Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taking Back our Struggle- Taking Back our Identity

As a progressive with a long track record of working for individual human rights, my peers often react with shock and disbelief when I publicly express my support for the only country in the Middle east that protects the rights of its gays, minorities and women. Often I'm treated as though I brought veal to a PETA pot luck. Its an uncomfortable feeling, here in "more politically correct than thou" northern California.

On the other hand, it baffles me that my peers so readily and unquestioningly accept the classic fascist regimes of Hamas and Hezbollah. How did this happen? How did repressive, totalitarian regimes come to enjoy liberal support in America , while liberal democracies are rejected?

Sales and Marketing, my dear Watson. Sales and marketing.

Realizing that their articulated goal of driving the Jews into the sea wasn't helping them make friends and influence people, the Palestinians have been employing the rhetoric of victimization to further their agenda.

In History Upside Down, David Meir-Levi writes:
Ho Chi Mihn's chief strategist, General Giap, made it clear to Arafat and his lieutenants that in order to succeed, they too needed to redefine the terms of their struggle... "Stop talking about annihilating Israel," advised North Vietnam's General Giap, "and instead turn your terror war into a struggle for human rights. Then you will have the American people eating out of your hand."

At UC Berkeley and on college campuses throughout the country, this approach is being used. "We are talking truth to power" , UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Batzien said recently to a group gathered to hear Norman Finkelstein and Jon Dugard speak at Boalt Hall. But with 22 Arab nations, with 800 times the land and 50 times the people and with extensive oil wealth, tell me again who exactly is in the position of power?

Arafat was also taught to exploit his situation by Muhammad Yazid, the minister of information in Algeria:
"Wipe out the argument that Israel is a small state whose existence is threatened by the Arab states, or the reduction of the Palestinian problem to a question of refugees; instead, present the Palestinian struggle as a struggle for liberation like the others. Wipe out the impression …that the Zionist is the underdog. Now it is the Arab who is oppressed and victimized in his existence because he is not only facing the Zionists but also world imperialism."

This strategy has certainly succeeded, at least on College campuses. How did this happen? Part of the answer is our own complacency. The organized Jewish community allowed our history and our heritage to be redefined for us. We allowed our proud movement of self determination, Zionism, to be turned into a pejorative. We allowed our communities to be redefined as "settlements". We allowed our pursuit of a peaceful resolution to a complex issue to be redefined into an "imperialist colonial struggle". We watched the other side frame its history unchallenged- "occupied territories", "siege of Gaza", "ethnic cleansing". Its time to take back our language, our words, our heritage. They are as much a part of our identity as our land.

We need to remind our community that in the present, as well as the not so distant past, the worst enemy of the Palestinian people has been the Palestinian leadership. We need to remind people that destroying Israel is not the way to help the Palestinian people- that the Palestinian people need to be empowered to shake off the yoke of those willing to use them as pawns in this struggle. We need to remind people that true progressives should challenge all those who restrict individual rights and liberties, and that Palestinian despots will not be given a free pass.


  1. Awesome post! Would you recommend Meir-Levi's book? I had never heard of those quotes before and I want to make sure they are reliable.

  2. Power of weakness


    In all world politics - but especially in the Middle East - appearances can deceive. Although power is powerful and weakness is weak, power can weaken itself. Sometimes, weakness can even become a source of power. Nowhere is this paradox more apparent than in Israel's endlessly self-deceiving relationship with the Palestinians.

    From the start, the Palestinians, understanding the importance of language, have transformed their widely presumed weakness into a genuine source of power. Repeatedly, the "weak" Palestinians have outmaneuvered the "powerful" Israelis. For example, a few years ago the UN's International Court of Justice chose to condemn not the persistent criminality of Palestinian terrorism, but rather the fence erected by Israel to safeguard its citizens from suicide-bombers.

    For almost 2,000 years, the Jews as a people remained stateless and defenseless. In a number of important spheres of human activity, however, they were still innovators and leaders. Today, when there does exist a sovereign Jewish state with modern weapons, as well as with advanced centers of science, learning and technology, the Jewish citizens of Israel comprise the most vulnerable Jews on the face of the earth.

    The ironies are staggering. If we were also to consider ongoing Iranian nuclearization together with its openly exterminatory threats to Israel, Israel's Jews would likely represent the most vulnerable people on earth. For them, history must remain unspeakable.

    The Palestinians - Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, it makes no real difference - are all fond of referring to their alleged "weakness." Still, they have exhibited considerable staying power in their pre-state form. Paradoxically, their oft-repeated "weakness" has been a prime source of this power.

    The Arab world is comprised of 22 states, nearly 5 million square miles and more than 150,000,000 people. The overall Islamic world contains 44 states with well over 1 billion people. The Islamic states comprise an area 672 times the size of Israel.

