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Trying to make sense of a meshuga planet

Andrei Sakharov’s widow Yelena Bonner speaks out

IsraelNN published excerpts from Yelena Bonner’s moving speech at Oslo Freedom Forum:


Read Sakharov’s Memoirs. It’s a pity his Diaries haven’t been translated; they were published in Russia in 2006. Apparently, the West isn’t interested now in Sakharov.

The West isn’t very interested in Russia either, a country that no longer has real elections, independent courts, or freedom of the press. Russia is a country where journalists, human rights activists, and migrants are killed regularly, almost daily. And extreme corruption flourishes of a kind and extent that never existed earlier in Russia or anywhere else. So what do the Western mass media discuss mainly? Gas and oil — of which Russia has a lot. Energy is its only political trump card, and Russia uses it as an instrument of pressure and blackmail… Russia will remain the way it is now for decades, unless there is some violent upheaval.

…They say people are coming together — but in reality, they are growing apart. And that isn’t because an economic depression suddenly burst forth, and swine flu to boot. [It] began on September 11, 2001. At first, anger and horror was provoked by the terrorists who knocked down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and by their accomplices in London, Madrid and other cities, and by the shahids, suicide bombers who blew themselves up at public spaces like discotheques and wedding parties, whose families were rewarded $25,000 each by Saddam Hussein.

Later, Bush was blamed for everything, and as always, the Jews — that is, Israel… So it is about Israel and the Jews that I will speak… At one time, the Nobel Peace Prize was the highest moral award of our civilization. But after December 1994, when Yasser Arafat became one of the three new laureates, its ethical value was undermined. I haven’t always greeted each selection of the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Storting with joy, but that one shocked me. And to this day, I cannot understand and accept the fact that Andrei Sakharov and Yasir Arafat, now posthumously, share membership in the club of Nobel laureates.

In many of Sakharov’s publications… [he] wrote and spoke about Israel. I have a collection of citations of his writing on this topic. If it were published in Norway, then many Norwegians would be surprised at how sharply their contemporary view of Israel differs from the view of Sakharov. Here are several citations from Sakharov: …

“All wars that Israel has waged have been just, forced upon it by the irresponsibility of Arab leaders.” “With all the money that has been invested in the problem of Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.”

…Now, a new motif is fashionable (in fact it’s an old one): ‘Two states for two peoples.’ It sounds good. And there is no controversy in the peace-making Quartet, made up of the U.S., the UN, the EU, and Russia (some great peace-maker, with its Chechen war and its Abkhazian-Ossetian provocation). 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. And here a little history and demography are needed.

According to the UN’s official definition, refugees are considered those who fled from violence and wars, but not their descendants who are born in another land. At one time the Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were about equal in number — about 700-800,000. The newly-created state Israel took in Jews (about 600,000). They were officially recognized as refugees by the UN Resolution 242, but not provided with any UN assistance. Palestinians, however, are considered refugees not only in the first generation, but in the second, third, and now even in the fourth generation. According to the UN Works and Relief Agency’s report, , the number of registered Palestinian refugees has grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than 4.6 million in 2008, and continues to rise due to natural population growth. All these people have the rights of Palestinian refugees and are eligible to receive humanitarian aid.

The entire population of Israel is about 7.5 million, of which there are about 2.5 million ethnic Arabs who call themselves Palestinians. Imagine Israel then, if another five million Arabs flood into it; Arabs would substantially outnumber the Jewish population. Thus, created next to Israel will be a Palestinian state cleansed of Jews, because in addition to the demand that Palestinian refugees return to Israel, there is also the demand that Judea and Samaria are cleansed of Jews and turned over to Palestinians – while in Gaza today there is not a single Jew already.

The result is both strange and terrifying, not only because Israel will essentially be destroyed… 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 thing. A Judenrein 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?

And another question that has been a thorn for me for a long time. It’s a question for my human rights colleagues. Why doesn’t the fate of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit trouble you in the same way as the fate of the Guantanamo prisoners?

