Letters to James Zogby, of the Arab-American
Washington D.C.- July 10, 2006
Richard J. Garfunkel
Most of us, including you are one-sided to one degree or another. I addressed the reality of Israel and today's Arab-Muslim world. All I ask is for the Arab people to consider which direction they wish to go! Do they wish to be in the backwater of history, dominated by oligarchs and an oppressive un-democratic class society, quite often dominated by religious zealots, or do they wish to advance and deal with modernity. The reason I wrote you was because you live in the west and do take the pulse of the people as a profession.
You say I am one-sided and I should read more of the Palestinians and their history. But did you address the points that I made or are they just meaningless echoes resonating around you. I can only assume that you believe that time, demographics and numbers will eventually win your war to recover the date trees of Jaffa. But to me that is another pipe dream.
I am always amazed that one thinks that begging the issue answers the question. Reading more about the Arab world seems a bit redundant these days. All I had to do was to open the “NY Times” and read the “narrative” about the slaughter of 42 Sunnis that were pulled out of their cars and homes and killed in a “spasm of revenge by Shiite militias for the bombing of a Shiite mosque…” Is this the civilized “narrative” of that world?
What sane people do those types of acts? Maybe the Israelis should have torched the Temple Mount in 1967. That would have ended that issue. It would have been tit-for-tat for all of the Palestinian/Arab/Moslem abuse of the Western Wall and the Old City where they placed a pigsty in 1948. It would have been sweet revenge for all of the Jewish graves, religious and Holy sites that were desecrated and looted. But no, the Moslem Holy Sites still remain! I was there and saw them. I went onto to Temple Mount with respect; I was in the other Holy places sacred to Christians and Moslems. Funny how the Jews, while fighting a Jihad for decades still respect the sanctity of religious belief. (Even many Arab historians deny the existence of a Temple on that sacred ground. Therefore they must deny that even Jesus walked there or that a King David or Solomon even existed.)
I await an answer to all the mindlessness of violence that pervades the Arab world and why it continues to exist. I await an answer to my points of how the Jews affect all the senseless barbarism amongst and between Sunnis and Shiites and between Arabs and Christians all over the world. For sure the presence of Jews in Israel can't really impact on the Balkans or Darfur or for that matter on any other place around this wide world?
Your view is too one-sided–read more. It will aid you in reaching a more comprehensive understanding of the entire situation. You understand the Israeli narrative. It would help you to understand how the Palestinians see their history.
Dr. James Zogby
Dr. James Zogby
Arab American Institute
Washington, DC 20006
An answer to James Zogby:
I read your well-constructed piece on Truthout. Generally I could agree with you that one soldier's life is not equivalent to 1.5 million citizens. On the surface this is true.But history has shown that a strong minority can take over a country and through what ever means at their hands, they can lead a nation. This has happened more often than not. In a sense a country or nation is held to a standard collective guilt for the actions of its government or military. Certainly Israel gets criticism constantly for efforts to defend its own people. In 1914 Pancho Villa crossed the Mexico-Texas border, robbed banks in Brownsville and killed American citizens. General Pershing was sent with an American force in search of Villa and stayed there for a considerable period of time. Again no society can tolerate it s borders being violated and its citizens being killed and maimed.
The Italian people went along with Mussolini without too much of a question in the early 1920's, and the Italian dictator Il Duce led them into foreign adventures in Abyssinia and Libya. When he sided with Hitler in 1939 and signed their Pact of Steel he committed his country and its people to a fate that they might not have considered possible or would have chosen.
Regardless of the fact that you are of Arab extraction and that I am a grandson of European-Jewish immigrants that came here in the 1880's we are both Americans. I know that you understand history, and you can bet that I do also. Whether you agree on the legitimacy of Israel or not, you must understand that they have been a sovereign and democratic nation for a great many years. In fact, they have been a nation state much longer than a majority of the UN members today. They have stood the test of time, 1,000,000 Moslem Arabs along with other minorities live in peace in Israel. They have the rights of citizenship, travel, work, education and can socialize with whom they wish. They have extra special rights because they do not have to serve in the military and it seems on the surface that they would prefer an Israeli government that guarantees all these rights, along with prosperity over the chaos that inhabits most of the Arab-Moslem World.
