Refuting the ‘no Palestinian partner’ narrative

Refuting the ‘no Palestinian partner’ narrative

We need to refute the kind of view expressed by Daniel Gordis in his Jerusalem Post column, ” We Gave Peace a Chance.”  This neocon American oleh expresses a false, pernicious and ultimately defeatist perspective in the guise of “realism.”

Pres. Abbas (aka Abu Mazen)

I will not defend what Hamas and other rejectionists say or do, nor will I defend every alleged statement or action of Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinians who endorse a two-state solution.  For example, I have long stated here (against the view of some colleagues and friends in our dovish pro-Israel camp) that the Palestinians would be better off if they disabused most mainstream Israelis and Jews of their doubts by clearly endorsing the notion of Jewish nationhood.

And the Palestinians should have negotiated early in the partial settlement freeze, just as they should negotiate now — even as I fully understand their distaste for doing so in the face of ongoing construction for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  It simply doesn’t help the Palestinians to appear not to want to negotiate, when it’s really Israel that’s not being serious. 

It is ludicrous to claim that Netanyahu’s government “gave peace a chance” when it clearly prefers expanding settlements and blocking Palestinian sovereignty in Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.  If, as Gordis claims, “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared to Egyptian TV that he would never, in a thousand years, recognize a Jewish state,” this was not good, but he’s insisted for years on the principle of two states, including Israel’s sovereign right to define itself as it will.

It would also help if he could repudiate his despicable 1984 doctoral thesis.  We have this from a January article in the highly respected Times of Israel news website, quoting Abbas from a recent two-hour interview with him on Lebanese television:

“I challenge any of them [the Israelis] to deny the ties between Zionism and Nazism before World War II,” Abbas said, adding that he had 70 unpublished books [on the topic] which he promised to expand upon in a future interview. [I blogged here on the “Transfer Agreement,” nearly three years ago.]
The title of Abbas’s doctoral dissertation, written in the Soviet Union, is “The other side: The secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism.” In it, Abbas claimed that Zionism fabricated the “myth” of six million murdered Jews.

Abbas is colossally wrong in these views, but this bitter echo of history should not be a sticking point against building a better future. And it is a distortion to say that “he still insists on the refugees’ right of return….”  This is not what Ehud Olmert has told us, nor what Bernard Avishai reported on the negotiations that culminated in late 2008 when Olmert chose proceeding to war on Gaza rather than concluding peace negotiations in Washington, DC.  Avishai reported a gap between Olmert and Abbas on this issue, but it was about the relatively small number of refugees to be allowed back (at Israel’s discretion), not that it would be an unlimited right of return.

By | 2013-02-04T16:47:00-05:00 February 4th, 2013|Blog|4 Comments


  1. Anonymous February 8, 2013 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    Somewhat off-topic, but still this is on the subject of Palestinian partners, and working for equality. Here is an interview with Emad Burnat in the LA Times:,0,6108191.story

    I urge you to post on this interview given your previous posts on Guy.

    While Meretz and Partners for Progressive Israel claim to support equality, I note that in the case of 5 Broken Cameras you only posted Guy Davidis views, and ignored Emad’s views:

    Worse, in your comment on the post above you went as far as to call Davidi, the “creative engine for the project,” and said that the “conception of the film was basically his [Daavidi’s].” At the same time you characterized Burnat, who you have never spoken in less lofty terms, “a farmer who was an avid amateur photographer.” The way you wrote it, Emad was just reading the script written by Guy. The worst reading of what you wrote was that Emad the Palestinian lacked the ability to even explain his own life and realities, so Guy the Israeli had to show him how to do it.

    Well, in the LA Times, Emad (who I also do know well) was actually given the chance to comment for himself on his role, in contrast to your efforts to define his role for him (and I would add that your characterization gave Emad even less of a role than my reading of how Guy decsribed Emad’s role).

