Henry Siegman is a friend. His family fled from Europe to America. He is a rabbi. He was a chaplain in the US Army during and in the Korean War. He was a "freedom rider" in Mississippi in the 1960s. He has long sought a just peace for Israel and the Palestinians. That is not surprising for he is one of the just. pl
Thoughtful and excellent piece.
Siegman warns, “If Barack Obama picks a seasoned Middle East envoy who clings to the idea that outsiders should not present their own proposals for a just and sustainable peace agreement, much less press the parties to accept it, but instead leave them to work out their differences, he will assure a future Palestinian resistance far more extreme than Hamas – one likely to be allied with al-Qaida. For the US, Europe and most of the rest of the world, this would be the worst possible outcome.”
Siegman hits the nail on the head, IMO.
This Siegman guy is good. And courageous.
The other thing we don’t hear about are the substantial natural gas deposits off the coast of Israel/Palestine discovered in 2000. 60 percent are in Gazan waters.
The PA did a deal with Egypt and British Gas.
I found several articles in Ha’aretz from 2007 on this matter.
Henry Siegman lays out in concise, plain words the truth about Gaza – not only the Israeli invasion but also the events leading up to it. He also says, “I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this [the Israeli] version of events”. The same applies to almost all minor media outlets as well as expert commentary.
The questions that arise, then, are: Given that, how many policy makers in the new administration know what really has been going on? Does Mitchell? And, how do you make good policy on the basis of imaginary (and totally one-sided) history?
FB Ali wrote: Given that, how many policy makers in the new administration know what really has been going on? Does Mitchell?
Critical questions. Does anyone know if Mitchell knows how to use the net? Is he able to read different opinions than those supplied him by the WH and State Dept, and verify those sources? I realize Mitchell will have access to State Dept communiques, etcetera, but CIA analysts admitted four or five years ago that their best research was available via open source docs on the web once you know what you’re looking for.
On the other hand, if his task is to appease the career Israelists in DC, the project is sunk.
An excellent analysis by Mr. Siegman.
It comports with another recent excellent piece by Gideon Levy in Haaretz:
“Why then are Israel’s leaders so determined to destroy Hamas? Because they believe that its leadership, unlike that of Fatah, cannot be intimidated into accepting a peace accord that establishes a Palestinian ‘state’ made up of territorially disconnected entities over which Israel would be able to retain permanent control.”
I don’t think Hamas can be intimidated into making a one-sided peace, so why would any Israeli leader?
If I can see this, so can the Palestinian people.
The question is can Obama be intimated or is he serious about a true peace?
From his appointments i get the impression of, “different circus, same clowns.”
Excellent analysis Rabbi Siegman, wish it could be printed in any major American newspaper.
I sent the http url of this article to the new Obama administration’s OPL:
The Office of Public Liaison & Intergovernmental Affairs (OPL-IGA) is the front door to the White House through which everyone can participate and inform the work of the President.
I requested that Senator Mitchell and Secretary of State Clinton read the link and the article.
I said: IMPERATIVE.
I am one citizen.
I have no power in this realm.
We do though as many.
Something is rotten in Denmark and I believe Mr. Siegman and admire his courage.
Outstanding and admirable.
Let’s see what the Koolaidniks have to say.
Does anyone in government know how to use the internet?
In a discussion of what precisely the Israelis were hoping to achieve on an earlier thread, you quoted Moshe Yaalon’s statement that ‘the Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.’
The approach is barbaric. But then barbaric strategies sometimes work. What I simply cannot for the life of me see is how this one can provide Israel with any hope of a long-term future — even if, as hardly seems very likely, the present generation of Palestinians can be cowed into submission.
Unless current demographic trends reverse dramatically, within ten or twenty years a new generation of Palestinians will have emerged — and the Israelis will be a clear minority in a Greater Israeli surrounded by a Muslim world which is not and cannot be similarly subjugated.
Why should this new generation of Palestinians go on assuming defeat is for all time?
Meanwhile, the blinkered coverage of the Middle East in the U.S. media may also help blind both the current regime in Israel and its U.S. supporters to the effects of what they do outside Israel — and not least to developing divisions among Jews.
The editor of the London Review of Books, in which Siegman’s article appears — as did the Walt and Mearsheimer article back in 2006 — is Mary-Kay Wilmers. She has been described as ‘the mater familias of London’s liberal intelligentsia’, and like many members of that intelligentsia, is Jewish.
As well as Siegman’s article, the current edition includes reactions to events in Gaza, by fifteen of the Review’s contributors — seven of them Jews, all deeply critical of Israel.
