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2011-05-20

Did Obama’s Mideast Speech Signal U.S. Shift on Israel-Palestine? Democracy Now! Roundtable

Guests

Norman Finkelstein, author of several books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, including This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion.

Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney, activist and adjunct professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University. She is also the legal advocacy coordinator for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights and co-founder of Jadaliyya Ezine.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a nonprofit advocacy group based in the United States that lobbies for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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In a major speech on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and on the Arab Spring, President Obama said a Palestinian state must be based on the 1967 borders, the first time a U.S. president has explicitly taken this position. The Israeli government immediately rejected Obama’s comments, calling the 1967 borders "indefensible." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the United States today and will meet Obama at the White House. We host a roundtable with author Norman Finkelstein, Palestinian human rights lawyer Noura Erakat, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, head of the lobby group J Street. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today at the White House one day after Obama became the first U.S. president to explicitly call for Israelis and Palestinians to seek a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. Obama made the remark during a major speech at the State Department on the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, not by the United States, not by anybody else. But endless delay won’t make the problem go away. What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples — Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition and peace. So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel.

The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama’s decision to put the United States formally on record as supporting the 1967 borders drew cautious support from Saeb Erekat, the top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

SAEB EREKAT: Mahmoud Abbas expresses his appreciation to the efforts being exerted, the continuous efforts being exerted, by President Obama with the objective of resuming the permanent status talks in the hope of reaching a final status agreement on all core issues, including Jerusalem and refugees.

AMY GOODMAN: But Obama’s comments drew sharp criticism from Israel.

YIGAL PALMOR: Prime Minister Netanyahu, in his visit in Washington, will hope to hear a reaffirmation of the commitments made by the U.S. to Israel in 2004 and which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress. These commitments refer to the absolute necessity to solve the Palestinian refugee problems within — exclusively within the borders of the future Palestinian state and the non-viability of the ’67 borders as such.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor.

In his speech, Obama also laid out a U.S. strategy toward the Middle East and North Africa. He unveiled new billion-dollar economic aid packages for Egypt and Tunisia and took a harder line against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Obama also voiced support for opposition leaders in Bahrain while reaffirming the U.S.'s commitment to Bahrain's security. The President denounced Iran’s nuclear program and accused it of sponsoring terror.

Obama did not once mention Saudi Arabia during his speech. The country is a major U.S. ally in the Middle East. It’s staved off the widespread popular protests that have swept across the region since January.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, to further discuss Obama’s speech, we’re joined by three guests.

Noura Erakat is a Palestinian human rights attorney and activist. She’s a professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University and the legal advocacy coordinator for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights. She’s speaking at the "Move Over AIPAC" conference in Washington this weekend.

We’re also joined by Norman Finkelstein, author of several books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, including This Time We Went Too Far: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion.

AMY GOODMAN: And in Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of J Street, a nonprofit advocacy group based in the United States that lobbies for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Jeremy, let’s begin with you. Your reaction to President Obama’s address?

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Good morning, Amy and Juan. It was a terrific speech by the President. And as you’ve pointed out, it broke new ground in putting the United States officially on record as recognizing that the resolution of this conflict, for the benefit of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people, is going to be two states based on the '67 lines with adjustments. It's something that 99 percent of the world understands and accepts and has recognized for quite some time, and it’s really unfortunate to see the Israeli government reacting in this way and unable to accept that this is the basis of their own long-term security interest, recognizing their own borders with their neighbors and finally getting international recognition of their right to self-defense.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Norman Finkelstein, I’d like to ask you about this question of new ground. As you’ve pointed out, President Bush, over three years ago, made a similar speech, and I want to quote from his. He said that "There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. [An] agreement must establish Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people." And Bush went on to say, "These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent." And, "It is vital that each side understands that satisfying the other’s fundamental objectives is key to a successful agreement." So, Bush said that you needed security for Israel and viability for the Palestinian state, that were in the mutual interest of both parties. How different is what Bush said three years ago from what Obama said yesterday?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, if you were to juxtapose the two speeches, you would see not only is there no difference in content, but there’s actually no difference in form. It’s the same wording: mutually agreed land swaps based on the June 1967 borders. That’s basically been the position of the United States since, you could say, the last 20 or 25 years. There was no new ground in President Obama’s speech. And frankly, there’s no recipe there, there’s no formula there, for resolving the conflict.

