Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, February 25, 2013
Why I am a (Liberal) Zionist
I am not Jewish, but then again, neither were most of the volunteers at Ein Hashofet, a kibbutz located somewhere between Haifa and the Sharon plain. It had been founded during the Arab Revolt of 1936-39 by immigrants from Poland and the United States who were of the Left-wing Hashomer Hatzair movement. The first settlers had to manually drain the land and plant trees to make it viable, while residing in tents, eating meager meals, and using communal showers and toilets. They were also required to defend the fruits of their labors, not only during the revolt but also the War of Independence, during which the nearby kibbutz of Mishmar Ha’Emek was attacked by the Arab Liberation Army.
I would have made a terrible Zionist pioneer. After arriving from Tel Aviv, I managed to last a week as a gardener, working with power tools and doing tasks no more arduous than raking up dead brush before I started pleading for a change of scene. “Not everyone can be a gardener,” Roni, my extremely kind and understanding boss, told me. “Not everyone can be a writer.” He may have been humoring me with that one. So, for the remainder of my time at Ein Hashofet I worked in the main factory, which manufactured ballasts and transformers for fluorescent light fixtures (someone has to), spending hours hanging the near-completed items on hooks and reading Amos Oz novels during downtime.
Based on my observations, it is fair to say that people rarely have clear reasons for leaving behind the comforts of home for a few months of toiling under the hot sun. All the volunteers seemed to be trying to run away from something or leave something behind. Or they were searching for something, looking to remake themselves. Some didn’t seem to know why they were there at all. Others were simply looking for a good time. Arak was complementary at the kibbutz pub, so if you were so inclined, what could be better?
My own motivations were clearer. For me, the kibbutz was a place where I could explore my early attraction to Israel, which was more instinctive than anything else, and grounded in an understanding of Middle Eastern history. The time I spent exploring and putting something back into the land was a formative experience, the beginning of something larger. At Ein Hashofet, I began a greater examination of Israel—its history, its political and social divisions, its culture—out of which arose a deeper commitment to the ideology of Zionism itself, albeit from a goyishe perspective.
Not being Jewish inevitably means that I have a different relationship with the Jewish state than people who are. That much is inescapable. I do not have a direct, historical connection to Israel through lineage or conversion. No one in my family lives there. I am not entitled to make aliya. I will never have to serve in the IDF.
The most obvious result of this is that it has made me a secular Zionist. Indeed, in the earliest expression of my Zionism that I can find—a letter toThe Times from June 2010, at the time of the Mavi Marmara incident—I called Israel a “secular miracle,” an earnest phrase that does not necessarily make a great deal of sense. What I mean by it is that, while I appreciate that Jews of all denominations are able to practice their faith openly, actively, and vibrantly without fear or compromise (almost, anyway), the Israel I admire is to be found in the achievements of man: the kibbutz, the Knesset, and the novels of Oz and David Grossman.
Friday, February 15, 2013
Me and the Palestinian cause: A number of questions have recently arisen I need to deal with. Firstly if people want to talk to the Palestinians they need to contact the Palestine Liberation Organisation. This is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and has been for many decades. Secondly, an organisation calling itself “BDS” does not own the words or the concept of boycott, divestment or sanctions. They are entitled to their own interpretation of these words but they don’t own or control me. I will make my own interpretation. And it is this - no purchase of Israeli goods or services, no normal contacts with individuals or organisations in Israel who support the existence of the racist Apartheid creed of Zionism. That’s what I mean by boycott. That’s what I do. Israelis who are outside of and against the system of Zionism are comrades of mine - like Prof Ilan Pappe. My opponent at Oxford University did not meet this test. The organiser of the event momentarily lionised by the liberal as well as the conservative establishment needs to know this, especially as he is a medical student. To compare Israeli Zionism to “Vegetarianism” is like a doctor not knowing the difference between a pimple and a tumor. Apartheid Israel is a cancer at the heart of the middle-east. Only it’s replacement by a bi-national democratic state from the Jordan River to the sea will cure this. That is what I am fighting for.
Never let it be said that George Galloway isn’t clear on where he stands.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
As it transpired, the brouhaha surrounding Brooklyn College’s BDS event was a good deal of hullabaloo over not a lot. Roughly 300 people turned up to listen to Judith Butler and Omar Barghouti speak about the need to boycott and divest from Israel, while outside the hall 150 protested either in favour of or against the event and the movement. In the end, those proposing that the event be shut down were made to look rather foolish.
Far better, perhaps, that Alan Dershowitz and others sought to negate their right to speak redirect their efforts and energies into cautioning against BDS’ even tacit acceptance by those liberal Zionists who earnestly wish to see the end of the occupation of the West Bank and the coming about of two states for two peoples. BDS, it has become apparent, has no interest in this – indeed, as a movement and an idea, it is fundamentally incompatible with Zionism.
