Israeli government punishes critical diplomat

This video from AfriSynergy in the USA says about itself:

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has summoned a US-based Israeli diplomat over a leaked memo in which he criticized his government.

Israel’s Consul-General in Boston Nadav Tamir will arrive in Jerusalem next week and clarify his remarks in a meeting with the Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

From the (pro Rightist government coalition) Jerusalem Post in Israel:

Aug 6, 2009 22:29 | Updated Aug 9, 2009 0:56

FM [Avigdor Lieberman] fumes over Boston consul’s remarks


Israel’s consul-general in New England has been summoned home to “clarify” a letter he wrote to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman blasting Israeli policy toward the Obama administration.

According to a senior Foreign Ministry official, Nadav Tamir, consul in Boston, “is one of our best and smartest, so this is embarrassing to the whole ministry.”

According to Channel 10, to which Tamir’s letter was leaked last week, the diplomat’s criticism was severe, including an allegation that Israeli policy toward the Obama administration was being developed not to serve Israel’s interests, but those of Obama’s domestic opponents.

Obama’s domestic opponents, by the way, include anti-Semites.

“There are people in the US and Israeli politics who ideologically oppose [US President Barack] Obama, and are willing to sacrifice the special relationship between the two countries in order to advance their political agenda,” Tamir was quoted as writing in the blunt three-page letter.

Titled “Sad passing thoughts on Israeli-US relations,” Tamir’s comments were “out of bounds” for a serving diplomat, said Foreign Ministry officials. …

Tamir outlined in the letter what he saw as a “damaging” policy by the current government.

“The way in which we are conducting the relationship with the US government is causing Israel strategic damage. The distance created between us and the Obama administration has clear implications on Israeli deterrence,” Channel 10 quoted from the letter.

The perception of a conflict between Israel and the Obama administration was harming American public support for Israel, Tamir insisted, saying this caused Israel more damage than the Second Lebanon War or Operation Cast Lead.

He blamed the deterioration of ties on narrow political considerations among some Israelis and Americans, who were using Israeli policy to harm the Obama administration, then took the government to task for making US-Israeli differences public at a time when Washington was trying to downplay them.

“There have always been differences in the stances of the two countries, but the governments were careful to make sure they were coordinated,” he reportedly wrote.

According to Tamir, many in the US were now lumping Israel together with Iran and North Korea as wayward governments that Obama had to deal with.

The current situation, he said, is hurting American Jewry as well.

“The atmosphere of confrontation between the Israeli government and the Obama administration puts the American-Jewish community, which is so important to us, in a difficult position,” he wrote. “Many of them are distancing themselves from the State of Israel because of this conflict.”

Avigdor Lieberman calls for Israeli diplomat to quit over US ties warning: here.

Israel and Lebanon update: here.

Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of Tel Aviv to demonstrate against Israel’s “revolving-door policy” on migrant workers: here.

Interview with Itamar Broderson, young (critical) Meretz party member: here.

Brussels, 19 November 2009 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has today condemned the decision of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to expand the Gilo settlement south of Jerusalem, on land annexed by Israel in 1967, as illegal and a further threat to prospects for peace. Widespread international criticism has followed the announcement that a further 900 dwellings will be built at the settlement: here.

Netanyahu’s weakness for Jewish heritage costs lives: here.

There was no report on the meeting Tuesday between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Neither was an official handshake staged, let alone a press conference: here.

8 thoughts on “Israeli government punishes critical diplomat

  1. Jewish leaders in Boston defend dissident Israeli consul amid uproar

    James F. Smith/E.B. Solomont – Boston Globe/Jerusalem Post – Nadav Tamir, Israeli consul in Boston, aroused a storm with his confidential memo accusing the Netanyhau government of “causing strategic damage” in its handling of relations with the US and eroding American public support for Israel – for which Foreign Minister Lieberman asked him to resign.


  2. Left, right-wing camps demonstrate on J`lem building issue
    Ronen Medzini – Ynet News – The anti-settler Peace Now demonstration opposite the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem was countered by some right-wingers, among them Knesset members. The occasion: US Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee`s visit to the disputed east Jerusalem building site.

