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Full exchange with Daniel Finkelstain

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David Sketchley

Joined: 09 Jun 2005
Posts: 85

Post Post subject: Full exchange with Daniel Finkelstain Reply with quote

This was in reply to this Times leader

Israel acts because the world won't defend it


I cannot express in words my feelings reading your editorial in which you unashamedlay use the Nazi Holocaust as a continuing excuse for the 'shoa' of Palestinians. As you will remember this was the word used by Deputy Israeli Defence Minister Matan Vilnai: "The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," Vilnai told Army Radio.. According to the BBC: "Matan Vilnai said Palestinians risked a "shoah", the Hebrew word for a big disaster - and for the Nazi Holocaust."

Were Palestinians involved in the Jewish Holocaust? I think not, but they were made to pay for it by being forced to give up their lands and territory. You, of course, never talk about this. Its not hard to see why. You do not talk about the fact that 'Gazans' as an entity do not really exist.

As you well know, the 'Gazans' are actually the people that lived in the areas surrounding Gaza such as Ashkelon, and who were forced from their land when the Israeli state was formed in 1948. This was called Plan Dalet.

The intention of 'Plan Dalet', was to ethnically cleanse a large part of Palestine of hostile "Arab elements". Numerous massacres occurred at Deir Yassin, Ayn Al-Zaytun, Tantura and elsewhere. Prof. Avi Shlaim wrote:

"The novelty and audacity of the plan lay in the orders to capture Arab villages and cities, something [Jewish forces] had never attempted before... Palestinian society disintegrated under the impact of the Jewish military offensive that got underway in April, and the exodus of the Palestinians was set in motion... by ordering the capture of Arab cities and the destruction of villages, it both permitted and justified the forcible expulsion of Arab civilians." (Shlaim, 'The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World,' W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2000, p.31)

He confirmed this recently in a Guadian article: "The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times."

Speaking in 1955 Moshe Dayan, asked:

"What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred for us? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived." (Quoted, ibid., p.101)

The Israelis also built illegal settlements in the newly occupied areas of Gaza and the West Bank and exploited natural resources, in particular taking control of vital water resources.

Shlaim writes that these settlements were part of a systematic policy intended to exert strategic and military control which in this case involved, "surrounding the huge Greater Jerusalem area with two concentric circles of settlements with access roads and military positions." (Ibid., p.582)

Times readers are able to learn almost nothing of this from your editorials or indeed fom Times reporting. When have you ever mentioned the refugees of 1948 or 1967, who make up the bulk of the Gaza population and are entitled to right of return under international law?

Hamas has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders. But Israel has rejected the offer, just as it rejected the Arab League peace plan of 2002; and just as it has always rejected the international consensus for a peaceful solution in the Middle East.

What is most disgusting about your editorial is how you portray Israeli actions as an act of self-defense against a threat from Hamas, while all along Israel's real intention is and always has been to replicate the apartheid model of South Africa; to transform Palestinian cities into Bantustans in a sea of Israeli-dominated territory, leaving Israeli settlers in possession of the arable land and vital water resources.

This is reflected by the political rise of Avigdor Lieberman, who has been publicly promoting, and garnering support for, the expulsion of Israel's Palestinian minority, a policy that has been secretly formulated by more mainstream leaders for some time. In 2002, General Eitan Ben Elyahu, a former head of Israel's air force, declared on Israeli television that "eventually we will have to thin out the number of Palestinians living in the territories."

Ilan Pappé noted that leading Zionist figures have long held such views. One of them, Yossef Weitz, wrote in 1940: "it is our right to transfer the Arabs" and "The Arabs should go!" (Pappé, 'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,' OneWorld, Oxford, 2006, p.23)

In 1948, David Ben-Gurion argued:"We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population." Fifty years later, in 1998, Ariel Sharon made the same point: "It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonization or Jewish state without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands."

On May 24, 2006, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a joint session of congress that "I believed and to this day still believe, in our people's eternal and historic right to this entire land."

