What is the Progressive Case for Israel?

This piece was written by David Hirsh for a collection published by Labour Friends of Israel

David Hirsh, lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

What is the progressive case for Israel?  Why should a nation state need somebody to make its case?  What is the progressive case for France or for Poland?  Before the French Revolution, the question of France was still open.  Was Marseille to be part of the same Republic as Brittany?  When there was a political movement for the foundation of France, then there was a case for and also a case against France.  When Poland was half engulfed by the Soviet Union and half by the Third Reich, there was a progressive case for Poland.  But today, thankfully, Poland exists.  It doesn’t need a ‘case’.

There are reasons to be ambivalent about nationalism.  Nationalist movements have often stood up against forces which threaten human freedom.  Nationalism offers us a way of visualising ourselves as part of a community in which we look after each other.  But being part of something also means defining others as not being part of it, as being excluded from it.  The left should fight for freedom with the nationalists but we should also remember the dangers of nationalism.  Like John Lennon, we should imagine a world where people no longer feel the need to protect themselves against external threat, but until it exists, it is wise for communities to retain the possibility of self-defence.

Progressives in France or Poland might hope to dissolve their states into the European Union, or into a global community.  In that sense there is still a possible case to be made for Poland or for France.  But nobody thinks that either has to justify their existences to anybody outside.  Not even Germany after the crimes of the Second World War had to justify its existence.

In the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, radical Jews were split as to how they should oppose the antisemitism.   Some wanted to dissolve all religious and national characteristics into a universalistic socialism where everybody would treat each other with respect and where the distinction between Jew and non-Jew would eventually be forgotten.  Others wanted Jews to organise themselves into culturally and politically Jewish Bunds which would defend them from antisemitism and which would construct Jewish identity in new, egalitarian and empowering ways.  A third current thought that national self-determination was the key to guaranteeing people’s individual rights, and they wanted Jews from all different places to forge themselves into a sovereign nation.  This last group, the Zionists, made a progressive case for Israel while the other two, the Socialists and the Bundists, made progressive cases against Israel.

In the 1940s the overwhelming majority of the Jewish Socialists, Bundists and Zionists were systematically murdered, alongside Jews who had no opinion, who had other opinions, who only understood themselves to be Jewish through their religious communities and alongside those who thought of themselves only as loyal German, Czech or Dutch citizens.  Jewish culture in Europe was wiped out.  There were a few survivors here and there but most of them felt it unbearable to continue to live amongst those who had killed everybody they knew, and amongst those who had failed to prevent the killing, and amongst those who still had their children and their friends and relatives.

Before, during and after the Holocaust, Jews tried to leave Europe and they went wherever they were allowed.  Lots of Jews were learning the dismal lesson that the Twentieth Century beat into so many around the world: if you have no state of your own, you have no rights.  On April 20th 1945 a British army chaplain helped organise a Shabbat service five days after the liberation of the Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp.  A contemporary BBC radio report says that it was the first Jewish religious service held without fear on German soil for a decade.   The report says:

During the service the few hundred people gathered together were sobbing openly with joy at their liberation and with sorrow at the memory of their parents and brothers and sisters who had been taken from them and gassed and burnt.  These people knew they were being recorded.  They wanted the world to hear their voice.  They made a tremendous effort which quite exhausted them. [1]

The exhausting effort they made was to sing Hatikva, the Zionist national anthem, so it could be heard around the world.  This was how they made their progressive case for Israel.  For many survivors, getting out of Europe was not enough.  Having been taught that they couldn’t rely on others to help them, they wanted Jewish national self-determination.  Feeling safe was too much to hope for, but it would make them feel that if they were again threatened as Jews, then they would be able to die defending themselves, collectively, as Jews.

Even now, there was still a case to be made for and against Israel.  Perhaps immigration into Palestine was too dangerous for Jews, perhaps Israel was an impossible and utopian idea.  Perhaps the need for Jewish self defence could be realised within some kind of bi-national arrangement with the Arabs of Palestine.

But as the Holocaust had defeated the Socialists and the Bundists, so these other criticisms were answered, not by argument or reason but by huge, irreversible events in the material world;  in this case by the UN decision to found Israel and by the defence of the new state against the invading armies of neighbouring states which tried to push the Jews out.  The Jews, armed by Stalin via Czechoslovakia, in violation of a British and American arms embargo, were not pushed out.  About 700,000 Palestinian Arabs left, fled or were forced out during the war and were not allowed back by the new state of Israel.  For them this was truly a catastrophe but the Israel/Palestine conflict was never inevitable.  It was the result of successive defeats for progressive forces within both nations.  It is still not inevitable.  Neither could the fact of the conflict possibly de-legitimise a nation.  Nations exist and do not require legitimacy.

Isaac Deutcher, Trotsky’s biographer, who had been a Socialist anti-Zionist before the Holocaust, wrote the following in 1954:

I have, of course, long since abandoned my anti-Zionism, which was based on a confidence in the European labour movement, or, more broadly, in European society and civilization, which that society and civilization have not justified. If, instead of arguing against Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s I had urged European Jews to go to Palestine, I might have helped to save some of the lives that were later extinguished in Hitler’s gas chambers.[2]

Deutscher was not embracing Zionism as an ideology, he was recognising that the debate was over.  Israel now existed in the material world and no longer just in the imagination.  Antisemitism treats ‘the Jews’ as an idea rather than as a collectivity of actual human beings; an idea which can be opposed was transformed into a people which could be eliminated.  To think of Israel as an idea or as a political movement rather than as a nation state makes it possible to think of eliminating it too.

Israel needs to find the peace with its neighbours, amongst whom hostile and antisemitic movements have significant influence.  It needs to continue to fulfil contradictory requirements, as a democratic state for both its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, but also as a Jewish state, guaranteeing the rights of Jews in particular.  There is nothing unusual about a social institution finding pragmatic and difficult ways to fulfil contradictory requirements.

But what if it turns out that Zionism’s promise to build a ‘normal’ nation state was utopian.  Perhaps the poison of the Holocaust is not yet spent.  Maybe Israel is, as Detuscher thought, a precarious life-raft state , floating in a hostile sea and before a careless world.  Perhaps the pressure on Israel from outside, and the unique circumstances of its foundation are creating too many agonising internal contradictions and fault-lines.  Whereas people used to tell the Jews of Europe to go home to Palestine, now they tell the Jews of Israel to go home to Europe.  Whereas ‘the Jews’ were thought to be central to the workings of capitalism, today Israel is said to be the keystone of imperialism.  If the Palestinians have come to symbolise the victims of ‘the West’ then ‘the Jews’ are again cast in the symbolic imagination as the villains of the world.   Perhaps Israel is precarious and perhaps we have not yet seen the final Act of the tragedy of the Jews.  And if it comes to pass, there will be those watching who will still be capable of saying, with faux sadness, that ‘the Jews’ brought this upon themselves.

This piece was written by David Hirsh for a collection published by Labour Friends of Israel

[1] This recording is easily accessible on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syUSmEbGLs4, downloaded 25 August 2011, Smithsonian Centre for American Folk Life.

[2] Isaac Deutscher (1968) The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays, London: Oxford University Press, pp 111-113

84 Responses to “What is the Progressive Case for Israel?”

  1. Lynne T Says:

    “Perhaps the need for Jewish self defence could be realised within some kind of bi-national arrangement with the Arabs of Palestine.”

    Good piece, David, but if you are going there, I would have expected to see some acknowledgment of the Jewish experience in the MENA in the century or so before 1948 and since.

  2. Lynne T Says:

    by “going there”, I mean alluding to the argument being made even today, that a binational state was then and is now a way for lasting peace.

    A secular binational state, wherein all citizens are free to worship or not worship as they please and be treated as equals was not the case under Ottoman rule and is not likely to break out in the near future either.

  3. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    How does a bi-national state fit into the reality of Middle East?
    Iran is suppressing national minorities and persecuting Bahai people.
    Christians have to flee Iraq.
    In Syria already more than 3.500 killed by their own
    In Egypt pogroms are perpetrated against Copts

    I recommend to all Europeans who want to make out of Israel a binational state to start in Europe. Charity begins at home.
    There was a multinational Yugoslavia, where most people spoke the same language and millions declared in census that they are Yugoslavs, why not start to convince the nations of former Yugoslavia to unite again in a multinational state?

    The fact that the Jewish people after the Shoa created the state of Israel and defended it successfully, the fact that it became the homeland of so many persecuted, of so many victims of Racism, the fact that a successful economy was built, the fact that no other country in the Middle East has so many Nobel prize winners in science, the fact that Israel is a lively democracy with a wonderful culture, the fact that great music and literature and art is created in Israel should be for people who believe in progress enough reason to stand for the state of Israel.

