election, and I want to remind you, the Likud Party of which I am also by the way a member, negotiated the Hebron Agreement. It was the Likud Party that negotiated - why?
AVRAHAM BURG
And refused to accept the two-state solution, only in the last couple of weeks. Why? Why? Because you are abducted by the settlers.
DORE GOLD
Well, actually because you don't listen to the dialogue inside of Israel.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, we're going to listen to some more questions.
AVRAHAM BURG
It has nothing to do with religious issues.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Michael Scheuer, briefly, and then we're going to move on. There are a lot of questions here.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
If this has nothing to do with religion, sir, why is it that Mrs. Clinton, Senator Lieberman, Senator McCain, have all said that it's America's responsibility to make sure that God's promise to Abraham is kept?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
They're dead wrong, they're dead wrong. I don't support Israel because of any God promising anything to any biblical figure. I support the United States policy toward Israel because the vast majority of Americans do, this is a democracy ...
MICHAEL SCHEUER
So I should accept that this is not a religious war because you say it isn't?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
No, because the vast majority of Israelis are not religious, they're not motivated by religion. Yes, Americans speak the language of religion. We're talking about Clinton, Lieberman and McCain. We're not taking about Israelis. I went to the Herzliya Conference a couple of years ago and there were 40 speakers, 39 Israelis and God was not mentioned once. The 40th speaker mentioned God, he was Pat Robertson.


Why support Israel militarily when there is no existential threat to Israel?
AUDIENCE (M)
I'm a Georgetown University student. The US gives billions and billions of dollars every year in terms of foreign military assistance to Israel. However, in terms of the conventional and irregular correlation of forces, I think we can all honestly say that there's no existential threat to the Jewish state. Why doesn't the US leverage those billions of dollars in military aid?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Well, there is an existential threat to Israel from Iran. I think everybody acknowledges... Iran announced... this is Rafsanjani saying: "If we get a bomb, we'll drop it on Tel-Aviv and kill five million Jews. They'll then drop a bomb on Tehran and kill 20 million Muslims. There are more of us than there are of them, so it will be a good trade-off." There are existential threats. The United States doesn't want Israel to attack Iran, and in order to get them not to attack Iran, they don't get tough, they give them anti-ballistic missiles, they give them defensive missiles, they give them ways of trying to prevent a nuclear attack. That's smart, that's not tough.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me go back to questioner here, he wants to say something.
AUDIENCE (M)
The nuclear issue is very important, I agree with that, but I don't see a true correlation between US military financing and Israeli success in being able to defend themselves from the nuclear issue. Israel already has a capability to a limited extent. It's improving its anti-ballistic missile systems, but in terms of conventional forces, it doesn't improve.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Let me answer the question. You know, the United States never provided any military aid to Israel, in the '48 war, in the '67 war, and until the very end of the '73 war. The aid only came since 1973, and since that period of time when Israel had overwhelming military superiority, it hasn't been attacked by its enemies, and making Israel qualitatively superior militarily has been a great force for at least peace between countries. Israel has made treaties. There haven't been fights between those countries, and I think that if American support for Israel, military support diminished, it would merely be an invitation to Israel's enemies to get adventurous and start attacking.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I'm going to bring Avraham Burg in here.
AVRAHAM BURG
Historically the money is given because the money was given, and it's about time to reconsider the money allocation. Allocation of money for strategic threats and for real existential threats should go there, but any American money which directly or indirectly goes for settlements and goes for discrimination and goes for all of these things should be stopped immediately. The American taxpayers' money should not go to or should not relieve any government whose budgets which are going to the wrong places. Existential threats, yes, but the other, no.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
That is such an unsophisticated argument. Dollars are dollars. Every penny that Israel gets, if it got it for nuclear protection, it means that's a dollar it doesn't have to spend out of its own budget. It's ridiculous, it's a zero-sum gain. Of course the United States doesn't give Israel money to discriminate against Arabs any more than Israel gives America money to discriminate against its African American citizens. By the way, there is probably less discrimination by Israel against its Arab citizens than there is in European countries against Arab citizens, and by many, many other parts of the world, and Arab countries against non-Muslim Arab citizens. Let's understand that this is a matter of degree.
DORE GOLD
And there's a factual point that has to be made because it was incorrect Avraham what you said. US aid to Israel is divided between foreign military aid and civilian aid. The Israeli government since the time of Binyamin Netanyahu in 1996 has sought to bring down the civilian aid. Right now the bulk of the aid is foreign military sales, and you know where that foreign military sales goes to? It goes to build our air force to protect us, so if anybody wants to cut the Israeli air force, please, you will change the military balance in the Middle East, you'll leave Israel exposed to a regime in Tehran that calls for wiping us off the face of the earth.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, I'm going to let Michael Scheuer in.


MICHAEL SCHEUER
Mr. Dershowitz and Mr. Gold are basically arguing that the status quo is just fine...
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Did you hear me say that?
DORE GOLD
Did I say that?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could you just allow him to say what he is going to say?
MICHAEL SCHEUER
They dork around with these political questions, you know, that are, obviously it's like, you know, an unknowable about who's going to give up this land and that land - but the ultimate is: Israel needs to be in a position to do whatever it wants militarily and the Americans, it's incumbent on the Americans to do that. Well, that's fine if there are only Palestinian Muslims in the world, but we are under attack by the Sunnis around the world, an extraordinary threat to the United States internally and externally, and to think that our support for Israel is not a negative in terms of our ability to defend ourselves is just a fantasy, and as long as we're supporting the Israelis, they're using our planes to kill Palestinians, it's not going to be a good thing for the United States.
DORE GOLD
I must just come in with a brief quote. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat is a Saudi-owned newspaper published in London and therefore what its editor writes is of extreme significance. On December 21st 2008 the editor-in-chief of Sharq Al-Awsat wrote the following: "Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is a serious threat to our region, not Israel." Something is changing. People in the Gulf understand that the moment Iran gets nuclear weapons, its revolutionary guards will be emboldened. You remember after the Islamic revolution, they went into Qatar, they went into Bahrain and it's going to happen again.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, you've made your point.
DORE GOLD
People in the Gulf understand that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, you've made your point.
DORE GOLD
They understand that Israel is a side-show.


Since the US is a power in decline what does it matter what stance it takes?
AUDIENCE (M)
Hello. I'm from Georgetown College, but I'd just like to ask, we're focusing the debate more on the actual issue. Seeing as the United States is clearly declining as a superpower and its influence is going to be questionable impact at best, I would just like to ask what exactly does each side think the tangible effect of getting tough on Israel would be. It just seems like this has been largely ignored.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Well, I can tell you what I think it would be. If the word 'tough' is used, Israelis tend to react. They would be less likely to make peace, their enemies would see them as weaker, it would actually contribute to more bloodshed. If the United States government gets smart, continues to support Israel strategically and continues to by carrots and by nudging, push both sides smartly in the direction of making peace, we can have the two-state solution.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Avraham Burg.
AVRAHAM BURG
Since earlier I was defined as superficial and shallow, I'd like just to live up to my reputation, okay?
TIM SEBASTIAN
It's television after all.
AVRAHAM BURG
Yes, of course and they know better. Whether smart or tough is the same word, or the other side of the same coin, I've no idea, but it is... the new era is an era of coalitions. Now, the last 10 years were 10 years in which slowly but surely the two most isolated countries, governments in the world were the United States of America and the state of Israel, and without a regional co-operation which comes out of the Arab League resolution, or the rational, more or less rational governments and regimes in the area, to co-operate against the fundamental threats of the region. For this to happen, Israel has to co-operate. Israel cannot be obsessed by its own self only and should stop being egocentric and be much more co-operative, and a regional co-operation with the Arab League around us plus the American involvement and the European support - this is actually the new face of a new world. Without that, we are doomed to leave this kind of confrontational permanent zealotry with no resolution.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Think about how contradictory your argument is to your debate partner's.
AVRAHAM BURG
Well, we are as united as you.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
You say cooperation is the name of the game, and yet he wants the United States to act only selfishly without regard to the interests of any other country and you want Israel surrounded by enemies on all sides, facing nuclear threats, suddenly to become the great co-operator in the world. There'll be time for co-operation, and one more point. You know, the United States has been tough on Israel, they haven't let them do what they wanted militarily. When they were attacked during the Gulf War by rockets, the United States said: "No, don't fight back." When they destroyed the Osiraq nuclear reactor, the United States condemned them at the United Nations, and it backfired. The United States had to thank them during the Gulf War for destroying the Osiraq nuclear reactor which is the only reason Kuwait is no longer part of the Iraqi greater republic, and so Israel, the United States knows how to be tough in selected, isolated areas when it has to, but the general proposition should be rejected. It will cause war not peace.


