Daniel McGowan is a professor of Economics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. He is the executive director of Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR), a program service of the Middle East Cultural and Charitable Society Inc. From his home in upstate New York, Mr. McGowan shared his opinions and answered questions presented by Final Call Online Correspondent Ashahed Muhammad regarding the American political scene, the wall currently being built in Israel, the struggle for justice for the Palestinians in the Middle East and his humanitarian activism on behalf of his organization.
Final Call (FC): What brought you into the movement for peace and justice for the Palestinian people?
Daniel McGowan (DM): I began to teach about the Palestinian people and their tragic history in the mid-1980s during the anti-apartheid advocacy here in the United States. It was so easy for liberal academics to be for equal rights of citizenship for all people in South Africa and “against apartheid”–but so difficult to be for equal rights of citizenship for Palestinians and other non-Jews living between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. It was easy to support a boycott of South African gold, but impossible to support a boycott of South African diamonds because they were cut and polished in Israel and accounted for 27 percent of Israel’s exports. You could be for an embargo of weapons to the White racist regime of South Africa, even American weapons, but you could not protest weapons supplied by Israel to South Africa or its involvement with nuclear weapons.
FC: Recently, former Israeli nuclear technician and whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was released from prison. Mr. Vanunu disclosed factual information, which was published in an October 1986 London Sunday Times news article, confirming that Israel had developed a robust nuclear weapons program. As a result, Mr. Vanunu was abducted and held in prison for 18 years on charges of treason and espionage. Now, the Israeli government will not allow him to leave Israel or speak to foreigners without their consent. You were a part of the international delegation that went to Israel for his release in April. Tell us about that experience.
DM: Mordechai Vanunu is a very brave man whose spirit has not been broken by his long years and harsh treatment by Israel. He is not being held in Israel beyond his full sentence because of nuclear secrets he may still possess; he does not possess any more secrets, and any knowledge he may have had is now totally out of date. He is being held, with the blessing of the United States, because he can reveal the involvement of the United States in helping to conceal Israel’s nuclear weapons proliferation.
This was clear to me when John Bolton (current U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security) was sent to Israel to help draft and impose further restrictions to be placed on Vanunu after his having served his full 18-year sentence. The United States has known for years about Israel’s nuclear weapons and has chosen to ignore them, because “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East” and because of the unbelievable Armageddon scenario predicted by the apocalyptical Christian Right.
FC: How did you get involved in Mr. Vanunu’s struggle?
DM: Mordechai Vanunu is a friend of mine and also a member of the Board of Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR).
FC: Iraq faced the full military might of the American War Machine as a result of their alleged weapons of mass destruction and developing nuclear capabilities. Iran is now being pressured. North Korea and Syria are also being pressured for the very same reasons. Are the United States and Israel really blinded by arrogance thinking that the world cannot see the hypocrisy, or is it simply fear which prevents others from speaking out?
DM: It is partially fear and partially the control of the main discourse by Zionists, both Jewish ones and Christian ones like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham. Professors who speak out often do not get tenure or do not get their articles published in mainstream journals. Politicians who fight the lobby face candidates backed by the wealth and power of “the lobby.” And all others who dare to speak out against Zionism and the apartheid conditions it has inflicted on the Palestinian people are tarred with the anti-Semitic tarbrush wielded so deftly by the Holocaust industry.
FC: Many scholars and historians believe that the April 9, 1948 early morning massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin was a pivotal event and even a catalyst leading to the expulsion of close to 700,000 Palestinians from their land. In what way do you believe the Deir Yassin Massacre affected history?
DM: If you know what happened at Deir Yassin, six weeks prior to the creation of Israel, then you can easily recognize the “big lie” claiming that this was “a land without people for a people without land.”
Palestine was not empty; indeed, Muslim, Christian and a minority of Jewish Palestinians had lived and worked there for hundreds of years. The American, Golda Meyerson, who later became Golda Meir and prime minister of Israel, continued this lie claiming, “There was no such thing as Palestinians; it was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestine people, and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
If you know what happened at Deir Yassin, then you know that over 750,000 Arabs living in over 500 towns and villages were driven out or, as we say today, ethnically cleansed. They were not simply frightened out or called out by their leaders.
If you know how the civilian population of Deir Yassin fended off the attack by 120 paramilitary terrorists, succumbed to the final assault of 17 professional soldiers of the Jewish Palmach who left and allowed them to be massacred by the terrorists, then you know that Israel’s claim to a “purity of arms” was another Zionist myth, one that has been even more vividly dispelled by the “targeted killings” and summary executions being carried out against the Palestinians today.
If you know the truth about the terrorism at Deir Yassin, you know that Jewish terrorism is no more or less justified than is Palestinian terrorism. Yitzak Shamir, leader of the Stern Gang (although not at the time of the Deir Yassin massacre) proclaimed, “Terrorism is a way of fighting that is acceptable under certain conditions and by certain movements.” He added, “While terrorism was appropriate for Jews fighting for their homeland, it is not for Palestinians who are fighting for land that is not theirs. This is the land for the people of Israel.” Most of the world would not agree.
Jewish terrorism was successful at Deir Yassin. The leader of the Irgun, Menachem Begin, who later became prime minister of Israel and won a Nobel Peace Prize, boasted, “The massacre was not only justified, but there would not have been a state of Israel without the victory at Deir Yassin.” Mordechai Nisan, of the Truman Research Center of the Hebrew University, concurred: “Without terror, it is unlikely that Jewish independence would have been achieved when it was.”
To remember the depopulation, the looting and the confiscation of property at Deir Yassin is to recognize that Palestinians are entitled to restitution. If Holocaust claims for restitution are valid, and I firmly believe they are, then Palestinian claims are no less valid. Stuart Eizenstat, deputy secretary of the Treasury, said, “Countries that face their past honestly and learn lessons from their mistakes are inevitably stronger for having done so. For almost 50 years, victims waited for the rest of mankind to offer them some measure of justice for their suffering and nothing happened. Most of them have died by now.”
He was referring to Jewish claims against Switzerland; but he could just as well have been referring to Palestinian claims against Israel. The land and buildings at Deir Yassin on the west side of Jerusalem provide a prime example.
FC: There is international outrage brewing regarding the wall now being erected by the Israeli government, which they are a calling a “security fence.” Experts say it confines the Palestinian people. According to Delinda Hanley, news editor from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs magazine, the wall enables the entire city to be caged in within five minutes. What are your thoughts?
DM: Israel is building an apartheid wall. Any fair-minded person who has seen it knows this is true. Yet, not one Democratic candidate for president can even call it a wall; they are told by AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) to call it a security fence or ignore it altogether. There is no point in even mentioning President Bush’s opinion; he still believes Ariel Sharon is a “Man of Peace.” Even Sharon doesn’t believe that.
(For more information on Deir Yassin Remembered, visit their website at www.deiryassin.org.)