Robert Fine on the singling out of Israel for boycott

We have been having a debate on Engage for a couple of weeks now on matters concerning the campaign to boycott Israel, how we can help Israelis and Palestinians to move forward towards peace and on the issue of antisemitism.  The participants in this debate have been Desmond Tutu, Robert Fine, Neve Gordon, David Hirsh, Ran Greenstein, Uri Avnery, David Newman and Farid Essack.
The links to all the contributions to the debate are collected here.
This contribution, from Robert Fine, is a response to this contribution from Ran Greenstein and also to the comment from Ran Greenstein which appeared in the comments box in answer to Robert’s last contribution.

Robert Fine

Dear Ran

Thanks for your latest response in our discussion and apologies for being far slower to reply than yourself!

Let me return to the question of Israel’s ‘uniqueness’.  There is, of course, a sense in which every state is unique. Every state has a unique history, a unique set of circumstances that led to its emergence and development, a unique population, a unique place on the globe.  But this is trivial. What you are talking about is exclusion. You write:

“Israel is indeed unique as an exclusionary state. No other state is founded – historically and at present – on the physical and political exclusion of the majority of its indigenous population. No other state regards its ethnic identity as the sine qua non of its existence with such intensity. No other state is an ethnic ‘demographic state’ in the same way. No other state combines the inclusion of all members of one group (Jews), regardless of their specific origins and concrete links to the territory, with the exclusion of most members of another group (Palestinians), regardless of their specific origins and concrete links to the territory.”

We know at least some of the exclusionary elements that went into Israel’s composition. One element was a political and largely secular Zionism that arose in Europe in the late 19th century and attracted a minority of European Jews in the first half of the 20th century. The point to remember here, I think, is that Zionism was one nationalism amongst many in Europe, itself a product of the exclusion of Jews from the nations of Europe. Nationalism was not exceptional; it was the norm. Nationalism for Jews co-existed with nationalisms for Hungarians, Serbs, Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, French, etc. All such nationalisms, not only Zionism, contain strong exclusionary forces.

A second exclusionary element has to do with the experience of the Holocaust. Many of the ‘unmurdered Jews’ of Europe, as Philip Roth called them, went to Palestine-Israel because there was often no other place to go, because they were understandably keen to get out of Europe, or because they were committed to establishing some kind of safe haven for Jews that seemed lacking elsewhere. The experience of exclusion, oppression and murder by Europeans was not unique to Jews, though Jews suffered especially badly, and in most cases it led those who suffered at European hands to seek to establish their own independent states. The newly independent states that arose at different times out of this experience often combined a vibrant sense of national freedom with exclusion of those deemed not to belong to the nation in question. Israel is not in this regard unique.

A third – and perhaps crucial exclusionary element – has to do with Israel being a ‘Jewish state’. As far as I know, many states in the Middle East and North Africa describe themselves as ‘Arab states’ and in some cases as ‘Muslim Arab states’. Yesterday morning I was reading an article in the Independent by Robert Fisk (no great admirer of Israel) who quotes President Sadat of Egypt referring to himself as ‘the Muslim president of a Muslim country’. Fisk focuses on the exclusion of Christians in ‘Muslim’ countries. The problem, he writes, doesn’t only come from fundamentalists but from constitutions: in all the countries of the region, except Lebanon, Christians are second class citizens. Both you and I are opposed to any exclusion that derives from the national character afforded to the state, but to think such exclusions are in any sense unique to Israel cannot be right.

The labeling of a state ‘Jewish’ or ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim’ or indeed ‘British’ or ‘French’ is in all cases problematic. But it may be more or less problematic depending on whether the national epithet attached to the state refers merely, say, to the cultural motifs of a nation (e.g. whether Christmas or Pesach or Ramadan is a public holiday); or entails the subordination of those deemed not to fit the ‘national’ definition of the state as second class citizens or ‘minorities’; or worse still entails the expulsion of those deemed not to fit as ‘stateless persons’. The history of Israel seems to me equivocal. As far as I know, mainstream Zionists originally supported two states: one for Jews and one for Palestinians with rights of minorities built into both. In the aftermath of existential wars between Israel and neighboring states, Palestinians in Israel were considered co-citizens but were also discriminated against; Palestinians who left Israel (often in the heat of battle) were not allowed back; Palestinians on the West Bank and in different ways in Gaza have been subjected to occupation and to the denial of civil and political rights that flows from occupation.

If we criticise exaggerated characterisation of these abuses as ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘genocide’, this does not deny the need to put an end to discrimination against Palestinians in Israel, to the occupation of the West Bank, and to the human rights violations that result from the occupation. The present-day problem is that disrespect for Palestinians is getting worse in Israel as a right wing government, religious fundamentalist movements and needy immigrant populations combine to give license to anti-Arab racism. The situation seems to be aggravated by the decline of antiracist currents within Israel and the difficulties ordinary Israelis and Palestinians have in meeting and conversing with one another.

But the drift to the right in Israel is not unique. In a number of European countries, including some within the EU, there is a disturbing drift to an increasingly ultra-nationalist right wing. In some cases not only is the party of government extreme right but also the main opposition party is even further to the right. In the Middle East, Jews have long since been encouraged to leave or actively expelled from most ‘Arab’ countries and many of them ceased to be considered refugees when they became beneficiaries of Israel’s open door policy to Jews worldwide (beneficiaries, in Zionist parlance, of a right of ‘return’). I am no expert on the Middle East but if Fisk is right there is an increasing problem for other minorities living within Arab states. I should like to know more about how Palestinians are being treated in those Arab countries which refuse to integrate them as full nationals. Certainly Israel is not their only problem. One would have to be willfully blind not to be aware of the growing dangers of religious fundamentalism on one side and authoritarianism among secular elites on the other in a number of Arab countries. Such anti-democratic forces pose dangers not only to Israel but more immediately to a culture of tolerance and mutual respect among Arab people themselves. In short, the drift to what we might call the ‘ultra-nationalist right’ is a threat that is not unique to Israel and indeed seems not to be isolatable in any one country.

From where then does the singling out of Israel derive? One source is perhaps displacement. Instead of the difficult task of addressing problems within ourselves and our own world, we can focus on denouncing Israel as if it were uniquely violent, uniquely exclusionary and uniquely powerful. Israel isn’t in my opinion any of these things but the accusation can open a can of worms. What is really unique about Israel is the Jewishness of the Jewish state as opposed to the Arabness of an Arab state or indeed the Britishness of the British state. It seems to me that the whole argument about uniqueness pushes us where none of us wants to go: not to political criticism but to an attack on Jews. You point your finger at Israel in the name of ‘an inclusive non-ethnic democracy’, but you do not ask why of all states it is Israel that is selected out for not meeting this ideal.

For various reasons, some biographical, I share your particular concern with Israel. There is part of me too that wants to be proud of Israel, though I do not share the conviction of some that there is nothing already to be proud of. We do not want Israel to be corrupted from within or threatened from without. We want it to succeed as an open society as well as to resist those who think Jews have no place in the Middle East. We are worried about what we hear and see of current developments in Israel, but it would be parochial of us to translate our particular concern, as it were, into the mother of all concerns. Democrats from Burma, Hungary, Tibet, Zimbabwe, Syria, Iran, Denmark, the UK, etc. all have their particular battles to fight with their own political elites. The point is not Zionism or antizionism but the need to defend and build democracy with the materials at hand.

You put forward the idea of an inclusive non-ethnic democracy for Jews and Palestinians together. Excellent! I am all for supporting those who try to build a sense of conviviality between Jews and non-Jews, those who oppose hatred and racism on both sides, and I don’t think we should make a fetish of the ‘Jewish state’. In this sense we are not ‘Zionists’. We agree we need to start from the existing situation and move forward, but I cannot accept the way you pose the issue. The idea of transformation from an ‘exclusionary ethnic state’ to ‘an inclusive democratic state’ does justice neither to the past nor the future. In this scenario the darkness of the past goes along with unlimited trust in the future. But those who see only darkness and light never learn to make distinctions between shades of grey.

In any event, your opinion and mine count for little. On the one hand, most people in Israel do not embrace the ‘transformation’ you seek, perhaps because they believe in the idea of a ‘Jewish state’ or more simply because for good reason or bad they are fearful of the consequences. On the other hand, many of the political forces who do embrace ‘transformation’ do not show much interest in sharing an inclusive democracy with Jews. We may want to see what exists dismantled in the name of our idea, but the one thing of which we can be sure is that what will replace the existing state will be driven by forces far bigger and more demanding than what is merely in our heads.

Best Wishes,

Robert Fine

 

 

99 Responses to “Robert Fine on the singling out of Israel for boycott”

  1. Stephen Rothbart Says:

    This was an elegant riposte to the Boycott question by Robert. And while it is critical of Israel ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ it is to me again a view of a society taken out of the context of its own environment and history.

    Firstly, the Palestinian Arabs are not indigenous to the region They originally came up from near the Gulf of Arabia. Up and until 1918 the entire region was part of and ruled by the Ottoman Empire, for at least four centuries, so no one living in the area called Palestine had self-rule or self-determination, not the Arabs nor the Jews that lived there.

    After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France divided the region into their own definitions of countries and created the state of Trans-Jordan where approximately 70% of the Palestinian Arabs lived, including Jerusalem.

    The Mufti of Jerusalem was a violently anti-Semitic spiritual leader who allied himself with Hitler during the Second World War.

    Jews that fought for Britain’s Eighth Army during that war were called the ‘Palestinians’ by the British.

    After the Second World War was over, Jewish refugees poured into the region and in 1948 the state of Israel, based upon the Balfour Declaration, was legally constituted by the UN.

    Now one can argue that a poorly armed bunch of refugees decided to launch themselves into a three front war against well-armed, but thankfully poorly trained and led Arab armies from Jordan and Egypt and Lebanon, or one can take the more accepted view that the Arabs declined to accept the UN resolution and invaded Israel, including some of the parts of the country that were only 8 miles wide!

    Fortunately for the Jewish populations, but unfortunately for the Arab populations, the fledgling State of Israel prevailed.

    Since then, Israel has been attacked by armies, terrorists or terrorists posing as armies, or proxies of Syria and Iran, Egypt and even Saddam Hussein’s Iraq for the whole of its 60 years of existence.

    While we luckier Jews in the diaspora can get on with our careers and relationships, every Israeli Jew, boy or girl, have to take time off to join the Army, and most have actually had to fight. Most have lost friends and family in war. Most young Israeli men have seen action in which they have had to kill or seen their comrades killed. Have we in the diaspora a similar experience?

    When the Settlers were removed from Gaza at almost gunpoint by the Israeli Army under the orders of Ariel Sharon, the result was not peace. The result was the wholesale destruction of every Jewish building or fruit growing greenhouse left by the Settlers by Hamas, and then a rain of 6,000 rockets over a period of 3 years, aimed deliberately at civilian targets.

    Now which modern democratic State in Europe has grown up under such conditions? What feelings of fondness can one develop for one’s neighbours if that neighbour behaves as Israel’s do.

    Well, just as an abused child in a abusive family can develop certain abusive tendencies themselves, so a people living in such circumstances can perhaps start to feel animosity and disdain for its neighbours and those living amongst them.

    Is it right? No. Is it understandable? Yes.

    Does it mean that every nation in the world and all the Jews in the Diaspora must castigate and boycott and pass resolution after resolution against this tiny nation? No and no again.

    So all I ask of those so ready to write off Israel as a failed state is to try to put the actions of Israel into perspective.

    ‘Cui bono?’ Who gains from Israel being at war for 60 years? The Jews? Which mad country of a few million wants to go to war with 150 million adversaries? The Jews?

    But given that the country needs to be defended, and a country 8 miles wide in places is not easy to defend, and without their adversaries either recognizing their rights to a Jewish State or indeed, even a State, Israeli leaders have allowed strategically placed settlements to be set up in what most Engage contributors call the ‘Occupied’ territories.

    Well I would ask again, who gains from having settlements in Arab areas where Israeli army conscripts have to go to guard them against attacks? Israel’s Jews? No. Jewish Settlers? Yes. The Israeli Army if attacked again? Yes.

    How do you get rid of the Settler problem? Well, show that if you remove the settlers, you actually get a bit more in return than Sharon did in Gaza.

    Who can do that? The Palestinian Arabs. Do they all promise to do that? No. Do they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State? No.

    Do those in Gaza vow to remove every Israeli Jew from the Middle East? Yes.

    Context.

  2. David T Says:

    I think it is good of you to put the intellectual effort into this sort of work, and to answer angry supporters of attacks of Israel in a calm and patient manner.

    However, although it is correct to be polite, I don’t think that you have any chance of changing this chap’s mind. Pro-boycott politics and its like isn’t about the issues. It is about the self-image of the Jew who supports it, and the way that they want to be perceived by others.

  3. Joseph W Says:

    Excellent post! Not sure if its relevant but I wrote something last year about the idea that Israel should be held to higher standards because it calls itself a democracy:

    http://seismicshock.wordpress.com/2009/08/06/daniel-blanche-and-the-democratic-peoples-republic/

  4. Duvid Crockett, King of DeLancey Street Says:

    It is Fine to opine on malign Greenstein;
    Harder still to define punishment condign.

  5. Ran Greenstein Says:

    Ran has asked us to ammend his comment to the following :

    Dear Robert,

    Thanks again for your considered and reasonable contribution to the debate.

    Here is – in brief – my response, with headings to highlight remaining
    disagreements

    1. Zionism as a national movement and a colonial project

    You say that Zionism was one among many European nationalist
    movements, all of which contained “strong exclusionary forces”. You
    add that many new independent states combine “a vibrant sense of
    national freedom with exclusion of those deemed not to belong to the
    nation in question”. In addition, most countries in the Middle East
    are defined in ethnic or religious terms and are exclusionary to
    various degrees. You use these points to argue that Israel is not
    unique in displaying exclusionary tendencies.

    You are right that exclusionary policies are not unique, but you
    ignore a crucial aspect of the Israeli state that makes it stand out:
    it was born out of a project that saw immigrants – mostly of European
    origins – moving into a territory populated by local non-European
    people, and displacing them (politically and physically). As a result,
    Israel is viewed as part of the colonial enterprise of subordinating
    indigenous populations and territories to settler rule. Regardless of
    the subjective consciousness of settlers, they are perceived in this
    light in much of Asia, Africa and Latin America. That accounts for the
    wide sense of solidarity people in these parts of the world feel for
    the Palestinian struggle. They see it as similar to their own
    struggles against colonial and settler forces: if you want to
    understand South African responses to the Israeli-Palestinian
    conflict, look no further.

