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Local Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

Audio

Aired 9/22/10

Most Americans are aware of the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, but how many of us truly understand its history and the challenges to resolving the conflict in a peaceful, equitable way? We will spend an hour speaking to local advocates on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and taking your calls.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. In terms that are cautious, tentative and more pragmatic than enthusiastic Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas, have apparently agreed to extend a new round of peace talks. The talks are being conducted with the help and support of the Obama administration, and according to U.S. special envoy George Mitchell, they will focus on the goal of resolving the so-called core issues of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. The conflict in the Middle East is a half world away from San Diego. But it’s still deeply felt by many people here as a crucial political issue, and as one that strikes deep into their personal heritage and history. This hour we'll be talking about the hopes for this new round of peace talks in the Middle East and how all this news translates for us living here in San Diego. Are both sides getting a fair shake in local media? Is recent activism on San Diego campuses educational or divisive? I’d like to introduce my guests for the hour. Michael Lurie is co-chair and co-founder of the San Diego Israel Coalition. Michael, good morning.

MICHAEL LURIE (Co-chair, San Diego Israel Coalition): Good morning. Thank you for inviting us.

CAVANAUGH: And Nasser Barghouti is a coordinator for the San Diego Coalition for Justice in Palestine. Nasser, good morning.

NASSER BARGHOUTI (Coordinator, San Diego Coalition for Justice in Palestine): Good morning to you.

CAVANAUGH: And our listeners are invited to join the conversation. We know that there’s a lot to say about this topic, many questions, many comments. We’re asking our audience for thoughtful comments that move our conversation forward. Our number is 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Now we’ll be talking specifically about how the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians affects us here in San Diego but first I’d like to get your responses to the present state of affairs in the Middle East. And until this most recent round of talks, the mid-east peace process had been stalled for about two years. What do you think has changed to get the two sides talking again? Nasser, I’ll start with you.

BARGHOUTI: I think what has changed is perception among U.S. leaders, If you will, in the military, in the State Department, in the administration, that the status quo in the Middle East is hurting the United States. This has been articulated by General Petraeus, it has been articulated by people in the State Department, high up people, and I think that is what changed. Due to U.S. involvement in the Middle East now in a major way, you know, hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, so many bases and direct implication, the economy on the military and so on, I think there is a realization that the status quo cannot go on because it is hurting the U.S. in addition to hurting the peoples of the Middle East.

CAVANAUGH: And, Michael, what do you think is the impetus for this round of peace negotiations?

LURIE: Well, clearly the negotiations have been championed by and slated by President Obama’s administration. And he’s introduced a very new policy with regard to, I guess, overall foreign policy, the way in which the United States engages with countries around the world and specifically the way in which the United States is reaching out to Muslims around the world and to countries in the Middle East. And as such, the Obama administration is very invested in improving the situation in the Middle East in all respects, and including the Israeli-Palestinian situation.

CAVANAUGH: Now so far, as I said, cautiously, tentatively, the two leaders who are involved in these talks, Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, has said they’re going to continue. Do you think, Michael, these talks will continue down the road?

LURIE: It’s really impossible to say. We are enormously hopeful that they will. This is, clearly, as we all know, a very deep rooted conflict that has got tremendous passion, tremendous suffering, associated with it on both sides, a lot of emotions of all kinds of things as well as the existential reality of two nations, so it goes very deep. The attempts to make peace have been going on for—in a serious way—for the last 16 years, and for decades before that at various levels. Hopefully, this new initiative can bear some fruit. And, certainly, the government of Israel is very committed to achieving a positive result and to reaching a true and lasting peace with the Palestinians.

CAVANAUGH: Nasser, are you among those who are optimistic for these talks to continue? Or do you think perhaps they will not?

BARGHOUTI: I think it depends on one fundamental issue. If these negotiations stop being an industry to replace finding justice and really addressing the issues at hand, the core issues, as they say, then there may be hope. However, I am skeptical because of the past track record. What has happened, and I think, unfortunately, is peace talks have become sort of a cliché for as long as there are peace talks things are fine. Well, that’s just not true. During the peace talks, during the Oslo process and after it, the situation of Palestinians has deteriorated so much. So poverty, economy, everything among Palestinians has been decimated during these peace talks, much worse than before them. So if you just want to replace something just for media consumption and to convince people that movement is happening, I think that’s very dangerous and unfortunate. If they are serious—and I have yet to see signs of that—I think that the – what Netanyahu and Abbas and other leaders said is interesting. There’s some interesting things in them. But actions act louder than words and one – to me, the most fundamental thing is a simple issue like settlements, which should not even be discussed because it is considered by the whole world, including the United States, as illegal. It’s under United Nations resolutions, all of these things, and yet we cannot even agree on that they should not – they should be frozen until a peace negotiation is concluded. So this is like, you know, you and I are sharing a cheesecake, I’m not allowed to eat it, you’re continuing to eat, and then we’re discussing how to divide it up.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

BARGHOUTI: It just does not work that way.

CAVANAUGH: Michael, let me ask you because, again, the issue of the settlements is something that might derail these talks by the end of this month. What is your assessment of how these talks might continue and what Israel should do. Should they maintain the freeze on the settlements in order to get these talks to continue?

LURIE: The issue of settlements is one of the final status issues so, as you know, the freeze on the settlements was a unilateral gesture by Israel to freeze settlements. In fact, the Netanyahu administration was the first in Israeli history to unilaterally freeze expansion of existing settlements. And all we’re talking about is natural expansion within existing settlements, not creating new settlements, which hasn’t been going on for a long time. The – And Netanyahu – the Netanyahu administration did that in order to encourage the Palestinians to reengage in peace talks. Obviously, I don’t know but I personally believe that every effort will be made between the parties, between President Abbas, between Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Obama administration to find a reasonable compromise in order to continue discussions through the end of the month and beyond. I will disagree with Nasser, respectfully, on the issue of settlements as being a singularly distinctive issue. From the Israeli perspective, there are a number of final status issues. Security is no less an issue for Israelis than settlements are for Palestinians. From the Israeli perspective, unilaterally halting expansion of settlements or continuing growth within existing settlements, while there’s no concomitant commitment from the Palestinians to cease terrorist attacks on Israelis or, for example, to stop incitement in Palestinian schools and through Palestinian media, are issues that are of as great a concern for Israelis as settlements are to Palestinians. So the net of it is, and something that’s strongly supported by the Obama administration as the facilitator of the talks, is that all of these issues need to be dealt with simultaneously.

CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Michale Lurie. He’s co-chair and co-founder of the San Diego Israel Coalition. And Nasser Barghouti, a coordinator for the San Diego Coalition for Justice in Palestine. And we are talking about the latest round of peace talks, the beginning of peace talks again, between Israel and Palestine. And we’re taking your calls on this conversation at 1-888-895-5727. You know, obviously, we are not going to be able to resolve issues like settlements and so forth and so in trying to figure out what, indeed, we could do that was very helpful and – for our audience today, I’d like to get from you the idea of what life is like, let’s say, Michael, in Israel now for those of us who haven’t been there.

