By Lee Kaplan
The email announcement certainly looked impressive: My alma mater, UCLA, was serving as host to yet another “reconciliation group” seeking peace in the Middle East on February 26th. The brain-child of an Encino attorney named Josef Avesar, the event featured a panel of prominent intellectuals seeking an alternative route to the Road Map, because it is supposedly not working. John Van De Kamp, a former LA district attorney, hosted the panel, which was filled out by a panoply of Arab intellectuals dressed in suits from the American university scene, a Middle East studies department head from UC Santa Barbara, a representative from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and even an ex-Israeli general, Shlomo Gazit, one of the architects of the Oslo peace process and by all appearances there to fill the role of a token Jewish speaker. Alan Dershowitz was also advertised as a featured guest, but appeared only in a videotaped screening contrary to the live appearance advertised.
It was actually Dershowitz’s advertised appearance that drew me to the conference. Dershowitz’s new book, The Case for Peace, is so replete with dangerously unrealistic visions of imaginary peace concessions and cooperative behaviors from the Palestinian Arabs – wishful thinking- that it is a danger to Israel and its continued existence. The book and its plans for Middle East peace ignores the situation on the ground for Israelis and predicts imaginary Palestinian support for peace with Israel. Rationalizations about the conduct of overseas terrorists incubated in a terrorist culture come easily to an intellectual like Dershowitz, safe in America at Harvard University. For example, nobody, particularly a Palestinian policeman who is part of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, shoots at Dershowitz’s home from an Arab villa above his house. That does happen to Israelis whose lives could be directly affected by the erroneous information in Dershowitz’s book. The Israeli-Palestinian Confederation was made up of people with views identical to those of Dershowitz, inhabiting a fantasyland where Hamas does not exist or is more benign than the terrorist group really is.
I had posted on a website over forty questions challenging Dershowitz’s kumbaya tome that takes for granted a Palestinian desire to cease the murders of Jews and Christians in the Middle East? On arrival, I found Josef Avesar, the main organizer of the IPC, and asked him if, in lieu of my asking a question, I could just mention the website’s address and allow people to read the questions after the conference. After all, it was billed as an event that would not take sides, as an open discussion to present the peace plans of the hosts.
Avesar abruptly refused by stating, “We’re selling something here. We’re not going to to do it.” Moments later I met Rebecca Tobias who introduced herself as a member of the IPC’s Board of Directors. When I asked her about presenting my questions to the audience, she said I could do so telling me Avesar was “just nervous.” She took the website address and a list of some separate questions I had and assured me they would be answered that afternoon.
Selling something was an apt description of the event that day. The entire conference was a big con job to arrange the long term dismantling of the Jewish state, disguised as a plan for peacefully settling the conflict.
Avesar introduced himself as the President of the Israeli-Palestinian Confederation, an organization composed of a whopping 12 people who had met in his living room and voted him into office as President.
“I don’t think there’s a single person here who does not feel strongly about the Israeli Palestinian issue,” he began. “I’m going to ask the impossible.”
He continued by explaining that most people look at the conflict with the question ‘Is it good for my people or bad for my people?’
“We’re not here to present a solution,” Avezar declared, “but to present a mechanism, a mechanism that will be fair to everyone. The mechanism will reach a solution.”
Avesar expressed reget that a Palestinian spokesman for the IPC, Hisham Shkoukani, would be unable to attend due to his being unable to get a visa from the State Department. However, Avesar did not mention that such visas are usually denied to Palestinian leaders when they have links to terrorism.
Avesar began by asking for donations (more on that later) as he began a power point presentation of the IP Confederation plan. He argued that the IPC’s plans conform to the desires of Israelis and Palestinians, specifically, “a desire for a political solution to the conflict for their children to live in peace.” This statement was the beginning of an evening of dialogue couched in ellipses, since “peace” to the majority of Palestinians in polls means the end of Israel, and even today nearly half of Palestinians favor suicide bombings.
