Typophile in a Swingstate

raphaelfreeman's picture

I presume that you intended a link to appear, if so, it didn't -- can you repost?

nadine_chahine's picture

Here's a booklist for those interested in the other side of the coin:

- Orientalism
- Culture and Imperialism
- Covering Islam : How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World
- The Edward Said Reader
- Out of Place : A Memoir (very insightful)

Culture and Resistance: Conversations With Edward W. Said by David Barsamian


Edward Said is one of the greatest Arab thinkers of our times. He passed away last year leaving behind a legacy of unsurpassed writing. He taught at the Univerity of Colombia and is greatly admired in the Arab world. He was also the guest speaker at my graduation in Beirut, and an inspiration to every single one of us. This is his talk, a wonderful insight on the different ways Arabs and westerners relate to each other. His speach was a moment of revelation.


>I have what might sound like a naive question for you, but it is a question that many people in the west ask themselves all the time: why don't governments in the Arab world take Palestinian refugees in, and make them full citizens of their own countries?

Take Lebanon as an example, if Palestinians become Lebanese then the religious balance is lost. There will be more Muslims than Christians, and so the latter oppose the idea. It's a political struggle. Also, for the Lebanese muslim half, giving the refugees the Lebanese passport means giving up their right to return to their homelands in Palestine. It is a political concession that they are not willing to make. Meanwhile, the palestinians rot in camps.




"Palestinian refugees dream of home amid desolation:
visit to lebanon camps reveals misery of exile"

"Living conditions for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon 'worse than Occupied Territories'"

As to the situation inside Palestine, here's the statistics for both sides:

And this is particularly interesting to look at:

On a personal note, I always think it's best to keep religion away from politics. We had 15 years of civil war in Lebanon because of the religious divides and it's just sad to see world politics turn into a rightuous claim of the moral of personal faith. Has anyone read Gulliver's Travels? On which side one beaks the egg is a silly reason to fight.

The way I see it: if people are living somewhere for several centuries, then they have the right to stay. The Americans put it well: There's no place like home.


If one is interested, the information is out there for everyone to look at. Maybe we see things differently because we have personal experience to shape our views. We empathize with the Palestinians. The Lebanese were protesting for 22 years to get Israel out of our lands and nobody helped us. Israel was in clear violation of UN statements (anyone cares to google that?). Year after year, the US used their right to Veto any statement that incriminates Israel. Can one then wonder about anti-US feelings amongst Arabs? The latest escapades in Iraq have only confirmed what most people had already knew. And now we have 4-more-years to look forward to.

If people understand where the problem is originating, then the solution is easier to find. In June 2000, Edward Said stated:

"I think we are in that quite complicated situation today and so I want to speak to you about how as recent graduates of the American University of Beirut you have a special role to play in what I would like to call not the clash of civilizations but rather the dialogue of civilizations, that is, a peaceful but critical dialogue between equals, rather than a belligerent screaming match between the more powerful and the less powerful."

johnbutler's picture

Another informative site (translations of Arabic media pieces):


William Berkson's picture

>It was you who has said that critism of Jews should only come from Jews.

Never said that, Hrant. I said something totally different: that a willingness to criticise one's own side is a sign of a more balanced, realistic view of things.

>But whereas you berate others for their bias you welcome his views. Does this say something about your own idea of what is balanced?

I was welcoming the views of Raphael because he was rationally representing the Israeli side, with personal knowledge. And thereby he was providing a balance to Hrant's and Titus's views, which seem to me so anti-Israel as to be really out of touch with reality. I also welcomed Nadine's as a rational voice on the other side. My biggest concern is with some level of rationality in the discussion. As I said I don't see Raphael criticising Israeli actions, so I wouldn't call his views balanced, but I would call them rational.

In response to Nadine's question and postings:

>Why is my friend's family prohibited from going back home, when any member of the Jewish religion ...has the right to move to that land and live there?

There are two aspects to this answer, one is why the Israelis won't let former residents and their descendents return 'en masse', and the other why Israel lets all Jews in.

Here is my view of why the general Israeli position is morally legitimate. Let me say at the outset that I don't mean in any way to deny the immense suffering of the refugees and their descendants.

The first thing to understand about the estabilishment of Israel is that it that the most powerful actors were neither the Jews nor the Arabs, but rather Europe and the US. When the Nazis made clear that they were going to be as harsh to the Jews as they could, the rest of the world, including the US and England shut their doors when Hitler would have let Jews flee. Second came the slaughter. Third was the Jewish refugee problem post-world war II.

The UN decided to partition the British mandate to solve the problem that Europe and the US had created. The fact that it was the UN gives it some international legitimacy, even though the UN didn't ask the Arabs, and they would have undoubtedly rejected a Jewish state.

Had the Arab countries accepted the UN decision, note that they would have had a majority Arab population, and given the democratic commitments of the then largely European Jewish population, they would have been politically dominant in a short time.

Instead the Arab countries decided to attack and destroy the Jewish state - which had fully accepted the terms of the division. And Arab countries continued such a policy of destruction and (with the exception of Egypt) no negotiation for over forty years. Whatever cloud there was over the initial legitimacy of the UN decision, at some point the blood and tears and brave fighting of the Jewish population in the face of a decades long campaign of annihilation of the state because they are Jewish made their state legitimate.

At the same time, the Arab countries made their Jewish residents very unwelcome, and their Jewish populations emigrated to Israel in large numbers from Morocco, Iraq, Iran and so on. In fact the numbers of Jews fleeing Arab lands and the number of Arabs initially fleeing in the now Jewish state were I believe in roughly equivalent numbers.

And of course both the Arab and Jewish population grew in numbers over the two generations that have passed.

So you have a situation in which returning to the 'status quo ante' is out of the question. Are all the Arab states going to restore what the Jews who fled want, and welcome them back with open arms? Are they going to want to go back?

Also you have to face the issue that most of those who fled what became Israel did so, as Raphael said, because they were told to by Arab governments to facilitate destruction of the Jews (Much as the current coalition and Iraq government has encouraged the civilian population of Faluja to flee - and I don't mean to judge that, it is just a similar military move.)

Raphael did not add that there were a few Jewish atrocities against Arabs, and that Jews were overjoyed when they found themselves at the end of the '48 war in a majority Jewish state, which they had never imagined.

The basic point here is that too much time has gone by and too much Israeli blood has been spilled in legitimate self defense and too many Jews have come from Arab lands for Israel to legitimately be asked to bring back all the descendants of those who fled.

Looking at how to settle the claims of those who fled is a legitimate issue that will need to be negotiated, but to demand wholesale return is at this point in my view not legitimate.

As to the law of return, many if not most states to have some kind of law of return, including I believe Ireland and England. In the case of the Jews the original reason is that the world turned its back in the Jews when the Nazis were murdering them, and the UN saw the need for a Jewish place of refuge. Unfortunately, Jews are still under attack in various parts of the world, and the need is not gone.

All this defense of the Israeli position on return does not mean that I am insensitive to the immense suffering of the refugees and their descendents, which as been very real. It is just that a solution of putting all the descendents back in Israeli territory is in my view not legitimate.

I'll post about Edward Said a little later.

John Hudson's picture

This quote from Amos Oz in the article I linked to above really seems to cut to the heart of the problem of perception that underlies and fuels mistrust and hostility:

'But the two children of the same oppressive parent can often be the worst of enemies. The Palestinians look at me, the Israeli, as an extension of white, sophisticated, colonizing Europe, which returned to the Middle East to do the same old thing: dominate, humiliate, like European crusaders. The other side, the Israelis, see the Palestinians not as fellow-victims but as pogrom-makers, Cossacks, Nazis, oppressors in kaffiyehs and mustaches playing the same ancient game of cutting Jewish throats for the fun of it.'

hrant's picture

> Never said that

Yes you did, just not in this thread.
When I once brought up the fact that criticism of Jews is unheard of in US media, you brought up the example of Seinfeld making fun of some rabbi, and said that it's only proper that only Jews should criticize other Jews. Are only Germans allowed to criticise Nazis? Considering what's been happening, that comparison isn't nearly as unfair as you might like poeple to believe. You can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Painting those who merely criticise the current Jewish mindframe (not Jews throughout history, and not individual Jews) for being destructive as "anti-Semitic" is a foundational intimidation tactic in the US.

BTW, check out this wonderfully balanced thing:
How much proof does one need, really.

> I wouldn't call his views balanced, but I would call them rational.

