The passionate views of Ami Isseroff, Z”L

The passionate views of Ami Isseroff, Z”L

Ami Isseroff (2nd from right) with wife and children to his left

The tireless blogger and commentator, Ami Isseroff, passed away on June 29, 2011, at the age of 65.  He made aliyah from the US as a member of the Hashomer Hatzair youth movement and remained in Israel for most of his life, working as a science and technical writer, computer programmer and news analyst from his home in Rehovot.

He was a passionate voice for socialist Zionism and for peace, but he also became increasingly embittered and distrustful in his final years.  And he was often too caustic in discussing political events to win him many friends. 

Still, he raised a loving family, including three children, and drew the respect of his chaverim in the “ShomerNet” online discussion group. And he focused attention on Muslims who advocated peace with Israel.  He also championed the West Bank Hope Flowers School, which pioneered the teaching of peaceful co-existence with Israel and Jews.
At a certain point, his views went beyond our usual range of opinions included in this blog and in our recently discontinued print publication, Israel Horizons. To me, Ami’s alienation from the pro-Israel left reflects the vexing nature of the seemingly endless challenges and complications in the struggle for Israel’s peace and security, especially in the wake of the second Intifada and the Hamas takeover in Gaza.  The following are posts in this blog that link to his writings up until that point, over two years ago–often including my dissenting notes on his sour tone:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April fools

My understanding is that Prime Minister Netanyahu (ooh, that is painful to write) has something like 30 ministers in his new coalition cabinet (out of 120 Members of Knesset), a record. Ami Isseroff has written a delicious April Fools Day spoof, entitled “Israelis without posts to sue Netanyahu government.” Isseroff includes a lengthy riff on Avigdor Lieberman as the new foreign minister, but, unfortunately, that’s no joke.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Renewed carnage, ongoing quagmire?

We of the pro-peace/pro-Israel camp again face anguished days with news of the current wave of IDF attacks on Gaza. We have to wait for the smoke to clear to see if the vast majority of casualties are armed Hamas elements (which seems to be the case). I hope that I’m wrong, but my instincts, plus the history of the conflict, tell me that the severity of these blows will only create more hatred and more violence in the long run.

The tireless Israeli blogger, Ami Isseroff, has grown so embittered over the years that it’s hard to classify him politically. In this recent post, while totally supporting the justice of Israel’s offensive, he then questions its wisdom:

… After every other solution failed, one would like to hope that the military solution would succeed. But we should not confuse our wishes with reality. Didn’t Israel pound Gaza continuously in 2006 after the abduction of Gilad Shalit? And what good did that do? Didn’t Israel pound Lebanese targets in the Second Lebanon War? Did it oust the Hezbollah?

Short of Israel retaking Gaza in what would no doubt be a blood bath, what can be the outcome of this attack beyond Hamas remaining somehow intact and declaring “victory”? Israeli officials are a bit more cautious with their pronouncements than they were in the disastrous Second Lebanon War. Still, before the attack, Israel GOC Southern Command Yoav Galant said that an IDF attack would try to “send Gaza decades into the past” in terms of weapons capabilities. Since Israel held the Gaza strip until 2005, it is impossible to understand what Galant thought he was talking about.

Can there be much doubt about the outcome of the Israeli attack? The scripting of a tragedy cannot allow for a happy end. …


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gaza Breakout

One would have the heart of a stone not to feel for the thousands of Gaza Palestinians who broke through the border barriers with Egypt at Rafah to buy goods and breathe the air outside their imprisoned enclave. …

…. Nevertheless, as we are reminded by Ami Isseroff in his posting of Jan. 23, “Gaza Gimmix,” the severity of Israel’s siege of Gaza is a response to the almost constant attacks against southern Israel and other manifestations of the Hamas regime’s violent intent toward the people of Israel and its internationally-recognized borders. As Isseroff points out:

Hamas originally came to power in “democratic” but basically illegal Palestinian elections. The elections were illegal because under the Oslo accords that were the enabling document[s] for the elections, Hamas, which does not recognize the right of Israel to exist and insists on violence, should not have been allowed to participate in elections to a government that is supposed to negotiate peace with Israel.

