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Kerry’s Middle East negotiator mocked Arafat’s ‘big shit-eating grin’ in speech to pro-Israel group

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Norman Finkelstein has an excellent post up called The Wit and Wisdom of Martin Indyk, in which he quotes John Kerry’s new special envoy in his own words. Two statements that leap out are that Indyk believed that the Palestinians were making an unreasonable demand in saying that Jerusalem should be the capital of their state and his belief that the Israel Prime Minister was giving up too much too fast to the Palestinians in his initial offer during the Camp David peace process. No wonder the U.S. was said to be acting as “Israel’s lawyer.”

Yesterday, Max Blumenthal did a post questioning Indyk’s neutrality by quoting an Indyk speech to J Street in 2009 in which the former Australian said that he “made aliyah” to Washington after the 1973 war to save Israel.

Another excruciating moment in that speech came when Indyk mocked Yasser Arafat, the late chairman of the Palestinian Authority, for having a “shit-eating grin,” said that Arafat was “unfathomable,” and then mimicked his accent in an Orientalist manner. Max mentioned this yesterday.

Why Two States? Why Now? – American Perspective from J Street on Vimeo

Here is the full context of the Arafat lines, from Indyk (beginning at 14:00 in the video):

“It’s worthwhile taking a moment to think back fourteen years to a moment before his assassination when the peace process was in its high phase, its highest phase I would say. When Yitzhak Rabin came to Washington to sign the Oslo 2 Accords with Yasser Arafat, it was September of 1995. Hosni Mubarak who didn’t show up for the first signing ceremony in 1993 turned up then. As did King Hussein of Jordan, as did the Saudi Foreign Minister. And this was a recognition on the part of the Arab states that peace was really possible.

“Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat joined a reception that night… at the Corcoran Gallery with Arab Americans and American Jewish leaders… and they gave impromptu speeches, and Yasser Arafat, not required any more to read the mantra that his aides prepared for him, gave a very good speech for the need for peace with his Israeli cousins.

“And Rabin got up and said, ‘You know Mr. Chairman, we Jews are not very good at sports, but there is one sport in which we are Olympic champions, and that’s speechmaking. And it seems to me Mr. Chairman, that you are a little bit Jewish.’

“To which Arafat responded with that big shit-eating grin of his. He said, ‘Yes yes, yes yes. Rachel is my aunt.’ Now how he figured out that Rachel was his aunt, Rachel the matriarch of course was his aunt, is unfathomable, but it was just one of the many unfathomable things about Yasser Arafat.

“But I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that night, Yitzhak Rabin for the first time spoke about the need for a Palestinian state. It may surprise you to know that he had not up till that time endorsed a Palestinian state. It’s not in the Oslo Accords. And yet he endorsed it and explained it in these memorable words. He said, “What we need is separation, your people and my people, we need separation, not out of hatred but out of respect.” And that was Yitzhak Rabin’s vision and that was his purpose in trying to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians. Two states built out of respect and not out of hatred. And the tragedy, the immense tragedy for the Palestinians and for the Israelis is that the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin turned that process of separation out of respect into a process of separation out of hatred. And our challenge and in particular the challenge of American diplomacy is to restore the respect. Not an easy task.”

Thanks to Scott Roth for the Finkelstein tip.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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38 Responses

  1. atime forpeace on August 2, 2013, 2:58 pm

    The arrogance of his speech, and other Israel firsters hamfisted statements with regards palestinians is worthy of revulsion for me, and just plain flat out reflexively repulsive. I hate bullying arrogance, so for me, it explains the reaction.

    I love how the Israel firsters absolutely love to tie the albatross of Israel peacemaking around the kneck of the United States, as unquestionably in our national interest, and at the same time continue to prolong the process as part of their strategy to continue to expand the borders of that state.

