NEW YORK (May. 24)
Yosef Tekoah, Israel’s former Ambassador to the United Nations, said last night that he was optimistic about peace prospects in the Middle East. He noted that Israel and its neighbors have already concluded agreements and that “there is no reason” not to continue in that direction. He was referring to the second interim Sinai accord with Egypt and the UNDOF agreement with Syria.
Tekoah, who is president of Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, made his remarks in the course of a 90-minute television debate with Prof. Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, a Palestinian who teaches at Northwestern University. The debate was broadcast on the David Susskind Show on Metro media TV. Lughod claimed that no peace would be achieved until the Palestinians were given their rights and the “Zionist racist state” is dismantled.
Tekoah declared that Israel “refuses to become a second Lebanon” and will not negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization which, he claimed, was responsible for the bloodshed in Lebanon and whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. He said, however, that Israel is prepared to negotiate with the Arab governments without pre-conditions. But, he added, peace will materialize only when the Arab governments become reconciled to the idea of Israel’s independent existence.
In reply to Lughod’s allegations that Israel mistreated the Arab population on the West Bank, Tekoah said that during the 19 years of Jordanian rule over the West Bank “many people were killed” when Jordanian authorities used “tanks, troops and other forces” to quell disturbances on the West Bank.
SHARP EXCHANGE ON ZIONISM
Lughod kept insisting that Zionism was and is a colonial movement and that it, with the aid of British imperialism, displaced the “Palestinian people” from Palestine. Tekoah effectively demolished this-statement and explained that Zionism is not only the national liberation movement of the Jewish people but the oldest liberation movement. “Some national liberation movements are 100 years old, 150 years old, but the national liberation movement of the Jewish people is 2000 years old. It began as a liberation movement against the imperialism of the Roman empire and has continued to be that in all countries where the Jews were dispersed.”
Lughod contended that in the type of state he visualized for what he continued to refer to as “Palestine,” individual Jews would be permitted to live in peace with the Palestinians. Tekoah asked repeatedly if the Jewish people, not merely individual Jews, would be granted their rights to live as a people but Lughod designed this question.
When Lughod said that the United Nations had voted to condemn Zionism as a form of racism and that this represented the sentiment of “the international community,” Tekoah replied that the 72 UN-member states that voted for the anti-Zionist resolution did not have the moral authority to judge Zionism. These states, he declared, have no freedom or rights for their own people, do not know the meaning of democracy and are characterized by the oppression of their own people.