“And Then I Danced” Reveals Power of Activism

Book-DancedThe Philadelphia book opening for activist Mark Segal’s new work And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality was adroitly staged at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall where Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers blared their Comcast grievances beside the program entrance, as both a Comcast and union leader arrived in the author’s honor. Activists, politicians, business and labor leaders, and many Philadelphia area recipients of his lifetime of social justice advocacy mixed in intensive networking and sharing of his often daring exploits throughout the party-like atmosphere and formal proceedings. Regardless of your politics there is an immense amount to be learned about methods of effective activism for every and any cause in And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality, Mark Segal’s fascinating and instructive, story-filled autobiography that brings forth a good deal of often suppressed GBLT movement history of which many are likely unaware.

And Then I Danced is a flowing read across decades of incidents and strategies leading to today’s remarkable degree of GBLTQ inclusion as equal human beings the mitzvah of kavod habriyut—honor for all that lives. At the podium Mark Segal offers the same bold, celebration of life and liberty as in his writing. The room at the book opening was filled with a rare kind of pure loving appreciation, including that from residents of the John C. Anderson Apartments, the first federally-funded LGBT-friendly residence in the nation, which is located in downtown Philadelphia. Mark Segal takes “Yes we can!” to the level of “Yes we did!”

Mark himself had many tales to tell that he delivered with passion, power and gratitude from the dais. His connection to Jewish values of liberty and justice for all shone through steadily and he did not spare the Yiddishisms in his talk. At points his writing reveals the Jewish appreciation of the importance of making common cause with those who are oppressed. He explains:

…my favorite headline came from the Times Leader: “Shapp Aide Tells Berger to Reconsider Homos Ban.”…After one long day of fighting, I asked Shapp why he was taking this on, and he told me, “Mark, I’m in the closet as well.” When I looked at him strangely, he laughed and followed up with, “My real name is Shapiro, I had to change it to Shapp to enter politics. So I understand discrimination.”

In June of 1975, Milton Shapp became first governor in the nation to have his state officially proclaim Gay Pride Month.

A rare charisma that arrives sans unhealthy narcissism shines from Mark Segal along with his capacity for the mitzvah of hakarat hatov — seeing the good done by those with whom he developed effective collaborations and naming it. Book clubs will love his presentations.

What Makes This Man Possible?

How does a person come to be so aware, and capable of a life of dedicated caring activism? The only Jewish family in the Wilson Park projects, born to immigrant parents, Mark Segal recalls:

Our new neighbors were hardly welcoming. I still remember the first few days of kindergarten when Irish and Italian kids would say to me “You killed our Christ,” or the one that always stumped me, “you’re a devil with horns.” Somehow I had become a deformed six-year-old murderer. For a while I’d subconsciously touch the top of my head, waiting for the horns to grow, and I wondered, how could I possibly comb my hair with horns?

One time my mother went to my grade school to defend me because the teachers had demanded that I sing “Onward Christian Solders.” In those days there was still prayer in public schools, and they had us sing Christian songs…, so I knew discrimination from a very young age… My refusal to sing “Onward, Christian Soldiers” was my first political action, my first defiance of conformity and the status quo.

Segal also writes of his anguish over his parents’ shame and pain at being unable to give him things, the toys a child would want. Poverty shrieks through his guilt when he shares how his mother cried when a rare, hard-earned gift to him falls through a hole in his bag and is lost. Many will rethink parenting of all possible kinds of children after reading this autobiography.

Acceptance Matters

Mark Segal’s parents’ acceptance of their son as gay seems almost miraculous, for its time. His cousin Norman’s experience was…more normative:

I didn’t want to kiss the girls. I’d look at the guys in my class and feel far more attracted to them. There was no doubt in my mind about this, but I didn’t know the word for who I was or what I was feeling. I knew, however, that I was okay with it. Now, I wasn’t going to tell anybody, not in the 1960’s…

When I was younger, maybe five or six years old, my cousin Norman was sixteen. His father discovered that he was gay, gave him a major beating, and threw him out of the house. Cousin Norman was the family member whom nobody mentioned. One day, I was in the backseat of my parents’ Studebaker while they were discussing him and I somehow picked upon the fact that he was a guy who liked guys — a fegeleh … I knew that whatever it all meant, I too was a fegeleh … As a teenager, I read in TV Guide one afternoon that on his PBS talk show, David Susskind was going to interview “real live homosexuals.” A new word different from fegeleh, somehow I knew it also referred to me. I just knew it …