I recall Meretz party leader Yossi Beilin making the same observation, even though he very much wants a cease-fire arranged with Hamas. Still, I think that Isseroff is unnecessarily caustic and hard-hearted in referring to the Gaza “crisis” and “siege” in quotes, as if there is no humanitarian crisis there and no siege. This is all problematic, but unlike how the peace demonstrators see things, Isseroff and I are in agreement that Hamas is a large part of the problem.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Isseroff on alternatives to two states

Ami Isseroff, an alumnus of Hashomer Hatzair in the US, who blogs from his home in Rehovot, Israel, is a partisan of a negotiated two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Toward this end, he is acerbic, even off-putting, in his passionate expression of inconvenient truths and of opinions that fearlessly defy the conventions of political correctness. I see him as often more provocative in his pronouncements than he needs to be. Still, I feel a certain kinship because I too am not PC in my views and do not conform to popular stereotypes.

It is possible that the following article is in part inspired by our recent private email exchange, in which I suggested that Ami write specifically about Jewish neighborhoods and communities that were lost to Arab attacks in the 1948 war. Characteristically, in the emails, he was finding things to argue with me about, even though we disagree on little. This pugnaciousness may come from the frustrations of decades of trying to get Jews, Arabs and others to embrace more reasonable and humane positions.

Is there an alternative to the two state solution?
Historically, several solutions have been proposed for resolving the Arab-Jewish conflict in the land of Israel (AKA Palestine). Each one has taken into account demographic considerations and no doubt each has been politically motivated: Zionist policy was to obtain a state that is primarily Jewish and democratic. A Jewish majority would be ensured by immigration of Jews from abroad. This entailed a partition of the land into Jewish and Arab states, or a Jewish state and areas controlled by Jordan and Egypt.

Following World War II, this became a necessity even without taking into account Arab nationalist claims, because the loss of six million Jews in the Holocaust meant that there could not be enough Jewish immigrants to maintain a decisive majority in all of the land West of the Jordan river. It soon became apparent as well, that explosive Arab population growth and perhaps significant immigration would eventually create an Arab majority between the (Jordan) river and the sea.

The Grand Mufti and the Arab states wanted to obtain a state in all of the land. That state would be Arab because all the Jews would be expelled or exterminated, or at least, Jewish immigration would be ended. To this end, the Mufti had apparently planned to build a death camp near Nablus.

The fact is, that not one Jew remained in the areas taken over by Arab armies in 1948. In Gush Etzion over 100 were massacred and the rest “permitted” to leave. In Hebron, no Jews remained. In the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, Jews were ethnically cleansed by the Transjordan [Arab] Legion – conducted out of the Jewish Quarter by force.

Likewise, small Jewish communities around Jerusalem such as Atarot, Neve Yaakov and the Ophel (Silwan) had to be abandoned, as well as others like Kfar Darom in the south. Those who talk about “Arab” Jerusalem should remember that before 1948 substantial numbers of Jews lived in East Jerusalem. “Arab” Jerusalem existed for only 19 years and it was enforced by racist ethnic cleansing and racist immigration and land purchase policies.

The one state solution has never been abandoned by the Arab side. With the addition of millions of refugees who claim “right of return,” they reckon that they would have a majority in this state very soon. Faced with the prospect of losing the West Bank, some extremist Jews (not all Zionist, perhaps) have also taken up the cause of the “one state solution”. This would involve annexing the West Bank to Israel. … Click here to read his entire piece online.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Scurrilous attacks on Sari Nusseibeh

My thanks to David Hirsh of the British Engage Online Website (which battles academic boycotts of Israel) and Ami Isseroff of Mideast Web for dissecting the right-wing attacks on Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian peace activist who heads Al-Quds University in East Jerusalem. 

