Will the AJC Distance Itself From (Radioactive) Report?

US Politics
on 31 Comments

The AJC’s report on “Only Self-Hating Jews Don’t Like Israel”—it’s actually called “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism”—is officially an embarrassment. I say officially because the report’s theme that it is “illegitimate” for Jews to question the nature of the founding of Israel, that such inquiries represent a “betrayal” of Israel, based on “tangled psychological” motives, is being criticized in the mainstream press around the world, as it should be. The Op-Eds pile up one after another. The report has exposed the Jewish leadership’s underhanded methods: smearing intellectuals as “self-haters.”

It has also got the AJC into a fight it doesn’t want with Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, a longtime friend of Israel, who is named in the report because of his column last summer saying the founding of Israel was a well-intentioned “mistake.” Cohen is upset.

Among the first to call me after the Times piece appeared was the AJC itself. It apologized. It did not mean to include me with the others, and it would, its representative told me, soon set matters straight. It issued a news release saying that Rosenfeld’s characterization of me does “not reflect the totality of [my] occasional writings on the Middle East.”

Well, the AJC has not set matters straight with Cohen. It is still fiddling. On its website the AJC crows that it got the Times to run a correction of its characterization of the AJC as a “conservative” group. This is a pure expression of vanity (Jewish groups like to think of themselves as liberal). In the Jerusalem Post, David Harris, the AJC’s director, goes on for several paragraphs about the good news that he obtained a correction, and then seeks to justify the report: “[T]he individuals [author Alvin] Rosenfeld mentions are on the political fringes in asserting that Israel has no right to exist and should either be destroyed or morphed into a so-called binational state, which means the end of Israel as we know it.”

Harris then says this is not true of Richard Cohen, but he has nonetheless made “disturbing” comments about Israel.

This is called digging yourself deeper into a hole.

Today in the American Prospect, Gershom Gorenberg echoes the charge that the AJC is unfair to Richard Cohen—while by and large defending the report, by adding his own attack on anti-Zionists and non-Zionists:

They affirm the right of Palestinians to return to a remembered homeland, but negate Jews’ right to repatriate themselves to their remembered homeland. Jewish nationhood alone is a scandal. Morally, this is no different than deciding that everyone but black Africans has the right to self-determination…

Gorenberg’s analogy of the Palestinian refugees’ claims to the claim of, say, a former Diaspora Californian like himself to emigrate to Israel out of ideas he studied in a yeshiva that include religious messianism (as he states in his book The End of Days) is highly problematic. I think Gorenberg, a wonderful journalist by the way, is wrong.

Cohen undertakes a broader defense of the AJC’s targets: “It’s sad that the American Jewish Committee commissioned and published Rosenfeld’s report. I can’t imagine what good will come out of it. Instead, it has given license to the most intolerant and narrow-minded of Israel’s defenders so that, as the AJC concedes in my case, any veering from orthodoxy is met with censure… Shame.” Cohen gets at the great (backfired) achievement of the AJC paper and its coverage in the Times. It has ennobled the critics, and not just the critics Gorenberg, who made aliyah, wishes to defend.

Zionism’s DNA is being examined by American Jews. Tony Judt and Alisa Solomon are at last being heard widely, in their call on the American Jewish community to examine the religious nationalist ideology that has helped foster violence in the Middle East. Liberal integrationists like myself, who chose not to make aliyah, are at last being heard. Call it poison, call it illegitimate: the world seems interested in what we have to say.

31 Responses

  1. Bill Pearlman
    February 8, 2007, 3:03 pm

    Do you want some cheese to go with that whine Phil. I read the essay and it is exactly right on target. Their is a whole cohort of people who through accident of birth have Jewish names and who get their kicks out of exhibiting supposed courage in dumping on Israel. So be it, but it doesn't exactly deserve a medal.
    Its amazing, Phil doesn't not believe in God, he goes out of his way to mock Judaism, and yet seems to be Jewish only when it comes time to engage in angst over the evil Jewish conspiracy. Weird

  2. Ben
    February 8, 2007, 5:12 pm

    Gorenberg wrote:

    The answer to the philosophical question is that anti-Zionists regard Jews as uniquely lacking the right to define themselves as a nation and seek self-determination. Some critics of Zionism claim that they oppose nationalism as such. Yet they show little interest in opposing Algerian, Kosovar or Palestinian self-determination. Despite the sins of France in Algeria, they do not propose that France dissolve itself politically. They affirm the right of Palestinians to return to a remembered homeland, but negate Jews' right to repatriate themselves to their remembered homeland. Jewish nationhood alone is a scandal. Morally, this is no different than deciding that everyone but black Africans has the right to self-determination.

    I addressed how to handle the above charges in earlier posts. One does need to use a language that explicitly acknowledges the right of Israeli Jews to self-determination, or you do open yourself up to people questioning your motives as they appear opposed to straightforward human rights universalism. This is a significant issue and it may continue to limit you.

