Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

July 22, 2010

An Arab-Israeli Dialogue for Peace

Several generations have now grown up with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Central to that reality has been the start and stop of Arab-Israeli peace talks, which always seem to take one step forward and then three back.  But in some areas of the world, most recently on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., talks between Arabs and Israelis are continually moving forward with the same message: peace.

Yesterday I attended a discussion hosted by Americans for Peace Now (APN), which featured Ori Nir of APN and Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine. While their speeches, comments, and answers to questions were certainly insightful, the most striking lesson that I left the brown bag lunch with was the plain and simple fact that an Arab and an Israeli could talk with one another and agree upon the most basic desire for anyone involved in the Middle East: peace in Israel/Palestine.

Now, at first that sounds rather silly to come out of such a discussion focusing on this basic and fairly self-evident thought.  However, from my short time working on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and especially how it is approached in the United States, I have found that many people deeply involved in the issue have lost sight of that basic fact.  We all want the same thing.  Jewish Israelis, Arabs, American Jews and Arab-Israelis all deeply desire peace.  The main problem of the specific terms of peace still appears insurmountable at times, but the end goal is a common one.

At the talk, which was open by invitation to interns on Capitol Hill in hopes of inspiring the younger generation to work towards a comprehensive peace, of course the standard topics of two-state versus one-state solution, Hamas, the future of Fatah, Palestinian state-building efforts, the effect of the American government, etc. were all touched upon.  Listening to the complexity of the issue unravel before you, the probability of a successful two-state solution not only seems far off but shrouded in complicating factors and misleading stereotypes held by all sides.  But unlike most talks on this issue that I have attended, I came away from this one optimistic and uplifted by the image of an Israeli and an Arab both speaking passionately about the need for peace – the need not only just for the Palestinians and Israelis, but for all Americans, all Arabs, and the world to realize this peace.

Peace can and must come to pass in this conflict, which has continued throughout not just my lifetime but my parents’ lifetimes as well.  Such a peace can only succeed if all parties stop focusing on what the other side is doing wrong and instead recognize that they are not the only party with dear interests at stake.  I am entirely aware that my statements now are highly idealistic and that peace is complicated by many factors, not least of which is the imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians.  But without reminding ourselves to think of all the interests involved in the issue and the common-held desire to see peace within our lifetimes, I believe that a true, successful peace will be lost.


March 17, 2010

Washington Post deletes Scott Wilson piece mentioning “powerful Jewish lobby”

When you follow the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a while, you begin to see the work of the lobby everywhere. For example, some argue that the lobby’s influence is strong enough that it touches on things as tangential as our policy in Afghanistan. I don’t buy that, but I do think that U.S. media outlets and politicians are extremely skittish about touching anything that might offend the Israeli government or its supporters in the United States.

This may just be another example of that. The following article by Scott Wilson was posted on the Washington Post website late yesterday afternoon (March 16th). It’s a short look at past confrontations between the U.S. and Israel, nothing too offensive. Except for one phrase in the following paragraph:

…the Obama administration shows no sign of cooling off, despite the sense that only masochistic U.S. politicians pick fights with Israel because the powerful Jewish lobby punishes anyone who does so at the polls. Days after Clinton’s call, David Axelrod, a senior Obama adviser, called the announcement an “insult.” And on Tuesday, Clinton reiterated her call for Israel to prove its commitment to the Middle East peace process. (more…)

December 12, 2009

Amb. Oren’s (latest) gross intervention in US politics

Filed under: U.S. Jewish community,US-Israeli relations — Helena Cobban @ 5:50 pm

I know, I know… It must be awfully hard for Michael Oren, who until recently was an “American” academic who was lauded in rightwing US circles for the “fine quality” and “objectivity” of his historical scholarship, to get his internal scripts straight and remember that he is an Israeli now, not an American.  (When he was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the US by Netanyahu earlier this year, Israeli law– though not, apparently, American law– forced him to abrogate his US citizenship.)

But still, when the ambassador of a foreign country intervenes outright in the domestic affairs of the country he’s accredited to– as Oren has been doing here, a number of times– shouldn’t that be worthy of condemnation?

On December 7, Amb. Oren delivered what The Forward‘s Josh Nathan-Kazis described as “an unprecedented blast” against J Street, which is an all-American organization, in a breakfast address he made at the biennial convention of  another American organization, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

Chas Freeman was one of the many people who were not amused.

He wrote in a note to me and a few other other friends,


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