Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Facts To Think About Regarding Handling Jerusalem In A Two-State Deal

June 7, 2012 Comments off

As Richard Goldwasser points out in his op-ed “Jerusalem The Divisible” in today’s Times of Israel:

The ostensibly unassailable assumption that Jerusalem must remain Israel’s undivided and eternal capital, however, fails to take into account the evolution of Jerusalem’s boundaries.

He goes on to give an extremely brief – but enlightening – outline of some of the highlights of the history of Jerusalem’s boundaries.  His conclusion:

Abraham Lincoln once posited, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling the tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” So it is with Jerusalem. Calling the Palestinian village of Beit Hanina Jerusalem doesn’t make it Jerusalem. At least not in a way that has any meaning for the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem. Perhaps that is why two of Israel’s past prime ministers, Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, were prepared to cede the Palestinian neighborhoods in present-day Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state. 

Is It Time To Dam Iran?

June 1, 2012 Comments off

Stratfor reports:

Tehran cancelled a $2 billion contract with Chinese engineering firm Sinohydro Corp. to build a hydroelectric dam in Iran’s Lorestan province


Now here is an opportunity for REAL creative diplomacy.  Since part of Iran’s justification for their nuclear program is for internal energy needs, why couldn’t our government reach out and suggest that U.S. companies be allowed to bid on this project?  Of course, this runs counter to all of the current clamoring for sanctions+ and military action.

But when one has a logjam, you typically can’t break it up by continuing to push the logs in the same direction.  The logs just keep getting more jammed up.  So, instead it calls for something – sometimes an explosive charge, to break up the jam.  It seems the same way with diplomacy.  The current round of negotiations with Iran seem to be déjà vu all over again.  There is a need for a type of creative, out-of-the-box action to break the logjam. 

 It seems that providing U.S. knowhow, project management and efficiency to a peaceful, energy project (which could be used as a face-saving reason for Iran to scale back its nuclear program) could go a long way to setting a new tone in relations with a country that cannot simply be “put in its place”.  Iran is going to continue to be a key player in the region no matter what the West and Israel try to do – simply because of geography, economy and religion.  It can be argued that continuing the lack of ongoing diplomatic relations and the presentation of negotiating positions that contain clear non-starters (for several reasons) for the Iranian regime, actually gives the West and Israel much less control on the outcome of the current standoff.

Time for creativity.

It’s That Time of Year for A Repost: Contemplating the Message of Passover

April 5, 2012 1 comment

Pesach is my favorite Jewish holiday.  The traditions are so rich and the Seder is the ultimate joyous, jubilant Jewish celebration:  the symbols of the Seder plate, the smells and tastes of real Jewish food (I will put Margie’s golden chicken soup up against any in the world), the struggle with matzoh for eight days, the four cups, the laughter, the singing, Elijah.  Those are all so memorable.

But it is the message that permeates the holiday that is so important.  While the book of Exodus holds perhaps more of the basic concepts, precepts, commandments and narratives of the Torah than any other book, the Haggadah‘s lessons seem much narrower.

There are many different interpretations of the meaning of the story from the manifestation of The Lord acting directly in the world, to the molding of the Jewish people into a nation, to the miracles of the Passover and the parting of the Sea of Reeds itself.  Yet to me the most straightforward and overriding message is simple:

  • REMEMBER.  You were slaves in Egypt
  • RELIVE.  How it felt to be enslaved. To be oppressed
  • REPUDIATE.  So that, You, personally, and, Jews as a people, will never become oppressors yourselves

Every Jewish holiday harks back to a connection with bedrock stories from the Jewish community’s past like the recitation of the Akedah and story of Jonah on the High Holidays, the Megillah on Purim, Akadmut and Ruth on Shavuot,, or the rededication of the Temple at Hanukkah.  But the Seder and the Haggadah ask something of us that is wholly unique and of an entirely different nature than any other Jewish holiday.  It specifically tells us that we must place ourselves inside the story – we must be in Egypt to feel the pain and oppression – and the redemption.  This is one of the main lessons of the telling of the story of the Four Sons, which acts as an answer to Mah Nishtanah – Why is this night different from all other nights? 