Avesar, ignoring the true meaning of the polls, then jumped immediately to his planned political solution. Declaring his proposal “fair” in considering the needs of both sides, “balanced” because it required consent of both sides, and maintaining it would not replace the current systems of government in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Avesar proposed the creation of 300 voting districts within the 1967 borders of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The Israeli government would be in charge of Israeli citizens, and the PA in charge of Palestinians. Of course, he did not mention the recent election wins by Hamas, nor its charter calling for the killing or expulsion of all Jews even within Israel’s 1948 borders.
Avesar then proposed that 300 representatives mirror current demographics: 180 Israelis to 120 Palestinians. He telegraphed his end game by saying that over time changing demographics would result in the Palestinians reversing that ratio, but that for now he was concerned only about his plan working. Apparently, the murder of Jews by militant Islamists had no part in this equation and would be deliberately ignored.
“All of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza is 9 million people,” Avesar continued. “Each district will encompass 30,000 people.” He then advocated a government within two governments with a National Director and a Vice National Director who would rotate places after two years. These two positions would be run for as a team of one Palestinian and one Israeli. Since Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem are intertwined, he never explained how he would find 30,000 people of the same ethnic background in one area to formulate a “district” in every case.
In addition, he proposed a confederated court system between the two sides. However, Avesar either chose to ignore or was ignorant of the fact that the Palestinian Authority’s constitution proscribes strict Sharia (Islamic law) in its territories, just as in Iran and Saudi Arabia. He also proposed a legislature in which bills must pass by 60% and the minority losers must still have 25% of the yes votes for it to pass. There would be no Israeli government veto, no Palestinian government veto.
Avesar maintained the 300 representatives would look out only for the interests of their local constituents ignoring the fact that Arab legislators (and some Israelis) are more open to influence by bribery than even the worst US congressman. He maintained that representatives from across the Holy Land would somehow work in complete cooperation with each other for the betterment of all. At least, that’s how he envisioned it from his Encino living room, surrounded by his twelve friends, both Arabs and Jews who do not live in Israel with their lives and the lives of their children on the line. The fact that Palestinian imams encourage the murder of Jews on daily Palestinian television has no place in Avesar’s utopian dream of cooperation.
Avesar then maintained his plan would work because it would generate what he estimated as $10 billion in outside donations. This money would go toward infrastructure improvements such that the average Israeli standard of living would increase by 100% and the average for Palestinians by 500%.
I began wondering if Avesar was a reincarnated snake oil salesman. The Oslo Accords produced similar economic and infrastructure improvements for the Palestinians alone and they still went to war, initially armed by Israel who even provided them with the guns for “policemen” to fight terrorism who were in fact terrorists themselves; the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a known terrorist group, is manned by Palestinian Authority police with their government’s blessing. Much more than $10 billion was given to the PA directly in foreign aid, not to mention a new country-in-the-making from which to launch a campaign to dismantle Israel. Was Avesar just ignorant of this? Had he never read a newspaper? And why was he choosing to ignore the issue of Islamic or pan-Arab hegemony over the Jews in the region by assuming that Arabs in the PA would be as cooperative as his coffee klatch back home?
As the panel opened up to discussion, the truth came out. Although the event was billed as being non-partisan, one Cal Poly Arab professor, Mahmoud Ibrahim, who frequents events designed to look like reconciliation movements, but who is in fact a terror apologist, began railing against Israel’s “occupation” even though Israel has withdrawn completely from Gaza and other major parts of the West Bank. He carried on about checkpoints without addressing the fact they were there to stop suicide bombings and terrorism. At no point did he call for the end of killing Israelis, claiming that “peace” and “justice” were unobtainable due to the “occupation.” But to him “occupation” meant all of Israel was Palestine! Despite Avesar’s repeated claims that the IP Confederation does not take sides in the conflict, even Avesar himself voiced no objection to Ibrahim’s rantings.
Surprisingly, General Gazit, came to the defense of Israel, explaining that the current solution offered at the conference was utopian and carried with it no realization of success. He proposed an economic Marshall Plan for the region instead feeling that somehow improving the economy would naturally lead people to living together—part of the same theory that drove the failed Oslo plan he helped create. The Oslo Plan failed because it ignored Islamic and pan-Arab expansionism based on the elimination and subjugation of non-Arab or non-Muslim populations, a key issue needing to be addressed first.
