Saturday, July 22, 2006

Israeli peace activist says the Lebanon campaign is justified (Boston Globe)

And as Ami Isseroff points out, this is not just any peace activist. Ada Aharoni played a key role in mobilizing a popular movement that helped produce Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. She sees no contradiction (and she's right).

Incidentally, since I brought up the Mizrahi Jews in a recent post (A historic optical illusion - Israel & the invisible Middle Eastern Jews), it's worth noting that Aharoni is one of them.
Aharoni was born in Egypt and was forced to leave with her family when Israel was founded in 1948.
"It was our 'naqba,' " she said, using the Arabic word for 'disaster' with which Palestinians describe the creation of the state of Israel. "We lost everything, but I have never had any hatred for anybody. This is what I tell my Palestinian and Egyptian sisters. I never took a gun and tried to kill anyone. We just started over again."
And Isseroff's closing sentences bring out something significant about how many Israelis (not just Aharoni) see the present Lebanese/Israeli conflict--which, it is important to emphasize, looks quite different to them from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (and rightly so).
Israel's enemies (and some of our right wing friends) made a great error if they mistook the intent of the Israeli peace movements and thought that willingness for dialogue and compromise was a sign of weakness or fear. On the contrary, the knowledge that we have done everything possible for peace makes it possible to face war with a clear conscience.
--Jeff Weintraub

=> Update: It was brought to my attention (by Daniel Lieberfeld of Duquesne University) that the Boston Globe article about Ada Aharoni (below) contained a factual error worth noting. Aharoni is, indeed, a long-time peace activist who supported Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon before 2000. But the Globe article mis-identified the group with which she was associated. Here is the
Globe's correction:
Correction: Because of a reporting error, a July 21 Globe story erroneously described the background of Ada Aharoni, an Israeli peace activist. The story said that Aharoni founded the Four Mothers, the peace group that led the campaign in the late 1990s to end Israel's 18-year-long occupation of Lebanon, yet she supported the new Israeli military offensive this summer in Lebanon. In fact, Aharoni was not one of the four Israeli women with sons serving in Lebanon who founded the famed Four Mothers group. She was a founder of another group, called the Biblical Four Mothers, that also opposed the Israeli occupation of Lebanon.
This was a significant factual error, given the historic importance of the "Four Mothers" movement, and it reflects some deplorably careless journalism. I don't think it affects the main thrust of this interview with Aharoni, but it certainly conveys a misleading picture of Aharon's political role and prominence.
====================
ZioNation - Progressive Zionism & Israel Web Log)
July 21, 2006
Israeli peace activist says military campaign is justified

Ada Aharoni founded the Four Mothers movement to get Israel out of Lebanon, but she supports the Israeli action against Hezbollah. Actually, Ada has been campaigning for peace for many years, since before the Israel-Egyptian peace treaty. In his address to the Israeli Knesset, Anwar Sadat read part of a poem she had sent to him. But Ada says that she and other members of Four Mothers support the campaign against Nasrallah and his bandits:
We are all for it. We are liberating our northern frontier, and we are liberating the Lebanese from the extremists and the Iranians who control them. I think it had to be done.
I always think speaking together and negotiating is much better than any military action, and even now we should be talking. But they started this. They didn't try to talk. It's a situation where you either defend yourself or you're dead.
Israel's enemies (and some of our right wing friends) made a great error if they mistook the intent of the Israeli peace movements and thought that willingness for dialogue and compromise was a sign of weakness or fear. On the contrary, the knowledge that we have done everything possible for peace makes it possible to face war with a clear conscience.


Ami Isseroff

------------------------------
Boston Globe
July 21, 2006

A VIEW FROM THE BORDER
Israeli peace activist says military campaign is justified
By Matthew Kalman, Globe Correspondent


HAIFA, Israel -- On a clear day, Ada Aharoni can see the snow-capped mountains of Lebanon from the window of her home on Mount Carmel on the outskirts of Haifa, 20 miles from Israel's northern border.

For the past six years, Aharoni's view of Lebanon has been enhanced by a sense of personal achievement. She founded the Four Mothers, a grass-roots movement that led a decisive public campaign to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon.

The Four Mothers -- the group's name derived from the four biblical matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah -- quickly grew from a small group of women close to Aharoni to a nationwide movement.

Aharoni can follow the paper trail from the Four Mothers' first letter to Israeli politicians in 1998, to the campaign promise by newly-elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 1999, to the overnight withdrawal in May 2000 that ended an 18-year occupation.

It's an effort that has brought her worldwide recognition. She is currently being nominated by supporters across the globe for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This week, as she heard and felt the explosions from Hezbollah rockets falling around her home and saw the smoke of battle drifting across the northern horizon, Aharoni was more convinced than ever that Israel did the right thing in pulling out of Lebanon. She was also convinced that Israel's current military campaign against Hezbollah was completely justified.

"We are all for it," Aharoni said of herself and her like-minded friends. "We are liberating our northern frontier, and we are liberating the Lebanese from the extremists and the Iranians who control them. I think it had to be done."

"I always think speaking together and negotiating is much better than any military action, and even now we should be talking," she said. "But they started this. They didn't try to talk. It's a situation where you either defend yourself or you're dead."

Aharoni and her co-protesters were denounced as naïve by opponents of the withdrawal from Lebanon. In their famous letter, which captured the attention of media around the world, the Four Mothers suggested that Mohammad Khatami, a moderate who at the time had recently been elected president of Iran, was unlikely to continue arming Hezbollah if Israel pulled out. But this week she was as hard-headed as any Israeli politician about the dangers lurking just across Lebanon's border.

"For years we hoped they would stop launching attacks, but they have built up a huge arsenal over there," she said. "Israel has the right to defend ourselves and our children. We shouldn't have to live in fear of someone attacking us from across the border."

But she warned against a full-scale invasion. "I would feel very bad if they send in ground troops," she said. "Then I will oppose the government."

Aharoni was born in Egypt and was forced to leave with her family when Israel was founded in 1948.

"It was our 'naqba,' " she said, using the Arabic word for 'disaster' with which Palestinians describe the creation of the state of Israel. "We lost everything, but I have never had any hatred for anybody. This is what I tell my Palestinian and Egyptian sisters. I never took a gun and tried to kill anyone. We just started over again."

She became a poet and a professor of literature and sociology at the Technion Institute in Haifa. Increasingly convinced that bridges for peace could be built through shared understanding of culture, she founded the International Friends of Literature and Culture, and Bridge: Jewish and Arab Women for Peace in the Middle East.

Her latest book is an anthology titled "Women: Creating a World Beyond War and Violence."

"The women of Lebanon gave us so much support before 2000," Aharoni said. "Today they can do the same thing. Working together, women have the power to free Israel and Lebanon from the terrorists destroying both our countries."

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