Awakening and the Role of Riots

The movement for GBLT equality has historical flashpoints, as with all revolutions. The legendary Stonewall Riots were at a New York City bar and Mark Segal was there:

For me it started out as a frightening event … I was in the back of the bar near the dance floor, where the younger people usually hung out. The lights in the room blinked-a signal that there would be a raid—then turned all the way up. Stonewall was filled that night with the usual clientele: drag queens, hustlers, older men who liked younger guys, and stragglers like me—the boy next door who didn’t know what he was searching for and felt he had little to offer. That all changed when the police raided the bar. As they always did, they walked in like they owned the place, cocky, assured they could do whatever they wanted and push people around with impunity. We had no idea why they came in, whether or not they’d been paid, wanted more payoffs, or simply to harass the fags that night …

… As the riot was happening all around me, the idea of a circus came to mind, and then it hit me: we can shout who we are and not be ashamed, we can demand respect. It was at that point that Marty Robinson’s words hit a chord. We are fighting for our rights just as women, African Americans, and others had done throughout history.

Segal also cites San Francisco’s Compton Cafeteria riot in 1966 and the Dewey’s sit-in n Philadelphia in 1965:

Drag queens and street kids who played a huge role in both events never documented those riots; thus they have been widely eliminated by the white upper middle class, many of whom were ashamed of those elements of our community. But Stonewall, Compton, and Dewey’s all have one thing in common: drag queens and street kids. For some historians, drag queens are not the ideal representatives of the LGBT community. Oppression within oppression was and is still of concern.

Zaps

Once activated, Segal brought his intelligence and creativity to the journey toward equal rights. These came to be called “Zaps.” These often meant somewhat risky strategic actions, such as in service of exposure of media prejudice. He once went after CBS’ secure studio by means of asking a student training in the Radio, Film, and Television department at Temple to obtain the program’s Temple University stationary. Posing as students it only took two weeks to secure an invitation to view a broadcast firsthand, December 11, 1973:

Their usual pattern called for CBS to later rebroadcast the six pm show to the remainder of the country or, if breaking news warranted, they would broadcast it live again. At about fourteen minutes into the program, as Walter Cronkite was reporting to the American public about security procedures for Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, I knew this was the moment, and for the first time while doing a zap my heart started beating very fast. I wasn’t scared but somehow I knew that after this event things would change forever. I rushed onto the set, holding up my sign and yelling the message printed on it, “Gays protest CBS prejudice!” The CBS Evening News broke down right in front of Walter. I stepped between him and the camera shutting him out of the picture to show only that sign. As millions watched, I sat on his desk and held the sign right into the camera lens so that everyone could clearly see the words. Gays Protest CBS Prejudice …

… “Why,” Cronkite asked the activist with genuine curiosity, “Why did you do that?”

“Your news program censors,” Segal pleaded. If I can prove, it would you do something to change it?” …

“Yes,” Cronkite said, “I wrote this show.”

Surprises

Philadelphians will find many political surprises in And Then I Danced. For example, support for GBLT rights sometimes came from both sides of the aisle:

Arlen [Spector] was district attorney of Philadelphia. He had not taken a stand on the gay rights bill that was before city council. Efforts to set up a meeting went unanswered. So we had to be a little creative. One crisp Monday morning, a caterer delivered two large coffeemakers and dozens of donuts to Arlen’s office. His staff thought that he had ordered the special treat, and Arlen thought his staff had arranged it. At the same time, in the City Hall courtyard, and in the corridors of the building, members of the Gay Raiders were handing out flyers that read, District Attorney Arlen Specter invites you to a reception in honor gay rights legislation in city council. Please join him at ten a.m. in his office, Room 666 (that really was his office number.)

At ten a.m. we, along with hundreds of city workers and a huge collection of news people arrived at his office, we walked in and there was Arlen’s staff trying not to look too surprised at a reception held in the office that their boss was hosting, about legislation he had not endorsed. Arlen remained in his inner office. At first, the media took pictures of me handing out coffee and donuts to City Hall staffers, and we weren’t sure if Arlen would even come out of his private office. Finally, the door opened, and there he was all smiles…

Now, here’s what most people never knew: in Arlen’s Republican years in the US Senate, when it was hard to support LGBT rights, he was always behind the curtain ready to vote yes on gay rights if it was needed to assure passage.

Addressing The Biblically Ignorant

Reading the Torah in service of GBLT rights takes new eyes. Mark Segal gives an example of how to do so:

“Says Leviticus,” she bellowed, “Man who lays with man is an abomination!” She was just going on and on until Phil interrupted her and asked if she’d like to hear my response.