  3. Ben
    February 8, 2007, 5:26 pm

    Is there some writings where you, Philip, outline what your anti-Zionism entails?

    From a modern human rights perspective self-determination is viewed as a good thing, although it should be handled pragmatically in its geopolitical context. Zionism, ignoring for the moment the resulting oppression of the Palestinians is has caused in this particular context, is theoretically acceptable in the international modern human rights framework. More so, one can understand why Zionism gained such speed in the shadow of the persecution of World War II.

    I can't oppose Zionism as a whole based on any ideology, but I can oppose the specific characteristics of its current form because of its horrible effects on the Palestinians. Thus I advocate accepting Zionism and reforming its characteristics so that the overall result is acceptable.

    I once heard someone say that Zionism is like a young adult that had a traumatic childhood and is thus dealing with a lot of issues that are difficult to work out. I can see that there might be some truth to such an analogy.

  4. anonymous
    February 8, 2007, 5:55 pm

    Yeah, a 3000 year-old adolescent.

  5. Bill Pearlman
    February 8, 2007, 6:29 pm

    Actually anonymous, we go back longer that 3000 years but your not exactly
    Einstein are you. But anyway, thats Jewish history. Zionism has layed aout by Herzl was 1897. But I guess those interesting verbal nuances that you people come up with about anti-zionism vs anti-semitism are bullshit. In fact some might call you a low life, scumbag, anti-semite. What that be a fair term?

  6. tough dove
    February 8, 2007, 7:23 pm

    Great post, Ben. Based on your previous offerings, I take it you are someone who is trying to trying to figure out whether a bi-national state is feasible. If more people involved in that conversation accepted the validity of Jewish self-determination as a goal, while denouncing the often brutal way it has been manifested in Israel/Palestine, it would be possible to have the conversation in a civilized, thoughtful manner. That is, I assume, what Phil advocates.

    I myself think the Jews need one country to call their own, just one little country. And the task ahead is to find a way for such a country to exist side by side with a Palestinian homeland and to end a horrific occupation.

    But if you think there is a way for Jews to preserve their national identity in a bi-national state, it is ridiculous for mainstream Zionists like Rosenfeld totry to stop you or Phil Weiss or Allisa Solomon from expressing yourselves.

    That said, others will try to stop you, too. There is a lot of hostility out there to the whole notion of "Jewish particularism," which is contrasted unfavorably to "universalism." In fact, I bet you are going to be harangued by some people on this blog who harbor that hostility, who jump through all kinds of intellectual hoops to deny any form of national existence to the Jewish people. So brace yourself.

    In 1944, Sartre wrote about these universalists brilliantly in "Anti-semite and Jew." He called them "democrats:"

    "The democrat, like the scientist, fails to see the particular case; to him, the individual is only an ensemble of universal traits. It follows that his defense of the Jew saves the latter as a man and annihilates him as a Jew…

    "Taking this point of view, he fears that the Jew will acquire a consciousness of the Jewish collectivity –just as he fears that a "class consciousness" may awaken in the worker. His defense is to persuade individuals that they exist in an isolated state. `There are no Jews,' he says. `There is no Jewish question.'

    "This means he wants to separate the Jews from his religion, from his family, from his ethnic community, in order to plunge him into the democratic crucible whence he will emerge naked and along, an individual and solitary particle like all other particles

    "For a Jew, conscious and proud of being Jewish, asserting his claim to be a member of the Jewish community without ignoring on that account the bonds that unite him to the national community, there may not be so much difference between the anti-Semite and the democrat. The former wishes to destroy him as a man and leave nothing in him but a Jew, the pariah, the untouchable; the latter wishes to destroy him as a Jew and leave nothing in him but man, the abstract and universal subject of the rights of man and the rights of the citizen.

    "The anti-Semite reproaches the Jew with being Jewish; the democrat reproaches him for willfully considering himself a Jew."

  7. anonymous
    February 8, 2007, 8:00 pm

    Hey anonymous 2:55 PM how did you manage to become the world's famousest antisemite?

    Is "Yeah, a 3000 year-old adolescent." some kind of code? Tell me the key, please!

    By the way I think 3000 is way too much for that entity, but they are used to a bit of inflation are't they? Is that adolescent thing, you know.

  8. Devil's advocate
    February 8, 2007, 9:23 pm

    Contrast Sartre's intellectual acrobatics and Manichean reasoning on Jewish separateness that tough dove finds so brilliant, with the universal demand and expectation for Muslims to integrate. And the hostility to them because of their failure or unwillingness to do so. (See Europe). Anyone see double standards?

    Also, pay attention to the money-quote, carefully placed in passing and presented as self-evident:

    "For a Jew, conscious and proud of being Jewish, asserting his claim to be a member of the Jewish community without ignoring on that account the bonds that unite him to the national community, there may not be so much difference between the anti-Semite and the democrat."

    Choosing separateness while being united to a national community is indeed an oxymoron that even Sartre had trouble rationalizing for the Diaspora Jews.

