The New Republic?s ?wonderful? speech calls Middle East peace ?Hitler?s dream?

The New Republic has published on its website, with gushing praise, a deranged speech given by Elena Bonner, widow of the late Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, who calls a two-state peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians “the dream of Adolph Hitler.” “Because the plan ‘two states for two peoples’ is the creation of one state, ethnically cleansed of Jews, and a second one with the potential to do the same,” she claims, “a Judenfrei Holy Land–the dream of Adolph Hitler come true at last. So think again, those who are still able, who has a fascist inside him today?” Apparently all those who yearn for peace in the Middle East.

This ludicrous idea would be of only passing interest if it had not been enthusiastically adopted by one of this country’s best known political magazines, and lauded by its publisher as “wonderful.” Marty Peretz has long been known to harbor extreme views on Middle East issues, but this seems to stake out a new dimension of extremism for both him and his chronically irresponsible (on this issue, at least) magazine. This increasing tendency for supporters of the occupation and pro-Israel extremists to equate peace in the Middle East and any realization of Palestinian national rights with Hitler is an extremely revealing and repulsive display of fanaticism, but also mounting panic that peace might actually be achievable.

Bonner’s hysterical opposition to a Palestinian state is supposedly based on the idea that, “The Quartet, and the Arab countries, and the Palestinian leaders (both Hamas and Fatah) put additional demands to Israel. I will speak only of one demand: that Israel accept back the Palestinian refugees.” Obviously the Quartet makes no such demand on Israel and it has been clear for a long time that Palestinian negotiators understand that Israel will not be agreeing to any mass return of refugees in a two-state peace agreement. The Arab Peace Initiative calls for the “Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194,” which is deliberately vague and allows for a wide range of options for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement short of a mass return of refugees. In other words, Bonner’s claim is simply untrue, and I am sure she knows this.

It seems clear from the tone and attitude of her speech that Bonner in fact supports the occupation, which is not mentioned at all in this address that is full of the language of human rights by a self-described human rights activist. She evinces no interest in or recognition of the atrocious human rights situation for Palestinians living under occupation, and its questionable if she even recognizes or cares that a foreign military occupation is in place in the Palestinian territories. Her reference to the occupied West Bank as “Judea and Samaria” is a further indication of her attitude towards the territories, implicitly suggesting that they are, in fact, a part of Israel. This attitude explains the need to lie about the international and Arab position on the refugees in order to condemn peace as a Hitlerian and anti-Semitic plot.

Most noteworthy, however, is Bonner’s neglect of the most obvious question: if she is so passionately opposed to a two-state peace agreement, what is she for? Everyone who stands against a reasonable peace agreement based on ending the occupation should immediately be confronted with the need to explain what they think the alternatives are and what they feel is preferable to a reasonable peace agreement. Typically, opponents of peace based on a Palestinian state on both sides, but especially on the pro-occupation right (which is what we seem to be dealing with here in this “wonderful” address), are silent about what they actually favor. This is, obviously, because anything they are likely to propose will be so indefensible and outrageous that their extremist agenda would be instantly exposed, and so silence on the most screamingly begged question is required.

And this character has the almighty gall to not only pose as a human rights activist, but also to call advocates of peace fascists, and peace itself “the dream of Adolph Hitler.” Wonderful, Marty, just wonderful. The overwhelming majority of Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs and Americans who support peace are going to have to work together to sweep aside this sort of fanatical opposition from extremists on all sides. Let’s give the supporters of violence, conflict and occupation much more to panic about in the coming months and years.