Liberal American Jews are giving themselves permission to say goodbye

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 35 Comments
New Yorker graphic
New Yorker graphic by Tom Bachtell

A lot of people passed along David Remnick‘s piece on the Israel, “Threatened,” in last week’s New Yorker, with the arresting graphic (left), but I only read it yesterday, and it’s significant. The tone is weary and detached; Remnick is seeing the intolerant Israel that Max Blumenthal has been telling us about, and is not denying it, he seems resigned. He makes a point of contrasting the liberal American Jews who supported Obama with Israel’s zealot leaders. Remnick believes more in American exceptionalism than Jewish exceptionalism. This is a good, illusionless piece. Many liberal Zionists have come away from the bedside pleading with the doctors (the lobby) to take heroic measures. Remnick is impatient, seems to want to move forward. (Yossi Gurvitz said this would happen.) He recognizes that Israel’s self-injuries may well be “fatal” and the “experiment in Jewish power” has been superseded by our American experiment in Jewish power. It is just a matter of time before Remnick calls for voting rights for all Palestinians under occupation.  Excerpts:

And yet, as an experiment in Jewish power, unique after two millennia of persecution and exile, Israel has reached an impasse. An intensifying conflict of values has put its democratic nature under tremendous stress. When the government speaks daily about the existential threat from Iran, and urges an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, it ignores the existential threat that looms within. Reactionary elements lurk in many democracies….But in Israel the threat is especially acute. And the concern comes not only from its most persistent critics. The former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have both warned of a descent into apartheid, xenophobia, and isolation.

The political corrosion begins, of course, with the occupation of the Palestinian territories—the subjugation of Palestinian men, women, and children—that has lasted for forty-five years. Peter Beinart, in a forthcoming and passionately argued polemic, “The Crisis of Zionism,” is just the latest critic to point out that a profoundly anti-democratic, even racist, political culture has become endemic among much of the Jewish population in the West Bank, and jeopardizes Israel proper. The explosion of settlements, encouraged and subsidized by both Labor and Likud governments, has led to a large and established ethnocracy that thinks of itself as a permanent frontier. In 1980, twelve thousand Jews lived in the West Bank, “east of democracy,” Beinart writes; now they number more than three hundred thousand, and include Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s wildly xenophobic Foreign Minister. Lieberman has advocated the execution of Arab members of parliament who dare to meet with leaders of Hamas. His McCarthyite allies call for citizens to swear loyalty oaths to the Jewish state; for restrictions on human-rights organizations, like the New Israel Fund; and for laws constricting freedom of expression…

poll after poll reveals that many younger Israelis are losing touch with the liberal, democratic principles of the state. Many of them did their military duty in the Occupied Territories; some learned to despise the Occupation they saw firsthand, but others learned to accept the official narratives justifying what they were made to do….

“The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” Obama has said. Netanyahu and many of his supporters believe otherwise; too often, they consider the tenets of liberal democracy to be negotiable in a game of coalition politics. Such short-term expedience cannot but exact a long-term price: this dream—and the process of democratic becoming—may be painfully, even fatally, deferred.

35 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    March 13, 2012, 9:31 am

    The political corrosion begins, of course, with the occupation of the Palestinian territories—the subjugation of Palestinian men, women, and children—that has lasted for forty-five years.

    hmm, it seems to me he’s glossing over some pretty devastating history.

    a profoundly anti-democratic, even racist, political culture has become endemic among much of the Jewish population in the West Bank

    he’s got his foot in the door but he’s wading in denial.

    • atime forpeace
      March 13, 2012, 10:23 am

      That’s just beautiful language Annie.

      he’s got his foot in the door but he’s wading in denial.

      who’d a thunk that a river could be right outside his door.

      • pabelmont
        March 13, 2012, 11:31 am

        Writers are also politicians and must weight just how far they can go. They exist within societies, and societies tend to have “red lines”. thus, “denial” can be personal (actual blindness, ideological blinkers) but may also be societal (I can go this far and no farther). Think of all those voices on NPR who never criticize Israel. Personal prejudice? Maybe. Group think, one of the Jewish fraternity? Maybe. I need this job and it pays really well as long as I watch what I say?