Is getting tough on Israel a violation of individual rights?
AUDIENCE (F)
Hi. My question is also for Professor Dershowitz. I am an American and I didn't really know anything about Israel or Palestine before I visited this summer, and I got to see Israel, I got to see Palestine and I saw a lot of individual rights being violated, and I'm just wondering, it says you're the most distinguished defender of individual rights - how do you reconcile that title with the support of Israel? Don't you think that saying the US shouldn't be tough on Israel is kind of contradicting your defence of individual rights?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
No. I support Israel because no country in the history of the world faced with comparable threats has ever had a higher standard of human rights, a higher concern for the rights of civilians, a higher attitude, a better attitude toward gay rights, for example, towards equality for women, to environmental rights. Israel exports more life-saving medical technology per capita than any country in the world. It just won the award for the most environmentally sound country on water supplies in the world. Every country needs improvement. I'm a member of the ACOU. I fight against discrimination in this country. I fight against the imperfections of this country. Israel's an imperfect democracy, but compared to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, compared to any of the Arab countries around them. But Israel is a democracy and it's an imperfect democracy and it has more organisations and more criticism of Israel by Israelis. Leave it alone.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You don't think democracies should be held to higher standards?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
I think democracies should not be forced by other democracies when they have internal mechanisms for change. That is, we should be tough with countries that have no right of dissent - we should be tough with China on Tibet, we should be tough with Russia on Chechnya, we should be tough on countries where there is no ability to have dissent. In Israel, they have mechanisms for improvement, they have the most activist supreme court in the world.


The  reputation of the Bush administration; the response of the international community
AUDIENCE (F)
Thank you. I'm a Georgetown student but I'm from Toronto, Canada. One aspect of the debate that hasn't been brought up is the fact that the United States is currently trying to recover from eight years of its worst international reputation, and an aspect of that reputation comes from its support of Israel. The rest of the world does see Israel as failing in providing proper human rights for Palestinians, most importantly the right to life, and that every single time there is a rocket attack, the response from Israel is substantially larger and civilians are dying in amounts disproportionate to the damage to Israel. So my question is, can we talk about for a minute the international community and how can the United States improve its international reputation without getting tough on Israel on the fact that the world does see the Palestinian suffering.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Do you think that the reputation of the Bush administration in the last eight years had to do with Israel? You're taking some awfully strong medicine. First of all, Israel had nothing to do with the Iraq War, not withstanding Michael Scheuer. The Prime Minister of Israel was opposed to the United States getting involved in Iraq, AIPAC took no position on the Iraq War. Blame the last eight years on George Bush, not on Israel, please.
AVRAHAM BURG
I tell you, the last eight years Israel considers to get tougher on the United States of America.
AUDIENCE (F)
As an international citizen, we see a lot of hypocrisy from the United States and part of it's in Israel.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Well, you may be, you may be, but in fact if you look at who got elected in most European Union countries in recent years, prime ministers have supported Israel - in Germany, in Italy, in England, so I'm not sure that your position is accurate. The newspapers and the media perhaps, but public opinion in Europe is not what I think you're describing.
DORE GOLD
And the Prime Minister of Canada is the strongest supporter of Israel in the world.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
And Australia and India.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
Clearly, Mr. Dershowitz, the war in Iraq is the responsibility of the American fifth column that supports Israel.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Oh, that is ridiculous. I'm part of that fifth column, right? I opposed the war in Iraq.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
You are exactly part of it, sir.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
I opposed the war in Iraq.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
Well you didn't do it quite well enough, did you?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
More Jews than any other ethnic group in America opposed the war in Iraq. What you're saying is bigotry. Is bigotry. You're accused of bigotry. Blaming the Iraq war on the Jews is bigotry.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please, I don't want this descending into personal attacks.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
Out comes the excaliber of American politics. ‘Bigotry', ‘anti-Semitism'...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Excuse me, excuse me, can we just keep this on a civilised basis please? We manage to do this in the Gulf, I would like to do this in the United States as well. I'm going to take another question, excuse me, no, no. I'm going to take another question from the gentleman at the end of the row there. You, sir, yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Was it like this in the Knesset?
AVRAHAM BURG
This is easy, I mean, it's light weight...


Given past failures elsewhere, why expect US success in Israel?
AUDIENCE (F)
Hi. I'm a student at Georgetown University and I have a question directed towards Mr. Scheuer. I'm a little bit confused about the side that you're taking in this debate because you spoke extensively about how the US was unsuccessful in Afghanistan, the US was unsuccessful in Iraq, so I'm just wondering as a former CIA worker why would you want the US to use their limited resources in a country that already has so many policies that defend human rights as Mr. Dershowitz spoke about, why do you think that the US would be successful in Israel?
MICHAEL SCHEUER
I don't think so. My position is we shouldn't care what happens to or in Israel.
AUDIENCE (F)
You're on the side that says that you should get tough on Israel.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
We should get tough, we should ...
AUDIENCE (F)
So I'm just wondering what you're thinking.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
What I started to say is we should make them grow up.
AUDIENCE (F)
Oh, because the US is Israel's parent?
MICHAEL SCHEUER
Oh, absolutely. They know exactly how far they can go because we will always pull their coals out of the fire, but the Palestinians know the same thing.
AUDIENCE (F)
But you spoke about how the US should not bolster democracies around the world, so why are you on the side that says that the US should be tough against Israel?
MICHAEL SCHEUER
I don't understand the question now. I don't think that America has any business trying to build democracies anywhere.
AUDIENCE (F)
The resolution as you just restated is that it's time for the US to get tough against Israel and you're staying on the side in support of that.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
I'm sorry?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, I think Mr. Scheuer just answered that by saying it's time to tell Israel to grow up. I think that was his answer to your question.



ALAN DERSHOWITZ
But isn't his position that it's time to get America out of Israel's business? Aren't you really saying it's time to get America out of Israel's business? He supports our side of the resolution.
MICHAEL SCHEUER
But I support the end of all military aid, the end of all diplomatic relations.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
All diplomatic relations. You want the United States to cut off diplomatic relations with Israel?
MICHAEL SCHEUER
Absolutely sir.
AVRAHAM BURG
It's a fantastic evening. I mean, there are many topics covered but the one we came for, so with your permission I try to come back to the issue. Yes, on various issues we take various positions which is natural but it's one topic that divides us. So says Mike: the pressure is by pulling out, that would put enough pressure on Israel. Says Alan: the pressure is on certain fields but very smart one, don't call it pressure. Fine.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
I said don't call it tough.
AVRAHAM BURG
Don't call it tough, don't call it pressure, call it carrot. Fine.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
That's your word, that was your word.
AVRAHAM BURG
Call it stick, your word, okay, never mind, okay? But I believe that the argument is not whether Israel is a good place to live in - it's a very good place to live in, I love it! Is it a good place, can it be a better place? Yes, we believe it can be a better place, but it is about the well-being of the region and the well-being of the world. Israel unfortunately, as tiny as it is, is a component which impacts and influences so many other systems, regional, aerial, Mediterranean, European and maybe even wider than this, so the question is, can we let Israel just do whatever it likes, or can we call for a much more responsible policy of the state of Israel, and Israel listens very carefully to what is being said here ...


