Naomi Ragen: Awakenings and courage
I thought you might be interested in seeing the sea change that has come
over the average
Israeli in the last two years. I'm sending you two pieces. One by Moshe
Sheskin about himself, and one from
journalist Yossi Klein Halevi, about the mistakes of the Oslo Process. As
one reader commented on Mr. Halevi's article: "the tragedy of Yossi Klein
Halevi's article is that it took some 600 Jewish deaths, thousands of
injuries over three horrible and grusesome years, and the collapse of
Israel's sense of internal security, to awaken in him and his like-minded
pro-Oslo friends some sense of reality. During the Oslo years, he was not
writing about the ten flaws of Oslo. Instead, he was visiting mosque
services and dancing with Islamic celebrants in their mosques on their holy
days... He writes about it in his book."
In my own name I will say that the bandwagon mentality was rife during the
Oslo years, and journalists feared blacklisting and villification if they
didn't jump on. I myself felt it, and although I never believed in or
supported the Oslo process (you can check out my Post articles during those
years...) I too avoided coming out as strongly against it as I should have
for fear of just that kind of criticism. The Jerusalem Report, for whom
Halevi wrote frequently, was an Oslo rah-rah cheerleader from day one, and
was responsible for much disinformation. What a shame it takes so much
terror and pain to open people's eyes, and mouths.
Hindsight is great. But the question is: as soon as the next cockamamie
idea hatches, will all of us have the courage to kill it, before it kills
We Are People Too
By Moshe Sheskin ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
A number of years ago, during a stint in the Israel army reserves, I was
posted at one of the bridges over the Jordan River. It was my unit's
responsibility to examine the travelers, coming from Jordan, prior to their
entry into Israel and the disputed territories in order to prevent
contraband from entering the country, especially detonators,. As our
commanding officer remarked, "Remember, if a bomb goes off due to your
negligence, it may also mean the life of your wife and children." His
comments had an instantaneous effect upon us and although the temperature in
the Jordan Valley in August hovered around the 50 degree mark and hordes of
flies added to our discomfort, we meticulously examined each and every
traveler, their documents, baggage, personal effects and a body search when
At one point, while going through the process, a young lady
shouted at me.
"We are people too you know".
Her anger and discomfort were apparent but the words were penetrating so
that for many years, during my more liberal period, I couldn't shake her cry
and my feeling at that time echoed her frustration and agony. Peace was a
necessity and I was convinced that it was within the realms of possibility,
at least within the next few years..
I firmly believed that we had reached a point in our
relationship with our Arab cousins where we no longer would control their
destiny but could live side by side, two separate people sharing a common
land and history. I felt that the agreements reached by the Palestinian
Authority through Arafat would finally bear fruit and that we really had a
partner for peace.
The cry of that young woman melted into nothingness in October
2000 when two of our soldiers, who had lost their way, were brutally
lynched. The elation by the populace and those who had actually perpetrated
this sadistic act has been permanently etched in my mind.
Thus the intafadah was born and with it, a change in my
attitude. No more did I hear that young women crying to me, "We are people
too". Slowly but surely, after many months of increased conflict and with it
the increased loss of life in the civilian population, my liberalism and
socialist thinking gave way to a distinct hard line. I can no longer believe
in the ability of Arafat to make peace. I no longer believe in Arafat's
commitment to peace evident by his refusal to honour signed agreements.
Arafat's rhetoric only proves once more that the goal is not only that of a
Palestinian State but the complete destruction of Israel.
I lost faith in the Israeli Arabs, the majority of whom not only approve of
the intafadah but support it in many other ways. This is borne out by the
numerous articles and polls that were carried out over the last few years.
As citizens of Israel, I had expected a certain degree of loyalty, while
understanding their feelings and their frustration with respect to our
problem with their kinsmen. The action of our Arab members of the Knesset
only showed me that we had a 'fifth column' in our midst. Yes, it's now my
turn to cry out,
"WE ARE PEOPLE TOO, YOU KNOW"
We don't educate our children to hate.
