The liberal Zionist predicament

Israel/Palestine
on 82 Comments

Consider this quote from a 1985 debate (beginning around 17:00):

We are faced with a problem, and that problem is the contradiction between Zionism, Judaism, on the one hand, and western democracy on the other. . . I think it is contempt for the Arab to state that a good Arab would accept living in the State of Israel. What Arab wants to live in a state which defines itself legally de jure as the Jewish State. . . What Arab citizen of Israel, stands up every morning and thinks of the fact that his national anthem, Hatikvah, speaks such words as nefesh yehudi homiyah, the soul of a Jew yearns. What Arab can sing those words? . . . I understand that no Israeli Arab on Independence Day runs out into the streets to celebrate his defeat. I understand that. I understand that when an Arab lives in a state that has a law of return which applies to Jews only, he isn’t happy about that. And I understand that if Israel would be a western democracy which allows Arabs and Jews to have equal rights, political rights, that some day they could become the majority, and then there will not be a Jewish State, for no Arab, no self-respecting Arab, and they are all self-respecting Arabs, they all have national pride, no Arab if he has a majority will ever agree to live in a state that calls itself the Jewish State. And there will be a law of return for Arabs, and rightly so, under democracy.

Who spoke with such clarity and empathy of the predicament faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel? Was it Mandela? Chomsky? No, it was Meir Kahane, Orthodox Rabbi and Member of Knesset, and unabashed racist thug who incited and applauded murderous violence against civilians and proposed forcible transfer of every last Arab from the land of Israel.

Let’s not fool ourselves. The above Kahane quote may seem refreshingly honest, but he arrived at this kernel of truth only because it served his ideology of expulsion. Elsewhere in this 1985 debate with Alan Dershowitz, Kahane dutifully recites the fabrications of history that have been the mainstay of Zionist mythology: “they” started each war, even 1956, and “we” only fought back, etc. But give the devil his due. In this passage, Kahane clearly articulates a conundrum that many “liberal Zionists,” far more decent people, refuse to even recognize. There is indeed an irreconcilable contradiction between Zionism and democracy. Kahane saw it and prescribed the morally reprehensible solution of complete ethnic cleansing. Anti-Zionists also see the contradiction and insist that equal rights triumph over ethno-religious preferences.

Liberal Zionists are caught in the middle. Their “liberal” side propels them toward equality, but their Zionist inclination makes preservation of the Jewish State the paramount concern. Some simply refuse to see any conflict between equality and the Jewish State at all. “Israel is both a Jewish State and a democracy that provides equal rights to both its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens. Why is that so hard to understand?” Others acknowledge the problem but minimize it, assuming that non-Jewish Arabs must and will accept the inherently inferior status assigned to them in a Jewish State.

Adam and Austin Branion have expertly dissected Peter Beinart’s self-imposed blinders on questions of history and continuing discrimination against Palestinian citizens. Essentially, Beinart’s book briefly mentions the tension between “Zionism and liberal democracy” but then dismisses the problem with a shrug. In his op-ed in the NY Times, he acknowledges that Israel is a “flawed but genuine democracy,” but then insists that Israeli democracy be “vigorously embraced,” as if the “flaw” were a mere blemish on an otherwise beautiful face, and not the intractable problem described by Kahane.

Other liberal Zionists consider the existential dilemma of the “Arab Israeli” in varying degrees before deciding it is something they can live with. Jerome Slater acknowledges that Israel has broken its promises to Arab citizens for 64 years, but believes that the situation could be salvageable with a genuine commitment to equality, with the necessary exception of guaranteeing “return” for Jews but not Palestinians. Gershom Gorenberg’s book The Unmaking of Israel offers a vivid description of the nightmare scenario he foresees as the inevitable result of the one-state solution, but he is willing to sentence Palestinian citizens to a lifetime of outsider-hood to avoid this speculative catastrophe. Bradley Burston even adopts the embarrassing comparison of Israel and the US at age 64, judging 21st century Israel by mid-19th century standards, and implying that full equality is the genuine aspiration of the Jewish State but unfortunately such an advanced concept requires decades (or centuries?) of national maturity before it can be achieved. Imagine if one of the newer countries of the world, say a former “republic” of the USSR or Yugoslavia, enacted anti-Jewish legislation, and in response to world outrage, defended itself by saying that England took a millennium to provide equality to its citizens.

In an ironic and even perverse twist, Kahane, the diehard unapologetic racist criminal, knew that people like Beinart, Slater, Gorenberg, and Burston are refusing to recognize the obvious but uncomfortable truth. Unfortunately, Kahane’s clarity of vision was accompanied by a pathological disregard for the welfare and even lives of fellow human beings he saw as ethnically challenged. Liberal Zionists have much more generous souls and decent instincts, but their devotion to the Jewish State concept trumps all. Ironically, Beinart perfectly captures the source of his own blindness on page 7 of his book, saying that one of the reasons “Israel advocacy” is not persuading American Jewish youth is that “it is intellectually insulting to tell young Jews . . . that they should start with the assumption that Israeli policy is justified, and then work backward to figure out why.” Beinart & co. start with the assumption that the concept of a Jewish State is etched in stone, and then work backward to figure out why. If their starting point were that equality in the land of one’s birth truly is an inalienable right, they would arrive at a very different conclusion. You can say “Jewish and democratic state” 10, 100 or 1000 times fast, but Meir Kahane, of all people, knew an oxymoron when he heard one.

About David Samel

David Samel is an attorney in New York City.

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82 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    April 4, 2012, 12:52 pm

    you really nail it at the end david.

    • Woody Tanaka
      April 4, 2012, 3:40 pm

      Agreed. Good analysis. Where do does the world go from here? That is the question.

    • Shingo
      April 4, 2012, 7:14 pm

      I second that David,

      Though you are far too generous to Slater. He stated pretty clearly that he subscribes to the camp that believes Arabs should accept inferior status. He simply put it in more benevolent terms that Jews should have pricelage, but it’s all the same in the end.

  2. paabrhm
    April 4, 2012, 1:18 pm

    All this talk about Beinart and his book but a strange silence about another author who is/was making the rounds in the US: Gilad Atzmon. Other than some ‘noted’ Palestinians trying to distance themselves from “The Wondering Who?” there seems to be very little controversy about that book. Or is it just to hot to touch? Don’t know, but find the contrast intriguing

    • W.Jones
      April 4, 2012, 3:16 pm

      If M.W. posted the rejection letter about Atzmon, will it at least link to his response?

    • ToivoS
      April 4, 2012, 5:34 pm

      Other than some ‘noted’ Palestinians

      That was one impressive list of “notables”. If you want to dismiss them, you are dismissing the intellectual core of Palestinian resistance. paabrhm are you white? — havn’t the white people been telling the brown people for the last 300 years who their leaders should be.

      • tree
        April 4, 2012, 6:02 pm

        paabrhm are you white? — havn’t the white people been telling the brown people for the last 300 years who their leaders should be.

        According to his self-description on his comment page, he’s of Syrian descent. I don’t think that qualifies as white these days. The rejection of Atzmon was probably to some extent the result of white (and Jewish) people telling the Palestinians who they should and should not associate with. Same shit, different year.

      • ToivoS
        April 4, 2012, 7:23 pm

        Tree OK I stand corrected on his origin. I suppose paabrhm has the right to choose who he considers the leadership. I really do not think that Jewish people would have pressured a group of Palestinian writers to dismiss Atzion, after all he a Jewish problem not an Arab one.

      • Thomson Rutherford
        April 5, 2012, 3:25 pm

        ToivoS, you seem to have stuck your foot in it again for want of doing your homework.

        I wonder if you understand how ‘liberal’ politics in the U.S. works. Jewish people would have pressured a group of Palestinian writers to dismiss Atzmon precisely because he a Jewish problem – for them. And don’t think they lack the wherewithal to do it.

      • Thomson Rutherford
        April 5, 2012, 4:00 pm

        Toivo, oops! Sorry, strike my first sentence above. I momentarily got you confused with another commenter.

      • andrew r
        April 6, 2012, 6:57 am

        “The rejection of Atzmon was probably to some extent the result of white (and Jewish) people telling the Palestinians who they should and should not associate with.”

        The exchange between Atzmon and Asad abu Khalil should blow that out of the water. If Atzmon calling him an “honorary Sabbath goy” and “Anti Zionist Zionist” does not show he’s a total moron, what will it take? Look at how he made fun of Prof. abu Khalil, someone he owes a great deal of atonement, and tell yourself he’s not an arrogant ass.

        link to angryarab.blogspot.com

      • andrew r
        April 6, 2012, 7:29 am

        “Jewish people would have pressured a group of Palestinian writers to dismiss Atzmon precisely because he a Jewish problem – for them. And don’t think they lack the wherewithal to do it.”