    My son won’t be a combat soldier!
    Amos Doron – Yediot Aharonot – The IDF has ceased to be the people`s army, located at the heart of the national consensus, and has become the exclusive preserve of specific sectors. I am not willing to see my son carry out police duties among a civilian population and be exposed thereby to derision and humiliation from groups of lawless settlers. I am no longer willing to put my own child at risk while thousands of yeshiva students of his age are avoiding service legally and openly.


  3. Uri Avnery

    The Bogie Horror Show

    MY FIRST thought was: Good God, this man was responsible for the lives of our soldiers!

    The second thought was: What?s the big surprise? You always knew what kind of person he was! After all, during his years as the army?s Chief of Staff he quietly supported the setting up of ?illegal? settlement outposts all over the West Bank!

    The third thought: And this person is now Vice Prime Minister and a member of the ?Sextet? ? the six ministers who constitute the real government of Israel.

    THE OCCASION for these frightening thoughts was the participation of Moshe (?Bogie?) Ya?alon in a gathering of the Jewish Leadership Faction. ?Peace Now is a virus,? he said there. And not only they. ?All the media? are also a virus. They influence the public discourse ?in a distorted manner, a lying manner?. The virus also includes ?the elite? in general.

    In addition, the ?politicians? are to blame. ?Every time the politicians bring in the dove of peace, we, the army, have to clean up after it.?

    His summing up: ?The Jews have a right to settle in any place throughout Eretz Israel.? And if this upsets the Americans, Ya?alon has a ready answer: ?I am not afraid of the Americans!?

    All this was said a few days after Ya?alon paid a well publicized visit to the occupied territories, accompanied by Shas leader Eli Yishai and several other ministers of the extreme Right. This band visited the settlement outposts, which the Israeli government long ago promised the Americans to dismantle, and expressed total opposition to their evacuation. They concluded their visit in Homesh, the West Bank settlement evacuated by Ariel Sharon in the course of the ?disengagement?. Ya?alon demanded the resettlement of the place.

    THESE TONES come together in a frightening melody, a tune we know all too well. It is anthem of fascism.

    First: the term ?elite?. In the jargon of the Israeli extreme Right, this includes everybody they hate: the intellectuals, the universities, the liberal politicians, the Supreme Court, the media.

    The term is rooted in the Latin verb ?eligere?, to pick out, meaning the best, the select. Since this is an undefined body, the term can be applied to different targets. When the demagogues address the Oriental Jewish masses, ?the elite? clearly consists of the Ashkenazis who rule the country. When addressing the religious community, ?the elite? consist of the secular, the atheist, who are strangers to Jewish Tradition. When addressing the Russian immigrants, ?the elite? consists of the old established Israelis, the native born, who obstruct the path of the new immigrants.

    When one bundles all these together, there emerges a picture of ?them? and ?us?. ?Them? ? the handful of arrogant old-timers, who occupy all the key positions in the state, and ?us? ? the simple, honest people, the patriots, the keepers of tradition, the discriminated against, the oppressed.

    Every fascist group in the world entertains such a view of ?the elite?.

    (Never mind that Ya?alon, like most of the other demagogues, himself belongs to the elite. He was born in the country, an Ashkenazi of Ukrainian descent. His original name was Smilansky. He is still officially a member of an ?elitist? kibbutz and belongs to the super-privileged senior officers? corps.)

    Second: The traitors. There is an enemy within. This is no less dangerous than the foreign enemy, indeed, much more dangerous. When Ya?alon speaks about Peace Now, he means all the peace camp, the liberal and secular section of society. That is the Fifth Column, the Trojan horse within the walls. They have to be eliminated, before one can turn to fight the foreign foe.

    Third: The ?politicians?. The demagogues are, of course, themselves politicians, but they exclude themselves here. Ya?alon paints a picture of ?the politicians? who bring in a disgusting peace dove, whose excrement the army has to clean up.

    The knavish, scheming, cowardly politicians on the one side, the clean-cut, heroic, loyal army on the other ? that is a very familiar picture. The best known example was current in Germany after World War I. The ?knife in the back? legend was a stepping stone to power for Adolf Hitler: the German army stood up to the enemy and had victory in its sights, when ?the politicians?, the Jews, the socialists and the other ?November criminals? stuck a knife in the back of the heroic fighters.