The formula has to be exactly as the International Court of Justice said in July 2004 and as the U.N. General Assembly says every year with near-unanimous support. The Palestinians have the right to self-determination in the whole of the West Bank, the whole of Gaza, with East Jerusalem, the whole of East Jerusalem, as its capital. That’s the Palestinian right. That’s not subject to negotiations. Rights are enforced; they are not negotiated. The moment you say it has to be mutually agreed upon means Israel has a veto over Palestinian rights.

Secondly, Mr. Obama said that the withdrawal of Israeli troops has to be mutually agreed upon. That means Israel can say that, "OK, we’ll withdraw from the Jordan Valley," as they’ve said in the past. "We’ll withdraw in 20 years." And if the Palestinians say no, we’re at an impasse again. It’s not mutually agreed upon.

Thirdly, President Bush — excuse me, President Obama said that Jerusalem is a separate issue. He calls it an issue that remains. But that’s not the law. The International Court of Justice ruled that the whole of the West Bank, as they put it, comma, including Arab Jerusalem, is occupied Palestinian territory. If you say you want to return to the June '67 border, how can you exclude Jerusalem? Jerusalem wasn't part of Israel in June 1967. Jerusalem has the exact same status under international law as the West Bank and Gaza. In the words of the International Court, it is occupied Palestinian territory. To talk about a Palestinian state without East Jerusalem is to talk about an Indian reservation or a bantustan. There can’t be a state without Jerusalem as its capital.

AMY GOODMAN: Noura Erakat, did you have any hope — take, draw any hope from what President Obama said yesterday? Did you think there was anything new in it?

NOURA ERAKAT: I thought that his affirmation of self-determination for all peoples, the right to dignity, as they apply in Tunis, in Egypt, in Yemen, in Bahrain, was inspirational.

I think that what he said in regards to Palestine and Israel, unfortunately, was more of the same, and perhaps even worse. He had indicated that there are numerous Palestinians living to the west of the Jordan River. Well, those happen to be the Palestinians, the indigenous population, that have been living under occupation since ’67, including the refugees who were displaced in 1948.

Additionally, the things that were also of concern is that he described moving to the 1967 borders and qualified that immediately by referencing land swaps. But if we’re referencing land swaps, essentially what we’re discussing is the potential transfer of the Palestinian citizens of Israel into the West Bank. And that transfer is forbidden, or should — I mean, is prohibited by international law.

Finally, he did say, whereas Bush described Israel as a Jewish homeland, Obama went one step further to describe it as a Jewish state, which hasn’t been discussed by Bush before. And this is very troubling, because to describe it as a Jewish state, not a Jewish homeland, is detrimental to those 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel who are Christian and Muslim, who therefore will be relegated to second-class citizenship, as a matter of fact, in institutionalization.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the need that the President felt, Noura, to make this speech just before the meeting with Netanyahu, is that, in essence, reflecting the changed condition on the ground that’s going on now? Obviously, with the revolution in Egypt now, you’ve had Egypt brokering an agreement between Fatah and Hamas, and Egypt agreeing to open up Rafah now to end the isolation of Gaza.

NOURA ERAKAT: I think that what — by Obama making this speech when he made it, he is trying to be ahead of the curve, in order to demonstrate to the Palestinians that they need not move to diplomatic fora and multilateral institutions like the U.N. to achieve self-determination that the U.S. can deliver. Unfortunately, the U.S. has been unable to deliver for the past 18 years, definitely more, but at least during the tenure of Oslo. And this does very little to increase their credibility.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Ben-Ami, this weekend AIPAC is having its major meeting in Washington, and there is major counter-meetings that are taking place. Explain what your organization, J Street, is.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: We are the voice of what I would consider to be the passionate moderates in the American Jewish community, because we are deep believers in the concept of a national home for the Jewish people, and we are also passionate believers in the concept of a national home for the Palestinian people. And we believe that each is dependent on the other. We can only have a state that is in fact the home of the Jewish people if there is one for the Palestinian people, as well. And contrary to Professor Finkelstein, we would support reasonable compromises that would allow some of the built-up settlement areas along the border of Israel to be retained within a state of Israel that is at peace with a Palestinian state, provided that equal land has been transferred from the state of Israel to the new Palestinian state. And again, for Noura Erakat, no one is talking about, at least in the pro-peace camp, is talking about swaps that would include actual citizens of Israel. It wouldn’t include people; it would be land. And there’s been land identified that is available. It’s been subject to negotiation for a decade now, that would be available for such a swap. So, I like to think that we represent the center of the debate between those who see Israel as always right and those who see Israel as always wrong. We recognize there’s two sides to the story, and there’s two peoples with two rights and two sets of wrongs, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to come back to this discussion. We have to break. Our guests are Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street; Norman Finkelstein, author; Noura Erakat, human rights attorney and activist. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking about "what now?" President Obama just gave a major address yesterday. Today he meets with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House. Our guests are Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street; Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney; and Norm Finkelstein, author who’s written a number of books on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Norm Finkelstein, on this issue of land swaps, is it feasible to have land swaps for the goal of a contiguous state?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Of course it’s feasible to have land swaps. The question is whether the borders are subject to mutual agreement. Now, Jeremy says that he represents the moderate center versus the extremes, and I’m one of the extremes. But my position is the position of the International Court of Justice. The Court ruled in July 2004 that the whole of the West Bank, the whole of Gaza and the whole of East Jerusalem are occupied Palestinian territories, which are the designated unit for Palestinian self-determination. Just as Israel’s borders are not subject to mutual agreement, neither should the borders of the Palestinian state be subject to Israeli acquiescence.