    This was known as the "Jewish question" for centuries.

    As far as Israel goes, if the preservation of the Jewish identity of that State and the separation from native Arabs (Palestinians) are acceptable, then what exactly was the problem with Apartheid South Africa? I don't seem to recall anyone advocating a two-state solution there.

    And what is tough dove's position regarding Israeli Arab citizens? In a few decades they will become the majority within Israel. Should they be expelled to preserve Israel's Jewish identity?

    I would be very interested in a clear answer to that question.

  9. tough dove
    February 8, 2007, 9:51 pm

    Devil's Advocate,

    So let me see if I understand the logic here. You write:

    "Choosing separateness while being united to a national community is indeed an oxymoron that even Sartre had trouble rationalizing for the Diaspora Jews.

    "This was known as the `Jewish question' for centuries."

    Actually, where is there any sign that Sartre had trouble "rationalizing" this idea? Presumably he himself had no problem with people who had different ties, different connections to different communities, different aspects to their identity. But if you have trouble with it, then you are making an argument for Zionism! You sound a lot like Herzl, actually.

    I'm afraid I don't have enough time to deal with your query re: apartheid (gotta go to dinner and that deserves a thoughtful response).

    I don't think it is true that "in a few decades" Israel's Arab citizens will be in the majority. Where did that estimate come from? At any rate, I think the lack of equality and the treatment Israel's Arabs have received is shameful. It is a terrible problem and I don't know how to solve it. Do you? Do you think Israel should be obliterated? Or should the Israeli Jews switch roles and become a minority in a bi-national state, surrounded by an Arab majority that will include people who are certainly be no less hostile to them than Lieberman is to Israeli Arabs?

    The kind of automony for Israel's Arabs that is discussed in today's NY Times is something that should at least be discussed.

  10. David
    February 8, 2007, 10:55 pm

    "It is a terrible problem and I don't know how to solve it."

    I do. The same way the same problem was solved in South Africa. You just have to keep the Jewish-American lobby from blocking all the world's attempts at justice for the Palestinians.

    BTW ToughDove, "Particularism" is just the PC-term for tribalism. People would take your defense of it more seriously if you were willing to call it by its name.

  11. Devil's advocate
    February 9, 2007, 12:57 am

    1) Jewish question:

    a) You may say Sartre had "presumably no problem with people who had different ties" etc (any evidence of that btw?) but the fact is that there is only one minority considered, the Jewish one, and repeatedly so in European intellectual thinking and political discourse of the past centuries. There is only the "Jewish Question", discussed everywhere in Europe for centuries, there is nothing comparable to that as far as any other minority goes.

    b) If pointing out the oxymoron of remaining separate, while truly belonging to a national community, at the time of the ascendance of the Nation-State and relevant national identity in European conscience, makes me sound like Herzl, this is because he agreed with what you would call today an anti-Semitic canard. In fact, he went even further in recognizing in anti-Semitism a useful ally to his Zionist dream:

    “It is essential that the sufferings of Jews. . . become worse. . . this will assist in realization of our plans. . .I have an excellent idea. . . I shall induce anti-semites to liquidate Jewish wealth. . . The anti-semites will assist us thereby in that they will strengthen the persecution and oppression of Jews. The anti-semites shall be our best friends”. (From his Diary, Part I, pp. 16)

    If you are a progressive Zionist and agree with Herzl, you can't then possibly use Sartre to argue that Jews can hold on to the consciousness of their Jewish collectivity and at the same time truly belong to any national community.

    2) The inherent contradictions and oxymorons continue:

    If you want Israel to be a democracy, you can't have a "Jewish national identity". You need Apartheid. You need discriminating immigration laws. You need discriminating marriage laws that don't permit Israeli Arab citizens to unite with their families. You need discriminating laws of political participation. You need a Jewish majority when the AIDRG, Benny Morris and Lieberman and countless others warn of the Israeli Arab citizens' time bomb.

    You also need to separate from the Palestinians and erect walls.

    You see, a democracy by definition is universalist. You can't be a particularist and be a Zionist and then pretend you are a universalist when it comes to democracy or the rights of minorities. That's why you can't solve the problem of the Israeli Arab minority within Israel. It's really very simple.

    Otherwise, I wonder for example if you would be willing to enforce Israel's policies in the US to keep a white majority. Or at least in say, California, when we might have a Latino majority in a few decades according to demographic trends.

    So, to summarize tough dove, I just don’t understand how you can:

    1) Be a particularist but also be a universalist when it comes to human rights and the rights of minorities.

    2) Have a democratic state (universalist ideal) while enforcing all means necessary to keep an ethnic-racial majority dominant in a State (particularist ideal).

    3) Use Sartre while being a proud Zionist and Herzl admirer.