So why is it so important to more than sympathize, more than empathize, but to actually experience being slaves in Egypt?  The answer seems straightforward.  Each of us needs to understand what it is like to be oppressed so that we will never become oppressors ourselves.  We must feel the weariness of the excruciating labor, the pain of the task masters’ whips, and shed the tears of a people without rights or freedom.  Having lived through it ourselves, it should be unthinkable for Jews to oppress others.  And lest we forget, we are commanded to relive our slavery each and every Pesah.  We must understand the pain of the oppressed and the evil of the oppressor – so that we never allow the roles to be reversed.

One of the traditional prayers at the end of the Seder is “next year in Jerusalem”.  The problem is that now when I look to Jerusalem, I see Israel occupying Arab neighborhoods.  Pushing people out of homes that have been in their families for decades or longer.  And beyond that, I see checkpoints, and identity cards, and political prisons.  Most of all, I see one people subjugating another.  This is not fantasy.  This is reality for anyone who cares to take a look.  But if an American Jew talks about it, he is told,  “You have no right to criticize Israeli policy because you don’t live there.  You don’t have to serve in the IDF.  You don’t have to dive into bomb shelters when the sirens sound.  You don’t have to fear that your children will be killed riding in a school bus.”  That is so very true.  And I am so sorry that life is indeed that dangerous for those living in Eretz Yisrael.  But I am also sorry to say that I believe the Haggadah not only gives me the right, but also the obligation as a Jew, to speak out when I see fellow Jews oppressing another people.  As Peter Beinart said when he spoke at Northwestern, “The morality of a people must not be measured when they are powerless.  The question is how they act when they have the power.”

One Important Piece of Action You Can Take If You Believe In Putting The Brakes On The War Train To Iran

March 3, 2012 Comments off

This weekend, beginning Sunday, we are about to witness one of the most dramatic shows of Jewish political force in the history of the United States.  This is not some anti-Zionist rhetoric – it is simply a fact.  AIPAC is going to have over 10,000 people in the DC Convention Center (myself included) at its Policy Conference [for live ‘fair and balanced’ tweets, check www.twitter/beyondzs] – and will have 30-50% of those attending going to lobby on Capitol Hill.  Normally, I might say mazel tov – tanks G-t so many care about Israel.  But right now, AIPAC is stridently promoting political moves here in the US to lay the groundwork for Israel (alone, or with US overt assistance) to take military action against Iran very shortly.  I believe that they do this with good intention, but with flawed reasoning and almost negligent disregard for the outcomes.  How can they do this without facing strong, forceful pushback?

  • War is easy and its drums are seductive. 
  • F.U.D. (fear, uncertainty and doubt) cry out to the most base human emotions.
  • The politics of our time rewards simplicity and machismo.

So, what is to be done?  Here’s the sales pitch:

J Street is having its own Conference three weeks later – from March 24 – March 27.  J Street’s position is nuanced and urges caution.  Here is an excerpt:

“…Finally, like many American and Israeli security experts such as former Mossad chiefs Meir Dagan and Ephraim Halevy, we believe that a military strike against Iran would be ill-advised. While unlikely to permanently disable Iran’s nuclear program, a military strike would have dire consequences and runs the risk of igniting a broader regional war. A preemptive attack could also strengthen the current regime in Iran and provide an excuse for it to redouble its nuclear efforts. We therefore oppose legislation authorizing, encouraging, or in other ways laying the groundwork for the use of military force against Iran.”

Further details can be found here:

If you agree with this postion, you can take concrete action by attending the J Street Conference.  Every single person who attends sends a critical counter message to Members of Congress and the President. By doing so, you will be standing up for intelligent debate here at home, for allowing the current round of sanctions time to work, and arguing for a new diplomatic “surge”.

Trust me, Congressmen and women can count – and they will.   There will be a simple calculus taking place politically throughout Washington – they will stack up what they see as the constituency pushing for the “military option” versus the constituency that opposes immediate military action in favor of a calmer, more reasoned and examined approach.   Any of you reading this who are part of the latter group – need to be in D.C. at the J Street ConferencePeriod.

