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Jordanian Journalist Rami Khouri.

Journalist Rami Khouri (Rah-me Core-ee) syndicated columnist and former editor of the Jordan Times.


Other segments from the episode on October 18, 2000

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 18, 2000: Interview with Danny Rubinstein: Interview with Rami Khouri.


DATE October 18, 2000 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Political columnist Danny Rubenstein discusses the
current crisis in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Today we're going to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis with two
journalists, one Israeli, the other a Jordanian of Palestinian descent.
is in favor of the peace process. Later in the program, we'll hear from
Khouri, who writes the syndicated political column A View From The Arab
My first guest, Danny Rubenstein, is a political columnist who's on the
editorial board of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. He's covered the West
and Gaza for the paper and is the author of the book "The Mystery of

Early this morning we phoned Rubenstein in Jerusalem where he lives.
Yesterday, President Clinton announced that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, had agreed to a truce at the
emergency meeting in Egypt at Sharm el Sheikh. But violence continued today
in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza, leading many people to wonder if
Arafat still has the power to influence behavior on the street level.

Do you think that Arafat has lost influence among the Palestinian people
precisely because he's part of the peace process?

Mr. DANNY RUBENSTEIN (Political Columnist): Yes. Arafat lost a lot of his
influence because the peace process didn't reach the goal that he promised
his people. He promised to his people about seven years ago that they would
get a Palestinian state, that the economic situation would be much better.
And he almost promised them paradise. And then he didn't fulfill. Today's
situation that we didn't reach any peace agreement. Still the Palestinian
territories are in bad shape from economic point of view. There is no

Palestinian state. We have a lot of limits, a lot of restrictions on the
Palestinians themselves. They don't have freedom of movement from one place
to another, so the Palestin--and of course, the regime, that administration
that Arafat created in the territories is not, how to put it, is not the
one in the world, to say the least. So...

GROSS: What do you mean by that, about his regime in the territories?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: In that--the Arafat administration is quite--there's a lot
corruption, nepotism, and they accused the leaders that they steal from the
people, they accuse the leaders that they don't have a proper system in
administration. And sometimes they even call it the regime of gangsters, of
the Mafia, that they use all the--that all the connection--that only few
people benefit from the peace process and become rich and the muffled people
stay in the bad conditions that they had before.

GROSS: Danny Rubenstein, in 1998 you wrote this: `More than once it has
struck me that all these years I've been writing what is essentially the
article. There is always something about a crisis in the diplomatic
There is the threat of a renewed outbreak of violence and a steady stream of
the same words: terror, settlements, refugees, rites. How many times can I
write that "the Oslo peace process is dying and that the diplomatic impasse
very dangerous"?' You say you've been writing this over and over and over
again and it's always the same story. What's been happening in the past few
weeks in Israel and the territories, do you see this as a continuation of
same story or something different, something more dramatic, more dangerous,
more risky?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: It's more as the same, but it's not only from the time that
started to write my stories. It started years back from the--let's
say--almost hundred years of the conflict here. The problem the conflict
is that it's--the problem is the conflict between two communities. It's not
conflict between two states. When you have a conflict between two states,
it's a problem of the border. You have to move the border a few meters or
kilometers or miles here or there. Here, you have a situation in which the
conflict is between--it's not between Jerusalem and Damascus, let's say, or
between Jerusalem and Cairo, it's a problem between Jerusalem and Jerusalem.
In such conflict, that you have in many other areas of the world like in
Northern Ireland or in Lebanon or in Cypress or in the former Yugoslavia,
you have in the same country, you have two or more communities and then this
kind of nature--this nature of dispute is much more, I would say, cruel,
is--people use a lot of symbols. And the problem is that you cannot make a
total disengagement between the two communities. That's the main problem

GROSS: You have been covering West Bank and Gaza for an Israeli newspaper,
you're familiar with what's happening in the territories and you're familiar
with what's happening in Israel. Do you feel like you see things on each
that you think the other side doesn't understand?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: Yeah. That's--we--sometimes it's like, you know, a talk
between two people who are deaf, because the people don't listen to each
other. People see everything differently and people use different language
sometimes. And then because they don't--the problem is not that they don't
understand each other. They don't want to understand each other. They
want to listen to each other. That's the main issue here. You know, there
were some times there were many atrocities in this crisis here. Everybody
complained that the atrocities were shown on TV more--let's say the
that's against his position--were shown more by the CNN. And matter of
it was the same. You know, I'm talking about this picture of the photograph
of the child in Gaza in the hand of his father--dying in the hand of his
father. And the picture of them lynching Ramallah. Both sides complained
that the CNN and the other international media show those pictures too much.
You know, so it's not the things--they simply cannot see the other side.

