Dialog With Harrison Owen


----- Message No. 1 -----
From: Harrison Owen
To: Asher Shla'in
Sent: Monday, December 09, 2002 11:45 PM

At 10:17 PM 12/9/2002 +0200, you wrote:

"There are comments which I wish to make on two issues.

One is that though it may be appropriate to query what people feel about one's country, it is not the same if you put the question (phrased in "love or loath" terms) immediately after supplying one-sided pictures that increase the chance of the "loath" choice. Here, the motivation is very questionable.  Ms. Ragen suggests that the CNN would rather incite against their own people for unworthy gains."

This may be more a question of "American English." Or Journalistic bombast. I looked up the material in question, and I did not get the same idea.

"I do not share all Ms. Ragen's views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue; for instance, I try to promote reconciliation where many (understandably) have lost hope.  Yet I cannot object to the main short-run defense concept of my government, which is _not to reward terror in any way_, and that holds for the sake of the Palestinian masses as well.  The deplorable pictures (with the hard reality they represent) and the less dramatic (but very harsh indeed) suffering of lengthy curfews and stern check-points - all indeed are connected with this policy - but I'm sure I need not explain what motivates all this.
Yes, maybe there is overdoing due to mistakes or accidents or even human malice and deficient control - and criticizing this may be in place - but I think that negotiation with the PLO is not an answer any more (and I can expand about it if you care to discuss it).  My own main criticism of my government is that there is hardly any preparation for the situation after terror is crushed.  This neglect involves also the relative disregard of human dignity, which indeed contributes to aggravate the present situation (adding to the outcome of deliberate hatred-policy devised by Palestinians)."

I can't disagree with what you say. But I remain convinced that a first step towards a way out is to remove The Settlements. And increasing them at this point (which seems to be what is happening) is just asking for more trouble. Leaving aside the morality of the situation, from a military point of view, their defence is a nightmare, which has to be taking its toll on the overall effectiveness of the IDF as a fighting force. We had pretty much the same situation in Vietnam. A no win situation. Soldiers do quite well when their mission is clear and more or less possible. When the mission is murky and/or impossible, moral and Unit Cohesion go down sharply. I would not want to be a commander in such a situation. Of course, the removal of the settlements would not stop the insane urge of some folks for suicide missions, but it would make it much more possible to defend against such attacks. Clear lines of defence.


Harrison Owen
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, MD 20854 USA
phone 301-365-2093
Open Space Training www.openspaceworld.com
Open Space Institute www.openspaceworld.org
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----- Message No. 2 -----

From: Asher Shla'in

To: Harrison Owen

Sent: Thursday, December 12, 2002 3:26 PM

Subject: The Issue of Settlements


Dear Harrison.

Before turning to the main issue, I must share a personal explanation.
It so happened, that after I read your first response, due to some mishap, I lost view (for a time) of all the already-read messages in my Inbox.
I did not want to leave you without response, and I hastened to write to you based on my memory. Well, by this I in fact ignored your central argument (as I see after I retrieved the message), which you kindly rephrased in your recent message. So, I apologize, and I write to you, although I am very pressed for time, preparing for a 2-week trip to attend a Jewish learning conference in England (back on Dec. 27th).

I realize that many Israelis share your view (most of them with less temperament), and the way you put it shows how much you care for Israel.

You "remain convinced that a first step towards a way out is to remove The Settlements". I do not mean to supply an analysis of the subject. I am going to pose only a series of points just to show that the issue is much more complex than might appear from your argument.

* The usual definition of "settlement" in this context is any residence of Jews beyond the "green line" (of June 5th 1967). This is used rigorously by Palestinian "moderate" leaders in their external messages.

Most of the Israelis who are willing to evacuate the settlements would not include Jewish neighborhoods in "eastern Jerusalem" and the chance for compromise here is very small.

Most Palestinians - when they are not in external politics - do not really discriminate between Jewish settling within or outside the green line. In fact, Palestinians were deprived of enormous amount of property within the green line compared with the barren land that the "settlements" occupy. The green line has no emotional value for Palestinians - while for Israelis who think like you, it is in my view an illusion without viable basis.