LURIE: Israel is a mosaic of different things. In some respects, life in Israel is very good. So Israel is a free and open democracy committed to equality and human rights for everybody, and the diversity and richness of Israeli society reflects that. So people from every walk of life, from every race, from every religion, regardless of sexual orientation and so on are free to live their lives and express themselves and that’s what it’s like being in Israel. You see that tremendous richness and diversity. Israelis also have been a very industrious and productive people so amongst the leaders in the world in terms of innovation and – and it’s a bit like Silicon Valley being in Israel in terms of the number of new technology start-ups that are being constantly created and the inventions that are coming out of Israel all the time. But, of course, the conflicts with the Palestinians and the broader conflict, the tremendous danger is Israeli eyes of Iran, and the genocidal threats that the president of Iran has made against Israel, the constant attacks on Israel coming out of Hezbollah and Hamas, which have both been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States and the European Union really create a whole ‘nother dimension to life in Israel. There’s tremendous sensitivity to the suffering of the Palestinian people and there’s a deep desire amongst the vast majority of the Israeli people to address that suffering, to reach a peaceful solution that will be just and equitable for everybody.

CAVANAUGH: Nasser, I want you to tell us what life is like for Palestinians who live in the West Bank and in Gaza.

BARGHOUTI: Well, one of the things that I have to start with is that life in these places is not naturally progressing so life for Israelis, as Michael has described, for Israeli Jews, I should say, is exactly as he described. That’s not the case for Israeli Palestinians, i.e. the 1.5 million Palestinians that are citizens of the state of Israel. They do not enjoy equal rights under that state. They are discriminated against in every aspect, in their water allocations, school allocations. Their towns are much poorer than Jewish town, the allocations, even though they’re the indigenous inhabitants of the land. They were there – they never left the land for thousands of years. And yet they only make 69% – an average Palestinian in Israel, an Israeli citizen who’s Palestinian makes 69% of an average Israeli Jew in the same jobs and so on. Then going to the West Bank and Gaza, these are places under occupation. The Gaza Strip is a big concentration camp, closed off, sealed off in every direction by Israel and then Egypt. Nothing is allowed in. Just this morning I heard on BBC a news item that Israel may allow some cars into the Gaza Strip after three years of banning any car—imagine that—to enter. And so of course there’s no economy in Gaza. They cannot export, import, do anything. Any manufacturing they do is considered by Israel dangerous. They bomb it because it could lead to manufacturing weapons. The West Bank is in shambles because it’s divided up into three areas, one under direct Israeli military control, one under joint control between Israel and the Palestinians, and one under the control of the Palestinian Authority. But all the borders are controlled by Israel. There is no airport. There is no port. There is no way to import or export. Anything has to go through Israel. Even when I send money to my family there, it has to go through the SWIFT system which goes through Israel to be admitted in. So it’s really suffocating for the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, they live at a very low standard of living, about one-twentieth of an Israeli Jewish (sic) so while Israeli Jews live at a standard of living higher than Italy, the Palestinians live at a standard of living that’s closer to Bangladesh. And this is in the same area, in the same region, and the Palestinians are not immigrants in that land. They are the indigenous population. And the reason is they’re denied their ability to build an economy and build a nation.

CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you both for giving us that snapshot. I know that you don’t agree with each other on what the two of you said about how conditions are in Israel and the reasons for conditions in Palestine but I’m glad that we have some baseline to talk about this. We do have to take a short break and when we return, we’ll be taking phone calls. There are lots of people who want to get involved in this conversation. And also talk – Bring it back here to San Diego and talk about how, indeed, this conflict, this dispute, is being played out here in our own town. We’re taking your call at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.


CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guests are Nasser Barghouti. He is a coordinator for the San Diego Coalition for Justice in Palestine. And Michael Lurie is co-chair and co-founder of the San Diego Israel Coalition. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And before we start to take phone calls, Michael Lurie wanted simply to address an issue about why, in the Israeli point of view, why the situation in Gaza is the way it is.

LURIE: It’s very important when we look at the position in the Middle East to understand that Israel has been under relentless assault from the Palestinians and from the surrounding Arab states for decades, since its inception. The Gaza is a situation from which Israel withdrew five years ago. So five years ago, Israel took a unilateral decision to withdraw all of its settlers—there were about 8,000 of them in Gaza—and its military, and completely remove them in Gaza. Today, there is not one Jew in Gaza other than Sgt. Gilad Shalit, who has been kidnapped by the Hamas terrorist organization that controls Gaza and under whom he remains in captivity. But essentially Hamas, rather than choosing to build positively, building an economy, looking after their people, chose to unleash a relentless war against Israel which has now, the last five years, comprised thousands of terrorist attacks including, in the last two weeks, several rocket attacks have been launched from Gaza into Israel and four Israelis were recently murdered, civilians, by Hamas terrorists. As a result, there’s a very critical security situation there, and Gaza for Israel is like Tijuana for San Diego, it’s immediately adjacent to major population centers. So it’s like Al Qaeda having a base in Tijuana and continually firing rockets in San Diego. What would be the reasonable way in which America would respond to that in order to look after the people, which Israel is trying to do by letting through hundreds of tons of everything that’s not potentially military type products, and at the same time protecting the civilians of Israel.

CAVANAUGH: I do want to move on and I know, Nasser, that you don’t agree with that. I…

BARGHOUTI: Of course I don’t.

CAVANAUGH: I understand that. Yes. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Linda is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Linda. Welcome to These Days.

LINDA (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Mr. Barghouti, I wondered what tangible concessions do you believe that the Arab-Palestinians should make as part of this peace process? And I’ll take my question off the air. I’ll listen for the answer.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

BARGHOUTI: Thank you, Linda, for that. I think the Palestinians have given up everything. They’ve lost their land, they’ve lost their lives, they’ve lost their economy. They’re scattered all over the world. Asking them to compromise more is unbelievable. There’s nothing they have. So that’s why I’m a little bit skeptical about these negotiations because there’s a huge difference in power and ability. Israel has all the cards and the Palestinians have only one card which Israel has requested of them, which is to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish nation, which the Palestinians will never do because that is tantamount to having African-Americans recognize the United States as a white nation or non-Christians in the U.S. acknowledging that the U.S. is a Christian nation. Palestinians cannot accept Israel as a Jewish nation. They can accept Jews living in Israel and Palestine equally but they cannot accept it as a Jewish nation because it negates them. It negates their existence there, and they are the indigenous population that have always lived there.

CAVANAUGH: Will the Palestinian, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah, will they reject violence as a means of attaining their objectives?

BARGHOUTI: I think, first of all, Hamas is not being brought into these negotiations, which is one of the reasons why I think they will fail. In Ireland, which is a model that Senator Mitchell talks about, the IRA was brought in, right, including the most militant wing of the Irish Republican Army. And that’s why it succeeded, because they addressed the core issues. Here, we have Israel being brought in with all of its wings and parties, including Lieberman, the foreign minister, who is an open racist and advocating for kicking out all Palestinians from Israel. And Hamas is not being brought in. Now Hamas does advocate violence but they also advocate other things like any – like the IRA, like many other organizations around the world with which you make peace. You make peace with your enemies. Hamas has indicated once again and – but many times in the past years that they are willing to accept a negotiated settlement if it addresses the core issues of land, the refugees, the right of return of Palestinians, and Jerusalem. That’s what basically Hamas is saying. Not having Hamas in the negotiations is going to affect its outcome. But I think the Palestinians have, by and large, denounced violence, that most Palestinian resistance now is nonviolent. It is really motivated by nonviolent resistance in the villages against the wall that Israel has built on their lands. It is a nonviolence resistance in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. These are all nonviolent actions that Palestinians have now adopted wholeheartedly. And most Palestinians advocate that. Yes, there are violent Palestinians but, you know, unless you address their situation, the violence will continue. Unless there’s justice in this world, there will be some violence.