GROSS: One of the Palestinian justifications for the current intifada is
the Israelis have been using disproportionate force. And I'm wondering,
the Israeli point of view, how the use of guns and tanks in Gaza and West
is seen? What do the Israelis have to say about the amount of force being

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: I would agree with the Arab--with the Palestinian claim
the beginning of the first day. On the first day of the clashes, I think
the Jerusalem police use--overuse, you know, the force in the Temple Mount.
That's what really created--was the match that put the fire on here. It
you know, seven people who were died in the Temple Mount was really, you
factor that put, you know, this fire. But later, the Israelis didn't have
other option. We're talking about small Israeli settlements in the area of
Gaza or in the West Bank that were attacked by hundreds of thousands of
demonstrators, and if the Israelis will not react with this heavy arms, they
will be dead like the lynch that you've seen in Ramallah.

GROSS: Are there things as a journalist that you most want to explain to
Israelis about what life is like for Palestinians in the territories and
things that you'd like Palestinians to understand about Israelis?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: Then--and what I try to explain to my reader is, for
instance, the relationship towards land. For them, for the Palestinians,
the Arabs, land has a different meaning that is--than for us because it's an
agrarian society. They use--many of them used to be peasants in the past.
Many of them are still peasants and have a deep relation to the land. We
don't understand this. For us, we are an urban society. Many of us live in
towns and in small Western social structure. So we don't have the same
attitude towards land that they have.

On their side, it's totally different. For them, they don't understand why
we came back to this land after 2,000 years. And they would say, `You have
land, and you have your roots in Europe or in some other place, so you can
back to the places you were born; that if you have any connection to the
land, it should be in Europe and other places. You speak a different
language. You are not--belong to this area and so on.

GROSS: You know a lot of people in the Israeli peace movement. And I'm
wondering if you think that people within the peace movement have been
affected; if their opinions about peace; if their opinions about negotiating
with Arafat and with Palestinians has been changed by the current crisis?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, unfortunately, some of
them changed their attitude or changed their view about it. And I don't
justify it. I don't see that any--you know, the problem is not really--the
problem the way I see it is also that we don't--we didn't do the right thing
in the past. We didn't dismantle even one settlement since the Oslo
agreement. We were...

GROSS: You're talking about the Israeli settlements in the territory.

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: The Israelis, yeah, yeah, yeah. We didn't dismantle even
one settlement. We kept those such settlements, you know, in the middle of
Hebron, in the middle of Gaza. And then we, according to our plan--to this
government plan, we were ready to dismantle them and to pull back from many,
so why didn't we do it in the past? That's really--I don't understand.

You know, the problem is that, really, what makes me--what really depresses
is that today we have the most dovish, the most flexible Israeli government.
And in the Arab camp--you have in the Palestinian camp--you have the most, I
would say, practical and flexible regime, which is Arafat. Compared to the
Hamas, it's all relative here. So if those both sides couldn't reach an
agreement and they couldn't reach an agreement at Camp David, the crisis
because, I think, that this is the basis of the crisis. It's because we
discovered on both sides that the most flexible position cannot mix
We cannot agree. The minimum that we--the maximum that we offer didn't meet
the minimum of the Palestinian demands.

GROSS: So it sounds like you really think the peace process is over for

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: Yeah, I'm sorry to say that that's not only my crystal
but for many of us here; that for the time being, it's over.

GROSS: Well, what would that mean? I mean, what would life be like in Gaza
and the West Bank and in Israel if the peace process is temporarily over?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: There would be some temporary agreement; how to manage the
crisis; how to prevent explosions and how to let the Palestinian authority
going in his way, you know, in governing the Palestinian territories with
kind of disengagement, you know, through separatism between both
That's the only option that I see now. And we need time till the wounds
be somehow recovered. But the wound is very, very deep now, and the mood on
both sides is terrible.

