Thursday, March 29, 2007

Continuing to Debunk Mythologies

I'm flattered that Evergreen College teacher Steve Niva thinks me important enough to mention my name 8 different times in his rebuttal to my feature article of Sunday, March 18th, 'Play Sheds Light on Conflict.' He would better spend his energies though on more rigorous research. For example, he re-introduces the tired, revisionist narrative of what was offered at Camp David in the summer of 2000, and studiously avoids the final offer later that December, known as the 'Clinton Parameters,' where over 96% of contiguous land in the West Bank was indeed offered to the Palestinians. See Ambassador Dennis Ross' maps in his definitive account of the talks, The Missing Peace; Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 2004.

And trumpeting out the "fact that Hamas has not conducted a single suicide bombing in nearly two years" makes one wonder whether they should be nominated for some sort of peace prize for such heroic restraint. Except, of course, that this assertion (which in a better world would be cause for embarrassment instead of pride), also bandied about regularly by former President Carter, simply doesn't stand up to scrutiny. It was just 11 months ago that a falafel stand in Tel Aviv was blown up by a suicide bomber, killing eleven innocent diners and wounding over 60 others. Oh, sorry; the bomber hailed from Islamic Jihad. Yet Hamas, the reigning power in the newly elected Palestinian government, called the attack a legitimate response to Israeli's occupation of the West Bank. "We think that this operation . . . is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people," said Khaled Abu Helal, spokesman for the Hamas-led interior ministry. Earlier, Moussa abu Marzouk, a Hamas leader based in Syria, told al-Jazeera television that "the Israeli side must feel what the Palestinian feels, and the Palestinian defends himself as much as he can."

Sounds to me like a pretty strong endorsement of suicide bombings continued legitimacy from the Hamas-led government. And let's not forgot all the attempted terror attacks (estimates range as high as 40 a month) that are thwarted by the indefatigable efforts of the Israeli Security Forces, saving countless innocent lives on all sides. The wall that Niva refers to (over 90% is actually a wire-linked fence) has been very instrumental in markedly cutting down terror attacks, also diminishing Israel's need for counter-terror efforts inside Palestinian villages. A non-violent solution to a violent problem.
I will proudly repeat my claim; despite it all, Israel continues to hold an outstretched, if guarded, hand in peace, working tirelessly to live side by side in peace and prosperity with the Palestinians and all her Arab neighbors.

Finally, I would challenge this author's ability to impart any sort of objectivity to his students in his role as an educator since it is quite obvious that his viewpoints regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict are very one-sided. This raises a larger question: what happens when students beg to differ with such prevailing sentiments? Are they penalized? Is there a true venue at Evergreen State College for more nuanced viewpoints towards the conflict? Are contextualized, fact-based, pro-Israel viewpoints welcomed?

Israel's apologists distort the truth
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The fairy-tale view of Israel as eternally besieged and completely faultless in its conflict with the Palestinians, as presented by David Brumer in the March 18 Focus ("Play shines light on conflict"), has certainly taken a hit this past year.
A growing number of Americans who deeply sympathize with Israel, including former President Jimmy Carter, have spoken eloquently of the need to recognize that Israel has committed severe human rights violations against the Palestinian people through its nearly 40-year military occupation and theft of Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. While extremely critical of Palestinian terrorism, they conclude that peace with security is not possible until Israel ends the injustices.
Perhaps that is why Israel's more fervent apologists are resorting to distortion and defamation as their preferred method to discredit anyone who dares acknowledge Palestinian grievances or Israel's grave and well-documented human rights abuses. Carter is facing an onslaught of malicious charges that range from intentionally lying to anti-Semitism. They want to silence an emerging debate over the United States' one-sided embrace of Israel.
This method of attacking the messenger is clearly on display in Brumer's article as well as in the flurry of protest against the play "My Name is Rachel Corrie" at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. The play tells the story of the 23-year-old woman from Olympia crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer demolishing Palestinian homes in the Gaza Strip.
Instead of joining with Carter, Rachel Corrie and countless others, many Israeli and Jewish, who recognize Israel's occupation and settlements are unjustified and prevent peace, Brumer peddles defamation and falsehoods about Corrie masquerading as reasonable criticism.
Claiming that Corrie was even "unwittingly" supporting terrorists is contradicted by the fact that the Israeli army has never claimed or provided any evidence that the homes in the neighborhood of Gaza that Corrie was defending when she was killed were concealing tunnels or were involved in attacks on Israelis.
Claiming Corrie was in any way providing cover for suicide bombers is easily proved false by the fact that no Palestinian suicide bombers had come from Gaza three years before or during the time Corrie was there.
Claiming that Corrie was working with an "extremist" organization is contradicted by the fact that the International Solidarity Movement to End the Occupation is composed of leading Palestinian voices of non-violence and supported by numerous Israeli peace groups.
Legitimate questions can be raised about Corrie's risky decision to enter into a very dangerous conflict zone. But that zone was dangerous precisely because Israel has imposed a merciless military occupation over a largely defenseless population and was wantonly demolishing homes to steal land for Israeli settlements.
One can certainly and rightly blame, as Brumer does, Palestinian extremists for damaging the moral justness of the Palestinian cause through murderous and strategically worthless suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of innocent Israelis.
But none of that justifies Israel continuing to steal Palestinian land and building a wall deep within Palestinian lands to annex those settlements. Nor does it prevent Israel from taking unilateral steps to vacate completely the land that it has illegally occupied since 1967.
Brumer's complete silence regarding Israel's occupation and settlements implies that it does.
Brumer's implicit justification for Israel's occupation and settlements is the continually recycled myth that Israel has always extended its hand of peace while Palestinians have always rejected it. This myth conveniently ignores the fact Israel's "generous offer" at Camp David in 2000 was based on Israel annexing the bulk of its settlements, cutting any Palestinian state into five tiny enclaves surrounded by Israel. Brumer touts Israel's recent withdrawal from Gaza, but ignores Israel's withering siege upon its imprisoned population.
Brumer also justifies the status quo by emphasizing the immutable extremism of Hamas. But the fact is that Hamas has not conducted a single suicide bombing in nearly two years and has endorsed a reciprocal truce with Israel if it were to withdraw completely to its 1967 borders. But Israel completely rejects those terms, missing a historic opportunity to undercut Hamas extremism.
Those who truly support a balanced and just peace in the Middle East should honestly debate Corrie's life and legacy. Her very act of acknowledging legitimate Palestinians grievances and her promotion of alternatives to violence was a message of hope and peace sorely lacking today.
By attacking the messenger, Corrie's detractors are sending a clear message opposed to hope and peace.
Steve Niva teaches international politics and Middle East studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
© 1998-2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

1 comment:

Lao Qiao said...

The following dialog, for all intents and purposes, is taking place between jihadists and the left:

Jihadists: Kill the Jews.

The Left: We understand you. You want freedom of movement without checkpoints.

Jihadists: Kill the Jews.

The Left: Of course. You want an end to settlements on the West Bank.

Jihadists: Kill the Jews.

The Left: How poetic your language is. You want an independent state.

Jihadists: Kill the Jews.