CAVANAUGH: We have a question for Michael. Tony is on the line from San Diego. Good morning, Tony. Welcome to These Days.

TONY (Caller, San Diego): Good morning, everybody. Good morning, Michael.

LURIE: Good morning.

TONY: I’ve been reading this conflict for the longest time that I remember. The same – I just have one question. I have too many friends. I talk with them. All right, there’s 78% of the land for the Israelis, 22% of the land for Palestinians. What takes so long just to divide this? The same body who created Israel is the same body that said, okay, 78% for Israelis, 22% of the land for Palestinians. Why is it so hard to accept? It’s very clear. Black and white. I get my answer on the air. Thank you so much.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, I’m not really clear about the question but I guess it is why – is that a fair division? Do you think that – why is it – Will Israel return land to the Palestinians?

LURIE: The – I guess the caller was – is referring to the history to come extent. Just to touch on that very briefly, in 1947, the United Nations agreed on a petition plan for the British mandate to essentially divide the land into a two-state solution between a Jewish state and a Palestinian state. In 1948, when the Palestinians and the six surrounding Arab nations invaded and attacked Israel, a war ensued and a result of that war were armistice lines drawn in 1949 which have become generally accepted around the world as the – more or less the borders between Israel and the Palestinian state. And the – in the current peace process, negotiations are very much focused on creating that two-state solution with perhaps some adjustments around those borders in line with Resolution 242 of the United Nations in order to achieve a just and lasting peace that allows the Palestinians to have their state and fulfill their national aspirations and the Jews to have their state and fulfill their national aspirations. It’s very important to note that when we talk about a Jewish state, it’s similar to Christian states such as England, Denmark, Finland, Greece and Norway. So it doesn’t mean a Jewish state is exclusive to Jews or in any way discriminatory against non-Jews. In fact, it’s not. There’s full equality for everybody in Israel and there’s – there are many Israeli-Arabs that speak to that. People who are against Israel tend to argue that that’s not the case but Israel is not an ethno-religious state, like the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and other Muslim states which are very much ethno-religious in that way.

CAVANAUGH: Let me, as I say, move the conversation here to San Diego, if I can. Michael, your organization recently spoke out against an event organized by UCSD’s Muslim Student Association back in May. The event was called “End the Apartheid.” And the students called for a resolution for UCSD to divest itself of all economic ties to companies doing business with Israel. Why did you feel that you had to respond to that protest?

LURIE: Well, the analogy of Israel and apartheid is deeply offensive to Jews and to Israelis. I grew up in South Africa. I’m familiar with what apartheid looked like. And the situation in Israel is diametrically different. Israel is a free and open society with equality for all. The situation in the West Bank is a complex situation and it’s a complex situation because of the security problems. As Nasser mentioned, over the last 16 years, there’ve been, as a result of peace initiatives, a progression in terms of the beginnings of laying the foundation for Palestinian states in these three different areas, some of which have already self-ruled by Palestinians. And, hopefully, that will continue. But the apartheid analogy is incorrect. It’s deeply offensive to Jews and to Israel. And we believe that there should rather be constructive engagement with both parties to facilitate peace rather than putting all the blame on Israel, attacking and demonizing Israel, and making it all Israel’s responsibility. Clearly, it’s a conflict. There are shared responsibility and there needs to be a shared resolution.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Nasser, I know that you were involved in the organization of this protest at UCSD called “End the Apartheid.” And I’m wondering why is it that you believe that boycotting Israel and divesting all economic ties with that country could actually lead to a resolution of the conflict? I mean, could actually move this process forward and it isn’t just an insult to Israel.

BARGHOUTI: Right. First of all, I wasn’t actually involved in the UCSD events. I was asked for advice…

CAVANAUGH: I see.

BARGHOUTI: …but the students themselves actually organized this. In terms of why Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions, which is an international movement, can have hope, first of all, it is a movement that was launched by Palestinian civil society. So about 500 organizations in Palestinian lands, women’s organization, labor unions, teachers and so on, got together and called on the world to adopt a policy of sanctions and divestments and boycotts against Israel to pressure it to adhere to international law specifically to get three items. One is end the military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. Second is the right of return of Palestinian refugees that were kicked out of their lands in 1948 when Israel was created, about 750,000 Palestinians and their descendents, about 4 million people scattered in Lebanon, Syria, many refugee camps. And the third is to remove the system of discrimination, the institution of discrimination, against Palestinians inside Israel proper. So why BDS? It’s because there’s no other option. Israel is a very strong country supported by the only super power in the world, the United States. So the United States is not really an honest broker in these negotiations. It is dealing with a client state, Israel, which it supports. It does not support the Palestinians. The U.S. does not give any money to the Palestinians, doesn’t give them weapons, anything. It gives all weapons, manufacturing, all kinds of advanced weapons, to Israel and it has numerous research collaborations and so on. Now to be able to equalize the situation little bit, because negotiations can never succeed, and Michael knows that, he’s a businessman, so am I. In business, you have to have a win-win situation. You only have a win-win when both parties benefit. There’s no way to have a win-win unless both parties are somewhat equal in power, they have something to offer the other. So if you pressure Israel and make it lose part of its economic power due to sanctions and divestments, unless it adheres to international law, you could empower the Palestinians a little bit more just like the African national congress was empowered in South Africa. Now the funny thing is the use of the word apartheid to describe Israel came mostly from Jews. It was from Noam Chomsky, a Jew, from Richard Falk, professor at Princeton and now Santa Barbara, a Jew, from the Goldstone Report, who’s also – Goldstone was a Jewish judge. I mean, it’s – this is not an exclusive Palestinian movement, BDS, it’s a movement that has many, many prominent Jews in it and that’s why I’m hopeful. It’s truly the very first Jewish-Palestinian movement headed by Palestinians to put pressure on Israel for universal rights, equality and international law.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Michael, I know that the co-chair of your organization, Audrey Jacobs, recently told us here at KPBS that that incident, that week of protest at UCSD, raised the awareness in San Diego, that San Diego is one of the hotbeds in the country, specifically on the campuses, for anti-Israel sentiment. Do you feel that San Diego is a hotbed for anti-Israel sentiment?

LURIE: I’m not sure that Audrey was correctly quoted in that. There is a diversive opinion on campuses throughout America. Clearly, there is anti-Israel sentiments on San Diego campuses like on many other campuses, and there’s also a strongly pro-Israel sentiment on these campuses. Just like Nasser will do everything he can to – and put his point of view, as he rightly should, and supports students on campus and advise them in terms of their perspective and their aspirations, our goal is to do the same thing in terms of people who are supporting Israel and advocating for Israel, and to make sure that both sides are heard. At the end of the day, we live in a democracy. It’s important to listen respectfully to each other, to express both points of view, and to let each person come to their own conclusion on where they rest on the matter.

CAVANAUGH: Is there a feeling, though, that perhaps the Israeli point of view is no longer getting a fair shake in intellectual circles in San Diego and in other areas of the country?