Whatever allows you to sleep at nights, eh?
Have you ever in your life accused a Jew of being anti-Arab?
When an Israeli minister says Arabs are lice, or a cancer, you should voice public outrage. Some Jews in Israel do - look at the truly brave soldiers who refuse to serve in Gaza. Do Arabs not criticize themselves? BinLaden wants to bring down corrupt Arab governments, and many Arabs like him for that. In this thread, the only self-critical person has been Nadine. Raphael would shoot himself before admitting there's anything at all wrong with any Israeli policy. Is there a thing in the Jewish psyche that prohibits self-criticism (at least in public)? How is that suppose to make others feel about you? What do you think of an individual who never admits fault? Are Jews inherently and eternally faultless? I ask you: Are they Chosen? If you say no, do you not then see a problem with the Settlers?

> the blood and tears and brave fighting of the Jewish population .... made their state legitimate.

No, their domination of the psyche of the British first, and then the Americans did that.
Without that Israel wouldn't even have been created, much less lasted.

The thing is, I don't mind that of itself, it's nice to see superpowers controlled to such an extent by a minority culture, except that it's now being used to rape and pillage. The problem isn't power, but how it's used - that's the whole point. Remember, I'm a monarchist. I don't mind central, minority authority. What I mind is unfairness. And I think most world citizens feel this way.

> Jews are still under attack in various parts of the world

Well, maybe you shouldn't help that along so much, eh? Don't play the victim to that extent, when you have a nuclear arsenal, you get billions in aid, and you're holding Arab land illegally - it just disgusts people and fans their animosity. Are they right to hate you from time immemorial? Of course not. Are they right to pressure you to resume behaving properly? Of course they are. Behave, and future generations will treat you better. It's your only hope.

BTW, why are Armenians not hated like this? We also have an ancient and relatively wealthy dispora, we're also surrounded by enemies, and we also suffered genocide. Think about it. Are we not hated because we don't have the power you do? No, because people like power. Arabs like power. They loved America, they cheered when the US won the cold war! But then they saw what was happening, and now they hate the US. And this is what happened to me personally: I loved America until I was about 20. Living here, seeing the legendary American desire for Fairness being usurped, seeing the way Kuwait and Iraq were played against each other, made me realize what the problem really was. Now I just love the America that could have been, that maybe one day will be. But that it won't be in the immediate future - quite the contrary. Part of my dream was taken away, and I most certainly can blame certain people for that (and I'm actually not singling out Jews here), and try to get them to take the first step to treating the world fairly: admit they're doing something wrong.

William, your nominal feelings for suffering Arabs and your ideas of compromise sound dandy, but it remains that Jews don't seem ready to share. Because of the Holocaust* and because of their military domination, Jews might not see the need to compromise. But the reality on the ground is that you're increasingly miserable. Not as miserable as Arabs, but you have the greater power, hence the greater responsability. I repeat: for a healthy world, power and responsability have to be tied. Greed, fear and hate hurt you in the end.

* Has enough time passed from that, I wonder? Have enough reparations been made already? Any Jew who dares suggest such things is ostracized, and you know it. Do you really care about the suffering of other peoples? You must care, if you're to prosper.


John, the intent of that quote is noble, but it doesn't actually strike me as truly representative. There is much insight to be had from reading history, and keeping your mind open and your heart warm. But sometimes the realities on the ground paint a very different -and unbalanced- picture. And the only way to see this is physical presence.

BTW, does JudeoWestern society care to mention for example that the Nazis came to power because of the way Germany was treated after WWI? Since the West created Israel partly out of guilt, how long do we have to wait for them to feel guilty about the Palestinians?


William Berkson's picture

Hrant, here is what I actually said earlier in the thread:

"I don't hear from you (or Hrant) a whisper of criticism of the wrongs committed by the enemies of Israel. You are critical of only one side. I am quite willing to be critical of both sides, and I think that is a sign that my view is more objective and closer to reality."

Here is your characterization of what I said:

"It was you who has said that critism of Jews should only come from Jews. Talk about a convenient way to avoid change."

Your claim of what I said about Seinfeld I think is just as wildly false, but I don't find the thread right now.

I have also been critical of Israel's settlements, contrary to what you say.

nadine_chahine's picture

This is the history that we know:

>> the original reason is that....

Belfour's Promise (1917) was way before Hitler came to the scene. The last 60 years have been one long guilt trip.

"Some 87 years ago, British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, promised the Zionists a home in Palestine, with the

William Berkson's picture

Nadine, the 'history' that you link to is I believe wildly inaccurate in many respects, and if you rely on it you will be misled. If you read historians who are attempting to be balanced, I believe you will get a different story, not painted in 'good guys and bad guys' terms. Or if you read history from both sides, you can start to sort it out for yourself - not an easy task, I might add.

The most important thing to understand about the history, I believe, is that there were rights and wrongs on both sides. As Amos Oz says in the article that John linked to, one of the basic stories is of right verses right. The Arab Palestinians had a right to live in their homes, and the Jews had a right to have a refuge. These were rights were in conflict.

I don't want to get mired in the details of the history, which is complex, but just one point about the Balfour declaration: it was delibrately ambiguous about whether the Jews would be simply given refuge, or given a state. Also the declaration specifically said that the rights of non-Jewish Palestinians must not be violated. What happened to resolve the deliberate ambiguity is that the British allowed but progressively restricted Jewish immigration, the most severely just on the eve of WWII, when the Jews most needed it. The decision for a state only happened after WWII, the UN decided on it.

I will post on Said's views shortly, but I have to get back to work!

raphaelfreeman's picture

I have much criticism of the Israeli Government don't you worry, and trust me the Israeli people are very happy to criticise our leadership in every way you can think possible. I am also not saying that Israel has done things wrong in the past or today. That is why we have elections and that is why different parties rise to power at different periods of time in the same way that all democratic countries work.

However, on a forum such as this, things are not normally taken in proportion with the appropriate background. I think it is important to look at the big picture and not the smaller details. So I am not going to concentrate on one particular terrorist incident where civilians were killed and injured because it doesn't make sense. However, I will point out that these are not isolated incidents, that suicide bombers are becoming younger and younger, that they are encouraged to do so by their schools and families. I think that points to an example of a bigger picture. I will then say, "why is this happening?" and what can we do to stop this. Yes, I will agree that on occassions the IDF has acted in a way that civilians have been killed in order to route out terrorists. I will not justify this since I don't think that this is relevant. I will also point out that on occasion we have had crazies like Baruch Goldstein after years of being a Doctor and treating Arabs on a regular basis, went out and killed innocent Arab civilians whilst they were praying in a Mosque, but again this is an isolated incident and this is not the norm amongst Israeli society.

I believe Israel has a right to exist, and yes currently at the expense of the Palestinian people's wishing for a homeland. Sorry, but that's life. I have nowhere else to go. We both want the same land, the Arabs (and yes I use this word liberally) don't want to share (Sorry Hrant, be actually we have offered to share on a number of occasions, from 1948 all the way to Barak recent offer. These offers have been met with war and Intafada from the Arabs) so I'm sorry, I'm not going to go back to my native England, and my wife not back to the US so that the Palestinians can have their Palestine. Nor am I going to let Arabs stone us, throw molotov cocktails at us, shoot us (with guns that we gave them!), bomb us, send katshuykas at us and just watch TV. I am going to respond the same way any country is going to respond. I am going to find those responsible and eliminate them. That is the price for mass murder. Since I believe that my value system is humane, then I am going to attack only those responsible, I am not going to raise an entire village, I am not going to kill innocent by-standers, even at the expense of the safety of my soldiers (crazy standards we Israelis have I know). Can you say the same about the suicide bombers?

I do agree that my views are biased. And I guess by default my views are therefore not "balanced", but I don't think that decreases any legitimacy to what I say, In fact, as an example, I know as a reserve soldier what my commanders say to me, in Hebrew, regarding regarding the rules of engagementetc. You can call it bias, but you can also call it an insider view.

However, I don't want to get bogged down with the results of 40 years of hatred, but rather what can be done to solve the situation. There are 3 alternatives, the first 2 are somewhat unlikely of course. 1. All the Jews leave Israel. (The Arab solution, unfortunately most of neighbouring states with the notable exception of Egypt and possibly Jordan too fall in this camp) 2. All the Arabs leave Israel (The ultra right-wing Jewish Solution, fortunately in this country this is illegal and outlawed and people belonging to this faction are thrown in prison). 3. We learn to live in peace. This is not about building fences, but rather breaking them down. In the same way, England (a Christian country) does not feel threatened by the Muslims, Jews, Seikhs, Buddhists, etc living happily in the country with their Muslim schools, mosques etc., then that should happen here too. In what format, I think this is too early to say, it will take another generation or two for that to be worked out. What has to happen now, has to happen on a grass roots scale.