GROSS: Danny Rubenstein is a political columnist who's on the editorial
board of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. He lives in Jerusalem.

Later in the program we'll hear from Rami Khouri, who writes the syndicated
political column A View From The Arab World. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Let's get back to the interview we recorded early this morning with
Danny Rubenstein, a political columnist and a member of the editorial board
the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

You live in Jerusalem, and in Jerusalem there are Jews and Palestinians in
close proximity. Tell me a little bit how life has changed in the past few
weeks since this new uprising; how life has changed in Jerusalem.

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: What really was changed is that we don't--you know, we live
in separate quarters. So we don't enter. Arabs don't come or they come
rarely to the Israeli--to the Jewish quarters. Jews are not going at all to
the Arab neighborhoods. And their eventual area is really totally
So when--what was changed in my life, for instance--when I have to go away
someplace which is an issue--say that I have to cross an Arab neighborhood,
will prefer to do some kind of a bypass and not to cross and not to go
through--I'm talking about driving--through an Arab neighborhood. If I'm
walking, it's less dangerous. But if I'm driving, everybody can identify me
because of many reasons. And they will--they can do, you know--they can
throw rocks and so on on the vehicle. So when I change, for instance, my
habits of moving from one place to another--and that's one of the--I don't
enter some of the Arab places that I used to go to because I feel that the
people there are--I don't know if they are hostile. They're not hostile,
they treat me in a different way. They are not so polite and so--they're
welcoming me the way that they used to.

GROSS: Getting back to the Israeli peace movement, what exactly do you
has changed within it? What kinds of changes of heart, if any, are you
within the peace movement?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: The change in the peace movement is about the nature of the
Arab people and the Palestinians. They--those who saw the lynching in
Ramallah, that was a shock, a real shock of many Israelis because there was
dancing in the streets there. And people looked happy and the police
didn't do anything. So the Israelis, the peace movement wants to say, `Look
with whom we are dealing. Look who are our partners.'

And this--those--I have to admit that those pictures were such a shock for
many of us because I and many of us visited Ramallah many times. We know
place. We know this--downtown Ramallah. We know this police station. And
be inside the police station and that how the mob--those pictures--how the
penetrated the area and the police--Palestinian police doesn't do anything,
that's really a shock for many of us. And it creates, you know, I was going
to say, `Look with whom we are--it's not--it's not--look what kind of people
we are dealing with.'

GROSS: Was that the reaction you had, too?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: No, no, because I know that there are several cases in
the mob controlled the streets. And it happens all over the world. I'm
to say that it's happened sometimes also here in Israel. Not--it doesn't
reach this extent. Nobody can penetrate, you know, a police station
do this. But to kill in the streets--it's happened here and there also
Israelis. But this kind of incident that happened in Ramallah, I don't
believe that this could happen in Israel.

GROSS: You're on the editorial board of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.
Could you talk a little bit about what editorial meetings have been like in
figuring what the editorial position should be on the current conflict?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: We're considered a liberal newspaper and our position is
mainly, I would say, flexible towards the Arabs. We even wrote in stories
that Israel should give away the mosque, you know--the Temple Mount to the
Palestinians or the Islamic and we can live without it. And there is a lot
criticism against us now; against the left; against, because, I say, you
we adopt your position. In the editorial board of Ha'aretz, I would say
more or less, we don't agree, but--always, but most of the people have the
same position; have a liberal position. So we don't have many problems
the board or within the paper. There are some, you know, like you have in
every other newspaper, of this kind.

The problem is the street--we will call the street--among the--we got a lot
letters to the editor; both sides complaining that we were too flexible,
we were too dovish, too moderate. And look at what the Arab response to it;
the Palestinian response to it. And we got, also, other letters from the
ultra-left who blame the Israelis. And so you see, this is--the Israelis
didn't agree, didn't understand the Palestinian position, didn't want to
listen to the Palestinian position. The Israelis continue their occupation
all the time. And that's the result of it. So it's really, I would say, a
gap within the two views.

