tv Tavis Smiley PBS February 3, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PST
good evening from los angeles i'm tavis smiley, president donald trump has invited israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu to meet with him this month at the white house. on top of the drama, what's to come of our relationship with israel? can the u.s. be an honest broker in this conflict given the, controversial but unequivocal pro israeli tweets trump posted after his election. tonight then a conversation about the path forward first with activist and author and then rabbi, steve leader. glad you've joined us, a conversation about the israeli/palestinian conflict in the trump era coming right up.
the declaration of independence. he believes that a two-state solution is not viable and it is an idea lacking legitimacy. pleased to welcome mico to his program. his book is called the general son, journey of an israeli and palestine. now in it's second edition. glad to have you on the program. >> thank you. >> tell me, let's start with your story. i love this photo the book of you and your father. what's it like growing up as part of the elite in that part of the world? >> it's a great feeling actually, you feel great because there's a sense of pride. great sense of pride. you know, that we have accomplished something no one's ever done before. the return of the jewish people, the building of a jewish state after 2,000 years. because the narrative, this mythical narrative that's fed into, you know, really with your mother's milk. so being part of this group of people who signed the declaration of independence of israel, real sense of pride. >> i just gave the viewers some
sense, we'll get into this in a second, some sense of how your views over the years have changed. help me understand how you juxtapose your views against that of your grandfather who signed the declaration, your father, influential and well known general in israel. how do your views square or not square be those of your ancestors? >> well, i think if we go back to my grandfather, there's no way they square. legitimizing the idea that the jews have arrived to come from europe, take over a land that is inhabited by the people, kick those people away and establish their own state. i don't see how you lentil miez that, but these were different times. these were times where european thought they could come to the countries of people who are not white and do whatever they wanted. and that's what it was about. it was about the idea was for european jews to go to palestine, that was inhabited by arabs, just bed wins and poor people and who cares and establish a state for the
people. they all believed in the narrative as though it was history. in other words, their design was to complete a secular, took the bible and secularized it, and said this is our history book. the jewish people, we're not a religion, we're a nation. and by the way, palestine is ancient israel and because we are the descendants of an ancient tribe that lived there 3,000 years ago, we have a right to go and live there. that's the narrative. when i look today knowing what i know, there is no way that that i could accept this. >> that's your grandfather. your views do not square with those of your grandfather. how about your father? >> well my father, the young man was a patriot. he was an idealist. he joined the resistance, terrorist whatever you want to call it group for the state of israel. he was there during the war of 1948, which is the war that established individuals and he remained as a career officer in the military one of those generals who really developed the state. the israeli army.
after 1967, when israel took the west bank and in fact completed the taking of palestine, completed the occupation of what was the land of israel, he stood up and he said well look, we have taken all of our country back. he fully believed in the narrative. he said, however there is another nation here. and the only way we can survive is to recognize their rights and we should allow them to establish a small state in a small part of the land of israel, and that will be their palestine, and that's when the two-state solution was born where you have the west bank and the ga za strip as part. that's when it was born, late '60s early 70s. never gave up on that idea that jews have a right to live in palestine and have a state there. we need to compromise and the best thing to do is allow the small state. >> so your father believed in a two-state solution, if i advance the story from your grandfather to your father, to you. you do not. tell me why you no longer believe it's viable.
