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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Exchange of letters with Deb Reich: Speaking out on Carter and tales of genocide

Exchange of letters with Deb Reich: Speaking out on Carter and tales of genocide

[Note to readers - this is a continuation of the exchange begun at

- - This material is all public and may be circulated.  The latest letter is at the top, the reply to my initial post is at the bottom. Interested readers may comment at the Web log]
Dear Deb,
With your permission I am forwarding our exchange both to the Web log and to our e-group.
Trying to simplify. Those who claim that transfer ideology is a part of mainstream Zionist ideology are not supported by the facts. A cursory acquaintance with mainstream Zionism would convince you that it is so. Even were they right, there is nothing in Israeli government actions or decisions today that would indicate that there is any phased plan for ethnic cleansing, and there is no evidence whatever of genocide being carried out. There was nothing in your reply to excuse your use of language about "genocide" or the invention of a phased plan for genocide, or the promotion of a book you did not read, other than an appeal to more inaccurate scholarship. You have heard half a message, dimly, removed from historical context, and then invented a story to fit your perceptions.
You wrote:
I did NOT say there was "a plan" for phased genocide. I said that is what is de facto taking place on the ground and if you are a Palestinian in WB&G, that certainly is what it feels like. People like Martin Buber articulated a different way, but they were outvoted.

