Eran Shayshon says some criticism of Israel, including Naomi Klein’s, is not ‘legitimate’

Israel/Palestine
on 48 Comments

Eran Shayshon of the Reut Institute sent a response to a post we did that quoted Naomi Klein the other day:

Several weeks ago I was interviewed on the CBC’s morning radio show about the danger of the trend to delegitimize Israel. In this context I was asked to refer to Toronto, in which we at the Reut Institute believe there is turbulent anti-Israel activity that stretches far beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policy. Among a few other things, I mentioned the Canadian author and political activist Naomi Klein as one of the few significant individuals that reside in Toronto and promote Israel’s delegitimization.

Klein published her response in this blog. She argued that what I said about her was "a flat out lie"; that she has "made a personal choice not to advocate any particular political outcome in Israel-Palestine"; and that "(Shayshon) can search all my writing and public statements, he won’t find anything." Klein claims to advocate the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign "for Israel to abide by all applicable international laws." Any political outcome according to Klein, "whether one state, two state or more — must abide by these universal non-discriminatory principles." Klein continues that though she does "have personal preferences," she has "no secret agenda and would support any outcome that conformed to these principles." Klein also denies she opposes "Israel’s right to exist" and challenges me "to find one single example in anything I have said or written that would in any way support this claim."

I believe that, in many cases, criticism of Israeli policy from a human rights perspective does not amount to fundamental delegitimization. Criticism of Israeli policy is legitimate, even when it is harsh or unfair, such as in failing to acknowledge Israeli concerns. However, I believe that such criticism crosses the line into delegitimization – as does Naomi Klein – when it falls into one or more of the following categories:

–Challenges the Two-State Solution/ Promotes the One-State Solution – In a transcript of a lecture she delivered in Ramallah Klein comments that: "We need to move the bar. We need to put really radical positions out there. How about a one state solution? How about a no state solution?" In another article for the University of Toronto campus newspaper, Klein further argues that "I wish to be saved from Israel…. Some time ago I might have said that I am a Zionist against what Zionism has become in Israel. But for now, I am a Jew against Israel."

These very clear statements by Klein reflect her rejection of a political solution that maintains a separate State of Israel, and her abdication of the Zionist principle promoting the Jewish people’s right for self determination.

–Promotes Double Standard/ Singles Israel Out – Klein argues in a few sources that Israel should be singled out for punishment not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would “actually work” (see her op-ed in the Guardian and an article by David Hirsh).

–Demonizes Israel – Klein frequently presents Israel as being systematically, purposefully, and extensively cruel and inhumane, thus implicitly denying the moral legitimacy of its existence. Examples include association with apartheid and accusations of blatant acts of evil. I found the following description of the Israeli society extraordinarily amusing: "By far the most disturbing development in Israeli men’s misogyny towards Israeli women is something known to Israeli women as “Holocaust pornography” where images of emaciated women near ovens, shower heads, cattle cars, and the like are used to sell clothing and other products."

–Suggests that Israel was Born in Sin / Opens the ‘1948 Files’ – Klein frequently describes Israel as a colonial country born in sin, stating in one source that Israel "can only properly be understood in the context of the history of colonialism." The obligation to dismantle such as a state naturally derives from this logic. 

So while Klein may have never publicly rejected Israel’s right to exist, by undermining the paradigm of the Two-State Solution, singling Israel out, constantly demonizing Israel, and opening the ‘1948 files,’ Klein leaves very little doubt regarding her true motives. As I said in the CBC interview, I believe it is more than a "fair accusation." 

However, what really worries me is that Klein probably genuinely believes that her actions promote human rights, justice, peace, and international law. Challenging the Two State-Solution is a recipe for chaos and bloodshed. The idea of precipitating Israel’s capitulation via the apartheid South Africa model is simplistic, superficial, totally unfounded, and likely to cause more human misery.

We should not be misled by Klein’s words. It is those in our camp, in both Israel and Palestine, that promote the principle of ‘two states for two people,’ that advances justice, that encourages national as well as civil and human rights, and that carry the potential to eventually reach a true and stable peace that is in accordance with international law – currently manifested in existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and UN resolutions. It is us, and not those who demonize one side and promote unrealistic solutions.

