Sari Nusseibeh is probably the most controversial figure in Palestinian politics. He has co-initiated and popularized the Ayalon-Nusseibeh agreement calling on Arab Palestinian refugees to give up the 'right' of return to Israel in return for an equitable two state solution. During the hysteria in Britain about academic boycotts of Israel, Nusseibeh led the way in condemning boycotters and calling for dialog and academic freedom. At the height of the suicide bombing attacks, when they were supported by nearly 80% of the Palestinian Arab public, he organized a petition by Palestinian intellectuals calling for an end to suicide bombing.
Sari Nusseibeh is a Palestinian Arab, not a Zionist or a Jew. He will not always say things that are pleasing to Israel. But his constructive stands on right of return, boycotts and suicide bombings require personal courage. In the Palestinian polity, the positions he has taken are hazardous to one's health. Ingrid Jaradat of the European financed BADIL organization, a refugee group that lobbies for right of return and encourages violence, reminded me that her group considers Nusseibeh to be a traitor. We know what Palestinian Arab society does to traitors. Other groups have made similar remarks about Nusseibeh.
However, the MEMRI group and others have published excerpts of remarks by Nusseibeh in which he apparently said unacceptable and inexcusable things. calling for Jaffa and other cities to be part of a Palestinian state, praising terror attacks and the like. As the latest group of clips appeared to be taken out of context in a heavily edited interview, I asked Sari Nusseibeh for his response. I also asked MEMRI to explain the heavily cut interview clip, reminiscent of "Pallywood" practices. I copied several other bloggers who had written about MEMRI's account of Nusseibeh, one of whom, in the ongoing interchange, complained:
If Nusseibeh wants to explain, he should..
Why are you interceding for him.
As I responded to him, I am intervening because I believe that Zionist advocacy must always be careful to tell the truth. If we are not truthful, if we do not abide by reasonable rules and courtesies of professional journalism, we damage our own cause in the end.
Zionism wants peace and needs peace. I believe that if we really want peace, we have nothing to gain by being unfair to one of the few really enlightened and moderate voices on the Palestinian side, unless it is really obvious that he is playing a double game. The MEMRI quotes, taken out of context, did not provide conclusive evidence of that.
MEMRI has not yet responded. Sari Nusseibeh responded to my letter and copied the other bloggers, whom I had copied on the original letter. I hesitated to distribute Nusseibeh's response. I do not think that this incident redounds to the credit of Zionist advocacy. I wanted to give MEMRI a chance to exonerate itself. We do not think it is right when Palestinian advocates present chopped up Zionist quotes to demonize Israel. The editors of Zionism-Israel.com debated the ethics of publishing Nusseibeh's response without a suitable reaction from MEMRI. We are committed to telling the truth, but we have no desire to embarrass or discredit MEMRI, which provides an indispensable service in translating and publishing Arab and Iranian press materials. They should have had a chance to respond.
At the same time, Sari Nusseibeh may endanger himself by further remarks against extremism. It was not clear to me that he meant all of this letter for public consumption.
However, other bloggers have published the letter without permission and without waiting for MEMRI's response. All's fair in love, war and journalism. Our hesitation was apparently unwise. As the cat is out of the sack, we can't deprive our readers of the information received on my initiative, that was published by others.
Below is the full text of Sari Nusseibeh's letter, including the parts that may have been omitted by others, edited only for formatting and typos:
First, thank you for your intervention. I wondered a lot about "explaining", and had decided, like so often in the past, to let things be, until I saw that you also were coming under criticism. So here:
1. This is not Memri's first "disinformation" publicity against me. Taking quotations out of context, or failing to present a full context to the reader/viewer, also marked their coverage of my anti-suicide stand as reported by al-jazeera three years ago. Briefly, Memri in that report presented me as someone consorting in the same room with Hamas's mash'al, expressing sympathy to the mother of a suicide-r in Gaza. What Memri failed to tell the viewers/audience at the time was that
(a) I had just managed to get more than 50 well-known Palestinian activists to sign an unprecedented petition against suicides in the local Arabic newspapers;
(b) this was the first anti-suicide public stand taken anywhere in the Arab/Moslem world;
(c) this happened at the height of the suicide-rage of the time and was therefore totally at odds with the prevalent "political fashion" or mood;
(d) this was therefore the reason why I had been asked (for the first time in my life) by al-Jazeera for an interview; and
(e) that instead of being the sole participant I found myself (without prior notification) included (though I was alone in a West Jerusalem studio) in an emotive, Mash'al-led pro-suicide program having to defend views that were being portrayed as "treasonous". Nonetheless I did my best in that program to present our public anti-suicide petition as strongly and clearly as possible. Memri chose to ignore all of that, and instead focused on a statement I made effectively expressing respect to mothers of soldiers dying in battles, (which I made partly to fend off the scenes of a wailing mother whose son had just been killed by Israeli soldiers, and which the program producer decided to use just before I was to be exposed to al-Jazeera's viewers after Mash'al).
2. In the second case, i.e., that of the recent al-Jazeera interview, Memri once again chose to pursue a disinformation strategy. Let me explain:
i. The interviewer this time brought Tibi and me on the Palestinian side to comment on whether it made sense for Israel to ask Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. Tibi's view was that being Jewish is inconsistent with being democratic, and that this request should therefore be turned down. My view, which goes along with the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document, and which I explained in the interview, is that (1) we already recognized Israel as a Jewish State by recognizing Un resolution 181; and, (2) that whether Israel is Jewish (or Martian) is not/should not be an issue for us: what is and should be an issue (for us) is whether Arab minority rights (culturally and individually) would be safeguarded in the State which we are being asked formally to recognize.
ii. Tibi's bewailing of the disenfranchisement of Arabs in Israel -a condition which could only be exacerbated, he argued, if Israel were recognized as a Jewish State, prompted the question by the interviewer whether he wouldn't therefore find it preferable to become (and have Taybeh become) part of a Palestinian State (as part of a long-term settlement). Here of course Tibi objected vehemently, insisting that he is and must remain an Israeli citizen. My own intervention here was again unconventional (in terms of contemporary Palestinian parlance): I suggested this matter could/should be discussed. What is wrong, from a nationalistic point of view, I asked, in attaching parts of what is now Israel (like Taybeh) to a future Palestinian State? Jokingly, the interviewer asked me, Why not Acco? And I said, in the same vein, that too, meaning that it should not be out of the question for the two sides to discuss any mutually acceptable arrangement for a two-State solution, including one which would cater for attaching Arab population areas which are now part of Israel in a future Palestinian State. (By the way, I could have further added that part of the "return" issue, especially as this affects refugees in Lebanon, could well be served by such a geographic redrawing of the map, given the original homes of those refugees).
iii. The whole debate of course was a cover for another underlying debate on the right of return. My position (again the interviewer reminded his viewers) was already expressed in the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document. He asked me to elaborate on it. I explained that, as part of a package deal, return on my view should be confined to the Palestinian State (in addition to compensation, etc.). I added however that the other side of the coin of my position (confining the return of palestinians to within the borders of a future Palestinian State) was that Jews also will have no right to claim to "return" to within the borders of a Palestinian State, and will be confined in the exercise of this "right" to the State of Israel (meaning their claim as Jews to return and settle anywhere in "Judea, Samaria, etc." will not be substantiated). I certainly did not mean by this statement to exclude Jews from being able to live in an Arab State, or vice versa. At this point the issue of whether Palestinians can accept confining their return to within Palestine came up, and I said this had to be accepted if Palestinians truly wished to have a two-state solution. But in any case, I said, Palestinian leaders should express themselves honestly on this matter: demanding a two-state solution entails, from a practical point of view, confining the exercise of the right of return. Insisting on the pursuit of a full implementation of the right of return implies a pursuit of a one-state solution. I am personally indifferent to what we (Palestinians) should put up as a vision. Indeed, I said, I was the first to call for such a solution. However, I added, PLO strategy has been going in the other direction, and it is a direction whose implications we should own up to.
By the way, in conclusion, it is not hard for anyone interested in my views to to find out what they are from reading fully what I have written and said over the years. Indeed, I will not argue that Israel does not have many enemies in the Arab world. What I do say is that Israel has so many of them it certainly does not therefore need to create fictitious ones, unless of course a Palestinian who is truly committed to compromise is by virtue of this an enemy of the State of Israel??
You may judge what you wish from the above. Inevitably, there are already some who are insisting, "but he said it," "but he said it." Indeed he did say it. And indeed, Yitzhak Rabin said of the Palestians, "We will break their bones." We can't argue that Rabin didn't say it, and those who continue to say "but he said it," should remember that. Moreover, one can see Mohamed Al-Dura dying on Charles Enderlin's film, can't one, so what is wrong with showing that masterpiece of the editor's art as proof of Zionist cruelty? We should not take Sari Nusseibeh's word for it, or assume automatically that MEMRI is wrong either. They should present their version as well, including the uncut excerpts.
Sari Nusseibeh's question deserves an answer:
I will not argue that Israel does not have many enemies in the Arab world. What I do say is that Israel has so many of them it certainly does not therefore need to create fictitious ones, unless of course a Palestinian who is truly committed to compromise is by virtue of this an enemy of the State of Israel??
If MEMRI chooses to respond, or to publish the full translation of the unedited film clips, we shall be happy to discuss them.
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Replies: 3 Comments
Thanks for informative post. MEMRI, stand up to the challenge!
Misha SHAULI, Thursday, January 3rd
As it appears now, MEMRI used "creative editing" to make out that Nusseibeh is in favor of annexing Yaffo to Palestine and forbidding Jews from entering a Palestinian state. They did not need to comment. Others made out, based on these quotes, that Nusseibeh is a racist and an anti-Semite. Yet these same people deplored the unfair film editing by Enderlin.
As it stands, we don't really know the truth about Enderlin's film and we may never know it, and we don't know the truth in this case. MEMRI has not replied, so we must take Sari Nusseibeh at his word.
Ami Isseroff, Thursday, January 3rd
Thanks for casting some clear light on the matter of Sari Nusseibi and suicide-terrorism. I look forward to MEMRI's response.
However, I don't think you made your point well about MEMRI by pointing to Enderlin's coverage of the incident at Rafah junction. Enderlin pronounces Al-Durah as dead at the hands of IDF. Much of the evidence raised in contradiction, based on the unedited 22 minutes viewed by a number of persons, was that the bullets richocetting around the Al-Durahs weren't being fired by the IDF and, noting the absence of blood, it was possible that nobody died, either.
, Thursday, January 3rd
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