Keep in mind that Nusseibeh has campaigned vigorously and courageously for a two-state solution, even in refugee camps, insisting that the Palestinians must give up on the “right of return” to what is now Israel. He’s also been outspoken in opposing academic boycotts of Israel. If you just read the beginning of Isseroff’s piece (below), you might believe the attacks against him, so please go on to read both Isseroff and Hirsh in their entirety (including Nusseibeh’s response):

.Link to Mideast Web ….


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Of Arms and Iran

Today’s posting is more about questions than answers. I’m linking to Ami Isseroff’s post about the Iranian nuclear issue. While asserting little one way or the other, Ami raises questions about the reliability of the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) released the other day, which concluded with “high confidence” that Iran halted its effort to develop a nuclear weapon in 2003— likely in response to aggressive US actions against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. …


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Present for Peace at Annapolis, Part 1

Meretz USA’s president Lawrence I. Lerner, executive director Charney Bromberg, past president Lilly Rivlin, board member Shirley Rausher, and Ralph Seliger joined with staff and activists of the Union of Progressive Zionists, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, Ameinu, Hashomer Hatzair and Habonim-Dror to rally for peace in Annapolis, Maryland. Charney Bromberg was among those who addressed the rally jointly sponsored by this coalition of pro-Israel peace groups at St. Anne’s Church in downtown Annapolis, across from the Maryland governor’s official residence.

Other speakers included two friends from Israel, Mossi Raz, a former Meretz Member of Knesset and director of Israel’s Peace Now, and Gavri Bargil, co-director of Israel’s Kibbutz Movement and a former Shaliach (Zionist emissary) headquartered in New York. In attendance, cheering us on, was Nidal Fuqaha, a Ramallah-based Palestinian who is executive director of the Geneva Initiative.

…. Click here for a thumbs-down view of the conference from the ever-skeptical Ami Isseroff
but he usefully includes the joint statement signed onto by Israel and the PLO, pledging “vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and … every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.” …


Friday, November 16, 2007

J. Zel Lurie: Israel — Jewish people’s national home

Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. The underlying basis of Zionism, from Theodor Herzl to Ariel Sharon, is self-determination for the Jewish people.

The Jewish people in Tel Aviv today includes atheists, agnostics, scientologists, Buddhists, Samaritans, Karaites, Christians who have a Jewish grandparent and just plain secular Jews who happen to be a majority.

To call Israel a “Jewish state” is misleading. A Jewish state would be a state based on the Jewish religion.*

*Note disagreement between Zel Lurie and Ami Isseroff on Erekat’s rejection of “Jewish state” concept. I see the “Jewish state” term as ambiguous and would refer to a Jewish religious state as “Judaic” or a Torah state. Isseroff believes that Erekat is denying the concept of Jewish peoplehood by defining Jews as only a religious group. What do you think?


Monday, May 14, 2007

Arab peace initiative: Hopes & concerns

…. I invite readers to go online to read two articles at the Mideast Web site for an important discussion on the Arab League peace initiative by Walid Salem and Ami Isseroff. …

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Isseroff on ‘Israel Lobby’

…. Our prolific friend, Ami Isseroff, has notified us of this piece with word that it’s “timely both for Six Day War anniversary coming up and for the Israel Lobby issue.”

There is good material on Senator Fulbright’s anti-Israel and anti-Jewish animus, but it goes on a bit long and is weakened in my view by Ami’s caustic style. Still, it’s worth a look.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Peace initiative(s) vs. confrontation

Passover ends tonight, but perhaps I seemed holier than thou by pledging a break until the yom tov was officially over. Although less hopeful than we tend to be at Meretz USA, Ami Isseroff still makes good sense in his argument for Israel to respond constructively to the Saudi/Arab League peace initiative. An abridged version follows; it can be read in its entirety, along with its embedded Web links, online at his Mideast site:

The Arab peace initiative, renewed at the recent Arab summit, has created the expected confusion in Israel. The doves, predictably, insist that Israel must seize the opportunity. The Arab side has come a long way since the “three nos” of the Khartoum conference, and offers peace, as hardnosed Zeev Schiff notes. The offer cannot be dismissed easily. Even if it is a bad offer, the admission that Israel has the right to exist and that there could be peace in principle establishes a precedent, a change in the culture of the conflict, and it must not be ignored. From Israel’s point of view, it is a giant step forward that should be amplified and bolstered in any way possible.