    2. The Nakba as ethnic cleansing

    You acknowledge the exclusionary consequences of Zionist policies
    towards Palestinians but regard the notion of “ethnic cleansing” as an
    exaggeration. What better term do you propose to refer to the
    flight/expulsion of 80% of the indigenous population of what became
    the State of Israel in 1948? What better term for their prevention
    from returning to their homes, villages and towns (frequently located
    a few miles away from their new refugee camps)?

    3. Israel’s ‘drift to the right’

    You recognize the “drift to the right” in Israel, but claim it is not
    unique. In several European countries there is a drift to “an
    increasingly ultra-nationalist right wing”. What you fail to consider
    is that the nationalist right-wing in Israel argues that it is
    resurrecting the original Zionist vision of exclusion. It describes
    itself as a guard against any relaxation of segregation and
    inequality. Its rallying cry is the need for an undiluted “Jewish
    state” in the spirit of Herzl and Ben-Gurion. Of course, they may be
    wrong or manipulative. But, ask yourself, what is it in the original
    Zionist vision that allows them to claim it today to justify
    anti-democratic abuses and exclusions? Why do their claims and
    campaigns resonate with a large section of the Israeli-Jewish public,
    born and raised on Zionist ideology?

    4. ‘Singling out’ Israel

    You raise the point that many Jews were ill-treated in Arab and
    Islamic countries, that Christian existence increasingly is under
    attack, and that democracy is threatened due to the rise of religious
    fundamentalism and secular authoritarianism in the Arab world. All
    true. You then ask “From where then does the singling out of Israel
    derive?”

    The simple answer is that Israel ‘singles out’ itself by its policies:
    it is unique in excluding the indigenous majority of its population in
    order to clear the way for a group of settlers, who used force to
    become a majority. That the settlers did not regard themselves as
    foreigners, and in their minds they were returning to the land of
    their ancestors, made no difference to the concerns of the locals: can
    you think of a different response offered by any indigenous group in
    Asia, Africa and the Americas to the prospect of European-originated
    settlement?

    To be precise, what is unique is not the historical context – many
    states were born in violence and conflict – but the re-enactment of
    the founding act of exclusion of 1948 on a daily basis. Take for
    example this week’s Knesset bill, sponsored by members of Kadima
    (hailed by some deluded people as a liberal alternative to Likud):
    “The Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday
    unanimously approved a bill which gives the right to absorption
    committees of small communities in Israel to reject candidates if they
    do not meet specific criteria. The bill has sparked wide condemnation
    and many believe it to be discriminatory and racist, since it allows
    communities to reject residents if they do not meet the criteria of
    ‘suitability to the community’s fundamental outlook’, which in effect
    enables them to reject candidates based on sex, religion, and
    socioeconomic status.” In the minds of all participants in the debate
    there was not the slightest doubt what the target was: preventing
    Arabs from joining Jewish settlements that control the bulk of land in
    Israel. But let us be fair. The exclusion is not complete: “The
    committee’s chairman, David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), responded to
    claims the bill was meant to reject Arabs from joining Israeli towns.
    ‘In my opinion, every Jewish town needs at least one Arab. What would
    happen if my refrigerator stopped working on Shabbat?”
    (http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/knesset-panel-approves-controversial-bill-allowing-towns-to-reject-residents-1.321433)

    Can you think of another country (Western or otherwise) in which such
    parliamentary debate can take place today? My point is not that racism
    is extreme in Israel. Rather, it is that current legislation reflects
    the uninterrupted practice of Zionist settlement from its inception.
    The socialist, egalitarian Kibbutzim and collective Moshavim were/are
    just as exclusionary as the unabashed racists under the leadership of
    Lieberman and Yishai, who receive the tacit support of Netanyahu,
    Livni and Barak. They all follow what Israeli historian and analyst
    Meron Benvenisti called “the genetic [historical-cultural] code of a
    settler society” (see here the useful discussion by ‘The Magnes
    Zionist’ on http://www.jeremiahhaber.com/).

    5. Does Jewishnsess matter?

    You say: “What is really unique about Israel is the Jewishness of the
    Jewish state as opposed to the Arabness of an Arab state or indeed the
    Britishness of the British state.” No. What is unique is that Israel
    alone is based on historical dispossession of the indigenous
    population, which continues to this day. Israel is not the only – or
    worst – oppressive regime. It is not the only – or worst – state that
    practices discrimination and violation of human rights. It is not the
    only – or worst – state that emerged out of a violent colonial-type
    conflict. It is not the only – or worst – state that dispossessed
    indigenous people. But, it is indeed the only state that continues to
    re-enact such historical dispossession today, in an ever intensified
    form.

    You say: “you do not ask why of all states it is Israel that is
    selected out for not meeting this ideal” (of non-ethnic inclusive
    democracy). But of course you know very well that Israel is not unique
    in this respect: I happen to live in a state that experienced
    precisely that kind of selection. How can you make an argument about
    ‘Jewishness’ as a reason for excessive criticism, when you are fully
    aware that Afrikaners (or white South Africans generally) were
    subjected to similar – and frequently much harsher – treatment?

    If the Jewish state of Israel is treated in the same way as the white
    Republic of South Africa was treated, it cannot possibly be because of
    what they do not share (‘Jewishness’). It can only be because of what
    they do share: exclusionary policies towards their indigenous
    populations.

    6. What is to be done and how

    Finally, you agree that change is necessary, but say that “the idea of
    transformation from an ‘exclusionary ethnic state’ to ‘an inclusive
    democratic state’ does justice neither to the past nor the future. In
    this scenario the darkness of the past goes along with unlimited trust
    in the future.” I am afraid that this has nothing to do with my
    understanding of politics. What I call for is a process of political
    struggle and change, proceeding through education, growing awareness,
    and numerous campaigns, which would culminate – hopefully – in an
    overall change of the system. It is likely to be a slow, gradual and
    painful process. It is not a messianic transformation from one extreme
    to another, and it should build on all the positive – but partial –
    achievements of past struggles.

    Most Jews in Israel are indeed fearful of this prospect, and most
    Palestinians embrace nationalism and religion rather than non-ethnic
    inclusive democratic notions. So change is not likely to be immediate,
    easy or unproblematic. It may be a journey of a thousand miles, but
    even such a journey must begin with one step, as long as we are moving
    in the right direction (see today’s useful insights by historian
    Dimitri Shumski on the need for an Israeli democratic state in
    http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1195906.html – only in Hebrew
    for now, but surely to be translated).

    Where can we go from here despite our disagreements? Towards a common
    struggle on what we agree on: the need to fight the occupation, the
    need to make Israel a state in which all citizens are equal, the need
    to respect international human rights law, the need to redress
    historical injustices. Whether the academic boycott is a useful step
    to take in this struggle is a minor point. Don’t let it distract us
    from the more substantial task of transforming Israel into a democracy
    that acts for the benefit of all its residents, past and present.

    And this, hot off the press, the most irreverent independent
    e-magazine in Israel:

    Yossi Gurvitz, “Introducing ethnic segregation: the Q’aadan curse”:

    http://972mag.com/the-q%E2%80%99aadan-curse/

    And, Ami Kaufman, “Every Jewish community needs its nigger”:

    http://972mag.com/%E2%80%9Cevery-jewish-community-needs-its-nigger%E2%80%9D/

    Best Wishes

    Ran Greenstein

  6. Harry Goldstein Says:

    I’m afraid that Greenstein, whie purporting to be scholarly and objective, iis in fact guilty of a historical elision which misrepresents the facts.

    He writes: ‘it [Israel] was born out of a project that saw immigrants mostly of European origins moving into a territory populated by local non-European people, and displacing them’.

    The facts are these:

    1. Jewish immigration was legal within the laws of the existing state (the Ottoman Empire).

    2. Jewish acquisition of land was by legal purchase from willing sellers. Is Greenstein saying that immigrants have no right to buy houses or land, or that doing so amounts to the ‘exclusion’ of the existing population? Presumably the BNP, but few others, would agree with him on this one.

    3. The population of Palestine in the mid-19th century was around 250,00, with visitors noting economic stagnation, grinding poverty and many abandoned and derelict villages. By 1921 (i.e. after around 4 decades of Jewish immigration) the Arab population had risen to well over a million. This came partly from natural increase but mainly through immigration from neighbouring lands, as Arabs moved to take advantage of the increased economic opportunities brought about by Jewish immigration.

    4. This trend continued through the 1930s, with Jewish immigration continuing alongside rapid growth in the Arab poppulation. This did not of course prevent the exclusionist rhetoric of Arab nationalists, who claimed utterly without evidence that their people were being squeezed out. This kind of mendacious agitation is sadly not unfamiliar in our own society. It is a shame that Greenstein appears to have swallowed it.

    Of course real exclusion occurred in 1948, in response to the Arab attempts to wipe out the Jews. To say that crimes were committed during that struggle is true. To fudge the facts to read this into the whole history of Zionism (and thus seek to delegitimise Israel as a result) is a lie.

    • Stephen Rothbart Says:

      Ran, perhaps I will not be permitted to say this in Engage, but one of the issues you seem always to ignore in your rush to imposing an egalitarian society in Palestine where Jews, Arabs and Christians live in harmony is the element of Islam that makes that dream unreal.

      The notion of separating from the Infidel is commanded in the Koran ( 3:28, 4:89, 4:144, 5:54, 6:40, 9:23, and 58:22) and imprinted on the Muslim psyche. Right now, even in Egypt, the Muslims have just started an abusive attack onto the Christian Copts accusing them of all sorts of terrible deeds, none of which were true.

      Nowhere in any of the States surrounding Israel, let alone in the leaderships of the Gazan and West Bank Palestinians, is anything close to a democratic process operating, unless you count Lebanon which has an armed militia as part of their parliamentary process.

      Probably the only Islamic state that comes close to a democracy was Turkey, and that is now turning towards Iran as its friend, so it clearly does not recognize democracy as a necessity for good foreign relations. Islam recognizes only the word of Mohammed as the representative of Allah.

      Islam is not just a religion, but a way of life. Judaism is similar, but does not usually seek to dominate like Islam, which as we all know means ‘submission’ in English.

      Even in Europe, we now have imams in their local mosques stating clearly that their aim is to turn their adopted country into an Islamic state which must adopt Sharia law.

      Yes for the moment it is a small problem, but what if in your newly constituted egalitarian state the Muslims there call for everyone to adopt Sharia Law? Should the Jews?

      Comparing the experience of South Africa to that of Israel is like comparing chalk with cheese.

      You say we all have to embrace the ‘struggle’ to fight the occupation, the need to make Israel a state in which all citizens are equal, the need to respect international human rights law, the need to redress historical injustices.

      How on earth can anyone living safely outside the country ‘make’ Israel do something so dangerous? How can you seriously expect the Israeli Jews to let down their guard against a people with a history of repression and religious intolerance, not just against Jews and Christians, but against their own co-religionists?

      Is the civil war between Hamas and Fatah completely lost on you? Or don’t you care for lives, just idealogy, like the Stalinists of the Soviet Union or the Maoists of China?

      Just as long as the Jews of Israel revert back to living their lives according to how you want them to live them, it does not matter how many may perish. At least they did the right thing. Is that your ethos?

      Or have you not bothered to think through the consequences of your success?

  7. Joseph W Says:

    What you fail to consider is that the nationalist right-wing in Israel argues that it is resurrecting the original Zionist vision of exclusion. It describes itself as a guard against any relaxation of segregation and inequality. Its rallying cry is the need for an undiluted “Jewish state” in the spirit of Herzl and Ben-Gurion. Of course, they may be wrong or manipulative.

    Ran, every political group claims it represents the true spirit of Zionism, they want sympathy from Israelis after all!

    This is not unique at all to Israel. Consider the UK: you have groups like the EDL and the BNP claiming they represent the true spirit of Britian, but then so do the anti-fascists and so do all mainstream political parties.

    But what if the EDL say they alone are the true heirs of King Alfred the Great, who played such a key role in developing England as a nation?

    Is that enough to damn the English?

  8. modernityblog Says:

    “it was born out of a project that saw immigrants mostly of European origins moving into a territory populated by local non-European people, and displacing them (politically and physically). “

    The issue is uniqueness.

    So surely you can see how your description, if we accept it for the sake of the argument, applies to numerous countries:

    The United States: remember the Mayflower and the 1600s? If anyone needs their memory refreshing, I’d recommend Dee Brown’s Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.

    Canada: the British settlers in the 1700 and onwards?

    Latin America: 1492, Christopher Columbus ring any bells?

    Numerous books detail the mass murder of the indigenous populations. Their continued suppression is still an issue. You might do well to look at Argentina’s history and how European immigrants and those from the Middle East displaced and destroyed the previous inhabitants.

    Australia: British conquest and settlement. Any one say Captain Cook? Now look at the appalling treatment of the Aborigines, nothing to say about them?

    New Zealand: Named by the Dutch, and colonised by the British, who would have killed off the Māoris, if they could.

    Ireland: the Six Counties although physically in Ireland are politically part of the United Kingdom. Settlement which continued from the 12th century was formalised during the Tudor period so the English could steal the land, legally.

    There are numerous other examples, only the myopic and historically illiterate would fail to acknowledge them.

    Therefore, based on the evidence and accepting your premise, Ran, Israel is not unique.

    It is a pity that you can’t admit the bleeding obvious.

    • Philip Says:

      To be precise, what is unique is not the historical context – many states were born in violence and conflict – but the re-enactment of the founding act of exclusion of 1948 on a daily basis.

      Ran points out the very things you say. It’s just that in all those societies, steps are being taken still to try to ensure the political inclusion of people who were excluded by colonialism. In Israel, that exclusion is reinforced every day. That’s the point.

      • Unbelievable Says:

        The point is that while there is a general worldwide consensus on the unacceptability of colonial occupation, Israel still continues to reinforce its racist and exclusionary policies every day.For those people saying things like well the Americans did it too, Why is it ok for Israelies that their country have similar standards in human rights to what we now know as the horrible ethnic cleansing and disposession of the Native American population? I can’t believe anyone’s even making that argument who respects themselves. The point is that Israel is the only country in the world which in stark opposition to international law continues to physically occupy land which is internationally recognized as belonging to an indigenous population. In either case, “Israel is not unique” is not exactly anything to be proud of. But I am also offended that military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank can be compared to the -truly horrible -practices of countries like Egypt where Egyptian Christians are discriminated against.But the point is that at least they are “Egyptian” Christians. They at least are not denied a state, a passport, a home.

        • Absolute Observer Says:

          “Unbelievable”
          You miss the point being made.
          The argument about the USA, Canada, Australia, China, Italy, France is not that since they are guilty of ongoing racism so Israel can continue to be guilty too as if the guilt of others is justification. It is not.

