Unfit to Print? - Part One
For every Letter to the Editor that "gets in," many don't. And often it is the most direct and outspoken and truthful that seems to be rejected. Here is a selection from this year. Happy reading!
Nov. 27 to the Boston Globe
Kudos to James Carroll on the settlements that have been found to be stolen from Palestinian private land.. It is important to know that for forty years the United States government has not believed any settlements to be legal, whether or not they have been built on private Palestinian land.
And Larry Derfner, veteran Israeli columnist for The Jerusalem Post, recently writes (on Nov. 22) that '"while there are important differences between the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the former apartheid regime of South Africa, after 39 years of occupation the similarities have come to outweigh the differences. The Palestinian majority in the West Bank lives under the harsh, frequently brutal rule of the Israeli army, while Jewish settlers are the lords of the land."
It is a shame that conservatives among Americans are in league with so many conservatives among Israelis in denial about this. Derfner also recently notes in The Jerusalem Post (on Nov. 18) that before our recent elections "the red states were riding tall in America, and Israel was redder than any of them."
We all can and indeed should support Israel, its right to exist, and especially relevantly and recently to defend itself -- and yet still oppose the scandalous injustice of the 40-year Occupation and 450,000 illegal Israeli settlers, just as we can also love our own country here a thousand percent and yet -- just because we do love her so much -- all the more strongly oppose neo-conservatism and the Iraq War scandal and tragedy into which this ideology has led us.
Nov. 26. To the Jerusalem Post. Saul Singer is the Editor of the Editorial
Page, and urged the US to attack Iran.
With all the due respect I deeply hold for Saul Singer, two questions have to be asked about the speech he wants President Bush to make:
First, if Singer does believe that the Iraq War has harmed the US and almost sunk the Bush presidency, how can he believe the US could be helped and the Bush presidency saved by its entrance into yet another war-- this time against its neighbor three times larger?
Second, to the degree some Israelis are concerned that a nuclear Iran could soon attack Israel (a concern that others, such as Larry Derfner, do not seem as much to share), then, before calling on the US to sacrifice incomparably more in yet another war, why Israel shouldn't first take those measures that are proportionate to the degree of its own concerns in order to obtain for itself peace and security?
For example: Israel could (1) negotiate with Syria; (2) negotiate for comprehensive security and peace using as its starting basis the standing Arab League offer of recognition of Israel and normal relations and peace; (3) as part of these negotiations agree to withdraw most of its settlers and occupation back to the approximate, territorially equivalent, and mutually adjusted 1967 border.
Ironically, those who seem less worried about Iran (such as Derfner) want Israel to take the steps it needs to bring it peace and security; but those who seem more worried (such as Singer and Glick) do not want Israel to this, and instead prefer to ask the United States to enter a war.
Nov. 20th. To the Jerusalem Post.
To the Editor of the Post;
In this fearful world of Iran, and Hezbollah and Hamas, and Islamism, your fine editorial, "Tell the truth about peace" drives home the fact that what is "fundamental [is] whether the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world are willing to give up their desire to destroy Israel itself."
But something appears conspicuously absent from your assessment. All of this time, the Arab League has left upon the table a peace offer that includes recognition of Israel, normalization of relations, and peace. The starting form of this offer (as with most bargaining) has some unacceptable elements, but it would still be a platform on which to begin a process of bargaining that could make it acceptable to both sides. If we are to tell the truth about peace, this process could lead to the essential feature your editorial correctly asks for -- recognition of Israel as Jewish state.
Also, in this fearful world, such a negotiating platform, as well as the hoped-for result of an agreement for recognition and peace, could leave the extremist world -- Arab groups like Hamas, neighbors of the Arab world like Iran, and even Islamist groups like Al Qaeda with much less (popular or credible) room to maneuver. For the same reason the more optimistic international atmosphere would undercut the extremists' popular appeal on the Islamic streets.
But the fact that your editorial doesn't even mention this makes me worried that Israel may even be as afraid of peace as some of its neighbors are. That Israel may prefer "the devil it knows" including conflict, the Iranian threat, Hamas and Hezbollah, al Qaeda, and the common "war on terror" with the United States -- to the "devil" it doesn't yet know, including recognition, peace, but also less of a common bond against an external threat and less world (including American) attention that would come from the permanent elimination of the chronic crisis atmosphere.
Does your editorial suggest a little soul-searching could be in order about what it is Israel really and truly wants? I truly understand and sympathize with Israel's past disappointments about peace and its present fears, tiny and besieged as it is on all sides by hostility. But I also hope it wants so much that it is willing to work for true relief from all this crisis and danger -- for recognition, permanent normal relations, the lack of a constant crisis atmosphere, and peace.
Nov. 19. To the Jerusalem Post. Letter-writers claim that Britain betrayed
the Zionists by not giving them Jordan too.
Re: Bernard Smith and William Mehlman's letter on the Balfour Resolution and the British Mandate.
The Mandate system was established under the League of Nations, Article 22. It begins:
To those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war [First World War] have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world, there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilization and that securities for the performance of this trust should be embodied in this Covenant. The best method of giving practical effect to this principle is that the tutelage of such peoples should be entrusted to advanced nations who by reason of their resources, their experience or their geographical position can best undertake this responsibility, and who are willing to accept it, and that this tutelage should be exercised by them as Mandatories on behalf of the League.
These "colonies and territories" included Palestine. They were "inhabited by peoples," including the Palestinians-- who were around 90% of it.
