After Birthright: Dangerous conversations and the stifling of dissent

Last month, activist Rachel Marcuse spent 10 days in Israel as part of the Taglit-Birthright program – a fully sponsored trip for young North American Jews to learn more about the country. She went to bear witness and ask questions about the Israeli state’s treatment of Palestinians, and to learn about other complex issues in Israel today. After the program, she spent another 10 days elsewhere in Israel and the West Bank of Palestine talking to Israeli Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel, international activists, and Palestinians in the occupied territories. This is the fifth of a seven-part series on what she found. You can read the entire series here. This series first appeared in rabble.ca and this story can be found here.

After a couple of relaxing days on the beach in Tel Aviv, I’ve come out of the "Birthright haze" sufficiently to try to begin to engage with the "pluralism" that exists in Israel and Palestine. In this post-Birthright portion of my trip, I’ve decided to travel to Haifa, which I am told is the most integrated Arab-Jewish city in the country. I’m looking forward to talking with Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Centre, The Advocacy Centre for Arab Citizens in Israel.

According to the report "The Palestinian Arab Citizens of Israel: Status, Opportunities and Challenges for an Israeli-Palestinian Peace" written by Mossawa staff and released in June, 2006:

"The Palestinian-Arab community, about 20 per cent of the Israeli population and 10 per cent of the Palestinian people, is a potentially formidable force for coexistence between Palestinians and Israeli Jews….

"Despite a growing trend of racism and systemic and institutional discrimination against the community, the overwhelming majority of Palestinian Arabs in Israel wish to remain citizens of Israel, and believe in future friendly relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel. As the community forms part of the Palestinian nation, it is often seen as part of the "problem," but not as an integral part of the solution….

"Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel struggle on all fronts to be treated as equal citizens and a distinct minority group of the state. Israel defines itself as both Jewish and democratic…. However, the term ‘democratic’ in the Israeli reality translates into rule by the majority, often at the expense of the needs and rights of the minority — primarily the Palestinian Arab community."

As we sit in his office, Farah elaborates on the issue of Israel’s drive to be recognized as the Jewish state: "This is a problem for all secular people," he says. "For example, a non-practicing Jew wanting to have something other than an Orthodox Jewish wedding must leave the country to do so. It’s like telling you, as a Canadian Jew, that you can only marry another Canadian Jew."

He estimates that about 30 per cent of the population of Israel has very practical problems with the country’s increasing religiosity as they’re not "sufficiently Jewish." Many immigrants face this problem, especially newcomers from the former Soviet Union, as do the Ethiopian Jews who, the Chief Rabbinate has ruled, have to be converted formally, and then, of course, there is the 20 per cent of the population who are Arab….

Mossawa’s advocacy work and research highlights a long list of inequities: land grabs and population displacement (its website cites a study by New York University showing that Arabs who remained in Israel after 1948 lost between 40 and 60 per cent of their land); military rule (based on the belief that Arabs constitute "security risks" with "suspect" loyalty to the state); incomplete civil rights legislation (which allows for abridgement of the rights of the Basic Law on Dignity to fit the "values of the State of Israel"); restricted political representation (the definition of political parties which support "terrorism" is sufficiently vague to allow for exclusion along ideological lines); education (underfunding and curricula which privilege Jewish culture over the Arab community); in religion (including access to religious sites); in socio-economic status (in 2003, poverty among Palestinian Arab families was 3.2 times that of Jewish families); and more.

What strikes me in particular, though, is the stifling of dissent faced by both the Arab and Jewish populations within Israel. According to Farah, there’s little space to express your views — sometimes, you can’t even say "Nakba" (the Arabic word for "catastrophe," referring to the massive displacement of Palestinians in 1948), lest it "interfere with [collective Jewish] memories." While almost half of the Haifa civilians killed by missiles during the 2006 Second Lebanon War were Arab, Farah summed up the prevailing attitude: if you opposed the Israeli military action, you deserved to be killed… or you were a "traitor." When Farah, the head of a long-established NGO, visited activists from the Turkish flotilla this June, he was arrested and held for seven hours. A conversation can be dangerous.