    The State of Israel, even together with Judea/Samaria (West Bank) is less than half the size of California's San Bernardino County. Leaving aside that present-day Jordan comprises 78 percent of the original British Mandate for Palestine, and that it has long had a substantial Palestinian majority, the now fratricidal Palestinian Authority is being encouraged to declare a second Palestinian state on land torn from the still-living body of Israel.

    THE PALESTINIANS have consistently drawn tangible benefits from their alleged "weakness." Will "Palestine" enlarge Arab/Islamist power, or will it produce a weakened condition? Perhaps, with a tiny Jewish state existing next to a tiny Palestinian state, there will develop a mutuality of weakness. But this would be unlikely or even illogical, as power is always a verifiably relative notion.

    Significantly, Plato wrote about the reality of ideas. In matters of national security, as in science, good ideas are always logically prior to good policy. With new leaders in Jerusalem and Washington, Israel and the US will soon need to fully understand the reciprocal ideas of power and weakness.

    Israel must quickly understand that advanced weapons of war, however necessary, do not necessarily create decisive strength. By creating misjudgments of power, they can even create weakness.

    Foreign policy making in Jerusalem and Washington has often displayed a marked absence of true learning. In the near future, the next prime minister and president should finally come to recognize that the core ingredients of power in world politics can be subtle and intangible. Oddly enough, these ingredients may even include weakness.

  3. Meir-Levi is generally somewhere off in right field, but otherwise, I've found his books to be historically accurate.
    The chapter showing Arafats' emergence as a propagandist, is available on the web


  4. I would like to point you to a seminar on "the Palestinian Refugee from the Political Parties' Perspective" which was held at Al-Najah University.

    A similar very clear line of strategy is laid out at this undated Seminar

  5. > We allowed our pursuit of a peaceful resolution to a complex issue to be redefined into an "imperialist colonial struggle". We watched the other side frame its history unchallenged- "occupied territories"

    so I'm not clear on this - you're saying you support a peaceful reasolution that doesn't recognize the territories as occupied? that obviously precludes Palestinian sovereignty of any kind. So what is the peaceful solution, voluntary transfer?

  6. " you're saying you support a peaceful reasolution that doesn't recognize the territories as occupied?"

    No. I am saying that dishonest rhetoric has been adopted specifically to demonize Israel. I believe a more correct term would be "disputed territories".

    See: "From occupied Territories to Disputed territories" by Dore Gold

    "Three clear purposes seem to be served by the repeated references to "occupation" or "occupied Palestinian territories."

    First, Palestinian spokesmen hope to create a political context to explain and even justify the Palestinians' adoption of violence and terrorism during the current intifada.

    Second, the Palestinian demand of Israel to "end the occupation" does not leave any room for territorial compromise in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as suggested by the original language of UN Security Council Resolution 242

    Third, the use of "occupied Palestinian territories" denies any Israeli claim to the land: had the more neutral language of "disputed territories" been used, then the Palestinians and Israel would be on an even playing field with equal rights. Additionally, by presenting Israel as a "foreign occupier," advocates of the Palestinian cause can delegitimize the Jewish historical attachment to Israel. "

    I personally believe these territories are disputed, and look forward to a time when Palestinian leaders will denounce terror and negotiate in good faith with Israeli leaders for an equitable
    solution for both people

  7. this reminds me of an episode from the ill-fated 2000 negotiations under the the Barak government. Foreign Minister Ben-Ami was suggesting (if I recall correctly) that the Palestinians were demanding some territory within Israel proper. The seemed inconceivable - of course the land on the Israeli side of the 1967 border belonged to Israel, and it would be even more inconceivable for an Israeli town or a kibbutz, or a moshav, to be transferred to Palestinian sovereignity. Interestingly, though, the reverse is not true - territory beyond the 1967 lines is always seen as negotiable, and Palestinan villages near the Green Line are always up for grabs, as is their land. Can you explain this assymetrical attitude to me?

  8. actually, it has been proposed a number of times--by Israelis-- to transfer the Arab-populated area of Israel around Umm al-Fahm (known as the "Little Triangle")so Palestinian sovereignty. Despite the fact that Umm al-Fahm is the headquarters of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, its residents vociferously oppose being transferred from Israel to Palestine--presumably not only because their standard of living and health care is better under Israeli rule, but also because of the thuggish and corrupt rule exercised by the PA.

    see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triangle_(Israel)

  9. Since the Camp David accords in 2000, it has been part of every agreement that the land area of the future Palestinian State be equivalent to the land area of the present West Bank and Gaza.

    Area that Israel takes from within the West Bank that are settled by Jews will be "compensated" by annexing areas to Palestine from present day Israel. Usually, the proposed areas are unpopulated areas continuous with the West Bank or Gaza, but as Mike said, more and more people wish to see Palestinian areas of Israel to be exchanged for Jewish areas of the West Bank to help best achieve "two states for two peoples."

    It is anticipated that the West Bank will be ethnically cleansed of all Jews, but Palestinians will continue to be allowed to live in Israel with full citizenship rights and privileges.