          The point is, rather, that no one is saying that these states should disappear in the sense of changing the fundamental characteristics of a state. Rather, people are seeking to make matters more equitable within the present state structures (i.e. including the Roma within the body politic will not change Italy’s Catholic state; nor France’s status as a secualr state).
          It is only when it comes to Israel that people refuse reform as an option and, in so doing, seek to deny Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.
          For many people, your denial of even the possibility of Jewish self-determination in a state where there is equality for all is as disgusting as the inaccuarate spin you put on others comments.

        • Philip Says:

          If only it were so simple Absolute Observer. If we were to apply the standards we apply to say, France (France must treat all people within the territory controlled by its state institutions equally) to the Israeli contect (Israel must treat all people in Israel and the OPT – ie, within territory controlled by its state institutions – equally) then we are confronted with the accusation of wanting to dissolve the ‘Jewish nature’ of the state.

          What is the way out of this impasse?

      • david Says:

        Exactly. As Philip points out it is the political props ensuring the continued existence of a specifically “Jewish” state that are the obstacle to full democracy in Israel and the occupied territories. Israel cannot allow all adults to have a vote in the territories it controls because eventually demographics will ensure it will become something other than a “Jewish” state. The day will come when the Israeli ethnocracy is shown to be on the wrong side history.

  9. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    I think that we all get the message now. This is not an informed discussion between academics or other interested parties over an issue over which there is disagreement. This is a dialogue of the deaf between one who wants to be identified as siding with “progress”, a term Ran uses frequently in a positive light. Any deviation from the “progressive” line is anathema to him. A progressive position of belief will always trump historical truth in his eyes. Humpty Dumpty springs to mind.

    The value of this correspondence is to show, if we needed to be shown, that many of our opponents will use extreme measures to achieve their ends. Please excuse the English understatement. It would appear that in the Ran’s case, those of you in Academia are battling against forces which are not playing by the rules. You are used to vicious competition where the fight is bitter because the stakes are so small. Not in this case though. This has nothing to do with Sociology. It is politics by other means, pure and simple. Ran is actively collaborating with moves to delegitimize Zionism and Israel as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. And only to this. He is oblivious to all and any arguments to the contrary. It has been pointed out to him by a number of respondents that his position may have been valid earlier in the 20th century, but what actually happened to us, our parents and grandparents, rendered that position untenable politically and morally.

    The world is not a perfect place and we should beware of those who want to perfect it by sacrificing those who do not meet their exacting moral standards. They wrought havoc with millions of innocent people, especially in the 20th century.

  10. Jonathan Romer Says:

    Greenstein’s has a desperate need to describe unique aspects of Israel and blame absolutely everything on them: It’s an absolute requirement if he’s to justify his focus on dismantling Israel and only Israel. It is reminding me more and more of the mentality lampooned by “We’re not prejudiced. We oppose all countries that start with ‘I’ and end with ‘L’.

    Your analysis is driven by your conclusions, Ran. Is that good social science?

  11. Ignorance is bliss Says:

    Ok, I admit I am on thin ice here, because I of my lack of knowledge on the history of colonialism.

    I assumed that a colonial enterprise was carried out in the name of the “home” nation; that the home nation colonised the area outside “Europe” for its own (economic) interests.
    After a given period of time, the colonists came to see themselves as distinct from the home country at which point, they engaged in a war of independence against it. Alternatively, they gained independence through less violent means which often kept at least some formal ties with the imperialist power.
    After a further period, those peoples who were colonised engaged in a conflict with its (now autonomous) “European” ruling class.

    It seems to me that the case of Israel does not follow that colonial model.

    Leaving aside the Jews already living in Palestine, those Jews who moved to that region at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century did not do so as agents of a or any home country. Indeed, they moved for a host of reasons, including seeking an escape from their oppression and discrimination in the countries in which they were born (a bit like the non-conformists moving to what was to become the USA). During the 1930’s and 1940’s this desire to escape became intense. In other words, far from acting as agents of “Europe”, they were its principle victims. (For some thinkers, European Jews were themselves victims of an intra-European colonialism).

    Israel never had an existence before its own independence; that is, it was never a “country” created by a home country in its own interests against whom its own European ruling class had to wage a war of independence or, more peacefully, enter a federation (such as the Commonwealth).

    Israel was never an agent of a home nation. Israel never had a pre-independence colonial existence.

    In fact, Israel emerged as an independent nation-state only as a consequence of the withdrawal and defeat of the imperial power
    along with its defence against local nations whose aim was to strangle that state at its birth. (It is also to be noted that the aims of the invading states was to carve up Israel and subsume its parts into their own nations and not for any goal of creating an independent Palestine).

    Moreover, prior to its declaration of independence, the (newer) Jewish presence in Palestine occurred, as someone has already noted, not through violent dispossession (as in say Latin America and Africa) but through legal means of buying and selling; often with the result that many Arabs moved close to such Jewish places for economic interests. (It was the actuality of the 1948 war that resulted in population shifts, and not the increased presence of Jews prior to that conflict; a shift that included not only Arabs but also Jews (17000 Jews and about 24,000 Arabs, all of whom were grated status as Israeli citizens).

    In short, whilst many European Jews moved to Palestine and were involved in creating the state of Israel, the idea that such movements and involvement was “colonialist” is in fact not the case. True, many were European, but far from acting in the interests of any specific European state were seeking lives away from it. (Indeed, the Jews who arrived in Palestine (often against the wishes and policies of the British colonial power, came from a wide variety of European states).

    A further point is the use of “Europe” in the narrative of Israel=colonialism.

    Despite the increased use of the term “Europe” in recent discussions of colonialism, the fact is that “Europe” never colonised anything.

    Individual European states did – Britain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc.. And, as is well known, many colonised lands became to sites of brutal inter-national wars between distinct European powers.

    “Europe” as a monolithic political entity simply did not (and even now, despite the EU, etc) does not exist.

    However, the substitution of the idea of a unified “Europe” for the reality of European powers (and so glossing over the conflicts of interests between them) allows the idea that movement of Europeans to other regions of the world can only be explained though the inaccurate language of “colonialism”.

    It is this shift in understandings of colonialism from European powers to “Europe” that allows the history of the movement of European Jews to Palestine and to Israel to be misrepresented through the language of colonalism and comparisons with British, French, etc. colonialism made.

    Israel may have been founded by “Europeans”, but that does not make of Israel a European colonial enterprise.

    • Phillip Martin Says:

      These comments are extremely useful. The false modesty(?sarcasm) with which you precede them is unnecessary.

    • Philip Says:

      It doesn’t matter whether colonialism is driven by a state or not. the British Empire was started by pirates and merchants with very little state backing. That came later as the government realised it could make money.

      Colonialism is about the disposession of people’s land, lives and homes. Whether it’s backed by public capital doesn’t matter.

      I would suggest reading some Fred Halliday on the topic.

  12. Absolute Observer Says:

    “What is really unique about Israel is the Jewishness of the Jewish state as opposed to the Arabness of an Arab state or indeed the Britishness of the British state.”

    http://thecst.org.uk/blog/?p=1981

    Ran, the above is a comment on what an important pro-boycott anti-Israel body in the UK considers “fair comment” on Israel.

    Considering Fine statement above, what are your thoughts on it?

    Perhaps, you may also want to consider how in the context of this type of thing, the boycott of Israeli Jews and Israeli Jewish insitutions can be designated as a “mere” tactic, rather than an expression of such hatred?

  13. Inna Says:

    Ran–

    Are you opposed to immigration? Or at least to immigration of persons who are seen by the “indigenous” (is there such a thing?) people as being “alien”? In other words, do you feel that the UK should restrict the number of Asians who immigrate and that the US should restrict the number of South Americans who immigrate to take but two examples I am relatively familiar with?

    This is not a trivial question. Your comments on the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict put me very much in mind with some of the more noxious rhetoric coming (in these parts) from Arizona.

    Of course here, the folks who tend to engage in such rhetoric tend to be associated with the Right.

    Regards,

    Inna

  14. I'm reminded of Ran Says:

    “At last, when the Duchess saw that no patterns would do her any good in the framing of her world; she resolved to make a world of her own invention, and this world was composed of sensitive and rational self-moving matter; indeed, it was composed only of the rational, which is the subtlest and purest degree of matter..”

    (The Blazing World Margaret Cavendish. 1666)

  15. Ignorance is Bliss Says:

    Dear Philip,
    I am pleased that you find them of use.
    However, in my own defence the opening comment was meant neither as “false modesty” or “sarcasm”. I only wrote that so that others with more expertise in the field could correct me where I was wrong or refine the thoughts I was expressing.
    Yours
    Ignorance is Bliss

  16. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    The behaviour of Ran and his “AsaJew” mates has a long and ignoble lineage. I am always amazed by the historical ignorance of those who play that role; with the inquisition and the Church over the centuries or the various communist movements in the 20th century. They think that their devotion to the cause will exempt them on the day that the their comrades remember that someone who acts against the Jews “AsaJew” is also a Jew.

    I am reminded of the section of Simon Sebag Montefiore book, Stalin, the Court of the Red Tsar,
    P 202
    “Weeks later at a dinner to celebrate the founding of the Cheka, Pauker, Stalin’s comedian, acted the death and pleadings of Zinoviev. The the raucous guffaws of the Vozhd and Yehov, plump,corseted and shiny pated Pauker was dragged back into the room by two friends playing the role of guards. There he performed Zinoviev’s cries of ‘For God’s sake call Stalin’ but he improvised another ingredient. Pauker, a Jew himself, specialised in telling Stalin Jewish jokes in the appropriate accent with much rolling of ‘R’s and cringing. Now he combined the two, depicting Zinoviev raising his hands to the Heavens and weeping. ‘Hear oh Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one’, Stalin laughed so much that Pauker repeated it. “
    P224
    “the Hungarian hairdresser and favourite of the Kremlin children, Pauker, forty-four, was arrested on 15 April, guilty of knowing too much and living too well: Stalin no longer trusted the old fashioned Chekists with foreign connections. Pauker was shot quietly on 14 August 1937”

  17. 1948 again Says:

    Unfortunately Ran can’t face up to the fact that Jews in Palestine were murdered years before Palestinian Jews gained self-determination in 1948. Ran knows what the result would have been for Jews in 1948 if they had lost. It would have resulted in the mass murder of the Jewish population – the declared aim of the Palestinian leadership and the wider Arab world in 1948. Ran has no answer for this. For Ran every atrocity conducted by Israel is part of a conspiracy, while every atrocity or wrong-doing by some Palestinians (including Hamas) is simply dismissed.

  18. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Modernity Blog, above, has omitted a further element: in central Europe, at just the time that Israel was coming into existence, significant population swaps (expulsions? ethnic cleansings?) were taking place. The Germans of the Czech Sudetenland were being expelled; Germans from the east were being displaced back into Germany, many of them, despite their geographical origins, into what became West Germany; Hungarians, Romanians, Bulgarians, were moving about all over the place – rarely willingly.

    By (Ran Greenstein’s) definition, there is of course no similarity, equivalence or correspondence with the situation in Mandate Palestine/Israel, of course. And he calls himself a sociologist. After all, these were various types of Christians, not Jews, and only Jews are, apparently, important to Greenstein.

    I further assume that his silence over on the comments thread attached to “Antisemitism and the boycott: David Hirsh responds to Ran Greenstein” (24 October) to my extended comment about “of course antisemitism must be confronted” means that Ran Greenstein accepts my approach about how to resist antisemitism, other than by Diaspora Jews dropping their support for Israel? My comment is no. 88 out of 100.

  19. Philip Says:

    Whether they were Christians or Jews makes no difference. Greenstein is quite clear that the difference is marked not be the initial act of cleansing (which in many cases was very similar) but the the fact that that exclusionary philosophy is still playing itself out every day. He has his head in the present rather than in the past.

  20. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Philip appears to miss the point of my comment, when he says that “Whether they were Christians or Jews makes no difference.” That is _exactly_ the point : the exclusions/ethnic cleansings in Europe were of Christians by Christians. However, to Greenstein, only the ethnic cleansing (as he phrases it) allegedly carried by Jews is of any importance. Nevertheless, the population shifts (to be linguistically neutral about it) have consequences that reverberate to this day. There are still serious border disputes between Eastern European states; still arguments about who belongs where – whether certain ethnic groups have or remain dispossessed.

    So, that “[Greenstein] has his head in the present rather than in the past” is to say no more than the events of 60 years and more ago still echo in the present, as do those in Europe and elsewhere in the world (the indian sub-continent, anyone?).

    But, of course, this is to accept Greenstein’s (and by implication, Philip’s) interpretation of those events. There have been numerous other, alternative, interpretations of those events, with evidence. So far, Greenstein has merely repeatedly asserted his interpretation, and has ignored the calls for evidence. If he _knows_ he’s right, where is the evidence beyond the repeated assertions that the rest of us, or our sources, are wilfully misinterpreting such documentary evidence as we cite.

    Come to that, Philip, if you’re so convinced that Ran Greenstein is right, where’s _your_ evidence?

  21. Ran Greenstein Says:

    For those who still don’t get the picture, here are two articles published yesterday from within ‘the belly of the beast':

    Roi Maor: “Segreation law: continuity and change”

    http://972mag.com/segregation-law-continuity-and-change-roi-maor/

    Short extract: “The Israeli establishment is in the midst of a pushback against efforts to change long-standing racist and suppressive practices. The increasing assertiveness of Palestinians demands for fairness and equality is met by increasingly explicit racism by Israeli elites. This is why long-held practices are being formally enshrined, rhetoric is becoming more blunt, and differences between Jews and any non-Jew (whether Palestinian or migrant worker) are increasingly highlighted. But how long can this last without tearing Israel apart?”

    Zvi Bar’el: “South Africa is already here”

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/south-africa-is-already-here-1.322052

    Short extract: “So, while the government of Israel is trying to gain Palestinian recognition for its Jewish identity, it is building within it the double identity of the state. A protected autonomy for the Jewish majority and a stunted autonomy for the Arab minority. Israel is quickly defining the borders of the Arab autonomy and through apartheid legislation it is granting the Arab minority a legal standing of enclaves with lesser rights; of a cultural-ethnic region which, because it is being expelled from the broader who, can also demand international recognition for its unique standing.”

  22. Ran Greenstein Says:

    More, from today’s Israeli press: who singles Israel out other than its own political leadership?

