|Israel Resource Review
||21st September, 2000
Asking President Clinton to recall US ambassador Martin Indyk
MK Dr. Uzi Landau
I wish to take the unusual step of asking the President of the United
States, The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton, to recall the current US
Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Martin Indyk.
That is because Mr. Indyk has taken the unusual step of interfering with
the internal affairs of the state of Israel, while making statements that
have been highly inappropriate.
In Mr. Indyk's recent prepared remarks that were delivered at the Hebrew
Union College in Jerusalem on September 16, 2000, the US ambassador made
the tendentious statement that "There is no solution but to share the holy
city...and cannot be the exclusive preserve of one religion".
Commenting on Indyk's remarks, the Guardian correspondent described them
as "sharp departure from Washington orthodoxy in recent years".
And where did Indyk get praise for such remarks?
For one, from a leading Washington-based Arab lobbyist, as quoted in by the
Guardian, who declared that "we are pleased to hear in public what we have
been hearing privately for many years from the US administration".
Indyk also stepped over a clear red line when he meddled in the sensitive
internal religious affairs in Israel, by expressing support for the
"secularist revolution" that Israeli Prime Minister has recently been
floating in the Knesset, an idea which is now in the heart of Israel's
INTERNAL public debate.
The US amabssador's intervention in such an internal matter led a leading
liberal commentator for HaAretz, Akiva Eldar, to express his surprise that
Indyk had interfered with what is clearly an internal Israeli matter,
asking that one can "imagine what American citizens would say if the
Israeli ambassador to Washington were to come to a local religious
institution and say such things".
Just imagine the American outcry that would portend if Israeli officials
were to express their feelings concerning American church-state
I believe that I speak for a consensus of public opinion in Israel when I
take issue with such interference in the democratic process of the state of
Ambassador Indyk's remarks about Jerusalem remain an affront to Israel,
particularly since he made them in the heart of the city that he aspires to
It is likewise inexplicable that a foreign ambassador to Israel would
choose to interject his private religious preferences into the debate over
secular-religious tensions in Israel.
This is not the first time that US Ambassador Indyk has interfered in the
internal affairs of our country: Last January, immediately following
Indyk's return to Tel Aviv, the US embassy began to lobby Israeli Arab
leaders regarding a possible referendum on the Golan Heights.
Mr. Indyk has neglected a vital role that he could have played to forward
the peace process, since the US plays a formal, key role as the designated
chair of the US-ISRAELI-PLO incitement monitoring committee that was set up
by the US following the Wye Accords.
Mr. Indyk's predecessor, Mr. Ned Walker, made every effort to energize this
committee. For whatever reason, the current US ambassador has for whatever
reason seen to it that this vital organ of the peace process has stopped
As a result, the daily incitement to war in the official Palestinian media
has gone unchecked, without any response whatsoever from the US ambassador.
The Palestinian Authority has issued new school books that relate to Israel
as if it does not exist. "Palestine" covers all of Israel on the official Palestinian maps. The name
of Israel is not even mentioned. Meanwhile, Israeli cities such as JAffa and Haifa are described as Palestinian cities.
This is Palestinian education that is designed to eternalize the
confrontation, and to prepare the future generations of Palestinian
children for conflicts in the future, not for peace or coexistence.
All this has gone unchecked, and, surprisingly, without any response from the US ambassador.
It was the task of the US embassy in Tel Aviv to monitor and respond to such incitement.
Yet the current US ambassador chose not to carry out this vital task ole.
As the former chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee
and the current chairman of the nonpartisan Knesset state control committes
(the equivalent of the governmental affairs committees in western
parliaments and the US Congress) I have been a consistent advocate of
stronger ties between the US and Israel.
The time has come to repair the damage that has been done to this special
relationship between our peoples by seeing to it our diplomats respect the
internal affairs of our respective nations.
The writer is the Chairman, of the Knesset government control committee and the former chairman of the Kneset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee
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The "right of return": the PLO negotiating position that stalls the process
The most significant decision of the Sept. 13th PLO central committee was
barely reported: The absolute and uncompromising Palestinian position
that every refugee who left Palestine in 1948 should have the "inalienable
right" to return to the 531 Arab villages that they left at the time.
(That would mean, for example, that the campus of Tel Aviv University,
built on the razed Arab village of Sheikh Muawannis, would revert to the
descendents of that Arab village)
In coordination with that PLO decision, Palestinian support groups around
the world have designated Sept. 16th, 2000 as a day to support the
Palestinian demand for the "right of return".