The Israeli government, for its part, sniffs and pokes at the peace initiative like a dog who is not too hungry and has been offered some strange food. Dennis Ross is probably right that neither Olmert nor Abbas are strong enough to make peace, and that in itself tells us something about the current mentality of Israelis and Palestinians….

The antipathy to peace is due to cultural and geopolitical realities that cannot be dismissed. No peace plan can succeed as long people do not really want peace, because the demands and requirements that they make are designed to prevent peace, and if those are met, they will find new ones: [for example] It is “absolutely necessary” to have a settlement in Ariel, because having the settlement in Ariel will prevent the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. [Or] It is “essential” to get return of the Palestinian refugees to Israel, because return of the refugees to Israel will destroy the Jewish state….

The novelty of the Saudi peace plan is that a major Middle East player has made a bid for leadership based on peace, and not on the politics of confrontation….

There are indications indeed that the plan is just a device, a gimmick, that is not intended to be pursued seriously….

In a news conference following the Arab League Summit, Prince Saud declared that there was nothing in effect, for Israel to negotiate with most Arab countries. Israel should first meet all the terms of the Syrians, Palestinians and Lebanese, and then the Arab countries would make peace, at an unspecified date. Perhaps they would, and perhaps they would not. However, it is clear that Prince Saud is not stupid, and that he understands that Israel would not make sweeping concessions of the type demanded in the initiative unless there was absolute certainty that Israel will get peace from the Arabs in return. Moreover, the Arabs rejected PM Olmert’s offer to meet and did not make a counter offer, so apparently they are not as anxious to make peace as to talk about making peace.

The terms of the initiative in their worst interpretation are certainly unacceptable to Israel, but Israel cannot afford to stand by and do nothing. Gimmick or not, the initiative is a very effective weapon in the diplomatic war that Arab countries have been waging against Israel. Whining that the initiative is not serious and ignoring it will not suffice.

…. Israel must craft a public peace plan of its own and put it on the table to compete with the Arab Peace Initiative. This plan should reflect national consensus, and must be generous enough to get the backing of the European Union and the United States. For the Palestinians, it can be modeled on the Clinton Bridging Proposals or the Geneva Initiative or the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan. These are the plans that all the experts point to as the only possible shape of a peace solution: “two states for two peoples” and territorial compromise. None of these plans contemplate full withdrawal or massive return of Palestinian Arab refugees. All of them would give both sides peace with security, if they are carried out as agreed. All of them would safeguard Israeli rights in Jerusalem and other holy places to a greater or lesser extent, as well as allowing for Arab rights. Therefore, these plans can have a greater appeal to the international community than the Arab peace plan.

…. Even if no peace agreement is reached immediately, it helps to legitimize two very important ideas that must be the basis of any future peace. On the Arab side, there must be an understanding that Israel is here to stay and that recognizing Israel and the rights of Jews is no longer a cultural taboo. On the Israeli side, there must be a realization that it is, after all, possible to make peace and desirable to do so. Once both sides agree on both points, most of the solution is in hand.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Isseroff’s ‘gentle’ artistry as reviewer

Ami Isseroff is usually too feisty and negative for his own good, but he’s also well-intended and often on the mark. Both of these qualities seem on display in the following review published on his Mideast Web site (Jan. 21):

Bridging the Divide: Peacebuilding in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Edy Kaufman, Walid Salem and Juliette Verhoeven, editors, Lynne Reinner, publisher, 2006.