        NPR reported its five highest paid employees were:
        1. Managing Editor Barbara Rehm, $383,139
        2. All Things Considered host Robert Siegel, $350,288
        3. Morning Edition host Renee Montagne, $332,160
        4. Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, $331,242
        5. NPR afternoon programming director Richard L. Harris, $190,267.

      • Les
        March 13, 2012, 6:48 pm

        It’s a good example of our media moguls being disproportionately Jewish. I don’t believe that 100% agree that US taxpayers should be footing the bill for Israel’s occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Sad to say, 100% of them are afraid to publicly object.

      • Les
        March 14, 2012, 12:18 pm

        Here’s a good example from Stephen Walt on Robert Siegel who is so well paid for being careful to not ask questions.

        link to walt.foreignpolicy.com

  2. Kathleen
    March 13, 2012, 9:39 am

    “The tone is weary and detached; Remnick is seeing the intolerant Israel that Max Blumenthal has been telling us about, and is not denying it, he seems resigned.”

    Max has been doing an amazing job exposing the racism etc that exist in Israel the last five years. But a shout out to all of those who have for decades been pointing the racism and cruelty that permeates the Israeli government and attitudes in Israel. Including Edward Said, Ilan Pappe, former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Tutu, Norman Finkelstein, Art Gish etc etc. Awareness about the conditions on the ground in that conflict as well as awareness about how many UN resolutions and International laws Israel is in violation of has grown over the last five years. Many more young and older Jews have been willing to face the facts on the ground over the last five to 10 years. A healthy change

    • seafoid
      March 13, 2012, 10:14 am

      There are no Palestinians or Arabs on your list, Kathleen. How about Edward Said, Azmi Bshara, Mustafa Barghouthi , the Abunimahs etc.

      • Kathleen
        March 13, 2012, 11:30 am

        Edward Said is first on my list. He opened up my eyes. Thanks for the others.

      • seafoid
        March 13, 2012, 3:33 pm

        Sorry I missed Said but the rest are worth checking out and naming too because they see the Zionist machine from the other side and they understand it more than white people do, IMO.

        One thing that I think will come out of the whole Israel breakdown process is a deeper understanding of the Arab “other” . For years the Ziobots have hidden behind accusations of antisemitism and stresses on the “oneness” of Israeli and American experience and when they eventually cut themselves off from the West via their insistence on apartheid , when their true face is revealed, Americans and Europeans will be surprised to discover the humanity of these Palestinians , these Middle Eastern Arabs.

    • Henry Norr
      March 13, 2012, 6:16 pm

      Jimmy Carter “pointing the racism and cruelty that permeates the Israeli government and attitudes in Israel”?? No way. He’s a hero, in a sense, for going as far as he has with respect to conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories. But he repeatedly declares that Israel is a wonderful democracy, except for the occupation, and he makes no mention of the racism. (My guess is that that was tactical choice on his part, in the vain hope that it would help him ward off charges that he’s anti-Israel, anti-semitic, etc. It’s hard to believe that anyone not totally under the thumb of the Zionists, as he clearly isn’t, could miss the racism. Especially someone from Georgia.)

      • Pixel
        March 14, 2012, 12:04 am

        “(My guess is that that was tactical choice on his part, in the vain hope that it would help him ward off charges that he’s anti-Israel, anti-semitic, etc.

        My guess as well.

    • Citizen
      March 13, 2012, 7:19 pm

      Kathleen, here’s an example of one of those young Israeli jews, a female, who has faced the facts and refused to join the IDF: link to 972mag.com

      Wonder if she knows of PFC Manning?

  3. Kathleen
    March 13, 2012, 9:42 am

    “There is another state in the region that is embroiled in a crisis of democratic becoming. This is the State of Israel. For decades, its citizens—its Jewish ones, at least—have justifiably described their country as the only democracy in the Middle East.” Hooey.
    The way the land was confiscated in that region from the late 1800’s until this day, as well as the formation of the JA reeks of apartheid methods being embedded into the dreams for the State of Israel from its inception

    • pabelmont
      March 13, 2012, 11:37 am

      Democracy — for its Jewish citizens. Kinda true, but not what the catch-phrse “Only democracy in M/E” appears to mean). The Palestinian expellees/exiles of 1948 [including most Gazans and many West Bankers] deserve to return as voting citizens. That’d give Israeli “democracy” quite a revival!