It is worth remembering that Jewish anti-Zionism used to be very strong in Britain — influential members of the Jewish community here, such as Edwin Montagu and Claude Montefiore, were passionately opposed to the Balfour Declaration. This tradition was killed by the Holocaust.
But, reading the LRB contributions, it seems to me that current Israeli and U.S. policy is reviving it. There are indications of the same evolution happening in the U.S — Philip Weiss’s blog being an example. How far will this develop? I wonder.
As with all Jewish critics who dare to criticize Israel’s behavior, sadly the Israeli government and their propaganda wonks will relegate Rabbi Siegman to the hallway as just another – self-hating-jew – as the Israeli government describes any one who is Jewish that dares to criticize their inhumanity and cruelty.
You raise the question of why Israel would employ this barbaric strategy to utterly crush the Palestinian spirit, when it offers no hope of a long-term future. Sometimes it seems to me that, in their dealings with the Palestinians, the Israelis are trying to exorcise some dark daemons in their collective unconscious. The creation of ghettoes and concentration camps (not only Gaza but the West Bank cities, towns and villages), the periodical forays into them to kill and harass, the building of walls and barriers, blockade and managed starvation, the daily meting out of pointless humiliation and punishment at countless checkpoints – these are not acts of sane policy but of a damaged psyche.
You mention that in a decade or two “the Israelis will be a clear minority in a Greater Israel surrounded by a Muslim world which is not and cannot be similarly subjugated”. I think, as far as the surrounding countries are concerned, it will be sooner and much worse. The new regimes in these countries will be actively hostile to Israel, especially in Egypt.
That is why it is critical for the USA, and the rest of the world, to quickly ensure a peaceful and just settlement of this problem.
While I agree with much that is said, all in all, this is the usual backward looking piece that we get from the Middle East. The only significant statement was in the next to last paragraph of Siegmans’ article cited by C Kirakofe in the first comment above.
You can Digg Henry Siegman’s article here:
Original LRB Link: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v31/n02/sieg01_.html
It’s good to see that there is some sort of Israeli conscience. Does anyone know if there is an organized counterpart for the Palestinians? This is a serious question, not poking a stick into the Palestinian cage.
to the moderator… please note that I made a small edit after submitting this the first time… if possible, please remove the first version and repost with this comment removed… Thanks
As far as I know, Henry Seigman is not an Israeli citizen, but he might hold dual citizenship, which obviously has ominous meaning for many readers here but that for me reflects that fact that most of us live each day within a complex of sometimes conflicting loyalties.
But if you want a clear expression of Israeli conscience, here is a most current example:
“Israel Must Stop Fanning the Flames That Will Consume Us”
by David Grossman:
Your ‘serious question’ can only be asked by someone willing to look into the mirror that Grossman prescribes… and that can be both Jewish-Americans with a reflexive/instinctive bias for Israel in this tragedy as well as Israelis for whom the sentiment is far more existential.
The ‘problem’ (for you, apparently) with voices such as Grossman’s, Siegman’s, and those of Shlomo Ben Ami and Jeffrey Goldberg is that they are too often marginalized as ‘leftists’ or ‘idealists’ or ‘naive’… or that they too often revert to the safety of their side’s illusions of power and independence, however intrinsically unsustainable, when an immediate and/or satisfactory and/or conciliatory response from the “other side” is not forthcoming…
I would humbly suggest that you should think about who is in a cage here…
I have known Henry S. for 15 years and have traveled widely with him. It seems to me that we had a conversation once in which he said that he was not a dual national but I cold have forgotten the exact details. In any event he is a very good man who is not willing to compromise what he sees as the truth. pl
“I think, as far as the surrounding countries are concerned, it will be sooner and much worse. The new regimes in these countries will be actively hostile to Israel, especially in Egypt.
That is why it is critical for the USA, and the rest of the world, to quickly ensure a peaceful and just settlement of this problem.”
How do you assess the near/medium term political evolution in surrounding countries?
My brother spent some time in Egypt last year and told me it was “seething” and, for example, he had the impression one could not enter Middle Egypt as Cairo was not in control there although the Muslim Brotherhood was.
How will Egypt evolve? Perhaps a dramatic shift to an Islamist position? US out, China in, “peace” treaty with Israel shredded?
Would some Egyptian elites pragmatically accept a shift in the military towards an “Islamist” position and a shift overall to a more “radical” stance? Egypt does not really need US aid money and weapons as they could get weapons from China, Russia, Ukraine, Belorus, and etc.
It seems to me we are well beyond the possibility for a “two-state” solution as the Israeli’s have stolen too much real estate by now. Thus the US position (Bush and Obama) is perhaps “naive.”
Is a “one state” solution the option that is left?
