Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Debate is important

I fail to see the point of not engaging with those whose views differ from mine, at least until both parties arrive at basically irreconcilable, major points of difference.

For me, that can often be when the Bible is quoted as history rather than for spiritual purposes, unless I can present clear, compelling evidence to the contrary. Without evidence, views are subjective.

So I am disappointed when courteous, evidence-based debate is cut short by those with different views before a genuine stand-off is reached.

Here is an exchange of emails between myself and Kiwis for Balanced Reporting in the Mideast
which illustrates my point.

Sent 15/02/09

Hi guys, after reading your advertisement in Friday's NZ Herald, I responded with this letter to the editor:

Kiwis for Balanced Reporting on the Middle East (advertisement, NZ Herald Nov 13) perpetuates many of the myths surrounding the formation of the state of Israel, including the ‘right to exist.’

In fact, there is no such concept in international law. Instead, states are granted recognition within secure and recognised boundaries.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation and the surrounding Arab states have repeatedly offered this recognition since the 1970s. Israel’s response was to elevate its demand for recognition to an unconditional right to exist.

Palestinians will never offer this to Israel because it would have the practical effect of extinguishing their precious, legal, inalienable, right of return; this right was affirmed by UN Resolution 194, passed on December 11, 1948 and reaffirmed every year since.

Of course, obstructing this legal right of return is the reason Israel invented its mythical right to exist.

As soon as Israel ceases its decades long military and economic offensive against Palestinians and allows eligible refugees to exercise their right to return the conflict will cease and the process of truth and reconciliation will begin.

Quite simply, in terms of resolving this conflict for good, nothing else matters.

I don't know if it will be published, but you can see our narratives don't quite match. I have now taken the time to peruse your website and I can see why. Apparently, your definition of "balanced" is pretty close to that of Fox News whose idea of balance is laughable, in my opinion.

However, I am quite sure you would have a similar view of my thoughts. I was one critical of Laws, for example, whose letter was published alongside that of one of your members in the Sunday Star-Times. Perhaps unlike some fellow disputants, I am interested in truth, above all else, and avoid abuse. A problem, of course, is that truth is often anything but objective. So Benny Morris and Norman Finklestein, for example, can look at the same facts and draw totally opposing conclusions. I have watched them do just that in a debate hosted by Democracy Now.

I regard your advertisements as textbook propaganda, therefore, by definition, clever, effective and dangerous. It's impossible to rebut all the selective and misleading facts and statements of that Herald advertisement in 200 words or less in a letter to the editor, which is why I chose to focus on the right to exist issue. But I am happy to spend the time and provide a full rebuttal, if you will publish it on your site. And generally, since you say you are balanced, apply some much needed, in my opinion, counterweight on behalf of the Palestinians on a regular basis.

A solution to the conflict will eventually emerge. In the absence of genocide by the Israelis, and, with highly refined nuclear weapons in its holster, that option is always on the table, although I honestly do not believe they would, my senses tell me it will be the Israelis who give way to the inevitable. But how many, inevitably, overwhelmingly relatively defenceless Palestinians, will die in the process?

Look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Luc Hansen.

Reply received 15/02/09

Hi Luc

Please send me the specific statements (in quotes) from the KBRM ad that you think are "myths" (i.e., untrue) and I will respond to you.

Sincerely,

Simon Kuttner, KBRM spokesperson

Sent 17/02/09

Hi Simon

I do think that arguing over historical events very much misses the heart of the problem for Israel, which I will touch on later. For the time being, however, let's play the game.

I have already covered the "right to exist" myth. But the really interesting point here is the fact that Israel actually feels the need to be constantly reassured of it's legitimacy. Israel actually draws it's legitimacy from the fact of other states (no matter how unprincipled or self-interested were their reasons for doing so), and the US in particular, granting it recognition, not from the partition plan recommended by the General Assembly but never implemented.

Two other myths specifically mentioned in your ad are that "...many Arabs fled from the war that they (the Arabs) had started," where you appear to be denying the reality of the organised campaign of expulsion of Palestinian Arabs which resulted in 13000 Palestinian Arab deaths, most simply executed, and that "the world did nothing to protect the young Jewish nation it had created."