What a contrast that is to those days in September, 1993, exactly seven
years ago, when a different decaration of principles for peace and
recognotion was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister of Israel, and
Yassir Arafat, the leader of the PLO, and witnessed by Jorgen Holst,
the Foreign Minister of Norway, which established a self-ruling Palestinian
Arab entity in the predominantly Arab populated areas of the west bank and
Gaz, while leaving the more difficult issues such as the Arab refugees who
have wallowed in United Nations refugee camps since 1948 to be resolved
during seven years that were set aside for a dynamic and complex
Exactly seven years after the genesis of a middle east peace process of
hope, the negotiations have ground to a halt over the issue of these Arab
Over the past two weeks, I had occasion to hear, and then see, the
Palestinian Authority's pursuit of the issue of the "right of return" as
their primary issue of concern in this, the final stages of the Oslo
On September 8, 2000 I attended a meeting at PLO's Orient House in
Jerusalem, at which the strategy of the PA with regard to the right of
return and the compensation claim were clarified. I met with Khalil
Tafakji, the Director of the Arab Studies Society. Mr. Tafakji is
director of a project to computerize the land records of Jerusalem and its
environs, cross-referencing the property records with the ownership claims
of the refugees. The project will be completed within three months. He
apologized for meeting with me on a Friday, since this was his Sabbath.
However, he explained, the computers have to function 24 hours a day, seven
days a week. When the project is completed, the PA will have records that
will show the present owner or user of each parcel in Jerusalem and the
Arab owner of each parcel prior to 1948. Tafakji notes that this is the
first step in preparing a legal claim for return of the properties or
claims for damages for the value of the properties.
Tafakji noted that similar projects are being planned for other parts of
Israel with regard to properties to which Arab refugees will make claims.
It should be noted that the Arab refugees in the UNRWA camps dwell
according to the precise neighborhoods and villages that they lived in
1948, while UNRWA workers, whose salaries are paid for by the UNRWA donor
countries, encourage UNRWA residents to make claims for their properties
from before 1948. Meanwhile, UNRWA now organizes daily bus trips, for UNRWA
camp residents to see the homes and neighborhoods that they will soon be
claiming for themselves, in places such as Canada Park, the Tel Aviv
University campus, and Ben Gurion International Airport.
The theory of the PA is similar to that of the Jewish claims against
Germany, Austria and countries to which Jewish assets were sold or
transferred by the Germans and their allies. It is also similar to the
claims against Switzerland and other countries that benefited from the
deaths of Jewish property owners whose assets were confiscated after their
deaths at the hands of the Nazis.
The implications of the PA strategy are clear. It is entirely possible
that a court, such as the World Court in The Hague, will give these claims
a sympathetic hearing and order properties returned to their pre-1948
owners. In the alternative, the Court could order that the previous owners
be paid fair value for their property together with interest from the time
the properties were seized. Israel will have to show that the properties
were voluntarily abandoned, which may be an impossible task. The result
could be hundreds of billions of Dollars in damages, or, even worse, an
order to evict the present owners and return the property to the claimants.
Given the respect that Israeli jurisprudence gives to international law,
the possibility exists that Israeli courts would give full faith and credit
to an order of the World Court.
The Palestinian Authority's determination to push the
"right of return" issue was confirmed by Israel Member of Knesset, MK Dan
Meridor, who serves as the security-sensitive chairman of Knesset Foreign
Affairs and Security Committee. Meridor, who served as the cabinet
secretary when Prime Minister Menachem Begin negotiated the Camp David
agreement with Egypt in 1978, also played a key role in Prime Minister
Ehud Barak's delegation at the Camp David summit. Meridor participated in
meetings on all core issues addressed at the summit, especially the
subcommittee that dealt with the "Right of Return" and that of compensation
demands for the returnees.
Meridor told me that that the consistent position of the PA
summit, a position that has not changed as a result of the summit, remains
that 3.6 million Palestinians have the absolute right to exercise their
right to return to their homes and villages in Israel.
Meridor specifically mentioned that the PA asserts that these persons have
the same rights as Holocaust survivors and the refugees who were displaced
in Serbia and Kosovo¦ to be repatriated to their homes and to recover their
property, even if we are relating to a period of fifty two years. The PA
asserts that these refugees may, at their option, return to their homes, or
receive compensation for the loss of their property and their suffering.
