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
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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...
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.
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 hereI 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 -http://www.mideastweb.org/wordhistory.htm from which I quote:"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.Shalom,Ami
----- Original Message -----From: DEB REICHDear 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.
DebGo to http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/01/speaking-out-on-carter-open-letter-to.html - to see the beginning of this exchange.
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