    They lie, the strategy is to push and continue to extend the settler land grabbing strategy and never settle on a final solution for peace, their preference is to obliterate the memory of the palestinians, but that opportunity passed them by when the world was not looking and was more willing to concede to jews the state of Israel under the shadow of the crimes of the second world war.

    In my mind we are not doubt in for a serious conflagration in that part of the world to protect Israel…but i am a Christian still and afterall have not been able to discount biblical prophetic poetry from the equation.

    • Citizen on August 2, 2013, 6:05 pm

      @ atime forpeace

      How sad for the rest of us Americans, for our treasure and our lives, and as taxpayers, that you live amongst us. The Israeli jews shoot and cry, and you back them up, financing them, and you are willing to send our young military people to further their aims. And you cry too. I think I will puke. Also, how many foreign lives have you spent, protecting Israel? You think God is a real estate agent? Or you are going to heaven because you enable killing of innocents, flying the US or Israeli flag?

      • Russian Prussian on August 3, 2013, 3:47 am

        As a former Christian Zionist I can tell you that I did’t think of “killing of innocents” or oppression or any of this. It was totally blended out from my Christian Zionist mind. All I cared for was the biblical prophecy coming to reality.

        I was not even aware that there exist Palestinian Christians, or that that there exist Palestinian Jews (meaning they did not immigrate from Germany, Poland, Russia, USA etc. but are indigenous Palestinians just like Muslim, Christian and secular Palestinians).

      • atime forpeace on August 3, 2013, 10:38 pm

        Wow. Although english is a second language for me i still don’t see how my post above delivers the meaning that citizen and ellen seem to have derived from it.

        Let me go slowly and deliver it like i was speaking a different language.

        1 I am a Born again Christian. this is my personal religion chill out.
        2 I believe Israel has a right to exist because it does exist.
        3 I believe Israel is an absolutely atrocious gov’t
        4 I believe the Palestinian people are heroic in an epic way.
        5 i believe the complicity of the western press suppressing coverage of Israel’s crimes is despicable.
        6 I believe that the Aipac and christian zionist lobbies are the biggest tools that Israel has in this country and they serve to manipulate the politicos, the american jewish community, and the christian communities with israel worship.
        5 i can not discount that my religion is prophecy based, i pretty much am a new testament christian paying little attention to the old testament other than for the messianic messages of his initial arrival not the second coming. this is obviously my business…if i believed in stardust and fairies what difference would that make in anyones life?
        i do not believe that God is a real estate agent, and how can i from my living room enable anything like the killing of innocents…sans flag and all.
        Hell i even dislike that American jews teach their kids hatikva and have an Israeli flag in their kiddie schools…but it’s none of my business it is only my feeling about that issue.

        Thanks MHughes976….i thought maybe my words were being twisted by some top secret Narus invented software downloaded to my feed by a nefarious israeli agent to foment dissent against me.

        I am going to reread Lord of the Flies i know there is something there for me to learn from this experience.

    • Ellen on August 3, 2013, 4:07 am

      @atimeforpeace you say: but i am a Christian still and afterall have not been able to discount biblical prophetic poetry from the equation. No, you are not a Christian.

      Belief in Biblical prophesies written almost thousands of years ago -at a time when stories behind the written word were understood as metaphors — does not make a Christian. (it makes an idiot.) To cling to stories to justify aims of war and destruction makes one a tool of….well, evil.

      Your words on your Christianity and an inability to discount biblical prohetic poetry are revolting.

      • atime forpeace on August 3, 2013, 11:49 am

        wow!!! thanks for the enlightening advise. And yet Israel is back on the map after centuries and becoming a major center for conflagration.

        I will just continue to follow the breadcrumbs and listen to an inconvenient conscience that contradicts and accuses me of things i myself do…and led me to a saviour that i very much appreciate and value…who the hell is that conscience anyways to tell me that I did something wrong?