“Madam, from what you say it seems you don’t respect religion,” was my reply.

She said, “I’m a true Christian.”

I stare her down. “A true Christian respects the rights of other religions. My religion accepts who I am. Are you inferring that Judaism is a false religion? If you’d like to talk religion we can do so, but I’ll also quote other parts of the Bible you seem to have forgotten.”

She exploded and just started tossing out various biblical verses at me.

“You don’t know your Bible well,” I said. That sentence would become a trademark comment from me in religious discussions. I continued, “you use your Bible like you were ordering from a restaurant menu. I call that Bible a la carte. You choose what parts of the Bible you wish to obey and what others to ignore.”

Then I looked her over and explained that all she was wearing that made her an abomination according to that same Leviticus chapter, which condemns wearing clothing of two different fabrics. Polyester-cotton blend, anyone? I followed that up by asking the audience a quick succession of questions about shellfish, metals, pigskin, and all the rest, then asked, “Do all of you obey your husbands? While I know none of you would commit adultery, I’m sure you’re aware that in cases of adultery your husband has the right to kill you. So, if I’m going to hell, you’re all joining me. As the Good Book says, he who has not sinned should throw the first stone. Is there anyone in this audience who has not sinned?”

As total silence fell over the room, I directed my next comment back to the lady with the Bible. “Oh, and one more thing, remember the Ten Commandments? Gluttony? How many of you are joining me in hell now?” No LGBT person had ever challenged an entire TV audience in that manner before. This kept the Bible-toting crowd focused on issues like discrimination, hate crimes, and entrapment.

Yes You Can

And Then I Danced: Traveling the Road to LGBT Equality came out in October of 2015. A second run of 10,000 has already been announced. The sheer number of political strategy memories can expand readers’ skills and savvy. Mark Segal’s sharing reveals realities and opportunities taken that have long needed better documentation. With inspired reader encouragement this valuable guidebook can enter not only homes, but also enter university and religious settings and serve to teach empathy and activism for generations to come.

Note: Learn more about the evolving acceptance of homosexuality across the spectrum of Judaism: Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality in the Jewish Tradition.

Protecting Creation: A Jewish Response to Climate Change

— Dan Segal, chair of Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Rear Adm. David W. Titley, Dr. Jalone L. White-Newsome and Dan Segal.

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Rear Adm. David W. Titley, Dr. Jalone L. White-Newsome and Dan Segal.

Climate change is one of the gravest issues facing our nation and our planet. As I write, over 150 world leaders are meeting in Paris at the UN sponsored Climate Summit which hopefully will address many of the dangers brought on by excessive production of greenhouse gas emissions.

Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century, a dramatic increase compared to the last 1000 years, and is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. The planet’s oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes – oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.

Our reliance on fossil fuels comes with a host of dilemmas beyond its effect on the weather. We must be sensitized to the grave national security concerns created as nations become destabilized over lack of natural resources such as water. Solutions to climate change have an uneven effect on poor nations who are far less able to cope with the damaging effects of climate change than are wealthy nations and yet are being asked to help resolve a problem many of them feel they did not help create.

And yet day after day we flip our light switches, boot up our computers, and drive our cars. What should we do? While we cannot remove ourselves from the necessity of using energy, we have a moral obligation to alleviate the proliferation of greenhouse gasses as it will affect our lives on many levels.

Rear Admiral David W. Titley

Rear Admiral David W. Titley

Most scientists agree on what needs to be done, yet there is still doubt among many world leaders that we have the political will to carry through on what the scientists propose. Indeed the politicization of the topic in our country, in which far too many refuse to even admit to the existence of the problem threaten to divide our nation and put our planet further at risk.

As U.N Secretary General Ban Ki Moon told leaders as the UN talks in Paris began last week, “The future of your people, the future of the people of the world, is in your hands. We cannot afford indecision, half measures, or merely gradual approaches. Our goal must be transformation.”

Although international commitments and legislation in Washington are critical in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing energy independence, our challenge at the local level, is not to wait passively for policymakers to make their next moves. Policy makers need to hear from all of you. We need to bring our communal, institutional and personal strengths to bear now.

Lynne Iser asks participants to pair off to discuss climate change.

Lynne Iser asks participants to pair off to discuss climate change.

It is for this very reason that JCRC decided to convene a Protecting Creation Forum for our Jewish community to help us understand the relationship between energy, security and the environment and our moral obligation particularly as Jews. Not that there aren’t many wonderful organizations already deeply involved in the issue of climate change, many of whom are co-sponsoring this program. But because of the critical nature of climate change, we at JCRC felt the need to bring the various groups together so that collectively, we could face this issue as a community. Our goal is for you to take what you learn here today back to your organizations and synagogues.

