There are two ways to know a prophet. One is that every word he speaks brings moral clarity to a perplexing issue. The second is that he is published in the London Review of Books, not in the States.
Today is Rosh Hashana, and with all the piety I have in my spirit, I urge my fellow Jews to read Henry Siegman’s piece on "There Is No Peace Process" in the August London Review of Books. Siegman is the former head of the American Jewish Congress. He worked at the Council on Foreign Relations. I believe he once said that members of his own family don’t speak to him because of his comments on Israel/Palestine. Why he is not published in the U.S. I haven’t a clue; it is our shame. Why politico doesn’t ask his opinion of Walt and Mearsheimer, why Charlie Rose doesn’t have him on at every turn in the road, why he is not profiled in the New York Times Magazine or the New Yorker–these things are beyond me.
Here are some of the perplexing issues Siegman answers in his article.
Why has there not been peace through decades of negotiation?
That reason is the consensus reached long ago by Israel’s
decision-making elites that Israel will never allow the emergence of a
Palestinian state which denies it effective military and economic
control of the West Bank.
Why are Palestinians angry? They have time and again lost territory.
Israeli civilian and military infrastructure has rendered 40 per cent
[of the 22 percent of Palestine that they were reduced to in '49, from the 50 percent they were granted in '47] off limits to Palestinians. The rest of the territory,
including major population centres such as Nablus and Jericho, is split
into enclaves; movement between them is restricted by 450 roadblocks…
But the liberal Israeli Gershom Gorenberg called the settlements an "accidental" empire!
Anyone familiar with Israel’s relentless confiscations of Palestinian
territory…knows that the objective of its settlement enterprise in the
West Bank has been largely achieved. Gaza, the evacuation of whose
settlements was so naively hailed by the international community as the
heroic achievement… was intended to serve as the first in a series of
Palestinian bantustans. Gaza’s situation shows us what these bantustans
will look like if their residents do not behave as Israel wants.
Bantustan…. You’re not calling it apartheid!
[Haggai Alon, former Defence officials says] the IDF is ‘carrying out an apartheid policy’ that is emptying Hebron
of Arabs and Judaising (his term) the Jordan Valley, while it
co-operates openly with the settlers in an attempt to make a two-state
Yes but what about suicide terrorism?
Despicable…. It is not to sanction the murder of civilians to observe that such
violence occurs, sooner or later, in most situations in which a
people’s drive for national self-determination is frustrated by an
occupying power. Indeed, Israel’s own struggle for national
independence was no exception.
The Arabs refuse to compromise!
That is an indecent charge, since the Palestinians made much the most
far-reaching compromise of all when the PLO formally accepted the
legitimacy of Israel within the 1949 armistice border. With that
concession, Palestinians ceded their claim to more than half the
territory that the UN’s partition resolution had assigned to its Arab
inhabitants. They have never received any credit for this wrenching
concession, made years before Israel agreed that Palestinians had a
right to statehood in any part of Palestine. The notion that further
border adjustments should be made at the expense of the 22 per cent of
the territory that remains to the Palestinians is deeply offensive to
them, and understandably so.
What is to be done? Siegman says the international community (i.e., the U.S.) must end the "blather" about Palestinians reforming their institutions. It must reject Israel’s 40-year intransigence. The Security Council must adopt a resolution calling for an end to the conflict and a return to the pre-’67 borders. If the parties don’t reach an agreement within a year, send in a U.N. force to
"establish the rule of law."
The rule of law. On this holy day, Siegman’s utter clarity about right and wrong touches my soul. I know that his views have developed (as mine have) by meeting Palestinians, who he has seen are human beings who yearn for freedoms we take for granted. Let other Jews follow in his huge footsteps…
[A couple of years ago I met Siegman at the Nation and challenged his assertion that there could never be a binational state in Israel/Palestine. People's attitudes could not change that much, he said. I said, What about the American south? I wonder whether his despair over the "peace process" scam and the confiscation of Palestinian land has not driven him towards this possibility....]