Israel and the British Left – Ben Gidley

Ben Gidley gives consideration to Conservative MP Douglas Carswell’s analysis of what fuels the hatred of Israel in sections of the British left, touching on supranationalism, cultural relativism, and the vicarious nationalism of the so-called anti-imperialists.

73 Responses to “Israel and the British Left – Ben Gidley”

  1. zkharya Says:

    I’d give as one explanation is forgetting of traditional history, and the obliteration of memory, of which Shlomo Zand is a signal example.

    Before the emancipation of the French Revolution, Jews in old world Christendom had been regarded as a people exiled and dispossessed, destined and deserving to live in subject status, unless they apostasised and ceased being Jews.

    French Jews were granted non-Jewish national status for the first time in their history, provided they surrender their Jewish national identity for a purely religious one.

    The emancipation worked best in northern and western Europe, with mixed results in middle and eastern Europe. Even the USSR, Jews had papers with Jewish ethno-national status, as a vestige of that traditional identification. The Bundists and the Zionists were both Jewish nationalists, one thinking Jews have a ethno-national semi-sovereign state in Europe, the other in Palestine.

    The emancipation of Jews as a purely religious group has led to a “forgetting” how Jews have been in fact regarded in history, and an a-historical retrojection into “remembered” and “reconstructed” history of this identification. Which, of course, leaves Israel, a Jewish state or Zionism without any justification whatsoever.

    It is effectively a forcible emancipation of Israeli Jews, by insisting they surrender their Zionist, Jewish national identity, their state, their “Zionism”, in the name of “justice” for Palestinian Muslims and Christians, despite the fact that Israel exists because ordinary emancipation was historically denied most Jews who became Israeli, in old world eastern Christendom and Islam, and despite the fact that Palestinian Muslims and Christians were historically hostile to Jews living among them in other than tiny, and, arguably, highly discriminated against, numbers.

    It is a kind of holocaust of memory, a dissolution of traditional history, with a view to dissolving the state of the second or largest Jewish community in the world, now.

  2. Mira Vogel Says:

    Very thought-provoking – I got to wondering about anti-imperialist left views of separatist movements including the most recent successful one, Kosovo, which I haven’t been following.

    I think Carswell maybe got cultural relativism mixed up with underdoggism – noble savagery is more a green thing than a left thing, as far as I can see (though it is waning among greens).

    I’m interested in alternatives to nationalism but have a poor understanding of the varieties of devolved control between the feared ‘one world government’ on the one hand, and the nation state on the other. I think it was via Ben I once came across this, which I got half way through and intend to now return to (btw I can’t remember if he approved or not):

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nationalism/

  3. Absolute Observer Says:

    “the left’s earlier history at the forefront of the struggle against anti-Semitism.”

    Actually, that is a story the left tells to itself. Unofrtunately, it bears little resemblence to reality.
    They tend to wheel out the East End of the 30’s – i.e. the fight against Mosely. And, it is true to a point that Mosely was faught for his antisemitism under the rubric of a generic “fascism”.
    However, before and since, the left’s record has been rather poor.
    They remained on the margins of the Dreyfuss affair, believing it was an inter-ruling class issue. They were instrumental in the Aliens Act in the UK at the turn of the century. In Germany the left were atrocious on the question of antisemitism. The CP screwed over any serious Jewish nationalism (although in the early period they opposed antisemitism). The story of the USSR’s virulent antisemitism/antizionism is well known.
    Since the second world war, they spend most of their times congratulating themselves as having defeated antisemitism, whilst at the same time pushing it in new forms. Likewise, the “Jewish Question” was superseded by that of the Cold War. It is no coincidence that as soon as the Cold War ended, Israel – the Jewish Question of today – attracts their full attention as the axis around which their world spin.

    Indeed, the accusations they level against the presence of Israel (as opposed to its specific policies) share much with the antisemitic tropes of the earlier period (both left and right antisemitism).

    So, rather than see contemporary attitudes of the left to Jews and Jewish nationalism as a breach or rupture with some supposedly “golden era”, one needs to examine the self-evident claim in more detail.

  4. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Actually, Mira, I suspect that it’s not about separatism, but, as far as certain sections of the left are concerned, a skewed view of _which_ nationalism is acceptable. Many comments have been made in these columns about the ability of sections of the Left to distinguish between _types_ or _forms_ of nationalism. What Carswell is doing is drawing attention to this phenomenon, even if, from his perspective on the democratic right, he is unable to bring the nuance to it that those on the left can.

    Thus, we know, from long experience, that whereas antisemitism was, until the recent past, anathema on the Left, this has been superseded by a preferred nationalism: that of the more newly dispossessed. If these happen to be “oppressed” by the Jews (aka “Israelis”, as a shorthand for Jews), then, tough on the Jews, for we are taken to be a homogeneous and unifocal group in a way that is never visited on other ethnic groups. No-one on the Left would dream, imagine or dare to collapse all Moslems, Hindus, Africans (let alone all Nigerians/Liberians/Zimbabweans, etc) or Christians together in one category. But if it’s Israelis/Jews…then 0.025% of the world’s population can be seen as having the power of the whole bourgeoisie and more. And, equally, as being of worthy of anathematising and worse.

    Carswell’s attempt to understand this phenomenon is commendable, if only because, not so long ago, it was unremarkable that the British democratic right were, essentially, Arabist to a man and woman, and the Left much more aware of the subtleties of the situation, to say nothing of wishing to support fellow democratic socialists in an otherwise autocratic, not to say authoritarian and/or theocratic, Middle East.

    Now, however, we have a significant group of Jews who refuse to accept the label, demeanour and behaviour of victims and are, further, prepared to, _effectively_, defend themselves and their loved ones highly effectively, and so, in a trice, become anathema to the “anti-imperialist” Left.

    I am reminded of a wonderful column by Michael Frayn (then a satirical columnist, rather than the award-winning novelist playwright he has since become) in the post-June 1967 days, in The Guardian – which was, still, then a liberal – in the conventional sense of the word – paper. In it, Frayn, prophetically, suggests to the Israelis that they had made a serious mistake in winning their 3-front war so effectively and efficiently. Had they lost, the West, all hand-wringing sentimentality, would have picked up the survivors from the beaches of Tel Aviv and transported them…away. Instead, the Israelis were set to become…winners, and thus no longer to be feted by the Left. Because, of course, the “anti-imperialist” Left prefers losers and victims to winners, especially if those winners have the temerity to be open to being labelled “imperialist” and, worse, to be seen as European colonialist, if only in all but name.

    Need one say more?

  5. Ben Gidley Says:

    Thanks Mira, zkharya, Brian and Absolute for your comments, which are all fascinating.

    Just to reply briefly to Absolute Observer. I do not think there was a golden age we need to return to. In fact, even the moment of glory in fighting Mosley does not reflect well on the Communist Party, who dominated the left at that moment: they were against mobilising at Cable Street and only changed tack at the last minute in response to grassroots pressure in the East End.

    And you are quite right that the left in general has tended to subsume antisemitism under the rubric of fascism, rather than see its specificity.

    However, I think that my claim that the left has historically been at the forefront of the struggle against antisemitism and racism in general is still right. In Marx’s day, while his views were reactionary, he was on the side of emancipation while the right resisted it. In the time of the Dreyfus affair, many socialists and anarchists were on the wrong side, but the overwhelming majority of the Dreyfusards were on the left – Zola was a man of the left, Bernard-Lazare was a socialist. While some trade unionists supported the Aliens Act and Henry Hyndman was an antisemite, the people who pushed anti-alien legislation were on the right. William Morris and the Socialist League were solidly anti-antisemitic and Hyndman’s SDF eventually broke with him, with antisemitism as one of the faultlines. In the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, the social democratic left saw Jews through the limited perspective Zkharya describes so well above – but they were the only non-Jewish organisations fighting antisemitism. In the Jewish world, it was the Bundists and labour Zionists rather than the less left-wing voices that took on antisemitism – while conservative communal leaders tended to call for Jews to buckle down and stop complaining. I could go on, but that’s probably enough!

  6. Absolute Observer Says:

    Ben,
    Thanks for your comments.
    I take your points. I think it important to note that I made my comments in good faith regarding the left. I think if we put my rather negative view of the past (we could mention Duhring, the CP during the 1930’s to its demise, some of the Second International as well as the much, but no means all, of the contemporary left) and you more positive reading, I should imagine we could come to an agreed view that the left’s position vis a vis antisemitism and Jews (by no means the same thing) is more equivocal than the line taken by some in the present (often as a means of legitimising what can be a rather problematic reading of the complexities of the Middle East.
    Be that as it may, thanks for your time,
    AO

  7. Absolute Observer Says:

    Ben,
    More at the topic at hand.

    I think your point about the universalism and universal values inherent in the Enlightenment is key. It is also in this context that the equivocation of the place of Jews within it is central. For centuries, the Jews were the emodiment of the goals of universalism and of universal emancipation. After 1945 the Jews became the concept of the horrors that can be inflicted upon both the Enlightenment and universal values by a viscious particularism.

    Unfortunately, the left had mistaken concept with actuality. Having invested so much in their conceptual Jew they are embittered that, after all, Jews are not so different from any other people. They feel let down (just as they did a hundred or so years ago when the majority of Jews did not follow Luxemburg’s example (of deying the particular in the name of an abstract universal).

    However, if we look at the history, the universal has always been bound up with the particular. One need only think of France and its claim to being a, or, rather, the universal nation (a seeming oxymoron). As I said, for years, the Jews were thought of as the universal people, as a people who, devoid of a land of their own meant that this role could be easily imagined as somehow the “essence” of Jewish worldly experience.
    As you note, the “anti-imperialists” are willing to ignore the actual contradiction between the universal and the particular in almost every other form of nationalism (i.e. post-colonial nationalism is reconciled as a “progressive” nationalism made in the name of a universal emancipation (and, they are, of course, right to a large degree). Jewish naitonalism, on the other hand, is not given the benefit of this doubt.

    Perhaps the only other excpetion to the notion of “progressive nationalism” is, paradoxically, Palestinian nationalism.

    Just as the concept of the Jews as the imagined embodiment of universal values led to a devaluing of their particularism and the fury of its manifestation in Israel, so too the concept of the Palestinians as the universal emblem of oppression runs the risk of turning nasty when the majority of Palestinians succeed in their aim of a national state of Palestine. Thus, whilst the left was let down by the fact of Jewish actualisty, there is no guarantee that the Palestinians will not suffer the same fate when they are seen as just a people like all other peoples, legitimately concerned to establish their own nation-state and to live a normalised life in the “international community”

    Apologies for the lack of clarity here, but, I hope you get the gist.
    AO

  8. J. Arnon Says:

    “Just as the concept of the Jews as the imagined embodiment of universal values led to a devaluing of their particularism and the fury of its manifestation in Israel, so too the concept of the Palestinians as the universal emblem of oppression runs the risk of turning nasty when the majority of Palestinians succeed in their aim of a national state of Palestine.” Absolute Observer

    Perhaps, but there is this difference: The Palestinian Arabs are not an “orphan people,” as are the Jews. They see themselves as part of the Arab as well as Muslim world. There is no other people to whom Jews can claim an affinity.

    There is a tendency to want to equate the status of Jews and Palestinians in their conflict. This is wishful thinking.

  9. Seth Says:

    I suspect that for many on the left, the “hatred for Israel”,
    as Vogel puts it, comes from the fact that Israel’s
    occupation of Palestinians violates basic principles of
    human rights on an everyday basis, and that when Israel
    is involved in a war, it seems to have little concern for
    civilian lives. It’s all been extensively documented over and
    over by every mainstream human rights group. Coupled
    with the view that Israel seems to have no interest in actually agreeing to a two-state solution that conforms to the basic
    principles agreed upon by pretty much everybody except the
    United States and Israel, it pretty much has the expected effect.

    As far as this:
    “In fact, it is the section of the left that has furthest extended this pro-nationalist tendency where hatred of Israel burns the brightest: the so-called “anti-imperialist” left, who have accorded Arab nationalism, Serbian nationalism, Venezuelan nationalism, and indeed more or less any nationalism apart from Jewish nationalism sacred status. ”

    I think it is actually a separate issue. First of all, there are
    of course no citations or references so it’s not even a serious argument. But leaving that aside, the point is that Israel is not the state of all the people who live there, and the notion of belonging to the country is based on an ethnic/religious qualification. That is not, as I see it, something that anybody on the left ever supports as a basic point of principle. (although nothing immediately follows from that about support or not for a two-state solution, and it doesn’t mean discrimination within Israel is necessarily worse than in other places. It isn’t.) I am unaware of any significant group on the
    left arguing for such an arrangement anywhere, whether
    in Venezuela or elsewhere. Usually when people like the
    writer above complain about a double-standard being applied to Israel, they’re actually upset about a single-standard
    being applied including Israel.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      I notice that seth cites support for his views extensively. A typical anti-zionist, anti-imperialist statement that begs so many questions it’s almost (but only almost) impossible to know where to begin.

      But I will, in a while.

  10. Ben Gidley Says:

    I do get your gist AO, and I think I agree.

    One thing that is missing from my post is the extent to which an excess of Enlightenment universalism was a danger for the Jews and structured a particular form of, not exactly antisemitism, but a certain left-wing distaste for Jews when they insist on their particularity. This also relates closely to what zkharya says: the Enlightenment could only liberate Jews as humans and not as Jews. For this reason, among others, I am not exactly an uncritical partisan of Enlightenment values!

  11. Absolute Observer Says:

    The correlation that makes between abuse of human rights and hatred by some on the left is the ususal predictable response. We “hate” Israel because Israel are such abusers of human rights. All responsibility for “hating” Israel, singling out Israel, and organising movements around Israel (even if unrelated to Israel – as in “Stop the War”) is justified as a completely rational response to Israel acts.