Climate Change Advocacy 101 for Jews

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Rear Adm. David W. Titley, Dr. Jalone L. White-Newsome and Dan Segal.

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Rear Adm. David W. Titley, Dr. Jalone L. White-Newsome and Dan Segal.

Often a failure in communication is not the message or the messenger, but how it is presented. I am not talking about a Madison Avenue campaign to convince people to buy something they don’t need, but an understanding of the audience.

Yesterday, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Jewish Community Relations Council held a conference Protecting Creation: A Jewish Response to Climate Change. The speakers were clear and articulate representatives of their professional realm:

  • Rabbi Nina Cardin from the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network;
  • the Rear Admiral David Titley, retired from the United States Navy and currently Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State;
  • Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome, of WE ACT for Environmental Justice; and
  • Dan Segal, Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

I learned that since 2010, Philadelphia has experienced: its snowiest winter, its two warmest summers; its two wettest years; two hurricanes; and derecho (a widespread, long-lived, straight-line wind storm that is associated with a land-based, fast-moving group of severe thunderstorms. Derechos can cause hurricane force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains, and flash floods.) I learned that Pennsylvania is one of the dirtiest states, producing more pollution than the country of Chile. And I learned that the fact that the ice caps in Antarctica are increasing is a testament to the warming conditions elsewhere, bringing more water to the Antarctic.

It can be overwhelming to think about a global problem, but we can start with a personal or household exercise in calculating our carbon footprint. We can promote community-based resiliency planning, because the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina has showed us that the most vulnerable were the elderly and handicapped who were without access to transportation out of their disaster area. So, a contact list of individuals who live alone or cannot drive in our neighborhood would result in faster response than relying on the National Guards.

Promoting our concerns for the environment means knowing how to speak to those who do not share our beliefs. It means advance preparation, so we are aware for example that a particular Congressional representative has a relative with asthma, which is exacerbated by air pollution. It means meeting our audience on their terms, incorporating their concerns.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit of Mishkan Shalom spoke from the audience about his inter-faith work, in which his fellow clergy face difficulty talking about climate change when their parishioners are facing unemployment and eviction from their homes. It is easily dismissed as a problem of white privilege. The Sierra Club found that by reaching out to disparate niche populations, they were effective in integrating their cause. They now work with veteran groups, a particularly effective ally in capturing the attention of Congress.

Rear Admiral David W. Titley

Rear Admiral David W. Titley

A few years ago, I was given a platform from my synagogue for environmental issues. So, each week I was able to present one environmental fact to the kehillah through our shul bulletin. This was well received until the week I wrote about meat consumption being a major hazard to the health of our Earth. In the flurry and fury of complaints to the rabbi from meat lovers, I lost my forum. (Rear Admiral Titley said, “We will not convince people with the scientific facts, because scientists have tried for 30 years and failed.”) I learned yesterday that the way to influence my shul peers is not to bludgeon them with the facts, I have to re-frame my approach to make it a religious value, a mitzvah.

Let us brainstorm together on ways to create a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable world for future generations. Time is running out, as the Arctic ice caps melt and coastal cities and island nations face flooding and contamination of their water tables (ruining their supply of drinking water). We all aspire to a good and meaningful life, we just have differences in how to meet our goals.

Michael’s Story: A Tale of Resilience in the Wake of Being Shot

— by Aviva Perlo

As I began to write this week, a wave of emotion hit me. Michael is a survivor of gun violence, and the timing now matched the mass shootings and homicides in Newtown, Connecticut. With profound empathy, concern, and a call to action; I share Michael’s story and some thoughts about gun violence. May families and communities from Connecticut, to Columbine, to Virginia Tech, to Arizona, to Louisiana, to Texas, Chicago, Philadelphia, and communities everywhere that are affected by gun violence, receive some sense of comfort and hope for better days.

More after the jump.
Michael and I met through the synagogue where I grew up. His father was the head Rabbi of nearly 5000 congregants for almost 30 years. (Yes, everything is big in Texas.)