What you had actually written was this:
The paramount priority right now is to put a stop to the phased genocide taking place at this moment in the West Bank and Gaza. The eventual "cleansed" (of Palestinians) state that the Israeli army and successive governments of Israel are in the process of achieving for us will be an abomination to any morally normal person, but by then it will be too late.
Indeed, you did not state that there was only a plan. You stated that the plan is being implemented right now, and in this letter below you tried to distort what you wrote.  You did not write originally that Arabs think there is genocide. You wrote that there is genocide and it must be stopped. There is no genocide. It is not taking place de facto or otherwise. It is a vile invention. You have repeated the charge again.
Arabs may think many things. In Damascus, the Defense Minister wrote a book insisting that Jews slaughter Christian children to make Matzoth. On that basis, would Deb Reich be justified in writing that right now the priority is to stop the Jews from murdering Christian Children to bake Matzoth?
The Palestinian authority spread stories that Jews are injecting Palestinian children with AIDS, handing out poisoned candies and irradiating people at checkpoints with dangerous  carcinogenic X-rays. Not a word of it was true. You had better write that the Jews should be stopped from spreading AIDS and using carcinogenic X-rays.  The genocide "perception" is the same. There is no good purpose by disseminating such things.
What you wrote in your article was a falsehood, and what you wrote below is another. There is no genocide going on. It is a fact. There is no ethnic cleansing. Nablus and Jenin and Ramallah and Qalqilia and East Jerusalem and Hebron and Gaza are all full of Palestinians. No Jews are being moved in to replace hypothetical departing Palestinians in Gaza. In fact, it is Palestinians who replaced Jews, using abandoned settlements as bases for launching rockets at Israel and as the termini of arms smuggling tunnels. In Jerusalem, where Betselem and others have repeatedly charged "ethnic cleansing," the Arab population is the largest it has ever been in recorded history.   
You wrote:
The research into Zionist archives, I understand from reading (accurate? inaccurate?) reports, shows that the idea of running off the Arabs, having as few here as possible, has deep historical roots in mainstream Zionist thinking and writing.
There were, and are, Zionists of virtually every political persuasion, including unfortunately, some who supported Mussolini and others who supported Stalin. Anti-Zionists have insisted on this basis, that all Zionists are communists, or that all Zionists are fascists.
If I believed that genocide or ethnic cleansing were part of mainstream Zionism, I would not be a Zionist, and neither would most other Zionists. Zionists are not people with horns and tails. An idea that is repugnant to the majority of Zionists could hardly be a part of mainstream Zionist, no matter what some Zionist figures might have been thinking. Therefore, whatever was said in secret procedings of the Zionist executive, and we will come to that in a moment, those secret deliberations could not be mainstream Zionist ideology if they supported genocide or ethnic cleansing.
What is "mainstream" ideology? Do you believe in the America of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson? Surely you do. Tom Jefferson owned slaves. He had illegitmate offspring by one of them. In his inaugural speech, Lincoln contemplated the transfer of "negros" to Africa. One could thus say that transfer is a part of mainstream American ideology. Barry Goldwater represented a large segment of US public opinion. I believe he wanted to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Is nuking Vietnam a part of mainstream American ideology? It is an ambiguous and loaded phrase, that can be used to inflame and to obscure understanding.   
The idea that transfer was a part of mainstream Zionism has been propagated by extreme right-wing racists who want to legitimize their ideas, as well as by anti-Zionists. Transfer in any case is not genocide or ethnic cleansing. Those who conceived of the idea were thinking of paying sums of money for people to leave voluntarily. Such a population exchange -- without compensation -- was contemplated recently as a humanitarian solution to the Cyprus problem. In 1947, a population exchange on a huge scale took place when India and Pakistan were created. There too, there was no compensation. Nobody called it genocide or ethnic cleansing. However, I am not defending or supporting the idea of transfer, much less that of genocide or ethnic cleansing. Palestinian Arabs have the same right to self determination as Jews, if they wish for it. They cannot, and you cannot, deny the right of self determination to the Jews while advocating this right for the Palestinian Arabs, and Zionists cannot claim the right of self-determination for themselves and deny it to others. This right is Jus Cogens in international law. It takes precedence over most other rights. Even the Germans were not denied the right to self-determination following World War II, after committing the greatest genocide and aggression the world has ever known.
Herzl was a dreamer and writer and fantasist. At one time, when Zionists were considering a plan to settle in Uganda or Cyprus as a temporary night refuge, he apparently wrote in his diary that "we will spirit away the penniless natives" and this quote has been used, out of context as the first proof that transfer was a part of mainstream Zionism. But Herzl also wrote Altneuland, a utopia about a future Israeli state - a pluralistic state in which Arabs and Jews enjoyed equal rights. You can click the link and read the entire book online. That was public and that was mainstream Zionist ideology.
In the 1920s, the Arabs of Palestine, led by the Grand Mufti, began to propagate a genocidal plan to rid Palestine of its Jews. They rioted against Jewish communities in Hebron and Jerusalem that had been in Palestine for hundreds of years. Later, the same Mufti fled to Germany and contributed to the final solution by organizing SS units for Hitler. Zionists had not really understood the magintude of Arab opposition to Jewish presence in Palestine. The Zionist response to problem was two fold. The first phase was the Brit Shalom movement, which was founded by ardent mainstream Zionists like Arthur Ruppin, and which favored a binational state. This movement fell apart when the riots of 1929 made it clear that the Arab leadership was not interested in coexistence.
 Some fantasized about offering Arabs money to move to Iraq. It was not genocide or ethnic cleansing, but it certainly does not accord with current day perceptions of political morality. At the time, such solutions seemed perfectly acceptable.
