Israel vs. Palestinians: Oppression, Aggression or Self-Defense? Listen to 'The Debate'

With the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians escalating, Newsweek invited guests from both sides of the divide to a special edition of The Debate podcast.

The Debate is a weekly podcast hosted by Josh Hammer, Newsweek's opinion editor, and Batya Ungar Sargon, the deputy opinion editor, and seeks to create space for civil conversations about the most contentious issues of our time. This week's guests are David Brog, the director of the Maccabee Task Force, and Omar Baddar, a member of the National Policy Council at the Arab American Institute. A brief excerpt of conversation is below.

Listen to The Debate

Excerpt from The Debate (lightly edited for clarity):


Omar, I'm sure some details about Israeli offers you, of course, would disagree with. But I want to read a quote here. This is a real quote. In 1974, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat said: "We shall never stop until we can go back home and Israel is destroyed. The goal of our struggle is the end of Israel and there can be no compromise or mediations. We don't want peace, we want victory." Is that the PA Abbas stance to this day? Or has it gotten has shifted over the years? How does your answer to that question affect how you will respond to David's view of the decades-long conflict?

Omar Baddar:

Sure. I think that all actually fits together very well here. So I'll give you the modern example of that statement. There is somebody that I'm sure you people know. Marc Lamont Hill recently gave a speech at the United Nations a couple of years ago and said: "What we need is freedom for Palestine from the river to the sea." And there was immediately an accusation that that was a call to violence against Israel, which I think is absurd. Because ultimately, what people were talking about before the establishment of the State of Israel, "victory" meant equality for everyone in the land. What was being objected to is the idea of a Jewish exclusivist state. That was what's being proposed. So the Palestinians did reject an offer for a two-state solution."

David Brog:

So there's a lot of I'd like to respond to, but I'll start with your question. It's what I said earlier: that there's been a fundamental failure among those who have led the Palestinian national movement. There were plenty of Palestinian nationalists who wanted compromise and wanted peace. Unfortunately, Haj Amin al-Husseini murdered most of them. Yasser Arafat did the same. What you're left with were leaders who fundamentally did not reconcile themselves to the presence of Jews in the land and the justice of Israel's independence. And therefore, even if they mouthed the words and to this day, Mahmoud Abbas will mouth words about peace. But if you mouthed the words about peace, while treating the Israelis not as an indigenous people with rights in the land that we must make painful compromises with, but rather as foreign invaders with no rights, then you educate your people to reject peace. If the narrative were true, if the Israelis were foreign invaders with no rights, then I would fight them with everything I had, too. I wouldn't compromise with people with no rights in the land or no justice in the land. You have to educate people for peace. You have to lead your people towards a tough peace. Unfortunately, the people who have seized leadership of the Palestinians have taken it in a different direction."

A Palestinian protester uses a slingshot to hurl stones amid clashes with Israeli security forces near the Hawara checkpoint south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on May 15, 2021, as Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, the "catastrophe" of Israel's creation in 1948, which turned hundreds of thousands into refugees. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP) ( JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Images