Would an Israeli forcible “transfer” (genocidal expulsion) of Arab Israelis (Muslim and Christian) from Israel and occupied territories trigger a general war in the Middle East?
After some six decades the Khazar imposture is wearing rather thin some might say.
“Would an Israeli forcible “transfer” (genocidal expulsion) of Arab Israelis (Muslim and Christian) from Israel and occupied territories trigger a general war in the Middle East?”
Let us pray it is so, but at the start, not the completion of that crime.
I believe that that what we call “Islamist” forces are the only probable successors to the U.S./Israeli supported satraps that rule the region. They are the only parties organized and disciplined enough to both seize power and to wield it.
Clifford K., w/r/t the development of the situation in Egypt several years ago I read “God Has 99 Names” by mideast journalist Genevieve Abdo. It recounted in explicit detail the suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood in the slums of Cairo by brute force. She then detailed its success over the next twenty years openly infiltrating every aspect of Egyptian civil society, – the courts, unions, law society and other professional governance bodies, government bureaucracy and social agencies – so that when a system not previously amenable to forceful change from below finally rots and fails, the Brotherhood will be well placed to immediately assume control of civil society and the levers necessary to govern a state.
Hamas, first elected, then fought for control of Gaza, and won. They immediately commenced governance at the street level, gaining much legitimacy from their efforts, which is being repeated as I type.
I believe this is what lies ahead, and then the populace will have to do the rest if they want freedom and democracy, which will look very different than our concepts of same in any event.
So long as Mubarak is fully in control (ill health can loosen the grip, too), the present regime is likely to continue. When his grip loosens, the potential for regime change will greatly increase. It may be a drawn-out process, with a period of instability before a radical change. As Charles I said, the only alternative that has survived Mubarak’s dictatorship is the Brotherhood. The shift may not come through a popular uprising, but could also occur through a military coup by mid-level officers belonging to, or sympathetic to, the Brotherhood. During the interim you could see a successor administration adopting more popular policies (anti-Israel and anti-West).
This is the pattern likely to occur in the next decade or so among most of the Arab countries and sheikhdoms around Israel. As you say, it seems too late for a two-state solution in Palestine. Israel’s ability to sustain an ‘apartheid’ state will depend entirely on full US support. If the US provides that, it will enter a new and more virulent confrontation with the Arab and Muslim world. That will then be Obama’s ‘new way forward’.
FB Ali and Charles I,
Thank you for your comments and insights.
Given the trends and scenarios we are sketching out, it seems to me that a US policy in support of a “one-state solution” sooner rather than later could be the preferable option in the “Peace Process.” Preferable also for Jewish Israelis who are thinking of remaining in the Holy Land for the long haul rather than bailing out to Europe or the United States in this or the next generation.
Perhaps a review of some of the ideas of the US Rabbi Judah Magnes, Chancellor of Hebrew University, are appropriate to those sincerely interested in peace. These relate to the “bi-national” or one-state concept.
“Magnes dedicated the rest of his life to reconciliation with the Arabs. Before the State of Israel was declared, Magnes objected to a particularly Jewish state. In his view, Palestine would be neither Jewish nor Arab. Rather, he advocated a binational state in which equal rights would be shared by all. This was the view advanced by the group Brit Shalom, which with Magnes is often associated. He founded an even smaller and even less nationalistic group: Ihud (Unity).”
The Euros this week seem to be moving along toward a more flexible ME policy to include dialogue with Hamas.
Mitchell’s visit out to the region does not include Syria and Iran this go around. It should, however, include Turkey which could convey Syrian and Iranian perspectives.
Gaza was a strategic mistake for the Zionist state. Perhaps some good will come out of it however: more Arab unity at the mass level, more Islamic unity at the mass level, more commitment to the establishment of a just peace in the region by those in the region and outside it.
Certainly Gaza will contribute to some winds of change in the region. And in President Obama’s policy as well, we can hope…
Pardon the brusqueness of the question, but no one has answered the question of whether there is an organized Palestinian counterpart to the Israeli conscience. Does that silence represent the answer, or does it represent acquiescence to the legitimacy of rocket attacks on civilians? Thanks in advance for your response.
Does that silence represent the answer, or does it represent acquiescence to the legitimacy of rocket attacks on civilians?
The answer is “none of the above”.
You pose your question as a false dilemma, which is an awfully easy-to-detect logical fallacy. This puts the rest of us on the horns of a real dilemma (i.e., a dichotomy), namely:
(a) you utilized this logical fallacy deliberately, or
(b) you didn’t.
Choice (a) amounts to your insulting the collective intelligence of the readership of this website. Choice (b) amounts to your not doing your homework before posting. Neither of these is is a good strategy to earn you a response from those who contribute here.