You fought for and won the opportunity for the International Committee of the Red Cross, journalists, and lawyers to visit Guantanamo. You know prison conditions, the prisoners’ everyday routine, their food. You have met with prisoners subjected to torture. The result of your efforts has been a ban on torture and a law to close this prison. President Obama signed it in the first days of his coming to the White House…

But during the two years Shalit has been held by terrorists, the world human rights community has done nothing for his release. Why? He is a wounded soldier, and fully falls under the protection of the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions say clearly that hostage-taking is prohibited, that representatives of the Red Cross must be allowed to see prisoners of war, especially wounded prisoners, and there is much else written in the Geneva Conventions about Shalit’s rights.

The fact that representatives of the Quartet conduct negotiations with the people who are holding Shalit in an unknown location, in unknown conditions, vividly demonstrates their scorn of international rights documents and their total legal nihilism. Do human rights activists also fail to recall the fundamental international rights documents?

And yet I still think (and some will find this naïve) that the first tiny, but real step toward peace must become the release of Shalit. Release – and not his exchange for 1,000 or 1,500 prisoners who are in Israeli prisons serving court sentences for real crimes.

Returning to my question of why human rights activists are silent, I can find no answer except that Shalit is an Israeli soldier, Shalit is a Jew. So again, it is conscious or unconscious anti-Semitism. Again, it is fascism.

Thirty-four years have passed since the day when I came to this city to represent my husband, Andrei Sakharov, at the 1975 Nobel Prize ceremony. I was in love with Norway then. The reception I received filled me with joy. Today, I feel Alarm and Hope (the title Sakharov used for his 1977 essay written at the request of the Nobel Committee).

Alarm because of the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli sentiment growing throughout Europe and even further afield. And yet, I hope that countries, their leaders, and people everywhere will recall and adopt Sakharov’s ethical credo: “In the end, the moral choice turns out to be also the most pragmatic choice.”

I hope they listen. Here’s the speech in original Russian.
BTW, Andrei Sakharov was not Jewish, but he perfectly understood the importance of Israel. I highly recommend his memoirs.

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May 24, 2009 Posted by | Yelena Bonner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surprise: military solution works

A day ago, the French commandos had cohones to use force in order to save hostages and today the US Navy SEALs… Steven Plaut offers a healthy sarcastic perspective on this development: An Open Letter from President Shimon Peres to President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I am shocked, Mister President, truly shocked. After all the hope you have inspired for a new America, after your denunciation of American arrogance, after your pledge to solve problems with the world’s terrorists through talking, here you go and order the American Navy SEALS to violate the human rights of the Somalian pirates without so much as reading them their Miranda rights!

Have you lost your senses? Why could you not have learned from the lessons offered to you by Israel in its successful strategy to get Gilad Shavit released from captivity! After all, we have worked quietly and peacefully for more than three years to obtain Shavit’s freedom. Why could you not have been content to do the same with Captain Phillips? What happened to your promise to deal with all forms of activism in the world being perpetrated by misunderstood militants through civilized talking?

Mister President, I have a great amount of experience in dealing successfully with terrorism and violence, and this is why I wish to explain to you why your actions were unjustified and simply unforgivable. The first thing you must realize is that one can only make peace with one’s enemies. With one’s friends there is no need to make peace. There is no military solution to the problems of terrorism, and this is why you should have sought a diplomatic solution to the holding of Captain Richard Phillips. “No Justice, No Peace,” as they say. You must now invite the leaders of this Somalian protest organization responsible for the hijacking of the ship and the holding of Captain Phillips to the White House. You must learn to feel their pain and understand their needs. But most importantly, you must end the illegal occupation of territory that does not belong to you! First, you must withdraw from Guam and Hawaii and remove all the illegal Anglo-Saxon settlers there. But that is just a beginning. Large sections of the United States, including the Southwest, are illegally occupied territories. Some even have a Hispanic majority.

The solution is to create two states for two peoples inside Illinois itself. One will be for the Americans and the other for the Somali pirates.

The rest is here.

April 12, 2009 Posted by | Counterterrorism | , , | 1 Comment