We don't revel in the death of innocent civilians.
We don't shoot our guns in the air to celebrate an Arab death.
We don't march in the streets to celebrate massacres.
We don't have support of a United Nations with a built in Arab majority.
We don't have the support of the Europeans and their anti-Semitic attitudes.
We don't use humans with bombs attached to commit suicide and kill innocent
What we do have is the will to survive and the will to live in peace. What
we want is to take our place in the Middle East as a recognized partner for
the sake of all. What we want is a democratic region where social and
economic conditions will be the right of every individual. When will this
happen? When Arabs will begin to live in peace with each other and recognize
the rights of the individual. Until then, we have no choice but to defend
ourselves and remain strong, not only against our immediate neighbors, but
if need be, against the world.
WE ARE PEOPLE TOO, YOU KNOW.
The Ten Fatal Flaws of Oslo
By Yossi Klein Halevi
President Bush's recent historic speech demanding Palestinian restraint and
reform as preconditions for statehood was above all a eulogy for the Oslo
process. In place of Oslo's "land for peace" formula, Bush now suggests
"peace for land" -- that is, first the Palestinians prove their peaceful
intentions, and only then does Israel empower them with territorial
In establishing that new sequence, Bush sought to correct a fatal flaw of
the Oslo process: that Israel would yield concrete assets in exchange for
easily revoked promises of peace. But that was only one fatal flaw in a
fundamentally flawed process. Here is a list of the 10 fatal
miscalculations made by the architects of Oslo -- perhaps the worst wound
Israel ever inflicted on itself:
1. Empowering Arafat: "Only Arafat can make the necessary
compromise," the Oslo visionaries assured us. "Only he can force the
Palestinians to give up their dream of return. Besides," they continued, "if
we don't negotiate with him, we'll be left with Hamas."
When the time came, of course, Arafat refused to make the most basic
concessions on refugee return. And in the last two years, his Fatah has
joined with and even surpassed Hamas in suicide bombings. Empowering
Arafat, then, meant creating a Hamas-like regime -- protected by
2. Whitewashing Arafat: They want to forget it now, but many on
the Israeli and American Jewish left were actually charmed by the mass
murderer. The Hartzufim, Israeli TV's satirical puppets' show, portrayed
Arafat as a bumbling but basically harmless and even likeable old man.
Yitzhak Rabin's granddaughter said he was like an "uncle."
Peace activists went on pilgrimage to him and listened to his paranoid
tirades about an alliance of Muslim terrorists with settlers and Israeli
generals to destabilize the "peace of the brave." And they continued to
grant him legitimacy and ignore the growing incitement. Even Dennis Ross
admits it now -- but not the extent of the left's cover-up for Arafat.
That cover-up began literally the day after the White House handshake, when
Arafat told an audience in Amman that the Oslo process was the first step in
the implementation of the "stages plan," the PLO's program for the gradual
destruction of Israel. Arafat hid nothing from us; we hid the truth from
3. Empowering the leadership of 1948: PLO-Tunis represented the
Palestinian diaspora, the refugees of 1948. Israel resurrected the PLO,
just as it was on the verge of collapse following the Gulf War. By saving
Arafat, we imposed the leadership of 1948 onto the Palestinians of 1967 --
that is, of the West Bank and Gaza, who had lived with us, however
unhappily, and with whom we'd shared a measure of coexistence. Our struggle
with the Palestinians of 1967 was over borders; our struggle with the
Palestinians of 1948 was over existence itself. Yet we chose to empower
precisely that part of the Palestinian people that is emotionally and
ideologically incapable of compromise. The result was to suppress any
chance for dialogue with the Palestinians of 1967.
4. Promoting a false symmetry: "Both sides want peace," the Oslo
architects assured us." A Palestinian mother and a Jewish mother both want
the same things for their children." Our children came home from
kindergarten waving little flags made of Stars of David entwined with doves;
their children were taught paeans to suicide bombers. And now Palestinian
mothers send their grown-up children off to martyrdom.