This drive to "redeem the land", in Zionist parlance, requires the forcible takeover of land in the possession of others. As such, it constitutes a model case of a quest for a 'Greater' entity - here a Greater Israel - a drive which in the case of Milosevic's and the Serbs' alleged drive for a 'Greater Serbia' was presented as a prime element of illegal activity in the ICTY indictment of Milosevic.

The ongoing assault on Gaza, then, is about far more than restoring military pride, preventing rocket attacks and crushing Hamas. It is about Israel's strategic plan to deliver the Palestinian people to an abysmal fate in pursuit of the Zionist dream.

I would be interested to read your comments. Please note that I reserve the right to publish your reply.

Note: Not surprisingly I have not received a reply...these cowards can never defend their lies once thay have been called on them.

15 de enero de 2009 13:54
RE: Leader: Israel acts because the world won't defend it

"Thank you so much for taking the time to think about my piece and respond to it. I am most grateful and I shall reflect on the points you make and try to learn from them.

I understand your passion, which does you credit when people are suffering. I did not use the Holocaust to justify any particular action by israel. I used it to explain why Israel exists and seeks to defend itself. if this point was not as clear as it should have been I apologise.

I share your view about settlements.

I would only ask that you consider sympathetically the need for a Jewish homeland and how this might pratically be achieved.


Before I had a chance to reply I then received this missive:

"16 de enero de 2009 17:41
RE: Leader: Israel acts because the world won't defend it

Dear Mr Sketchley,

After I had replied to your email a friend pointed out that you had posted the original letter on medialens.

When I looked up your email on the site, I noticed that you had appended a note suggesting that I had not replied because I was a coward (and I think you added, a liar). I thought that was bit rough because it suggested you expected an instant reply, when I received hundreds of emails about the column and was working through them.

But just now I looked and noticed that you have not pasted my reply, and have left up the message that you did not receive a reply and I am therefore a coward.

I am disappointed with this behaviour, but perhaps it is simply an omission.

Yours ever


Here is my reply:

17 de enero de 2009 11:52
Re: Leader: Israel acts because the world won't defend it

Dear Mr Finkelstein,

Yes, you are quite right. It was unfair of me to expect a quick reply, although I did delay posting the letter for over 24 hours, not what I would call 'instant', but regardless, I apologise for using the term coward and withdraw it. I was wrong.

Regarding the delay in my reply, I could throw your own argument back in your face about expecting instant action. In fact I was hoping to find time to reply and then post your reply with my re-reply on the MB at the same time. Friday was a busy day and I couldn't find the time.I wanted time to read more of your stuff on Gaza (I still haven't). I particularly wanted time to think about your last paragraph. Please rest assured I will be posting our exchange.

I do stand by my comments about 'lies' though, as I was referring specifically to this paragraph in your leader:

"they do not want the Jews. Again and again - again and again - the Palestinians have been offered a nation state in a divided Palestine. And again and again they have turned the offer down, for it has always been more important to drive out the Jews than to have a Palestinian state. It is difficult sometimes to avoid the feeling that Hamas and Hezbollah don't want to kill Jews because they hate Israel. They hate Israel because they want to kill Jews.

This paragraph outraged me, equating all Palestinians as Jew-hating killers and turning the truth on its head. I respectfully suggest you re-read Robert Malley's account in the New York Review of Books. (1) As you should be aware, Robert Malley was Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs and was a member of the US peace team and participated in the Camp David summit. His conclusion is somewhat different from yours.

In fact, the historical record shows that Israel has started 7 wars of choice since 1973. All these wars were planned in some detail in advance, with the Israeli government just waiting for – or even, on occasion, provoking – some action from the other side that they could use as a launch pretext. Every time there was a lull, a ceasefire, when the Palestinians indicated their willingness to accept a diplomatic settlement of the conflict, there would be a 'targeted killing' designed specifically to bait the Palestinians into more violence.

Regarding your last sentence: "I would only ask that you consider sympathetically the need for a Jewish homeland and how this might pratically be achieved", I was prepared to accept an Israeli state, my problem was which one? 1948, 1967, or the one following the infamous wall? Which one do you mean?

