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Israeli Criticism of Zionism and of Israel's Treatment of the Palestinians: The Politicians

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Message Edward C. Corrigan

Critically analyzing the political ideology of Zionism, or criticizing Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, almost invariably leads to attacks from the defenders of Israel. This is especially true in North America, but far less true in most other countries in the World. As a result most North American politicians have learned to be very careful with their words when it comes to the subject of Israel and the Palestinians.

Here is what noted financier, George Soros, writing in The New York Review of Books, on April 12, 2007, had to say on this the lack of debate in the United States and how open the political debate on the Palestinian issue is in Israel:

The current policy is not even questioned in the United States. While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed. The debate in Israel about Israeli policy is much more open and vigorous than in the United States. This is all the more remarkable because Palestine is the issue that more than any other currently divides the United States from Europe ... ((George Soros, "On Israel, America and AIPAC," The New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 6, April 12, 2007.))

Former U.S President Jimmy Carter who helped bring about the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt has also written and spoken out on Israel's policy towards the Palestinians. Carter's book Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid generated severe criticism from the American Jewish community. Here is what Cecilie Surasky, from the Jewish Voice for Peace and Muzzle Watch, had to say about this treatment.

Few people anywhere have endured more vicious demonization regarding the Israel issue than Nobel-prize-winning former US president Jimmy Carter. It is a sad statement that the man who did more for peace for the Israelis than any other U.S. president, is now vilified as an anti-Semite in Jewish communities across the land, most notably for titling his book Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid. In fact, Carter is one of Israel's few true friends who remains impressively committed to doing whatever he can to bring about some kind of resolution, rather than taking the easy road by giving the self-destructive government more of what it wants: arms and money to occupy more land. (( "Jimmy Carter's apology to the Jewish people," by Cecilie Surasky. Muzzle Watch. December 28, 2009.))

Issues that are virtually forbidden in the North American public arena are treated much differently in Israel where such topics are part of the general political discourse and debate. It is worth reviewing the political debate and critical public discussion of these issues in Israel to compare the environment in North America.

Two unlikely sources for Israeli criticism of "the Jewish State's" policies are former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and former Israeli UN Ambassador and Israeli Labor Party Foreign Minister Abba Eban. In response to what Begin considered "hypocritical" criticism of his government's bombing of Beirut in 1981 which killed hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians he offered a "partial list" of more than 30 Israeli military attacks against Arab civilians under Israeli Labor Governments. This exchange was published in the Israel Press in August 1981.

Begin wrote that: "under the Alignment government, there were retaliatory actions against civilian Arab populations; the air force operated against them; the damage was directed against such structures as the canal, bridges and transport." ((Menahem Begin, letter, Haaretz, August, 4, 1981; translated in Israleft News Service, 191, August 20, 1981, cited in Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77.))

A rather shocked Abba Eban, wrote in reply: "The picture that emerges is of an Israel wantonly inflicting every possible measure of death and anguish on civilian populations in a mood reminiscent of regimes which neither Mr. Begin nor I would dare to mention by name." (( Abba Eban, "Morality and warfare," The Jerusalem Post, August 16, 1981 in cited in Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77.))

Here is Edward Herman's analysis of the exchange and other statements on the use of military force made by Israeli officials:

Eban is harshly critical of Begin's letter because of the support it gives to Arab propaganda; he does not contest the facts. He even defends the earlier Israeli attacks on civilians with the exact logic which orthodox analysts of terrorism attribute to-and use to condemn-retail terrorists: namely, that deliberate attacks may properly be made on innocent parties in order to achieve higher ends. Eban writes that, "there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations [i.e., innocent civilians deliberately bombed] would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities."

Begin's list is indeed "partial." It is supplemented by former Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur, whom stated that "For 30 years, from the War of Independence until today, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities," offering as examples the bombardments that cleared the Jordan valley of all inhabitants and that drove a million and a half civilians from the Suez canal area, in 1970, among others. The Israeli military analyst Zeev Schiff summarized General Gur's comments as follows: "In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it ... the importance of Gur's remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously ... the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets ... [but] purposely attacked civilian targets when Israeli settlements had not been struck." ((Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77-78. For further discussion of what Edward Herman describes as "Israel's Sacred Terrorism," see p. 76-79.))

Michael Ben-Yair was Israel's attorney general from 199396. He writes that after Israel won the Six Day War in June 1967:

We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one progressive, liberal in Israel; and the other cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.

That oppressive regime exists to this day. (( "The Six Day War's Seventh Day," by Michael BenYair, Haaretz, March 3rd, 2002. This article is also reproduced in The Other Israel, Voices of Refusal and Dissent, Foreword by Tom Segev and Introduction by Anthony Lewis, edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin. (New York: New Press, 2002), p.13-15.))

Avraham Burg was speaker of Israel's Knesset in 19992003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Here is how Burg is described in an article published in The New Yorker magazine.

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EDWARD C. CORRIGAN SHORT BIO Edward C. Corrigan holds a B.A. in History and a MasterĂ ‚¬ „ s Degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario. Ed also has a Law Degree from the University of Windsor and was called to the Bar of (more...)
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