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Prospect Magazine, Benny Morris, August 2004

Once the great chronicler of Israel's war crimes, he now laments Ben-Gurion's failure to clear all Arab inhabitants from Palestine in 1948. What has become of Morris and the Israeli left?

David B Green

The Israeli historian Benny Morris achieved a modicum of fame in 1988 with his first book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949. It was one of the first works to look objectively at the factors that led 700,000 Palestinians to leave their homes during the 1947-49 war that followed the partition of mandatory Palestine by the UN. It is seen as a landmark because, by citing places and dates, it provided evidence that members of Israel's army had carried out war crimes and that the actions of Israeli forces had intentionally contributed to the flight of the Palestinians. It also blamed the Arab states for having rejected the UN plan that called for the creation of both a Jewish state and an Arab one, but the major significance of the book for Israelis was that it challenged the official Zionist story that the Jews had done all they could to keep the Palestinians from leaving. Morris became a self-loathing troublemaker in the view of some jingoistic Israelis, and a hero both for Israelis on the left and for supporters of the Palestinians.

But in February 2002, nearly 18 months into the al-Aqsa intifada, the Guardian published a long piece by Morris in which he effectively told British readers that he was sending back his membership card of the Israel left. He had, he wrote, become convinced that Yasser Arafat, symbol of "his people's miseries and collective aspirations," had no intention of reaching a compromise with Israel. He had reached this conclusion, he said, not only because of Palestinian behaviour since the failed Camp David summit in July 2000, when Arafat had turned down a "generous offer" from Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, but also after having spent most of the 1990s researching Righteous Victims, a book on the century-long history of the conflict. "By the time I had completed the book," Morris wrote, "my restrained optimism had given way to grave doubts," as he began to understand that a common thread of rejection of the Jewish national movement ran through the entire history of Palestinian nationalism.

Morris described himself as disillusioned, but not as someone who had changed his basic sense of what peace might entail. His belief that the two-state solution was the only practical and morally correct possibility, and that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza was misguided, had not changed, he said, but he no longer felt convinced that his peers on the Palestinian side shared his outlook.

To Morris himself, this expression of frustration and anger seemed a natural consequence of the horrific events that had overtaken the region since the breakdown of peace efforts at Camp David. To others, however, the champion of the Palestinians had crossed over to become their prosecutor. As Morris wrote, with characteristic self-consciousness, readers couldn't be blamed for thinking he had undergone a "brain transplant."

That was only the beginning. Earlier this year, Morris gave an interview to Ha'aretz, the Tel-Aviv based daily broadsheet. He explained that his research for a recently revised edition of the Palestinian Refugee Problem had turned up more evidence of murder and rape of Palestinians. In addition, he had found confirmation of numerous cases in which ethnic cleansing of Arabs from territory Jews were trying to consolidate had been policy and not just the by-product of a defensive war. "Transfer," he wrote in the book, "was inevitable and in-built into Zionism - because it sought to transform a land which was 'Arab' into a 'Jewish' state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of the Arab population."

Yet far from wringing his hands over these new revelations, Morris explained that Israelis, at least, would probably have been better off had they completed the expulsion of the Palestinians from the entire land - the Mediterranean to the Jordan river - in 1948. Israel's leader, David Ben-Gurion, he argued, had got cold feet. "If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself." As a consequence, Israel was burdened not only with some 3.5m Palestinians in the occupied territories, but also with a large minority population of Arab citizens in Israel proper (today 1.2m out of a total population of 6m), and they constitute a "timebomb" and a "potential fifth column." He contemplated (some might say relished) the possibility that some day, if Israel were exposed to an existential threat from, say, Egypt and Syria, it might have no alternative but to complete the expulsion begun more than 50 years earlier.

Morris was careful to distinguish between expulsion and atrocities like murder and rape, which he said were always unjustified, though he also stressed that the number of Palestinians whom he estimated had been slaughtered by Jews in the war (as opposed to killed in battle) did not exceed 800, and that was "peanuts" compared with, say, Bosnia. In any case, Morris said, "when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide - the genocide of your people - I prefer ethnic cleansing."

But it was some of the other observations Morris made in his interview with Ari Shavit, spoken in Hebrew, that got people emailing the piece around the globe. Feeling that the situation granted him licence to generalise about Arab and Muslim cultures, he noted that the Arab world today was "barbarian," and that in Islam, "human life doesn't have the same value as it does in the west," which explained why they "will commit genocide." He compared the Palestinian adversary to "a wild animal that has to be locked up."

Not surprisingly, the interview elicited strong reactions. Ha'aretz printed many angry letters, and historians and middle east buffs filled internet sites with essays criticising Morris. One reader concluded that Morris served as "a case history in the psychopathology of colonialism." Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling, who has written several histories of the Palestinians, dismissed Morris the historian as no more than an "archivist," and Morris the political thinker as someone who applied his own "prejudices and stereotypes" of Islamic and Arab culture to fit the embattled zeitgeist in "the Israeli-Jewish world and some parts of western political culture since the 9/11 calamity."

Speaking to the web magazine Salon, Tom Segev, a historian who has shared the loose mantle of "new historian" with Morris - along with Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim - concluded that "Morris flipped out as a result of three years of terrorism. Happens to many of us," he added nonchalantly.

As if to highlight the break that he had made with his past, Morris also published a long review of Ilan Pappe's A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples in the New Republic in March 2004. Opening the piece on a personal note, Morris told readers that although he and Pappe had once "walked together in uneasy companionship," they had now "parted ways."

Even when they were fellow new historians, Pappe and Morris had been some way apart. Morris is a Zionist, and Pappe (together with Shlaim) a "post-Zionist," believing that only a single state for Jews and Arabs can lead to a just society. Nonetheless, the intifada has sharpened the differences between the two. In Morris's review, and in a response that Pappe posted on a website, both men attacked one another personally as well as professionally. Morris listed dozens of errors in the book and recommended that readers "run vigorously in the opposite direction" of what is "truly... an appalling book."

Pappe, in turn, denied that he and Morris had ever been intellectual companions, but "as he seemed to trust me" in the late 1980s, he had shared with Pappe what were already then "his abominable racist views" of Arabs. Morris "was never a historian," but a chronologist, and also a liar and a "charlatan."

Why does it matter what Benny Morris has to say about the intifada or the Palestinian mind? The reason he is important is that the questions he is asking and answering are the same ones that have occupied tens of thousands of thoughtful Israelis over the past few years. The only difference is that he expresses his opinions loudly and clearly before a world audience.

Israel today is not the same country it was four years ago. What is new is a deep disillusionment among that segment of society that used to call itself the left. Its members for the most part still believe in the two state solution. At the same time, however, they fear that this solution is no longer attainable. Like Morris, they have become convinced that Israel lacks an adversary who shares its understanding of political bargaining. There is, they fear, "no partner." And much as they would like to feel regret over the harsh measures Israel has imposed on the Palestinians in the past few years, the blows that Israel has endured - above all the suicide bombings - have hardened their hearts to their enemy's suffering.

This explains the stunning victory of Ariel Sharon both in the 2001 direct prime ministerial election, and his re-election 18 months ago, once Israel had reverted to its original party-based electoral system. It explains the nearly unanimous support of Israelis for the construction of the security barrier between the state and the West Bank (despite a lack of consensus on what the course of the fence should be), and the fact that more than two thirds of the public is behind Sharon's plan to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza strip. And finally, the disillusionment of the left explains in part the near total collapse of the Labour party as a political organisation offering a coherent approach to the country's problems and a vision for its future. Labour's inability even to agree on a leader for the past three years (its interim leader continues to be Shimon Peres) is a symptom of this collapse.