As Meridor related it, the Israeli delegation at the Camp David had
assumed that that the PA's position was an opening negotiation gambit, even
though the PA has emphasized this position throughout the seven years of
the Oslo process.
After 40 hours of negotiations, Meridor reported that the Israelis are
convinced that the Palestinian position is no mere negotiation strategy.
On the issue of compensation, the PA demanded that Israel provide it with
property records so that the present owners and uses of the property of the
refugees could be determined. In this manner the PA intends to arrive at a
valuation of its compensation claim against Israel in respect of the
displaced property owners.. Meridor felt that the PA could be preparing
for the filing of legal claims against Israel and the present owners or
users of the property to which the refugees claim ownership.
It is important to note however, that as Israel negotiates the final status
issues with the Palestinians, Israel must take note of the intentions and
plans of the PA in the matter of Arab refugees. As the media focuses on
the fight against terror, someone may wish to pay attention to the people
with lethal computers as well.
S I D E B A R
During the 1948 war of Independence, when the new state of Israel
invaded by seven Arab armies, between 350,000 and 650,000 Arabs left their
homes in Palestine, depending on which United Nations report you read,
while an undetermined number of Jews fled from their homes in the Old City
of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem suburbs of Neveh Yaakov, Atarot, and the
The "Inalienable Right of Return" resolution #194 that was adopted
by United Nations resolution #194 on December 11, 1948, during the height
of that war of independence, legislated that all Jewish and Arab refugees
from the 1948 war had possessed the absolute and "inalienable" right to
return to the homes and villages that they left during the war. That
resolution also determined that all of these refugees would be entitled to
To implement this resolution, the UN established UNRWA, the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency, whose purpose was to confine Palestinian
Arab refugees to "temporary" transit camps, under the premise and promise
of the "right of return". Israel also established temporary refugee camps
to receive the Jewish refugees from 1948, along with more than two million
Jews who streamed to Israel in the first decade of the state's turbulent
history. While no Jewish refugee camp still exists, the UN and the Arab
nations have continued to confine what are now 3.6 million Palestinian Arab
refugees in refugee camps, forbidding them to move out of the camps. Even
the new Palestinian Authority, soon to be a Palestinian state, forbids the
Palestinian Arab refugees from moving into permanent homes in the areas
under PA control. Why? That would mean that this would violate their right
to return to the 531 Arab villages that have been replaced by Israeli
cities, collective farms and woodlands, all of which lie within Israel's
pre-1967 cease fire lines.
The writer is the bureau chief of israel resource news agency
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Has the Israeli human rights community abandoned human rights in favor of political expediency?
A commitment to human rights and civil liberties includes an inherent even
if unwritten oath to uphold the principles of human dignity, regardless of
any political or ethnic considerations.
For example, in 1992, in the course of work as a journalist, I found that
fifteen Arabs who worked in Kiryat Arba and lived with their families in
the village of Bani Naim, had been served with arbitrary home-demolition
orders. Our news agency printed the story, and also joined with a human
rights group based in Efrat and Kiryat Arba to help these families bring a
petition to the Israel High Court of Justice. The petition was successful.
For those of us who became involved in this case, the point was not the
political allegiance of those families or our views thereof. The point was
that an injustice was being done to them, and it had to be corrected.
The themes of human rights, civil liberties and human dignity have been on
prominent display in Israel-Arab relations, and earn banner coverage in the
Advocacy groups for the Palestinian-Arabs made very effective use of these
themes in diverting public attention from Arab-PLO terrorism and
belligerency as moral issues, to Palestinian Arab-rights as a moral issue.
They thereby won wide support from a well-meaning if not always keenly
News coverage of these rights peaked during the first two years of the
intifada, The PLO encouraged youngsters to get onto the front lines of
riots, knowing full well that they would be most exposed there and
presented by the news media as child victims. This was a propaganda device
that brought the PLO great dividends in public relations.
The Palestinian Human Rights Information Center, based in Jerusalem and in
Washington, coordinated a campaign that succeeded in igniting the passions
of human rights groups throughout the world and, eventually, throughout
By 1990, at least sixteen internationally respected human rights
organizations were monitoring the human rights policies of the government
of Israel. All of them had Israeli members and Israeli counterparts. During
the Gulf War in 1991, when the PLO sided with Iraq and its supporters
cheered the Iraqi scud-missile attacks on Israel, these human rights groups
clung to their support of the PLO cause.
