May 28, 2011
Bibi and the Yo-Yos
IT WAS all rather disgusting.
There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos,applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.
It was worse than the Syrian parliament during a speech by Bashar Assad,where anyone not applauding could find himself in prison. Or Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could havemeant death.
What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enoughcould have been caught on camera – and that amounts to political suicide.It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?
The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leadergraciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.
The most depressing part of it was that there was not a single lawmaker –Republican or Democrat – who dared to resist. When I was a 9 year old boy in Germany, I dared to leave my right arm hanging by my side when all my schoolmates raised theirs in the Nazi salute and sang Hitler’s anthem. Isthere no one in Washington DC who has that simple courage? Is it really Washington IOT – Israel Occupied Territory – as the anti-Semites assert?
Many years ago I visited the Senate hall and was introduced to the leading Senators of the time. I was profoundly shocked. After being brought up in deep respect for the Senate of the United States, the country of Jeffersonand Lincoln, I was faced with a bunch of pompous asses, many of them nincompoops who had not the slightest idea what they were talking about. I was told that it was their assistants who really understood matters.
SO WHAT did the great man say to this august body?
It was a finely crafted speech, using all the standard tricks of the trade –the dramatic pause, the raised finger, the little witticisms, the sentences repeated for effect. Not a great orator, by any means, no Winston Churchill,but good enough for this audience and this occasion.
But the message could be summed up in one word: No.
After their disastrous debacle in 1967, the leaders of the Arab world met inKhartoum and adopted the famous Three No’s: NO recognition of Israel,No  negotiation with Israel, NO peace with Israel. It was just what theIsraeli leadership wanted. They could go happily about their business ofentrenching the occupation and building settlements.
Now Netanyahu is having his Khartoum. NO return to the 1967 borders.NO Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. NO to even a symbolicreturn of some refugees. NO military withdrawal from the JordanRiver - meaning that the future Palestinian state would be completelysurrounded by the Israeli armed forces. NO negotiation with a Palestiniangovernment “supported” by Hamas, even if there are no Hamas membersin the government itself. And so on – NO. NO. NO.
The aim is clearly to make sure that no Palestinian leader could even dreamof entering negotiations, even in the unlikely event that he were readyto meet yet another condition: to recognize Israel as “the nation-state ofthe Jewish people” – which includes the dozens of Jewish Senators andCongressmen who were the first to jump up and down, up and down, likeso many marionettes.
Netanyahu, along with his associates and political bedfellows, isdetermined to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state by all andany means. That did not start with the present government – it is an aimdeeply embedded in Zionist ideology and practice. The founders of themovement set the course, David Ben-Gurion acted to implement it in 1948,in collusion with King Abdallah of Jordan. Netanyahu is just adding his bit.
“No Palestinian state” means: no peace, not now, not ever. Everything elseis, as the Americans say, baloney. All the pious phrases about happinessfor our children, prosperity for the Palestinians, peace with the entire Arabworld, a bright future for all, are just that – pure baloney. At least some inthe audience must have noticed that, even with all that jumping.
NETANYAHU SPAT in Obama's eye. The Republicans in the audience musthave enjoyed that. Perhaps some Democrats too.
It can be assumed that Obama did not. So what will he do now?
There is a Jewish joke about a hungry pauper who entered an inn anddemanded food. Otherwise, he threatened, he would do what his father did.The frightened innkeeper fed him, and in the end asked timidly: “But whatdid your father do?” Swallowing the last morsel, the man answered: “Hewent to sleep hungry.”
There is a good chance that Obama will do the same. He will pretend thatthe spittle on his cheek is rainwater. His promise to prevent a UN GeneralAssembly recognition of the State of Palestine deprived him of his mainleverage over Netanyahu.
Somebody in Washington seems to be floating the idea of Obama coming to Jerusalem and addressing the Knesset. It would be direct retaliation –Obama talking with the Israeli public over the head of the Prime Minister,as Netanyahu has just addressed the American public over the head of the President.
It would be an exciting event. As a former Member of the Knesset, I would be invited. But I would not advise it. I proposed it a year ago. Today I would not.
