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Interview with Joseph Farah pt. 2
02:03:13>>>,INTERVIEWER: ( basically) discuss the way the Koran relates to Jerusalem.,One of the myths that you see in practically every news story, account of what is happening in the Middle East today is that Jerusalem is the disputed city, that Jerusalem represents the 3rd holiest site within Islam, and, of course, to the Jews, it's their capital. In fact, the intifada that began in 2000- the uprising- is called the Al- Aksa uprising, because of the Al- Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The truth is that - JOPSEH FARAH: Practically every news story you read of an account of what's happening in the Middle East today makes reference to Jerusalem being the 3rd holiest site within Islam. Of course, there's no reference to Jerusalem anywhere in the Koran. So the question is, 'how did this come about; how did Jerusalem become the 3rd holiest site in Islam?' And it turns out that that's a rather recent invention by people, most prominently would be the Mufti of Jerusalem back in the 1940's, who by the way was allied with Adolf Hitler, and who, even today, Yasser Arafat refers to him as his uncle- he was his inspiration, his mentor. Jerusalem was important, obviously, to the Mufti of Jerusalem, because it was his territory. The mosques that were built there in the 11th century were not particularly prominent mosques. As I mentioned earlier, in the early part of the 20th century, there were hardly any Muslims living in Jerusalem- somewhere around 10,000. You know, you can find the cities of Medina and Mecca mentioned dozens of times in the Koran. The Koran never mentions the word Jerusalem. The closest it comes, some Islamic scholars say, Mohammed was referring to Jerusalem in his night journey where he was apparently lifted up and spirited to the most remote place, and that has been interpreted to mean Jerusalem. But that's as close as it comes- it's utter myth. 02:05:24>>> INTERVIEWER: Should the Palestinians have the right to demand the return of the refugees? JOSEPH FARAH:One of the political platforms of Yasser Arafat has become 'the right of return.' He wants anybody who calls himself a Palestinian to have the right to go back to what we today call Israel. I think to understand why that argument is being made, and to understand why it can never happen, all you need to do is simply look at the map of the Middle East. 99% of the land map is under the control of Arabs or Muslim countries. Less than 1% is the land called Israel today. Where doe it make sense to assimilate those poor refugees who have been kept in these terrible conditions all these years, does it make sense to push them into that 1% of the land mass, or does it make sense to utilize the under-developed, under-populated countries of the Arab world to resettle them? 02:06:45>>> INTERVIEWER:Would this conflict go away if Israel had dismantled the settlements and withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza?,JOSEPH FARAH:We hear constantly about the settlements being a real stumbling block to the peace process today. And I think that in the Western world we think about the Israeli settlements as being like armed camps, or something of that nature, controlled by armed soldiers, and little beach heads into the Arab world. And, you know, the reality is nothing like that at all. I've visited many of these settlements, and they more closely resemble Southern California, bedroom communities than they do armed camps. But one of the things that I really think is missing from this whole debate about settlements, is the fact that there have been more Arab settlements built in the disputed territories since 1967 than there have been Jewish settlements. And yet, how can settlements by Jews be so destabilizing to the peace process while Arab settlements are not, There are at least 100 more settlements by Arabs that have been built since 1967 than Jewish settlements . So again, the debate has been distorted ,its been turned upside down. (end side A),I think the debate today about the Palestinian people have focused on this myth that Arab people are the only indigenous peopl
2000s
02:03:13>>>,INTERVIEWER: ( basically) discuss the way the Koran relates to Jerusalem.,One of the myths that you see in practically every news story, account of what is happening in the Middle East today is that Jerusalem is the disputed city, that Jerusalem represents the 3rd holiest site within Islam, and, of course, to the Jews, it's their capital. In fact, the intifada that began in 2000- the uprising- is called the Al- Aksa uprising, because of the Al- Aksa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The truth is that - JOPSEH FARAH: Practically every news story you read of an account of what's happening in the Middle East today makes reference to Jerusalem being the 3rd holiest site within Islam. Of course, there's no reference to Jerusalem anywhere in the Koran. So the question