Wednesday, March 11th, 2009
Here’s an interesting recent exchange on CNN regarding a Palestinian look at the Israeli elections, and the despair of the Israeli center. For all the Jewish hysteria about Lieberman being the embodiment of all that’s evil, let alone the “peace camp’s” obstacle de jour (the peace camp loves French), I’ve yet to come across a prominent Palestinian who sees any difference between Lieberman and the Israeli politicians, such as Livni, that the Jewish left – and most Jewish journalists — were rooting for.
Keep in mind that Mustafa Barghouti is not Hamas but precisely the kind of Palestinian that Obama and Hillary are pressuring Israel into appeasing. Reading this transcript, it’s a curious thing to realize that Lieberman is considered a monster by the Jewish left but Barghouti is not. Lieberman who does not advocate the unconditional transfer of Arabs out of Israel is considered an advocate of “ethnic cleansing.” Barghouti and those who advocate a West Bank where Jews are not allowed to live, under any conditions, are considered (by themselves) to be among the more enligtened.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I’m Fareed Zakaria.
ZAKARIA: Although much remains unclear about this week’s Israeli elections, there seems one point of clarity: the Israeli people are growing more hawkish.
Joining me to talk about the implications of all of this, from both sides of the conflict, are, from Jerusalem, Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center’s Institute for Zionist History and Thought…. And joining me here in New York is Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
Mustafa Barghouti, you live in Ramallah. You’re just visiting New York.
How did the Israeli elections strike you from the other side?
MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: The fact that Avigdor Lieberman, a person who came from Russia, and who is now sitting in Jerusalem being proud of being there, while I, the person who was born in Jerusalem, is not allowed to go back there, although I worked there as a medical doctor for 14 years, is a reflection of the new reality.
And this Lieberman is advocating ethnic cleansing. He is nothing but a neo-fascist. And the fact that he is controlling 15 seats in the parliament is very dangerous.
But that is a situation that is arising from the failure of the Israeli establishment to deal with the challenge of peace.
When I look at Barak or Livni or Olmert, or even Netanyahu, I don’t see a difference. None of them is ready to share Jerusalem. None of them is ready to allow a single Palestinian refugee to come back. And none of them is ready to remove a single settlement.
I think occupation and oppression has corrupted the Israeli society and has created a situation that is awful for both Palestinians and Israelis. And it’s time for Israelis to look in the mirror and see their own fault in that. It’s not our fault.
ZAKARIA: Yossi Klein Halevi, what do you make of Mustafa Barghouti’s point? You have portrayed the elections as being somewhat less ideological. But the rise of Lieberman does seem a very charged phenomenon.
I know you write for The New Republic. The editor-in-chief of The NewRepublic, Martin Peretz — a passionate Zionist, a man who is very skeptical of doves — calls Lieberman a neo-fascist in the tradition of Haider in Europe and Jean-Marie Le Pen, the Frenchman. He does call — Lieberman does call for what appears to be mass ethnic cleansing, or transfers of population. No Democratic society has ever done this. It’s unsettling to find this in the heart of what is proudly — or what proudly sees itself as a liberal democracy.
YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI, SENIOR FELLOW, ADELSON INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: I would agree with the characterization of Lieberman as the worst political phenomenon that has happened in Israeli democracy in 60 years. I would further agree that we Israelis need to do some hard thinking. The educational system needs to do some hard thinking. We need to own up and take responsibility for this educational and moral failure.
Nevertheless, I think that, at the same time, what we’ve just heard from Mustafa Barghouti is really a reflection of why so many Israelis are so profoundly alienated from the two-state solution, which, paradoxically, most Israelis want.
And that is that when we hear this kind of — and forgive me for using this word — a tirade from Mr. Barghouti, without any sense of responsibility for creating a poisonous dynamic on both sides, let’s both look in our own mirror, Mr. Barghouti.
Let’s — I’ll take responsibility for Lieberman. And I need to do that. And I would hope that you would take responsibility for what’s happened in the Palestinian educational system, for what happens routinely in the Palestinian media, where what I would call a culture of denial has set in, a culture of denial that denies the most basic truths of Jewish history — there was no ancient Jewish presence in the land of Israel, there was no temple on the Temple Mount, the Holocaust is either an outright lie or an exaggeration. Look at what you’re teaching your children. You take responsibility for your educational failures, I’ll take responsibility for mine.
ZAKARIA: What about that, Mustafa Barghouti? And not just the educationfailures, the issue of Hamas, an organization that is, you know, that is quite comfortable killing civilians and such.
BARGHOUTI: Listen, I am a medical doctor by education. I think everybodyknows how much I advocated in my life non-violence as an approach to resolving this conflict. I don’t believe in violence. But I must say that, what has just been described is not a justification for what is happening in Israel. I said occupation has corrupted the Israeli society.
Occupation has been there a long time before Hamas appeared on the scene. Hamas is only 20 years old. Occupation is there for 41 years. The Palestinians have been dispossessed since 60 years.
If the problem has been dealt with early enough, we would not have found ourselves in this terrible situation. Israel is the only country in the world that does not have a map, that does not show a map of itself, and does not have a constitution. Because they are still expanding the borders, and they are still occupying the Palestinian territories. And they are not settling for what I have been advocating all my life, which is a two-state solution where we accept West Bank and Gaza – this little tiny area which is half of what we should have had according to the partition plan of the United Nations. We accepted half of it as a compromise. And during the last 20 years we’ve been having a peace process after another as a substitute to peace. And instead of accepting our compromise, they’ve been trying to compromise the compromise, by building settlements.
HALEVI: Well, Fareed, I have to tell you — as someone who supports a two-state solution, who is ready to make virtually any compromise that will end this pathological conflict and will keep my children out of future wars — when I hear Mustafa Barghouti, I’m frankly close to despair, because here’s a Palestinian speaking in a reasonable way about a two-state solution, about ending the bloodshed. And I so much want to reach out and accept your offer.
And then I hear what we can call the fine print. And the fine print is a total distortion — a total distortion of history.
Israel accepted the Clinton proposals of December, 2000, which would have created a Palestinian state on contiguous territory. No so-called Bantustans…
BARGHOUTI: Without borders.
HALEVI: … no roadblocks, no settlements, with — the borders are clear. Look at the Clinton map. It…
BARGHOUTI: Without removing (ph) settlements.
HALEVI: … is (ph) a final deal. We all know it. We’re moving dozens of settlements and concentrating…
BARGHOUTI: No, not settlements. Settlements…
HALEVI: … them…
BARGHOUTI: … borders.
HALEVI: … and removing any Jewish presence that would have obstructed
Palestinian territorial contiguity…
BARGHOUTI: What about the apartheid wall?
HALEVI: … and giving the Palestinians…
BARGHOUTI: What about the wall? Do you accept the wall?
HALEVI: Please let me finish. Wait a minute. The wall — the wall did not exist in 2000 when Israel accepted the Clinton proposals. There would be no wall today, there would be no checkpoints today. You would be sitting in Jerusalem, Mustafa Barghouti, had you — had the Palestinian leadership then, Yasser Arafat — and we’re not even talking about Hamas, we’re talking about Fatah — not only rejected the Clinton proposals, but went to war against the most left-wing government inIsrael’s history.
You brought down the Israeli peace camp. You destroyed the left. And that’s the tragedy of this conflict.
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