The obvious precedent is Anwar Sadat’s historic speech in the Knesset.But there is really no comparison. Egypt and Israel were still officially at war. Going to the capital of the enemy was without precedent, the more so only four years after a bloody battle. It was an act that shook Israel,eliminating in one stroke a whole set of mental patterns and opening the mind for new ones. Not one of us will ever forget the moment when the door of the airplane swung open and there he was, handsome and serene, the leader of the enemy.
Later, when I interviewed Sadat at his home, I told him: “I live on the main street of Tel Aviv. When you came out of that plane, I looked out of thewindow. Nothing moved in the street, except one cat – and it was probably looking for a television set.”
A visit by Obama will be quite different. He will, of course, be received politely – without the obsessive jumping and clapping – though probablyheckled by Knesset Members of the extreme Right. But that will be all.
Sadat’s visit was a deed in itself. Not so a visit by Obama. He will not shake Israeli public opinion, unless he comes with a concrete plan of action – a detailed peace plan, with a detailed timetable, backed by a clear determination to see it through, whatever the political cost.
Another nice speech, however beautifully phrased, just will not do. After this week’s deluge of speeches, we have had enough. Speeches can be important if they accompany actions, but they are no substitute for action.Churchill’s speeches helped to shape history – but only because they reflected historic deeds. Without the Battle of Britain, without Normandy ,without El Alamein, those speeches would have sounded ridiculous.
Now, with all the roads blocked, there remains only one path remains open: the recognition of the State of Palestine by the United Nations coupled with nonviolent mass action by the Palestinian people against the occupation.The Israeli peace forces will also play their part, because the fate of Israel depends on peace as much as the fate of Palestine.
Sure, the US will try to obstruct, and Congress will jump up and down, But the Israeli-Palestinian spring is on its way.
I saw that speech on CNN on Tuesday, a few hours before I went to get ready for my youngest male cousin's wedding with my mom and youngest sister. I was so disgusted with all that that I wanted to swear at them in Arabic, or at least call them names in Arabic. The Congresspeople, except for a few who stayed seated and didn't clap, are all sheeple.
Thanks for sharing, Eyal. I find Uri Avnery makes more sense than most American mainstream media.
Mr. Avnery always has an interesting way to look at facts and history. According to him even when the Arabs said their 3 famous "no's" this was Israels fault. The fact the Bib said yes to a Palestinian state, yes to taking down settlements and yes to a peace deal - was sorta not mentioned in his rant above. The fact that Bibi poined out the only arabs in all the mideast from 600 million who have real civil and human rights are those in Israel, this too slipped his mind.
Although I do agree this seemed like a cheap bobble head audienence, I think that one should look at the content to what was actually said. Remember this is supposed to be a negotiation. The PA is just as inflexible as Israel No to a Jewish state, No to the return of refugees to anywhere but inside Israel, no to borders other then 1967. Is this not any more or less dramatic?
Jeff you need to understand from a Palestinian Arab point of view they view the last 63 years as an example of European-American intervention in the Middle East. The Zionist leadership in the 1920s-1940s were almost exclusively European and American. It was this leadership that called for a Jewish state in the Middle East and was successful in lobbying for 100s of thousands of Jews to emigrate from Europe and the States. You may make claim about the The United Nations General Assembly in 1947. However, in its early years the GA was essentially an arm of European-US interests. There was not the voice of the decolonised world that we have today.
I agree that the PA and the PLO need to continue to look at creative ways to bring about a just and sustainable peace. However, what is needed is to understand what the 90% majority of 1917 felt and their sense of injustice (and their descendants feel) post British occupation and post the forcible establishment of Israel.
Yes, it is critical to understand Jewish ancestral connection to the land, but in no way does that justify violently turning an idea into a reality.
Avnery is a gift to the people of Israel. He has seen it all: from his childhood in Nazi Germany; to his time fighting against the British and then Arab Palestinians and against citizens from surrounding countries; to serving in the Knesset and realising that Israel's narrative is not the only one.
He shows the best that Israel can be. He speaks more sense, reason and shows more compassion and self-lessness than scores of religious and political leaders.
