Archive for the ‘Jewish State’ Category

In my most recent piece, I examine some questions which touch, at least tangentially, on Israel’s recent, and racist, so-called “Nation-State Law.” Despite that, I elected not to mention the new law in my piece.

I had a few reasons for that decision. First, there is a lot of work out there already on the law, and I don’t feel I have much to add to it. The New Israel Fund has had plenty to say about it and if you’d like to support their action around it, just click here.

More to the point, though, I see the nation-state law as just another step on a road Israel, unfortunately, committed to years ago. The rightward march, the consistent choice of nationalism over democracy, and the increasing hostility to all Palestinians, very much including citizens of Israel has been accelerating steadily, and this law is the logical next step in that evolution. It paves the way for the High Court in Israel to become more complicit in these processes, rather than slowing them a bit as it has done over the years.

But little else has changed with the bill and the current fight–despite it being one I am certainly interested in and definitely have a favored side in–is more a symptom than the disease. That disease is the one I dealt with in my last piece, the idea that a Palestinian person, regardless of political views, activities, or any other attributes, is, in and of herself, a threat to Israel and to Israeli people.

Therefore, I chose to focus on the root, one which I think is being overlooked as the fight over the nation-state bill is engaged. While I think it unlikely that the opposition to that law will end up winning this fight, it is not impossible. But even if it does, the root of the problem will remain and, at best, the absence of the new law will just mean the divisive and oppressive conditions it encourages will move ahead a little slower than they might.

The issue is equal rights. Do Palestinians deserve them or not? Nation-state law or no, that question is at the core of everything all those engaged in the question of Israel-Palestine are struggling over.

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I just got this tweet from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Twitter account:
שוב נחשף אופיו האמיתי של המחנה האנטי-ציוני בראשות בוז’י וציפי. כאשר ח”כ עתידי ברשימת “העבודה” משבח סוכן של חיזבאללה – מה יש עוד 6915863535_dbfef3f7f4_zלהוסיף?
It says: “Again, the true face of the ‘anti-Zionist’ camp headed by Buji (Herzog) and Tzipi (Livni) is revealed. When a future member of the Knesset from the Labor list praises a Hezbollah agent, what more is there to say?”

I submit, these are the ravings of a lunatic mind.

Bibi is referring to testimony given by Zuhair Bahloul, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who is #17 on the joint Labor/Ha’Tnuah list, dubbed “The Zionist Camp.” Bahloul is a well-known figure in Israel, a soccer and basketball broadcaster for Israel’s Channel 1. He is also known for his efforts in bringing Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel together to promote co-existence and equality, which has generally been the sum total of his political activity.

In this case, Bahloul was testifying on behalf of the family of a man who was convicted of aiding a Hezbollah plot to attack Shimon Peres in Turkey. The man, Milad Khatib, accepted a plea bargain and is serving a seven-year sentence. Bahloul’s testimony was offered in defense of Khatib’s family, not Milad himself. (It’s worth noting that such scrutiny is not generally focused on families of Jewish radicals, even the ones sometimes labelled “terrorists” after so-called “price tag” attacks). 
(more…)

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The annual Jewish day of lamentation, Tisha B’Av is upon us again. What does that mean for present-day Israeli reality? I explore in Souciant today.

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“How can the Jews, of all people do this?”

The West Bank Separation wall, covered with graffiti

The West Bank Separation wall, covered with graffiti

I hear this too often when discussing the dispossession and occupation of the Palestinian people. It’s a tiresome line. Sure, I understand that on the surface this seems a reasonable question. But one doesn’t have to look very far to see that it isn’t.

Oppression and suffering don’t necessarily lead to a greater sensitivity to these things. We see this on a personal level, as well as on a larger scale. The victim of child abuse may well grow up to become an abuser. The victim of sexual abuse may also react to such an experience by repeating it on someone else. Many such people do not repeat the cycle, but many do.