If, when they sit down in negotiations, Israel presents a reasonable offer and it says, "We want to keep, say, 1.9 percent of the settlement — 1.9 percent of the West Bank, and we’ll give you land of equal value and equal size in Israel," well, the Palestinians are free to say yes or no. But if the Palestinians choose to say no, because they don’t want the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim going all the way from Jerusalem to Jericho and bisecting their country, or they don’t want the settlement of Ariel going all the way across and bisecting the northern half of the West Bank, they have to be free to say no. Otherwise, there’s not going to be a settlement. And that’s exactly what’s not allowed for.

At least Jeremy said "equal size." He didn’t say "equal value." But let’s say "equal size." Obama was very careful not to say that. He just said "mutually agreed land swaps." That can be a ratio of five to one. It can be a ratio of seven to one. That’s not a basis for a settlement. That’s a basis for Israeli veto over the size and shape of a Palestinian state. And that’s unacceptable.

But I have to emphasize that’s not the extreme position. Every year, 165 countries in the United Nations reiterate what I say, or to put it more accurately, I’m reiterating what they say. Jeremy’s position is the position of the United States, Israel, Nauru, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Australia. Those are the dissenters. I’m very smack in the middle on this debate.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street?

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Well, actually, the position that I’m outlining is the position of the Quartet, which represents the U.N., the E.U., Russia and the United States, which is that the agreement needs to be one that is negotiated and accepted by both parties. The basis of conflict and war is when two sides stand on their high ground and say, "Well, we have rights to this, and you don’t," and then they fight it out. The only hope for an end to this conflict, and the reason for diplomacy, is to explore the art of the possible and how do we get both sides to relinquish what they both view as their right. And I think this is the only way that we’re going to avoid a Third Intifada, the only way that we’re going to avoid an explosion in the region, is if we will agree that there’s going to have to be a mutual agreement, because that’s how we will get both sides to recognize each other and put this conflict to rest forever.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, let me —

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Jeremy, are Israel’s borders subject to Palestinian agreement? Are Israel’s borders subject to Palestinian agreement? Or, was a precondition for negotiations that the Palestinians had to accept Israel in its pre-’67 borders? Which was it? Is it subject to negotiations?

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Well, at the moment, the unfortunate truth for the state of Israel and for those of us who support the state of Israel is that Israel doesn’t have internationally recognized borders. It’s one of the reasons why —

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No, it certainly does. The World Court says it does. The International Court of Justice says it does. The United Nations General Assembly says it does.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: But the world doesn’t recognize those.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No, the world does.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: The world generally does not accept those borders. And if you try to draw —

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: That’s not true, Jeremy. Jeremy, that’s simply not true.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: You can shout. You can try to —

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, let me bring — let me bring Noura into the conversation. Specifically, I wanted to ask you about the — because President Obama was very clear that whatever happens at the United Nations this fall is going to have, from his perspective, no bearing on how things are negotiated between the Palestinians and Israel. Your sense of the upcoming United Nations vote on recognizing a Palestinian state?

NOURA ERAKAT: Sure. I just want to comment also on this discussion that’s happening about borders and not borders. What Israel has been doing is trying to create its own de facto borders, and therefore not recognizing that there is an armistice line. There is a green line, and that’s exactly what Norman is referring to, that the ICJ has referred to, as well.