Another response was to begin to agitate for partition. I believe such plans were presented to the British in the early 1930s. Since there were only a tiny number of Jews in Palestine at the time, the only way to create a viable state would be to partition it into a very small Jewish state and a much larger Arab one, and to transfer Arabs out of the Jewish part of Palestine using monetary incentives. This plan was presented by the British, not by the Zionists, as the Peel Plan in 1937. The plan was presented against the background of Arab riots that paralyzed Palestine, and had caused the British to cut off immigration and trap the Jews of Europe forever. That was the context. The choice was getting a tiny state and transferring Arabs, or imminent annihilation of the Jews of Europe. What would you chose?
Under the plan, the Jews would get about 15% or 25% of the area of Palestine. There are maps and a discussion of this plan and its successors here.  I quote from it: 
Those areas, therefore, should be surveyed and an estimate made of the practical possibilities of irrigation and development as quickly as possible. If, as a result, it is clear that a substantial amount of land could be made available for the re-settlement of Arabs living in the Jewish area, the most strenuous efforts should be made to obtain an agreement for the transfer of land and population. In view of the present antagonism between the races and of the manifest advantage to both of them for reducing the opportunities of future friction to the utmost, it is to be hoped that the Arab and the Jewish leaders might show the same high statesmanship as that of the Turks and the Greeks and make the same bold decision for the sake of peace.
Transfer was an accepted and acceptable solution in international politics at the time. It had been practiced by the Turks and Greeks, as noted.  The proposal for transfer of Arabs caught many Zionist leaders by surprise, though others accepted it. They debated the plan in closed sessions of the Zionist executive, but they also talked about it in public. They concluded that the plan, whatever its drawbacks, was the only way to get a Jewish state, lift the immigration ban imposed by the British, and save the Jews of Europe, whom they rightly believed to be in danger of very real genocide. Some of the most potentially damaging remarks about "transfer" especially when taken out of context, were made in public. It was the British who proposed the plan, however. This open speech by Berl Katnelson is about as "damaging" as any other admission, and it is not necessary to pretend that information in secret Zionist archives changes anything:
"The matter of population transfer has provoked a debate among us: Is it permitted or forbidden? My conscience is absolutely clear in this respect. A remote neighbour is better than a close enemy. They [the Palestinians] will not lose from it. In the final analysis, this is a political and settlement reform for the benefit of both parties. I have long been of the opinion that this is the best of all solutions.... I have always believed and still believe that they were destined to be transferred to Syria or Iraq."
 (At the World Convention of Ihud Po'alei Tzion, August 1937. Al Darchei Mediniyutenu: Mo'atzah 'Olamit Shel Ihud Po'ali Tzion (c.s.)-Din Vehesbon Maleh, 21 July-7 August [1938], [Full Report of the World Convention of Ihud Po'alei Tzion, C.S.] (Tel Aviv,: Central Office of Hitahdut Po'alei Zion Press, 1938).
I have only the above quote. In order to judge if it is accurate, we would need to see what was left out, and what was the context. I would dearly love to see what was in those elipses, but we shall content ourselves with the above. All he is saying is that that he favors population exchange to make possible a Jewish state. He was a mainstream Zionist. In that context and setting, the idea was supported by a majority for different reasons.
It is quite a long stretch to get from that proposal for voluntary transfer, accepted by Zionists in the specific context of the Peel plan, to a phased program of genocide and ethnic cleansing carried out supposedly by the Israel government. If we evil Zionists had such a plan, we were singularly inept in carrying it out. Between 1922 when the British took over Palestine, and 1947, the Arab population of Palestine grew from about 660,000 to 1.2 million or more, including high birthrate and at least some in-migration of Arabs.
Nobody denies that during the war of Independence and in 1967 Arabs were forced to flee. This happens often to enemy belligerents in time of war, and usually they are not allowed to return, as is the case of the Sudetens Germans in Czechoslovakia.
In his books about the refugees, Benny Morris makes much of the transfer notion, and of the rantings of some extremists, but he can never find evidence that there was a government plot to evict the Arabs. But Morris weaves a tangled tale and contradics himself on every other page, given the impression that the flight of Arabs was planned by Zionists, stating that it was not, stating that it was due to the weakness of the Arab community, implying  that it was due to activities of transfer activists like Weitz and Alon on one page, and noting on another page that Zionist officials in Haifa tried to prevent the flight of the Arabs. One can draw many different from Morris by selective quotes. Those who read only excerpts from his work published by anti-Zionists were very surprised when Morris came out with fairly right wing opinions. It pays to read the original.
In 1967, the Zionists had an opportunity for ethnic cleansing. Yigal Alon proposed that all the Arabs of Gaza should be forced into Egypt. Alon was of the same Labor Zionist Achdut Avoda faction as Berl Katznelson if I am not mistaken. He was certainly one part of the "Zionist Mainstream." This proposal was rejected by Moshe Dayan and the government as a cruel and inhuman expedient. There are lots of rivers in the Zionist Mainstream, and Alon's opinion was in the minority. Undeniably, about 100,000 Palestinians were helped to leave the West Bank in 1967, though there was no government decision on this, and it served no good purpose. Had there been a transfer and genocide plan, had it been a real part of mainstream Zionist ideology, then there would have been not a single Arab left in all the West Bank and Gaza after 1967.  Such was the fate of the Jews of Jerusalem in 1948. That was real ethnic cleansing, rather than imagined genocide.
For its part, Egypt did not hesitate recently to push all the Palestinians living in Rafia into Gaza by force.
Today, there are more Arabs living between the river and the sea than there ever were at any time in all of the history of this land. It is a fact. How can that be reconciled with tales of Zionist plots for genocide? How did you get from acceptance of population exchange in 1937 to a plot for genocide and ethnic cleansing in 2007?  
You wrote:
Where I am today:  All the simple people, the ordinary families, and especially the women and children, including me, and my children, are used and abused, directly and indirectly, in established patterns --  by ideologues, politicians...
Indeed it is possible that you are being abused and manipulated, as evidence by the falsehoods you believe. You are also abusing Israel and manipulating others. It is not possible to reconcile falsehood and incitement such as those you perpetrated in your article with any ideas of justice or peace. They cannot be excused as "wake up calls" because no Zionists and no advocates of settlement will be swayed by them. They are only fuel for anti-Zionist propaganda.

