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Copyright 1998 by the authors and PEACE. All materials are the intellectual property of the respective contributors. Unless noted otherwise, they may be reproduced provided that credit is given to the authors, and to PEACE - a Mid-East Dialog Group. Email/Web postings should include these addresses:
Ami Isseroff;
Ameen Hannoun;
Mid East Viewpoints:


August, 27, 1998

Who needs dialogue?


Bulletin - Bomb in Tel-Aviv

House Demolitions


Dialog and Boycott - Ami Isseroff

Bulletin - Bomb in Tel-Aviv

This morning a bomb exploded in a busy intersection (Allenby and Rothschild) in the heart of Tel-Aviv. PNA officials were quick to condemn this terror action by an unknown organization.

The bombing comes after the stabbing last week in Tel Rumeida of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan. These incidents underscore the fact that no government can guarantee 'Peace with Security' or even security without peace. When terrorist incidents occurred during the tenure of the Labor government, Netanyahu and the Israeli right were quick to blame the Peace process. Now they point the finger at the PNA,
which does not do enough, according to them, to stop terror. If so, then nobody is apparently 'doing enough' - since the Israelis could not prevent these incidents either.

Terror and violence are not a means of bringing about peace or justice. They never were.   It is time that the Israelis understood that there are no magic formulae for getting rid of terror. It is also time that the Palestinians understood that these incidents are doing their cause - and the cause of peace - tremendous harm.

Ami Isseroff


House Demolitions

The practice of house demolitions continues. Israelis should ALSO write to the Knesset members of the Meretz party:
Dedi Zuker:
Ran Cohen:
Amnon Rubinstein:
Yossi Sarid:
Haim Oron:

Meretz supposedly stands for all things decent. Dedi Zuker is one of the founders of Betselem. So their silence on this issue is deafening. Haim Oron's assistant wrote that Meretz has done a great deal to stop house demolitions. I asked what was done, specifically, but so far have gotten no reply.

Ami Isseroff



Sign the Amnesty International Petition for Human Rights by writing to:
* Put the following text in the message:
"I support the rights and freedoms in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all people, everywhere."

OR - view and sign the declaration at
OR - view the declaration (in Hebrew) and sign it at

For those interested in viewing the Meretz Party platform in ENGLISH - it is at their new English language Web site:

Not all features of the Hebrew site are replicated in English, but the platform is.

Dialog and Boycott - Ami Isseroff

A recent conference at Rhodes where Palestinian journalists met with Israeli ones stirred up severe disapproval by the Palestine Journalist's Association, as discussed in a recent Ha'aretz article by Danny Rubenstein. The Palestinian Journalists Association, like many Arab professional groups, including groups in Jordan and Egypt, boycotts meetings with "Israelis" - even as individuals. The current excuse given for the boycott is the Israeli occupation and lack of progress in the peace talks.

In a letter to a small group of PEACE participants, I noted that those journalists who attended the Rhodes conference are to be commended for showing courage in defying the ban. However, the boycott hurts Palestinians, not Israelis. It prevents Palestinians from presenting their case. It gives the Israeli Right more ammunition
for propaganda saying there are no Palestinians who are for peace. The best hope of the Israeli peace movement to convince other Israelis that peace is possible, is to show that the Palestinians want peace and an equitable solution. If we cannot produce many such Palestinians, we in Israel have no case. I also noted that the ban has nothing at all to do with what Israel does or not do in the  peace process. It is the same ban that has been in effect since 1947.

As part of this exchange of letters, Anita Abu-Daya pointed out to me an article by Daoud Kuttab at in which he lists all the reasons why communication is supposedly impossible: Israeli harrassment of Palestinians, inequality, unwillingness of Israelis to read the Palestinian press etc. Among other things, Mr. Kuttab claims that the Israeli left is not doing enough to help Palestinians, that the left should be helping to rebuild demolished houses for example (the article was written just before the Gush Shalom group rebuilt the Shawamreh house). It seems to me that if someone does not want dialog, they can find reasons. Israelis can cite terrorist incidents such as the one that occurred today. Palestinians can cite acts by the Israeli government and the settlers. However, Mr. Kuttab has missed three important points. The first is that activities such as those of the settlers are designed to wreck the peace and prevent dialog, just as much as the terrorist bombings. The second is that if he holds the Israeli peace movement responsible for acts of the Israeli government, then equally valid logic would make all Palestinians responsible for the incendiary statements issued by the PNA regarding Jerusalem, and by the Fateh, regarding the armed struggle for the liberation of all of Palestine. Mr. Kuttab notes that the Israeli peace movement has made only ineffective protests against government actions such as  house demolitions. But at least something was done. Nobody on the Palestinian side has come forward to condemn statements such as those of Yasser Arafat and the Mufti Sabri, in which they said that the Jews have no rights in Jerusalem.

