Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Sari Nusseibeh II:

Solomonia brings Prof. Nusseibeh's response to the allegations made against him about which I blogged here.

I couldn't see a link to this excerpt but I trust Solomon to rely on a creditable source:

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??

Surely, this cool-headed and even toned clarification should suffice to allay the anxieties of ZOA, who called for boycotting Prof. Nusseibeh and his university.

______________

One thing, though: Prof. Nusseibeh seems to blame MEMRI for misrepresenting his words. I checked the MEMRI source, here. The entry provides a video clip and an transcript. The transcript is headed: Palestinian Researcher Dr. Sari Nusseibeh on the Return of Palestinian Refugees, followed immediately by the text of the interview. There is no interpretation offered, or an introduction leading to the interview. So it is not MEMRI which suggested the spin given to it. This is an important point, because like many people, I rely on MEMRI' services and would want to be able to maintain my level of trust in their translations.

_____________

Anti-racist left a comment on this post which I thought ought to be made more visible:

Anti-Racist Blog Responds to Comments from Sari Nusseibeh:

Mr. Nusseibeh,

After reading your response e-mail, unfortunately my concerns addressed here ( http://antiracistblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/caught-on-video-anti-semitic-statement.html) still have not been sufficiently addressed.You stated in your recent response e-mail to Ami Isseroff:

"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.

You focus your response e-mail to the issue of preventing the "return" of Jews to a future Palestinian state, which you seem to argue is a common-sense give and take solution to the conflict, and not something that should have been objectionable. However, in your previous statement on T.V. you clearly mention that Jews will not just be prevented from returning, but also from LIVING in the Palestinian state. Here was the statement you made on T.V.:

"No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state."

The last excerpted sentence from your reply e-mail, which stated that you did not mean by your statement to exclude Jews from being able to live in an Arab state is clearly in contradiction to the statement above that you made on T.V. How could you possibly not have meant by your statement on t.v. to exclude Jews from living in a future Palestinian state when you openly stated that no JEW will have the right "to return, to live, or to demand to live" in a future Palestinian state?

Unless I'm missing something, I still feel that your statement on t.v. was inappropriate, insensitive, and yes, anti-Semitic/racist. No Jews allowed is just as offensive as no Muslims or Christians allowed. If you merely misspoke, and/or if you did not mean any offense to Jews (even though your statements ended up with that result) please tell me why Anti-Racist Blog, Campus Watch, or others should print a retraction or an explanation for your mistake?

You can take issue with the video being incomplete, but the comment YOU made on television that Anti-Racist Blog, Campus Watch and others objected to was complete, and not cut up. I heard nothing in your response that would alleviate my concerns about your statement. If you choose to clarify what you said, your comments will be welcome.

Sincerely,

Anti-Racist Blog

C.C., I know we are not in agreement on this issue (although we are on many others). I would appreciate your insight.

Anti Racist:

The core of your scepticism seems to be in the interpretation of this statement:

"No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state."

Here is how I consider it:

"This document" means the agreement, signed and ratified, between Israel and Palestine that will put an end to all demands, either moral or practical, that either side can make upon the other.

"This document" will mean, two states, coexisting along an international border, demarcating the separation between a Jewish state and a Palestinian state.

From Israel's point, "This document" is only achievable when Palestinians renounce their claim to return to Israel. This is a "Right" Palestinians allege is inalienable. It is inalienable because it is a "right". When they give up this right, it does not mean that there will be no Arabs in Israel anymore. Or that no Arab can ever ask to immigrate to Israel, for whatever reason.

Jews claim a similar "right" to settle and live in Hebron. It is absolutely the equivalent of RoR. It is a right, however, that stands in the way of normalization for Israel. Because the circumstances make it impossible to make peace with Palestinians while implementing this Right.

This is why I speak of an exchange, or mutual cancellation of Rights.

What I believe Nusseibeh is saying is this: The peace agreement will result in two sovereign states, with their disparate interests, laws, cultures. Like any two neighbouring states, say Germany and France. Germans do not insist that they have a right to live in France, and vice versa. This understanding, however, does not preclude the possibility and indeed likelihood, that there are maybe many Germans who do live in France, and many Frenchmen who do live in Germany. But this is not as a result of anybody's Right, but is regulated through legislation and mutually benefitting agreements.

I could only wish more Palestinians could see and accept this clarity of vision, unadulterated by any vindictive impulse, sanctification of Rights, or hatred, as Prof. Nusseibeh does.