is, 'how did this come about; how did Jerusalem become the 3rd holiest site in Islam?' And it turns out that that's a rather recent invention by people, most prominently would be the Mufti of Jerusalem back in the 1940's, who by the way was allied with Adolf Hitler, and who, even today, Yasser Arafat refers to him as his uncle- he was his inspiration, his mentor. Jerusalem was important, obviously, to the Mufti of Jerusalem, because it was his territory. The mosques that were built there in the 11th century were not particularly prominent mosques. As I mentioned earlier, in the early part of the 20th century, there were hardly any Muslims living in Jerusalem- somewhere around 10,000. You know, you can find the cities of Medina and Mecca mentioned dozens of times in the Koran. The Koran never mentions the word Jerusalem. The closest it comes, some Islamic scholars say, Mohammed was referring to Jerusalem in his night journey where he was apparently lifted up and spirited to the most remote place, and that has been interpreted to mean Jerusalem. But that's as close as it comes- it's utter myth. 02:05:24>>> INTERVIEWER: Should the Palestinians have the right to demand the return of the refugees? JOSEPH FARAH:One of the political platforms of Yasser Arafat has become 'the right of return.' He wants anybody who calls himself a Palestinian to have the right to go back to what we today call Israel. I think to understand why that argument is being made, and to understand why it can never happen, all you need to do is simply look at the map of the Middle East. 99% of the land map is under the control of Arabs or Muslim countries. Less than 1% is the land called Israel today. Where doe it make sense to assimilate those poor refugees who have been kept in these terrible conditions all these years, does it make sense to push them into that 1% of the land mass, or does it make sense to utilize the under-developed, under-populated countries of the Arab world to resettle them? 02:06:45>>> INTERVIEWER:Would this conflict go away if Israel had dismantled the settlements and withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza?,JOSEPH FARAH:We hear constantly about the settlements being a real stumbling block to the peace process today. And I think that in the Western world we think about the Israeli settlements as being like armed camps, or something of that nature, controlled by armed soldiers, and little beach heads into the Arab world. And, you know, the reality is nothing like that at all. I've visited many of these settlements, and they more closely resemble Southern California, bedroom communities than they do armed camps. But one of the things that I really think is missing from this whole debate about settlements, is the fact that there have been more Arab settlements built in the disputed territories since 1967 than there have been Jewish settlements. And yet, how can settlements by Jews be so destabilizing to the peace process while Arab settlements are not, There are at least 100 more settlements by Arabs that have been built since 1967 than Jewish settlements . So again, the debate has been distorted ,its been turned upside down. (end side A),I think the debate today about the Palestinian people have focused on this myth that Arab people are the only indigenous people in that area of the world. And the truth is as I've cited some statistics is that the Jews have had a presemce a very large and significant presence particularly in Jerualem and its environs 02:10:04>>>,One of the myths shaping the debate today about the Palestinian issue is that the Arabs are the indigenous people to the region, and that the Jews are foreigners, the Jews are people who have come recently. And the truth is that you don't have to go very far back in history to see that the Jews have had this very strong presence in the area, particularly around Jerusalem where they dominated the population at the turn of the 20th century. The Jews are really the first indigenous people to govern themselves in that region, and the interesting thing is that they were the ones who called themselves Palestinians up until the country was renamed Israel in 1948. 02:11:16>>> INTERVIEWER: If the Israeli government was to accede to the Palestinian request or demand for return of the refugees, what would that do to the land of Israel? JOSEPH FARAH:One of the reasons that Yasser Arafat is so intent on this 'right of return,' this right for anyone who calls himself a Palestinian anywhere in the Arab world to return to the country of Israel, is because he knows that it can result in only one thing, and that is the destruction of the states of Israel. Israel can simply not handle several hundred thousand Arabs moving into its borders, and that's the wild card that Arafat is holding when he talks about the right of return. The Arab worlds represent about 99% of the land mass of the Middle East, Israel represents about 1%, less than 1%, of the land mass. It's impossible to resettle all of the refugees within Israel's borders. It makes all the sense in the world to use the under - populated parts of the Arab world to resettle those folks. 