The flaw was in not understanding the basic asymmetry in the way each side
viewed the other: A majority of Israelis had come to see this conflict as a
struggle between two legitimate national movements, and accepted partition
as a moral solution; while a majority of Palestinians continued to believe
that all justice was on their side, and that partition was, at best, an
unavoidable option imposed by Israeli power.
5. Pretending that the Middle East resembles Western Europe after
World War II: That was a favorite insight of Shimon Peres, the basis for his
New Middle East. Like the European Union, he said, the Middle East was on
its way to replacing dreams of national glory for prosaic prosperity. Peres
was right about Israeli society: Like Western Europe after World War II,
most Israelis had fought one war too many and were ready to exchange
nationalist for consumerist dreams. But he misjudged the Arab world by one
war: Arab society more closely resembles Europe after World War I --
aggrieved, militaristic and waiting for revenge for all those decades of
Israeli military victories.
6. Encouraging dictatorship: In Yitzhak Rabin's words, Arafat
could be trusted to suppress terrorism because, unlike Rabin himself, he
wouldn't have to contend with "Bagatz and B'tzelem" -- that is, with a
Supreme Court and human rights watchdogs. The result was that Israel helped
build one of the Arab world's most corrupt regimes, and destroyed whatever
hope the Palestinians had of emulating Israeli democracy.
7. Turning Judea And Samaria into the West Bank: The moral premise
of partition is that two nations claim the same land, and so the only fair
solution is to divide it between them. But what if one side insists that the
whole land belongs to it by right, while the other side waives its claim to
part of the land?
That is precisely what Israel did by turning "Judea and Samaria" into the
"West Bank." The result was that the world quickly came to see the Israeli
willingness to concede its biblical heartland as no concession at all,
merely the occupier returning his theft to its natural owners.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, kept reminding the world that they had lost the
78 percent of Palestine that formed pre-67 Israel. Those Jews who supported
partition should have been the first to stake their claim, at least in
principle, to the whole of the land. If we have no claim to Hebron and
Bethlehem and Shechem, what right do we have to trade those for Jaffa and
Haifa and Lod?
8. Limiting the timetable: The Oslo process intended to resolve a
100-year conflict in seven years. By the end of that absurdly condensed
period, Israel was to have transferred most of the territory to Palestinian
control, with no mechanism for testing Palestinian compliance. The basis of
the deal was essentially "land for words" -- strategic territory for
guarantees of peace. But few bothered to check whether we were even getting
the right words in return.
9. Delegitimizing the critics: It's not only the right who
delegitimized Rabin; the left did the same to Oslo's critics. And Rabin
himself was a prime offender, mocking the settlers and even comparing the
Likud to Hamas as part of an "anti-peace" bloc. Maybe had the left paid
more attention to the criticism of the right, we would have been spared
seven years of self-deception. Just as Israel might have been spared the
excesses of the Lebanon War and unlimited settlement, had the right learned
to listen to its leftwing critics.
10. Democracy for peace: The Rabin government sacrificed
democratic norms for the sake of the peace process, ramming through the
Knesset far-reaching territorial concessions on the basis of a single
vote -- that of an unscrupulous rightwing parliamentarian who was lured to
support Oslo by a political bribe. It is hard to recall another democracy
making such a fateful decision on the basis of a majority of one, let alone
a majority won through a parliamentary trick.
The culmination of Oslo's anti-democratic spirit occurred at Taba in January
2001, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak, left with a minority government and
facing a landslide defeat, offered the Palestinians even more concessions
than he'd offered six months earlier at Camp David.
The above list is by no means exhaustive; additional follies could easily be
cited. Understanding what went wrong with Oslo is crucial, especially at a
time when some people are trying to divide the Jewish world with their
insistence that Oslo's failure was Israel's fault.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor of The New Republic and a senior
writer for the Jerusalem Report. This column appears exclusively in JUF News
and The Jewish Week in New York. He is the author of "At the Entrance to the
Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for G-d with Christians and Muslims in the
© Copyright 2002 Joel Orr.
Last update: 8/14/02; 1:46:17 PM.