      • MHughes976 on August 3, 2013, 12:31 pm

        I didn’t take Atime to be seeking to justify Israeli policies by reference to biblical prophecies, rather to be saying that the ethical standards of biblical prophecy should be upheld and perhaps that ignoring them invites disaster. Which may or may not be true, though I don’t think it’s either unchristian or unjudaic. Marc Ellis preaches to us in similar terms quite often.

      • annie on August 4, 2013, 2:56 am

        i’m sorry you were attacked atime for peace

    • Sumud on August 4, 2013, 1:37 pm

      I don’t see anything confusing about your post atimeforpeace – perhaps Citizen and Ellen responded without reading it properly, it is easy enough to do.

  2. American on August 2, 2013, 3:55 pm

    ”He said, “What we need is separation, your people and my people, we need separation, not out of hatred but out of respect.”

    What ‘we’, the USA, and Palestine need is separation from the I-Firsters and Israel.

    • RoHa on August 3, 2013, 3:10 am

      How do you say “separation” in Afrikaans, again? Doesn’t it come out as “aparthood” or something?

    • amigo on August 3, 2013, 5:58 am

      ”He said, “What we need is separation, your people and my people, we need separation, not out of hatred but out of respect.”

      Does that explain the “Jews only ” squats in occupied Palestine.

      These people are truly the scum of the earth and know zip about respect.

  3. Bumblebye on August 2, 2013, 4:20 pm

    ” Yitzhak Rabin for the first time spoke about the need for a Palestinian state. It may surprise you to know that he had not up till that time endorsed a Palestinian state. It’s not in the Oslo Accords.”

    Really??? So what was the point of them then? Or do maximalist Israelis/Israel Firsters have a selective blind spot?

    • Hostage on August 3, 2013, 8:25 am

      Really??? So what was the point of them then? Or do maximalist Israelis/Israel Firsters have a selective blind spot?

      Statehood was not listed anywhere in the interim agreement, much less included as one of the final status issues. The PLO had publicly declared the independence of the State Palestine from Jordan in 1988. The Interim Agreement of 1995 specified that neither party shall be deemed “to have renounced or waived any of its existing rights, claims or positions” (Art. 31-6).

      The point of the Oslo Accords from Israel’s perspective was to derail the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly in an emergency special session to employ an international diplomatic conference to propose an arbitrated, imposed solution.

      Oslo was an extension of the policies Israel had managed to incorporate in the Carter era Camp David framework, which actually circumvented efforts by the UN to end the conflict on the basis of international law. Carter, Sadat, and Begin agreed on a third-party plan for Palestinian autonomy that would turn the occupied territories into a dependent state or Israeli protectorate, like the territories the US acquired as a result of the Spanish American War. The idea was to create a new demilitarized entity, separate from Jordan, devoid of its protections under the Geneva Conventions. The Israelis hoped to make the illegal Jewish settlements a final status item, that were subject to negotiations, but not the customary or conventional laws governing military occupation.

      The ICJ rejected any such attempt to alter the legal framework contained in the rules annexed to the Hague Convention or the Geneva Conventions using the Oslo Accords. But the Bush and Obama administrations have never accepted the idea that international law will govern the final settlement, and have actually vetoed resolutions on the settlements to keep that from happening. Like Carter, they are still trying to adopt a solution outside the framework of the UN and international law and present it as a fait accompli to prevent appropriate actions in the General Assembly and the international courts. That should be pretty obvious by now.

      • philweiss on August 3, 2013, 10:09 am

        Thanks Hostage for the informative comment. Very appreciative.

      • Hostage on August 3, 2013, 4:05 pm

        You’re welcome.

      • Citizen on August 3, 2013, 10:16 am

        @ Hostage. Very informative. Thanks. Has Carter’s position changed at all? Are you sure he doesn’t want the UN and international law involved at all? What does he think about the Palestinians going directly to the UN to up their entity status?

      • Hostage on August 3, 2013, 3:52 pm

        Has Carter’s position changed at all?