    I would also be interested in your answer regarding my previous question:

    "As far as Israel goes, if the preservation of the Jewish identity of that State and the separation from native Arabs (Palestinians) are acceptable, then what exactly was the problem with Apartheid South Africa? I don't seem to recall anyone advocating a two-state solution there."

    Lastly, I don't pretend to have any solutions. But let's at least be honest here: If you are going to be a Zionist devoted to the Jewish identity of Israel, you will have to forget democracy and enforce discriminating laws, and even then you will probably have at some point in the future to expel the Arab citizens. You will have to support Lieberman. You will have to abandon any pretense to humanistic, universalist ideals. You can't have both.

  12. Devil's advocate
    February 9, 2007, 1:45 am

    On the demographic problem:

    link to wzo.org.il

  13. Jimmy
    February 9, 2007, 2:16 am

    Devil's advocate, you seem to agree with Tony Judt then that the idea of Israel as a purely Jewish State is an anachronism?

    "The problem with Israel, in short, is not—as is sometimes suggested—that it is a European "enclave" in the Arab world; but rather that it arrived too late. It has imported a characteristically late-nineteenth-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers, and international law. The very idea of a "Jewish state"—a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded— is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism."

    link to nybooks.com

    On the concept of 'One Nation- One State' and the problem of minorities, here is Wikipedia's entry:

    "The most obvious deviation from the ideal of 'one nation, one state', is the presence of minorities, especially ethnic minorities, which are clearly not members of the majority nation. The nationalist definition of a nation is always exclusive: no nation has open membership. In most cases, there is a clear idea that surrounding nations are different, and that includes members of those nations who live on the 'wrong side' of the border. Historical examples of groups, who are specifically singled out as outsiders, are the Roma and Jews in Europe.

    Negative responses to minorities within the nation-state have ranged from state-enforced cultural assimilation, to expulsion, persecution, violence, and extermination. The assimilation policies are usually state-enforced, but violence against minorities is not always state-initiated: it can occur in the form of mob violence such as lynching or pogroms. Nation-states are responsible for some of the worst historical examples of violence against minorities—that is, minorities which were not considered part of the nation."

    Personally, I truly like the idea of the bi-national state but I don't consider this feasible.

  14. bill Pearlman
    February 9, 2007, 2:56 am

    You guys live in some sort of fantasy world. The nation state isn't going anywhere and in fact ethnic identity is geting stronger not weaker. But the main point is this. Their are multiple Islamic states where Islam is the official religion and is enforced with blood curdling enthusiasm. Their are I believe 13 countries that incorporate a cross in their national flag. You can't travel to mecca or medina if your not a moslem. Scotland wants to break away from England. The chechens, yugoslavia, Rwanda, the Sudan. Its all about the tribe. Yet somehow, the Jews and israel are not allowed self determination, This bullshit is so transparent its rediculous. Lebanon breaks apart and the Palestinians can't kill each other fast enough in Gaza, The alawites are a minority on top in Syria and the Hashemites dump on the Palestinians in Jordan. The kurds get shit on wherever they are. The marsh arabs got wiped out and try to be coptic Christian in Egypt. Be a Serb in Kosovo or Croatia, A Tibetan in China. Be a Christian in Indonesia or in China. Yet somehow the Jewish people after 3000 years of taking it up the ass are not entitled to a tiny strip of land the size of New Jersey. thats bullshit

  15. tough dove
    February 9, 2007, 3:43 am

    Devil's Advocate:

    You basically say all I need to say right here:

    "the fact is that there is only one minority considered, the Jewish one, and repeatedly so in European intellectual thinking and political discourse of the past centuries. There is only the "Jewish Question", discussed everywhere in Europe for centuries, there is nothing comparable to that as far as any other minority goes."

    Correct. That was why Zionism took hold in the early part of the last century. More amd more Jews assumed there was only one answer to the "Jewish Question." Because, as Sartre also wrote, "The Jew is one whom other men consider a Jew: that is the simple truth from which we must start…In a word, the Jew is perfectly assimilable by modern nations, but he is defined by one whom these nations do not wish to assimilate."

    That may not be the reality in the U.S. today, but it is a historical reality that can't be ignored if you truly care about human rights and equality.

    I can't and won't defend the racism and the "Orientalism" that prompted too many of the early Zionists to shunt aside the rights of Arab denizens of Palestine. Maybe if I had been around back then, I would have been in Martin Buber's camp, and joined those who called for a bi-national solution.

    Moreover, before the Holocaust, perhaps there was a reasonable argument against the necessity of Jews to have one place where the rest of the world would be unable to kick our butts, again and again and again.

    But the Holocaust settled the argument. Jews needed such a place. And there was no place else to go, for most of them, other than Palestine.

    It really will take hours and hours to answer all of the provocative and interesting (I'm not being facetious) points you raise about what to do NOW, and how to reconcile universalist instincts with particularism. So please don't assume I am ignoring them. I am going to bed in a moment. I am sure there will be other opportunities.