The issue of dissent comes up frequently in conversation with both Jews and Arabs. After my meeting with Farah, Dani Grimblat, a Jewish activist, takes me on a walk in his Haifa neighbourhood, Hadar (which interestingly translates to "glamour"), known by many as a progressive enclave. At a local café, I sit down with two of his friends, both Christian Arabs, who have been playing chess. We talk about why Haifa is better integrated than other places in Israel (it seems it’s connected to a history of labour organizations working together and some progressive municipal politicians), but our conversation quickly turns to the issue of dissent. A couple of months ago, I’m told, a street concert was taking place. From the stage, one of the musicians made some political comments in an act of Palestinian solidarity: not exactly a call to arms, I understand, but something considered provocative and problematic by one of the men I’m chatting with ("I like provocation!" says the other one). Long story short, the sound was cut on his microphone.

A young bar owner at a "non-partisan" place down the street — most of the bars in this neighbourhood seem to have political affiliations — tells me that "tension breeds dialogue." This might be the case in Haifa where there is a relaxed level of tolerance for political difference, but it doesn’t feel that way in other places I visit; typically, I feel, space for tolerance is privileged for Jews over Arabs. Jews are allowed the luxury of dialogue, while Arabs are thought of as "terrorists" and too-often all but excluded from discussions around a peace process.

There is also an interesting distinction between discussion that occurs within Israel and discussion originating from outside the country, whether within the Jewish Diaspora or the international community as a whole. Progressive North American Jews are becoming accustomed to being labeled "self-hating" and are subject to a special level of venom when criticizing Israel or asking provocative questions about the conflict. I have received some lovely "hate tweets" since writing this series along these lines. The hostility I’ve faced has largely come from other North Americans — Israelis seemed to appreciate that I was genuinely listening and able to shift my opinions — but there is nonetheless an underlying sense that criticism should stay within Israel.

Near the end of my trip, I’m back in Tel Aviv, staying with one of the soldiers from the Taglit group. He and some friends are watching the World Cup, while I — not a soccer fan — chat with some friends on Facebook and respond to an e-mail from a person from Breaking the Silence with whom I’ve been corresponding.

Breaking the Silence is made up of soldiers who have been stationed in Hebron. These soldiers now give tours of the city, illustrating the horrific treatment of the resident Palestinians by the small group of fundamentalist Jews who have "settled" in the town. (I will write more about this group in the final piece in this series.)

During a lull in the soccer game, I ask one of my friend’s comrades what people think of the Breaking the Silence soldiers. "It’s good, what they’re doing," he says, and adds that most Israelis think the situation in Hebron is really bad and should be fixed. "But," he says, Israelis also think, "don’t ever do these tours in English!" So, just as with a family reluctant "to wash its dirty linen in public," it seems that dialogue can be good, and useful, but it also needs to stay "in the tent," — and a Jewish-Israeli tent, at that.

Rachel Marcuse is a Vancouver-based activist, facilitator and apparatchick. The executive director of the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE), a municipal political party, she also freelances, focussing on facilitation skills, youth-engagement and strategic planning. Her views do not necessarily represent the positions of any organization whatsoever.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 65 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Jewish as in “Jewish state” does not mean religious. It means ethnic, national.

    If you are opposed to all national states, that would be consistent, otherwise you are articulating a bias against Israel.

    The reason that the religious features in Israel slip in are due to the politics of coalition-building required in a parliamentary system in which no party comes close to a majority election after election.

    • Thanks for reporting on the ironies and surprises of your trip, rather than just the propaganda.

      Your first posts were quite snarky.

      What were you actual ending impressions of the place? Demon? Confused? In flux?

    • Chaos4700 says:

      So “Jewish” is a nationality? Are you insisting that all Jews anywhere in the world are automatically dual citizens, just by being born?

      Witty, you are a veritable God-send to stark raving anti-Semites.

      • Citizen says:

        Those Jewish leaders who originally opposed creation of the state of Israel were very concerned about the automatic dual citizenship result.

    • Pamela Olson says:

      If “Jewish” doesn’t mean “religious,” why can people only be married in religious Jewish ceremonies? Why are fanatic settlers stealing Palestinian land in the name of the Torah, with full government backing?

      If “Jewish” means “ethnic,” why should a certain ethnicity (which must be quite ill-defined, by the way, if both Swedes and Ethiopians qualify) violently take over land that may have belonged to a tribe from which some of their roots sprang 2000 years ago? It’s more likely that those tribes evolved into modern-day Palestinians AT LEAST AS MUCH as white-skinned Ashkenazi European Jews. What gives the white-skins special privilege, then? Why can an Ethiopian or Russian immigrate but a Palestinian Christian with roots going back to the Roman occupation be denied?