    If that is the basis and correlation between abuser and hatred, then one must ask why the left (or sections of it) are so quiet, quiesscent when it comes to other states’ abuses. One need only think of China, Iran, Pakistian, the US, Australia, the UK, Venuzula, Nigeria. etc, etc.. There has never been a satsfactory answer to the driving of Israel and Palestine into the “storm centre of events”. None of this is to excuse, let alone justify, Israel’s abuses – no matter how often that falls on deaf ears – but leaves the question of “proportionality” to the fore. After all, according to latest reports 75.000 people died in a matter of days in Sri Lanka’s slaughter of the Tamils. Perhaps, the Israel-deserves-its -hatred thinkers could explain why the UNHRC has refused to even look at this event (so much for the Israel Lobby!) – and, thereby, not producing any documentation that can then be used as evidence via being documented which can then be used as documentary evidence. Or why STWC did not organise marches, demonstration, pickets of embassies – we shall leave Burma aside for now.

    Again comes the misrepresentation of Israel as an ethnic or religious country and the idea that being Jewish as a right of automatic citizenship is somehow inherently wrong and “racist”. It depends how one looks at it.

    On the one hand, Israel is probably the most cosmpolitan nation in the world, with citizens from all over the world. On the other hand, many, but by no means all its citizens are “Jewish” which, of course narrows it somewhat. When one looks at France, for example, France is also cosmpolitan, with people from its former colonies and elsewhere. On the other hand, those not deemed “French” are devoid rights of citizenship, etc. and “French” becomes very narrow and “ethnically” determined (Algerians in France are French, but not, say, Kenyans). The UK is similar. Only those with a connection to the UK (and it need not be territoiral) can bycome British citizens. A person whose granparents came from the UK can be a citizen, but not others – which in effect means white colonianlists and not the indigenous populations of Britain’s colonies.

    This applies also to those countries who have been brought into existence by population moves at the moment of its birth; so, for example, people “moving” to Pakistan from India are now Pakistani and Pakistan comes to be peopled by Pakistanis (of which those not “Pakistani” do not have the rights of its citizens). Likewise Germany has Germans from many countries, but not all people in Germany are Germans (i.e. Turkish “guestworkers)). These are not good things, but are no different from Israeli notions of inclusion and exclusion of the Israeli nation-state. (And, as a European, I can visit the Turkish side of Cyprus, but not if I am a Greel Cyrpriot and lived in that quater all my life until division – when is the next demo for that please and the outrage and hatred of Turkey for forced population movement and an ongoing refusal to take down the wall?)

    Apparently, though, unless one identifies one’s “nationality” according to an increasingly defunct nationalist “blood and soil” connection – that is, nation and land from “time immeorial” – one cannot from the left’s(!) perspective be a legitimate national state. Needless to say, such reactionary thinking cannot but act to deny Jews any territoiral national state since, the history of the Jews have been precisely the story of exile. Palestinian’s right are therefore legitimised not solely by a people’s right to self-determination, but is supported a reactionary nationalism that says that that right to self-determination has to be on this one precise, unchanging particular piece of land and none other (I belive that the border between Germany and Poland has just been settled). just like that right-wing nationalists in Israel think that only a “greater Israel” is the “true” Israel, or when Israel is forced to legitimate itself by the actuality of a Jewish presence that goes back centuries (or, alternatively, when Israel is deligitimized by saying that there is not such things as “Jews”). Israel’s mode of inclusion of religious (but not only religious, there are non-Jewish citizens). For the UK, it is grandparents links to the “Empire” or commonwealth. Perhaps someone can tell me the legal-national rules that forbid Palestinians being citizens of Kuwiat, for example, or why Jews cannot be Jordanian citizens, but other peoples can be

    So, let’s stop pretending that the Israeli criteria of citizenship is something unique in the world. All nation-states have what amount to arbitrary rules on citizenship. Israel’s is religion; other nations are birth, others are historical connections, and others are premised on the tautology that one is a national because one is a national (often with inbuilt racism).

    As always, when it comes to Israel, the left thinking often referred to is incoherent, contradictory and, often reactionary. It is a pot pouri of idea that mutates and morphs according to the ideas it has to confront. Nowehere is this more obvious on the idea of the “anger” against Israel is solely (and I emphasiise soely) a rational and proportionate response against Israel’s wrong doing. If that was the case, people would be buying little from the supermarket at all, rather than walking past the Saudi, the Chinese toys, the US relish, etc., etc. dates to boycott Israeli chicken cubes.

    Maybe I have it wrong, and we can be told why it is that it is Israel that the left has focussed on to virtually everything else – even Iraq was argued to be driven by the Israelis? What precisely is it that Israel has done that is unique in the world? And, what makes Israel’s Human Rights abuses –real as they are, and demanding a response – of a quantitive and qualititive nature that differentiates it from from any other “nation- state” and which leads to the scorn and hatred poured on it by sections of the left, that makes it the unique evil in the world and the messianic belief that once Israel and Palestine is sorted out, then peace will rule the planet?

    Maybe the Israel hatrers need to take some of responsibility for their own hatred rather than seeing themselves as merely reacting to their own projections.

  12. ron Says:

    dear seth,

    armchair zionist engagers don’t care about the real occupation of palestinian lands and the suffering of non-jewish palestinians. they only care about the apriori anti-semitism that they imagine to exist in europe. that being said, not all jews are zionist hasbaratistas. for example only today the following was written:

    “But having land is like having a seat on a bus,” Josie replied. “You can’t just push someone out of their seat, and you can’t just leave your seat and then come back to it after a long time and just expect the person who is sitting there now to give it to you.”

    not to mention if you are a jewish hypocrite zionist in the UK…

    the whole piece us here: http://www.tabletmag.com/life-and-religion/34105/never-never-land/

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      another know-nothing reply, lacking all subtlety and sophistication. This is someone who deals only in insults, clearly. We are all, presumably, in ron’s eyes, “jewish hypocrite zionist[s] in the UK…” because we believe that Israel has a right to exist in peace and secuity, while ensuring that those around them also have peace and security.

      It really would be nice if these people actually managed to mount an argument, with evidence, once in a while instead of insulting assertion as to our states of minds.

      And did anyone notice that [The] Tablet is the title of a Catholic paper here in the UK? Interesting choice of title that, especially as The Tablet is a respected journal.

      Can’t speak for the one linked to, but I have my doubts as to the extent of its respect.

  13. J. Arnon Says:

    Brian, the link to Tablet magazine is legitimate. Tablet is a respect Jewish on line magazine which publishes essay by writers in the Jewish community in the US and sometimes Canada.

    The article by Ingall linked to, which Ron didn’t seem to understand, is part of a complex discussion in the US about liberal Zionism. Beinart a former editor of TNR initiated the dialogue. He is a Zionist (“hasbarista”) if you like who is a strong supporter of Israel and would like many here at engage to see a two State solution.

    Most of the people writers and readers on Tablet are including myself are “zionist hasbaratistas”

    Ron, btw, reminds me of an Argentinean antisemite who used to post on Harry Place, Z-blog and elsewhere and had been banned from those cited many months ago. He used to use the term “hasbarista” also.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      To J. Arnon: my error completely. I made the mistake of confusing the linker and the link. Thank you for correcting me. Your comments would indicate that “ron” clearly didn’t understand what he linked to.

      Too subtle for him?

  14. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Okay, so here’s my response to Seth (who’s been here peddling this sort of stuff before, of course).

    Let me start with his final comment: “Usually when people like the writer above complain about a double-standard being applied to Israel, they’re actually upset about a single-standard being applied including Israel.” Actually, Seth, no they’re not. They are, actually, complaining about a double-standard being applied. If it _were_ a _single_-standard, then the appliers would be also applying it to Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, China, and so-on, and on, and on…But they aren’t. They are applying it _only_ to Israel, the only Jewish state in the world. And, further, neutral observers would note that, whatever else it is, Israel is far from being the worse breacher of human rights by a sovereign state in the world.

    Notice, Seth, I haven’t mentioned the a-s word once.

    Seth actually starts with this: “I suspect that for many on the left, the “hatred for Israel”…comes from the fact that Israel’s occupation of Palestinians violates basic principles of
    human rights on an everyday basis, and that when Israel
    is involved in a war, it seems to have little concern for
    civilian lives. It’s all been extensively documented over and
    over by every mainstream human rights group.”

    Well, “Israel’s occupation of Palestinians” may, or may not,
    “violate[.] basic principles of human rights on an everyday basis”, but that is, at the very least, a debatable point, as opposed to Seth’s assertion of an absolute truth. As it happens, I agree that both sides are demeaned by this, and a solution needs to be found. But Seth is astonishingly ahistorical and shows no awareness of (and worse, probably cares less about) how this situation arose. As ever, knowing the background helps in understanding the situation. But finding a solution that actually solves the problem appears not to be in Seth’s compass. The _only_ point in his favour in this sentence is that he doesn’t deploy the “apartheid” argument. He just lets hover ther, by implication.

    Seth goes on to say that: “when Israel is involved in a war, it seems to have little concern for civilian lives.” Again, he cites no evidence for such a far-reaching claim, and seems prepared to ignore all sorts of counter-evidence and other information. Perhaps Seth should point us towards all those neutral observers of Israel’s wars who have produced irrefutable evidence that the IDF has shown a callous disregard for (Arab) civilian lives in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, etc. And we musn’t forget, of course, that the IDF sited the Hamas rockets alonside civilians in Gaza, so that they could justify what happened during Operation Cast Lead. And, again, we must then put to one side the fact of the UN acknowlegement that Hamas _had_, in fact, sited rockets alongside one of its buildings in Gaza, as the IDF claimed. Or that neutral onservers noted the Hezbollah habit of using human shields during the previous round of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. Mustn’t admit inconvenient facts – they undermine our case.

    Again, we have this (the next sentence from Seth): “It’s all been extensively documented over and over by every mainstream human rights group.” Note that no actual “mainstream human rights groups” are named. Of course not: we might want to dispute that their words mean what Seth wants them to mean, or that significant other “mainstream” groups, who haven’t joined in Seth’s chorus, are omitted, or, perish the thought, that these aren’t, actually, particularly mainstream groups. Again, inconvenient facts…

    Let me finish with this quote from his comment: “Coupled
    with the view that Israel seems to have no interest in actually agreeing to a two-state solution that conforms to the basic principles agreed upon principles agreed upon by pretty much everybody except the United States and Israel…”

    I must (un)reluctantly draw attention to Seth’s assumption/assertion that there is a two-state solution that “conforms to the basic principles agreed upon by pretty much everybody except the United States and Israel…” By now, no-one will be surprised that he fails to tell us (a) what this two-state solution is, and (b) just who the “everybody” is. Without any guidance from him, I am forced to conclude that he means the PA, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, many other (but not necessarily) Islamic states, the PSC, etc, etc.

    In short, Seth, if you want to be taken seriously here (and I care less about your comrades in the BDS movement who probably think you are a great intellect), try producing evidence, try arguing from that evidence, try being _logical_, for goodness sake, and you might (but only _might_ – it depends on the quality of the argument) get a serious hearing here.

    BTW, is “ron” you posting from a different email address? you write in an astonishingly similar style. Just asking.

  15. Absolute Observer Says:

    “if you are a jewish hypocrite zionist in the UK”

    Fuck off you racist toe-rag.

  16. Absolute Observer Says:

    J. Arnon and Brian,

    This is also on Tablet,

    http://www.tabletmag.com/arts-and-culture/books/34288/albions-shame/

    With all due respect, I must admit I do find the whole tone of that debate in US liberal Jewish circles completely yukky. It is so inward-looking and guilt-ridden as well as underpinned by a romantic nostalgia for a view of the “old country” that never existed and which lacks almost completely any reference to the world as it really was and really is.

    Sara Roy’s essay in counterpuch is a classic example. She tells the stroy of how her aunt did not attack their German guards on their liberation (unlike other Jews) because of their innate belief in a “unique” Jewish ethics, which Roy then holds up this example of an “authentic” ethics that the inauthenticity of “Zionism” has betrayed.

    (I also doubt the veracity of the story, since, in almost all accounts of the camps’ liberation those that survived did not have the strength “to attack” anyone. Indeed, it reminded me of the equally offensive story told by the Orthodox that, as a man was about to be executed he prayed to God and the gun jammed and he survided! As if, first, anyone could survive the camps with such ethical purity and, secondly, what type of God is it that this man prayed to if He could act in such a way; Primo Levi also speaks of how disgusted he was when hearing the prayers of an inmate after others but not him had been “selected”)

    Roy also spouts some nonsense about old country Jews being more ethical than any other peoples which, as Arendt noted, was nothing other than a “chosen people” argument remodelled in the 19th century to convince the “old country” Jews of how completely innocent they in moulding the world in which they lived with others.

    I guess what galls me about the debate in general is the way it makes of a normal, if nasty, political conflict something uniquely and essentially “Jewish”, for which Jews everywhere perceive themselves personally responsible (indeed, the very means by which they organise their “identity”). It is to be noted, of course, that here they seem to agree with the position taken by antisemites and some antizionists; that Jews everywhere must “speak out” or face the consequences of a “righteous wrath” against them; as if these Jews are not only responsible for the policies of another country (Israel) but of creating antisemitism that is being increasingly directed against them – as Jews – at the moment.

    Horrible stuff.

  17. Seth Says:

    Brian:

    1. You refer to what I wrote as a “typical anti-zionist, anti-imperialist statement”. I don’t consider myself an “anti-Zionist”. Or rather, I don’t think it’s an important issue to focus on. I think the priority is to end the occupation and respect basic principles of human rights and international law. I couldn’t care less whether somebody considers him or herself a “Zionist” or “anti-Zionist”.