Firstly, infrastructure, Palestinians/Muslims/Arabs (however they want to be defined) absolutely must enjoy the same infrastructure that everyone else does. That means shopping malls, buses, schools, universities, hospitals etc. That means that rather than pouring the millions of shekels of Israeli tax-payer money and the millions of dollars of money that has come from all over the world into Arafat's private estates and warfare, these monies have to go the population. Trust me, if that 6-year-old kid throwing stones at the tanks was at private grammar school learning Maths and Arabic and being told off for his shoes having not being polished that morning, he wouldn't be throwing stones at anybody. And if his education was such that he aspired to being a Doctor or Typesetter (sorry had to get the latter in) when he grew up rather than committing suicide and killing a 100 Jews with him, then it would be easier for him to talk to me, a Jew, an Israeli, but more importantly a fellow typesetter on subjects such as, how well does InDesign CS ME handle Naskh Justification in Arabic. And if I know where I can purchase any Arabic fonts that can be embedded into a pdf. That is the key to peace. But for as long as these monies are kept away from the populations, and for as long as these poor people are made to live in these sub-standard conditions, then hatred will be learnt, and in the end the people that will suffer of course be everyone.

One of the politicians that I hate the most today in Israel is Amir Peretz who represents the Unions in this country. Every time he decides he wants to get richer, he holds a strike for the benefit of those lower-class Union members. Of course who suffers? So the banks go on strike, and the ATMs run out. Of course the middle-class have our credit cards so we don't care. We have cars to get us to the larger supermarkets and get the benefit of cheaper food. Those who suffer are the lower class who can't get a bus or take out cash from the ATM so they end up buying on "credit" at the little grocery stores which cost them 25 to 50% more. So the precise people he is trying to represent suffer even more, and the rest of us hardly notice.

I think it's time that the world wakes up to what is really happening the Palestinian pawns of Arafat's war. Perhaps when this happens there is a real chance for peace.

Sorry about going on for so long!

hrant's picture

> not painted in 'good guys and bad guys'

Yeah, that's so unfair to the bad guys.
Let's see some history that paints the Nazis in a good light, eh?

History is:
1) Written by the winners.
2) Varies from society to society, and the significance of its flavor depends on what the people in power are being taught*. Telling poor people with stones one bad version of history does not balance out telling the rich people with tanks the opposite untruth.
3) Not as important as the present and especially not the future. Not as important as working towards being happy/less_miserable.

* Thanks of course to forced public education.

> I have also been critical of Israel's settlements

> I have much criticism of the Israeli Government

Let's please hear the strongest criticism you can muster, right here right now.

> the Israeli people are very happy to criticise our leadership

But the key things are that:
1) This criticism never makes it to the US. Israel, through American Jews sitting far away in comfort, makes sure they get full support from the US for their apartheid behavior, and they do this by painting a polarized and imbalanced picture in the American mind.
2) Somehow your precious democracy isn't translating that into improvement.

The world is wide awake, thank you very much, and we see exactly what's going on: the children of the Nazis refusing to grow, thus making everybody miserable. Your attitude of "Let's live in peace, just you learn to live miserably" is exactly what will keep you miserable, and what will eventually very much get you -or your unfortunate descendents- kicked out or dead. Israel has a right to exist; Jews have a right to a homeland; but they also have the obligation to concede what they've taken, to admit -at least in private- that they are not Chosen, that they might have used their hate after WWII to good effect, but now that hate has become their dark master, leading them down the abyss.


John Hudson's picture

First the British gave it away...

Nadine, I'm ashamed to say that the British lied to both the Jews and the Arabs, and they certainly didn't give anything to the Zionists except, grudgingly, they allowed Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine, and that only in a limited way. As the end of the mandate drew nearer, the British actively reduced Jewish immigration, which earned the British Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, the lasting hatred of the Zionists. If you ask Israelis about British policy in the Middle East, they will tell you that the British betrayed the Jews at every turn; and they are right. Parts of coastal Palestine* were given to the Jews by the United Nations, not by the British who abstained from the UN vote on partition (most Zionists were surprised by this, because they had assumed that Britain would vote against partition, since so many British policies clearly favoured the Arabs). When the British withdrew their forces from Palestine, they handed almost all the strategic Teggart Forts over to the Arabs, even when they directly threatened nearby Jewish settlements. In what way was any of this 'giving Palestine to the Jews?'

* I use the term 'coastal Palestine' because, of course, historical Palestine includes what is now Israel, the Gaza, the West Bank and the Transjordan. The British had already partitioned Palestine, and they did indeed give the largest part of it away: to the Heshamite royal family, in order to ensure that the House of Saud had universal jurisdiction in what became Saudi Arabia. Most of historical Palestine is now Jordan.

William Berkson's picture

On Edward Said.

I read the commencement address that you posted Nadine, and I have a book of his, though I confess to only skimming it.

He was an extremely bright and eloquent and thoughtful man. For example, in the address he says that simply blaming being anti Western and blaming Western imperialism is not enough.

However, I am afraid that his views are still an expression of the 'victim mentality' that is an obstacle to bettering the lot of the Arab world. For he still seems to view the problems of the Arab world as being primarily due to Western Imperialism and Israel.

A good friend of mine comes from a poor country and has for thirty years worked for agricultural development around the world on every continent, including most of the time in Muslim countries.

Based on his extensive experience his view is that the problems of poor countries are caused primarily by bad governments in these countries, and much less by what the great powers do.

An illustration of this is China, which a bad government under Mao, and average stagnation from 56-79. (Actually progress, then regress under the oppressive political campaigns Mao launched.)

Deng Xiao-ping, who took over in '79, had said earlier 'I don't care if the cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.' This got him prison from Mao whose view was 'politics in command'. When Deng took over, he followed what he had seen in visiting Singapore and abandoned Communist economic philosphy. China has grown on average 9-10% every year since.

Why? Because the government actually wanted to help the people. In my friend's experience every goverment that persists in trying to help its poor succeeds. That is, they make mistakes, but when they do, they try something else and they eventually succeed. An example of a small country is Uganda, which under Idi Amin had slaughter and poverty, now has a decent government and as a result economic growth.

Another dimension is the issue of corruption. Indonesia was noted for its corruption, but still wanted to help the poor, and as a result there was economic growth until the corruption went totally wild, with the resulting crisis.

While East Asia has been growing, the Arab world has been stuck in a mess. Currently according to 'What went wrong' by Bernard Lewis, if you exclude oil, the whole of the Arab world exports less than Finland.

China suffered from Western imperialism also, but it has done much better than the Arab world.

Why? My friend's very well informed view: bad governments. Let us take the relevant example here of Arafat. His government has not received millions that the World Bank was ready to diburse in aid to the Palestinian people, because he would not open his books for inspection. According to a recent report from the IMF, Arafat has stolen around a Billion dollars into his personal accounts that should have gone to the Palestinian people - making him one of the world's richest men.

Not only this, but as Aba Eban put it, he has 'never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity'. The Palestinians could have had peace with the Israelis, and a prosperous economy in cooperation with Israel, but the Arab government authorities refused to negotiate with Israel over the refugees from 1948 on, with Arafat in charge from I believe 1969 on. Instead, they preferred to pursue a policy of war and terror to eliminate the Jewish state, while keeping their own poor mired in poverty, feeding them on empty dreams of hatred and conquest of Israel. This only changed in '92, when progress and peace started to happen only to be reversed by Arafat in 2000.

You are willing to acknowledge the obvious corruption of the Arab governments, and express a desire for democracy, both of which I agree are a sound beginning for a better future. What I want to emphasize is that you need to go further and recognize that obsession with hating Israel and the US is a part of a vitim mentality that doesn't look at the dominant cause of poverty: your own bad governments.

Arafat has had one of the worst governments and has kept his people in poverty. He has shown over and over that he really does not give a damn about anything but his own power. The admiration of leaders like him and the horrible damage they have done is what is keeping many the Arab world in miserable poverty, not the US and Israel.

You wont read in the press about the responsibility of poor countries for their own poverty, because of the patronizing attitude of rich countries, and the lack of freedom of the press in many poor countries, but in my view that is where the real change is needed.