  4. Kathleen
    March 13, 2012, 10:01 am

    I found it fascinating that General Shlomo Gazit on Chris Hayes new Up program on MSNBC (glad Annie has decided to watch some MSM) went ahead and said that the settlements (illegal) “makes a two state solution almost impossible”

    link to upwithchrishayes.msnbc.msn.com

    But then he goes on to describe how the situation could be settled by saying that Israel should stop expanding settlements (illegal) right now and then never talks about any of those illegal settlements being dismantled. Zero being dismantled. How is this any type of concession on Israel’s part? Absurd.

    I would put money on that the maps that the UP program put up during their program which had dots indicating illegal settlements was the first time on the MSM. Even on CSpan and Washington Journal if and when (which is seldom) they put up a map of the West Bank, Gaza, Israel it has the West bank as one contiguous piece of land. Which we all know is a total and problematic lie.
    link to upwithchrishayes.msnbc.msn.com

    • Annie Robbins
      March 13, 2012, 10:18 am

      i watch it when you or someone links to it kathleen, or sometimes when i visit my mother.

      • Kathleen
        March 13, 2012, 11:32 am

        Yep amazing to watch and listen to the close down outlets. Up is breaking out. Hope they keep it up. Dylan Ratigan has also broken out a few times on the I/P conflict and Iran. Especially when he has Glenn Greenwald on. They rip it up

    • Pixel
      March 13, 2012, 10:40 am

      I definitely noticed that about the map.

      • Kathleen
        March 13, 2012, 11:33 am

        I really think this may have been the first time that a close to accurate map has been put up on a US MSM outlet

    • Citizen
      March 13, 2012, 7:35 pm

      Gazit said Israel today is not capable of removing 70-80,000 settlers at least because it would result in a civil war.
      Gazit proposed a three point plan, which he says assumes Palestinian rockets will continue to some extent, though he envisions a Cold War type scenario, he’d divide the land in a two state solution, leaving Israel populated by 80% Jews, and a viable Palestinian state. Not one Jewish settlement home or school will be added to the OT. Settler who move back to Israel will be compensated, as those who left Gaza were. He says Jews did such a negotiated agreement after ’48 & they can do it again. Yes, it does seem he ignores the present settlements as a problem for an actually viable Palestinians state. Too bad he was not called on this illogic unless he thinks lots of settlers can be bribed to leave–this may be true since it seems all the perks and subsidies appear to be a major motivating factor, say to move from Brooklyn to a settlement. Opportunistic greed then gets distilled into ethnoreligious zeal. (akin to why so much of the lower middle class in Germany joined the Nazi party?)

  5. yourstruly
    March 13, 2012, 10:04 am

    shattered dream

    the one about a land without a people for a people without a land
    craaaaash
    and never mind picking up the pieces

  6. seafoid
    March 13, 2012, 10:16 am

    “Remnick believes more in American exceptionalism than Jewish exceptionalism”

    Both are crocks of ****.
    America can’t even manage to provide basic rights like healthcare to its citizens. That’s exceptional alright – but only in the very worst sense of the term.

    • edwin
      March 13, 2012, 10:38 am

      Are there any basic rights that the US now supplies to its citizens?

      • Hostage
        March 13, 2012, 11:20 pm

        Are there any basic rights that the US now supplies to its citizens?

        In a speech last week at Northwestern University Law School, US Attorney General Eric Holder defended the right of the government to assassinate US citizens and explained that power is “not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.” link to communities.washingtontimes.com

        English subjects had better legal protections from their King in 1354:

        None shall be condemned without due Process of Law.
        ITEM, That no Man of what Estate or Condition that he be, shall be put out of Land or Tenement, nor taken, nor imprisoned, nor disinherited, nor put to Death, without being brought in Answer by due Process of the Law.
        — Liberty of Subject (1354) CHAPTER 3 28 Edw 3
        link to legislation.gov.uk

    • Kathleen
      March 13, 2012, 11:32 am

      both crocks and both beliefs racist and so dangerous

      • seafoid
        March 13, 2012, 3:34 pm

        Do you come across the American Exceptionalism schtick much in your media diet, Kathleen?

  7. dahoit
    March 13, 2012, 10:38 am

    I didn’t know McCarthy(Joe)came up with the pledge of allegiance that schoolchildren recite daily.