In the United Nations-sponsored (UNRWA) camps for displaced Arabs, the
relief workers gave moral and logistical support to the PLO campaign, while
helping to propagate false rumors that the camps faced starvation at the
time of the Gulf War.
In this period, espousal of the PLO cause might have wanted with its
support and encouragement of Saddam Hussein's Iraq and its scud attacks.
Yet the human rights coalition, in Israel and abroad, remained fixed in its pro-PLO stance.
These organizations contributed mightily to shaping a public opinion that
pushed Israel into recognizing and dealing with the PLO in the Oslo
Accords of 1993.
In the spring of 1994, a self-governing Arab-Palestine entity was set up
under the rule of Arafat. There was by then a long record of Arafat's
autocratic methods and executions of opponents. Nevertheless, human rights
groups hoped that the establishment of a Palestine National Authority with
an intricate governmental structure, parliament and legislative council
would provide a new era of human rights, civil liberties and human dignity
for the Arab-Palestinians.
In August 1994, Arafat closed the Palestinian Human Rights Information
Center and put its staff in prison. That was just the beginning of his
ongoing campaign to ignore the complaints of human rights organizations,
and indeed to crush the organizations entirely.
The writer brought this to the attention of the Israeli group Rabbis for
Human rights, which then forwarded a letter of protest to Arafat. There was
no reply. That did not inhibit the Rabbis for Human rights from making
cordial visits to Arafat in Gaza and putting his grinning face on their
Arafat's suppression of human rights and civil liberties seems in keeping
with Israeli government views at the time of Osclo Accords, On September 2,
1993, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot quoted then Prime Minister
This will be a process that will give the Palestinians an entity without
Bagatz [right of appeal to the High Court of Justice] and without Bitzlem
(a human rights organization that worked on behalf of Arab-Palestinian
Thus, a process that had been driven by human rights organizations on
behalf of the Arab-Palestinians culminated in depriving those people even
of the rights that had been accorded to under Israeli administration. Those
organizations that had for years stood so loudly for Arab-Palestinian
rights succeeded in placing them under a rule with no human rights or civil
The government of Israel government pays 62 percent of the budget of the
Palestine Authority. Yet the Israeli human rights establishment refuses, as
a matter of policy, to make aid to the Palestinian Authority contingent in
any improvement in PA human rights policies.
Bassam Eid, an Arab who had been active in Bitzelem, found that his
organization and the Israeli Left were less interested in human rights and
more interested in the success
Of the Oslo process .
Shortly after he left Bitzelem, on December 5, 1995, Eid stated: "I would
sooner trust Rehavam Ze'evi [leader of the nationalist Moledet party] over
Yossi Sarid [leader of the left-wing Meretz party] any day."
Israel Resource News Agency has therefore put some questions to the
Association for Civil Rights In Israel (ACRI), an umbrella organization
supported by the New Israel Fund in the United States:
1. Would ACRI support aid to an entity that denies human rights and civil
liberties as a matter of policy?
2. Can ACRI be silent while a government of Israel proposes to strip human
rights and civil liberties from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem and hand
them over to the rule of Arafat and his security chief Jibril Rajoub?
3. How does ACRI respond to the June 2000 series in the newspaper
HaAretz, that documented how Israeli police look on and watch while
Rajoub's "police" abduct, interrogate, torture and even murder Israeli Arab
citizens of Jerusalem.
The reply from ACRI came from its chairwoman Edna Margolit and its director
Vered Livne: ACRI does not and will not interfere with political issues.
ACRI legal counsel Dan Yakir did say that ACRI did not approve of Israeli
police subcontracting law enforcement to Rajoub to enforce the law.
However, he would not put this in writing or recommend that ACRI issue any
policy statement on the subject. He also said that he was not familiar with
the reports in HaAretz. (Yet, ACRI retains media professionals who comb the
press to monitor human rights abuses.)
Israel Resource News Agency placed the same questions to Rabbis for Human
Rights. There has not been any response.
Amnesty International, that had long been very active on human rights for
Arab-Palestinians when they were under Israeli administration, has recently
issued a scathing report on the human rights abuses of the Palestine
Authority. Neither ACRI nor the Rabbis for Human Rights has addressed
itself to this report.
It would seem that the Israeli human rights establishment, including its
rabbinc component, has adopted Rabin's view that an independent Palestinian
entity must be set up and supported at any cost to its subjects in human
rights and civil liberties.