LURIE: There’s certainly a lot of concern amongst the Jewish community that there’s been a rise in anti-Semitism in the world. There’s a strong concern that as the decades since the Holocaust passed, there’s less restriction on people expressing anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel points of view, and that the discourse about Israel has changed into more of a demonization of Israel, a delegitimization of Israel. It’s perfectly reasonable to have robust arguments. It’s perfectly reasonable for Nasser to advocate the BDS campaign. If it’s a choice between nonviolent resistance and violent resistance, we would rather it be nonviolent resistance. Of course, we’re going to oppose it because we don’t believe in that. But dialogue is definitely important and dialogue has to be based on mutual acceptance and mutual respect. So it’s very important that we don’t label each other. It’s very important, in our view, that we don’t call Gaza a concentration camp. Auschwitz was a concentration camp. My grandfather had many siblings who perished in concentration camps so to refer to Gaza as a concentration camp is not a – is not constructive in terms of dialogue. It’s not constructive to put labels on the conflict, and that’s where there’s concern. It’s very important to recognize that Israel is the only functioning democracy in the Middle East. Israel is the only country with true independent judiciary that is regarded throughout the world as fair and independent with true human rights for all.

CAVANAUGH: We have to take a short break and when we return, we will continue our discussion and take your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You’re listening to These Days on KPBS.


CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we’re talking about the recent – new round of peace talks that have started up again in the Middle East and we’re talking about how all of this affects supporters here in San Diego. My guests are Michael Lurie, co-chair and co-founder of the San Diego Israel Coalition, and Nasser Barghouti is a coordinator for the San Diego Coalition for Justice in Palestine. We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let’s hear from Shoshi in San Diego. Good morning, Shoshi. Welcome to These Days.

SHOSHI (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. I want to ask Mr. Barghouti, for a better future in the Middle East and in the world, will you join a group for dialogue and learning about Judaism and Islam here in San Diego?

BARGHOUTI: I’m not a particularly religious person and so to me – I would encourage wholeheartedly a dialogue among faiths and that is going on, as you know, internationally. Last year, there was a big summit in the coterie capital Doha that invited rabbis and ministers of all Catholic churches and Muslims, Shiites, Sunnis and so on for an interfaith dialogue. I support that. I would not be the right person to participate because I’m not a particularly religious person. I do, instead, think that it’s important for each person to learn about the other. I am vehemently opposed to all kinds of overt or covert racism and anti-Semitism. It’s despicable and I have no tolerance for anybody telling how the Jews control America or the media or anything of that nature. I completely oppose those points of views. What we’re talking about is strictly political views, and I am a firm believer in a universal movement including Jews and Palestinians and other Arabs and other people from all around the world for universal human rights and international law. So, to me, it is not a religious issue. I think it’s a good thing for people to learn about each other’s religions but I don’t think that is really the heart of the issue. And the reason is, Jews and Muslims coexisted for millennia. They coexisted in the Islamic Empire, in Spain was a golden age for Jews under Muslim rule, and in Turkey as well. And so I don’t think necessarily – I think it is important and there are a lot of misconceptions both have about each other’s religion but I wouldn’t necessarily be the right person to do that.

CAVANAUGH: Let me take another call. Fred is calling from Del Mar. Good morning, Fred. Welcome to These Days.

FRED (Caller, Del Mar): Yes, hi. My question is for Mr. Barghouti. Mr. Barghouti, you mention on your website – you do not mention anything about the connection of Jews to Palestinian, to Israel. Are you not aware that Jews are actually the indigenous population there? They’ve lived there for 2000 years. They’ve been subjected to persecution by both Muslims and Christians. They are, in fact, when you talk about Palestinian-Arabs losing everything, it’s the Jews that lost everything. Why aren’t they entitled to a very small state with a Jewish culture and a language and their own free expression? I mean, after all, there are 21 Muslim nations, which go so far as to prohibit Jewish immigration and Jewish culture and Jewish buildings and citizenship.

CAVANAUGH: Fred, thank you for the call. Thank you so much for the call. Talk about a core issue. Gentlemen.

BARGHOUTI: Yeah, well, first – first of all, I never denied the right of Jews to live in Palestine or anywhere else they want to live. I believe in a complete freedom of movement for anybody in the world, so I believe people should pursue their economic dreams and live wherever they desire. And I understand that people form their own identities and, frankly, everybody has myths about their history. Jews were definitely indigenous peoples in Palestine but so were many other peoples. The Canaanites and what the bible calls the Philistines and so many others. So nobody has exclusive right to any piece of land anywhere in the world. We are all connected as a human race. And what I object to is the exclusive ethno-religious notion of a Jewish state. I don’t support ethno-religious Islamic states of which there are only two—three, actually, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan. The other Arab countries, many of them are product of colonialism. Britain and France created them. They’re not – They didn’t evolve naturally. I don’t necessarily see the benefit of that. And so I definitely support the right of Jews to live in Palestine as equal citizens, equal to everybody else. The problem is not that. The problem is the Palestinians are denied those same equal rights, to prosper and live securely. That is what is being denied today.

CAVANAUGH: Michael, I wonder, as you speak to people about the current round of peace talks and about Israel’s position in these talks and in this dispute, do you find that there is a – people have a grasp of the history of this area of the world or are we really undereducated when it comes to the claims, the mutual claims, the disparate claims, and what, indeed, has happened since even the mid-twentieth century.

LURIE: I suspect we’d both agree that people are pretty uneducated. Like with most complex situations, it’s a lot easier to reduce things to sound bites and much of the dialogue takes place on that basis. So, certainly we, you know, we appreciate KPBS providing this opportunity to have this kind of dialogue and the more of this kind of thing, the better. It’s very, very important that here in San Diego and around the world Palestinians and Jews are communicating with each other, reaching out to each other, are trying to understand each other’s perspectives, trying to understand their history, which we often see so differently. We kind of experience the same effects but we just – we walk away and you have two different stories of exactly the same thing. And it’s only through dialogue that there’s any hope of achieving what Nasser just spoke about, which I strongly agree with in terms of a people being free, people being equal everywhere in the world, people choosing where they want to live. So all of these things are important principles and this dialogue is very much helpful and the only way, really, to progress in that direction.

CAVANAUGH: You know, Nasser, usually when we talk about the conflict in the Middle East, we have a supporter of Israel and we have a supporter of Palestine and they disagree. And I’m wondering, though, how much, in the United States, how much disagreement is there within the supporting – within the supporters, in other words, the people who support the Palestinians in the United States. Do you have a great deal of dialogue within – about what should happen?

BARGHOUTI: Of course, which I suspect is also happening in the Jewish community. The Jewish community has many organizations on all kinds of along the spectrum. Some very supportive of Israel, some much less supportive of Israel. The same thing goes for the pro-Palestinian movement. There are all kinds of discussions about what is the most effective way to resist. How do you form international support? What are the rights of Jews in a future in that area, and many other issues, and the role of religion in the state, and so on. That’s just natural, right? Palestinians are not a monolith and so are – neither are their supporters. And so all these discussions do happen and what I’m seeing, though, is not a consensus but a semi-consensus forming around this notion of creating a universal movement that advocates universal rights, universal human rights, universal political rights, so equality among everybody. That worked really well in South Africa and we still admire Nelson Mandella for creating that kind of discourse and I think the reason it works is because once the conflict is resolved, you can have reconciliation. That’s why it works. Because if you don’t have reconciliation then it becomes a bitter resolution that nobody likes and in the future it will re-erupt.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

BARGHOUTI: And so having it based on really universal values, I think, is the best way forward.

