The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy conferenceIIGBA

 

ISRAEL'S INFLUENCE:
Good or Bad for America?

Washington, DC - March 18, 2016 at the National Press Club

"America is a thing that you can move very easily..." Binyamin Netanyahu, 2001

“What I would tell a visiting congressional delegation.”
gideon_l
Keynote Address: Gideon Levy

Moderator Dale Sprusansky:I know those who attended last year, when they heard Gideon Levy address the conference, were really amazed at what he said. And so we had no choice but by popular demand to bring him back this year for his encore speech. Gideon is obviously a well-known journalist in Israel with Haaretz. He writes frequently and oftentimes controversially, if you are a Zionist Israeli. Last year his speech went viral online. It got over about 200,000 views online, English and Arabic. And today he will be addressing what he would tell a visiting congressional delegation. So with that, Gideon, I invite you to the podium.

Gideon Levy: Thank you, Dale. Thank you everybody. Thank you to the Washington Report [and IRmep] which invited me here last year, and I was prepared for a lecture in front of a couple of hundred of distinguished guests. A few months later, I started to realize that something is going on. Wherever I go in the West Bank—refugee camps, villages—people start to tell me they saw me speaking in the National Press Club. And it went on and on. Then came the trips abroad, and wherever I went, people talk to me about this legendary speech which I totally forgot about.

And then I realized that it became viral and some 200,000 people around the globe watched it—which, Dale, puts me in a very impossible position today, because I can’t repeat myself. As some of you might know, I am a singer of one song. I am a pony of one trick.

And then you were helpful enough to give this framework of what would I have told to American congressmen or delegation, and this gives me a different framework. But I’m really, really grateful to you and to your people for inviting me again and for making me so famous in the world.

So many congressmen are coming over and the Israeli brainwashing machinery is so efficient that it will be very, very hard to compete with this machinery, but still I would like to try this time, at least virtually. The question that stands on the basis—or two main questions—are, first of all, do they know the truth? Because one can claim that they know the truth, they just ignore it or they don’t care about it, or they think that the truth, that the reality, is the right one. Or really, can we open their eyes by showing them the real truth, the reality, the backside of Israel, the backyard of Israel?

And the second question—yesterday over dinner someone was mentioning the question, is American foreign policy in the Middle East based on interest or based on values? And I have my doubts about both. Therefore, to change this is a hell of a mission, but that’s the main source of hope for us, for people like me in the Middle East.

The key is now in your hands, America. The key is now in your hands, activists, scholars, because as I said here last year—and this I’m sure would be the last sentence that I repeat myself from last year—the chances that change will come from within the Israeli society are so limited. When the brainwashing system is so efficient and life is so good, why would Israel go for any change? What is the incentive? Therefore, as big as the hope is, was also the disappointment in the last seven years, but I will try with a virtual tour with some congressmen who would be ready to listen to me.

First, I would take them to certain places that the propaganda system of Israel wouldn’t take them. And I would like to introduce them to some people that they would never meet if they come through the Israeli Foreign Ministry or through AIPAC. I would maybe start our tour with meeting a family in Gaza, the latest victims, the Abu Khoussa family. Last Saturday, two-and-a-half at night, in the morning, an American-Israeli plane in the sky, an F-16—very accurate, as we know, with the most moral pilots in the world who never mean to kill any civilians, who never mean to kill any children, who are busy day and night only in saving lives of Palestinians. An American jet supplied by your country, financed partly by your country with a pilot, who was I guess trained partly by your country, is going to Gaza to take revenge for four rockets which were sent a few hours before on a Friday night. Didn’t hit anything. Didn’t harm anyone. They were all falling in open spaces—but revenge must be taken.

And this F-16 flies over Gaza, over the neighborhood of Beit Lahia, which is at the north part of Gaza. Children—and this I know for a fact—most of the children wake up in hysteria because they know the noise already and they know what follows this noise. Those who were—and most of them were—already there in 2005, and 2008, and 2014 and during all those operations that Israel had done there, know what an Israeli jet in the sky means. Soon the missile—the very, very accurate and precise and sophisticated and clever missile—falls on the home. To say home is an exaggeration: falls on their hut or whatever you call it, and the two siblings, Israa and Yassin—she’s 6, he’s 10—had been killed. I’m not sure if they woke up before their deaths or they were killed in their sleep.