    2. I’m not Ron. Why do you say my writing style is similar? I never never use phrases like “jewish hypocrite zionist”. It’s
    stupid and offensive.

    3. As far as Israel’s occupation of Palestinians, one simply has to read the many reports by HRW, AI, Btselem, and so on. I have read a bunch of them, and I have also read as many responses as I could find, from NGO Monitor, etc. Sorry, the facts are very clear. It’s interesting how many members of
    the “decent left”, one might say, are unable to take a stand
    against collective punishment of a civilian population.

    4. As far as “when Israel is involved in a war, it seems to have little concern for civilian lives.” Are you seriously going to argue this? Simply read the HRW and AI reports on the 2006 war, for example.

    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2007/09/05/israellebanon-israeli-indiscriminate-attacks-killed-most-civilians

    Read the HRW report on cluster bombs in South Lebanon.

    http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/16/flooding-south-lebanon

    etc.
    and then read the responses. I don’t mean the general
    attacks on HRW and AI, or attacks on who wrote the reports. I mean look for actual substantial answers to the content of the reports. You can’t just repeat the usual talking points
    “the Hezbollah habit of using human shields during the previous round of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah”
    There actually have been investigations.

    5. By two-state solution, I mean the sort of solutions put
    forward in the UN general assembly every year on
    “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine”
    e.g. the most recent

    http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/a06f2943c226015c85256c40005d359c/6f2df1ffb49d51ad852576c100537c1f?OpenDocument

    or the Arab Peace Initiative etc. The main opponents of
    a two-state solution are Israel and the United States.

    6. “comrades in the BDS movement”? Take a deep breath
    and listen to yourself. I said absolutely nothing about
    BDS. Not that it actually matters, but I oppose
    an academic or cultural boycott, but I am certainly in favor
    of ending all military aid used to punish and terrorize a civilian population.

    7. The main point, really, is that one doesn’t need to go into deep discussions about “Zionism” and the enlightenment, and all of that to understand the “hatred” against Israel. The answer is staring at you in the face.

    8.
    “Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, China…
    And, further, neutral observers would note that, whatever else it is, Israel is far from being the worse breacher of human rights by a sovereign state in the world.”

    Did I say that Israel is the worst “breacher of
    human rights”? What I wrote was:
    “…it doesn’t mean discrimination within Israel is necessarily worse than in other places. It isn’t.)”

    Aside from your strange reading of what I wrote, you’re
    confusing two issues that I think should be separated,
    as I tried to do, although I was also trying not to ramble on
    for too long. There is the occupation, and there is the
    character of Israel as a Jewish state, not the state of the people who live within it. The former is by far, in my opinion,
    the most serious issue, with serious violations of human
    rights, and it is really pretty stomach-turning to read the
    apologetics for it on here. The latter is also a departure from
    basic principles of democracy, which doesn’t mean that
    Israel, within the green line, is a more serious human rights violator than lots of other countries. As I said clearly enough, it isn’t. But since the issue was brought up, if you’re against
    institutionalized discrimination of a minority of a country
    because it’s the wrong ethnic group, however that might be
    defined, then that applies to Israel as well.

    Absolute Observer:
    1. “If that is the basis and correlation between abuser and hatred, then one must ask why the left (or sections of it) are so quiet, quiesscent when it comes to other states’ abuses. One need only think of China, Iran, Pakistian, the US, Australia, the UK, Venuzula, Nigeria. etc, etc.. There has never been a satsfactory answer to the driving of Israel and Palestine into the “storm centre of events”. ”

    Well, I really cannot speak for other people, but the United States obviously plays a major role in the Middle East, and in the Israel/Palestine conflict, so that seems like a good reason to focus on it. For example, those cluster bombs that Israel dropped in South Lebanon, that last I checked have killed more people since the war ended than all the Israelis killed by Hamas rockets, were made in the United States. Also, I’m Jewish, and I don’t like Israel carrying out these atrocities on behalf of Jews, as in Olmert’s infamous statement in July 2006
    about the war being “fought by all the Jews.”

    2. “Only those with a connection to the UK (and it need not be territoiral) can bycome British citizens.”

    You’re missing the point that with regard
    to Israel, you have the “connection” if you’re a member
    of the right ethnic/religious group, while at the same time you
    don’t have the “connection” if your family in very recent
    history actually lived in the country, but you’re not a member
    of the right ethnic/religious group.

    The rest of what you wrote could be an interesting discussion,
    but obviously not here. When you write stuff like “the scorn and hatred poured on it by sections of the left, that makes it the unique evil in the world and the messianic belief that once Israel and Palestine is sorted out, then peace will rule the planet?”

    you’re just engaging in some sort of weird alternate world, populated by people saying things that I’ve never heard.

    • Gil Says:

      Well, you are either stupid or malicious. Have a look at the Guardian’s CIF on any given day and see the endless stream of invective against the Jewish state. The endless comments by vile posters who lie and make up facts to try and show that the Jewish state is responsible for the world’s ills. These people are not interested in two state solutions, they want the area both East and West of the Jordan River to be either Judenrein or for the Jews to have Dhimmi status, just like in their wet dreams of the good ‘ole days.

      The priority is most certainly NOT to end the occupation. The priority is FIRST to guarantee the survival of a large segment of the Jewish people whose forefathers arrived in Eretz Israel with little more than the rags on their bodies, a land that hardly featured in Arab nationalist narrative until the Jews came and made the desert flourish. My grandparents arrived in Palestine because Europe didn’t want them. And Ernie Bevin, after he was aware of the Holocaust, could still rant on about Jewish people being pushy.

      You really think that having a Palestinian state on Israel’s doorstep will allow Israel and Israelis to lead a semblance of a normal life? Poor naive fool. Not in the age of the missile. There could have been peace years ago if the Palestinians had stopped listening to the rhetoric of their Arab brothers who egged them on (but god forbid that the Arabs should treat Palestinians living among them with respect !). Now it’s the Left with its demonisation of Zionism that is setting back the efforts of peace, encouraging the Palestinians to believe that if they only hold out a bit more, perhaps Iran will save them or the US will cut off ties to Israel. Or the Messiah will come. And in the meantime, a la Lenin, the worst it gets then the better it surely will be.

      Keep on writing about your ‘uman rights concerns and your sterile discussions of citizenship – by the way how is that human rights chappie who flirted with Nazi memorabilia doing? -and get this: the circumstances of the founding of the State of Israel were exceptional. The Jews pleaded with the Arabs of Haifa (for example) not to leave (and this in the midst of a war!), to stay behind and continue to live in cooperation with the Jews. Those that left rue the day they did. Those that remained have a standard of living much higher than those that fled. And they live in a Democracy which Arabs outside Israel can only dream of.

  18. Absolute Observer Says:

    1. I don’t think anyone is denying Israel’s abuse of human rights, its (probable) breach of the laws of war, etc. and so forth. After all, this is what many Israeli HR organisations have argued.
    Yet, the point to be made is the “disproortionate” (to use a word popular during the Gaza war) response of the “left” not to Israel’s specific wrongs and crimes, but to its very existence as a legitimate state itself. In other words, the way criticism of Israel’s government policies morphs into an attack on the very existence of Israel itself and its placement as the “key obstacle” to world peace; that is, its eschatological aura. (How many people called for the dismantiling of Nigeria after Biafra or Rwanda – both of which, unlike Israel, were genocide).

    2. No, I’m not missing the point at all. ALl countries have arbitrary immigration and citizenship rules that exclude and include. In those countries born after 1948, of which Israel is one, some of these arbitrary rules excluded people who had previously lived there for generations. (Indeed, some countries allow people to live in “their” country, pay taxes, work and still not allow them citizenship rights.) This is a bad thing. However, no matter how wrong this all is, Israel is no different. It’s only “difference” is that it is a “religious” criterion rather than “nationality” or “historical links”; none of which are “rational”.

    3. The “not in my name argument”; an argument that rests on the ability of sensible people to understand the distinction between rhetoric and reality. No doubt a Catholic, Muslim, American, Brit, French, etc. would be furious what is said or done in their name by some self-professed spokesperson or President. However, I trust most people to know how politics works and that to attack a specific American person because Bush or Obama talks about “my fellow Americans” or demand that they “speak out” against, say, Iraq because of what has been said by their President is absurd, (and in the case of statements made “in the name of Muslims” down right racist.)
    Of course, you are right to note a tendency on the left for Jews to “pass” the Israel test and to be asked about their “allegiance”; but that is the left’s problem, not Jews.

    4. “you’re just engaging in some sort of weird alternate world, populated by people saying things that I’ve never heard.”

    The idea that Israel is the key to a world without danger is made by many, many, people. Clare Short is just one, http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/comment.php?id=38
    There are many more examples I could cite. Indeed, this view is implicit in those that see Israel and Palestine as “the” universal issue, the “emblem” of all oppression, tyranny, abuse that confronts the world today (often at the expense of other serious conflicts which are relegated to side issues).

    So, the question remains, why is the question of Israel and Palestine raised to the status of a Manichean existentialism, a zero-sum game of absolute winners and absolute losers, rather than a single, particular issue that, with the right imagination, and will could be resolved like any other normal political issue?

    • Seth Says:

      1.
      ——————————————–
      I don’t think anyone is denying Israel’s abuse of human rights, its (probable) breach of the laws of war…”
      ——————————————–

      It’s commonly denied. Dershowitz, etc.

      ——————————————–
      “Yet, the point to be made is the “disproportionate” (to use a word popular during the Gaza war) response of the “left” not to Israel’s specific wrongs and crimes, but to its very existence as a legitimate state itself. ”
      ——————————————–

      Well, I think it’s certainly correct that there is more talk of a “one-state solution” than there used to be. It has grown roughly in parallel with Israel’s lack of interest in removing
      settlements for a two-state solution, and more and more
      brutal behavior in its wars.

      I think I already made my opinion on that clear so I won’t repeat myself. And the point of people like Chomsky and
      Finkelstein is that there is an international consensus for
      a two-state solution, but there is no such consensus for
      a one-state solution. But I do find it strange how calls for dismantling institutional discrimination (which is what the “one-state” solution is), is the same as “an attack on the very existence of Israel”.

      2.
      ——————————————–
      No, I’m not missing the point at all. ALl countries have arbitrary immigration and citizenship rules that exclude and include.
      ——————————————–

      What countries both (1) have preferential immigration laws
      for people who may not have any documented history
      with the country, in terms of ancestors, and (2) prohibit
      return for people who do actually have a documented history
      with the country?

      I mean, if you want to argue in favor of such arrangements
      as a matter of principle, or of practicality, or of necessity,
      or whatever, go ahead. But I don’t think the “Israel is no different” argument is a very good one.

      3.
      ——————————————–
      “Of course, you are right to note a tendency on the left for Jews to “pass” the Israel test and to be asked about their “allegiance”
      ——————————————–
      I never said any such thing.

      ——————————————–
      However, I trust most people to know how politics works and that to attack a specific American person because Bush or Obama talks about “my fellow Americans” or demand that they “speak out” against, say, Iraq because of what has been said by their President is absurd
      ——————————————–

      You cannot have it both ways. You cannot on
      one hand support the arrangement for Israel to not be
      the state of the its citizens, but rather of the Jewish people,
      with the law of return, etc., and then say that people
      should know how “politics works” and that Jews have nothing
      to do with the actions of Israel’s government. If Israel
      was the state of its people, with Israeli nationality, then I
      would agree with you. But it’s not.

      Regarding your analogy of Americans and what presidents
      might “say”, that is not the point out at all. It is the right
      and duty of Americans to speak out and work against
      policy of their government and make clear that they do not
      approve of such actions, when they feel it is appropriate.
      Since Israel has a special relationship with Jews elsewhere
      (as defined by Israel), then the same point holds for Jews
      outside of Israel. Of all the causes of arguments in this
      topic, I’ve really never understood why people speaking
      out “as Jews” causes such anger on this website (speaking
      generally, not just in reference to your posting). And I’m
      afraid I still don’t.

      And Olmert’s statement went beyond your analogous
      examples. It was a “Video Speech to The United Jewish Communities” saying “This is the time when all of us can show a kind a solidarity which is so unique to the Jewish people.”
      And then in December 2007 he was quoted in a Haaretz
      piece referring to “Jewish organizations” as “our power base
      in America”, when he was worried that
      “they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its
      residents.” (btw, what would be the Engage reaction
      if somebody else referred to Jewish organizations in America
      as a “power base” for Israel?)

      But never mind Olmert. The identification of Israel with
      Jews is pushed by the support for all Israeli actions given
      by so many Jewish organizations. For example.,
      Shortly after the 2006 war I was driving through the
      suburbs of Philadelphia in the US, and every time I passed
      a synagogue there was a big sign outside with “We stand
      with Israel”. So yes, the “not in my name” argument is
      an important one to make, at least for Jews who are
      against collective punishment of civilians and civilian
      infrastructure.

      4.

      Again, you wrote that
      ““the scorn and hatred poured on it by sections of the left, that makes it the unique evil in the world and the messianic belief that once Israel and Palestine is sorted out, then peace will rule the planet?”. Even Clare Short didn’t say that.
      If you want to criticize what people say, criticize what they
      actually say. You gave a link to the comments, but
      I didn’t see the original piece, but based on what I could
      make out from the comments, I would agree with some of
      the criticisms there.

      • zkharya Says:

        ‘You cannot have it both ways. You cannot on
        one hand support the arrangement for Israel to not be
        the state of the its citizens, but rather of the Jewish people,
        with the law of return, etc., and then say that people
        should know how “politics works” and that Jews have nothing to do with the actions of Israel’s government. If Israel was the state of its people, with Israeli nationality, then I would agree with you. But it’s not.’