CAVANAUGH: I would be remiss of me (sic), Nasser, not to note the fact that in recent weeks we’ve heard an awful lot of a sort of an eruption of an anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States. There’s a problem with the mosque in New York, there was a slight problem with an idea of a mosque community center in Temecula. And I know that you, as you just said, are not particularly are religious but how do you think that this might play into the idea of support for any kind of resolution in this round of peace talks among Americans?

BARGHOUTI: I think, unfortunately, some people are whipping fear in the United States against Muslims so they’re using the fact that Islamic radicals, militants, terrorists committed the 9/11 tragic terrorist attacks to basically demonize Islam and demonize the whole religion which 1.5 billion people around the world follow. And then they selectively choose things from the Qur’an and things from sayings and if they do that to any religion, they’ll find plenty, seriously, to debate about. And what has happened is, I think, is a phenomena that in Europe is now officially called Islamophobia and I think it definitely applies to the United States. There’s a fear of Islam and it’s irrational. And it’s really reminiscent of the fear of Jews in Europe in the twenties and thirties. And it just becomes so irrational. Everything bad is blamed on the religion and the people, you know, that follow it without really knowing much about that religion. So they take the sound bites about it and they say it’s a violent religion, advocates this, advocates that, without even reading their own religions and seeing what they say about the matter.

CAVANAUGH: And, Michael, I’d like to get your comment on that.

LURIE: I completely agree with Nasser. The Jewish experience, as Nasser mentioned, has been a terrible discrimination for centuries and the vast majority of the Jewish community is 100% committed to making sure that Muslims are free, that Muslims are accepted, that they are not demonized, that there is distinction between, as Nasser says, those radicals that are conducting terrorist activities and, to my knowledge – I don’t know much about Islam, but to my knowledge, that is a perversion of Islam. And certainly there’s no question that the dialogue we were talking about a few minutes ago is critically important. It’s very, very important that Muslims are accepted as peaceful, free people in America and everywhere in the world.

CAVANAUGH: If, indeed – If, indeed – I know that there are many, many, many obstacles along the road to peace but if, indeed, somehow this new round of peace talks were to result in a viable peace in the Middle East—Michael, let me go to you first—how do you think America would be helped by a solution to this intractable problem between Israel and Palestine?

LURIE: I think it would bring enormous benefit to America. Firstly, America would be seen correctly as being the champion of this peace. It would be a unique achievement, comparable to other great resolutions of conflicts in the world. It would bring enormous benefits to both Palestinians and Israelis and to the entire Middle East, and America would be a direct beneficiary of that. It would almost certainly lead – particularly if the peaceful resolution ends up with two democratic, peaceful states that both respect human rights along the lines of what Nasser was talking about, it would lead to a continuing strengthening of democracy and human rights in the Middle East which would, again, bring greater security to America. So I think America believes that is very much in it’s interests. Well, certainly the Obama administration believes this, to reach peace and that’s why they’re working so hard towards it.

CAVANAUGH: We have a minute left and I’d like to get your reaction to the same question.

BARGHOUTI: I agree with everything Michael said. If there is a true resolution of the issue that addresses all the core issues, refugees, land, people and so on, I think it will be a tremendous benefit for the United States. The United States will be seen once again as the champion of human rights in the world, not the country that leads preventive wars and so on, not based on international law. The United States will be seen as a country that champions human rights and I think it’ll be a great benefit for the U.S. economically, politically, and in every way. And it will obviously be a great benefit for the peoples of the Middle East, not just Palestinians and Israelis.

CAVANAUGH: I want to thank you both for a really productive discussion. I really enjoyed this. I really enjoyed hearing your both – both of your perspectives on this issue. Thank you very much.

LURIE: Thank you.

BARGHOUTI: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: I’ve been speaking with Michael Lurie. He’s co-chair and co-founder of the San Diego Israel Coalition. And Nasser Barghouti, a coordinator of the San Diego Coalition for Justice in Palestine. If you’d like to comment, please go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’ve been listening to These Days. Stay with us for hour two coming up in just a few minutes here on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Ritah'

Ritah | September 20, 2010 at 10:10 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Barghouti is only interested in peace IF the Palestinians receive satisfaction on ALL of their demands.
More rational people of the world know that, in negotiations, neither side gets everything it wants. The fact that he (and his fellow negotiators) start(s) from such an inflexible position predicts an unhappy result.

He also was very honest that he is not religious, refusing participation in a multi-religious discussion group.
One question, Mr. Barghouti, and please be honest: what percentage of Palestinians do you believe you represent? 20-35%? maybe.
Remember, Yasser Arafat was proposed a deal with Pres. Clinton of up to 97% of the land and he REFUSED!!!!!

Rita Heller

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Avatar for user 'Marjorie'

Marjorie | September 20, 2010 at 10:56 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Barghouti seems to think that all the Palestinian refugees who left their homes--not only the original 700,000 or so, most of whom left to get out of the way of war and a much smaller number who were ousted from their homes, but all their descendants--should be able to return to what is now Israel. This group now numbers more than 4 million. The "right" of not only those made refugees by war to return to former homes but also this right for their descendants to return to homes their forebears occupied is unprecedented in international law. Directly after the 1948 war launched against Israel by 5 Arab states, Israel offered to repatriate 100,000 Palestinian Arabs. This offer was rejected. Obviously, for Israel to now absorb more than 4 million Palestinian refugees, many of whom have shown they have no intentions of living in peace with their neighbors, would mean the end of the Jewish State.

As a result of this war, something like 900,000 Jews had their property confiscated and were themselves expelled from Arab states. Nothing has been done by these Arab states to make amends to these refugees or to compensate Israel, which took in most of them and resettled them at its own expense. Ought not a just solution of the refugee problem also address these refugees?

Mr. Barghouti also said he believes in free movement for people and believes people should be free to live where they want. If so, why, I wonder, does he believe the Israeli settlements are illegal? Even though 1.4 million Arabs live in Israel, it seems the West Bank as well as Gaza are to be Judenrein. Before the 1967 War foisted on Israel by Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, there were no settlements. But there was still no peace. After that war, Israel offered to return most of the captured territories, but the Arab League, meeting in Khartoum, responded no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with it.

It does not appear to me that Israel has been the obstructionist party in peace negotiations--not in 2000 or in 2008, when, both times, generous land swaps and a generous compensation package as well as a sharing of Jerusalem were offered by Israel. I can only hope that this time the Palestinian Arabs will realize they keep on losing by insisting on a "right of return" and will accept a just peace that will bring security and prosperity to their people as well as to the people of Israel.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | September 20, 2010 at 11:07 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

I often see the bumper sticker with religious symbols on it and the words Co-Exist written in bold on top of those symbols. I believe this is unfortunately a rather naive hope. Neither the Bible nor the Quran promotes tolerance. Tolerance happens despite what these books say due to religion (at least in the West) having bumped up against modernity too many times.

We wouldn't for example tolerate a city in America deciding they were going to stone a woman to death for adultery - but in some places in the world, they certainly would.

And I believe therein lies one of the biggest issues with having peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. One country is fairly modern and moderate; the others that surround it are very dogmatic and socially - somewhere back in the 15th century.