The third and most important point is, that it is the Palestinians who most desparately need dialog and communication, and they are hurting themselves by joining the boycott or discouraging dialog.

The boycott is a reason to stop acting for peace. Peace is good for Israel as well. But the actions of Israeli citizens for peace will not be effective if there is not an answering echo from the other side.

Below is some of the discussion that ensued.
Letter from Simon Rosenblum (Co-Pres. Canadian Friends of Peace Now)

You are,of course most correct. This goes back to my earlier concern that the Jewish left is too busy making excuses for the Palestinians when we should be challenging them to act as responsible partners.
Best Regards,
Reply from A.I.

Correct. Problem is, we can't challenge the ones who won't talk to us, because they aren't listening.

Boycott - Letter from Rabbi Arthur Waskow:

Dear Ami et al:

I  would go further  still and say that with the Israeli govt in swift retreat from any intergovernmental version of the peace process, it is absolutely CRUCIAL for civic society in both countries/ peoples to undertake peace processes -- to make "established facts" "on the ground" for peace, instead of for occupation and war.

Thus the two journalist societies should be publicly proclaiming that THEY are at peace even if their governments are not (and acting that way): peace-oriented Israeli neighborhoods and kibbutzim should be entering into direct cultural-and-economic exchange agreements with Palestinian towns like Beit Sahour; there should be a bunch of local-to-local, professional-to- professional, union-to-union "people's peace treaties."

If these actions skirt or constitute civil disobedience on one or both sides, so much the better: like the early "illegal" Jewish settlements on the West Bank, they will force the issue, force people to decide. The recent joint efforts by Israelis and Palestinians to rebuild houses demolished by the Israeli govt are a good example.

I wrote an article along these lines -- "Creating the Peaceful Future Now, New Outlook June-July-Aug  1991, pp. 15-17.  My view, then and now, was that any peacemaking by govts would be too vulnerable to unofficial acts of violence -- terrrorism -- unless such grass-roots peace agreements were in place.

Unfortunately, I was all too right.

Shalom, Arthur Waskow
Reply By A.I:

Dear Rabbi Waskow,

You are absolutely correct (in my view) regarding dialog of course. That is what PEACE and other dialog groups are supposed to be about. However,the professional associations are _not_ government associations. In fact, in Egypt and in Jordan, the professional associations are taking an anti-dialog stand in _opposition_ to the government. So we have a grass roots movement - or rather a movement led by intellectuals in the name of the common man - _against_ dialog and _against_ peace. Civil Disobedience is working _against_ peace. And there are few people with the courage to speak out against it!

The journalists who attended the conference were not engaging in civil disobedience. As far as I know, there was no ban by the PNA on dialog with Israeli Journalists.

It appears that Arab intellectuals are by and large in the forefront of the anti-peace movement. People like Fawzi Mansour have made it clear, moreover, that this stand has nothing to do with anything we in Israel do or do not do: he simply does not want to have anything to do with 'Zionism.'

Since that atmosphere prevails in public opinion, Palestinians and others who _might_ otherwise be interested in dialog, and in presenting their case to Israelis, are afraid to do so. The result is that it is very difficult to find Palestinians who will engage in dialog.

You cannot have a dialog that is confined to one side - or in which the Palestinians are represented by a few people, whom the others repudiate as traitors. Such a dialog is like the sound of one hand clapping.

Reply from Rabbi Waskow
Chaver Ami,

In this kind of situation, defying one's union/ professional assn takes a lot of guts.   So maybe not "de jure",  but 'de facto,'   the Palestinian journalists who went to Rhodes were doing civil disobedience.

So don't underplay the degree to which PALESTINIAN intellectuals ( I am not talking about other Arab communities) are taking risks for peace.

Indeed, if you could figure out an act for the sake of peace that would both be authentic and legitimate in your own eyes and bring on your own head as much opprobrium from right-wing Israelis  as their act brought on their heads from right-wing Palestinians, that would be an even stronger  step toward a "journalists' peace treaty."

Arthur Waskow
Reply from A.I.