From: Deb Reich

Trying to simplify, if possible:

Results must speak for something.

The research into Zionist archives, I understand from reading (accurate? inaccurate?) reports, shows that the idea of running off the Arabs, having as few here as possible, has deep historical roots in mainstream Zionist thinking and writing. It's not that one person sat down and wrote a "phased genocide plan" like the plan to "Judaize the Galilee" that launched the mitzpeh era. I did NOT say there was "a plan" for phased genocide. I said that is what is de facto taking place on the ground and if you are a Palestinian in WB&G, that certainly is what it feels like. People like Martin Buber articulated a different way, but they were outvoted.

Ami, I began my adult life as a bourgeois person with no particular political stance and have been gradually "radicalized" (if you like) by watching what is happening and trying not to lie to myself about it. All the research, discourse, study, articulation, etc. in the world cannot cast what is happening in a favorable light.

There is no "ism" -- most certainly including Zionism -- that can induce me to put ideology before human beings -- any human beings, not just Jewish human beings. If in hindsight, the only way to win a Jewish state, and a collective Jewish political autonomy as a modern nation-state, has come at the cost of what is happening now, both to Israelis and to Palestinians -- if today's reality is the outcome of Herzl's dream -- I am not persuaded that it was worth it, or that it deserves my support. Your stance is evidently that others are mainly to blame, and Israel is mainly the victim. That is an opinion, not a fact.

But the State of Israel is here, at whatever price; and we need to think about the future! We cannot save ourselves unless we save the Palestinians too; we will all save each other or we will all go down together, and right now the lifeboat is taking on water.

The customary rigid "either-or," "them or us" worldview is partly to blame for this mess. I offer a very different worldview -- and direction for resolving the conflict -- in my essay "Calling All Semites." (It's on the Web.) I do not apologize that my proposed solution goes counter to some 10,000 or so years of human social history. In another ten thousand years, let them look back at our era and say, the shift to a new paradigm began there. (And if the correct figure is 12,000 years, or 8,000 years, it's not terribly important to the point I am making.)

Where I am today:  All the simple people, the ordinary families, and especially the women and children, including me, and my children, are used and abused, directly and indirectly, in established patterns --  by ideologues, politicians, arms merchants, and others -- on both sides -- on all sides -- who rarely pay a personal price themselves. I will not buy the sacred "ism" any more; you can't sell it to my any more. I'm not buying.

As a Jew, having grown up in the USA as a member of a minority, I identify viscerally today with the mom who is a Palestinian Arab citizen in Umm el Fahm or a Palestinian in Nablus and who has to figure out how to explain to her adolescent child what it means that a Jewish Israeli professor refers to him or her as a "demographic time bomb." I also identify with the Jewish Israeli mom whose kid is endangered by guerrilla warfare on civilians. But the Jewish Israeli mom whose writing most closely resonates with my own inner convictions is that of Nurit Peled Elhanan, who already lost a child to a suicide bomb, and still wants to make common cause with her Palestinian counterpart; an Israeli Jewish opinion cannot get more legitimated than that.

I think we are speaking different languages, you and I, so maybe there's no point. Anyhow thanks for trying to communicate.

You can publish it all! No problem.

