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Monday, July 28, 2014

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Author pessimistic about Israeli-Palestinian peace

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Stephen Schecter

A retired sociology professor says it’s time Israel gives up on the delusion that the Palestinians will be their partner in peace, and do what it must to ensure the safety and security of the people who live in the Holy Land.

Stephen Schecter, who taught at the Université du Québec à Montréal for more than three decades and authored six books, as well as short stories and poetry in both English and French will be in Toronto Aug. 9 to promote his latest book, Grasshoppers in Zion: Israel and the Paradox of Modernity.

 He takes a hardline approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, suggesting that Israel needs to take its fate into its own hands by flexing its political and military muscle.

Schecter, who will be coming from his home in Vancouver for a book signing at Israel’s Judaica store in Thornhill, Ont., shared his controversial views about Israel and the Arab world.

He said societies like ours, which thrive on liberalism, pluralism and tolerance, often misread the situation in the Middle East because they fail to realize that Palestinian society is organized on totally different principles.

He said because academics, journalists and foreign policy experts try to understand the conflict based on expectations they have for the way western democratic societies would behave, “they keep indulging [Palestinians] in their murderous, genocidal, racist, Jew-hating behaviour, and they keep insisting on seeing them as potential peace partners – and they will look for moderates where there are none.”

Schecter, who said he has often been accused of holding racist views, insisted that he considers Palestinians “no different than anyone else when it comes to the passions that tear them apart, when it comes to the blood that flows in their veins.”

But, he added, people on either side of the political spectrum should realize that Israel doesn’t have a partner for peace.

“If you look at the Israeli governments from left to right, they have continued to espouse the idea of a peace process when any intelligent analysis of the situation would indicate that this is not in the cards and will not be for a couple of hundred years,” Schecter said.

“How many times do you need to be disappointed before you change your tune?”

He said Israel’s biggest mistake is to expect that it has the power to change the Palestinians’ behaviour if they’re not receptive to change.

“You can’t even do that in a modern society… The Israeli government, in my opinion, should base its policy on things that it can control, rather than trying to modify Palestinian behaviour, when it’s not going to be modified,” he said.

Schecter suggested that Israel annex Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank.

“What they do with the Arabs there is a different story – my preference would be to let them leave… They’ve been so indoctrinated now into Jew-hatred and bloodlust that I don’t think it’s good to have them inside the country.”

He added that he can’t comprehend why Jews allow the world to think it’s OK for Jews to be murdered simply for living in their own country and said Israel needs to “take initiative, defend itself, create the borders that are necessary for your security… Learn to assert national sovereignty. But Jews don’t operate like that.”

He said Israelis should not apologize for the existence of Israel.

“They should say this is our land. This is ours. It was given to us by God, it was given to us by international law, it was given to us by our enterprising and pioneering spirits, it was given to us by sacrifice and countless wars and we’re here and we’re keeping it,” Schecter said.

“The Arab Muslim world reacts when you exert authority – firm authority that’s in line with what the situation warrants.”

He said the situation in the Middle East is very black and white and it’s hard for him to understand why people don’t see it that way.

“What kind of a society allows its people to be under such threats?… Why should the children in the south of Israel have to spend a week in bomb shelters? It’s outrageous. And the Israeli response is, ‘We’ll build another road, take a detour – it’s technical.’ But the problem is not technical. The problem is strategic. No other country in the world tolerates this. But we Jews tolerate it,” he said.

Schecter said Israel invites and encourages hostile behaviour from its enemies by “not asserting political sovereignty and seeing themselves as grasshoppers – not only in the eyes of the world but in their own eyes, and they’ve been doing it for 3,500 years.”

Schecter explained his use of the term grasshoppers. In Numbers, Moses was told by God to send scouts to Canaan to explore the land. The scouts reported that they saw “the sons of Amalek, who come of the giants: and we were in our own eyes as grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.”

“As soon as you start taking measures to guarantee your own security, believe me, the world will look up and respect you and you will stop looking at yourself as a grasshopper,” Schecter said.

The book, from Mantua Books, is available at www.mantuabooks.com or www.amazon.com.

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