02:12:57>>> INTERVIEWER: Why are the Arab countries so hell - bent on getting the Jews out of what they call Palestine, or ultimately hell - bent on the destruction of the state of Israel? JOSEPH FARAH: Islamic fundamentalism, which is a rather recent phenomenon in the Middle East, after all it was in 1979 that we had the Iranian revolution, which really touched off this movement in a big way. Islamic fundamentalism is one of the guiding passions now behind the goal of the destruction of Israel, and the reason is that Islamic fundamentalism holds that any part of the world that is held by Islam is the world of peace. Any part of the world that is not held by Islam, and controlled by Islam, and dominated by Islam, is the world of war. There's only one little sliver of territory in the Middle East that is part of that world of war, in the Islamic view, and that is the part of the world that's called Israel. And that's why it's incompatible in the Islamic fundamentalist view that Israel can survive, that Arabs can live with Israel in peace and harmony. Yasser Arafat knows this even though he doesn't always speak this language to Western TV cameras and so forth. But, ultimately, that is the goal, that's the goal of Yasser Arafat, it's the goal of Saddam Hussein, it's the goal of every Arab leader you can name, ultimately is the destruction of Israel, whether it comes in phases or whether it comes swiftly. 02:15:02>>> INTERVIEWER: If all the Palestinian claims/ grievances don't have much basis, what's really driving their struggle? JOSEPH FARAH: The Palestinian struggle has really become a way of life, and it's driven by oil dollars from Saudi Arabia, it's driven by all kinds of incentives. You know, it's difficult for an Arab living in the Palestinian Authority today to hold a job unless he's sworn with absolute allegiance to all of the goals of Yasser Arafat. But if you want to be an agitator, if you want to be part of the uprising, they'll find work for you, your family will eat. It is those kinds of incentives that are pushing this constant intifada, this constant uprising now, that has been going on for several years-,02:16:52>>>,One of the reasons the Arab world hates Israel, besides the Islamic fundamentalist component, which doesn't tolerate any presence in the Middle East by any infidels, is the fact that Israel is the only free country in the Middle East. And this is like a thorn in the side of the totalitarian and authoritarian governments that rule over the Arab and Muslim world. You can imagine what that's like. For Arabs, for Arabs, life in Israel today is much freer than it would be in any Arab country. This is something I discovered myself as a journalist there 20 years ago was that as an Arab American, sometimes I was looked upon with some suspicion by Israelis because of my surname and so forth, yet I was never prevented from doing my job. When you visit the Arab world as a journalist, believe me, you'll face an entirely different kind of scrutiny; you simply will not be able to do your job. It's one of the reasons there are more newspapers, Arab newspapers, operating in Israel today than there are in the rest of the entire Arab world. INTERVIEWER: The notion of a suicide bomber is something new. How can a parent praise their child for blowing themselves up and killing innocent civilians? What's the psychology- what's going on there? JOSEPH FARAH:You might want to ask more of an Islamic expert-. 02:19:05>>> INTERVIEWER: Have you ever been harassed, threatened, or intimidated because of the opinions that you express? JOSEPH FARAH: Because of the work that I've done in this area, and particularly because I am an Arab- American writing these opinions, these kinds of analysis of the situation, I've been subject to many, many death threats, many forms of intimidation, and so forth. In fact, after one article that I wrote back in October 2000 called The Midst of the Middle East, eleven death threats, signed death threats, very specific death threats came in on e-mail alone shortly thereafter, and were turned over to the FBI, and I understand there's still an open file on those cases. But that was prior to September 11th. Interestingly, after Sept 11th, I felt that the heat was really off of me, that there were- perhaps- bigger fish to fry out there for the, you know, the Islamic extremists. 