        Either that, or Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti, Joseph Massad, et. al decided by their own cognitive reasoning that Atzmon is damaging to their cause based solely on their own reaction to his writings and not how Jewish people react to them. Now, it’s just me, but it doesn’t seem very respectful to assume off the bat they caved in to Jewish pressure.

        What is so amazing about Atzmon he gets a pass to call anti-Zionist Jews “tribal” for identifying as Jews; an Arab anti-Zionist a “Sabbath goy” and an ally of “Jewish marxists”; portray the Jewish holy texts as the cause of anti-semitism (“if we are to even begin to understand the roots of anti Semitism, then primary attention must surely also be dedicated to the considerable body of anti-gentile views expressed within the Torah, Talmud”)… That is complete filth, not scholarship.

        I haven’t seen one Mondoweiss poster defend Nonie Darwish. She grew up in Egypt and speaks about jihad. She’s readily recognized as a racist even though she’s also an Arab. The fact that Atzmon is a self-described ex-Jew who’s racist against Jews should not even be controversial and it doesn’t take more than the comment quoted above to realize it.

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 6, 2012, 8:54 am

        “The fact that Atzmon is a self-described ex-Jew who’s racist against Jews ”

        Please cite to, say, three statements by him, in context, which you believe demonstrates this “racis[m] against Jews.”

        I’ve asked this question of a number of people making this claim, but have yet to have anyone give a good answer. It is either links to excerpts stripped of context or simply statements by others claiming this racism.

        Thanks.

      • andrew r
        April 6, 2012, 3:15 pm

        If you didn’t already find them in the letter signed by As’ad Abu Khalil, I’m not terribly inclined to go looking for more Atzmon to read so as to find more quotations that weren’t cited in the letter. Not to mention I already cited an example above that’s not in the letter, so that knocks it down to two statements.

        So if you don’t mind all three statements coming from the same article, here’s a hackjob on ‘Swindler’s List':

        Needless to say, so far these recurring attempts have been futile if not actually counter-effective. Not a single Western politician, Zionist campaigner or neo-conservative think tank has managed to establish a comprehensive case against Islam. The reason is simple: in spite of the clear fact that some terrible atrocities have been committed in the name of Islam and in the name of jihad, these acts were performed by disparate, radicalized and isolated cells

        This is okay, so far. There’s always room for one more good debunking on Islamophobia. However, Atzmon takes a peculiar turn from here…

        Since the collective incrimination of Muslims stands at the premise of neo-conservative philosophy and global Zionism, and since both Zionists and their neo-conservative twins are doing poorly on that front, I have decided to dedicate this paper to a pedagogic cause and try to help them out. I will give here a crash course in rhetoric. I will try to enlighten our foes and show them, step by step, how to establish a case based on a continuum between the holy scripture and merciless collective barbarism.

        Now, this could be satirical. And he leaves enough wiggle room to claim as much if he’s called on it, at least in this paragraph. However, he does not devote any space to explaining why anyone needs to, “establish a case based on a continuum between the holy scripture and merciless collective barbarism.” Instead, he goes on to do exactly that without a trace of irony.

        In fact, there are many other ways to save the Judaic God from being the logos behind contemporary Israeli plundering, yet it is not that easy to save the Israelites from being presented as robbers and plunderers, especially in the light of their spiritual, cultural and religious heritage. In short, it is actually impossible not to see the continuum between Deuteronomy 6:10 and the crimes against the Palestinian people that are committed by the Jewish state in the name of the Jewish people.

        Now here is an example of how after endless condemnation of the behavior of Zionists, Atzmon is still one himself. The idea that there’s a continuity between present-day Israelis and the Ancient Israelites is Zionism 101. Again, this could be a satirical point to show how bigoted Islamophobes are. That’s what I’d like to believe. However, the thickness with which he lays on this point and his anti-Marxism leads me to conclude he’s earnestly asserting the Torah can explain the actions of Jews in modern history.

        It seems obvious: the recurring failure by Zionists and neo-conservatives to defame Islam and Muslims is actually nothing more than a banal projection. Zionists and neo-conservatives are very familiar with the different immoral teaching within the Judaic spiritual and religious heritage that matured into Zionist looting. Foolishly, they try to project it on to Islam and Muslims. After reading Moses’s oratory we may have to confess that the Jewish nationalist project that is supported by the vast majority of Jewish institutions around the world is an attempt to rob the indigenous Palestinians in line with a cultural and religious heritage that is overwhelmingly documented in the Judaic Bible.

        And there we have it. The money shot. The proof that Atzmon is a nutjob. Instead of making a point against religious bigotry, he is saying in no uncertain terms the Zionists and neoconservative campaigners against Islam would be correct if they spoke about Judaism. It’s not possible to find satire or irony in his thesis at this point. He’s seriously telling us the actions of the Zionists in Palestine can be explained by Judaic scripture. And just for good measure:

        On the face of it, robbing the rich, confiscating their homes and grabbing their wealth is seen as an ethical act within the progressive discourse. As a young revolutionary I myself took part in some righteous parades. I was ready to grab my sword and to join the hunt for a Tsar, a capitalist or any other enemy who may cross my way. But then the inevitable happened: I grew up. I realized that such vengeance towards an entire class of wealthy goyim is no more than an extension of Moses’s oratory of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6.

        Now he’s on a completely left-field anti-Marxism kick that disrupts the flow of his article, or it would if the point was to deconstruct anti-Islamic rhetoric instead of casting aspersions on any given political expression by Jews.

        Now, the Bundists were anti-Zionist in general. So much they formed a different group in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Moshe Olgin for example referred to the Palestinians as the established inhabitants of Palestine who were there hundreds of years before the arrival of the Zionist settlers. The fact that Atzmon could boil down socialism to “robbing the rich” only shows he has a belligerent misunderstanding of the term – socialists do not want to steal what the rich have, they want to destroy the basis of their wealth so no one can have it. The fact that he places Marxism as an extension of “Judaic spiritual and religious heritage that matured into Zionist looting” shows he’s antisemitic no less than any given ruling class figure from Marx’s time.

        And for good measure, the three statements are in bold. “the different immoral teaching within the Judaic spiritual and religious heritage that matured into Zionist looting.” – This is yet another formulation of his that is flatout antisemitic on its own without the extended quote.

        Oh, on the off chance anyone thinks the whole article is satirical, that can only mean Atzmon himself is 100% full of satire.

      • tree
        April 7, 2012, 4:39 pm

        I really wish that anyone seeking to prove Atzmon’s alleged anti-semitism would actually link to the exact article itself. I’ve been around this kind of thing long enough to know that its always best to read the entire source before accepting someone else’s take on it.

        Here is the Atzmon piece in full:

        link to gilad.co.uk

        I’d be curious to know what you think of it, Woody. I don’t see it the way andrew r does. Do you?

      • tree
        April 7, 2012, 5:05 pm

        “if we are to even begin to understand the roots of anti Semitism, then primary attention must surely also be dedicated to the considerable body of anti-gentile views expressed within the Torah, Talmud”

        Comes from this, quoted in part here:

        The new programme will be led by Yale professor Maurice Samuels, who states that Yale has some of the leading scholars in the world working on anti-Semitism and interfaith relations. He intends to focus on contemporary and historical anti-Semitism.

        However, for all Yale’s efforts, I remain convinced that Samuels will not be able to produce any valuable scholarly work either – the reason is simple: almost the entire body of research on ‘anti Semitism ’ conducted in recent decades is solely concerned and obsessed with recording the historical points at which hatred of the Jews manifests itself. And yet, for some bizarre reason, such scholarly work on anti Semitism never seeks to understand, and is totally impervious to the socio-economic, the ideological, theological and historical contexts, motivations, causes and reasoning that have existed behind such outbursts of hatred against the Jews.

        These countless studies on anti Semitism rarely look into the causes, and rarely try to understand why anti Semitism arose in so many places throughout history.

        Instead of elaborating on the causes that may lead to anti Semitism, the discourse on anti Semitism is a unique chronological account that only ‘starts to tick’ as soon as an ‘anti Semitic’ event is detected. Everything prior to that is a blank slate – and so we are left, once more, none the wiser as to why people ‘turned against the Jews’ yet again.

        I’d like to suggest here, that for an academic study of anti Semitism to be scholarly and comprehensive, and if we are to even begin to understand the roots of anti Semitism, then primary attention must surely also be dedicated to the considerable body of anti-gentile views expressed within the Torah, Talmud, and within contemporary Jewish ideology and politics (Zionist and Jewish anti-Zionist alike).