>> because israel, as my father was saying these things, after the 1967 war, the entire israeli establishment, the military, and the government, did everything they could to make shoo that an impossibility. they integrated the west bank to a degree whether there is no bank today. when you drive along the highway and you see the signs to israeli cities in the west bank or you see the signs elsewhere, there's no difference. the west bank is not called the west bank, it's in terms of bureaucracy, policing and it's called the region of the state of israel. end of story. there is no west bank, and the palestinian whether it's in the west bank or the other part of the country. they live close even though they're segregated. geographically it's impossible to do. there is no area that you can slice out and say well this will be a palestine and israel. there's another problem. when it was established close to
many were forced out of their home. today we have about five million palestinians living in refugee camps,ed a jekt poverty and horrible conditions, and they are banned from returning. you know, there is a ban, they're not allowed to return. the state of israel passed a law banning their rights to return. they have a right to return and their homes are not in the west bank. they are all over the country. >> so, you have three issues here. you have land, the issue of land. now that's going to be divided. you have obviously the need for a jewish state. and you have democracy. >> right. >> land, jewish state, democracy. how do you get all three? >> well, i don't accept that there's a need for a jewish state. >> okay. >>le because that jewish state is precisely the problem. you cannot have a jewish state in paul stin without infringing on the right of the population which are the palestinians. >> you just lost to have a jew say he does not believe there is a need for a jewish state. unpack that. >> yeah. well first of all, jews in the
very beginning oppose it. and i'm not saying anything new, i'm renewing a thought that was already there. you cannot have a jew state in an arab country unless you are going to infringe upon the rights of the local people. you have to kick them out because they won't have rights. if they are palestinians and you live there, what are they supposed to do? you know, they're going to resist. you're going to put them in prison, call them terrorists, this is how the thing begins. the reality is however that there are about 6 million jews living in what is called israel today and really the whole country is one country whether you call it paul stin or israel, and it's one state already. in other words, this area that one day will become a single state is not futuristic, it has been a single state for decades now governed by the state of israel, but i get privileges and others do not. it gives exclusive rights to jewish people at the expense of palestinians. >> i'm not saying they are not why are jews not entitled to their own homeland, state,
borders why are they not entitled? >> they have their state. they have french jews in germany. they've got australian jews in australia. they are not this idea -- >> that's like saying american, we shouldn't have a usa because there are americans all around the world. >> no, i think what it says is originally the europeans who came to sullenize america did not have the right. today you have americans and they are here. it's a different story. >> i take your point. nobody's going to kick them out. out of 12 million people, the majority are palestinians, 6.#, 6.2 palestinians. they're slightly less than that. >> they did a completely different real. finally allows me to see.
>> you can't have all three? >> no. >> how do you deal with the aspect that someone would do this tonight as a result of seeing you on this program. how do you handle when you are called an anti-semite. how do you handle when a place like princeton university cancels an appearance by you there. how do you handle when you call a self-loathing, self-hating jew, how do you hand that will critique? >> i mean, i give countless lek teerns i had one council. calling a jew who is an anti-semite is absurd anyway. you're calling them a racist. if you're racist you hate others. again, it's an absurd proposition looking at the body of work i've written and the lectures i gave and my activism
and so forth. however, what happened is particularly in america, but not only in america, is that speaking against israel is con flated. that's not true, many jews propose the state of israel. many say it is not a legitimate entity or, you know, disagree with it at varying degrees. it's a tool that they have out when they call you a name, they have nothing else. they have no argument. they have no argument. >> what do you expect then the relationship between the u.s. and israel to be in the trump era given as i said at the top of the show, the tweets he put out after his election that took bb hold on, i'm coming. hold on, we're on the way. what do you think? >> well, i don't expect big changes because the u.s. has given israel everything israel could possibly want. president obama already promised $38 billion, given israel the
f-35s. israel has everything it wants. of a complete financial and diplomatic support from the u.s. that's been given. i think the change is in the attitu attitude, in other words, president obama talked about palestinian rights, he didn't do anything, but he talked about it. he said we don't care about the palestinians, other blacks or anybody else for that matter, and we are going to support the state of israel. the only difference i think is cosmetic really. it's in how they present it. the reality i think, the essence of the policy is going to be the same. >> i'm going to talk about this a bit more with rabbi steve leader, author and very thoughtful guy, and i want to talk more with him about how i think we actually have -- how we get at this conversation. let me give you the first strike at that. so you see how loaded this conversation is. always has been. i expect always will be, but what might you share about how we actually get at this? what is the way to get in a thoughtful conversation about?
