What follows is a translation of a debate I had with Jonatan Møller Sousa in Copenhagen, aired as a podcast (in Danish) by Action Aid Denmark on the 50th anniversary of Israel’s 1967 war and ensuing occupation earlier this month.
Sousa calls himself a ‘burning Zionist’, whilst I regard myself a non-Zionist. Sousa has been the vice-chair of the Danish Zionist Union and has often debated on Danish media. He now leads the Forum for Dialogue on Israel.
I would add personally, that this debate was for me very interesting and intense, and I am happy that we have managed to get through so many pertinent questions, without resort to ad hominem attacks between us, despite a clear and wide ideological disagreement.
The original hour’s debate was edited here in order to offer a somewhat shorter and more cogent read. I have nonetheless mostly kept whole segments intact. Thanks to both Sousa and Action Aid Denmark host Pola Rojan Bagger for kind permission to publish this.
“Palestine in the Shadow of the Settlements”
Pola Rojan Bagger (PRB): Jonathan Ofir, besides being a classical musician, you are also a blogger and debater, and you are Israeli-born?
Jonathan Ofir (JO): Yes.
PRB: In a kibbutz in fact?
PRB: Jonathan Sousa, you are ‘half-Israeli’, and are likewise a debater, and you are former vice-chair of the Danish Zionist Union. And today you are leading the Forum for Dialogue on Israel.
Jonathan Møller Sousa (JMS): That’s right. Thanks for having me here.
PRB: Our pleasure. Sousa, let’s start with you. Being a Zionist, what does it mean actually?
JMS: Fundamentally, it is about being extremely happy for the fact that Israel exists. And there I often think back about why we had a need for Israel. And the reason why one established the Zionist movement, was because Jews could not be safe around the world – in Europe, in Russia and in the Arab world. So Jews, or the Zionists, in 1890’s wanted to have a state, where police and military would not turn a blind eye when Jews were persecuted. And therefore we now have Israel, where all Jews, no matter where they come from in the world, are always welcome, and where one is sure that police and military will always protect the Jews. And I’m extremely happy for this, it’s extremely important, and this is the background for why I am a Zionist.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir, you are also Israeli, you’re Israeli born, are you also a Zionist?
JO: I am not.
PRB: Why not?
JO: Zionism as it is meant today – and there are people who argue, like Noam Chomsky for example, that before 1948 there were other forms of Zionism that would today not be called Zionism, advocating for a bi-national state – that which Zionism is since 1948 and also today, is a wish of having a Jewish majority in order to justify that which is called “democratic and Jewish”…”Jewish and democratic” state.
PRB: It’s 50 years since the 6-Day War, as mentioned, but this is a marking which is disputed amongst the two parties. Some Palestinians would rather speak of a 69, 70 year-long occupation, with regard to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. My impression is also that Israelis would also rather not talk of how Israel has, through 5 decades, been an occupying power and thereby had the might of control over people for half a century, that’s at least the impression I’m left with. And I would have liked to speak with the official representative for Israel here in Denmark, but the [Israeli] Ambassador has unfortunately declined to take part in this broadcast. So I’m thinking, instead, Jonatan Sousa, that you will get the question (not that you should answer in the name of the Ambassador at all), but how is the marking of the 50 year anniversary being celebrated in the Zionist milieu here?
JMS: Let me say two things. And I would actually want to speak on behalf of common Israelis, and thereby [on behalf of] how the Israeli government [is positioned]. You are welcome to ask me about such things, because I would gladly answer on them. There are no Zionists who are happy for the fact that Israel is an occupying power. And there are none who are happy for the fact that our soldiers control common Palestinians. Israelis don’t do this for fun. They do it because they feel forced to do it, because of terror threats like those from Hamas. That which we are happy for, on the other hand, since the 6-Day War in 1967, is that we have gotten Jerusalem. We are enormously happy for this. Jerusalem means enormously much for common Israelis. Before the 1967 war, it was Jordan which controlled the area, and Jews were prohibited from coming to the ‘Wailing Wall’ for example, and now they [Jews] can. So that’s something we’re extremely happy for.
PRB: So this is something one celebrates these days.
JMS: Yes, that Jerusalem was reunited.
PRB: Just shortly, what is it that Jerusalem means, why is it so important to celebrate?