This attack, which is one of many, should be presented as it is, as a revenge operation of Israel, nothing to do with fighting terror, nothing to do with the security of Israel.

Then I would love to introduce these congressmen and women to a bunch of victims of the recent months, of this recent intifada—the Third intifada—children and their families who were executed, part of them or most of them without any sufficient reason. I will introduce to them to an American, an American citizen, Mahmoud Shaalan, 16 years old. Maybe they would care more about an American? The army claims that he came to a checkpoint two weeks ago and had a knife. In any case, did he have a knife or didn’t he? We don’t know, because there are very few witnesses. He was shot dead immediately, 16 years old with a background that makes us believe that he wanted to stab a soldier almost impossible.

He came to Palestine to spend some years in his village. He was born here in Tampa, Florida. He had his plans and dreams to go back to study medicine. His life even in Palestine was good, a very well-off family. Did he go really to stab a soldier? Did he endanger the soldier? Was there only one choice but to kill him dead and to shoot him with three or four bullets? Wasn’t there any other choice? Is there any definition but execution? And I give his example, but we have them, unfortunately, on a daily basis in the recent months.

American congressmen should know that the life of Palestinians in Israel right now is the cheapest ever. With everything we went through, never was it so cheap. Never was it so easy to kill Palestinians. Never was it so little discussed. Never was it hardly covered by the Israeli media, the biggest collaborator with the occupation. Never was it so natural that any Palestinian must be held as a suspect, and any suspect must be executed. American legislators should know this.

I would take the American legislators to [a] few places just to show them and to trust their consciences. It’s enough to go for a few hours to Hebron, to the city of Hebron, and say no more. Just take them there. I never met an honest human being who had been to Hebron and didn’t come back after a few hours in shock. It is one thing to hear about those things; it’s another thing to see it and to experience it with your own eyes. And anyone who argues still that in the occupied territories the [Israeli] regime is not of an apartheid regime, just come to Hebron. Stay there a few hours. And I want to meet one person who would tell me after visiting Hebron that this is not apartheid. But it looks like apartheid. It walks like apartheid. It behaves like apartheid. It is apartheid. Israel is not yet an apartheid state, but the regime there in the occupied territories cannot be defined but apartheid.

Then I would ask the Congress delegation, are you accepting an apartheid system in the 21st century? Do you understand that you are financing an apartheid system in the 21st century? Do you know that your president compared once the Palestinians to the black slavery? Do you live in peace with the fact that you are supporting it automatically and blindly?

And then to conclude our tour, I would take this mission, this Congress mission, to the most unexpected place, to Tel Aviv. Activists usually don’t come to Tel Aviv. I always tell activists, please come to Tel Aviv, because you will understand it only if you’ve been in Tel Aviv. Look at the wonderful life in Tel Aviv. One hour from Gaza. One hour from Hebron. Look at the lines for restaurants. Listen to what people are talking about in cafés. Look at the clubs. Look at this vivid society. Look at the beaches. Many times when helicopters are going on their way to bomb either Lebanon, in its time, or Gaza, look and listen to what young people are talking about. Try to ask them, what do they know about the occupation?

There was a survey showing that Israel is number 11 in the world in the happiness index of the U.N. The Israelis are happier than you, Americans! They are happier than the Germans, the French, the Brits—11th in the world. Eighty-six percent of Israelis claim that life is wonderful. American legislators should know it, because this happiness is partly financed by the United States. Is Israel really the first on the list to be supported with so much money? Is it the poorest country, the most unprotected country, the weakest one? What is the answer to all those questions? Why?