48 Responses

  1. Mooser
    March 16, 2010, 10:22 am

    I bet Witty is sending Shayson mash notes and boxes of chocalate.

  2. Citizen
    March 16, 2010, 10:33 am

    Yes, Mooser, my immediate thoughts exactly.

    RE: ” Klein further argues that “I wish to be saved from Israel…. Some time ago I might have said that I am a Zionist against what Zionism has become in Israel. But for now, I am a Jew against Israel.”

    In her U Of Toronto article, Klein went through a long list of what she saw happening in Israel (including the porn industry, inter alia) and concluded in that context (mostly left out of Shayshon’s cherry-picked Klein quotes):

    “As for me, I know that I, like many others outside of the mainstream diaspora, am a Jew against racism and sexism. Some time ago I might have said that I am a Zionist against what Zionism has become in Israel. But for now, I am a Jew against Israel – just as Israel repeatedly proves itself to be against me.

    So, my profile is not about one country but, unfortunately, about two. So long as Israel continues to usurp Palestine, it will be a country with racism.”

    Shayshon did a hit job on Klein; this is obvious if you go the original Klein statements in her full articulated context as to each. All that context is left out by Shayshon. So who’s trying to delegitimize whom?

  3. DICKERSON3870
    March 16, 2010, 10:36 am

    RE: ” These very clear statements by Klein reflect her rejection of a political solution that maintains a separate State of Israel, and her abdication of the Zionist principle promoting the Jewish people’s right for self determination.” – Shayshon

    FROM – Contemporary GlobalAnti-Semitism: A Report Provided to the United States Congress, United States Department of State

    Defining Anti-Semitism (page 6)
    …Examples of the ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
    • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.…
    • Applying double standards…
    SOURCE (PDF, 94 pages) – link to state.gov

    ERGO: If a person is not a “Zionist” then they are an anti-Semite. It’s practically the law! See how simple that was? And if it constitutes ‘hate speech’ or a ‘hate crime’, then then that person might just end up in jail! Talk about “Lawfare”!

  4. Donald
    March 16, 2010, 10:57 am

    More of that old argument “Just because Israel commits war crimes, practices something remarkably like apartheid, is gratuitously cruel and in general treats Palestinians like subhumans” is no reason for you talk about it so harshly.

    He has one point worthy of discussion–a one state solution might lead to greater suffering (though of course that’s partly because of attitudes like his–tribal thinking is a necessary ingredient in any decent civil war worthy of the name).

    The rest of it is “Stop hurting my feelings by talking about realities I don’t want to face concerning this ideology I worship.”

  5. potsherd
    March 16, 2010, 11:08 am

    The entire notion of “Israel’s moral right to exist” is long since discredited. No nation has a “moral right to exist” and Israel less than any, having come into existence by dispossessing the existing population.

    Israeli apologists need to come to grips with the fact that Israel’s delegitimization is not the consequence of some malevolent campaign of propaganda, but the belated recognition of the facts. Israel’s existence is not legitimate. It was, in fact, born in sin. Israel’s recognition was conditioned on the return of the Palestinian refugees to their original homes, which Israel prevented by force. And whatever legitimacy that might have remained clinging to it has been negated by Israel’s own subsequent actions as a rogue state, one that wages aggressive war, commits war crimes, and continues to violate international law.

  6. Les
    March 16, 2010, 11:54 am

    When Shayshon’s first tossed mud about Naomi Klein, it didn’t stick because it was a lie. His solution, keep throwing mud at Naomi until it hopefully sticks.

  7. Richard Witty
    March 16, 2010, 12:09 pm

    My arguments criticizing Klein are mostly different than Shayson’s, though they clearly intersect.

    My criticism was also of Phil’s comment that Naomi Klein was taking a moderate position rather than a radical one. (He and she used the buzzword, “extremism”, as a means to dismiss criticism of her and her comments, much as when some critics use the term “anti-semitism” sometimes accurately, sometimes innacurately but most often dismissed by dissenters.)