I met Benny Morris recently for morning coffee at a café in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighbourhood. The place is not far from where a city bus was blown up earlier this year, and not much farther from Café Moment, which was hit by a suicide bomb in March 2002. Because of a mix-up, I arrived an hour early. Concerned that I had missed Morris, I called his home, where I was greeted with a recorded message saying the line had been disconnected. Luckily, Morris showed up soon after, and explained that he had just moved house. He had, he said, moved to a "settlement" - understood here, as it is worldwide, to refer to Israeli communities in the occupied territories. Chuckling at my surprise, he quickly explained that it wasn't really a settlement, but rather a community, near the city of Beit Shemesh, inside Israel. He may have moved to the right, but Morris is still no right-winger.

Morris was born in Israel the same year as the state, 1948, but his father, from Belfast, and his London-born mother had immigrated to pre-state Palestine from England in 1947, and his mother tongue is English. This is what he spoke with me, rapidly, eloquently and precisely, in an English accent. His appearance is disarmingly sloppy and approachable. He is friendly, unpretentious and direct. His enemies claim that the changing political climate has led Morris to lower his guard so that his "natural racism" can emerge, but I felt his cheerful demeanour and open manner might be masking the fear and even hurt that he has experienced in the last few years. In an interview he gave to the Atlantic Monthly's website, he acknowledged that he may well be "basically depressed," adding that he had become convinced that "unless there is a basic change of heart and mind... among Palestinians and in the Arab world in general about Israel, we're in for a continuous struggle over the coming decades."

As members of the Hashomer Hatzair socialist movement, Benny's parents lived briefly on Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh, where he was born, and then were involved in the establishment of Kibbutz Yasur, in the western Galilee (founded, as their son says, "on the ruins of an abandoned Arab village, Al-Birwa"). When Benny was a year old, the family moved to Jerusalem, which remained their home, although his youth was punctuated with two long periods in New York, where his father Jacob served as Israeli consul. (Later, in the 1980s, Jacob was Israel's ambassador to New Zealand, about which he published a book of poetry.) Benny too was a member of a socialist youth group connected to the kibbutz movement.

After receiving his BA in modern European history from the Hebrew University, Morris did a doctorate at Cambridge, England, finishing his thesis, on Anglo-German relations in the 1930s, in 1977. Unable to find a job in academia, he took up a position as a reporter on the Jerusalem Post, which was then a left-leaning English-language daily owned by Israel's labour federation. He explains in the introduction to the revised edition of his 1988 book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited that his interest in studying Palestinian refugees began during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, when he interviewed residents of a Palestinian refugee camp outside Tyre, in the south of the country. He had earlier planned to write a book about the history of Israel's army, but had to abandon it when his access to the archives of the Palmah (the elite commando force of the pre-state Haganah militia) was withdrawn - though not before he had glimpsed top secret documents testifying to the role of Jewish soldiers in expelling Palestinians from their homes.

In 1988, the year that he published the first edition of the refugee study, Morris - who was still working as a journalist - was jailed for refusing to report for reserve duty as a soldier in the West Bank city of Nablus. It was during the first intifada and, he told his Salon interviewer recently, "my sympathies were with the rebels. I thought the Arabs really meant what they said and they were out to liberate the West Bank and Gaza from military occupation. I thought that was just. And therefore, I refused to fight them."

By the early 1990s, Morris had left the newspaper and begun searching in earnest for a university job in Israel. But his efforts were in vain. "I was blackballed for years," he told me. "I was already well known, because of my first book, but I was not even invited to a single interview. Eventually, in 1996, I gave an interview to the newspaper Ma'ariv, and I told the reporter that I would starve if I don't find a job here. I had literally been searching for five or six years. The headline of the story was, 'Benny Morris is leaving Israel.' The same morning the story ran, I got a call from the office of [Israeli president] Ezer Weizman, who I was told wanted to meet me. I went by a few days later, and we talked for about an hour. He quizzed me about 1948: I guess he wanted to see if I was just one of those anti-Zionists, and I think he reached a positive conclusion" - that Morris was kosher. Weizman apparently asked his chief of staff to make some calls, and a few minutes after Morris had made the short walk back to his home, "I received a phone call from the president of Ben-Gurion University assuring me I had a job." Today he is a professor of middle east studies at Ben-Gurion University, in the Negev city of Beer Sheva.

At heart, Morris told me, he still believed that the creation of a Palestinian state was a practical necessity. "I've always believed that we must separate from the Palestinians, that they must have their own state in the West Bank and Gaza strip, alongside Israel, along more or less 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem, which must be returned to Arab sovereignty. I think that's just and I think that's practical."

But Morris, along with many other Israelis, has found himself wondering over the past four years just which war he was revisiting: 1967, when Israel took "temporary" possession of the territories? Or 1948, when a coalition of Arab states fought to prevent the newly declared state from coming into existence? In other words, was the intifada about how much of the territories Israel would withdraw from, or was Israel still fighting for its very existence?

This question seemed all the more relevant coming, as the intifada did, in the wake of the failed summit hosted by President Clinton at Camp David in July 2000. Israelis have overwhelmingly accepted Ehud Barak's claim that between Camp David and January 2001, Israel made a series of proposals that seemed to answer most, if not all, of the Palestinian demands: the withdrawal from nearly all the territories and dismantling of most of the settlements; the ceding of Arab Jerusalem to the new Palestinian state, as well as of the Temple Mount, which is central to both Islam and Judaism; and there were also indications that Israel was open to a compromise formula in which it would accept joint responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem and offer to take in a symbolic number of refugees. Arafat's rejection at Camp David of the terms, followed not by a counter-offer or a proposal to continue negotiating but rather, several months later, by an armed uprising, was taken as evidence that the Palestinians were unwilling to bring the conflict to an end.

This is the way Barak presented Camp David to the world, and subsequent memoirs not only from Israelis who were involved but also from Clinton himself (as well as his middle east special negotiator, Dennis Ross), have generally corroborated this version. There have been several journalistic accounts of the Camp David talks from a more Palestinian point of view - including a piece in the New York Review of Books in 2001 by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley that outlined the tactical mistakes of both sides - but for the most part the Palestinians who were present have remained silent for the past four years, and this has given Barak's version a clear run.

When Barak responded in the New York Review to the Agha-Malley piece, he did so via an interview he gave to Benny Morris. Barak insisted that his offer to Arafat had been sincere and comprehensive, and that the claim that he had offered a Palestinian state composed of "Bantustans" was an "embarrassing lie." But lying, he explained, was endemic to Arab culture, and largely defined Arafat's style as a leader.

Barak, and subsequently Morris - who accepts Barak's version of events almost entirely - make special note of Palestinian unwillingness at Camp David to acknowledge Israel's claim to a historical connection to the Temple Mount. The issue came up during discussions over the future of the old city site, which is holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. There are many legends attached to the mount, but there are a number of facts that most secular sources agree on, among them that in 70AD, the Romans destroyed the Hebrew temple that stood on the site, and that the Western, or Wailing, Wall, where Jews have prayed for much of the past two millennia, is a remnant of the retaining wall built by Herod the Great to support the mount in the first century BC.

