Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, December 2012
An Off-the-Record New Year Conversation with President Obama
By Alan Hart
Redress, Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 1, 2013
Hypothetical Q&A with Barack Obama
Question: Mr President, Iíd like to begin this conversation with a quote from a recent article by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times. He wrote: ďThe only thing standing between Israel and national suicide any more is America and its willingness to tell Israel the truth.Ē If you were free to speak your mind to Israel, I mean Israelís Jews, what would be your message?
Answer: I would tell them that no president, including this one, can save them from the policies and actions of their own leaders.
Q: What is it in particular that you think they need to be ďsavedĒ from?
A: [The president smiled] The short answer is Netanyahu, those to the right of him and the Zionist colonial ideology they represent. The long answer has to take account of this fact: if Israel continues on its present course, gobbling up more and more of the land and water resources of the occupied West Bank, there will come a time when the Palestinians of Greater Israel will outnumber its Jews. They and their leaders will then have a choice of three options.
Q: What are they?
A: One is for the Jewish minority of Greater Israel to rule the Palestinian Arab majority by repression. That would create a full-blown version of apartheid, similar to the old South African system but far worse than it.
Q: What you think the consequences of that would be?
A: As happened in South Africaís case, the world, governments as well as peoples, would eventually say to Greater Israel ďEnough is enoughĒ, and it would be subjected to sanctions applied globally.
Q: Are you suggesting that in this scenario you can see a day coming when America, even America, would become part of a global effort to sanction apartheid Greater Israel?
A: Yes. I think there would come a time when a majority of Americans were outraged enough to insist that Congress and their president acted.
Q: Is your assumption that the imposition of global sanctions (or even a credible threat of them) would bring a majority of Israeli Jews to their senses and cause them to insist that their leaders seriously addressed the Palestinian claim and need for justice?
A: It is not an assumption. Itís a hope.
Q: But there could be a downside, Mr President. Sanctions could be counter-productive. They could have the effect of reinforcing in the minds of brainwashed Israeli Jews the belief that they had no choice but to tell the world to go to hell and do whatever they thought was necessary to maintain their iron grip on Palestine that became Israel.
A: Thatís a possibility.
Q: What is another option for an Israel determined to stay on its present course?
A: Simply stated it is to defuse the ticking demographic time-bomb of occupation by creating a pretext for a final round of ethnic cleansing, to drive the Palestinians off the West Bank into Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and beyond.
Q: Israelís leaders are the masters at creating pretexts to justify aggression of all kinds, but what kind of pretext could possibly be presented as justification for a final ethnic cleansing?
A: Thatís not something I wish to speculate about.
Q: Then let me run this thought past you: half a dozen Israeli agents pose as Palestinian terrorists. In cities up and down and across the state they plant bombs which kill dozens perhaps even scores of Israeli Jews. That would be enough to trigger a final ethnic cleansing and mobilize support for it.
A: It could happen like that.
Q: What do you think the consequences of a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine could be?
A: The answer has to begin with recognition of the fact that what we are witnessing in the world today, provoked by Israelís policies and actions in defiance of international law, is a rising, global tide of anti-Israelism. The danger, as a former director of Israeli Military Intelligence warned more than 20 years ago, is that what starts out as anti-Israelism could be transformed into classical anti-Semitism, leading to another great turning against Jews everywhere, including here in America.
Q: Mr President, there are some people who believe that is precisely the outcome Zionismís in-Israel leaders want because it would cause many North American and European Jews to flee to Israel for protection and, also, would justify in the minds of Zionismís in-Israel leaders anything and everything they did to obtain and maintain an Israel that was big enough to be a refuge of last resort for all Jews.
A: There is enough evidence in history to make a case for that point of view. But I want to add that a final Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine could create great and grave dangers for the whole world, not only for Jews. It would propel Arab and wider Muslim hurt, humiliation and anger to new high levels, and that could only be good recruitment news for the proponents of violent Islamic fundamentalism.
Q: Could that make a ďclash of civilizationsĒ, Judeo-Christian versus Islamic, more likely than not?
A: I donít know.
Q: What is the third option for Greater Israel?
A: To formally annex all of the West Bank and then declare and mean that it wanted the enlarged state to be truly democratic with equal rights, including voting rights, for all its citizens. Sounds good in theory but itís never going to happen in that way because there would come a time when Zionism would be voted out of existence by the Palestinian Arab majority. Zionism is never going to put itself out of business by its own actions.