things like that. they live in different clogs than we do. they get treated differently than i do. which i don't know. i took that step, it's dangerous over there, they're terrorists over there, they're going to kill you over there. it's against the law. you're committing a felony by going there. i did it anyway. it was important to see what is happening here and how do we resolve this and why is there this conflict? there's no easy way to conduct this. you have to confront your fears, the reality, the fact that there's racism involved. and it's not an easy conversation. and certainly not in the beginning. >> yeah. >> what everyone thinks of his point of view, i want to ask you to do something there is no harm done in listening to the other side and doing what he did to go
to the other side to listen, to talk, to learn. his text is called "general son, journey of an israeli in palestinian." the author of course mico. thanks for sharing your insights. >> thank you. up next, author and rabbi steve leader. stay with us. pleased to welcome author and rabbi steve leader. the largest synagogue west of mississippi, the boulevard temple here in los angeles. also the author of a number of texts, the new book which i'm anxious to read is called more beautiful than before. how suffering transforms thus the book is out later this year. for now, i'm honored to have on the program, i really want to talk about a lot of people suffering these days. >> everyone suffers. >> for a lot of reasons. we'll talk about that when the book comes out. we were just talking a moment ago, land, jewish state
democracy. he believes you can't have all three. >> i think he's right. i think he's right. and that's why i think there needs to be a two-state solution in the middle east. how we get there is of course going to be a complicated process. there are some ingredients lacking currently to make make the conversation a possible and b productive. i think that if you -- if one has to compromise on one of those three legs of the stool, it has to be land because i personally believe there ought to be one place in the world where jews have the right to determine their own destiny. there should be some place in the world where palestinians have the right to determine their own destiny. and therefore definitionally can't be the same place.
doesn't understand the middle east. this is going to be a process, but as i said, there are a couple ingredients lacking that for now i think impublic to have. the tweets that donald trump put out after being elected. told bb, hold on, i'm coming. so kevin, honest broker in this? >> i think that only two people can broker this, two parties can broker this deal. the israelis, and the palestinians. what i think the united states can do is encourage other arab
states and nations to be supportive of the process and the conversation. i think at some point the united states can provide appropriate foreign aid to a new palestinian state because the worst result would be the creation of a palestinian state that then is immediately overtaken by hamas and plunged into poverty and terrorism. the worst is a palestinian state that fails the day after it's created. so i think there's a role for the united states to play in creating a healthy environment for nation building. i do not think that the united states can broker an agreement between israelis and the palestinians. nor do i think the palestinians will achieve their goal by going around the israelis to international bodies like the international courts or the u.n. the only way peace is made, ultimately, is when two people
sit down in a room together and decide to make peace. >> so maybe you can't answer this, but i can, i agree with everything you've just said. but they have to be the right two people. >> correct. >> and i believe bb is the right person. maybe you can't say that. >> remember when i said earlier that a couple ingredients are lacking. >> yeah. >> for this conversation to take place and a, take place and b, be productive. now i would say that part of the issue, i will -- look, i take the prime minister at his word when he said in 2015 to the u.n., i am prepared to return to the negotiating table with no preconditions. and to negotiate directly with the palestinians. i believe that's still true today. i do. and i would remind you that it's the most conservative prime ministers in israel who have been able to establish long standing peace treaties with
arab nations. unilaterally withdraw from gaza. in israel, only someone on the right can do that kind of u-turn to create peace then the right in israel frankly has nowhere else to go. right? i would not -- i think that netanyahu has the ability, and i believe -- i take him at his word that he's willing to sit down at the table. you know, we'll see. the problem, of course, is right or wrong about that, we have the other side to talk about. now this is not me talking, this is martin, the former ambassador talking who said a boss has just checked out. you know dr look, in 2013 when faa that created a unity government with hamas -- and