        That’s nonsense.

        Israel is uniquely the Jewish state. It is the one Jewish state in the world, just as Ireland is the one Irish state in the world, to which ethnic Irish around the world have a right of return.

        Simply because Israel is the Jewish state does not mean that all Jews are its citizens, though through right of return they are potentially so.

        But that does not mean Jews around the world, in the diaspora etc are responsible for Israeli state actions. Only an antisemite would say that.

        Likewise, merely because diaspora Jews are sympathetic to a Jewish state, Zionism etc, does not mean they are responsible for Israeli state actions. Least of all because they do NOT adopt the politically correct position on Israel either.

        Again, it seems to me, only an antisemite would say that, because only an antisemite would say that sympathy for, or insufficient antipathy to, the Jewish state of Israel would make diaspora Jews de facto Israeli citizens or Israeli Jewish nationals, and therefore liable to penalty for it.

        Diaspora Jews are no more responsible for Israeli state actions than are emigrés Irish, whatever their sympathies.

        You can argue about imperfections in the status of Israeli Arab Muslim and Christian citizens. Even seek to redress them. But I question the right or justice therefore to seek to perfect the Jewish state out of existence, especially given the umpteen Arab and Islamic states in existence, who treat their Jewish and other minorities no better.

        Israel doesn’t have to be perfect. And she doesn’t have to be more perfect than her enemies, for instance. Including Palestinian Arab Muslims or Christians.

        You can argue Israel is not the equal of Ireland in arranging matters to the satisfaction of all or most of its citizens. But that is as much the fault of Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians as Palestinian or Israeli Jews. There is a context, a conflict which has raged for 100 years, in which Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians struggled or waged war to exclude, expel or eliminate Palestinian, Israeli or other Jews. Some still do, including some Israeli Arab Muslims and Christians who seek to dissolve the Jewish state etc in the expectation that it would mean no more Israel with a Palestinian Arab Muslim or Christian majority, one way, or another, in the none too distant future.

        The assertion that merely because Israel or others define her as “western” etc means ergo she must be behave according to some set of criteria is also nonsense. Some places claim to be utopia. That doesn’t mean they should be penalised because they don’t do what it says on the tin.

        As to “we shouldn’t deal with Israel because of this, that or the other”, frankly that seems to have little merit to it either, since “we” manifestly do deal with any number of states which do what Israel does or worse.

  19. Avi Says:

    Quite often in life I am surprised by how people ignore the “bleeding obvious” especially when it negates their position. One argument that I have never seen asked of the “anti imperialist/anti colonialist” mob (Seth, are you there?) is what about Hebrew? Unless I am mistaken, all of the imperialist powers (England, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Russia, China etc.) spoke the language of the home country in the colonies. That being the case, can some sophist please explain to me where the vital Hebrew culture in Israel suddenly appeared from? It is one area which is shared historically by Jews worldwide and no one can deny that it is the basis of everyday culture and life here in Israel.
    That being so, why are we in Israel classed as colonialist interlopers? My kids and I can read archaeological inscriptions and documents from around here dating back 2,000 years at least.
    All of this does not negate the self determination of the Palestinian Arabs to their own identity. It may be new, it may have been formed as response to the Jews renewed national movement, but as an Israeli Jew, it is not my place to deny it, as it is not their place to deny my national self determination. Especially as it has been so sucessful.

    • Seth Says:

      “(Seth, are you there?)”

      Yes, I’m here, but I don’t see how what you write has anything to do with what I wrote. But since you ask about Hebrew
      culture, I think the revival of Hebrew culture is a remarkable
      achievement and it is easy for me to understand, I think,
      how and why one would have an attachment to it. But Israelis not defined as the the country of Hebrew speaking people, and I don’t think you’re seriously proposing that.

      • zkharya Says:

        ‘But Israelis not defined as the the country of Hebrew speaking people, and I don’t think you’re seriously proposing that.’

        But without Zionism, the Yishuv or a Jewish state, and a solid resistance to the resistance of Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians to Jews being other than a tiny, discriminated against minority, that would never been possible. Frankly, medium to long term, I don’t think it would be possible without it even now.

  20. J. Arnon Says:

    My original post seems to be too long, so I’ll post it in parts:

    Part 1

    AO, I am in agreement with much of what you write. I don’t have time now to explain fully my views about the liberal debate in the US, but the article you cited is not, in my view part of the main stream of that debate.

    Here are some links to the ongoing debate.
    Here is the original article by Peter Beinart:

    “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment”

    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/jun/10/failure-american-jewish-establishment/?pagination=false

    Here is Leon Wieseltier’s reply:

    http://www.tnr.com/print/article/75095/washington-diarist

    More on Beinart’s article:

    Goldblog vs. Peter Beinart, Part I

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/goldblog-vs-peter-beinart-part-i/56914/

    Goldblog vs. Peter Beinart, Part II

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/goldblog-vs-peter-beinart-part-ii/56934/

    Goldblog vs. Peter Beinart, Part III: Zionism Reloaded

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/goldblog-vs-peter-beinart-part-iii-zionism-reloaded/57088/

    “American Intellectuals Don’t Need To Be Brave”

    http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/75120/american-intellectuals-dont-need-be-brave

  21. J. Arnon Says:

    Part 2

    I also should say that Tablet (tabletmag.com) is neither liberal nor conservative but prints articles from both points of view:

    Check out the interview with Paul Berman:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/podcasts/34158/no-debate/

    as well as these reviews by Adam Kirsch:

    http://www.tabletmag.com/author/akirsch/

    Then there are the well reasoned articles by Lee Smith

    “Linked In: Why do Arab governments—and the U.S.—insist the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the heart of all the Mideast’s problems?”

    http://www.tabletmag.com/news-and-politics/32785/linked-in/

    I realize that terms like “liberal” don’t translate very well, I also agree that much of what passes for “liberal discourse, here” is as you said “is so inward-looking and guilt-ridden as well as underpinned by a romantic nostalgia for a view of the “old country” that never existed and which lacks almost completely any reference to the world as it really was and really is.” This is especially true of the left liberals in the US, but it’s not true of all liberal discourse as the article I linked to above show.

  22. Absolute Observer Says:

    JA,
    Thanks for your comments. I guess this is the type of faux homey stuff I am referring to, rather than liberalism in the political sense,

    It is from “Jewish Voice for Peace”

    “I remember listening to my great aunt Tante Babe’s heartbreaking stories of seeing her young cousin killed during an attack on thousands of Jews, a pogrom, in her city of Bialystok. That infamous pogrom was in 1906, the very year the American Jewish Committee was founded to oppose such attacks.”

    Note that included in all this “schmultz” and gooey sentimentalism is an equation of what is going on in Israel today with the pogroms of turn of the century antisemitic pogroms (i.e. “random” killings and violence by a drink-fuelled mob).

    And here is the (statutory) reference to the Holocaust………

    “And then there’s my grandfather who endured the extermination of most of his family at the hands of Nazis. He is why I greeted with enthusiasm the emergence of a human rights group in the 1970s named after Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter.

    These Jewish organizations came into existence at a time when my family – and so many others – needed them desperately, and their contributions and achievements on behalf of Jews and non-Jews made me proud.

    ………….and now the betrayal of the “lesson” of the Holocaust (as if the Holocaust was an exercise in pedagogy by “the Zionists:,

    “But times have changed, and the missions of these groups have changed. All too often, advocacy for universal human rights has taken a back seat to their belief that they must support the Israeli government unconditionally.”

    As I said, truly yukky!

  23. NIMN Says:

    From one of the links……….the “brave” blog, I think…….

    “With that caveat, I think there is something a little brave for a member of Congress or an administration official to criticize AIPAC or criticize Israel harshly because it could end their political career.”

    Really??

    The most powerful country in the world, able to face down Russia, China, Iran, can go to war against the UN’s wishes, is, when it comes to the Middle East, cowered by………….Zionists! to such an extent that Congress men and women dared not open their mouths.

    The real question is, of course, how did such puerile twaddle attain the bogus status of “fact”?
    In other words, the question is no longer the reality that this latest twist in Jewish conspiracy theory is a myth, but why and how so many, otherwise serious people believe it to be true; people who should know a lot, lot, better.

  24. J. Arnon Says:

    Absolute Observer Says:

    “JA,
    Thanks for your comments. I guess this is the type of faux homey stuff I am referring to, rather than liberalism in the political sense,

    It is from “Jewish Voice for Peace”

    “I remember listening to my great aunt Tante Babe’s heartbreaking stories of seeing her young cousin killed during an attack on thousands of Jews, a pogrom, in her city of Bialystok. That infamous pogrom was in 1906, the very year the American Jewish Committee was founded to oppose such attacks.””

    I agree, and I don’t take “Jewish Voices for Peace” seriously. It’s a combination of schmaltz, bad history and worse politics. In my experience people who traffic in such garbage are not liberal in the real sense of the world since they hardly ever factor in the politics and policies of Israel’s enemies.

  25. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Gil and Absolute Observer say pretty well what I would have said. I won’t bother the moderator with a point by point response to Seth – I don’t feel like granting him that much respect – but I will add that I quoted him precisely – the quotes are all “copy and paste” from his comment. Perhaps he would like to respond as precisely as I did.

    Why does it take precise, pin-point critiques to get detailed responses from Seth and those like him? What’s wrong with making these points to begin with, including the links he finally provides. That said, Seth may not have said in so many words that Israel had a worse human rights record, etc, but what he did say implied that it was no better than that of the other states cited. His actual words were: “it doesn’t mean discrimination within Israel is necessarily worse than in other places. It isn’t.”

    What you significantly fail to say is that it is _better_ than in Saudi Arabia, etc, and your actual wording implies that it is _as bad_ as Saudi, etc.

    As you well know, I spent my whole working life working with the precise meaning of words and phrases: yours don’t hack it.

    • Seth Says:

      ——————
      “Why does it take precise, pin-point critiques to get detailed responses from Seth and those like him? What’s wrong with making these points to begin with, including the links he finally provides. That said, Seth may not have said in so many words that Israel had a worse human rights record, etc, but what he did say implied that it was no better than that of the other states cited. His actual words were: “it doesn’t mean discrimination within Israel is necessarily worse than in other places. It isn’t.”

      What you significantly fail to say is that it is _better_ than in Saudi Arabia, etc, and your actual wording implies that it is _as bad_ as Saudi, etc. ”
      ——————

      Well, you’re right in that I could have provided links to
      the major reports by the major human rights organization,
      but I hadn’t realized you were unfamiliar with them. I was only making the points that are continually made among activists on the left working on this issue. Since Engage is supposedly engaged with the arguments of such groups, I didn’t think it was necessary, but I was wrong. Also, the
      reports I linked to were not about rights within Israel
      itself, but Israel’s conduct in recent wars, in particular
      the 2006 war. I didn’t link to anything about human rights
      within Israel itself precisely because it doesn’t seem to me
      nearly as major an issue as Israel’s actions in the recent
      wars.

      Your reference to Saudia Arabia is bizarre. I
      made a brief point in
      general about how institutional discrimination in Israel does
      not mean that in practice such discrimination is worse than in other countries where there may not be such official discrimination, but where in reality there could still be plenty. A general point.

      I don’t think a particular comparison with Saudi Arabia
      had been brought up before – I just looked it over again
      and I don’t see it, but maybe I missed it. Your conclusion
      that “what he did say implied that it was no better than that of the other states cited” is entirely in your
      imagination.
      If it will make you happy, I’ll say what I think, which of
      course is that Saudia Arabia is a nightmare and human
      rights within Israel are far better. I could go on making
      comparisons with some of the other torture states around
      Israel if that would make you happy.

      “As you well know, I spent my whole working life working with the precise meaning of words and phrases: yours don’t hack it.”

      “as you well know”? I don’t think I know you. And, I’m sorry,
      but I just looked over the whole exchange, and while we
      obviously disagree, I don’t see why you need to be so rude
      and insert all sorts of little attacks like
      “But Seth is astonishingly ahistorical and shows no awareness of (and worse, probably cares less about) how this situation arose.”

      “(and worse, probably cares less about)” ?
      I don’t really understand why you feel the need to say
      such things.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “Well, you’re right in that I could have provided links to
        the major reports by the major human rights organization,
        but I hadn’t realized you were unfamiliar with them.”

        Two points: firstly, it is irrelevant to say this on my knowledge or otherwise of the major human rights organisations. It is incumbent upon you to source your argument, not on me (or others like me) to know what you are talking about. Secondly, when you do provide links, it is to two Human Rights Watch reports. This is _a_ major human rights organisation, not all, or lots. Where are all the others?

        “I didn’t link to anything about human rights
        within Israel itself precisely because it doesn’t seem to me
        nearly as major an issue as Israel’s actions in the recent wars.” Maybe not, but you do go on about Israeli human rights, or, rather, Israeli breaches of them – quite specifically, in fact. The reference to Saudi Arabia, etc, is because you, deliberately or otherwise, leave the impression that Israel’s human rights record is no better than countries such as these. This is the typical anti-Israel/anti-Zionist approach. And as far as references to Israel’s disregard of civilian safety, etc, during its wars, what evidence do you cite? None. You can’t even refute (British) Col. A. Kemp’s statement, on air and on the record, as to his views on Israel’s efforts to minimise civilian casualties, specifically during Operation Cast Lead.

        As for this comparison being “entirely in your
        imagination”, you actually write “it doesn’t mean discrimination within Israel is necessarily worse than in other places. It isn’t.” What is this if not an implicit comparison? Or are we in Humpty Dumpty territory here? You know the one, “words mean what I want them to mean”. Lewis Carroll knew all about sophists.