On 1/24/07, Ami Isseroff  wrote:
Dear Deb,
First - Your public letter was sent to a closed e-group of dovish Zionists, most of whom were aghast at what you wrote. Your letter and my reply to it are puplished here
I would like your permission to do the same with this exchange. Please let me know.
At least, I would like to post both letters to this closed group.
You promoted and defended a best-selling book that is apparently at least anti-Israel in intent, and probably anti-Semitic. Carter's book did not need your defense to be a best seller. Since you didn't read the book, it was certainly incautious to write a defense of it. It is not bad scholarship, but non-existent scholarship. Why defend something if as you claim, you know nothing about it?
You also presented a diabolical fictional phased plan of genocide that is supposedly being perpetrated by Israel. I don't think that is in Carter's book. It is taken from Electronic Intifada or perhaps from RadioIslam or stormfront Web sites, based on an embroidery of creative leaks and imaginative Israeli journalism. It is a fake from start to end.  
In your defense you say that you wanted to wake people up and that it was perhaps a poor choice of words and poor scholarship, and that you operate on emotions. What emotion is expressed by blood libels against Jews and invented Zionist plots? Is Jew hate a worthy emotion?
 Is there a limit to what people will accept in fooling themselves and rationalizing their actions? I don't know.  The tragedy is that you mean well and seem to have the best intentions.
That is the whole thing in a nutshell. Since you replied at length, so will I.
Let's start from the bottom. You wrote that I am "operating" at the cognitive level, while you are working on emotions. I think that the only emotions your article evoked in most Zionists are revulsion and sorrow at your stand, and at the confabulations you chose to disseminate about a "phased plan" for genocide and ethnic cleansing.
If, as you seem to say, you are trying to manipulate emotions regardless of the truth, it is not something of which you can be proud. I am sure that is not what you meant, but that is the meaning of what you wrote, and that is what your article did.
I am "operating" on all levels. I want people to love peace, and love truth, to speak peace and truth in a way that is effective and constructive, rather than blacken each other with scare words and invented plots. 
I am for peace because I am a Zionist. I see no future for Israel without peace, and I see no future for Israel as the conquerers of another people. If that message is made to penetrate into the Israeli polity, we have a good chance of mobilizing opinion against the occupation and of legitimizing the peace camp.
As you may know, I have written extensively on the use of words to distort facts and manipulate emotions in the Middle East conflict. For example -
"The words are meant to program violence in human computers."
The people who do it are despicable. They are fueling the conflict and act as a barrier to peace. "Terrorist" "Ethnic Cleansing" "Holocaust" "Genocide" "Apartheid" are all scare words designed to make people stop thinking and murder each other. Carter is in that camp. He joined it when he wrote "apartheid" in the title of his book, and manipulated facts to blacken Israel. He supports it by ranting about the Israel lobby that controls America.
You wrote that Carter's intent was apparently to wake people up. Carter's intent can only be judged by his actions. The whole trip is about Carter. His book, his appearances, his publicity. He wrote a book that slanders Israel. He took money -- a lot of it -- from Arab governments. He goes around the country appearing on national television and repeating over and over the same messages - the "Israel Lobby" runs America, "they are not letting me talk," only "Jewish organizations" criticize my book. It is classic 1930s America First anti-Semitic propaganda. It is absurd for him to get nationwide publicity for saying that he can't get publicity, isn't it? Anti-Semitism for fun and profit.
The only thing he is making American Jews wake up to, is the feeling that there is a real and present danger of anti-Semitism in the United States, and that they have been betrayed by someone whom they trusted implicitly. He has brought anti-Semitism into the mainstream and it will not go away very easily. Mearsheimer and Walt's article, Scott Ritter's book, and Carter's book are building a momentum and a  movement that may have terrible consequences if not checked. Don't kid yourself. When they say "Jews" they don't mean just those other Jews whom you don't like. When they say "Israel Lobby" they mean anyone who supports the legitimacy of Israel. They are aiming at your family and your friends in the USA as much as they are aiming at fictive "Jewish neocons" who supposedly dragged the US into the Iraq war and prevent an "evenhanded" policy in the Middle East.
You did more than just use scare words. You refered a Zionist plot, a phased plan to expel Palestinians, which exists only in the imagination of the evil degenerates who invented it. They have been saying the same thing since about 2001, and yet they have absolutely no evidence for it whatever. Israel did not kick the Palestinians out of Gaza and take it over, as they predicted. Instead Israel withdrew from Palestine. The "phased plan" accusation is not "poor wording" - it is a lie. A libel that has been repeated over and over.
