Archive for April, 2012

In this week’s column at Souciant, I take on that tired refrain about the “lack of a Palestinian Mandela” and use it to explore the real problem of poor Palestinian leadership. This was in evidence just recently in a spat between Salam Fayyad and Mahmoud Abbas. That weak leadership has been supported in many ways by the US and Israel, to the detriment of all of us. Incompetents and quislings may be the preferred leaders in Jerusalem and Washington, but that preference rises only out of shortsightedness. We are not going to see a resolution of this conflict if there is no room for strong, independent and sensible Palestinian leadership….

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In response to my piece at the Daily beast today, the noted UK activist and author, Ben White, asked me, on Twitter, what I meant by the following sentence: “Yousef (Munayyer) implied that the only way to recognize Palestinian rights is to allow each refugee and their descendants to choose whether and where, within all of historic Palestine, to return to. That is an unfair standard.”

I respond here because it’s a fair question that deserves more than a 140 character response.

What I mean here is that, while I think it is perfectly legitimate for Palestinians to call for, and for others to support, the full right of return to their original homes, there are also legitimate reasons not to support that call.

In the piece to which my own was a response, Yousef Munayyer claims that Zionism is inherently incapable of recognizing Palestinian rights. His takeoff for this point is Daniel Levy’s statement that he cannot support the Palestinian civil society call for BDS. That call has three clauses, two of which I fully support and I would feel very safe in saying Daniel does as well: self-determination for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and full equality for Arab citizens of Israel. So the issue is with the third, the call for the right of return for refugees.

I think it is not inherently anti-Israel to call for full RoR. I also think it is not inherently anti-Palestinian to say that RoR must be limited, and this is what i describe in my Daily Beast piece. But Yousef seemed to imply that anything less than full support for RoR proves that “liberal Zionists” like Daniel Levy (and non-Zionists like myself, presumably) cannot truly accept that Palestinians have the same rights as everyone else. I disagree, in that I think they do have the same rights as everyone else and, like everyone else, those rights exist within political realities that we all have to deal with. And, as I state in the piece, those  universal rights only entitle refugees to return to their home country, not to specific areas within it, necessarily.

Thus, I believe the standard Yousef set for what would be viewed as respecting Palestinian rights is an unfair one.

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My first piece for Open Zion, Peter Beinart’s blog at The Daily Beast, is live. It addresses the false accusation that one cannot be Zionist and also hold to liberal values, using the question of Palestinian refugees as the way to explore this question. Since i don’t identify as a Zionist, I think this makes it a more powerful argument.

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Ahmed Tibi is perhaps the Knesset’s most controversial member. Eloquent (in Hebrew), he is an unflinching critic of Israel’s occupation and its treatment of its Arab citizens and has frequently been the target of his fellow Knesset members.

MK Ahmed Tibi (photo by Lisa Goldman)

In 2010, on the UN Holocaust Remembrance Day, he delivered a speech so brilliant and moving that even the right-wing Speaker of the Knesset, Reuven Rivlin called it “one of the best speeches he has ever heard in the plenum” about the Holocaust.

Rivlin’s saying that is particularly noteworthy since, while always respecting the Holocaust and its meaning for Jews, Tibi did not back away from saying that racism is a growing problem in Israel today.

I provide the full text of Tibi’s speech below. (more…)

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In this week’s entry at Souciant, I examine the implications of Israel’s heavy-handed, stupid and clumsy response to the intention of hundreds of activists to fly into Israel in order to join a Palestinian protest. The ironic thing is that Netanyahu trots out the standard “Israel is the region’s only democracy” argument to defend actions that both show how deeply flawed that democracy is and how seriously that democracy is threatened.

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My latest piece on Souciant looks at Germany’s relationship with Israel through the lens of the recent controversy over Gunter Grass’ poem criticizing Israel’s actions vis a vis Iran and its own possession of nuclear weapons. It’s also a new paragraph in the discussion about how people or governments can be pro-Israel and that simply doing what Israel wants is no more the right way to do that than it would be if one thought they were being a good friend to another by letting them do something self-destructive or immoral.

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In this week’s column at Souciant, I revisit the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in light of recent events in Brooklyn and Peter Beinart’s controversial New York Times op-ed.

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