Michael was shot 31 years ago. Michael was a student at the University of Texas at Austin when he and his girlfriend, Sharon, headed back to the dorm one night after studying organic chemistry. He noticed the gas gauge was on empty. Michael pulled into a convenient store, borrowed $2 from Sharon for gas, and ran inside to pay. “On one side of the door, I had a regular life, and another side of the door, I was just another statistic of crime” Michael said. The store was in the midst of a robbery. The thieves took Michael in the back to dispense of him so he could not be a witness to their crime. Michael was shot in the back of head, and no one thought he would survive. “The police and paramedics transferred my case to homicide,” explains Michael. “When the neurosurgeon saw I was still alive in the morning, he told my parents there was a 100% chance that I would be a vegetable. Obviously I beat the odds,” he said smiling.

“My dad told Sharon to leave and told her that the doctors said I’d be a vegetable” Michael said. “He told her, you are young, go live your life.” But Sharon replied, “Michael is my life.” She stayed in the hospital that day, and has stayed for decades. Michael and Sharon married years later and had a healthy child together who recently graduated college.

I asked Michael about his recovery. He explained:

My Dad has a true saying. Mile by mile is a trial. Inch by inch is a cinch. Yard by yard is hard. I was getting better slowly. The neurosurgeon told my family I was stable enough to be transferred to a hospital in Houston. A doctor came in my room there and told me I was not going back to college and to focus on more realistic goals. I thought to myself: Who are you to tell me what I cannot do. You don’t even know me. I made it my goal then and there to return to college one day. It was not easy. Life is not easy. I was paralyzed and had to learn to do small things like tie my shoe with one hand. A year and a half later I returned to University of Texas. I had to go to a lot of therapy. But four years later, I graduated with honors.

Michael worked hard to relearn some basic skills of reading, writing, walking, talking, tying his shoes, and more. He obtained a masters degree in counseling. He said his family was tremendously supportive, plus people of all faiths that he did not even know were praying for him. Today Michael works with individuals and families who have survived trauma, mainly head injuries. “I’m on the trauma floor… to help people cope with head injury and spinal chord injury. I do emotional support which means sitting in hospitals and waiting rooms to put a smile on peoples’ faces” says Michael.

One time Michael met a mother in a hospital waiting room whose teenage son had also been shot in the back of the head like Michael. She sat in desperation wondering if he would survive.  Then Michael walked in, introduced himself, sat with her, and gave her living proof of the possibility of hope. I asked Michael if he receives certain reactions from people due to his speech or his walk. Michael is partially paralyzed and walks with two uneven legs. The bullet modified his speech. “Oh is there a way that I walk?” he asked. I froze. He smiled. I laughed in relief. “I use humor religiously” he said, “It is very important” he said. We spoke briefly about the difference between survivors with visible and invisible affects. “I don’t know what it’s like to be a survivor without any signs of it because this is all I know” Michael said. I wondered if his presence raises awareness for others in ways that differ for those who have survived trauma without visible signs of it. “The most important thing,” Michael said, “is to keep hope alive. Do the best with what you have. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Although gun violence has become a public health epidemic in America today, there is hope. Much is preventable if we can modify our thinking about safety and violence. The question is not are you pro gun or not? Gun violence involves many factors: managing emotions, lobbyists, access to weapons, access to health care, access to medicine, economic disparities, domestic violence, bullying, desires for instant gratification, fear, desires for security, critical thinking about what actually protects us, keeping kids creatively occupied after-school, establishing connections with friends, neighbors, faith groups, and more. It requires thinking beyond black and white binary terms. “I learned that anger is not necessarily a bad thing” said Michael, “It is energy. It depends on what you do with it, how you direct it. We have to use our energy for the good” said Michael.

Psychiatrist Dr. Sandra Bloom writes in her book Creating Sanctuary:

There is a large body of knowledge available about the effects of trauma, the necessary ingredients for healthy child development, [normative] processing of memory and emotions, the importance of human relationships…, problem solving,… and mediation. Unfortunately however, few people know… this. We spend too much time consuming news tabloids and over-sensationalizing… rather than looking at the complex nature of human behavior and interrelatedness that we have with one another….

Jewish tradition says that we are not permitted to hold a knife while praying because prayer is meant to extend our lives, and knives cut our days short. Some commentators extrapolate the same for guns, that guns too must be separate from prayer because they slice our days. Exceptions are made for soldiers in the line of duty. If only we could see that the ‘line of duty’ or the militia as stated in the Second Amendment is separate from America’s streets or schools or shopping centers or homes. These are not the militia. These are the spaces where we are meant to build healthy, beautiful lives. May we learn to value life and to separate the profane from the sacred.

Hillary Clinton interviewed by Israeli and Palestinian TV

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participated in a joint interview with Udi Segal of Israel's Channel 2 and Amirah Hanania Rishmawi of Palestine TV at the Department of State.  