* The vision of peace with evacuation implies 2 states: a Jewish state with a large Arab minority and an Arab state that is Juden-Rein. One could wonder what is the value of such a peace, and what security it can supply.

* Admittedly, some settlements behave badly to their neighbors - and the government did too little to restrain them. Also one misses the open protest against that from the other settlements (maybe, like many Palestinians they feel the need to "stick together"). Yet, it should be known that most settlements used for years to have good personal and economic relations with their neighbors, very beneficial to both sides.

I believe that most of these Palestinians now miss the time before the PLO was brought to rule over them.

The present disconnection may still be reversible - unless the settlements are condemned to be dismantled.

* Admittedly again, the Israeli occupation has been conducted quite unwisely and unfairly (and I am not dwelling here on the causes for that) and the situation as you say is indeed tenuous. Yet, the solution to that cannot be a major surgery that cuts all relationships, eternalizes the disconnection, and leaves the Palestinians to the mercy of a corrupt regime whose policy is to nurture the hatred. What we need is a path to real reconciliation between the peoples.

* One trend in the Israeli public is to redraw the border according to Israel's strategic needs, evacuating some extreme outposts - trying to answer some of the problems you raised.

I see this as an expression of despair from real peace. In my view this is also an illusion that will backfire very soon.

* Even if it would be advisable to evacuate some settlements, I think it should never appear as a reward to Palestinian violence. Such rewards were given in the past and we - and the Palestinians - paid for that severely. Let me mention that wonderful settlements in Sinai were evacuated (justly or otherwise) at the time - but as a reward for utter reconciliation.

* The settlements are real home for over 200,000 people, who, at least from their point of view, live there rightfully, encouraged by the various governments of Israel. Evacuating them must be a major trauma on social, economic, political, cultural, ethical levels. Israel will need a miracle to survive such a blow.

* The settlements are not the cause of the conflict and abolishing them is not a cure - but maybe an additional damage. It may be easy to hold to this issue when all paths seem closed. Indeed it is more reasonable to direct demands towards the more open free society than to a closed terrorized public. But let us not be too influenced by the propaganda of any side and discuss problems to their depth.

And the problem is not military expediency but how shall we live in the future.

Is not an open dialog among the interested parties the best way to advance?

As I said, I am going to be absent for the rest of the month, but I am willing to continue this discourse.

Yours with best regards,



----- Message No. 3 -----

From: Harrison Owen

To: Asher Shla'in

Sent: Thursday, December 19, 2002 11:46 PM

Subject: Settlements


The attached map displays of the current settlements. Assuming that the detail comes through, it is very clear that East Jerusalem is but a minor part. Everything else is, and will continue to be, a source of infinite blood shed. It is all quite indefensible short of taking over the whole occupied territory on a permanent basis and expelling the current population. Which would seem to be Sharon's policy -- and if so -- it is clearly "working" as the residents of Yanun left their home in October to avoid harassment from the Settlers. I can see no possible excuse for any of this, which probably explains my "temperament," immoderate as it may be.


style='font-family:Arial'>----- Message No. 4 -----

From: Asher Shla'in

To: Harrison Owen

Sent: Sunday, December 29, 2002 2:26 AM

Subject: Re: Settlements


Dear Harrison.


I just came from Britain and found your message.


I do welcome any immoderate temperament, as far as it does not cause withdrawal from dialog.  (Of course I recognize also the right - well demonstrated in your "open space" - to make use of one's Two Feet and walk away from a discourse at will).


Your argument is well put and clearly documented, and I intend to discuss it soon.


In the meantime, I wish to share with you a message that arrived at my mailbox a week after yours on the same subject.


I realize that this message does not answer the clear points you had raised - as I say I shall try to do this separately.   Indeed, it is phrased more like debate or even propaganda rather than like dialog.  Yet, as it came under my hand, I thought it can help with the background.


My response is going to be in a different direction, as your main argument requires.


