Earlier this week I presented a paper at the Annual Association for Israel Studies conference at UCLA. The panel was entitled, Emotional and Philosophical Motivations in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and its Resolution. My paper, in turn, was “Giving Without Receiving? Justifying Unilateral Territorial Withdrawal in Israeli Politics.” If you are interested in the paper or the presentation materials, please let me know. Check out an abstract after the jump.
With most international attention of late in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the question of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the topic of Gaza has fallen notably to the wayside. This is in part because little has changed there since Operation Cast Lead in December 2008. Abducted Israeli serviceman Gilad Shalit is still held prisoner somewhere in the Strip, Hamas is still the reigning power estranged from the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli maritime blockade (although considerably loosened) is still in place.
Gaza has just today returned to the headlines because of two stories. In the first, the Israeli government-appointed Turkel Commission has completed its internal investigation into the Israeli raid on the activist flotilla which attempted to breach the naval blockade in May 2010. The raid reached its climax when Israeli commandos boarded the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, were attacked by the passengers, and resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish nationals. The Israeli commission found that the raid was legal under international law and the Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense. It also ruled that the Israeli naval blockade has caused a “lack of nutritional stability” rather than starvation and is legal in accordance with international law. The Turkish government has also dismissed the report, claiming it has “no value or credibility.”
My meeting today was with Mossi Raz, an active figure of the Israeli activist left and a former member of Knesset in the Meretz party. The party describes itself as left-wing, Zionist, and social democratic with an emphasis on peace with the Palestinians in the framework of a two-state solution, human rights, religious freedom, and environmentalism. Originally formed in 1992 from the merger of three leftist parties, Meretz has gone through several permutations, names, and changes of fortune at the polls.
In the 2009 elections, Mossi Raz was in the fifth position on the party list joined with HaTnuah HaChadashah (The New Movement) which together received three seats. Now he serves as a national party chair as well as sitting on the board of directors of Shalom Achshav, where he was previously executive director. He also works for All For Peace Radio, a joint Israeli-Palestinian radio station broadcasting in Hebrew, Arabic, and English providing “a message of peace, cooperation, mutual understanding, coexistence and hope.” He is also involved in the Madrid Coalition, a collection of Israeli, Palestinian, and European civil society organizations in support of a multilateral peace agreement along the lines of the Saudi/Arab League Peace Plan.
Today’s posts will be broken into two, both because of the wealth of information I was given yesterday and because of the general unrelatedness of the two organizations with whom I spoke: Shalom Achshav and the Temple Institute.
First thing in the morning, I walked over to HaMoshav HaGermanit (the German Colony) to the Jerusalem Offices of Shalom Achshav to meet with the director of its “Settlement Watch” program, Hagit Ofran. Shalom Achshav, or Peace Now, is a non-governmental organization and activist group in Israel with the agenda of promoting negotiated peace settlements with Israel’s neighboring Arab states and with the Palestinians, generally on the basis of “land for peace.”
Sometimes you work hard for your interviews and sometimes they fall into your lap when you least expect it. Today, a rather big one fell right into mine.
Yesterday, in an optimistic mood, I sent out emails to the chairs and deputy chairs of every political party in the Knesset in the vain hope that I might receive a response. While in the midst of arranging other interviews for the week, I received a phone call from someone speaking to me very quickly in Hebrew. I only got the very general gist; something like asking me if I was Ariel Zellman and if I had time to speak to so-and-so very official sounding.
I struggled for a minute or so trying to figure out with whom I was speaking and was handed off to someone else, who I am fairly certain now is an aid to the Minister for Science and Technology. He asked if I could call back in about 1:30 because the Minister was soon leaving for the United States and would only have time for a very brief interview on the phone. I quickly agreed and then the conversation was over.