  4. Paul M Says:

    Perhaps the best piece you have ever written, David, as far as I’m concerned: Clear, straightforward, accurate and heartfelt, whilst giving the various pre-state positions their due. Bravo.

    (Lynn: The line you quoted is David’s nod to an argument that could have been made in the past (whatever its merit). The use of “Even now” is misleading — the “now” he’s referring to is 1945–1947. But he makes it plain that the time for that argument is over.)

  5. David Hirsh Says:

    Is there a misunderstanding because of my tenses?

    My point was that at that moment, before the war of 1948, a bi national state was, arguably a possibility.

    I think my next sentence makes it clear that I think the question was settled by the events of 1948.

  6. drk Says:

    David Hirsh makes the mistake of arguing for Israel from a strictly Eurocentric point of view, which only reinforces the false belief that Israel is a colonial enterprise inflicted on indigenous people by the guilty West. This approach ignores compelling factors in the case for Israel, such as the continued presence of Jews in Israel since ancient times, he fact that Jerusalem and Sfat were a Jewish-majority city even in Ottoman times. He argues from the present (facts on the ground) and the recent past (Holocaust refugees looking for a new life, but neglects the past, both ancient (Biblical ties of Jews to the land) and Enlightenment (Zionism is a 19th century idea). Worst of all, he neglects to mention the massive population transfer that took place after the formation of Israel, which basically expelled equal numbers of Jews from their homes in Arab and Muslim lands as there were Palestinians removed (not by force, but mostly by choice) from Israel.

    • David Hirsh Says:

      I agree with you DRK, it was a mistake not to mention the continuing presence of Jews in Israel and also the significant number of Israelis who are descended from families which left or were expelled from the Arab majority states. But I think these elements add to my argument, they don’t take away from it. And I don’t accept the distinction between Jews and Arabs as ‘colonial’ and ‘indigenous’ or as ‘inflicted’ and legitimate.

      • David Olesker Says:

        David, I feel petty criticizing such an eloquent piece, but I’d add to drk’s comment that it begs the question, would Israel have been a legitimate project if there had been no European antisemitism?

        If one can answer that question in the affirmative, then the “argument from persecution” only sharpens and makes more immediate the need for the Jews to return home and rule themselves. If you can’t, then it opens the door to the tired old “why should the Arabs suffer for the sins of the European’s” stratagem.

        In all fairness to you David, I realize that it’s a short piece and you can’t discuss every subject in it. That said, I thought you would welcome some constructive criticism. Keep up the good work.

  7. What is the progressive case for Israel? - ScrollPost.com Says:

    [...] counter anti-Israel boycotts. Its website has some interesting articles. Here’s part of one recent article by its founder, David Hirsh: What is the progressive case for Israel? Why should a nation state need [...]

  8. Petra Marquardt-Bigman Says:

    I very much agree with Paul M — this is an excellent piece, David.

    But I’m not entirely sure I understand this paragraph:
    “Antisemitism treats ‘the Jews’ as an idea rather than as a collectivity of actual human beings; an idea which can be opposed was transformed into a people which could be eliminated. To think of Israel as an idea or as a political movement rather than as a nation state makes it possible to think of eliminating it too.”

    Could you explain what you mean? As far as I can see, antisemitism has always treated “the Jews” very much as a collectivity of actual human beings, who could be harrassed, tortured, killed and indeed even eliminated — and by doing so, antisemites usually told themselves that they were acting on behalf of some noble purpose.

  9. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    Petra, my take (which may not, of course, be David’s) is that by “objectifying” Jews, they are reduced to “things”, and thus are much easier to discard as one would a torn piece of paper or worn-out item of clothing. The Nazis noted that many Germans were not unsympathetic (pardon the double negative) to somehow getting rid of the Jews, but most Germans argued that “their” Jew wasn’t like that. Once Jews could be de-humanised in some way, it became much easier to treat them inhumanely. Thus, the Nuremburg laws which started to push them out of sight; the concentration camps, which removed them from physical (as well as psychological) sight; and so forth. Once they became “the other”, well, we know what happened next.

    Zygmunt Bauman in “Modernity and the Holocaust” charts this very path, as does Irving Louis Horowitz (in “Taking Lives”) and Norman Geras (of normblog fame) in “The Contract of Mutual Indifference”. They are all very well worth reading.

    The same process is at work in any mass killing or genocide: those murdered by the tens or hundreds of thousands (or more) have become, in the eyes of the killers, less than human; they have become “things”. And it is this very process that is at work in the current dehumanisation of Israel and Jews.

  10. Petra Marquardt-Bigman Says:

    Brian, that is of course a very reasonable reading. But I’m still a bit uncomfortable with this paragraph, because it seems to downplay the in my view always murderous dimension of antisemitism by suggesting that it is only about “an idea which can be opposed”, while at the same time suggesting that it was only the transformation of Jews into a people that made them the target of eliminationist attacks.
    I also think that one could argue that it was the Jews who invented the concept of peoplehood back in biblical times.

    But none of this is meant to take away from this excellent piece, which, I imagine was very difficult to write, because dealing with such a big subject in a short piece is a tall order.

  11. David Hirsh Says:

    Thanks Petra.

    I think that treating “The Jews” are thought of as an idea – the killers of christ, the conspiracy, the bankers, the bolsheviks – the alien threat to the human community. If “The Jews” is an idea then it is a wrong idea, and needs to be opposed. This is perhaps a mechanism by which antisemitism has become genocidal. The refutation of the bad “idea” transforms itself into the refutation of the actual diversity of Jewish human beings.

    If “Zionism” is an idea then it also can be thought of as being a wrong idea – and that can then be visited upon the material fact of Israel.

    I meant to suggest that treating jews as an idea was a mechanism by which antisemitism has become genocidal. It wasn’t meant to mean that antisemitism was less serious, but more.

  12. wolfhound Says:

    For Gods sake give the damn Palestinians their damn state and be done with it ! Then all this agonising won’t be needed.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      Wow, why wasn’t that thought of before!! Oh, wait a minute, it has been: in 1947-48; 1967; by Rabin via the Oslo Accords; by Barak in 2000; by Olmert, even by Netanyahu.

      Can’t think why it hasn’t happened.

      Perhaps it has something to do with Arafat and Abbas actually wanting one state “between the river and the sea”. Could be wrong about that, of course. What do you think, wolfhound?

      • wolfhound Says:

        Yes. You’re wrong about that . Israel is the state actor and has the ability , as with Gaza, to disengage and give them their state. If they don’t like that…what do you care ? If they attack then you’ve the right to attack right back…..at a state this time. The ME is rapidly replacing the dreary steeples of Tyrone and Fermanagh as the quarrel whose adherents, and their devotion to it’s integrity , are hacking everybody off. Big time.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Ah, now I see it: Hamas in Gaza had the right, as a non-state actor, to aim, however ineffectually, thousands of rockets with explosive warheads into Israel, aimed at civilian targets, and with impunity (a crime against humanity). And Arafat and Abbas are right to refuse to negotiate with Israel because they want what isn’t on offer: a binational state (actually, a uni-national state – one with no non-Moslems in it) between the river and the sea.

          And when Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza, leaving the whole infrastructure there (apart from synagogues, which were demolished), not only did Hamas ensure that a state of non-peace prevailed, but they trashed the place, and then complained about the lack of infrastructure.

          So, tell me wolfhound (suggestive nom-de-plume that is), what incentive is there for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank, given past behaviour (such as Arafat’s second intifada as a response to the 2000 Taba talks which offered everything the two-staters wanted?

  13. Steve Silver Says:

    That’s a good piece David.
    With regard to the recording you mentionthere’s a couple of things that come to mind from the clip (apologies I also posted this on Harry’s Place where the recording is crossposted) .
    The first is that Rev Leslie Hardman, who led the service and was a British Army Chaplain at the time, was also the chaplain to the Jewish anti-fascist 43 Group, and later the 62 Group.
    He used to attend 43 Group reunions and I remember being a guest at a reunion on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Group (1996), at Maccabi in north London, where Vidal Sassoon unveiled a commemorative plaque to the Group and Rev Hardman blessed it. His obituary in the Jewish Chronicle makes no mention of any of this although it does rightly mention his involvement with Holocaust education (via the Holocaust Education Trust) http://www.thejc.com/social/obituaries/obituary-leslie-hardman
    The person who made the recording, Moe Asch, was the president of Folkways records in America which made a massive contribution to folk music. It was Asch that recorded Woody Guthrie (in 1944), Leadbelly, Sonny Terry and Pete Seeger and brought their music to the world. Asch’s material is with the Smithsonian which has apparently been going through stuff that never made it to release. They have been releasing loads of rare material over the years. There’s a nice article about him here http://www.folklife.si.edu/center/legacy/asch.aspx

  14. Karl Pfeifer Says:

    Wolfhund the Palestinians had a lot of chances. They always rejected compromise. When Lord Peel wanted the Jews in 1937 a little state around Tel Aviv, the Husseinis murdered those Arabs who were favoring a compromise.
    Ten years later on November 29, 1947 the UN General Assembly decided partition. The Jews accepted, the Arabs refused.
    Read the interesting article of Efraim Karsh on the PA after 1996
    2011http://www.meforum.org/3091/finnish-delusions
    So probably it is the Palestinian elite which is prefering to steal aid money to taking responsibility for a peace and compromise with the hated Jews.