    But I do want to end with one, practical point. As of 2003, at least, Khalil Shikaki's poll showed that 64% of Palestinians favored a 2 state solution, 12% favored a one state solution and 23% favored getting all of Palestine back in Palestinian hands. That's the last poll I could find on the subject. There may be more Palestinians backing a bi-national solution now but they are still a small minority; certainly a smaller minority than those who want all of the land back in Palestinian hands. Why do you think that is? I think it is because most Palestinians realize there is a bitter ethnic conflict that needs to end, and –as in the Balkans- the best way to end it is to separate. I think they also realize that the bi-national state is an impractical fantasy. And those who advocate it are, in fact, perpetuating an illusion that will only serve to continue Palestinian suffering.

    So I urge you –and Daniel– to realize the practical consequences of your articulate theorizing. Good night

  16. Devil's advocate
    February 9, 2007, 11:24 am

    Ok, tough dove. Fair enough.

    It's just that I think that at some point progressives and leftists who still believe in Zionism will have to seriously consider the inherent contradictions of this nationalist ideology and it's implications today. This is the 21st century. More on that in a moment.

    You see, if Hannah Arendt's and Martin Buber's idealistic Zionism which envisioned native Arabs and millions of Jewish immigrants – there were no problems of co-existence before mass emigration to Palestine as you know – living peacefully under the aegis of one common State is not feasible, then Jabotinsky's Iron Wall ideas and Ben Gurion's pragmatic prescriptions ("cruel Zionism") are all we are left with.

    But it is one thing to enforce separateness on ethno-religious grounds in the 19th or even mid-20th century and another thing to do so today. The collapse of South Africa's Apartheid is an inescapable reality. And it doesn't help knowing that the greatest ally to that regime was Israel, as we conveniently seem to forget today.

    (Bill Pearlman's examples btw were irrelevant as we are discussing separation on ethno-religious/racial grounds in countries that claim to be part of the advanced world, not the Third World.)

    So those questions are not just "interesting and provocative". They are essential to Israel's identity. This is not just a theoretical working hypothesis, of concern only to political scientists or philosophers or specialists in Academia. They need to be addressed, especially by those who have one foot on the necessity of the Iron Wall and the other on leftist, universalist rhetoric.

    In my opinion, until this is done, we will continue deluding ourselves and make things up as we go. That's improvisation, not a policy. That can't be good for Israel, or Jews anywhere.

  17. Anonymous
    February 9, 2007, 11:30 am

    Allow me to put some words in the right places here:

    "jews" regard "everyone else" as uniquely lacking the right to define themselves as an "ethnic" nation and seek self-determination.

    They affirm the right of Palestinians to return to a "land they lived for centuries", but negate Jews' right to repatriate themselves to a "land they decided is theirs."

    It is essential that the sufferings of "humanity". . . become worse. . . this will assist in realization of our plans. . .I have an excellent idea. . . I shall induce "jews" to liquidate "human health". . . The "jews" will assist us thereby in that they will strengthen the persecution and oppression of "humans". The "jews" shall be our best friends?. (From "The Devil's" Diary, Part I, pp. 1666). Oh come on, am I not allowed to produce a little contribution to the Protocols here?

    On the concept of 'One Nation-One State' and the problem of "majorities", here is Wikipedia's entry: "(here follows a picture of 'the finger')"

    "The Jew is one whom other men consider a Jew", the other "man" being his mother.

    So I urge you to realize the practical consequences of your articulate theorizing, something which we seldom do, you know. Good night comrade.

  18. tough dove
    February 9, 2007, 1:42 pm

    Devil's Advocate,

    First of all, I beg of you not to write anything else that requests my response today, as I will lose my job if I keep swimming in this blog pool.

    Second, I absolutely agree that the issues you raise must be confronted. When it comes to Israel's Arab citizens, I suggest you check out "Sikkuy" –an Arab-Jewish organization in Israel that calls for "complete equality" a variety of affirmative action programs and other steps that try to resolve the problem as we have sought to resolve the challenge of minorities in the U.S. (link to sikkuy.org.il)

    Another source of practical ideas is the Orr Commmission report in Sept. 2003, which called for "distributional justice." You might call it window dressing that doesn't address the core grievances of Israel's Arabs, but, at least in my admittedly anecdotal experience, most Israeli Arabs would welcome these steps, WANT to co-exist peacefully, and want to try this new approach to majority-minority relations.

    You've mentioned the necessity of "walls" if the Jews want to have a state. Well, let's take the current one. It need not be a permanent, "Iron Wall." (Actually, most of it is a fence and other structures, not a wall.) It can be torn down in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement. That is the position of much of the Israeli left. Despite the rallying cries of the far left and I'm sure many of Phil Weiss' fans, it was constructed because suicide bombers were killing innocent civilians (including, by the way, Israel's Arabs, as occured in a bomb that tore up the Hebrew University cafeteria). Let's put it this way, it would NOT have been constructed if the terrorist attacks had ceased. I believe that, at one point, Abu Mazen and other Palestinian moderates fully accepted the right of Israel to build such a security barrier –or at least they didn't object to the concept. They just wanted it built as an impermanent barrier on the '67 borders, as do I. A Palestinian friend of mine says that agreeing to it, at least tacetly, was one way in which they could justify to themselves that they were doing nothing to stop Palestinian attacks west of the Green Line.