        The institute’s scholars would also be well advised to elaborate on Jewish cultural supremacy, and Jewish political lobbying, from Purim to AIPAC.

        For a study of anti Semitism to become scholarly and valuable, instead of merely a form of hyper-emotional hysterical ranting, the researcher would also be advised to first assume that, perhaps, anti Jewish feelings might well have root causes which could be rational, and could be explained and understood — yet not justified — in terms of causality and reason.

        Instead of assuming that the Goyim are just a bunch of crazy blood thirsty lunatics that periodically just went mad again and again throughout history in their dislike for Jews, the scholars would rather be advised to look for the root causes that may well have lead to an anti Semitic event, ideology or text.

        Such a study then, would surely be academically and socially valuable, and I believe it would also be crucial for Jews and Israelis, so they may be enabled to understand the world they live in, and to grasp their role in it.

        Some commendable studies by Jewish academics have already been done in that area : The Jewish Century by Yuri Slezkine, The Pity Of It All by Amos Elon and Jewish History, Jewish Religion by Israel Shahak and even early Zionist texts by Max Nordau, Ber Borochov and others all provide some adequate answers to questions regarding the origins of anti Semitism. Interestingly enough, none of the above studies were produced or sponsored by ‘anti-Semitism research institutions’ . The above scholars attempted to grasp the origins of animosity towards the Jews, instead of looking for a symposium in which they could moan about being hated. The three former at least, were driven by genuine intellectual curiosity rather than by a need for collective therapy.

        Full piece here:

        link to gilad.co.uk

      • Danaa
        April 7, 2012, 6:24 pm

        andrew r,

        I have no idea where you find nuttery or even the slightest hint of that nonsensical “anti-semitic” name-calling which you brandish, rather ineffectively at that.

        The quotations from Gilad that you cite are not examples of a smear, but are statements of truth that you don’t want to hear. The way he talks about the continuum from Deutoronomy to present day Israel is an all too true description of the Israeli experience (even if it may not be the Jewish experience outside Israel). A continuum, straight from the bible, and through endless centuries of Jewish achievement interspersed with unrelenting of “irrational” persecution, and bingo, softly land into the modern Judaen experience, is precisely what one takes away from the bloody-mindedness of the full-bodied Israeli educational system. In Israel, being part of the collective means drawing a few minor nebulous distinctions between ancient past and present. Mostly it’s all about hagiography of the ancient ancestors, including the not-so-excellent Hashmonaims, coupled with the grandiosity of the zionist project as a righteous continuation straight from Abraham and through Joshua. All embedded within a barely concealed sense of superiority over the goys and unconcealed glee over their vanquishing. That’s how it is in Israel and you will not find more than a handful (ie some 10-50,000 max) who are not convinced that all Arabs are inferior, that islam and christianity are thoroughly inferior and that most goys are simply not as smart – in the aggregate – as “The Jews” (in israel that kind of generalization is more than a little common, even if it gives you the shivers). The rest is just political correctness meant to produce plausible deniability for cover (easily done, them goys again, being not quite so smart, especially the American brand thereof, and their tribal zionist and not-so-zionist bretherns doing the wink-and-nod thingy).

        FYI, not once in my educational experience were the atrocities committed by Joshua’s army questioned (this may have changed now. People did learn to question a little more, even in Israel. They have TV now and internet, after all). Not once was a voice raised against the treatment of the Arabs (which is still largely true the few 10’s of 1000’s exceptions duly noted). Not once were any of us in the slightest doubt as to the absolute righteousness of the israeli enterprise as a conquest as commendable as Joshua’s (in fact, more commendable because not all the indigenous ones were killed. Most were successfully “dispersed”. Such progress!). And that’s before Greater Israel venture comes in, something which we all believed in, even if the more pragmatist of us would be willing to relinquish most of it in the interest of some peace and quiet.

        Yes, Gilad comes from the bowels of the zionist experience which are suffused with the immorality of teaching the young that they are, indeed, superior. And that the “others” had it coming. He is the one who tells it like it is, and you the one with no clue how the entire educational and cultural experience of Israel is one of continuous propagandization meant to show your “own” in good light and the “others” in bad. Is that zionist experience any worse than any other colonialist experience? the answer Gilad comes up with – and I agree with him – is yes, partially BECAUSE of the subversion of millenia of Jewish experience and body of work that was committed in the process.

        Gilad is not engaging in satire. I’ll agree with you on that. He is telling a truth that many of us know first hand. It is an inconvenient truth because the “good jews” outside israel who grew up on some “Tikun Olam” carefully selected concepts cannot bear to face.

        That being said, I do not agree with some of Gilad’s more over-reaching assertions, such as the excursions into marxist territory, but there can be absolutely no doubt that zionism did intend to “rob the land” so they can “work the land” and in doing so found justification in both jewish and socialist texts. Had the outcome been any better, had israel gone with the times and made serious efforts to redeem it’s unsavory beginnings, perhaps those textual argumentations could have gone by the wayside, as so many did throughout human history.But that, unfortunately, has not been the case, and is indeed getting worse not better. As already noted on MW threads, one can find anything one wants in the jewish texts (Bible, Talmud, Philosophy, you name it). What’s in the texts has been subjected to centuries of interpretations. What you do choose to pick is out of the texts is what matters. And what israel and the present-day zionists have picked was the immoral justification for outright colonialism, just as more pious souls outside israel picked the much more enlightening and upliftingly universal portions. It’s not what’s there in Judaism that’s immoral, it’s that zionism picked out of it all some of the shadier, anachronistic, less universal portions, that rendered the entire experience deeply immoral. In the process giving a really bad name to Judaism itself.

        To me it is the present day Israeli state-of-being-outside-time that is anti-semitic, for, among others, it cares so little for people who happen to be Jewish, and indeed often wishes them to come to harm (not always sub-consciously, either) in the vain hope that they will thus be motivated to redeem themselves from commit the cardinal sin of not wanting to live on that little stolen piece of land.

        Far from being an anti-semite, Gilad has digested his own growing up experience with aplomb and he is now overcome by nausea. Which state of being he deigns to share with us, unpleasant as it is. The least you can do is learn to deal with some indigestion instead of waving libelious assorted “antisemitic” Dersh-like trops in the hope that something might stick.

        Phew…that was way too long…. (but so was andrew r).

      • tree
        April 7, 2012, 6:36 pm

        Why did my comment with the link to David Rovics’ piece get deleted?

        There was nothing incendiary or hateful in it.

        Well, all the attention Atzmon was getting prompted me to fork up $9.99 for my first electronic book (and I’m very thankful that something got me to read a book again, as somehow or other it’s been ages). I’m not a scholar, but I am an avid student of history and politics, and I thought Atzmon’s book, The Wandering Who?, was a very thought-provoking read. There weren’t any particularly new ideas in it, but it was a very well-organized, well-articulated, contemporary and at times, humorous 200-page analysis of Jewish identity.

        From the outset, Atzmon makes it clear that his criticism of various aspects of Jewish tribal identity(s) for the past couple millenia is not aimed at the many people who happen to be born Jewish, but to what he identifies as “third category” Jews – Jews who identify primarily as Jewish, first and foremost. Growing up in the New York area with my eyes open and being of Jewish lineage myself, it is not hard to see that this third category exists, and in abundance, so it’s also not hard to see why it’s such an interesting subject to write a book about.

        A cursory glance at history tells me that narrow tribal identity politics usually suck. Whether it’s people defining themselves in terms of their nation, their region, their ethnicity, their football team, their religion, if people have convinced themselves that they’re better than you, watch out. What Atzmon is doing here is deconstructing (to use a word he probably doesn’t like) Jewish identity politics, specifically. He is not analyzing or denouncing tribalism in general, I assume because you gotta stop somewhere, but maybe he has other reasons, like just wanting to stick to the point, or perhaps a little bit of self-preservation.

        Why, then, is Atzmon’s intellectual exercise here getting both the Anti-Defamation League and even various good activists so riled up? Well, for different reasons, depending on who’s feeling riled. In the case of people involved with Palestine solidarity in one form or another, I’d say it is not Atzmon’s non-existent hatred of Jews that is the problem here. It is the fact that, in his position as an accomplished jazz musician and writer, he keeps talking about his views and upsetting people who identify with other narratives of Jewish religion, history and identity than Atzmon’s. Some of these people he’s pissing off include Jews and others who are involved with the movement to boycott Israeli products, etc. Because he’s pissing them off, it doesn’t really matter whether he’s right, he should just shut up and stop rocking the boat, because he’s distracting people from the very worthy cause of Palestinian self-determination.