What we are debating is whether or not the state will be viable as outlined by Obama. But I think that that is a false premise. It’s not about whether or not the states will be a viable state for Palestinians. Palestinians are looking and seeking and demanding — and are entitled to — self-determination, equality, freedom, dignity. And their call is the same as their Arab brethren in the region. That’s why the statehood strategy is also not going to be sufficient, because even if a state was declared, even if it was recognized by a two-thirds majority that’s able to overturn a Security Council veto to challenge it, that won’t suffice to offer sovereignty and dignity and liberty for Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: Noura, I want to get you to respond to President Obama speaking yesterday, where he rejected Palestinian efforts to have the United Nations recognize Palestine as an independent state.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: For the Palestinians’ efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama yesterday. Noura Erakat?

NOURA ERAKAT: It’s quite unfortunate, again, the reference to Palestinians pursuing a path that’s not tenable. This is precisely the path that we should be on. That the U.S. has siphoned this discussion and isolated it, so that it created a tension between human rights, international law and politics, is precisely what has undermined the Palestinian platform to achieve any semblance of self-determination. And I think that by returning to this multilateral platform, where might doesn’t equal right, but there is a point of departure — and that point of departure is international law — is a positive step.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Move Over AIPAC meeting that’s taking place this weekend, explain it.

NOURA ERAKAT: Move Over AIPAC is really a precedent-setting meeting in that it’s going to challenge the Israel lobby, which was wonderfully articulated by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer in their book, in their manuscript. And what it will do is to bring constituents to Washington to be able to demonstrate their constituent support for a different policy on the Middle East, on Israel and Palestine, to their lawmakers, who, by the way, behind closed doors lament that there aren’t more voices that can support them in taking a more critical stance.

AMY GOODMAN: And Jeremy Ben-Ami, how does J Street relate to AIPAC?

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Well, there’s a lot that we have in common; there’s a lot that we disagree with them on. You know, we are supporters of the relationship, the special relationship between Israel and the United States. We do support Israel’s right to self-defense, and we support efforts by the United States to support Israel in that regard. However, at the same time, we don’t support an Israel right or wrong foreign policy for the United States.

There’s an American national interest in bringing about an end to this conflict, a reasonable two-state solution as articulated by the President. And I think while there are some who are worried about the reception for the President at AIPAC and whether or not he’ll find support in that organization, he should know that the majority of Jewish Americans, the majority of the organizations in the American Jewish community — Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and others — do support his two-state vision, that he outlined yesterday, and came out with statements of support.

So we are differing with AIPAC on a number of its particulars. We’re supportive of the general mission of a strong and robust relationship between the United States and Israel. And, of course, we’re big proponents of a two-state solution and the right of the Palestinian people to freedom and self-determination, as Noura Erakat is saying, within a two-state solution.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Norm, I’d like to ask you — Jeremy mentioned before the involvement of the Quartet, but there have been increasing fissures within that group, as well. Israel attempted to — or is withholding the tax revenues of the Palestinian Authority after the reconciliation with Hamas, and immediately the Europe Union has announced that it is increasing its aid to the Palestinian Authority, because they see this reconciliation as a positive move forward.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The Quartet is an ad hoc body consisting of the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and, I guess — and Tony — well, Tony Blair’s —- I can’t recall right now the fourth. There are -—

JEREMY BEN-AMI: The U.N.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The U.N. There are — no, not the United Nations.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Yes, the United Nations.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The U.N., every year, has this resolution called "Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question." It’s every year in the United Nations, in November of each year. And every year they outline the principles for resolving the conflict. We don’t need Mr. Obama to conjure up new principles any more than we needed President Bush to conjure them up. We have the platform or the basic principles based on international law. And those principles have been ratified every year not only by the U.N. General Assembly; they’re ratify every year by all 22 members of the Arab League. They’re ratified — they were ratified by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

And I regret to say that, contrary to what Jeremy is saying, those principles are explicit: recognition of Israel in its June '67 border. Incidentally, the Islamic Republic of Iran every year votes with the majority in the U.N. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. They ratified the two-state solution on the June ’67 border. There is no dispute about this. There is no denial of Israel's right to its June '67 border. The only question is the right of the Palestinians to their border of the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. That's the only issue that’s open, because of Israel and the United States.