The definition of getting tough
TIM SEBASTIAN
Which is your definition of getting tough?
AVRAHAM BURG
That's my definition of getting tough, which is fine.
DORE GOLD
I have a question for this team on the other side. Avraham Burg, do you think the United States army should replace the Israeli army in the West Bank, so we have US forces stationed in the West Bank, and Michael Scheuer, do you agree with that proposition?
AVRAHAM BURG
That might be a good proposition, I didn't think about it, but let me consider it and I'll tell you why. If the excuse of all the settlements, and Alan here as much as I admire him, and he is a champion of civil rights, he is right about within the boundaries of Israel, but outside of Israel, in the Occupied Territories is a completely different situation. There, until the Messiah will come and redeem us from the settlements, and we come to Alan Dershowitz's dream...till this day will come, okay, Israel proves time and again that (a) it does not, it cannot get any good security measures from the West Bank and our presence over there, and we cannot secure the quality of life of the Palestinians. So if we can go out of the place and somebody else will take over like we agreed with the UN about Lebanon, and so many international forces in Hebron and in Sinai, so be it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you very much. Would you just want to reply for a moment, briefly, briefly?
DORE GOLD
A very brief reply, one sentence. I am opposed to risking one single American soldier in the defence of Israel. Let Israel defend itself.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, all right, gentleman in the second row.


MICHAEL SCHEUER
They're dying in Iraq for Israel, for Christ's sake.
DORE GOLD
We never asked them to go there - go ask the Saudis and the Kuwaitis.[speakers talking together]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Excuse me, excuse me!
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
You notice what he's doing, he's mentioning Jewish names, Wolfowitz, Feith, and he's saying that's Israel. I don't know Wolfowitz, I don't know Feith. I stand for Israel and this is bigotry - recognise it for what it is.[arguing]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Excuse me, would you be quiet please. This is about the audience, it's not about all of you, could we let somebody from the audience speak.


Israeli extremism and extremists including the settlers and the builders
AUDIENCE (M)
Thank you. I'm a student here at Georgetown University. My question is directed towards Mr. Dershowitz. You already stated earlier about your dissatisfaction with Israel's political system and I imagine that's because it gets too much disproportionate power to extremist groups including religious extremists, and those religious extremists have played a big part in the continuing expanding settlements in the West Bank, which you've also disagreed with.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
That's right.
AUDIENCE (M)
So do you think that the United States could play a moderating influence on this religious extremism in Israel by pushing the Israeli government to cut down or to stop the settlement buildings which you've already said you disagree with?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Well, I would like to see the settlements ended, I'm in favour of that. Most Israelis are in favour of that. Cases are pending in the Supreme Court about that. Israel offered to end all the settlements in exchange simply for peace in 2001...
TIM SEBASTIAN
The question was about US pressure.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
The United States doesn't have to put pressure on Israel for something Israel already wants to do. All it needs is a partner for peace. Even Avraham Burg said: "If the security issue on the West Bank could be solved, the settlement issue would be solved."
AVRAHAM BURG
It can.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
And the question is, can it be solved? It could be solved with American assistance, with American support, it could be solved if the Palestinians get their act together and become a partner for peace. American toughness is not going to contribute anything, it will just make peace much more difficult to achieve.
DORE GOLD
And remember what American toughness means - it means getting tough with Israel and getting soft on Iran, and you think that combination is going to stabilise the Middle East.
[hissing from the audience]
AVRAHAM BURG
Where is this coming from, this equation?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ
This administration has talked about having dialogue and having exchanges and having open with Iran...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me just make one point. We do not have any hissing or booing or cat calls in this audience. This is about speaking in a civilised manner and agreeing to disagree if your points are different. Can I just make that clear please? Would you please continue.
AUDIENCE (M)
Your point is well taken, that if there were a responsible Palestinian partner, that Israel would give up the settlements, but the fact is that it's still building those settlements ...
[talking at once]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Excuse me. Look, if you all talk at once, nobody can hear anything. The gentleman down there is speaking, please let him speak.


Does US behaviour towards Israel create justifiable unease among Arabs? Would getting tough be a rebalancing?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay. I am going to take a final question from the gentleman there with the glasses, yes, you.
AUDIENCE (M)
Hello. I'm an Egyptian international student here at Georgetown in the SFS. My question is for the proposition. You both talked about how the United States kind of does put pressure on the Palestinians and the Arab side and gives a lot of money to Israel. Would you agree that this kind of relationship the United States has in the Middle East perhaps creates the idea of insecurity within a certain groups of Arabs giving rise to what some people have called Israel's enemies, and if the United States does get tough on Israel, it could balance out this sort of like unequilibrium situation.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Avraham Burg.
AVRAHAM BURG
It's in the eyes of the beholder. I mean, I cannot really speak for the Egyptians in security, or the Jordanians or whatever. I know that there were times in history that Israel really needed the safety net of the American support, the war in '73 at the time and many other occasions. It's about time to rethink about the reality, we're living in a reality and using old talk for a new situation is wrong. Now, I do not believe that everything is politics. I believe that sometimes there are inner truths. The United States of America is the leader of the free world, and if it wants to promote the ideas and the values that really stands for constitutional, civil rights, democracy, liberties, etc., it's about talking, it's about dialogue, it's about conversation. If the conversation with Egypt is bad, so it should have a better conversation. I believe that the conversation with Israel is bad and it requires a better conversation, a better conversation for Israel because the anchorman limited the discussion to the Israeli-American relations. Can it be better relations for Israel? Yes. Can it be better for US? Yes. Can it be part of a larger improvement of the Middle Eastern relations with United States of America? Definitely so, it must be like that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, I'm going to ask Dore Gold.
DORE GOLD
I want to remind our Egyptian student that Ayman al Zawahiri, the deputy of Bin Laden, wrote an article in 1995. It was entitled The Way to Jerusalem Passes Through Cairo. The radical rage motivating Al Qaeda is directed at the regime of Hosni Mubarak even more than the government of Israel, and so I think whatever we do with peace process, with discussions, will not affect that problem. That problem has to be dealt with separately, but I can certainly understand an Egyptian position that wouldn't want American pressure on Egypt or Egypt to be singled out any more than I would want American pressure on Israel or Israel to be singled out. We have to engage diplomatically, we have to work together. When we come to Washington with a joint position, a position based on peace between Israel and the Arab world, we will have peace. We don't have to have somebody dictate those terms to you or to me.


The Result

The vote is 63 percent for the motion, 37 percent against.
The motion has been carried.



What is your opinion of the motion?
Do you have anything to add on the themes raised here?
Are there other themes you would have introduced?
What is your impression of the diversity of the audience members?
How do you view the positions of the panelists?
How would you vote: for or against the motion? Why?
Is the Israel-Palestine situation all about religion, or politics or geo-political strategy? Something else?
What is your country's policy on Israel? Do you agree with it or not? Why?
What would you propose that your country do?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

40 comments:

Anthrogeek10 said...

I did not read it in it's entirety. They sure have some morons up there quacking blah blah blah. Israel is commits human rights violations on Palestinians and non-Jews in Israel.

http://www.ifamericansknew.org/history/origin.html

We can blame the Brits for this hot mess over there. I think Obama is making grave mistakes. I regret voting for him.

Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--thanks for your comment and the link.

This was an unusually long seeming debate, in part because of the rapid exchanges and interruptions. Alan Dershowitz in my experience and that of the moderator here, Tim Sebastian, is particularly given to rapidly moving to personal attacks +/- charges of anti-Semitism.

This is the only Doha Debate, all of which are by definition controversial, which I have seen descend into such behaviour, including the audience hissing and booing. Sebastian is not in the least a shy, retiring moderator, and so was able to maintain some control.

I have sectioned off the debates so that one can read only the statements of the panelists, or skim the topic lines of the audience questions to focus on areas of interest, or read the whole of my extracts and find the original easily in transcript or video.

It seems like you focused on the part of the debate about human/individual rights. Thank you for adding to it.

Yes, I wanted a Democrat, any Democrat, but I always worried about Obama's lack of experience, and track record of doing little except plan his next step up the political ladder, so I am even more worried now. Hopefully he is as fast a learner as his supporters claimed, and will get more up to speed in the second year of his mandate.

ellen557 said...