        Now there’s where I can sympathize with Atzmon’s detractors. There is, I’m sure, great strategic value in as united a front as possible. I’m not an organizer – just a musical cheerleader – so I don’t know much first-hand about building a solid movement and that sort of thing, and I’m sure it’s extremely difficult. I’m also sure it’s extremely necessary. But as someone who has been studying history and politics for many decades, I have to say that Atzmon is only saying the things that so many people already know, and I, for one, am not going to pretend otherwise because shunning someone for stating the self-evident is more convenient for the movement in the short-term. If he is to be shunned for being unnecessarily divisive, or for having too dark a sense of humor, or for being overly confrontational or critical, fine, shun away. But if he is to be shunned because he is an anti-Semite, no, that’s just nonsense.

        I’m not going to lay out Atzmon’s whole thing here. If you’re curious, read the book – at least read the first two chapters before you decide to join in the shunning. But as a big fan of world history and the similarities and differences between the development of different societies over the millenia, as I was reading his book I kept thinking of other examples of tribal identity politics through the ages. One of the things I love about the US, despite a perennially despicable government committing one holocaust after another – the African holocaust, the Native American holocaust, the Korea holocaust, the Vietnam holocaust, not to mention the German and Japanese holocausts committed by the USAF – and despite all the efforts of racist pricks in power who do their best to maintain all sorts of divisions within American society – in the end, the US is full of hopelessly assimilated mutts like myself. It is, in fact, to no small extent, a melting pot, and although the bigotry that often is one of the factors that leads to assimilation must certainly be condemned, the fact that the country is full of people who, like me, can trace their ancestry to at least a dozen countries, tribes and historic religious affiliations, is a beautiful thing. It leaves many of us, especially those of us living comfortable lives, who are broadly accepted as part of a given society, perplexed by tribalism. For us assimilated types it doesn’t come naturally, and if it is to exist it must be very purposefully ingrained. (Which is why the ADL hates Atzmon – he’s interfering with the ingraining process with his book.)

        link to songwritersnotebook.blogspot.co.uk

      • andrew r
        April 7, 2012, 6:40 pm

        I already took on this article in a long discussion about Atzmon last year — and ended up arguing with the man himself. Everything in that article leading up to Israel Shahak’s name misrepresents what he wrote in ‘Jewish History, Jewish Religion’, because Shahak’s purpose was to explain how the Medieval Rabbinic tradition led to the radical settler movement. His Talmudic citations were not meant to analyze the root causes of antisemitism and Atzmon should not have presented him in that light. That summarizes what I said below.

        link to mondoweiss.net

        Atzmon thinks scholars should look for “the root causes that may well have led to an antisemitic event, ideology or text” and what’s his idea of a root cause? “The considerable body of anti-gentile views”, “Jewish cultural supremacy” and “Jewish political lobbying”. This is one example of how I find him manipulative: He pretends to care about deconstructing antisemitism as a historical phenomenon, yet his idea of such is to look at Jewish traits or behavior that invited the hostility on themselves.

        Once again, I’ve never seen any discussion on racism around MW that would suggest the behavior of the target can be a source of explanation. If someone came around suggesting Israelis should be afraid of a Palestinian return because of Arabs killing each other in Syria or Iraq, that would be called racist and rightly so.

        So what is Atzmon saying here, if not what I just laid out?

      • andrew r
        April 7, 2012, 9:29 pm

        Danaa, although you might find some deconstruction of Israeli society in Atzmon’s writing, there is nothing in ‘Swindler’s List’ as a whole to suggest that. If he’s going to write about the educational system in Israel, if that bit about the continuum between Deuteronomy and Israel is supposed to be about the Israeli experience, he has to be upfront about it. James Joyce can get away with vague writing… not him.

        Given that I’m wrong about the purpose of Atzmon’s article (“casting aspersions on any given political expression by Jews” like I said above), it has no clear purpose. There’s got to be an alternate explanation for why he jumps from criticizing anti-Muslim scaremongering to Jewish Marxists.

        “there can be absolutely no doubt that zionism did intend to “rob the land” so they can “work the land” and in doing so found justification in both jewish and socialist texts”

        Nobody disputes this. None of what Atzmon writes that I find objectionable has anything to do with the factual history of Zionism.

        Of course Atzmon doesn’t write about Jews for the same reason as, say, Houston Stewart Chamberlain or Heinrich von Treitschke. Whatever his personal motivation, however he got to this point, the end product stinks. If he’s going to lay out how Israel turns you into a goy-hating drone, he should just shut up and do it instead of insulting all his anti-Zionist critics. But somehow it doesn’t seem like he’s really interested in that, either.

        Speaking of which, you don’t think calling As’ad abu Khalil an “Anti Zionist Zionist” was libelous?

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 8, 2012, 12:55 am

        “I really wish that anyone seeking to prove Atzmon’s alleged anti-semitism would actually link to the exact article itself. ”

        I agree, tree. Andrew R, can you link to the article you are quoting? It is interesting, but there appears to be context around it that is missing or could shed light on the article.

        Tree, I think it is interesting. I do not have enough personal knowledge about the root cause issue to comment on whether he is correct that an insufficient amount of scholarship has been done on the point.

        But I thought this portion resonated with me: “Instead of assuming that the Goyim are just a bunch of crazy blood thirsty lunatics that periodically just went mad again and again throughout history in their dislike for Jews…” as I’ve read similar things before and it does seem to be the default that some people work from. (Hell, Daniel Goldhagen’s made a career of it.)

        The more I read of Atzmon first hand, the more I come to conclude that he has some reasoned hatred of certain aspects of Jewishness, especially as it manifests. I don’t think that constitutes antisemitism, however, although one can disagree with the reasoning.

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 8, 2012, 1:07 am

        “Once again, I’ve never seen any discussion on racism around MW that would suggest the behavior of the target can be a source of explanation. If someone came around suggesting Israelis should be afraid of a Palestinian return because of Arabs killing each other in Syria or Iraq, that would be called racist and rightly so. ”

        The difference is that in your statement, you are suggesting what Israelis SHOULD think. Atzmon isn’t saying the equivalent to that.

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 8, 2012, 1:08 am

        Andrew R: I found the article.

      • Woody Tanaka
        April 8, 2012, 1:11 am

        andrew r,

        I read the “Swindler’s List” article. You appear that you simply don’t understand it. I know that Atzmon does not write in a very simplistic fashion, but it is clear by your review that you simply did not exercise sufficient reading comprehension. It would take an hour to review your post in order to untangle the mess you’ve made with it. The only thing I can suggest is to re-read it without preconceived ideas and try to follow along.

      • tree
        April 8, 2012, 1:18 am

        if that bit about the continuum between Deuteronomy and Israel is supposed to be about the Israeli experience, he has to be upfront about it.

        He was very upfront about it.

        The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in 1948 makes Deuteronomy 6:10 look like a prophecy has come true. On a daily basis the Israelis rob the indigenous Palestinians of their land, cities, villages, fields, orchards and wells. In fact this robbery has never stopped for over a century.

        For the last sixty years, Moses’ call for theft is put into a legal praxis. The Israeli looting of Palestinian cities, homes, fields and wells found its way into the Israeli legal system. Already in 1950-51 Israel legislators approved the ‘Absentee Property Law’, a racially orientated law that is there to prevent Palestinians from returning to their lands, cities and villages. A law that is there to allow the new Israelites to live in houses and cities they didn’t build.

        The never-ending robbery of Palestine by Israel in the name of the Jewish people establishes a devastating spiritual, ideological, cultural and obviously, practical continuum between the Judaic bible and the Zionist project. The crux of the matter is simple yet disturbing: Israel and Zionism are both successful political systems that put into devastating practice the plunder promised by the Judaic God in the Judaic holy scriptures.

        How can he be any more clear that he is talking about the “Israeli experience”?

        “there can be absolutely no doubt that zionism did intend to “rob the land” so they can “work the land” and in doing so found justification in both jewish and socialist texts”

        Nobody disputes this.

        But that is exactly what Atzmon is saying, and you dispute this by calling it anti-semitic.