The story of internecine Arab-Moslem strife is unending. The 80 -year history of Iraq is rife with that reality. They were a violent society for decades, only interrupted by period of forced order by dictators. Syria, Yemen, Sudan and Libya, have been dictatorships forever. Egypt and the Saudis are basically run by oligarchies. Mubarek is a quasi-dictator and Iran, which is not an Arab state, is becoming a feudal basket case and a threat to their region and the rest of the world. Sudan is starving millions of its own citizens. But the issue of the Palestinians remains foremost in the minds of many Arabs and Muslims. Is not Jordan a Palestinian Muslim state? Did they not have control over the so-called West Bank from 1948 thru 1967? Why didn't they absorb that area and its people, or make it independent? They didn't want to! They kept it alive as a problem, because they knew that the creation of a West Bank Palestinian state would have led to the de facto recognition of Israel. the so-called Palestinian refugee camps around the Arab World are the only refugee camps that still exist. All the others that were created by the wars and genocidal conduct in the 20th Century were assimilated into other nation states. Only where Muslim and non-Muslim exist as neighbors is there ongoing strife; Kashmir, the Philippines, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. What is the reason? I am sure we both know it.
Is Israel or World Jewry unaware of that reality? You compare the horrible murder of Kitty Genovese to Gaza and the security of Israel. To me that comparison is invidious. Israel has been feeling the sting of Fedeyeen terrorism and intrusions for fifty plus years. Hundreds if not thousands of their people have been murdered and maimed. This soldier only represents the most recent case. You and I are acutely aware of that fact. Currently the Arab-Muslim world is in chaos once again. Whose fault is that? Is that the fault of Israel? Is the poverty and religious strife with the Moslem world the fault of Israel? Is Osama bin Ladin and his opposition to the Saudi princes the fault of Israel? Are the Taliban religious madmen the fault of Israel? Was the Shah the fault of Israel? Are the Mullahs in Teheran the fault of Israel? Was the Syrian political assassinations and terrorism in Lebanon the fault of Israel? Is and was the corruption of Arafat and his brigands the fault of Israel? Were the devastating Iranian-Iraqi Wars over Israel? Was the invasion of Kuwait because of Israel?
If Israel did not exist all of these same things would have happened or be happening. If oil did not exist in the Middle East no one would care one iota about fratricidal conduct amongst Arabs and Muslims. Therefore without oil, the west would support democratic Israel without question! In other words your concern for Gaza and the Gazans may be genuinely emotional and humane. But what have they done to change their attitudes and therefore their future. In the wake of the destruction of Fascism and Communism, those states and their peoples looked for change. They trashed their history and they went from bitterness to self-examination. They brought success out of the ruins. They evolved from dictatorship and totalitarianism to democracy. When will the Arab-Muslim world learn their lesson and end the bitterness that pervades between Shiite and Sunni? When will they stop worrying about Jews?
It is funny that 1 million Arab Muslims can live in peace in Israel. It is funny that Jews from all over the Arab World, and from multiple cultures and races can live in peace and basic harmony in Israel. It is funny that thousands of Christians, both Arab and non-Arab can live in peace in Israel, but 100 Jews cannot live in peace in Hebron. Why do a billion Muslims and 100 million Arabs worry about a few million Jews? Are they so insecure?
I would love to see peace in the Middle East. I believe that it can come. But the “pipe dream” of a Palestinian dominated Israel will not come about. The Palestinians must come to the realization that they are their own worst enemy. They must understand that their destiny is tied to their own sense of worth. They must strive to end violence, accept the reality of Israel and form partnerships of hope and toleration that will eventually bring peace and prosperity.