    The peace dove leaves its droppings and the soldiers are compelled to clean up the filth of peace.

    And also: ?All the media?. That is one of the marks of fascism in Israel and throughout the world. The media are always ?leftist?, ?anti-national?, they are the ?hostile media?. The journalists and broadcasters are a secret league of Israel-bashers, who spread lies and distort reality in order to undermine national morale, defame the army, besmirch our national values and give comfort to the enemy.

    Reality is, of course, very, very different. The Israeli media slavishly repeat the official propaganda in all national and security matters. They are conformist to a high degree and mobilized from wall to wall. There is not a single leftist newspaper in the country. Most political correspondents repeat like parrots the statements of ?official sources?; almost all the correspondents for Arab affairs are former army intelligence officers; and almost all military correspondents serve as unofficial army spokesmen. In the news pages and news programs, right-wing terminology reigns supreme. But because in less important matters the media criticize the government, as they are duty-bound to do in a democratic society, it is easy to portray them as ?leftist? and subversive. The same is true for academia.

    And finally: The ?virus?. The description of political opponents as infectious agents or disgusting vermin is one of the most distinguishing features of the extreme Right. It is sufficient to remember Dr. Joseph Goebbels? film ?The Eternal Jew?, in which the Jews were shown as rats spreading disease.

    If one puts all these features together – the hatred of ?the elite?, the glorification of the army, the contempt for ?the politicians?, the demonization of the peace camp, the incitement against the media ? it?s the ugly face of fascism that emerges. Here in Israel and all over the world.

    NO LESS important are the location and the company.

    Ya?alon spoke at a gathering of the ?Jewish Leadership Faction?. This is a group of ultra-ultra rightists, who entered the Likud with the declared objective of conquering it from within. It is headed by one Moshe Feiglin, hence its followers are usually called ?the Feiglins?.

    On the eve of the last elections, Binyamin Netanyahu made an all-out effort, using kosher and not-so-kosher means, to remove Feiglin from the Likud?s list of candidates. He was determined to avoid the Likud being presented as an extreme-Right party. The Likud?s main competitor, Kadima, defined itself as a center or moderate-rightist party and tried very hard to push Netanyahu to the right. Netanyahu thought that by driving the Feiglins out he could blunt this attack.

    The question is whether this was his only aim. If so, why did he raise Benny Begin, a person who personifies the far-right, into a conspicuous place on the list? And why did he enlist and embrace Moshe Ya?alon, who was already known as a person of extreme rightist views? That embrace was very costly, since in the end Kadima, against all expectations, won one seat more than the Likud.

    But Netanyahu, a born politician, had more than one objective in mind. He was afraid that Feiglin would one day threaten his hold on the Likud leadership. To forestall this possibility, he denied Feiglin a seat in the Knesset.

    And here comes Ya?alon, Netanyahu?s pampered protégé, and joins Feiglin of all people. As the Hebrew saying goes, the swallow went to visit the crow. But it is not quite clear who is the swallow and who the crow. Is Feiglin using Ya?alon ? or is Ya?alon intending to use Feiglin in order to position himself as the leader of a big extreme-Right camp?

    ONE SHOULD also pay attention to Ya?alon?s declaration that ?I am not afraid of the Americans?. The Americans demand the freezing of the settlements? To hell with them! Who do they think they are? What, these Goyim are ordering us around? Barack Obama wants to tell us where we can settle and where we can?t?

    That is another feature of the emerging Israeli fascism: the readiness to engage in an open confrontation with the United States, and especially with President Obama. Already an Israeli campaign against ?Barack Saddam Hussein?, the New Hitler, is in full swing. The American Right and the Israeli Right easily find a common language. An Israeli woman in the US is heading the well publicized effort to prove that Obama was not born in the US, that his father never was a US citizen, and that he should therefore be driven out of the White House.

    The whole thing borders on madness. Israel is dependent on the US for practically everything: economic assistance, arms, intelligence cooperation, diplomatic support like the veto in the Security Council. Netanyahu is trying to avoid a confrontation by using every trick of deceit and diversion. And here come Ya?alon & Co. and call for an open revolt against the USA!