GROSS: In its early years, Israel saw itself as a kind of David against the
Goliath of the Arab nations. In--you know, the--Israel built a very strong
military, and now there's--you know, Israel controls the occupied
Israel has been using armed force again within the territories and is seen
more of the Goliath rather than the David. What do you think this is doing
the self-image of Israelis?

Mr. RUBENSTEIN: Well, I'm not so sure that it's true because the image is
something, but there's also some reality here. In the reality, we're still
small state stuck in the Middle East. As Prime Minister Barak used to say,
`We are a villa in the jungle,' which means that we are really different
this area. We are foreigners here among an ocean of Arab and Muslim
countries. And then from economic and social point of view, we are in the
middle of Europe. We are not in the Middle East. The average income in
Israel is 10 times more than in--among the Palestinians in the Palestinian
society and about 20 times more than in Egypt. So we are really in some
situation that is still--we are--we have a problem here. We are not Goliath
here, in spite of the fact that we have a very strong, you know, military
force and so on. We are still a very, tiny, small minority here--five
Jews in ocean of 150 million Arabs only in the surrounding countries. If
take into account, also, North Africa, it's much more. So we are still in
same position. It didn't change.

GROSS: Israeli journalist Danny Rubenstein. This is NPR, National Public

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, reaction in the Arab world to the Palestinian-Israeli
crisis. We talked with Rami Khouri, who writes the syndicated political
column A View From The Arab World. He's a former editor of the Jordan

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Rami Khouri gives the Palestinian viewpoint on the
recent Israeli-Palestinian crisis in the Middle East

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

On today's program, we're talking about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis with
two journalists. One Israeli; the other a Jordanian of Palestinian descent.
Earlier we heard from Danny Rubenstein, who's on the editorial board of the
Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz. My guest, Rami Khouri, is a journalist who's a
Jordanian of Palestinian descent. He writes a syndicated political column
called "A View from the Arab World" and is the former editor of the Jordan
Times, one of the newspapers which carries his column. We phoned him early
this morning in Amman, Jordan, where he lives.

Arafat was at the meeting yesterday in which there was an agreement that
sides would try to push for a truce. How much authority or control does
Arafat have now to influence the people in West Bank and Gaza?

Mr. RAMI KHOURI (Journalist): He has quite a bit of authority and control,
but he doesn't have absolute authority. He certainly can make a strong plea
and the people directly under his control, he can tell them to do this or do
that. But this is a situation in which people are expressing very strong,
emotional and spontaneous sentiments.

The Palestinian people who are demonstrating and resisting, confronting the
Israeli troops and tanks are not doing it because anybody told them to go
in the street and do it. I mean, this is slightly, I think, racist almost
the part of Israelis and Americans who say things like, `Why does Arafat
the children out or why doesn't he tell them to stop fighting,' assuming
you know, Palestinians are like auto mans. You can turn them on and turn

You know, people weren't saying that about the Serbian people in the
They weren't saying that about the people who resisted tyranny in eastern
Europe and Russia and rose up at a spontaneous rebellion. And you have the
same situation in Palestine. And there are elements who will respond to
Arafat and elements who will not.

GROSS: I think there is an impression that Arafat is now seen as too
conciliatory and that he's lost some of his credibility among some of the
Palestinian population because he's seen as making concessions with the
States and with Israel. Do you think there's any truth to that?

Mr. KHOURI: Yes, there is. He has lost a lot of credibility in recent
years. He's a very complex figure. You know, he's sort of the--George
Washington, sort of gone to the edges. And he's widely respected among
Palestinians as the person who almost single-handedly led the Palestinian
national movement for 30 or 40 years and he's done an amazing job of not
letting the Palestinian issue disappear.

At the same time, he has entered into this Oslo peace process. But many
Palestinians are worried about that. They think it's going to leave them
a bunch of little Bantustans and Palestinians on closed reservations
from each other by Israeli military rule. So there's a lot of concern among
many Palestinians about the peace process that Arafat is engaged in.
also concerns that he is not being as democratic or transparent as we would
like him to be and that there's a lot of corruption and typical Third World
kind of accusations.