    BDS is a campaign at least partially for racially defined shunning and isolation, in the name of opposing racially defined shunning and isolation. It is defined as intentionally punitive. And, I assert that the inconsistent application of the effort (all Israeli academic and cultural communications, or selective friendly ones) add up to an arbitrary shunning and isolation exercise. And, I assert that the vagueness of the wording of the BDS demands range from the minimalist and rational application of international law to the maximalist and irrational application that conflicts with international, civil rights and property rights law in fact.

    And, relative to Naomi Klein, I find it opportunistic for her to publicly advocate for BDS on one day, then a day or two later (literally) publicly state that the Toronto film demonstrations were not directly associated with the BDS effort.

    Also, as my hopeful comments on fair reconciliation are often rationally criticized on the basis of “the current Israeli administration doesn’t consider those proposals”, her hopeful comments that the BDS movement will revolve around and remain focused on specific conditional demands, she also has no control to keep them there (and given the blessing of more radical domestic and international organizations, its unlikely that she will be the enforcer of that moral disciple).

    The question of “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” is about that question. Where is the Palestinian Gandhi that when he/she sees cadre undertaking immoral means, will fast to death?

    • Donald
      March 16, 2010, 12:13 pm

      “The question of “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” is about that question. Where is the Palestinian Gandhi that when he/she sees cadre undertaking immoral means, will fast to death?”

      What an incredible ass you are. Where is the Zionist Gandhi? Well, that’s something of a self-contradiction,isn’t it?

      • Donald
        March 16, 2010, 12:18 pm

        That deserves an extension. Gandhi is unique, but for you to have the gall to demand that Palestinians produce a person who will fast to the death because of crimes committed by Palestinians–every time I think I’ve seen every stupid callous insensitive narcissistic thing you can type you go and show me more.

        You lead the way, Richard. Start fasting for all the crimes committed in the name of liberal Zionism. When they stop committing crimes, come back and talk to us about the Palestinian Gandhi. Jackass.

      • Shmuel
        March 16, 2010, 12:49 pm

        Donald,
        I think you need a Witty break.

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2010, 1:02 pm

        Two things about Gandhi:
        1. He was a singular popular hero. Nearly every Hindu Indian regarded him highly
        2. He regarded non-violence as more than a tactic. The concept of loving one’s enemies was in it for him.

        Its not a statement of contempt for Palestinians. Its a description that there are none that I know of (perhaps you know differently), that live that same standard of non-violence as a comprehensive life theme.

        That is a different approach than non-violence as a tactic. Consider that Hamas suggested non-violent resistance since the quieting of the war, but yesterday announced a “day of rage” based on the rededication of an ancient Jewish synagogue that was within eyesight of the Al Aqsa Mosque (not structurally tied, not adjacent, not territorial annexation).

        Not non-violence.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 1:04 pm

        You don’t believe in non-violence, Witty. You’ve never even condemned the Nakba in 1948, let alone the use of Israeli military force against Palestinians — your worst complaint is that they used “a little too much” force.

        A Palestinian Ghandi isn’t going to help against the Israeli Bismark, Witty.

      • marc b.
        March 16, 2010, 1:26 pm

        Shmuel’s right, Donald. Every irritant doesn’t produce a pearl.

      • Donald
        March 16, 2010, 3:43 pm

        “Donald,
        I think you need a Witty break.”

        “Shmuel’s right, Donald. Every irritant doesn’t produce a pearl.”

        Agreed about the pearls, but I’m not an oyster and don’t produce pearls. As for breaks, RW is, his idiosyncratic writing style aside, a fairly typical representative of a popular strain of thought in the US. And the “Palestinians need a Gandhi” theme is a fairly standard talking point. And he completely missed the point–why doesn’t he ask the Israelis to be Gandhis? At some subconscious level Witty treats the Israelis as though they were very young children with no moral sense –it is the Palestinians and sympathizers who have a moral responsibility to be Gandhis, whereas Israelis can’t even be trusted to be normal adults.