    There is method in this madness. The Israeli education system glorifies the Zealots, who some 1940 years ago declared war on the Roman Empire. The Zealots became the leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine and launched a revolt that had no chance at all of succeeding. The rebels were defeated, Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple was burned to the ground.

    THE BOGIE HORROR SHOW has wider ramifications.

    It presents a picture of a mad group of extremists challenging the moderate, responsible Netanyahu. Netanyahu signals to Obama and his people: Help! If you pressure me on the freezing of the settlements and the dismantling of the outposts, it will be the end of me! My government will fall, and you will have to deal with the crazies!

    That would be more convincing, if Netanyahu had used his legal prerogative and dismissed Ya?alon from the government, even though that represents a political risk. Instead, ?Bibi? summoned ?Bogie?, like a headmaster who summons a boy and orders him to write a hundred times ?I shall be a good boy?. So Ya?alon remains Vice Prime Minister, Minister in Charge of Strategic Affairs and a member of the governing Sextet of Ministers (the others being Avigdor Lieberman, Benny Begin, Eli Yishai, Dan Meridor and Binyamin Netanyahu himself.)

    This being so, Netanyahu cannot evade responsibility for everything Ya?alon does and says.



  4. Uri Avnery

    Tutu’s Prayer

    HOW MUCH did the boycott of South Africa actually contribute to the fall of the racist regime? This week I talked with Desmond Tutu about this question, which has been on my mind for a long time.

    No one is better qualified to answer this question than he. Tutu, the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel prize laureate, was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and, later, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the crimes of the regime. This week he visited Israel with the “Elders”, an organization of elder statesmen from all over the world set up by Nelson Mandela.

    The matter of the boycott came up again this week after an article by Dr. Neve Gordon appeared in the Los Angeles Times, calling for a world-wide boycott of Israel. He cited the example of South Africa to show how a world-wide boycott could compel Israel to put an end to the occupation, which he compared to the apartheid regime.

    I have known and respected Neve Gordon for many years. Before becoming a lecturer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, he organized many demonstrations against the Separation Wall in the Jerusalem area, in which I, too, took part.

    I am sorry that I cannot agree with him this time – neither about the similarity with South Africa nor about the efficacy of a boycott of Israel.

    There are several opinions about the contribution of the boycott to the success of the anti-apartheid struggle. According to one view, it was decisive. Another view claims its impact was marginal. Some believe that it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that was the decisive factor. After that, the US and its allies no longer had any reason for support the regime in South Africa, which until then had been viewed as a pillar of the world-wide struggle against Communism.

    “THE BOYCOTT was immensely important,” Tutu told me. “Much more than the armed struggle.”

    It should be remembered that, unlike Mandela, Tutu was an advocate of non-violent struggle. During the 28 years Mandela languished in prison, he could have walked free at any moment, if he had only agreed to sign a statement condemning “terrorism”. He refused.

    “The importance of the boycott was not only economic,” the archbishop explained, “but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard. But the main thing was that it gave us the feeling that we are not alone, that the whole world is with us. That gave us the strength to continue.”

    To show the importance of the boycott he told me the following story: In 1989, the moderate white leader, Frederic Willem de Klerk, was elected President of South Africa. Upon assuming office he declared his intention to set up a multiracial regime. “I called to congratulate him, and the first thing he said was: Will you now call off the boycott?”

    IT SEEMS to me that Tutu’s answer emphasizes the huge difference between the South African reality at the time and ours today.

    The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority. Among a general population of almost 50 million, the Whites amounted to less than 10%. That means that more than 90% of the country’s inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them, too.

    In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80% of Israel’s citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60% throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9% of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.

    They will not feel the “the whole world is with us”, but rather that “the whole world is against us”.

    In South Africa, the world-wide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle. The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite: it would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right and create a fortress mentality against the “anti-Semitic world”. (The boycott would, of course, have a different impact on the Palestinians, but that is not the aim of those who advocate it.)

    Peoples are not the same everywhere. It seems that the Blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief, and that was also in tune with the Jewish Biblical promise: “Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

    I told the bishop that I admire not only the leaders who chose this path but also the people who accepted it.