    It need not have the kind of metaphorical significance that many people attribute to it. The line it traces (which should be moved!) need not have any more significance than the border between France and Germany, which also used to be mortal enemies. The odds against that result are daunting, I know. But that is more likely to happen than a bi-national solution.

    Not adequate, I know. And, like you. I don't have any great answers. No one does. Certainly not the "universalists."

  19. Devil's advocate
    February 9, 2007, 2:37 pm

    Ok, I'll leave you alone (for now!).

    Thanks for the links.

  20. David Z
    February 9, 2007, 4:15 pm

    I am amused to see that Phil considers the Rosenfeld report to be "radioactive". I read it when it came out and thought it was excellent. Two nights ago NPR's "To the Point" did a full hour on it, with contributions from Rosenfeld (the author), Alan Wolfe (attacking), Michael Lerner and others. It was, to put it mildly, a lively discussion. It seems that nerves have been struck, perhaps on both sides. As for the inclusion of Richard Cohen in the group of progressive Jews who give aid and comfort to anti-Semites, well, I read the Cohen column when it came out and was appalled. So I don't think there is any mistake there. Essentially, Cohen (in the midst of the '06 Lebanon War) looked at Israel's tactics and was so revolted that he decided the founding of the state itself was a 'well-meaning' mistake. That's a textbook example of jumping from a CRITICISM of Israeli policy directly to a delegitimization of Israel itself and basically pulling the plug on an entire people. Way to go, Richard. I might wish to revoke your "right to exist" but I'll magnanimously refrain.

  21. David
    February 9, 2007, 4:46 pm

    States don't have "rights to exist". Their existence (or not) is a matter of power relationships, not moral reasoning.

    People, on the other hand, have the moral right not to forcibly removed from where they live.

  22. David Z
    February 10, 2007, 1:48 am

    on point one: time to re-read the Declaration of Independence and the UN Charter

    on point two: have you seen the Jews of Yemen lately?

  23. Rowan Berkeley
    February 10, 2007, 4:41 am

    The idea that the US 'Declaration of Independence' legitimises the bandit state of 'Israel'. which is two continents away, is indicative of an arrogance that disqualifies its author from any serious discussion of international politics whatever.

  24. Whatif
    February 10, 2007, 2:01 pm

    "People, on the other hand, have the moral right not to forcibly removed from where they live."

    David, that happened nearly 60 years ago. It has been happening in wars since time immemorial. We will never know the percentage of Palestinians who fled voluntarily before Arab armies declared war on the fledgling state of Israel and the percentage who fled during the war and the percentage who were forced out. A combination of all of three occured. Would any of that had happened if Arab armies had not massed on Israel's borders and then attacked? Probably. But why is Israel solely responsible for fixing a wrong that occured in large part because it was attacked? Why is this instance of "refugee-creation" and population transfer different than others that occured in the 1940s? About 1.5 million ethnic Germans were "forcibly removed" from the Sudetanland and Czekoslovia (si?) right after World War II. They were absorbed into the 2 Germanys and, for many years, had a movement for reparations. Should the countrie that kicked them out summarily disband?

  25. anti-Mythologist
    February 10, 2007, 6:40 pm


    That's Zionist Mythology. The consensus among the new Israeli historians who examine the internal documents, the archives etc that weren't available before, have shown that the "invading Arab armies" and the "existential threat" they supposedly posed to Israel are all baloney.

    Israel wanted this war, prepared for this war and in many ways made it happen. It was a war of choice.

    Here is Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami debating Norman Finkelstein for Democracy Now! and Amy Goodman:

    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: "Well, for all practical purposes, a state existed before it was officially created in 1948. The uniqueness of the Zionist experience, as it were, was in that the Zionists were able, under the protection of the mandate, of the British mandate, to set up the essentials of a state — the institutions of a state, political parties, a health system, running democracy for Jews, obviously — before the state was created, so the transition to statehood was a declaration, basically, and it came about in the middle of two stages of war, a civil war between the Israelis and the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine and then an invasion by the Arab armies. The point that I made with regard to the war is that the country, to the mythology that existed and exists, continues to exist mainly among Israelis and Jews, is that Israel was not in a military disadvantage when the war took place. The Arab armies were disoriented and confused, and they did not put in the battlefield the necessary forces.

