Upper West Side Jews Aren’t Singing ‘Hatikvah’

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 28 Comments

Like other progressive Zionist groups, Brit Tzedek is utterly engaged right now out of the belief that it’s now or never for the two-state deal. If it doesn’t happen now there will be chaos and Hamas on the
Palestinian side and Netanyahu will come back on the Israeli side; and it was in
this spirit that the Israeli and Palestinian heads of a joint thinktank in
Israel called IPCRI
came to Shaare Zedek, a synagogue on the Upper West Side Sunday night, to
appeal to American Jews to take an aggressive role now in forcing the U.S. to push a deal.

I had two big impressions of the evening: 1, progressive Zionist
organizations are now openly attacking the Israel lobby; 2, leftwing American
Jews are openly questioning the character of the Jewish state.

As to point 1,
the evening began with Alison Pepper, a board member of Brit Tzedek, announcing a new campaign called “A Time To Choose,” and saying, “We cannot allow the Jewish
community that opposes the two state solution to speak for us. It is time for
our government to hear from us… time for the right wing in our community to
stop speaking for those of us who choose peace.” Translation: Open warfare. Amen.

A couple of audience members spoke with anger about the Israel lobby, and one of the
IPCRI speakers, Israeli Gershon Baskin, said that at literally every
congressional office he has visited the first question he is asked is, Where
does AIPAC stand on this?
“A pretty sad commentary on the state of affairs in America," he added. A couple of years ago Charney Bromberg, the head of Meretz/USA,
told me that Walt and Mearsheimer are “shit.” (Yes there was some nuance in his thoughts; still, he said that.) I don’t think progressive Zionists are saying this now. The
Jewish left here is openly taking on the Israel lobby. Let’s see how they
do. Because just as Bill Kristol and the neocons are grappling the Christian right with hoops of steel, the
progressive Zionists need to go for the Protestant liberals, the Jimmy Carters
and Walt and Mearsheimers of the world: fair-minded
realists who are all for a two-state solution.

2, The other surprise of the
evening was to see several people in an audience of nearly 150 mostly-older
Jews expressing highly-critical views of Israel. I sometimes think I’m
outside the Pale in American Jewry; even friends of mine can make me feel
this way. I’m not. There is a narrow but strong segment of leftwing Jews who
are in this camp. The very first question, from a man named Goldman, was, Why
should we believe that Israel wants peace, when you consider the siege of Gaza and the additional settlements, etc. Pow!

Another questioner a woman, rose to say that in the US, we have a multicultural democracy and a constitution. While Israel doesn’t have a constitution
and she despaired about its treatment of minority rights, even if a peace deal
is reached
. A third questioner raised the idea of an imposed solution—that the U.S. could
bring about a two-state peace, whether the Palestinians or Israelis are willing
or not. A fourth questioner said, somewhat sharply, What US troops do you have
in mind to enforce a peace between Israel and Palestine? I.e., who are you to
wag the dog! While the last questioner said, What is to be done with AIPAC!

beautiful thing to me about these questions is that an Arab might have asked
them; they were based on universal liberal values, not on ethnic identification. There
was a sense in the synagogue, that We are sick of this narrative, we are sick
of the cycle of violence, we are sick of hearing of your wall and green line, we are sick of being used; we are multicultural Americans and what active role will we take? Now of course
this is my point of view, I am surely projecting some of my emotion; but I heard those chords in the synagogue last night. 

In answer to the AIPAC question, Baskin, who made aliyah to
Israel from the U.S. 30 years ago, said that AIPAC is not an entirely negative force, AIPAC can be “’shaped.” When AIPAC was out of step with Rabin in the
90s, Rabin said sharply that Israel was responsible for its relations with the U.S. government, not AIPAC, and Tom Dine had
to step down as the head of AIPAC. I.e., sometimes the tail just wags the tail and
doesn’t get to wag the dog!

On the
imposed solution question, Baskin was emphatic. The U.S. cannot impose a solution! The
parties must come to it themselves. Then Baskin went on to speak
of where peacekeeping forces (including American forces) would be deployed to preserve that peace, in the Jordan valley, in Gaza.