I know that it is difficult for people to get away.  I know that it is expensive in terms of both time and money (although there is financial assistance available).  I know that we all have non-stop schedules.  But (and I know that this may sound narcissistic and overly dramatic) I personally feel that we are at a time not unlike Dr. King’s March on Washington, not unlike Breaking Down the Berlin Wall, not unlike Tiananmen Square.  That is, there are specific moments in time that actually do affect the course of history.   Their outcomes revise the course of world history.  They determine the trajectory of the future.

Is it hyperbole to put this moment in that context?  Perhaps. 

But consider the following:

We are talking about the prospect of America entering its Third War in a little over 10 years with potentially massive consequences in terms of death, destruction and economic upheaval for the U.S., Israel, Iran and the rest of the world.  There can be very little doubt that military action against Iran is going to set a new trajectory for the Middle East – and quite possibly the entire world.

So, is that worth taking two-three days of our time?  I do not ask this rhetorically nor do I question anyone’s answer to that question.

All that I am saying is that from my personal perspective, we are at a watershed moment for our country, for Israel, and for the world as a whole.  We have a chance to do something to influence what direction our government takes.  I urge you to join me at the J Street Conference in D.C. March 24-26 and to meet with your Member of Congress face-to-face on Tuesday, March 27.  Tell her/him directly how you feel.

For anyone who reads this who would like more information on the Conference, you can find it here

For anyone who reads this who would like to consider going and might want more specific details – please contact me at and let’s discuss.

For anyone who reads this and is so convinced that they want to sign up right away, please go here

Follow BeyondZeroSum at www.twitter/beyondzs


For a thoughtful alternative approach to dealing with Iran, see Foreign Policy blog post: Using religion to restrain Iran’s nuclear program 


Iran: Haven’t We Tried Everything Already?

March 2, 2012 Comments off
English: The logo of the Atomic Enery Organiza...

Logo of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (Wikipedia)

One can’t open a newspaper (if anyone still does that anymore) without seeing a lot of F.U.D. about Iran.  What is F.U.D?  Fear, uncertainty and doubt.  “Existential threat”, “zone of immunity”, and “unacceptable” are terms that can be read in almost every article. Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in these descriptions. On the other hand, there seems to be only a single prescription at this point in time. That, of course, is John McCain’s old tune: “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb-bomb Iran” (Granted the Rx is crafted a bit more elegantly than that).

But are there options?

Haven’t we tried diplomacy and it didn’t work?

You might find an unexpected answer in Trita Parsi’s new book, A Single Roll of the DiceTrita is one of the foremost experts on the relationship between Israel and Iran (his first book, A Treacherous Alliance has been called one of the “few detailed studies examining Israeli and Iranian attitudes and postures towards each other outside the context of U.S.-Iranian relations” by none other than the Rand Corporation in a recent comprehensive white paper:  Israel and Iran – A Dangerous Rivalry)  Trita reviews the month-by-month history of events involving the Iran nuclear program and vigorously argues that for many reasons, including missteps by all parties concerned, diplomacy was constantly being shifted off course.  He especially highlights the little know fact that a diplomatic deal was ACTUALLY MADE in MAY, 2010 with Iran by the Turks and Brazilians – but was essentially rejected because the sanctions’ “train” had already moved out of the station.

Haven’t we tried Sanctions and they haven’t worked?

First, sanctions do appear to be having an effect.  The value of the Iranian currency has dropped almost 50%.  Other economic shifts are being felt.  Second, the latest round of sanctions has only been in place since approximately January 1st – hardly enough time to assess their impact.  Third, even harsher sanctions are scheduled to kick in over the next several months.