      • Shmuel
        March 16, 2010, 3:48 pm

        At some subconscious level Witty treats the Israelis as though they were very young children with no moral sense –it is the Palestinians and sympathizers who have a moral responsibility to be Gandhis, whereas Israelis can’t even be trusted to be normal adults.

        When that’s convenient. When it’s not, the roles are reversed in a flash. Conscious or subconscious, it is dishonest and exhausting. You may not be an oyster, but don’t underestimate yourself – when you’re not busy tilting at wittymills.

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2010, 3:55 pm

        Ghandhi was a dissenter. It is a reasonable parallel.

        A path to reconciliation is a prerequisite to reconciliation.

        One reason that South Africa shifted for example, was that Mandela as acknowledged leader committed to mutual decency and acceptance, even though the ANC employed violence.

        At this point, relative to Palestinian leadership, its a hope only. Those that are predisposed to dissent, the hope seems valid. To others, that distrust primarily, the hope seems invalid.

        Hamas declaring a day of rage (not of dissent), conveys that rage, that threat, not that proposal.

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2010, 3:56 pm

        Please don’t dismiss the importance and character of leadership in dissent.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 4:11 pm

        Do as Witty says, not as he does!

        Anyone remember him saying a word about the leaders of the nonviolent anti-settlement protesters on the West Bank getting arrested?

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2010, 4:18 pm

        Did you get my point at all?

        That Noami Klein seems to believe that the BDS movement will remain a conditional dissent movement, that bears and gives no opportunistic benefit to more violent and fanatic organizations and sectors of organizations.

        And, that there is reasonable fear that that is not the case, that BDS would devolve, and that individuals like Norman F, Phil, Naomi Klein, others will be unable to shift anger to reconciliation, that there is no popular Gandhi, no popular Mandela, no King, with that degree of moral commitment and moral power.

        You take that comment as some insult, some evidence of double standard or racism. And, I take your failure to understand the gist of that comment as dooming the effort to transform Israel to a more humane polity.

        Do you get that?

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 4:20 pm

        no popular Mandela

        We’re talking about the same Nelson Mandela that you routinely insist doesn’t know jack shit when he compares his experiences to apartheid to what the Palestinians live under — and comments that in many ways the Palestinians have it worse.

        Just making sure I “get” what your’e saying, Witty.

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2010, 4:22 pm

        You must have the “e-mail me” feature turned on.

        You are back to shadowing, somehow in the name of democracy.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 4:24 pm

        Cry home to mommy, Witty.

      • Avi
        March 16, 2010, 7:25 pm

        Not non-violence.

        A guy walks into a doctor’s office and says: “Doctor doctor, I seem to have a problem, I can’t stop singing Tom Jones’ Green Green Grass of Home. Is that common?”

        The doctor replies: “Well…..it’s not unusual”.

    • Chaos4700
      March 16, 2010, 1:02 pm

      Witty? If you need the other side to produce a Ghandi… you’re on the wrong side.

      (I can remember who here deserves credit for that gem, sadly. Can anyone help?)

    • marc b.
      March 16, 2010, 1:23 pm

      The question of “where is the Palestinian Gandhi” is about that question. Where is the Palestinian Gandhi that when he/she sees cadre undertaking immoral means, will fast to death?

      What a grand idea. In order to prove his/her willingness to become the Witty-approved Palestinian representative, he/she must first commit suicide.

      I don’t see any evidence that Witty has actually read anything by Gandhi as he continues to serially abuse and misstate Gandhi’s political philosophy.

    • braciole
      March 16, 2010, 10:43 pm

      Witty, you have demonstrated yet again that you are either a degenerate or an idiot by talking about a “Palestinian Gandhi”.
      Let’s look at what Gandhi proposed that the British do when confronted by Nazi Germany in 1939.

      “I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions…If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”

      Let’s look at Gandhi’s response to the Holocaust:

      “Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions.”

      So is the reason that you want a “Palestinian Gandhi” to come forward, so that he or she will recommend that the Palestinians ethnically cleanse themselves rather than making the Israelis dirty their hands by doing it?