      • Danaa
        April 8, 2012, 2:51 am

        andrew r,

        I do not march lock step with Gilad (or anyone else for that matter) on everything. I’ve said before that he can be quite careless, much as you would expect from one who was not encased in scholarly works, with all the equivocation, circumspection and circumference (my word, don’t look up) that immersion requires. One area where I part with him is the use of language. Tricky business that. Had he come up with a word other than Jewish-ness to describe that tribal je ne sais quoi, I’m convinced that half of the criticism directed his way would have melted away. The word has simply been taken by others, long before him, and the hyphen is just not enough to undo precedents. Sometimes, one can be too clever for one’s own good (and I should know that, too; do I ever). Another example is the use of the word “ideology” to describe a tribal mind-set. That’s not very accurate, given that the word “ideology” has come to contain – at least in general usage – mostly political connotations. In which case saying “Jewish ideology” requires unscrambling some eggs. Not possible if we believe the Third Law of Thermodynamics. Or, as the ignorant would say, it is chaos causing.

        His largest error, logistics wise, is probably as you say (with due credit to yours truly) – he really cannot separate himself so well from his formative years in the israeli system. To project that upon the Jews of the world, is, as I’ve come to see, quite unfair, given that the Jewish people of not-israel proceeded in their own directions, which close inspection reveals is in the process of diverging at an ever increasing pace from the Israeli experientialness (again, my [lousy] word. Heidegger would have killed me were I his student). But I cut GA some slack because something similar happened to me. First everything got linked with everything else, especially during the heady days of discovering that jews outside israel actually had something of substance to say, but the tendency was to make that instantaneously subservient to the obviously superior israeli experience (obvious to us, that is. You heard of narcissism, right?). Then, as I acquired better powers of observation, the nuances came into focus, and I came to see divergence, where originally I saw nothing but linkage (and got a huge kick out of seeing that, just as I reckon, did Gilad). Shmuel told me once on a thread long ago (like 2 months!) that Gilad has not yet managed to transcend his own captivity within the Israeli context of zionism. Took me a while but I finally figured that Shmuel may be right on that one, though it’s hard to put to words just how. Suffice it to say that it’s hard to shed such a deliberately programmed ultra-combative identity. One simply seeks combat, denials notewithtanding because what kind of a warrior would you be without one? On this front, if no other, I have full confidence that time will do to Gilad what it does to us all, and in that spirit am anxiously awaiting his next book.

        In the meantime, I still think he is way over-criticized for saying things not half as provocative as his more scholarly elders in the anti-zionist milieu (Judt just come to mind, and Jack Ross too, who takes few prisoners for the long ride ahead – that from a very jewish perspective too). But as many said before me, there’s something about Atzmon that drives people nuts, and it’s not that he is a nutzo. It is your job to figure out why you respond as you do, guns at the draw, ready for your OK Corral moment (thank you America for the excellent imagery. Suck on it, Israel!).

      • andrew r
        April 8, 2012, 9:14 am

        “How can he be any more clear that he is talking about the “Israeli experience”?”

        When I said Atzmon needs to be upfront that he’s talking about the Israeli experience, that was a direct response to this part from Danaa:

        The way he talks about the continuum from Deutoronomy to present day Israel is an all too true description of the Israeli experience (even if it may not be the Jewish experience outside Israel). A continuum, straight from the bible, and through endless centuries of Jewish achievement interspersed with unrelenting of “irrational” persecution, and bingo, softly land into the modern Judaen experience, is precisely what one takes away from the bloody-mindedness of the full-bodied Israeli educational system.

        In other words, Danaa took Atzmon’s writing that I am calling antisemitic to be about how Jewish Israelis are educated, and in no way does he set out to explain that.

        “But that is exactly what Atzmon is saying, and you dispute this by calling it anti-semitic.”

        What I’m calling anti-semitic is that Atzmon explains Jewish behavior with reference to the Torah the exact same way Islamophobes explain Muslim behavior with reference to the Koran. Look at the paragraph under which I called him a nutjob: Zionists and neo-conservatives are very familiar with the different immoral teaching within the Judaic spiritual and religious heritage that matured into Zionist looting. Foolishly, they try to project it on to Islam and Muslims.

        This can’t be any more straightforward. He’s not talking about the factual history of Zionism anymore. He’s saying that peculiar Jewish traits can explain the behavior of Jews as a group. And the “Judaic spiritual and religious heritage” is one of those traits. It’s one thing to point out that Zionist figures have used the Torah as a justification. It’s another thing altogether to tell us Islamophobes are projecting when they say the Koran is the cause of terrorism, and would be correct if only they made the same argument about the Torah and the theft of Palestine.

        Like I said before, if the Torah can explain the actions of Zionists – And that is a different task altogether than pointing out they use the Torah as a self-justification – Atzmon needs to explain why political Zionism started in Basel instead of Baghdad. That he doesn’t bother is only one example of why he can not write seriously on the subject.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 8, 2012, 10:43 am

        This can’t be any more straightforward.

        andrew, i am no expert on gilad, nor am i attempting to defend him, but if, as you say, it couldn’t be more straightforward, why is it you can’t just say “What I’m calling anti-semitic is that Atzmon explains zionist behavior with reference to the Torah the exact same way Islamophobes explain Muslim behavior with reference to the Koran.”? why is it you say ‘jewish behavior’ when atzmon wrote “Zionists and neo-conservatives”?

      • andrew r
        April 8, 2012, 12:02 pm

        Mainly because of the very last line in ‘Swindler’s List': Would the Zionists be open to the notion of brotherhood, they would be empathic to the Palestinian right of return. Would the Jewish Marxists and cosmopolitans be open to the notion of Brotherhood, they would give up on their unique exclusive banners and become ordinary human beings like the rest of us.

        The whole act of bringing “Jewish Marxists” into the picture doesn’t exactly indicate Atzmon is only talking about Zionists and neoconservatives.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 8, 2012, 12:26 pm

        well, even ‘jewish marxists’ is a qualifier.

        doesn’t exactly indicate Atzmon is only talking about Zionists and neoconservatives

        ok, point taken. but neither does it indicate atzmon is referencing all jews either. zionists, neoconservatives and marxist are all political designations. ‘jewish’ isn’t.

        i’m going to bow out now, as i mentioned earlier i’m out of my league arguing atzmon. i just thought you might be interested in an observers reading of what it means to be ‘straightforward’. words matter when paraphrasing or translating someones argument.

      • yourstruly
        April 8, 2012, 1:03 pm

        so we’re to accept the premise that jewish anti-gentile attitudes led to and justified both the inquistion and the holocaust? what then were/are the attitudes of africans that might explain their enslavement and continued persecution? and how come, as per european gentiles, blacks haven’t righteously “struck back” at their white former oppressors. surely what they’ve suffered over the past several centuries is as egregious as the alleged tauntings by and separatism of the goyim’s jewish neighbors, which, atzmon tells us, we’re to believe drove the gentiles so crazy that they decided to physically harm their jewish neighbors? so judging as best i can from the back and forth on mw about atzmon’s writings, it’s hard not to conclude that he’s hiding his antisemitism behind elaborate formulations on obscure ancient texts which were invoked post hoc by zionists to justify their old fashioned colonialism in the form of the zionist project. even more disturbing seems to me that our getting tied up in this debate diverts attention from the task of undoing the zionist entity and liberating palestine. but since already more and more jewish-americans are participating in said struggle, i wonder what those who have bought into the one about anti-zionist zionists will say when the justice for palestine movement together with the palestinian resistance succeed in attaining the aforementioned twin goals? will they search for something explanatory that they missed in those ancient texts, or will they concede that perhaps colonialism is what made racists out of jewish settlers, just as it did the quaker settlers in the “new world”, the dutch huguenot settlers in south africa, the catholic settlers in mexico, etc. etc. etc.

      • Danaa
        April 8, 2012, 1:14 pm

        “Atzmon’s writing that I am calling antisemitic to be about how Jewish Israelis are educated, and in no way does he set out to explain that.”

        No. but that’s not what his book was about. And as I said above, I do feel he would have strengthened his case by making it clear that Israel is a country of Judaens now nt of Jews. His attitudes and take aways from the Israeli system have been amply alluded to in other articles he wrote over the years (no links now but these are easily found).

        “The whole act of bringing “Jewish Marxists” into the picture doesn’t exactly indicate Atzmon is only talking about Zionists and neoconservatives.”

        You are parsing now. You take something said in one place in the article, combine with another, and what do you get? an “anti-semitic” goulash.

        Were the rest of us to do what you do on everything every last one of us would be a proven “anti-semite”. That this is not done to us all is only because we are not the ones out there promoting a book.

        Sorry, andrew r, but with this sample of cherry-pickin’ you have shown yourself to be a theologian, not a critic to be taken seriously. If that’s all the other critics of GA have, he should be rejoicing all the way to the bank. What you just did is the hallmark of trolls everywhere: pick “zionists and neo-conservatives” in one place, draw attention to the “Marxists” in another place, then bingo! combine the two as “proof” that Atzmon was talking about “all” Jews. Is that the essence of your case?

