Two days ago in New York's Four Seasons hotel, I met a sophisticated friend from the Arabian peninsula whose identity I must disguise, and we had a grim conversation. He made a number of points:
--The situation in Israel/Palestine is very bleak. There is no way out. The Israelis have the power, and they will continue to make life intolerable for Palestinians in the occupied territories, until those who can leave, leave. And of course the educated Israelis are also all leaving...
--The U.S. still has the power over Palestine's future, as it did in 1948. Empires are built slowly and they collapse slowly. The U.S. is the hegemon for the foreseeable future. And when it comes to Israel, there is no countervailing force to American support for Israel. Europe is nothing. The Arab world is nothing. The nations of the General Assembly are nothing. The non-Zionist movement inside the U.S.-- come on, it is very small.
--We (Arabs) always told the U.S. that we can't abandon Palestine because it is an issue of our identity. This we have explained for 70 years. Palestine is part of our identity, it cannot be subjugated. We have also explained that if the Palestinians accept a two-state solution, we would accept it. Would we accept an Israeli Jerusalem? Of course not. We can't; Jerusalem must be shared.
--You (Mondoweiss) are naive about power.
Morality means nothing without power. Yes, you talk about the civil rights movement, inside your country. But that was a domestic frame. In the international frame, there is only power. These countries talk about the International Criminal Court for Gadafyi and for Bashar al-Assad, but you will never see a prosecution of an Israeli or an American for war crimes. Because who has the power.
--For supporters like myself of Arab liberation, freedom in Palestine was always a necessary but insufficient condition. Not until the subjugation of Palestine ends can the Arab world be liberated. The other condition is of course the end of the dictators. The Egyptian revolution is not a revolution yet. The regime has not been changed. And this is everything. Egypt is everything for the Arab world. If the Tunisian revolution succeeds, and Egypt fails, Tunisia does not matter.
--I admit that I did not foresee the Egyptian uprising. I have studied Arab politics forever and I was completely surprised. Maybe I will also be surprised by Palestine. But everything has failed for the Palestinians. Violent resistance failed. Negotiation failed. What do they have left? Yes I have always called for nonviolent resistance to create a democracy between the river and the sea, I was against Oslo. Because what do they get: Fayyad. They must elect a collaborationist government for their own occupation.
--You say the Israel lobby is a special interest. I disagree. I have lived in Washington. A special interest is not as integrated into the cultural and political life as this lobby is. Jews are an integral part of the American establishment. The media-- the top layers are well over 50 percent Jewish. The political class? Finance? You have the complete integration of people who are indoctrinated in Zionism.
--Of course, you are not a Zionist. I can't tell you how much I like what the Jewish non-Zionists and anti-Zionists are saying. But you are such a small group. I will tell you the ones I can't stand. The liberal Zionists. I have more respect for the hard core Zionists, they tell you what they want. All the liberal Zionists do is whine and do nothing. Look at the New York Review of Books. But that man Daniel Levy interests me. I think that at his heart he is no longer a Zionist.
I (this is Weiss talking now) told my friend that Levy's path (his brave statement at J Street earlier this year, "I'm not convinced that [the two-state solution] is the only model") is one that many other American Jews are following. And we will be part of the countervailing force in American politics that will end the lobby. You can't maintain a regime of anti-Arab racism in American life for 70 years (one that has been so costly to Americans, from the USS Liberty to the killing of Bobby Kennedy to Rachel Corrie to the Palestinian motivation for the 9/11 attack) without changing the channel. History moves. We are going to have another chapter. American realists are on our side, the military thinkers are on our side, Arab-Americans...
Of course when I got home, I saw the grim news from the flotilla and recognized that the US still runs the table here, and we are all prisoners of the Israel lobby. And as for my friend's social understanding about the nature of the Establishment, well, I share it: Jews are empowered as never before, and Obama's fears about the pro-Israel-Jewish presence in the Democratic Party make it impossible for him to be fair in this arena. And all this leaves me feeling only greater urgency about the need to end the fever of Zionism inside American Jewish life.