By Ted Belman
Ami Isseroff brought our discussion to the attention of Sari Nusseibeh and this is his reply
First, thank you for your intervention. I wondered a lot about “explaining”, and had decided, like so often in the past, to let things be, until I saw that you also were coming under criticism. So here:
1. This is not Memri’s first “disinformation” publicity against me. Taking quotations out of context, or failing to present a full context to the reader/viewer, also marked their coverage of my anti-suicide stand as reported by al-jazeera three years ago. Briefly, Memri in that report presented me as someone consorting in the same room with Hamas’s Mash’al, expressing sympathy to the mother of a suicide-r in Gaza.
What Memri failed to tell the viewers/audience at the time was that
(a) I had just managed to get more than 50 well-known Palestinian activists to sign an unprecedented petition against suicides in the local Arabic newspapers;
(b) this was the first anti-suicide public stand taken anywhere in the Arab/Moslem world;
(c) this happened at the height of the suicide-rage of the time and was therefore totally at odds with the prevalent “political fashion” or mood;
(d) this was therefore the reason why I had been asked (for the first time in my life) by alJazera for an interview; and
(e) that instead of being the sole participant I found myself (without prior notification) included (though I was alone in a West Jerusalem studio) in an emotive, Mash’al-led pro-suicide program having to defend views that were being portrayed as “treasonous”. Nonetheless I did my best in that program to present our public anti-suicide petition as strongly and clearly as possible. Memri chose to ignore all of that, and instead focused on a statement I made effectively expressing respect to mothers of soldiers dying in battles, (which I made partly to fend off the scenes of a wailing mother whose son had just been killed by Israeli soldiers, and which the program producer decided to use just before I was to be exposed to alJazeera’s viewers after Mash’al).
2. In the second case, i.e., that of the recent al-Jazeera interview, Memri once again chose to pursue a disinformation strategy. Let me explain:
i. The interviewer this time brought Tibi and me on the Palestinian side to comment on whether it made sense for Israel to ask Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. Tibi’s view was that being Jewish is inconsistent with being democratic, and that this request should therefore be turned down. My view, which goes along with the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document, and which I explained in the interview, is that
(1) we already recognized Israel as a Jewish State by recognizing Un resolution 181; and,
(2) that whether Israel is Jewish (or Martian) is not/should not be an issue for us: what is and should be an issue (for us) is whether Arab minority rights (culturally and individually) would be safeguarded in the State which we are being asked formally to recognize.
ii. Tibi’s bewailing of the disenfranchisement of Arabs in Israel -a condition which could only be exacerbated, he argued, if Israel were recognized as a Jewish State, prompted the question by the interviewer whether he wouldn’t therefore find it preferable to become (and have Taybeh become) part of a Palestinian State (as part of a long-term settlement). Here of course Tibi objected vehemently, insisting that he is and must remain an Israeli citizen.
My own intervention here was again unconventional (in terms of contemporary Palestinian parlance): I suggested this matter could/should be discussed. What is wrong, from a nationalistic point of view, I asked, in attaching parts of what is now Israel (like Taybeh) to a future Palestinian State?
Jokingly, the interviewer asked me, Why not Acco? And I said, in the same vein, that too, meaning that it should not be out of the question for the two sides to discuss any mutually acceptable arrangement for a two-State solution, including one which would cater for attaching Arab population areas which are now part of Israel in a future Palestinian State. (By the way, I could have further added that part of the “return” issue, especially as this affects refugees in Lebanon, could well be served by such a geographic redrawing of the map, given the original homes of those refugees).
iii. The whole debate of course was a cover for another underlying debate on the right of return. My position (again the interviewer reminded his viewers) was already expressed in the Ayalon-Nusseibeh document. He asked me to elaborate on it. I explained that, as part of a package deal, return on my view should be confined to the Palestinian State (in addition to compensation, etc.). I added however that the other side of the coin of my position (confining the return of palestinians to within the borders of a future Palestinian State) was that Jews also will have no right to claim to “return” to within the borders of a Palestinian State, and will be confined in the exercise of this “right” to the State of Israel (meaning their claim as Jews to return and settle anywhere in “Judea, Samaria, etc.” will not be substantiated). I certainly did not mean by this statement to exclude Jews from being able to live in an Arab State, or vice versa.
At this point the issue of whether Palestinians can accept confining their return to within Palestine came up, and I said this had to be accepted if Palestinians truly wished to have a two-state solution. But in any case, I said, Palestinian leaders should express themselves honestly on this matter: demanding a two-state solution entails, from a practical point of view, confining the exercise of the right of return. Insisting on the pursuit of a full implementation of the right of return implies a pursuit of a one-state solution. I am personally indifferent to what we (Palestinians) should put up as a vision. Indeed, I said, I was the first to call for such a solution. However, I added, PLO strategy has been going in the other direction, and it is a direction whose implications we should own up to.
By the way, in conclusion, it is not hard for anyone interested in my views to to find out what they are from reading fully what I have written and said over the years. Indeed, I will not argue that Israel does not have many enemies in the Arab world. What I do say is that Israel has so many of them it certainly does not therefore need to create fictitious ones, unless of course a Palestinian who is truly committed to compromise is by virtue of this an enemy of the State of Israel??
Does this exculpate him?
Remember that Mort Klien at ZOA posted this Palestinian “Moderate” Sari Nusseibeh: “No Jew” May Live In A Future Palestinian State, Jaffa Should Be Part Of It