Yet even the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, an urbane, western-educated mandarin, was reported to have told his Israeli counterparts that he did not believe that there had been a temple at the site, reflecting the wider Palestinian view. If that denial was just Israeli propaganda, no Palestinian spokes-man has taken advantage of the past four years to correct the record and state clearly that since the mount is holy to both peoples, a way must be found to share it. Aside from the significance of this to Jews anxious to know that their holiest site will remain accessible, the symbolic meaning of the Palestinian position cannot be overstated. Negation of the Jewish link to the Temple Mount - denial that there ever was a temple - is equivalent to rejection of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, which in turn is like asserting that the Jews have no claim to Palestine in general.

Morris told me that he was not a "determinist," and believed that "a mindset can change over a generation or two." The problem with the Arabs was cultural, not racial, he believed. But this did not make him any more optimistic. And it was his historical research for Righteous Victims that forms the basis of his pessimism. "I spent time looking at the whole thing, from its origins in the 1880s until the present day... and the thrust of Palestinian history from the beginning of the Palestinian movement in the 1920s... was rejectionist. It opposed the idea of Jews coming here, it opposed the idea of a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. 'Not one inch' - that was basically the slogan, and unfortunately, my study of the last 100 years shows me that they've been uniform, monolithic, linear about this." He then recounted all the opportunities for the Palestinians to accept a compromise - in 1937 (when a British commission called for partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, and population ex-changes between them, with the former getting some 70 per cent and the latter 20 per cent), and 1947, and 1978, and, finally, four years ago. And each time "they reject a peace offer and a compromise based on two states, they lose territory. The Jewish population grows, Jewish greed grows, and Jews take over more and more territory. And then there's less territory available for Arabs, and they're offered less."

Although Barak and, following him, Morris, now seem certain about the depth of Palestinian intransigence, other Israelis, even some in the very thick of the military establishment, are not so sure. In mid-June, the journalist Akiva Eldar reported in Ha'aretz that Amos Malka, who had been head of Israeli military intelligence at the time of Camp David, was claiming that his division's assessment had always been that Arafat was interested in making a deal; the turn to violence in 2000 was a continuation of diplomacy by other means, not a sign that the two-state solution had been discarded. Malka's remarks were meant to discredit the analysis of his then deputy Amos Gilad - now an outspoken political adviser to the defence minister - who has been called "the high priest of the 'we have no partner' creed." Malka charged that Gilad had no basis for his assertion that Arafat's ultimate goal was the destruction of Israel, and that his insistence on the right of return was intended to achieve that goal demographically.

Gilad has defended his position, and reactions to this dispute from other observers have predictably divided along political lines. But while one has to wonder why Amos Malka has chosen to speak now, one cannot help but have doubts about the entire science of reading the mind of the Palestinian president. When I discussed this with Gidi Grinstein,who served as secretary of the Israeli delegation to Camp David, and today heads the Re'ut Institute for strategic planning, he told me that he "wouldn't claim to know what's in Arafat's heart." But Israel, he said, will always be at a disadvantage in negotiations, not because of unclear Palestinian intentions but because of a more basic "structural mismatch" between the Israeli and Palestinian political systems. Grinstein observed that whereas Arafat "has been the Palestinians' leader for 40 years, the average Israeli prime minister is in office for two and a half to three unstable years. This gives the Palestinian side an incentive to prolong negotiations." He also noted that the Palestinians made decisions via deliberation and consensus. "Thus you can't carry and enforce a decision with a one-person majority" - the way that the Knesset passed the Oslo II agreement (mandating the withdrawal of Israeli forces from most Palestinian urban centres in the West Bank) in October 1995, after two parliamentarians switched to Labour. "For the Palestinians to reach a more significant majority, you may need an agreement that will be unacceptable to the Israelis. Without external pressure, why should Arafat take any risks in putting his coalition to the test of a challenging agreement with Israel?"

I wondered also if Morris, in the wake of 9/11, now saw the intifada in a more Islamic context. He responded by suggesting that the conflict be viewed on two levels: a "territorial conflict between two peoples, unfortunately turned into a zero sum game by the Palestinians," and as "a war against the existence of the state of Israel." This, he said, has "merged with the pan-Arab, pan-Islamic radical struggle against the west, against modernism, against liberal values and democratic values. They see the west as a threat to their own culture, and they see Israel as an outpost of this west. So when Hamas wages the struggle against this entity called Israel, they're also waging the pan-Islamic struggle against the west itself. And we are on the front line."

The picture Morris draws is a gloomy one, but if it misrepresents the Palestinians, few politicians or intellectual leaders from that side have tried hard to challenge it (Sari Nusseibeh, the liberal academic and Al-Quds University president, is one of the few exceptions). This does not mean that most Israelis have an alternative solution, or want to claim the West Bank as their own. Morris told me how, a year or two ago, he received a call from a leader of the Council of Jewish Communities in the territories, asking him to speak at a rally in Tel Aviv. "I said to him: 'I'm not there yet, I'm not quite there.'" Then he added, in case I had misunderstood his point, "That was a joke. I've never identified with the settlers. I think that the settlement movement was a mistake from the beginning."

Similarly, two thirds of Israelis told pollsters in June that they supported Sharon's plan for unilateral Israeli "disengagement" from Gaza, and 68 per cent said they would be behind a plan to dismantle most of the settlements there and in the West Bank in the context of a peace deal. If there is no partner, then Israel has no alternative but to act unilaterally. Hence the broad support not only for the Gaza pullout, but also for the construction of the security barrier.

Morris is all for a withdrawal from Gaza: "I don't think we should have 20 or 25 per cent of the Gaza strip's land for 7,000 settlers when you have 1.5m really impoverished people there." He would like to see a similar withdrawal in the West Bank (though holding on to enclaves adjacent to the Green line), and even, in the event of a peace deal, Jerusalem.

All of the political figures in Israel I have spoken to over the past few months have their own take on Sharon's decision to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza strip, but they all agreed that the move was preferable to the status quo. Yossi Alpher, a former adviser to Ehud Barak, is suspicious of Sharon's motives, but contends that "after the last four years, unilateral action is much more doable than bilateral." Alpher said he was convinced that Sharon "is leaving Gaza to stay in the West Bank," but went on to suggest that "the weight of the precedent of dismantling settlements will be far greater than any coup he may be planning to hold the West Bank."

Gidi Grinstein, head of the Re'ut institute, was more generous, crediting Sharon with "a sophisticated understanding of the present reality with the Palestinians. He understands that entering into negotiations may suck him in the way it did the four previous prime ministers, since Rabin. Each time we start to negotiate, the agenda expands, the timeframe is prolonged and Palestinian demands escalate, while we still have terrorism." At this stage in the conflict, said Grinstein, it would be a mistake for an Israeli leader, even if conditions were ripe for the resumption of negotiations, not also to have a "viable, credible strategy based on unilateral moves and agreements with third parties [essentially the US] to free Israel from its dependence on Palestinian consent and its vulnerability to the pathologies of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."

On the security issue Israel has drifted towards a one-party state. In the last election, 18 months ago, Labour's leader Amram Mitzna called for the resumption of talks with the Palestinians, and was trounced, with Labour winning only 19 seats out of 120 in the Knesset, its lowest share ever. (Its share of the vote fell to 14.5 per cent, compared with 46 per cent for Labour and allied parties in 1969.) Mitzna resigned as leader, and for lack of an alternative, the party turned to Shimon Peres to take over as acting chair. He has been dogged with almost weekly reports that he is angling to take Labour back into a Sharon-led coalition, in which he would again be foreign minister.