    Mordechai Kremnitzer: Israel’s Knesser in the service of enemies of the state” http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israel-s-knesset-in-the-service-of-enemies-of-the-state-1.322215

    Short extract: “The national isolationism that this proposal is designed to promote will deepen alienation and hostility. As things stand, separation between Arabs and Jews in Israel is extreme: There are scarcely any joint educational, residential or military service frameworks. A Jewish-Israeli can go through life without meeting an Arab-Israeli. That is how fears, stereotypes and malice is engendered. No doubt, the proposal promotes the Yisrael Beiteinu party’s vision of making the Arabs disappear, and, until that time, of knocking them down in the hopes that they will lose their bearings. It is also clear that should the law be passed, the Knesset will notch a major “achievement” − the provision of ammunition to enemies of Israel who claim that it is a racist, Apartheid state.”

  23. Same old, Same Old Says:

    http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/fascists-still-want-to-kill-jews/

    But Ran ignores the actions and aims of many Palestinians in 1948

    “Jews who had dwelt on historical Palestinian terrain both east of the Jordan River and in the area called “the West Bank” were driven out of that land’s Arab-dominated towns over the past half century by sporadic pogroms and pillage, so that by the 1940s the Palestinian towns in Transjordan and the West Bank were considered “purely Arab” — already purged of their former Jewish population. The Jews once living in the area of Palestine known as Jordan and the West Bank had become “Palestinian Jewish refugees” as the result of Arab violence. And the fact that there are Jewish “Palestinian refugees” of twentieth-century vintage is overlooked even in Israel. These refugees found safety only in the predominantly Jewish-settled areas of Palestine’s coastal plain, which today is Israel. By 1948, the more than seventy-five percent of Palestine that the British had allocated to the Arabs as “Transjordan” already had been efficiently purged of all Jews, through periodic Arab onslaughts upon the various long-established Jewish communities. Despite that fact, the Jordanian government’s nationality law of 1954 sought to safeguard its would-be racial purity: According to that law “Palestinian” living in Jordan was entitled to Jordanian citizenship unless he as a Jew”.

    Haj Amin al Husseini, recording in his own handwriting his meeting with Hitler in his diary, says:

    “The words of the Fuehrer on the 6th of Zul Qaada 1360 of the Hejira (which falls on the 21st of November 1941) Berlin, Friday, from 4:30 P.M. till a few minutes after 6. The objectives of my fight are clear. Primarily, I am fighting the Jews without respite, and this fight includes the fight against the so-called Jewish National Home in Palestine because the Jews want to establish there a central government for their own pernicious purposes, and to undertake a devastating and ruinous expansion at the expense of the govemments of the world and of other peoples.It is clear that the Jews have accomplished nothing in Palestine and their claims are lies. All the accomplishments in Palestine are due to the Arabs and not to the Jews. I am resolved to find a solution for the Jewish problem, progressing step by step without cessation. With regard to this I am making the necessary and right appeal, first to all the European countries and then to countries outside of Europe”.

  24. Mikey Says:

    I have a question for Ran Greenstein. If he is so pro the boycott of Israeli universities, why has he spent so much of his time in the last few years writing comments on the alef list, a discussion email list that has been hosted by Haifa University?

  25. Absolute Observer Says:

    “But how long can this last without tearing Israel apart?”

    “It is also clear that should the law be passed, the Knesset will notch a major “achievement” − the provision of ammunition to enemies of Israel who claim that it is a racist, Apartheid state.”

    Yes, these are bad, terrible things. Awful things that need to be opposed and stopped. Work is needed for that.

    However, as the first quote implies, it needs to be stopped, not just because of the inherent injustices it causes to Israeli citizens, but also because the damage it does to Israel as Israel.

    In other words, contrary to Ran, these writers’ opposition is also to make Israel a better country, a better state, a more just state. They do not write for an external audience who think in cliches about “original sin” and reduce this matters to a characture of Manicheanism and seek the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

    But, because Ran (and Philip) think that this latest round of (bad) political choices – choices, Fine notes, are hardly unique to Israel – are nothing other than the “true Israel” revealing itself in all its “purity”, then nothing is to be or could be done. Such reactionary and racist attempts appears to them as mere evidence of the “original guilt” of Israel qua Israel.

    Their position reminds me of the Stalinists and Trots of the 30’s who saw no difference between fascism, national socialism and liberal or welfare democracy, since all were emanations of capitalism. Serious political action was irrelevant in the fight against reaction. They were wrong then, Ran (and Philip) are wrong now.

    For Ran and Philip, no difference exists between Kadima, the Labour Party, Likud, Leiberman’s gang, and so on, since their common ground is not the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state They remind me of those idiots who after 8 years of the Bush administration and in the wake of Obama’s victory prattled on about “no one won but the goverment” or those in the UK who think Cameron (and his policies of “social cleansing”) is no different that Brown and the Labour government. Lazy nonsense

    That is why Ran and Philip are irrelevances in Israel and can only seek to garner support from those who agree with them that Israel is evil plain and simple.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/31/israel-coalition-government-walk-out

  26. mark gardner Says:

    Robert, thank you for this most excellent article, and the ensuing debtae.

  27. Unbelievable Says:

    To Absolute Observer:

    Ongoing racism and PHYSICAL COLONIAL OCCUPATION are two entirely different things. There is no possibility of any equality within the framework of an occupying state, unless we conveniently choose to ignore the existence of Palestinians that is. I’m not sure which part of my comment came off as a denial of the possibility of Jewish self determination. The reason that while in other countries with inequalities people push for reform of the system and in Israel people are asking for a boycott (which I dont necessarily agree with) is that Israel is an occupying, colonial power, and colonialism is inherently based on inequality and the refusal to recognize the rights of Palestinian Arabs.
    The American constitution, for example, is inherently based on equality for all, and so while there are many structural inequalities in America, it is possible to resolve them through the American legal structure. In Israel, it is not possible to fight the inequalities of the system without objecting to the fact that it is from the start based on an illegal occupation, which needs to be changed.
    Now, that the call for ending the occupation, which is all anyone rational is calling for, has been equated by many of the comments here as the denial of the right of Israel to exist, which no one reasonable is calling for, says something about the connection, in the minds of many Israelies, between the necessity of the occupation for the state of Israel to continue to exist, which is exactly the problem and the point. Israel needs to find a way to exist without being an illegal occupying power, is that really an unreasonable demand?

    • Richard Gold Says:

      “Now, that the call for ending the occupation, which is all anyone rational is calling for, has been equated by many of the comments here as the denial of the right of Israel to exist, which no one reasonable is calling for, says something about the connection, in the minds of many Israelies, between the necessity of the occupation for the state of Israel to continue to exist, which is exactly the problem and the point. Israel needs to find a way to exist without being an illegal occupying power, is that really an unreasonable demand?”

      But nobody is saying that the occupation shouldn’t be ended or that calling for the occupation is equal to the denial of the right of Israel to exist. The boycott campaign is not just about the occupation, it’s about a one state solution. That’s what boycott leaders desire. Infact that’s why they will not answer the question when asked and it’s been asked many times “Would an end to the occupation and a withdrawal to The Green Line end the call for a boycott ?”.

      The boycott campaign is not about the occupation unless it is the “occupation” of 1948 and not 1967 that is being referred to.

    • Phillip Martin Says:

      Your remarks are, frankly, ridiculous. The “occupation” has occurred because the enemies of Israel harbour an unremitting hostility to the existence of the Israeli state. One of the ways this hostility expresses itself is in acts of attempted murder, murder and mass murder. The present situation for the Palestinian Arabs is rooted in their refusal to accept the presence of Jews in our historic homeland, or our establishing of a state to protect our interests. Which is unreasonable. We Jews are responsible for our behaviour as individuals and as a people but we are not responsible for the choices that our enemies make.

  28. Jerry Haber Says:

    It’s great to read Ran Greenstein and folks like him.The links that he cites from Haaretz, and which have been multiplying like flies as each day brings new discriminatory laws and proposals by this ultra-rightist government, should serve as a wake-up call for the moderates on the Engage list. We need them to criticize the decline of Israel without fear of what the gentiles will say or do with such criticism.

  29. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Unbelievable”
    To avoid confusion, what part of Palestine do you see Israel as “occupying”? You see, for some people, no distinction is made between Israel 1948-to the present and the OT of Gaza (now no longer formally occupied and the WB).
    Assuming you are referring to the post-1967 lands, then I am not sure who at Engage would disagree with your statement that, “Israel needs to find a way to exist without being an illegal occupying power,.”
    As to the question of whether Israel (excluding the OT) as a Jewish state can be a state with equality for all citizens, this debate has taken place recently on the pages of Engage and it seems unnecessary to repeat it all again. (I think you’ll find it on one or other of Greenstein’s or Fine’s postings).

    Jerry,
    I have no problem with “criticizing the decline of Israel”, nor does Engage (See Hirsh’s post above). (Nor do I accept the distinction you make between “Jews” and “Gentiles” since, a. I have never thought Israel a “Jewish” issue. It is a political issue that some, on both sides of the debate, like to personalise and pathologise as “Jewish” (and so “exceptional” ior “unique”and, b. the implict idea that it is only “Jews” that “defend” Israel thereby “racialising” the entire debate; an entirely misleading assumption.

    However, Ran is not speaking of of a “decline of Israel” is he?
    For Ran, there is no “decline”, just more of the same; that same being the “original sin” of Zionism and of the Jewish state per se.

    If we look over the various posts and comments, it is that kind of slippage (between a “decline of Israel” in the sense of its right-wing goverments’ policies and Israel an illegitimate state from its inception) that the discussion here has really been about.

    After all, understood in these term, the UK is currently going through severe decline (as it did after 1979) but as far as I know, there is no global movement calling for a boycott against the UK.
    And, there is every reason to hope – and work for – a reversal of fortunes in the UK. I, for one, am not prepared to write its decline off as terminal and call on lots of other countries to put it on the top of their foerign policy agenda.

  30. Unbelievable Says:

    I think it is quite unrealistic to think that a BDS movement is going to force Israel into denouncing Zionism (which is the essence of a one state solution) when years of political maneuvering haven’t even been able to stop Israel from expanding and continuing to build settlements. All anyone can expect from the campaign(and i think its naive to even expect that because I don’t think the campaign is necessarily the right way to achieve those results) is to pressure Israel onto the negotiating table with serious intentions of ending 1967 occupation.

    So I think it hardly makes sense that anyone who is taking this seriously will object to the BDS campaign on the grounds that it’s going to get so powerful that it will refuse to stop until the whole world gangs up on Israel and forcibly takes away the right of self determination of the Jewish people. I mean, really?

    How in the world Israel is going to move all those illegal settlements seems to me to be the question the whole world is ignoring right now when we unproblematically continue to argue for a two state solution. It seems to me that Israel is willing to consider only the solution that it works actively every day to make impossible.

    • Richard Gold Says:

      But you have to accept what the boycott movement says, not what you want it to say. The boycott movement is not about putting pressure on Israel to end the occupation. It’s about the demonisation of Israel and the view that Israel is an illegitimate state even within the pre-67 borders. That’s what the boycotters say and that’s their aim. A 2 states settlement based on the ending of the occupation is the last thing the BDS movement wants. Ran doesn’t accept a 2 states settlement based on a pre-67 Israel, neither do the leaders of the academic boycott, neither does PACBI, neither do the leaders of the BDS movement. Just read what they say – you’ll see they don’t call for a 2 states settlement.
      So please, judge them by what they say and not what you want. They want a single state without Israel, which is not compatible with 2 states. Engage has constantly asked at boycott meetings at UCU if they support two states and every time they have refused to answer – and in fact leaders of the boycott such as Steven Rose, Barghouti , Blackwell , PSC, Pacbi, etc have all stated they believe in a one state solution.

  31. Unbelievable Says:

    Also, this is how the BDS movement identifies its underlying principle, it says little about a one state solution.:

    “It is no longer denied that Israel has oppressed the Palestinian people for decades in multiple forms: occupying, colonizing, ethnically cleansing, racially discriminating, in short, denying Palestinians the fundamental rights for freedom, equality and self-determination. Despite abundant condemnation of Israel’s policies by the UN and all relevant international conventions, the international community of nations has failed to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law or its respect for basic human rights. Israel’s crimes have continued with utter impunity. The time has come for action, not just words. BDS are the most effective non-violent, morally consistent means for achieving justice and genuine peace in the region through concerted international pressure similar to that applied on South African apartheid. ”

    http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/155

    • Richard Gold Says:

      “Also, this is how the BDS movement identifies its underlying principle, it says little about a one state solution.:”

      Off course it says little about a one state solution. It knows it would loose a lot of support. It says nothing about a 2 states solution. As i say everytime we ask if they support a 2 states solution we are met with a refusal to answer. Why don’t you email PACBI yourself and ask them? I think their leader is still Barghouti who is open in his support for a one state solution. Anybody who supports a 2 states settlement based on a full Israeli withdrawal and dismantling of settlements will publicly state that that is their view. Pacbi , the BDS movement and it’s leaders don’t state that view because they don’t believe in it.

  32. Ran Greenstein Says:

    Jerry Haber talks about discriminatory acts and legislation (and reports about them) multiplying like flies. The most dynamic political web site in Israel today has a section on segregation (http://972mag.com/tag/segregation/), with new features added constantly. Check it out (Jerusalem Post editorial about the dangers of racial intermarriage, for example).

    Two things to keep in mind:

    (1) the recent flood of laws and actions replicates the old themes of ethnic exclusion/domination, which go back – with obvious contextual variations – over a century (see the classical ‘Truth from Eretz Israel’ by Ahad Ha’am, 1891 and ‘Hidden Question’ by Yitzhak Epstein, 1907). The precise manifestations of such themes and their intensity shift over time, but the basic thrust remains. The original acts of exclusion and dispossesion of 1948 are being re-enacted daily there and nowhere else .

    (2) what was a voluntary movement of a minority group of settlers before 1948 became a state-sponsored campaign mobilizing a dominant bullying majority. The current wave is not simply a series of individual incidents. Rather it is driven by the state (government, parliament, local authorities, rabbis – who are state officials – military and security apparatuses). This has no equivalent anywhere else today.

    In both respects this is a unique case: the continuous process of exclusion/dispossesion – from the formative period of the state all the way to the present – and its state-driven official nature.

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Neutori Karta are pretty much against inter-marriage Ran. They’re always used by anti-zionists. Will the BDS movement stop inviting them to speak at demos ?

  33. Absolute Observer Says:

    Haber does a great deal of valuable work. That is, in this context, besides the point.

    As I said, Haber speaks of Israel’s decline,
    but, for Ran there can be no decline since Israel born of “original sin”. It has always been “exclusionary” and dominatory” and “ethnic”.