        Finally, when claiming that only the US and Israel fail to support the universally demanded two-state solution, you link to the 2010 UN General Assembly resolution. What you don’t say is who (and how many) voted for it, who (and how many) voted against it and who (and how many) abstained. Nor do you, therefore, note who voted for an unacceptable Resolution, from Israel’s point of view. And Israel is something of an interested party here, as are the Palestinians, of course.

        As Zkharya says in another context of your writings: “can’t have it both ways”. Detailed information is vital if you are to be taken seriously.

        ““as you well know”? I don’t think I know you. And, I’m sorry, but I just looked over the whole exchange, and while we obviously disagree, I don’t see why you need to be so rude and insert all sorts of little attacks like “But Seth is astonishingly ahistorical and shows no awareness of (and worse, probably cares less about) how this situation arose.”

        If you don’t know, then you plainly don’t read these pages and these comments threads with any degree of assiduity. That’s your problem, not mine. And, actually, I’m remarkably polite compared with some of the comments directed towards you, so stop acting the hurt innocent. To call you ahistorical, etc, is no more than a reasonable comment on what your knowledge base appears to be. Instead of getting the hump and complaining about my language, reply in specific terms to show that I’m wrong in my statements.

        You’re sounding remarkably like some other posters here who prefer to take offence to responding to the points made. As I’m possibly too fond of saying, along with US President Harry Truman, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

  26. J. Arnon Says:

    NIMN Says:

    “From one of the links……….the “brave” blog, I think…….

    “With that caveat, I think there is something a little brave for a member of Congress or an administration official to criticize AIPAC or criticize Israel harshly because it could end their political career.”

    Really??”

    I believe I remember that quote (it was by Beinart, right?). Elsewhere Beinart had said that it takes no courage to criticize Israel or the “Jewish establishment” in the US.

    What Beinart should have said is that most members of Congress are lazy and would rather not go through a tough campaign which is why they don’t criticize any well organized lobby not just AIPAC.

    If someone of Beinart’s abilities, temperament (he is a supporter of Israel and has many friends who belong to AIPAC) and experience can fall back on the language of demonization (the powerful “Jewish Lobby) this means, to me, that he can be just as lazy as the Congress people he criticizes.

    Now while Beinart made some valid points in his essay he did not, as was pointed out, offer any concrete data to back up his views that young people in America are disengaged from Israel because the Jewish State is not liberal enough for them. I could think of many other reason why they disengaged most of them non political.

    • Bill Says:

      It’s not that congressmen are lazy, it’s that most to all of them are smart enough to know what the average American voter thinks and feels about Israel. While what Israel should do with respect to the territories and its hostile neighbors (in context of what it reasonably can do) sparks sober and serious debate even in the mainstream, unless you are on the radical left or far right, the average mainstream American *likes* Israel, prefers it and better identifies with it in contrast to its neighbors. I.e., the average Joe and Jane would rather live there than elsewhere in the region – and that “where you’d rather sit is where you should stand” carries a lot of weight. If politicians start saying “From River to the Sea Palestine will be Free” (but just free of Jews since Hamas is so small-l liberal and libertarian), they’ll have trouble running for dog catcher — maybe even in Berkeley.

      As for AIPAC and J-street, like any good lobby, they also know how to position themselves with American opinion. America wags *their* tail, not the other way around. In contrast, NAMBLA, the KKK, Dog Fighters & Bear Baiters for America, just fall flat on K street. Their office space, if they have any, is right next to Crazy Ned the Wino’s cardboard box. And it’s not because of anti-pederasty lobbies, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ASPCA, but because they’re so out of touch. If AIPAC started going all Kahanist on us (and US) and began talking about carpetbombing Gaza as sport and airing it on ESPN2 (as they’re sometimes caricatured), they’d be sharing office space with the people think the moon landing was faked.

      • J. Arnon Says:

        True enough, most Americans support Israel (as do I) and congresspeople in the main know that. Moreover many of them also have warm feelings and support the Jewish State. So it’s not “all about their giving in to Jewish pressure” as Mearsheimer and Walt would like to believe.

        Still, congress in the main also doesn’t usually oppose well organized lobbies like the NRA or AARP and some others that are far more powerful than AIPAC. It does take a lot of energy and time to win an lection when you are opposed by some powerful lobbying group. As an American I support lobbying, it’s an intrinsic part of out system and the US Constitution allows it.

        In the past, Labor Unions had a strong lobbying presence in Washington, today less so. I look forward to the day when Labor Unions will again be a strong voice for workers in my county.

        • Bill Says:

          Well NRA still just a good job tapping the support for the 2nd amendment held by bluedogs, republicans and independents. AARP still has pull because everyone’s gonna get old so once again. Those two bluechip lobbies definitely know how to put their letterhead between the politicians lips and the voter’s butt. Like AIPAC, they can triangulate like only a few can. The labor unions’ bi-partisan support has been falling for years (down to a party-loyal democratic core base) because of quite a few reasons, but that also includes their loss of karma with the voters. I think some of the recent souring of “Labor Lobby” support is coming from the perceived oversteering by government employee unions (esp. SEIU’s bad press flypaper) which don’t sit well with non-gov-employed union and plain non-union voters, but that’s my opinion. But this is analogous to what would happen if AIPAC really jumped the shark — which they’re still smart enough not to do.

  27. J. Arnon Says:

    I realize that this is an American debate, but AO may be interested in this rebuttal to Peter Beinart’s assertion that young liberals American Jews are disengaged from Israel.

    “Wrong Numbers: Peter Beinart’s argument about Israel and liberal American Jews is built on misread data” By Theodore Sasson and Leonard Saxe

    http://www.tabletmag.com/news-and-politics/34533/wrong-numbers/

  28. Absolute Observer Says:

    Just a couple of things

    Jews have the right to return. That is Israel’s immigration policy (though it by no means exhausts it).

    Should they do so and adopt to become citizens then they become Israeli citizens, not before. In other words, “Israel IS a state of its people, with Israeli nationality”.
    As far as I know, unless one is an Israeli citizen (and even if one is Jewish) one does not have the vote, etc. Of course, I could be wrong.

    Of course, if you want to hold all Jews as in some way responsible for Israel’s policy, because they are all potential Israelis, then fine. You’re not alone in that.

    If you want to hold all Jews in some way responsible because a particular political leader uses such a rhetorical ploy, then fine.
    Strange though, I always thought that one aspect of being on the left meant speaking “truth to power”, rather than accepting power as truth, just because the powerful say it.

    Second, it would appear that your fundamental problem with Israel is that it is “Jewish state” which, makes it irretreviably “discriminatory”.

    I have certainly no interest in defending nation-states.
    The point to be made is why Israel is considered unique. Perhaps, you can tell me what state is not “discriminatory”, both formally and informally?

    True, most states, but by no means all, do not “discriminate” on the basis of religion but, as I said, on other criteria. Not everyone can be a citizen of everywhere else (unfortunately).

    Assuming your grandparents were not British, you cannot become a British citizen. You could have some sort of residential status, but you could not vote, for example. And, why? Because the British rules on citizenship exclude you; not because of your religion, but because of your nationality and your history. Alternatively, if your grandparents were British you would be “welcome” in the UK, even though your family had not lived here for, what 100 years.

    As an American you and later generations of you will continue to have rights of citizenship in the US. As a Jewish person, you also have a potential right to Israeli citizenship. The former because of the rules on US citizenship and the other because of Israeli rules on who can become a citizen. The same rules that, say stop a Mexican being a citizen of both countries but not Mexico. (And, I have no need to tell you about the informal discrimination against Mexicans in the US, do I?)

    After nearly 2000 years, the rules within Europe have changed over the past couple of decades; although I am not sure in a French national can vote in the UK or vice-versa. I think not.
    it can’t be that pleasant being Polish in some parts of the country.

    Equally, many states since 1948 continue to exclude people who were born on the territory the newer state now holds. Israel is no different there either.

    I have a feeling that both of us think that arbitrary immigration rules suck the big one. But that is not the question. The question is why Israel – who uses the criterion of “Jew” as its arbitrary rule – is so very different, and terrible from others.

    I am also aware that Arab citizens of Israel are denied some rights that are not denied to other citizens. This is completely unacceptable. However, as with any other country, demanding a full equality of political and civil rights does not mean that the character of the state need change. (After all, the US survived as the US and Britain as Britain following the diverse anti-slavery and Catholic and Jewish Emancipation Acts as well as the presence of a healthy religious diversity (and in the latter case, remains a Protestant country).

    And, sometimes, when I drive past a Church and see a sign saying “Jesus loves me” or a Tory poster about “what Britain needs”, I don’t feel any need to tell all who will listen that I am not Christian nor a Tory. Nor, were I in the UK and saw a synagogue offering unwavering support for Israel would I feel any need to say “not in my name”. (Although I do wonder how long a synagogue in the UK would not be grafittid or attacked for publically expressing such a sentiment). I know where I stand on many things.

    My position on Israel has been formed because of my politics. It is a political decision and has as much to do with my “Jewishness” (whatever that means!) as do my ideas of progressive taxation.

    In fact, I get rather annoyed when people think that my saying that Israel is not a unique nation (either the worse or the best) amongst nations is because of what they take to be the fact of my birth; an instinct, rather than a reasoned position with which people can agree or disagree and argue and discuss as with any political and social matter.

    Indeed, there are lots of people and groups who claim me as their “own” and “speak in my name” (even those about which I have no choice of being a member – back to nationality) and with whom I wouldn’t pass the time of day. But, in the end, I trust sensible people to work that out for themselves, rather than having to “declare” myself (or being forced to declare myself) on my lack of belief in Jesus or God or the Tories or John Lennon.

    • Seth Says:

      I will try to find time to respond later, but as far as this:

      —————————
      In fact, I get rather annoyed when people think that my saying that Israel is not a unique nation (either the worse or the best) amongst nations is because of what they take to be the fact of my birth; an instinct, rather than a reasoned position with which people can agree or disagree and argue and discuss as with any political and social matter.
      —————————

      I think you are completely right to be annoyed in that way.

      I have encountered something similar among the slimier
      segments of the left, and it pisses me off no end. So
      for certain scumbags (see, I said it pisses me off), I can
      only be supporting a two-state solution instead of one-state
      because I’m Jewish, or I can only oppose an academic
      boycott because I’m Jewish. It’s pretty rare, at least in
      my experience, but it is out there. It does work the
      other way though, i guess I should add, in that supporters
      of a one-state solution or broader BDS campaigns than
      I support can also be coming to their
      conclusions based on good-faith arguments and reasoning.

      We’re mostly talking past each other at this point though.
      I think you are factually wrong on the comparison of
      Israeli laws with other countries’. But some of it is a matter
      of personal judgments and motivations, and that’s
      a hard thing to argue about in person, let alone on a web site.

      • zkharya Says:

        Well, Seth, if I have misunderstood you, I apologise. I get tired too.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Now this is interesting: Seth says, above, “supporters
        of a one-state solution or broader BDS campaigns than
        I support”.

        This is interesting because in a reply to me, he specifically denied that he was of the BDS persuasion. Now, by his own admission, he does support at least some elements of the BDS campaign (the quote doesn’t imply support for a one-state solution – there is an invisible comma in it). Fascinating: can one be a little bit pregnant?

        • Seth Says:

          Yes, this is interesting and fascinating.
          You write “he specifically denied that he was of the BDS persuasion.” What I had written was:
          ————————-
          “6. “comrades in the BDS movement”? Take a deep breath
          and listen to yourself. I said absolutely nothing about
          BDS. Not that it actually matters, but I oppose
          an academic or cultural boycott, but I am certainly in favor
          of ending all military aid used to punish and terrorize a civilian population. ”
          ————————-
          Since BDS includes efforts on ending military aid used
          for the occupation, that therefore means I support some aspects of BDS, but not others. So e.g. I supported the recent divestment effort at Berkeley but not efforts for an academic or cultural boycott. Hence the later reference to “broader BDS campaigns that I support”. Where do you see the contradiction?

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Now we really are getting Jesuitical: “Since BDS includes efforts on ending military aid used for the occupation, that therefore means I support some aspects of BDS, but not others. So e.g. I supported the recent divestment effort at Berkeley but not efforts for an academic or cultural boycott. Hence the later reference to “broader BDS campaigns that I support”. Where do you see the contradiction?”
          Well, you clearly implied that you didn’t support the BDS effort, and in fact specifically told me off for saying so. As Zkharya has already said “can’t have it both ways”. Just like attacks on academic freedom anywhere being an attack on academic freedom everywhere (my formulation), so either ione supports boycotts or one doesn’t. Can’t be a little bit bit pregnant. And you are clearly willing to boycott Israel (on whatever basis) and only Israel.

          If I’m wrong, say so. And say why, in detail, not just as an assertion.

        • Seth Says:

          “Well, you clearly implied that you didn’t support the BDS effort, and in fact specifically told me off for saying so”
          ———————————————————–
          Can you please stop confusing your imagination about what I “imply” with what I actually say? Again,
          “I oppose an academic or cultural boycott, but I am certainly in favor of ending all military aid used to punish and terrorize a civilian population.”

          Many different things fall under BDS – aside from being
          rather decentralized with people working on different targets,
          it does include at least boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.
          Hence the name. Some it I support, some of it don’t.
          Somewhere here I gave an example of a BDS action I
          support – the recently Berkeley resolution.

          What exactly is it about all this that you are unable to
          process? That I’m only partly of the “BDS persuasion”, but
          not entirely?
          ———————————————-
          And you are clearly willing to boycott Israel (on whatever basis) and only Israel.
          ———————————————-
          Well that is absolutely and totally false and there is no
          basis whatsoever for that conclusion from anything I have
          written and in fact I have explicitly contradicted that
          view many times so far.

          btw, as far as this:

          “As you well know, I spent my whole working life working with the precise meaning of words and phrases:”

          I’m still wondering how I’m supposed to know that, which I have to admit is getting more of my interest now.