Without watching the life of Tel Aviv, it’s very hard to understand this total loss of connection with reality of the Israeli society, this total moral blindness, this total [lack of] interest in any kind of solution. Why would Tel Aviv go for a solution? Tel Aviv they see, ah, the state of Tel Aviv, this bubble, who lives its wonderful life one hour away from the place where those two siblings were killed only five days ago. You think that there are 1 percent of Israelis who heard at all that the IDFkilled two children just five days ago? Can you imagine yourself what would have happened if Palestinian terrorists would have killed two babies in their sleep? What would we have heard about the Palestinians, about their cruelty, about their brutality, about their behavior, those animals? But Israel, with their jets, with very precise bombs and missiles, that’s fine.

I would take those congressmen to some of the refugee camps. They should see it. I would have taken them to Gaza if I could. Remember what the world promised Gaza just a few years ago? Where is the word of the world? Remember how many signed obligations to reconstruct, to rebuild, to open up Gaza, and Gaza is forgotten again. The only way for Gaza to remind [the world of] its existence is only by launching rockets. This is the message. That’s the only way to remind [the world of] its existence.

And then the Israeli right-wingers will ask me, what do you want? Go to Syria. Look at what’s going on in Syria. It’s so much worse. And then I’ll tell them, the killing in Syria is not financed by the United States. The killing in Syria is not supported by the United States. The killers in Syria do not have a carte blanche to go wild, and to kill, and to conquer, and to depress, and to confiscate. And the killers in Syria are not the biggest ally of the United States.

Coming back to this question from the beginning, is the foreign policy in the Middle East driven by interest or values? It contradicts both, dear friends. It’s not for me to judge Americans’ policy, but for me it’s an enigma. I must tell you it is an enigma. What interest does it serve exactly? And what values do they really share? Yes, the American congressmen who would come to Israel would find quite a common language with most of the Israeli politicians. We have our Donald Trumps, we have our Hillary Clintons, unfortunately so. The level would be also more of the same. They will find, most of them, common language. Cynicism will be also quite equal in both sides.

But still, Americans should ask themselves and legislators above all, why do we go on with the same policy for so many years? Why don’t you realize that it doesn’t lead to anywhere? Don’t we see where it goes? Don’t we see that with these enormous sums of money that the United States is investing in this occupation project? At least the minimum would have been to use this to some kind of constructive purposes; to some kind of pressure on Israel; to some kind of effort to put an end to the occupation; to change the values or the interest, the policy, the behavior; the conception that the Palestinians are not equal beings like anyone else; the conception that the Palestinians were born to kill, which is shared right now between the United States and Israel? I would have expected a mission of the Congress to ask itself: Did this policy of supplying carrots and only carrots to Israel, did it prove itself? What came out of it?

Next year, we are celebrating 50 years of the occupation. You see, when you enjoy yourself, time is passing so quickly. It’s only the first 50 years of the occupation, I’m afraid. But any American delegation who would come to Israel should ask itself where is it heading, when the chances for the two-state solution are either totally gone or really in the last moments. I believe that we missed the chance. I believe, by the way, that both America and Israel never meant to go for the two-state solution. I believe that the two-state solution was a trap which, me personally, I fall into it as well. But America enabled it.

Now you can say, don’t put everything on us Americans. Take responsibility, you Israelis. Right? But America cannot not be taken responsible when everything that Israel is doing today is with the total approval of the United States and the total financing of the United States. We have now those discussions. This is really when you hear it, you really don’t believe what you hear. The United States, the leader of the free world, the biggest and only superpower in the world, is now negotiating with Israel about foreign aid, the military assistance for the coming 10 years.