Transcript follows the jump.
I will start in asking, this Administration repeats that the Palestinian state is a strategic American interest. Is this become slogan for varied and concrete policies and steps to be taken from your side? Touch on that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: First, thank you both for giving me this opportunity not only to talk to you, but through you to Israeli and Palestinian citizens. And I thank you for that.

The United States believes very strongly, and we are totally committed to working with and supporting the efforts of the Israeli and Palestinian leadership and people to achieve a viable Palestinian state and a secure Israel living side by side. That has been a personal commitment of mine going back many years, and I believe first and foremost it is in the interests of the people of Israel and of the Palestinians, and particularly of the children.

But it is also an interest of the United States. We strongly support the security and the future of Israel and we strongly support the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The only way, in our opinion, in the 21st century, that you can have the kind of security and peace that gives you a chance for the future that each of your people deserve is through a settlement of all of the outstanding issues and an end to the conflict.

Madam Secretary, you said it yourself yesterday, both sides are so disappointed. What makes this attempt different? Why are the odds – this time it’s for us rather than against us?

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s a great question, because I know of the skepticism and even the suspicion in the minds and hearts of people in the region. And I said yesterday I’m personally disappointed. I have not only supported the efforts that have come before, but was deeply involved in the support of what my husband tried to do in the 1990s. And I think I’m the first person ever associated with an American administration who called for a Palestinian state as a way to realize the two-state solution.

Why is it different? I think it’s different for three reasons. First, I think that time is not on the side of either Israeli or Palestinian aspirations for security, peace, and a state. It’s not because – there are so many changes in the region where the rejectionist ideology and the commitment to violence that some unfortunately have as we recently saw with the terrible killings in Hebron and the attack outside of Ramallah. They gained greater access to weapons. They have a sponsor, namely Iran, who is very much behind a lot of what they’re doing. The technology is threatening to the stability of both peoples’ lives.

I mean, if you look at the economies that are now growing, much of the world is still coming out of a recession. In the Palestinian business community, in Israel, you have vibrant, growing economies that are making a difference. In Nablus, last year, unemployment was 30 percent; it’s down to 12 percent. It’s clear to me that the forces of growth and positive energy are in a conflict with the forces of destruction and negativity. And the United States wants to weigh in on the side of leaders and people who see this as maybe the last chance for a very long time to resolve this.
Now, I will be the first to tell you it is very difficult. I cannot change history. I cannot take an eraser to the history books and change everything that has happened between you for so many years. But what we can do is offer a different future. But then it takes courage to accept that, because it is a bit of a leap of faith. That’s why I was very impressed that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas came here despite the skepticism.

So Your Excellency, public in the region — consider that Prime Minister Netanyahu came here for a public relationship – relations exercises. What are you going to do at the end of this month if he will not – if he wants to combine between settlement and these public relationship? The end of the month is going to be the last date for that sort of moratorium before the settlement. What are you going to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that I have known Prime Minister Netanyahu for many years, and I am convinced that he understands and accepts the importance of achieving a two-state solution. He publicly committed to that, something he had not done before, and he negotiated with the Palestinians in the past. He and President Abbas know each other. They have, in my presence, been very clear that they want to work extremely hard to get to a final agreement.
We’re well aware that there are issues that have to be dealt with, such as the one you referred to, at the end of the month. I’m not going to get into their discussions, because that really is at the core of their being able to make some tough decisions, being able to have the confidence that they can have sensitive discussions without me or anybody else talking about them. But I am absolutely convinced that these two men, for different reasons, maybe the two can actually do this.

Everyone knows that in order for Israelis to accept a two-state solution, they have to believe – and I support this with all my heart – that they will be more secure, not less secure. And from their perspective, and one of the reasons for the skepticism in Israel, is we pulled out of Lebanon, we got Hezbollah, we pulled out of Gaza, we got Hamas. So there’s a reality to it. It’s not just a kind of public relations or theoretical argument. I think with President Abbas, he was courageous in the times when he was alone in the Palestinian leadership, in the PLO, in Fatah. He’s been calling for a two-state solution for decades and has given his whole life to trying to realize that. And he knows that this may be the last time.
So I really am convinced that we have obstacles, we have some looming challenges in terms of time. But I believe that both men came with the best of intentions. And now, we have to work hard to overcome those obstacles.

President Abbas said clearly that if settlement freeze does not continue, there will be a – come to a screeching halt in negotiation. What do you – do you agree to that? What do you make of that saying of President Abbas?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Udi, I think part of what we are doing here is creating an atmosphere that is conducive to a final agreement that rests on tough decisions. And the parties know that the goal here is to make the decisions within a framework agreement on all the core issues, all the difficult core issues. And clearly, territory, settlements, borders, security, those are the hardest of the core issues in my opinion.