But at the same time, he is the--you know, he's--as they say, he's the man.
He's the one who does have international legitimacy; does control money and
the security forces under him. So he's good and bad at the same time. But
the reality is that people negotiating with him do not have the option of
choosing who to negotiate with. If the Israelis have a leadership and the
Palestinians have a leadership, those are the people that have to be dealt

GROSS: Since the current intifada can lead to a more hard-lined, anti-peace
government in Israel, can the intifadas be seen as very counterproductive
the people living in West Bank and Gaza?

Mr. KHOURI: No, I don't think that's a fair assessment. The history of the
peace process, especially since the Oslo process started in 1993--the
has been that when you get violence or extremism by both sides, whether it's
Jewish Israeli terrorists or Palestinian terrorists or people in the
street--and in both cases we've had violence and--it tends to bring the
talks to a halt for a very brief period of time. It may be a few days. It
may be a few weeks. But what it tends to do is reinforce the realization by
the majorities on both sides that violence is not an answer, that the answer
is to complete the negotiations and to complete the disengagement to get the
Israeli occupation off the backs of the Palestinians. Let a Palestinian
sovereign state emerge living peacefully side by side with Israel. And give
Israel the recognition of security guarantees that it legitimately requests.

So I think the intifada is very much a powerful expression of the real
sentiment and will of the Palestinian people. And remember, they're calling
this the `intifada for independence.' You know, this should--this is a bunch
of people running around Palestine--Arab Palestinian people--saying,
basically, `give me liberty or give me death.' And that should ring bells
with American people. These are people who are not fighting because they
to fight. They're fighting because they've sustained the second-longest
military occupation of the 20th century. Only the Japanese occupation of
Korea was longer than the Israeli occupation of Palestine. And I think
is a strong sentiment among Palestinians and all Arabs that we need to get
occupation ended and the emergence of a Palestinian state living peacefully
with an Israeli state.

GROSS: I'm wondering--this got much reaction in Jordan. A sheikh who is
leader of the Hezbollah, the radical Muslim group, has called on his people
take knives and stab Israelis to death when they come across Israelis. And
statements like that, I think it's fair to say, are really fanning
anti-Semitic sentiments not only in the Middle East, but I think that's kind
of spreading out to other parts of the world. I'm wondering what kind of
reaction those comments got from people in Jordan, if you've heard any
reaction to that?

Mr. KHOURI: I haven't heard any specific reaction to that specific
quotation, but I think it is woefully unfair, both politically, morally and
historically, to take that kind of quotation out of context and just say,
`Well, look what Hezbollah is saying.' You know, if--the guy--whoever the
sheikh was who said that didn't say that out of the blue. He said that
you know, over a hundred Palestinians have been killed and the Israelis have
used massive military overkill against largely unarmed and largely young
Palestinian kids. So we are involved in a war. And in a war situation,
is what people say.

There are, certainly, people in the Arab world who will go around saying
`We need to,' you know, `perpetually fight the Israelis and never live with
them' as there are people in Israel who are saying that, `The Arabs only
understand force and we have to keep killing Arabs.' I heard somebody on
Israeli TV--a young Israeli man--saying, `We have to keep killing the Arabs
until they understand that this is our land and they have to live with us on
our land.' So both sides are doing terrible things. And neither of these
actions that are being done by both sides--the lynchings, the burnings, the
racist violence--none of this can be justified in any way.

But what you're dealing with is the result of a mob psychology in the
of warfare on the ground--in the larger context of two people, the Jewish
people and the--or the Israeli people and the Palestinian people who have
traumatic modern histories of different kinds. The Jewish experience in
history is rather more traumatic, perhaps, on a longer scale and intensity
than the Palestinian one, but the result is, in the end--today you have
Israelis who are worried about their future existence in what they consider
be their country of Israel and we're telling them, `We will live with you in
your country of Israel if you also live with a Palestinian state.'

And the Palestinians are concerned about their survival in what they
to be their own country in Palestine. These are two people who are
existentially traumatized by the prospects of not being able to know if
children are going be able to live in this land or if they're even going to
wake up tomorrow and find themselves alive or dead. I mean, these are
difficult, psychological perceptions that you have on both sides. And in
context, you're going to get outrageous statements being made by people and
think you have to weigh those statements very carefully.

