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campus talk:

The Blame Game in Israel and Palestine

A Critique of Mark Rosenblum's Talk "The Politics of the Moment in the Middle East"

Leila Darabi

10 Dec. 2000

"I don't like to play the blame game," Professor Mark Rosenblum of Queens College announced to the audience Tuesday night at Titsworth Lecture Hall. He had come to speak on "The Politics of the Moment in the Middle East" based on his credentials as a founder of Americans for Peace Now. But Professor Rosenblum did assign blame. He blamed all parties involved in the recently failed Camp David Peace talks for their failure. He explained that no document came out of the event, and no evidence has appeared to suggest the main parties ever sat down in one room, with one deadline and one aim: to settle this conflict that has plagued the Middle East for the past fifty-two years. Yet after all these criticisms, after acknowledging the absence of any document and any agreement what so ever, Professor Rosenblum continued to reference the peace talks as though the relevant topic remained these very failed meetings. He referenced what many papers have spoken of: the 96%.

The 96% of the remaining portion of Palestine promised by the Oslo Accords to the Palestinian people. He noted what a landmark offer Barak had made and Arafat had rejected. This, he said at the end of the talk, gave him hope. Hope because he sees this as 96% of the way to the solution and an eventual Palestinian State with real autonomy. By "real" he meant the removal of Israeli settlers (a polite term for colonists) from areas that might one day make up a Palestinian State. To his credit, Rosenblum also mentioned the question of refugees and its absence from the diplomatic arena. Not to end on a somber note, though, the talk ended hopefully. A hope based on no documents, no advancements, but rather an event he himself railed as a completely disorganized failure.

In the end Rosenblum did not discuss the "politics of the moment". He chose to focus on moot points, non-advancements and the work of his own political group. According to Oz Shelach, an Israeli and an MFA student at SLC, "[Rosenblum's] movement Peace Now, of which in my youth I was a member, has for the last 7 years been acting as a helper for whatever Labor government is in power, no matter what war crimes that government chooses to commit."

Many students felt the talk sterilized the issues by hiding behind jargon and relying on an oversimplified portrayal of the current conflict. They felt the dissection of the diplomatic process decontextualized the bloodshed from vital history, "The plight the Palestinians is connected to what happened in the past", said Gary Pang '04. "My main complaint is, the guy didn't even talk about how Israel was founded. He didn't mention that Palestinians were expelled from their homes and even massacred. He talked about 'hawks' and 'doves' too much and oversimplified everything." Oz Shelach further explained "[Rosenblum] was presenting a symmetry between a sovereign state with the fourth largest army in the world and the indigenous people who resist being occupied by this country. He should tell the US govemment, "It's time to limit military aid to Israel which is then being used to bombard civilians!"

Sarah Gordon 'O1 said, "It was very interesting to hear such a diplomatic approach, but I feel like he discounted the people and emotions of Israel and Palestine. It's an oversimplification of the problem and the huge complexities of these two populations and to say, as he did, that Arafat is the voice of the Palestinians is wrong. Even if his 'Holy Grail' of a document was signed, the violence would not end." Tamar Blickstein '01 added "As an American Jew it deeply saddened me to see that the voice of Jewish American 'Liberalism' can so coldly gloss over the mass murder of protesting Palestinians by Israeli military. In situations like this one, blaming is not a game, it is a necessity.'"

 
 

This article is reproduced by permission from the Phoenix, Sarah Lawrence College Weekly, Bronxville NY.