    So, in 1948, what was born was a state, but also original superpower in many ways. We have prevailed over the invading Arab armies and the local population, which was practically evicted from Palestine, from the state of Israel, from what became the state of Israel, and this is how the refugee problem was born. Interestingly, the Arabs in 1948 lost a war that was, as far as they were concerned, lost already in 1936-1939, because they have fought against the British mandate and the Israeli or the Jewish Yishuv, the Jewish pre-state, and they were defeated then, so they came to the hour of trial in 1948 already as a defeated nation. That is, the War of 1948 was won already in 1936, and they had no chance to win the war in 1948. They were already a defeated nation when they faced the Israeli superpower that was emerging in that year.

    AMY GOODMAN: You have some very strong quotes in your book, of your own and quoting others, like Berl Katznelson, who is the main ideologue of the Labor movement, acknowledging that in the wake of the 1929 Arab riots, the Zionist enterprise as an enterprise of conquest. You also say, “The reality on the ground was that of an Arab community in a state of terror facing a ruthless Israeli army whose path to victory was paved not only by its exploits against the regular Arab armies, but also by the intimidation and at times atrocities and massacres it perpetrated against the civilian Arab community. A panic-stricken Arab community was uprooted under the impact of massacres that would be carved into the Arabs' monument of grief and hatred.” Explain that further.

    SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, you see, there is a whole range of new historians that have gone into the sources of — the origins of the state of Israel, among them you mentioned Avi Shlaim, but there are many, many others that have exposed this evidence of what really went on on the ground. And I must from the very beginning say that the main difference between what they say and my vision of things is not the facts. The facts, they are absolutely correct in mentioning the facts and putting the record straight."


    Read the rest here:

    link to democracynow.org

  26. anti-Mythologist
    February 10, 2007, 6:49 pm

    The ethnic cleansing ("tranfer") was also planned in advance, it wasn't an accident:

    NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I agree with the statement that there is very little dispute nowadays amongst serious historians and rational people about the facts. There is pretty much a consensus on what happened during what you can call the foundational period, from the first Zionist settlements at the end of the 19th century 'til 1948. There, there is pretty much of a consensus. And I think Mr. Ben-Ami, in his first 50 pages, accurately renders what that consensus is.

    I would just add a couple of points he makes, but just to round out the picture. He starts out by saying that the central Zionist dilemma was they wanted to create a predominantly Jewish state in an area which was overwhelmingly not Jewish, and he cites the figure, I think 1906 there were 700,000 Arabs, 55,000 Jews, and even of those 55,000 Jews, only a handful were Zionists. So that's the dilemma. How do you create a Jewish state in area which is overwhelmingly not Jewish?

    Now, the Israeli historian Benny Morris, at one point, he said there are only two ways you can resolve this dilemma. One, you can create what he called the South African way, that is, create a Jewish state and disenfranchise the indigenous population. That's one way. The second way is what he calls the way of transfer. That is, you kick the indigenous population out, basically what we did in North America.

    Now, as Mr. Ben-Ami correctly points out, by the 1930s the Zionist movement had reached a consensus that the way to resolve the dilemma is the way of transfer. You throw the Palestinians out. You can't do that anytime, because there are moral problems and international problems. You have to wait for the right moment. And the right moment comes in 1948. Under the cover of war, you have the opportunity to expel the indigenous population.

    I was kind of surprised that Mr. Ben-Ami goes beyond what many Israeli historians acknowledge. Someone like Benny Morris will say, "Yes, Palestinians were ethnically cleansed in 1948.” That's Benny Morris's expression. But he says it was an accident of war. There are wars, people get dispossessed. Mr. Ben-Ami, no, he will go further. He said you can see pretty clearly that they intended to expel the Palestinians. The opportunity came along, and they did so. Now, those are the facts. "

    link to democracynow.org

  27. What if
    February 10, 2007, 11:17 pm


    Like I said, some Palestinians fled and some were forcibly kicked out. The ratio is unclear. I've read the Ben-Ami book. You have obviously concluded that his intepretations of a complex set of circumstances are more accurate than those of Benny Morris' because it suits what you want to believe. I don't know exactly what happened and why it happened and neither do you.

    Ben-Ami, Morris, Tom Segev and other historians also note that the tranfer option was, at least to some extent, a response to the Arab Revolt in the 1930s. Violence against the Zionists made it clear that the federal option, and other possibilities of sharing, would not be acceptable to the Palestinians under any circumstances.

  28. anti-Mythologist
    February 11, 2007, 10:42 am

    Yeah right.

    Present your beloved Zionists as victims. Fine. Nothing new here.

    P.S. Why do you use the term "transfer" and not the term ethnic cleansing???

    Is it because like every apologist, you prefer the softer, sanitizing vocabulary of power that makes occupied into "disputed," settlement into "neighborhood," ethnic cleansing into "transfer," resistance into "terrorism," and utter domination into "peace"?


    "Let's take a look at what a farce this game of conformity is. In the first place, as soon as I know your party, I know your party line!

    A preacher announces a sermon on the usefulness of one of the teachings of his church. Don't I know, before he opens his mouth, that he can't possibly say one new or spontaneous word? Don't I know that with all the pretense of examining the soundness of the teaching he will do no such thing? Don't I know that he is committed to look only at one side, the permitted side, not as a man but as a parish minister?