Refugees?

SECRETARY CLINTON: They have to – and absolutely, Jerusalem, refugees, water, I mean, there’s a whole list of the hard internal core decisions. And I think that dealing with all of them – not in a piecemeal way, but in a comprehensive way, because each side is going to have to make concessions, each side is going to have to make tradeoffs. I’ve never been in a negotiation where one side got everything, because that’s not what happens in negotiations. So I understand the positions of both leaders and I think they are sincere about trying to work to get to a resolution of the outstanding problems, including the one that is looming at the end of the month.

Your Excellency, some people in the region say that peace talks are intended to appease Arabs or the Arabs before some kind of military action against Iran. Is there any truth of that?

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, and I think that’s a very important question, because we have great concerns about Iran. And it’s not only about Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; it’s about Iran’s sponsorship of terror and its supply of weapons to groups that are trying to destabilize countries and societies. So that’s a given. And that concern, as you know, is shared by much of the Arab world, because they see in their own countries the results of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism.

But the Arab Peace Initiative that was led by the Saudis and by King Abdullah, which said, “Here is an outline for how we would like to have peace with Israel,” has been embraced by Arab and Muslim countries, as you know. That had nothing to do with Iran. That was an expression of the recognition by Arab leaders that this conflict needs to be resolved, and it needs to finally result in a two-state solution, because there’s so much to be gained in the region, turning the attention to what could be done together on all these difficult issues that are looming over the region, like water and dealing with terrorism and the like.

So I think that Iran is a serious problem. I’m the first to tell you that. It’s a problem not just for the United States. It’s a problem for the entire region, because more than anyone, you see the results. I mean, Hamas is not only attacking Israelis; Hamas has been brutal to the people in Gaza in so many ways over the last years.

So let’s recognize that we have a lot of problems we have to deal with. My goal has been to try to tackle each problem and to say, “What can we do to make progress?” There are connections, but on their own, getting to a two-state solution is so much in the interests of the entire region.

I want to follow up Amira’s question.

Isn’t – we are witnessing a simple deal here, “We, the United States will dismantle of Iran nuclear weapons, and in return, you, the Israeli and Palestinians, finally will establish a Palestinian state”?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that there are some who make that case. I mean, I make the case on the merits. I mean, in the 1990s, Iran was not a looming threat the way that it is now because of its advanced nuclear program. And my husband, I, and others worked very hard with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak and others to try to get to the point where we could establish – and of course, I wish we had done that. We’d now have had a state for 10 years and we would have had, I think, a very clear example to the world about what that meant.

I don’t want to miss this opportunity. We are making progress on the sanctions against Iran. They are clearly feeling the pinch of those because we see it in all the interactions around the world where they are now under tremendous economic pressure. Countries that we didn’t think would join with us have joined and are part of trying to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. So we’re going to stay focused on that. But we know that on its own, this is such an important accomplishment. Will it have consequences? Of course. It will, I believe, help to undermine Iran’s support and that is, in and of itself, good.

Your Excellency, let’s go back – go back with me to the normal and daily life for the Palestinians in the Palestinian territories, checkpoints involved. The Palestinian – Israel maintained more than 500 checkpoints that seriously hinder the freedom of movement in the West Bank. Are the United States writing this up in the negotiation? And are there steps that really give the Palestinians freedom to move, freedom to pray, to reach Jerusalem, to reach a mosque, to reach a better future?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That is very much on our mind and it’s very much on the minds of both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. We are well aware that improving the daily lives of Palestinians, which has been going on for a few years now – we think that President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, other leaders – but mostly citizens themselves, mostly Palestinians who have really, in the West Bank, been able to do more on their own behalf – are demonstrating, in ways we could not say, the effects, the positive effects of peace. So, the checkpoints, the roadblocks, all of the daily challenges that we know affect the Palestinians are certainly on the agenda.
Tony Blair, who you know represents the Quartet, which has played an important role in keeping the world’s attention focused on the need for these negotiations, will be working even more with the – persistently and we hope effectively with both Israel and the Palestinian leadership to try to ease as many of those problems as possible while the negotiations are going.

You see, I think the political negotiations need to be matched with changes on the ground and confidence-building and interactions between Israelis and Palestinians. You both know the problems that we face in any society where there is a really small number of people who are committed to terror and violence – it sends all kinds of messages of fear into people who themselves are just wanting to live their lives. So we want to increase freedom of access, we want to increase opportunities in the West Bank, while at the same time, we’re pursuing the political track.