If you are interested in peace or dialogue in the Middle East, Bridging the Divide is a must read. The title alone redeems this work. The authors’ hearts are in the right place. The title makes it a much better book than Jimmy Carter’s best-selling scribblings about Israeli “Apartheid”….
You won’t buy a book because of its title, but the first chapter, by Edy Kaufman and Walid Salem, which chronicles the long history of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue efforts, is an essential resource. The only problem with it is that there is not enough of it. One would like to see a more detailed discussion of dialogue efforts that have been going on abroad as well, and a systematic discussion of various “Track II diplomacy” meetings that are mentioned in passing in various places in the book — and others that were not mentioned. There are also important chapters by Tamar Hermann, a frank and perceptive joint chapter on Palestinian-Israeli activities by Mohammed Dajani and Gershon Baskin, and informative chapter by Menachem Klein and Riad Malki on Track II diplomacy that you won’t want to miss, as well as other treats. … Click here for Isseroff’s complete review article.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

‘Resistance’: Moral or Murder?

The following is from Ami Isseroff’s posted article of March 13, 2007:

One of the key issues on the table between Israel and the Palestinians is the so-called “right of resistance.” Quartet and Israeli conditions for recognition of the Palestinian government include an end to violence, while Palestinians continually uphold the “right of resistance,” which is a major principle of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Letter. In practice, resistance always seems to include suicide attacks, shootouts and rocket attacks on civilians. Intentional attacks against civilians are crimes against humanity and cannot and should not be tolerated by the international community, nor should they be justified by “peace” groups….

March 9, 2007 – I was discussing with a friend the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian (or more generally, Jewish-Arab) dialogue. She sent me an article, entitled “Palestinians Debate ‘Polite’ Resistance to Occupation.” It reports widespread distrust within the Palestinian community in any notion of a non-violent intifada. A member of Hamas put it like this: “Nothing can be achieved through resisting the occupation in a polite way.”

….Non-violent resistance – Of course, nobody can deny the right of people to protest an injustice. If there were hundreds of thousands of Palestinians peacefully demonstrating for their own state and for peace it would be an effective and moral act. That doesn’t mean that all non-violent actions are good and moral. What would you think of a non-violent demonstration in support of apartheid or the “rights” of child-molesters?

…. Resistance against an occupation army is permitted by international law. Nobody would claim that the acts of the French Maquis or Russian or Polish or Jewish partisans against the Nazis were wrong, or that resistance to German occupation in World War I was not a moral act. However, if the representatives of the occupied people have an agreement with the occupier, it is questionable whether they can subvert that agreement by claiming the right to “resistance.”

Murder of civilians – Suicide bombings, rocket attacks and other violence directed against civilians is just plain wrong, whether they occur in Iraq or in Israel. They cannot be justified as “resistance.”

Click here for the entire article online at MidEastWeb for Coexistence.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Post-Mecca Blues

Sunday’s meeting between US Secretary of State Rice and Palestinian Abbas was covered in a surprisingly upbeat vein by the NY Times:

Ms. Rice made clear that she was willing to begin work on a peace deal with him even if the United States boycotted a unity government. That might allow Mr. Abbas, as the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to hold talks with Israel even if a new Palestinian unity government did not recognize Israel or renounce violence, two conditions that Israel and the United States have both demanded.Mr. Abbas’s aides were buoyant after the meeting. “We’re encouraged,” one Palestinian official said.

But the Mecca unity government agreement between Hamas and Fatah, which does not explicitly renounce violence and endorse the two-state solution, casts a pall on ongoing efforts toward peace. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert pledged at today’s summit with Abbas and Rice to maintain contact with Abbas even while continuing to boycott the Hamas-led Palestinian government; there is some but scant hope in this. The only way forward at this moment is for Israel and the US to negotiate with Abbas while largely ignoring Hamas, but sadly, real progress seems unlikely under these circumstances. I would, nevertheless, hope against hope for this course of working with Abbas and ignoring Hamas.

I often find Ami Isseroff overly harsh, but his analysis, “Palestinian unity: Ominous signs,” at the Mideast Peace Web site seems to be basically on target.

By | 2011-07-21T13:42:00-04:00 July 21st, 2011|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. modernity July 24, 2011 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    I dealt with him often.

    I found him helpful and forthright in his views, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Leave A Comment