let's remember that the charter calls for the destruction of the state of israel. i think that's a non-starter for two parties who to somehow find a way to create peace. so, look, there's plenty of blame on the israeli side and plenty of foot dragging, but i really don't think we have a partner on the other side that we can reach out and shake hands with. >> so i'm going to get back to your point about what the u.s. role ought to be and now news comes one, the meeting between president trump and prime minister netanyahu will be february 15th, just a matter of days from now, and number two the news comes which i find starting that jared kushner is the guy he's put in charge of. what do you make of that? i don't know what to make of that. >> i don't either. and you know, i can only tell you generally, i've taken a position of not responding to the daily surprises that are coming -- >> of course, it's coming so fast and furious. >> i don't want to be in a cycle for the next four years of responding to the daily surprises that come out of
washington, d.c. first of all, it's not in my nature to do so and secondly, you know, i'm not expert in this area. i do have a feel for where the american jewish community is. you know, one of the -- i don't know i've never met jared kushner, but again, i think that frankly who the united states puts in the room is almost irrelevant. >> john kerry or otherwise. >> i think it's irrelevant. i think it depends on the prime minister of israel, and the president or the, you know, president of the palestinian state or fattah, and these two people have to get in a room the way sadod came to jerusalem and addressed them and started this process. and here's another thing that i think i can't prove, but i suspect is a part of the dynamic. whoever does this has to be willing to risk his life for peace. because the odds of
assassination are very high. for anyone. >> short list. >> it's a short list. i don't know -- would you? would you get into that room and shake hands on a peace deal if you knew it very likely would mean your assassination? >> you know, you know my guy and your guy to a large degree dr. king who says you live or die, you don't goat live. that's easier said than done. >> that's correct. >> what you are willing to die, you ain't fit to live. >> and i don't know that we have on either side -- >> yeah. >> someone, the right two people willing to take that bullet. >> let me ask you, two and a half minutes i want to ask you a question that is connected with someone different. so you preached to synagogue jewish citizens every week. what are you saying to them about this notion of suffering? there are a lot of people suffering, i don't say that lightly. what do you say to them?
offered a moment ago about how you're going to navigate and not be a string every day. many who are progressives, who are liberals about how to navigate -- >> and many who are conservatives. >> okay. how about how to navigate this present moment. even the conservatives kbaent happy about all the protests. >> i'm saying to the liberals, what i said to the conservatives under obama. >> okay. >> okay. because i've dealt with both realities. look, there's a line in our prayer book that says, say little and do much. so, people who are concerned about our country -- look, none of us, none of us have much power or leverage to determine what does or does not happen. what is and is not said in washington d.c. >> uh-huh. so i'm saying to my congregation, you care about refugees, volunteer at our social services center. you're a lawyer, be apart of our legal aid immigration clinic. be a part of the food pantry.
volunteer for our english is a second language classes. volunteer in our free dental clinic and our free vision clinic. you want to take care of refugees, take care of refugees. stop talking and start doing. i think this concept of repairing the world, jews call it that 12 is in a way a kind of thing it's impossible. i can't repair the world. but i can certainly repair my neighborhood. and isn't that the biblical mandate. so i'm saying to my congregation, stop talking about and worrying about what you cannot control. and get to work in your neighborhood in your business, in your family to heal and repair what is broken. >> and the black choice to that, we just say amen. amen. >> amen. >> steve leader, the author of a
new book called "more beautiful than before: how suffering transforms us" -- you see, i didn't write the book. but you will read it. >> i will read it and i'll have you back on. i want to get into that and thank you for coming on. >> thank you. >> i appreciate it. that's our show tonight, thanks for watching and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi, i'm tavis smiley, join me next time with film maker rowell pet about his james baldwin documentary, i am not your negro, that's next time, see you then.
good evening from los angeles i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with barry jens kins, now nominated for eight academy awards, including best picture, best director, best adapted screen play, best supporting actor, and best supporting actress. moonlight, the little film doing big things and everybody's talking about it, including us. tonight, with this director, barry jenkins in just a moment.