    Current right wing policies is a return to, replicates and reveals anew that “original sin”.
    The Israeli state was tainted from its origins.
    Today, it is a “unique evil” in the world.
    Israel as a Jewish state should not exist as such today.

    What bit have I got wrong, Ran?

    “Unbelievable” does that answer your discussion you are having with Richard Gold?

    The irony is it is precisely because of the absolutism and purism of Ran’s views, and those he calls in support, that so many people otherwise sympathetic to the criticisms of contemporary Israel and to a sovereign Palestine stay well away from the issue; people who would otherwise not think twice in getting involved. Or, as Ran said elsewhere, simply “their problem”?

  34. Mirror Man Says:

    “We need them to criticize the decline of Israel without fear of what the gentiles will say or do with such criticism.”

    “We”? “Gentiles”?

    Talk about parochial.

    Between you and me, not all gentiles are anti-Semites – and, guess what, not all Jews aren’t anti-Semites.

    “No, no, don’t get me wrong, you’re ok, it’s the other gentiles I don’t like. In fact, some of my best friends are gentiles.”

    Talk about Israeli nationalists and their siege mentalities.

    Are they really all that blinkered?

  35. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “Erm, I think you may be avoiding answering a question…!”
    Actually, Philip, you are the one avoiding answering a direct question. It’s a cute effort, but still an evasion, and using cheap rhetoric at that. You don’t actually ask a question in your last posting directly to me, merely tell me I’m making serious assertions about Ran Greenstein, who is a big boy and doesn’t need you to defend him. If he feels that, he’ll tell me. Until then, stop telling me what I’m doing.

    As for me evading anything, you know very well what my view is, you’ve read it here often enough, but I’ll come back to that later.

    You cite as supposed evidence the early Morris and not the later book (another cheap trick from the rhetoricians book), specifically “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War”. Morris claims (and he’s the writer, so he should know) that he has come across documents not available when he wrote his earlier book, and so has changed his mind on that (and other) matters, specifically, the question of Palestinian refugees. He’s allowed to do that, you know Philip: it’s the mark of the genuine academic and intellectual: ‘I’ve found new evidence, so I have to change my mind’. Only closed-minded ideologues are consistent whatever the evidence: remind you of anyone you know, Philip?

    I shall return to Morris below.

    You cite two other sources: Avi Shlaim, an Israeli-born, now UK-resident, anti-Zionist, and a consistent, whatever the evidence, new historian, as Morris notes and as I quoted in my review of Morris’s book “One State. Two States”. Have you read the book yet, Philip? It’s interesting, even if one doesn’t agree with everything in it, as, for example, John Strawson found, who, I’m sure you know, is a strong pro-Palestine, anti-boycott, two-stater. Regrettably, I find Shlaim less than convincing on most things. Further, he was one of the “advisers” to the cast who performed Caryl Churchill’s “7 Jewish Children”: even the partner of the cast member I spoke to was totally unimpressed with him.

    Then we have Rashid Khalidi. Interesting person. The Wikipedia entry on him has this to say (and I didn’t write it, don’t know who did, and have never made any contribution of any kind to Wikipedia): ‘Khalidi has described discussions of Arab restitution for property confiscated from Jewish refugees forced to flee Middle Eastern and North African countries after the creation of Israel as “insidious”, “because the advocates of Jewish refugees are not working to get those legitimate assets back but are in fact trying to cancel out the debt of Israel toward Palestinian refugees.”‘

    What do think of that, Philip? Fair? Even-handed? Would you expect that, to be even-handed, he would and should say the same things about the “dispossessed Palestinians”? Or are their claims equally insidious (his word)? Surely, as an academic and an intellectual (Professor at Columbia University – high class place, that), we should expect consistency from him. Or is he just an ideologue?

    Then we find this on him, from my google search:
    “Obama Pal Rashid Khalidi Back in the News for Aiding Hamas
    July 20, 2010 5:09 P.M.
    By Andy McCarthy
    President Obama’s good friend, former PLO mouthpiece Rashid Khalidi, is back in the news. He has signed an appeal for funds to outfit another ship that, like the “peace flotilla,” would try to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the territory controlled by Hamas — the foreign terrorist organization that is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian arm.

    The ship would be called — wait for it — The Audacity of Hope.”

    I think that’s from a website called “One Nation”, but I could be wrong. Google UK threw it up, at about 4 or 5 down, when I googled Rashid Khalidi.

    You’ll gather I’m less than overwhelmed by you third choice of witness.

    Now to Benny Morris. In “1948”, he freely admits that he’s moved on from his earlier position as a “new historian”. He refers to episodes long pre-dating the period under question. So he notes, as do people like Harry Goldstein above, that the early Zionist immigrants (from about the 1870s) bought land, legitimately, from local owners and with Turkish permission. If you don’t like this inconvenient truth, go blame the Turkish empire. This continued, at a much slower rate, under the British Mandate. If you don’t like this…

    However, the first violence and attempts at ethnic exclusion came from the Arabs/Palestinians. The Hebron massacre of 1929, for example, and, as Harry notes above, the virtual ethnic cleansing of what became the West Bank were not carried out by Jews. Jewish violence, such as it was, was reactive.

    It was only after _that_ UN Resolution in November 1947 that there was any serious Jewish violence, and then it was still reactive. The Palestinian militias, between November 1947 and March/April 1948 attempted to clear the Jews out of the areas that had been designated as “Jewish” in the partition plan (and beyond this as well).

    They lost, big time. And, yes, Palestinians did flee from the fighting, often unbidden, sometimes “persuaded” by the militias, and sometimes “persuaded” by Irgun or the Stern Gang (and much less often by what became the Haganah). Later, the Palestinians were persuaded, additionally by the Arab nations whose armies invaded the Mandate area after May 1948 and the Declaration of Independence. By the way, except for the Jordanian army, they lost big time, as well. You don’t like the facts of the war, Philip? Blame the Israelis…oh, sorry, you already are blaming them for winning.

    So, Philip, some 700-800, 000 Palestinians fled or were otherwise displaced, and relatively few of them sent on their way by the Jews/Israelis – whatever you and Ran Greenstein might like to think. I further note that no-one who thinks this displacement a crime against humanity committed by the Israelis seems to give a damn about the same number of Jews from Arab lands similarly displaced – vide Khalidi above.

    If you think you know better, Philip, chapter and verse are needed. You have mine, now let’s have yours.

    • Philip Says:

      Wait, are you seriously trying to tell me that the creation of the state if Israel did not involve ethnic cleansing? Is anyone else on this thread in agreement?

      Are you also trying to tell me that the second edition of ‘Palestinian Refugee Problem’ (published 2004) is less current than ‘1948’ (published 1994) and which is nor even a monograph? Dear oh dear. Is this the standard of discourse at De Montfort?

      Also, your characterization of Khalidi is pretty baseless. The book I mentioned is a painstaking account of the state of Palestinian society at that time, the events leading up to and after 1947-8 and the effects they had. I would suggest reading the book rather than relying on Google.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “Are you also trying to tell me that the second edition of ‘Palestinian Refugee Problem’ (published 2004) is less current than ’1948′ (published 1994) and which is nor even a monograph? Dear oh dear. Is this the standard of discourse at De Montfort?”

        Philip Blue, you know very well that I was referring to Morris’s book “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War” published 2008, because I quoted the full title. It is neither funny nor clever to pretend otherwise. Indeed, it smacks of mendacity and of an inability to find an answer to the points raised.

        As for the cheap shot at De Montfort University, that doesn’t suit anyone pretending to be a serious debater. It suggests that you actually have nothing worth saying, but are unable to retreat gracefully from the field. By the way, what degrees do you have? Are they in Development Studies? I read in development studies for some courses I gave: shame about the lack of truly magisterial figures in the field, compared with Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Parsons, Merton, et al. Most of those I read in Development Studies were from other fields, and borrowed.

        Why should I read Khalidi? Are you telling me that the extracts I quoted are wrong? Try producing some evidence instead of assertion and vilification, with a touch of mendacity mixed in. You plainly have read nothing of Morris – certainly not “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War”. Given that, why should anyone here take you seriously?

        • Philip Says:

          I didn’t realise that participation on this message board was dependent on having read Benny Morris. Plenty will be surprised to hear that. But since you ask, I have indeed read works by Mr Morris, and thought they were very good.

          Brian Goldfarb, I do have a masters degree in Development Studies. I quite agree that it’s a bit of a non-field, though to say it has no greats is a little unfair. Amartya Sen is one of the great minds of his generation. And plenty of people like to read Weber. Most recently though, when subjected to regression analysis, most of his ideas have been shown to be misguided. But in any case, I have it largely because it is a professional requirement in my line of work.

          My first degree, however, involved reading such figures as Descartes, Rawls, Nozick, Sandel, GA Cohen, JS Mill, Carr, Bull, Friedman, Ricardo, Barro, Bhagwati and Krugman. Can you guess what it is yet?

          If you don’t want to read Khalidi, that’s for you to do. Mind, I would have expected someone interested in the sociology of Palestinian history and identity to be interested in the seminal work. Your accusation that he supports Hamas is shameful. Since when did humanitarian assistance, however misguided, amount to support of that nasty regime? Let’s be serious.

      • Jonathan Romer Says:

        Yes, Philip: There is at least one other on this thread who does not accept that the exit of Arabs from what became Israel was ethnic cleansing. Many, but not all, Arabs left for all the same reasons that mass movement of civilian populations occur in every war — fear and self-preservation, principally — with the addition of at least some documented cases of encouragement by the war-leaders on their own side. That they were not then granted the freedom to return after the war waged in their name has its own reasons, but that’s a separate issue.

        The near-total expulsion of Jews from their ancient homes across the Arab world as a response to Zionism and the founding of Israel, for no other reason than that they were Jews — that, however, can only be explained as ethnic cleansing. So, if you’re determined to attach that label to the effects of the War of Independence, you have some inconvenient questions to answer. Chief of which is: If your motives are morality and justice, why are you, and those whose company you keep, so disinterested in the crystal clear example of the Mizrahi Jews and so fixated on the ambiguous one of the Palestinian Arabs? Runner-up might be: Why are you also silent on the total — as in “100%” — expulsion or killing of the Jews caught in the territory seized by the Arab armies in 1948/9?

        Oh — and Morris’s “1948” was published April 2008. Dear oh dear.

  36. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “Do you have any evidence other than your own assertions for your comment that Ran only cares about abuses perpetrated by Jews? That’s a serious accusation to make.”

    Oh, you mean _this_ is the question I evade. Actually, I do answer it, when I say, in the answer which you pretend I haven’t made, “I’ve given mine, as have numerous others here, over months and years.” I even give it again in the comment posted above. Further, I’ve consistently challenged Ran Greenstein as to his “evidence”, or rather lack of it, for his claims about Israel and ethnic cleansing. I’m still waiting for anything other than further assertion.

    But then, it’s inconvenient for you to acknowledge that I _have_ answered you” that would require a proper reading of what others post here.

  37. modernityblog Says:

    As a bit of light relief, a slightly non-academic but nevertheless humourous history of the British Empire:

    It might be somewhat helpful in gaining a perspective on these matters.

  38. Ran Greenstein Says:

    Jerry Haber is right. Israel is in decline. And yet, this decline does not come out of the blue. It is a response to what Meron Benvenisti calls the genetic code of a settler society (see his long and insightful, but also flawed, “the inevtiable bi-national regime”, http://jfjfp.com/?p=9659: “After almost half a century, the Israeli governing system known as ‘the occupation’ – which ensures full control over every agent or process that jeopardizes the Jewish community’s total domination and the political and material advantage that it accumulates – has become steadily more sophisticated through random trial and error an unplanned response to some genetic code of a supplanting settler society.”).

    What we have been seeing is a process of continuity and change. The Israeli state changes in response to external pressure and internal demographic, social and political shifts. But, it does that within certain parameters that impose limits on how far and in what directions it can go. Those theoretically inclined may see affinities with the classical notion of the capitalist state moving between the imperatives of accumulation and legitimation. In a similar manner, Israel is moving between the contradictory imperatives of ethnic exclusion and ‘normal’ western democracy. It can try to juggle both at the same time, but always in an incomplete manner. And, at times of crisis – which are frequent – it moves into full-fledged exclusionary mode at the expense of the democratic mode. The best analysis – in heavy theoretical language – is provided by Ariella Azoulai and Adi Ophir in their “This Regime which is not one – occupation and democracy between the river and the sea” (only in Hebrew but expected in English in 2011 by Stanford UP).

    And historical context matters a great deal. Before 1948 the Zionist movement had no state power, and was forced to rely on voluntary segregationist measures and purchase of land. It used its organizational and financial resources to create an expanding zone of exclusion from which as many Arabs as possible were excluded (as tenants, workers, residents). It created a network of rural and urban settlements open to Jews only. It endeavoured to remove all Arab workers from Jewish-owned workplaces, in order to clear the way to new Jewish immigrants. It was successful to a large extent, but on a limited scale.

    Once it acquired state and military power, it transformed the voluntary, legal, gradual approach into a concerted campaign to forcibly remove as many Arabs as possible, and take control over as much land as possible – ethnic cleansing and massive land expropriation were the result. It could establish Israel as a democracy with voting rights to all only on the basis of the prior exclusion of 80% of the Arabs who had lived in the territories it took over in the 1948 (in the areas allocated to Israel by the UN there lived 550,000 Arabs, and in the areas conquered in the course of the war 250-300,000 additional Arabs lived – of all these, only 160,000 remained within Israeli boundaries. The rest – whether they fled or were expelled – were prevented from returning to their homes and villages).

    The democratic regime established in 1948 was always qualified, because most Palestinian citizens lived under military rule, severly restricting their legal, civil and political rights. Only by the mid-1960s (under Eshkol) was there was significant relaxation of oppressive control, and then… the 1967 occupation began. Someone – cannot remember who – refered to Israeli democracy as “the 7-month state”, between the lifting of martial law in November 1966 and the June 1967 occupation.

    Ever since, the cycle between greater oppression and moves towards democratization continues, with a decisive shift towards the exclusionary/oppressive imperative in the last decade, especially notable after the real – though limited – democratization of the 1990s. The last decade thus represent a clear decline of democracy as Haber argues, and it should be seen within the broader historical framework of the Zionist settlement project.

    This cyclical trajectory is not unique. South Africa went through the same shifts: periods of liberalization turning into bouts of intensified oppression and back again. Cape liberalism dominated in the second half of the 19th century, to be replaced by Rhodes’s more exclusionary authoritarian mode of control in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Jan Smuts’s liberalism was replaced in 1948 by apartheid authoritarianism. Even within apartheid rule, the verligte and verkrampte camps advocated different approaches. All these shifts, however, took place within an overall segregationist framework, Decisive change was made possible only when this framework was discarded. It is possible for Israel as well – discard the ethnic exclusionary frameowrk and make Israel a state of all its citizens equally. If the maligned Boers could do that, why can’t Jews in Israel do the same?