There isn’t time in this post to discuss possible consequences of the third option: military action, but suffice it to say that we need to be very upfront and sanguine about potential consequences of either a unilateral Israeli attack or a combined operation with the U.S.  There is no doubt that Iran represents a potentially very serious threat to the entire world – but so did Saddam Hussein.  To ignore the lessons of that strategic debacle is simply gross negligence

Gilad Shalit Is Home – You Already Know That – But Have To Say It Is A Great Day

October 18, 2011 Comments off


IDF: Gilad Shalit back home in Israel after five years in Hamas captivity

Gilad Shalit returns.  The debate will now begin on “what this means”.  Will the one thousand plus reported prisoners to be released begin new violent attacks on Israel?  Does it upstage the P.A.’s bid for membership in the U.N.?  Does this strengthen Hamas’ hand vis-a-vis Fatah?  These questions and more will debated over the next days and weeks.

For now, I believe that we should all be thankful that Gilad is safe and presumably sound.

Alan Dershowitz’ Impassioned Speech Calling Out the U.N. for Its Pro-Palestinian Bias In No Uncertain Terms. What Do You Think?

October 4, 2011 1 comment

Alan Dershowitz from

This post is going to be long.  It consists of a e-mail exchange between myself and one of our best friends.  She is an Israeli liberal.  She recently forwarded me a video of a speech that Alan Dershowitz gave about ten days ago at the “Durban Watch” Conference sponsored by the Hudson Institute and Touro University(“the largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution in the United States” according to its website).  I had hoped to embed the video right here so you could watch it, but it is at Pajama Media’s PJTV and evidently can’t be embedded here.  I urge you to view the clip (or part of it – it runs about 17 minutes): 

Durban Watch: Alan Dershowitz — Harvard Professor and Best-Selling Author

In this speech, Prof. Dershowitz very convincingly asks how the U.N. can dare to say that it has any moral authority since as far back as 1975 it has done virtually nothing for oppressed people of the world like the Cambodians under Pol Pot, the Rwandans, the Chechens, etc.  because they have been preoccupied with discussing Israeli human rights violations.  Further, he points out that it is ludicrous to say that a vote to admit the Palestinians is in support of the two-state solution because a large number of the voting countries do not recognize Israel as a legitimate state.  So, they are really only supporting a one state solution – Palestine.  He then goes on to talk about the rights of Arabs in Israel, the great medical and other scientific devices that Israel has given the world, and the very effective counter-terrorism methods which have become the state of the art.

The following is the email trail between my friend and myself.  I have eliminated the identifying names and the chronological order has been set in reading order so that the earliest posts are first, but otherwise, the debate is verbatim.

My question to all out there:

A. Is my correspondent correct?  Did I “reject it all”, or did I give Dershowitz his due and refute him where appropriate?

B. Do you agree with Dershowitz’ argument?

C. Do you agree with Dershowitz’ style and delivery?

I would love to hear your comments


From:  A FRIEND OF G’s – M.S.  Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 10:19 PM
To: G     Subject: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 None of you will suspect me to be a Zionist or a pro State of Israel’s policy. But you all must listen to this profound words of the no. 1 supporter of Israel, the fame Alan Dershowitz, and I am very serious.Listen to him. Go to this link.

From, M.S.


From: G    Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 3:10 PM
To:  Mark Zivin;
Subject: FW: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech


Although I do not support the policy of Israel these days, I do think that Dershowitz’s speech to which you can listen on this link is really impressive and has a lot in it.

Let’s hope for better news this coming year


From: Mark Zivin Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:02 AM
To: G
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 Although Dershowitz makes some excellent points, I find him to be one of the most arrogant, one-sided and sometimes hypocritical apologists for Israel.  He has become a caricature of his early pro-Israel self and he has lost all credibility with me.

 The points that resonated with me include the following:

  1. There is no doubt that the UN continues to be an extremely anti-Israel body – I personally do not believe that it should be condemned wholesale as many on the right here in the US do.  I believe that it is a flawed organization  – but still accomplishes much good in the world.
  2. I particularly liked his suggestion that any state that is not willing to recognize Israel not be allowed to vote on Palestinian admission. However, unfortunately, while the application obviously implies that it is within a two-state framework, I am not sure that there is anything explicit about that in the application
  3. I was very surprised to hear his claim that Fayad is asking for multiple times the land area for acceding to 1) Jewish Quarter, 2) Route to Hebrew U. and , 3)Western Wall.  I have NOT heard that anywhere else.  As a matter of fact, it was my understanding that in several of the previous proposals, Israel offered less land.   This is the type of claim that causes me to question the veracity of everything he says.  Look, he claims that Fayad told him this face-to-face, so I guess I have to believe him.  However, as with most political statements, one really needs to know the context in which a statement is made – so as to make sure that it was not in some way taken out of context.