JMS: Oh, I cannot, I cannot describe with words how much Jerusalem means just for me alone, and therefore all others, when one is there, and sees the city, and the whole history, and the whole city, and the spirituality, whether you believe in God or not, you become totally moved by it. And if you belong to Christianity, you are also moved, if you belong to Islam, you’re also moved, and Jews are moved…that city means so unfathomably much, and has meant that for Jews over thousands and thousands of years…I cannot even describe my own feelings for Jerusalem.
PRB: And you, you and [other] Zionists speak of a united Jerusalem – that’s something that is celebrated.
PRB: And others, from the Eastern part of the city, speak of settlements, of something that Israel has unlawfully conquered and overtaken, in violation of [international] law. What did you mean, when you answered the 5 sharp questions, when you said you think there is too much focus on the settlements when we speak about this conflict?
JMS: Well, it’s because settlements are just people who live [there]. It’s about the fact that there are Jews who live a few kilometers East of Jerusalem. To talk about this as something that contravenes international conventions – and these international conventions which one talks about regard war crime conventions, so you speak of…
PRB: The laws of warfare.
JMS: Yes, so you simply talk about this as being a war crime, that a Jew moves in 2-3 kilometers East of Jerusalem. And I think that from the Israelis standpoint, let’s just take that – it’s deeply absurd, it’s a massive hysteria that European heads of state should meet every time there are built houses for some hundred Jews a couple of kilometers from Jerusalem. And let me say it another way: The day we get peace, the day when we say, now there’s going to be a free and independent Palestine in the West Bank, which resides as a friendly neighbor to Israel, then the settlers just become citizens, Jewish citizens in Palestine. So the problem is not bigger [than that]. So I simply have very, very little understanding for this hysteria and this absurdity, which the whole world community speaks with, when speaking of settlements.
PRB: Precisely the future prospects, that we will return to, this I can guarantee.
Jonathan Ofir, are you in agreement? That the debate on settlements, is it really out of proportions with reality?
JO: No, it isn’t, and sometimes I think that too little is being said.
PRB: How so?
JO: Jonatan Sousa here is saying that it is just about some people who move East of Jerusalem. But we need to see the big strategy in this. This is not merely a humanitarian question. This is a national project. That is to say, these settlements are strategically perceived. Daniela Weiss [former leader] of the big settlement movement confirms that Ariel Sharon, that she had an understanding with Ariel Sharon, who said it outright: that the settlements are positioned where they are, in order to block a future Palestinian state.
PRB: Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister and Defense Minister.
JO: Yes. So this is a national project, with infrastructure delivered from Israel, plus economic [subsidy] encouragement [for people] to live there. So you have not only the radical-rightists, religious, messianic settlers, but also people who are simply lured to live there.
PRB: But Jonathan Ofir, why is it a problem, that there should be a security aspect in the way one choses to arrange ones [territorial] positioning? Why is that a problem?
JO: Security aspect?
PRB: You say there is a strategic thinking to how the settlements are placed?
JO: Yes, but now we need to speak about international law. And it is very clear. We are speaking about the Geneva Convention, the Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49, I think it’s point 6 – one may not transfer one’s own population…
PRB: We’re talking about population transfer…
JO: Yes. It is simply forbidden. And this is a world consensus. You have earlier mentioned the UN Security Council resolution from December, [Resolution] 2334, it regards all these settlements, all of them, including East Jerusalem, ‘flagrant violations of international law’. That is, they are recognized as war crimes – that which Jonatan Sousa here opines to be extreme.
PRB: Jonatan Sousa?
JMS: I believe…I opine…I am a burning Zionist, whatever they call it, I’m really, really Zionist, alright? But I have no need for other people to support the settlements. I have an enormous respect, there are many Zionists who are against settlements – for many of the same reasons which Jonathan Ofir mentions, which I actually think are very reasonable – there are many good reasons to be against, there are many Israelis who are against [settlements]. And really I think it’s fair, I want to [say], it’s true that those who want these settlements, also want that the whole of the West Bank becomes Israel. It’s a compromise between those who wanted a greater Israel where the West Bank was a part of it, because it’s ancient biblical land, [and those who didn’t], and I have full understanding for that. The majority in [Israeli] governments did not want that this land should be annexed, they let it be, and then we had this really unfortunate situation, where Israel is an occupying power, but the area is there, awaiting to become a Palestinian state at some point, that’s how I see it anyhow. And so the compromise is that there are some [Israelis] who wish to live there, where Abraham walked, and there where the biblical things occur…so it has been a compromise, and I cannot see why it is a problem, that the Palestinians have Jewish neighbors, also in their new, independent Palestine, as soon as they get a peace agreement, because that’s what it’s about. And if UN and European Foreign Ministers want to go around and call it a war crime, well then, the only thing we get out of that is that the Israelis won’t bother to talk with them, because it’s so absurd.