By the way, I don't read here anyone exercised about the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Why is that? (Incidentally, I don't approve of either the Syrian occupation of Lebanon or the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.)

hrant's picture

> the 'victim mentality'

Another classic subversion technique: transfer your faults onto others, so when they complain it sounds like a hollow pissing match, and you end up equal instead of down.

As for Arafat: now that his light* will sadly be extinguished soon, let's see what new excuse you'll come up with for oppressing your neighbors, and the world. Instead of worrying about the wrong things he's done, worry about how you got a war criminal as head of state, how you're building your Berlin Wall.

* You cannot deny his value of keeping the Palestinian dream alive - few people for example could have turned the defeat that was Beirut into a victory, and this is crucial for pride, because pride keeps you yourself. Soon we will only have Castro left among the proud old warrior-priests. But hopefully people like Barghouti and Chavez will come to fill the void.

> the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

Because it brought peace. Get it? You don't have to like Syria to respect and value that*. It's called Pax Romana, and it happened in spite of the West and Israel. It's a peace through power, the proper use of power. It's not a bed of roses**, but at least the Lebanese people are happier than Jews. The best way for Syria to continue improving its treatment of Lebanon (instead of reverting back to authoritarianism) is for the JudeoWestern party to stop pressuring it. But of course that would be the noble thing to do, and that's a sign of weakness. "You're either with us or against us - the Evil Enemy must be crushed by the Chosen People with the help of the Land of God." We have a wonderful opportunity in the young Al-Assad to mark real progress, to help him subdue the corrupt fundamentalists around him, but of course that would make Syria harder for you to crush in the long term. You want total victory. That's disgusting, and you'll never get it.

* In fact one should point out the way in which the West divided what was essentially one thing into a small coastal country with all the wealth, and a large, poor desert, in order to maintain conflict, hence control. Same thing with Kuwait and Iraq. Don't badmouth Stalin when you did, and keep doing, the same things. At least Stalin didn't inherit a country founded on Genocide.

** Syria is too insecure (thanks mostly to Israel) to allow all the "liberties" that gluttons in the US enjoy for example.

"Occupation" indeed - what a sick comparison. All Palestinians want you out. Most Lebanese people want Syria to stay, because they know what would happen if they left. Short term freedom, perhaps, but a sure descent back into the conflict that the West and Israel would so love to see. The only good news is that Iran seems to be next (and you can see the propaganda building through US media, so when Israel sends bombers to Tehran, Americans will cheer them on), so we have some time. But you're out of time, you're sitting in a quicksand of ox dung.

China? China is teaching you peons a lesson about what can be done when you're free of Democracy - pay attention. Materialism is human, Capitalism is not.

> I don't approve of .... the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Approve, shmaprove. Do you think it's unjustified? If so, how would you fix it?


John Hudson's picture

History is:
1) Written by the winners.

This is a banality that plays right into the hands of the powerful, because it undermines the idea that there can ever be any criteria of objectivity in the study of history. Some history is written by the winners, but most history is written by historians, and history -- at least in the European tradition that emerged from the historiographical criticism of the 18th century -- is a discipline with standards of evidence, documentation, analysis and limits to interpretation. No historian claims to be able to produce an absolutely accurate and undebatable picture of truth, but there are objective standards by which one can determine what has happened in the past and what has not, or about what we must admit ignorance or uncertainty. Apart from anything else, the past creates its own record, in documents and material evidence, and the best historians try to refrain from imposing their own biases on that record. To say that history is written by the winners is to willingly accept the domination of power and violence over truth. It is also to deny the possibility of the history of the powerless and the marginalised. This robs the work of Palestinian historians such as Edward Said, Elias Sanbar and Nur Masalhah of dignity, and casts them as mere propagandists seeking to reinforce a Palestinian negotiating position.

William Berkson's picture

>Do you think it's unjustified? If so, how would you fix it?

Yes, it's unjustified. I would fix it by a peace treaty, such as the late (it seems) Mr. Arafat rejected in 2000. I hear from all that the outlines of such a treaty are clear, and all that it takes is the will to finish and sign it. Every time Arab countries have been willing to make peace with Israel, they have made peace, including the giving up of conquered territory.

By the way, JFP, I agree that Sharon was complicit in the Sabra and Shatila massacres, but it was Christians who did it. Sharon's guilt was standing by, which is a grevious sin (explicitly forbidden in the Torah), but not as bad as doing it yourself. As one Israeli leader put it: 'Christians kill Muslims and the Jews get blamed.' Well Sharon was partly to blame but if you are going to condemn it, put the blame where it fully lies.

The hand of Sharon is in practically every wrong move Israel has made. But the one who is most responsibile for making him prime minister is in my opinion, Arafat, by his rejection of Barak's peace offers.

Let's hope now that sanity can prevail over hatred, and the new Palestinian leadership will make peace. Since a strong majority of the Israeli public is behind it, I think it will happen if the the Palestinians want it, Sharon or no Sharon.

hrant's picture

> To say that history is written by the winners is to willingly
> accept the domination of power and violence over truth.

Only if you put too much weight in history.
If you use history as a crutch or an excuse to avoid change for a better future.
That's what's done with the Holocaust. A former victim now leveraging guilt to oppress.

But I should have put a "mostly" qualifier in there.


> Sharon's guilt was standing by

Apologetic hogwash.

Is the US governement not responsbile for what happens between the citizens on its lands? Israel was in control of Sabra and Shateela. Sharon was responsible -directly- for those pogroms, and many other attrocities - most significant ongoing and planned ones.

> Let's hope .... the new Palestinian leadership will make peace.

Of course, put all the responsability on the shoulders of those with the least power. A convenient way to avoid concession. Peace is two-way street. Your idea of peace is a sham.


John Hudson's picture

That's what's done with the Holocaust. A former victim now leveraging guilt to oppress.

This is utter rubbish, Hrant. The Israelis don't need to leverage the Holocaust to oppress anyone: they have tanks and aircraft and the best trained fighting force in the region. The Americans don't support Israel because of guilt, they support them because since Israel prevented the Syrian invasion of Jordan in 1970* they have recognised Israel as an important strategic asset. Immediately prior to that action, the US had intended to force Israel to accept the Rogers Plan (which called for Israel's unilateral withdrawal to pre-1967 borders any guarantee of peace or security from the Arab states). Do you really think US foreign policy is driven by guilt about anything?

* When the PLO destabilised Jordan, siezed control of large areas of the country, and tried to assasinate King Hussein, the Jordanians attacked the PLO and pushed them into Lebanon. The PLO's Syrian sponsors -- presumably with the approval of their own, Soviet sponsors -- responded by invading northern Jordan, with the apparent intent of overthrowing the Heshamite monarchy and installing a puppet PLO regime. The Syrians turned back when they realised that the Israelis were willing to defend Jordan, which they demonstrated by sending fighters to 'buzz' the Syrian armoured column. This determined the usefulness of the Israeli's to US cold war policy in the region, which was confirmed during the Yom Kippur war in 1973: a proxy war between the USSR and the USA.

John Hudson's picture

Sharon's guilt was standing by

Sharon was guilty of a lot more than standing by at Sabra and Shatila: he opened the gates to the murderers, and then stood by. The Israeli's own investigation found that Sharon and other commanders were fully aware of what would happen if the Falangists were allowed to enter the camps. This makes them culpable of more than standing by, and this is why one of the few things I do agree with Hrant about is that Sharon is a war criminal. He was dismissed as defence minister because of his guilt over Sabra and Shatila, and he should never have been allowed to stand for public office again, let alone as prime minister.

William Berkson's picture

>Sharon was guilty of a lot more than standing by

You're right, John. I hadn't read the Kahan report before, which I just now read the Sharon secton of - he sent the Christian Phalangists in. To me standing by was such a grevious sin that I didn't need to hear more to know he shouldn't at the very least be part of public life again.

I remember when I first heard Sharon's name. I think two Israelis were discussing something in the mid '60s and one mentioned Sharon, and the other said 'Sharon, he's a fascist', and I had never heard one Israeli say such a thing about another.

I don't think he would have ever been able to come back as Prime Minister, as I said, except for the great shock the Israelis had when Barak extended the hand of peace in a generous offer and had the bomb and the knife in return from Arafat. This created a fury in the majority in which they wanted somebody who they knew would strike out relentlessly against the terrorists from Palestinian territories. And Sharon was that man. Still, here is Sharon leading the pull-out from Gaza, so he is more complicated than the caricature of him.

