Interview with Scholar and Journalist, Mark Bruzonsky
Mark Bruzonsky, a Jewish-American Scholar and Journalist, has been a key member behind the scenes of the Israeli Palestinian peace initiative in the 1980s, meeting with Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and with Palestinian officials.
In this exclusive interview with Press TV’s Autograph, Mr. Bruzonsky talks about the challenges and missed opportunities he witnessed first-hand, and how Zionist groups infiltrated American politics, US institutions and organizations.
Press TV: In 1982, Mr. Bruzonsky, you authored the Paris Declaration - a breakthrough event that greatly contributed to political developments of the time. Please tell us about that.
Bruzonsky: In the 1980s, in a sense, a lot of us knew there was this political cancer; it was very bad, it was eating up the patient and needed to be dealt with and cured. I was in Paris sitting in a hotel room, a big event in my life, with four very important people – I was there to do the work and write the document.
They signed this document called the Paris Declaration, I wrote it and it was on the entire front page of Le Monde newspaper; Arafat responded and that was on the front page also.
But then we ran out of steam. The organizations that had founded were not willing to even entertain a discussion on what they had signed; they disassociated themselves from the people who founded their own organizations.
So then the Donahue show asked me to be on their show. The Donahue TV show was the only talk show in America at that time, there was no other competition and I went on it after no other Jewish leaders would accept to go on the program.
The timing of the show was pre-intifada, pre-apartheid and there were very few Israeli settlements on Palestine occupied land at the time and the discussion was all about how to bring peace to the region.
The two-state solution (with ‘Solution’ emphasized) was in fact a possible solution – it wasn’t going to be totally fair, the Palestinians were going to get a small piece of territory compared to their homeland, but at least there was a lot of support from political people to make it happen.
That world is gone. The two-state solution is now dead with the possible exception that you would have to roll back a tremendous number of things that have happened; that’s not going to happen.
The reason that is not going to happen is not because President Obama is not a smart man, not because he doesn’t know that cancer has gotten a lot worse; he knows all that.
He also knows that politically he is totally blocked. There is no way in the world he can come up against the Israeli Jewish lobby and their great group of institutions, personalities and foundations – no way.
He knows it.
So he continues to talk the language of two-state solution, but that’s largely to keep Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) from being totally discredited.
Press TV: During his inaugural as US president reports were circulating that his administration was going to move away from the Bush doctrine of rejecting Hamas into talks. Where does Hamas stand in the equation? Can there even be talks with the Palestinians when Hamas is sidelined?
Bruzonsky: In my cable TV program that I ended in 2003 I interviewed Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook the No.2 leader in Hamas. He was in New York under arrest at the time. I think it was 1996 and the Israeli Jewish lobby got the congress to pass a law outlawing Hamas and so Abu Marzook, who was living in America as a successful businessman, was imprisoned.
I got permission to interview him and do three reality TV programs. I don’t think the Obama people ever said anything positive about Hamas; I think they did say they were going to re-invigorate the peace process – but those are just words, slogans, the devil is in the detail and all that meant was that we (the US) are going to say they have to stop building settlements.
Well, Obama made a joke and a fool out of himself. Didn’t anyone tell him what was going to happen the moment he tried to get the Israelis to stop building settlements? There is a whole history that goes back to Camp David and US President Carter who also told the world that he had got the Israelis to agree to stop settlements and then the Israelis at that time made a fool out of that president by saying they had discussed freezing settlements, but only for 90 days. And then after that they escalated their program and we now live in the world we live in.
The story of how Obama became president, how he got support is important here. Obama is a different kind of president and we were all relieved. It was very embarrassing for eight years and more so for people throughout the world that suffered and were being killed by a US president who frankly (it’s not said in Washington and it’s not the kind of thing said at meetings, but many of us consider them as war criminals and we consider Cheney and Bush; they fit the definition of war criminals).
When Obama ran for president he stood for human rights, he was bright and principled, but then during the campaign certain things happened.
First of all the top financiers of the Democratic Party half of them are Jewish and almost all of those are quite Zionist and quite involved with the Israelis. At the time when Hilary Clinton and Obama were competing for support AIPAC had its annual convention.
On that day Obama gave a speech and he gave more than what was expected. Lee Hamilton who was on Obama’s advisory board said to me that he went too far – he shouldn’t have said what he said about Jerusalem – we’re going to be correcting it. After the speech, behind the scenes, he was taken to meet the Board of Directors of AIPAC. Rahm Israel Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff escorted him upstairs to the hotel room.