  15. comment is not free Says:

    For 2000 years, Jews were told that they had to make a case for Judaism.
    For the past 60 years Jews are being told to make a case for their own nation-state.

    Hardly a coincidence

    • Philip Says:

      Actually it probably is. Randomness is the most important variable in explaining most observed phenomena.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        How so? A mere statement like that deserves elucidation, and a few examples would work wonders.

      • Thomas Venner Says:

        Well, that’s good to know, Philip. Obviously all those pogroms, massacres, expulsions and that little genocide attempt in the 1940s that the Zionists like to go on about for some reason were just random, unconnected events. No pattern of behaviour there whatsoever, no running cultural theme. It’s very reassuring to know that what looks like a sustained pattern of hatred and mistreatment directed against Jews for two thousand years has in fact just been a bunch of wholly coincidental events. Now we don’t need to worry any more.

  16. Carlo Says:

    Making a case has never been a problem – lawyers do it all the time. What David Hirsh is advancing though is a “Progressive Case”. And while his case for Israel per se is reasonable, it’s not possible to make a progressive case for what Israel actually does: its Occupation, and the way it treats its minorities and behaves towards other entities.

    As he says, Israel “needs to continue to fulfil contradictory requirements, as a democratic state for both its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, but also as a Jewish state, guaranteeing the rights of Jews in particular.” There you have it: universalism or particularism, respect of democratic values or ethnocentrism and religious dogmatism. Try squaring the circle.

    Those who missed them might ponder the conclusions of veteran Israeli Ruth Dayan:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/10/30/moshe-dayan-s-widow-ruth-zionist-dream-has-run-its-course.html

    • Jonathan Goodson Says:

      “As he says, Israel “needs to continue to fulfil contradictory requirements, as a democratic state for both its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, but also as a Jewish state, guaranteeing the rights of Jews in particular.” There you have it: universalism or particularism, respect of democratic values or ethnocentrism and religious dogmatism. Try squaring the circle.”

      Surely, Israel is no different in essence in this regard to other democratic countries with an ethnic/cultural component to their identity. The Irish Republic, for instance, is the nation state of the Irish people in which the Irish exercise their right of self-determination while guaranteeing equality to individual citizens who are not Irish. The same goes for the Czech Republic, or Slovakia, or Scotland if it goes for independence sometime soon . Indeed the SNP says that all people permanently resident in Scotland on independence will automatically get citizenship regardless of ethnic/cultural identity, whereas thereafter the only people automatically entitled to citizenship will be people of Scottish descent living elsewhere in the world.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “Indeed the SNP says that all people permanently resident in Scotland on independence will automatically get citizenship regardless of ethnic/cultural identity, whereas thereafter the only people automatically entitled to citizenship will be people of Scottish descent living elsewhere in the world.”

        And I don’t suppose that Carlo would dispute an independent Scotland’s right to set the terms of an “automatic right of return” would he? Nor, presumably, does he deny as illegitimate the UK’s “grandparent” clause. However, when it comes to Israel (and Jews)…inevitably, for such people, all bets are off, because we’re talking about what must, by his definition, be an entirely different situation.

        It always is, when it comes to Israel and Jews.

  17. vildechaye Says:

    Life’s a bitch ain’t it? All those “contradictory requirements.” Nothing like those perfect little boxes self-described “progressives” like and expect. What to do with those “contradictory requirements”? Well, in the case of Arabs/Muslims, third world, whathaveyou, simply ignore them, or attribute them to something benign like “culture,” or, even better, blame the Western imperialists, Americans, Zionists, you name it.

    But when it comes to Israel and the Jews, oh no, we can’t have those contradictions. There we must have absolute “respect for democratic institutions,” so absolute, in fact, that few if any democratic countries have managed to satisfy them. No matter. Other side refusing to negotiate? No matter, the occupation must end.

    Never mind that Israel and the Jews have never fit nicely into tidy little boxes that suit the self-described “progressives” of any era, be it our own post-modern era, or the Christian era. Nationality? Religion? Ethnic group? All of the above? Who cares…

    Past history of persecution? Present threats of annihilation? Who cares…

    I could go on and on, but to sum up, these are not serious arguments, these are the repeated memes of those who do not wish to hear, or simply do not care.

    • Carlo Says:

      Vildechaye claims that “few if any democratic countries” respect democratic institutions. Depends on the criteria of course, but most Western countries have achieved a fair measure of respect for democracy, press freedom etc. None is perfect, which is why all states are monitored by human rights bodies to gauge their conformity with international norms. Israel is one culpable state among many.

      The “occupation must end” simply because it is unjust and because the conditions under which it is maintained violate international law.

      “Past history of persecution?” Instructive, certainly, but past history. Since 1945 there have been other genocides, of other peoples, and much persecution, but many “do not wish to hear, or simply do not care.”

      “Present threats of annihilation?” States possessing the means to annihilate, i.e. WMDs, present the threats, not those that have none and are possible targets. Note the realities, not the rhetoric.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        “Vildechaye claims that “few if any democratic countries” respect democratic institutions.” No he doesn’t, Carlo. What he says is “But when it comes to Israel and the Jews, oh no, we can’t have those contradictions. There we must have absolute “respect for democratic institutions,” so absolute, in fact, that few if any democratic countries have managed to satisfy them.” That is nothing like your suggestion as to what he wrote. If you can’t get it right, don’t say it. And don’t read what you want to read rather than what is actually there.

        It creates suspicion that you are being either careless (greater care needs to be taken) or malicious. I have suggested in the past that the latter might just be the case where you are concerned. Even if I am being unfair, then you need to rewrite what you said. And the rest of your comment also needs a serious reconsideration.

        • Carlo Says:

          You write very well Brian and I take your point. But the topic is neither my carelessness nor my motivation but “The Progressive Case for Israel”.
          As mentioned earlier, David Hirsh makes a plausible progressive case for Israel’s establishment – but can make none for its social and foreign policies that have become increasingly reactionary.
          It is as a result of these policies that Israel has lost much of the considerable goodwill it enjoyed among progressive people throughout the world and is viewed ever more critically by Jews in the Diaspora.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Carlo, you still need to correct your misinterpretation of vildechaye’s statement. To just ignore that and comment on my use of language is an effort to avoid this. It suggests that you have no wish (whatever your words seem to imply) to actually address comments directed at you, possibly because any ulterior motives you may have will thus be revealed.

  18. vildechaye Says:

    Since 1945 there have been other genocides, of other peoples, and much persecution, but many “do not wish to hear, or simply do not care.”

    Correct. The latest one being Darfur, unfortunately, that would distract from the single-minded obsession about Israel, oops, scratch that, the Palestinians.

  19. David Hirsh Says:

    Carlo, makes the distinction clear but only in order to re-blurr it.

    I was asked to give a ‘progressive case for Israel’. I didn’t do it. Instead, I argued that Israel, as a nation state, does not require a case. The case for the existence of Israel does not depend on the behaviour of any particular Israeli government.

    Then Carlo’s challenge is that I don’t make a case for its policy of occupation or for this or that other policy which it follows or has followed. Well, no, indeed I don’t. Because I think there is no case for the policy of occupation. I oppose it. There are many other things which Israeli governments have done, or do, for which i think there is no progressive case.

    So far, Carlo and I seem to be in absolute agreement.

    But then he rows back and starts again. He says that Israel has not followed progressive policies and therefore has lost considerable good will amongst progressive people and it ‘is viewed critically’ around the world.

    What goodwill does Italy lose when it is run by Berlusconi? What good will does the UK lose when it is run by David Cameron or by Margaret Thatcher? And here is the slippage. Normally, ‘progressives’ like Carlo find it easy to make the distinction between opposing policies or governments on the one hand, and opposing states on the other.

    Nobody says: “I hate Italy” when they mean “I hate Berlusconi”.

    Nobody constructs a worldview around a new ideology called “anti-Italianism”.

    Nobody sings that “anti-italianism” is not racist against Italians, it is only against the policies of Berlusconi.

    In the case of Israel, anger with Israeli policies easily slips into opposition to the existence of Israel. No other state has to endure this kind of clamour of de-legitimisation.