I hope this is helpful.

___________

Anti racist left this response in the comments:

Had Sarri said that no Israelis would be allowed to return, or live in a Palestinian state then his comments may have been more palatable to many.However, he explicitly talked about Jews. He didn't say Israelis. That is anti-Semitism, as far as I am concerned.

Sarri may be an enlightened Palestinian, but his comment was anti-Semitic in my view, and his position on peace more generally does not excuse it. I am not calling for a witch-hunt, or a boycott, just a recognition that what he said was offensive and wrong. I did encourage those in a position to influence him (i.e. the heads of North American Universities that Al-Quds is partnered with) to make sure that such statements are not repeated. It sets a bad example for students, and society in general.

Well, no. I disagree. He couldn't say "Israelis" because not all Israelis are Jewish. And the longing for the heartland of Jewish history is something that characterizes Jews, not all Israelis. If Israel defines itself as a Jewish state, why shouldn't Sari Nusseibeh go along with this definition, and speak to the very constituents for whom this definition matters most of all?

He is really speaking in the language and principles which have currency for Israeli Jews. Whether they like it or not is beside the point.

Another point: You should appreciate Prof. Nusseibeh's attempts to clarify his position, and the even handed, neutral tone he uses in doing so. His written explanation is completely devoid of any sarcasm or hyperbole, gratuitous accusations or warped view of history. Imagine what Edward Said or any of his minions, would have written under similar circumstances.

Consider the medium he has used to do so: A quietly circulated email, rather than the fanfare of an article in an Arab newspaper. He wants to put across his points in a simple, honest way, to reach out for understanding, not to score a point in a propaganda war.

These factors matter.

__________

Anti Racist continues:

Why is keeping Jews out of a Palestinian state acceptable? It doesn't matter that there is a Jewish homeland; that doesn't mean you can keep Jews out of other states. Why won't he accept any Jews within their borders? Israel isn't keeping Muslims out the country. I still don't get why excluding Jews is okay.

I have already explained that he was not saying that in my first response to you. He was talking about the "right" of Jews to demand that they be accepted into this Palestinian state. Not about individual Jews wanting to live in Hebron, as Palestinian citizens, or whatever.

Look, we Israelis want nothing more than be a normal country, like any other country. But there is this Palestinian problem, with its RoR hanging like a sword over our heads. We need to remove the threat of that sword. Nusseibeh's solution offers one way of doing it.

Another way is that there will be a bi-national state and then there would be no problem for Jews to live in Hebron or Palestinians living in Tel Aviv. There must, however, be a primary principle, applied evenly to both peoples, if we are seeking a just and pragmatic solution. If Palestinians give up their RoR, then Jews, too, must give up their historical aspiration for the West Bank. If they refuse to give up RoR then Jews, too, will refuse to give up their historical right. And we are back where we are now.

_________

Addendum: I have been arguing that Prof. Nusseibeh's core concerns are expressed in the context of rights. Here is an excerpt from an interview he did for Dissent magazine, in which he explains his position. I think in the controvertial interview with Al-Jazeera, the one that started this recent kerfuffle, he is actually repeating the same principles, but in a way that would persuade Palestinians to adopt them. That is, he outlines what it would mean for them to give up their RoR:

JW: The biggest obstacle in any peace settlement, according to the Israelis, is the Palestinian claim of a right of return. In 1948 your mother’s family was expelled from land that had been theirs for generations. What do you tell your Palestinian comrades about the right of return?

SN: This is the most painful part of a compromise that has to be made between Israelis and Palestinians. We have to think not only of the past but also of the future. I’ve been accused of arguing that we don’t have a right of return. That is false. I think we have a right of return. But we have other rights as well. We have a right to freedom. We have a right to independence. We have a right to create a new future. And very often in life the implementation of one right conflicts with the ability to implement another. You have to make a choice. In this case, I’ve been arguing with my peers, my colleagues, my people, that we must choose, and that, morally speaking, the best choice is to opt for the right to freedom, the right to independence, and the right to a new future.

11 Comments:

At 5:13 PM EST, Anonymous Anti-Racist Blog said...

Anti-Racist Blog Responds to Comments from Sari Nusseibeh:

Mr. Nusseibeh,

After reading your response e-mail, unfortunately my concerns addressed here ( http://antiracistblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/caught-on-video-anti-semitic-statement.html) still have not been sufficiently addressed.

You stated in your recent response e-mail to Ami Isseroff:

"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.

You focus your response e-mail to the issue of preventing the "return" of Jews to a future Palestinian state, which you seem to argue is a common-sense give and take solution to the conflict, and not something that should have been objectionable. However, in your previous statement on T.V. you clearly mention that Jews will not just be prevented from returning, but also from LIVING in the Palestinian state. Here was the statement you made on T.V.:

"No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state."

The last excerpted sentence from your reply e-mail, which stated that you did not mean by your statement to exclude Jews from being able to live in an Arab state is clearly in contradiction to the statement above that you made on T.V. How could you possibly not have meant by your statement on t.v. to exclude Jews from living in a future Palestinian state when you openly stated that no JEW will have the right "to return, to live, or to demand to live" in a future Palestinian state?

Unless I'm missing something, I still feel that your statement on t.v. was inappropriate, insensitive, and yes, anti-Semitic/racist. No Jews allowed is just as offensive as no Muslims or Christians allowed. If you merely misspoke, and/or if you did not mean any offense to Jews (even though your statements ended up with that result) please tell me why Anti-Racist Blog, Campus Watch, or others should print a retraction or an explanation for your mistake?

You can take issue with the video being incomplete, but the comment YOU made on television that Anti-Racist Blog, Campus Watch and others objected to was complete, and not cut up. I heard nothing in your response that would alleviate my concerns about your statement.

If you choose to clarify what you said, your comments will be welcome.

Sincerely,
Anti-Racist Blog

C.C., I know we are not in agreement on this issue (although we are on many others). I would appreciate your insight.

 
At 9:26 AM EST, Anonymous Anti-Racist Blog said...

C.C., Thanks for responding.

Had Sarri said that no Israelis would be allowed to return, or live in a Palestinian state then his comments may have been more palatable to many.

However, he explicitly talked about Jews. He didn't say Israelis. That is anti-Semitism, as far as I am concerned.

Sarri may be an enlightened Palestinian, but his comment was anti-Semitic in my view, and his position on peace more generally does not excuse it. I am not calling for a witch-hunt, or a boycott, just a recognition that what he said was offensive and wrong.

I did encourage those in a position to influence him (i.e. the heads of North American Universities that Al-Quds is partnered with) to make sure that such statements are not repeated. It sets a bad example for students, and society in general.

 
At 10:01 AM EST, Anonymous Anti-Racist Blog said...

Why is keeping Jews out of a Palestinian state acceptable? It doesn't matter that there is a Jewish homeland; that doesn't mean you can keep Jews out of other states.

Why won't he accept any Jews within their borders? Israel isn't keeping Muslims out the country.

I still don't get why excluding Jews is okay.

 
At 10:03 AM EST, Anonymous ARB said...

CC,

I did appreciate him responding; although I don't think he answered my question.

I totally agree that Edward Said would have responded differently. That point is not lost on me. =)

 
At 10:05 AM EST, Anonymous ARB said...

"He is really speaking in the language and principles which have currency for Israeli Jews."

But he was speaking on Palestinian t.v., not to a Jewish or Israeli audience.

 
At 10:19 AM EST, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"But he was speaking on Palestinian t.v., not to a Jewish or Israeli audience."

All the more reason to appreciate that he was articulating positions which might be interpreted as too favourable to Israel. The other fellow, the odious MK Tibi, was resisting his position.

 
At 10:20 AM EST, Anonymous ARB said...

"He was talking about the "right" of Jews to demand that they be accepted into this Palestinian state."

I don't think that interpretation squares with his language, which was:

"No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state."

You are saying he was talking about the right of Jews to be accepted into a Palestinian state. Sarri clearly states that no Jew will have the right to LIVE.

If he meant Live to equal acceptance then he should have said so. He has yet to say himself that this was what he meant. How do you know that is what he meant?

 
At 10:22 AM EST, Anonymous ARB said...

I hope you know that I am sincerely not trying to pick a fight with you. I am just trying to get to the bottom of this incident. If I am in the wrong I will say so, but I am not convinced that I am wrong yet.

 
At 10:29 AM EST, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

He was talking about rights, not practices. Maybe he could have been more specific about it, but he was making a tough sale, to Palestinians who regard him more or less as an Uncle Tom.

 
At 12:05 PM EST, Anonymous ARB said...

I still think his wording was inappropriate, even if he meant otherwise. I'm still waiting for a clarification from him on what exactly he did mean.

 
At 1:23 PM EST, Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

It will be interesting to see how this thing resolves, indeed - if at all.

 

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