This is very unusual, presidency candidates don’t usually get interviewed by boards of directors like this, but AIPAC is different. The way the Israeli community signaled that they were going to support Obama, without actually announcing that they had even had a meeting with him, was to have Rahm endorse Obama. So a few hours later Rahm came out in public and did that, which was the signal to the rest of us that Obama had made his peace with this lobby and that he wasn’t going to be able to do anything they weren’t going to approve of.
Press TV: You mentioned that it was well-known to you that the Arab-Israeli conflict will be political cancer if it was not resolved, and at this point it has become the cancer that you mentioned. What has been the main obstacle of not reaching a solution?
Bruzonsky: America is the super power – American money; American arms; American UN vetos; American military support at critical times. The Israelis took a decision way back in the 1940s – and it goes back to the holocaust and back to Jewish impotence; there’s lots of factors it’s not black and white. It was a powerless community, I was part of it – born into a family that my mother and father would tell me we lost all of our relatives nobody knows where they are or they were all killed or maybe some escaped to what had become Israel.
The US has prevented a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict because the Israelis set up such powerful institutions, lobbies, publications, personalities and control in various ways of political parties and of the media making it impossible for American leaders to do what they knew they should do to solve this cancer; and it goes way back to General Marshall the secretary of state.
When President Truman told Marshall that he was going to accept a Jewish state, Marshall was going to resign saying it’s not in the interests of the US it is going to be war, which we won’t be able to end; it’s going to get worse; it’s going to unleash forces we won’t be able to control – he was exactly right.
At every critical moment since: Eisenhower tried to do things in the 1950s, Carter tried to do things in the 1970s, but they were blocked. There are plenty of books and academic information about this.
The Israelis then realized since they had control of the US, and Sharon said it bluntly back in 2001, he and Peres had a little debate in a cabinet meeting and the word that leaked out from that meeting was that Peres said that we’ve got to be careful, the Americans aren’t happy with what we’re doing and Sharon said stop worrying about the Americans we control things in America, I’ll take care of things there don’t worry about it. – And he was right.
I’ve been watching all this. I did a lot of traveling for a lot of years through the Middle East while the US has been my home base; and it’s been outrageous.
Bruzonsky: I was a kid journalist just out of school. The Egyptian Embassy in Washington read something I had written. It was a movie review about a film called, “Children of Rage.” And they called me and said it was very interesting and asked if I would like to be the first Jewish journalist that has ever been invited by our government.
Of course I said yes. So I went for three weeks and I met everybody: the Foreign Minister, the Minister of State, and then they said to me that they knew the three weeks were up but they wanted me to stay longer because the President wanted to meet with me. And they were so surprised when I said I could stay one more day, but I really have other places I have to go. So I said to thank him so much and it was a great honor and so nice to meet all of them, and I took off.
I went to Oman and then I went to Israel. There was going to be a big peace conference and you will see the connections in just a minute. There was going to be this big peace conference. So I get to Israel and I go to the new outlet magazine, which was sponsoring the conference and George Ball, the most important under Secretary of State, the man who helped resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis was going to be the speaker.
And they said to me Mark where have you been. And I said I’ve just been to Egypt. I said I’m here because they wanted me to stay and meet the President but I’m at your peace conference. And they said oh my god don’t you know what has happened. And I didn’t because I had been traveling and it wasn’t like you could tune in to Al-Jazeera in those days. They said the President gave a speech and said he is willing to go anywhere and do anything to bring peace. They said you were supposed to have a meeting with him, and I said yes.
I was in Israel for about six hours. They gave me a whole bunch of cash and wrote a letter and said Mark go back to Cairo and meet the President and invite him to come to our peace conference. So later I’m sitting with the President of Egypt and I’ve given him this invitation, and he was asking me about my three weeks in his country.
So there I am and it’s a little hard for me to believe that I’m sitting with the President of Egypt all alone. Maybe forty to fifty feet away there is someone from the Ministry of Interiors or somebody to protect, but he can’t even hear he was so far away. And I was so disappointed because at the end of the meeting which was very nice he said I’m very sorry but I will not be able to come to your peace conference. Then I suppose I was just looking sad. I don’t remember saying anything.