      Waiting for an answer. Thanks.

      • The parts of Israeli law that compel dogmatic orthodox social relations into national institutions, result from the absence of a majority party in parliament, requiring the forming of coalitions with religious parties.

        And, the religious parties literally care less about politics, peace, war, justice issues. They only care about funding for religious schools, marriage standards, conversion standards, settlements, things like that.

        Its one of the down sides of being an actual democracy, that compromises are necessary, even unpalatable ones.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          Its one of the down sides of being an actual democracy, that compromises are necessary, even unpalatable ones.

          Let me get this straight. The essence of democracy, in your eyes Witty, is that a religious minority gets to decide what is secular law for the rest of the population?

        • Chaos4700 says:

          No wonder your son went extreme orthodox, anyway. Was probably the only way to get your attention.

        • MRW says:

          “The parts of Israeli law that compel dogmatic orthodox social relations into national institutions, result from the absence of a majority party in parliament, requiring the forming of coalitions with religious parties.”

          There you go again: confusing politics with justice.

        • Pamela Olson says:

          You didn’t answer even a single one of my questions. Didn’t even come close. I’m surprised no one called you out on it.

      • Pamela- The “people can only be married in religious Jewish ceremonies” is not at the essence of the state. It is quite easy to conceive the government allowing civil marriages and that not changing the Jewish nature of the state. The Jewish nature of the state is primarily involved in the fact that Israel seeks Jewish immigrants and discourages (or worse) nonJewish immigrants. There are religious parties involved in most coalitions that would not approve the changing of the law to allow civil marriages and possibly the nonreligious parties are too confused to allow civil marriages even if they did not have religious parties in their coalition. But it is not essential to the Jewish self definition of Israel.

        The other questions that you raise are more to the point and more difficult to answer. Jewish identity at this point of time is a combination of ethnicity and religion. If the Palestinians indeed are offspring of the Jews who lived in the land 2000 years ago, their adoption of Islam or Christianity has separated them from the Jewish people.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          It is quite easy to conceive the government allowing civil marriages and that not changing the Jewish nature of the state.

          It’s quite easy to conceive Noah having taken a pair of unicorns on the ark too. Doesn’t make it reality — which is what Ms. Olsen is discussing.

          Not hypotheticals.

        • Antidote says:

          How does a Palestinian of Jewish descent whose ancestors have converted to Islam differ from, say, an Ashkenazi Jew/Israeli who has converted to atheism?

        • antidote- Joining up with a new religion and following that generation for tens of generations tends to separate you more from your “original” identity compared to not joining up with a new religion, but merely declaring a type of disbelief and that being a recent phenomenon. If that disbelief continues on for tens of generations it will inevitably lead to a more complete divorce from the “original” identity.

        • potsherd says:

          The state claims to be Jewish yet it can’t define who is a Jew. It is not simply that some people can’t get married, it’s that people who consider themselves Jews are not considered Jews by agents of the state. Until the state itself determines which elements of ethnicity and religion are necessary and sufficient for Jewishness, the claim that it is a “Jewish state” is meaningless.

        • Antidote says:

          wj – thanks for the quotation marks, but I have as many issues with “original” as with “identity” here, both separately and combined. If religious belief/practice is no prerequisite to obtaining Israeli citizenship on the basis of ethnicity, and if Jews are religiously/ethnically/culturally/linguistically diverse, as is clearly the case, synchronically and diachronically, then there are no consistent criteria regarding the question on what constitutes a ‘Jewish majority’. Can you define ‘Jewish identity’ along ethnic, religious, cultural or even linguistic lines? Even without the Arab Muslim or Christian minorities, Israel is a deeply divided, consociational or ‘broken’ society. That’s the chimera: to fight tooth and nail to protect an identity/unity that does not really exist in the first place and is, at best, the result of such strife.

          link to youtube.com

          link to youtube.com

        • Citizen says:

          It’s much simpler, WJ. As you know, but here ignore, a Jew born to a Jewish mother can be an agnostic or atheist and yet retain his or her Jewish identify.

        • lyn117 says:

          However, given that ~2000 years ago there was at least one split in the original monotheistic faith, with Christians going one way and so-called “Jews” going another, both acquiring new adherents through conversion, why isn’t Christianity considered the proper heir of the “holy” land? And Islam being the result of yet another religious schism, why not Islam?