 Actually, the impression I got from the tone of Dershowitz’ rant was that he is damn pissed off that the Palestinians are making a very smart political move by going to the UN.

 Finally, I don’t if you are aware that Pajamas Media (PJTV) is a predominately right-wing media outlook that – similar to MEMRI and CAMERA – will rarely, if ever, publish anything that criticizes Israel.  While they claim to ‘set the record straight’ and ‘counter the left-wing media’ and do translate/publish some very interesting information – they are so one-sided that in my mind, they have very little credibility.  Camera in particular looks for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias everywhere – and in my mind often stretch the truth in doing so.

 Also, the Hudson Institute is a right-wing think tank in DC – and very partisan.

 Anyhow, thanks for forwarding this.  I am a big believer in listening to all points of view.

 Hope all is well with you guys.

 Love,  Mark


From: G Sent: Sunday, October 02, 2011 5:21 PM
To: Mark Zivin
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech 

Dear Mark,

Anything that you say about Dershowitz or the media that you mention is right. However, you do not address his main points! It is incredible to hear about the fact that the UN did not deal with Cambodia and at that time they were condemning Israel. It is amazing to realize that they never deal with what Turkey or Syria are doing while at the same time they are voting against Israel permanently. And so on and so on… I will not go again into the arguments that he brings. Most of the things he says are right! I am sorry to say that in your arguments you sound one sided also. You know that I do not agree with the politics of our government, but I am also tired of everybody (especially the British) blindly supporting the Palestinians only without really understanding the problem in depth.

Gmar chatima tova



From: Mark Zivin  Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:47 AM
To:Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

 First, I didn’t address those issues because I have not had time to research whether he is totally correct or not.  He may well be – but I don’t take what virtually anybody says without fact checking.  Plus, I am sorry but for me citing events (as tragic as they may be) that are 35 years old don’t support or refute where the UN is today – and what positive role they may play in the world.     

 Finally, as my mom used to say, “two wrongs don’t make a right”.    The fact that the UN is anti-Israel does not address whether or not anything is really accomplished by the Palestinians going to the UN.  I personally don’t believe that Abbas went to the UN because he thought that somehow magically this would “create” the State of Palestine.  I think that he went because the peace talks are at a standstill and that he was trying to shake things up.  It appears that he has.

 Bibi has agreed to come back to the negotiating table with no pre-conditions.  I read that the Palestinians have rejected that – which makes me extremely angry at them – but perhaps that will change.  I certainly hope that the two sides can at least start talking.


From: G
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 12:02 AM
To: Mark Zivin
Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech 

Even if part of it is right, you should give it consideration. But you reject it all at once just because it is him and also because it is about Israel. He is on the extreme side and so are you in your response.


From: Mark Zivin
Sent: Monday, October 03, 2011 10:19 PM
To:Subject: RE: Alan Dershowitz – what a speech

While there is no question that I dislike Mr. Dershowitz, and that came through loud and clear in my response to you, I don’t reject all of his arguments out of hand and I am sorry that I didn’t do a better job of communicating that.  I should have spent more time in expressing my points of agreement and also in explaining my disagreements.  I did indicate a couple points of agreement:

  1. There is no doubt that the UN continues to be an extremely anti-Israel body – I personally do not believe that it should be condemned wholesale as many on the right here in the US do.  I believe that it is a flawed organization  – but still accomplishes much good in the world.
  2. I particularly liked his suggestion that any state that is not willing to recognize Israel not be allowed to vote on Palestinian admission. However, unfortunately, while the application obviously implies that it is within a two-state framework, I am not sure that there is anything explicit about that in the application