I found Baskin’s tone irritating. Here is
an Israeli telling my country to a, bug out (no imposed solution), b, engage (take on the Israel lobby but preserve a Jewish state), c, expend blood and treasure on his
borders. I don’t think this agenda is very straightforward. For one thing, here he is bragging about having a joint Israeli/Palestinian thinktank (and Hanna Siniora, a Palestinian, also spoke). Well then, why not a joint state? And his ukase that There Shall Be No Imposed Solution comes from the citizen
of a country that has not been able to live with its neighbors for 60 years. Finally, consider that, per Baskin, the Israeli government is "dysfunctional." Why is it expanding the illegal and hateful colonies in the West Bank? Why is it refusing to speak openly of the division of
Jerusalem? Because it is beholden to the Shas party, and if it changed these policies, the government would
fall tomorrow.

I wanted to stand up and say: We are Americans, citizens of the
most powerful nation on earth (for another year or two anyway). Since when are we to be held hostage by the
religious-nut Shas party in your country?
The time is not that far off where Americans will
openly deliberate, What is our best interest in this region? And if we, and the
Europeans, and the U.N., and the Arab world, want to impose a solution on two people who have
been bloodying one another and lighting fuses all over the Middle East and
lower Manhattan–and do as the U.N. said should be done 61 years ago–and make Jerusalem an open city of the world between Jewish and Arab states, well who is to
stop us….

28 Responses

  1. americangoy
    March 24, 2008, 11:55 pm

    "Israeli and Palestinian heads of a joint thinktank in Israel called IPRCRI came to Shaare Zedek, a synagogue on the upper west side Sunday night, to appeal to American Jews to take an aggressive role now in pushing the U.S. to push a deal."

    Holy cow, holy sh*t!
    An Israeli-Palestinian think tank?
    Working for peace between the two warring factions?

    Exactly how much play will this have in the US TV and other media.

    Isn't it about time for the American-Jews to recognize that AIPAC does NOT represent them at all?

    Seems to me Jews in Israel have already recognized the fact that AIPAC does NOT work for THEM, and does NOT represent them nor their point of view…

    …nor what is good for Israel.

  2. americangoy
    March 25, 2008, 12:06 am

    One more thing – it is time for the REAL Christians to get off their asses and do the same thing – namely, make their voices HEARD in the political dialogue.

    Nothing lost the Church more members in America than Dobson and his ilk on TV preaching HATE.

    Christianity in America morphed into a weird faith where rich people are worshipped, and poor are denigrated.

    Forgive this atheist, but didn't Jesus speak a bit more about Mammon, false prophets – in fact, a HELL of a lot more – than about homosexuals?

  3. Leila Abu-Saba
    March 25, 2008, 1:32 am

    Well American Goy, if you're surprised about the joint I/P think tank, you haven't been reading my blog over the years. I actually quit writing about joint Israeli-Palestinian peace groups, think tanks, ecological projects etc. because I got discouraged by larger events. Maybe I need to do a round up now. Make self feel a little better, and reach a new "generation" of readers (I've been blogging peace efforts for over four years now at Dove's Eye View)

  4. Leila Abu-Saba
    March 25, 2008, 2:15 am

    Tooting my own horn – so Dove's Eye View is not the MSM by any means. I find I blogged the IPCRI in February 2004… I started the blog just to post information about such efforts, because I felt the mainstream discourse, even in the blogosphere, ignored them.

    I'm very happy Philip Weis is writing about all these groups now. (I've blogged Brit T'zedek over the years as well. I think Marcia Freedman, a local Berkeley-ite, is one of its founders but I may be confusing this with a similar group)

    By tomorrow morning (3/25/08) you should see a post at Dove's Eye View rounding up a selection, not the exhaustive catalog, of Arab-Jewish peace efforts I've recognized since 2005. (I got tired and gave up before sifting through the whole file).