          You said before “If you don’t know, then you plainly don’t read these pages and these comments threads with any degree of assiduity.”

          After looking up “assiduity”, I have to agree. But I do look
          at Engage fairly regularly, even if I don’t follow everything
          in detail. I haven’t posted on Engage in probably a year I
          think, although it’s possible we had some exchange before.
          I’ve seen your name on Engage postings, but really how
          am I supposed to know anything about you? Your comment
          is sort of creeping me out.

  29. Absolute Observer Says:

    I agree that many BDS supporters and those seeking a “one-state solution” act in good faith. I reject the comparison entirely between opposition to their position and antisemitism.

    The BDS movement is unable, like yourself, to answer the question, why Israel and only Israel? Or, in other terms, why and only why the Jewish state and only the Jewish state and its expression of Jewish nationalism?

    The BDS movement deny any complicity whatsoever with the antisemitism that can, and does, attach to it, even when it is pointed out to them carefully and patiently. Their response is in 99.9% of the time, to claim that antisemitism is a diversion from the “real issue” – see the SWP’s treatment of Rosen and Greenstein” – both of whom define themselves as “antizionist”.

    The BDS movement fail to be specific as to their aims of their demands, but rather leave an ambiguous silence as to whether it is until the end of the occupation (and the end of the occupation is accepted as a goal by the majority of people in Israel and outside) or the end of Israel as an expression of Jewish nationalism, whilst appearing to accept other peoples legitimate right to the same arrangements.

    The BDS movement have, on numerous occasion, made alliance with overt racists and antisemites. They have remained silent in the face of the most irrational, racist expression of “criticisms” of Israel.

    The BDS movement seek to bring the question of Israel into the centre of movements and activism that has nothing to do with Israel (i.e. the STWC and opposition to Iraq).

    The BDS more than imply that support, no matter how critical of Israel, is illegitimate, period. For the BDS movement, the only “criticism” is boycott.

    The BDS movement make no distinction between the ideologies that comprise Zionism nor differing political positions that exist between Israelis within Israel. The BDS movement is blind to the history of the Jewish aspiration for national self-determination, and play a zero-sum game with other peoples legitimate aspirations – including Palestinian aspirations.

    So, no, there is no comparison, no “balance” between those who demonize Israel and only Israel and, who, in so doing, close their minds to any other outcome other than to work toward the end of Israel’s existence as the expression of Jewish self-determination.

    If the BDS movement even began to approach the diversity of opinion from the mad right to the progressives that exists among what are known as “supporters of Israel” both in Israel and elsewhere, then, and only then, could one even begin to to talk about parity. For the BDS movement “ZIonism” per se is not to be tolerated. And they accuse their imaginative reductionist concept of “ZIonists” of rigidity and inflexibility!

    Go figure!

  30. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Okay, Seth, so I’ve read the UN Resolution you linked to above, and I could take the next few pages of this thread deconstructing it, but I’ll save the moderator’s sanity (and mine). All I’ll say is that most of it so general as to be unnecessary, much of the rest reiterates generalized views of wicked Israeli practices, but (being a political and no a legal document) fails to provide significant evidence, and the rest ignores history.

    Just, in fact, like most politicians everywhere.

    And your point is?

    • J. Arnon Says:

      Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “Okay, Seth, so I’ve read the UN Resolution you linked to above, and I could take the next few pages of this thread deconstructing it, but I’ll save the moderator’s sanity (and mine).”

      This has been done here, by experts:

      “Goldstone and Gaza: Have Human Rights Gone Wrong?”

      “AJC’s expert panel examine the impact of the Goldstone Report on human rights advocacy. Recorded at AJC’s 2010 Annual Meeting, featuring Professor Gabriella Blum and Canadian parliamentarian Irwin Cotler. Moderated by Bobby Lapin.”

      Irwin Cottler:

      “Irwin Cotler, PC, OC, MP (born May 8, 1940) was Canada’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada from 2003 until the Liberal government of Paul Martin lost power following the 2006 federal election. He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons for the constituency of Mount Royal in a by-election in November 1999, winning over 91% of votes cast.[1] He was sworn into Cabinet on December 12, 2003.”

      Cottler points out that the UN “Human Rights” commission has two standing items on its agenda:

      One, each time they meet they examine supposed human rights violations in Israel.

      Two: they examine human rights violations everywhere else in the world.

      He is trying to change that ridiculous situation.

      No wonder most thinking people don’t take human “rights” groups seriously.

    • Seth Says:

      I feel like Voldemort, being splintered all over the place
      on the comments on the posting. I thought the point
      was clear in my very first posting. The piece in Dissent,
      as well as the one the Dissent piece links to, are stumbling
      around looking for an explanation of why
      “Israel is now reviled by many on the left”. The most
      obvious answer is ignored. Israel has carried out an
      occupation for now more than 40 years of increasing
      brutality, acts in horrendous ways in its recent wars, shows
      no interest in an agreement to end the occupation, and
      receives crucial support in all this from the US and its partner.
      The UN resolutions are one (small) piece of the general
      knowledge base that causes people to come to these
      conclusions, as are the human rights reports, etc. There is
      really no need to argue with me about this. I’m simply
      putting forward the obvious explanation for what’s going on.
      These are the sorts of facts that get cited. I mean,
      I forced myself to read Dershowitz and Julius. Pick up
      Finkelstein’s “Beyond Chutzpah” and read it, and compare
      it to Dershowitz’s “The Case for Israel”. Or read Ali
      Abunimah, etc., to find out what people are thinking.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “I mean, I forced myself to read Dershowitz and Julius. Pick up Finkelstein’s “Beyond Chutzpah” and read it, and compare it to Dershowitz’s “The Case for Israel”. Or read Ali
        Abunimah, etc., to find out what people are thinking.”

        You know, I feel so sorry for poor Seth: he had to force himself to read Julius. Now I know he has problems: the clear, vital and, most importantly, _vibrant_ intellectuallity of Julius, and he finds he has to force himself to read. I wonder if what he means is that he had difficult in keeping up with Julius?

        I am inclined to agree with about Dershowitz and the case for Israel, in one respect at least: D. does go on a bit and get somewhat repititious, even if he does tell the truth (perhaps that’s what poor old Seth finds so difficult about these books).

        But how he can expect anyone here to take him seriously when _he_ takes Finkelstein seriously…He really hasn’t been reading these pages in any depth. And he reveals his own agenda yet again, as many of us have been noting over and over.

  31. Absolute Observer Says:

    So Seth leaves………..
    Repeating the point he made at the beginning; the very question that begs an answer……..”The most
    obvious answer is ignored”.
    Israel’s acts are so terrible so brutal as compared to any other nation that it brings down upon itself the venom of the entire left and its ability to act as a glue of cohesion at a time when they can’t even organise effectively against a war their own countries are waging (illegally).

    Not a word about the nature of the left, its historical relationship to Jewish national self-determination. Nothing about the history of the last 40 years, which includes the end of the cold war, the rise of the right, the demise of Arab pan nationalism, the rise of political Islam, the loss of the left to capture the popular imagination (compare the movement against Vietnam and that against the war of Iraq), so on and so on.

    And, that is extent of his analysis.

    This lack of ability to think is exemplified by his reduction to the conflict to Dershowitz (and Julius?)v Finkelstein as if these are the only positions one can take; a Schmittian, you are with us or against us.

    And, if he is right that Finkelstein is what “people” think, (and the same point could be said for Dershowitz) then the world is in a worse situation that I ever realised.

    Mind you, I do envy the peace Seth must get by abrogating the responsibility of thinking and seeing the world in terms of empty absolutes.

    Funny, for all his words, when it comes down to it, Seth is really no different from every predictable unthinking partisan that thinks in terms of Gaza or Jerusalem..

    How disappointing

    • j.dyer Says:

      Paul Berman and editor at Dissent has some answers to the question of why the left demonizes Israel:

      “No Debate: Paul Berman challenges liberal intellectuals to take a stand against Tariq Ramadan”

      http://www.tabletmag.com/podcasts/34158/no-debate/

      The left has a tendency to pile on anyone who is a strong and vociferous supporter of Israel. This is why people like Dershowitz, Julius are constantly mentioned in a negative light.

    • Seth Says:

      Actually I haven’t left. Did I say I was leaving?
      It’s sort of hard to answer everything.

      But more or less, yes, you have the core of my “analysis”, although I wouldn’t go so far as to call it
      an analysis. Israel’s increasingly brutal behavior,
      as extensively documented, has an effect on how it is
      perceived.

      “Israel’s acts are so terrible so brutal as compared to any other nation that it brings down upon itself the venom of the entire left and its ability to act as a glue of cohesion at a time when they can’t even organise effectively against a war their own countries are waging (illegally).”

      Well the left isn’t organizing very effectively against
      Israel’s occupation either. I don’t know who you are
      citing with the reference to Israel’s acts being “so brutal
      as compared to any other nation”. I know you are not citing me. But they are brutal
      and could not be possible without the support of the US.
      I’m not crazy about being responsible (as a US citizen)
      for cluster bombs killing and maiming innocent people in South Lebanon, e.g., so I’m glad people are organizing to stop this. If you wish that people wouldn’t
      bother with such things and focus on something else, that’s
      your judgment. If you are bothered by people working to stop collective punishment of a civilian population, that’s your call.

      The point about the Finkelstein
      book is that he uses the reports of human rights groups
      to rebut the standard apologetics for Israeli violence.
      You know, Israel tries to prevent civilian casualties but they’re fighting forces who hide among civilians, etc. etc.

      Really, if you want to counter the awful focus of the left on Israel you need a better argument than “there are worse things happening elsewhere”.

      The other things you mention –
      “Not a word about the nature of the left, its historical relationship to Jewish national self-determination. Nothing about the history of the last 40 years, which includes the end of the cold war, the rise of the right, the demise of Arab pan nationalism, the rise of political Islam, the loss of the left to capture the popular imagination (compare the movement against Vietnam and that against the war of Iraq), so on and so on.”

      yes, they are there, and they are interesting topics,
      but they are not the major factor in the increased focus
      on Israel, in my opinion. Lebanon 2006 and the Gaza “war” had a very significant effect. There actually are plenty of people on the left reading human rights reports, and it has an effect. And not just on the left, I think.

    • Seth Says:

      btw, regarding this:

      “If that is the basis and correlation between abuser and hatred, then one must ask why the left (or sections of it) are so quiet, quiesscent when it comes to other states’ abuses. One need only think of China, Iran, Pakistian, the US, Australia, the UK, Venuzula, Nigeria. etc, etc.. ”

      The answer is again very simple. I cannot speak for the “left” elsewhere (or for the left in the US, let alone all “sections” of it), but I don’t think the relation between direct US support for crimes carried out by Israel exists to the same extent in the other countries you mention. The US could end the occupation in about 2 minutes if it pressured Israel to do so. I’m not sure what immediate effect US “pressure” in some way, would have in Iran, for example. Of course people involved in activism regarding Israel are also involved in other places the US is engaged, such as in Afghanistan. I really don’t see it being very different than, say, Central America in 80s, organizing against support for the contras, or US involvement in death squads in El Salvador. That was a “unifying” force in the left roughly similar as to Israel/Palestine today. Probably most of your arguments could have applied back then as well (“why focus on the Contras? Look at what the Soviet Union is doing”, etc. )

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        So it’s only Israel. Which is what we have been saying foir lo, these many days now. It is only “Israel’s increasingly brutal behavior, as extensively documented, has an effect on how it is perceived” that exercises Seth. Nothing else. Not the brutality of the Sudanese givernment towards the inhabitants of Darfur; not the brutality of the Mugabe government against fellow Zimbabweans; nor the brutality of the Chinese government against the Tibetans or the Uigurs of Shingang Province.

        You are entitled, Seth, to be single-issue. However, if you come here as a single-issue campaigner, expect to have it pointed out, again and again, that singling out Israel and failing to contextualise your concerns will get the sort of response that you have received.

        And, collectively, we have been very polite so far.

  32. J. Arnon Says:

    Seth Says: “I thought the point
    was clear in my very first posting. The piece in Dissent,
    as well as the one the Dissent piece links to, are stumbling
    around looking for an explanation of why
    “Israel is now reviled by many on the left”. The most
    obvious answer is ignored. Israel has carried out an
    occupation for now more than 40 years of increasing
    brutality, acts in horrendous ways in its recent wars, shows
    no interest in an agreement to end the occupation, and
    receives crucial support in all this from the US and its partner.”

    I agree with Brian when he says that your posts are vague and your charges reckless and mostly without merit.

    Firstly, it’s not true that Israel is reviled by the left because of a forty year occupation.

    China’s occupation of Tibet is much older as is India’s of Kashmir to cite but two examples.

    Next, nor is there increased brutality: you offer no comparative credible number of deaths and arrests to support your charge. There have been since 2000 genocides in Rwanda and in the Sudan but the left has nothing to say about that. Moreover human rights violations in China, in Iran, in Sudan and the ongoing wars in the Congo that have already killed five to six million people is hardly ever mentioned. I can also mention Burma and Algeria, and Thailand and Venezuela and many other places were casualty rates are a hundred times as high as those in Gaza.

    People in the left when they target Israel use adjudicates like horrendous as they think they have said somehitng.

    I suggest that Seth look into his own heart and head to answer the question about why the left demonizes Israel.

    I suspect a tradition of antisemitism is at play, here, as well as an attempt to rally Muslim immigrants to their cause as is evident with people like Galloway.

    Jews as ever are expandable.

