Saturday, September 17, 2005

Letter to Prof. Robert Jensen

Robert Jensen is a radical anti-American professor who teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also friends with a professor of mine, whom I studied under last fall semester.

To get an idea of where Jensen stands, one only needs to read the titles of his articles:

The United States has lost the war in Iraq, and that's a good thing

Ward Churchill has rights, and he's right

Our grief is not special: The pain of September 10

Are we Americans, or human beings?

I helped kill a Palestinian today

A defeat for an empire

Anyway, here is a link to many of his articles.

Here is the copy of a letter that I intend to send to Jensen tomorrow:

Dear Professor Jensen,

I’m a graduate student in the department of Journalism and Mass Communications at UW-Milwaukee. I took a course last fall with professor David Allen, whom I understand is a friend of yours.

I’ve seen you on TV and I’ve read a number of your published articles. As far as your views on American foreign policy and Israel are concerned, it’s safe to say that I do not share your opinions.

In your article “Israel must end the occupation” you argued that Israel was not serious about peace. Other than agreeing with your interlocutor that violence against non-combatants was always wrong, you placed all of the onus for peace making on Israel.

To prove your contention that Israel does not want peace, you pointed out that the number of settlers expanded during the Oslo years, among a few examples of “bad” Israeli behavior. Meanwhile, you never mentioned any of the myriad actions taken by the Palestinians that didn’t exactly indicate a desire for peace on their behalf.

I am fairly well versed in the intricacies of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I could easily provide tons of evidence showing that Israel has been serious about peace—and conversely that the Palestinians generally have not—but I do not want to quibble over little details. I’m interested in the big picture.

Therefore, I’d like to get your honest opinion regarding a very simple, albeit clichéd, statement that I think sums up well the general dynamics of the conflict:

If the Palestinians laid down their weapons, there would be peace. If the Israelis laid down their weapons, they would be annihilated.

In other words, let’s take things from where they stand today.

Imagine that Mahmud Abbas (a Holocaust denier, by the way) was able to extend PA control over the Gaza strip. Let’s pretend that the insane anti-Semitic incitement in the PA press ceased, and that the PA disarmed Hamas and Islamic Jihad; even cooperated with Israel to prevent terrorist attacks. Let’s also pretend the PA upheld rule of law in the areas under its control. In short, let’s pretend the PA proved to be a responsible authority. Responsible to its citizens, and responsible towards its neighbor, Israel. Finally, let’s pretend that Abbas pledged his government’s support, in principle, for a two-state solution with a shared Jerusalem, more or less along the lines of what former Israeli PM Barak offered at Camp David in 2000.

Be honest: Do you really think the Israelis would ignore the Palestinians’ outstretched arm and re-occupy Gaza? If the PA arrested and jailed known Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, do you think Israelis would reply by continuing to raid the those two Islamist terror groups? If the Palestinian press included articles in favor of a two-state solution and peaceful co-existence—or, if some Palestinians held a march for peace (Israelis have held countless marches for peace)—do you really honestly think the Israelis would snub such moves and reply by demolishing homes and maintaining security checkpoints and the like?

In addition, let’s pretend the Israelis decided to unilaterally withdraw to the 1967 borders, evacuating all the settlements in the process (FYI, UN resolution 242 does not require Israel to withdraw from all of the territories captured in the Six Day War). Let’s also pretend that the Israelis gave up their suspected nuclear weapons, and even pledged to scale back the IDF to the level of a mere police force. Let’s pretend they did this all “for the sake of peace,” just to show their good intentions to the Arabs and people like yourself.

If they did all that, do you think that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, Fatah, and al-Aska Martyrs Brigades would lay down their weapons and make peace with Israel?

Let’s further pretend that after Israel unilaterally withdrew to the June 1967 borders, she was attacked by Palestinian forces; not much unlike what happened to Israel a number of times since unilaterally withdrawing from the security belt in southern Lebanon in 2000. After these attacks, let’s imagine that Israel retaliated not with force, but with “love bombs” and messages of peace instead of a military response.

Do you really honestly believe that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, even the PA, et. al., would be impressed and lay down their weapons and make peace in return? Do you think they’d be convinced, or touched, by Israel’s genuine desire for peace, and reciprocate in kind?

I understand you are busy, and so I thank you in advance for your consideration.



P.S. I agree with you that Israel should eventually end its rule over the West Bank, although with some minor border adjustments. But I’m wondering how you account for the Arab rejection of Israel prior to 1967, before any “occupation.”

Obviously if Jensen replies to my letter, I will post it.


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