        Since you evidently did not make any case at all, I hereby request that you retract the “anti-semitic” flag you attached to Gilad. Personally I believe you should be standing in the little boys corner for at least 5 hours for the offense of libel.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 8, 2012, 1:27 pm

        so we’re to accept the premise that jewish anti-gentile attitudes led to and justified both the inquistion and the holocaust?

        i hope you aren’t talking to me, i don’t even want to go there.

      • yourstruly
        April 8, 2012, 1:54 pm

        no annie, atzmon’s premise, not yours

      • tree
        April 8, 2012, 2:05 pm

        so we’re to accept the premise that jewish anti-gentile attitudes led to and justified both the inquistion and the holocaust?

        No, and that wasn’t what Atzmon said.

        For a study of anti Semitism to become scholarly and valuable, instead of merely a form of hyper-emotional hysterical ranting, the researcher would also be advised to first assume that, perhaps, anti Jewish feelings might well have root causes which could be rational, and could be explained and understood — yet not justified — in terms of causality and reason.

        Instead of assuming that the Goyim are just a bunch of crazy blood thirsty lunatics that periodically just went mad again and again throughout history in their dislike for Jews, the scholars would rather be advised to look for the root causes that may well have lead to an anti Semitic event, ideology or text.

        That second paragraph resonates with quite a few “anti-semitism” studies and comments I’ve seen. And it coincides with the Israeli experience, which cannot comprehend the hostility felt towards Israel by its neighboring Arabs because, as Atzmon states,

        (t)hese countless studies on anti Semitism rarely look into the causes, and rarely try to understand why anti Semitism arose in so many places throughout history.

        Instead of elaborating on the causes that may lead to anti Semitism, the discourse on anti Semitism is a unique chronological account that only ‘starts to tick’ as soon as an ‘anti Semitic’ event is detected. Everything prior to that is a blank slate – and so we are left, once more, none the wiser as to why people ‘turned against the Jews’ yet again.

        I’ve just finished reading “Bloodlands”. Incredibly depressing reading about the wholesale slaughter there, in the end perpetrated by every nation to one extent or the other. Ukranians, Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Germans all were slaughtered simply because of their nationalities, as of course were Jews, simply because of their ethnicity or religion. Absolutely none of it was “justified” but it is now more understandable, though terrifying in the depths of its murderous “logic”. That kind of study is what Atzmon is calling for in studies of “anti-semtism”. Understanding causality is not the same as justifying and its a weakness of logic to claim that it is.

      • tree
        April 8, 2012, 2:51 pm

        In other words, Danaa took Atzmon’s writing that I am calling antisemitic to be about how Jewish Israelis are educated, and in no way does he set out to explain that.

        How students are educated in a country usually matches how the country explains and justifies its actions. Atzmon isn’t just describing how Israeli students are being educated, he’s describing how Israel justifies itself. That’s exactly what Atzmon was upfront about.

        What I’m calling anti-semitic is that Atzmon explains Jewish behavior with reference to the Torah the exact same way Islamophobes explain Muslim behavior with reference to the Koran.

        No, Atzmon is not referring to “Jewish behavior” but to Zionist and neoconservative behavior, where as Islamophobes are referring to all Muslims. He makes clear repeatedly, though not in that article per se, that he is not talking about all Jews, and that his critique is not of an ethnicity or religion, but of an attitude or ideology not shared by all.

        He also throws in Jewish Maxists, by which he does not mean Marxist who happen to be Jews, but a particular group of Marxists who in oxymoronic fashion think their Jewishness is an important adjunct to their Marxism, or perhaps the other way around. This, for one, is a reaction to the subset of Marxists in Britain that have hounded him and sought to have him and others shunned for disagreeing with their take on things.

        . He’s saying that peculiar Jewish traits can explain the behavior of Jews as a group. And the “Judaic spiritual and religious heritage” is one of those traits.

        A religious heritage is not a “trait” as I would define it. A ‘trait” is something that is genetically defined, and a religious heritage is no such thing. He’s also not describing “Jews as a group”, but subsets of Jews, who have supremacist attitudes which they feel are justified by Judaic religious texts.

        I agree with Dana for the most part that his use of the word “Jewish-ness’ is problematical from a logistically point of view. His use of the term “third-category Jew” was a bit more accurate but clunky nevertheless. He’d probably get his points across better if he used the term “Jewish supremacist” or “Jewish exceptionalist” when describing the behaviors he’s critiquing.

        And, again, I think its perfectly fine to criticize him for his failings in his writings. Even say you think his writing is anti-semitic if you believe it, but to ban him or shun him is wrong. It gives the impression that, yet again, overt racism towards Arabs is allowed in polite society, but the mere suggestion or “whiff” of anti-Jewish racism is a banning offense, thus reinforcing the idea that despite the fact that anti-Arab racism is killing tens or hundreds of thousands of Arabs, saying something negative about Jews is so much worse. It isn’t.

        From the outset, Atzmon makes it clear that his criticism of various aspects of Jewish tribal identity(s) for the past couple millenia is not aimed at the many people who happen to be born Jewish, but to what he identifies as “third category” Jews – Jews who identify primarily as Jewish, first and foremost. Growing up in the New York area with my eyes open and being of Jewish lineage myself, it is not hard to see that this third category exists, and in abundance, so it’s also not hard to see why it’s such an interesting subject to write a book about.

        link to songwritersnotebook.blogspot.co.uk

      • Danaa
        April 8, 2012, 3:44 pm

        Beautiful dissection, tree. And right on the money with the quotes. “Bloodlands” sounds like an excellent reference book. Something to read after seeing “The Hunger games”, perhaps?

        I don’t think andrew r is quite up to your standards. That being said, he doest enough to deserve one of my rants (but only a second class one!).

      • andrew r
        April 8, 2012, 4:33 pm

        “Were the rest of us to do what you do on everything every last one of us would be a proven “anti-semite””

        Somehow I doubt that. How many of us write about “Jewish Marxists and cosmopolitans” as a category?

        “combine the two as “proof” that Atzmon was talking about “all” Jews. Is that the essence of your case?”

        Yes and no. The essence of my case is that the Atzmon article I’ve been picking at has no clear point and is an unfocused mess, unless you unite the disparate themes into being about Jews in general, as he does in the last paragraph. He already combined the two for me. The job is redundant.

        For that matter, there’s nothing I learned about Jewish history or identity from Atzmon. Had he used his Israeli background as a springboard to research Jewish history more in-depth, his writing might’ve had some value. Instead, he mixes scattershot generalizations with some basic facts about Zionism that can be learned in greater detail elsewhere (The paragraph referencing the ‘Absentee Property’ law is the only real content in that article and even that has the silly “Moses’ call to theft” line). If I stopped accusing Atzmon of antisemitism, he would still be an intellectual blackhole.

        And we’re back to yet another point I already made, that he’s getting some leeway on here that is just not granted to anti-Jihadists. G.W. Bush himself could never qualify as a racist in a million years if he were granted the breathing space you’re showing Atzmon. At the end of the day, the enemy of the good is sourced from either Jews or Muslims.

        For reference, ‘Zionism vs. Bolshevism’ by Churchill is antisemitic despite making distinctions between differing groups of Jews, OR, because it does make such distinctions. In Churchill’s mind Jews were the source of an egregious political movement and the key to fighting it. Of course, Palestinians, not Jews, were ultimately the victims of his racism which encompassed both.
        Linking to a Google search because I can’t find it reproduced on non-kooky sites.
        link to google.com

      • tree
        April 8, 2012, 10:08 pm

        ,unless you unite the disparate themes into being about Jews in general, as he does in the last paragraph.

        …because all Jews are either Zionists or Tribal Marxists??? Why, andrew, what an anti-semitic stereotype you’ve just uttered.

        Atzmon doesn’t think that all Jews are either Zionists or Jewish Marxists and has clearly said so on numerous occasions which you seem to repeatedly ignore. Atzmon’s tie between the two groups is that, in his analysis, both Zionists and what he refers to as “tribal Marxists” or “Jewish Marxists” (as opposed to just plain Marxists, whatever their ethnic background) treat their identity as “Jews” as more important than their identity as humans. Its the same kind of tie that one could make between the white supremacy of the KKK and the ‘white man’s burden’ kind of racism of Winston Churchill, although its quite likely Churchill and the KK have little else in common, besides their whiteness. But both took their “whiteness” to be more significant than their humanity. (And Churchill was probably responsible for killing more brown and black people than the KKK.) Will I now be accused of defaming all whites because I mentioned Winston Churchill and the KKK together? What other reason could I have to tie the two disparate themes together?

