Brokaw chats about special on Israel 20 years after Six-Day War
New York — Six Days Plus 20 Years: A Dream is Dying NBC, tomorrow, 10-11 p.m. Host: Tom Brokaw. Correspondents: Martin Fletcher, Peter Kent, Lucky Severson. Executive producer: Paul W. Greenberg. Senior producer: Joan Carrigan. Did Israel win the Six-Day War but lose the peace?
The most troublesome legacy of that country's stunning victory in its 1967 Six-Day War with Egypt, Syria, and Jordan has been the tumultuous military occupation of the West Bank. Now, on the 20th anniversary of that war, this NBC News report surveys Israel's role as ``keeper of the occupation'' and the corroding effect that role is having on the moral fiber of the country.
According to host Tom Brokaw, Israel has begun to realize that the high birthrate of the 800,000 Palestinians on the West Bank and of those in the rest of the country will, within 20 years, turn the Jews into a minority in their own country. It is ``an ominous future,'' Brokaw says.
Much of this documentary was shot in Jerusalem and Hebron. According to Brokaw, there are two sets of laws in Hebron - one for Jews under civil jurisprudence and the other for Arabs under military rule. He reports that, not only is there continuing resistance among young Palestinians to their separate and unequal status but that a growing segment of Israeli society resents what has become Israel's world image.
``Six Days Plus 20 Years'' attempts the impossible: walking a dangerous tightrope, balancing the Arab and the Israeli points of view, and putting into perspective the historical claims as well as current attitudes. It comes close to succeeding.
But while a wide spectrum of Israeli viewpoints is surveyed, little attention is given to non-PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) viewpoints among the Arabs. And while the commentary calls for Israel to bargain with the PLO, it plays down the fact that the PLO refuses to recognize the state of Israel as a legitimate bargainer.
In the final segment, Brokaw raises the question of what the future holds with fascinating, if untypical, representatives of each side - Rabbi David Hartman, a liberal Jewish philosopher who believes in keeping Jerusalem under humane Jewish control; and Oxford-educated Sari Nusseibah, scion of a prominent Palestinian family, who disagrees and believes that it is the Arab political limbo that creates pressure for violence. Both agree that there is an urgent need for recognition by both sides of ``two peoples' right to self-determination'' in an officially articulated policy.
Says Mr. Hartman to Mr. Nusseibah: ``I am not at home until ... the Palestinian people feel at home in this country,...until I've found a way in which your dignity is not in violation of my own creativity.''
``Six Days'' doesn't break any new ground in resolving the Palestinian/Israeli differences, but it does put the moral, as well as the physical, conflict into rational perspective. Perhaps its major importance is the uplifting conclusion, once again presented in the final dialogue: the reaffirmation that it is possible for reasonable men to sit quietly, discuss the problem, and come to some agreement that is perhaps a basis for further discussion.
This thoughtful, peace-seeking documentary is a powerful reminder to American viewers that there is still hope for the future of the Middle East. But, Brokaw warns, the situation is complicated by the fact that the Middle East has become a ``crossroads for superpowers.'' Now more than ever, he concludes, ``There is a compelling need to defuse the bomb that is ticking away.... It is a political imperative, and it is a moral imperative.''
``Six Days'' isn't so much a celebration of the 20th anniversary of that six-day conflict as a kind of public-service dirge - a sad reminder that what once appeared for Israel to be an easy end to a physical war turned out to be only the beginning of a more difficult moral war.
In an interview in his corner office at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where he is preparing the script for an ``NBC News Brief'' and the ``Nightly News,'' a shirt-sleeved Tom Brokaw takes a few minutes to talk about what he terms ``the dilemma in the occupied territories.''
Will there be peace in our time in those areas?
He shakes his head sadly as he looks around the brown and beige, book-lined office. ``It sure doesn't look hopeful. But'' - and his face brightens - ``who would have thought we would have a Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt when Carter was president!''
Brokaw believes that former President Jimmy Carter ought to be involved in the United States Middle East negotiations. ``He has a continuing, active interest in that area and an ability to move between the various parties, many of whom trust him. He should be used by our government.''
During the Israel-Lebanon war in 1982, commentator John Chancellor was widely criticized for referring to ``imperial Israel.'' Does Brokaw agree with that estimate of Israeli actions?
``John's opinions are his own,'' Brokaw says warily. ``But we've been having discussions in temples all over the country ever since. I don't think the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was a particularly proud moment for the country, and you'll find an awful lot of Israelis saying the same thing. I even heard some use the words `fascist' and `apartheid.' And some of them feel that they were being imperial, too. They are also talking about the `Lebanonization of Israel,' because of the kind of internal tribal warfare.''
Why wasn't more said in the documentary about the non-PLO Arabs?
``Listen, ... you never can satisfy everybody. Of course, there are many anti-Arafat Arabs, but it is very dangerous to say so openly on the West Bank. For many Arabs, Arafat represents [merely] a symbol of their identification as Palestinians....''
Brokaw says he is very gratified by the No. 1 position of ``NBC Nightly News'' these days. ``We work very hard to maintain that position. ... We have the distinct advantage of appearing on the No. 1 network.''
A writer interrupts to go over the copy for his next broadcast. He looks at it and suggests that they rewrite. As I leave, I notice a book on a table near the door: ``Writing Broadcast News,'' by Mervin Block. The cover blurb reads: ``Shorter...Sharper...Stronger!''