Friday, February 12, 2010

KQED's Michael Krasny grills Ambassador Michael Oren on the occupation

Michael Oren, who was born and raised in the United States and is now (after switching his citizenship) Israeli ambassador to the United States, was a guest yesterday morning on KQED's Forum, a radio call-in show hosted by Michael Krasny in San Francisco. The host asked his guest a tough question about the occupation (at time 15:24):
Krasny: Does your, uh, government, your present government, um, pretty much bridle at the word "occupation"? What do you say, in other words, about the word "occupation" when that's thrown at you?

Oren: Well, it um, it creates a certain problem. The state of Israel is a Jewish state. And the lands which the world say we occupy are in fact our ancient Biblical homelands. If you look in the Bible, there's no Haifa. If you look in the Bible, there is a Tel Aviv, but it's not, it's in Babylonia. Uh, the lands of the Bible are, are Jericho and Bethlehem, and, and, and, Beth El, and, uh, and these are the lands which you said are occupied. These are our tribal lands. It's very difficult for people to occupy its only, its own tribal land. But we recognize that, uh, we aren't the only people here. There's another people, there are the Palestinian people, and as painful and difficult it is, we know that we're going to have to, if we're ever to reach peace, we're going to have to, uh, divide our sacred land, our only homeland in the world, with another people. And that is no small sacrifice. I understand that it's a huge sacrifice for the Palestinians as well, because they understood that this is their homeland. There's really no way around this, Michael, we're going to have to learn to, to live together, to, uh, to divide this homeland and live side by side with one another.

Krasny: Well, some suggest that maybe things will work out for the better now that Iran has, uh, poised itself as such a serious adversary to Israel, because you come in with more common cause with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the Arab states who are afraid of Iran, and that there can also be, as you indicated, economic interests, particularly with tourist trade. We had a guest on recently who said Israel and the Palestinians can band together in their own economic enhancement by really appealing to the tourist trade and working toward common economic purposes.

I don't know, maybe Krasny's initial question here was a little too bluntly worded and disrespectful to his guest. But he recovered somewhat in the follow-up. We should be relieved that he didn't quote from, say, a judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court: "Background: 1. Since 1967, Israel has been holding the areas of Judea and Samaria [hereinafter - the area] in belligerent occupation."