      • andrew r
        April 8, 2012, 10:27 pm

        How students are educated in a country usually matches how the country explains and justifies its actions. Atzmon isn’t just describing how Israeli students are being educated, he’s describing how Israel justifies itself. That’s exactly what Atzmon was upfront about.

        This I’m not sure about: “After reading Moses’ oratory we may have to confess, the Jewish nationalist project that is supported by the vast majority of Jewish institutions around the world is an attempt aiming at robbery of the indigenous Palestinians following a cultural and religious heritage that is overwhelmingly documented in the Judaic Bible”

        Even though Israeli Jews are doing the dirty work, I haven’t found anything to indicate it’s limited to them. And of course the first category Atzmon attacks are Zionists and neoconservatives, who are understood to be Americans. At the same time, I can accept that he’s attacking identities that were forced on him growing up in Israel. That still doesn’t do much service to anyone who wants to understand Zionism.

        He’s also not describing “Jews as a group”, but subsets of Jews, who have supremacist attitudes which they feel are justified by Judaic religious texts.

        My last response to Danaa goes for this more or less. There’s no meaningful distinction between Jews as a group and subsets of Jews divided into categories as imposed by him. This is similar to the point I just made about the Churchill oped from 1920 that divides Jews into Zionist Jews, International Jews/Bolsheviks and Jews who regularly take part in their home countries. An antisemite like Hitler would never acknowledge the last grouping, so in that way Churchill’s antisemitism was more liberal. Yet in his imagination, Jews as a peculiar group are still a source of antagonism to their host societies, and that is it by definition.

        Any grouping of people into a subset needs to be accompanied by some insight into their social relations. There are histories of Zionism that touch on intra-Jewish relations, between Ashkenazim and Mizrachim/Sephardim, between German and Pale of Settlement Jews, between plantation owners/managers and vagabond workers… and that’s just Gershon Shafir in ‘Land, Labor’. After being exposed to the insights of Shafir and Etan Bloom, what use have I for categorizing Jews as Zionists, Marxists and cosmopolitans and tracing their behavior to Moses? These categories as used by Atzmon do not explain any relation between Jewish communities or between them and the broader societies they lived in. And all three stem from “spiritual and religious heritage” which tells me diddly squat.

        I agree with Dana for the most part that his use of the word “Jewish-ness’ is problematical from a logistically point of view. His use of the term “third-category Jew” was a bit more accurate but clunky nevertheless. He’d probably get his points across better if he used the term “Jewish supremacist” or “Jewish exceptionalist” when describing the behaviors he’s critiquing.

        Of course, if Atzmon does not want to be called antisemitic, he’d do well to stop throwing around terms like ‘Jewish Marxists’ and ‘cosmopolitan’. “Jewish supremacist” is still problematic because secular Zionists do not think Jews are superior to gentiles; they view themselves among those who are superior to Orientals. So that still falls short of explaining the origins of Zionism, not that he’s shown any particular desire to do this.

        And, again, I think its perfectly fine to criticize him for his failings in his writings. Even say you think his writing is anti-semitic if you believe it, but to ban him or shun him is wrong. It gives the impression that, yet again, overt racism towards Arabs is allowed in polite society, but the mere suggestion or “whiff” of anti-Jewish racism is a banning offense, thus reinforcing the idea that despite the fact that anti-Arab racism is killing tens or hundreds of thousands of Arabs, saying something negative about Jews is so much worse. It isn’t.

        Agreed on the last point. However, I don’t understand how shunning him creates that impression because anyone who is overtly racist against Arabs has already been shunned by default.

        Of course you realize my interpretations of Atzmon are informed by other writings of his that for reasons of sanity are going unmentioned. This time.

      • tree
        April 9, 2012, 12:16 am

        There’s no meaningful distinction between Jews as a group and subsets of Jews divided into categories as imposed by him.

        Of course there is. If I am talking about the KKK and upper class white snobs, those are two subsets of whites. They are not the sum total of all whites, and Atzmon has no more said that his two categories are the sum total of all Jews than you or I would say that the KKK and upper class white snobs are the sum total of all whites. Atzmon ties the two, tribal Marxists and Zionists, together through their sense that their “Jewish” identity puts them on some higher plane, moral, intellectual, or spiritual, than their individual identities as human beings. A subset of whites, a subset of Jews. Same shit, different “identity”. Neither discussion is condemning anyone because of their genetics, or even their religion. Its their tribal sense of identity he’s talking about, and I am illustrating with my comparative example.

        Even though Israeli Jews are doing the dirty work, I haven’t found anything to indicate it’s limited to them. And of course the first category Atzmon attacks are Zionists and neoconservatives, who are understood to be Americans.

        Zionists are certainly not necessarily American, although neo-cons probably are. The fact is that Atzmon is right on this point. Most of the major Jewish institutions ARE supporting this and so deserve to be called Zionist and called on their bigotry. (Just as the majority of white institutions in the US a century ago supported and excused segregation and inequality. This didn’t mean that there was some genetic defect in whites, just that the culture was racist and had to be called out, questioned and changed. That’s the equivalent of what Atzmon is doing.)

        “Jewish supremacist” is still problematic because secular Zionists do not think Jews are superior to gentiles; they view themselves among those who are superior to Orientals.

        Many of the Ashkenazim Zionists think they are superior to both, although its probably more their sense of “whiteness” that makes them think they are superior to Sephardim, rather then their sense of their “Jewishness”. Most Zionists I’ve heard expound on their beliefs think its perfectly alright for Jews in Israel to do things that they would rightfully condemn if done by Christians or others against Jews. And many of those who might object to such things if they recognized them, have an uncanny ability to disbelieve “their lying eyes”. Both of these are indicators of a sense of Jewish superiority, although I think “exceptionalism” is a better, but not perfect, descriptor, since the superiority belief is usually accompanied by a sense of supreme collective suffering that has eclipsed anyone else’s suffering, which is total hogwash if one knows anything about the history of human suffering, and of course another aspect of a superiority complex. ‘My suffering, even if it isn’t my personal suffering, is so much more significant than some one else’s suffering who doesn’t share my ethno-religious background.’

        Agreed on the last point. However, I don’t understand how shunning him creates that impression because anyone who is overtly racist against Arabs has already been shunned by default.

        Not true. Peter Beinart is overtly racist against Arabs and people are willing to congratulate him for the small steps he’s made in questioning Zionism’s results, although his questioning is apparently mostly from the viewpoint of “Is it good for the Jews”. People have critiqued his book but no one has suggested that he must be banned or shunned. (At least not from the anti-Zionist or Palestinian solidarity side.) And this is a guy who is to some extent responsible for urging on a murderous war. Atzmon hasn’t urged violence on anyone and he’s just a jazz musician. The double standard is obvious. Beinart is applauded for baby steps despite his obvious racism. Atzmon must be condemned, even if he gets some things right. (And I would bet that even you would admit that he’s gotten some things right. )

        The “big tent” that gets called for on occasion only exists to welcome those with a bias against Palestinians. This is, in its essence, an affirmation that anti-Jewish bias is still considered much worse than anti-Arab bias, despite the deadlier outcome of this anti-Arab bias.

        Of course you realize my interpretations of Atzmon are informed by other writings of his that for reasons of sanity are going unmentioned. This time.

        I understand completely. If you don’t get his writing, you don’t get his writing. Not at all surprising.

      • Danaa
        April 9, 2012, 2:49 am

        secular Zionists do not think Jews are superior to gentiles; they view themselves among those who are superior to Orientals.

        Yes they do. In Israel they most certainly do, The proof is that, decades later, I am still working, on disentangling this state of mind. I find more proof whenever I talk to israelis, ex or otherwise. They are still in the mind-set of total superiority, even 40 years later. It’s that deep. A major hash, to be sure.

        “I give thanks every day for being Jewish”, so says an ex-Israeli friend of mine. And just whatever do you think she meant?

        As for non-Israeli Jewish people (not all, absolutely not all), there’s that wonk-wink, nod-nod, of which I spoke. It says – we know. The subtext is – “they” are simply not as smart as us, and certainly not as deep. But we mustn’t say it in the open. No we mustn’t, or else they’ll be on to us. And what then?

        So that still falls short of explaining the origins of Zionism, not that he’s shown any particular desire to do this.

        Sorry, andrew r. too convoluted for me to figure out. If you are jewish – it’s back to level 1 for you. If you are a philo-semite, you should rethink. And listen to tree who says it so much clearer than the rest of us (which makes me thinks she is Jewish or just smart-in-the-Jewish-way, which statement should totally prove my own inadequacy as debater, as well as serious ethical lapses as a human*).

