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Michel Warschawski is a journalist and writer and a founder of the Alternative Information Center (AIC) in Israel. His books include On the Border and Towards an Open Tomb - the Crisis of Israeli Society.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Washington. And in Washington on Tuesday, at the invitation of the speaker of the House, John Boehner, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress. Here's a few excerpts of what he had to say.~~~BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: In a genuine peace, we'll be required to give up parts of the ancestral Jewish homeland. And you have to understand this. In Judea and Samaria, the Jewish people are not foreign occupiers. No distortion of history can deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But there is another truth. The Palestinians share this small land with us. We seek a peace in which they'll be neither Israel's subjects nor its citizens. So far, the Palestinians have been unwilling to accept a Palestinian state if it meant accepting a Jewish state alongside it. You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state. It's always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about.~~~JAY: Now joining us from Jerusalem to discuss the prime minister's speech is Michel Warschawski. He's the cofounder of the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem and the author of the book On the Border. Thanks for joining us, Michel.MICHEL WARSCHAWSKI: Thank you.JAY: What do you make of his statement that the fundamental conflict is about the Palestinians' unwillingness to recognize a Jewish state?WARSCHAWSKI: It's--I think, first of all, it's only a pretext. If they would recognize--which would be a big mistake--Israel as a Jewish state, then Benjamin Netanyahu will ask them to recognize Israel as a holy state. And if they will accept Israel as a holy state, they will have to declare that Israel is the only good state in the world, etc. It's only a pretext. Now, [incompr.] something which I think Benjamin Netanyahu and his team are not taking into account. As an Israeli citizen, I don't want anyone, including the Palestinian people and their leadership, to define my state, the state of Israel. If it is a Jewish state or if it is a democratic state or if it is a religious state will be the decision of the Israeli people, of the whole of the Israeli citizens, and I don't want anyone, including Mahmoud Abbas, to define my state. We have to define and to fight for Israel to be not a Jewish state but a true democratic state. But--and no one, including the Palestinians, except the Palestinian citizens of Israel, will have a say in the definition of the state.JAY: Well, when you put that together with his other statement--. Here, I'll play this little clip.~~~NETANYAHU: We seek a peace in which they'll be neither Israel's subjects nor its citizens.~~~JAY: When you put that together, recognize it as a Jewish state, you don't want Palestinians as citizens--. And I have to say this is something President Obama said perhaps more definitively than other US presidents. It's not just about defense of Israel, defense of a Jewish state. You put those things together, and you--also this other statement he said about the Palestinians can immigrate back to Palestine, Jews to Israel, I mean, it sounds like he wants a Jewish state without Arabs.WARSCHAWSKI: He wants it [incompr.] his government, in fact. We have a strong minority really advocate it publicly, part of their election program and part of their commitment to their voters. A state without Arabs has been the ideal of every Israeli leader. On the other hand, I think since the '80s, since Oslo process, almost all the Israeli leaders, including from the right like Benjamin Netanyahu, understand that the expulsion of the Palestinians can be a double-edge sword. It can provoke an international intervention like we have seen in Kosovo, like we have seen in Bosnia. And then to put up what may be put on the table will not only be the new refugees, but also the whole refugee issue, something no Israeli leader, including on the left, is ready to--it's a nightmare for everyone.JAY: Although when you look at the reception the Congress gave him, it's hard to believe there's anything that the Israeli government couldn't do that wouldn't be applauded. Let's move on to some of the other segments of the speech. Talk a bit about his attitude toward--you mentioned it--the Arab Spring. I'll play a short clip of what he said there.~~~NETANYAHU: Of those 300 million Arabs, less than 0.5 percent are truly free, and they're all citizens of Israel.~~~JAY: Michel, so is this true that Arab citizens of Israel have rights that they don't have in other Arab countries?WARSCHAWSKI: First, we have many Arab countries, some democratic, some completely non-democratic. And we have a huge process of democratization in the whole Arab world. Concerning Israel, I think this is the last country which can teach a lesson on democracy to anyone and to the Arab world and to the Arab Spring today. Palestinian citizens in Israel are not equal citizens. They do have civic rights--they can vote, they can be elected; in theory, we can have even a Palestinian prime minister. But, first, it's a minority, let's not forget. A minority, 20 percent of the Israelis, are Palestinian citizens. But we have 3 million, more than 3 million, under military occupation without any rights, and we have millions of refugees outside. So a democracy where, based on the expulsion of millions, on this domination of [incompr.] and lack of equality for the Israeli citizens from Arab culture or nation cannot make Israel by any sense a democracy. The Palestinian citizens in Israel are submitted to structural--.JAY: What are some examples of what you're talking about?WARSCHAWSKI: Yeah. First example is that Israel define itself constitutionally as a Jewish state. If Israel is a Jewish state, it means that those who are not Jewish are not really co-landlords of this state. They have rights. [incompr.] two kind of examples of--three examples. Jews deserve the right of return. Any Jew, wherever he's living, can become immediately a citizen if he's so wishing, while Palestinians born in Israel or in the West Bank and who have been outside or are outside, depending on the case, will never be able not only to receive citizenship but to come back to their home. Another example which is a relatively new low, Palestinian citizens, an Israeli--an Arab citizen of Israel, a woman, for example, who marry a Palestinian from the West Bank cannot bring her husband in her home in her hometown. She will have either to live separated or to leave the country. She will be--the right of [incompr.] the right of a couple and children to live together is a basic human right which is denied from the Palestinian citizens.JAY: And what is the Nakba law?WARSCHAWSKI: The Nakba law is another kind. We have a series of new laws which is limiting, first of all, freedom of expression. The Nakba law right now, after it has been amended, because it was worse at the beginning, forbid the Palestinian to commemorate. The price they paid for the creation of the state of Israel having most of them becoming refugees and more than 400 towns and villages destroyed, they have no right to commemorate it, as they used to do, the same day that Israel is celebrating its independence. They've [incompr.] to mention it. It will change, unfortunately, in the future, too. But right now they can do it, but not that day.JAY: The Jews have a 4,000-year connection to the land. And there are some Palestinians who were there. What do you make of this whole conception?WARSCHAWSKI: I try to evade completely, both in the Israeli-Palestinian context, as well as in any other place in the world, these kind of genetic, of basing legitimacy on some kind of genetics or long-term history. If this is what is providing to a man or a woman or a group of persons rights, then we have to reshuffle the whole world. Nowhere we have authentic sons and daughters of the land. All humanity is a long history of immigration, of movement, of mixture of cocktails of cultures and nations [incompr.] This conception is so primitive, so 19th century, so far from reality. And to enter a debate who was here first and are we the real descendents of Abraham, it's a way--I learned history when I was six years old. But when I became 12 and I believe [incompr.] we learned that history is something a little bit different. It's not like the history of--. And even the history of a family, we discover that they have black holes and a lot of intrusions that when we are small they don't tell us that the history of a people, the history of a land, as liner continuation, it's so childish, and so un-useful, also, in trying to resolve real problems of--.JAY: Now, there were three things that he said that makes me think that this speech was not something to try to move the peace process along, but essentially were a declaration that there is no peace process and that, if anything, Israel's getting ready for a war. The three things were, one, Jerusalem, an undivided single Jerusalem under Israeli control, which he knows is a deal-breaker for the Palestinians as far as we understand it, at least for most Palestinians, anyway. The second thing was his attitude towards Hamas. He calls Hamas--here's a quick clip of what he thinks Hamas is.~~~NETANYAHU: But Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda.~~~JAY: And then the third thing is absolutely ruling out any kind of compromise on the issue of right of return or anything. I mean, there wasn't even a fig leaf of something towards the refugees. I mean, once you take those three positions [incompr.] calling for Fatah and the PA to tear up the agreement with Hamas and all of that, there's simply nothing to talk about. And yet he gets standing ovations. So this really sounds like a declaration not of how to advance peace; it sounds like more a declaration that they're getting ready for another fight. Do you read it that way?WARSCHAWSKI: Definitely. The fact that there was a standing ovation is your problem, Paul, as an American, and who are the men and the women who are sitting in the Congress. But, in fact, I have one good thing to say about Netanyahu. He doesn't hide it. He doesn't hide that he--even if he has to say that peace is something beautiful, he doesn't go further than that, making very clear that he wants to cut with the whole process, a problematic process in itself, but the whole process of trying to find a compromise, which was what was known as the Oslo process. Benjamin Netanyahu was against this process and killed him when he was elected the first time. And he's killing it and he's continuing to do everything to make any kind of compromise with the most possible moderate Palestinian leadership impossible.JAY: Thanks very much for joining us, Michel. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network. And if you want to see more stories and interviews like this, then we really need you to do that--that's the donate button.
End of Transcript
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