Rethinking Jerusalem, Aid to Israel, and Nakba Day

Rethinking Jerusalem, Aid to Israel, and Nakba Day


Part 1: Opening of US Embassy in Jerusalem

Dr. Jerome M. Segal, lead author of the landmark study, Negotiating Jerusalem (SUNY Press, 2000) and a candidate challenging Senator Ben Cardin in the "Ben or Jerry" June primary in Maryland, today condemned the Trump Administration’s decision to open the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Dr. Segal, a University of Maryland philosopher said, "The Trump Administration argument, repeated by many members of Congress, that the United States in "recognizing" Jerusalem as Israel's capital is only recognizing a reality, is truly sophomoric, representing an inability to distinguish two different meanings of the term "recognize."

This can best by seen in the joke told years ago by a Palestinian comedian:

"So, I was recently in Israel, the first time I had been there since my family fled in 1948, and I was standing near a field on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and somehow, it was obvious that I was a Palestinian. And this Israeli gentleman comes up to me and rather politely, even with curiosity, asks "So why don't you recognize Israel?"

"So, I give him my best smile, and equally politely, I respond: 'I do recognize Israel. Look, over there, that's my family house; that stone wall, my father built, and there to the left, those are our lemon trees where I used to play as a child."

The issue involved in the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel capital was not a game of "Where's Waldo?" with respect to the Knesset. It was about whether or not the United States would change a position that it held since the creation of Israel, which is that the question of the sovereignty of Jerusalem could only be settled through negotiations. When we as a government, "recognize" a city or even a part of it, as the capital of a state, we are taking a position on sovereignty. While every state has the right to designate its own capital, that right extends only to the land under its sovereignty. Does France have the right to declare that London is its capital? What would it mean if we accepted such a claim?"

"What Trump did was to take the issue of sovereignty over Jerusalem away from the final status negotiations, where it had been explicitly placed in the Oslo Accords signed on the White House lawn by Arafat and Rabin, and award it to Israel, outside negotiations, something that was supposed to be negotiated, and subject to a trade."

"What is astonishing about this is that for years, both the United States government and the entire Congress has repeatedly denounced the PLO for attempting to somehow achieve its goals outside negotiations, and now, in either idiocy or hypocrisy, the Trump Administration does exactly that for Israel."

"And here, the Trump Administration does not bear the full responsibility. Rather it was doing just what it was urged to do by the U.S. Congress. Only a few months prior to the Trump decision on recognition, the Senate, in a 90-0 vote called on the President to fulfill the provisions of a 1995 piece of legislation which explicitly called for U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the Embassy.

"That Senators close to AIPAC such as Ben Cardin would be one of the 90 voting for this legislation is no surprise at all. He is AIPAC's key workhorse in the Senate. But that our most independent Senators, such as Bernie Sanders, would have also voted for this legislation, is a very painful reminder of the reality in Washington: When AIPAC says, "jump" most ask "how high" and the best counter with, "Is it okay."

Part 2: Cutting Aid to Israel

Responding to the deaths of over 50 unarmed Palestinian protestors on the Gaza border, Dr. Jerome Segal who is challenging Senator Ben Cardin in the "Ben or Jerry" primary this June called for a new policy towards aid to Israel: Cut, Cap and Program. The new policy is designed to use U.S. aid to promote resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state solution.

Segal is a well-known conflict resolution specialist at the University of Maryland. He is the author of three books on the conflict and over 100 essays and op-eds, having written extensively for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and other leading publications. In 2012 he published a plan for a post-Oslo peace process that was co-author by former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, former top diplomat of the European Union, Javier Solana; and the late Thomas C. Schelling, Nobel prize winner on international strategic interaction.

Segal's "Cut, Cap and Program" policy would:

  1. Reduce, and thereafter limit, total aid to Israel to $3 billion a year.
  2. Shift the entire amount to economic aid, eliminating any subsidy for the purchase of American weapons, which would remain available, but at full cost, to Israel.
  3. Sequester an amount of aid equal to the full sum of subsidies and direct expenditures that Israel spends on settlements in the West Bank.
  4. Allocate $1 billion of the aid to provide subsidies to enable West Bank settlers to return to Israel proper, without undo economic dislocation.
  5. Program the remaining aid for projects that would promoted peace between the two peoples, including bringing together Israeli and Palestinian children at all ages of their schooling both to humanize The Other, and to learn the alternative perspective of the other side.
  6. Allocate a limited amount of funds to facilitate the return to Israel of the remaining actual refugees from 1948, a group whose average age is 85, and of whom not more that 30,000 remain alive, and of which, not more than 3,000 might choose to live out the end of their lives in the land of their birth.

Speaking of the Trump Administration's defense of Israeli actions on the Gaza border, Segal noted that virtually all of those shot were on the Gaza side of the border, with Israel shooting them in anticipation of their entering Israel.  He said of the Trump administration's unqualified support for the actions of the Israeli government, that it demonstrates what we all know, "For this President, only some lives matter."

Part 3: U.S. Officials and Jews Worldwide Should Join Nakba Commemorations

Today, Nakba Day, 2018, as droves of Palestinians in Gaza continue to be killed in their symbolic re-enactment of efforts to return to their homes in Palestine at the close of the 1948 War, Dr. Jerome M. Segal, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland's "Ben or Jerry" primary this June, called on the Trump Administration to engage in the commemorations of the Nakba (catastrophe) being undertaken by Palestinians worldwide.

Segal, who is the President and Founder of The Jewish Peace Lobby, further called on all Jews, especially American and Israeli Jews, to observe Nakba Day as a day of reflection and atonement for what was done to the Palestinian refugees in 1948 and 1949, and in subsequent years up until the present day.

Segal, who is a leading conflict resolution expert based at the University of Maryland, made the following points:

  1. The Nakba is not in essence about the creation of Israel, it is about the destruction of the entire Palestinian society and culture which followed upon the dispossession of the Palestinian population from their historic land during the 1948 War, and Israel's decision to use lethal force against any Palestinians seeking to return to their homes, following the end of the war in 1949.
  2. Not all of the Palestinians who were dispossessed were expelled. Perhaps 1/3. This constituted a war crime, one that the Jewish people, and the American people, have yet to recognize.
  3. No peace "deal" will ever bring a stable peace unless there is some engagement with the issues of justice, even though the ten-fold growth of the Palestinian population since 1948 makes any substantial actual return of the refugees impossible.
  4. Any Palestinian leadership that accepts the current Israeli position on refugees, (not one refugee returns) sets the stage for a Hamas electoral victory in the first free elections in a Palestinian state.
  5. The morality of what happened in 1948 and 1949 is not black and white. Had the Arab forces won the 1948 war, the Jews would have been ethnically cleansed themselves, if not slaughtered. Nonetheless, the Jewish forces had the upper hand, and what was done to the Palestinians need not have happened.
  6. Only by a genuine confrontation with the reality of 1948, will we find a way to untimately end this conflict and heal these two peoples.
  7. For Jews, 1948 and how we respond to it, even today, represents the most fundamental question of our history: Is there any transformational meaning to the centuries and centuries of injustice that we have suffered at the hands of the world? When the Jewish people, return to state-power after 18 centuries of Diaspora, are we any better than those who have persecuted us, or is history simply about who holds the whip?

In 2014, with funding from the Norwegian Government, Dr. Segal held secret Track-2 talks on the 1948 issues (Palestinian refugees and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state) in London. The Palestinians were represented by President Abbas's top back-channel team. On the Israeli side the two participants were former Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Dan Meridor, and former National Security Advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu, General Yaakov Amidror.