    ONE OF the profound differences between the two conflicts concerns the Holocaust.

    Centuries of pogroms have imprinted on the consciousness of the Jews the conviction that the whole world is out to get them. This belief was reinforced a hundredfold by the Holocaust. Every Jewish Israeli child learns in school that “the entire world was silent” when the six million were murdered. This belief is anchored in the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. Even when it is dormant, it is easy to arouse it.

    (That is the conviction which made it possible for Avigdor Lieberman, last week, to accuse the entire Swedish nation of cooperating with the Nazis, because of one idiotic article in a Swedish tabloid.)

    It may well be that the Jewish conviction that “the whole world is against us” is irrational. But in the life of nations, as indeed in the life of individuals, it is irrational to ignore the irrational.

    The Holocaust will have a decisive impact on any call for a boycott of Israel. The leaders of the racist regime in South Africa openly sympathized with the Nazis and were even interned for this in World War II. Apartheid was based on the same racist theories as inspired Adolf Hitler. It was easy to get the civilized world to boycott such a disgusting regime. The Israelis, on the other hand, are seen as the victims of Nazism. The call for a boycott will remind many people around the world of the Nazi slogan “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” – don’t buy from Jews.

    That does not apply to every kind of boycott. Some 11 years ago, the Gush Shalom movement, in which I am active, called for a boycott of the product of the settlements. Its intention was to separate the settlers from the Israeli public, and to show that there are two kinds of Israelis. The boycott was designed to strengthen those Israelis who oppose the occupation, without becoming anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. Since then, the European Union has been working hard to close the gates of the EU to the products of the settlers, and almost nobody has accused it of anti-Semitism.

    ONE OF the main battlefields in our fight for peace is Israeli public opinion. Most Israelis believe nowadays that peace is desirable but impossible (because of the Arabs, of course.) We must convince them not that peace would be good for Israel, but that it is realistically achievable.

    When the archbishop asked what we, the Israeli peace activists, are hoping for, I told him: We hope for Barack Obama to publish a comprehensive and detailed peace plan and to use the full persuasive power of the United States to convince the parties to accept it. We hope that the entire world will rally behind this endeavor. And we hope that this will help to set the Israeli peace movement back on its feet and convince our public that it is both possible and worthwhile to follow the path of peace with Palestine.

    No one who entertains this hope can support the call for boycotting Israel. Those who call for a boycott act out of despair. And that is the root of the matter.

    Neve Gordon and his partners in this effort have despaired of the Israelis. They have reached the conclusion that there is no chance of changing Israeli public opinion. According to them, no salvation will come from within. One must ignore the Israeli public and concentrate on mobilizing the world against the State of Israel. (Some of them believe anyhow that the State of Israel should be dismantled and replaced by a bi-national state.)

    I do not share either view – neither the despair of the Israeli people, to which I belong, nor the hope that the world will stand up and compel Israel to change its ways against its will. For this to happen, the boycott must gather world-wide momentum, the US must join it, the Israeli economy must collapse and the morale of the Israeli public must break.

    How long will this take? Twenty Years? Fifty years? Forever?

    I AM afraid that this is an example of a faulty diagnosis leading to faulty treatment. To be precise: the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles the South African experience leads to a mistaken choice of strategy.

    True, the Israeli occupation and the South African apartheid system have certain similar characteristics. In the West Bank, there are roads “for Israelis only”. But the Israeli policy is not based on race theories, but on a national conflict. A small but significant example: in South Africa, a white man and a black woman (or the other way round) could not marry, and sexual relations between them were a crime. In Israel there is no such prohibition. On the other hand, an Arab Israeli citizen who marries an Arab woman from the occupied territories (or the other way round) cannot bring his or her spouse to Israel. The reason: safeguarding the Jewish majority in Israel. Both cases are reprehensible, but basically different.

    In South Africa there was total agreement between the two sides about the unity of the country. The struggle was about the regime. Both Whites and Blacks considered themselves South Africans and were determined to keep the country intact. The Whites did not want partition, and indeed could not want it, because their economy was based on the labor of the Blacks.