Why shouldn't the world believe that the League's Mandatory System's "sacred trust" to the Palestinian people for their "well-being and development," by inserting into this "sacred trust" the Balfour Resolution intended to overlay them by another people, was nothing less than categorically betrayed? Where is there faithfulness to the trust? Where is there the lack of categorical betrayal?
In the same column Joseph Gottfried writes of Israel's need for a bureau for "ideological warfare." Is it any wonder that it needs it?
Israelis do, definitely, have the right to be there now, but it can only be for other reasons, or for the more simple fact that they are now there, unless I have missed something (which is possible) about this treacherous history.
Nov 10. Caroline Glick is a right-wing extremist columnist and Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post. She called the fact that 87% of American Jews voted for the Democrats in the last election "capitulation." Recently she wrote me with this incredibly crude sarcasm about the American Jews, who voted so overwhelmingly Democratic:
You're right, abortion on demand is more important that preventing another holocaust. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm so glad you set me straight. Best, Caroline
Nov. 17. To the Jerusalem Post
Caroline Glick's recent columns seem extreme to me, although it is clear that other fine people and journalists, such as David Horovitz, and at the GA at Los Angeles, share her urgent concern over Iran, so that she is by no means alone.
But if the situation is as close to impending genocide as some fear, wouldn't one main preventive course be an active peace plan and active negotiations?
Could Iran be as outspokenly bellicose if Israel accepted its chief ally Syria's call to negotiate and was in active negotiations with Syria? Could it be as actively bellicose in an atmosphere in which Israel accepted the Arab League Plan, not "in Toto" --that is, not the exact 1967 boundaries, not refugee return-- but as the basis for negotiations? Could Iran act as militaristic if Israel accepted the new Spanish-French offer as at least worth looking into? If Israel said it wanted to consider the Geneva Accords, again not in Toto but as the basis for negotiations?
All this rejectionism gives the green light to Iran to act in a pessimistic world atmosphere of impunity, the same pessimistic world atmosphere in which Islamism flourishes. David Horovitz says that Islamists are hardly "motivated by a sense of grievance for the Palestinians," this to me this doesn't take into account that in an Islamic world in which Israel is (however unjustly) *perceived* as rejectionist and expansionist and worse in "the heart of the Islamic world", then Islamic fundamentalism will continue to spread, and hence-- irrespective of specific motives -- attract converts, who will then buy into the whole Islamist package.
For those who think Israel mistakenly withdrew from Gaza in a security crisis, consider the international atmosphere and symbolism it would be stuck in while still occupying it-- and how much more crippled it would be in its range of responses to Iran. It is because of the withdrawal from Gaza that Israel is no longer widely considered a "pariah state," and with all the international good will for it that this implies.
In the same way, Israel's more active receptiveness to others' peace and negotiation ideas would create an even more optimistic and friendly international -- including regional -- atmosphere-- in which Iran and Islamism would both find themselves increasingly less relevant, and discover it to be increasingly harder to operate.
I had much hope for Israel during the period of withdrawal from Gaza, but that hope is sadly disappearing. Israeli racism, as will be apparently discussed in Ilan Pappe's upcoming book "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" continues with Lieberman's proposal to cede Israeli Arab lands. Where have we heard this before? South Africa, of course, would have been delighted to cede its Bantustans, or Soweto if it could have, its black areas, and tried to, but the international community saw through the racism in spades and held firm.
There seems to be a notion around that only, as a letter writer put it crudely, "politically correct BS" is the only basis for opposition to Lieberman's plans. Here it cannot be more emphasized that "politically correct BS" is just another term for "civilized values," for civilization itself, and "politically correct BS" is what protects us all from racism and oppression.
The basis for the world's (including my) deep and heartfelt opposition to Ahmadinejad wish to "wipe Israel off the map" is, after all, and can only be, precisely the same "politically correct BS" on which is based the opposition to Lieberman's racism and bigotry -the nonracist, nonbigoted, and non-sectarian values of humane civilization.
"Politically correct BS" is, our absolutely only protection, civilization's absolutely only protection, against the descent down that unethical pit which has no knowable bottom.
If Israel truly wanted peace it would continue withdrawing the 450,000 settlers. During the 1990-2000 Oslo period when Israel allegedly strove for peace, the number of its settlers in the 20% residue of Palestinian land remaining to the Palestinians - was doubled. If Israel truly wanted peace it accept the Arab League's Peace Plan. If Israel truly wanted peace it would do what the Arab League has done with its peace plan and kept its own Barak plan alive and on the table. If Israel truly wanted peace it would not continue to expand and during the heights of peace processes double the number of its settlers.
Why should Lebanon be criticized for not eliminating the Hezbollah Movement, or the Palestinians for not eliminating the Hamas Movement, if Israel cannot eliminate revisionist-Zionism and Greater Israel ideology, as enshrined for example in the Likud platform, that wants to "wipe Palestine off the map," and is embodied and epitomized in the Settler Movement? This expansionism and racism are a cancer on Israel.
To turn a phrase, Israel has become "The Only Colonizer In The Middle East."
And Lieberman reflects (and it seems Prime Minister Olmert, as Tom Segev writes in Ha'aretz, is returning to) those most overt and worst racist and colonial instincts.
I am deeply saddened personally to feel, and also saddened to realize the world has also deep grounds for feeling, increasingly grave disillusionment.
Look for Part Two of "Unfit to Print?" in the December 11th edition of HSC.
(Please include your name so that we may publish your remarks.)
Articles may be quoted or republished in full with attribution
to the author and harvardsquarecommentary.org.