          And furthermore, if “Jewish” is defined as an ethnicity, the same issue applies. European Jews, to the extent that they have any inheritance from people of the Levant of 2000 years ago (and I remain unconvinced that it’s large, genetically speaking), are probably descended from people who emigrated probably voluntarily and besides thoroughly intermingling with other European and Eurasian stock, they adopted much of European culture – language, food, dress, pretty much everything but religion and its accompanying rites. That some ethnic derivation, however you define it, gives them the right to “return” and kick out the people who stayed, seems dubious, I mean, my ancestors came from various parts of Europe but I make no claim of “right” to return and destroy any of the existing European societies and expel them from their homes – but why aren’t Palestinians considered the original ethnic group of that region? Especially since some of the cultural practices, dress, rites etc. seem to match those of people 2000 years and more ago? It seems to me that it was the “Jews” who separated themselves, both geographically and culturally, not the Palestinians.

    • Mooser says:

      Thanks, Richard! The fact that both Swedes and Ethiopians qualify as “ethnic” Jews is the first thing I’ve heard in a long time which makes me proud of being Jewish! I may be only a paskudnik a litvak and an ungulate, but I like to think I’m a little Ethiopian, too! Thanks.

  2. tree says:

    Nope, it means ethno-religious. You can be an atheist and be considered a Jew in Israel, but you can’t be a Muslim or a Christian, or a Hindu for that matter, and be considered a Jew in Israel, regardless of what your ethnic heritage is. See the Brother Daniel case here:

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    This has been pointed out to you before. You really need to get your memory checked, lest we start to think that you really don’t care whehter what you say is true or not.

    • tree says:

      Besides, if Israel was a normal “national” state then the nationality would be ISRAELI, not Jewish. In a normal national state the nationality and the governing entity are the same. The governing nationality in France is FRENCH, not Catholic, even though Catholics are in the majority there. Likewise, a normal national state in Israel would have the governing nationality be ISRAELI, not Jewish, since not all citizens of Israel are Jewish. Why is this concept so hard for you to grasp?

      • There is a math process applied with the nationality “Israeli”.

        Ultimately, the nation is Israeli, and contains a 20% minority non-Jewish population, that does describe itself as Israeli, some serving in the military, participating in elections, serving in Israeli civil service and other prominent institutions.

        The next question though to the electoral majority, is “how do you wish to be identified?”

        Fayyad says “how you define yourself is none of our business, its yours, you are a sovereign state”. Abbas says similar, but is pained to say “Jewish state” in the exclusive manner that Netanyahu speaks it. Hamas says “we will never speak of or accept Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, no matter if it is the democratic will of the majority”.

        So, if you believe that Israel self-governs, rather than is governed by outside parties (as Iran, or France, or Indonesia is self-governed), then the self-definition of how we will be called, is a matter of common respect.

        The feature of respect, is one of the virtues of serious Islam, and of serious democracy.

        It is what Israel is criticized for, “you don’t respect the will of the Palestinian people who elected Hamas by a majority in executive and legislative elections”.

        And, it is what Palestinian solidarity is criticized for, “you don’t respect the will of the Israeli people who determined to describe themselves as The Jewish state”.

        It is your confusion about whether Jewish means national or it means religious, or whether the religious is merely subset of the national.

        Literally your confusion, and then your statement of disrespect for the other, rather than respect for the other.

        I assume you respect Iran’s right to be spoken of publicly as “The Islamic Republic of Iran”.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          It is your confusion about whether Jewish means national or it means religious, or whether the religious is merely subset of the national.

          So which is it? Straight answer, Witty.

        • MRW says:

          Jeffrey Blankfort wrote some weeks back that Israelis don’t call themselves Israelis. They call themselves Jews.

          ===================
          So, if you believe that Israel self-governs, rather than is governed by outside parties (as Iran, or France, or Indonesia is self-governed), then the self-definition of how we will be called, is a matter of common respect.

          Hunh? You Israeli this week?

        • Citizen says:

          The christian zionist Truman’s letter recognition of the state of Israel explicitly
          deletes the adjective “Jewish” as a descriptor of the recognized new state.

      • Antidote says:

        Nor does a ‘normal national state’ attempt to ‘repatriate’ thousands and millions of people living in other countries at the expense of thousands and millions of people already living there, all on the basis of spurious ethnic criteria. Nazi Germany did this, of course, but can hardly be considered to have been a ‘normal national state’.