As to the latter, nascent Israel needed no help at all as it was born "the local superpower." I urge you to post a link on your website to http://tinyurl.com/9zfee2 in which a former Foreign Minister of Israel proves the case that these are, indeed, myths. It's quite a read and very informative. And Ben Ami describes himself as "an ardent Zionist," so can hardly be dismissed as biased against Israel, which, of course, he is not.

More misleading than myth, although the myth of the existence of a previous Jewish kingdom is implied through the reference to "Biblical times", is your "Background" section, and the implication of brotherhood and goodwill between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. But I think I have given you enough to digest at the moment. And I am not yet convinced you will place any of this on your website, anyway, although I do hope you prove me wrong.

Now back to Israel's biggest problem. Although initially successful in conquering Palestine (yes, recently arrived European Jews arrived with the set plan of conquering Palestine), the Palestinian Arabs have not faded away. They now outnumber Israeli Jews and I think I read that they will outnumber the Israeli Jews 2:1 by 2040. How long will the world stand by and watch this brutal, one-sided war against the Palestinian Arabs continue? A rich, largely white European minority, and a diminishing minority at that, living in splendidly guarded luxury while behind the walls the Palestinian Arabs live a life of grinding poverty in their bantustans, constantly harassed, regularly slaughtered, by their Jewish jailers.

All the myths in the world won't save Israel then. And the two state solution will never work because Palestinians in the street have proved they will never give up their claim to THEIR land. The end for Israel will quicken if the Israeli government's worst nightmare is realised as the dwindling net immigration inflow turns into an outflow in the face of increasingly effective Palestinian Arab resistance.

Thanks for your time. I await with interest your response and postings on your website.

Cheers

Received 19/02.09

Any refugee solution would involve them returning to the borders of a Palestinian State. I have already responded to the status of refugees in an earlier email. The fact is that 98 percent of Israelis would be willing to go back to the 1967 ceasefire lines IF there was a genuine peace partner and despite the security risks.

Yes, extreme statements can be found on both sides. However, if you cannot differentiate between what the majority of Israelis and their leaders desire and believe in and what the majority of Palestinains and their leaders want and believe in, then I see a serious problem.

I find it interesting that because you have found certain Israelis saying things, you believe that your convictions regarding Israel have been proven and Israel's position 'debunked'. The sense for the truth and what is right has nothing to do with an opinion of a certain individual that may provide support for your convictions. Many people in high positions say things. This does not mean it is correct.

Thank you for your time.

Regards

Simon

Sent

But on the basis that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, perhaps you could help me out. I am interested in the answer to this question: what exactly does Israel, and by extension, you and your supporters, want and what's in it for the Palestinians who were expelled from their land 1947-53 and again in 1967?

Why don't you post this on your website?

And perhaps peruse Haaretz and find the article where Bibi declares his support for a Palestinian State "but not at our expense." Maybe you guys could ask him: "At whose expense was the State of Israel formed?"

By the way, you are fond of posting extreme statements from Hamas, particularly, but I can show you plenty of extreme stuff from the other side too. Just go and look at the blogs on israelnationalnews.com.

Come on, what's YOUR ideal final deal?

Kind regards

Received 22/02/09

Here are my final comments:

Why should the Israelis give back whatever was "conquered/occupied" ? Will New Zealand be giving back Aotearoa to the Maoris, Australia to the Aboriginies, the US to the Indians etc. None of these countries were established by rights of a UN resolution - they were conquered/colonised/occupied in the name of religion/the Empire etc. In 1948 Israel was established by the UN and then attacked and invaded by the neighbouring Arabs. Those that attacked and those that fled as exorted to do so by the local Al Husseini Palestinian leadership (who had campaigned on Hitler's behalf during the war) do not retain inherent rights to return for all eternity. They were not deported, thrown out, persecuted and in fact were urged to stay, as many did. The Jewish residents and citizens of Arab countries who left after 1948 do not demand to return even though they were only allowed to leave after their possessions had been confiscated by the state.