Before the election, Labour's most prominent peacenik, Yossi Beilin, left his long-time political home, and is now the leader of Yahad, the heir to what until recently was called Meretz, a left-wing Zionist party. He is only one of many Labour luminaries to have left the party in recent years, the latest being Avrum Burg, another left-winger and recent candidate for the leadership. The party's foundering can be understood as a combination of its inability to unite around a leader or to agree on a path that is capable of making the Israeli public feel the country might be more secure than it is under Sharon.

Benny Morris, a product of the left-wing Ashkenazi elite that created Israel and ran it - through the labour movement and its affiliated parties - for a generation, is emblematic of this implosion of Israel's left.

Some people still insist on seeing Morris's switch in more personal terms. Psychologist Dan Bar-On told me that he saw Morris's change of heart towards the Palestinians as sour grapes: "He thought he was the pioneer leading the camp. He believed that Oslo would show him as a hero who discovered these things for the public. Then October 2000 came, and now he's angry at Arafat for spoiling his vision and sending him to the margins. I think it's a personal and childish reaction."

Morris himself admits that he can be "provocative," and some of the ugly generalisations he made about Arab culture in his Hebrew-language interview in Ha'aretz were examples of a kind of bravado. Though he has not withdrawn the remarks, he did tell me that he believes "that the way the interview was edited and illustrated with a cover photo that made me look like Dr Strangelove... did try to taint me as some sort of fascist." At the same time, it is undeniable that Morris's principles are basically the same as they were when he went to prison for refusing to serve in the West Bank. He has sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, but argues that they have left Israel little choice but to hang tough.

The question Israelis will have to contend with in the coming months is whether they have done enough to search for that elusive "partner" on the Palestinian side, and whether the conviction that they did all they could to reach a peaceful settlement is right, or just self-righteous. There is something discomforting about the ease with which Morris now rattles off his evidence, as if he were trying to win a case in court, rather than search for a solution. But then Morris, along with much of the old Israeli left, has given up on finding a solution, and giving up on something you have spent most of your life believing is not a comfortable experience.

David B Green is a senior editor at the "Jerusalem Report"


The following articles give an interesting perspective on various factions within Palestinian society. They cover a range of views from a Palestinian peace movement and give a Palestinian perspectives on the divisions among the Palestinians and options for the Israelis. It is right on the mark about what is going on in Gaza today.  [ed.]

Also included is Egyptian op-ed supplied provide by David Victor with his comment.  An op-ed from Egypt's ruling party newspaper (translated by MEMRI) that offers a bit of insight into the Arab world's intentions for Israel. It is a footnoted, quasi-scholarly piece demonstrating the Holocaust to be a lie fabricated in furtherance of international Jewry's Zionist ambitions. Unpleasant reading but important if you're interested in getting a handle on the level of incitement promulgated by mainstream and state controlled media in the Middle East.


Gaza is responding to Ariel Sharon's withdrawal plan. Israel's impending disengagement has triggered the current turmoil there, as nationalist warlords and other leaders of the young guard jockey to ensure that they will come out on top in the post-withdrawal period.

They calculate that once Israel is out of Gaza, they may lose the justification to arm themselves and maintain their independent militias (such as al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades), the most effective means they have today to assert themselves and weaken the grip of their old-guard rivals in the Palestinian national movement. If their efforts fail, they will have a stake in the continuation of Palestinian-Israeli violence after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. The resolution of this power struggle, therefore, has implications for all parties in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

As Israel readies itself to pull out of Gaza, leaders of the nationalist young guard have exploited the fact that most of Yasser Arafat's loyalists are corrupt and inept, and hated by the public. Because Israel is withdrawing unilaterally, the leaders of the old guard are no longer needed to negotiate the end of Israeli occupation. So in the eyes of the next generation, they have become increasingly irrelevant. The mounting public clamor for fundamental reforms and clean government has emboldened young-guard leaders to challenge Arafat directly, and the current turmoil in Gaza represents the most serious challenge to Arafat's leadership since 1983.

Most of the underlying causes for the turmoil, however, have always been present. A dysfunctional Palestinian political system has led to serious divisions and fragmentation within the nationalist camp, an empowerment of Hamas and other Islamists, and a specter of the Palestinian Authority's disintegration and loss of legitimacy. The armed intifada of the last four years has allowed young nationalists to intensify their fight against a cadre that is perceived by the public as responsible for failures in state-building and peacemaking. Arafat's lack of vision and inability to project clear direction during these difficult intifada years, and the resulting Palestinian political paralysis, has led many Palestinians to question his judgment and leadership. The increased scrutiny of PA finances by the international community, and Arafat's subsequent loss of control over the public purse, have made it difficult for him to continue to secure his position through money.

Palestinian public perception of widespread corruption in the PA and its security services have created greater frustration and despair than ever. A survey conducted last month by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 87% of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank believe that corruption exists in the PA; while two-thirds believe that public officials involved in, or accused of, corruption are often not charged or brought to account.

The survey found that 92% support internal and external calls for fundamental political reforms in the PA, but that only 40% believe the PA is actually carrying out such reforms. Perhaps as importantly, the survey shows alarming concerns among the public: 59% are worried about possible Palestinian infighting after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza; only 30% believe the PA has high capacity to control internal matters after the withdrawal; and only 31% believe life in Gaza will fully resume in an orderly manner.

It is these conditions that provided fertile ground for those wishing to challenge Arafat, and which emboldened them to come out in the open. A similar political challenge is under way in the West Bank, but at a slower pace. The era of the old guard could be coming to an end.

The current crisis will probably weaken Arafat's control and might be followed by further developments in the next 18 months, culminating in making merely nominal his, and the PA's, hold on Gaza. Arafat's control there will most likely be replaced by that of Islamists. In order to be able to gain and consolidate power, warlords and other young leaders will need to strengthen their alliance with the Islamists and to make a deal with Israel in which Israel -- which refuses to negotiate its withdrawal with Arafat's PA -- agrees to full withdrawal in return for full cessation of violence from the Gaza Strip.

In the short term, Israel may gain some peace and quiet, but this will not be sustainable in the long run. Israel, which will continue to occupy the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, will find itself facing a much stronger foe across the Gaza border, and violence will return. In the meanwhile, the Islamists will probably become stronger and will test the nationalists when the first opportunity presents itself. Infighting between the nationalists and the Islamists could signal the beginning of a long-term internal conflict and the threat of civil war. No one stands to gain; all -- Palestinians, Israelis, and the international community -- would be losers.

Only national elections now, before the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, can help the Palestinians avert this outcome. Elections would help them get rid of the old guard, and thereby provide the young guard with the means to give up their arms without losing political power. Indeed, elections will provide the latter with the opportunity to translate their popular base into political empowerment. Elections would also weaken Arafat's authoritarianism (even if he is re-elected), integrate the Islamists into the political system, and bring about a governing coalition of young guards and independents. Only elections can bring an end to the current political anarchy, chaos, lawlessness and political paralysis. Only elections can make the Palestinian political system truly accountable.

The ability of the international community to influence the chaotic conditions in the Palestinian areas today is not great. Only by facilitating Palestinian national elections can Israel, the U.S. and others contribute to immediate stability, to the creation of a democratic Palestine with a more accountable leadership, and to a more peaceful Israeli-Palestinian relationship.

Mr. Shikaki is director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.


