Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shimon Peres on Zionism, the "one-state solution", and hope

Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with Shimon Peres is well worth reading for a number of reasons. Here are three excerpts:

from Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic: Shimon Peres on Iran: Overreaction Is Better Than Underreaction

Zionism started, in fact, at the Dreyfus trial, 100 years ago. And in the Dreyfus trial you had Herzl as a journalist. You had two different reactions to Dreyfus. Jewish journalists asked questions: "Why is that? Why are they hating the Jewish people? What are the reasons?" And there were two different answers: One is, the world is wrong, the other is the Jews are wrong. The ones that say the world was wrong became Communists or revolutionaries. They said, we have to change the world to one without nations, without classes, without religion. They say if there won't be those differences, the Jews won't be different. The others said: "There's not a chance to change to the world. The right thing we have to do is change ourselves." They became Zionists. Let's go back to our land, let's return to our history. Let's go to normalcy. And this is the real lessons of Jewish history in the last 100 years.

In connection with this blog, I spend far too much time reading the sort of anti-Israel propaganda that conflates Zionism (frequently a code-word for Jews) with a variety of real or imagined ideologies or interests which share a common feature: a desire for a one-world government. (Is Zionism the only national movement condemned for being excessively nationalist and anti-nationalist?) As Peres so clearly articulates, Zionism at its core is really an ideological opposite to radical anti-nationalism.

With respect to the so-called "one-state solution" being pushed on the left by Tony Judt, Rashid Khalidi and others, Peres points out that the name is misleading:

There is not a one-state solution; there is only one-state conflict instead of two-people conflict. Look, you have a conflict in Iraq; it's one state. You have a conflict in Lebanon; it's one state. You have a conflict in Sudan; it's one state. Who says that one state puts an end to the conflict? On the contrary, it makes it more dangerous. You have one state in Pakistan. You have one state in Afghanistan.

On his hopes for the future, Peres says:

You know, there is an Arab poet that I admire very much, Nizar Qabbani. He said, "The time has come for the Arabs to get rid of the yoke of imperialism. Thousands of years we live under the imperialism of words. We are victims of our words." So I wouldn't understand the Arab position by words alone. So I think, to be fair, I wouldn't judge everything said as though it is everything they think. I think many of them are sick and tired of war, of backwardness, of stagnation. I think there is a young generation, that watches television -- even their television -- and they see there is a different world.

You know, today, we have in Israel close to 1.1 million Arab citizens. Sixty thousand of them are university graduates. Where are they? Many of them are doctors. There is no hospital today in Israel that doesn't have Arab doctors and Arab nurses. Now look, an Israeli who would be reluctant to employ an Arab is not reluctant to enter the hospital, to lay on the bed and an Arab doctor will come with his knife and open his stomach. And he'll say, "Thank you." My hope is that what happens in a hospital with sick people will happen in the land with healthy people.

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