  3. Elliot says:

    Richard – if the reason for the religious intolerance is the lousy parliamentary system then why don’t secular Israelis form a coalition with secular Arabs? In any other country they would find common ground. In Israel, secular Jews prefer mysogynist, racist, ultra-Orthodox political parties over like minded non-Jews.
    Secular Jewish parties prefer to buy their pottage at inflated prices from the Orthodox. I think it is no coincidence that the growing frequency of Israel’s wars and indreasing disregard for human life coincides with the increasing control of the Orthodox in public life.

    • Your proposal is applied. There were consistently Arabs on the Labor and Meretz party election lists, and Habdash and Balad present themselves as “non-partisan”.

      If you wish to support the formation of civilist parties in Israel, and hopefully also in Palestine, that would be a great effort towards civilizing (in two meanings of the term) the discussion.

      If the way that is done is by demonization of the other parties, rather than respecting nationalism, but naming civilism as a better argument, then it will fall on deaf ears.

      The reason for the nationalism, for the defensiveness, is rational and understandable. Force will not convince. Only confident reasoning will.

  4. yourstruly says:

    A Young Palestinian

    in West Beirut ’82, in an improvised Palestinian Red Crescent hospital that had been turned into a burn center, struggles to get up from his cot, weak, wobbly, confused, yet by willpower alone, there he is, right in front of us; what’s left of him, that is, since tt’s his bad luck to have been struck a few days earlier by U.S.-made incendiary, from which he experiences near total body second and third degree burns. Somehow his face had been spared, but as unfortunately happens with such severe burns, infection, fever and, now, delerium have asserted themselves. Then comes an event that in retrospect seems almost as if it had to have been staged – the young Palestinian takes a couple tentative steps. Visitors and staff reach for him in case he falls, but before anyone can grasp him, out of his mouth, these words, “I’ve got to get up, got to get up and help my people”. Staff coaxes him back to bed. Everyone else in the room is silent, seemingly trying to comprehend the significance of what they’d just witnessed. After all, since obviously the young Palestinian isn’t long for this world, how could he possibly help his people? Certainly not with anything he had of material value, being that after he dies the only thing of value that he could leave to his people would be his body, which, as a cadaver would be worth but a pittance, what with the supply of cadavers in a war zone being so much greater than the demand. And since what he leaves isn’t anything of material worth, has to have been something of the Spirit that the young Palestinian leaves to his people. What kind of Spirit? Love for his people, that’s for sure, but not only for his people, for all people, so close is he to that moment when clarity comes rushing in – that I am you, you are I, we are one. Seems that the young Palestinian spoke for us all.

  5. radii says:

    thank your serving that fat, slow pitch right over the plate for me, Witty

    what is it to be a jew?

    is it a religion?
    an ethnicity?
    a nation?
    a race?

    or to paraphrase Albert Einstein being jewish means: a shared set of histories and cultural behaviors

    it has been my experience when discussing or arguing what it means to be a jew with jews is that it is whatever one or combination of the above will win the argument

    israel being a “jewish” state has been the problem from a start … the land is land and anyone can live there … and that region of the world has had various peoples and cultures live there for tens of thousands of years, so no one group has any right to lay claim

    there is no moral right ever to some people claiming land … it is a function of military might – you can keep it or you must surrender it to a superior force and that is what we’re really talking about: the mafias and terrorists that “founded” israel used superior money and military might to force out the local people

    • Mooser says:

      It’s whatever argument will alllow one Jew to bamboozle another, especially if the one making the argument has more money.
      Not that I think this is exclusive to Jews, of course.

  6. Keith says:

    RICHARD WITTY- Jewish State refers to a state designed to be controlled and run by Jews as defined by Halakah as determined by Orthodox Rabbis. Democratic means they hold elections which necessitates that Jews remain the overwhelming majority to insure Jewish control, which, in turn, requires the “Jewish State” to engage in activities such as ethnic cleansing to insure that non-Jews are kept to a suitably small minority. This discrimination/disenfranchisement/ethnic cleansing based upon religious/ethnic/racialist criteria is unique among post World War II Western nations, although I believe something similar happened in Germany prior to WWII. To oppose this racialist abuse of a relatively powerless minority is to stand up for human rights and decency, and in no way indicates opposition to nationalism, which is a separate issue entirely.

