Letter to Uri Avnery

by Abraham Simhony

Dear Uri,

I must admit that writing these word to you doesn’t come easy to me and I am doing so with some trepidation. To me, as I am sure to many peace loving people in Israel and abroad, you have been for more than the last 40 years an inspiration and a reason to keep hoping for a change to the better in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. However, your article of 29th August titled Tutu’s Prayer, seems to me to be based on a number of wrong and incorrect facts and, I must admit, is slightly disappointing in as much as it does not contain a word of criticism of the choir of people from all straits of life, including the President of the Ben Gurion university, who have called for the firing of Dr. Neve Gordon and similar thinking people. To me, the freedom of speech is a basic pillar of a democracy, and if we do not defend this, we may as well forget about a democratic state in Israel!

However, my main point of criticism of your article is what you refer to as “a faulty diagnosis leading to a faulty treatment”. I happen to know the Apartheid South Africa of the 70s and 80s and having lived for a number of years in a neighbouring country and having visited and worked in South Africa, I had the privilege of meeting and discussing the situation with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and with a number of other African (“blacks”) and European (“Whites”) open opposers of the Apartheid regime (After a while, it was not possible for me to visit South Africa, as I was refused an entry visa, as I made my views very known) , and as I also know a little bit about the current situation in Israel/Palestine, I am convinced that you are wrong with this theory. The situation among the “Whites” (albeit a minority of about 10% of the population, but the absolute rulers of the whole country) was very similar to the situation of the Jewish population of Israel. They, in their vast majority, including the so called English speaking “progressive” forces. despised the “non-whites” and did not want to even share a bit of power with them. Any “white” person who dared to quarrel with this mentality was termed “a traitor”, “a communist” and the like. Is the situation in Israel any different? Unfortunately, having visited Israel many times in the last years, I find that most Israelis (some of them the nicest of people) adopt the same attitude towards the Arabs, the Palestinians, whom they cruelly rule. Admittedly, the racial discrimination is on a much more elegant level than the South African Apartheid, but it is there – I know of a couple in Ramat Gan who sold their flat because a mixed couple (A Jewish husband and an Israeli Arab wife) rented a flat above them. Don’t the settlers (the ‘moderate” ones) want to establish Bantustans for the Palestinians, in the same way, as the South Africans planned their Bantustans for the “Blacks”? One could read in the old days all sort of theories why the “black’ tribes are nor really natives of South Africa (it was maintained that the Zulus, Xhotas and other smaller tribes had emigrated from the North some hundreds of years ago), in the same way as quite a few Israelis do not accept the Palestinians as natives of Palestine. So, my dear esteemed friend, your theory of the diagnosis is, to say the least, partly incorrect, and therefore I find that it therefore follows that your attitude towards the suggested treatment, is just as incorrect. I have visited South Africa since majority Rule has been installed and met and discussed the situation with Desmond Tutu and others (I also had the great privilege of meeting and briefly exchange views with the great Nelson Mandela, without whom, there wouldn’t have been such a peaceful transition), and all of them say quite openly, that without the outside interference, without the sanctions, blockade and moral isolation of the “white regime”, tragic developments would have taken place in South Africa.

I do agree with you that there are differences between the South African situation and the Israel/Palestinian one, but, unfortunately, I am not as optimistic as you. The latest developments in Israel, you have indicated some in your articles, go in the direction of more hatred, more prejudice, less tolerance and more inhuman cruelty towards Arabs and those who think differently. I can not share your views that most Israelis will accept a “comprehensive and detailed Peace plan” by President Obama. Even his demand that Israel freeze its illegal settlements met with a hateful reaction, and from my conversation with some “moderate and progressive” Israelis, I gain the impression that they would rather have the neo-con awful President Bush to the liberal President Obama, who dared to make a reasonable suggestion. What would their reaction to a Peace Plan, which undoubtedly would be very similar to the Saudi Plan (otherwise it wouldn’t stand a single chance, even with the most moderate Arab regime) be?Iwish I could share your optimistic view, but in spite of all ones wishes and dreams, one has to remain a realist, to have a slight chance of success!

I do not believe that an utter boycott and complete sanctions should be initiated. I am a of the view that the Solana plan, calling for a Security Council’s decided and supervised process and time table, for the establishment of two states insecure and peaceful borders, with an international force supervising the process, is the solution. Only if Israel does not comply, the world community will have no choice, but to impose a solution, if by no other way, then by sanctions! I strongly believe that this would be in the interest of Israel and its future as a peaceful democratic society.

Uri, I have not sent this letter to anybody else and I would like to leave it to you to decide if it should be published.

As always with my best wishes,


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