02:20:18>>> INTERVIEWER: What do today's Palestinian terrorists have in common with the 9/11 events and Al-Qaeda? JOSEPH FARAH: In the United States, we tend to make a distinction between Yasser Arafat's terrorists and Osama bin Laden's terrorists. There really is no distinction; they both kill innocent people. Al- Qaeda, of course, demonstrated that they were more proficient at killing big numbers of people all at once on 9/11/01. But in principle, there is really no distinction between them whatsoever. In fact, if anything, Yasser Arafat has been an inspiration to Osama bin Laden, he's the founding father of Middle East terrorism, he's the guy that oversaw the first airline hijacking. He's done everything, his people have done everything you can do in the world of terrorism over the last 40 years, and Osama bin Laden is really a newcomer to the theme by comparison. Do they work together? Do they have links? They've attended conferences together over the years, and most of the terrorist organizations over the world, while they may have petty differences between them, Hizballah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, and Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization, have gotten together many times over the years and plotted strategies together. 02:21:57>>> INTERVIEWER: How does the situation in Israel relate to the war on terror? JOSEPH FARAH: The Unites States claims to be in a war on terrorism today internationally, sending armies all over the world from Afghanistan, Iraq, and so forth. Israel is really the front lines of that terror war. Israel has been engulfed in the terror war really since it began in 1948. It's intensified greatly in the last couple of years. What's interesting about the way that war on terror is waged by the United States and by Israel is that there seems to be different rules of engagement. The United States was attacked on Sept 11th, and has responded accordingly by going half way around the world to root out terrorism. And I think that's perfectly an appropriate thing to do. At the same time, much of the Western world look at Israel's response to terrorism, look at it askance. They look at as if they're over responding to a situation that's happening right in their own backyard. Israel's response to terrorism has been, in my opinion, overly measured. It has been a response that has been restrained, to say the least. If the United States was being attacked by terrorists from Mexico, I can assure you that we would do everything in our power to root out those terrorists by any means necessary and very, very quickly. On the other hand, we've held Israel to a different standard, and we've told them constantly that they've got to negotiate at all costs. 02:23:47>>> INTERVIEWER: Do you see any hope of peace? JOSEPH FARAH: I'm asked often if I see any hopes for peace, and the answer is that I'm actually very, very optimistic. And I think one of the reasons for my optimism is that in response to 9/11, the United States set out on a course in Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban, and to capture Al- Qaeda, and to change the regime there. And it happened very, very quickly. There were a lot of skeptics who said that that war would linger on for decades, that Afghanistan could never be conquered. All the opposition was actually very, very light, and we found that the population in Afghanistan was not hostile to liberation at all, they welcomed it. I think that we'll see the same kind of response in other countries, like Iraq, should the war proceed there. I think that the Arab population actually longs for liberation, longs for freedom. And this terror war actually may provide an opportunity for a big part of the Arab and Muslim world to experience that for the first time. 02:25:36>>> INTERVIEWER: What would have to happen in order for this conflict to be solved/resolved? JOSEPH FARAH: In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini led the Iranian revolution, and it looked like the tide of Islamic fundamentalism was gonna' sweep through the entire Arab world, but yet what we found is that there's a strong resentment building to Mullah rule in Iran, which is the heart of this Islamic revolution. And there are many analysts who look at the situation and say that they have a tenuous grip on power, at best. And I believe that Iran is gonna' reject Islamic fundamentalism. I think they're gonna' move to a different kind of regime, hopefully one that's more freedom oriented. I think we'll see other parts of the Arab world move in that direction. You know, countries like Lebanon was once relatively free Arab country. It is only because of outside forces, Syrian occupation , domination by Iranian backed Hizballah, and so forth, that has taken them out of the free world and put them into the authoritarian camp. 02:27:36>>> INTERVIEWER: What do Westerners/ Americans misunderstand about this conflict? JOSEPH FARAH: I think the biggest myth for most Americans and Westerners regarding the Middle East conflict is that this a struggle between a powerful entity, known as Israel, and on the other side, oppressed people who are just struggling for statehood and human rights. 