Despite this indifference by their former Israeli champions,
Arab-Palestinians have been developing an underground network on behalf of
human rights and civil liberties, freedom of speech and press, due process
of law, police reform and more. When Bassam Eid was interviewed in the
television film Vanishing Peace (BBC/CBC, May 1999), he pointed out that
the salaries of Arafat's PA security men are paid directly by the United
States, Canada and the European Union, who do not make any respect for
human rights a condition for their subsidies.
It would seem that Israel's human rights establishment, along with much of
the international community, is willing to subject Palestinian Arabs to a
regime that denies them any semblance of justice or liberty. If this
facilitates their political goal of a PLO state, then so be it.
In what way the achievement of the political goal forwards their avowed
cause of human rights has yet to be explained.
the write is the bureau chief of israel resource news agency
The first interview with Senator Lieberman in the Jewish media since his vice presidential nomination
In his first major interview with a Jewish newspaper since being
nominated, Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Lieberman
shared his opinions with the Jewish Advocate on the status of Jerusalem,
American Jewry and Torah.
Lieberman was in Boston last week for two Democratic fundraising events.
The first event, a $10,000 per plate luncheon for 50 Jewish guests garnered
nearly $500,000. The evening event, which featured a three-song musical
appearance by James Taylor, was highlighted by an address from Democratic
presidential candidate Al Gore. The two events raised nearly $2.5 million for the Gore-Lieberman campaign.
Despite a hectic schedule that took him from Washington to New York to Boston in less than three hours, the Connecticut senator seemed invigorated by the news of the Democratic ticket’s ascent in the polls. Wearing a light
pinstripe suit, a red tie and his graying blonde hair combed immaculately,
Lieberman’s deep blue eyes expressed a joy he has repeatedly articulated
since becoming the first Jew to be nominated for vice president by a national political party.
When asked if he had a message to convey to American Jewry, Lieberman talked about the opportunities America has granted not only to Jews but to members of all faiths. “America is not just a change of address, it’s a change. It’s a unique country in world history, because it’s premised on equal opportunity and tolerance. And I happen to have the good fortune of being a great beneficiary of that. So, I think what it says to everybody in this country is that you should feel free to be yourself in America, and know that in doing so, you enrich the country,” the vice presidential candidate said.
He encouraged Jews to give back to America by embracing public service and
volunteer work and “to do good deeds; acts of charity.” American Jews, said
Lieberman, should also feel “real gratitude to this country for the
extraordinary freedom it provides to all citizens.”
Referring to Judaism as the “the foundation of my life,” the 58-year-old
Orthodox Jew, spoke about the importance of action in his faith. “I’ve always felt that Judaism is a religion of action, not just study. It begins with faith, and then it goes to study, but then the test is: are you doing
something to make the world better, Tikkun Olam,” the senator explained.
When asked if he could point to any specific passages or stories in the Torah that he draws strength or inspiration from, Lieberman pointed to the document as one complete work. “The Torah is so full of inspiration,” he declared. “It’s such a human and at the same time, so inspiring a document, that I’ve drawn strength and lessons from the whole of the experience. I don’t think of anything specifically.”
He also stressed that while the Torah is a major influence in his life it
is not the only influence. “You know, people ask me sometimes the affect of
my faith on public service, and I always say that my faith has informed my
service just as so many of the other experiences in my life have — the
lessons my parents taught me, the lessons I learned from studying history and reading biographies, and then the lessons you learn from your experience. But there’s no question that my religion is one of those sources,” he emphasized.
On the subject of dividing Jerusalem, Lieberman seemed to embrace the same
politics Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. He favors a U.S. embassy in
Jerusalem, but did not directly object to the notion of Palestinians having a piece of Jerusalem. Said Lieberman, “It’s a matter of American policies
adopted in a piece of legislation that I co-sponsored along with a broad
group of senators from both parties, that we should recognize Jerusalem as
the capital of Israel, and that our embassy should be there. You know, I
think in the specifics of this moment, which is a sensitive moment in which
President Clinton is clearly trying to advance the cause of peace in the
Middle East and one of the central questions is Jerusalem, I should leave it to the leadership of Israel and the Palestinians to continue to negotiate without my opining on it — because ultimately they’re the ones who have to live with it.
the writer is the editor of the "jewish advocate", the jewish newspaper that serves the Jewish communities of boston and of westen massachusetts
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