PRB: As I understand it, Jonatan Sousa, you actually don’t buy into the premise that we should be speaking out of law, International Humanitarian Law, that alone the fact that there are Israeli settlements on occupied land, that this paradigm in itself is unlawful, and therefore worthy of critique. That premise is not particularly interesting for you, is that right?
JMS: Yes, but let’s take this in proportions. Firstly, no, let me say this, I think it is a very, very exaggerated interpretation of international law. But it is this interpretation that UNSC has made, and therefore it is the law. So we need not discuss further, in any case, for now the UNSC has determined that it’s a ‘flagrant violation’, that it is a war crime. But this only shows how the UNSC, and here it is especially the European Foreign Ministers, who have no understanding about this conflict. Because it can…OK, let me put it like this: It must be the world’s smallest and most insignificant war crime, when one takes the rest of the Middle East [into consideration]. Let’s just look at the Middle East, all the atrocities that occur, that it should then be so important whether there are some Jews living 2-3 KM from Jerusalem. I’m sorry, I don’t get it.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir, that it should be insignificant, in the bigger regional perspective, what do you think about that?
JO: Well, this is a rather typical diversion from the point. Let’s talk about Israel. Let’s talk about Palestine. Let’s not talk about Syria’s problems just now, in order to make this ‘insignificant’. It is not insignificant. That which is interesting here, regarding Jonatan Sousa’s argument about ‘why is this [the settlements] an obstacle?’ – he [Sousa] says ‘let’s disregard that it’s a war crime’. But if now a peace agreement comes [according to Sousa], then we will simply solve it in some way, that is, they remain, the Jewish settlers simply remain and become a part of the Palestinian state. But on the other hand, the whole strategy, the whole ideology about these settlements, is to avert this from happening.
PRB: So you opine, that the settlements in themselves, there’s an intention, it is Israel’s intention, to avert a Palestinian state?
JO: Yes, this is a strategy. And I would also say that we should be seeing beyond the argument that this is a radical-rightist, messianic project of them from the right who would have all of Palestine. There has in reality not been an Israeli government, not even under [Israeli PM] Rabin during the Oslo Accords, that would really allow a Palestinian state. I believe it was a month before he was murdered [in 1995], Rabin confirmed to the [Israeli] parliament, the Knesset, that the intention with the Oslo accords is “less than a state” for the Palestinians. I will not go into detail now.
PRB: You speak of the peace negotiations, Oslo 1993.
JO: Yes, it was always a question of some form of autonomy, where Palestinians would be under Israeli control, and generally surrounded. So I would also say, that it is now very interesting to look at what the [Israeli] leader [Isaac] Herzog, leader of the big opposition bloc which calls itself Zionist Union, that is a left-center bloc, what he said about this [UNSC] resolution 2334 which I just mentioned: He bemoaned it. Of course he attacked Netanyahu for destroying our PR, with this being the result of it – but he also bemoaned the damage that this [resolution] inflicted upon the ‘settlement blocs’. That is, he would retain, and the left today would retain, the big ‘settlement blocs’. We do not need to go down to details here of what this means, but this today is the biggest portion of the settlements. This is a part of the left ideology, also today.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir, you use, in one of your blogs, the term ‘incremental genocide’, concerning Israel’s occupation policy. Do you believe that Israel is making itself guilty of a kind of genocide?
JO: It is not only me who believes this. The acclaimed historian Ilan Pappe has used this term since 2006, specifically in relation to Gaza. Recently it has been the widely acclaimed author Ben Ehrenreich, who has done a big coverage for New York Times on Israel [Palestine], who also calls the whole paradigm a genocide. And when we speak about genocide, we are not necessarily speaking about an extermination of all. There are rather clear definitions of genocide, which do not imply an extermination of all in a particular way.
PRB: What is it then in this case, which brings you to use the term ‘incremental genocide’?