02:28:24>>> INTERVIEWER: How is this conflict misunderstood? JOSEPH FARAH: I think the biggest myth of the Middle East conflict for Westerners, particularly Americans, is this notion that Israel is this great big, powerful country, and, you know, has its foot on the neck of David, which is the Palestinians , the oppressed people. The truth is that Israel is the only free country in the Middle East, and I think the truth is that if we want freedom to flourish, freedom to spread throughout the Middle East, we need to keep that in mind at all times. And I think it's very important that for American policy makers and Western policy makers to keep that in mind. Do we want freedom to win? This very tenuous experiment with freedom in the Middle East, do we want it to succeed- it's only 50 years old. Or do we want to see authoritarianism, totalitarianism spread? If indeed we create a Palestinian state in the next few years under the rule of somebody like Yasser Arafat, we will be creating the 21st or 22nd police state in the region, and I for one don't know why we need another police state in the Middle East. 02:30:26>>> INTERVIEWER: Please sum up your controversial article (basically.) JOSEPH FARAH: Some of the big myths of the Middle East are the fact that there's never been a country known as Palestine in the history of the world. The Palestinians don't have a unique culture, a unique language, or any of the common denominators that we normally think about when we think about a people seeking statehood- 02:31:22>>>,I think one of the central myths of the Middle East is that this is a conflict that can be resolved by granting statehood to the Palestinians. That is a phony issue from the get-go. The truth is that there's never been a Palestinian state in the history of the world, why would creating a new state of Palestine, under the rule of, say, Yasser Arafat, bring about peace when Yasser Arafat is the man that we've known for 40 years has been a man of war? Israel is the only country in the Middle East that has any degree of freedom whatsoever. It's a country surrounded by police state, it's a country that- 02:33:55>>>,I'm actually very hopeful and optimistic about the situation in the Middle East., not because we're gonna' create a Palestinian state that's gonna solve this problem- that is not a solution, it's not part of the problem, and it's not part of the solution. The real solution, the real need in the Middle East is for freedom. In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini swept into power in Iran and started this Islamic revolution. To a great extent, it has inspired Islamic fundamentalism throughout the region, throughout the whole world. And if the Arab people and the Muslim people are to experience freedom again, like they did in Lebanon, like they did -to a certain extent- in Iran before, they're gonna' have to set aside this Islamic fundamentalism. It's very close to happening in Iran today. There's a great rebellion going on; there are demonstrations in the streets everyday by people who are rejecting Mullah rule. 02:34:57>>>,I believe it's possible to see freedom in Iran, perhaps even likely, in the next year or two. I think it's also a possibility that the people of Lebanon, who also have a recent experience with freedom, I think they would love to reject the domination of Syria, which occupies them today. I f Syria could be chased out of Lebanon, either as part of this terror war or through some other means, I believe the people of Lebanon would gladly revert back to the kind of freedom that they knew before the civil war. So I think there's great potential, and when free people are living together, I think it was Jeanne Kirpatrick who said back in the 1980's when she was UN ambassador, that free societies don't tend to go to war with one another, usually wars are precipitated by totalitarian countries or authoritarian countries. That is what is at the root of the Middle East conflict. Long before there was a Palestinian issue to unite the Arab and Islamic war, many of these Arab and Islamic nations were fighting one another. They've fought one another recently; some of the bloodiest wars waged in the world have been waged there. The Iran - Iraq war killed over a million people. it had nothing to do with the Palestinian issue. So the answer is freedom- 02:36:56>>>,One of the reasons for the Arab antipathy toward Israel is because it is a modern, westernized civilization, society. It's true, it was true of Lebanon too- 02:37:21>>>, One of the reasons for the great resentment in the Arab and Muslim world toward Israel is because it's a westernized, modern country. Islamic fundamentalism is actually a throw back to 7th century Arab society. They reject modernism, they reject secularism, and they reject- frankly- everything that is not prescribed in the Koran. And this is why Israel is a constant thorn in its side in the Middle East. 02:38:06>>>,I think we're engaged in a great struggle for Western civilization today, just as we were engaged in a great struggle for Western civilization during the days of the Soviet Empire. There's a new threat on the horizon, and it's a threat of Islamic fundamentalism, which is at war, whether we like it or not, with everything western. And this