    Why is this more important than Ralph’s single blogpost on the film, and why here? Because, claiming to support equality, Meretz should understand that Palestinian partners need to be actually asked their views, their views need to be given an airing and respected, as the people suffering under oppression their views should even be prioritized, and the reality that they come from less priveleged backgrounds needs to be taken into account in many ways(yes, Emad raally is a farmer, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid or by implication “primitive.” He’s very, very likely had far fewer opportunities than Guy living his life under military occupation). So rather than highlighting Guy’s word, why doesn’t Meretz emphasize Emad’s, or at least present them? (Also remember that the original blog post called the film Israeli, woops!)

    And the larger implications of this example – how often do you see Palestinian views even presented on this blog? Any Palestinian writers? Long quotes from Palestinians? Posting interviews done by someone else with Palestinians (reminder, Hussein Ibish is not Palestinian.

    On an even broader level, why in Meretz’s quest for equality do we see so few Palestinian voices speaking for Meretz in the political sphere?

    I believe that it is the same mindset that leads Ralph to ignore or at least significantly downplay Emad’s views and role in Guy and Emad’s partnership, to even insult Emad, that leads to almost zero Palestinian voices on this blog, that causes Lilly and friends to scold Hanan Ashrawi when they visit her in Ramallah (really, if you can’t establish a respectful partnership with Hanan Ashrawi, what chance is there you can really work for equality) that leads on the macro level to the lack of Palestinian support for and voices within Meretz as a whole. For the most part, they don’t feel respected, listened to, nor their views taken into account. And there is plenty of evidence to point to that supports that, from the micro level to the macro.

    Why not think about changing things on all levels. Post Emad’s views, post more Palestinian views on this blog. Even post Palestinian views that are challenging to the typical worldview in Meretz. And prioritize significantly more Palestinian representation within Meretz. Working for equality in a real way and achieving it even within Meretz will likley require challenging and altering strongly and long-held views and positions.


  2. Anonymous February 8, 2013 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Hah, I missed yet that Ralph had yet again interviewed Guy as noted in the post above this one. No need to talk to get Emad’s views I guess.


  3. Ralph Seliger February 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    As always I want to thank Ted for his gracious comments. I was inspired by an earlier suggestion of Ted’s that I ask Davidi about my understanding of his working relationship with his co-director, Emad Burnat; Davidi confirmed the fact that he wrote the script and shaped the film, in consultation with Burnat. Perhaps I’ll quote Davidi more extensively in a separate blog post next week (if I allow myself the time).

    In the meantime, Davidi’s upset over the controversy about the film’s nationality. As I quote him in my new article, “films have no nationalities.”

    I was given access to Davidi by the film’s publicists here, nearly a year ago, and so I’ve established an email relationship with him. Burnat was not made available to me at that time. If Ted wants to see this as evidence of anti-Palestinian bias, or of some “Meretz” policy (as if I speak for the Israeli political party), I’m sure that I can’t stop him.

  4. Anonymous February 12, 2013 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    Your response is disingenuous and spin, to put it politely.

    You have no comment on the clearly condescending way you portrayed Emad (Palestinian) relative to Guy (Israeli)?

    You have no interest in providing Emad’s views? Brian Lehrer had him on his WNYC show today, along with Guy. This is his email addres by the way: It’s also simple enough to find by googling.

    Partners for Progressive Israel blog has no interest in addressing the reality that it presents almost zero Palestinian views on its blog – no Palestinian writers, no interviews with Palestinians, almost no quotes from Palestinians. Palestinians are humanized only in a completely abstract sense. If the “Partners” are here, it’s awfully hard to find them.

    Similarly, Meretz, from which Partners for Progresive Israel has spun-off, and which claims to want “equality” has very limited Palestinian membership and appeal

    Sure seems like there is a systematic problem here for groups espousing partnership and equality. Can’t find any Palestinians. Just maybe this systematic gap indicates a fundamental problem in approach?


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