I'd loooove to see one of the Doha debates! Wow.
Anyway, am I getting this right in that the majority say the US should be tougher on Israel? If so, yes I fully support that. I honestly don't believe that Israel is under enough threat for them to constantly have special treatment. All parties should be equal - Israel should not be discriminated against *but neither* should Palestine and Palestinians.

You know, I would propose something for Australia to do but unfortunately all my country does is whatever the USA decides to do lol! So, I'll just go on hoping that America gets its act together and then my country will too :P

Chiara said...

Ellen--I would love to see a debate too. Since some are overseas debates and the most recent was in India there may be hope for us. On the other hand, what a wonderful excuse to visit Doha/Qatar!
You are correct the majority support the idea that the US get tough on Israel, holding it to account in its part of the peace negotiations and requiring it to make some "concessions" like conforming to the longstanding UN resolutions on occupation, borders, and the right of return, and which they ignore.

Canada is similar to Australia in jumping in to join the US--more so when we have a Conservative government with an Anglophone Prime Minister. A Liberal government with a Francophone Prime Minister is more likely to refuse to go along with US foreign policy.

In the run up to the war in Iraq our now Prime Minister, then leader of the opposition cribbed John Howard's speech barely changing the name of the country and the historical details (eg WWI your Gallipoli our Vimy Ridge). If Harper had been in power we would have been in Iraq too. A youtube video shows some parallels with the men delivering their speeches in tandem. Nice accent comparison, and one of oratory style.

The red inked turnitin.com print version is even more impressive. And to think Harper's speech writer managed to make the minimum changes in just 2 days. A plagiarizing student would be...underwhelmed! LOL :)

Shafiq said...

I haven't read the whole debate yet, but I do see one fundamental problem with it - there is no Palestinian input. On both sides, we here the Israeli opinion, Israel-supporters, former members of the Israeli government etc. It seems that to be able to express your opinion on the issue, you MUST have some connection to the Israeli state.

For me, this isn't a debate, it's a propaganda show that's badly disguised as a debate. Scheuer is the only speaker with no connection to Israel, a simple fact that's going to distort the direction of the debate. For example, the argument that the US shouldn't be allied to Israel at all is completely off limits, though it wouldn't be in a debate with a more balanced panel.

===
More to come after I finish reading the whole debate

Chiara said...

Shafiq--thank you for your astute observation. I am wondering now how much the setting at Georgetown University, Washington DC, had to do with the failure to include a Palestinian on the panel. The Doha Debates have certainly done so in the past, and the next debate on March 15, 2010 (the Ides of March!) will host Hamas and Fatah representatives. It will be broadcast on BBC World News on March 20 and 21.

Even the audience didn't include noticeable contributions by Palestinians.

I am looking forward to your further comment, and to those of others.

oby said...

I am not in town and have limited access to the internet at the moment...so I will give the top of my head opinion and when I am able to get through the debates I will be back.

I am doing a major slow burn about Israel right now. IMO to announce new settlements on the day Biden left is so over the top, in your face, a way of saying "screw you, America; we have no intention of ever having peace" that nothing short of an American major slap to Israel,in my opinion, will suffice.

When it appears that they are not willing to make any concessions to foster a peaceful and at least reasonably fair resolution to the problem, it is very difficult for me as a US citizen to have any sympathy for Israel. The arrogance and what appears to be lack of cooperation is galling.

The whole world is held hostage by this to one degree or another and I for one thinks it is time America stopped dancing around the entire subject and took Israel to task in a serious and "get results" manner. It is many years overdue.

For those who disagree with this and say that it is the Palestinian problem, I think that they too have their share in it, but that is not the topic of this Doha debate.

Chiara said...

Oby--thanks for your comment, and sharing your perspective on the motion. It is surprising to many to learn that while the US and Israel seem to be lockstep in their foreign policies it has not always been so, and Israel has and continues to take initiatives that the US is unhappy with--but, it must be said, up until now has let go. The US also gives tacit approval when they don't intervene against certain Israeli actions, and make at best a perfunctory comment about Israeli independence from US foreign policy.

I do find that the initiatives taken recently were timed to show the US and others that they intend to pursue a hard line against Palestine, and are not intimidated nor persuaded by US wishes. It seems that was to be expected with the election of Netanyahu.

"Arrogance" and "lack of cooperation" describe the situation well.

I look forward to your returning with your further comments when you have better computer access.

Have a safe journey!

I do hope more will comment on their impressions, whether based on reading the whole debate or not.

Anthrogeek10 said...

"I haven't read the whole debate yet, but I do see one fundamental problem with it - there is no Palestinian input. On both sides, we here the Israeli opinion, Israel-supporters, former members of the Israeli government etc. It seems that to be able to express your opinion on the issue, you MUST have some connection to the Israeli state."

You beat me to the punch Shafiq! LOL You are so correct. I guess even a "debate" on Israel/Palestine (in the "grand" USA no less) is being controlled by Israel....I
I am going to soooo go to get chewed for that comment!

anthrogeek10

Anthrogeek10 said...

"Even the audience didn't include noticeable contributions by Palestinians."

I am glad you mentioned this. You did not say MUSLIMS but you said Palestinians. All three (although most notably Muslim and Christian) major religions are represented in Palestine and many people believe this is a Muslim issue. The majority of Palestinians are Muslim for sure but this is a land based conflict. Religion does enter into it in some form.

This topic gets me too worked up this late in the day. lol

anthrogeek10

Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--thanks for your further comments. The subject of Israeli control over discourse especially in the US is the topic of the very next debate to appear hear, so stay tuned for that one.

You are right to highlight the interfaith nature of the Palestinian people, and in fact of Palestinian Resistance. 2 of my favourite writers/speakers on Palestine are Christian, Hanan Ashrawi, and the late Edward Said.

That reminds me that as Oby mentioned above, the topic of Palestinian resistance and who is responsible for it is the subject of a future debate.

As for this debate a number of themes to me are particularly interesting:

--that Israel goes its own way anyway

--what the real interest of the US is in this particular land grab ie location, location, location

--Dore Gold's point illustrated from a Saudi-owned newspaper that the real threat in the region is the threat to Gulf countries, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi, Kuwait, etc. posed by Iran and that "Israel is just a sideshow"

--Avraham Burg's point about Israel and the Arab League needing to come to a cooperative stance

--what it would mean for the US to really get tough on Israel

--Alan Dershowitz behaviour


And of course, any other aspect that readers would like to comment on! LOL :)

single4now said...

I skimmed through the debate and it felt absolutely useless to me. I don't see US every changing it's policy towards Israel or Israel ever assuming responsibility for the killing of so many innocent Palestinians. But I liked reading the questions put up by some of the students present at the debate. They do seem to show some concern for the unilateral support that US has instead of focusing on resolving the issue in a way that would ensure the safety of both Israelis and Palestinian citizens and the maintenance of their integrity.

Chiara said...

Single4now--thanks for your comment. This debate was interesting in terms of the non-diversity of the panelists. As Shafiq pointed out no Palestinians were involved. Also, most debates have a careful balance of men and women--one each on each side for or against the motion. This one doesn't obviously. Further, the panelists seem to overlap sides of the motion, but do have very heated debates amongst each other which is unusual, and which I attribute to the Dershowitz style which I have seen many times elsewhere: substantive comment, overtalk, personal attack, accuse of being anti-Semitic...repeat the last 3 ad infinitum.

The students in these debates form excellent questions which are very knowledgeable and add a great deal.

I think the focus of the debate on US/Israel narrowed the responses somewhat. Other debates with the Palestinians have occurred on the Doha Debates and I will be addressing one of them at least... LOL :)

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this one.

Susanne said...

Let's see...where to start and what to say...hmmm. I'll use your questions and the themes you found interesting as a guide.

1-- Israel is like a child who knows his parent makes threats, but never follows through. Thus "Israel goes its own way anyway." Until the US gets tough and there is teeth to the toughness, it will do whatever it wishes ... because it can.

2-- Coming from my background I found this observation -- "what the real interest of the US is in this particular land grab ie location, location, location" interesting. It's not what I would have argued if I were representing those I know and what I read and hear as our reason for helping/defending/catering to Israel. Of course it's not likely to be put out there in black and white. But, seriously, the Christians I know who strongly support Israel do not want it for land purposes, but more along that whole Genesis 12 promise to Abraham. And people who don't give that reason argue it's because of the whole "they are the only democratic country in a region full of people who want to destroy them." Another America supports democracy / we need to protect the Jews from another Holocaust type of thing.