That much is evident from its manifesto. For, in addition to advocating an end to the occupation, the dismantling of the Security Barrier, and the recognition of full rights for Arab Israelis, BDS demands “the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.” At present, there are five million Palestinians – one third residing in villages and camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and surrounding states – who are refugees according to the UNWRA standard.
Setting aside the impracticality of the proposition — would the Israeli authorities evict Jewish families from their homes in Haifa and Yafo? — permitting the influx of that many Palestinian exiles would only serve to undo and end the Zionist project. Instead of there being one Jewish and one Arab state between the river and the sea, there would instead be two Arab-majority states, and with time, one state. As such, and as Yair Rosenberg has argued, the right of return and BDS is “antithetical to the two-state solution, the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accepted by majorities on both sides and the international community.”
Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/171214/bds-is-not-the-answer/#ixzz2KtlY6HLQ
Monday, January 21, 2013
David Ward just keeps going on and on…
I’m not sure who is on David Ward’s web or communication team — or even if there is such an outfit — but whoever they are, I would have them all fired, if I were him.
As if it weren’t enough that the Member of Parliament for Bradford East accused the Jewish people of failing to learn the lessons of the Holocaust and perpetuating a second Shoah against the Palestinians, and then, when people got upset that he said that, dug deeper by charging an insidious and unnamed politico-media “machine” of being out to get him, Ward (or his team) have lent their imprimatur to an article by an unknown, unhinged anti-Zionist blogger named John Hilley, in which the following is stated:
Some still insist that Ward’s key ‘mistake’ was to use the word “Jew” instead of “Zionist”. And this, as his apology indicated, has now been unambiguously acknowledged.
Just to remind you, this is what Ward originally said, but with “the Jews” now replaced by “the Zionists”:
Having visited Auschwitz twice - once with my family and once with local schools - I am saddened that the Zionists, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new State of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza.
Any better? Hardly. Had he said that, the motivation behind the words might have been a little clearer — his utter contempt for the Jewish state more evident — but in so doing he would merely have been mimicking the language of people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mohammed Morsi, who use the term Zionists place of Jews in an unsuccessful attempt to mask their latent prejudices.
Hilley, who Ward in effect endorses by reposting his trash, also states that Israel — the Zionists — are responsible for “sixty years of ethnic cleansing, mass IDF murder, settler takeovers, apartheid transfer policies and the continued prison camp siege of Gaza.” Does Ward believe this nonsense to be so? Hilley thinks that Ward’s downfall was a result of “the Zionist lobby and many” in the “liberal commentariat” who seek to prevent any criticism, and endorses Noam Chomsky as well as Norman Finkelstein’s book on the “Holocaust industry”. Does Ward agree with Hilley on this, too?
Should Ward fail to make any adjustments after this, at least we can’t say we don’t know where he stands.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Evidently, Yachimovich has come to the dispiriting conclusion that Israelis, even in the historic peace camp, will hear no more of negotiations until enough water has flowed by and the long nights of chaos and terror have ceased. In order to restore Labor as the largest party of the centre and left, Yachimovich has abandoned talk of two states, ceding this ground to two other Zionist parties: Meretz, the party of social democracy and human rights; and Hatnua, the centrist movement led by Tzipi Livni.
As successful a gambit as this might turn out to be – the final polls projected that Labor might double its present allocation of seats – fundamentally it is an irresponsible and cowardly ploy. It is a form of deceit to suggest the one can be had without the other, that social justice is separable from political justice, that the Palestinians and the occupation can be ignored while life is made a little easier for those on the right side of the Green Line. How is it possible to organise decent housing policy when so much is spent and wasted subsiding apartments in settlements that will one day have to be dismantled? How can Israelis Arabs be better included in political and cultural life when millions of their fellow Arabs in the West Bank remain stateless and under military supervision? What use, as Amos Oz put it, is forcing ultra-Orthodox Jews to serve in the army when the state that is here in five or ten years’ time might not even be a Jewish one?
Read more: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/shelly-yachimovich-is-concluding-labors-historic-role/
Friday, January 11, 2013
by David Remnick, The New Yorker, January 21, 2013
To Kook and the religious Zionist leaders who have followed him, the land captured in 1967 is sacred, and integral to the Jewish state and to Judaism itself; possession of places like Shiloh and Hebron is a harbinger of redemption, the End of Days. No U.N. resolution, no Palestinian claimant, no American President had the right to say otherwise. The war of 1973, in which Israel narrowly escaped a military defeat, intensified the messianic sense of possession. The religious Zionists developed a corps among the settlers known as Gush Emunim, the Bloc of the Faithful, which fervently opposed the idea of giving up any part of the land: Sinai to the Egyptians; the Golan to the Syrians; the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
In 1977, Menachem Begin came to power, representing, for the first time, a coalition of constituencies that resented the Labor élite and felt excluded from the mainstream of Israeli life. Begin’s support came from the poorer émigrés from North Africa and Arab states; Jabotinskyite conservatives; the ultra-Orthodox; and religious Zionists, including the settlers. But when Begin, as part of his Camp David settlement with Anwar Sadat, returned the Sinai to Egypt and, with the help of the Army, went about dismantling the Jewish settlements there, leaders of the settler movement felt betrayed. Moshe Levinger, one of its most flamboyant extremists, threatened to carry out an act of suicidal martyrdom.