  5. hlmeankin
    March 25, 2008, 4:27 am

    "On the imposed solution question, Baskin was emphatic. The U.S. cannot impose a solution. The parties must come to it themselves"

    Has anyone noticed just how hypocritical this statement is?
    Usually those who embrace it have no problem accepting money and guns from the USA, as well as using AIPAC to create a pro/Israel American policy. Its only when America opts for policies that contradict what the Israeli lobby dictates that people get upset about "imposition". In other words Zionists have no problem using American power to impose their solution on the Palestinians!!
    Anyway, lets not forget that "peace" and "justice" are not the same thing.
    For Palestinians,as things stand today, a two state solution means a gerry -mandered- militarily neutered, economically weak nation, with no return or reparations for the Palestinians whose lands were stolen by Jews in 1948. If Jews wouldn't
    accept such a "deal" why should the Palestinians?

    And one last thing, can we please stop confusing anger with hatred.
    Its not evil or unexpected for people who have their human rights violated to have intense anger towards their oppressors. On the other hand, as Raul Hilberg has convincingly shown, people can facilitate genocide with the most banal of motives and emotions. To constantly spin anger as hatred is a fatuous attempt to paint oneself as an innocent victim, and the folks you provoke as demons.

  6. Richard Witty
    March 25, 2008, 4:57 am

    I saw Hanna Siniora and Gershom Baskin a week and a half ago.

    I had a similarly irritated impression of Gershom Baskin, but not Phil's "who are they to tell America that we can't be the one's to impose".

    If the United States wants to help (not neglect, and not impose), then Baskin's comments are right on. Hanna Siniora affirmed them at the meeting that I attended.

    He said, unlike Phil, (paraphrased) "you can help us make peace, but you can't make the peace for us".

    Also, Walt/Mearsheimer's carelessness is still more of a liability than an asset, more of a liability to the Israeli/Palestinian peace movement than an asset.

  7. MM
    March 25, 2008, 5:03 am

    Witty still isn't sure if there actually IS an "Israel Lobby"…

    But he knows those blue-eyed teuts, W&M, with their hundreds of footnotes, are definitely WRONG…

  8. Charles Keating
    March 25, 2008, 6:23 am

    RE: He said, unlike Phil, (paraphrased) "you can help us make peace, but you can't make the peace for us".

    It is crassly short-sighted to exclude Hamas in Gaza (and the West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and even the Taliban in Afghanistan) on the basis that they have not renounced violence.

    Lessons for the Middle East

    The lessons from Northern Ireland are relatively simple. Dialogue can be entered into even during conflict. Exploratory dialogue can overcome the need for preconditions and can grindingly begin to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable, to seek out the eventual compromises upon which any long-term settlement must inevitably be built. Furthermore:

    * Conflict and insurgency can be contained by military action, but it cannot be defeated by it;
    * Negotiation towards a settlement of conflict nearly always needs to be preceded by informal dialogue;
    * Exploratory, non-committal dialogue can often make more progress than seeking commitments;
    * Undeliverable preconditions or deadlines are an end rather than beginning to dialogue;
    * Exploratory dialogue should be as multilateral as possible to seek out potential areas of common ground;
    * Low profile dialogue is more likely to succeed than that carried on in the spotlight of international publicity;
    * It is a better use of your time to talk to your enemies than your friends.

    The Middle East Peace Process: the case for jaw-jaw not war-war
    By Michael Ancram, Accord (Issue 19), Conciliation Resources, 2008

  9. otto
    March 25, 2008, 6:27 am

    All of this discussion keeps the policy making legitimacy within Israeli or Jewish-American circles, but in fact a progressive policy towards the Palestinians can only be built by excluding or downplaying the Jewish-American and Israeli role, since both are so permanently on the side of Israeli colonialism and its attendant prejudices that they can't be the basis for a solution. Case in point from Phil's post: yes, Rabin can tell AIPAC to ESAD but in fact we need a US policy-maker willing to tell the Rabins of Israel, who are trying for the Jewish bigot's jackpot of peace-including-settlements, that all (ALL) the post 1967 settlements must go, and many Palestinian refugees must be allowed back into their homes in Israel.

  10. Jim Haygood
    March 25, 2008, 7:10 am


    "Leftwing American Jews are openly questioning the character of the Jewish state."

    Well, HALLELUJAH! If they had been at this stage a generation ago, it might have been good news. But today — after the Wall, after the Second Intifada, after the steady expansion of settlements — it's too little, too late.