3-- I can see why Dore Gold wants to give the idea that "Israel is only a side show." There's nothing like diverting attention away from your own crimes by bringing others into the mix.

4-- I've changed my views on this situation a lot in the past 2 years. We've discussed this before. I kind of like Ron Paul's hands-off approach to the situation. Let the Israelis and Arabs have at it and settle their disputes on their own without outside influences. Maybe this will force these people to treat others with respect and kindness instead of having the power to continue in their racist ways.

5-- From the debate, I found the part about Israel's insistence on its secular stance of great interest. Especially when the guy said out of all those who spoke at some event, ONLY Pat Robertson mentioned God. I think this was in reference to Israel NOT being a religious nation and this not being a religious conflict. I think on my side of the world among many I read and know, it IS religion-based. So maybe that's more of an American thing than Israeli one. The things that make ya go "hmmm."

Umm Ameena Kimberly said...

I agree with Anthrogeek; Isreal commits human rights violations, and also I do not think the state of Isreal (in it's current location) should even exist. You can't just occupy another country. If Jews want to have their own country, too bad. There are plenty of other ethnic groups who would love to have their own nation or state, but don't. Examples- People of Jammu and Kasmir, the Tulu people of South India, etc. Also, there are plenty of uninhabited islands in the world. They could establish Israel there. And this bologna about Palestine belonging to Jews because of a promise in the bible...first of, the promise is for the descendants of Abraham (pbuh), which includes Arabs as well as Jews, and some other ethnic groups as well. And besides, so many of the Israelis are atheists, or non-practicing Jews, so how can they use religious birthright as a claim to the land of Palestine???

oby said...

I think the idea that Israel shouldn't exist where it is is a mute point. Should it? I guess that depends on the side of the debate one falls on. To talk about moving it or getting rid of it is folly and IMO, a very unproductive way to attack the problem. In a fight like that the entire world will be destroyed by the fallout. I think it stinks what happened to the Palestininas...they invited the Jews in to share the land and wound up getting ousted.

Having said that, I think the ONLY reasonable solution is to have both sides sit down at the table and hash out the whole thing so that each side gets some of what it wants and yet they understand that there are some things that will have to compromised. Perhaps Palestinians could get some reparations from Israel as Israel has received from Germany. There has to be a solution that works for both sides.

I do not agree with the whole "bible says we should have this land" thing and if it is not for religious reasons then that should not come into play. But neither should it come into play for the Palestininas...it should not be about religion for either side. It should be about two people coming to terms with this problem and finding a way to settle it to the satisfaction (as much as possible) of both sides.

In the case of the Palestinians I have always thought for them one of the best revenges would be to create an amazing country that could be a model for that area of the world alongside Israel and the two show the rest of the world how one time enemies can join colaberatively to be a force to reckoned with.

Jay Kactuz said...

Anthro and Umm - So Israel commits human rights violations? Are they alone? Why don't you talk about what Palestinians and Muslims do and what they want to do to the jews? Shooting rockets into cities or killing people on a bus are what? Saturday afternoon fun?

It is clear that the palestinians, if they could, would kill every man women and child in Israel. If you doubt this you only need look at countless websites or Hamas TV.

To all of you - How can any of you separate the issue of Israel from the hate and violence that surrounds the jews, coming from their Muslims neigbors? Tell me why jews should be nice to people that say they have no right to exist or want them wiped off the face of the earth? Suzanne, if you want religion-based motivation for this conflict, you should probably mention the Quran and hadith.

Having said that, let me say that there is no solution to this problem. It is a chicken and egg thing. The US will not continue to suppport Israel and this will make no difference because the Muslims give Israel no choice in the matter. Hate breeds hate and violence breeds violence. A plague on all of them.

Chiara said...

Susanne--Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

I just caught part of an interview in which she was diplomatically saying how offensive toward the US Israel's actions had been as Joe Biden was arriving.

You rightfully gave the 2 most common justifications for defending Israel's right to that land and the US interest in it. A friend who keeps up on world affairs as an investor pointed out that Israel is strategically located as a friendly country from which to control sea routes, trade routes, and is at the gateway to the oil interests in the ME. He sees the interest of the US as being more related to military strategic purposes and geo-politics subtended by economics. If one think of its position on the map it makes sense. The religious overlay (he is Scot Presbyterian, his wife is Ashkenazi Jewish as are their children; deceased first wife a Catholic as are is children with her) is just a marketing tool in his perspective. I wouldn't go that far but it does smack of the Crusades and other military ventures which had a huge economic interest even if some were genuinely motivated by religion.

Your suspicion about Dore Gold's motives made me think that both he and Avraham Burg could have a vested interest preserving Israel through their suggestions. The opponents of Israel or at least the defendants of Palestine should turn a blind eye to the side show, while waiting for the Arab League of 22 diverse nations to pull together in defense of Palestine...a lot of land will be "appropriated" waiting for that to happen. That is the same reason I am not so sure a hands off approach would work. The other would be the disproportionate resources and situations of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples while "events unfold".

I don't really agree that Israel is a secular state. It is founded on the right of return (after 2000 years) of one religious group while denying the same right of return of another (Christian-Muslim) after 60 years. Religion is marked as an identifying feature on official documents including passports. One religious group has access to services another does not eg. funding to come to Israel and establish themselves, language lessons, work integration training and counselling, etc. Russians who can find one maternal Jewish ancestor are brought in at the expense of the state, who has people assigned to go and get them and bring them back and help them settle (I know a social worker who did exactly that job for years). Parts of the law (including immigration law) are based on Judaic halachal law, eg Jewish identity by matrilineal inheritence. The 3 main political parties are all Zionist, though differing along the left wing-right wing spectrum. Israeli Arabs (almost all non-Jewish) do not enjoy representation by population.
On the other hand Israel is more open to criticizing itself than American Jews are to criticism of Israel, so indeed a hmmmm.

Thanks again for your inspiring comment.

Chiara said...

Umm Ameena Kimberly--thanks for your comment which makes some excellent points. Indeed, historically the Zionist project was more about a homeland anywhere for Jews persecuted in 19th century Europe and even through WWII alternatives like part of Argentina or a country in Africa were considered. However, some did get wedded to the idea of the Holy Land and the British agreements with both Jews and Arabs played each group off each other about the land then occupied by British Palestine.

As the descendants of Abraham include those of the 3 Abrahamic religions that definition of who has the right to the land would be an interesting one to advance. I think the Hebrew Bible would say Eretz Israel was a covenant between God and the Jewish people, at least that is the way most Jews understand it.

True that religious birthright is the primary way to citizenship in Israel and to the country's feelings of entitlement to that particular land, or lands as the whole of Biblical Israel is supposed to include the Golan Heights, parts (most?) of Lebanon, and the Sinai peninsula, eg from the Nile River to the Jordan River.

One phenomenon of identity politics is the proliferation of "homelands" that then need to form unions to survive economically, which creates tensions, which results in dissolution of unions, etc. I guess one of the problems too is habitable, sustainable land. Arctic Canada would not be sustainable for example except as a very limited society if it weren't for the South ie the rest of Canada.However some would debate that, and with global warming they may become the tropical paradise and world shipping route that sustains us all.:)

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, and contributing such stimulating points.

Chiara said...

Oby--thanks for returning with your further comments. Starting from the current situation it does seem that one must negotiate the future based on the present and the presence of 2 peoples with similar population numbers (though very different living conditions) within the current borders of Israel and its occupied territories.

The Palestinians I know and many other Arab Muslims are in favour of a single state, binational solution, with 2 genuinely equal nations within the single state. The situation of Belgium with the French and the Flemish, or Canada with the English and French are used as examples. Some would argue that those 2 countries haven't come to an ideal living arrangement either. However, the argument runs that it is the only fair and reasonable way to stop never ending land grabs and border disputes. How one would govern and negotiate roles within the single state would be a challenge though--as Canada goes through routinely though usually peaceably with federal vs provincial vs special status Quebec powers.