As for return by the Palestinians who fled after 1967 - they can certainly return to the same areas they left if Israel returns to pre-1967 borders to live in peace with a Palestinian state that will exist there- this is almost exactly what the UN decided in November 1947.


You ask if Israel expects the refugees to give up their legal right to return ? Do you expect Israel to give up its legal/moral right to exist ?

Where do you get the impression that the mood is swinging in favour of a 1 state solution and not a 2 state one ? Whose mood - yours ? The corrupt PLO ? Why are the Hamas any better - because they are better at killing Israelis??

Yes, you are right - the majority of Israelis do want the Palestinians to go away and live in their own state, free from occupation by the colonising Israelis, in freedom under their own pluralistic, democratic, peace-loving leadership on the other side of a border, next to Israel in the pre-1967 borders that you so much wants to nonsense. Israel does imprison palestinians from the "Occupied Territories" - the ones that engage in violence and incitement to violence.

As for your exercise at the bottom - it is precisely for that reason that the majority of Israelis want to return to the 1967 borders - they don't want to be a conquering minority of a conquered majority - the country where the conquered majority lived in 1967 attacked Israel and as a result got conquered by the conquering minority (its called war..). Because that country doesn't want to receive control again of the land where the conquered majority lives, even though they have been offered, the conquering minority have been stuck with the conquered majority ever since (not to mention having improved their standard of living..) The majority of the conquering minority would be only too happy to let the conquered majority govern themselves in a peaceful manner - in the meantime they have somehow been unable to find someone worthy or willing of such a task. Maybe the issue is really the "willing" part - for this would end the Palestinians right to struggle, end their leaders' reasons/rights for keeping them in squalid refugee camps and force them to recognise that Israel is here to stay.

Sent 01/03/09

Hi again Simon,

I am sure you will excuse the time delay as your last message covered a lot of ground, and work and family keeps me pretty busy, but I assure you I am very happy to think the issues through as you raise them. In replying to you, I will take it one sentence at a time, sort of, to keep it simple and, hopefully, factual.

Talking about factual, do you and Dr Brooks really believe that there was once, or is that twice, in pre-modern times, a great Jewish nation called Israel? And that Jews were enslaved by the Egyptians and the Romans? And exiled by the Romans? Surely you guys do know this is all myth? Have you read Karen Armstrong's "Battle for God"? Allow me to present a couple of quotes.

First, she writes, regarding the "Exodus" story, "The story has been deliberately written as a myth, and linked with other stories..." (Introduction, pxiv). It's what creatives do, make things up, make them seem real, but to make a point. Today, we call it fiction.

Second, look at this quote. "Kook died in 1935...He did not live to see the terrible expedients to which the Jews would feel driven in order to create a state for themselves in Arab Palestine. He never witnessed the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, nor the Arab and Jewish blood spilled in the Arab-Israeli wars". (p188)

One of her main themes is that when myth is interpreted as a cause for action in the real world the results can be disastrous. Jews in particular have been probably the most victimised by this approach, yet are now the perpetrators of evil acts (in my humble opinion). And yes, I know the other side does evil too, and I wish they wouldn't, but they are a people absolutely brutalised by Israeli oppression, which, it appears, Israelis don't understand that one day it will come to an end. And the longer it takes to end it, the worse it will be for the Israelis, in my opinion.

Anyway, first sentence: "Why should the Israelis give back whatever was "conquered/occupied"? How about you think of it as returning what belongs to others? Thus, it is a decent, just and moral action rather than ongoing indecent, unjust and immoral action.

"Will New Zealand...Australia..the US...be giving back... to (the conquered). You missed my point, I feel. Permanent seizure of territory demands either genocide or swamping or a combination of both. NZ, US and Australia accomplished this. The Zionists did not, to their credit, attempt genocide, and their attempt at swamping has failed. Immigration (aliyah) has tailed off and Palestinians reproduce, according to the CIA Factbook, at over twice the rate of Israeli Jews. Israel, in terms of a "Jewish majority", has a demographic problem within and without. The Zionist colonisation project is just going to get drowned in Arab semen (joke, sort of).