First Israel said no, we think we’ll wait until the next president. This president is not good enough. Then they had second thoughts, because they start to think that Donald Trump might be unexpected. Might be unexpected. So maybe they will do a favor and maybe they are ready to discuss with the Obama regime about the coming 10 years. America is begging for Israel to accept a deal. It was until now $3.4 billion [a year]. And I’m not very good in the details, but America is offering, if I understood well, $4 billion a year for 10 years, $40 billion. Israel wants $5 billion. Israel is ready to compromise on $4.5-$4.3 billion a year. But if you look at the mechanism, if you look at the way it goes, you come again and again to the same question: for God’s sake, who is the superpower between the two? And who is in the pocket of whom here? [Applause]

Now, it’s really not for me to answer, to give an explanation for this. I understand we have Q&A. I would go for Q&A today, me asking you, because I have so many questions to you. How can it be possible? How can it be possible for so many years such a blind and automatic support, a carte blanche to Israel? How can it be that America—who claims to care about Israel, who claims that the existence of Israel is important for it, who claims that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East—how can it be that administration after administration, with very little differences between the administrations, they are always competing, the candidates—who will be more pro-Israeli? And at the same time, they are corrupting Israel.

So even from a point of view of an Israeli patriot, for me, AIPAC is far from a friendly organization to Israel. As a matter of fact, I see AIPAC as one of Israel’s biggest enemies [applause], because when you are drug-addicted and people—I’m afraid I mentioned this also last time, so it’s the second—but only two sentences in the whole speech. But it is so clear that I can’t help but mention it again. A drug addict in your family, a drug addict who is your friend, supplied with more money, he will be so grateful to you. But are you really caring about him? Do you really take care? Do you really love him? Try to send him to a rehabilitation center. He will be so mad at you, but isn’t this real care? Does anyone here have the slightest doubt that Israel is occupation-addicted? Do you have any kind of doubt that this addiction is dangerous, first of all for Israel’s future? The real victims are obviously the Palestinians, and in many ways the entire Middle East.

But by the end of the day, the occupation will end one day, one way or the other. But the occupier, look what happens to the occupier. I would have taken this mission, this congressional mission, and introduce them to some colleagues in the Israeli parliament. Look at the last legislation in the Israeli parliament. Does this meet American values? A book which is being banned because it was describing intermarriage between races. Can you see yourself, a book in the United States being banned because it describes intermarriage between two races? In Israel it happened, with the common values between Americans and Israelis.

Can you see an American president calling the voters on the day of the election to run to the [polls] because the Afro-Americans and the Native Americans or the Hispanic community is running to the [polls]? Can you see it happening? It happened in the last election in Israel. And those are the common values. Can you see an American president after a terror attack made, let’s say, by an Afro-American calling the whole Afro-American community as responsible, speaking every day about the lawlessness of the Afro-American community because of one terrorist, like the Israeli prime minister did a few weeks ago? Can you see it happening? But no, we are talking about the only democracy in the Middle East, and the only democracy in the Middle East has the right to do whatever it wants.

And then, to end up this virtual tour of those congressmen who would never come to listen to me and will never let me take them around, I would end this tour like the Israeli propaganda machinery would start it, in Yad Vashem, in the Holocaust Memorial Museum. I would have taken them because it all started there, because Israel would have never been established without the Holocaust, and it should be remembered absolutely.

But then I would ask my guests who will never come, what is the lesson of it? Never again as Israelis mean it, which means never again in any price to the Jewish people, which gives the Jewish people the right to do whatever they want after the Holocaust, as the late Golda Meir once phrased it. Anything. Or should the lesson be never again to any other people? [Applause]

I believe that most of the American legislators, or at least a big part of them, know the truth. They know what is being done with their money. They know that the IDF, which is based so much on American money, and training and equipment above all, they know very well what is the use of this army. They know very well that the main role of this army, the most moral in the world, is being an occupier force, chasing after children, detaining children, shooting children on a daily basis. They know very well that with all the sophisticated bombs and submarines and air jets that Israel has, maybe the most sophisticated army in the world, by the end of the day it’s all about maintaining this occupation which no country in the world recognizes—even not Micronesia, Israel’s best friend after the United States. They know very well what use is being done and they support it, and they compete now one against the other [for] who will be more pro-Israeli than the other, and American society accepts it.