JO: When one specifically goes out to murder leaders, that’s one of the points of the genocide convention [(a) Killing members of the group], when one inflicts conditions of life which would destroy the population, as one does in Gaza… In Gaza, in 2006, when Hamas was elected, Dov Weisglass who was Ariel Sharon’s [security] advisor, [and then Prime Minister] Olmert’s [security] advisor, he said that what we’re now going to do is, we’re going to put the Palestinians on a ‘diet’. They won’t die of it, but they’ll become starving. But they won’t die… Then it was subsequently revealed that there had been initiated researches to determine what the minimum calorie intake for Gaza population would be. Since, we have had the various repeated military attacks on Gaza, which I also regard as massacres. Now we could go into detail here, of course Jonatan Sousa here will say that it’s about terror and Hamas, but Israel’s policy and strategy regarding Gaza, as [Israeli] journalist Amira Hass from Haaretz notes in detail, has begun long before Hamas was elected – in the late 1990’s.
PRB: Jonatan Sousa, in the 5 sharp [questions] you answered ‘no’ to [the question of] whether Gaza’s blockade, Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, in itself is a problem. Nonetheless, the ICRC, World Bank and a numerous other organizations have said that there is a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. What do you think about this?
JMS: I want to say two things. I will return to this with Gaza. When people from Denmark, and especially from the left-wing, and here Action Aid Demark being on the Danish left-wing, use words, demonizing terms about Israel – ‘genocide’, ‘large-scale massacre’, ‘Apartheid’ – you are complicit in causing us to come further…we do not come closer to peace. I would recommend the Danish left-wing and Action Aid Denmark that we would listen more to each other. And I am so glad to be invited to this podcast, because it’s a step for us listening more to each other. And the message I’m coming with is, that we Israelis, we who love Israel, we who are Zionists, we disengage completely, we can’t even bother to listen to people who speak of massacre, and Apartheid, and genocide. Because it is simply so far away from the truth. Let me say in regard to Gaza: All food, all medicine comes in. That which is [the situation] in Gaza is, that there is what one calls a ‘weapon embargo’. Israel doesn’t want weapons to come in, because these weapons are being used for killing civilian Israelis. And when there are left organizations which go out and talk about stopping the blockade on Gaza, then what they are really saying, and you should really pay attention to this, one is really saying that one wants free import of missiles and bombs from Iran to Hamas in Gaza. One has to be very careful that the left-wing message doesn’t just become a demonizing of Israel, but that one attempts to listen to both the Palestinians as well as Israelis, and attempts to come closer to peace, and that’s where this demonizing of Israel cannot work.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir?
JO: Yes, Jonathan Sousa here says that when one uses such terms, that it counters our discussion. And that ‘we Israelis’, says Jonatan, ‘we Israelis’, we ‘disengage completely’. But here you have an Israeli, sitting in front of you, and I don’t ‘disengage completely’. I talk about it. And here we are, sitting here, talking about it. And I am using these terms. So I would thus contend that it is possible to discuss this terminology and these terms, without Israelis, or others, ‘disengaging completely’.
PRB: And one thing is these terms you oppose, Jonathan Sousa, another thing is the substance. Do you really believe that one can address the humanitarian situation in Gaza, without opening the door to Iranian missiles? Can one not address shortage of food, electricity and medicine in Gaza?
JMS: Yes, yes, but there is no shortage of food or electricity in Gaza. It’s simply false.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir, you disagree…
JO: I just want to say that the ICRC has recently – I believe this was about two weeks ago – said (and they don’t make statements too often), they said that Gaza was on the verge of a breakdown [“systemic collapse”], a total breakdown. UN has warned a couple of years ago I think it was, that with the current course, within three years [from now], that is 2020, Gaza would possibly become ‘uninhabitable’, simply. We are talking about…yes, he [Sousa] says that there is no shortage of electricity or medicine…but we are talking about a situation where people now have, I think about 8 or 4 hours a day. I will not go into detail about the complex individual problems, but Gaza is under a humanitarian catastrophe.
PRB: Let’s go one step further. Jonathan Ofir, in the blog entry I mentioned before, you criticize Israel and the Israeli government for constantly trying to sideline the debate to ‘terror’. You write that one would rather talk about the response that comes from the people who live in a “concentration camp” quote unquote, rather than focus upon people’s suffering. But…
JMS: Excuse me, ‘concentration camps’, from WW2, where Jews were murdered by the Nazis? Is that what you are talking about?