  7. Chaos4700 says:

    Unfortunately, it seems the source of Wittypocrisy on the blog has, in fact, managed to violently wrench the conversation on the blog to being all about him with his outrageous, abusive statements.

    And you all blame me when this happens.

    • The content of the discussions that I enter, are nearly 100% about content, not about personality.

      I don’t believe that I’ve made abusive statements.

      I’ve made a few angry ones, particularly at times when I’ve perceived Phil as inferring elements of the fascist themes of “Zionist Jews control the media”, or “Zionist Jews control the puppet strings”, or “Zionist Jews are now privileged and don’t deserve the light of day for their perspectives”.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        I don’t believe that I’ve made abusive statements.

        Oh, so claiming that Hamas and anyone related to them deserves to die at the end of an IDF Uzi isn’t abusive? And neither is insisting that Palestinian children are starving “because the safety of the Jewish state demands it?”

        See, that’s the difference between you and me. Everyone gets to see when there’s a knife in my hands. I don’t get behind anyone, pretending to be a friend.

        • Chaos,
          You know VERY WELL that I’ve never stated that “Hamas and anyone related to them deserves to die at the end of an IDF uzi”.

          Why do you lie about my comments so?

          And, why do the monitors allow you to?

        • Chaos4700 says:

          You said that the IDF was justified in using military weapons on apartment buildings in Gaza. Perhaps I was being too literary for your tastes, but I’m only paraphrasing you.

    • Mooser says:

      I believe that Witty has mentioned before that a financial contribution from him made this blog possible, or helps to maintain it. My memory may be faulty.
      But as a treasured friend of the blog owners, will will always occupy a higher rung on the Mondoweiss ladder than anyone else. You might as well learn to live with it.

      Try and remember, there are things other than Zionism or opposition to it which make one Jew more equal than another. As far as non-Jews go, well, why sully the discussion with <i.tref?

      • Philip Weiss says:

        Mooser, I dont know if your memory is faulty, but that is simply untrue. I started this site with my own dough. Witty is a family friend from my youth. His aunt was a dear friend of my mother’s and was the judge at my marriage. Witty wasn’t at my marriage; I have seen him at his cousin’s bar mitzvah’s, twice in the last five years or so. I have affection for him but I have affection for a lot of people. The place he has on the ladder here is simply a reflection of how much he posts comments. He’s often been on moderation. I dont see how that makes him special…
        Phil

  8. aban says:

    Hey! Where did Rachel the Skeptic disappear? The one whose Jewishness is defined by asking questions? Suddenly, when meeting Mossawa, she becomes Rachel the Dupe. Actually, dupe does not seem to be the right word: It does not look like Mossawa tried to deceive her. She just grabbed their material and made the most of it. Examples:

    ‘military rule’: This was a legal regime under which the rural Arab population lived during the early days of the state.

    But it ended in 1966.

    ‘While almost half of the Haifa civilians killed by missiles during the 2006 Second Lebanon War were Arab, Farah summed up the prevailing attitude: if you opposed the Israeli military action, you deserved to be killed… or you were a “traitor.” ‘

    Without proper substantiation anyone with possession of a skeptical backbone would discount this as meaningless gossip or anti-Israeli hype. But not our Rachel. Not to mention that this story is mainly about Israeli-Arabs being killed by random Hizballa rocket fire against civilians. How warped to spin this into the “Israelis are bad” angle.

  9. So, just as with a family reluctant “to wash its dirty linen in public,” it seems that dialogue can be good, and useful, but it also needs to stay “in the tent,” — and a Jewish-Israeli tent, at that.

    We Americans would be sublimely happy for Israeli Jews to keep their dirty laundry in their own tent, but American Jews as well as Israel’s government has done everything in its power to make the US the battlefield — or washboard, to stay on metaphorical point — for Israel’s intermural and intramural conflicts.

    The US taxpayer and citizen has a huge stake in Israel, whether we like it or not; we have a right to speak out on Israel’s actions and on the actions of American Jews wrt Israel.

  10. Elliot says:

    RW Your proposal is applied. There were consistently Arabs on the Labor and Meretz party election lists, and Habdash and Balad present themselves as “non-partisan”.
    It is not true that the Arab parties Hadash and Balad which represent the Arab community have participated in Israeli governments. They are Arab, ergo, they are beyond the pale.
    You are correct that there have been token Arabs in all the non-religious parties, including Likud.