  8. seafoid
    March 13, 2012, 10:45 am

    Remnick

    “And yet, as an experiment in Jewish power, unique after two millennia of persecution and exile, Israel has reached an impasse. An intensifying conflict of values has put its democratic nature under tremendous stress.”

    The Economist

    link to economist.com

    “Having allowed its founding ideology to carry it relentlessly and unthinkingly into what Gershom Gorenburg calls an “Accidental Empire” of radical religious-nationalist settlements that openly defy its own courts, Israel is politically incapable of extricating itself. The partisan battles engendered by its occupation of Palestinian territory render it less and less able to pull itself free. It is immobilised, pinned down, in a conflict that is gradually killing it.”

    Gurvitz
    link to mondoweiss.net

    Zionism as a force is dead. The people who are actually speaking in the name of Zionism are speaking in religious and metaphysical and mystical truths. They are not speaking in the secular Zionist tradition. A poll two weeks ago—about 70 percent consider themselves to be the chosen people. American Jews think we as Jews are chosen to carry out tikkun olam [social justice]. Israeli Jews think something different—we are the chosen people of God, we are chosen to do anything we damn well please. To take people’s land. Take peoples lives. There is actually no mainstream force standing against the Jewish brotherhood.

    Hannah Arendt
    link to jfjfp.com
    The growth of a Jewish culture would cease to be the concern of the whole people; social experiments would have to be discarded as impractical luxuries; political thought would center around military strategy…. And all this would be the fate of a nation that — no matter how many immigrants it could still absorb and how far it extended its boundaries (the whole of Palestine and Transjordan is the insane Revisionist demand)–would still remain a very small people greatly outnumbered by hostile neighbors.
    Under such circumstances… the Palestinian Jews would degenerate into one of those small warrior tribes about whose possibilities and importance history has amply informed us since the days of Sparta. Their relations with world Jewry would become problematical, since their defense interests might clash at any moment with those of other countries where large number of Jews lived. Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people. Thus it becomes plain that at this moment and under present circumstances a Jewish state can only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland…

    It is all going in the same direction. They all say the same thing

  9. Chu
    March 13, 2012, 12:35 pm

    I was reading Gurvitz old blog:

    This one had a lot of potency
    How I Became an Enemy of the Race

    …Ever since then, Judaism was hanging between two polar points: the proper status of Jews facing their actual status. The pressure was particularly jagged in Ashkenaz – western and northren Europe – where Jews sometimes lived, literally, under the cross: the Jewish quarter was often built around the cathedral.

    The result was a wild hatred, unlimited because it was powerless, to the people among whom the Jews lived. In one vengeance hymn the word “blood” appeared 77 times. (And this, as far as we can tell, is also the cause of the Blood Libel. The Christians knew the Jews hated them, and they made a logical deduction: the Jews hate us so much, they are willing to murder their own children so they won’t become Christians; what, then, shall they do with our children?).

    This relationship became more and more poisoned as time passed. And as if that wasn’t enough, Judaism kept bleeding: in a desperate attempt to circle the wagons, it became anti-intellectual. The Jewish world closed more and more, and the very act of peeking outside became an offense. The philosophical writings of Maimonides were handed over to the inquisition for burning in 1232, and that was a price the rabbis were willing to pay in order to prevent Ashkenazi Jews from learning of the world beyond the walls. This turning inwards, towards the Talmud page, beget degeneracy.

  10. DICKERSON3870
    March 13, 2012, 12:46 pm

    RE: “When the government speaks daily about the existential threat from Iran, and urges an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, it ignores the existential threat that looms within.” ~ Remnick

    SEE: The Dilemmas of Israeli Power, by Roger Cohen, New York Times Op-Ed, 2/13/12

    (excerpt). . . Some of the most fascinating pages of “The Crisis of Zionism” [by Peter Beinart] trace the ideological backdrop to the bitter clash between Obama and Netanyahu. Beinart demonstrates the strong liberal Zionist influence of Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf on Obama during his Chicago years. Wolf hated the idea of “an Israel besieged by anti-Semites;” his teaching was “interfaith” and “integrationist.” It cleaved to the liberal roots of American Zionism and the ethical teachings of the prophets who, as expressed in Exodus, commanded Jews not to oppress strangers “having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.”
    The contrast with Netanyahu — raised in the Jabotinsky strain of Zionism by a father who viewed Arabs as “semi-barbaric”* and rejected an “emasculating moralism” [e.g. universal human rights] in favor of a new warrior breed of Jew — could scarcely be greater. . .