    • Phillip Martin Says:

      “maligned Boers” ! You assume that a parallelism which is invented idealogically describes the actual socio-political reality. It doesn’t. For one thing there exists no history of anti-white or anti-Boer violence committed by Africans or African states which matches the scale and frequency of attacks by Arabs and Arab states upon Jews.
      I am not advocating the impossibility of any meaningful discussion of human conflicts at all but it is not helpful to lift a term used by white supremacists to refer to and justify their own brutality and elevate it to a spurious theoretical legitimacy. A real “separate development” would have had only whites working in the mines, labouring in the fields, looking after white children, cooking their food etc. There never was separate development in Southern Africa, rather the deliberate attempt to stultify the development of Black and other non-white Africans.

      The increasingly frequent use of this false “analogy” is driven by a refusal of its advocates to accept the facts as they are and as they have been on the ground.

  39. Absolute Observer Says:

    “Current right wing policies is a return to, replicates and reveals anew that “original sin”.
    The Israeli state was tainted from its origins.
    Today, it is a “unique evil” in the world.
    Israel as a Jewish state should not exist as such today.

    What bit have I got wrong, Ran?”

    In other words, I have got nothing wrong.

    This is Ran’s position, and a position that has failed to gain any support for it in Israel, even amongst the progressive left. Still, he insists on it, regardless of the actual politics of the region and the political feelings of Israelis and Palestinians.

    On the falsity of SA and Israel analogy.

    http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/uri-avnerys-critique-of-desmond-tutu-and-neve-gordon/

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/journal/index.php?journal_id=10&article_id=34

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=487

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=224

    http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=225

    On the falsity of SA and Israel analogy.

  40. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    The responses and postings of Ran remind me of arguments and debates with the voluble antiZionist, then Jew/Israeli, now Muslim, Uri Davis on UK campuses during the 1970s.

    He was very adept at moving the goal posts to define the detbate. On one particular occasion, pertinent to this case, I raised the question of the position of the Jews under Islam. As far as Mr. Davis was concerned as this was a religious question, there were no national aspects to the question of “state antisemitism” as there were not any states, so there was no case to answer.

    Ran carries on about the inherently segregationist nature of the Zionist entity, from its inception onwards. His superficial analysis totally ignores the aspects of nation self determination and the consequent clash of two nationalism, both of which are multidimensional and not mirror images of each other.

    If he would remove the ideological blinkers from his eyes, he would see similarities and differences with other such clashes all over the face of the planet; Turkey/Kurds/Iranians/Iraqis, Russians/Georgians/Ossetians, Armenia/Azerbaijan/ Nagorno-Karabakh, India/Pakistan/Kashmir, China/Tibet etc. etc etc.

    If Ran is indeed a disinterested and objective academic, perhaps he should turn his laser like intellect to other areas, in addition to our little neck of the woods and propose suitable solutions, including boycotting “the baddies”. I wonder how far he will get trying to ban all Indian academics who are obviously responsible for not allowing the inhabitants of Kashmir self determination and secession to Pakistan. In addition, he should make sure that any Indian academics outside India not agreeing with his position, are suitable removed from participating in any discussions, as they are hopelessly biased.

    BTW, I love his line “The best analysis – in heavy theoretical language – is provided by Ariella Azoulai and Adi Ophir”. Heavy theoretical language – you could not make this stuff up, it is beyond parody.

  41. Absolute Observer Says:

    Thanks for citing your works – I’ll take a look at them.
    Perhaps, in the meantime, you could let me have your comments on Strawson’s article. You may also like to see,

    I await your comments.

    If you note, the theological terms I used were in inverted commas; merely a way of expressing my points, point that from what you say adequately sum up your views.
    To repeat,
    “Current right wing policies is a return to, replicates and reveals anew that “original sin” – exclusionary and dominatory from the start.
    The Israeli state was tainted from its origins – it has always and will always be like that.
    Today, it is a “unique evil” in the world – no other state is similar.
    Israel as a Jewish state should not exist as such today – it shouod not be a Jewish state as constructed.

    As was noted earlier, this notion has even less supoort than it did pre-48. Yet, you insisit on it. You are so insitent on it that you demand the global world exclude Israeli Jews until they are forced to agree with it.

  42. Ran Greenstein Says:

    Jerry Haber has done it again (providing incisive and insightful analysis of the role of the ‘Arab conundrum’ in Israeli/Jewish political thinking). Check out: http://www.jeremiahhaber.com/2010/11/israels-arab-problem-part-two.html

    It could have been titled ‘how the quest for a Jewish state leads to ethnic cleansing, again”, but that’s my title, not Jerry’s.

    The guy he discusses shares remarkable similarities with Benny Morris, who argued in 2004: “A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on … if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice.”

    Ben-Gurion gave the orders: “Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist … If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.” (interview with Ari Shavit, Haaretz, 1 January 2004).

    This Haber piece is a follow-up on his earlier posting (27/10): http://www.jeremiahhaber.com/2010/10/israels-arab-problem-part-one.html

    Both parts together provide very effective responses to many of the comments here.

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      Explain this, then:

      “Under no circumstances must we touch land belonging to fellahs or worked by them. Only if a fellah leaves his place of settlement, should we offer to buy his land, at an appropriate price.”
      David Ben-Gurion, 1920

      “We do not wish, we do not need, to expel the Arabs and take their place. All our aspirations are built upon the assumption — proven throughout all our activity in the Land — that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs.”
      David Ben-Gurion, 1937

      “Even amidst the violent attacks launched against us for months past, we call upon the sons of the Arab people dwelling in Israel to keep the peace and to play their part in building the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its institutions, provisional and permanent.”
      David Ben-Gurion, 1948

      “Well done, now give it back to them.”
      David Ben-Gurion to the unit that captured Hebron in 1967

      • Ran Greenstein Says:

        Explain what precisely? That Ben-Gurion said one thing and did another thing altogether? What do I care if he said that we must not expel the Arabs and take their place if, when he acquired the necessary capacity, he did just that?

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          How can Greenstein write this with a straight face? No refutation, just more assertions that “Ben-Gurion said one thing and did another thing altogether?” Where is the argument and evidence that this is what he did? I suppose we are exoected to take his word for it. He may be a Professor of Sociology, but so is Robert Fine, and _he_ doesn’t expect us to take his word for it. Is this the quality of the argument Professor Greenstein presents to his students?

          For an academic, and a Professor at that, this is poor stuff.

          Not even Prof Efraim Karsh, no friend of Benny Morris, accepts Greenstein’s interpretation of Morris’s work (when Greenstein reviewed Morris’s book “One State, Two States”).

          It would appear that the good Professor cares little for evidence and much for being consistent as far as his personal line is concerned: the characteristic of the ideologue down the ages, but not, one would have hoped, of the academic and intellectual. My wife has a phrase she uses, when she acknowledges that the evidence is against her: “my mind is made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.”

          The facts sure seem to confuse Ran Greenstein.

  43. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    This is like arguing with a Lubavitcher about whether the Rebbe was/is the Messiah. A whole group of people quote and support each other with no visible connection to reality. If someone has a quote which supports their position, that is a valid quote. If they have changed their mind since then because more material was available, that is inadmissible. This has already been shown above with respect to Benny Morris.

    All this still misses the point

    Ran’s actions in support of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and lecturers, Israeli ones only, is the question to be addressed. His myopic responses have consistently shown that he willfully dismisses any possible connection to, or use by, those whose intentions are less pure than his. He also seems totally fixated on his identity and how he has to use it to ingratiate himself with his comrades in order to convince them that he is a good Jew/Israeli and not one of the “evil” ones. Not only is no other situation in the comparable to the the “evil” of Zionism in his eyes, but he is dismissive of any such possibility.

    What is worrying is why he is taken so seriously.

  44. Absolute Observer Says:

    I am not sure where the debate around the founding of Israel is taking us.
    As we know, no state has emerged without violence, transfer of population, etc. I.e. Israel is not unique (again one need only think of the US, but equally, post-1945 Europe).
    The gloss Ran puts on Israel, however, is that, as long as it stays a Jewish state, indeed, as long as it remains a state as such, it is constantly re-enacting its (and every other’s state) “original sin”.
    No serious person thinks that the US, France, India, Pakistan should dismantle itself;; but, apparently, serious people think Israel should.
    At the moment, the only answer to the problems in Israel, is a. the struggle for equality (which, despite Ran’s views is possible in a Jewish state as much as it is in a Chrisrtian state (see pervious discussion) and b. a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel.

    Not only is such a solution as equitable as we can hope for at the moment, but also, has the support of more than less of the populations.

    Of course, Ran and a few others, can insist on the purity of their solution (referring back to notions of “indigenousness” and “aliens”; of immigration premised on notions of soil and belongning and such like), but, in the present situation, that is no different from ensuring that the conflict continues for at least another 60 years.

    Purists are pure, as long as it someone else who suffers its consequences (see the 20th century); in this case the Palestinians and those that live either side of the border with Gaza.

    As Fine notes,
    “The idea of transformation from an ‘exclusionary ethnic state’ to ‘an inclusive democratic state’ does justice neither to the past nor the future. In this scenario the darkness of the past goes along with unlimited trust in the future. But those who see only darkness and light never learn to make distinctions between shades of grey.”

    Black and white is easy; grey on grey is the difficult bit.

    • Ran Greenstein Says:

      And what has your ‘grey’ achieved in the last 43 years? In what way has it brought us one inch closer to an equitable solution? And what has the realistic discourse of the two-state solution amounted to since the beginning of the Oslo process in 1993? That is, except for providing a disguise for more settlements, more land expropriation, more roadblocks, more deaths, more arrests, growing poverty, less freedom, and less independence?

      You do not need my ‘purist’ intervention to ensure that the conflict continues for 60 more years. You and your fellows have been doing a pretty good job of it without any help.

      And, why do you consistently ignore the argument that Israel’s exclusionary practices are not some once-off event in the distant past but are continuously being re-enacted on a daily basis in government policies, legislative efforts, and official initiative by local authorities, the security services, the rabbinical establishment and much of the media, all acting in concert? Where do you see any equivalent situation in Canada, Australia, USA, Ireland, India, Pakistan, and so on?

  45. Absolute Observer Says:

    “You do not need my ‘purist’ intervention to ensure that the conflict continues for 60 more years. You and your fellows have been doing a pretty good job of it without any help.

    What a ridiculous thing to say.

    I am a Brit who occassionally writes on a blog and who worries about antisemitism.
    I am a Brit who does not think that of all the 200 states in the world, only Israel should dissolve itself.
    I am a Brit who supports an independent Israel alongise an independent Palestine.
    I am a Brit who supports rights of equality in Israel and will do so in Palestine.

    That’s all I am.
    I am not an Israeli. I am not a Palestinian.
    You are.

    You are directly “invloved” in that country.

    You have made political choices that are relevant to that country.

    And, yet, in the face of your failure to convince more or less anyone, you lash out in your frustration and blame everyone but yourself.

    All Israelis, bar a few, those “deluded” (your word) enough to vote for Kadima, Gush Shalom, no doubt the Labour Party, and as if that is not enough, you are now blaiming me and Engage for the failure of your own desires.

    Ran, grow up and take some responsibility for yourself and stop blaming everyone else. You are now beginning to appear ridiculous.

    • Ran Greenstein Says:

      I was clear that those who shout so loudly about the realistic two-state solution have achieved nothing. You choose to align yourself with them, which is perfectly within your rights. But where do you come from preaching to me what political strategy I should advocate, when all you do is repeat the same stale fluff that led us into where we are in the first place?

      By the way, I share my views with about 15 – 20% of the Israeli population. Most of them are not Jewish, true, but they are a much more substantial body of political opinion and activism than the miserable rump of the liberal Zionist left represented by Meretz ever has been or capable of becoming

      • Richard Gold Says:

        “I was clear that those who shout so loudly about the realistic two-state solution have achieved nothing. You choose to align yourself with them, which is perfectly within your rights. But where do you come from preaching to me what political strategy I should advocate, when all you do is repeat the same stale fluff that led us into where we are in the first place?”

        And where have your views got you Ran, considering people have held your views from around 70 years or so ?

        “By the way, I share my views with about 15 – 20% of the Israeli population. Most of them are not Jewish, true, but they are a much more substantial body of political opinion and activism than the miserable rump of the liberal Zionist left represented by Meretz ever has been or capable of becoming”

        Most Israelis who are not Jewish don’t share your views, they support a 2 states settlement. Ayway Ran can i encourage you to take more of a leading role in the boycott campaign ? It will be an eye-opener for those who wrongly think the boycott is simply about pressuring Israel to end the occupation.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          “By the way, I share my views with about 15 – 20% of the Israeli population. Most of them are not Jewish, true…” Actually, no you don’t. Every poll ever taken of non-Jewish citizens/inhabitants of Green Line Israel has shown that, while they are (reasonably enough) dissatisfied with many aspects of life in Israel, the last thing they want is to live in a Palestinian-dominated state “from the river to the sea”.

          Funny that: in your terms, real false consciousness acted out before our eyes.

          Pity they don’t agree with you.

  46. Mikey Says:

    Ran,

    What proportion of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would vote for a two state solution? It is a shame that the Palestinian leadership does not give them the chance, that Hamas throws of buildings anyone who might vocally consider the idea.

    Rather than blaming the Israelis for the failure of a two state solution to come out, you should possibly consider blaming the Palestinian leadership. I suspect that there is something within you that precludes you from doing that. For you, the Palestinian Arabs are wholly good and the Israeli Jews wholly bad.

    George Bush, hardly a left wing radical, spoke out while he was President in favour of a two state solution If it were not for the continual NOs from the Palestinian and Arab leadership, there could well have been a Palestinian state years ago.

  47. Absolute Observer Says:

    Yes, Ran, whatever.

    I assume that the comment about repeating “stale stuf ” is said with irony, considering your own contribution to this discussion.

    I find it interesting that you think I am “shouting”.
    I was not shouting, I was disagreeing woth you but you seem not to be able to make the distinction.

    I find it interesting that you think that I was “preaching” at you and telling you what politics to adapt.

    You can do whatever you want, I don’t really give a damn about you. Believe it or not, this discussion is not about you, Ran, no matter how you misrepresent it as such.