    A "two-state solution" in Israel/Palestinian might be compared to "separate but equal" schools in the American South. It was claimed that with equal funding and equally-qualified taachers, they could work. But those conditions did not apply. My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Callahan, encapsulated white-liberal thought at the time: "Don't mark up your textbooks with graffiti. Think of the little colored children who have to use them after we're through with them."

    Here's the kicker: Mrs. C was speaking in 1965, eleven years AFTER the Supreme Court declared "separate but equal" schools illegal in 1954. Similarly, someone should ask the left-wing Jews coalescing around a 'two-state solution': where the hell have you been during the last 40 years of ILLEGAL occupation?

    Giving Israel nearly all the Mediterranean coast, while confining the Palestinians to the arid Jordan Valley, is not a fair division of land. It's like dividing up California by giving the Israelis the Pacific coast, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego, while the Palestinians get the Central Valley, including beautiful Fresno and Bakersfield. No way is that a fair division of land.

    Bottom line, the unfair "two-state solution" is a flaming crock; a "separate but unequal" charade for wolves in liberal sheep's clothing to consecrate a land grab at gunpoint. And like "separate but unequal" schools in the South, the entire rationale is to preserve zionist racial segregation on Uncle Ehud's plantation. Sorry, but the racist rationale is completely transparent, and was outed long ago.

    As for the U.S. "imposing a solution," this is the same imperialist thinking which underlay the Balfour Declaration nearly 90 years ago. The U.S. and Europe have completely screwed the pooch in Palestine for a century; they MADE this mess. It's time for the U.S. to recognize that it is anything but an honest broker, and (as Israel's largest financial backer) has nothing positive to contribute. The best thing the U.S. could do would be to fold up its tent and get the hell out of the Middle East for good.

    Here is how U.S. troops in Israel would be perceived by the rest of the world (link to NY Times photo). What an unmitigated catastrophe:

    link to graphics8.nytimes.com

  11. Richard Witty
    March 25, 2008, 7:27 am

    Did you speak with Hanna Siniora?

    He is the focus of the presentation, not Gershom Baskin.

    He is the one whose voice indicates the range of possibilities, and the intent of the Palestinians.

    He's older and a bit tired. Not a professional intellectual, though educated.

    You didn't say a damn word about him. While you claim to regard the Palestinian voice as the critical voice not yet heard.

  12. Rowan Berkeley
    March 25, 2008, 8:39 am

    I wonder how that sweet, sweet, boy Justin Raimondo is going to cope with this outburst from Pat Buchanan?
    link to buchanan.org

  13. Rowan Berkeley
    March 25, 2008, 1:43 pm

    The reason I mention it here is that due to the extreme anti-leftism of US political culture, anti-war journalism is rather noticably dependent on 'libertarians' (i.e. utopian liberals) such as Raimondo. The cost of having abandoned the struggle for leftist culture is higher than those who led it may have thought.

  14. syvanen
    March 25, 2008, 3:00 pm

    Sending in US or any European troops to enforce a ceasefire in Israel or the West Bank would be a disaster. No Palestinian could see that other than as an occupying army. This seems so obvious I have difficulty in understanding how this notion can be entertained by otherwise sensible people here.

    One other thing that seems to completely missing from the discussion here. I have noticed this as well with MJ Rosenberg. Why is the role of Hamas in any peace deal being ignored? If Israel wants peace with the Palestinians then it will have to talk to Hamas. Again that seems so obvious that it does not even need to be said. This is why the "peace process" currently being pursued by the US and Israel is not going anywhere. This leaves me really perplexed: Why aren't the left wing Zionists pushing for inclusion of Hamas in the negotiations? Otherwise, there will be nothing but failure.

  15. Charles Keating
    March 25, 2008, 4:04 pm

    To solve the Irish Troubles to the extent that is done, they had to talk to the terrorists and their enablers. Strange, the Brits, at least, haven't figured out this must also be done in the Middle East. Obama might have a clue?

  16. the Sword of Gideon
    March 25, 2008, 5:06 pm

    I'm going to take it slow because you guys aren't particularly bright. But can anyone tell me where Hamas has agreed to direct negotiations with Israel. Or even proposed it. It might be helpful if they took the "kill the Jews" thing out of their charter. But aside from that please show me where Hamas has agreed to direct talks.