As government-financed settlements thickened throughout the occupied territories, the P.L.O. carried out violent attacks, and the Palestinian question came to dominate the national argument. Meanwhile, the politics of Gush Emunim became increasingly radical, even breeding a small group of homicidal fundamentalists. In 1984, authorities uncovered plots by a settler group known as the Jewish Underground to bomb Arab buses and to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount. Not long afterward, a Brooklyn-born rabbi, Meir Kahane, was elected to the Knesset on a poisonous political platform. Kahane was unapologetically racist—Arabs, for him, were “cockroaches” and “dogs”—and he was not squeamish about calling for violence. In February, 1994, five months after Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat signed the Oslo Accord, one of Kahane’s followers, an Army doctor named Baruch Goldstein, murdered twenty-nine Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs, in Hebron.
Kahane’s party was banned in 1988 and he was murdered two years later, in New York. His taste for violence may have fired Goldstein, but it did not enter the political mainstream. Yet, as Ami Pedahzur writes in “The Triumph of Israel’s Radical Right,” the traces of Kahane’s legacy—the sacralization of xenophobia—are evident both in the Likud and throughout the radical right.
Much of Naftali Bennett’s support comes from mild-mannered religious suburbanites on both sides of the Green Line, but he has also been blessed by some of the more vehement fundamentalists on the scene. Avichai Rontzki, from 2006 to 2010 the chief rabbi of the I.D.F. and now the head of a yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, helped Bennett form the Jewish Home Party. Rontzki has said that soldiers who show their enemies mercy will be “damned,” and, after a prisoner exchange with the Palestinians that he opposed, he said that the I.D.F. should no longer arrest terrorists but, rather, “kill them in their beds.” Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of the settlement of Kiryat Arba and Hebron, once called Baruch Goldstein “holier than all the martyrs of the Holocaust”; he endorsed Bennett before moving on to a smaller, more reactionary party.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
by David Horovitz, The Times of Israel, January 9, 2013
This is an Israeli right whose soaring political force is Naftali Bennett, an ex-IDF commando, former head of the Council of Settlements and previous top aide to Netanyahu, who brushes aside the notion of a Palestinian state anywhere in the biblical Land of Israel. It’s just not going to happen, he declares, with a confidence born of his party’s dizzying rise, from three seats in the last parliament to what the polls indicate will be well over a dozen this time. Unfamiliar to many Israelis — perhaps even to many of its voters — Bennett’s Jewish Home favors annexing the 60% of the West Bank where Israel retains full security and civil control and offering citizenship to the 50,000 Palestinians who live there, and is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that it will in all probability provide Israel with two representatives in the Knesset from among the tiny, hardest-core Hebron settler community.
In the new Israel of 2013, furthermore, kippa-wearing Bennett is the monopolistic political face of religious Zionism. The ideologically diverse National Religious Party has been entirely superseded by this new incarnation. And there is emphatically no place in our new Knesset for the dovish religious Zionist politics emblemized by the likes of ex-minister and Meimad MK Rabbi Michael Melchior. In our dawning new era, Orthodox Zionism is now all but synonymous with pro-settlement activism and advocacy, championing and concretizing the IDF’s 1967 liberation of the Jewish people’s historic Judean and Samarian territory.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Can we call Mondoweiss anti-Semitic yet?
Earlier this year, a minor tiff broke out in the pages of The Atlantic (a fine publication to which I occasionally contribute), after Armin Rosen published an article which asserted that Mondoweiss“often gives the appearance of an anti-Semitic enterprise”. Robert Wright found Rosen’s piece “McCarthyite” in character, deeming Mondoweiss to be merely “an edgy website that is highly critical of both Israel and Zionism”.
Wright took umbrage with the idea of guilt by association: the notion that, if someone deems a publication or institution to be anti-Semitic, all those connected to it must be anti-Semitic as well. In Rosen’s article, Alex Kane – then a staff writer, now an assistant editor – was chided for not publically challenging Mondoweiss’ “lunacy”, while acknowledging that he is not responsible for the work of other writers. The latter point here is worth stressing: Kane holds political views that verge on the repugnant, including the idea that Zionism “helped drive 9/11”, but in general he appears to be a perfectly acceptable individual.