        No, the bottom line is that Carter is still only proposing limited autonomy and a negotiated settlement outside the framework of international law. He notes that the Camp David framework is reflected in both the Oslo Accords and the Quartet Road Map.

        He and nearly everyone else calls the neutered creature he hoped to create an “independent, viable Palestinian state”, but it would really only codify Israeli desiderata regarding the subject of apartheid. It would require the victims and the rest of the world to recognize that status quo under the rubric of accepting Israel’s sovereignty and right to exist – without any corresponding obligation for Israel to either respect or obey international law.

        Here’s a link to an address on the Carter Center website that conflates the criteria regarding the final settlement in Security Council resolution 242 with 1) an undivided Jerusalem, 2) withdrawal from the occupied territories, “with exceptions that had to be negotiated for Israel’s security”, and 3) a complete surrender on the subject of refugees, except for the hope that a tiny number of Palestinians might return to Israel proper (and a “limited” number of refugees might return even in the case of the West Bank and Gaza).

        How does that square with the fact that 170 States are signatories to the 1st Additional Protocol which views this as the applicable law on the subject:

        Article 85

        4. In addition to the grave breaches defined in the preceding paragraphs and in the Conventions, the following shall be regarded as grave breaches of this Protocol, when committed wilfully and in violation of the Conventions or the Protocol:
        (a) the transfer by the occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory, in violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Convention;
        (b) unjustifiable delay in the repatriation of prisoners of war or civilians;
        (c) practices of apartheid and other inhuman and degrading practices involving outrages upon personal dignity, based on racial discrimination;

        5. Without prejudice to the application of the Conventions and of this Protocol, grave breaches of these instruments shall be regarded as war crimes.

        He doesn’t propose a just settlement on that basis.

      • Bumblebye on August 3, 2013, 5:56 pm

        So you have just described the US as the worst, most dishonest ‘peace’ broker there could possibly be. 100% sham. 100% Israeli *owned*. Palestinians, PLEASE walk away NOW!

      • Hostage on August 4, 2013, 7:40 am

        So you have just described the US as the worst, most dishonest ‘peace’ broker there could possibly be. 100% sham. 100% Israeli *owned*. Palestinians, PLEASE walk away NOW!

        The other UN member states have said as much for decades.

        It was Carter’s Secretary of State, Muskie, who went to the Security Council to speak out against the draft resolution directing members not to support or recognize the annexation of Jerusalem by moving their embassies to the city. The USA repeated that performance when it vetoed the sanctions other members tried to adopt which might have compelled the State of Israel to rescind its decision concerning the Golan Heights and to demand that Israel withdraw from the territories occupied since 1967. The fact that the US was actively aiding and abetting Israel in committing criminal acts of aggression was one of the subjects of the 9th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly.

        Consider for a moment that the US took the absurd position that adopting sanctions against Israel would violate the principles of the Charter and compare that to the fact that it has actively promoted similar sanctions against countries like Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, etc.

        The UN has voted twice now, in GA resolution 181(II) and SC resolution 1515, to establish a Palestinian State. But the US is still actively preventing its recognition and membership in the UN for reasons it didn’t apply to the membership application of Israel. Of course the USA isn’t an honest broker.

      • Hostage on August 4, 2013, 7:57 am

        P.S. The Emergency Session of the General Assembly asked the Secretary-General to convene an international peace conference and called on all members to cooperate. The US Ambassador responded to a questionnaire from the Secretary, by declining to participate in any such undertaking. She said it would have disrupted the efforts of the US government to mediate a settlement under the Camp David framework outside UN channels.

        Years later she explained that a UN peace conference and arbitration would only isolate the US and Israel. See Kirkpatrick: Mideast Peace Conference Would Isolate Israel and the U.S.

  4. just on August 2, 2013, 4:46 pm

    What a complete disaster and undiplomatic stooge Israel- firster Indyk is.