John Hudson's picture

As you say, William, Sharon's return to government was in reaction to the violent rejection of Barak's policies by the Palestinian Authority and the militant organisations. But I think one must acknowledge Sharon's own role in sparking the popular Arabic protest that Arafat and the militant leaders were quickly able to stoke into the full blown violence of the second intifada. The fact that the intifada began with popular protest against Sharon's carefully staged and deliberately provocative tour of the Temple Mount gave it a legitimacy among many Palestinians that it would not have had if it had been more obviously something generated by the leadership. The fact that the Palestinian leadership quickly took direction of the intifada, in a way that they never quite succeeded with the first intifada, confirms Arafat's genius as one of the great political opportunists. But this is also Sharon's genius in this instance, because his stroll between the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque always seemed to me deliberately intended to bring down Barak's government by sparking a conflict that would undermine the Labour Party's policies. I happen to agree with the point Sharon claimed to be making -- that a Jew should be allowed to walk anywhere within the city of Jerusalem -- but it is difficult to see the timing of this action as anything but a deliberate provocation. As at Sabra and Shatila, he knew what the consequences of his actions would be.

It is a testament to the nightmare of the settlement issue, especially in Gaza that, in the debate on the pull-out from Gaza, Sharon, this war criminal, appears as a moderate. This is a scary thought indeed. Of course, old soldiers often long for peace -- for what else do they fight, as the old saying goes --, and certainly this was Rabin's path: from warrior to would-be-peacemaker. The difference is that Rabin sought peace with trust, and Sharon is never going to trust the Arabs.

Regarding Sabra and Shatila, Sharon and the others found responsible in the Kahane report should have been tried and imprisoned. There has been a terrible neglect of justice for the victims and, although Israel did the right thing in dismissing Sharon from his post, they should have done a lot more. At the same time, though, not enough attention has been paid to the Lebanese Falangists who were actually directly responsible for the killing. Not even the commanders on the ground in the camps have ever faced trial, and senior Falangists who were implicated in planning and approving the attack on the camps are now members of the Syrian client government in Lebanon. This is accepted by many as a necessary evil -- a compromise that helps maintain peace in Lebanon by ensuring broad representation of the ethnic and religious factions in the country -- but it is no less an injustice than Sharon's avoiding prosecution for the same crimes.

hrant's picture

> senior Falangists who were implicated in planning and approving
> the attack on the camps are now members of the Syrian client
> government in Lebanon.

Except for Elie Hobeika, who was recently (way after the war had been over) assassinated using a Mossad car bomb* shortly before he was to testify against Sharon in Belgium.

* It is estimated that about one third of the car bombs used during the Lebanese War had Mossad connections. I might be wrong, but I believe we call that "terrorism" these days...

BTW, "Phalangist".


John Hudson's picture

I can't imagine there was any shortage of people who would have liked to have killed Hobeika -- he had a lot of blood on his hands -- but the Mossad do seem the most likely suspects. I notice that the 'Lebanese for a Free and Independent Lebanon' organisation that claimed responsibility for the assassination doesn't seem to have been heard from since.

I suppose Phalangist makes more sense as a spelling given Lebanon's French connection; I'm more used to the Spanish Falange. I've seen both spellings used in reference to the Lebanese faction, but maybe thats because journalists are confused about the spelling also.

nadine_chahine's picture

The reprecussions of the Lebanese Civil War are still very present today. The country is still divided, the government corrupt, the economy in tatters, the people disillusioned and bitter. No matter how one explains it, war criminals gaining office is not an easy sight. Everyone was "pardonned" when the fighting stopped. The political situation is volatile. The Syrian presence is an issue of heated debate. To put it simply: Christians against, Muslims with. Having said that, it is the business of the lebanese to sort out the terms of that relationship, and not the US or France. Change can only come from the inside. The Lebanese haven't learned the lesson yet. 15 years of war and they still fight over religious squabbles.

As to the phalangists, in Arabic we call that group "kata-ib". It's a very extreme group and also responsible for shooting dead my uncle and grandpa in 1982. Christians killing other Christians in the name of Christianity is a very sad thing.

I must say, this thread has been very interesting to follow. If it proves anything, it is the need for a solution to this mess. Though it is a regional dispute, it has a large scale undesirable effect. I wonder what the Bush administration would do about it.

William Berkson's picture

>Change can only come from the inside.

I certainly agree with that as a general rule, since that was the point I was arguing above.

However, when armies are present they do force change from the outside. I don't know how the Syrian army affects Lebanon, but I do know the US army is making big changes in Iraq. Whether these turn out to be a long term disaster or benefit we don't know, though at this point it looks bad.

>I wonder what the Bush administration would do about it.

With the death of Arafat, there is an historic opportunity to make peace between Palestine and Israel. Our US government can certainly do a lot to make it happen. But when I look at Bush's bungling in Iraq, I tremble with fear that he's going to blow the opportunity. If Powell is in charge instead of Rumsfeld, there is hope.

hrant's picture

Nadine, I'm sad to hear that. Terrible.
I'm sure anybody would have trouble imagining that such tragedy has hit your family having met you in person - you're so kind and open. I guess surviving conflict makes some people both stronger and more sensitive.

The Kataa'ib were also the only party in the entire history of the war to seriously oppress Armenians. Why? Because we refused to take sides.

> when armies are present they do force change from the outside.

Sure, but Syria is a lot less "outside" than the US/Isreal! In fact before the Stalinist-style Western partitioning, Syria and Lebanon were essentially one thing. This is exactly what fuels Syrian aspirations on Lebanon. What fuels US aspirations on Lebanon? Israel.

> there is an historic opportunity

Let's see it used by those whose actions matter most.

Powel is too level-headed - he has no place in these fundamentalist times.
He has no place in a country driven by the imposition of morality.
Just don't talk to Native Americans about morality.


as8's picture

Have to check out the map I have to find
a good place where to start looking fo'a new job.

hrant's picture

Too funny.
"And in this map we can clearly see the strategic location of the Middle East."

The temptation to make jokes about entry/exit is strong, but we have a lady in our midsts.


bob's picture

hi guys,

Well I am totally new here, but I am not that new in this subject that you have been talking about. I will try to not sound a "moral" person.

I could not read all what has been written, but i read most of what Hrant and Nadine wrote.

I am sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. I am a 26 years old Lebanese student who is working on his master "communication and planning design" in Germany.
Many points has been mentioned where we can talk days about them, but I would like to give my own experience and opinion about it.

I lived all the war in Lebanon, and so close, my famliy was involved into it, wether through the army, or in any other party from here and there.

To talk about what the phalangist did, it is good, but it is incomplete nadine, because this issue is too complex to mention it in one sentence. Once we want to talk about it, we can mention the masscares that happened to the christains in Damour or in Tripoli, or ...I even have have friends that suffered from it.
I don't agree in a very easy way with u Hrant, just to say that most of the Lebanese people want Syria to stay in Lebanon, and I am not talking about Christains or moslims here. I simply don't see any real benefit of Syria in Lebanon. If really Syria wanted to help lebanese people to build any kind of way to live together as they always claimed, it should have been already done by now, which is not, in my opinion.
About Israel, I was against it all the time, I am still, simply because they are doing what happened with them during the WW2, and that they are stil playing the role of a victim, It is not anymore acceptable, though I should say that nobody built this bad image about the palestinians other then, they, themsleves. I don't find the reason that they moved the battle from their land to another, Lebanon for example, because in Syria and in Jordany they were smashed by the authorities, or even by bombing planes here and there.
I met many Israeli people, in Germany, students, or professors, at my school, we talked about it, we saw that people don't have any problem with each other, sure nobody should talk or say anymore that people are different from what the state is doing, I think this is all over the world like this, USA recently for example.

Any action has a reaction, and this is what is happening in our region, middle east, to just resume it in few words, it is unfair, but all what I ask, is to be a bit more realistic. Sure USA is the one trying to control everything with Israel, but I know as a lebanese that I am controlled by Syria since 25 years, and this is for me everything but not a comfortable situation, and I know exactly that many moslim want Syria to be out of Lebanon before christains, I don't see simply the need, the reason...And I am sorry for sure nadine for your lost during the War, but we have to be a bit objective, everybody knows that all Arab world, from Algeria to Syria, was helping to get Christains out of there, all moslims parites were supported by them...I am not saying that I support any kind of violence from anybody, but we simply cannot blame one side and leave the other, it is all our mistake and nobody is alone charged for it.