The question apposite to the one Wright raises and challenges is the far more interesting and important one, however. It is also one which underscores Rosen’s piece, namely if a publication or institution chooses to lend its imprimatur to an article or series of articles that can be deemed anti-Semitic – and Rosen cites numerous examples of questionable work – can said organisation be characterised as anti-Semitic as a whole?
Rosen and Wright’s particular quarrel is dead, and since I have no desire to reanimate it, I shall refrain from picking a side. Thus, I shall place my loaded gun upon the mantelpiece, and merely note that when all was said and done, Andrew Sullivan came down on the side of Wright and Mondoweiss.
For those not familiar with Mondoweiss, it is (in its own words) a “news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective,” which seeks to publish “a diversity of voices to promote dialogue on these important issues”. Herein lays the first canard, for claims of plurality are negated by its other commitment to “offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity”. Whatever diversity there is on Mondoweiss is akin to an argument between the Judean People’s Front and the People’s Front of Judea, for I have yet to read one article on said site that has been favourable to Israel.
Then again, this is understandable. The site’s founders, Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz, are anti-Zionists. It is a political position which influences the way in which Mondoweiss addresses the important questions pertaining to the future of Israel and Palestine. Anti-Zionism informs the articles they select for publication and the commentators they choose to hire. It colours their coverage of the news coming out of the region, suppressing Israel’s achievements or pleasant news regarding the two-state solution, while augmenting the most awful effects of the occupation, and promoting developments which indicate things might be moving in the direction of Isratine and the death of the Jewish state.
Anti-Zionism – or, to put it other way, the belief it was a mistake to have created Israel in the first place; that Israel is not and can never be the answer or even an answer to the Jewish question – is, it goes without saying, a very problematic ideology. It constantly requires one to walk the thin line between disbelief in a Jewish state, and anti-Semitism, since anti-Zionists must constantly be forced to answer the question of why it is that Jews – and only Jews – are the only national group not entitled to a state of their own. One’s answer to that question says a good deal about a person’s character, for good or for ill.
Monday, October 29, 2012
by Colin Shindler, The New York Times, October 27, 2012
Such Israelophobia, enunciated by sections of the European left, dovetailed neatly with the rise of Islamism among Palestinians and throughout the Arab world. The Islamist obfuscation of “the Jew” mirrored the blindness of many a European Marxist. Despite the well-intentioned efforts of many Jews and Muslims to put aside their differing perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the offensive imagery of “the Jew” has persisted in many immigrant communities in Western Europe. Islamists were willing to share platforms with socialists and atheists, but not with Zionists.
The New Left’s profound opposition to American power, and the convergence of reactionary Islamists and unquestioning leftists was reflected in the million-strong London protest against the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was organized by the Muslim Association of Britain, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and the Stalinist Communist Party of Britain. When some Muslims voiced apprehension about participating in the protest with non-Muslims, the M.A.B. leadership decreed that it was religiously permissible if halal food was provided and men and women were given separate areas. Such displays of “reactionary clericalism,” as the early Bolsheviks would have called it, were happily glossed over.
As The Scroll picked up on earlier today, London’s Jewish Chronicle has reported the comments of the British Respect Party’s woman’s officer, Naz Kahn, posted on Facebook September 30:
It’s such a shame that the history teachers in our school never taught us this but they are the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world??
The defense Kahn seemed to offer in a later post was she is “not a Nazi, I’m an ordinary British Muslim that had an opinion and put it across”. Respect’s hierarchy has condemned her statements of course, but unfortunately for them this is not the first time that the party – a coalition of dogged old socialists, Muslim interest groups, and anti-war types all united by anti-Zionism – has been accused of anti-Semitism. In 2010, Abul ‘Abz’ Hussain, a member of Respect’s National Council was found to have made jokes, again on Facebook, about Jews hoarding money. During a 2005 campaign in Bethnal Green and Bow in London, in which Labour MP Oona King was challenged by Respect’s George Galloway, King asserted that Respect activists had told voters not to elect her since she was Jewish, and argued that anti-Semitism was “used really effectively” during that campaign.
Speaking of Galloway, Respect’s voice in national debates would be inaudible were it not for the notoriety of their sole Member of Parliament, who may be best known in the United States for his ham-fisted and bombastic performance at a Senate hearing into the Oil-for-Food debacle. Galloway rejects anti-Semitism publicly but he is certainly no friend of Israel. Rather, he is a known defender of Hezbollah, purposing in a 2006 op-ed that it “has not and has never been a terrorist organisation”. Galloway is also inclined towards one of Hezbollah’s principal supporters, Syria, labelling the nation “the last castle of Arab dignity” in an email begging for aid and assistance pertaining to a Viva Palestina convoy to Gaza. He was also rather fond of Saddam Hussein in the past, saluting him in a face-to-face meeting for his “courage, strength, and indefatigability”.
Read more: http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/115091/the-trouble-with-britains-respect-party