    Shame on this administration for sucking up to him, the lobby and the rabid and cruel Zionists.

    There is no “peace” possible without justice for the Palestinians. It’s the macabre and disingenuous charade all over again with the same stooges minus, of course, Yasser Arafat.

  5. MHughes976 on August 2, 2013, 5:20 pm

    Why should you passionately wish to be separated from someone you very much respect?

    • Hostage on August 3, 2013, 8:43 am

      Why should you passionately wish to be separated from someone you very much respect?

      Apartheid literally means a state of “separateness,” from the Dutch apart “separate” (from French àpart; see apart) + suffix -heid, cognate of English -hood.

      Rabin was only talking about setting up a dependent state or protectorate for the Palestinians to end the hundred year-long armed struggle. Here is an extract from his speech to the Knesset on the subject of ratifying the Interim Agreement:

      We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

      We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

  6. Justpassingby on August 2, 2013, 5:38 pm

    Imagine the anti-semitic accusations if a pro-palestinian envoy mocked the israeli envoy like Indyk did…

  7. eGuard on August 2, 2013, 6:16 pm

    Not a single zionist cried for these Kerry Peace Talks.

  8. wondering jew on August 2, 2013, 6:43 pm

    Arafat’s smile was unique. It combined openness and a secret. Maybe it combined servility and hiding it.
    What phrase would you use to describe Arafat’s smile? I’ve never used the phrase “shit eating grin” in my life, and I don’t think I’m going to begin now.

  9. piotr on August 2, 2013, 6:50 pm

    atime forpeace: I hate bullying arrogance, so for me, it explains the reaction.

    I would quibble here. I see a difference between “Zionism piano” and “Zionism forte”. Indyk is actually a card-carrying liberal and exponent of the former, and roundly cursed by the more militant exponents of the latter. Outright arrogance and racism, or other kinds of supremacism are perceived as being uncouth, and Indyk tries to be more urbane than that. And yet, and yet he cannot help himself. It is not a “blind spot” but “tunnel vision”. This is one of the tragedies of the Lobby. It creates its own universe and elaborate immunity system to eliminate all unfitting thoughts that can seep from outside.

    By the way, while the references to Arafat cited above are simply gratuitous and even not advancing any point that Indyk was making, his recommendation that a Palestinian leader should show his sagacity by “jumping through the window onto the back of a galloping horse” is even better. It is not even snide. And yet, can you imagine such insane recommendation given to Jews?

  10. just on August 2, 2013, 8:10 pm

    I don’t think any Palestinian has ever had a “sh*t-eating grin”. They’ve been made to swallow plenty of it served up with a cheshire cat, sh*t eating grin by the Zionists and their enablers, primarily the US.

  11. Nevada Ned on August 2, 2013, 10:36 pm

    Martin Indyk praises Rabin’s “vision” and Rabin’s call for “separation”. And what does this “separation” amount to: the infamous apartheid Wall, the checkpoints, and the strangulation of Gaza.

    Some “vision”!

    After all, “apartheid” is Afrikaan for “separation-hood”.

  12. Citizen on August 2, 2013, 11:56 pm

    On Charlie Rose show now:

    Jeffrey Goldberg:

    Netanyahu won’t go as far with offers as his predecessors did. This peace process means more to Kerry than to Obama because Kerry’s been involved with it for a long time. HAMAS lost a great friend in Morsi’s fall, and picked the wrong side in Syria. It’s under a lot of pressure. PA gets stronger as HAMAS gets weaker–there’s some opportunities there, and in the Arab Spring’s changes. It’s easier for a right wing Netanyahu to act on the settlements than it would be for a center or left regime. You have to move 50 or 100 thousand settlers… how to do this in nine months? Not likely, a final settlement in that timeline. They are discussing all the things Israel would need to feel secure, which Kerry understands makes the Israelis feel more calm. Kerry realizes he needs to work creatively on the post withdrawal security arrangements for Israel. Hillary stayed away from the I-P conflict as when she looked at it closely, she didn’t feel she could successfully manage it. It was premature for Kerry to have these bilateral talks, but here we are.