Egypt's Ruling Party Newspaper: The Holocaust is a Zionist Lie Aimed at Extorting the West

Dr. Rif'at Sayyed Ahmad, director of the "Jaffa Research Center" in Cairo and columnist for Al-Liwaa Al-Islami, which is the Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party's paper, published a two-part article titled 'The Lie About The Burning of the Jews.' In his article, Ahmad stated, using the work of Western Holocaust deniers, that the burning of Jews in gas chambers during World War II was a tale made up by the Zionist movement in order to extort the West and make possible the establishment of the Zionist enterprise. The following are excerpts from the article:(1)

'Did this Holocaust Indeed Take Place, and what is the Truth about the Numbers?'

"The Zionist enterprise on the land of Palestine succeeded by means of lies and myths, from the myth of the 'Chosen People' and the 'Promised Land' to the lie about the burning of the Jews in the Nazi gas chambers during World War II. When these means were scientifically examined, it was proven that they were untrue, that their reasoning was weak, and that they cannot withstand the test of solid fact.

"What interests us here is that this lie [about] the burning of the Jews in the Nazi crematoria has been disseminated throughout the world until our time in order to extort the West and make it easier for the Jews of Europe to hunt [sic] Palestine and establish a state on it, in disregard of the most basic principles of international law and the right of peoples to independent life without occupation. [This lie] was raised [also] so that [the Jews] would receive financial, technological, and economic aid from the West.

"During the past 50 years, Germany alone gave a total of some $100 billion. Many European countries began to amend their laws so that they would be compatible with the Holocaust myth ... and they toughened the regulations, resolutions, and laws convicting anyone who mocks this lie or tries to [state that] the number of victims was smaller - as happened to Muslim philosopher Roger Garaudy in France.

"This entire situation has turned the Holocaust - that is, Hitler's operation of burning the Jews in gas chambers - into a drawn sword at the necks of historians and serious researchers in the West, and even in the East. At the same time, [the Holocaust] became profitable goods for the Zionist entity...

"At a conference of 50 countries held in Germany in April 2004, the German foreign minister delivered a speech called 'Antisemitism.' He demanded that the conference participants demonstrate solidarity with Israel and fight those who deny or cast doubt on the matter of the burning of the Jews in the Nazi crematoria. Several months ago in the city of Stockholm, Sweden, some 26 European and non-European countries passed a resolution to teach 'the false Nazi holocaust' that Hitler had carried out against the Jews, at all stages of study in the schools of the participating countries. At the same time, there were words of appreciation for the Israeli prime minister, whose entity is today implementing the same purported Hitler Nazism.

"None of the senior officials who participated in the conference bothered to answer a number of questions: Did this holocaust indeed take place, and what is the truth about the numbers that were disseminated regarding it? [They did not answer the question of] what their opinion was regarding the slaughter in cold blood of children, men, and defenseless elderly in Palestine today, since September 28, 2002 [sic]. Is this not 'the new Nazism?' And how does their false European integrity and their false defense of human rights accept this?

"To this day, none of these countries has answered these questions, and never will answer them, because they are hypocrites with regard to [the difference between] perception and analysis, and there is no chance of getting an answer from them. We can only present clear-cut evidence, and try to reread the story of this 'holocaust' with complete objectivity."

'Objective Essays by Zionist Authors Prove the Lie about the Burning of the Jews in Gas Chambers'

"First, the facts about this lie and what surrounds it, as follows:

"[The number] of victims as a result of World War II, due both to the crimes of the Axis countries and the [crimes of] the Allies, are, according to a few versions, about 50 million, whether as a result of the war or of Hitler's crimes. Of these, 18 million were Germans. Among the victims of this war were Jews, like other members of the human race, as war and cannon shells and planes are incapable of distinguishing between Jew and non-Jew.

"Similarly, Hitler was against all nationalities that were not pure German, whether Jewish or non-Jewish. He was a fanatical German nationalist whose nationalism, which was against everything except Germany, included, of course, both Jews and non-Jews.

"Objective essays by Zionist authors prove the lie about the burning of the Jews in gas chambers. Of these it is possible to mention, for example, Josef Ginzburg, a German [Jew] who lived under Nazi rule and fled with his family to America and from there went to Israel - about whose establishment he was enthusiastic. But after experiencing what he called its racist Nazi essence, he quickly left Israel and returned to Germany in the 1950s. There [in Germany] he wrote a number of important books about the 'holocaust,' denying that there had been gas chambers designed for burning the Jews. He said: 'This is nothing but a great lie, by means of which the extremist Jews wanted to extort Europe - particularly Germany - and to plunder the homelands of others.' And that is exactly what happened in occupied Palestine.

"Josef Ginzburg was murdered by the Jews when he went to visit his wife's grave in Munich's Jewish cemetery, in retaliation for his attempt to expose their falsification."

The Hoax of the 20th Century

"The famous French historian and geographer Paul Rassinein [sic, reference to Paul Rassinier] tried to confront this falsification and lie from the outset. In 1948, he published an extremely important history book about this falsification, called 'Crossing the Line.'(2) In his book, he used exact numbers and statistics about the number of Jews in Europe - particularly in Germany - prior to and following World War II. He carefully compared these [with the number of victims], and concluded that the number of killed from among them as a result of the war or as a result of Hitler's persecution of them and others who were not German subjects did not exceed a few hundred thousand. [Rassinier wrote in his book], 'The number did not reach even one million killed, at most.'

"Paul Rassinier was persecuted and stood trial. He, the publisher, and the author of the book's preface were all fined a large amount, just like what happened half a century later to the Muslim philosopher Roger Garaudy when he published his book 'The Founding Myths of Zionism,'(3) in which he refuted this same lie - the lie of the burning of the Jews in the gas chambers. And in a democratic country, France, he [Garaudy] was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, fined, persecuted, and slandered. What kind of democracy is this, that does not tolerate the intellectual efforts of others on this world's historical issues?...

"The American author and researcher Arthur Butz produced an important book titled 'The Hoax of the Twentieth Century'(4)... This book includes precise scientific data on the Auschwitz camp, where it was alleged that 1.2 million Jews were 'burnt.' Arthur Butz proved that at this camp dead bodies - of Jews and non-Jews - were burnt as a result of the war, and that their bodies were burnt so contagious diseases would not be spread by leaving them in the streets for a long time. [Similarly,] it is almost certain that it was not Hitler who built the crematoria, but the Poles, after the war, and that the odors emitted by the crematoria in which the bodies were burnt were also those of horses who died as a result of the war... He concluded from all this that the 'crematoria' ... were a lie that must now be exposed. Of course, Arthur Butz was attacked by world Zionism, and nearly paid with his life."

'No Matter what Proof We Present, [the Jews and] the European Politicians will Never Believe Us'

"The evidence and the objective essays published in the world about this 'lie,' which the Jews have succeeded in exploiting with great wisdom, are continuing. The most recent important attempt, which also faced a Zionist counterattack, was that of British historian David Irving, who in 1990 stated before 800 people in Munich that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, and that the gas chamber in the detention camp there was erected by the Poles after the war - similar to the one erected by the Americans at Dachau - and that six million Jews were not burnt there as was alleged.

"In January 2002, he again stated that it was inconceivable that the number of Jews killed as a result of the war reached this number [six million]...

"In the same way, articles by Gilbert Aire [sic] appeared in the British [newspaper The] Independent, in which he considered the talk about the Holocaust as nothing more than a cheap fashion. Similarly, the essays of British authors Sam Shulman, Tim Cole, and Nata Shalter [sic], of the American author Peter Novick, and of dozens of other [authors] of conscience, who were very humiliated by the trade in the false Holocaust...