    In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common – not a common national feeling, not a common religion, not a common culture and not a common language. The vast majority of the Israelis want a Jewish (or Hebrew) state. The vast majority of the Palestinians want a Palestinian (or Islamic) state. Israel is not dependent on Palestinian workers – on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the working place. Because of this, there is now a world-wide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel.

    In short: the two conflicts are fundamentally different. Therefore, the methods of struggle, too, must necessarily be different.

    BACK TO the archbishop, an attractive person whom it is impossible not to like on sight. He told me that he prays frequently, and that his favorite prayer goes like this (I quote from memory):

    “Dear God, when I am wrong, please make me willing to see my mistake. And when I am right – please make me tolerable to live with.”



  5. Uri Avnery

    The Boycott Revisited

    THE PEOPLE of Sodom, the Bible tells us, were very wicked indeed.

    They had a nasty habit of putting every passing stranger into one particular bed. If the stranger was too tall, his legs were shortened. If he was too short, his body was stretched to the required length.

    In a way, each of us has such a bed, into which we put everything new. Confronted with a novel situation, we tend to equate it with a situation we have known in the past.

    In politics, this method is especially pervasive. It relieves us of the irksome necessity of studying an unfamiliar situation and drawing new conclusions.

    Once, the pattern of Vietnam was applied to every struggle around the world ? from Argentina to North Korea. Nowadays, the fashion points to South Africa. Everything resembles the struggle against apartheid, unless proven otherwise.

    SINCE SENDING out last week?s article, “Tutu?s Prayer”, I have been flooded with responses, some laudatory, some abusive, some thoughtful, some merely angry.

    Generally, I don?t argue with my esteemed readers. I don?t want to impose my views, I just want to provide food for thought and leave it to the reader to form his or her own opinion.

    This time I feel that I owe it to my readers to clear up some of the points I was trying to make and answer some of the objections. So here we go.

    I HAVE no argument with people who hate Israel. That?s entirely their right. I just don?t think that we have any common ground for discussion.

    I would only like to point out that hatred is a very bad advisor. Hatred leads nowhere, but to more hatred. That, by the way, is a positive lesson we can draw from the South African experience. There they overcame hatred to a remarkable extent, largely thanks to the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” headed by Archbishop Tutu, where people admitted their past offenses.

    One thing is certain: hatred does not lead towards peace. Let me be quite explicit about this, because I sense that some people, in their righteous indignation over Israel?s occupation, have lost sight of this.

    Peace is made between enemies, after war, in which awful things invariably happen. Peace can be made and maintained between peoples who are prepared to live with each other, respect each other, recognize the humanity of each other. They don?t have to love each other.

    Describing the other side as monsters may be useful in waging war, but singularly unhelpful in waging peace.

    When I receive a missive that is dripping with hatred of Israel, that portrays all Israelis (including myself, of course) as monsters, I fail to envision how the writer imagines peace. Peace with monsters? Angels and monsters living side by side in peace and harmony in one state, hating each other?s guts?

    The view of Israel as a monolithic entity composed of racists and brutal oppressors is a caricature. Israel is a complex society, struggling with itself. The forces of good and evil, and many in between, are locked in a daily battle on many different fronts. The settlers and their supporters are strong, perhaps getting stronger (though I doubt it), but are far ? even in their own view – from a decisive victory. Neve Gordon, for example, has been left unmolested in his post at Ben-Gurion University, because any attempt to remove him would have caused a public outcry.

    I ALSO have no argument with those who want to abolish the State of Israel. It is as much their right to aspire to that as it is my right to want to dismantle, let?s say, the USA or France, neither of which has an unblemished past.

    Reading some of the messages sent to me and trying to analyze their contents, I get the feeling they are not so much about a boycott on Israel as about the very existence of Israel. Some of the writers obviously believe that the creation of the State of Israel was a terrible mistake to start with, and therefore should be reversed. Turn the wheel of history back some 62 years and start anew.

    What really disturbs me about this is that almost nobody in the West comes out and says clearly: Israel must be abolished. Some of the proposals, like those for a “One State” solution, sound like euphemisms. If one believes that the State of Israel should be abolished and replaced by a State of Palestine or a State of Happiness ? why not say so openly?