  17. syvanen
    March 25, 2008, 5:39 pm

    OK I will take it slow for you also. First you remove the statement of policy that we (meaning the US and Israel) will never talk with Hamas. Then we make an offer to talk. This should be done quietly through Egypt or Saudi Arabia and let those countries carry the message to Hamas. No public spotlight at least initially. Then see what Hamas does. That is how it starts. And no it does not start with a public demand that before we talk with them they must unilaterally recognize that Israel is and will always be a Jewish state, that they modify their charter or any number of other demands. This is how negotiations are done.

    However, if your goal is to sabotage those talks, then you do it Gideon's way.

  18. Jim Haygood
    March 25, 2008, 6:22 pm


    "Can anyone tell me where Hamas has agreed to direct negotiations with Israel. Or even proposed it. It might be helpful if they took the 'kill the Jews' thing out of their charter." – Sword of Gidget

    I can tell you that a democratic election was held on 25 January 2006, which Hamas won. The U.S. and Israel, who had naively expected Fatah to win, refused to recognize the results. They took illegal steps such as confiscation of Palestinian Customs revenues, and a blockade of bank remittances to Palestine, to undermine and isolate Hamas. This was pure bad faith on the part of the U.S. and Israel, both of whom announced that they would not negotiate with Hamas, while initiating hostile actions which amounted to acts of war.

    Jewish sophistry requires obliterating the anteceding provocations, and pretending that Hamas just started shooting rockets for no reason at all, except that they are aggressive, anti-Jewish hooligans. Yeah, right!

    It might help if Israel took the "right to exist as a Jewish state" thing out of their charter.

  19. stevieb
    March 25, 2008, 6:38 pm

    If you were to google it you'd find without too much difficulty that Hamas has offered more than once to direct talks with Israel.

    Israel has refused.

    Not "particularly bright"….

  20. stevieb
    March 25, 2008, 6:39 pm

    If you were to google it you'd find without too much difficulty that Hamas has offered more than once to direct talks with Israel.

    Israel has refused.

    Not "particularly bright"….

  21. the Sword of Gideon
    March 25, 2008, 7:48 pm

    "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Moslem).

    Jim, I know your on board with the Hamas charter particularly this part. But has a Jew I find it a little less than enthralling. But I reiterate to all you Einsteins ( oops a Jew, sorry about that ). Please show me a statement by anybody in the Hamas high command who has stated that he wants direct negotiations with Israel in order to hammer out a peace.

  22. MM
    March 25, 2008, 11:08 pm

    Bill do you still have to use an anonymizer to do your puppet show here? Phil's so mean for banning you, he must just hate Jews.

    Well, lucky us that wifey's not putting out, and you haven't got the balls or money to actually go out and colonize Palestine yourself, because this "you're-a-Nazi!" routine just gets me every time.

  23. the Sword of Gideon
    March 25, 2008, 11:31 pm

    if the swastika-kaffiyah fits……

  24. the Sword of Gideon
    March 26, 2008, 12:30 am

    Like they say, "if the swastika fits……"

  25. MM
    March 26, 2008, 1:05 am

    What is the secret to your youthful vehemence Bill?

    Is it approaching every new year like it's nineteen thirty-eight?

  26. Kelev Abael
    March 26, 2008, 3:00 am

    "Leftwing American Jews are openly questioning the character of the Jewish state."

    Why would they do such a thing ? The character of the Jewish state, after all, has always been very clear: it is GENOCIDAL.

    See also: link to tinyurl.com

  27. Rowan Berkeley
    March 26, 2008, 11:18 am

    I am totally not a fan of Baskin – he throws away the whole Arab bargaining position on JPost today, without any apparent compunction – I can say that there are people of Jewish origin on this planet who simply do not think even Hamasniks intend to EXPEL Jews – Ilan Pappe in his interview on YNet a few days back, for one.

  28. TGGP
    March 30, 2008, 3:31 am

    Walt & Mearsheimer aren't liberals. They're realists of the type associated with Bush Sr. Paul Gottfried got that wrong as well: link to takimag.com

Leave a Reply