JO: It’s very interesting, because your quote was also my quote, of [Israeli] journalist Amira Hass of Haaretz – I just wanted to note that. And now, if Jonatan Sousa wants to ask whether it is the same as saying that it’s [an identical] Nazi situation? No, as Amira Hass also notes, it’s a comparison, and it is interesting to have to think about it, and about the moral meaning of keeping people imprisoned in an outdoor [prison], possibly the biggest outdoor prison in the world, in one of the world’s most populated areas, under a siege over 10 years, with occasionally missiles are fired at a densely populated area. I would say in this respect, and it’s really important – I forgot his name, one of Israel’s biggest authorities regarding international law (I’ll remember his name later probably…), he is cited by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and he says, he interprets international law, and says that under such a situation, it does not matter whether you directly shoot at a civilian population, with intention to kill these civilians, or whether you launch rockets and bombs against a densely populated area, knowing that it is likely that this will result in a massive civilian loss. Both are “equally forbidden”… And this was Yoram Dinstein.
JMS: I agree with you on that, this is international law. I agree that when you wage war, you should be very attentive as to what civilian consequences it has when you bomb, and you should do that each time, no matter what. And I believe also that this is what Israel does. One can always be better. Let’s…I become really very…I become very angry, when one uses such [terms] as ‘concentration camps’.
JMS: I think simply it’s so stupid. It doesn’t help to say Israelis are Nazis. You’re destroying it in relation to being able to talk with all the other Israelis, and we do not get closer to each other, and we do not get closer to peace. But something you said which I would really like to respond to, because I formulated it a bit sharp about there being no problems in Gaza. I’m totally in agreement that there are many problems for ordinary people in Gaza. I believe that the focus in our discussions should be how do we improve it? How do we make it better in relation to them being able to get food and medicine, but that at the same time Hamas doesn’t get weapons? Such a discussion should be possible to be had.
PRB: A short commentary from Jonathan Ofir?
JO: Yes, in relation to the ‘Nazi’ labels, I’d like to say that these comparisons have come from Jewish Israelis since Israel’s beginning. I can mention for example, how after the Dawaymeh massacre, which I have written extensively about, in 1948, then someone from the MAPAM party [Aharon Zisling] who said: “Jews have acted like Nazis”. The very, very acclaimed professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, who was lauded by Israel’s former President Ezer Weismann as a spiritual authority [spiritual conscience], he said that “there are Judeo-Nazis”. So this is not just something that Israel’s haters spout once in a while. This is something that has come from us.
PRB: Good. Let us now look a bit further ahead – let’s look at future prospects. Because Israel’s current President, Reuven Rivlin, visited an Israeli settlement near Hebron in the West Bank, on the 1st of June. Hebron is a special and complicated city inside this conflict, because although it is formally a Palestinian city under the Palestinian Authority control, it is also separated into two sectors – a Palestinian [sector], and an Israeli [sector]. And the settlements are located literally adjacent, door to door, to the Palestinians. And there are therefore many clashes between Palestinians on the one side, and soldiers and settlers on the other. President Rivlin said the following under his visit to Hebron: “Hebron is not an obstacle to peace. It is a testing of our ability to live side by side. I don’t know whether there ever will be a diplomatic agreement, but it is clear that under whatever agreement, Jews and Arabs should continue to live together here”. So the question is, is this here a possible model, for a possible peace in the future? Is this how a possible peace would look like in the future? Is this a viable model on the ground, where settlements are not evacuated, as the Palestinians otherwise demand?
Jonathan Ofir, is this the recipe for peace where settlements are concerned?
JO: Well, if this is the recipe, then it really looks daunting. If one goes to Hebron, which is actually called Al-Khalil by the Palestinians (but the name Hebron is quite widely used), then one sees two worlds. One world for Jewish settlers, and it goes through the street, through Shuhadah street, where there are Palestinians who actually live there, and they cannot exit their houses to that street – they have to go out through the back exits. The soldiers who are there, and we are talking of thousands of soldiers, they are there to protect…well they ought to be there also in order to protect the occupied population….
PRB: The roughly 200-300.000 Palestinians who live there…
JO: Roughly 200.000. They [the soldiers] should be there, according to international law, in order to protect the whole population, but in reality they are there in order to protect the Jewish settlers.