Now I'm beginning to feel that they shouldn't have a state in the Middle East at all. Israel's behaviour is exactly the same as that of an abused child who grows up to be the abuser. The sheer unadulterated violence and the cynicism they employ in the manipulation of information is truly frightening.

If any country should pay for what they did and give up their territory for a Zionist state, it should have been Germany, as reparations for the Holocaust. But not Palestine nor the Palestinians. The Israeli state is however, a fait-accompli, but as far as I am concerned the only legal state is on the 1948 borders. Indeed, SC Res 242 specifically ruled on the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war", and the International Court of Justice, ruled Israel has no title to any of the West Bank, any of Gaza and Arab East Jerusalem. It ruled all the settlements are illegal under international law. So I see no reason any Palestinian should accept any state other than that granted by the UN in the 1948 Partition Plan, pre-Nakba.

As I write I see Israel has bombed yet another UN school giving shelter to Palestinians.

Yours Sincerely
David Sketchley

(1) New York Review of Books, Volume 48, Number 13 · August 9, 2001 Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors

17 de enero de 2009 12:53
Thank you david. I cannot extend this debate indefinitely because I have a huge postbag. But here's the problem. You call something a lie when it is in fact a difference of interpretation. For every person you cite on camp David I can cite a counter example. Dennis Ross for instance. And neither of us is lying.

The wars you state Israel started I could argue that they didn't. And so on.

So your vehement language about my view isn't helpful or justified. It just makes it difficult for us to work things out.

I am pleased you have wanted a Jewish state in the past if that is truly the case. And naturally the lines of that state have changed. But I strongly suspect in the end the settlement will look very much like camp David.

And of course I may be wrong. We all have partial sight. I just feel you need to be more open and try and see the other side as well as your own.

I have had many emails on this and each has helped me understand more. I am grateful for yours.


19 de enero de 2009 11:47


Thanks once again for your reply, and yes I quite understand that your postbag must be considerable.

We will have to agree to disagree. You call it 'a difference of interpretation', and you claim that as 'fact'.

I notice however, that while you say you are in agreement with me regarding the settlements you never made any mention of the Greater Israel project, and its similarity with the Milosevic's 'Greater Serbia' project. Or is that also a matter of 'interpretation'?

Prof. Avi Shlaim, a member of the establishment of ever there was one, said, and I quoted this in my first letter: "The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times." (1)

Professor John J. Mearsheimer, Profesor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, also says in an article in The American Conservative that the real goal of Operation Cast Lead "is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a "Greater Israel." Specifically, Israel's leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would have limited autonomy in a handful of disconnected and economically crippled enclaves, one of which is Gaza. Israel would control the borders around them, movement between them, the air above and the water below them. The key to achieving this is to inflict massive pain on the Palestinians so that they come to accept the fact that they are a defeated people and that Israel will be largely responsible for controlling their future. This strategy, which was first articulated by Ze'ev Jabotinsky in the 1920s and has heavily influenced Israeli policy since 1948, is commonly referred to as the "Iron Wall." What has been happening in Gaza is fully consistent with this strategy."

This is what you describe as a "nation state". Interpretation? How can a nation-state be implemented in a 'a divided Palestine'?

Mearsheimer continues: "Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon's closest adviser at the time, candidly stated that the disengagement from Gaza was aimed at halting the peace process, not encouraging it. He described the disengagement as "formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians." Moreover, he emphasized that the withdrawal "places the Palestinians under tremendous pressure. It forces them into a corner where they hate to be...Arnon Soffer, a prominent Israeli demographer who also advised Sharon, elaborated on what that pressure would look like. "When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day." (2)

So what are your thoughts about Israel's drive for a Greater Israel and whether or not it does actually constitute a model case of a quest for a 'Greater' entity, remembering of course, that a similar drive - Milosevic's and the Serbs' alleged drive for a 'Greater Serbia' was presented as a prime element of illegal activity in the ICTY genocide indictment of Milosevic.

Perhaps a Times leader on this aspect or a Times blog piece would be more enlightening that a reply to me? I, and I suspect many like me, would like to know why Kosovo was worth a NATO blitz but not Gaza?

Yours Sincerely
David Sketchley
Wed Jan 21, 2009 12:48 am
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