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Avatar for user 'jjs110'

jjs110 | September 20, 2010 at 11:10 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

There are at least two elements among the many things mentioned by Mr. Barghouti that would have deserved more scrutiny had we had more time.

The first one is the fact that in a population of roughly 7.2 million people, 1.4 of its citizens are Arab-Israelis, with the same rights and privileges given to all other Israeli citizens regardless of their religious affiliations. That's 20% of the population! Contrast that with the Palestinian leaders' attitude of not being able to tolerate the presence of even one Israeli Jew in the West Bank, which is supposed to become the future Palestinian State. Their idea of a Palestinian "democratic" state is to start by performing a massive ethnic cleansing of all Jews living there, instead of doing the same thing Israel did with its Arab citizens and integrate them with equal rights. Why the double standard? Why can 1.4 million Arabs live in Israel but 250,000 Jews can't live in a future state of Palestine?

The second one is the tired old slogan of a so-called "right of return" that allegedly gives the Palestinians the right to come back to a land that they lost fair and square as a result of their attacking Israel in 1948 (AND 1967, AND 1973) with the declared intention to destroy her. The problem is that while the notion of "right" implies the existence of a document that gives a legal ground to this claim, it simply does not exist! It's a pure myth. Mr. Barghouti mentioned Prof Richard Falk, a professor of international law and one of these Jewish voices who supports the Palestinian point of view, so I asked the good professor directly: "could you please show me which international law treaty says specifically that the Palestinians are entitled to a so-called right of return". His response was quite clear: "there isn't any". Of course he was quick to point out that in his view it is UN General Assembly Resolution 194 that gives the Palestinians this right, but I countered by pointing out (as he should know better) that a) UNGA resolutions do not have force of law, and are therefore not enforceable; b) UNGA resolutions do not make nor are part of international law; c) when the General Assembly voted on it on Dec 11, 1948, all the Arab States voted AGAINST it! (so they have some nerve to invoke it today), and d) in any event, it merely suggested that some refugees be allowed back IF they agreed to live at peace with their neighbors, something that clearly the Palestinians have amply demonstrated they are still not prepared to do. Bottom line: there is no "right of return" in international law, neither for the Palestinians nor for anyone else. It's a pure invention.

J.J. Surbeck
Executive Director
T.E.A.M.
Training and Education
About the Middle East
www.sandiegoteam.org
jjs110@cox.net

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Avatar for user 'SD_science'

SD_science | September 20, 2010 at 11:44 a.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

I thought the discussion was very respectful, and while one could add much on either side, I think continued interactions of this sort can help reduce enmity between Jews and Palestinians here in San Diego. Regarding the peace process in general, I can't see how there can be any lasting success without the agreement of surrounding Arab countries such as Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon to grant citizenship to Palestinian refugees (there are about 60 refugee camps located in these countries as well as Gaza and the West Bank). While Marjorie's comment overstates her case, she does properly call attention to the fate of the Jews who fled or were expelled from Arab/Muslim lands in the wake of the 1948 war. Most were settled in Israel - indeed it was to Israel's advantage to benefit from such a large Jewish immigration. By contrast, the Arab/Muslim states have done little to nothing to help the Palestinians, despite their vast landholdings and wealth. Rather, they have used the Palestinians as a political pawn. Israel will not commit demographic suicide by acceding to the "right of return" of all 1948 refugees and their millions of descendants.

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Avatar for user 'judyr123'

judyr123 | September 20, 2010 at 4:47 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Every San Diegan should ask themselves a question that Mr. Lurie brought up in his part of the discussion: How would you react if Al Qaeda had taken up residence in Tijuana and was shooting deadly rockets into your neighborhood, killing your friends and relatives, traumatizing your children on a daily basis? Israel unilaterally gave Gaza to the Palestinians, complete with a robust economy and millions of dollars worth of infrastructure. It was all destroyed in a matter of hours by the Palestinians themselves, and all Israel got for it was unrelenting rocket attacks that continue to this day. The simple truth is that all of the security measures that have been taken to create what Mr. Barghouti so glibly calls a "concentration camp" in Gaza exist because of the actions of the Palestinians who live there. If they had taken the hand outstretched in peace that was offered with the unilateral withdrawal, they would be living side by side with Israel right now with open borders and a booming economy. But it's much easier to sell the world on a story of victimhood than it is to take responsibility for squandering an opportunity, and the Palestinian propaganda machine knows full well how to take advantage of this. Mr. Barghouti does a great job of selling his points. It's too bad that so much of what he says is a bunch of lies and half truths.

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Avatar for user 'RM'

RM | September 20, 2010 at 6:43 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Barghouti revealed—probably inadvertently—the core of the conflict when he repeated the Arabs’ intransigent refusal to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. In other words, the pre-condition for Palestinian “peace” negotiations is that Israel agrees to annihilate itself: no Jewish state of any size, with any boundaries. Period.

Regardless of the pieties Mr. Barghouti mouthed about “human rights” and “respect”, the truth is that the Palestinian project has nothing to do with the creation of a Palestinian state, which they were offered and have rejected on many occasions. Its goal, repeated this morning by a self-styled spokesman for peace and justice, is the elimination of the Jewish state.

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Avatar for user 'tbzohar'

tbzohar | September 20, 2010 at 7:07 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

It seams to me very redundant to seat comfortably in San Diego California in the air conditioned studios of KPBS and have a civilized discussion about the most complicated conflict in the world. Mr. Barghouti doesn't mind allowing the Jews the right to reside wherever they please as long as they are not governing. He is against religions all together so the Middle East should line up, give up religions, and live together happily ever after. Meanwhile the Californian audience is having its feel good moment of the day, and is wondering how come the two debaters can agree with one another while the actual sides can't get along.

We are talking about the same Californians that have one of the highest litigation rate in the world. Anywhere from disputes over a joint fence between two homes to disputes over Mal practice. All one needs to do in California is visit local courtrooms any day to be able to experience countless legal, moral, and ethical disputes daily. The courts are collapsing under the workload imposed on them by millions of "why can't they get along" Californians. For some odd reason they can't connect the dots when it comes to their petty rivalries.

Here's the unfortunate truth. It is not up to the Israelis and Palestinians to solve this dispute. The seemingly obvious dispute over land was almost resolved many time before, however when it came to implementation it was derailed by the fundamental Islam. Discussing peace with the Palestinians is no different then trying to close a deal with the cashier at the supermarket. They just don't have the authority to sign on the dotted line and implement it.

When one hears about the Hamas versus Fatah one might imagine two different and separate entities. The reality on the ground is that even though each governs a different Palestinian territory they are not separated that way withing the actual population. Families are actually torn apart throughout the West Bank as well, having siblings belong to different organizations. many of whom are represented in every one. Imagine your own family being torn apart between all these revelries to the point of daily siblings fatal clashes.

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Avatar for user 'tbzohar'

tbzohar | September 20, 2010 at 7:08 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

To understand the challenge we need to remember 9/11 and the dispute over the building of the mosque at ground zero. Regardless of your opinion in this matter you will agree that it has nothing to do with any dispute over land in the middle east. Notice how this local municipal dispute over a piece of land and a religious building evolved into a full flege national issue. It only took a few month to produce a few radical Americans who are threatening in 2010 with Kuran burning. This is the effect of radical Islam in conjunction with the destruction of an modern American western "sacred temple".

