My grim headline refers to a theory of the Civil War, that it was an inevitable battle because great forces were opposed, each with core commitments to values that were irreconcilable. And thus, a massive bloodletting.
It is hard to view Netanyahu’s visit to the United States in different terms. He is the ultimate expression of Zionism: the Revisionist belief that Jews have a right to all the land between the river and the sea because of the Bible.
There are ways to have imagined Israel working out in the Middle East as a good neighbor. But relentless expansionism and Jewish exceptionalism aren’t the answer, still that is the answer that Israelis chose.
And on the other side, I actually agree with Netanyahu, there has surely been Palestinian agency in the outcome. Many Palestinians never accepted the existence of a Jewish state on their land. Many Palestinians were opposed to Oslo, which gave 78 percent of that land to the Israelis. The Palestinian Diaspora never accepted the Jewish state; and were I in the Palestinian Diaspora, I’d be hard-pressed to reach a different conclusion. And so if you are Palestinian, it is hard to see why you wouldn’t just wait and watch the whole thing self-destruct. As Jeffrey Goldberg says today, Palestinians have time on their side.
Goldberg is shocked and confused by Netanyahu’s insistence on holding on to the West Bank. Settlements are an “existential threat,” he says. Goldberg wants to squeeze a two-state solution and a viable Palestinian state out of the existing situation. But he seems to acknowledge the real likelihood here: an apartheid state.
Of course an apartheid state is exactly what Palestinian solidarity activists and realists like John Mearsheimer have been telling us about for several years now. When Jimmy Carter warned us about it, just five years ago, he was run out of town on a rail. As Jonathan Demme chronicled, the good liberal Jewish media assailed him. Terry Gross jumped on him. Al Franken said, Why do you hate the Jews? And Mearsheimer was blasted as an anti-semite– by among others Jeffrey Goldberg.
Mearsheimer was putting his finger on the real source of the power: pro-Israel money corrupting our political process. And because this was an argument about Jewish influence, Jewish faction, Goldberg and the Forward and the New York Times and the New Yorker had to scourge Mearsheimer.
But I believe that Goldberg will come to Mearsheimer’s side at last. For the real tragedy of Netanyahu’s visit was the supine Congress. Again and again they rose to embrace him. They applauded him when he said that Jews have a right to the West Bank, applauded him when they said that Jews should control Jerusalem. Because the Congress is corrupted.
And when Goldberg tries to save the Jewish state, he must take on the fundamental source of support for the expansionist Zionists: the Israel lobby in American public life. I believe this will finally happen. That good journalists like Wolf Blitzer and Jake Weisberg and David Remnick, who come out of a Zionist orientation, will finally attack the roots of intolerance here, the Israel lobby. The donnybrook that Walt and Mearsheimer ordered 5 years ago will finally take place (outside the shadow of the Iraq War, which caused too many liberal hawks too much embarrassment).
I believe what Jack Ross says, that none of these people will be able to save the Jewish state. For today, the Arab spring hastens the irrepressible conflict: Obama must in the end side with the millions of people on the Arab streets, as he indicated in his speech to AIPAC, while Netanyahu is saying that dark forces are gathering in the Arab world. And so the irrepressible conflict has morphed into a struggle over the definition of democracy, and Netanyahu is forced to argue forever that Arabs and Muslims are not ready for democracy, a racist argument that becomes less and less palatable to Americans. And in the end I don’t see how a Jewish state that privileges Jews, in a corner of the Arab world, can survive that argument.
In the end Jeffrey Goldberg, Jake Weisberg, Wolf Blitzer, and John Mearsheimer (and Naomi Klein and Noura Erakat and Medea Benjamin and Laila El-Haddad and I) will be on the same side here. We will all be calling for an end to Zionism. We will recognize that like Communism in the 50s, its time is past. We will acknowledge the fundamental problem of dual loyalty that it poses for American Jews. We will in that crisis proclaim ourselves as Americans, as Goldberg did the other day when he expressed anger at Netanyahu for lecturing his president.
For we will understand the profound dangers to our country and to Jews and Palestinians of this irrepressible conflict, and we will work together to end it as peacefully as we are able. And American Jews will finally look into their hearts and speak the truth: We do not need a Jewish state.