It was a disgusting to see the US Congress behave as a blind mass in this fashion. Avnery response was brilliant counter to this misguided group.
Netanyahu: "In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers."
Congress response: Standing ovation no. 15
Are you kidding me. Has the US Congress ever heard of the two state solution? Regardless of the historical arguments that can be successfully used to establish that the present phase of occupation of the West Bank is by the state of Israel, the last 18 years (ie post Oslo) have been devoted (theoretically) to establishing 2 states by the PLO and Israel. Yes Netanyahu, begrudgingly accepts some notion of Palestinian self-determination and withdrawal, but only in the most limited sense.
Netanyahu: Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel.
Standing ovation no. 23
Thanks Eyal for posting this.
The Jewish American protestor's response. Her name is Rae Abileah. Courageous!
Stephen Walts regarded "every burst of applause was another nail in the coffin of the Zionist dream. Why? Because Netanyahu's central message yesterday was an emphatic rejection of a genuine two-state solution..."
Rabbi Brant Rosen
Videos of Jewish American protestors at AIPAC
Yu might agree with Uri Avnery but in Israel he is considered part of the extreme fringe left. He has vey little support in Israel and does not represent the Israeli popular opnion at all. Most Israelis agree more closely with Netanytahu point of view. Similarly most Arabs to Abbas point of view with ideas like the right of return something Israel can never agree to if they want a Jewish state. Each side has its issues, I am sure Abbas would get a similar audience in the Arab league...
Likud and generosity???
So Palestinians should smile politely and say "Yes sir...no sir. Sorry boss".
If you want to talk denial and delegitimization of another - then Likud is a good party to vote for. If you want to talk destruction of a state - then yes Likud is the answer:
Jeff, I recognise Uri Avnery's position is a minority view.
This is all the worse for Israel.
Thank God for Joseph Dana, Uri Avnery and all the other Jewish peace activists (both within Israel and abroad) who maintain the selfless, and courageous prophetic voice that calls for justice and release of those suffering oppression.
This is not denying that those within the Palestinian Arab and broader Arab community can do more. The question is what is the military occupying nation doing?
Jeff comparing the US Congress to the Arab League. If we follow the usual Western stereotypes this is a slap in the face to Congress. And rightly deserved.
I've been following the discussions that you have engaged in for quite a long time. Unlike some of the others, who have either more patience or more time, I have stopped replying because I see a dynamic that disturbs me.
Here it is;
Someone posts a pro-Pal message.
You engage the person. You agree with qualifiers with some aspect that the person has raised. Then, having gained their ear, you come out with something that sounds like pure Hasbara.
Then you are resentful when others don't reciprocate by buying into your message, in whole or in part.
Yes, terrible things happen in the West Bank. Yes, some of the people aspire to violence. Yes, some of them may hate Jews and Israelis. Yes, there is corruption. Yes, the Palestinians are divided. Yes, they have been willing to sacrifice their children and use human shields.
The point is: none of this is relevant to an argument about whether Palestinians are entitled to a state of their own. They are. They have earned a state of their own. They have paid in blood for a state of their own. They have successfully emulated the Jews in pushing forward an agenda for statehood.
I am sorry it distresses you when you hear that Israelis do bad things in the West Bank. But this is a 60-year war. The grandchildren of the original combattants are engaged in struggle. Wars brutalize people. When Raymonda Tawwil, Arafat's (Christian) mother-in-law, says that the soldiers of '67 were a very different breed from the ones today, I have no reason to disbelieve her.
It is hard to think that after so many years of oppression, Jews can become oppressors. But it is human, after all, Jeff. Reading Franz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth might provide some comfrot. In it, Fanon points out that for the oppressed, the oppressor is the model for human behaviour.The critical question becomes: what are we, as a people, going to do about it? Whining about the Palestinians does not clear out the grime accumulating in our own spiritual and communal house.
At some point, we have to take a decision whether to gamble on peace, despite our fears, or not. I choose peace, because the alternative is too unbearable to consider. I don't want the Jewish house to collapse because we could not find a way to peace.