If you want to change behavior and perceptions of the occupation, this is the wrong way to do it. Jewish society had many defects in the 19th century - it was provincial, closed, dominated by reactionary rabbis. However the corrective for that was not the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" forged by the tsarist police, and that document did not make Jews change their ways.
 Israeli Jews and American Zionists are not going to change their views about the occupation because of Carter. On the contrary, those who support the occupation are outraged by this unfair attack, and are more than ever convinced that only enemies of the Jewish people are for peace. Inside the Zionist movement Carter's book has been a boon to extremist supports of the occupation and neocon bloggers. In Israel, nobody paid much attention to it at all. The conclusion was that the book is just another concoction of rot, that was aimed primarily at promoting anti-Semitism. Like Lindbergh, Carter reiterates in his appearances that America is controlled by the Jews or "Israel Lobby." He does not leave this theme.
The people who write about Israeli genocide and apartheid, and phased plans for ethnic cleansing,  people like Carter, and Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada are not "humanists."  They are not interested in "fixing Israel." Many of them, like Jeff Halper, say so quite openly. There are dozens of "peace and Justice" groups. All of them want to destroy my country and throw me out of my home.
They are anti-Zionists and espouse ideologies that were always anti-Zionist, ranging from Jewish Bundism and Netueri Karteh Holocaust deniers to PLO "secular democratic state" to Hamas genocide. Those are your "progressive" allies. That is their peace and that is their "justice." Few Israeli Jews are going to sign up for that program, and few in Israel will believe you when you publish outright falsehoods about phased plans for ethnic cleansing and genocide. It is not that you exaggerated in that paragraph. It is not that you played on emotions a bit.  The entire paragraph is a false accusation from beginning to end. There is no genocide, there is no phased plan. It is all a blood libel. That is not a bad choice of words. It is a deliberate slanderous confabulation.
The Israeli peace movement was alive and well in 1998. It was murdered by two related events. The first was the Intifadeh, which stabbed the Israeli peace movement in the heart by demonstrating the danger of the peace process, just as the most reactionary foes of Oslo predicted. The second was the proliferation of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist movements who claim to be part of the "peace camp" and thereby discredit the peace camp, and lend credibiilty to the thesis of the right that only anti-Zionists are against the occupation.
Since this propaganda would not convince Israelis to end the occupation, we have to ask who it is aimed at. It is aimed at the American public at large, and the purpose is to end Israel, not to end the occupation. It is intended to convince people that Zionism is racism, and that Zionists are monsters who are committing ethnic cleansing on helpless Palestinians. These aims are not secret. They are stated quite openly by Palestinian advocates and by anti-Zionists like Jeff Halper. They are the people who invented this fictional phased genocide plan.
When you write a letter in a public place, you need to think about what language you use and what message you are delivering.  It is not a matter of scholarship. If I call someone a murderous sex maniac SOB it is not just a poor choice of words. If your command of the language is so poor, then refrain from writing. Nobody would say to a friend, even in anger "you are plotting murder and genocide" and then explain that it was a poor choice of words. You are telling me that you were less careful in the choice of words for a public article then a normal person would be in speaking to their friend in private. Is it credible?
Your words and the words of others are not just words and emotions and "compassion." They result in real events - deaths of actual peoople. They are serious business . They are part of a propaganda war, which is part of a real war, and you have put yourself on the wrong side. That is not the "peace" camp.
Carter's book is apparently bad enough. Nobody should promote trash about the Middle East that has mislabeled maps and garbled accounts of history. Lies are not moral or ethical and they don't help anyone to understand anything. Not only did you promote the book, you added your own confabulation about Zionist plots of genocide.
You, like Carter, disqualified yourself as a spokesperson for peace.  Few Israeli Jews or American Zionists will listen to what you say after you spread these inventions, so if your aim is to show people the reality of the occupation, you are subverting your own aim. You are only providing an easy target for right wing extremists to insist that all people who favor peace and oppose the occupation are enemies of Israel.  
You have said your piece in public, and therefore you must either retract your accusations in public or stand on them. If you made a mistake, you need to say so in public. 

