|The Paula Gordon Show|
Israel's occupation of Palestinian land is ruining
Israel, says Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Richard Ben Cramer. Why is
there no peace? Because the status quo is enormously profitable both to
the Israelis and to the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Cramer reports. He
answers three additional pressing questions in his book, How Israel
Lost. The 35 year occupation, he says, has coarsened Israel’s
society, undermined its political life, corrupted the country and produced
an entirely new kind of Jew who does not share the ancient ethos for which
Judaism is rightly celebrated. The conflict itself, Mr. Cramer says, is
also what keeps both Sharon and Arafat in power. Fortunately for the prospects
of peace, Mr. Cramer says, this is NOT a religious conflict, in spite
of Israel's dramatic departure from its secular heritage.
Americans fail to grasp the importance of Arabs having lived in Palestine for centuries before Israel was created, Mr. Cramer says. This conflict was NEVER a religious war, Mr. Cramer says, presenting indisputable historical facts about Palestine. He describes how Israel occupying the land it took from the Arabs in 1967 has changed Israel absolutely. Recounting his own long experience among both Israeli Jews and Arabs, he describes how important American Jews have been to Israel. This occupation is ruining Israel, he declares, convinced American Jews must help end the occupation.
Describing growing carnage, Mr. Cramer recounts experiences with Ariel Sharon, then describes being a reporter. The United States, like Israel, finds itself as an occupying power and in a war some want to characterize as religious, he says -- but in both Iraq and in Israel, insists it is NOT about religion. Like the U.S., Israel was founded as a secular state where people could live according to their own beliefs, he says, describing dramatic deterioration. Iran and Israel are morally equivalent in terms of their draconian and medieval religious restrictions, he reports, then reiterates -- the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis is NOT fundamentally religious.
Holding on to the Palestinians’ territory has changed Israel forever, Mr. Cramer laments, eroding Israel’s many excellences. Describing the country he loves as scared and distrustful because they are occupiers, he answers his question about who wants this occupation to continue: leadership classes on BOTH sides, he says, detailing how tremendously both profit from the status quo. The only deal Israel has to legitimize their occupation, Mr. Cramer explains, is with Yasser Arafat and his P.L.O., then expands on Arafat as the lynch pin of the status quo which is making leaders on both sides rich.
Mr. Cramer demonstrates how money drives the continuing Israel occupation of Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority is about money, he says, regretful that Israelis are increasingly connected to the sleazy business of the territories. Choosing to be “America’s little buddy” dramatically changed the nature of Israel, he says, mourning fine qualities lost in the process. Explaining what sent him back to Israel, Mr. Cramer describes “a new kind of Jew,” disintegration of community among Israelis, growing domestic violence in Israeli homes and the loss of their freedom-loving ethic. He describes how the conflict keeps both Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat in power.
Israelis are teaching the U.S. grim lessons, Mr. Cramer worries, from how to perform assassination and manipulate Abu Ghraib prisoners to how to be a “security” state. Peace is inevitable, he says, convinced America MUST have a role, especially since now that the U.S. occupies Iraq, it is in America’s interest to have a solution in Israel.
We have enormous admiration for Mr. Cramer’s courage and his commitment to telling us what he’s found, no matter how far afield his observations might be from the politically correct. In an era when most American mass media have profoundly debased their own currency -- to the detriment of the citizens of the United States and of the world -- Mr. Cramer exemplifies the very best attributes of both “reporter” and “journalist” We are grateful.
How Israel Lost is published by Simon & Schuster.
In an earlier discussion with Richard Ben
Cramer, we explored our current notion of “heroes” in
the context of his book about Joe DiMaggio The Hero’s Life.
In his book and television series Walking the Bible, Bruce Feiler looks closely at the physical reality, the land, that is the “holy land.”
Sandra Mackey has
lived in and written extensively about the political-social-cultural-historical
complexity of the Middle East and about the rise of fundamentalism around
Both a Nieman and a Guggenheim Fellow, Geneive
and reported for a decade from the Middle East, principally Cairo. She
is the author of No God But God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam.
A former member of the National Security Council, Robert Pastor is a Professor at and Founding Director of the Center for North American Studies at American University. Much of his work revolves around the challenge of building and sustaining democratic goverment in challenging environments.