Wait, wait for the coming days in AIPAC here. Wait to hear. I saw that already Donald Trump declared that he is the biggest friend of Israel. Wait for Hillary Clinton to answer that she is the best friend of Israel. And I can tell you, dear friends, none of them is Israel’s friend. None of them cares about Israel. [Applause] And if this policy will continue, of this automatic and blind support which enables Israel to go wild like never before—Israel never had this freedom to react as it reacts, never. I remember still years in which every new terrorist in the settlement which was built was immediately afraid of what will the Americans say. Now I think Obama is much more fearful of what Netanyahu would say, rather than the opposite way.

So the red light [on the speaker’s podium] is already here, and the red light is shining for so long time in the relationship between the United States and Israel. And let me tell you, the day that there will be an American president who would like really and sincerely to put an end to it, who would really like to put an end to this set of crimes, to this criminal occupation, the occupation will come to its end within months. Within months, Israel will never be able to say no to a decisive American president. I would conclude my lecture by saying, so please vote for him—but who is he?

Thank you very much. [Applause]

Sprusansky: Thanks again for a fabulous speech. As I’m looking at these questions, I think you’re right. These are questions you should be asking us and we shouldn’t be asking you, but nonetheless, I’ll give it a stab. The first question concerns, I guess, the high number of extreme right-wing Israelis and kind of the notion that a lot of congressmen, especially Democratic ones, any time they see a gun-toting American are quick to push for greater gun reform and stuff like that. But they’re pretty lenient in supporting gun-toting American settlers thousands of miles away in Israel. So the question is what do you make of that kind of hypocrisy, I guess.

Levy: Can you repeat? Because I was—

Sprusansky: Sure. Sorry. Just the existence of right-wing Israelis and how the right-wing in the U.S. is often slandered, but not in Israel.

Levy: I would like just a personal sentence, because when I was at the podium a very, very dear friend of mine came in. Maybe the biggest musician who lives today and the great, great, great friend of justice in the Middle East, Mr. Roger Waters. I’m so grateful for him to be with us here. Now we understand why I wasn’t so concentrated on the question, because I realized that Roger is with us. This for me has a very, very deep meaning.

I do believe that the problem in Israel is not the right-wingers and not the extremists. The problem is the mainstream, the mainstream who choose to close its eyes, the mainstream who wants to feel so good about itself, the mainstream who wants to show the beautiful face of Israel, how gay friendly we are, how we invented the cherry tomatoes, how we contributed so much to the international high-tech industry. Look how beautiful we are. We invented the kibbutz. And we have the most moral army in the world. Don’t you dare to think that it can be the second moral army in the world. It’s the most moral army in the world.

Look at us. We are forced by those Arabs to do all those things. It’s not our choice. We are the victims. We live in fear. We live in the trauma of World War II. We live in the trauma of ’48. We live in the trauma of the missiles, and the trauma of the knife-holders, and the trauma of terror. And we are the happiest people in the world, number 11. After all those traumas and all those victimizations, number 11 in the world in happiness standards. Very strange. But in any case, the mainstream who decides to close his eyes, to ignore what’s happening in his backyard, this is the main problem.

And then the right-wingers can do whatever they want. And right-wingers, they find common language with right-wingers anywhere else. You have your right-wingers and we have our right-wingers, and I don’t know which one is worse than whom. But by the end of the day, and you can take it also to your elections, by the end of the day I will always prefer an honest right-winger on a bluff to someone who wears a mask and discusses and claims that he is so liberal and so wonderful, and by the end of the day he does the same.

In the case of Israel, when you look what Labor did and what did the right-wingers do, Labor carries so much more responsibility for the occupation project. Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres did much more for the settlement project and to putting any possible obstacle to reaching any kind of justice in the Middle East than many right-wingers. [Applause]

Sprusansky: A couple of questions on your description of the West Bank as an apartheid system. One person wants to know why you don’t extend that to Israel, given the violence in Jerusalem and other places. The second person would like to know, after all these years of apartheid and occupation, where is the hope?