    • Seth Says:

      ——————————————
      I agree with Brian when he says that your posts are vague and your charges reckless and mostly without merit.”
      ——————————————

      I’m not going to carry out my own investigation of Israeli
      actions with regard to the Palestinians and Lebanon, the
      two cases I’ve mentioned. I referred to some of the reports,
      there are many others, I referred to some of the responses,
      which I’ve looked at and don’t amount to much. I mean, if you have any source that seriously contradict the material in the HRW report on Israeli Use of cluster bombs in South Lebanon, e.g.,

      http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/16/flooding-south-lebanon

      I’d really like to see it. Likewise for the AI reports on the
      2006 war, Amnesty’s new entry about Israel and the
      territories in their 2010 yearly report

      http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_AZ_EN.pdf#page=129

      etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

      ——————————————
      “Firstly, it’s not true that Israel is reviled by the left because of a forty year occupation.
      China’s occupation of Tibet is much older as is India’s of Kashmir to cite but two examples. ”
      ——————————————

      Does China receive crucial support in the occupation “from the US and its partner”, which was one of the clauses I listed as a reason for the focus on Israel?

      ——————————————
      Next, nor is there increased brutality:…
      ——————————————
      Judging by your examples, you misunderstand the point.
      I was referring to increased brutality by Israel over time.
      Especially from 2006 till now.

      In none of your examples does the US have the
      kind of direct responsibility that it has regarding Israeli
      crimes. You are simply ignoring this aspect of what I wrote.
      I agree with you though that for some of the cases you
      mention, such as the Congo, it is shameful that they have
      not received more coverage.

      ——————————————
      People in the left when they target Israel use adjudicates like horrendous as they think they have said somehitng.
      —————————————–
      Oh please, now we can’t use the word “horrendous”?
      Collective punishment of a civilian population is horrendous.
      So you tell me. What is the appropriate way to refer to
      the dropping by Israel of “twice as many submunitions used by Coalition forces in Iraq in 2003 and more than 15 times the number used by the United States in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002″ over an “area comparable in size to the US state of Rhode Island”

      http://www.hrw.org/en/node/62428/section/4

      And keeping in mind that these were US supplied cluster
      bombs that are still killing and maiming people. What is
      an appropriate word to describe this? You tell me. I would
      really like to know. “unfortunate” “a mistake” “an error
      of judgment” “collateral damage” ? you tell me, please.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        Seth, your single-issue preoccupation is getting dangerously close to overstepping the mark. And you’ve added exactly one more human rights organisation to your list. However, Amnesty is suspect to many (and not just to engageniks) as to how seriously we should take it.

        The main point is that you dribble out your links so slowly. It’s not an argument, it’s a desperate defence, because we keep questioning yoy, your sources, and, regrettably, your veracity.

  33. Absolute Observer Says:

    Yawn.
    1. As I have said time and time again, my argument is not that other countries do worse things – which of course they do – it is your argument that the position of Israel at the centre of the left ralllying calls is not answered by the simplistic “Israel’s trouncing of Palestinians in Gaza, or checkpoints, etc, in the West Bank.

    2. It may surprise you but I am grown up enough to know that you are not responsible for cluster bombs your country produces, nor the illegal war you country is involved in, nor your country’s racism; your country’s attitude to Mexicans, etc.

    3. I appreciate you may be a bit frustrated at actually having to explain your position to “people who don’t think like you” (you need to get out more), but I am not sure where you get the idea I am opposed to people organising against cluster bombs, collective guilt, etc.; it is just I am more choosey about my friends and who I choose to ally with. (Take a look at the AWL discussions on this issue). But, I am used to “people who think like you” to assume that because I disagree with “what everyone thinks” I am supportive or apathetic about what Israel is or is doing. I am also used to “people who think like you” who dare raise criticism about the manner, content and form of much “criticism” of Israel likening me to fascism and an implicit supporter of fascists movement. For a moment I expected better from you, but you would I have thought known by now.

    4, The US could stop it in two minutes. When do make up your mind. By this account Israel has no power at all other than that granted it by the US. If that is the case, then maybe you should direct your energies against the US government, instead of its farm team. Not to mention that the CIA was far more involved in that region that Americans in the US.

    5. In the UK and Europe whilst the question of South America was important it hardly had the same cache as Israel and the global nature of people’s anger and ire at Israel, which, as I explained to you cannot of itself be accounted by Israel’s actions. And, yes, people involved in questions about Israel are involved in Afghanistan, etc. The problem is, many often see Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. as intimately related to the matters in Israel, if not determined by it. Surely you have read “people like you” and who is it that controls US foreign policy (even if you disagree with them)? But, good to know you agree with my point that Israel is being used to get people involved in other conflicts.

    And, according to your logic about how powerful the US is and weal Israel, why are you not calling for a boycott and organise against the Afghan goverment. After all, they are more in the pockets of your goverment than Israel is and is one of the main reasons your government is still there propping it up.

    Again, not one of your evasions and answers has solved the riddle, not why people are pissed with Israel, but why what is normal in critical politics is absent with Israell (i.e. Zonism as innately racist, colonlist, that Israel is inherently illegitiimate, that their treatment of Plastinians is akin to Nazism or apartheid, that there is no constituency in Israel worthy of connecting with; and, as you yourself seem to believe, no distinction between Israelis and their goverment (you oppose a cultural and academic boycott, but in the UK, that is not the case for organisations like BRICUP, UCU, PSC, etc.). None of what you have said explain this when it comes to Israel. If, on the other hand, oppostion to Israeli policies was more like the others you mention, then this discussion would not be taking place.

    But what I find most interesting is that Israel is often accused of “ethnic cleansing” and of creating a country “free” of Palestinians; however, what they are (wrongly) accused of doing practically you have achieved “theoretically” by writing them out of the region other than passive “innocent” – in the Arendtian sense – victims. That is terribly insulting you know.

    You mention the Soviet Union, one thing I would have though people would have learnt is that citing “people who think ” alike is no guide to the veracity of what is thought. “Baaaaah – Four legs good, two legs bad. But, keep towing the line; you need to be brave to stand out in a crowd, and say, “yes, but” (assuming you think there is a “but”)

    • Seth Says:

      2. It may surprise you but I am grown up enough to know that you are not responsible for cluster bombs your country produces, nor the illegal war you country is involved in, nor your country’s racism; your country’s attitude to Mexicans, etc.
      ———————————————–
      It seems to me that if my country is involved in an
      illegal war or supplying weapons used to carry out
      collective punishment on civilians then I do have some
      responsibility to work against it.

      ———————————————–
      3. I appreciate you may be a bit frustrated at actually having to explain your position to “people who don’t think like you” (you need to get out more), but I am not sure where you get the idea I am opposed to people organising against cluster bombs, collective guilt, etc.; it is just I am more choosey about my friends and who I choose to ally with. (
      ———————————————–

      Hmm, this is sort of interesting, and I dare say may be
      a source of agreement. You see, you don’t actually
      know who I choose to ally with, the same as I don’t know
      much about what you actually do aside from argue on engage. The term “the left” and “BDS movement” has been
      thrown around here quite a bit. To the extent that I do much
      these days,which isn’t tremendous, I work with local Jewish
      groups or Quaker groups, etc. I try to stay away from
      various left-sectarian groups for all sorts of reasons, perhaps
      even some that you would agree on.

      ———————————————–
      4, The US could stop it in two minutes. When do make up your mind. By this account Israel has no power at all other than that granted it by the US. If that is the case, then maybe you should direct your energies against the US government, instead of its farm team. Not to mention that the CIA was far more involved in that region that Americans in the US.
      ———————————————–
      This makes no sense at all. Do you think you are disagreeing
      with me? Of course the focus of energy should be against the
      US government. That is one reason why I am against an academic or cultural boycott of Israel. In my opinion, the focus should be on stopping the sales of military weapons used to carry out Israeli crimes. This is why I pointed out that the cluster bombs Israel dropped came from here. Focusing
      on Israel society as a whole is, in my opinion, both morally wrong and bad as a tactic. That is why I liked the recent
      Berkeley resolution, because it didn’t include the “divest
      from Israel” crap and focused on what was important.

      I really must be bad at getting my point across. Honestly,
      not meaning to score argument points or something,
      can you please tell me where you got the impression that
      I didn’t think energies should be directed against the
      US government in this regard?

      relatedly, this doesn’t make any sense either:
      ———————————————–
      And, according to your logic about how powerful the US is and weal Israel, why are you not calling for a boycott and organise against the Afghan goverment. After all, they are more in the pockets of your goverment than Israel is and is one of the main reasons your government is still there propping it up.
      ———————————————–
      There are plenty of people and groups organizing to stop
      US involvement in Afghanistan and the military actions there.
      Which seems to me like the right thing to do, roughly
      analogous to stopping the supply of US weapons used in
      the Middle East. I really don’t see your point here.
      ———————————————-
      5. In the UK and Europe whilst the question of South America was important it hardly had the same cache as Israel and the global nature of people’s anger and ire at Israel, which, as I explained to you cannot of itself be accounted by Israel’s actions. And, yes, people involved in questions about Israel are involved in Afghanistan, etc. The problem is, many often see Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. as intimately related to the matters in Israel, if not determined by it. Surely you have read “people like you” and who is it that controls US foreign policy (even if you disagree with them)? But, good to know you agree with my point that Israel is being used to get people involved in other conflicts.
      ———————————————-
      That last sentence is word salad to me. I don’t know what
      you’re saying. Of course I know of arguments on the
      left about Israel controlling US foreign policy. Since, as you
      say, I don’t agree with that, what’s your point? I mean,
      are there anti-semites among the left? Yes. Are there
      people who are not anti-semites who might be influenced
      in that way by such arguments? Yes. Do I get pissed off
      when I see expressions like “ZioNazi”? Yes. I could go on.
      Are there too many conspiracy theory nuts on the left,
      going on about 9/11? Yes.

      ———————————————-
      6.
      Again, not one of your evasions and answers has solved the riddle, not why people are pissed with Israel, but why what is normal in critical politics is absent with Israell (i.e. Zonism as innately racist, colonlist, that Israel is inherently illegitiimate, that their treatment of Plastinians is akin to Nazism or apartheid, that there is no constituency in Israel worthy of connecting with; and, as you yourself seem to believe, no distinction between Israelis and their goverment (you oppose a cultural and academic boycott, but in the UK, that is not the case for organisations like BRICUP, UCU, PSC, etc.). None of what you have said explain this when it comes to Israel. If, on the other hand, oppostion to Israeli policies was more like the others you mention, then this discussion would not be taking place.
      ———————————————
      well, I agree with basically none of the positions you
      mention above, and your characterization of my view
      as there being no distinction between “Israelis and
      their government” is total and complete garbage. That is
      absolutely what I do not believe. I mean, it’s one of the
      reasons I’m against any action that targets Israeli
      society as a whole. Don’t attribute things to me that
      I don’t believe and never said, especially when they are
      such offensive views. If I’ve done that to you, I’m sorry.

      btw, the reason why Israeli treatment of Palestinians
      in the territories is considered akin to apartheid is that it the comparable to apartheid. (That’s
      not the case inside Israel.) If B’Tselem says it, I don’t see
      why it’s wrong for others to say it. I can dig up the reference
      for you, but it can be found on the web.

      You are muddling too much together. Yes, there is
      anti-semitism out there, and on the left, that has had
      an evil influence. But I’ve been around for a while too,
      and I do not think the increased focus on Israel and Palestine
      is because of the sudden growth of anti-semitism or the end of the cold war or the left’s historic relationship with Jewish
      self-determination or whatever the other things were in your
      deep analysis.

      And you are not really facing up to the special nature of Israel as a Jewish state. I do not know of any case in which
      people on the left support such arrangements such as a “white state” or “Christian state” or “Islamic state” or “black state”. These are all undemocratic ideas, and I don’t really get too upset with anyone for holding a consistent view on this, even if I support a two-state solution myself. I think
      the argument is a waste of time, but I don’t get upset
      about it.

      There are good discussions around comparing Israeli laws
      to those in other countries, particularly regarding the
      law of return. You’ll forgive me if at this point I simply
      refer to what other people wrote, since there is little point in just repeating it so I might as well use somebody else’s words.
      e.g. here, focusing on the law of return: (which also discusses the comparison with Ireland in the comments)

      http://themagneszionist.blogspot.com/2007/08/on-israeli-law-of-return-examination-of.html

      http://themagneszionist.blogspot.com/2007/08/law-of-return-part-ii-what-israel-can.html

      but you can see one way in which these contradictions
      and departures from basic democratic values (departures
      that the “left” does not support anywhere else, as far as
      I know) play out in all the talk about how
      the occupation has to end so that Israel can remain
      a “Jewish democratic state”. That is, Israel’s nature will
      change if it has too many people of the wrong ethnic
      group within its borders. That is, to be blunt, the
      argument. As Olmert said:

      http://www.haaretz.com/news/olmert-to-haaretz-two-state-solution-or-israel-is-done-for-1.234201

      “If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses,
      and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished”

      Really, is it so odd that some on the left would conclude that
      they should support a “South African-style struggle for
      equal voting rights” ?

      ———————————
      But what I find most interesting is that Israel is often accused of “ethnic cleansing” and of creating a country “free” of Palestinians; however, what they are (wrongly) accused of doing practically you have achieved “theoretically” by writing them out of the region other than passive “innocent” – in the Arendtian sense – victims. That is terribly insulting you know.
      ———————————-
      yes, it’s true I didn’t get into a whole discussion of
      Palestinian politics. I simply focused on the question of
      why there is increased focus on Israel/Palestine.

