The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Finkelstein on the Arab revolts and Israel

From Counterfire:

Mr Finkelstein, looking at the present situation in Gaza and the occupied territories, what hope do you have for a realistic and 'just' peace settlement – even in the next thirty years?

It all depends on whether the people in the Occupied Territories find the inner strength and courage to duplicate what's been done in neighboring Arab-Muslim states. So far Palestinians are just watching, but from conversations I've had they appear to be hopeful. If mass demonstrations break out, Israel might be forced to withdraw to the June 1967 border. Certainly, Israel will have trouble firing on nonviolent demonstrators without looking like Gaddafi.

The present triumphant scenes in Cairo have got a lot of people in Israel worried about the Muslim Brotherhood gaining ascendancy in Egypt. A friend in Israel, a Zionist, told me that the current leadership in Egypt have begun to cut off gas supplies to Israel, an apparent act of "aggression". Do you think the Muslim Brotherhood are a force for good in supporting Palestinians, or are they counter-productive in that they will destabilise the region (to borrow a much-abused term)?

I do not believe that Israel fears the Muslim Brotherhood because it is Muslim. It is just as fearful of a secularist such as el-Baradei coming to power. Israel dreads the prospect that a new government will respect the will of the people and will be committed to preserving the dignity of Egypt. This has always been Israel's biggest fear. Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, frequently said that the biggest disaster for Israel would be if an Arab Ataturk came to power and restored the spirits of the people.

You famously said that in Lebanon 'Hezbollah are the hope' (in terms of standing up to American political influence and Israeli aggression). This elicited much condemnation from the usual quarters. Can you expand on this statement – how do Hezbollah offer 'hope', and to whom?

Hezbollah demands that the ordinary principles of international law be applied to Israel as well. Israel must stop treating neighboring countries as long- or short-term parking lots. It must stop indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure. This is Hezbollah's message and I agree with it. When Ehud Barak recently threatened, "Maybe we'll have to occupy Lebanon again," Sayyed Nasrallah said the next day, "Maybe we''ll have to occupy the northern Galilee." What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

There's a lot more there so read the whole thing. On that last point I think Finkelstein's is too reductive of Hizbullah, which after all did conduct or tacitly back an assassination campaign in Lebanon. Just because its domestic enemies may be objectively pro-Israeli does not mean it should get away with that.