Is the Lobby Good for Israel?
Panel 4 Q&A
April 10, 2015
Moderator Delinda Hanley: We have a lot of questions, and I’ve put piles in front of each speaker. I must say, when I first heard Huwaida speak, maybe a decade or two ago, and I don’t want to age you, but I said you were the next Hanan Ashrawi. But I never saw Hanan Ashrawi give a speech with a baby on her hip. I am very impressed. Would you like to start with your questions?
Miko Peled: Well, it seems that I’m a minority voice here on this panel, which is not always a bad thing. I think that the reason that AIPAC is good for Israel is because [without it] Israel could not have gotten away with being Israel. There could not have been this brutal apartheid regime in Palestine had it not been for AIPAC. The brutal apartheid regime is what Israel is. There is no other form of Israel. There is no possibility for any other type of an Israel.
This kind of leads into the first question here that I have, a comment regarding something that—I guess, the two questions are pretty much complementary. This is regarding to a comment that my father made in a speech in San Francisco in 1992, when he was still alive, saying, very similar to what Gideon [Levy] was saying, that AIPAC, or the American blind support and financial aid to Israel, is corrupting Israel because free money corrupts.
I don’t think that is what corrupted Israel. Israel was corrupt from the beginning. Israel was created as a result of a brutal ethnic cleansing, and established itself as an apartheid regime immediately when it was formed. There was no better Israel. There was no uncorrupt Israel. There cannot be an uncorrupt Israel, because it was built on a crime and it has no legitimacy. The possibility that something else corrupted it and that perhaps it could have been better without this, I don’t think that’s a possibility.
AIPAC is the enabler, absolutely. AIPAC is the enabler or maybe one of the enablers. But I don’t think that the financial supporters were corrupt. It feeds the corruption, but it was built on, like I said, a terrible crime of ethnic cleansing and brutality which goes on to this day, perhaps even worse than it was.
The second question, I’ll just kind of connect. I’ll connect the two, which is this whole idea that we could have an Israel next to a Palestinian state living in peace. You cannot have an Israel next to a Palestinian state because Israel is a racist colonial state that is built on a racist colonial’s ideology, which cannot be reined in. There cannot be an Israel and the reality where there is some other rights for Palestinians within it. There can only be a state that affords rights to all of its citizens regardless of whether they’re Israeli or Palestinian, or an Israel which is a racist regime. These are the two options. An option where we have two states—one Palestinian, one Israeli—is impossible. It’s science fiction, because you cannot rein in a racist colonialist regime. That’s why it hasn’t happened to this day.
That kind of ties in, I think, with both of these questions. That’s why a single democracy or a transforming of Israel from what it is today, the so-called Jewish state, into a democracy with equal rights is really the only solution if we’re seeking justice and peace, and if we want Huwaida [Arraf] and her children to have the same rights as my children who were also born here in the United States and have a completely different status when we go to visit Palestine. That’s it. Thank you.
Gideon Levy: Can I get one hour, because I have—I will not be able to answer all the questions. I’ll be happy to answer them privately later, because this will really take so long.
Let’s call it from now on the United States of Israel, because many times when someone looks at the relations between Israel and the United States, one might ask, who is really the superpower between the two? Those questions become much more valid in the recent days when you see what’s going on with Iran. Really, I’m not in a position to tell Americans what to feel. But would I be an American— like I asked Ehud Barak, will you be a Palestinian—would I be an American, I would really be embarrassed.
When you see a title in Haaretz, in my newspaper, which says two days ago, “Israel to Pressure Congress to Thwart Iranian Nuclear Deal,” and then an Israeli official says to Haaretz that Israel will lobby the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that would make it difficult or even impossible to approve a comprehensive deal with Iran. Can you imagine yourself if it would be the opposite, if someone would have written that the Americans are trying to act in the Israeli parliament to change its decisions? We are dealing now really with almost questions of sovereignty. We are dealing with—really needless to say that there’s no state in the world would have dared to do it and no statesman in the world. I must tell you frankly, it’s not Israel’s fault. Israel is doing whatever it can. It’s the one who enables it.