One more thing, from my own point of view, Palestinians have lost their war from the second that they started to fight from outside their land, 70% of our war in Lebanon was caused by them, even Yasser Arafat was the biggest mistake in this war, he wanted Jounieh instead of Palestine, I even have this sentence on a tape in one of his speeches in Lebanon...
I don't agree at all on what the Isareli government is doing in Palestine, I even allow myself to say that the idea that Israel has to exist is wrong, there was no Israel there, so just to say Isarel was 3000 years ago there for Jewish people, so let's make it again it is our right! This is a very funny and horrible idea. Well now they are there, I think the only solution is that both people has to accept each other, that's why the Israeli should start form a point that it was not thier right to be there anyway. I mean there is no land for christains for example, or for moslims, I never heard about it... The idea that people (Jewish) are being paid to come from Russia, or france...to live in Israel, just to fill the areas, is crazy, it does'nt convince anybody.

That 's what I can say till now, maybe later when I get a bit deeper in this forum I will try to elaborate better my ideas.

Thank you


William Berkson's picture

Welcome, Ibrahim!

>idea that Israel has to exist is wrong

I explained above why I think Israel is legitimate above; perhaps you can be more specific on what you think is wrong in my reasoning.

> I mean there is no land for christains for example, or for moslims, I never heard about it...

Europe is majority Christian, and in many the Christian Churches are supported by taxing the all the public, Christian or not. And many of the majority Islamic states proudly proclaim themselves Islamic, and I believe most support the Islamic clerics out of state funds, and do not support Christian or Jewish clerics out of such funds. (There may be some exceptions such as Turkey and Tunesia.)

So your claim here about there being no countries for Christians or Muslims is, as far as I can see, quite wrong.

hrant's picture

As we can see, and as is natural, every possible combination of opinions about this aspect or that of the Middle East exists in various individuals! I don't want to argue about specifics too much, exactly because there are too many inter-related things, going back millenia.

But I do want to clarify what I wrote about the Syrian presence in Lebanon:
- I agree there are bad things about it, for example a lot of business contracts going unfairly to Syrian companies. Think Halliburton, I guess.
- When I say "most Lebanese people want Syria to stay", I don't mean an overwhelming proportion. But I do mean a percentage much higher than for example what the US presidency was decided by!

You might notice that both of those points end with comparisons with the US. This is exactly because the US is by far the biggest "role model" at the moment - and with this comes great responsability.


steve_p's picture

>>So your claim here about there being no countries for Christians or Muslims is, as far as I can see, quite wrong

But I don't know of any of those countries which allow a person permanent residence or nationality or citizenship just because they are Christian or Moslem.
As far as I know, even in the European countries with a state church, you would have to meet secular criteria, and you would NOT have to meet religious criteria.
So I think one could argue that there isn't a 'state for Christians' or a 'state for Moslems' in the way that Israel, is a 'state for Jews'.

Is there a state for Atheists? Or Bokonists?

nadine_chahine's picture

>Europe is majority Christian....
The big difference is: a European country will not accept new citizens just because they are Christian, unlike the situation in Israel.

>Edward Said..
Yes he's a great thinker and I don't think it academically correct to dub him as a "victim mentality". That's a convenient way to take the breath out of his work. Also, it's a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. I really recommend that you read his books. As to the graduation speech at AUB, I refer to it because of the vision of what Arab-Western dialogue should be like. It is especially important at these times, but probably more relevant to Arab readers.

Ibrahim: welcome :-)
I agree that one sentance cannot fully describe our war. Even a book barely can. I recommended Robert Fisk's book which gives a more detailed view of it. The best way for people to learn about us is to come and visit and talk to the people. There's so many different opinions and stands. Though I'm glad we're having the discussion here.

I guess the way we look at things is governed by our personal experiences. My first memory of life is of the Israeli invasion. We had to leave school early and pack our bags and leave Beirut. I was 3. I remember drawing 3 chicken running in a field and an Israeli plane shooting bombs at them. This is reverse brand loyalty (I'm currently reading Fast Food Nation) and Israel will always be the big powerful neighbor that sent tanks and planes to bomb my city and my home. I don't want to generalize, but I would expect a large number of fellow Arabs to feel this way.

This makes me wonder what 3 year-olds today perceive. Would the palestinian children think of Israel as the soldiers that came and arrested their father and bull dozed their house? Thse who live in better houses on the other side of the fense? Would Israeli children ever take the bus again? If Arabs are to see Israel in a different light, then Israel will need to show a more humane face. The palestinians' right to self determination is not a victim mentality, it's a basic human right to exist, to belong to a nation, and to be recognised by the international community.

>I guess surviving conflict makes some people both stronger and more sensitive.
Thanks Hrant, though I wish we never had to live through the conflict. Given what the politics and mentality in Lebanon today are like, looks like it was all in vain. I hope the question of the Syrian presence is dealt with peacefully. It would be really nasty if there was more fighting.

dan_reynolds's picture

Ibrahim, I don't think that it is fair to make such a simple comparison between Israel's various actions in the Middle East (including the illegal ones) and the treatment of Jews by Germany before 1945. During the NS-era, the German government, in a very short period of time, rounded up well over ten million people (Jews and non-Jews), and put them in camps with the sole intent of exterminating them all. This systematic, blood-thiry behavior was far worse than what Israel is doing. Israel is not trying to systematically exterminate the Palestinian people, or anyone else for that matter.

To drastically simplify historical terms, Germany was only interested in a "one-state" solution ("Germany, Germany over everything"). Isn't Israel committed to a two-state solution? Or to put it better, who isn't committed to a two-state solution in Palestine/Israel today?

dan_reynolds's picture

I think that the dead can best be remembered by our working for peace. They have little need for revenge.

William Berkson's picture

>Is there a state for Atheists? Or Bokonists?

>accept new citizens just because they are Christian, unlike the situation in Israel.

Jews are an ethnic and national group, as well as having a distinctive religion.

For most of the 1900 year exile, we were treated by both Christian and Muslim societies as resident aliens and second-class subjects. In particular we had special taxes, special dress, distinctive language and most significantly were internally governed by Talmudic law, rather than the law of the land.

In Christian Europe we were prohibited from owning land and were allowed residence only under temporary sufferance of the local sovereign.

This situation changed in Western Europe only with the Emancipation of the Jews by Napoleon early in the 19th century. After that both Jews and Europeans wrestled with the question of how this formerly distinctive national group could be integrated with the nation-states of Europe. This was the so-called 'Jewish Question'. Hitler's 'final solution' to the Jewish question was to kill all the Jews.

Israel was founded as a refuge for the survivors of Hitler's destruction and as a refuge for other Jews who are persecuted in other lands.

Hence the law of return is primarily a matter of national history and status, rather than a matter of distinctive theology.

This is made more clear by the fact that the Zionists who established a Jewish community in the British mandate were primarily anti-religious socialists who saw the new society as a solution to a national and ethnic problem, not as a solution to a religious one. Still today the great majority of Israelis do not see themselves as religiously observant or traditionally religious.

>I don't think it academically correct to dub him as a "victim mentality"

The reason I do because of his focus on blaming the West and Israel, rather than on criticising correcting the failings of Arab governments. (I will look again at his work, though, Nadine.)

The Jews have indeed been the victims of persecution for thousands of years, but by an large I don't say that Israel has a victim mentality, because it concentrates on criticising and building its own society, and not just blaming others.

An illustration is the fact that the average per capita income in Israel according to World Bank figures is around $16,000, whereas in Palestinian territories is a bit over $1,000. I have no doubt that the Palestinian people are very talented and with good leadership would be many fold better off than they are now, and hopefully will be soon if good leadership comes forward.

>If Arabs are to see Israel in a different light, then Israel will need to show a more humane face.

I'm afraid that as long as there is a state of war neither side will directly see the humane face of the other.

Just as your family has suffered horribly from the war, so have Israeli families. For example, my Hebrew teacher told me that he hates Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, because it always brings reminders of the day when he was fighting the Syrian army and his childhood friends were bleeding to death around him. The goal of the Yom Kippur war was to destroy Israel, and those were Arabs killing his friends. So everyone on both sides of this conflict have bitter, bitter memories of family and friends who have been destroyed or maimed in war or terrorism.