----- Original Message -----
Dear Ami,

Thanks for your thoughtful letter. You have earned much respect for your work and I'm sur eit is deserved. I am sure you are right that my scholarship is sloppy and/or my expressions are not precise. I hear Carter's book is like that, too. I said in the first sentence that I hadn't read it, so it would be clear.

My intent is to wake people up and I imagine (no way to prove it, one way or another) that that was Carter's intent, too.

You're right that, all other things being equal, better scholarship makes a better case. And maybe it really is necessary each time I write something to mention the existential threats that are wielded against Israel and Jews. Personally I think our government's choices over the years have aggravated, rather than diminished, those threats -- and I blame human greed and stupidity more than I blame "the Arabs" or the existential threat to Israel.

However -- while we argue the merits of "apartheid" vs. some other term for it, and "ethnic cleansing" vs. some other term for it, the insanity continues, and the longer we rely on brute force instead of creative policy initiatives, the deeper we dig our own grave here, as far as I can see.

I believe if successive Israeli administrations had been less expansionist, we would have a different situation today: not because the rejectionist front would have become friendlier to us, but because we would still have some kind of moral high ground to stand on and the rest of the world be unable to deny that. Unwise exercise of brute force -- our own exercise of it -- has taken away our best protection. That's how it seems to me.

Meanwhile, as we debate, thousands of Palestinians whose home villages are surrounded by parts of the Separation Wall, and who have no viable way to earn a living, are contemplating uprooting themselves -- what would you call that? Economic self-transfer? To me, it is truly diabolical because the policy seems designed to achieve this very end: We will not put anyone on busses en masse; they will leave "voluntarily."

Without an overly long rant, I will relate to one other point -- about democracy and government in Israel, and the Palestinians' place in that picture. The same democracy that is proud of the appointment of a (first or second) token Arab as minister, after only 58 years!, has 1.1 million Palestinian ordinary citizens of whom the vast majority live in all-Arab towns (de facto residential segregation, and no room to build houses for their kids - the state holds nearly all the land, etc.). Surely you already knew that.

But did you know that the vast majority of Arabs towns have no home addresses on people's homes, and no street signs with names of the village or town streets? Hence, in lieu of voter registration by home address, these citizens are registered to vote at polling places organized by their family name -- nicely perpetuating the medieval situation of gross hamoula / clan influence on voting patterns. This situation, apparently designed to enable bigwigs to continue to "deliver" blocs of votes, is therefore attractive also to Jewish politicians who benefit from the status quo.

This situation functionally disenfranchises the weaker Arab citizens, especially women, who are more vulnerable to pressure by the powerful. Meanwhile, in Arab towns, since there are no home addresses, private citizens who really want to receive mail have to get post office boxes or risk non-delivery of their mail. When friends from elsewhere visit, the hosts have to wait and meet the guests at the entrance of their town or village because there is no map with street names like in any normal town in Jewish Israel and the rest of the developed world. --Did you know this? Lots of people active in civil rights in Israel don't know this.

I give this as just one example of a sad fact: The depth of the asymmetry in our vaunted democracy is not only huge, but often invisible.

I always said, my position always has been, that the declaration of independence of Israel was great, that the extent to which the equality envisioned there for all Israeli citizens had been achieved was something to be proud of, and the extent to which it had not been achieved was something to work on together. But over the years, in civil rights terms, there has been negative progress, in my opinion -- within and certainly outside the Green Line. Attributing all that to the Arabs and the existential threat is convenient but, in my opinion, unwarranted.

We are all, Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, victims together of the unintended or even intended consequences of various social-geographic engineering programs that have proven untenable in the long run. I'm sorry, Ami, but I no longer feel that I have a "side" in the traditional sense. I say "us" and mean Israelis, or Jews, but mainly I side with the mothers and children, all of them.

Anyway -- if someone as serious and committed as you are thinks that what I wrote was counterproductive, I will genuinely try to be more careful next time. I think part of the issue between us might be that you operate in pure cognitive mode -- trying to wring truth and justice out of facts -- and I don't see any salvation there anymore. Facts are too slippery.


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  • I think that it is a mistake to try to respond to people like Miss Reich by referring to modern Zionist ideology or what Jabotinsky may have said, or what Ben Gurion may have or have not said, etc.
    The way to respond is to go back to the period BEFORE Zionism, before even the Bilu. The following subjects have to be dealt with:
    1-- How did Arabs get control of the Land of Israel?

    2-- What was the traditional status of Jews under Arab/Muslim rule? This also raises the question of the comparative status of Jews to Christians in Arab/Muslim society. That is, which dhimmi people had a superior status, Jews or Christians? The answer is that the Jews were at the bottom of the totem pole, lower even than Christian dhimmis. This was true in the Land of Israel, in Egypt, etc. Where there were no Christians, as in Yemen and Morocco, the Jews were severely oppressed, even enslaved.

    3-- How was the Jewish proportion in the population reduced to a few percentage points? The Crusaders massacred many or most of the Jews in the country after their conquest in 1099. However, Jews suffered massacre and oppression even before the Crusades, at Arab-Muslim hands. Hence, many Jews had emigrated from the country in the 460 years of Arab/Muslim control before the Crusades.

    This is the approach to take with these ignoramuses like Ms Reich. Arab rule in Israel was always oppressive, exploitative, an outgrowth of Arab imperial conquest, of Arab colonialism. It is largely a waste of time to argue over what Herzl or Ben Gurion or whoever really meant by an obscure diary entry written 100 years ago more or less. The pre-modern or pre-Bilu history is what must be expounded.

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, At January 30, 2007 3:27:00 PM GMT+00:00  

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