    Let’s be specific about which policies of the israeli government we oppose too. Do we oppose Israel’s opposition to the politics of Hamas and Hizbollah? Do we oppose israel’s opposition to the Iranian bomb? do we oppose Israel’s courageous struggle to keep itself from being wiped off the map? No. Do we oppose Israel’s constitutional insistence that Arabs are equal citizens, have political representation and equality before the law? No.

    But we do oppose the occupation, and the racism and humiliation which such an occupation leads to. And we do oppose the civilian settlement of land. And we do oppose racism against Arabs and Muslims.

    But sometimes ‘progressives’ seem much more exercised by Israel’s reactionary policies, described and constructed in one-sided, de-contextualised and exaggerated terms, than they are by anybody else’s reactionary policies, with regards to which ‘progressives’ are usually quite good at looking at different sides, contextualising, and checking for exaggeration.

    Add to this fact also that ‘progressives’ seem to be open to the idea of punishing Israel, and also israelis, by excluding it and them from the global community of culture, academia, sport and trade.

    Add to this that ‘progressives’ seem often to articualte their criticism of israel in terms which mirror previous antisemitic stories told about Jews: Israel is the child murdering state; Israel is at the centre of all that goes wrong in the middle East and the wider world; Israel controls America; Israel controls the media; israel steals your body parts, etc.

    Add to this that ‘progressives’ often show themselves to be incapable of recognising antisemitism when they see it. See how many people, like the good Anglican Dean, are standing by the antisemitic Atzmon, even against Hope Not Hate, the leading antifascist organisation in Britain.

    Add to this that ‘progressives’ are educating the youth, in contrast to the Macpherson principles, to begin by treating claims of antisemitism as though they were made in bad faith, until evidence emerges to persuade them otherwise.

    So, Carlo, let’s be careful about the distinction betwee the ‘case for Israel’ and the ‘case for Israel’s policies’.

    And let’s also be careful to make sure our criticism of israel’s policies are in context, are proportional, are made in a form which cannot be mobilized against jews and israelis in general, and are therefore effectively ‘criticial’ rather than being just menacing.

    Let’s stop waving national flags, either Israeli or Palestinian, and lets instead support progressive and antiracist politics within both Israel and Palestine.

  20. James Mendelsohn Says:

    Great piece, David. Is this book available to buy on Amazon (or anywhere else for that matter), or is it only available to members of Labour Friends of Israel?

  21. vildechaye Says:

    Very well put, David.

  22. Carlo Says:

    My statement that “Israel has lost much of the considerable goodwill it enjoyed among progressive people throughout the world and is viewed ever more critically by Jews in the Diaspora” is factual rather than an opinion.

    David asks: “What goodwill does Italy lose when it is run by Berlusconi?” Modern Italy is unlike contemporary Israel. It has neither an important ethnic and religious minority, nor is it occupying and colonizing neighbouring territory. A more appropriate comparison might be with the Italy of Mussolini. When fascist Italy bombed the poorly equipped Abyssinians, progressives throughout the world protested, much as they did more recently against operation Cast Lead. “Nobody constructs a worldview around a new ideology called “anti-Italianism”, writes David. No, but a comparable world-view in the thirties was anti-fascism. And many US policies have engendered anti-Americanism.

    Regarding Hamas, one might recall that in its infancy it was encouraged by Israel in an effort to undermine the PLO. And Hizbollah emerged following the Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon. As for the wiping of states off maps, Israel and the US have been doing their best to ensure that a Palestinian state never appears on one. But concerning the occupation, David’s position is correctly based on humanitarian principles and international law. Certainly, excessive flag-waving is abhorrent.

    While not admitting to the sins of all those terrible other ‘progressives’ David cites, I agree that there is “slippage” – which demands condemnation. But is it surprising when, for whatever raisons d’état, a state wreaks havoc beyond its borders, that the victims should complain and that the aggressor state’s reputation should suffer?

    Israel has come a long way since Isaac Deutscher’s “precarious life-raft state” image. The life-raft has grown over the years into a nuclear-armed battle cruiser – although many of Israel’s unconditional apologists refuse to acknowledge the transformation.

    Should we really, as suggested, downplay criticism of Israeli policies and employ “a form which cannot be mobilized against Jews and Israelis”, whatever that might be? Israeli dissidents don’t seem to think so. They eschew special pleading for their country, holding Israel to the same standards as any other state, and doing their best to speak out and act against its reactionary drift.

    How much longer they’ll be able to do so though is not clear. See, “Black Flag Over Israel’s Democracy”: http://www.haaretz.com/black-flag-over-israel-s-democracy

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      “My statement that “Israel has lost much of the considerable goodwill it enjoyed among progressive people throughout the world and is viewed ever more critically by Jews in the Diaspora” is factual rather than an opinion.” If it is a statement of fact, please provide the evidence, Carlo, because as stated, this is, despite your claim to the contrary, merely an assertion, and saying it’s otherwise doesn’t make it so, any more than large numbers of people asserting that the speed of light is other than it is therefore alters the speed of light. And the second half of your sentence is certainly an opinion, undermined by every opinion poll of Jewish opinion taken worldwide.

      “Regarding Hamas, one might recall that in its infancy it was encouraged by Israel in an effort to undermine the PLO. And Hizbollah emerged following the Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon.” Quite possibly (again, as written, an assertion, but let that go), but that hardly negates both organisations eliminationist ideologies. If you believe otherwise, please argue the point. The same goes for the following sentence: “As for the wiping of states off maps, Israel and the US have been doing their best to ensure that a Palestinian state never appears on one.”

      And while I’m here, when are you going to acknowledge your error in misstating vildechaye’s words? It’s naughty to misquote someone (even accidentally), and it’s even naughtier to fail to correct the error.

      • Brian Goldfarb Says:

        And also while I’m here, I should have added that any arguments about loss of good will among progressive people depends to an enormous extent on how one is defining “progressive” these days. For my part, I see that word in much the same way that Nick Cohen does in “What’s Left?”

      • carlo Says:

        The evidence, Brian, that “Israel has lost much of the considerable goodwill it enjoyed among progressive people throughout the world and is viewed ever more critically by Jews in the Diaspora” is the endorsement by many trade unions and other organisations of the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and the emergence of J Call in Europe and J Street in the US, not to mention the host of other Jewish organisations and websites critical of Israeli government policy. It’s difficult to believe that you’re not aware of them.

        Regarding Hamas and Hezbollah, I mentioned them not to argue in their favour but merely to point out that Israel bears a certain responsibility for their existence. Even the US Council on Foreign Relations notes that “Hezbollah was founded in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.” (http://www.cfr.org/lebanon/hezbollah-k-hizbollah-hizbullah/p9155)

        Concerning US and Israeli opposition to Palestinian statehood, need you be reminded of the allies’ recent reaction to the Palestinian request for UN member status at UNSC and UNESCO? Hardly encouraging was it?

        As for the chaye, he’s surely vild enough to take care of himself.

        • Brian Goldfarb Says:

          Oh dear, Carlo, you are clutching at straws, aren’t you? I queried your sentence about Jews, the one that went “is viewed ever more critically by Jews in the Diaspora”, and you add to that “is the endorsement by many trade unions and other organisations of the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.” Now you appear to be claiming that all these trade unions (such as UCU? in the words of the immortal John McEnroe “you _cannot_ be serious”) are dominated by Jews who represent the whole of the Jewish community. This takes the notion of “the Lobby” to a whole new level. Just remind who are all these Jewish organisations demanding BDS of Israel – and don’t bother listing JfJfP, we all know about _that_ one, it’s the others we’re curious about. Further, while J Call and J Street are hardly uncritical of Israel (but then, engageonline is hardly uncritical of Israel, just see David Hirsh’s article at the head of this thread and his comments throughout and notenthat he is the founding editor of this website), please show us where they call for BDS on Israel (as opposed to a different policy direction to the one taken by the current and immediate past Israeli governments).

          Furthermore, please give something more than ” the host of other Jewish organisations and websites critical of Israeli government policy.” That’s not evidence, that assertion. Exactly the same non-point could be directed back at you, with “supportive of Israel” substituted for “critical”. And critical doesn’t mean “become a bi-national state”; or “stop being a Jewish state”; or “let back all the Arabs displaced in 1947-48 _and_ their descendants”. But you know all this, Carlo, you’re just being mischievous. You also know that my point about the overwhelming support for the existence (by no means all, or even most, of it uncritical) of Israel by the Diaspora is indisputable, so you ignore it. Typical.

          You will further note (but don’t, because that would undermine your non-argument) that I said “Quite possibly…but let that go” as far as “Regarding Hamas, one might recall that in its infancy it was encouraged by Israel in an effort to undermine the PLO. And Hizbollah emerged following the Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon” was concerned. All you do is repeat your claim, thus allowing you to ignore my further comment. Again, typical.