Now there were some questions about Haaretz and about myself. This is always easier to answer. Haaretz lost like one million shekels, which is around $300,000, only for my article about the pilots, in terms of cancelling subscribers. Still Haaretz supports me and I gained full freedom. Haaretz found a way to survive even in those bad days. We have a paywall [sounds like] as part of you know. It’s a great success story relatively. We are struggling like any printed newspaper in the world, except for India. Or in other parts of the world, the printed newspapers are struggling. But for the shortcoming time as far as I know, we will be there if the Israelis will want it or not. We will be there, and I’ll be there as much as I can.
Why was Netanyahu reelected? How come that Netanyahu was reelected? The $1 million question! That exactly shows what I tried to say, where Israel is going. Netanyahu is an artist of spreading fears. He reminds me of this child in the Charlie Chaplin movie who went and threw stones at windows of shops, and then came to his father to fix those windows. Netanyahu threw the stones and then he calls his father, which is himself, to fix it. He spread all those fears, not only [about] Iran. Not only that all the Palestinians want just one thing— to throw us to the ocean. Even swine flu can become an existential threat in Israel for a few days. He spread all those fears, and then he presented himself as the one and only one who can save Israel from those terrible threats. It’s a very well-known method to survive politically. These men never suggested one single hope for Israel. One single hope. Now, politicians who build their career on hopes, many times false hopes, he went in a different way.
I was last week in Canada. There was a twin to Netanyahu in Canada— Mr. Harper also. I thought when I was in Canada, I felt so much at home. They have this obsession now with ISIS that in a certain stage, I told my partner, “Let’s not go out from the hotel, because they are everywhere here.” [Stephen] Harper is elected again and again. I never met a Harper supporter. I never met a Netanyahu supporter. But by the end of the day, they are reelected, and that’s the secret, I guess.
I’ll try one more question. What pressure do you face to stop you from your writing? This must be very clear. I get a lot of hate mails, and I really know the story. But until now at least, I gained freedom in terms of my newspaper, and also one must say, in terms of the government, it is not to be taken for granted. In the last war in Gaza, there was one very serious politician from the Likud Party who called to bring me to court for treason. Treason in war, by the way in Israel, might be death penalty, which was never implemented, obviously. But those voices become stronger and stronger. But until now, the only pressure I really face is those unpleasant things from the street, from the Jewish community.
The other day someone wrote me, “Thank you for a wonderful article—Adolf Hitler,” and things like this. Very tasteful. I passed a long time ago the wishes for my death. Now, it’s cancer to my children and this kind of things. It’s not very pleasant, but it’s really not the issue.
The issue is where does this place go to —the Israeli society. The best thing, when we try to confront those right-wingers, those Zionists, those mainstream in Israel, the best thing is not to argue with them. The best thing is only to ask, where do you go to? What is your plan? There are no Palestinians. Nothing. It’s only Israel, the chosen people. Everything. Where do we direct? What will it be in 10 years’ time? In 20 years’ time? Do you really believe that this will be possible forever? There will be no answer.
My last remark, what you just Miko [Peled], we can do a whole reelection out of it. Me, like you, I truly believe that the two-state solution is dead. I think that this train left the station. I deeply regret it, but it left the station. I think that all of those who speak now about the two-state solution, do so deliberately only to gain more time in order to base the occupation even deeper and deeper. Thank you.
Huwaida Arraf: Okay. I had a couple of comments. It’s very true. This one says, “Please, when talking about Arab Palestinians, please include Druze too. It’s not only Muslims and Christians.” That is very true. I said Christians and Muslims. I did not mean to exclude…Druze, Bedouins, all Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.
There is another question along that line that said, “In regard to Muslim and Arab Israeli citizens or Palestinian citizens of Israel, would a Druze experience the same discrimination? Does the Israeli government discriminate among the Arabs living inside Israel, such as Druze, Christians and Muslims? Or, are they treated equally?” I don’t have any hard facts about this or statistics. It showed, for the most part, they’re treated equally. They’re not Jewish. Of course, the Druze community, as most probably know, serve in the Israeli military. Therefore they are eligible for some things, some perks that come along with serving in the Israeli military that those who don’t serve in the Israeli military aren’t eligible for.