But for what it was worth, Gazit at least still came to the defense of Israel. Avesar claimed that since for 55 years Israel had failed to make peace with the Arab world as if Israel was solely at fault. Gazit mentioned the peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and Oslo as proof against this claim. He described the IPC “mechanism” as putting the cart before the horse. And he correctly stated that a reason the Oslo process failed was because too many issues had been postponed, including the establishment of final borders, issues around settlements, the refugee problems, water problems and the accessibility of holy sites. But Gazit also spoke in ellipses. He failed to mention that Arafat walked away from any negotiations and began a war when Israel would not agree to unconditionally allow 5 million Arabs to move inside its 1948 frontier lines.
I spoke to Gazit during a break and asked him why he did not mention Islamic and pan-Arab intolerance in his discussions. He told me because he was there to support the IP Confederation. It revealed the mindset of the man; the very issues mentioned above that were not settled at Oslo were somehow soluble with an imaginary Arab constituency that would reject and control terror against Israelis while abandoning the idea of destroying a Jewish state and replacing it with Palestine. The fact that once Israel had ceded the Temple Mount to Islamic control, that Jews were restricted from praying there, the other fact that Joseph’s Tomb was attacked, its rabbi literally torn to pieces, and the synagogue converted to a green domed mosque while its Torah scrolls were burned publicly – these facts somehow played no role in his thinking. He was right that Oslo failed, but not because issues were left unsettled. It was because he and others of his ilk refused to accept the reality on the ground before allowing a terrorist movement to set up shop on Israel’s doorstep.
And Gazit was not alone is his simplistic thinking that things can be the way one wants them to be just by wishing it so. Nancy Gallegher, the Middle East Studies head from UC Santa Barbara declared she could solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in fifteen minutes! Her solution? Create one state in the place of Israel, “share Jerusalem with equal access to all the holy sites,” she said, rather ingenuously. How very sad Ms. Gallegher does not know Israel always allowed equal access to all religious sites since it came into existence in 1948 and that the Arabs did not allow access for Jews and Christians to their own holy sites as “affronts to Islam” for areas under their control from 1948 to 1967. Gallegher also seemed unaware of the Joseph’s Tomb incident or the reluctance of the Waqf to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount even today. Of even more importance, she seemed ignorant or unwilling to consider the 25,000 terror attacks against Israelis since year 2000, mostly against Jews, by a culture that she seems to think would be willing to abandon its religious exclusivity in fifteen minutes! It’s hard to believe this woman teaches about the Middle East to college students.
The rest of the conference degenerated into cleverly worded attacks against Israel by one panel member after another. Pressed for time during a brief discussion over regional water rights issues, Salam Al Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council declared that “the Israelis steal the water from Gaza then sell it back to the Palestinians,” then dashed from the room. This was a lie since Gaza gets its water from Israel and always has, not having sufficient aquifers in its water tables. The other participants then began the inevitable complaint that Israel is a human rights abuser, unwilling to make peace, and the recipient of American favoritism. The audience, predominantly anti-Israel attendees, many wearing Arafat-style keffiyahs around their necks, always applauded and roared its approval at every dig at Israel. Rather than inviting constructive ideas for a peace process, the event was preaching to the choir. Yet it was billed as a “peace” forum” for the UCLA community.
And what of Alan Dershowitz? He must have smelled a rat at being invited to this event. The prerecorded video of him had him first making his usual “progressive speech” about peace between Israelis and Palestinians being possible. But he made it a point to say some progressive groups advocate a one state solution as a clever means of still dismantling Israel while claiming to protect its Jewish population. Without naming them, Dershowitz was likely avoiding cooperation with what the IP Confederation was really seeking: the long term dismantling of the Jewish state for a new Arab dominated Palestine.
Although we were all given 2” by 4” cards on which to write questions, when the question and answer period came, Avesar and his acolytes on stage informed the audience that “people always ask the same questions, so we have prepared some power point questions to address then all together.” They then put their own leading questions up on the screen and pretended to be answering questions from the audience. Every prearranged question led to an answer praising the benefits of the IPC. None from the audience were read addressing Islam, pan-Arabism or terrorism. In short, the “question and answer” period was asked and answered by the presenters themselves!