PRB: Roughly 30.000 Jewish settlers?…
JO: No no no. In Hebron? No, we are talking about 600. 600 settlers with many more soldiers to protect them. And the school children who have to walk to school, they get stones thrown at them by the Jewish settlers, raw sewage is thrown at them, and there are in fact international activists who are there in order to protect these school children so that they can get to school and back peacefully, because we are talking about, in Hebron we are talking about some of the most arrogant, extreme and violent settlers.
PRB: Jonatan Sousa, is this really how peace would come to look like? We see how tense the situation in Hebron is, for example?
JMS: I want to say, I do not agree with President Rivlin, Israel’s President, in the way he says it. And at the same time I am in agreement with a lot of what Jonathan Ofir is saying – Hebron is a sad, sad, sad city.
PRB: What strikes you most?
JMS: Jews and Arabs have been [living] there as neighbors, since there have been Jews and Arabs. That is the city where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried. Abraham Isaac and Jacob, which we know as some of the first people in the bible. They should be able to be there together, without throwing raw sewage on each other, without there being a need for soldiers. They should be able to be there as good neighbors, and they cannot, and it is so sad.
PRB: Who has the responsibility for this?
JMS: I would opine, that the residents of Hebron, together – it must be them…
PRB: Jews as well as Arabs…
JMS: Jews and Arabs together must find a way to live together, I just cannot understand that they cannot live there [peacefully] together. And I also think that these soldiers, the Israeli soldiers, are not there for fun. There are very serious threats against the Jews from the Palestinian side. But this does not change the fact that I agree, that it is often, that some arrogant things happen, and that there is thrown…they treat each other really badly, there. And…
PRB: Jonatan Sousa, sorry to interrupt, I get the impression that the burden of responsibility here is about 50/50.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir?
JO: Well, Jonatan Sousa, you say that ‘they treat each other really badly, there’. And it sounds like we are talking about two equal populations. But that is not the case. Palestinians cannot react and act in the same way in which these Jewish settlers do. If they did – well…
PRB: What would happen?
JO: The consequence would likely be that they would be shot. They could end up being killed. Simply for throwing a rock, or if they did throw raw sewage. Then the soldiers would immediately come after them. When the Jewish settlers throw stones after [Palestinian] school children, the soldiers often do nothing, because they get orders to not do anything if it is the Palestinians who are being attacked. And we should remember here, that we are not just talking about Jews and Muslims. There is a national paradigm here…
PRB: What do you mean by that?
JO: These are settlers which are under control, help, assistance of the Jewish State – it’s a national paradigm.
PRB: So the responsibility for the situation in Hebron is thus with the Israeli authorities?
JO: Yes, I would say so, because Israel occupies Hebron.
PRB: Jonatan Sousa?
JMS: Yes, I think it would be healthy for everyone if one also gave the Palestinians some responsibility like real people, otherwise I feel a bit as if we don’t perceive them as real people and give them real responsibility.
PRB: What would you have the Palestinians do?
JMS: Well, in Hebron, I would want to see that they started talking with each other. That’s a good Danish [way]. We could go there and do some dialogue projects…
PRB: You mean that Palestinians are closed to dialogue?
JMS: I think Jews are too, in Hebron. Hebron is so sad. They need to, damn it…
PRB: It’s allowed…
JMS: They really need to be good neighbors. They should be able to. They have been neighbors for thousands of years. And yes, there have been problems, yes there is conflict and occupation, but they must be able to behave properly towards each other, and I think it would be healthy for the Palestinians that they also get some responsibility. And I know it is difficult, also for the left-wing, to see. But if we could do it in small first, then we could expand it, and give Palestinians responsibility for terror organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and try to work that way.
PRB: Don’t you think that Israel will go alert if Israel’s friends took part in the critique, or were part in formulating that part of the responsibility that one could assign to Israel? Where one says [to Israel] ‘you need to take care of this’…
JMS: Yes it could be interesting. I could easily take part in that – where one goes in with a Danish dialogue project, with both Zionists, those who are not so Zionist, [where we say] ‘we want you to talk together’. That could be really exciting, I could easily be part of that.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir, now we are talking about settlements, and took the example of Hebron. When we look to the future, to a future solution model, should it entail, that all settlements should be evacuated from the West Bank? Is it first there when we can speak about peace, or that one reaches peace?