However, I simply don’t agree with much of his assessment of why the Palestinians decided to go to the UN – but that opinion is not based on the fact Dershowitz’ delivery or how I feel about him personally, but simply that I don’t agree with his assessment of why they went (that is, his contention that they went because the UN is so pro-Palestinian and the Palestinians “occupy” the United Nations).  Don’t get me wrong  – yes, the UN is pro-Palestinian – I certainly believe that, and there are many, many examples of that.  However, going to the UN was not their first resort – but rather a pretty late resort.  That is, for example, Abbas has been in power since 2005 – and it is only now that he is going to the UN.  Instead, he spent a considerable amount of time trying to reach agreement with Olmert and reports are that they were very, very close to an agreement.  This seems to me to be a pretty strong argument against D’s contention that the Palestinians’ main reason for going to the UN was because of its advocacy in favor of the Palestinians to the detriment of all other oppressed minorities in the world.  In addition, while I personally don’t believe that going to the UN per se, is going to solve anything – I think that it is a very smart, clever and non-violent tactic.  Therefore, rather than ranting and raving (which you have to admit Dershowitz does), I think it behooves everyone – no matter whether they are on the right or the left – to calmly and intelligently analyze this significant change in tactics.  I am personally extremely happy to see that the main stream Palestinian authorities seem to have rejected violence as a tactic.  (There are glaring exceptions like their honoring suicide bombers, and the PA’s possible reconciliation with Hamas – (but so far, they have not been able to reconcile and presumably one of the issues is their point of view on violence and terrorism)).  I still have a lot of history to learn, but it is my recollection that Arafat never rejected violence.  As evidence that the current government has made tremendous strides in eliminating violence, one only has to look at the fact that the heads of Israeli security have indicated the great advances that the PA police forces have made.  So much so that they were able to open up a significant number of checkpoints about two years ago. 

Many experts believe that the most serious threat to the occupation now is if the Palestinians can maintain discipline and successfully mount massive non-violent protests.  Israel does not seem to have an answer to major non-violent protest.  A group of us met with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. a few weeks ago in Washington.  He had recently returned from a Congressional Delegation tour of Israel led by Steny Hoyer.  On that tour, he met with both the top Israeli political and military leaders, and the top Palestinian political leaders.  I know there are many people who think Jackson, Jr. is both anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, but you cannot deny that he is very concerned and well informed on the issues.  He has been to Israel as a Congressman five times and to the West Bank several times – and to the best of my knowledge, these tours were organized by AIPAC, so no one can suggest that he has been “brain-washed” by radicals.  In any event, he was visibly upset and pessimistic about the situation.  There was one thing in particular that he said that I found very insightful and worth considering.  He said they were briefed by Israeli military and security leaders about the entire security situation.  When it came time for questions and answers, he asked what their plan was for countering a major non-violent protest (e.g., a march on the East Jerusalem check point by hundreds of non-violent protesters).  He said that they had no answer.  They simply talked around the issue.  That is disturbing…

 On a separate issue, I was about as disappointed with Abbas’ UN speech as I was with Dershowitz’ YouTube clip.  Abbas basically reiterated all of the old Palestinian talking points about the Nakba, etc.  Of particular note was his mentioning “63 years of occupation”.  That goes back to 1948 so by implication he seemed to be denying Israel’s right to exist.  What a step backwards.  Pretty depressing for us two-staters.  Further, he offered virtually no ‘olive branch’ that could be used as a way to bridge the gap.  On the other hand, Bibi’s speech was masterful – as usual – and certainly went a long way to reaching out to the Palestinians.  It’s a shame that Abbas didn’t call Bibi’s bluff – and agree to meet him the same day at the UN.  Now that would have been the sign of a great leader.  Further disheartening, the Palestinians also appear to have rejected the Quartet’s current negotiations to get everybody back to the table. 

 My final word to you is simply that I hope I can convince you that I do my best to give all sides consideration.  That is one of my core ideals.  Like most ideals, one doesn’t always live up to them, but I certainly try to.

 Sending lots of love,


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