Writers Respond: Ray Hanania to Robert E. Litman
Whenever you write a column, you always encourage reader responses. Most of the time, writers, especially opinion writers, abstain from responding. But sometimes, the comment reflects a society-wide myth that needs to be addressed.
This is one of those issues that needs a response.
Recently, I wrote a column criticizing Israel’s government for its racism. As we know, racism in a society is one thing. Racism by a government is worse and is called “Apartheid.” You can click here to read the column.
The story detailed how Israel’s government claims to support peace, but in fact does not. The proof is how Israel’s government has cracked down on non-Jewish “citizens” in an Arab village inside Israel, called Jatt, that wanted to name a street after Yasir Arafat, who signed the peace accords with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres in 1993. Arafat, Rabin and Peres each received the Nobel Peace Prize for their bold efforts.
Rabin, however, was murdered by an extremist Israeli Jew who was a disciple of Israel’s current rightwing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.President Clinton presides over White House ceremonies marking the signing of the peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, left, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, right, in Washington Sept. 13, 1993. (Courtesy Wikipedia)
The writer, below, took issue with my view that Netanyahu and much of Israeli society claims to support peace but actually does not support peace, not by addressing that issue, of course, but by making false claims against Arafat.
Here is what the reader posted publicly on the website at the ArabNews.com:
This is utter rubbish and lies, Arab anti-semitism at its worst, not surprise given who the author is. No mention of the Camp David peace negotiations which were jettisoned by Arafat himself, who then went on to start the second intifada, which resulted in the killings of more than 1000 Jewish Israeli civilians … No mention of the proposals by Olmert to Abbas, rejected again by Palestinian leadership. Why? Because Arafat and the PA old guard do not want peace. Stop lying and stop the propaganda. Stop never missing opportunities to miss opportunities. Now, a right wing government in Israel is taking you at your word, ie not wanting peace.
The truth, though, is this. Yes, the 1993 peace process failed but it failed because an Israeli extremist assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995, just over two years after the deal was signed.
Rabin’s successors did meet to find ways to revive the peace process in the wake of the turmoil that followed and in 2000 at Camp David, President Bill Clinton made one more last desperate effort to conclude a peace treaty.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak allegedly offered Arafat a peace deal in which the Palestinians would be allowed to open a government “office” in East Jerusalem, but the city would remain under Israeli military control. Barak also repeated the offer to give Palestinians most of the West Bank back.
The Barak plan was never written down. Instead, Barak refused to meet with Arafat face-to-face and instead met with Clinton and Israeli Zionist “negotiator” Dennis Ross to devise a plan. Ross presented the “plan” verbally to Arafat during the meetings at Camp David.
Arafat was angry that Barak did not have the courage to meet face-to-face. It was insulting, of course. Barak was playing politics to the rising extremism in Israel against Peace.
But Barak also presented his “plan” as an ultimatum, not as a negotiation. It was take it or leave it. Arafat said he supported much of the plan but countered that Israel needed to publicly address the issue of the Palestinian Right of Return, not just allow for a vague and obscure and undefined “return” of up to 50,000 descendants of refugees.
Barak refused and immediately went to the news media claiming Arafat had rejected the “best deal” Israel would ever offer. Arafat remained silent but Barak needed to attack Arafat and blame him for the failure of the peace process because he was in a tight election with extremist Israeli and former terrorist Ariel Sharon.
Barak lost the election despite the political manipulation of the facts.
The Second Intifada that the writer mentions was not started by Arafat but was started by Sharon who intentionally went to the Dome of the Rock plaza (the Haram al ash Sharif, also called the Temple Mount) surrounded by several hundred fully armed police officers and soldiers in a demonstration of his campaign vow to take the plaza over and destroy the Mosque, as the Israeli right has repeatedly vowed to do. That act by Sharon prompted Palestinians to protest by throwing rocks at the armed Israeli police, who responded with live fire killing several Palestinian civilians, those throwing rocks and many who were just nearby.
It was the Israeli killings that provoked the 2nd Intifada.
The writer also asserts that more than 1,000 Israelis were killed during the 2nd Intifada. That’s true. But, of course, the writer does not acknowledge that Israelis killed 3,000 Palestinian civilians and that 64 other foreigners were killed, too.
The writer acknowledges that today’s Israeli government does not want peace. But I argue that all of the Israel’s government and most of Israel’s society, since the assassination of Rabin, do not want peace either.
The propaganda is with the writer, Mr. “Litman,” if in fact that is his name.
— Ray Hanania
(Editor’s note. Writers can post responses like this by giving it a Category Tag “WRITERS RESPOND” from the Category listing.)