          Finally, your last line “As for the chaye, he’s surely vild enough to take care of himself” just shows your inability to acknowledge any error on your part. You’re not interested in debate and discussion, just in patronising others and being rude to them. You cannot even admit when you have made an egregious error in relation to another’s words. All you can do is ignore the correction and act as though _we_ are those in the wrong.

    • Thomas Venner Says:

      I don’t think anyone has a problem with Israel being held to the same standards as other states – the problem is when people hold it to a much higher standard, often an impossibly high one, or interpret any action by Israel as proof of evil intent, even if that action was one Israel’s opponents called for before it actually happened (see certain responses to the recent prisoner exchange). Anti-Zionists hold Israel to a standard much higher than they hold any other country, even traditional targets like the USA, and if Israel ever meets their standard in any way, either the achievement is dismissed as a fabrication for “hasbara” purposes (as Israel’s achievements in LGBT rights have been) or the bar is raised yet higher, until it becomes totally impossible to reach. At the same time, failure to meet the required high standard draws far greater condemnation than such a failing would if it was found in any other state, being greeted with a level of extreme, hyperbolic invective that they would not level against any other country – some problems with discrimination become Apartheid, the basis of the state in Jewish culture makes it a theocracy, and retaliation against rocket attacks from Gaza becomes an act of genocide, equal to (or even worse than) the Holocaust. You yourself state that anti-Zionism is comparable to anti-Fascism in the 1930s, casting Zionism as Fascism and Israel in the role of a Fascist state. Even if you say your aim is not to delegitimise Israel, you surely must realise that the knee-jerk reaction of pretty much anyone when they hear of a “Fascist state” is to believe that state should not exist.

      This goes beyond reasonable criticism. What possible purpose can this sort of narrative construction serve except to try to undermine belief in Israel’s right to exist as a state?

      • Carlo Says:

        Thomas considers that “the knee-jerk reaction of pretty much anyone when they hear of a “Fascist state” is to believe that state should not exist” and that accusations of fascism are unreasonable. “What possible purpose can this sort of narrative construction serve,” he asks, “except to try to undermine belief in Israel’s right to exist as a state?”

        More than a year ago, Uri Misgav wrote in Ynet News:
        “Over the years, leftist demonstrators here would chant the slogan “Fascism won’t pass!” yet the Left keeps on declining, while fascism is increasingly gaining a foothold here. Significant parts of the Jewish public endorse blatant nationalistic and fascist principles, as shown by the Yedioth Ahronoth and Dr. Mina Tzemach poll published last week, including limited freedom of expression and association as well as limiting voting rights to Jews only.
        “These findings are prompting us to wonder out loud: Did fascism officially make Aliyah to the Jewish state?”
        ( http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3972908,00.html )

        There’s no reason to suppose that the writer’s intention was to deligitimise Israel. He was simply commenting on the political situation as he saw it.

        A few weeks ago Uri Avnery compared aspects of present-day Israel to the Weimar Republic. ( http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1321624714/ ) Again, the question is not whether it is outrageous to speak of Israel in the same terms as pre-Nazi Germany, but whether the comparison is accurate.

        Avnery wrote:
        “What we are witnessing now are not isolated attacks on one or another human right – what we are seeing is a general attack on democracy as such. Perhaps only people who have experienced life under a fascist dictatorship can fully realize what that means.
        “Of course, the similarity between the collapse of the German republic and the processes in today’s Israel does not mean that the same events must follow. Nazism was unique in many ways. The end of real democracy may be followed by different systems. There are many models to choose from: Ceausescu, Franco, Putin.”

        Undoubtedly some hostile descriptions of Israel and its actions are exaggerated and inaccurate but that shouldn’t prevent us from acknowledging certain extremely worrying realities.

  23. Comment is not free Says:

    “Thomas considers that “the knee-jerk reaction of pretty much anyone when they hear of a “Fascist state” is to believe that state should not exist” and that accusations of fascism are unreasonable”
    Actually Thomas gets it wrong. Many people believe that a fascist state should not exist, but are perfectly happy for that state to exist once it is is free of fascism. It is in this sense that ‘fascist state’ as a political form, and a ‘state’ (in say its democratic form) are two distinct things. Fascist Italy (1923-1943) is evidently not the same thing as a post-fasicst Italy (1945 onward) yet, both are Italy. Our goal as anti-fasicts was to rid the world of fascism and not rid the world of Italy (as perhaps only people who have experienced life under a fascist dictatorship can fully realize)

    “However, there is no argument that a fascist regime is not in power in Israel at this time.”
    Uri Misgav
    He does of course speak of fascist tendencies………..which, of course, brings us back to Belosconi Thatcher, Bush, (snr and jnr) Blair, Cameron – which brings us back to Hirsh’s point.
    And, of course, the overthrowing of Ceausescu, Franco and (hopefully) Putin is distinct from the overthrow of Romania Spain and Russia; which again brings us back Hirsh’s point. One can add Pinochet’s Chile. Most Chileans in exile and manybe a majority inside Chile hated Chile’s fascism, but were at the same time Chilean patriots in the sense that they wanted Chile free of Pinochet, as opposed to the idea of wanting the world free of the state of Chile.
    Likewise in Egypt. We celebrated the end of what amounted to fascism in Egypt with the belief that Egypt is free, and not that the world is free of Egypt.
    Unfortunately, when it comes to Israel, many anti-zionists do not make the distinction between a democratic Israel which, as Misgay and others imply was in full existence prior to the rise of these tendencies, and a (not yet in existence) fascist Israel.
    While those in Israel who raise the spectre of fascism are doing so with the hope of resisting fascist tendencies in Israel – something which I am sure we all support – many who raise Israel-fascism outside of Israel see fascism as the very essence of Israel from the beginning. To many of these people, Israel and fascism are and have always been one and the same thing and yet another vehicle on which to delegitimise not this or that political form that does or does not exist in Israel, but Israel itself.For many, if not the majority in the BDS movement, the call for the end of a (not yet) fascist Israel is a call not for a free Israel, but a call for a world free of Israel. And in so doing the BDS movement and assorted others are failing in their duty to support their anti-fascist allies in Israel. (How many BDS’s statements have there been supporting Israeli NGO’s that do not challenge the right of Israel to exist, but who oppose these fascist tendencies? In other words, how many have supported those anti-fascists Israelis in Israel as Israelis? In short, how many have made a distinction between democratic and fascist Israelis as opposed to choosing support between who think Israel is a legitimate state and those who don’t? Kazan or Pappe? to put it crudely).

    And, on a related point, perhaps someone can tell me which fascist state allows publication in its press (as referred to above) that critcises said state for the crime of being fascist. Or, for that matter that permits an Occupy movement in one of its main cities (see, for example, the fate of the Occupy Portland movement), or for that matter allows its citizens to carry the type of banner in the accompanying picture.
    As with any state so with Israel, these are freedoms that are in constant need of defending. I should know, I write in a country whose government is seriously considering replacing its Human Rights Act and is spending a great deal of time refusing to comply with a ECHR ruling concerning prisoner’s rights, who passed a Nationality Act in the 1980’s that stripped many of its citizens from the right to residency in the UK, who have passed draconian laws on what family members from overseas can come into its borders; whose press denigrates refugees as bogus; who strips and limits individuals of welfare rights; whose former Prime Minister spoke of British jobs for British people, etc,, etc.. And yet, as far as I know, not one person who opposes these and other measures oppose the existence of England itself. It would seem that of the 200 or so states in the world only Israel is singled out for such treatment.

  24. vildechaye Says:

    Even more to the point, as a real totalitarianism is set to descend on Egypt and possibly Libya and Tunisia, with all the attendant racism, curtailment of human rights, misogyny and anti-gay legislation likely to arise, these are all pooh-poohed by so-called progressives based on “an election,” whereas the relatively mild legislation being considered in Israel is cause for speculation about neo-fascism, this in a state that has held democratic elections like clockwork since its founding in 1948. Apparently repeated israeli elections do not represent a setback for fascism, whereas one election — and there may only be one — is enough to determine that Egypt has FREED itself from so-called fascism and entering some brave new world where fascism is impossible.

    Of course there’s much to criticize in and about Israel, but this persistent singling out by supposed progressives, given what’s actually going on in the larger middle east right now, is particularly stomach-churning. They quote Israelis who, of course, have every right to be critical of their own government, as if it gives them carte blanche to their tunnel vision (one might even call it racism of low expectations) ignore everything going on among (a) the Palestinians; (b) the wide Arab world; and (c) Iran and the Muslim world, and continue to focus on their pet obsession. It’s disgusting.

  25. Comment is not free Says:

    Well, I guess anything measured from the perspective of fascism is ‘mild'; unless that is one is actually affected by it.
    And since when is ‘racism, curtailment of human rights, misogyny and anti-gay legislation” not compatable with democracy? If only!!

