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'Obama has the right idea as far as intervention in the conflict is concerned'


SAURABH KUMAR SHAHI | New Delhi, March 23, 2012 15:08
Tags : Media watch | 'Obama has the right idea as far as intervention in the conflict is concerned' |

Mairav Zonszein is an independent Israeli-American journalist and writer, living in Israel. She hails from New York city and is a blogger and editor of Her research focuses on the role of Israel in Jewish identity politics. She did her masters thesis on the changing definition of being “pro-Israel” in American Jewry. Mairav’s work has appeared in outlets such as Haaretz, Ynet, The Forward, The Nation, Dissent, The Jerusalem Post, Bikya Masr, and many more. In an interview with Saurabh Kumar Shahi, she discusses a range of issues relating to the Israel-Palestine conflict and its solution.


Let’s start with the prevailing situation in Palestine. It appears that the Arab Spring has given a royal ignore to the Palestinians. In the meantime, Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Increasingly, more and more Palestinians are starting to feel that the idea of a Palestinian state is turning unrealistic. In your opinion, does the two-state solution still stand a chance?
The reality today is that there is one state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean controlled by Israel. The Israeli government’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank and the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem has erased the Green Line, making the possibility of a viable Palestinian state appear impossible. Ultimately, if Israelis want to live in peace and security, they need to realise that Palestinians are a part of this place and whether the solution is one state or two, everyone will need to respect the other’s existence in a framework that enables self-determination for both.

What do you think is going on in the minds of the Palestinian leadership as it appears that the UN recognition initiative has lost its steam? Also keep in mind that the stalemate in the UN Security Council is expected to continue for some time.
I really can’t guess what is going on in their minds, but most likely, Abbas knew that the move for recognition to begin with was more symbolic than practical. I think he achieved it by giving a smart speech at the UN that was good for boosting national morale. As for a concrete solution, I think the Palestinian leadership knows that it needs to consolidate itself and take a new direction, since it has little credibility among the Palestinian public.

One of the immediate effects of the initiative has been that it has split EU down the middle. While Germany spoke against the proposed initiative, France and Spain appeared to be supporting it. Do you think public perception in Europe has started shifting towards Palestinians and that the Israeli narrative in the mainstream media has taken a beating following the boom of new-media?
It’s hard to say whether there’s a shift considering you can find a website for every kind of political slant. But new media has definitely enabled a plethora of reports, images and videos to circulate in real time around the world, impacting public opinion everywhere. European news has normally discussed more of the Palestinian narrative than media in US or Israel. Certainly, Israel has given the mainstream media plenty reasons to sympathise with the Palestinian narrative in recent years, because of incidents such as the Gaza War, the Mavi Marmara Flotilla and its increasingly right-wing and anti-democratic legislation.

Talking about the narrative, some mainstream journalists in US and elsewhere, including the likes of David Remnick, Thomas Friedman and Jay Michaelson, who minced no words in their support for Israeli policies in the past, have started showing signs of frustration. What do you think has changed in the past few years?
In recent years, Israel’s government has increasingly favoured Israel’s “Jewish” character over its “democratic” one. American Jewish figures like those listed here support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state but have always done so on the condition that it upholds democratic policies of equality, religious tolerance, freedom of expression and protest, and an independent judiciary – all of which are being increasingly encroached upon by Israeli government legislation and practices. This issue must also be understood within the context of Israel’s PR industry and the American Jewish establishment which continue to portray Israel in a non-critical light. In the absence of an open discourse about Israel in the mainstream media and Jewish community in  US, these figures are now feeling comfortable being more openly critical of Israeli policies, since they feel it undermines Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with defined borders.

President Obama appears to be in no mood to spend his political capital coercing Israel in the election year. But the stance might change if and when he wins the second term. Could we expect some sort of a resolution then?
I certainly hope there is a resolution. I believe Obama has the right idea as far as American intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned. His speech in Cairo and condemnation of settlements at the beginning of his term made me optimistic. So, hopefully he can act in his second term. But he is subject to a Congress that staunchly backs Israel. Several factors in American politics make it difficult for him to act. The powerful AIPAC Israel lobby, which is well-seasoned in ensuring practically unconditional military and financial support for Israel is one.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017