Also within the Druze community, it’s not a hundred percent. It is split probably around 50/50 in terms of those who serve and those who don’t. There’s an internal debate within the Druze community. I know I have a relative who is Druze, who refused to serve in the Israeli military. He was going to be a doctor. He was thrown in jail. He served his time in jail. He could not become a doctor because of the fact that he feigns some kind of insanity to get —not necessarily insanity—but some reason why he could not serve in the Israeli military. But he was allowed to become a politician. He is currently a politician.
There is that special circumstance of the Druze actually having to serve in the military, because of an agreement that their religious leader made with the State of Israel when the State of Israel was founded. But many, many Druze refuse to serve.
I think also, although this is unsubstantiated. It’s not backed by any kind of empirical evidence. I think that it is a little bit harder for Israel to do some of the things to the Christian community that it sometimes can get away with doing to the Muslim community. Because Israel tries to paint itself as a victim mainly of Islam and Muslims, and to paint Islam as the kind of global enemy, and Israel being a safe haven for Christians. If you hear about Christian homes being demolished en masse, that wouldn’t look too good for Israel. In terms of maintaining that kind of public perception that it wants to maintain to keep itself as the victim, I think the level of discrimination when it comes to a lot of outright things are the same. Like I talked about the communities that can decide who lives and who doesn’t live within certain communities. This discriminates against all non-Jews.
Since the founding of the State of Israel, Israel has established over 600 communities and municipalities—Jewish. Not one for any Palestinians, Christian, Muslims or Druze, or otherwise, none. This kind of discrimination is the same. But when you talk about the Bedouins, and Israel having a plan to move large-scale numbers of Bedouins out of their communities or to demolish homes not only in the Negev, but also in Lod. These are mainly Bedouins, Muslims. So I think that there’s that little bit of a distinction there. I’m sorry. I went off too long in that question.
“Do you read Haaretz? What is its reputation inside Israel?” I do. Sometimes I read Haaretz. Not religiously, but its reputation inside Israel, it’s the left wing newspaper. It’s still the Zionist left newspaper. I think Gideon talks a little bit about how they lost some followers, but it is seen as the very left. It’s not the mainstream newspaper. And so take that as you will.
I think the last one that I have time for is, “Can you describe what needs to be done to raise the massacre of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948?” Yesterday, we did just commemorate the massacre of Deir Yassin. I’m not sure what the question is as to raise up. But if it is to make it more well-known, I think that one of the things that we need to do is to document and commemorate. These massacres are ongoing. After Deir Yassin, just last summer and before we’re talking Gaza. I fear there probably will be more. We need to do what I think we’re doing right now —documenting, so very important. Not forgetting; continuing to commemorate and joining also political action to make a change.
Another plug for something that every one of us can do in our own communities and that is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement because that is having a tangible effect on Israel. That is scaring the bleep out of Israel in that it is mobilizing its forces to fight that, because Israel is afraid of delegitimization. The only reason they can continue doing what it’s doing is because it spends so much trying to legitimize their actions.
When we work to turn Israel into that pariah state that it is, until it dismantles its colonial apartheid system that is what we all need to do. You don’t have to go over to Palestine. You don’t have to get on a boat to Gaza. You do it within your own community, your own union, your own home. That is giving me hope for change. For Deir Yassin, for all the other massacres that have happened, and I fear might be, we will not forget. I truly believe that these victims will get justice one day. Thank you.
Moderator Delinda Hanley: We’re running a little late, but you wanted to say one more thing?
Gideon Levy: One final remark, a really final. Many times people tell me, look…The United States is like an aircraft carrier. It takes time to move its directions. You must be less impatient because historical changes take time. You should look at it in terms of history, of decades, of generations.
I must remind all of us that by the end of the day, we are dealing with the third generation under the occupation. With the fourth or fifth generation, ever since the State of Israel was established, those people deserve also something. Those people deserve dignity and freedom. They don’t have time to wait until this aircraft carrier will change its direction. Thank you.
Moderator Delinda Hanley: Thank you very much. Our panelists are wonderful. Thank you so much. We’ll have the next panel come up.
[End of transcript]