A hypothetical “What if” question if I may: If a full agreement cannot be reached through this negotiation, is creating Palestinian states with provisional borders an option?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I never answer hypotheticals and I don’t particularly want to answer this one because that’s really for the parties to decide. And at this point, that is not on the agenda. What’s on the agenda is a final agreement that ends the conflict, resolves all claims, creates a viable Palestinian state, and gives Israel the security that you deserve and need to have.

So we don’t want to talk about fallback positions because that’s not been mentioned by either leader. I mean, each leader has come prepared to talk about all the core issues, and it would be far better to resolve borders, which then resolves a lot of other difficult matters, than to only do it halfway. So our goal, working with and supporting the negotiation by the leaders, is to get to a framework that deals with all core issues and then a final agreement.

Your Excellency, peace doesn’t only come through beautiful words, but needs to be backed by actions. We all know that the PA government now is through a financial crisis. So what is your message to the donors? And we really need, as a Palestinian, your message to them because they are – start losing hope in peace.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Well, two messages.
First, on the Palestinian Authority, I want to publicly commend the work that has been done by the Palestinian Authority. The advances in security are recognized by all of us. The Palestinian security forces have gained a good and well-deserved reputation for their work in the West Bank. I want to commend the changes in financial management and accountability. And the United States, as you, I’m sure, know has increased dramatically our direct support for the Palestinian Authority. And I have encouraged and urged all the donors to do that and more. Last year was a good year. We got a very robust amount of contributions. This year, we are upping our request to all of the donors to support the peace process by supporting the Palestinian Authority.
And the second message is really to the Palestinian people themselves. I was in Ramallah last year and I met with a group of young Palestinians. And I came away not only impressed, but so encouraged by their motivation, their ambition, their curiosity, their intelligence. And then shortly after that, I was in Israel and I met with a group of young Israelis. And as an outsider, but someone who has long been devoted to Israel and long been committed to a Palestinian state, I see the potential in this next generation.

And I’m hoping that the adults, I’m hoping that the leadership will be willing to try one more time and to be willing to do the hard work of making peace, because these young people – they deserve to have a future in Ramallah or Jericho, not in Toronto or Chicago. If the Palestinian diaspora came home, it would be one of the most talented group of people ever – the doctors, the lawyers, the business leaders. And Israel deserves to have a peaceful, secure future. And so that’s a passion for me, and I will do everything I can to support this process.

You spoke about a core issue. I’m a little confused. When you were a candidate for presidency, you said that Jerusalem was the undivided capital of Israel. Then you retracted from this statement like the candidate, now President Obama. Who should we believe, then? Candidate Clinton or Secretary of State Clinton?

SECRETARY CLINTON: You should believe that I am committed to a safe and secure Israel, and that I believe a two-state solution that realizes the aspirations of the Palestinian people is in the best interests of Israel. Jerusalem is a contested, emotional issue for both Israelis and Palestinians, and really, for Christians, Jews, and Muslims around the world, as you well know.
I want to support what is the outcome that the parties can agree to. And I think both parties know that they’re going to have to engage on this issue and come to an understanding and a resolution so that Jerusalem becomes not the flashpoint, but the symbol of peace and cooperation. And so I am fully supportive of what can be negotiated between the parties.

You mentioned your husband. Maybe on a personal note, do you have an extra incentive to keep on from the point that your husband left it, and this time, succeed?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, there’s no doubt about that. Both my husband and I were very sad that we missed that opportunity. And I’ve told this story before, but I’ll tell it again. We – they were so close. I mean, then-Prime Minister Barak and then-President Arafat were so close. And my husband expended so much energy because he cares so deeply. And when he left office some weeks later, Yasser Arafat called him and he said, “Well, now, we’re ready to take the deal,” and my husband said, “But I’m not the president anymore.”

Do you think that Palestinians still losing chances in this time?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope not, because I want to see this done. I want to see it not because it’s something that I care about, although I care deeply. I want to see it because it is so much the right thing to do historically and morally and spiritually and politically and economically.

Otherwise, I see, unfortunately, the forces of destruction, the forces of negativity on both sides gaining strength. And then more young Palestinians and more young Israelis will leave. And that’s – and they don’t want to leave. I mean, I meet with them all the time and they don’t want to leave. But they want to live their lives. They want to live their lives with a level of peace, security, and opportunity, which every person of any common sense wants to have.

Thank you.

So thank you very much, Your Excellency, for having us.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you.