      ———————————
      You mention the Soviet Union, one thing I would have though people would have learnt is that citing “people who think ” alike is no guide to the veracity of what is thought. “Baaaaah – Four legs good, two legs bad. But, keep towing the line; you need to be brave to stand out in a crowd, and say, “yes, but” (assuming you think there is a “but”)
      ——————————–
      Sorry, I don’t see how my brief reference to the
      Soviet Union in arguments in the 80s has any connection
      to your comments here. It was a reference to the argument
      on why focus on the contras if there are worse atrocities
      carried out by the Soviet Union.

  34. Absolute Observer Says:

    btw
    here is your first post.
    In it you argue,
    1. everyday human right abuses, which later on you said you didn’t care about. Name a country that does not?)
    2.The loss of civilian lives – not sure who has disagreed with you on that on this thread (Faluja anyone?
    3.That the left never supports any national state/movement that, by definition, cannot but be discrimintary. – obviously not the case).

    So, again the question is not whether Israel is innocent of the claims made against it. The questions – which you have not provided a serious answer to, despite repeating it – why

    “criticism” of Israel brings with it arguments for its dissolution as a Jewish state?

    arguments that Israel control US foreign policy. That Israel was behind the drive to war in Iraq and that “Zionists” in the US administration made it happen.

    that Jews everywhere can be held responsible or called upon to “speak out”;

    the eschatology that can accompany this particular regional conflict; that of all the countries in the world, only Israel is in the frame for a boycott.

    that the Jewish state can be compared to nazism or apartheid

    Now, I am not asking if you do or do not agree with such positions, but why such views have attached to “criticism” of Israel?

    You have answered that it is a natural or spontaneous reaction to Israel’s acts; that it is no different to any other form of opposition that the left have been involved in.

    The first point is not sufficient as a mode of explaining the points I have noted, and the second point is patently not the case.

    “I suspect that for many on the left, the “hatred for Israel”,
    as Vogel puts it, comes from the fact that Israel’s
    occupation of Palestinians violates basic principles of
    human rights on an everyday basis, and that when Israel
    is involved in a war, it seems to have little concern for
    civilian lives. It’s all been extensively documented over and
    over by every mainstream human rights group. Coupled
    with the view that Israel seems to have no interest in actually agreeing to a two-state solution that conforms to the basic
    principles agreed upon by pretty much everybody except the
    United States and Israel, it pretty much has the expected effect.

    As far as this:
    “In fact, it is the section of the left that has furthest extended this pro-nationalist tendency where hatred of Israel burns the brightest: the so-called “anti-imperialist” left, who have accorded Arab nationalism, Serbian nationalism, Venezuelan nationalism, and indeed more or less any nationalism apart from Jewish nationalism sacred status. ”

    I think it is actually a separate issue. First of all, there are
    of course no citations or references so it’s not even a serious argument. But leaving that aside, the point is that Israel is not the state of all the people who live there, and the notion of belonging to the country is based on an ethnic/religious qualification. That is not, as I see it, something that anybody on the left ever supports as a basic point of principle. (although nothing immediately follows from that about support or not for a two-state solution, and it doesn’t mean discrimination within Israel is necessarily worse than in other places. It isn’t.) I am unaware of any significant group on the
    left arguing for such an arrangement anywhere, whether
    in Venezuela or elsewhere. Usually when people like the
    writer above complain about a double-standard being applied to Israel, they’re actually upset about a single-standard
    being applied including Israel.”

  35. Absolute Observer Says:

    Ok Seth, thanks, I see exactly where your coming from.

    I disagree with you on the question of the law of return and of Israel being a Jewish state as somehow incompatable with democracy. There is no reason why Israel cannot remain an expression of Jewish national-self-determination whilst at the same time achieving equality for all its citizens. Indeed, many Israeli HR groups see things in the same way. Unfortunately, some believe that a campaign that focusses on “only” ending the Occupation would only undermine the deeper goal of ensuring that Israel ceased to exist as a Jewish state. No national state is ever an ideal solution, but, since they exist everywhere, why not Israel – and, as such, why not a sovereign Palestine as well?
    As Marx argued, one can only move beyond religion once there is religious freedom, and not by banning religion. One can only move on form national-states only when those demanding them have them.
    On this matter, I am no unilateralist nor see why Israel and only Israel should carry the sins of the entire political world.

    I also disagree with you about antisemitism not having a partial and important role on the increased focus on Israel and Palestine, as well as your reluctance to consider that focus within a longer historical context. Hence my concern with some of the arguments made by some of the parties involved and an unwilligness for them to be challenged in a meaningful way.

    But, with those (important) caveats in mind, then, as you say, we may well be nearer that we imagined.

    • Seth Says:

      “I disagree with you on the question of the law of return and of Israel being a Jewish state as somehow incompatable with democracy. There is no reason why Israel cannot remain an expression of Jewish national-self-determination whilst at the same time achieving equality for all its citizens. Indeed, many Israeli HR groups see things in the same way.”
      —————————————-
      Disagreements over the compatibility of Israel being a Jewish
      state with democratic values do not really bother me. On that issue, I care about whether people support full equality for
      all its citizens. If they do, then I don’t care whether they call themselves Zionists or anti-Zionists or non-Zionists or
      whatever (I’m in the “whatever” category). I actually think it’s incompatible in the current sense of a Jewish state,
      but it is not necessarily incompatible
      with some sense of Jewish self-determination, perhaps
      something along the lines of what the Magnes Zionist
      guy talks about.

      What i just don’t understand how people
      who consider themselves to be liberal or on the left (say,
      some J-Streeters) can say Israel needs to get out of the territories since otherwise there would be too many non-Jews in Israel and Israel couldn’t remain a democratic Jewish state. Roughly what Olmert was saying. The mental gymnastics required for this are just something I don’t get.
      From the right, it’s easy to understand. From the left, no.
      —————————————-
      But, with those (important) caveats in mind, then, as you say, we may well be nearer that we imagined.
      —————————————-
      good – caveats noted, perhaps can be taken up another
      time, in a calmer way, with better understanding beforehand.
      I was going to write a response to some of the unfinished
      ones above I didn’t get to, but I’ll stop. I have some work
      I really have to get done.

      • Gil Says:

        So you are not a Zionist (or non-Zionist), holding a ‘whatever’ position, but you support ‘some sense of Jewish self-determination’. Interesting to note that ‘Jerry Haber’ whom you link to in that Magnes site divides his time between the US and Israel. He also denies that the Romans exiled the Jews from Palestine (and is called out on this by one commenter as a bizarre position for an Orthodox Jew) and he calls Amnon Rubinstein, Israel’s former Justice Minister, a ‘neocon’. What ignorance.

        The Arabs who refused to accept the will of the international community embodied in the UN’s 1947 partition resolution should somehow be allowed to rewrite history on their own terms, and the Jews, who paid the price with the loss of 1% of its population in 1948, should once again line up to be told: ‘Sorry boys and girls, find somewhere else to exist’.

        One can be against the shocking excesses of the occupation without forgetting that the creation of Israel and the passing of Law of Return (in its original form) are the most morally correct events of the 20th century.

  36. Absolute Observer Says:

    Seth, I am quite calm thanks.
    I agree with you about those who use demographic arguments as reasons for ending the occupation.

    As to activism, you have chosen to focus on Israel with the US central to your concerns. Fine and good luck to you. I understand your reasons fully.

    I (and Engage) have chosen to fight against antisemitism that attaches to much debate about Israel. Such attachments are rife in the UK, Europe and the US. The UK has MP’s that talk about “Zionist tentacles”, of controlling political parties, of the Tory party owned by Jewish millionaires. We have an academic union who invite overt Jew-haters to speak on Israel. We have organisations that use HMD for an attack on Israel. This antisemitism is not a anomaly but goes to the heart of many of the organisations that claim to speak in the name of the Palestinians (expressions such as the power of “international Jewry”; that Jews bring antisemtism on themselves; the demands for public statements from Jews and Jewish orgainsations). This is of great concern and cannot and must not be brushed under the carpet. The call for ant-antisemites to remain silent in the name of a “greater cause” is not new and, like instances in the past, wrong on any number of reasons.

    I and Engage have chosen not to be silent about and sacrifice the fight against antisemitism in the name of the :greater good”. In other words, antisemitism is not a mere appendage of the “criticism of Israel” but appears to be entwined within it.
    I have respect for you for recognising it when you see it. Engage exposes it for what it is. What is interesting is that in doing say, Engage is often accused of being a “Zionist front” or some such; and that we are insincere in adopting a “zero tolerance policy” on racism and antisemitism.

    From Paris to New York, the chant “Death to the Jews” has wrung out again. Anti-ZIonist activists deny these facts and tell anti-antisemite activists that they are lying; that in bringing it up they are apologists for Israel and its crimes and misdeamenours

    You mention Berkeley. As you know, Judith Butler attacked Lawrence Summers for raising the question of antisemitism on campus. Rather than addressing the substance of his concerns, she pushed the line that “Zionists use antisemitism to silence criticism” an old antisemitic canard. Others, with similar legitimacy, speak of the power of the Lobby. I am afraid that I refuse in toto to close my ears to that. Like all forms of racism adopted in activism it taints everything. It betrays Israel, Palestine and places diaspora Jews in a difficult [sic] position.

    Perhaps you can link to where the groups you associate with have “spoken out” against these types of things specifically (i.e. the ones you ally with in the US). Or Butler and others speaking at Berkely.

    Now, of course, one never agrees entirely with one’s allies over everything; but antisemitism is not a matter of disagreement. Resisitng racism in the name of liberation or tyranny is and must be, a principle for any and all political activism.

    Is it not about time there was some “internal house cleaning” as the anti-Zionist senior Labour MP just said when the subject of an antisemitic campaign against him in the recent UK election.

    Those concerned with antisemitism have been demanding as much for years. It has been refused, and those raising it libelled and slandered. In such an environment, I am afraid no benefit of the doubt of the “good intentions” can be given.

  37. Absolute Observer Says:

    btw I leave out all those instances where the leading chant has been “Palestine shall be free from the river to the sea” and the mass of instances where the very existence of the state of Israel is seen as nothing more than an occupation that needs to be “wiped from the face of the earth”, where the PSC spokesperson has justified the murder of Jews in Yeshivas and in Chabad houses.

    Again such positions is met with silence and accusations of male fide.

    Likewise, we reject the idea that the conflict in Israel is a specifically “Jewish” thing. It is a normal, but nasty, political conflict. Indeed, to accept that as a starting point as many, many do – I am not saying you do, of course – is to lose the battle for justice before it has even begun.

    I and others, albeit a minority, have a political commitment not to let things go unnoticed and uncriticised, no matter how much “critics” of Israel malign us and call us liars or sweep things under the table under the label of “diversion” or “irrelevance” or who simply see it but do nothing to challenge it.

  38. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Seth says, above, that ” I care about whether people support full equality for all its citizens” specifically in the context of Israel. But, if he is to be consistent (and not allow his single-issue attitude to get out of hand), then he should also be criticising the US, where it is clear that there are groups, representing significant sections of the population, that appear to believe that the Civil Rights Acts might not have been such a good thing after all, that appear to query just how “American” their curent President is.

    Or perhaps his desire for equality doesn’t run beyond the area “between the river and the sea”? Perhaps all other inequalities are irrelevant to Seth.

  39. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Seth has stated quite clearly that “Since BDS includes efforts on ending military aid used for the occupation, that therefore means I support some aspects of BDS, but not others.” (see above, comment dated May 30, 3.23 pm, attached as a reply to one of mine). He should, therefore, be quite comfortable with Motions 31, & 32 of the 2010 UCU Annual Congress as passed. As I’ve noted before, you can’t, re BDS, be just a little bit pregnant, or, as Zkharya has said, “can’t have it both ways”.

    The bullet points for 31 clearly restate the argument for the BDS campaign (despite _all_ the legal opinions the UCU has received), and the inclusion of the word “lawful” doesn’t affect this one iota. It was aimed mostly at the Histradut, and called for its expulsion from the International Confederation of Trade Unions and a boycott of it. Clever that: we love the Palestinians, so we’ll destroy one of the few organisations that attempts to bring Israeli and Palestinian workers together.

    Translation: we don’t actually care about the workers, let alone the Palestinians, we just hate Israel and want ot see it gone. For a fascinating contrast by _real_ left-wingers, see the Alliance for Workers Liberty online newsletter, passim

    The Amendment to 31, which pointed all this out and how many Israeli Arabs belonged to the Histradut affiliated unions, and called for a reconsideration of this, was lost – no surprise there then.

    32 is on Ariel College, and calls for a boycott, with no wishy-washy “lawfuls” in there. While there are a lot of problems with Ariel College, boycotting it on an institutional level remains unlawful and a breach of the UK Race Relations Acts: also no change.

    Motion 33, on Bongani Masaku has been mentioned before. Given that it expressed regret that he had been invited and that this should be recorded, it should come as no surprise that it was defeated.

    What happened to Motion 34 on Iran? This noted that the Presidential Election results were disputed, riots and deaths had followed the declaration of the result, and so forth. Neither “Carried” nor “Lost” is recorded against it. Did the SWP/UCULeft faction decide that it wasn’t good far left politics to upset their friends in the STWC by being honest about what is happening in Iran? Might Respect have a hissy fit?

    All these Motions (and the rest of what’s happened so far, as far as the presenting, or not, of Motions and the results of the votes can be found at: http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=4647

    Happy reading Seth.

  40. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    This link should work and the name to look for is Sean Mantgamma (apologies for the spelling).

    http://www.workersliberty.org/

    Alternatively, a search through the Archive, by subject, using Alliance for Workers Liberty might help.

  41. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Silly of me: it’s up there on the top right hand side of the page, the first entry under “blogroll”

    Happy reading, Seth et al.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 134 other followers

%d bloggers like this: