Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Saker interviews Uri Avnery from the Israeli Gush Shalom

Today I begin what I hope will be a continuous series of interviews with various participants in the conflicts in the Middle-East. The first person I "spoke" to (by email, actually) is Uri Avnery whose amazing life spans the entire history of Israel. From his political beginning as a 15 year old member of the terrorist group Irgun to becoming the founder of the most consistent Israeli peace group Gush Shalom (Peace Block) Uri Avnery's life of militancy has earned him plenty of enemies and even more supporters. He has been called a "Nazi" and a "self-hating Jew" by Neocon Zionists (amusingly enough, most of which manifest their Zionist patriotism by living outside Israel or never personally participating in any conflict with real bullets).

The Neocon's boundless arrogance and their imperial messianism has resulted into two very different consequences. One one hand, an increasing number of Americans are finally daring to question and challenge the total control exercised by the Neocons over US foreign policy, Congress or even the political discourse. That is,of course, a highly positive development. On the other hand, however, this realization has also lead many to conflate the Neocons with "the Jews" as if the latter was a monolithic block with a unifying objective. This fallacy wholly overlooks the fact that not all Neocons are Jews and, even more importantly, that most Jews are not Neocons. This is not the first time in history that this happens.

For example, it can hardly be denied that a vast majority of Bolsheviks, in particular in the horrible Leninist ancestor of the KGB, the "ChK" (or Cheka), were Jews. This does not at all mean that most Jews in Russia were Bolsheviks as many Russians still think nowadays. The same fallacy leads all too many people today blaming "the Jews" for what are the actions of a small but highly powerful group.

While many people understand that this kind of logic is deeply flawed, most only oppose it on the grounds that it blames innocent people, which it most certainly does. But no less important is the fact that conflating Neocons with "the Jews" or, for that matter, American messianic imperialists with "the Americans", gets the real culprits of the hook: the thugs who are pulling the strings of the centers of Imperial power love nothing more than to hide behind the backs of the innocents which inadvertently provide them with a fantastic cover. Does anybody seriously believe that the ADL or AIPAC leadership really cares about any Jews or Israelis?! Of course not - they just need them as cover for their Neocon bosses. Olmert cares as much about his fellow Israelis as Bush the Lesser cares about his fellow Americans or the Imperial war pimps care about the troops they claim to "support" but use as cannon-fodder in Imperial wars of aggression.

Every time an innocent is blamed the guilty one gets away.

I decided to ask Uri the hard questions which most Gentiles still rarely directly submit to Jews. I wanted to hear the answer of a person who still considers himself highly patriotic, who loves his country and his people, but who also fully opposes the policies of the Neocon/Zionist Empire. Kindly enough, Uri took some time of his very busy schedule to give me some short, but direct, answers.

I am deeply grateful to him for that.


NEOCONS AND JEWS: The policies of the Bush administration have resulted in a strong backlash against the so-called "Neocons" (most of which are Jews). The political debate on the Internet (the so-called "blogosphere") is now becoming saturated with accusations of anti-Semitism on one hand and of a "Jewish conspiracy" on the other. Jews who are critical of Neocon or Israeli policies are being called "self-hating Jews" by Neocons. What do you make of this Neocon-Jews connection? In your opinion, are Neocons truly worried about the welfare of Israel or are they pursing other goals? Are there Neocons in Israel?

The Neocons are closely connected with right-wing Israelis, especially Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party. They completely identify Israeli and American interests.

WHO IS USING WHOM? Noam Chomsky denies the existence of a "Jewish Lobby" and claims that it is the USA who are, in fact, using Israel for their own imperial designs. In your opinion, who is using whom? Is Israel a tool in the hands of the USA, or are the USA a tool in the hands of the Israeli government? Or is this a symbiotic relationship. In the latter case, do you believe that it is in Israel's advantage to be so closely identified with the USA and do you believe that it is in the USA's interest to be so closely identified with the policies of Israel?

Both theories are right. The dog wags its tail and the tail wags its dog. It is a very complex - indeed unique - relationship.

A "HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY"? What do you make of the accusation of some American Jews (such as Norman Finkelstein or Michael Neumann) that the memory of the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis is being cynically used for political purposes by a "Holocaust Industry" lead by such organizations as the ADL, B'nai Brith, AJC, AIPAC and others? To what degree do these organizations speak for Jews in general and, in particular, for Israeli Jews?

The Holocaust is a living reality in the life of many Israelis. Its impact is real and immense. It is also manipulated for political ends by the Israeli government and Jewish institutions abroad.

IS ISRAEL A MORALLY LEGITIMATE STATE? What do you make of the accusation that Israel is a creation of European colonial powers and that it has therefore no moral right to exist on the land belonging to the Palestinians (under whatever state or government)? Some even argue that Israel, being a self-described "Jewish state", is an ethno-religious entity comparable to the South African Apartheid regime and that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is in his right when he says that this regime should be totally eliminated and, presumably, be replaced by a "one man one vote" system which would give Arab Muslims the majority in Palestine. Do you think Israeli Jews should give up their dream for a "Jewish state" in which they would be the majority and, if not, how could Israel ever be a truly democratic country?

Israel is morally as legitimate as the US, which isbased on genocide and slavery. The question of "morally legitimate" can be asked about dozens of states around the world, the differences only concern time. The fact is that in our country there exist now two nations with deep roots in it, and peace must be made between the two.

IS ZIONISM RACIST OR NOT? You spend many years of your life fighting for Israel. During most of these years, the United Nations condemned Zionism as a form of racism (the UN has since changed its stance). What is your view of Zionism? Is it a race-based religion and ideology or not? Do those who seek out, and often find, offensive anti-Gentile quotes in the Talmud have a point or not?

The UN is a political organization, driven by the political interests of its members - once the Soviet-third- world coalition, now the USA.Zionism is a many-faceted movement, like socialism etc. The word has no real meaning until it is clearly defined what it means in the context of a particular question. I consider myself a post-Zionism (indeed, I was the first to use the term), which means that I believe Zionism is obsolete. We are now talking about the State of Israel, its interests and actions. The Talmud (actually there are two Talmuds) is an immense work which has been collected throughout several centuries. You can find there everything, from the best to the worst - much as in other religions, including Christianity and Islam.

WHAT DRIVES ISRAELI LEADERS? What worldview, what ideology or religion inspires leaders like Sharon, Natanyahu or Olmert? Is it Judaism? Zionism? Neoconservatism? What are the ideological roots of their beliefs and policies? What role does Judaism play in modern Israel? Is it the root of the hostility of some Jews towards Gentiles and to what degree is Zionism influenced by the values and ideas of Judaism?

The interests of Israel are the determining factor in Israeli public discourse - with many contradictory views and tendencies. Zionist history play a role in forming the ideas of political leaders, public attitudes and propaganda.

WAHABIS AND SALAFIS. Groups such as Al-Qaeda or Hamas appear determined to truly destroy Israel and most likely all of its Jewish inhabitants (at least those not willing to abandon their identity). What should Israel do in regards to these groups and the threat they represent? Do you think negotiations are possible with Wahabi/Salafi organizations?

There are many forms of Salafism, and many interpretations. History disproves any claim that it isanti-Jewish. No pogroms and no Holocaust in the Islamic world. Undeniably, the hostility between Jews and Muslims started with the Zionist-Arab conflict.

ISRAELI ELECTIONS. Why do Israelis still elect people like Olmert or Netanyahu? After all the years of suffering and war, why are most Israelis not willing to negotiate with their enemies (such as Hamas or Hezbollah) rather than insist on pretending to negotiate with people such as Abbas or Siniora who simply do not represent the majority of the people of their country?

Why was Bush elected? To outsiders, the election of such an inferior politician seems incredible. Politics create facts that are often bizarre.

WHAT IS THE CONDITION OF THE ISRAELI PEACE MOVEMENT? To my knowledge, during the summer of 2006, Gush Shalom was the only political force opposed the war. Is this correct? What is the status of the Israeli peace movement today? Who, in the Arab and Muslim world, do you see as your primary interlocutors and potential allies? Who in the Middle-East share your hopes and values?

The peace movement is in a bad situation on the ground, but our ideas are slowly gaining ground beneath the surface. We want to talk with all elements of the Palestinian public, including Hamas, and with all parts of the Arab world, including Hizbullah and Syria. Also with Iran, if possible.

BLAMING "THE JEWS". What do you have to say to those who blame "the Jews" for US support for past Israeli aggressions and atrocities in the past? For the seemingly unconditional support and "cover" the USA gives to Israel in the UN Security Council? For the 3 Trillion dollars in US support received since its creation? What should those who blame "the Jews" (as if there was such one, monolithic entity) read to correctly understand these issues?

The American political structure has made the pro-Israeli lobby (Jewish and Christian) very strong. That's really an American problem, not ours.

WHAT FUTURE ISRAEL WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE? Please outline your idea of a future Israel. What would be the first priorities of a Gush Shalom government and Knesset? What is your best hope for the future of the Middle-East?

I want peace between Israel and Palestine, two states with their capitals in Jerusalem. Details in the "Truth against Truth" on the Gush Shalom website. Shalom!