  26. Carlo Says:

    vildechaye is rightly concerned by the possibility of “real totalitarianism” in Maghreb states and it is to Israel’s credit that it “has held democratic elections like clockwork since its founding in 1948.” The survival of Israeli democracy, at least within the Green Line, has enabled Israeli democrats to express their legitimate fear of its curtailment. But a democratic past is not necessarily the guarantee of a democratic future.

    Of course, any critic of Israel who is not equally critical of Moslem states is guilty of applying a double standard. But the same goes for a champion of Israel who looks benignly on antidemocratic tendencies within Israel that he would condemn elsewhere. And it’s no defence of country A to say that country B is worse. Human rights norms apply across the board.

    To state that “the overwhelming support for the existence (by no means all, or even most, of it uncritical) of Israel by the Diaspora is indisputable” is hardly news. I didn’t suggest otherwise. Please don’t accuse me either of claiming that certain trade unions are dominated by Jews when I said no such thing. Nor did I suggest that Jewish organizations were calling for BDS. Some, however, like Jewish Voice for Peace in the US, express solidarity with the Palestinians under occupation and put pressure on firms like Caterpillar whose bulldozers are used to demolish their homes.

    The statement also misses the point. It’s not the relative numerical strength of Jewish dissidence in the Diaspora that’s significant but the fact that it exists, is growing, is visible in several countries, is independent of official Jewish community representatives, and is publicly outspoken, which wasn’t the case a few years ago.

    The statement also misses the point. It’s not the relative numerical strength of Jewish dissidence in the Diaspora that’s significant but the fact that it’s growing, is independent of official Jewish community representatives, and is publicly outspoken, which wasn’t the case a decade or so ago.

    • Brian Goldfarb Says:

      After having written, further up this thread, in expansion of his original comment, “My statement that “Israel has lost much of the considerable goodwill it enjoyed among progressive people throughout the world and is viewed ever more critically by Jews in the Diaspora” is factual rather than an opinion”, Carlo then writes, in response to criticism of this claim (which remains an opinion as far as Jews worldwide are concerned, and the part concerning “progressive people” depends on one’s definition of “progressive”: if Nick Cohen’s, then yes, but otherwise…) “The evidence, Brian, that “Israel has lost much of the considerable goodwill it enjoyed among progressive people throughout the world and is viewed ever more critically by Jews in the Diaspora” is the endorsement by many trade unions and other organisations of the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” “. To any reasonable person, that latter quote reads as though the evidence that Jews are ever less enthusiastic in their support for Israel relies on the increasing trade union support for BDS.

      Now he says “To state that “the overwhelming support for the existence (by no means all, or even most, of it uncritical) of Israel by the Diaspora is indisputable” is hardly news. I didn’t suggest otherwise.” Umm, yes he did, and the evidence is in his own words, as is the implication of his words that “loss of support by Jews” is implied by and allied with t.u. endorsement of BDS.

      So, to now say that he didn’t suggest otherwise smacks of a desire to row back on his own words. Why he just doesn’t admit that he’s wrong could (and to some of us, does) lead to intriguing speculation. Then, to try and undo the damage he’s already done to his own case (and cause, whatever that is), he adds this, at the end of his latest posting: “The statement also misses the point. It’s not the relative numerical strength of Jewish dissidence in the Diaspora that’s significant but the fact that it exists, is growing, is visible in several countries, is independent of official Jewish community representatives, and is publicly outspoken, which wasn’t the case a few years ago.”

      No, I didn’t say that, but yes I did.
      Which is it, Carlo? And, by the way, I never stated or implied that Diaspora Jewish support for Israel was uncritical or lacked “dissidence”. I can be, and am, a loyal Labour voter in the UK, but that doesn’t mean that I am therefore uncritical of any of its policies, leaders and aspects of proclaimed ideology. I can be both. Thus with Jews and Israel, so Carlo should stop trying to split non-existent hairs.

      And vildechaye may not give a damn that he was misquoted and therefore misinterpreted (he may consider the misquoter not worth worrying about), but those of us concerned about the use of language certainly are, and he is still owed an apology and a correction. Yet again, to fail to do so speaks volumes about motivation and concern for accuracy.

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Hi Carlo

      You say “The statement also misses the point. It’s not the relative numerical strength of Jewish dissidence in the Diaspora that’s significant but the fact that it’s growing, is independent of official Jewish community representatives, and is publicly outspoken, which wasn’t the case a decade or so ago.”

      Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that there’s now one of the most right wing Israeli government in power for quite some time. The fact is Carlo that apart from the usual suspects, most Jews who criticise Israel. criticise it’s policies and not it’s right to exist. There’s also quite an increase in the highlighting of the connection between demonisation of Israel and the rise of antisemitism (usually claiming to be only anti-zionist).

      So i don’t really get your point. You’re a very small (but vocal and active) minority.

  27. Absolute Observer Says:

    Gosh! I had no idea that Abe Foxman, Lord Janner and Mick Davis (all of whom have expressed their concerns in public about rightist tendencies in Israel) are ‘independent of official Jewish community representatives’.
    Now there’s a turn up for the books.

  28. vildechaye Says:

    RE: since when is ‘racism, curtailment of human rights, misogyny and anti-gay legislation” not compatable with democracy?

    Uhhh, since now. At least in liberal democracies. Obviously, that has not been true in the past, but all of the above are benchmarks of democracy in the 21st century. Or am I being a bit too Canadian about things…

  29. Comment is not free Says:

    Well, let’s see shall we. According to your thinking, Britain and the US are democracies since there is currently ‘legal’ anti-gay legislation on the books (re, e.g. marriage); Britain is in breach of an ECHR ruling on prisoners’ rights, so it is not a democracy? Ireland is not a democracy because of its anti-abortion laws? It has been a while since I have checked the question of abortion in Quebec; but if things have not changed, then Canada is not a democracy?

  30. vildechaye Says:

    I would simply point out two things: (1) not allowing gay marriage is not the same thing as “anti-gay legislation.'; (2) the rest of your response is inane.

  31. Comment is not free Says:

    Vildechaye,
    I appreciate that the definition of ‘inane’ is ‘lack of intelligence’. Bearing in mind your last comment (both points a and b) I think the irony speaks for itself.
    Perhaps next time you address a comment to me, you try to recall the basic human standards of civilised communication.
    You are a very rude man.

  32. Carlo Says:

    “most Jews who criticise Israel. criticise it’s policies and not it’s right to exist.” Of course they do. But apart from loud-mouth Ahmedinejad (whose notorious map statement was mistranslated), which public figures have called for Israel’s dissolution?

    The “outspokenness”‘ of Foxman et al. is set in context by RJ Rosenberg in, “The Neocons Have Finally Snapped”: http://politicalcorrection.org/fpmatters/201112060006.

    And a recent piece likely to discomfort some Engageniks is, “Yes, Israel is a source of anti-Semitism” http://972mag.com/israel-is-yes-a-source-of-anti-semitism/29042/

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Hi Carlo.

      Are you serious when you ask “But apart from loud-mouth Ahmedinejad (whose notorious map statement was mistranslated), which public figures have called for Israel’s dissolution?” ?

      The BDS campaign is based on one state. I don’t know which country you are in but in the UK this is certainly the case. It would be easier to ask which BDS leaders support 2 states as it would be quicker. That’s why there is never an answer from the boycotters when asked what Israel would have to do for the BDS demand to be withdrawn.

      So i might as well ask you Carlo – What would Israel have to specifically do for the demand for BDS to be stopped ? Hope you can provide specific answers from Bricup, Pacbi, PSC, etc

      • Carlo Says:

        Hello Richard,

        Yes, the question is a serious one because one sees a lot of reference to “existential threats” and so on but little evidence for them. That’s why I asked for names. Israel is an established UN member state and, as far as I’m aware, no other UN state or international figure is calling its status into question. If I’m wrong please enlighten me.

        I can’t answer for “Bricup, Pacbi, PSC, etc.” as am not familiar with them, but as for what Israel would have to do for BDS to be withdrawn, the BDS website http://www.bdsmovement.net/call#.TuEi8Hr4I90 states: “Palestinian Civil Society Calls For Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights”.

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Hi Carlo

          But the BDS campaign isn’t led by members of the U.N. it’s led by groups such as Pacbi, Bricup, PSC, etc. So i think they’re important and they all support a one state solution.

          And the groups i just mentioned when challenged come out with a similar line to yourself which is vague and avoids answering the question. So let me try and pin you down on specifics. So would it be enough for Israel to withdraw from The West Bank and to The Green Line, leave all settlements and stop the siege of Gaza ? Would this be enough for you to call for the end of BDS ?

