MR. ABOUREZK: I happen to be a
pacifist, and I absolutely believe violence
is wrong, no matter what.
I think I could bring myself to defend my
family and myself in a violent way, but I
don't think that I can condone anybody
undertaking acts of violence, because, as
Joe Valachi used to say, "Them that lives
by da gun dies by da gun."
I can't justify violence. But I have to
hark back to what Oliver Tambo, the head
of the African National Congress, said
when he was in Washington in early 1987.
In a speech at the Press Club he said,
"Those who make political revolution
impossible make violent revolution in-
So you see, while you can ask me to lay
blame and point the finger of blame on
Palestinians and on Lebanese in southern
Lebanon who are resisting the Israeli oc-
cupation, I have to lay it back on Israel.
There really is no sensible alternative but
to stop the occupation; let these people
have their own country, let them have self-
determination. Let's not just talk about
self-determination in an abstract form; let's
do it in reality.
MR. SHIPLER: Well, let's explore the
political dimension before we turn to Mr.
There is a spectrum of opinion in the
Arab world, even among Palestinians, even
within the P.L.O., about the appropriate
political stand to take with respect to deal-
ing with Israel, negotiating with Israel.
How do you come out on that? Do you
criticize one particular viewpoint or
another? Where do you put yourself in that
spectrum? For example, would you
subscribe to the idea of a Palestinian-
Jordanian delegation negotiating with
Israel over the future of the West Bank?
MR. ABOUREZK: I think there ought to
be an international conference with every
state in the region involved, including the
P.L.O., the Soviet Union, and the United
I think there should be a P.L.O. delega-
tion by itself. I don't believe we ought to
continue to mask the refusal on the part
of Israel to negotiate by allowing them to
say that they won't accept certain Palestin-
ians. It just doesn't make sense for Israel
to choose the Palestinian negotiators,
which is what they're trying to do. If they
were successful in choosing a Palestinian
negotiator, how valid and how solid and
how long-lasting would the ensuing agree-
ment be? Obviously, the Palestinians have
their own representatives in the form of the
MR. SHIPLER: Well, Mr. Bookbinder,
let's give you the same question. What
Israeli positions do you criticize?
MR. BOOKBINDER: Well, first, if I may,
Mr. Shipler, with all due respect, I do not
accept your first comment about our
presentations, that one sees it all black and
one sees it all white. I've presented a gray
picture, because I believe it is a gray pic-
ture. Over and over again I have said that
both peoples have suffered as a result of
the conflict, and both have made mistakes.
Both have been wrong at times.
In your book, Arab and Jew, you said,
quite properly, "Both peoples are victims;
each has suffered at the hands of outsiders,
and each has been wounded by, the other."
I concur. That's why there is this great
need to seek accommodation, to seek a way
out of this terrible, horrible dilemma that
two peoples with legitimate claims to the
land and to peace and recognition find
themselves in. This conflict must be solved
You also said, in dealing with the ques-
tion of terrorism and violence, "The Arabs
and the Jews have been quite asym-
TWO LEADING AMERICANS,
A JEW AND AN ARAB,
DEBATE U.S. POLICY
IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Moderated by David K. Shipler
A debate in print on the past and future of American
policy in the Mideast.
metrical on this point of terrorism, with
the Arabs generally hailing their terrorists
and the Jews punishing theirs."
That's the difference. That's a very, very
important difference. While people in both
groups have indeed engaged at times in
violence, in horrible crimes, I believe it is
fair to say that overall the Jews have
themselves been repelled, repulsed, indig-
nant at acts taken by their own people,
while overall the Arabs have said they are
compelled to engage in this kind of ter-
rorism and violence.
Now, Mr. Abourezk may say that he's a
pacifist, but it's a weird kind of pacifism
that leads him to say, as he did in the very
first part of this book — on more than one
occasion — that he justifies the violence.
He says they had no alternative but to do
these terrible things. No pacifist should
ever talk that way. No pacifist should ever
justify violence of that type.
And there's a difference, of course, be-
tween violence that is a tragic part of war
and violence that is initiated by a group
specifically for the purpose of compelling
political decisions, with innocent victims.
So, have Jews been guilty of incidents
that one must reject? Yes, indeed, and I
have said so in the earlier part of the book.
No need to recite the specifics.
Have the Arabs been guilty? Yes, they
All of this — all of this — argues for a
really serious effort to understand what
can bring the parties together.
Finally, let me say this. I entered this
exercise, this debate, with the hope that as
a result each of us would indicate a
readiness to understand and accept at least
part of the other's viewpoint. I'm com-
pelled to say that I feel less hopeful now
that Mr. Abourezk is trying to understand
our agony and our aspirations. I say "our"
I suggest that Mr. Abourezk can tell me
right now that I'm wrong. Let him do it,
and I'll be glad to acknowledge I'm wrong.
I believe that Mr. Abourezk personally
shares the hope of too many Arabs that,
indeed, the state of Israel should cease to
exist. I think he'd like to wake up tomor-
row morning and find out that in one way
or another Jews are no longer the majori-
ty in Israel, or that one way or another all
of the Arabs, who he says were forced out
have returned, and either through electoral
process or some other process have now un-
done the Jewish state. That's what he would
like to see happen.
MR. SHIPLER: Mr. Abourezk, can you
respond to his question about your desires
on behalf of Israel, whether you would real-
ly like to wake up one morning and see the
disappearance of the Jewish state?
MR. ABOUREZK: I would like to see true
democracy come to Israel. And if the peo-
ple allowed to vote want to continue the
state, that's wonderful. I believe in self-
determination. And if they vote not to have
an exclusively Jewish state, that's fine
with me as well.
But I think the people ought to be en-
titled to decide that, particularly because
the people who support Israel and who
speak for it consistently say it's the only
democracy in the Middle East. Well, let's
let the democracy work.
MR. BOOKBINDER: I'd like to hear you
say that history, compassion, justice, and
plain humanity now justifies the existence
of a Jewish state in that part of the world.
MR. ABOUREZK: I've already said that.
MR. BOOKBINDER: No, all you've said
so far is that you accept as a fact that
Israel exists. Would you amend that at
least to say you believe it has a right to
MR. ABOUREZK: Well .. .
MR. BOOKBINDER: It has earned the
right to be there as a Jewish state?