Similarly, some large groups of people face discrimination and then bring it to others. Puritans faced discrimination in Europe, came to “the New World” and visited worse upon the native population, on slaves, and as time went on, on various other ethnic groups. Power changed hands at different times in Eastern Europe, and discrimination against one group or another continued to flourish. Shi’a have faced great discrimination in the Muslim world, and this has not brought about an egalitarian government in Iran. Hutus were once the majority treated like a minority in Rwanda. The Nazis rose to prominence on the strength of wounded German pride after years of economic deprivation in the wake of the First World War. The examples are legion. (more…)

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In today’s Ha’aretz, Merav Michaeli has written a most engaging op-ed on the occasion of Israel’s 63rd Independence Day. She focuses in particular on the Orwellian “Naqba Law,” which bars public funds for any organization that marks the Palestinian tragedy that was part and parcel of Israel’s creation.

This was the image my friend Emily Hauser used for her piece on Yom Ha'atzmaut. Great sentiment for the day.

Michaeli wrote:

“…after 63 years, Israel is unable to recognize that no matter how necessary and justified its establishment was, it was accompanied by wrongs and pain inflicted on others.”

For me, this defines so much of what we deal with today, and it is precisely this sentiment that tends to rub activists of both sides (with a good number of exceptions, to be sure) the wrong way.

The establishment of Israel came after decades of conflict. When I look at the history of the early days of Zionist settlement, I want to weep for all the time that a change in attitude on either side might have changed the tragic course of the history of Palestine.

European settlers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought with them the European attitude of superiority. The presence of this sentiment was unavoidable in Palestine, an area of the Ottoman Empire whose upkeep was not a priority in Istanbul at the time.

Yet the hysterical reaction throughout the Arab world to early Zionist settlement ignored both the historical connection that the Zionists awoke in some Jews and, much more importantly, the very real persecution most of them were fleeing in Europe. (more…)

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On the “About” page of The Third Way, I made the following statement: ““My approach begins with the idea that Zionism was an entirely justified national movement, and that Palestinians also are deserving of the same human, civil and national rights as anyone else. Reconciling these two things is not simple, as they clash in essential and inherent ways. But finding that reconciliation is the only way, in my view, to get us out of the murderous quagmire that has existed in the region for more than a century.”

Meanwhile, in a recent post on the Meretz USA blog, Sarah Strnad, Meretz USA’s Assistant Director, and a woman I recently got to meet and was very impressed with,

If this is where Zionism is going, it's not a Zionism most Israelis or Diaspora Jews will relate to

struggled with how to balance a Zionist identity and the universal values of human rights and democracy:

“I was raised a Zionist,” writes Ms. Strnad. “Growing up in a Zionist youth group I was accustomed to proudly defining as a Zionist. I often hesitate to self-define that way today. I still believe in the Jewish people’s right for self determination and the establishment and legitimacy of our own state, but the policies of that state and the rightward regressive actions of fringe settlers and their supporters have caused me to distance myself from the term Zionism. For those who believe in human rights and democracy the “z” word is now beyond the pale. It is whispered in hushed tones and understood only as what the right wing preaches and implements as policy. The Zionism that was once a broad nationalism has been distorted and replaced by racist and xenophobic fears that drive unjust and dehumanizing policies.”

One way I approach the issues Sarah grapples with is to differentiate in my own heart between being a “Zionist” and being pro-Israel. Zionism is, as Sarah correctly pointed out, far from a monolithic ideology. But one thing all the strains have in common is very basic: Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people.

I have never felt a kinship with nationalism of any kind, not American, not Zionist, not any. But I do respect other people’s choices, I recognize the validity of national identity and movements and even appreciate the very real uses nationalism has (chief among them, in my view, being the uniting of an oppressed people to collectively combat that oppression, a feature that was indisputably true of Zionism throughout its efforts to create a state or, in some strains, a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine). And that respect and appreciation extends equally to Palestinian nationalism as much as it does to that of my own, Jewish people.

So I’m not a Zionist. Neither am I an anti-Zionist. I suppose non-Zionist fits, though it seems a rather empty term. But none of these categories has any bearing on being pro-Israel. (more…)

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The Palestine Papers are certainly explosive, and very important. But this article in The Guardian (UK) also points up the need for some critical examination of the coverage of the Papers. There is a pretty important distortion in the article that really needs to be addressed.

Guardian writers Ian Black (who really should know better) and Seamus Milne write the following: (more…)

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