Syrian opposition activist and writer Issam Zeitoun appeared on a debate about Israel on Al-Jazeera Network (Qatar) on January 16, 2019. Zeitoun said that Israel is an existing country to which some Arabs turn a blind eye. Ra’ed Al-Masri, a Lebanese professor of political science and international relations, responded that Israel is "illegitimate and nonexistent." Zeitoun went on to criticizethe Arabs for not accepting the 1947 Partition Plan and said that the notion that Israel is a tyrannical, arrogant, expansionist and racist state is a lie. He said that the idea that Israel wants to expand from the Euphrates River to the Nile is also a fabrication that no Israeli has ever actually said. In addition, Zeitoun said that Israel would have never fought the Arabs if they had never attacked it. He added that Pan-Arabism is a "cancer" that has brought the Arab nation to the "verge of annihilation." Saying that Iran is much more dangerous than Israel, Zeitoun stated that an alliance with Israel is absolutely better than the current situation.
Following are excerpts:
Issam Zeitoun: The problem is that you see an existing country, Israel, but you choose to turn a blind eye…
Ra’ed Al-Masri: How can you say that it is “existing”? It is an illegitimate, nonexistent country. You are free to promote that country, but as far as we are concerned, it does not exist.
Issam Zeitoun: This is where terrorism comes from. The Arabs tried to impose… It is not only me saying this. I am only a researcher of history… Every since 1948, the Arabs have been using their weapons and their numbers in an attempt to impose a [solution] that is unacceptable to the international community, which supported the partition of Palestine. The Israelis accepted the partition… Your claim that Israel is racist is nothing but a lie.
Host: Who is more dangerous for the region?
Issam Zeitoun: Iran without a doubt! Israel is surrounding itself with walls. It just wants to be left alone. It stays within the land allocated to it in the Partition Plan. Pan-Arab ideology is a cancer that is eating away at our nation and that is keeping us fragmented. We are going through a dangerous phase. We are on the verge of annihilation because of these ideas. The claim about Israel wanting to expand “from the Euphrates to the Nile”… Every Arab and Muslim in history has believed this. There is no mention of this in any religious or political book. Nobody has ever said this. I have been to Israel more than once. I asked them: “Where in the Knesset is the banner that says: ‘Israel from the Euphrates to the Nile’?” Nobody has ever heard of it. The Assad regime and our media have told us that Sadat spoke in the Knesset under a banner saying: “Israel’s borders from the Euphrates to the Nile.” There is no such banner. Nobody has ever heard of it.
Host: So it is better to ally with [Israel]?
Issam Zeitoun: Absolutely, from any point of view! Ask any Arab citizen where he wants to live, and then come back to me.
Israel is not a rogue state…
Host: Is Iran a rogue state?
Issam Zeitoun: Of course it is!
Host: The epitome of a rogue state?
Issam Zeitoun: Of course!
In all our wars against Israel, Israel was waging a defensive war. Had we not attacked [Israel], it would not have attacked us, despite its capabilities. If Iran h ad a nuclear bomb, would it drop it on Tel Aviv? It would drop it on Riyadh or any other Arab capital. [Iran] exploits the issue [of Jerusalem] only in order to win the Arabs over, by constantly talking about Jerusalem… Who demonized Israel and exaggerated the Palestinian cause? The Syrian issue is a thousand times more important than the Palestinian cause.