"In 1948 Israel was established by the UN..." Well, no, a Partition Plan was recommended.
It was not accepted by Palestinians. End of story. May 11, 1949 was when Israel was accepted into the UN and then only because the US, the new western superpower, support for Israel made it a fait accompli. However, Israel does exist. Why worry about how?

"Invaded by Arab nations..." By May, 1948, Israel had already expelled 2-300,000 Palestinians and occupied some 80% of the land allocated to a Palestinian state. And the Arab states were always reluctant to enter into a war with the Jews and finally did so because word of Jewish atrocities filtered into their streets causing public pressure, and they mainly only entered areas allocated to Palestine, to defend Palestinians. Anyway, as Ben Ami points out, the Jews knew they were always going to win. So what's the point of persisting in this myth?

As for the debate between expulsion or fleeing or following instructions, and the right of return, international law is clear: in all those circumstances they are all refugees and entitled to return. End of story. "Almost exactly" is not good enough. Res 194 is explicit and reconfirmed annually. I think the term that applies to Israel hanging its hat on 181 but denying 194 is "hyprocrisy". Yes?

Do I want Israel to give up its right to exist for the Palestinian right of return? The right you quote for Israel is non-existent. Israel is recognised. The Palestinian right of return is affirmed by the UN. A result of exercising right of return, of course, would be to destroy the Jewish majority. Hey, South Africa survived! Learn to get along!

The mood swing to a one-state solution? Come on, Simon, books are being published promoting it. Finkelstein takes it so seriously he argues against it. Why one-state? Because Israel has made the two-state solution unviable for Palestinians with its ongoing land grabs.

We all know Arafat was so corrupt he almost traded away the right of return, but even he had to step back from the brink. Money is a side issue here. Hamas is definitely not corrupt, which causes the US and Israel much distress. Is Hamas pretty? No way, but you reap what you sow.

Your final paragraph. It is nonsense. There are now nearly, if not more than, 500,000 illegal "settlers" in the West Bank. They will not go quietly. They believe in their right to be there. Israel's leading elite has no intention of returning to the 1967 borders. Sadat offered peace on the 1967 borders in 1971, which Israel refused and this refusal led to the war of 1973. The Arab league renewed its longstanding offer of full normalisation of relations with Israel based on the 1967 borders and a "just settlement" of the refugee problem in the aftermath of the recent slaughter in Gaza. For over 30 years this has been the Arab position. Israel is the problem. Why? Two reasons: Israel is not willing to pay the price of the right of return, which, as Ben Ami points out, only applies to less than one million Palestinians, by law; and the interest of the US in keeping the Arab states under their thumb, terrorised.

In closing, no country survives for long (relatively speaking) in a state of continual antagonism with its neighbours. Peace does break out, one way or the other. There is no reason Israel can't be there to stay, but it has to negotiate its survival. Two-state, one-state, bi-national...you name it, it's all open. But the clear international consensus is for two states, based on June 1967 borders and the right of return. The Arabs, going even further along the road to peace, only ask for a just settlement of the refugee issue. Money talks. The stumbling block is always, since 1971, Israel.

I think I made the point earlier, it is the humanitarian issue that is turning the world against Israel. Israel only survives at the behest of the US. The citizens of the US are basically decent people. I saw one poll that said only a slim majority supported the Xmas attack on Gaza. That, in terms of US-Israel relations, is ominous for Israel. It is digging its own grave.

I've enjoyed these discussions with you. You will see me around, letters to editors, etc, as I try to rebut KBRM's misleading propaganda (oops, tautology, sorry). On a personal note, I attribute no malice to you, Dr Brooks or your supporters, I just think you are all misinformed about historical facts and seduced by religious or semi-religious fervour.

It's just a pity you have to slaughter so many in the course of your misguided mission.


No reply received and none of my points were posted on their website.

Some tidying up is still required.

More analysis will follow when time permits.

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