    Of course, that does not mean peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine presupposes that Israel is there. Peace between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people presupposes that both peoples have a right to self-determination and agree to the peace. Does anyone really believe that racist monsters like us would agree to give up our state because of a boycott?

    The French and the Germans did not agree to live in one joint state, though the differences between them are incomparably smaller than those between Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians. Instead, they set up a European Union, composed of nation-states. Some 50 years ago I called for a similar Semitic Union, including Israel and Palestine. I still do.

    Anyway, there is no sense in arguing with those who pray for the disappearance of the sovereign State of Israel, rather than for the appearance of the sovereign State of Palestine at its side.

    THE REAL argument is among those who want to see peace between the two states, Israel and Palestine. The question is: how can it be achieved? This is an honest debate and is generally conducted in a civil manner. My debate with Neve Gordon is in this framework.

    The advocates of boycott believe that the main, indeed the only way to induce Israel to give up the occupied territories and agree to peace is to exert pressure from the outside.

    I have no quarrel with the idea of outside pressure. The question is: pressure on whom? On the government, the settlers and their supporters? Or on the entire Israeli people?

    The first answer is, I believe, the right one. That?s why I hope that President Barack Obama will publish a detailed peace plan with a fixed timetable and apply the immense powers of persuasion of the USA to get both sides to agree. I don?t think that this is politically possible without the support of a large part of Israeli society (and, by the way, of the US Jewish community).

    Some readers have lost all hope in Obama. That is, without doubt, premature. Obama has not surrendered to Binyamin Netanyahu ? indeed, it is quite conceivable that the opposite is happening. The struggle is on, it is a hard struggle against determined opposition, and we should do all we can to help Obama?s peace policy to prevail. We must do this as Israelis, from inside Israel, and thereby show that this is not a struggle of the US against Israel, but a joint struggle against the Israeli government and the settlers.

    It follows that any boycott must serve this purpose: to isolate the settlers and the individuals and institutions which openly support them, but not declare war on Israel and the Israeli people as such. In the 11 years since Gush Shalom declared a boycott of the products of the settlements, this process has been gaining momentum. We must laud the Norwegian decision, this week, to divest from the Israeli Elbit company because of their involvement with the “Separation Fence” that is being built on Palestinian land and whose main purposeis to annex occupied territories to Israel. This is a splendid example: a focused action against a specific target, based on a ruling of the International Court.

    I think that far more can be done by a concentrated national and international campaign. A central office should be set up to direct this effort throughout the world against clear and specific targets. Such an effort could be helped by world public opinion, which recoils from the idea of boycotting the State of Israel, and not only because of the memory of the Holocaust, but will identify itself with action against the occupation and the oppression.

    I have been asked about the Palestinian reaction to the boycott idea. At present, Palestinians do not boycott even the settlements, indeed it is Palestinian workers who are building almost all the houses there, out of economic necessity. Their feelings can only be guessed. All self-respecting Palestinians would, of course, support any effective measure directed against the occupation. But it would not be honest to dangle before their eyes the false hope that a world-wide boycott would bring Israel to its knees. The truth is that only the close cooperation of Palestinian, Israeli and international peace forces could generate the necessary momentum to end the occupation and achieve peace.

    This is especially important because our task in Israel today is not so much to convince the majority of Israelis that peace is good and the price acceptable, but first that peace is possible at all. Most Israelis have lost that hope, and its revival is absolutely vital on the way to peace.

    TO REMOVE any misconceptions about myself, let me state as clearly as possible where I stand:

    I am an Israeli.

    I am an Israeli patriot.

    I want my state to be democratic, secular, and liberal, ending the occupation and living at peace both with the free and sovereign State of Palestine that will come into being next to it, and with the entire Arab world.

    I want Israel to be a state belonging to all its citizens, without distinction of ethnic origin, gender, religion or language; with completely equal rights for all; a state in which the Hebrew-speaking majority will retain its close ties with the Jewish communities around the world, and the Arab-speaking citizens will be free to cherish their close ties with their Palestinian brothers and sisters and the Arab world at large.

    If this is racism, Zionism or worse ? so be it.



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