Yours in Dialog





From: Naomi Ragen <nragen@netmedia.net.il>
To: <ashersh@bezeqint.net>
Sent: Thursday, December 26, 2002 3:31 PM
Subject: The "Settlements" issue



A good counterbalance to all you've heard, are hearing, will hear, about Israeli "settlements" being an obstacle to peace.



By Joseph Farah

Once again, we're hearing that awful word again in the context of the Middle East debate. "Settlements."

That's what the conflict is all about, we're being told. That's why the Arabs are mad at the Israelis. That's the root of the violence, the terrorism, the hatred.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer raised the ugly specter of "settlement" recently in a speech last week. Kurtzer, the former ambassador to Egypt and one of the architects of the failed peace process, once again blamed Israel as an obstacle to peace.

"Israeli settlement activity cripples chances for real peace," he said. He also underlined with emphasis and a pregnant pause this conclusion: "Settlement activity must stop."

What about these "settlements"? What are they? Why are they bad? Why should they be stopped?

I think most Americans and most non-Israelis draw certain mental pictures when they hear this term. I know I did before I began visiting "settlements" in Israel. I discovered they were not armed camps. They were not frontier outposts in alien territory. They were not fortresses built to grab more land for Jews. No. Much to my surprise, I found these "settlements" to be nothing more than communities - peaceful Jewish communities that don't interfere with nor abrogate anyone else's rights. They reminded me of suburban developments in Southern California more than threats to peace.

The word "settlement" itself is loaded. Who is a "settler" in the Mideast? According to the Arabs, only Jews are "settlers." But that simply is not the case.

Arafat himself was born in Egypt. He later moved to Jerusalem. If, at the moment, he is living in the West Bank, he is a "settler" there, not a native. Indeed, most of the Arabs living within the borders of Israel today have come from some other Arab country at some time in their life. They are al "settlers."

For instance, just since the beginning of the Oslo Accords, hundreds of thousands of Arabs have entered the West Bank or Gaza - and never left. They have come from Jordan, Egypt and, indirectly, from every other Arab country you can name - and many non-Arab countries as well. These surely aren't "Palestinians."

Since 1967, the Arabs have built 261 settlements in the West Bank. We don't hear much about those settlements. We hear instead about the number of Jewish settlements that have been created. We hear how destabilizing they are - how provocative they are. Yet, by comparison, only 144 Jewish settlements have been built since 1967 - including those surrounding Jerusalem, in the West Bank and in Gaza. Why is it that only Jewish construction is destabilizing?

The Arab "settlement" activity is not new. This has always been the case. Arabs have been flocking to Israel ever since it was created - and even before, coinciding with the wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine prior to 1948.

And that raises a question I never hear anyone ask: If Israel's policies make life so intolerable for Arabs, why do they continue to flock to the Jewish state? Why aren't they leaving in droves if conditions are as bad as they say?

The truth? There is more freedom under Israeli rule than there is in any Arab country. If you're a headstrong Arab, bent on protest, this is the place to be. Don't try throwing stones at Syrian police. You won't live long. Don't try publishing anti-kingdom newspapers in Saudi Arabia. You won't live long. Don't try fomenting revolutionary jihadism in Egypt. You won't live long.

So, sooner or later, those who are determined to protest, the professional agitators, the future Arafats of the Arab world all come to Israel. The Arab world is happy to be rid of them. This exodus serves two purposes - limiting the threat to Arab regimes and fanning the uniting flames of anti-Israel hatred. It's a population safety valve the totalitarian Arab world just loves.

Prior to 1900, the entire region was a barren wasteland with low populations of Jews, Muslims and Christians. No one had much interest in the Holy Land, as Mark Twain pointed out in his own travels to the area - until the Jews began to return.

Then the economic activity began. The jobs were created. The opportunities appeared. And then the Arabs came.

The "settlement" issue is a canard. It's a propaganda ploy to suggest that only Jews are newcomers to the region. The truth is there are lots of "settlers" and would-be "settlers" in the area - including Arafat and his friends.

By the way, under the Oslo Accords, there are no restrictions whatsoever on Israeli construction in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch. These "settlements" are perfectly legal. And I, for one, can see no legitimate reason for them to stop.