    • The reason that Hadash and Balad are not represented in Israeli coalitions has to do with a combination of racism, and lack of votes.

      Ultimately, it is the number of votes that they receive that determines their relative power.

      To date, they have postured as radical anti-Zionist parties, not as strictly civil non-nationalist parties.

      Avraham Burg a couple weeks ago suggested that a non-nationalist civilist party form and campaign seriously on democratic principle, equal due process under the law, the nation as “Israel” not as “Jewish perse”.

      Most here condemned him when it was reported, because they were irritated with a couple words that he included in his statement, and because the question of right of return was not explicitly stated. Burg instead emphasized CURRENT democracy, one-person one-vote.

      I think his suggestion is artful, potentially effective for those that are sincere about either a democratic partitioned status or a bi-national or single state alike.

      To dismiss his suggestion, is really just to say, “we are lazy, and don’t wish to do the work to achieve a real democracy, persuasion and responsibility”.

      • Chaos4700 says:

        The reason that Hadash and Balad are not represented in Israeli coalitions has to do with a combination of racism, and lack of votes.

        Would that have been true if elections were held before 1948, Witty?

      • Elliot says:

        To date, they have postured as radical anti-Zionist parties, not as strictly civil non-nationalist parties.
        Shas “postures” as a “reactionary”, “mysogynist” party, yet they are prominent coalition partners.
        Labor “postures” as “militaristic”. Likud “postures” as “crazy” warmongerers”.
        Do you selectively apply random criteria, perchance, because they are…..Arab? Jews are allowed to be manifestly unreasonable but heaven forfend of the natives try to represent themselves honestly.
        Anywhere else in the world, American Jews such as yourself would call that attitude racist.

        • I thought you were interested in actually developing movements, rather than just complain.

          You want change to a civil democratic orientation, there is your outline as to how to make it happen permanently.

          In a democratic political system, even if one holds very different views from say Shas or Likud or Israel Beitanhu, the principle of peaceful transfer of power (which has occurred for 63 years in Israel, through what 20 administrations?) is a respectful recognition that voters voluntarily voted for the parties that represent them, and if you want change, the only option is to persuade.

          There is no revolutionary magic.

          Work and persuasion ONLY.

  11. Les says:

    link to imemc.org

    Israeli Education Ministry Approves New ‘whites-only’ Settlement School
    Thursday August 26, 2010

    Several months ago, a religious school in the illegal Israeli settlement of Immanuel was criticized for segregating white Jewish students from non-white Jewish students in classes.

    Ethiopian Jewish student – not allowed to study at new school

    Originally, the school was fined for this policy of racial segregation, because the school was state funded. Now, the Israeli education ministry has agreed with the white parents’ request to allow the school to continue with its racial discrimination under private funding.

    There is no law preventing racial discrimination by private organizations, even schools, in Israel.

    The Israeli court has interpreted these laws to also apply to illegal West bank settlements, like Immanuel, which are located in areas that are supposed to be under Palestinian control. The Palestinian Authority does not allow racial discrimination, but due to the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian Territories, it has no authority over the area in question.

    74 white girls who have been studying in a building next to the school will now be allowed to study in whites-only classrooms that are privately funded, as their parents claim they do not want their girls to study in racially-mixed classrooms.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      “Jewish AND democratic,” huh. Well, as Witty says, in a democracy you have to make compromises, and that means if the majority wants segregation, then by God, segregation we must have!

    • Are there any laws in USA preventing segregated private schools?

      • potsherd says:

        The IRS requires schools to be integrated in order to claim tax exempt status. I believe they also have to be integrated to receive federal funding.

        The “private” schools in Israel and the WB are generally funded by the government, which is what gives the government the standing to demand compliance, even though it usually fails to in the case of haredi schools.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          In addition, private schools which are truly exclusive tend to be regarded by most people in a negative light. I went to a Catholic private school, but being Catholic — or even Christian — was by no means a requirement. At least one of my classmates was Jewish.

          I think we have one all-girls Catholic school left, where I live, but that’s the only limitation, and then you have what potsherd says up there.

          Anyway, WJ, where exactly do you think you’re going to get traction pressing the “United States sucks!” argument here?

  12. potsherd says:

    See that, Black Caucus?