Avesar it should be noted here included a major donation request for $35 million dollars for his IP Confederation “mechanism” plan during the conference. “Recommended donations,” in the form of cash, had already been deposited in a pail at the entrance. Avesar said he was seeking one $35 million dollar donor or 35 one million dollar donors. He screened a budget that looked like this:
$6 million was to go for “advertising, legal issues, computers, telephones, computers, supplies, etc.”
Election – $16.5 million, for supporting local candidates, international monitors and security
Post-election - $12.5 million, for the travel, staff and salaries of 625 people (there was no description about where these people were to be drawn from, their responsibilities or allegiances).
$35 million ain’t hay. Avesar is a lawyer specializing in personal injury claims for his livelihood and his website features a photo of him waving like a used car salesman with testimonials from some people who were given big awards due to his legal skills, such as the $60,000 he won for an injury sustained by a woman while simply parking a car.
A few “progressive Jews” and Arabs who would enable the dismantling of the Jewish state over time could actually do quite well for themselves financially with this IPC project that ultimately makes no sense in the real world and cannot succeed. Could there be more to this repetition of the nonsensical “Geneva Accords” not long ago that also ignored Palestinian and Islamic terrorism and whose leaders were handsomely funded by the Swiss government and the EU for their trouble?
One of Avesar’s board members advised me the IPC was a nonprofit entity. A CPA advises me most nonprofit directors like Avesar can legally take 20% of funds raised as compensation in such situations. Saudi sheiks might donate a million here and there, because if the project succeeds it will end Israel over time, and, if it fails, it will still be a group of leftist radical Jews allied with Arabs to promote the propaganda war against the Jewish state. It’s highly unlikely that $35 million will be easily raised, not for a political mechanism doomed to failure because it is not sanctioned by either the Israeli or Palestinian governments and is divorced from the reality on the ground. But if fundraising reaches only halfway to the $35 million dollar mark, Avesar and possibly his twelve acolytes stand to still make a bundle of money while failing. I advised one of Avesar’s fellow board members that for these very reasons, I’d be encouraging the California Attorney General to investigate the IPC as a charitable scam, a Ponzi scheme for delusional peace-at-any-price donors and potential Arab contributors who see the real danger it poses to Israel’s future existence. The difference from Ponzi’s scam is the IP Confederation would pay out in false peace promises instead of cash at the beginning.
As for Rebecca Tobias, a little research uncovered she is affiliated with the EU-funded Peace Now and distantly linked to the Shefa Fund. The Shefa Fund has actually paid money to Israeli soldiers who will desert from the Israeli army. Ms. Tobias is also active in the Green Party and is campaign director for Byron De Lear, a Greens Party candidate for the 28th Congressional District in California. De Lear called for the impeachment of President Bush after his state of the union address. Moreover, the Green Party has consistently sided with the PLO in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute by calling for Israel’s dissolution into one Arab-majority state called Palestine. The Greens even feature the virulently anti-Semitic group Al-Awda in much of their correspondence making one wonder if they represent an American political party or a Palestinian one. One Green spokeswoman explained their support by noting that Arab Palestinians should not have to accept a settlement that would require them to live just 60 miles from the spot where their dead ancestors lived in 1948. In other words, Israel must open the floodgates to an Arab majority in one state, something the IP Confederation “mechanism” would also guarantee over time.
It was no doubt comforting for some UCLA students to read the IPC’s advertisements describing the brave living room group of twelve leftist Jews and Arabs, “impartially” seeking “peace” in the Middle East, and thoughtful enough to give a conference on campus without the common agenda of the out-and-out anti-Israel groups or radical groups that support the Iraqi resistance. This impression, however, was simply untrue. The Israeli-Palestinian Confederation may be a Ponzi scheme to raise money for its twelve board members, or it may be just another clever way to talk peace while trying to dismantle Israel--or both--but all college students and communities this group may visit in the future should be wary: it’s all about dismantling Israel.