Paul Calvert Spoke With Daniel Seaman
Continued from page 1
The State that we have established, they should accept it and accept it as a Jewish State. Why do we say that? Why are we stressing this need? Because it's not enough creating a Palestinian State; once that State is created we have to believe, we have to get the assurances that they will have no more requirements; they'll have no more demands. They cannot demand that Palestinians return to the areas which are considered the Jewish State because that will perpetuate the conflict instead of ending it. What Israel wants is a cessation of the violence and an end to the conflict. We don't want to make concessions to the Palestinians and they continue putting demands on Israel and we have to constantly be in a situation of conflict with them.
Paul: Would you say we've seen that in Gaza? Israel actually left Gaza and left it to the Palestinians and there has been rockets ever since.
Daniel: Absolutely. In the past I have been working on behalf of the State of Israel in its public diplomacy for 28 years and I remember very clearly 28 years ago certain truths we were told, the truths were if Israel recognises the PLO, the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, we will have peace. The other one was recognise the Palestinian right to self determination; seed territory; dismantle settlements; fulfil UN resolutions. If you look over the past 25 years, you can see that Israel not only recognised the PLO, accepted the Palestinian right to self determination, created a Palestinian Authority, seeded territory to the Palestinians, dismantled settlements in Gaza and in Samaria, withdrew from South Lebanon fulfilling all UN resolutions, yet the simple question is, has this brought us closer to peace? Has it brought us closer to resolving the differences we have here? On the contrary, you see from the moment Israel started making these concessions, violence has only expanded; you have terror in the streets of Israel; we have missiles' coming from Gaza into Israel. What you have is a greater assault on the State of Israel.
So Israelis today are more reluctant to take these risks as they are no longer hypothetical or theoretical as they were 18 years ago when the Oslo agreements were signed. Today we know exactly what the consequences could be and therefore we are far more cautious. We are willing to go to peace; we are willing to peruse it; but we have to have full assurances that this will not be used as a stepping stone to continue and have easier way of attacking the State of Israel.
Paul: Is this a Palestinian war or is this an Islamic war?
Daniel: I would say it is an assault against and lack of acceptance of anybody who is not Islamic creating a presence in the Middle East. You have to understand there are other minorities besides the Jews in the Middle East; you have Copts in Egypt, Kurds, you have the Christians; there are many non-Islamic sects in the Middle East. The Jews are the only ones though, who have been able to establish or re- establish their independence in this region. In every one of the Muslim countries, non-Islamic individuals and peoples do not have equal rights, so this is an extension of that. They don't accept the presence of non-Muslims anywhere in the Middle East; therefore the in acceptance of the State of Israel is something ingrained in the Muslim attitude. I don't know if it is an Islamic war, but the fact is the in acceptance of the Jewish right to self determination is inherent in the way the Muslims perceive their rights in the Middle East.
Paul: You have served as an advisor to the Governments of Ariel Sharon, Ehud Barack, Benjamin Netanyahu and many others. What was it like for you serving with these leaders and your country?
Daniel: In 30 years I have served several Governments and Prime Ministers. I'm a Civil Servant so there have been times in the past where I withdrew from Government, because I felt uncomfortable or I did not feel I could do a professional job in representing a particular Government. Unlike a lot of other Israelis, I have the American mentality; if you do not accept or you feel uncomfortable with certain policies you get up and leave. I did that in the past and I hope I don't have to do that in the future, but I do my job where I believe I can best represent the country. All in all though I found most of the time that the policies were ones that was my role to present them and do a convincing job and I think the fact that these Governments continue to employ me expresses the fact that I can do a professional job for them.
Paul: You have been the Director of the Government Press Office. Do you feel that the press cover Israel fairly?
Daniel: I referred to that a little previously. I don't think it is presented accurately. I don't want to say fairly or not fairly. It's not accurate and there are objective reasons and subjective reasons for it. The objective reasons is media and news reporting, it's not only been in the past, but that situation has become even worse where media cannot cover events in a very professional or even accurate way today.
First off they concentrate on, 'If it bleeds it leads'. They are very limited in the scope, time and volume of what they can report and things here are very complicated and complex; news coverage does not have the opportunity today and it's got worse. What I mean by getting worse, is 20-30 years ago journalists had the time to sit down, verify sources, check information and you had a few days to cover a story. Then about 10-15 years ago it changed into the 24-hour news cycle and they had to get the information out there within 24 hours. This still gave them time to verify sources, but today with Twitter news and information comes out and people say and report things and a true journalist doesn't have ample time to sit, verify, check, cross check, cross verify, to see if what is happening is actually true and by the time they put out a correction a lot of things can happen.
The other thing is what I call the news frenzy; the feeding frenzy, when something happens and one group is reporting it and others start reporting it and they don't go into the details, so it takes on a life of its own and may not have any truth. It may have some basis, but it becomes a whole story that has no truth in the realities. It may not have any relevance and may be a tragedy at times, but the tragedy does not reflect the greater issues, so in that sense I think the story here is not being told accurately because what you have is a concentration on the emotional events and the human interest aspects of it.
Israel is a very normal western country. There's nothing unusual here that will be news worthy unless there is some tragedy. Other facets of Israeli society don't get covered; its contributions to human kind; the fact that we are a country of seven million in a very small area; you can cover the State of Israel from north to south within four hours drive and this small area has absorbed over half of its population or immigrants and refugees. Nobody knows about our Jewish refugee problem, because we haven't turned it into a problem, we've turned it into strength. We have taken all these difficulties we've had to encounter in 64 years and turned them into advantages.
Here is a country that in the midst of an economic depression worldwide, our economy is rather stable with very small unemployment. We've taken people from different races, nations and even different religions. There are not only Jews in this country. Where in other places in the world this is a disadvantage, we've turned these into advantages. We've turned the characteristics of this country into ways of benefiting this country where we are one of the leading countries in hi-tech, health, agriculture and we are exporting that knowledge; not for benefit mind you. It's not that the Government makes a profit; we are taking these inventions and these things we've developed over 64 years to benefit our country and exporting it to third-world countries and even countries that don't have diplomatic relations with Israel. This aspect of the story is not told. This facet of the Israeli character does not get a lot of exposure, so the image of Israel to a large degree in the world, is of a militaristic country and ultra religious. This is very funny, because the issue in Israel is why the ultra-religious don't serve in the military, but the stereo-type and sometimes the borderline anti Semitic stereo-type, is the ultra-orthodox Israeli soldier abusing the poor Arab, where in reality that is nothing further from the truth.