Now, one last point. Jeremy says he supports a reasonable foreign policy for Israel. Your next guest is going to be one of the people who was on the Goldstone mission. Now, J Street has said that politically it’s closest to Kadima, the Israeli coalition Kadima, which is headed by Tzipi Livni. Tzipi Livni said, during the Israeli assault on Gaza, that Israel — now I’m quoting her — "Israel went wild in Gaza, which is what I demanded." She also said, the day after Israel withdrew, she went on Channel 10 news, and she said that "I demanded real hooliganism in Gaza." "I demanded real hooliganism in Gaza." She went on to say, "I have no regrets about any of my decisions during the invasion of Gaza, and I’m proud of those decisions." Now, Jeremy says his organization — or his organization has said they are closest to Kadima, headed by Tzipi Livni. So I have to ask him, Jeremy, is "going wild" and "real hooliganism" your idea of a moderate foreign policy?

JEREMY BEN-AMI: You know, it’s fun to be on a program with you, Norman. We’ve never met, and I’ve heard a lot about you. But it’s interesting that, you know, the question that was asked was whether or not Israel had withheld tax revenue and the Europeans had increased their aid. And I thought I’d just answer the question rather than attack you.

The question, Juan, is correct. Initially, the Israeli government did withhold tax revenue. It has subsequently released that tax revenue. So that issue is now off the table. What the Europeans agreed to do was to advance aid that was otherwise already committed in order to make up the cash flow problems that were facing the Palestinian Authority.

And that’s the kind of, you know, reasonable answer that I think a question like yours demands. I don’t think there’s any need to engage in this kind of attack questions, Professor Finkelstein.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: That’s not an attack question.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Of course we don’t support —

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It’s clarity about your position, Jeremy.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Since we’re here to discuss — but I’m just curious. Since we’re here to discuss President Obama’s speech, we’re here to discuss the way forward, we’re here to discuss a way to avoid another war, how to achieve peace and security for both peoples, I don’t quite understand what the point of your question is.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I think you were asked to define what — you were asked to describe what J Street’s position was, how it compared with AIPAC. And so, I think as a point of clarity, what do you consider an Israeli reasonable foreign policy? Is it "going wild" and demonstrating "real hooliganism" in Gaza? Is that your idea of a reasonable Israeli foreign policy? Because that’s what Tzipi Livni said. I can’t change her words. That’s what she said.

JEREMY BEN-AMI: Last I checked, I’m not — last I checked, I’m not Tzipi Livni’s spokesperson, and I’m not American Friends of Kadima.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: You said —

JEREMY BEN-AMI: I represent — I represent — let me finish a sentence. I represent the organization J Street, that is a lobby for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans. We believe in Israel’s right to exist. We believe in the right of the Jewish people to a national homeland of their own. We believe in the right of the Palestinian people to a national homeland of their own. We define being pro-Israel as being, as well, pro-Palestinian. And we’re tired of this pro and anti dynamic. We’re tired of this either-or, right-or-wrong dynamic, because this is an issue that has shades of grey, which you seem incapable of absorbing or expressing. So, yes, Israel does have a right of self-defense when rockets are rained down on its citizens and school buses are blown up. It does have the right to strike back against those who perpetrate terror in the interests of pursuing their own interests.

NOURA ERAKAT: And it also has an obligation —

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Does a right —

JEREMY BEN-AMI: However, we believe that there have to be limits to those, and we don’t believe that any country has the right to "go wild" and inflict excessive damage on a civilian population. So there’s a middle ground here, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Noura Erakat, we’re going to end with you.

NOURA ERAKAT: Israel has the right to defend itself, but it also has the obligation to respect the laws of war that limit the deliberate attack on civilians and their targeting. What happened in Gaza is unacceptable. And any solution requires Obama not to map out and reiterate these same principles over and over. What the U.S. needs to do is to apply pressure to end the settlement expansion, to dismantle them, to dismantle the wall pursuant to the ICJ decision, to hold Israel accountable for Operation Cast Lead, to remove Israel’s forces from the Jordan Valley. And then we can discuss these other matters on principle.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to talk about the Goldstone Report in just one minute. I want to thank Noura Erakat, Palestinian human rights attorney, for joining us. Norm Finkelstein, author, his book is coming out in the next week on the Goldstone Report. And I want to thank Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a member of the Goldstone Commission speaks out on a national U.S. broadcast for the first time. Stay with us.

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