    • Russian Prussian on August 3, 2013, 3:55 am

      Why do the settlers need to move immediately? It will take time for the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to come back as well. Besides, people can stay in another country as foreign citizens. Just like Belgians can stay in the Netherlands and Dutch can stay in Belgium. They just cannot vote, that’s all.

      Actually there is no hindrance to declare tomorrow the end of the conflict with the 1967 borders including Right of Return and Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital – nobody needs to move. It is just a change in jurisdiction, nothing more basically.

  13. Citizen on August 3, 2013, 10:40 am

    Here’s the UN’s press release at conclusion of it’s meeting in China towards an I-P peace agreement:

    Two big take-aways: (1)There’s a definite world consensus on what needs to be done, but Israel totally ignores that consensus; it won’t even admit there’s an occupation. (2)
    In all UN activity regarding the I-P conflict the US conflates itself with Israel; they act as one country even though it’s ridiculous since no two countries ever have the exact same interests. US agrees with the consensus the settlements are illegal (really?) but Israel keeps expanding.

  14. W.Jones on August 3, 2013, 10:05 pm

    One takeaway was that a powerful person seeing someone as having a “shit eating grin” is Indyk’s idea of showing Palestinians “respect.” He jokes about the former and follows it by repeating the importance of the latter. Indyk said Rabin jokingly equated Palestinians as Jews and respected both, and that by losing Rabin we have gotten away from respecting them. His comment about Arafat as shit-eating falls into the category of the disrespect (and perhaps ‘hate’) that he sees as following Rabin’s death. Apparently, Indyk sees Palestinians as deserving of disrespect (and maybe ‘hate’), but that Rabin was right to give Palestinians what Indyk sees as baseless, undeserving compliments.

    Second I am surprised that his calling Arafat “shit-eating” and emphasizing the point by shaking his head and saying it was part of Arafat’s unfathomableness let out such laughter from the audience in the “pro-peace” JStreet event. Most antiwar activists probably did not particularly respect Saddam or Qaddafi, but it is hard to imagine them laughing at him being called shit-eating at a “peace rally.”

    Third, what the dialogue Indyk described meant was that Rabin labeled Arafat as a possible Jew in a complimentary, humorous way. And Arafat returned the conciliation, by saying that the Hebrew Rachel was his aunt. Arafat could mean this seriously, considering that Hebrew University’s DNA research connects Palestinians and Jews. There is linguistic, geographic, historical, and cultural evidence of this as well.

    Indyk associates Arafat’s statement to ‘eating shit’, like the idea of ‘saying bullsh*t.’This shows Indyk finds the idea of Palestinians having Hebrew roots to be extremely offensive– perhaps one of the most offensive ideas possible, since I imagine it’s rare for him to curse as part of a public speech. For him, one cannot even ‘fathom’ what it means that a Palestinian would have Hebrew roots.

    • Hostage on August 4, 2013, 11:28 am

      He jokes about the former and follows it by repeating the importance of the latter. Indyk said Rabin jokingly equated Palestinians as Jews and respected both, and that by losing Rabin we have gotten away from respecting them.

      I respect the business end of rattlesnakes, but that doesn’t mean I like them or care about their welfare. Palestinians certainly knew that Rabin was the man who ordered Israeli soldiers to break their arms and legs.

      If you read Rabin’s address to the Knesset on the subject of ratifying the accords with Arafat, it is very clear he intended the interim deal and the final settlement to be devices that would end the conflict, codify Zionist desiderata, and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. The PLO had little choice, other than to agree to accept the offer of limited autonomy. It had lost most of its supporters among the members of the Arab League during the first Gulf War when it backed proposals to link withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait to Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories.

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