The new reality since 2001 should make it clear who actually holds the keys to peace in the middle east. One can easily notice that whoever was able to pull 9/11 off would not let that Arab Israeli dispute resolve. That would not be in their interest considering their obvious agenda. So all one needs to do to figure out the truth is examine the daily reality of contribution to the world. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors. You will not be able to figure out the Arab Islamic world, so give it up.

Just ask yourselves who put up the first medical tent and was the first to treat wounded civilians in Haiti? The Israeli team avoided flying the flag to avoid hurting anyone's feelings, while saving more lives then anyone else. Now ask yourselves why is there never a Saudi, Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, or any of the Emirates medical tent? Do they not have medical staff? Do they not have tents? maybe they do not have the funds that Israel has for such a voluntary mission? You decide...

Tibi Zohar, T.E.A.M

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Avatar for user 'MarkW'

MarkW | September 20, 2010 at 11:33 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

>> HEADS WE WIN, TAILS YOU LOSE <<

That's how I would sum up Michael Lurie's most eloquent arguments from today's program. He did an amazing job spinning the facts such that Israel is the victim and Palestine the aggressor. The facts don't back up Mr. Lurie's arguments. The U.N.'s assessment doesn't back up Mr. Lurie's arguments. And books like "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" by former Presdent Jimmy Carter don't back up Mr. Lurie's arguments.

The reality is the complete opposite. Palestine, if the media is to be believed, is kept a virtual hell-hole of disease and misery, while Israel continues its brazen land-grab. It seems like Israel is single-handedly destabilizing the region. Furthermore, it seems they have co-opted an America blinded by "Islamaphobia", as someone put it, to do their military dirty work.

I think the world views Israel with contempt and disgust. And if they don't, they should.

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Avatar for user 'Marjorie'

Marjorie | September 21, 2010 at 11:48 p.m. ― 3 years, 7 months ago

Mr. Barghouti seems to feel that Israel should not be a Jewish State and that the Palestinians will not, and should not, acknowledge Israel as a Jewish State.

There are 22 Arab states in the world. There are 57 states with a Muslim majority in the world. Israel occupies 1/650th of the land mass occupied by all the Arab and/or Muslim states in the world.

Here are the Arab states: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Here are the states in which Islam is the official religion: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Comoros, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

And here are the Arab states in which Islam is the official religion: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mautitania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen. By my count, there are 17 of these.

The Jews are the aboriginal people of Palestine. The Canaanites and the Philestines are long gone. In spite of the depradations of the Romans, the Crusaders, and others, there were always Jews who endured in the Holy Land. Jewish history there is 3000 years old. Arabs came to Palestine from the Arabian Peninsula only in the 7th century AD. The Jews who came to Palestine from Europe in the 20th century purchased most of the land available for purchase in the part of the Ottoman Empire we refer to as Palestine.

Why, then, should the Jewish People not have a state of their own, just like the Arabs in Islamic states, especially since (unlike Arab states which expelled their Jews) Arabs, most of whom are Muslims, constitute approximately 20% of the population of Israel and are citizens of Israel with full citizenship rights?

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Avatar for user 'Marjorie'

Marjorie | September 22, 2010 at 4:01 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Barghouti says that Gaza is a concentration camp. No one has seen any gas chambers there. Nor do residents appear to be starving. If they are, why would Hamas have refused to admit “humanitarian aid” from the flotilla ships, letting it sit in Ashdod for 2 weeks until the U.N. intervened? Even during Israel’s 3-week Operation Cast Lead, Israel allowed thousands of tons of food, goods, equipment, and medical supplies into Gaza. According to the Egyptian weekly Rooz Al-Yousuf, shops in Gaza are full of fruit, vegetables, beef and poultry, with food entering Gaza so rapidly that supply is now greater than demand. (See http://www.frumforum.com/life-under-the-gaza-siege.) In Gaza now are also a new Olympic-sized swimming pool, a gourmet restaurant, a luxury hotel, and a new shopping mall. (See http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001127.html and http://dfrankfurter.livejournal.com/122589.html.) Of course, things could have been better. When Israel left Gaza in 2005, pulling out not only its settlers but its military, Jewish philanthropists purchased the settlers’ greenhouses for $14M as a gift to help jump start Gaza’s economy. The greenhouses were destroyed by looters. The temples belonging to the settlers were also left and could have been turned into schools or hospitals. But they were burned to the ground by Gazans.

It’s probably true that the luxuries evident in Gaza now are not available to all Gaza residents. It helps to be a Hamas supporter, especially since Hamas has often confiscated imports meant for the general populace. Hamas, which has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, is now governing Gaza. This is the same Hamas which overthrew Fatah in Gaza in 2007, shooting Fatah men in the kneecaps and throwing them off the tops of buildings. This is also the same Hamas that has launched thousands of rockets at Israel’s south, killing and terrorizing Israeli civilian men, women, and children. And this is the same Hamas that kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from inside Israel and has held him incommunicado in violation of international law for more than 4 years.

Mr. Barghouti says, though, that Hamas is willing to make peace with Israel. Here are some excerpts from the Hamas Charter:

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”

“There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.”

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

This doesn’t sound much like a peaceful organization to me. But isn’t it pretty to think so?


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Avatar for user 'jjs110'

jjs110 | September 22, 2010 at 10:20 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

I would like to commend Marjorie for her three excellent comments. Contrary to MarkW who spouts the usual empty slogans without bothering to do any research, she has done her homework and come up with evidence backing up every one of her statements. Mr. Barghouti did nothing of the sort, preferring to utter one lie after another, even if each one can be easily debunked, but that's precisely what he's counting on: very few people will have the intellectual integrity to check what he said, and depending on their inclinations, will either accept everything he said at face value or won't bother to check even if they have doubts. Which is why I want to get back to one of Mr. Barghouti's many lies: his calling Gaza a concentration camp was nothing short of obscene. Clearly Mr. Barghouti has no idea of what a real concentration camp is like. He has clearly not visited Auschwitz, Treblinka, Maidanek, Bergen-Belsen and countless other places where 6 millions Jews were physically eliminated. Such mass slaughter has not happened in Gaza, as the ludicrous comparison implies. As Marjorie started asking, if Gaza is a concentration camp, where are the furnaces? I would add: where are the bodies? Where are the mass graves? If Gaza is a concentration camp, why would Israel allow hundred of thousands of supplies in every week instead of letting the population slowly starve to death? Among the few Nazi concentration camps survivors, I am sure we could find a few who would have kissed the ground in gratefulness had they received then what Israel allows in Gaza today. The deliberate imagery used by Mr. Barghouti to amplify the alleged victimization of the Palestinians in Gaza is a brutal slap in the face of the Nazi camp victims and survivors, and a belittling of their very real suffering, as opposed to the unhappy situation the Palestinians find themselves in Gaza because of the choices they made themselves by electing Hamas. Maybe Mr. Barghouti was hoping to gain a few easy points with his grotesque comparison, but as far I am concerned (and I am sure quite a few KPBS listeners), I found that statement profoundly shocking, repugnant and contemptible. If he is willing to steep that low, anything else he said after that should be looked upon as most likely inaccurate. Which is precisely what Marjorie demonstrated with brio.