is one of the reasons that Israel is the number one target in the Middle East for the Islamic revolution. [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS] ,[ROBIN STARTS TYPING HERE] 02:39:30>>> INTERVIEWER:,Do you feel, in your heart, that there is a silent majority of Palestinians today who would rather just, you know, go to college and go on vacation and have cars, and you know, big screen TV's, and all that stuff. And just, you know, want to coexist and just prosper, flourish and live normal lives. With a view that is seen as ____ is that they are all terrorists. JOSEPH FARAH:,Every time that I've traveled to the Middle East, or spent some time there, I've made a point of meeting and spending time with just regular folks. Whether they're Israelis, or Palestinians, or Syrians, or Lebanese. One of the things I found among the Arab-Palestinians, is that they very much want western things. They like the western style of life. They would like to experience more freedom. They would like to have it as part of their lives. I believe that if they were given - [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS] 02:40:32>>>,Throughout my time in the Middle East, as a journalist, I've always made it a point to spend time with average people, whether it's average Israelis, or average work-a-day Palestinians. I've always felt that the Palestinian-Arabs, and frankly, the Arabs in other parts of the world that I've met, really have a desire to live a better life. They have the desire to experience the kind of freedom we know in the west. And I believe that they were given the opportunity to do that. A great majority of them would adapt very, very quickly and easily. If they didn't have these external pressures on them, with - [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS] ,[CHANGING TAPES] 03:00:24>>>,All the time that I've spent in the Middle East, working as a journalist, I've always made it a point to spend time with average people, not just officials, government officials, that sort of thing. Whether it's average Israelis, or average Palestinian/Arabs. And my impression has always been that the Arab population, wherever it is; Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority. These are people who really want a better way of life. They really want to experience freedom. They really want more material things that they've seen from the western style of life. And I think, if given the opportunity, they could deal with that. They could live as free people. They could be self governing entities. Without the external pressures that are placed upon them, by these police-state kinds of tactics. I think there is hope for peace, in the Middle East. But, you know, you can't have peace without freedom. 03:01:47>>> INTERVIEWER: So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is it the Israeli - is it Palestinian violence, or Israeli retaliation? And how do we stop this cycle keep escalating, and escalating. It's been a low-grade war for two years, now. And it just seems to be getting worse, and worse, and worse, with each passing day. JOSEPH FARAH: The way the conflict in the Middle East is portrayed in the daily news that we watch on television, or read in the newspapers, is terrorist attack, Israeli response, a cycle of violence - we hear about that all the time. The truth of the matter is, if you take a little bit longer view of things, Israeli has bent over backwards to give the so-called peace process a chance. They have gone out of their way, they have bent over backwards, they have done everything that's been asked of them, in accommodating Palestinian/Arab demands. And they've been rejected at every turn. During the negotiations between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat, literally, Barak went so far as to give Arafat about 99% of what he was asking for. And it was totally rejected, offhand, by Arafat. Where do you begin negotiating after that? INTERVIEWER: Is Israel an apartide state? ,JOSEPH FARAH: [CHUCKLES] 03:02:58>>> , NTERVIEWER: As some people claim? JOSEPH FARAH: As a Arab-American, as a Christian, I can tell you that if I had to leave the United States, and practice my craft somewhere else, particularly if you told me had to be in the Middle East, there's only one country that I would live in and work in, and that would be Israel, because it's the only free society in the region. And it doesn't matter that I'm a Christian. It doesn't matter that I'm an Arab American. I would be accepted in Israeli society. I would have full voting rights - something unheard of in the Arab world for its citizens. ,So, to proclaim, as some do, that Israel is some kind of a police state, or apartheid state, is simply ridiculous. Arabs living in Israel, today, have more experience, more freedom, have more human rights than they do in any Arab country. And that is a fact. [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS] ,END OF INTERVIEW
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