Q: We have not spoken about a two-state solution which would see, in exchange for real peace, Israel ending its occupation of the West Bank and lifting its siege of the Gaza Strip to create the space for a viable Palestinian state with East Jerusalem its capital or an undivided Jerusalem the capital of two states.
A: There is no point in talking about a viable two-state solution because it has long been dead. Today there are more than half a million illegal Jewish settlers in permanent residence on the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and that number is rising on an almost daily basis. Itís possible that for a real peace some of them would accept compensation and agree to be relocated in an Israel back to its borders as they were on the eve of the 1967 war, but many of them would fight to prevent an enforced evacuation, and that would trigger a Jewish civil war. As Shimon Peres said to you in 1980, no Israeli prime minister is going down in history as the one who gave the order to the Jewish army to shoot Jews out of the West Bank, their Judea and Samaria. It isnít going to happen.
Q: Mr President, the conclusion invited by our conversation to this point is that itís too late. The Zionist Ė not Jewish Ė state has become a monster beyond control and the Israel-Palestine conflict can only end in catastrophe for all. Do you see any reason for clinging to the hope that it could be otherwise, that peace with justice for the Palestinians is still possible?
A: Yes, I do see reason for hope if we put it in terms of justice for the Palestinians and peace with security for all. But for the hope I see to become reality, itís the occupied and oppressed Palestinians, not me, who must take the lead. Let me now explain precisely what I mean. The only possible peaceful solution is one state with equal rights for all. The process to bring this about has to begin, must begin, with the Palestinians dissolving the Palestine Authority and handing full responsibility for the occupation back to Israel, then leading a global campaign for equal rights for all in the one state. Iíve said that Zionism will never accept one state for all because it would mean the end of Zionism, but hereís the question. What, really, is most important for most Israeli Jews? Is it their wellbeing and security or commitment to an ideology, Zionism, which offers only Jewish domination and no hope of peace with security for them?
Q: I can see where youíre going with this line of thinking. You believe that if the Palestinians could convince a majority of Israeli Jews that their security would be absolutely guaranteed in one state for all, that could be a game changer?
A: That is more or less what I believe and hereís why. If a majority of Israeli Jews were convinced that they could and would have a secure and prosperous future in one state with equal rights for all, there has to be a possibility that they would tell their hardcore Zionist leaders that their time was up and that what was needed was a new vision. As to what that new vision could be, Iíll quote to you, Mr Hart, your own words on the subject. You have written and said this: ďThe Jews, generally speaking are the intellectual elite of the Western civilization. The Palestinians are by far the intellectual elite of the Arab world. What they could do together in peace and partnership is the stuff that dreams are made of. They could change the region for the better and, by so doing, give new hope and inspiration to the whole world.Ē
Q: If the occupied and oppressed Palestinians took the lead in the way you have suggested and seriously got down to the business of seeking to convince Israelís Jews that they would have a secure and prosperous future in one state for all, would there come a time when you would endorse the one state call?
A: Yes, and now Iíll be completely frank with you. If the occupied and oppressed Palestinians put every possible effort into trying to convince Israelís Jews that they could and would have a secure and prosperous future in one state for all, my task in helping to bring it about would be assisted by the support of many if not most American Jews. You probably donít need me to tell you that a growing number of American Jews, more of them each day, are silently concerned, even alarmed, by what Israel has become. They are aware that the anti-Israelism being provoked by Zionism could be transformed into classical anti-Semitism.
Q: You mean that more and more Americans are beginning to understand that itís not in their own best interests to go on supporting Israel right or wrong?
A: I am saying more than that. Iím saying that if a majority of American Jews were convinced that Israelís Jews could and would have a secure and prosperous future in one state for all, they would become involved in the game-changing process.
Q: The implication of what you are saying is that the days of the Zionist lobby calling the shots for American policy on all matters to do with the Israel-Palestine conflict could be numbered.
A: Yes. And the sooner the day comes when an American president can work with Congress to put Americaís own interests first instead of having them subservient to Israelís interests, the better it will be for all of us.
Q: Could that happen during your second term?
A: I would like to think so but I canít be sure.
Q: A last thought for now, Mr President. Are we being naive when we entertain the thought that Israelís brainwashed Jews might have their minds opened to reason by changing circumstances?
A: Only time will tell.
At that point I woke up. With the approach of the New Year I was only dreaming that I had an off-the-record conversation with President Obama.
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