    He is the attorney for the defense.
    This pretense of being an impartial judge
    is the thinnest of facades."

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  29. Brian
    February 11, 2007, 11:03 am

    Lesson in logic:

    You want to take a people's land. You terrorize them. When they revolt, they leave you no alternative but to ethnic-cleanse the land of them. See, it's their fault.

    What kind of self-serving bs is that What if?

  30. David Z
    February 14, 2007, 7:42 pm

    Rowan, you sweet little imbecile:

    you wrote:

    The idea that the US 'Declaration of Independence' legitimises the bandit state of 'Israel'. which is two continents away, is indicative of an arrogance that disqualifies its author from any serious discussion of international politics whatever.

    I was responding to a poster who said "states" (per se) don't have a right to exist — apparently he believes in pure grab-and-smash winner-take-all. So I referenced our own Dec. of Ind. which, if I recall correctly, bases our state on concepts such as "self-evident" truths and the decent opinions of mankind in general — in other words, we basically made our commonweal up out of whole cloth. Yet no one sits around fretting about whether the US has a "right to exist." That little trope is reserved exclusively for the Jewish state. Wonder why. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough for you. Anti-semitism has probably diminished your IQ by a few points.

  31. Soros
    February 23, 2007, 6:27 pm

    Ten reasons the left hates Israel – five good, five bad

    By Bradley Burston

    A few thoughts engendered by the controversy over Alvin H. Rosenfeld's article "'Progressive'" Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism."

    Five of the following are reasonable. Five are not.

    This is a reflection, if nothing else, of the duality of leftist criticism of Israel. There are leftists whose critiques are clear-eyed, factually valid, morally on point. And then there are those for whom Israel represents a blood-boiling factory of evil, an entity whose very existence is an affront, an abomination. Those who are convinced, and seek to convince the world, that the Jewish state should cease to exist.


    Why does the left hate Israel? Here are five good reasons:

    1. Because Israel's policies are frequently marked by gratuitous humiliation of and disdain for the Palestinians.

    2. Because Israelis can live with this.

    If the policies hinted at in 1. above are associated with a status quo which Israelis find tolerably calm and Palestinians find unbearable, even lethal, Israel's leaders often view this as a viable and even optimal outcome.

    3. Because Israel, in practice, values settlements more than it values social justice.

    The right will tell you that there is contradiction between settlements and social justice. Which would be true if there were no Palestinians, and if the Palestinians did not view the land occupied by settlements as theirs, historically, legally, and morally. And which would be true if the same consideration offered settlers in fixing the route of the West Bank fence were applied to Palestinians, that is, were farmers not cut off from their fields, pupils from their schools, and close relatives from one another.

    The right will tell you that the settlements are no obstacle to peace. But that same right will also argue that the settlements are the only real bulwark between the Palestinians and an independent Palestine.

    4. Because Israel, even in withdrawing from Gaza, has left it to die.

    It is not lost on leftists that many Israelis reap a distinct satisfaction from the Palestinians' inability to help themselves, govern themselves, save themselves. Leftists may note that Israel has done everything in its power to convince the world to deny much-needed aid to a democratically elected government, and that Israel has not acted as a neighbor whose primary concern is an eventual peace.

    5. Because of the propensity of Israel's leaders to demonstrate arrogance, claim a monopoly on the moral high ground, set non-negotiable demands to which Palestinian politicians cannot agree, then condemn Palestinians for intransigence.


    Here, then, are five bad reasons:

    1. The Palestinian cause is inherently progressive.

    As currently constituted, Palestinian governance is marked by institutional graft, widespread human rights violations, curbs on press freedoms, tribalism, blood feuds, murders of women on the basis of contentions of preservation of family honor, and celebration of the targeting and killing of non-combatants as a legitimate form of resistance to occupation.

    2. Israel remains the sole root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the reason it remains unresolved

    As root causes go, both sides have demonstrated profound intransigence, both sides have violated agreements with abandon, both sides suffer from extremists whose power to destroy a peace process far outweighs their proportion of the population.

    In addition, the contention that Israel is solely responsible suggests that the solution of the Mideast conflict is the dissolution of Israel. This brings us to:

    3. Israel is a Jewish state.

    For a vocal minority of leftists, this fact alone ? coupled with the following two arguments – is enough to call into serious question Israel's right to exist. This argument, which holds that the formally Jewish nature of the state enshrines an unconscionable level of racism, dovetails with:

    4. Israel is an apartheid state.

    See Occupation: It's horrid, but it's not apartheid

    5. Israel's actions are comparable to those of Nazi Germany.

    This contention may be the genuine litmus test for anti-Semitism on the left.

    In the end, the compulsion to accuse Israel of genocide, while turning a blind eye to wholesale slaughter in Darfur and elsewhere, tends to say a great deal more about the accuser than the accused.

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