It takes a real effort of imagination to see the humanity of the other side in such a prolonged war situation, but that is what is needed in order to make peace. That is why I disagree with Raphael's view above that the Palestinians will never be reconciled to the presence of a state of Israel. The Palestinians want the same thing for their families as Jews, and that is the basis for things changing.

Once there is peace and the situation changes, minds will also change. People will become more prosperous, learn to work together, and discover the humanity in each other.

I am under no illusion that this can happen quickly or fully, but it can happen. An example is our own civil war in the US. Trying to overcome its legacy of hatred has been a 140 year process that is still going on. I have seen bitter and angry white racists learn to cooperate with black Americans, and live side by side civilly, when they had sworn they would never be reconciled to the integration forced on them in the 1960s. The opportunities for the black community are immensely better than it was when I was a young child in the '50s. But still the legacy of the civil war continues. You can see it in the desparate condition of many in the black community, while many other blacks prosper and thrive. You can also see it in the current election, where all of the formerly Confederate and border states voted for Bush. This in my view is a direct result of President Johnson's civil rights legislation, after which the South abandoned the Democratic party, and became progressively more Republican.

So my view is that we all have a moral obligation to see the humanity of the other side, even when that is difficult, and to make peace to create conditions that will bring out that humanity, even though we know that bitterness may not vanish for many generations.

steve_p's picture

>>Jews are an ethnic and national group, as well as having a distinctive religion
>>Hence the law of return is primarily a matter of national history and status, rather than a matter of distinctive theology

OK, I'm out of my specialist area here, so correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it the case that the law of return applies to members of the Jewish religion, who are not part of the Jewish ethnic or national heritage (i.e. those who have converted to Judaism), and NOT to those who do have the Jewish national and ethnic background, but have converted to another religion.

If that's the case, it seems clear to me that religion is the criteria for the law of return.
Religion Jewish, national & ethnic background non-Jewish - You're in.
Religion non-Jewish, national and ethnic background Jewish - you're out.

BTW, other religions have ethnic and national aspects too, though they are less obvious. Ask my father his religion and he'll tell you that he is 'Church of England'. Its a nationality thing.
Why is he a member of the C of E? By ethnic default. His paents were, and their parents too, going back three centuries at least (and probably more). Everyone, or almost everyone, from his geographical region, his social group and his gene pool was C of E. Its an ethnic thing.

hrant's picture

Arafat is gone. Yesterday night I was about exactly as sad as I was for 9-11.
Long live Palestine.

You know what else is sad? I want to wear my kafiyyeh today. But in this allegedly free society -even in friggin' Glendale, not Brentwood, or Lincoln, Nebraska- I can't. Hrant Papazian is afraid of what might happen. It wasn't like this when I got here, even though Palestinian terrorism/freedom-fighting has been around for a while. What happened? Western fundamentalism happened. And the Jewish lobby happened. The Menorahs now dwarf the Christmas trees in malls. Admit, so you can cure, or at least find a healthier balance.

> I was 3

And Ibrahim was around 4. This is about when conscious memory starts.
To those who had seen a bunch of stuff before the Israeli invasion, it was more part of the "texture". To those who didn't appreciate the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, it had a silver lining. I didn't care either way. It was like being in a movie for me. But having lived here and there, and having seen the true problems, I have grown to think about -more than feel- what is good and bad.

> I don't think that it is fair to make such a simple comparison

Certainly it's not a balanced comparison, but the similarities are there, and they are chilling. The fact that the Jewish reality of the past 50 years was formed by the Nazis cannot be dismissed. The fact that the Holocaust does very much drive the Jewish justification for their own actions is central. When people like Raphael deny this, think about why.

In fact you could say that Israel, and by extension Jews, are doing the same thing within the limits of contemporary tolerances, which include the much more quick and reliable distribution of news.

But anyway, don't use history as an excuse to commit your own attrocities. And if you so value history, simply consider how Israel/Jews will be remembered in the future as a result of this apartheid and oppression.

> who isn't committed to a two-state solution in Palestine/Israel today?

Apparently too many people on the JudeoWestern side.
And you should realize that politicians don't commit to compromise, they simply do it as part of their personal survival, as needed, never to simply make others happy. And take a guess as to what a war criminal is committed to. Or religious fundamentalists who elect to live (and are encouraged to do so by their government) right in the heart of enemy land.

Israel is very good at talking. Because that's what the US populace goes by.

> Jews are an ethnic and national group

Western Jews and "native" Jews are distinct groups. The only thing that really binds them is religion. Being Chosen.

> For most of the 1900 year exile, we were treated by both Christian and
> Muslim societies as resident aliens and second-class subjects.

And now that you're in power, you're doing the same to non-Jews.

BTW, when was your most prosperous period in history? Under the Moors. Muslims.

What does the Torah say about Islam?
What does the Qur'aan say about Christians and Jews? That "people of the book must be respected".
I don't recommend believing some old book written by dead people, but if you must, then see the practical repurcussions.

> The reason I do because of his focus on blaming the West and Israel,
> rather than on criticising correcting the failings of Arab governments.

Again: it's fair and most productive to criticize those in power.
Most of those Arab goverments were created -and are now supported- by the West.
Which Arab governmet has the most potential for good work? Syria. Hmmm...

> the Zionists who established a Jewish community in the British mandate were primarily anti-religious

And the people who first implemented Democracy were good-hearted. Now look what happened.

> I don't say that Israel has a victim mentality, because it concentrates on
> criticising and building its own society, and not just blaming others.

1) Israel concentrates on the Palestinian problem.
2) It's very easy to build your society when you have the money and guns.

Your per-capita income angle is sickening. Because the poverty in Palestine is largely due to Israeli action (bulldozing houses and shops, stealing computers, walling off olive groves), and everybody knows that. Your purely capitilistic way of evaluating governmental merit is simply irrational. For one thing, Saudi Arabia -your "corrupt regime"- has one of the wealthiest populations in the world. But of course one of your Capitlailsm-apologist books explains that perfectly - so you can cope.

> Palestinians want the same thing

But what do the people in power want?

And how do you translate popular sentiment into peace? Apparently not through your precious Democracy. Electing a war criminal to head the country indeed. "Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East." Yeah, now it's making sense.

> I have seen bitter and angry white racists learn to cooperate with black Americans

1) They don't have tanks.
2) They're living comfortably.
The comparison to the Palestinian problem is ludicrous.

If you want an apt comparison, think of the American Indians. In fact to me the general refusal of Americans to feel guilty about what they did is at the heart of the world's problems. You cannot treat the world fairly when you have accepted Genocide as internally valid. That is where all the bombs are coming from - kill and steal more so you forget your foundations. But it will never work.


hrant's picture

> the much more quick and reliable distribution of news.

And this reliability is dangerous, which is why it's being eroded, the whole of media controlled* so you can get away with more, so you can tell people what to believe.

* Think of Italy for example - a fine western nation, eh?


William Berkson's picture

>religion is the criteria for the law of return

Steve, it isn't either-or, but both-and, just like Jewish identity, which has both religous and ethnic dimensions. Israel will accept under the law of return an atheist who hates Jewish religion but whose mother is of Jewish ancestry. They will also accept converts - who by the way may be discriminated against in other societies because of their religious beliefs.

Also you should know that traditional Jewish religion, unlike Protestant Christianity particularly, is not mainly a matter of belief but of practice.

I think it is wonderful that Israel does give Jews refuge. Christian and Islamic lands are vast in both population and territory over which they have political control. Jews are few in number and only have tiny Israel where they have sovereignty.

>What does the Torah say about Islam?

It doesn't say anything about Islam, because it was written more than 1,500 years before the rise of Islam. However, the commandment to "love the ger (resident alien)" is the commandment most frequently repeated in the Torah.

I don't have time to respond to most of what you say, but just let me say that I certainly don't agree with the US backing of corrupt Arab regimes.

I also don't presume that I would have been wise enough to do far better during the cold war. Making good national decisions between different evils in an anarchic and violent international world doesn't strike me as easy.

And with characteristic victim mentality Hrant you blame all Palestinian problems on the Israelis with the wonderful argument that "everybody knows that". Not me, not my friend who spent 30 years working on economic development, and not millions of others who don't agree with you. My view: it is because Arafat chose the bomb and the black bag of corruption instead of peace and democracy and prosperity for his people.

hrant's picture

It is because of Arafat that this thread exists.


William Berkson's picture

1) They don't have tanks.
2) They're living comfortably.
The comparison to the Palestinian problem is ludicrous.