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 10:55 pm

        Any chance you have references and/or links for that, braciole?

        So, Witty… where was the Jewish Gandhi?

      • braciole
        March 17, 2010, 8:22 am

        I don’t have the original sources but the following site mentions them:
        link to thehindu.com

      • marc b.
        March 17, 2010, 8:41 am

        Braciole touches upon important points regarding Gandhi: 1. He made exemplary comments regarding his political philosophy that most would conclude bordered on the insane. 2. His position was much more nuanced than some commentary to this site would suggest. Gandhi was not simply a proponent of non-violence. In fact he recognized that violent resistance was appropriate under certain conditions. However, he also believed that the necessity to resort to violence was a symptom of the weakness of a political movement.

        For anyone interested in a quick primer on what Gandhi actually said, as opposed to the back-of-the-cereal-box analysis of the likes of Witty, see ‘Gandhi on Non-Violence’ edited by Merton and Kurlansky.

  8. Shmuel
    March 16, 2010, 12:17 pm

    Donald: He has one point worthy of discussion–a one state solution might lead to greater suffering (though of course that’s partly because of attitudes like his–tribal thinking is a necessary ingredient in any decent civil war worthy of the name).

    It is certainly worthy of discussion, but discussion is the last thing Shayson is interested in. He just wants to be king and decide which views are “legitimate” (his) and which are not. Klein on the other hand, was calling for precisely such a discussion.

    • Donald
      March 16, 2010, 12:28 pm

      That’s true. And it’s common on this topic–liberal Zionists try to lay down the law on what is and is not a legitimate way to criticize Israel. And in America, a lot of people buy into it.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 1:07 pm

        Which is of course just about as anti-liberal as you can get.

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2010, 1:10 pm

        Its stated as an opinion.

        A substantive one.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 1:15 pm

        You say “substantive” in a sentence that isn’t even complete and grammatically proper.

        I live for moments where you are your own joke, Witty.

  9. MRW
    March 16, 2010, 1:42 pm

    Legitimization, delegitimization…all a smoke screen. As if legitimizing or delegitimizing something is some sort of crime. Who gives a shit. It’s not the issue; it’s a subset of victimization that we’re being asked to buy into and keep alive. I dont buy it.

    Eran Shayshon needs to read Rafael Reuveny’s press release, and STFU. This is the 21st C, and humanity is fed up with medieval thinking. Israel is its own worst enemy.
    link to newsinfo.iu.edu

    • Avi
      March 16, 2010, 6:31 pm

      There’s a great expression in Hebrew that illustrates the fear behind the constant cries over legitimacy: “On the thief’s head, the hat burns”. It’s similar to the “liar liar pants on fire” expression in English, or the “He who smelt it, dealt it” one.

      A child born to a prostitute who became pregnant as a result of some rogueencounter will always have a chip on his shoulders. Those are the same symptoms exhibited by Zionists who constantly whine about the legitimacy issue.

  10. Sunyata
    March 16, 2010, 6:08 pm

    One thing I notice is that the person states something about “ignoring Israel’s concerns.”

    If he means that it’s anti-semitic to deny the need for a majority jewish demographic in order to maintain a jewish character, then he is wrong because racists are not allowed to want to maintain a white majority. If it’s wrong for us, then it’s wrong for them as well.

    Also, I just learned about Holocaust Porn. Yeah, it’s as bad as it sounds.

    • Chaos4700
      March 16, 2010, 6:27 pm

      We’ve seen the usual suspects here use that hypocrisy all the time.

      When we’re lobbying for action against Israel to force them to stop the crimes against humanity, that’s an “attack on the Jewish people.”

      Then we point out that Israel’s own crimes are racially motivated, that they’ve successfully established one of the worst examples of apartheid to exist in living memory, and suddenly, “Jewish isn’t a race. Israel is a democracy.”

      Then we insist that Israel behave like a true democracy and allow Palestinian refugees to return home and get citizenship in their own land? “Israel is the Jewish state. What you’re suggesting is an attack on the Jewish people.”

      And ’round and ’round and ’round it goes.

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