Naomi Ragen
Please visit my Web page at:





----- Message No. 5 -----

From: Asher Shla'in

To: Harrison Owen

Sent: Monday, December 30, 2002 1:28 AM

Subject: Settlements - my response


Dear Harrison.

I do not accept your analysis, and I am going to offer a different approach - but I want to start with what I feel weak about, and this is the issue of harassment from the settlers.

I am aware that such harassment exists. Although it feeds on the present Palestinian violence - still it is unjustifiable and utterly indefensible.

I was not aware of the Yanun case, and although I do not rule out the possibility that the event was not exactly the way it was related to you - yet I know that it is conceivable, and I include improper conduct of Israeli authorities. You are right: there is no possible excuse for this or other harassment or the failure of Israel to restrain them. I resent and deplore all that, as both evil and stupid.

I cannot agree, though, that such events are a necessary result of settling in the "territories". In fact, as far as I know, most of the settlements lead quite different relations with their Palestinian neighbors, life of co-existence and even true friendship - at least until the PLO and its proteges managed to undermine it. Settlers tell me, that to this day, their former acquaintances manage to let them know how they suffer under the terror and how they miss the days of mutual benefit.

I do not believe that Sharon's policy is directed to expel Palestinian population. What could happen to one little village like Yanun, is not even possible regarding the massive Palestinian population. "Practical" suggestions of expulsion from home are voiced only regarding the Jews.

I regret to learn, that excellent people like yourself can be led to view such a violent "solution" on the basis of the situation created by criminal Palestinian rulers who care the least about the fate of their own people.

It seems that the "organizations" managed to raise the level of violence so high, that your analysis now brings you to a choice between expelling the Jews or - taking over the whole occupied territory on a permanent basis and expelling the Palestinian population. Such an analysis is indeed a great achievement for the wicked inhumane policy that is meant to undermine peace between neighbors. If such a policy is (God forbid) rewarded according to your recommendation - that will bring no peace - but new attacks against our very existence on this soil. I already mentioned that the "green line" in no real boundary when national Palestinian attitude is concerned.

What remains to discuss is of course, where, then, to go from here. Does our determination not to retract in front of violence mean that we have to turn to atrocities? I say: Not at all.

Let me take a trivial metaphor. Say that the police in your place will forbid the fans of the "Reds" to encourage their team in a game against the "Greens" because this may cause the fans of the "Greens" to get violent and destroy the sports ground. On the other hand, encouragement to the "Greens" seems harmless, because the "Reds" do not show that they cannot tolerate it. Well, the circumstances might indeed force the

Chief of the police to take such a step - but what will it do to Sport, to Fairness, to real Peace, to the Community?

I believe that we can do better here. The settlements must be defensible as much as the rest of Israel (or the turn of the rest will come).

Here are some direct answers to your compound statement.

* Need it to involve taking over the whole occupied territory? - Probably yes. * On a permanent basis? - It depends on how the policy is conducted and what happens then. * Expelling the current population? - Highly improbable and impractical.

To be more explicit: The current regime of the PNA is a great menace to all the residents of the land. * Its philosophy (and not the settlements) is the real source of infinite blood shed. - So it must be annulled.

This would make Israel again responsible to what happens - just as it was before the Oslo blunder - of course in much worse conditions for everybody - but hopefully with more potential for improved wisdom.

Here, Harrison, I admit I cannot be sure that the right decisions will indeed be taken. The politicians have often managed to prove their shortsightedness and shallowness. Instead of living up to the task of freeing the Palestinians in the first place from terror, they might again revert to a pact with a "subcontractor" that will supposedly undertake to rule over that miserable population to the convenience of these politicians. In this case the current tragedy will be prolonged into a new phase.

But I hope for something else. I wish that both Israelis and Palestinians of grassroots level can conduct sincere dialog and develop a reconciliation that can overcome hatred, prejudice, despair and political cynicism.

One may say I am a sheer dreamer. I say, my vision sets a more hopeful direction for activity than any other suggestion I have heard yet, including yours.

I apologize for my lengthy discourse. I realize how precious is your time.




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