If religion were not a part of it the emotion over it would decrease dramatically for many. Taking the Holocaust out of it would do the same. However, downplaying those 2 aspects is difficult in the face of the prevailing narratives and rhetoric.

Reparations in the form of the right of return of Palestinians which includes the rights to lands, buildings, and treasure confiscated have stalled peace talks this far. It is touching to see photos of the huge old keys to the houses which may or may not still be standing, but which remain in the possession of Palestinian families in the diaspora.

"Canada Park" in Israel, a park financed by donations from Jewish and Christian Canadians) is a good example of what has happened to homes and villages (4 nearby villages razed after the 6 day war, and 10,000 Palestinians driven out). The CBC (Canada's national television network) did an interesting news documentary on the phenomenon of transforming former Palestinian villages beyond recognition, or existence.

Thanks again for your comment which contributed other perspectives to the discussion.

I hope others will jump in.

Chiara said...

Jay--you jumped in while I was commenting on the others. Thanks for being civil, though vehement in your expression of your beliefs. Your biblical "a plague upon them all" at least doesn't single out any one group.

I am sure the commentators you mentioned can respond for themselves. I would only say that there is clearly disproportionate force and means between the Israeli armed forces and their occupation of land, air, and sea, and their support from the US and the European Quartet vs the Palestinians and whatever external support they have.

Extremist positions, and the war propaganda of the military wing of Hamas are by definition extreme and bellicose. If the world had taken the opportunity to collaborate with Hamas as an elected body they would have had more control over the Palestinian government which formed, had greater credibility in the eyes of many Palestinians and their supporters, and likely avoided the resultant bloodshed. That probably was the point of not doing so, though.

I am not aware that the Quran and the Hadith advise to fight over this particular parcel of land though they do advise defensive war to protect Muslims, which faith most Palestinians adhere to. Still one doesn't see Arab countries sending huge numbers of troops, advisers, or supplies. Some covert actions yes, but then a major complaint is neglect, or self-interest on the part of Arab nations, or at the very least the inability to present a united front.

Thanks again for being civil to commentators and being precise about your views while not overly singling out one group.

oby said...

Having a binational state would be a wonderful and perhaps more equitable solution...each side feely moving within the country, owning land, having equal rights, some representation in the political process. That seems to me at this point not possible, although I will admit I love the idea and it seems fairest for the Palestinians to me. but with the current animosity of both sides I can't even imagine it cooling down enough to do that.

Giving back their old land and possessions seems to be an impossibility at the moment if there are jews now occupying that space or as you pointed out the area has been flattened entirely. I was thinking reparations in the way of finanacial restitution for each family based on a prearranged scale...perhaps equal to what they lost in the creation of the state adjsuted for inflation, or tax breaks for a number of years to allow them to recoup their financial base. Perhaps assigning an amount to each person iin a family...Maybe each country of the world can give an amount that would help them get settled. In this I envision the USA being a large contributor due to it's support of Israel. I don't know.There must be an answer.

I do think religion has complicated it ten fold. I saw a program not long ago about the conflict from the Christian perspective. What was once a thriving and active community that lived among it's Jewish and Muslim neighbors is now in many ways a broken and dying community. Many, many are leaving due to the violence they are trapped between the two sides. Their businesses are dying, their ancestoral homes abandoned due to the inability to have any sort of finanacial or political stability. It is rapidly draining the area of centuries of it's Christian heritage. Sad.

oby said...

Chiara...

" Still one doesn't see Arab countries sending huge numbers of troops, advisers, or supplies. Some covert actions yes, but then a major complaint is neglect, or self-interest on the part of Arab nations, or at the very least the inability to present a united front."

that is a very good point. Why have we not seen more support (overt)for the Palestinians by the MENA countries at the minimum? They are very good at rallying people around the central issue of "the Palestinians" and yet they don't seem to provide much in the way of support financially or even take them into their own countries to provide for them in their time of need. It seems to be mostly rhetoric based aid...but angry words and violence in other parts of the world on their behalf does little to help them in the here and now until further steps can be made to reinstate them in their homeland.

It would seem to me that if they are their "brothers" then it is they in particular that should help them even if it is only to provide material comforts to ease their suffereing in the encampments.

Shafiq said...

Anthrogeek,
I wholeheartedly that this is not a religious conflict. I do not believe for a single second, that Israel was created to fulfil a biblical command/prophecy, nor do I believe there's anything that says it's 'muslim' land. The biblical element was added recently by the Israelis to get Christian support in the US and Orthodox Jewish suppport in Israel. Hamas introuced the Muslim element to the conflict on the Palestinian side and Al-Qaeda attempted(and failed) to capitalise on this.

Shafiq said...

Umm Ameena Kimberly and Oby,
I think the 'should Israel exist or not?' is an ultimatley pointless question. It mattered in 1948 to which my answer would have been no, but now that 60 years has passed and a whole generation of 'native' Israelis being born, getting rid of Israel is not an option, and especially not a moral one.

I think most Palestinians (if not all) have accepted that.

oby said...

Shafiq...

You have very nicely said what I feel. At the time it happened was the time to change things if it could be done. If Palestinians have accpeted that then I do think the negotiations could start from a different point and that makes me hopeful for both sides but especially for the Palestinians who I think after 60 years NEED a stable home.

Susanne said...

I'm enjoying the discussion! Lots of good points and interesting observations thus far.

Oby wrote:

"Having a binational state would be a wonderful and perhaps more equitable solution..... That seems to me at this point not possible, although I will admit I love the idea and it seems fairest for the Palestinians to me."


I agree, however, someone pointed out to me that the Zionists would never agree to this because soon the Arabs would outnumber the Jews in Israel. The shift of power is not acceptable to them (at this point.) Palestinians tend to have lots of children (around 8/woman I heard once), whereas, most Jews do not. I believe the Orthodox Jews may be an exception.

So as long as they insist this is a JEWISH state, I don't see much hope for equal rights and representation for all. :-/

I also wish more MENA countries would rally behind "their brothers." I know most of them are angry at the corrupt leaders who cater to the West by "not allowing" them to support the Palestinians at the expense of beloved Israel. My Syrian friend detests Mubarak, Egypt's President for his stance against the Palestinians.


Jay, I'm not an expert on the Quran and hadith so I can't really say what is allowed about such things for Muslims. But I know a lot of people like your dad and I came from that background myself that's why I was bold (brazen?) enough to speak for the Christian Zionists earlier. :)

I still believe in America a lot of the support for Israel has to do with religious interpretation and their strong belief that the land belongs to the Jews.

Chiara said...

Oby--you have a number of creative solutions, and the realism to recognize that these are more long term ideals. I agree that the Palestinian Christian community tends to be forgotten in this, yet there seems to be remarkable solidarity among Palestinians of different faiths on this issue.

Shafiq--good points on the more recent emphasis on the Biblical aspect of the right to the land. Indeed, I think most people don't know or forget that Arafat founded Fatah as a secular organization, more concerned about Marxism at the time; and that it remains "secular" though the predominance is Muslim with a Christian minority, and the group has evolved from it original foundation. Some like Hanan Ashrawi have evolved out of it and toward founding their own movements (she is very concerned with mobilizing the young and women).

Oby--I think the question of support by MENA countries (beyond moral and rhetorical) is complicated by their diversity, including differences in military and economic resources, the devastation of the 6 day war, national interests, the impact of the USA, and geographical proximity. Morocco is certainly far off geographically, other Levantine countries like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Sinai part of Egypt have the most direct interest in protecting their own borders, and in coping with Palestinian refugees. One might argue that the Gulf States have more direct concerns with Iran, oil politics, and American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Part of not accepting Palestinians to settle fully in other Arab countries was to force the right of return, or a response from the international community. It seems that Israel and the international community have been willing to leave the Palestinians in refugee camps and with refugee status for generations. Other countries may also feel there is a risk of internal destabilization, as there was in Jordan by allowing Palestinians to fully establish themselves, or even to give them fuller backing.