GROSS: My guest is Rami Khouri. He writes the syndicated political column
View from the Arab World," and he's the former editor of the Jordan Times.
More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Rami Khouri is my guest. He's joining us by phone from Amman,
He writes a syndicated weekly political column called "A View from the Arab
World." He's the former editor of the Jordan Times.

You know, I think that some Israelis and other people around the world
if there are Arab states that still want to try to get rid of Israel, that
still haven't accepted Israel and would, you know, like to see the end of

Mr. KHOURI: Well, probably to the same extent that there are people in the
United States who would like to get rid of the People's Republic of China.
You know, you have an official relationship with the People's Republic of
China and trade and ambassadors, but there's a lot of Americans who refuse
talk Chinese, who think it's a terrible, autocratic government that runs
camps and sweatshops and whatever. So, yes, there are people, of course, in
the Arab world who say, `Look, we've never--we can never live in peace with
Israeli state because they've taken the land of Palestine and whatever.'
these are almost certainly a small minority, like there is a small minority
Americans who don't want to, you know, co-exist with the government in

The majority of Arabs have clearly made it--have clearly stated that they
would be perfectly happy to live alongside an Israeli state, but only under
condition that Israel also accepts to live alongside a Palestinian state and
find an acceptable and fair resolution to the Palestine refugee issue. I
mean, the problem between the Arabs and the Israeli is not one of
that because they are Jews or we are Arabs or we are Christians and Muslims
they're Jews or whatever--it's not an ideological problem. It's a real
problem of human life and dignity and survival.

There's now about seven million Palestinians of whom around four million are
living outside of Palestine. And they feel they were thrown out of their
homes in Palestine, like the people were thrown out of Kosovo by Milosevic.
And they want to go back, like the people want to go back to Bosnia. And
Americans, with the Dayton Agreement and the war in Serbia, are insisting
refugees must go back to their countries. Well, Palestinians are saying
have that same right, too, enshrined in UN resolutions and we need to solve
that problem. Now, obviously, not all four or five million Palestinian
refugees are going to go back to Israel, but some fair resolution of the
problem needs to be done.

And this is why we still have this fighting going on in Palestine this week.
And the intensity of the international diplomacy that was brought to bear,
bring about the Sharm el Sheikh summit, I thought, was pretty impressive. I
mean, I can't remember any situation in the last 40, 50 years when you had
many top world powers and leaders personally getting involved and trying to
mediate in what is a rather small, little, territorial dispute in a little
corner of the world.

But, obviously, the impact of this little dispute reverberates on the oil
markets and the stock markets and security issues in terms of violence
Arabs and Israelis and Jews around the world. So it's an issue that needs
be addressed more diligently, more equitably. And I think the majority of
people in the Arab world certainly are willing to live with Israel, as the
majority of Israelis now say they're willing to live with a Palestinian
We just have to finish that negotiating process to bring about the reality
an Israeli and a Palestinian state living side by side with equal rights.

GROSS: You are a syndicated political columnist. You write a column called
"A View from the Arab World." You also host a TV program. How do you see
your job? How do you see your role, your importance as a journalist in
times like this?

Mr. KHOURI: Well, it's a good question, because it's a question I have to
grapple with all the time. And in the last couple of weeks it's been
fascinating for me and also very difficult because I see my role as both
expressing the views of my people and my society, which is Jordan and
Palestine--I'm a Jordanian national with Palestinian origin--and I see
as a binational. I see myself as a Jordanian and a Palestinian national at
the same time.

And I see my job as, partly, to manifest the sentiments that people feel and
to express them in ways that can be communicated to a global audience,
I write in English. And also, I see my job, partly, though, as stepping
a little bit from the fray of day-to-day events and the emotional pressures
and trying to look at more constructive means of, `How do we get out of this
maelstrom of emotion and violence and tension?'

And I don't want to just fuel the flames of emotionalism and violence, but
rather to analyze why this is happening and to suggest ways it could be
changed. And just today in my column--my weekly column I suggest ideas that
both Israelis and Palestinians could do to cool down the tensions and the
rhetoric and to try to get the process back. And I'm hoping that this
I wrote today--I expect it to be published in Israel so more and more
can see it. And, of course, on the Internet people can see it, too.

