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Retired general calls for Palestinian state

AMY WINKLER/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Retired Israel Defense General, Nechemia Dagan, speaks at a Caravan for Democracy forum yesterday evening at the University Marriott Hotel. Students and community members asked Dagan a variety of questions concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict.

By Matthew Muhm
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday Mar. 21, 2002

Speaker says media distorts presentation of Arab-Israeli conflict

America must push Israeli and Palestinian authorities to the negotiation table for there to be peace in the region, retired Israeli General Nechemia Dagan told an audience of more than 100 people last night.

Dagan spoke at the Marriott University Park about the Arab-Israeli conflict and the way the media portrays it.

He told the audience that Israel values the support of America, two countries that he called "partners in democracy."

"We trust America, not Europe," he said in an interview prior to the speech.

A heated question-and-answer period - in which Dagan defended Israel's actions during the recent fighting - followed his talk.

Throughout his speech, he said the media skews its presentation of actual events.

"The angle of the camera is very narrow," he said. "The media needs a story. Cobras (a military helicopter used by Israel) over a refugee camp is a story. Using cobras gives us a bad reputation. Cobras remind Americans of Vietnam."

Dagan, who is on a tour of six American universities, said his purpose for speaking was to give Americans another perspective on images like those portrayed in the media.

But when an audience member asked Dagan for a firsthand example of an inaccurately reported event - specifically the worst Israeli aggression and the worst Palestinian aggression he had witnessed - he dodged the question.

When pressed for an answer, he said he couldn't remember any specific incident.

"You block the bad things out of your mind," he said.

Dagan, a retired brigadier general from the Israeli Defense Force, began his career as a helicopter pilot in 1958.

He participated in every Israeli military campaign between 1958 and 1995, when he became chief education officer for the army. He retired in 1998.

He also said he supported the creation of a Palestinian state and that it would take mediation by America to get the two sides to talk.

"What other choice do we have? I want it for them, not for me," he said. "You cannot have a society controlled by the military and that is what you have now. It's very risky to grow to be a militant society."

After acknowledging a need for the creation of a Palestinian state, Dagan said he did not support the return of 2 million refugees forced from their homes during years of war.

He said the return of the refugees would no longer allow Israel to be a democracy. However, he did say that with the creation of a Palestinian state he would support removing Israeli settlers from new settlements in Palestinian territory.

"To protect my people, I will use the strongest force I can," he said.

When asked if Israel would consider nuclear weapons, he said that is one tactic Israel would not use.


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