Shafiq--yes the more time that passes the more entrenched both the physical presence and the moral right of Israel to exist where it does become. However, the French thought that Algeria was the country's southern most province, based on >100 years of colonization, multiple generations of Gallic French born in Algeria, and found out differently.

Chiara said...

Oby--yes, different choices in the past would have been good, but authentic security and stability now would be best.

Susanne--indeed a major problem for Israel is demographics. The Israeli state is trying to compensate with immigration for their initially lower numbers, and their much lower birth rate. This is not totally successful though, and presumably if a solution were found, the returning Palestinians, other Arab Muslims interested in starting a new life in Palestine, and ongoing high birthrates would continue to favour Palestine in the demographic competition.
Your understanding of the Christian Zionist position is a most welcome addition to the conversation. I have similarly found that even among non-observant Christians of whatever denomination, the imprint of the Old Testament narrative of the Judeo-Christian good guys against every other bad guy is extremely strong. There is reflex sympathy for the Jews, and when the "who was there first" conversation comes up, they are quick to remember their New Testament evil "Philastines" (not the same group).


I am glad you and others are enjoying and contributing to the conversation. I hope all will reply and others will join in.

Susanne said...

I didn't know if any of your readers had seen the Syrian School series on BBC. Here is one I just watched on Palestinian females in Syria. It follows 3 or 4 young women (teenagers) trying to do something for their cause. It's an hour long, but well worth the time in my opinion.

http://vimeo.com/9548848

Susanne said...

Chiara, yes, "reflex sympathy for the Jews" seems a great description of what it can be for some!

It's kind of unfortunate for the modern-day Palestinians that the Romans gave that land this name (Palestine). Whether or not it was truly the Roman word for the Philistine group of which you referred doesn't matter as long as the ones reading it think that way.

How much easier is it for Bible readers to put the modern "Filistinians" (Palestinians) into the bad-guy role with a name that hearkens back to some of the very enemies of Israel. The story of David and Goliath is legendary. Most nonreligious people have heard of it. And Goliath was a Philistine. So when you have a group with a name so close and you start equating Palestine/Philistine (the Arabic term for Palestinian sounds even more damning!) then it can be troublesome with that whole "reflex sympathy" thing you mentioned.

It's like "Oh no, the Philistines are trying to defeat the poor Israelites again! Where's our David to defeat them?"

I could go on and on about the Christian Zionists' position, but I think it's pretty well known. If you want to know their key verse, it's often Gen. 12:3 only they believe Abraham's descendants are the "rightful ones" born from Isaac and Jacob .. not the ones born from Ishmael, his sons or even from Isaac's other child, Jacob's twin Esau.

Shafiq said...

Chiara,

I found out something recently that shocked me (I don't know why I was surprise really, coming to think of it). Not only were the lands of refugees confiscated by the state, land was also taken from the now labelled 'Israeli-Arabs' because they some had fled their village (but remained in Israel proper) and thus, according to Israel, they lost any right to their land. Also, much land was taken under the 'public use' law only to be turned over to organisations such as the Jewish National Fund and then made into residential areas for Jewish immigrants.

Also, thanks for the Algeria analogy - I hadn't thought about it that way. After all, a colony is still a colony, though I still don't think such a think could be replicated in Israel/Palestine.


Jay,
Does Hamas committing Human Rights abuses clear Israel from any wrongdoing? Does it mean Israel is justified in committing such abuses? If not, then your argument is a straw man argument aimed at deflecting negative attention from Israel.

I also resent your attempt at making this a Muslim v Jew issue. It isn't. Al-Qaeda tried to make it so, they failed. Hamas is trying to make it so, and it's failing. This is an issue about morality, human rights and simple justice. Plus, the Qur'an and Hadith has nothing about land 'ownership'.

The idea that Israel is hated simply for being Jewish, is nonsensical when you spend a little while thinking about it. Their is correlation between hatred for Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians. Sure, it would be better if the Arabs put this care for the Palestinians to more productive use, but please don't try to portray Israel as an innocent victim of hate. Bullies tend to be disliked - a bully can't claim that he/she is a victim if they're responsible for being disliked.

It is clear that the palestinians, if they could, would kill every man women and child in Israel. If you doubt this you only need look at countless websites or Hamas TV.
This sentence is particularly hyperbolic. It's not true at all, but you probably know that.

Jay Kactuz said...

Yes, Chiara, if we could take religion out of the equation, there would be hope – then it would just be like a German–French, Irish-English, Korean-Japanese, Sinhala-Tamil, Hatfield-McCoy, Turkey-Greece, Montague-Capulet type of thing that in 100 years could be worked out. As to being civil, I must have been having an off day.

You are also right about the Quran and hadith not mentioning the land of Israel or Palestine -- that is the Old testament.—but Islam’s writings have a very strong anti-Semitic flavor to them that is a big part of this conflict.

This has been an interesting week in US-Israel relations. We see a marked separation of interests. As I have said before the US does not control Israel, or vice-versa. Each will do what it thinks is best for itself. Since the late 19th century, following events in Russia (pograms) and France (Drefus affair), Jewish leaders and intellectuals decided that the only guarantee for Jewish survival was a Jewish homeland. Many were skeptical about this because the 20th century was obvious a time of enlightenment, reason, science and man had overcome his primitive emotional bias – and Jews were integrating into Western life and so all would be well -- well, until the 1930s and the Nazis, which convinced most Jews that there was no hope. Against all odds, Israel was born. The Jews don’t trust anybody and they shouldn’t. They use America and America uses them. They are not alone, because all Arab nations pretend and will say and do anything for a few dollars and diplomatic advantage but they too live a big lie.

What I am saying is that all sides say what is needed to be said but it is just cute, meaningless words. Arafat or Sadat may say they want peace and Begin may even shake hands with them, but it is a big lie. There can be no peace. The hate is too deep.

Let me put it in other words. Here is a story about Palestinian leaders honoring a woman that helped kill38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/world/middleeast/12westbank.html?scp=10&sq=israel%20&st=cse

So how can anyone think there can be peace? I blame Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians. I see this as part of the hate that Muslims direct at all non-Muslims, even if the Jews are at the top of their list (our luck!).

I look at Islam and I see no redeeming virtues. I cannot read an article by so called “moderate” Muslims explaining Islam without finding inaccuracies, distortions, omissions and lies, particularly when it comes to their prophet. If anybody doubts this please give me a link to a good Muslims site and I will check it out. I haven’t found one yet.

Shafig, No, Hamas committing Human Rights abuses does not clear Israel from any wrongdoing and abuse. The two peoples (Jews and Palestinians) have, by their ideology actions, put themselves into positions that are devoid of logic and morality. I choose sides only because one side has taken a clear stand against my personal values. The Jews have never threatened me. They want Israel( or better, Eretz Yisrael Hashlemah) which is not my problem. Muslims, on the other hand, want to end my freedoms and think they have a right to kill me and my family because I have opinions they don’t like. It is an easy choice. There is also the weird idea that I have that asks “what if” the Bible is true… What if the Jews are god’s chosen people? Why is so much of what I learned in a Baptist Sunday School 50 + years ago coming true? The jury is out on that but it is interesting to watch from 10,000 miles away.

Oh yes, I think that evangelical Christians “helping” Israel to bring about the second coming of Christ is a really stupid, futile idea!

Chiara said...

Susanne--thank you for your comments, references, and links rounding out the portrait of the circumstances of displaced Palestinians these days, and the Zionist Christian interpretation of the situation. I had forgotten that Goliath was a Philistine! You analyze the transference of the Old Testament and New Testament tribal and moral equivalencies to contemporary political beliefs very well! It is wonderful to have you share the evolution of your own understanding in this way, and the insights gained from your own Christian background and experience with Syria.

Shafiq--I am not sure now whether I was aware of the Israeli Arab losses materially but what you say rings bells, so probably, but not as well articulated as you have laid it out here. I believe that as you say, depending on where they were originally located their losses were greater or lesser. Thank you for pointing that out.

I agree for the most part with your comments to Jay, particularly the distinction between anti-Semitism, and anti certain Israeli policies or critical of them.

