SUNY/Buffalo emeritus professor of political science, Jerome Slater, has apparently learned nothing new regarding Israeli in recent years and Tikkun magazine is mistaken in continuing to showcase his views. Tikkun editor Michael Lerner admits that Slater is one-sided but Lerner contends a need to counterbalance the overly soft treatment of Israel that he sees prevailing in our society.
This was true 40 years ago (pre-1967) but not today. Consider the recent big sellers on Israel: Jimmy Carter and Mearsheimer-Walt (and Tony Judt, in terms of the big splash he’s made among intellectuals). Even most books and articles by liberal Zionists nowadays contain a healthy dose of criticism of Israeli policies (as they should). Few major analysts nowadays are uncritically pro-Israel. The best way to be fair to the legitimate concerns of both peoples is to publish material that is fair-minded toward both.
My critique of a Tikkun article by Slater about two years ago was met with derision and insults from the author when we exchanged emails. Slater’s latest pronouncement again denies that the Yishuv and nascent State of Israel faced a serious threat to survival during the 1948 war – a struggle that cost Palestine’s Jews 6,000 deaths (one percent of their total population at the time), 15,000 wounded, plus control over the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and the kibbutzim of the nearby Etzion Bloc.
The main focus of Slater’s ire here is a retrospective reading of the columns of Thomas Friedman of the NY Times. Why Slater resuscitates the issue of who was more at fault in the breakdown of the peace process in 2000 is beyond me, but assessing blame for 2000 is both complicated and besides the point.
My read is that then Prime Minister Barak, Yasir Arafat and Bill Clinton can all be faulted: I wish that Barak had been more sensitive to Palestinian sensibilities and been willing to go further in his peace proposals, that Arafat had been capable of swallowing his sense of wounded pride and had totally rejected the option of violence which he apparently embraced after their failed summit, and that Bill Clinton had been a more balanced mediator. But Slater denies that Barak made any concrete proposals and that Arafat made no counter-proposals.
Slater admits that Friedman has consistently criticized Israeli settlement policy in the occupied territories. What he can neither forget nor forgive about Friedman is his view that Arafat should have found a way to come to an agreement with Barak rather than opening the door to violence.
The onset of the Intifada and Arafat’s unwillingness to move to shut it down, obscured the fact that negotiations were continuing behind the scenes; the Taba conference in Jan. 2001 might otherwise have ended triumphantly with a workable peace agreement.