Hrant, you just don't get it. If there is peace the Israelis won't have tanks in the Palestinian state, nor will Palestinians be sending suicide bombers regularly to Israeli territory. Now do you get it, or can you only imagine war and hatred?

William Berkson's picture

Oh, Steve, sorry I didn't read your post more carefully. I believe that there recently was a Catholic priest born of Jewish ancestry who wanted Israeli citizenship under the law of return, and I think there was a court case and he lost. So in this sense you're right. But the case of the atheist etc that I gave above is still correct.

Of course Israel could still let the Priest in, just not automatically under the law of return.

John Hudson's picture

The fact that the Jewish reality of the past 50 years was formed by the Nazis cannot be dismissed. The fact that the Holocaust does very much drive the Jewish justification for their own actions is central.

After WWII, Israel was a refuge for the survivors of the Holocaust, but the founders of the country were a very different set of Jews: the sabras who worked on the farms and kibbutzes, who defended their settlements against the Mufti of Jerusalem's pogroms, who fought in the Jewish brigade of the British army against the Nazis, and who often could not understand how the Jews of Europe had passively allowed themselves to be rounded up and murdered. If there is a 'type' of the Israeli Jew to be found in the Holocaust, it is not among the victims of the concentration camps, but in the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. If anything, Israelis, over-compensate in their refusal to ever be victims, which explains perfectly well why they deal harshly with those who have repeatedly sworn to destroy Israel and since 1948 have repeatedly tried.

Nadine wrote above about the perception of Israel as the big powerful neighbour whose tanks and planes attack Lebanese cities and homes. This is a perfectly understandable perception. But it is also the perception that Israelis have of their big powerful neighbours, who have repeatedly ganged up and sent their tanks and planes against Israel since 1948. And Lebanese forces have been part of most of those attacks.

So these are a perceptions of both sides, and the perceptions are understandable. Understanding the history helps us understand the perceptions. What is more difficult, of course, is to move beyond one's own perceptions, and to recognise the perceptions of the other.

Hrant, you how can you say that 'too many people on the JudeoWestern side' are not in favour of the two-state solution, when Israel is the only party that has ever accepted the partition of Palestine? Israel accepted the two state solution in 1948. The Arabs have never accepted it (and it became impossible after the '48 war when Israel and Jordan divided between them what the UN had intended to be the Palestinian Arab state. I don't believe Arafat ever accepted the two state solution of the Oslo agreement as anything but a temporary goal: how can you say you are committed to a two state solution when your official media continues to call for the destruction of the other state? I hope and pray that the new generation of Palestinian leaders genuinely want peace. I don't believe Arafat ever did: all he wanted was power (and he wasn't really fussy where he had it: Jordan or Lebanon would have suited him as well as Palestine). I wonder how much of his personal fortune of a billion dollars will find its way into the hands of the suffering Palestinian people now that he is gone?

steve_p's picture

William, that would fit with what I had read. As I say, its not my specialist subject, but a quick surf brought out this:

Article 4B of the Law of Return states "For the purposes of this Law, 'Jew' means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion."

If that's correct, then to me, that would make religion the criteria, over national and ethnic factors, with the Jewish-heritage atheist as an exception.

bob's picture

Hello guys,

it is again me, ibrahim, well I don't know inw hat purpose this forum is made, I will try to discover soon.

1st I have to reply to some answers. Hrant, It is again not at all true that most (in any way you want it) lebanese want syria inside Lebanon. I don't know since when u left Lebanon, but I tell you clearly, even if many moslems don't say it clearly, that not most lebanese want syria in Lebanon.
Syria did some good things in Lebanon, nobody can eny them, but they did next to these few good things, disasters, in all what does it mean this word "disaster".

Though I am still worried about Hezbollah, if the syrians leave. What will they( Hezbollah) start to apply in Lebanon? Will they give thier weapons? will they continue in controling alone their areas? ...This can be for another war in Lebanon, which I would really regret it...

Nadine, I agreewith you one thing, which is I really don't any kind of war in Lebanon. My question is: if the problem is between christians & moslems, I want to know where is it? Why can't we simply find a way that it is fair for everybody? christians are asking for the freedom and the independance, so where is the problem with this by moslems? Or is it simply saying no to say no? Really i am asking.

Again i say, there is no country for moslems, neither for christains. Nobody came and said, hey this country is for moslems, neither in Saudi Arabia, nor any where else..Not even Europe for christains. These countries were built like this, naturally, influenced by historical and political effects...
The story with Israel is much more different.There was no Israel anymore, it was palestine for a loooong time, Few english men came and decided with some jews, that hey Jews always wre here on this land, so it will for jews again.
YES, I am saying in very naive way, but It is like this, Don't forget that many jews became christians and they were living there, they are even still...So I think you cannot compare anymore europe or arab world to Israel in this point. There are christains living in America, not only USA, so? Where is the land now for christians? There is no land claimed that it is for A religion, except Israel...
Answer me please, or explain for me the fact that Russian jews are being paid from Israel to come and live there. In which right is this?
About taxes for church in Europe, you pay it only if you belong to this church. When I first came to to Germany, they asked for my religion, I asked why? The answer was, that if one day I will work here and live here, so they know to which religion I pay taxes, so I won't pay taxes to the protestants or to the catholic chruch...if I am a Moslem for example...SO it is wrong to say that anybody has to pay taxes to the church in Europe, please make sure of any info. before mentioning it. There are even christians, they declare that they are atheists just to avoid paying taxes...

Sure Israel is not doing as Hitler did, today we have medias (most of them lie, or at least hide 90%) , we have human rights, we have cameras everywhere.

Jews are not anymore victims, they should stop this song. What about Japan? I mean USA killed as many japanese as Hitler did with jews, but USA did it faster, but this does'nt mean that they did not make the same ugly massacres...
or What about the Indians in USA? or Black people in USA?

Germany is still paying money till today for Israel! hey, I laughed when I knew this. Then USA should pay to black people, and to indians, and to japanese, and to vietnamies...

Why should a new born German today pay for something did'nt do or even think about to somebody does'nt exist anymore since yeaaaars?

Israel had polluted once a river in palestine just to oblige people to move from the city, these are actions from Israel...

I am not saying that people are asking for this, but this is what I meant with the Idea that Israel should be founded was wrong. Today it exists, so I think as Arafat died, I wish that the old leaders in Israel as well move away for the new generation to act. PEOPLE want to live in PEACE. I don't care if my neighbor is christain or jewish or moslem...

No one try to convince me, that our arab leaders from egypt to syria are well connected with USA (indirectly Israel)...Arafat was one of them, today we are hearing about his account, it is about billions...I think this man chnaged his plans manytimes, that is why we saw USA did 'nt want him anymore at the end. A man who start planing to subistute his country by another(Lebanon for ex.), I think there is a question mark about his honesty.

I hope that now the new leadership in Palestine try to move things forward.

I still do'nt agree on what the troops in Palestine are doing with civilians, like what did they do in Egypt lately. It is for me as bad as what sharon is doing.

About Egypt by the way. Egypt is one of big and powerest Arab countries, but it is okay, no problem, if they had peace with Israel...Once they tried to think about it in Lebanon, christains were called even till now, betrayers and these betrayers do not think about their brothers in the arab wrold, but egypt and Jordany, It is ok if they forgot for while...

I mentioned this, just to show the theater that they play on us in the arab world, i mean It is not my job to ask those that they make a theater in USA, but those super arabic heros, they are the Super Liars...
I still blame the president, Amin Gemayel, that he did not sign on that peace process, and let these people work safely and live in peace already...But no hesbollah should destroy the enemy, but hey you, hesbollah, we cannot, let those rich countries like saudi arabia, or even egypt, or even Syria, our sister, to start any resistance....

So how should i trust Syria still in Lebanon? They live in Peace there, in syria, our country is always under probation form Israel because of this, Upon now, they got the lesson, that lebanon will not be bombed anymore, but Syria, they understood the game...

I think I talked too much now,

keep it up guys


bob's picture

No one try to convince me, that our arab leaders from egypt to syria are NOT well connected with USA (indirectly Israel)

bob's picture

No one try to convince me, that our arab leaders from egypt to syria are NOT well connected with USA (indirectly Israel)

bob's picture

No one try to convince me, that our arab leaders from egypt to syria are NOT well connected with USA (indirectly Israel)

bob's picture

No one try to convince me, that our arab leaders from egypt to syria are NOT well connected with USA (indirectly Israel)

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