        • Richard Gold Says:

          Also Carlo, the BDS website that you have linked to are also one staters. They say, “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” which is pretty obviously a one state position. Is this your position ? Because if it is, then the only way for the call for BDS to be rescinded is if Israel agrees to dissolve itself. It’s the opposite of a 2 states solution and far more extreme than the official PLO position.

        • conchovor Says:

          ‘That’s why I asked for names. Israel is an established UN member state and, as far as I’m aware, no other UN state or international figure is calling its status into question. If I’m wrong please enlighten me.’

          PA official:
          The PA recognizes that Israel exists
          but utterly rejects Israel’s right to exist

          PA Ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq:
          “[Israel] never had any shred of a right to exist”

          by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

          Israel is wrong if it assumes that only Hamas loathes Israel, says PA Ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq. Fatah does not respect Israel either. Moreover, the PA and Fatah utterly reject that Israel has any right to exist, he wrote in an article in the official PA daily:

          “They have a common mistake, or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist. They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated [Zionist] enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist…”

          Palestinian Media Watch has reported extensively on PA – Fatah denial of Israel’s right to exist. PA leaders and official PA media refer to all of Israel as “occupied,” including cities like Haifa and Jaffa and places like the Galilee and the Negev.

          To view recent PMW bulletins on PA denial of Israel’s right to exist, click here and here.

          The following is the excerpt of PA Ambassador to India’s denial of Israel’s right to exist:

          Adli Sadeq, PA Ambassador to India, in official PA daily:
          “The demands of this enemy [Israel] are strange and amazing demands, unique in the history of conflicts… They [Israelis] are not satisfied with Palestinian recognition that is a function of their state and its existence, but want recognition of the eternal right of Israel to exist. Possibly their nature will bring them to ask for compensation for the years that have passed without their state’s existence, during the time it had the right to exist upon our skulls… They have a common mistake, or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist. They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated [Zionist] enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist… Hamas, Fatah and the others are not waging war against Israel right now for reasons related to balance of power. There are no two Palestinians who disagree over the fact that Israel exists, and recognition of it is restating the obvious, but recognition of its right to exist is something else, different from recognition of its [physical] existence.”

          http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=5905

        • conchovor Says:

          ‘Yes, the question is a serious one because one sees a lot of reference to “existential threats” and so on but little evidence for them.’

          You, for a start; who would dissolve the one Jewish state in the world for its alleged apartheid qualities into the surrounding sea/desert of Arab, Islamic states and societies, including the Palestinian, all of which are apartheid by those criteria, at the very least with regard to Jews, and often with regard to other groups.

          You think we’re fool enough to think you’re a friend?

  33. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘And a recent piece likely to discomfort some Engageniks is, “Yes, Israel is a source of anti-Semitism”’

    Well at least we agree about something. You are quite right to indicate how very ‘discomforting’ it is when the objects of racism get blamed for it. After all, how anyone who knows anything about racism and the racist mentality can in this day and age blame anyone but the racists for such idiocy is beyond me.
    Thanks for drawing it to attention. It is good to be reminded just how lousy and frankly aburd things have got when it comes to ‘criticism’ of Israel.

    • Carlo Says:

      One could assume that Absolute’s reading of Yossi Gurvitz’s piece stopped conveniently at the provocative title.
      It’s certainly unjust when “objects of racism get blamed for it” but Gurvitz goes on to explain how this comes about and where primary responsibility lies.

      • conchovor Says:

        ‘Gurvitz goes on to explain how this comes about and where primary responsibility lies’

        I.e. not with the primary doers, Palestinian or Israeli Jews being moral adults in his Orientalist eyes, Arab Muslims and Christians being moral infants.

        Fortunately his Eurocentric, Orientalist views have pretty much zero traction with the Mirzrahim concerned. He is irrelevant.

  34. Ken Says:

    I have to side with Richard here, “But apart from loud-mouth Ahmedinejad (whose notorious map statement was mistranslated), which public figures have called for Israel’s dissolution?” (is Carlo the UCU left/SWP Carlo?). Many call for a single state solution such as most (all?) European countries are (all my great grandparents came from north west Ireland but I have no ‘right of return’). Tony Judt, for one, argued for this as the only possible stable solution very convincingly

  35. Absolute Observer Says:

    Carlo,
    I read the whole thing. It is basically a rehash of a sterile argument that has been doing the rounds for a while now.
    Israel claims to be a Jewish state so that when criticism of Israel appears they can call it antisemitic, yaddy yaddy yaddy.
    So, not only is all criticism of Israel treated by Israel as antisemitic, it allows the antisemitism that attaches to some criticism of Israel to be ignored or to be put on Israel, addy yaddy yaddy.
    Seeing that you are such an avid reader of Engage, you will know that such an ‘argument’ was dealt with a while back. Go find it.

    Here’s a clue. That 972 knows nothing, or at the least, very little of how antisemitism works. Antisemitism is the racist distortion of real relations and conflicts between Jews and non-Jews (at least in its formative moments). So, d’uh, of course Israel is a ‘source of antisemitism’ but not in the way 972 or you think. Whenever Jews act in the world it is open to antisemitic interpretations. Anti-racists refuse to see that interpretation as the truth, but see it for what it is – a distortion of reality. Only fools and racists mistake the superficial for the real (not to deny the fact that for the objects of racism, the superficial can have consequences) and fall into the traps set for them.

    In the meantime I do find it amusing that all these ‘bloggers’ on Israel insist or reinventing the wheel and thinking that what they have to say is ‘original’ and has never been thought before by anyone else.
    972 is no different. It simply repeats what many of us have heard over the past 10 years again and again and again….

    Funny isn’t it Carlo, you start this thread with questioning Hirsh’s comments about Israel; move to calling it fascist, and now move on to explain how Israel is the cause of current antisemitism.

    How very predictable. Carlo, when all is said and done, you, just like the most rabid of ultra-Zionists, think that Israel is an ‘exception’ state amongst all states. You are as hung up on Israel as those you claim to oppose. You’re not the first, nor the last of that tradition. Despite all you say, or think you say, you are stuck in a way of thinking that makes you, not without irony, a true Zionist. Kinda funny really.

  36. Law 101 Says:

    Carlo,
    Please do not push your anti-Arab racism on Engage, It is neither funny nor clever,
    The article of 792 you refer to is, if not downright racist then so patronising as to be a disgrace.
    In a nutshell, it argues that, ‘We’ in the West know antisemitism is a crock of shit, but those thicko A-rabs still fall for it.
    But you can hardly blame them. What with their history of suffering from European colonialism and now of Zionism, it’s hardly surprising that they are not advanced as we are. Poor dears. Sigh, the dilemmas of the White Man’s Burden.
    At least have the decency not to demonise all Arabs as antisemitic – a slander in itself – and maybe this once to permit Arabs a modicom of autonomous agency. They are not sheep you know; not matter how much you and Lieberman think otherwise.

  37. vildechaye Says:

    The rest of you have done an excellent job in demolishing Carlo’s most recent weak arguments, but have not responded to one point that caught my eye a while back, when he talked about “a champion of Israel who looks benignly on antidemocratic tendencies within Israel that he would condemn elsewhere” (in reference to me and those like me, I suppose). Over and above the stupefying arrogance of assuming how I look upon anti-democratic tendencies in Israel, I was amazed at how Carlo is able to stand an issue on its head without anybody noticing. He talks about anti-democratic tendencies that would be condemned elsewhere. Oh, if only Israeli policies were critiqued in the same manner as similar policies in other democratic countries were criticized. Unfortunately, Carlo et al have made a cottage industry out of singling Israel out, regardless of the policy and/or action. This is the main reason, in fact, I suspect, the ONLY reason, that supporters of Israel are reticent to publicly attack Israel (as opposed to privately) — a desire not to “pile on” and give the enemies of Israel more ammo with which to pummel away. Carlo has the chutzpah to demand that we criticize Israel — as though Israelis criticizing their own government’s policy isn’t enough — seemingly based on the anti-“zionist” idea of fair play and balance, namely: Your side criticizes Israel, our side criticizes israel… see! Balance! Well, no way, Jose. It should be obvious that until anti-“zionists” do more than pay lip service critiquing the apartheid, gender discrimination, gay discrimination and religious discriminization in the vicious Islamist and secular dictatorships that form Israel’s neighbourhood in the ME, and do so with at least the same vigour which which he and his feel free to attack every Israeli misstep, there won’t be much reciprocation from this side. That’s my idea of balance.

    Finally, on another topic, ahmadinejad may have been “mistranslated,” but the mistranslation was not made by Western news agencies, but rather by IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency), whose translators presumably have a better handle on what their Prez actually thinks. Of course, anti-“zionists” have spun the mistranslation story such that everybody assumes it was a Western (read: Zionist controlled) media mistranslation, but it was IRNA. I’m not saying it wasn’t a mistranslation, as my Farsi is probably about as good as Carlo’s. But it shouldn’t be pooh-poohed (like the rest of Israel’s quite valid existential fears) as some sort of hasbara scheme. It wasn’t. And for myself, I take his threats extremely seriously, and the leaders of Israel would not be living up to their responsibilities to their citizens if they didn’t either.