J.J. Surbeck

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Avatar for user 'tbzohar'

tbzohar | September 23, 2010 at 10:04 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

As you mentioned, Israeli Arabs are considered full citizens, and there is no difference legally or otherwise between them and any other ethnic or religious group. As you know there are both Muslim and Christian Arab citizens of Israel, which makes the Arab community diverse as well. Israel has enacted its own affirmative action programs during the 70s and 80s, achieving greater participation of Arab students and researchers from all walks of life.

To this very day, the academic affirmative action program is shaping the Israeli higher education face, achieving a much higher ratio of Arab students then their ratio in the Israeli general population. This successful affirmative action program led to a fantastic reality where in some cases the Arab professionals exceed their ratio of Jewish ones. As an example I would mention that certain hospitals, especially in the north and south of Israel, have achieved an almost equal number of Arab medical personnel (including physicians) as the Jewish. Universities all over Israel are full of Arab researchers and professors, and the business community is flourishing with Arab business owners. Contractors, Auto Shops, Restaurateurs, and financial professionals, are only a few of the more prominent ventures that are vastly held by Israeli Arab population.

From Nazareth in the north, to central Jaffa, Ramla, Lod, and Jerusalem, cities are not only displaying Arab integration and coexistence, but are latterly dominated by a thriving Israeli Arab population. As my own family is heavily residing around Haifa, I get to spend considerable time in and around that city. I can attest that during all my last visits most of our family celebrations and otherwise dinners out were held at Arab owned restaurants, located in the most lucrative places in the city. But the more important point is that most of the diners in almost all cases were Arab as well, so we are not talking of Arabs catering to the rich Israelis at all.

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Avatar for user 'tbzohar'

tbzohar | September 23, 2010 at 10:05 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

As an executive in one of the most prominent Insurance conglomerate in Israel - Clal Insurance - I've had the opportunity to work closely with hundreds of Arab insurance agents, Agencies, and off course Arab clients. I would frequently visit them, plan and present, and go out to sales and business meetings. I was almost a household resident with the largest Israeli Arab insurance agency - The Baranse Agency. From their offices in Nazareth and Jerusalem, Said and Walid Baranse ran a successful network of agents to such success that they became the national model for all agents and agencies Jewish included. The Baranses and their representatives joined all other qualifying agents on the company's incentive trips to Europe and the far east, and were awarded and honored with all of the others at the annual events and gala dinners.

As any other western nation, Israel has been in a constant struggle to enlarge its middle class, and improve its residents' standard of living. The standard of living in the Arab dominated cities that I mentioned is considerably higher then in Jewish towns such as Shderot, Yerucham, Migdal Haemek, Beth Shean, Etc'. The gap between urban and rural areas is no different within the Jewish or Arab communities, as it is around the globe. There is no restriction on Arab building and expansion with the proper authorization, so there is no request for "freezing" any Arab building in Israel. Considering the fact that Arabs all around this little state has been threatening Israel with elimination for decades, the Arab population in Israel is extremely well taken care off. Even though there is a much smaller ratio of tax payers in the Arab community, Arabs are eligible for social security benefits as every other Israeli is as well.

In summary, contrary to the general propaganda driven impression, Israeli Arabs are treated in Israel as equally as any population is treated across the free western civilization. Moreover, contrary to outside conceptions coexistence withing the Israeli borders is a daily reality, and dialogue it a natural way of life. As I mentioned many times before, the Israeli Palestinian conflict is not a result of the lack of interpersonal communication, but rather of a global Islamic agenda. On the personal level Israelis, Arabs, and Palestinians, are interlaced daily, and conduct business and social interaction regularly. This is why all direct peace talks have never succeeded and never will. We all know how to define "repeating the same behavier expecting different results".

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Avatar for user 'Marjorie'

Marjorie | September 23, 2010 at 5:50 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Also astonishing to me was Mr. Barghouti's statement that the U.S. does not give any money to the Palestinians. I quote from the Congressional Research Service report "U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians," dated January 8, 2010, which can be found at:

http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/137189.pdf

"Since the signing of the Oslo Accord in 1993 and the establishment of limited Palestinian selfrule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1994, the U.S. government has committed over $3.5 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians. Since the death of Yasser Arafat in November 2004, U.S. assistance to the Palestinians has been averaging about $400 million a year. During the 1990s, U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinians averaged approximately $75 million per year. Despite more robust levels of assistance this decade, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas’s heightened role in Palestinian politics have made it more difficult to implement effective and lasting aid projects that serve U.S. interests. . . . The United States has appropriated or reprogrammed nearly $2 billion since 2007 in support of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's security, governance, development, and reform programs, including $650 million for direct budgetary assistance to the PA and nearly $400 million (toward training, non-lethal equipment, facilities, strategic planning, and administration) for strengthening and reforming PA security forces and criminal justice systems in the West Bank."

It should be noted also that in 2009, the U.S. pledged $900 million to help rebuild Gaza.

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Avatar for user 'tbzohar'

tbzohar | September 24, 2010 at 9:23 a.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

My review of the current status of Israeli Arabs will not be complete without mentioning their participation in the defense effort. Started at the establishment of Israel in 1948, and emphasized after the 6 day war, various Israeli minority have been diligently serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. While it has been common knowledge that the Druz, Cherquesie, and Bedouin communities have been faithfully participating in Israel armed forces, forming battalions and brigades of their own, the Arab community's participation has been somewhat kept in the dark.

For decades a steady trickle of Israeli Arabs has been volunteering to serve in the military, some making it higher on the officers' ranks. Most of these volunteers are Christians from the prosperous cities I have mentioned in my review of the Israeli Arab status. Apparently quite a few of them agree with my assessment of their situation to the point of feeling obliged to give back and contribute to the Israeli society who embraces them as equal brothers. However, a new phenomenon is reaching the global media, and general awareness. Muslim Israeli Arabs are starting to realize that they should be making the ultimate contribution to the state that gives them so much, and they chose to volunteer. One case, who is featured in the following Ynet correspondence, has made this decision, and took it the furthest. No special terms, no unique minority unit, but rather the most famous Infantry 51st batalion of Golani. here's what he said:

"Some friends were shocked and others asked me why I would waste three years of my life, but I explained to them that I live in a country where if you want to receive you also have to give," he said. Horani did not settle for "regular" service in one of the units staffed by minority groups, but rather from the start he went for one of the units that most strongly represents the IDF's character: Golani's 51st Battalion.

"At first it was weird. I was asked over and over about my decision, but at no point did I feel any racism," Horani explained. "I am enjoying every minute with the gang. I completed basic training and the company commander's course with honors, and even during my toughest moments, after my mom passed away, I chose to shorten my time at home and go back to being with my friends in the unit."

Here's the full article on Ynet: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3959339,00.html

As to the treating of Arabs in Israel, Horani has been invited to represent his "Jewish" Golani 51st battalion at the chief of staff Hanukkah, an event that mearly a few distinguished soldiers have had the privilege to attend. Can't see that happening to a Jew in any Arab Muslim country. Can you?

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Avatar for user 'Marjorie'

Marjorie | September 24, 2010 at 9:17 p.m. ― 3 years, 6 months ago

Yes. The first female Arab combat soldier to serve in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has been in the news lately also (http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/Up_Close/10/07/2601.htm). A June 2008 Harvard University poll indicated that Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world (http://netwmd.com/blog/2008/06/23/2466). See also "Why Israeli Arabs Don't Want to Live in a PA State" (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/137281). They know for sure that life for them is considerably better in Israel than it would be in any other Middle Eastern country.

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