    That is not to say I don’t have severe reservations about your politics; about its authoritarianism, its dogmatism, its lack of respect, about how you call on people and groups outside Israel, of whom you know nothing, to boycott Jews , about your own exclusion of the Palestinians (which I am sure you haven’t even noticed), about how your politics are rooted in a petit nationalism that you gloss as a universal problem for the entire world, criticisms that you reduce to those of a “useful idiot” (the subject of your first comments).

    But, perhaps what is most “amusing” to me is how you exhibit all the traits that people identifiy withthe Israeli far-right – a sense of being right when all around you evidence points to the opposite, how no one is listening to you even though you are right, right, right, your refusal to even consider an alternative point of view since you have found the Truth, your inability to engage in mature debate but fall back on repeating a few stock cliches over and over and over again, how you blame everyone else for your failures, how history is written in stone, incapable of change and development, and how you have given up on rationality and adopted the tactics of the bully until you get your own way. And, the view that if one is not with you, then they are against you.

    In short, Ran, you share far more with those you claim to disagree than with anyone else. And, that, I am afraid, is why your politics are so reactionary and regressive.

    • Ran Greenstein Says:

      I would say you are right in everything, except that what you have to say has nothing to do either with my views or my methods. Authoritarian, dogmatic, nationalist???

      How can I be nationalist when I call for an Israel shared by all its citizens equally, a goal shared by all Palestinian citizens of Israel, yes, and a small minority of Jews?

      Funny to be called dogmatic by someone who repeats the same stale liberal-Zionist mantras of the last 43 years that have led nowhere expect for the intensification of the occupation.

      As for calling for boycott of Jews, it is the same deliberate distortion that started this debate: can you show a single sentence I wrote here (or elsewhere) where I do that?

      Exclusion of Palestinians??? I cannot blame you if you cannot bother to read a single word of what I have been saying here, but why pretend otherwise?

      Repeating a few stock cliches? Perhaps it is time that you respond to some of them – any of them – so I would not have to repeat them? But no, it is much more fun to hide behind a pseudonym and produce nothing but personal attacks, ignoring all points of substance that you have not been able to respond to even once.

      Let me outline these ‘stock cliches’ for you, and see whether you can say anything meaningful about them (not me):

      1. Israel’s creation in 1948 was based on massive ethnic cleansing of its indigenous population (yes, ‘indigenous’ as in people who had been living there for centuries, while the vast majority of Jews there were of foreign-European origins at the time).

      2. This founding act of exclusion is not just a thing of the past (as it is in Canda, Australia and so on), but is being re-enacted daily by the state, and informs government polices in most areas, legislation, and formal and informal practices of other structures and forces in Israeli-Jewish society. This is especially the case in the last decade, and in a very intensified form in the last year or two. This is what a ‘Jewish state’ means in practice.

      3. Israel, as a Jewish demographic state, spends much of its resources on beefing up the numbers/powers/resources of one group of people, and reducing those of another group of people. This dual policy is based on ethnicity/religion rather than race, but it is racist in its intent and efects. Hence, the analogy to apartheid.

      4. The occupation of 1967 enhanced such duality: the state chose neither to incorporate the population as citizens, nor to give them independence. Instead it chose to leave them in a permanent state of occupation, with a boot stamping on their face – forever. Hence, even more so, the analogy to apartheid.

      5. The little Israel before 1967 is no longer in existence. The only meaningful unit of analysis – to understand the nature of the regime and how to change it – is greater Israel in its current boundaries. They have already lasted more than twice as long (43 compared to 19 years), and a year longer than apartheid in SA (42 years).

      5. Any solution to the conflict would involve dealing with all 3 aspects of exclusion: of the citizens, occupied population and refugees. You can move on one front or another at different rates, but to achieve a viable solution would need to address all.

      6. All unarmed solidarity strategies that advance any of these causes: equality in Israel, termination of the occupation, resolving the refugee issue, are welcome. BDS is a tactic that may work in some cases and not others. It needs to be applied in a focused manner, not as a blanket policy. See http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/greenstein060209.html

      OK, enough of ‘stock cliches’. Now, what about some direct responses?

      I have cited a long list of Israeli scholars whose work reflects on these themes: Kimmerling, Shafir, Shalev, Pappe, Morris (old and new), Yiftachel, Shenhav, Ophir, Azoulai, Benvenisti, Gordon, Smooha, and many others. Most are available in English. Perhaps you should start doing your homework?

      • Avi in Jerusalem Says:

        Rule number one in cases such as this is to ignore the rhetorical device used by Ran to define a debate on his terms. Nevertheless,

        Ran, you wrote
        ”Let me outline these ‘stock cliches’ for you, and see whether you can say anything meaningful about them (not me):
        1. Israel’s creation in 1948 was based on massive ethnic cleansing of its indigenous population (yes, ‘indigenous’ as in people who had been living there for centuries, while the vast majority of Jews there were of foreign-European origins at the time).”

        Wrong. Read Ephraim Karsh “Palestine Betrayed” and come back with a detailed criticism, if you can, rather than a blanket ideological dismissal. The book is excellent and required reading, especially for those with closed minds that have already been made up ideologically.

        “2. This founding act of exclusion is not just a thing of the past (as it is in Canda, Australia and so on), but is being re-enacted daily by the state, and informs government polices in most areas, legislation, and formal and informal practices of other structures and forces in Israeli-Jewish society. This is especially the case in the last decade, and in a very intensified form in the last year or two. This is what a ‘Jewish state’ means in practice.”

        Wrong. This is what almost every nation state founded since WWII, if not before, is based on. There has either been war to redraw the boundaries , as in the Balkans and eastern Europe, or ongoing communal strife as is found just north of where you are living in Africa. This is also the basis of national self determination. It does not even work in Belgium. Most people want to live in countries where their own language, traditions etc. are the ethos of the State. The only major exception is the USA and everyone wants to live there. I do not recall massive queues of would be immigrants to the cultural and political apotheosis of equality of the USSR.

        “3. Israel, as a Jewish demographic state, spends much of its resources on beefing up the numbers/powers/resources of one group of people, and reducing those of another group of people. This dual policy is based on ethnicity/religion rather than race, but it is racist in its intent and efects. Hence, the analogy to apartheid.”

        Wrong. Apartheid was the dominance of the majority by a minority. With us it depends how you draw the lines of conflict: In Israel the vast majority (~80%) are Jews. If you look from the other view, you would posit a position where the Jews of Israel are a tolerated minority in an Arab Moslem world. Been there, done that, no thank you. The solution is two nation States, one Israeli/Jewish much like today and the other Palestinian, probably only Muslim with a few tolerated Christians in the West bank and Gaza. Apartheid is a red herring with no application to the situation, except as a propaganda label for the simple minded.

        “4. The occupation of 1967 enhanced such duality: the state chose neither to incorporate the population as citizens, nor to give them independence. Instead it chose to leave them in a permanent state of occupation, with a boot stamping on their face – forever. Hence, even more so, the analogy to apartheid.”

        Wrong. What nice unemotional language and metaphors; boot stamping on face and apartheid. Quite the detached academic. The occupation could have been ended in 1967 if the Arab world had not issued the three Noes of Khartoum, it could have been ended had Arafat agreed to the Clinton parameters at Camp David in 2000, Olmert’s proposals to Abu Mazen. You seem to inhabit a world where anything that the Israelis do is inherently evil in its intention or outcome. As far as anyone else involved is concerned; Palestinians, Egyptians, Iranians, Islamists, etc. etc, they play no role whatsoever and hold no responsibility for the situation we are all in, or for finding a possible solution.

        “5. The little Israel before 1967 is no longer in existence. The only meaningful unit of analysis – to understand the nature of the regime and how to change it – is greater Israel in its current boundaries. They have already lasted more than twice as long (43 compared to 19 years), and a year longer than apartheid in SA (42 years).”

        Wrong. See my response to your point 4 above. The vast majority of the West Bank is still defined as Occupied territory rather than areas incorporated into the State of Israel. Gaza is unoccupied with (closed) borders to Israel and Egypt. Sorry if this does not fit your worldview.

        “5. Any solution to the conflict would involve dealing with all 3 aspects of exclusion: of the citizens, occupied population and refugees. You can move on one front or another at different rates, but to achieve a viable solution would need to address all.”

        Yes, and?….. If this is a political process, it needs to be acceptable to all parties. Opinion poll surveys have shown that the vast majority of Israeli Jews are ready for a two State solution if it means the end of a conflict. If the other sides (I mean that to be in plural) still reject the legitimacy of Jewish self determination and will only accept a Palestinian State in the West Bank (and Gaza??) as an interim solution, then we are going nowhere. If you are interested in a solution (that is a real question in my mind), then your efforts need to be expended not only on convincing us, but also all the other parties involved. I do not see that. I see you as an outspoken protagonist for the One Sate solution which will entail the dissolution of any Jewish national self determination. You yourself state that there is virtually no support for that among at least 85% of the voters in Israel. You are entitled to your opinion, but perhaps you should examine it in the light of a democratic political process rather than a Utopian Manichean manner you seem to adhere to.

        “6. All unarmed solidarity strategies that advance any of these causes: equality in Israel, termination of the occupation, resolving the refugee issue, are welcome. BDS is a tactic that may work in some cases and not others. It needs to be applied in a focused manner, not as a blanket policy. See http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/greenstein060209.html

        The very fact that this exchange is taking place on the Engage website is due to fact that your support for BDS (against Israel only), is causing serious problems to people not directly involved in the conflict, that is non Israeli Jews who are telling you in no uncertain terms that your actions are legitimizing antisemitic tropes and actions in Academia and other areas. You are willfully ignoring that and dismiss it as need “to be applied in a focused manner, not as a blanket policy. You show a distinct lack of historical knowledge and empathy of these actions and where they have led in the past.
        BTW, you also neatly distance yourself from all forms of violence used to advance political positions. Obviously you will roundly condemn any use of violence by Jews, but what about Palestinian violence against Jews or other Palestinians? What about Islamists or any other purveyors of terrorist violence? Surely you do not accept that the use of terrorist violence on innocents is acceptable as the end justifies the means? Of course your response is to define the use of violence by Jews as terrorist and to exempt anyone who uses terrorist violence against Jews as a legitimate tactic. This is unacceptable.

        “OK, enough of ‘stock cliches’. Now, what about some direct responses? “

        • Ran Greenstein Says:

          1. Does Karsh deny that 80% of Palestinians who used to reside in what became Israel are prevented from returning to it and are refugees? If he does not, then how is his argument a refutation of the fact of ethnic cleansing?

          2. Can you give a single example of a state today that embarks on a concerted campaign to exclude part of its own population? That the governmental coalition agreement is based on the need to intensify such exclusion? That its parliament debates daily new laws to exclude a large group of citizens? That its security services declare that the quest for full equality threatens state security and must be handled as such? If you know such state please name (and shame) it.

          3. Check the international convention on the crime of apartheid – it has nothing to do with majority and minority but with the systematic exclusion of parts of the population (vhttp://untreaty.un.org/cod/avl/ha/cspca/cspca.html)

          4. I missed the part where you refute my claim that the occupied territories are neither incorporated equally nor given their freedom but are permanently in-between, enjoying the worst of all worlds.

          5. The OSS-TSS debate is a waste of time. Only a struggle against the occupation and against violation of human rights wherever they take place is of any value.

          6. When I express support for ‘unarmed’ solidarity, I express support for … unarmed action (which by definition is not ‘armed’ action). What part of ‘unarmed’ do you have difficulty understanding?

      • Mira Vogel Says:

        I’d just like to pick out two things.

        Kimmerling was horrified by academic boycott.

        “My friend Elia Zureik suggested that the boycott should be only institutional but not personal. Very kindly and generously, he has offered to cooperate with me, (presuming I’m on his personal list of “good guys”) but to boycott my institution, the Hebrew University. Self-evidently it is his right to boycott every institution or person he want to, but he must realize that if his call to freeze funds to my institution is effective, the resulting constraints on research and conferences will also hurt “good guys” like me. Moreover, the very idea of making selections among members of the academy is a horrifying idea and I hereby pledge not to cooperate with any institution or person who will make such selections, even if I myself am ruled acceptable by them. Selections made on the basis of non-academic criteria endanger academic freedom.”

        And plenty of Israeli civil rights campaigners take a very different view of what is required from Ran’s. One example.

      • modernityblog Says:

        “How can I be nationalist when I call for an Israel shared by all its citizens equally, a goal shared by all Palestinian citizens of Israel, yes, and a small minority of Jews?”

        Ran, because your personal perspective is limited by a concentration on a comparatively small geographical entity, and thus flow many of your arguments.

        Further, when the topic hits upon other countries which require us to make comparative judgements you absolve yourself by retreating into the parochial “As a Jew and Israeli” defence.

        That’s why your outlook and many of your arguments are essentially nationalistic, even if you don’t realize it.

        • Ran Greenstein Says:

          This is an utterly bizarre argument.

          This entire website is dedicated to one specific issue – antisemitism – and not Islamophobia, xenophobia in SA, anti-Turkish prejudice in Germany, anti-Mexicanism in the USA and so on. How can you possibly see a problem with a focus on Israel then? And if you do have a problem with such ‘nationalist’ focus, why don’t you raise it vis-a-vis this site as whole? Where is the non ‘parochial’ attention here to sanctions/boycotts against Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians, North Koreans, Zimbabweans, Burmese, Rwandese, Congolese?

          As for comparisons, the more the merrier. My contribution to it is a comparison with South Africa, but when it’s been raised, there aren’t many happy faces around here…

        • modernityblog Says:

          “This is an utterly bizarre argument.”

          Ran,

          Once again you try to evade the issue and place the blame at Engage’s feet. It doesn’t work.

          But I will indulge you, the difference is between theme and geography.

          One could be concerned with antisemitism, globally, in the totality of the world without being parochial.

          However, it is rather difficult to avoid parochialism when the prime concern of your boycott is only **one country** and only one country.

          I can see your justification, and it is a useful argument, that “as a Jew and an Israeli” they should be your prime concern.

          There’s no denying it has a certain utility, but it’s not that far removed from arguments advanced by old-fashioned Conservatives in the West, when asked to compare their actions with other countries they would simply reply “I’m not really concerned with what happens in foreign lands, I am concerned with Britain”.

          So, Ran, when your interlocutors here bring up the topic of historical parallels, with other countries, you largely excuse yourself from comparing them, are dismissive or indulge in sarcasm.

          Your focus is primarily on Israel.

          Thus it is bound and constrained by a rather limited view of the world, not an internationalist perspective of the world, not a view that considers the history of other nations (Britain/Ireland, Turkey/Greece, Canada/Britain, Australia/Britain, USA/Britain, etc) in any depth or comparative sense, and so it is confined.

          In other words, it is parochial.