But I see my job as both being an advocate of my own political culture,
but--and also being somebody who tries to promote reconciliation between my
culture and the people with whom we have a conflict, who are the Israeli

GROSS: So what are a couple of the suggestions you make to Palestinians and
Israelis in your--in today's column?

Mr. KHOURI: Well, the first one is not to use the mass media as a means of
dehumanizing the other. I mean, seeing the Palestinian and Israeli leaders
CNN calling each other names really is pretty pathetic, I think. I mean,
sides really should be ashamed. This is--you know, the mass media--CNN and
Al-Jazeera and BBC and the various Arab satellite stations or whatever--are
very good for selling dog-food advertising or for entertaining people, but
they're not very good as a tool of conflict resolution. So they should cool
down this rhetoric on the global airwaves.

The second thing is they should stop using ultimata and threats and setting
these pre-conditions and realize that these kinds of conflicts only get
resolved when both sides simultaneously and mutually take those steps that
must be taken to tone down the level of the rhetoric and bring down the
of the actual violence and confrontations at the street level.

A third thing they can do is to understand the lessons of what happened. I
mean, the Israelis need to be much more sensitive now in retrospect to what
the Haram al-Sharif or the Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, which are
built on the area that the Jews, the Israelis know as their Temple
Israelis should be much more sensitive now to what this site means to
Palestinians and to Arabs and to Christians and Muslims. But this site--the
place where Sharon went September 28th that sparked the violence--this is
just a normal religious site. This is the most dramatic symbol of national
identity for the Palestinian people and one of the holiest religious symbols
for people, for Muslims all over the world. So the Israelis need to be more
sensitive to that.

And people on the Palestinian and Arab side, for instance, need to be more
sensitive to the things that are really important to the Israelis. For
instance, one of the things I've learned recently is that--how important it
for Israelis that incitement--what they call incitement--against Israel in
mass media and the textbooks--these things are really, really important to
Israelis and we need to be sensitive to that and to hear what they're
us. And we--and they need to be more sensitive to what we're saying and to
hear what we're telling them.

So these are some of the ideas that I've been suggesting. And another one
that we need to look at the bigger picture. I mean, OK, there's kids with
stones and Israelis with machine guns killing each other at the--at certain
junctions, in a few places in Palestine and Israel. The bigger picture is
that we can stop this by ensuring that we have sovereign Israeli and
Palestinian states living side by side with completely equal rights. We
have a resolution of this problem that requires the Palestinians, first of
all, to go back to their homes and to make statements that give Israel
everything Israel wants, and only then will the Israelis do things that
respond to Palestinian rights. This is a conflict of two peoples--two
who see themselves as states, as nations, as national communities that want
and deserve to manifest their identity in sovereign states.

GROSS: Rami Khouri writes the syndicated political column "A View from the
Arab World" and is former editor of the Jordan Times. He spoke to us early
today from Amman, Jordan. This is FRESH AIR.

Today we've discussed the Israeli-Palestinian crisis with two journalist:
an Israeli, the other a Jordanian of Palestinian descent. During times of
national or international crisis, public radio becomes particularly
for its in-depth news and reflective analysis. I hope you'll support your
station now with a pledge. Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Rami Khouri is my guest. He writes a syndicated weekly political
column called "A View from the Arab World." He's a former editor at the
Jordan Times. He's based in Amman, Jordan, and he's speaking to us from
by phone.

Palestinians who think that Arafat have been too conciliatory seem to be
turning toward more radical groups like the Hezbollah. And I'm wondering if
there's concern in other Arab countries and in your country of Jordan, for
instance, that if Hezbollah becomes more powerful in Gaza or the West Bank
that its power will gain in other countries as well. And what would the
reaction in those countries be?

Mr. KHOURI: I think there is a danger that the militant groups will become
much more popular, but I think it would also be a rather natural occurrence,
in a way, if the people who are advocating peaceful resolution and
negotiations and co-existence are unable to stop the deterioration of the
Palestinian condition under Israeli occupation. If the Palestinians find
trying to make peace, as Arafat has done, is not ending the occupation, is
ending the destruction of Palestinian houses or the uprooting of Palestinian
olive trees and the killing of children that's going on--if people are still
going to keep suffering in Palestine, then, at some point, people are going
say, `Hey, this isn't working and what is working?'