    No way, jose.

  38. Brian Goldfarb Says:

    And in the middle of raising new hares for us to chase, Carlo, yet again (how many times now?) ignores the questions and criticisms raised by me in my last comment (made on December 4 at 4.57 pm). That he does so raises all the doubts as to his serious as far as debating is concerned. It is a common pattern by certain types of people posting their thoughts here: a pattern of ignoring what they cannot answer and, instead, raising different hares.

    Carlo, if you are serious, answer directly the questions put you by me in my last comment, all of them. Failure to do so will reveal you as the mischevious (and I am oh so polite here) individual you so patently pretend not to be. Mind you, you’re in very good (if dubious) company.

  39. Carlo Says:

    “So would it be enough for Israel to withdraw from The West Bank and to The Green Line,” asks Richard, “leave all settlements and stop the siege of Gaza ? Would this be enough for you to call for the end of BDS ?”
    Well, it seems to go a long way towards satisfying the original demands as stated. But it’s not my call, being neither a BDS militant, nor a Palestinian.

    To satisfy the requirements of the Palestinian refugees, Richard believes, “is pretty obviously a one state position. Is this your position ? Because if it is, then the only way for the call for BDS to be rescinded is if Israel agrees to dissolve itself.”
    BDS is only a tactic, a way of exerting non-violent civil pressure on a militarized state, based on the ultimately successful (along with other elements) Anti-Apartheid Movement of the 1960s. Once the Apartheid regime in South Africa had been dismantled, South Africa continued but the Anti-Apartheid Movement faded away.

    The problem of the refugees will remain, like all the other issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict, until it’s resolved as part of a broad agreement that respects international human rights norms and is acceptable to a majority on each side. It’s but one problem among many and tackling it doesn’t mean swamping Israel with four million homeless. (See the Geneva Accord below.)

    Thanks to Absolute Observer for pointing out my Israel hang-up.

    The Adli Sadeq quotes are interesting. I didn’t know that such public statements had been made recently. But the bitter words hardly threaten Israel’s instant dissolution.

    Am more familiar with the position of Yasser Abed Rabbo who spoke last month at an event to revive interest in the Geneva Initiative. See: http://www.geneva-accord.org

    • Richard Gold Says:

      Well Carlo, like most BDS supporters you just avoid the question. I asked you what Israel would have to do in order for the BDS campaign to be called off, i asked you what Israel would have to do for you yourself to stop supporting BDS and you don’t give an answer with real solutions or concrete actions. Which proves my point which as i said before, the BDS campaign is a campaign which threatens Israel’s existence because it’s a one state campaign. I don’t think there’s any point in discussing this any further with you Carlo, however it was a useful exercise in demonstrating what i said – whenever BDS supporters / leaders are asked what Israel would have to do in order for the call to BDS to be called off, there’s never a clear answer. If a 2 states solution based on withdrawal to The Green Line, the settlers leaving all settlements and stopping the siege of Gaza isn’t enough for you Carlo, then i’m afraid nothing except Israel’s dissolution will be enough for you. I’m not sure why you link to The Geneva Accord, because based on what you’ve said, it’s obvious that the Geneva Accord isn’t enough for you.

      Thanks for proving my point Carlo.

    • conchovor Says:

      ‘Once the Apartheid regime in South Africa had been dismantled, South Africa continued but the Anti-Apartheid Movement faded away.’

      i.e. your goal is to dissolve the one Jewish state in the world for its alleged apartheid qualities; into the surrounding sea/.desert of Arab, Islamic states and societies, including the Palestinian, pretty much all of which are apartheid by those criteria, at the very least with regard to Jews, and sometimes with regard to other Jews.

      I don’t think you’re going to fool the Jews concerned; and you are only going to encourage them to increase their nationalism in the face of the Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian, but anti-Jewish, nationalism to which BDS is actually, en effait, an adjunct.

      You can’t encourage Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian, but anti-Jewish, nationalism of, say, Israeli Arab Muslims and Christians and achieve their further integration into Israeli Jewish society. Those are two opposite goals, which have diametrically opposite results. You will only serve to increase the likelihood of out and out inter-ethnic conflict +inside+ Israel, with all that will entail.

      • conchovor Says:

        Correction

        pretty much all of which are apartheid by those criteria, at the very least with regard to Jews, and sometimes with regard to other GROUPS.

        • Bill Says:

          Well Conchovor, on another thread we just had a perfect example of how deniers of apartheid elsewhere in the ME/NA and for that matter, the world, have no interest in really addressing current apartheid and part hairs whenever presented with examples. Provide explicit examples of established apartheid and it’s always different or they don’t exist. Apartheid only exists for Israel and alumnus of the apartheid club. Mention the separatist policies in neighboring countries and it is always different, (maybe) “bad” but never apartheid and thus unworthy of the required drama and specialized demonization leveraged against Jews and only Jews who live a country where they don’t have to ask permission to be Jews. Heck, mention cold-cut specifics like China’s hukou system as I did and you get a disturbingly laughable clulessness from a make-believe human-rights fetishist and aid-worker of an policy that discriminates against Uyghurs in the far west (as one example) locking them out of the more lucrative economic zones dominated by Hans including in Xinjiang itself, not just the eastern part of the country (in the eyes of the superficial and intellectually uncurious cause-heads that lock on to the israel=apartheid trope, they all look alike I guess). By his own admission the only represesed ethnic group he had ever considered in China was the one on the manditory I-care-more-than-you bumper sticker.

    • conchovor Says:

      The Geneva Accord says, inter alia, what settlements will stay, what territory with go to the P.A., what must be annexed from Israel (or suggestions).

      Olmert’s 2008 offer was based on the Geneva Accord. Abbas didn’t get back to him, probably in part because he suspected the BDS movement might deliver what he wants without negotiating. BDSers usually dismiss the Geneva Accord out of hand as not going far enough. It certainly doesn’t call for the end of ‘the Zionist state’, which P.S.C. does.

      BDSers are usually implacable enemies of negotiations merely on the basis of the Geneva Accord. Which means they are a curious mirror of the further Israeli right, even as they effectively work in lock-step with Hamas.

      In any event, they are existential enemies of any kind of Israel as a permanent, as opposed to temporary, entity, a mere prelude to one, Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian majority state.

      But I doubt most Israeli Jews will willingly become a minority in such a state. All out war is no less likely.

  40. vildechaye Says:

    One more thing:

    This 972 author whom Carlo admires so much is a nasty piece of work. First of all, in his pathetic analogy with Black supremacists, he reveals that he considers the zionists of 1948 (i.e. 3 years after the end of World War II), and the holocaust survivors who were able to join them, as Jewish supremacists. As the son of holocaust survivors, one of whom went to Israel for 2 years before moving to Canada, I find this entire line of thinking reprehensible and disgusting.

    But even more telling is his pathetic attempt at a historical account of anti-Jewish behaviour. He essentially justifies a 12th century French pogrom by blaming it on a Jewish “crucifixion” of a murderer during Purim. Even more revolting, his idea of the “horrifying events of the Crusades” consists not of the slaughter of European Jewry by that ignorant motley crew, but rather, “Jews murdering their children to prevent their baptism; And they lead horrified Christians to wonder: If this is what they will do to their own children, if they hate us so much, what will do to our children?” In other words, those poor Christians, no wonder they slaughtered Jews, look how they treat their own Children.
    This is pathetic. And this is what Carlo believes is “discomforting.” He’s right, but not in the way he thinks.

  41. vildechaye Says:

    One last thing (I promise): I actually agreed with most of the points in the other piece that Carlo linked to about neo-cons finally snapping, not that anything in that piece really has much to do with the issues being discussed here (a point which no doubt eludes Carlo). I’m also not sure they’re all neo-cons, and I suspect I don’t share much in common with the writer of the piece, but the points he makes about Panetta, Clinton and especially Obama I could have made myself. Caroline Glick, particularly, sounds like she has a screw loose, though I’ve thought that for a long time. It’s really important to distinguish between liberal and social democratic supporters and other centre-left, centre and centre-right supporters of Israel (ie. the ones who make a progressive case for it), and the extremists and nutbars (and yes, after 63 years of unremitting hostility, Israel has quite a few of those too). This is a distinction anti-“zionists” routinely fail to make.

  42. Absolute Observer Says:

    ‘Thanks to Absolute Observer for pointing out my Israel hang-up.’

    Not at all. But, actually what I said was,
    ‘You are as hung up on Israel as those you claim to oppose.’

    Not quite the same thing at all.


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