Dear Rabbi Waskow,

The Israeli left has already thought up and carried out sufficiently daring exploits:
* Letter from officers to Clinton urging pressure on Netanyahu.
* Barak went to the U.S. and told anyone who would listen that Israeli Government policy is wrong.
* Peace Now demonstrations at Har Homa
* Gush Shalom rebuilds demolished housing.
* Letter writing campaigns.
* Gush Shalom boycott of Settler produced goods
* Gush Shalom marked the green line.
YOU have carried out a great newspaper ad campaign to get the U.S. government to pressure Israel into concessions. A great idea.
What is the result?
1. Some fascist American columnist called Barak a Quisling (then he said he wasn't calling Barak a Quisling).

2. In the eyes of the Israeli public, for whom Jerusalem is a 'consensus issue, the left is discredited - all we do by these actions is lose votes and support.

3. Al-Ahram poured scorn on Peace Now and their meeting with Egyptian Peace movement - as do others in the Arab camp.

These actions have received little or no recognition from the Palestinian camp. No more Palestinians have come forward for dialog. No Palestinians have protested the statements of Arafat and Mufti Sabri RE Jerusalem, or the Fateh summer camps where kids are taught to retake Yaffo and Haifa in a Jihad.

It cannot be a one way street.

Dialog helps the PALESTINIANS. It should be them who are anxious for it, and it is their business to promote it at least as much as it is mine and yours.

>From Ruth Shapin (Cousins Club of Orange Co. California)

Dear Ami:

The Arab intellectuals who refuse to engage in dialogue with their Jewish
counterparts who want peace play into the hands of the Israeli hard-liners. They (the hard-liners) can say, "See. It doesn't matter what we do. The Arabs don't want to co-exist with us in peace."  I understand their frustration and   bitterness. The house demolitions are truly outrageous. However, it would be more appropriate for them to unite with Jews to resist the demolitions peacefully, by non-violent protests, sitting down in front of bull-dozers and rebuilding houses, and organizing
international letter-writing campaigns. (Our Cousins Club sent a letter to Senator Diane Feinstein and Madeline Albright.)
The Palestinians in our club are very down-hearted and angry, but they are sticking with us. However, how long can we expect them to be patient? How long can people respond peacefully to tyranny? The burden is on us, the Jews, to move the peace process along even if we don't get the cooperation we would like to have. After all, sadly,  it is our people who are the oppressors.


Ruth Shapin
{From Ami to Ruth}
Dear Ruth,
Tell your Palestinian friends: It does not matter who are the 'oppressors.' I am not responsible for the Deir Yassin massacre, and Ahmad and Ameen are not responsible for Gush Etzion. I am not responsible for house demolitions and for the settlers in Yizhar - I can't do anything about them. They are not responible for Hamas. We can only stop these things by speaking and acting together. If they do not talk to us, we will never be able to stop the violence and hate.
>From Ahmad Humeid


The article and your comments are indeed interesting. I found the article pretty precise in its analysis of the situation. largely agree with your comments with exception of the idea that Israeli individuals are not responsible for their government's actions.

Israel is the self-proclaimed democratic oasis in the "authoritarian desert" of the Middle East. This clearly means that the collective will of Israelis actually does shape the actions of their government. Netanyahu has been surviving one vote of no-confidence after the other. This situation cannot be blamed solely on the last election that was decided by a "protest vote" as a reaction to terrorist attacks.

So this again brings us back to the grass-roots issue. Although I don't find the proclamation of boycott by professional associations and other similar bodies admirable, yet one has to ask the obvious question: why do these "popular" associations and grass-roots organizations do it.

That these organizations are largely still dominated by old guard figures and ideologies is only half of the answer. The other half, in my mind, is that there is some real grass root refusal of peace (or "surrender" as put by the anti peace camp). And who do we blame for this: well there are also two sides to blame. First, Israel can be blamed as a country/nation that acts as a conqueror, viewed by many as a society based on the supremacy of the Jewish ethnicity, that uses a religio-nationalistic mixture to revive the dream of two thousand years ago. Equally, one can blame the Arab governments and official institutions, who for decades were teaching children the culture of war not peace, then, with the click of a button, reversed all their official discourse, with Israel suddenly being termed as a "neighboring country".

Maybe there was hope for dialogue during the Rabin era (just after the accords where signed). Many intellectuals wanted to try this forbidden fruit of "dialogue with the other". I personally know many people who were willing to engage in cultural dialogue and activities back then, but who now find it difficult to do so (both internally or "introspectively" or in the face of the current public opinion).