They look around, they find out that the Israelis unilaterally withdrew with
their tail between their feet in Lebanon--in south Lebanon in the middle of
the night because Hezbollah was attacking them militarily. And many people
will say, `Look, maybe the only way to get the Israelis to withdraw is to
attack them militarily.' So this is a--and the Jews, the Zionists, the
Israeli groups themselves used it in the '40s against the British and
the Arabs to sow terror and to create mayhem and to get their independent
Israeli state. So there is a historic legitimacy to armed struggle, up to a
certain extent.

And--but today what you're seeing is people insisting--still trying to
this problem through political negotiation, peaceful negotiations. But if
doesn't work, at some point they will look to Hezbollah and Hamas and other
groups who use bombing and military means and they will follow their lead to
an extent. This is something that we've seen in the last two or three
If you look around, you see rallies all over the Arab world.

And more and more people are holding up pictures of Hassa Nasrallah, the
of Hezbollah, which is a Lebanese group. It's not a Palestinian group. And
the supreme irony is that Hezbollah and Hamas did not exist, you know, 20
years ago. These groups were formed to fight the Israeli occupation of the
West Bank and south Lebanon. These were groups that were created by--as a
by-product of the Israeli occupation.

GROSS: You live in Jordan and Jordan has a large population of Jordanian
citizens of Palestinian descent and of Palestinian refugees, many of whom
in refugee camps in Jordan. King Abdullah was at the conference at Sharm el
Sheikh. What is his position now on the current clashes?

Mr. KHOURI: Well, Jordan has had a pretty consistent position on, you know,
the issue of Palestine for many years. I mean, Jordan, as a country,
consistently says that it supports the Palestinian cause. It criticizes
Israel, blames Israel for the violence and the problems that are taking
now. It wants Israel to withdraw from all the occupied territories,
to UN resolutions, and live with a Palestinian sovereign state next door
Jerusalem as its--as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. So there's
been a pretty clear, consistent Jordanian position supporting these
Palestinian demands and rights.

The longer-term issue is what are the implications for Jordan when you get a
Palestinian state emerging living side by side with Israel? Because you
get a lot of Palestinians leaving here. Jordanian citizens who are
Palestinian in origin might go to Palestine. They might send their money
there. Foreign aid might decline for Jordan if it's a peaceful region and
Jordan is not seen to be needing so much foreign aid anymore. There's many,
many implications on the economic, the national-identity level, the
political-stability level. And these are issues that Jordan is interested
discussing and wants to be involved in, the final status of negotiations
between Palestine and Israel, because it's really important and legitimate
national interests are involved here. And it has a right to make sure that
can protect its national interests.

GROSS: King Abdullah is one of several leaders in Arab countries now who is
of a younger generation. There's also a younger leader now in Syria,
Do you think that there's any fundamental differences that the younger
generations are bringing to their leadership styles and to what they
to be their main concerns?

Mr. KHOURI: I think there is a difference with the younger generation, but
don't know if it's the generation itself that's bringing about the
or if it's just the fact that these young leaders took over at a moment when
most of their countries were experiencing really serious political and
economic and environmental and population stresses and other kinds of
problems. The need to liberalize politically is something that many of them
feel the need to keep undertaking.

Severe economic adjustment is something that everybody is having to live
Environmental concerns have to be addressed, especially water and arable
population pressures. And just adjusting to the new parameters of both a
global economy and also a region that is changing because some people now
have--like us and Egypt-- have relations with Israel. We can trade. We can
travel. We can do business. So all of these things simultaneously are
forcing almost all of the countries in the region to come to terms with
new domestic, regional and global realities.

Even some of the countries that haven't had young leaders are having to do
same thing. If you look at a place like Tunisia or Egypt or other places in
the region--Oman--they're all--it's different degrees, doing similar things.
So it's not just the fact that these are young leaders that is the reason
the change. The change is a structural response to really serious almost
existential challenges that almost all of the Arab countries are facing.

GROSS: Rami Khouri writes the syndicated political column "A View from the
Arab World." He spoke to us early this morning from Amman, Jordan.

(Credits given)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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