(Israel in the World) Shimon Peres (Obituary by Juan Cole)


This obituary by Juan Cole is interesting. A professor of Middle East History, Cole is a critic of Israel, but by no means an unreasoning one. His words are not nasty, not snarky. They suggest how different and how much more measured and nuanced the discourse about Zionism and against Zionism would be today had Peres been able to secure his vision of a new Middle East, making peace with the Palestinian people and integrating Israel into the larger region. In particular, Cole’s obituary suggests that Israel would not be the object of such widespread animus as it is today after so many years of rightwing rule and annexation under Benjamin Netanyahu, who did so much to demonize Oslo. In these debates, it is forgotten that a little bit of good will and magnanimity goes a long way. You can find the source here at Informed Comment, but I’m printing it in full below.

RIP Shimon Peres: Last Great Israeli leader to believe in 2 State solution

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

I met an emperor once, but have only met a couple of presidents. Shimon Peres (1923-2016) was one. I met him briefly in the Green Room when doing an interview with Charlie Rose.

The Polish-born Peres made his best impression on me with his support for the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995. Had this peace process succeeded, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might have been settled once and for all, with incredibly positive benefits for Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, Israel and the United States. One key argument for terrorism against the US, that it is helping crush the stateless Palestinians, would have evaporated.

I know all the critiques of Oslo– that it essentially made the PLO into a policeman providing security to Israel. But it did also aim to halt and reverse the colonization process on Occupied Palestinian territory, and in my view the Palestinians were more likely to succeed if they had any kind of a state. Peres was willing to give them that. The stateless do not even have the right to have rights.

Make no mistake, Peres was a hard line Israeli nationalist, and had viewed Palestinian nationalism as a dire enemy. He had helped get arms for the Jewish community to prosecute the 1947-48 war, during which Israel won its independence but ethnically cleansed some 740,000 Palestinians. He later served as minister of defense. He played a sinister role in proliferating nuclear arms to Israel.

But he was also a dedicated Socialist and at one point headed the Socialist International, and that stance gave him an appreciation of the need for human rights for all human beings.

After the first Palestinian uprising or Intifada of 1987-1991, he and Yitzhak Rabin became convinced that it was implausible for Israel permanently to annex Palestinian land while keeping Palestinians themselves stateless. Peres was then foreign minister, and it took guts for him to meet with his old enemy, Yasir Arafat, to prepare for a peace process.

I remember an interview Peres gave at that time, in which he ascribed his willingness to try to achieve an epochal change in the stagnant Mideast situation. He said he had read a lot of Buddhist thought, and it came to him that nothing is permanent. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he thought, is ephemeral. It would come to an end. He implied that he concluded that it might as well end sooner than later.

That’s about the coolest thing a sitting politician has ever said.

Again, I’m not naive. He could be paternalistic toward the Palestinians and chauvinist about Israel, and, indeed, pushed Israeli propaganda in the US relentlessly. But it is hard to fault a man for being a dedicated patriot. When push came to shove, he put everything on the line to try to make peace. He was viciously attacked and lambasted as a traitor and a fool by the Israeli right wing, which has now taken complete control of the government.

His friend and colleague, Yitzhak Rabin, who as prime minister signed off on the Oslo Accords, was brutally murdered by the Israeli far Right, and the Israeli Right in general bears responsibility, what with all its talk of treason (traitors are executed, no?). Peres risked the same fate.

Binyamin Netanyahu thought peace with the Palestinians and giving up the West Bank were stupid ideas and he vowed to annihilate the Oslo Accords so as to assure the future of Israeli colonization of Palestinian land. He ran against Peres for the position of prime minister and won. He succeeded in his plot to derail the peace process.

In 2013, when Peres was ceremonial president and Netanyahu was prime minister, Peres broke protocol to criticize Netanyahu for continuing to say he couldn’t make peace because he had no Palestinian partner. He said that he’d known Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas for 30 years and knew that he was a peace partner. There is no Israeli left of any stature who would talk like that today.

Peres was the last decent man to rise high in Israeli politics. His removal from the scene leaves the management of the Israeli government to racists, warmongers, war criminals, ethnic cleansers, militant colonizers, and generally arrogant pricks and insufferable douchebags. They are smartly marching us toward a dangerous blow-up that Peres would have averted if they hadn’t marginalized him.


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Shimon Peres z”l


There is something both remarkable and piteous about the passing of Shimon Peres. It marks the end of old Israel.

Peres was not a sabra. He was born Szymon Perski in 1923 in Vishnev, Poland, and immigrated to British Mandate Palestine with his family in 1934.

About his place of birth I found this at Wikipedia:

“In 1921-39 the town was part of the Second Polish Republic.

The population of Vishnyeva in 1907 numbered 2,650, of which 1,863 were Jews…Most were exterminated by German soldiers during World War II. On August 30, 1942 some 1,100 Jews from the town were killed by the SS., the remaining Jews were taken to the Ghetto in the nearby town of Valozhyn. A Jewish cemetery remains in the town.”


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I’m With Clinton


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Settlement Boycott Statement

Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra, north of Ramallah

Anyone interested in the settlement-boycott statement recently published at the New York Review of books can read it here. I’m of mixed mind. On the one hand, I support the statement. As a “liberal Zionist,” I think the most important part is not so much the boycott itself and the call for political non-recognition of the West Bank settlement project. Technically, this is not “BDS” if one assumes that the settlements are not a part of Israel. On the other hand, it is based on the old occupation and two-state paradigm. If the territories have been de-facto annexed into an effective one-state bi-national entity, then this train has already moved on. That would mean that BDS is effectively pointless, assuming that the settlement project will be that political reality which secures a one-state bi-national future in historcal Palestine. Peronally, I think more, not less attention should be going to supporters of the Israeli and Jewish right promoting the annexation of the West Bank. To sign the letter, here’s the email address: stopsettlements2016@gmail.com

Houses are seen in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra, north of Ramallah


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(Red & White) Churches & Synagogue (Greenpoint)


The other week I stumbled across these red-brick and white brick churches and a synagogue in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. They are well preserved historical structures that are still-functioning religious institutions. The buildings reflect national and religious origins that are Polish, Irish, German, and Jewish. On a clear late summer September afternoon, they are brightly lit by the afternoon sun.

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Tacky & Lurid (Trump & Netanyahu)


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Palestinians & Jews & Israel (Another Interview with Ayman Odeh)


This has nothing to do with Zionism or anti-Zionism, but with something as simple as understanding other people and their “narratives.” Ayman Odeh is the leader of the Joint List, the third largest party in the Knesset. You read something like this interview with him here , published in the mainstream-centrist Times of Israel, and realize that the only way out of this imbroglio between Jews and Arabs in Israel and Palestine is together on the basis of human sympathy and mutual recognition. This requires a more capacious and shared conception of “Israel” than one based on rigid notions of nationalism or flat postcolonial/settler-colonial rubrics.

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