The Arab psyche's deepest scar is perhaps its relation with Israel. It's a reflection of a collective military, cultural and economic defeat. The added religious dimension of the conflict complicates the matter even further.

Hope for a dialogue can perhaps only become realistic if circumstances similar to those after Gulf war and the Labor peace accords can somehow be brought into existence.


Reply to Ahmad from Ami

My point was that the boycott is hurting the Palestinian cause badly, unless that cause continues to be the absolute and total destruction of Israel. That 'cause' is what brought about the Naqba, and began the whole sorry mess. For the advocates of that cause, peace is indeed surrender.

If the goal of the boycott is to protest-and  end- the occupation of lands taken since 1967, it is achieving precisely the opposite result. The Palestinians need dialog infinitely more than we Israelis do, and every minute they are losing is precious.

Israel is no doubt a democracy of sorts. That is precisely why it is so important for Palestinians and Arabs who are for peace to make their voices heard in Israel - and to influence Israeli public opinion through journalists and other professionals. Democracy has its limitations. A small vocal group can sometimes impose its will on the majority. This is true for the religious coercion issue for example. It is also true for the settlers and their advocates. The settlers are winning their case because they can point to terror, to the boycott, to the cold peace, to obscenities like the Fatah constitution, to the camps where Palestinian kids are trained to take back Yafo and Tel-Aviv. They point to these and say 'see - we cannot give back the land, because the Palestinians will use it as a base to destroy us, with the help of our Arab neighbors.'  This was Bibi's winning card. You know that I am not exaggerating because I have forwarded to you - and others - some of the materials we get from right-wing groups and individuals.

Unfortunately, the Israeli peace movement is somehow held responsible for these Palestinian acts. I will not be led into that trap, any more than I will be led into the trap of excusing house demolitions or land-grabs. It cannot be that I am at the same time responsible for the house demolitions, as you claim, and also somehow responsible for the acts of the Hamas, as the Israeli Right claims.

The 'grass roots' you say are against peace. Well, the polls of the CPRS indicate exactly the opposite in PNA held areas. The grass roots - housewives, the poor, the undeducated, are overwhelmingly FOR the peace process. The rich, the educated are the ones who are against the peace process. The myth of the 'Palestinian man in the street' who is opposed to the peace process is exploited
by the enemies of peace for their own purposes, but it is a myth.

The dialog in Rhodes did the cause of peace - and the Palestinian cause- a great deal of good. The Israeli journalists who came were not people like me who voted for Meretz and Peres. They included many Rightist journalists who came away with an entirely different perspective on the conflict, and much more willingness to listen to the other side.

I am responsible for house demolitions and occupation to the extent that they are done in my name. However, I protest against them every chance I get, and expect other Israelis to do so - in OPPOSITION to government policy. I have not seen many Jordanians and Egyptians who are willing to come forward in SUPPORT of their governments' policy. Likewise in Palestine, the voices for peace may represent the majority, but they are very quiet, while the bellicose voices are heard quite clearly.

The wars have indeed left a big scar in the Arab world. The cultural defeat of the Arab world is not the fault of the Arab people or of Israel. It did not begin in 1947. It began with the decay of the Ottoman Turkish Empire many years before. The way to begin repairing the specific wounds with respect to Israel is to understand
that  the problem began with the boycott, and the boycott began in 1947, not 1967. It is the same boycott for the same reasons - let's not kid ourselves.

The defeat at the hands  of Israel hurts so much more than all the other defeats because of  our perceived inferiority, not superiority. The Jews  were thought to be cowards, shopkeepers and weaklings, as attested by many refugees interviewed by IPCRI. Nobody (the Jews included) imagined that we could win a war. The same thing was repeated in 1967. Egyptian television had pictures of big Arab supermen crushing little defenseless Jews. The Jews around the world - and not only the Jews - accepted this image. The United States did not believe we could win in 1948. In 1967, I am told there was a moronic commentator on U.S.
television - a retired General, who day after day explained that the Israelis would lose the war the next day. Getting beaten up by Mike Tyson may be painful, but the ego will survive if the body does; getting beaten up by some nerdy shopkeepers is humiliating.
This is _still_ the _self-image_ of many Israelis! It is this fear that Bibi Netanyahu plays on.

You say that we must somehow recreate the situation after the Gulf War. If  the Palestinians want to wait for that, or think that it will happen by pressure or threatening Israel or flying kites with the names of Israeli cities on them - Yaffo, Haifa Tzfat, Tiberias - or by sanctions,  or by war as one reader suggested, they have another thing coming.




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