    ENTIRE OP-ED – link to nytimes.com
    * SEE: Netanyahu Family’s Racist History: Like Father, Like Son, by Richard Silverstein – link to richardsilverstein.com

    AND SEE: Israel’s Defense Chief OK’s Hundreds of Israeli Deaths, By Ira Chernus, CommonDreams.org, 11/11/11

    (excerpt). . . An essential motive of Zionism from its beginning was a fierce desire to end the centuries of Jewish weakness, to show the world that Jews would no longer be pushed around, that they’d fight back and prove themselves tougher than their enemies. There was more to Zionism than that. But the “pride through strength” piece came to dominate the whole project. Hence the massive Israeli military machine with its nuclear arsenal.
    But you can’t prove that you’re stronger than your enemies unless you’ve also got enemies — or at least believe you’ve got enemies — to fight against. So there has to be a myth of Israel’s insecurity, fueled by an image of vicious anti-semites lurking somewhere out there, for Zionism to work. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran has gradually risen to the top of Israel oh-so-necessary enemies list. Iranophobia is rampant in Israel, as one Israeli scholar writes, because “Israel needs an existential threat.”
    Anyone who has grown up in Israel, or in the U.S. Jewish community (as I did), and paid attention knows all this…

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to commondreams.org
    ALSO SEE – Iranophobia: The Panic of the Hegemons, by Ira Chernus, Tikkun Magazine, November/December 2010
    LINK – link to tikkun.org

  11. weindeb
    March 13, 2012, 1:21 pm

    As I read the Remnick piece in our New Yorker, I could easily have been floored by that proverbial feather, having in the past encountered him as a highly articulate, urbane
    apologist for most things Israeli. Here he seems to be confronting a reality he previously
    chose to deny or simply and viscerally couldn’t help doing so. Possibly from 1948 and
    even well before, and certainly since 1967, year of that brilliantly choreographed land
    -grab euphemistically titled “The Six-Day War”, Zionism in the de facto sense has
    emerged not as a movement principally of social democrats but of colonial and often
    right-wing religious fundamentalists and racists determined through facts-on-the-ground and to achieve under any circumstances a permanent nation extending from the
    Mediterranean to the Jordan and cleansed of its former inhabitants. Perhaps such a
    nation will deem itself a democracy, but it will of course at best be an oxymoronic
    exclusionary democracy that might ultimately evolve into an honest theocracy.

  12. Boycott Israel on Campus
    March 13, 2012, 2:39 pm

    OK! More majical thinking from Mondoweiss.

    Zionists are supposedly giving up Zionism! Oh, come on. Power concedes nothing without a demand. With no movement for boycott against Israel, the Palestinians get nothing.

    So they are left alone in their jail cells, trying to hunger strike until you can get the media to pay attention. Too bad, too bad, that there is no movement in the U.S. to demand any action against Israel, not even one lousy boycott resolution at one podunk campus.

    At long last, what are you waiting for? The magic conversion of Zionists to anti-Zionism?

    • Mooser
      March 13, 2012, 3:43 pm

      “At long last, what are you waiting for? The magic conversion of Zionists to anti-Zionism?”

      Ah yes, The Redemption which Phil is offering them. Of course they’ll take it, and Mondoweiss knows it. The superior ethics and morals of Jews will let them do nothing else. You’ll know it’s coming when you see all the broken Soda-Streams in the streets, and a river of 2cents plain runs through the gutters..

      • Mooser
        March 13, 2012, 3:46 pm

        BTW B.I.O.C. don’t think it isn’t noticed that you seem to care more about the fate of Zionism’s victims than the moral redemption of a generation of American Jews. You better watch it buddy, or you won’t get to be part of the conversation. Why should we talk with somebody who doesn’t accept the validity of our narrative? What good could that do?

      • Boycott Israel on Campus
        March 13, 2012, 4:12 pm

        I always make the same boycott appeal to everyone. You would exhaust yourself trying to make special appeals to people who directly benefit from the Zionist state.

        I hate categorizing people by ethnic group. I would love to see a boycott-Israel movement, plain and simple, with no ethnic crap surrounding it. It worked with South Africa.

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