Thanks a lot for your ongoing contributions.

Jay--sorry if I am ruining your reputation for being a curmudgeon, but thank you again for maintaining a civil tone in debate with others, and being clear that these are your personal beliefs about history and religion, and relate both to your early education and your personal adult experiences. Most of the conflicts you mention have a religious component or overlay to them and many are about land grabs.

True that tensions between the US and Israel have escalated this past week or so, without changing the fundamental relationship as Hillary said today while back pedaling off of her earlier remarks. In expert panel assessments that Haaretz did in the run up to the 2008 election Obama was considered the candidate among the primary candidates who was least desirable candidate as someone who would be good for Israel. I think that combination with Netanyahu in power is a potent impetus/excuse for Israel going its own way. They have of course in the past, including sinking a US ship, and supposedly conducting the Gaza offensive of 2008-9 without the approval of the Bush administration which let them do as they pleased, much as happened in the 2006 Lebanon war.

I would have to disagree with you about the anti-semitism in the Quran. Those passages most often cited in this regard are clearly in the context of warring tribes and their religions and not meant as strategies when not in times of war.

Thanks again for your clearly positioned comment, and dare I say your civility. Once again your condemnation and cynicism about all somewhat mollify your statements about Islam.

Shafiq said...

Actually Jay,
Religion did play a small part on the Northern Ireland troubles, and the situation there is similar to the current I/P conflict. But again (I don't know how many times I have to say this), this conflict is not about religion and it never was.

About the Qur'an and the Hadith, I really recommend that you read them before making such judgements. The second (and longest) chapter in the Qur'an, which is addressed to the Jews of the time, maybe a good place to start.

As for your description of teh Jewish narrative, it's pretty much factually correct, but I don't make the leap from deserving a homeland to being allowed to steal someone else's. Sure, migration to a region is allowed, but deciding to make your own country there is not acceptable. Then deciding to expel the region's existing residents is unforgivable.

I get the feeling that you buy into the notion of Jewish exceptionalism - the idea that the Jewish narrative gives Israel the mandate to do whatever it likes. There are two problems with that - Jewish exceptionalism is a dangerous idea, no group of people should have more rights than others; and secondly, you conflate Israel and the Jewry as a people, which again is a dangerous idea as it makes Jews ultimately responsible for Israel's actions.

Your words also seem to suggest a great dislike of anything Muslim, Arab and Palestinian - they're the haters wanting to kill innocent Muslims, they're the ones that 'hate us for our freedoms' and therefore, their rights don't matter. It's disappointing really, as it's preventing you from being objective about the conflict, and recognising the real injustice done to Palestinians.

Also, blaming 1.5 billion people for the actions and views of a minority amongst them, is never a good idea. It's a bit like me continuing a grudge against 'the West' for its role in colonialism and its ideas of the 'White Man's Burden'. Blaming the Palestinians, the Arabs, the Muslims is at the root of the problem. Instead of trying to fit this into your wider 'clash of civilisations' thesis (which by the way, I think is an idiotic self-fulfilling prophecy), try thinking about it as a simple morality and justice issue.

The world would be better for it.

Chiara said...

Shafiq--well put and agreed!

Jay Kactuz said...

Shafiq, you are right, again. Much, part, some, whatever of the conflict between Ireland and Britain is religious in nature. I knew that but the old brain wasn’t working, again. I guess I was working too hard to come up with some erudite classical, Shakespearian reference to impress Chiara that I didn’t see my silly mistake. Points for you!

I have read the Quran and hadith many times. I think it is fair to say they are very much anti-jew. I think that almost all Muslims would agree with me. I also think it is fair to say that the message from those books is a strong element in the hate and animosity we see today between the children of Abraham. Thank god I am a gentile. As I have said before, it would be nice if Jews and Muslims found another planet to settle their differences and leave this one to us so we could kill and hate each other without their help.

I really don’t know about “jewish exceptionalism”. It is an interesting idea and one wonders why the Jews are still around after 3000 years. There can only be 3 explanations: 1. the jews believe in their myths so strongly that they have given life to them but there is nothing supernatural about this. 2. It is a divine plan (notice I didn’t say whose plan!) and it is supernatural. 3. Just pure coincidence. I don’t know but jewish exceptionlism doesn’t bother me. I wouldn’t want to be a jew – have you seen jewish women?

But I agree it is a dangerous idea. But also you will have to admit that many Muslims themselves can’t separate Jews from Israel and make jews responsible for Israel's actions.

This thing about ‘stealing homelands” is a constant in 10,000 years of human history. I could easily mention 100s of migrations, invasions and conquests that resulted in a displacement of populations. The trouble is that some people only apply these standards to others, not to themselves. What about the hundreds of thousands of jews that had to leave their homes in Arab/Muslims countries after 1947-1948?

In a strange way the Muslims and Palestinians are helping the Zionists. They are doing what Jewish leaders have been trying to do for 60 years and couldn’t. The immigration of Muslims to the West, and their attacks on local Jewish populations, are forcing the jews to move to Israel. Take the Jews in Scandinavia, for example, they are immigration to Israel in record numbers because of Muslims. I even see this in the US.

Now is this just coincidence? You know, that “in the last days I will gather my people” stuff in the Bible may be pure myth, but Muslims are really working hard to make all the dreams of the Zionists and/or Evangelicals come true.

Yes, I dislike Islam – and you have no idea how much! Ask Chiara. I try to tone it down here (but I do get a perverse pleasure from provoking Muslims because they are so easily provoked and so predictable – but I also do it because I sincerely believe they need to hear things they don’t want to hear and would never consider otherwise).

It has been a pleasure reading your comments, Shafiq. You are thoughtful and informed. I have no idea how this will turn out and I may not be around to see it, but what I think or say makes no difference whatsoever so I take one day at a time. I can only watch and speculate. This world is a mess! The US is a mess. The West is falling apart. Times are a changin, as a man once said.

Take care.

Chiara said...

Jay--yes I can vouch that you really hate Islam and Muslims, and that you are being very restrained here. I lament the former, and thank you for the latter. Thanks for your comments!

Anthrogeek10 said...

Shafiq--you are so smart! Well spoken as well....

anthrogeek10 (who is going back in her writing cave)

Shafiq said...

Jay,

Thanks for your kind comments. I do have a couple of small things to add:

1) Regarding the Qur'an and the Hadith, I think we'll just have to agree to disagree here. I do very much doubt that many Muslims would agree with your conclusion though.

2) "But also you will have to admit that many Muslims themselves can’t separate Jews from Israel and make jews responsible for Israel's actions." Very, very true. Something I get very riled up about.

3) Regarding the 'stealing homelands' thing- for me, 1945 is a cut-off point. The horrors of the Second World War made us realise collectively that the international arena needs to be policed and needs to have rules in place. The region certainly doesn't 'belong' to the Palestinians but it doesn't belong to Jews either. Therefore, to create a state, which by definition makes the Palestinians foreigners on the land where they were born, is wrong.

The Jews who were expelled from the Arab countries should be given the chance to return (if they want to) or be given compensation by the respective Arab countries. I do separate the two events though; the expulsion of Jews can not be used as a justification for the continuing expulsion of the Palestinians.

4) 'They' - broad generalisations about Muslims and Palestinians. The rise in Anti-Semitism in Europe is matched by a rise in intolerance in general. Most of the rises in such incidents have been in Eastern Europe, which have hardly any Muslims or Palestinians. I haven't come across specific stories about anti-Semitic incidents in Sweden, but I will have to do more research. It is also misguided to assume Jews are safer in Israel than they are in the US and Western Europe.

To conclude, I prefer to remain optimistic about the future. I'm 19 so I keep on reminding myself that I am part of the future. If I make myself a better person, then I've done a little to make the world a better place - I think people can agree on that regardless of religion on political beliefs.


Anthrogeek,
Thanks for the compliments (they're two I don't hear very often). Please don't stay in the cave too long, you're also needed out here.

Susanne,
I just watched the first episode and it was amazing. The only downside is the commentary - repetitive, slightly patronising (we don't need you to tell us what's going on), and an annoyingly perfect standard BBC voice.

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