But he said I have decided I will send a telegram to this conference. And I already knew that leaders in the Arab world do not send telegrams to Israel. I had never heard of such a thing. There wasn’t a procedure. I figured it was just his way of being polite to me. I literally had to leave on the first flight in the morning, and I went to a travel agent that was recommended to me, but at the moment I whispered Israel it was don’t say another word about Israel.
We can’t talk about Israel here and there is no way we can get you to Israel. He said first flight in the morning goes to Athens and that is all I can do. So I said okay and I’m on my flight to Athens. I’m dog tired and I’m half asleep. I traveled so much in those days the moment anybody asked me anything I would say orange juice and English.
When I woke up on the plane, there was this newspaper in front of me, The Egyptian Gazette. And I wasn’t sure if I was hallucinating or dreaming because as my eyes cleared I said good god that’s me. There is this big picture of me and Sadat on the front page at the top of the paper. But there was no story. It was just Journalist Mark Bruzonsky meets President Sadat. There was no story; no nothing. A day later I’m called aside by the Chairman of the conference. He said Mark in one hour there is a press conference and all the media will be here.
You have to come sit up front and you have to tell everybody about your meeting with the President. And I said what’s going on, what’s going on. He said you know the office is closed but we are all at the hotel. We sent somebody back to get some papers and under the door is this telegram. It wasn’t just oh, hope you had a nice conference.
It was a whole page of the importance of peace to the region and what this conflict has done. It was a very long statement which I learned later was written for him. And for 24 hours I was the guy who met the President! It was I that had arranged this telegram and then on Thursday morning came the unbelievable announcement. The President of Egypt arrives to Israel on Shabbat (Saturday) as soon as the sun goes down.
And it’s like something out of some dream, as people starting arriving within hours. A press center was set up in almost minutes. There were free phones. Anybody could pick up a phone and call anywhere. And on Saturday night he arrived and I went to the airport with the Egyptian press delegation. We all thought the world was going to change now.
The Israelis would feel accepted, the Palestinians would have their homeland, for at the time it was called a homeland and we weren’t even talking about a state. Then unfortunately everything started to deteriorate, and three years later Sadat was assassinated and it has been downhill ever since.
Press TV: So the postponement on the decision on settlements led to the fact that it was termed an occupation issue in the eyes of the international community, and everyone who was observing the settlement issues thought it was a contested issue. At that point the issue of settlement could be contested after Oslo. Before that it was an occupation and it wasn’t even discussed.
Bruzonsky: Once the Israelis got the PA (Abbas was the man who actually signed the document) at the White House. Once they got them to sign this agreement and become their collaborating regime without having to agree to stop the settlements. That’s symbolic. If the Israelis weren’t going to stop enlarging the occupation, how could we possibly consider this a major step on the way to a peace settlement? So it was the symbolism of it. Not the actual settlement here or there. The Israelis never intended to stop the settlements.
Rabin in my judgment never attended for what he was signing to end up being a Palestinian state. For them it was autonomy we packaged under different names and they were hiring Arafat and his people to control the Palestinian people.
That of course is the origin of the growth of Hamas because many non-religious people and many who had been supporters of Fatah and of more secular things decided we are going to support Hamas. At least they are honest and dignified. At least they have principals and are not corrupt. And Fatah has sold us out. That’s the origins of how in 2006 Hamas was elected.
Press TV: I’m going to dare ask this question to wrap up. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Bruzonsky: It’s a very long, dark tunnel now but hopefully saner, wiser policies will prevail down the road. And we can’t afford this anymore. Our own empire is collapsing financially, morally, and spiritually in terms of the credibility of American institutions. We don’t feel it so much in Washington, but around the country, the Tea Party and the other movements is representative of a feeling that our future is dissolving in our place in the world, and our standard of living and what we are providing for our children. There is big conflict here and we don’t have the resources to continue these policies even if you want to argue the policies are right.
Press TV: Mark Bruzonsky, thank you very much for joining us on the Autograph.
Bruzonsky: Thank you Susan.
Mark Bruzonsky holds dual advanced degrees in international affairs and law from Princeton University and New York University where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar. He is a journalist and international affairs consultant and the publisher of MiddleEast.org as well as the now under development WashReport. He writes and speaks frequently about world affairs, U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, the underlying realities of policy-making in Washington, and U.S.-Israeli relations. [Read more]