Levy: First of all, I didn’t say there is hope. Did I say? Did someone hear that I—? You will never find me hopeful. Never. But this is an exaggeration, because there is some kind of hope. I had more hope seven years ago, when Obama came to power. Then I was really hopeful. This was maybe the last time that I was hopeful. But in many lost cases or what seem to be lost cases—like apartheid in South Africa, the communist regime in Soviet Russia, the wall in East Berlin—it all happened within months and nobody had foreseen it. I’m sure, Dale, that if I would have come here in the late ’80s and tell you, oh, this is going to fall within months, you would never invite me again, because this guy is out of his mind. And it happened.

So, first of all, there is room for hope because many times the unexpected does happen, and many times it happens when you don’t expect it to happen. Like those huge trees, we are now in the cherry blossom season, but still you see from time to time a tree lies on the ground. It looks so healthy, so strong. What happened? And then if you look inside it, then you see it was totally rotten. And what is more rotten than the Israeli occupation? [Applause]

But answering the first part of the question about apartheid, I always think that we should be very precise and not exaggerate, because things are bad enough without any exaggeration. Israel contains today three regimes. There is a kind of democracy for its Jewish citizens. There are cracks in this democracy, but still it is a democracy. I may be the best proof. My freedom of speech is until today—and I don’t take it for granted—is totally unlimited.

There is the second regime, which is aimed at the Israeli-Palestinian citizens, who live in a democracy but are discriminated on any possible basis, but still gained formal civil rights. And then comes the third regime in the occupied territories, which can not be defined but as an apartheid regime, when two people share one piece of land and one people has all the rights in the world and the other one has no rights whatsoever. This is apartheid.

And Israel is not yet an apartheid state. Israel has those three regimes, maybe the only country in the world not only without borders, but also with three regimes. It goes toward becoming an apartheid state, because it will not stay there. It doesn’t stay on the occupied territories. But right now I would define Israel according to its three regimes and not one regime.

Sprusansky: We’re running out of time, but I’m going to squeeze in one last—

Levy: I’m ready to spare five minutes of my book signing.

Sprusansky: There we go. There’s a question here about—do you think that Congress people genuinely are ignorant on what’s happening there, or willfully ignorant?

Levy: That’s a question for you. I’m much more concerned how Israeli congressmen are ignorant, how Israeli legislators know nothing, how Israeli young people know nothing. But my guess is that—my guess, I didn’t check it, but my guess is that most of the American legislators know nothing. What they know is usually a product of a brainwashed system, full of lies and prejudice and stereotypes. We know how Muslims in general are treated today in the world and how they are perceived in the world. And Palestinians—I’m not sure there are many Americans I know by far, but there are very few Israelis who perceive the Palestinians as equal human beings. Very, very few. Even those leftists, if you scratch under their skin, you will always find the belief that they’re not exactly human beings like us.

I think that I once wrote that we treat the Palestinians like animals. I got so many complaints and threat letters from animal rights organizations that I have to be very careful. I’m in great favor, obviously, of animal rights, but I think that most of the Israelis do not perceive the Palestinians as equal human beings, and maybe this is the core of the issue.

I believe that this is true also in this country. You know it better than me. And above all, there are so many lies read. You know, when you read the media, the Israeli media and many times also part of the American media, you read it and you can’t believe about how many lies can be spread so easily. How can you fight when you confront such a huge machinery, when basic facts are not only not known but are totally twisted?

And then you can’t blame, by the way, public opinion, because if they get this information, maybe they are right in their conclusions. Maybe with those animals, you can never get to peace. Maybe the Palestinians deserve it. Maybe it’s the Palestinians’ fault. Yeah. If we are in a situation which, when I write about this brother and sister who were killed last Saturday in Gaza, two babies, and if I read then the talkbacks in Israel—at least for the basic journalistic mission just to tell the readers what happened—and you get so much hate or hatred only because you chose to portray two Palestinian innocent poor children as human beings. This is a crime in our country, and I believe that in this way America and Israel are really sharing the same values.

Sprusansky: Just one final question here. I’m combining two questions. Do you believe that Jewish nationalism can continue to safeguard the Jewish people peacefully while accepting human rights and dignity for Palestinians? Also just a question on the role of Palestinians within Israel and what their views are on this.