  48. Ran Greenstein Says:

    Absolute Observer, why you are at it, busy working on an actual response to actual arguments, have a look at that: http://972mag.com/preparing-public-opinion-for-ethnic-cleansing/ by Didi Reimer, a young Israeli journalist of Russian origins. You may wish to include a reflection on this as well.

  49. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    david Says:
    November 2, 2010 at 2:26 pm
    “Exactly. As Philip points out it is the political props ensuring the continued existence of a specifically “Jewish” state that are the obstacle to full democracy in Israel and the occupied territories. Israel cannot allow all adults to have a vote in the territories it controls because eventually demographics will ensure it will become something other than a “Jewish” state. The day will come when the Israeli ethnocracy is shown to be on the wrong side history.”

    So, as ever, david (like Philip and numerous others) picks up on the alleged ethnicity of Israel, but has nothing to say about all the other states based on ethnicity. It is, as ever for such people, only Israel that assaults their liberal sensitivities. Any other state following the same lines is excusable, because there is good reason on account of whatever it is.

    Whatever evidence is produced, whatever argument is pursued, whatever suggestions that picking up on Israel but not the others might, just, have the whiff of special pleading about it, goes right over the heads.

    Do read what is said, do read the arguments adduced, do examine the evidence cited.

  50. Ran Greenstein Says:

    Modernity, this makes a lot of sense. To focus on Israel is parochial because it only ‘one country’, but to focus on Jews is not parochial even though they are ‘one group of people’, and it is not parochial to focus on antisemitism even though it is only ‘one kind of prejudice’. I am sure you have a point somewhere, it is just too sophisticated for me.

    In any event, I don’t know the identity of all participants here. Many – like you – prefer to hide under an assumed name. I am willing to bet though, that I am the only one here who has written an academic book on Israeli history from a comparative perspective, as well as another book on South Africa from a comparative perspective. How precisely is that ‘nationalist’? Again, there might be a perfectly reasonable logic to it, I just can’t get it.

    I have tried to explain a few times why the Canada/Australia analogy is invalid, while the South African analogy is (in a nutshell, because of the difference between a remote history of dispossession as opposed to an ongoing present of exclusion and dispossession). Perhaps you disagree with my analysis. Perhaps you feel other analogies make more sense. Fine. But how exactly does that reflect my parochial failure to engage in comparisons?

    • modernityblog Says:

      Ran,

      Sophisticated or not, returning to the original point in the post, November 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      As the perspective of your argument is essentially bound by nation states and not internationalism, it is therefore, nationalistic.

      Surely that’s obvious?

      “I have tried to explain a few times why the Canada/Australia analogy is invalid…”

      But they’re not the only countries in the world, there is an “an ongoing present of exclusion and dispossession” in Tibet by China too

      There is the ongoing presence of the British in Ireland, etc etc but that comparative judgement is barely considered by you, as your outlook on these matters is so sadly limited.

      Which brings us back to the previous point :)

  51. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    Isn’t the world of academia a wonderful place?

    Ran says “As for comparisons, the more the merrier. My contribution to it is a comparison with South Africa, but when it’s been raised, there aren’t many happy faces around here…”

    I must saw that it is quite an achievement for someone to earn their living by proving that a minority white political and ethnic group who arrived in a country 400 years ago, ruled over four or five times as many people, to who they denied political rights, systematically and actively discriminated against them, educationally and politically, is that same as that of a self defined group of people who comprise 80% of the population of a country recognized by the UN, with historical roots in the country going back at least 2,000 years, with full political, social and educational equality for all of its citizens, is the same thing.

    Where do you apply for such jobs?

    • Ran Greenstein Says:

      A few minor inconvenient facts here: Israeli Jews are 55% of the population under Israeli rule today, not 80%, and they exercise military control over 3.5 million Palestinians devoid of any say in the way they are ruled. They reached their majority status in pre-1967 Israel on the basis of the ethnic cleansing of 80% of the indigenous population (see under Benny Morris). Regarding historical roots, 95% or more of Jews currently living in Israel had not set a foot in the country, they and their ancestors for millennia, before the 20th century. As for full rights to all citizens, check out Adalah – the legal centre on Arab minority rights in Israel (http://www.adalah.org/eng/ ) and the Mossawa advocacy Center (http://www.mossawacenter.org/ ). All the rest is accurate.

  52. Philip Says:

    The apartheid label’s application to Israel does not depend on the similarities to South Africa. It’s quite simple. Apartheid is a crime against humanity as define by public international humanitarian law. Thus, if we look at the Rome Statute of the ICC, we see that apartheid is, ‘an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime’ and that the crime of apartheid is defined as inhumane acts committed in that context.

    South Africa’s system was ignominious enough to have the crime named after it, though it was not the first nor the last. However, comparisons are rather beside the point. The only question in law is whether Israel fits that description.

  53. Avi in Jerusalem Says:

    Ran ,

    Your arithmetic is a bit faulty. The population of the West Bank is ruled by the Palestinian authority after elections. The population of Gaza is ruled by the Hamas after elections and a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority. The areas are not yet sovereign states, due in a major part to the actions of their leaders and their inability to agree to mutual and reciprocal rights with the Jewish national movement.

    The majority of the Arabs in the area to the west of the Jordan in Mandatory Palestine also arrived there as a result to the economic development initiated by the Zionist movement from the 1880s onwards from outside of mandatory Palestine.

    If setting foot in the land (Land??) is you criterion, how come a Palestinian refugee born in Lebanon is an indigenous inhabitant of Palestine with a right of return and a Jew is not? Where is the statute of limitations? I have no problem with as many refugees (or rather their descendants) immigrating to the Palestinian state in the West bank and Gaza. The term I think is national self determination. We decide for us, they decide for them.

    Please stop flogging a dead horse by quoting Benny Morris. You are willfully ignoring the later work of the author and only quoting what suits you.

    Phillip,

    Thank you for that exact definition of Apartheid. You have now included the Chinese in Tibet and Western China, the Muslims in northern Sudan, Iranians in Baluchistan etc. etc. If you want to call us names, don’t hide behind the ICC and the Rome Statute. Your aim is to use all and every means to delegitimize Jewish self determination.

    • Ran Greenstein Says:

      Palestinians in the occupied territories (including Gaza) are under Israeli occupation according to the UN and international law. Judging by the past history of the ‘peace process’ of the last 17 years since Oslo, that status will not change in the foreseeable future. The state of Israel has been the only sovereign power over the entire territory of Mandatory Palestine for 43 years now. It is no more temporary than its rule over the area within the pre-1967 borders (19 years).

      Your comments on Palestinian demography were debunked decades ago by scholars dealing with Joan Peters’s infamous ‘from time immemorial’ (see Norman Finkelstein in ‘Blaming the Victims’, edited by Said and Hitchens and Yehoshua Porath – also from Jerusalem and the foremost Israeli expert on Palestinian history in http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1986/jan/16/mrs-peterss-palestine/)

      How is a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon indigenous to Palestine? By virtue of international law – his/her parents or grandparents were born there and were forcibly prevented from returning to it, and UN resolutions extend the same rights to descendants. How about Jews then? Those with parents or grandparents born in Israel should have every right to return there as well, under same conditions. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

      Is Benny Morris a ‘dead horse? I quoted his words from 2004 (after his born-again conversion), and from the 2nd edition of his Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem – revised 16 years after his original edition. If he has renounced any of the things he said in the 2004 edition, it is news to me. Can you quote any place where he does such a thing?

      I appreciate your generosity in letting Palestinians decide for themselves, but in fact you continue to decide for them which boundaries they can exercise their national rights in. In what way is it SELF determination then?

      As for apartheid, it can apply indeed to different situations (though the Chinese example is irrelevant in my view – not all cases of military occupation are apartheid). How does that help the case for Israel?

  54. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    “I didn’t realise that participation on this message board was dependent on having read Benny Morris.” It would appear that Philip Blue cannot make any comments in response without being either rude or patronising, or both. As ever, it’s neither clever nor funny, just boring. It’s not dependent, but getting one’s facts right is, like referring to the correct book instead of pretending that it’s an entirely different one, and doing so knowingly. That’s essentially dangerously close to being mendacious.

    I’m so pleased that Philip has a degree in Development Studies, but to tell me that “Amartya Sen is one of the great minds of his generation” is nothing new, but he’s an _economist_, and as such has won the Nobel Prize.

    “My first degree, however, involved reading such figures as Descartes, Rawls, Nozick, Sandel, GA Cohen, JS Mill, Carr, Bull, Friedman, Ricardo, Barro, Bhagwati and Krugman. Can you guess what it is yet?” No, and I’m not sure that I care very much, but I assume it’s Philosophy. In which case, you don’t demonstrate much use of the tools of the discipline.

    Unless your memory is very short, I will remind you that you, Philip, started the snide comments about education: “even in sociology” was one; something about “the level of discourse at De Montfort” was another, and you continue above: by the way, I’m talking about Max Weber: did you mean Eugene Weber? I bet you did, because Max Weber’s work would hardly lend itself to regression analysis. Silly me, I should have specified, as you wouldn’t necessarily know that a sociologist would mean the great Max, would you. Am I being patronising? Yes. Just like you.

    It would appear that you are more than happy to dish it out, but get quite shirty when it’s handed back. Regrettable, but apparently typical.

    _Now_ I know that you clearly read on these threads only what you wish to see. You say “If you don’t want to read Khalidi, that’s for you to do. Mind, I would have expected someone interested in the sociology of Palestinian history and identity to be interested in the seminal work. Your accusation that he supports Hamas is shameful.”

    Thank you for allowing me to choose whose work I read, and where do I say that I’m interested in the sociology of Palestinian history? I think you’ll find that such an assertion is, at best, a stretch, and at worst a fabrication. I _am_ interested in where the fabrications as to the politics and history of the development of Israel come from, and you are providing some wonderful examples.

    Finally, the assertion that “Your [i.e., Brian's] accusation that he supports Hamas is shameful,” is actually worse than an assertion, it’s an accusation. What I posted was

    ‘Then we find this on him, from my google search:
    “Obama Pal Rashid Khalidi Back in the News for Aiding Hamas
    July 20, 2010 5:09 P.M.
    By Andy McCarthy
    President Obama’s good friend, former PLO mouthpiece Rashid Khalidi, is back in the news. He has signed an appeal for funds to outfit another ship that, like the “peace flotilla,” would try to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the territory controlled by Hamas — the foreign terrorist organization that is the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian arm.

    The ship would be called — wait for it — The Audacity of Hope.”’

    Now show me where _I_ say he’s a supporter of Hamas? This is guilt by association, a well trick of the McCarthyites, among others.

    Your latest reply is a pack of assertions, innuendos and outright distortions. I’ve suggested that before that you are on the verge (if not actually over the edge} of being mendacious. You add nothing new to what you have previously said, and you should seriously consider your position, as you are now not merely implying that I don’t know what I’m talking about (just about acceptable in a discussion of this sort), but accusing me of saying things I clearly haven’t.

    Retractions and corrections are in order. Or is that the sound of hollow laughter I hear?

    • Philip Says:

      Brian, as usual your answer is priceless. Let me try to address your points. You wrote, ‘You plainly have read nothing of Morris – certainly not “1948: The First Arab-Israeli War”. Given that, why should anyone here take you seriously?’ I think to interpret this as wanting people who had not read Morris were not to be taken seriously on this site. Was that unfair?

      Amartya Sen is one of the founders of the field of Development Studies. His very multi-disciplinarity almost standing for the field in microcosm. You’ll be aware that he is more than an economist, of course, Professor of Philosophy and Economics at Harvard, in fact.

      My first degree is in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. My ‘snide’ comments were less about education that profession. I meant Max Weber. His contention in ‘The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ that protestant Christianity can explain economic development can be tested easily using cross-country panel data. Needless to say, the evidence suggests that this link does not exist. This is one of the insights of economists who have lent their skills to Development Studies.

      I’m sorry that you’re not interested in Khalidi. He’s worth reading because he shows, inter alia, why the purchase of land by early Zionists was so controversial, and why it wasn’t like a land-purchase in, say, Crouch End. Essentially, it meant that many labourers were turned of the land they farmed. I very much recommend the book.

      Finally, if you cite approvingly a website which accuses Khalidi of aiding Hamas it doesn’t seem to me to be a huge stretch to assume that you think Khalidi supports Hamas. However, since you now say this isn’t the case, perhaps you can explain exactly what you mean by it then?

  55. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    I’ll reply when you have something worth responding to. While you continue to denigrate others’ learning, while you continue to deride their evidence, while you continue to pretend that what has been said is, in fact, other than what you claim, then you will continue not to be worth replying to.

    Until then, your faux cleverness, your willingness to pretend that a book referred to in detail is, in fact, a completely different text is no longer worth refuting. In fact, I stand by my earlier statement that such efforts verge (at least) on the mendacious. As does your earlier efforts to pretend that we should use words as in their original 17th and 18th century dictionary definitions, and not in their contemporary dictionary definitions.

    As I’ve said before, it’s not clever and it’s not smart. If you have something worth saying in the contaxt of this debate on this thread, say it. If not, hold your peace.

  56. Motti Says:

    Greenstein declares victory.

    GOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAA!

    Ran Greenstein, largely irrelevant in his home country of Israel, but trying desperately to break into the international scene, today claimed success in pissing off two or three people on a UK web site dedicated to combatting antisemitism.

    After a number of early exchanges and later extensive citing of articles, many from blogs and from himself, Ran claimed victory in the following manner,
    “As for comparisons, the more the merrier. My contribution to it is a comparison with South Africa, but when it’s been raised, there aren’t many happy faces around here.”
    Throughout the match, Greenstein’s tactics were to replay the same move over and over again, ignoring any tacklers. When one on one, Greenstein, would simply pick up the ball, mumble something rude about his opponent, start the match again and play exactly the same patterns as earlier.
    To be fair to Greenstein, it did not help that it had such a weak bench to call on. Haber joined briefly, but, since the teams were not as he imagined, quickly withdrew. Philip is still out on the park, but Greenstein has largely ignored him. At least he got that part of his game right!
    As things stand, the game looks set to continue for some time. However, one cannot help but think that even without some later players Greenstein will continue with or without opposition, whilst sporadically jumping in the air believing a goal has been scored.

    Motti

    Attendance 4

    Relevance to the real world 1

  57. Phillip Martin Says:

    Motti

    “Attendance 4

    Relevance to the real world 1″

    A supporter of Chelsea F.C. methinks! And a wise comment on the folly of a genuine and important debate sabotaged by a lack of courtesy and due seriousness on the part of its chief protagonists. Nice one comrade


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