"No matter what details and proof emphasizing the lie of the burning of the Jews in Nazi crematoria we present, they [the Jews] and the statesmen of Europe who trade in the Holocaust will never believe us. On the contrary - it is almost certain that they will accuse us of antisemitism...

"Dozens of Western laws in the European countries have been changed to protect this false myth of the burning of the Jews. Dozens of curricula have also been changed. Today, it is possible to curse the monotheistic religions, but the 'holocaust' and its lie are above criticism and above opinion, and in Europe it is unapproachable.

"All this proves that we are standing before new Western idol-worship that requires a genuine cultural revolution within it in order to destroy it - a revolution that will use facts and science against tales ungrounded in true reality and credible history."

Endnotes: (1) Al-Liwaa Al-Islami (Egypt), June 24, 2004; July 1, 2004. (2) Rassinier, Paul. Le Passage de la Ligne. Paris: Editions Bressanes, 1950. (3) Garaudy, Roger. Les mythes fondateurs de la politique israelienne. Samiszdat, 1996. (4) Butz, Arthur R. The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. Torrence, California, 1976

Palestinian Affairs: Palestinian Peace Now.  The Jerusalem Report. July 28,2004 Isabel Kershner

While the Gaza Strip melts into chaos, Sari Nusseibeh’s orderly People’s Campaign for peace and nonviolence is gaining surprising support among grass-roots Fatah leaders in the West Bank

The timing couldn’t be more ironic, or the contrast more stark. It’s 3:15 in the afternoon on Friday, July 16 and in the Gaza Strip, a kidnapping spree is just reaching its anarchic peak with the brief abduction of five French volunteers from a Khan Yunis café. Meanwhile at the same time, in the West Bank city of Qalqilyah, hundreds of Palestinians are gathering in a school courtyard for the first national Palestinian peace demonstration.

Organized along the lines of Israeli Peace Now operations -- where sympathizers are shipped in from all over for demonstrations -- but on a more modest scale, 15 busloads of Palestinians have converged on this dusty corner of Qal-qilyah, along with a convoy of private cars. Dodging the donkey carts that trundle along the city streets, they have brought in over a thousand Palestinian demonstrators from cities, towns and villages around the West Bank. There is a large contingency from the Hebron district, and a particularly rowdy crowd of shebab, or Fatah youth, from the villages around Jerusalem. Others have come from the nearby villages of Jayyous and Zawiya, from the West Bank "capital" of Ramallah and, of course, from Qalqilyah itself.

The occasion is the first anniversary of the "Destination Map," the document of principles for a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement based on a two-state solution drawn up by prominent Jerusalem Palestinian intellectual Prof. Sari Nusseibeh and former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon. The document stipulates that the agreement should be based on the 1967 lines (with equitable land swaps where necessary) and, controversially for the Palestinian side, that the Palestinian refugees should exercise their right of return to the new Palestinian state, not Israel.

The aim of today’s demonstration, according to the press release from HASHD, the Arabic acronym for the People’s Campaign for Peace and Democracy headed by Nusseibeh, is to promote the peace initiative with a nonviolent demonstration and also to highlight "the negative effects of the wall on Palestinian-Israeli dialogue and peace-building efforts."

The airy Shariqa girls’ school, the site of the rally, built in 2000, stands on the western edge of Qalqilyah, looking out onto the forbidding 8-meter-high concrete security barrier which, complete with round watchtowers, now separates Qalqilyah from Israel. The Israeli city of Kfar Saba sits less than a kilometer away, just across the Trans-Israel highway. Here the Green Line, the pre-1967 border, has turned steely gray.

On a hill on the Israeli side, facing the school, about 400 supporters of Ayalon’s People’s Voice, the Israeli counterpart of HASHD, have come to show solidarity and try to engage in dialogue through mobile phones connected to loudspeakers. A huge balloon bears the Hebrew slogan "Yesh im mi le’daber," or "There is someone to speak with," a counter to the official Israeli position that there is no Palestinian partner, and therefore no current alternative to fence-building, containment and unilateralism.

Apparently unaware of the goings on in Gaza, where the kidnappings soon develop into mass demonstrations and the torching of PA police stations, the Palestinians pile onto the school’s roof, wave and whistle at the Israelis on the opposite hill -- a former rubbish dump -- and fly a few kites. The wall is no doubt a crowd-puller when it comes to organizing a Palestinian protest; many say this is why they have come. But at the same time, all the demonstrators stick to the strict code of nonviolence -- not a stone is thrown at the army jeeps idling by the wall below. Everyone asked expresses support for the HASHD agenda.

Nusseibeh, constantly surrounded by activists who want to introduce each other to him or be introduced, is clearly pleased. More usually associated with the ivory towers of academia and wishful thinking than with rooftops in Qalqilyah and grass-roots activity, he has pulled off a minor coup.

"The Israelis do this all the time," he says, "but this is our first national demonstration. It’s a good beginning, though it’s been hard getting everyone in through the army checkpoints."

In fact seven buses don’t make it at all, having been stopped by the army on the way from Salfit, Tul Karm and Jerusalem. Campaign organizers who inquire are told by the army that there are fears that so many Palestinians gathering in one place might lead to violence. (Army sources later tell The Report that "Qalqilyah was declared a closed military zone on Friday and demonstrators were prevented from reaching the site because of disturbances, including stone-throwing and tire-burning"; The Report saw absolutely no evidence of such incidents.)

Particularly gratifying for Nusseibeh is the fact that the crowd is made up of local grass-roots community leaders, laborers, farmers, clerks, factory workers, traders, engineers, men and women of all ages. A few PA policemen are also standing around, armed only with cell phones.

"These are not your run-of-the-mill academics and types that I’m usually associated with in the Israeli press," remarks the philosophy professor who is now the president of Al-Quds University.

In a common touch, while the school walls inside the courtyard are decorated with paintings of global heroes like Tweetie Pie and Pokemon, the street side is adorned with graffiti of Hamas, various martyrs’ brigades and now of HASHD.

And the two figures who grab the megaphone and bark out speeches can hardly be categorized as the Palestinian intellectual elite. One is Abd al-Karim Shamasna, who heads the popular campaign against the fence at Jayyous, and the other, a young activist called Yasser from the village of Zawiya, who wears a faded black T-shirt and jeans, and has brown, severely nicotine-stained teeth.

Both speak in favor of an independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel, about the need for a new way forward and the goal of reaching a peace not of governments, but of the people. Shamasna also says that the Palestinians in Haifa, Jaffa and Acre, inside Israel’s 1948 borders, are part of the Palestinian family, but that "the price" of gaining an independent state has to be "giving up the dream" of ever returning there.

Ugly as this Qal-qilyah wall is, it hugs the 1967 line, making it less controversial than the parts of the security fence that encroach into the West Bank. Nusseibeh acknowledges that the wall here "is actually OK" and says the location was chosen because it offers "high places on both sides." Still, he adds, "the point is also that a wall is not a solution, and is not a substitute for a negotiated border that would guarantee both sides what they seek: for Israel, security, and for us freedom and dignity."

At precisely the time that Nusseibeh was speaking, the Gaza Strip was witnessing rare scenes of chaos and lawlessness with armed militia-men challenging the corruption of Yasser Arafat’s regime, and threatening to bring about the collapse of the entire 10-year-old Palestinian Authority.

The unrest had started at midday, when a gang identified with Arafat’s mainstream Fatah faction kidnapped Arafat appointee Gaza Police Chief Ghazi Jabali, a widely despised figure long accused of corruption and abuse of power. They took him to the Bureij refugee camp and demanded he be fired. He’d been dismissed once, by the Abu Mazen government last year, but Arafat had him reinstated after Abu Mazen resigned.

Following the kidnapping of another Gaza security personage and the French volunteers (all were released unharmed within hours), Arafat appointed a new security authority in Gaza -- his equally unpopular relative Musa Arafat, the longtime head of the Military Intelligence apparatus. The Strip erupted into angry demonstrations and rioting.

Many observers suspect Gaza strongman and former Preventive Security chief Muhammad Dahlan of being behind the ferment. Dahlan is an old rival of both Jaballi and Musa Arafat, and has recently been one of the most prominent voices demanding political and security reforms within Fatah and the PA. He has also been positioning himself, and his loyalists in the Preventive Security apparatus, to take control of Gaza in the event of an Israeli withdrawal.

In recent weeks, The Report has learned, Yasser Arafat had been funding Musa Arafat and his men in order to compete with Dahlan. Advocates of Prime Minister Sharon’s disengagement plan and some Western diplomats have placed high hopes in Dahlan, at first believing he might be able to create a new model of leadership and a "Yasser Arafat-free zone" in Gaza. Arafat, in classic style, had set about making sure that would not happen.

A senior PA official in Ramallah, speaking on condition of anonymity, says there are two theories behind the power struggle in the Gaza Strip. One is that it is a generational competition within the Fatah movement, with the young reformist "insiders" who have grown up in the territories pitted against the old-timers who returned with Arafat from exile in the mid-90s.

"The Fatah young guard believes the old guard has to leave the stage, that they are the cause of all the problems and that if the young take over, things will improve," the official explains. "So they are trying to prove to Arafat that they can control everything, including who he appoints."

The second theory is that some of the established leaders within Arafat’s own close circle are forcing the rais to abandon his autocratic system of one-man rule, and to share some of his powers. "In order to convince Arafat, they have to take action on the ground; Arafat believes in deeds, not words," says the official. "In my analysis," he goes on, "it’s a combination of both."

Historically, the West Bank is less volatile than Gaza, partly because the economic situation is never as bad. "Give people jobs, bread and butter," the PA official says, "and they wouldn’t care how many ministers they have or don’t have."

Nevertheless, in the West Bank too there is an acute political vacuum, the result of PA stagnation and abdication of control throughout almost four years of intifada. "Everyone is busy with their own agenda, and looking for anyone who can offer solutions," the official says.

It is in this same, uncertain atmosphere that the unlikely growth of a Palestinian peace movement, led by the soft-spoken, self-deprecating, super-rational Prof. Nusseibeh, is quietly taking place and is particularly gaining ground within Fatah.

Against all predictions, almost as many Palestinians (140,000) have now signed up in support of the Nusseibeh-Ayalon plan as Israelis (192,000). Originally, HASHD staffer Dimitri Diliani says, there were expected to be twice as many Israelis as Palestinians.

Moreover, adds Diliani, in some areas of the West Bank, HASHD activists have started standing for election in local institutions. In a recent ballot for the council of labor unions in the southern West Bank, 11 of the 27 members elected were "HASHD people." The new head of the council is Jamil Rushdie, a member of HASHD’s leadership council and Fatah leader from the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron.

"People are now seeing that Prof. Nusseibeh is honest, has foresight and is not corrupt," HASHD publicist, fundraiser and administrator Diliani says. "It is not an academic thing anymore."

In late July, Jamil Rushdie was scheduled to open the doors to the HASHD "Smarter without Violence" summer camp for over 150 9-14-year-olds from the Hebron area. Taking place in the Arroub Agricultural College adjacent to the refugee camp, 28 youth leaders, graduates of a HASHD leadership training course, were due to provide three weeks of education through art, sports and other activities in the importance of peace, democracy and nonviolence.

A far cry from the notorious Gazan horror camps where children are trained to jump through hoops of fire, shoot guns and storm Jewish settlements, the Smarter without Violence camp is meant, according to director Rushdie, to teach the next generation "how to live with the neighbors."

Rushdie, 39, who describes himself as a "Fatah man," spent nine years in an Israeli jail for his activities against the occupation. He was released in 1992. Like many of the graduates of Israeli prisons, he speaks good Hebrew. Though a refugee himself -- his family hails from Al-Fallujeh, now the Israeli town of Kiryat Gat -- he says the refugee issue needs to be dealt with "logically."

"Bringing the refugees back to Israel would mean no State of Israel," he explains, adopting the old Israeli argument that any large refugee return to Israel proper would cancel out the Jewish majority and the whole raison d’être of the Jewish state. "The most important thing for us is to have our own state in the territories of 1967," he argues. "Bringing the refugees back to it would not be such a bad thing."

Rushdie says he hasn’t faced too much opposition in Arroub for his views. Of the 9,000 camp residents, he notes, 1,100 have signed on to HASHD.

Moreover, he points out, "all the HASHD officials in the West Bank are Fatah people who were leaders of the first intifada. You’ll be surprised to hear that most of them -- some 70 percent -- have served time in Israeli prisons, and we’re talking at least four or five years."

On the rooftop in Qalqilyah, another kind of chaos reigns. "It’s a bit disorganized," Nusseibeh smiles, about half an hour into the demonstration. "I’m not sure what else we’re supposed to be doing." Nusseibeh has spoken to Ayalon by phone, but there are no facilities here to broadcast the conversation.

The Jerusalem district youths are standing on the edge of the roof and chanting for an Arab TV camera. Running out of chants, they come up with an inappropriate one made famous by Arafat about a million martyrs marching on Jerusalem.

Different districts are milling around in different T-shirts: Young boys from Qalqilyah are sporting white shirts with the HASHD slogan and a small portrait of Yasser Arafat placed on the heart.

While Nusseibeh’s People’s Campaign is about as reformist as they come, many of its activists remain ultimately loyal to Arafat. Fractious as the Fatah family has become, he is still the father figure and respected as such. "Arafat is our symbol," says Rushdie, "he is the first man of peace. He is also our elected president, which is the first principle of democracy."

As for Nusseibeh, "he comes from Fatah and is one of its leaders," Rushdie asserts. "Most people in Fatah believe in Dr. Sari -- not as a replacement for Arafat, heaven forbid, but he knows what’s going on and he speaks the truth."

Nusseibeh, for his part, says that what Fatah needs as a movement is "clarity. A definition of our identity and what we are fighting for. There’s a vacuum concerning this, and a lot of cloudiness." HASHD, he says, offers a solution. "We are very clear in stating what kind of state we want and how to bring it about." Moreover, Nusseibeh feels, HASHD is increasingly shaping the agenda of the PA leadership itself. "At first they criticized us, but more and more they are expressing their opposition to violence and so on."

The PA official in Ramallah agrees that HASHD is gaining ground. "Anyone who comes and creates a people’s party that gives some kind of framework will have members," he says. "People want solutions."

By 5 P.M., as the French hostages are being released in Khan Yunis, the Qalqilyah peace demonstrators disperse and get back on their buses. Many of them would not get home till late, however, as the army has set up "flying checkpoints" every few kilometers of the way on the main road to Ramallah.

The campaign buses are lined up all along the route as soldiers repeatedly check the IDs of all the passengers. Army sources say the roadblocks are for "operational purposes."