Levy: So in other words, you give me another two hours, because those are two new lectures. No problem. My flight is leaving only tomorrow evening. I have time.

Look, it’s really two very, very basic and complicated questions. Usually when people say it’s so complicated, I say, listen, the situation is much more simple than you think. It is black and white, and those who always portray this as a very complicated question want to say, “let’s not find the solution because it is so complicated.” Many things are very black and white, and justice is very black and white today between Israel and Palestine. Very, very black and white.

But getting to those two questions, so first of all we have to define if Jewishness is a religion or nationality or both, and what is stronger than what, how we’re dealing with the Jewish people or the Jewish religion, what is Zionism, what is left of Zionism. Many times I’m asked if I’m a Zionist, and I say tell me, define [for] me Zionism. I don’t know what it is. If it means occupation, I’m not only not Zionist, I’m anti-Zionist, obviously, like any man of conscience in the world should be.

But what does it mean to be Jewish today in Israel? The extreme Jewish are not the majority in Israel, but they are the only active group in the society. And when the mainstream is busy with having sushi and buying new Jeeps, the extremists are the only one who are ready to sacrifice something, and then you get what you get here. By the end of the day, this can be changed and I don’t—many times people speak about Jewish values and other things that I never understood what it means. I know what global, universal values means. I don’t know what Jewish values means. If Jewish values is the state of Israel today, it has nothing to do with morality.

In any case, how will [we] live together? Look, we have to change basic, basic beliefs. Nothing will move without changing those very, very basic beliefs. And this, you know, someone has to lead it, and we don’t see anyone who even tries to go for this change. As long as this change will not take place, nothing will change, because as long as Israelis will continue with their racist attitude toward the Palestinians—and that’s the core of the issue—nothing will change. As long as Israel will be as strong as it is and the Palestinians will be as divided and as weak as they are—let’s also [not] forget they are in their weakest point ever.

The world is forgetting them. The world is sick and tired of the whole conflict. The Arab world couldn’t care less about them. I mean, they are really left with some people of conscience in the world, but we know how cheap is conscience and how unappreciated it is. To be a man of conscience today is almost in each society to be a traitor. To be a leftist in Israel is a curse today.

So coming back to the second question about the Israeli-Palestinians, they are really torn between their state and their people. One should be sensitive enough to understand how torn they are between their people and their state. And to anyone who asks them for more faithfulness, for more patriotism toward the state which oppresses their people, again, it doesn’t treat them as normal human beings. Normal human beings care about their people. The Jewish people should be the first one to understand it. What did we do when Russian Jewry couldn’t get out from Soviet Russia? The whole Jewish world was recruited for a campaign against Russia. Can an Israeli-Palestinian not care about his direct cousin who lives half an hour away from his home, who was deported in ’48, who lost his land, who lost his dignity, whose life is really in the garbage?

Let me tell you, and maybe this will be my last sentence because you’re going to kick me out, I truly believe—and this comes back to the original issue, the original topic of today—really, I don’t know how knowledgeable are the American legislators. I know one thing. There’s not one single American legislator who can imagine himself what it means to live as a Palestinian under the occupation, under the Israeli occupation. [Applause] He cannot imagine himself one day of humiliation, of life danger, of daily lack of hope, despair, not having any chance for anything, being humiliated really on a daily basis. This is literally on a daily basis. Not knowing what does it mean to see the beaches which are half an hour away from your home, children who never saw those beaches.

So there is not one single American legislator and very few Israelis, if at all, who can imagine themselves what it means to be today a Palestinian under this brutal occupation. And as long as this is the case, the chances for change are so small.

Therefore, Dale, if you could arrange a delegation of congressmen or any other who would come, I truly believe that once they will experience the occupation, once they will see how brutal it is, how total it is, how it penetrates to children’s room and bedroom on a daily basis, how you don’t have one day of dignity and one day of hope even in peaceful times—and now we’re not in a peaceful time. Once legislators will see it, I give them credit that this will touch them. And maybe this, by itself, is an exaggeration.

Thank you. [Standing ovation]

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