JO: Well, if one speaks of the classical two-state solution, which today is actually rooted in a world consensus, around that which is called 1967 borders, then it should happen [evacuation of settlements]. The problem is that nowadays, there are many who opine (and read Leila Stockmarr’s piece in Politiken yesterday), that this is dead [the 2-state solution]. That this reality on the ground which the settlers, Israel – the settlers with Israel’s backing, have created, is in reality a situation which has created, I would say, Bantustans. Palestinian Bantustans.
PRB: Small noncontiguous enclaves…
JO: Yes, and that it requires a rethinking, also if one is merely practical inclined and a realist, about a real, that which is called one-state solution, which is not governed by the Jewish State of Israel as such, but that is an equal, democratic free state for all.
PRB: Jonathan Sousa? One thing is that you say you support the establishment of a Palestinian state, for example in the West Bank, another is a declaration of intentions concerning, how realistic is it if settlements are to stay?
JMS: I think it is super-realistic. I’ve tried to say this all day. I simply have no understanding for what Jonathan Ofir says here. If one cannot make a peace agreement because Jews and Arabs cannot be neighbors, then sorry, I’m not in. Of course Jews and Arabs can be neighbors. Of course, of course, of course it’s possible. And the hope of peace, the hope of a two-state solution, will never disappear in me.
PRB: What will the costs be, for Israel’s population, with a continuation of the status quo? If no changes happen, what will the consequences be for Israel? Jonathan Sousa?
JMS: That’s a good question. I think that we just continue like now. Where we are an occupying power, where the Palestinians have it really bad, but Israelis manage to have it relatively good, using a lot of money to defend themselves…it’s not good, it’s not healthy, but…I’m not…I’m mostly for that we make steps to come a touch closer to peace. And that’s where I think it’s good to have a good and calm conversation with the Palestinians and also a good and calm conversation with the Israelis, where one attempts to listen to each other. Then I think that we who are 4.000 KM away in Denmark, can make a little difference.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir, what is the biggest threat to Israel with a further prolonged conflict?
JO: The thing is, that the threat is actually really small. And it’s probably therefore that the situation continues.
PRB: Try to deepen that.
JO: Israel sees that it could continue the occupation for 50 years, with complaint from the international community, but it was not forced militarily, or really [otherwise] internationally, with such things as embargo etc., as one did with sanctions towards Russia [Crimea annexation], or let us take for example Saddam Hussein and Iraq with Kuwait in 1990. But [Israel] was not pressed so hard for it to be convinced that this [occupation] is untenable. It is tenable. And there’s more in it. When Jonatan Sousa says that ‘the Palestinians should take responsibility’, well, they have established the Palestinian Authority since the Oslo Accords of 1993-95, and they in fact take upon themselves that which is called ‘security coordination’. That is, they take on security tasks themselves, and it reaches the level of torturing people (that they have learned from the Israelis).
PRB: There is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, that the Palestinian security police…
JO: They are to prevent terror, and they are to uphold law and order inside their ‘enclaves’ – Areas A, and a bit of areas B, but Israel can always go into their areas [A].
PRB: So you say that Israel has been shielded from consequences, the negative consequences of the occupation…
JO: Yes, what I want to say about the Palestinian Authority and the Oslo Accords, this has made (as Stockmarr also writes), it has made the economy of the occupation cheaper, much cheaper, for Israel.
PRB: What does that mean?
JO: It’s because the international [community] and NGO’s infuse money into that which is in reality [under] Israel’s occupation, to the Palestinian Authority. Under international law, the occupying power is obliged to provide for the occupied population, but now there are other organs which take care of that which Israel should have paid for. So the whole organ around Israel’s occupation is actually manageable. And this is perhaps the problem.
PRB: Here lastly, one says that the pessimist always wins over the optimist in the Middle East. Jonatan Sousa, do you dare to be an optimist regarding the future?
JMS: I’m not an optimist, but I never lose hope. It looks enormously difficult to achieve peace just now. Enormously difficult. But sometimes, suddenly miracles happen, and I believe in these.
PRB: Jonathan Ofir, you’re hopeful?
JO: Well, here I am possibly more in agreement with Jonatan Sousa than I have been up to now, but, I do not believe in miracles. And I believe that this requires an increased effort to press Israel.
PRB: Thanks for coming, both of you.
JMS and JO: Thanks, many thanks.