The demonstrators felt "harassed," HASHD’s Diliani later reports. Still, he adds, those he has spoken with since insist they won’t be discouraged from coming out again.

August 9, 2004

Palestinians Divided By Khalil Shikaki From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2002.  Summary: Yasir Arafat has been neither an orchestrator nor a spectator of the second intifada; he has been its target. A young guard of Palestinian nationalists, angry at both Israel and the corrupt Palestinian Authority, lies behind the violence. Arafat must reform his government and secure a credible peace process -- before it's too late. Khalil Shikaki is Associate Professor of Political Science at Bir Zeit University and Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.


Has Yasir Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), orchestrated and led the second Palestinian intifada in order to gain popularity and legitimacy while weakening Israel and forcing it to accept extreme Palestinian demands? Or has the uprising been a spontaneous response by an enraged but disorganized Palestinian "street" to Likud Party leader (and later Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon's September 2000 visit to the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as al Haram al Sharif, and the failure of the Oslo peace process to produce an end to Israeli military occupation? Most Israelis take the first position, whereas most Palestinians take the second. Both are mistaken.

The truth is that the intifada that began in late September 2000 has been a response by a "young guard" in the Palestinian nationalist movement not only to Sharon's visit and the stalled peace process, but also to the failure of the "old guard" in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to deliver Palestinian independence and good governance. The young guard has turned to violence to get Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip unilaterally (as it withdrew from South Lebanon in May 2000) and simultaneously to weaken the Palestinian old guard and eventually displace it. (more)

Eliezer Berkovits, Theologian of Zionism by David Hazony, AZURE

Many Jews are active, even vocal advocates of a Jewish state. Yet their support for Israel is rarely identified as deriving from their Judaism. Zionism is often considered to follow not from any specific religious belief, but from a concern for the well-being of one’s fellow Jews. The Jews were persecuted for centuries, it is said, and the State of Israel is the remedy. But whether such a Zionism is an aspect of one’s Judaism, understood as a faith, remains unclear.

This ambiguous relationship between Judaism and political Zionism is most in evidence when one considers the attitude of the great Jewish theologians writing after the emergence of the Zionist movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Most Reform thinkers, for example, opposed the idea of a Jewish nation state, its theologians arguing for decades that Zionism contradicted Judaism’s universalist ethic.1 For leading Orthodox thinkers as well, Zionism was taken to be an affront to the messianic ideal, according to which it is God—and not secular Zionists—who will redeem the Jews in the end of days. While there were noteworthy exceptions, it is fair to say that the energies Jews brought to the Zionist enterprise in the pre-state period were largely despite, rather than because of, Jewish theological reflection.

A great deal changed, of course, with the rise of Nazism, the Holocaust, and the establishment of the State of Israel. The Reform movement abandoned its opposition to Zionism, as did the great majority of Orthodox Jews. Jewish theologians of virtually all persuasions began to speak of the Jewish state mainly in positive terms. Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that the idea of sovereignty came to play in Jewish thought anything like the central role that it assumed in Jewish communal life. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the leading interpreter of Judaism within modern Orthodoxy in North America, endorsed the Jewish state in 1956 as a divine “knock on the door,” a wake-up call for Jews to the possibility of redemption and repentance;2 yet Soloveitchik himself chose to remain in the diaspora, and the thrust of his philosophical efforts continued to be the ethos of the individual living under Jewish law, or halacha. Similarly, the Reform theologian Eugene B. Borowitz, whose enthusiasm for Israel is reflected in his hope that the Jewish state will help Jews “sanctify social existence” in a manner impossible under conditions of exile, nonetheless continues to place the pursuit of the ethical and the development of the “Jewish self” at the center of his theology—a challenge that in his view is best met in the diaspora.3 In his landmark work Renewing the Covenant (1991), Borowitz distanced himself from the biblical ideal of Jewish sovereignty, emphasizing the failure of ancient Israelite rulers to meet the ethical standards established at Sinai: (more)


Presbyterian church defames Christianity.  Dennis Prager. July 20, 2004. I have argued in this column that the greatest sin is committing evil in God's name. As bad as the evil committed by secularists, such as communists and Nazis, has ever been, the most grievous evil is that which is committed in the name of God. For not only do religious evils harm their victims, they also do lasting damage to God-based morality, which those of us who believe in God and religion consider the only viable antidote to evil.

That is why Islamic terror is so evil. Not only because it targets the most innocent of people for death and torture, but because it does so in the name of Allah and Islam.

Incredibly, The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) joins the list of religious groups committing evil. In the name of Jesus, it has called for the economic strangulation of Israel. They have equated the Jewish state with South Africa during apartheid and called for a universal divestment from it.

The Presbyterians are the first Christian church to do this, and, ironically, the divestment campaign came the very week that the Roman Catholic Church signed a document equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. (more)

The Israel Project Releases New National Poll As TV Ad Campaign Begins. 

 · 67% of likely voters agree “It is critical that the next President of the United States support Israel, our democratic ally in the Middle East”  

· 72% of likely voters agree “The Palestinians have been indoctrinated by a generation of anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda; they are teaching their children to hate Americans and Jews and to become terrorists.”

· 81% of likely voters agree “There cannot be peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians stop teaching their children to become terrorists and to hate Israel and America.”

· 67% say US should not pressure Israel to tear the fence down and compensate the Palestinians.(more)

July 22, 2004 Fence Gives Israel Chance for Peace. By David Makovsky, senior fellow The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Newsday, July 13, 2004. Israel has rejected last week's ruling of the International Court of Justice. The court issued a nonbinding advisory opinion Friday that Israel's barrier is an impediment to peace.

However, given the violence of the last four years between Israelis and Palestinians and the distrust that violence has engendered, the barrier has netted Israel security gains that are actually creating a political space for peace for the first time since 2000. (more)

July 16, 2004.  The Presbyterian Church loses its grip. The American Thinker. Jewish liberals received a shock this week. The liberal Presbyterian Church USA [thanks to readers who corrected the earlier mistake on the name] declared war on Israel at is annual General Assembly meeting, approving a divestment campaign from Israel by an 87% vote, making the Holy Land into the new South Africa, in their minds. The shock was doubly painful since liberal Jews believe that liberal churches are supposed to be their allies in all kinds of common fights. (more)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004. The Present Danger. By Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl. The Washington Post.   The successful handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people last month offers fresh hope for stability and democracy in their country, but it could also mark a turning of the tide in the world war against terrorism. While the deposed tyrant and terrorist Saddam Hussein stands trial, the people of the great Muslim country he suppressed for so long are now standing proud and free, and taking control of their own destiny. And they are showing strong support for their new leadership and new optimism about their democratic future. According to a BBC/Oxford Research International poll released this month, 55 percent of Iraqis believe their lives today are quite good or very good, 56 percent believe their lives will get better in the next year, and 70 percent believe Iraq needs democracy. 

These survey results are significant because they show we are making real progress in the war of values and ideas in Iraq, ideas that are at the heart of the larger war on terrorism. Iraq has become a proving ground for the freedom and security we are fighting for, and a tough test of our resolve in this fight. The terrorists in Iraq and beyond will never beat us militarily. But they can defeat us politically if they succeed in their strategy to terrorize, demoralize and divide America and its allies. (more)

French hutzpa. the Jerusalem Post.  Some of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's advisers and Israeli diplomats in Paris were at pains yesterday to try and temper Sharon's call on French Jews to come to Israel.

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