        ____
        * I really am working on my own book in earnest now. One that will detail at least a few subsets of said shortcomings (at length, one may assume). It is my hope to make it Mooser-iteous in scope, if not vision.

      • wondering jew
        April 9, 2012, 3:49 am

        tree- I don’t know how this thread got on Gilad Atzmon, but apparently it did.

        Gut check- Atzmon hates Jews and exudes it in the sound of his “instrument” on this topic. His hatred is as obvious to me as frozen air is on my skin after being indoors.

        You should continue discussing him, despite my visceral reactions to him, but sometimes it is just too tiresome to try to explain that hatred is visible in the eyes and detectible in the tone of voice. I realize that Jew hater , although not that term, the a.s. term, is used carelessly and my assertions carry no weight without word by word dissection and so the freedom of asserting, “the guy hates Jews” must be abridged and followed by questions and evidence.

        But frankly his hatred turns my stomach and I felt like asserting the fact of my own personal reaction.

      • sardelapasti
        April 9, 2012, 5:22 am

        This is simply moronic. It just shows that you cannot understand the fundamental contradiction between people who reject every tribal loyalty and refuse any label except that of human being, and those who absurdly call themselves “Jewish” –even to the howling absurdity of “Jewish Marxists” (=Religious Communists??)

        If you can’t understand the difference, of course you’ll never get a single word by Atzmon (even if you were reading in good faith.)

      • andrew r
        April 9, 2012, 10:27 am

        Tree: Of course there is. If I am talking about the KKK and upper class white snobs, those are two subsets of whites. They are not the sum total of all whites, and Atzmon has no more said that his two categories are the sum total of all Jews than you or I would say that the KKK and upper class white snobs are the sum total of all whites. Atzmon ties the two, tribal Marxists and Zionists, together through their sense that their “Jewish” identity puts them on some higher plane, moral, intellectual, or spiritual, than their individual identities as human beings. A subset of whites, a subset of Jews. Same shit, different “identity”.

        First off, while it is fair to say the KKK and/or UCWS are the equivalent to Zionists, “Jewish Marxist” is a nebulous term that says nothing at all. Atzmon doesn’t get a pass to label people “Jewish Marxists” because they put their Jewish identity over their humanity. That’s an antisemitic formulation on the face of it. Not because Jews have been persecuted on the basis of being a race of potential communists. Because 1) Nobody whom Atzmon talks about identifies as a “Jewish Marxist.” That is a category he imposes on them. That would not necessarily be racist if not for 2) Were a non-Jewish Marxist to put his ethnicity/religion/nationality over his humanity, would Atzmon call them a ‘Tribal Marxist’ or a Marxist with some other prefix? If he has, do point it out.

        To put not too fine a point on it, “Tribal Marxist” is a category reserved for Jews. When Atzmon uses it, it will never refer to White Marxists, Arab Marxists, African Marxists, Nigerian Marxists, Russian Marxists, Christian Marxists, etc. etc. nor will he ever denigrate other Marxists who put their ancestral identity over their humanity with an ethnic prefix.

        It’s pretty cut and dry to me that using “Jewish” as pejorative prefix in any context is going to be racist. Also goes for “Arab” or “Muslim” or “Black” or, you get the idea.

        Of course, this begs the hypothetical, what if Atzmon did exactly what I’m accusing him of not doing… freely denigrating Marxists with their own ethnicity? There’s a reason it is a hypothetical… the history of linking Jews and Marxists in antisemitic discourse is the inspiration for Atzmon’s category. So in fact, if he were to call Frantz Fanon a “Black Marxist,” that would simply be racist against Blacks. Racist discourse can spread to any category like a broken silo of paste. That’s how today’s Islamophobes recycle what was said about Jews in the 19th century.

        Also, my point linking Atzmon and Churchill might need some elaboration. Regardless of the distinctions they make, Jews in general are their target. A phrase like “Judaic spiritual and religious heritage” is going to signal that much louder than any qualifier. It’s not that he says all Jews are Zionists or Marxists. It’s that Jews may become Zionists or Jewish Marxists and this is a result of that Judaic heritage as opposed to any historical process where people who aren’t Jewish might be involved.

        But the same can be said about whites, you might argue. True, and it would make some sense in the case of white supremacy because Jewish communities have had a complex interaction between each other and the broader societies they lived in, and that is only the first step to explaining where Zionism and Marxism came from. To explain these two ideologies as the product of a linear Jewish history stemming from the Holy Texts is a regressive understanding of history that makes the force behind a supremacist ideology to be Jewish supremacy itself. And that is where I call antisemitism – the belief that Jews are embedded in gentile society for a sinister purpose. Atzmon’s many formulations make Jews the carriers of bad things for gentiles.

        Where has he not exonerated anything other than “Jewishness” as the cause of Zionism? This section in ‘Tribal Marxism For Dummies’ would have been vigorously argued against if a hasbara troll brandished it here:

        Machover’s reading of Zionism is pretty trivial. ‘Israel’, he says, is a ‘settler state’. For Machover this is a necessary point of departure because it sets Zionism as a colonialist expansionist project. The reasoning behind such a lame intellectual spin is obvious. As long as Zionism is conveyed as a colonial project, Jews, as a people, should be seen as ordinary people. They are no different from the French and the English, they just happen to run their deadly colonial project in a different time.

        However, as much as Machover is desperate to divert the attention away from the Jewish question, Jewish tribal politics and the Jewish identity, his entire premise can be demolished in a one simple move. If Israel is a ‘settler state’ as he says, one may wonder, what exactly is its ‘motherland? In British and French colonial eras, the settler states maintained a very apparent tie with their ‘motherland’. In some cases in history, the settler state broke from its motherland. Such an event is a rather noticeable one. The Boston Tea Party may ring a bell. However, as far as we are aware, there is no ‘Jewish motherland’ that is intrinsically linked to the alleged ‘Jewish settler state’. The ‘Jewish people’ are largely associated with the Jewish state, and yet the ‘Jewish people’ is not exactly a ‘material’ autonomous sovereign entity. The lack of material Jewish motherland leads to the immediate collapse of Machover’s colonial argument.

        Moreover, native Hebraic Israeli Jews are not connected culturally or emotionally to any motherland except their own state. As an ex-Israeli, I can testify that neither my parents nor myself or any of my fellow expatriates have ever been aware of our ties to any other (mother) state except Israel. Accordingly, it may be true that Zionism carries some colonial elements and yet, it is not a colonial project per se, for no one can present a material correspondence between Jewish ‘motherland’ and a Jewish ‘settler state’. The Jewish national project is unique in history and as it seems it doesn’t fit into any Marxist materialist explanation.

        link to gilad.co.uk

      • andrew r
        April 9, 2012, 10:42 am

        Clarification: That is a category he imposes on them. That would not necessarily be racist if not for

        The act of imposing a category in a social critique is not necessarily racist. The category he does impose on them still is.

      • andrew r
        April 9, 2012, 10:55 am

        P.S. I wouldn’t consider “Jewish supremacy” to be a racist formulation given the supremacy is actually there. It would still be racist against Jews to assume their belief system ipso facto is the source of that supremacy without accounting for external factors. And I don’t understand what makes that point so obscure after listening to the likes of Nonie Darwish, et. al about Jihadists and the Koran. Like you said Tree, same shit, different identity.

      • andrew r
        April 9, 2012, 11:29 am

        A last P.P.S. only because I’ve a nagging feeling about the response to Nobody whom Atzmon talks about identifies as a “Jewish Marxist.” That is a category he imposes on them.

        Of course there probably are people who simultaneously identify as Jewish and Marxist. It’s the charge of putting their humanity second, and using the compound term to define them as such, that is racist against Jews as a whole. “Jewish” is a complex, fluid identity like religious identities are. Any compound use of the term in a pejorative way is almost certainly going to be racist.

      • tree
        April 9, 2012, 3:14 pm

        Andrew,

        I’ve appreciated our time to debate but I am reaching a point in time when I will again have little spare time to comment here. Sometime in the near future I will again have time to comment but this post will be long dead by then I woud imagine. In any case its apparent by now that we will have to agree to disagree on this.

        However, perhaps I can add a few more points in my limited time. When Atzmon uses the term “Jewish Marxists” or “Tribal Marxists” he is not using “Jewish” as a pejorative, as you describe. He is talking about what he sees as an oxymoronic self-identity of certain self-declared “Jewish Marxists”, and NOT Marxists who just happen to be of Jewish ethnicity. A lot of Atzmon’s animosity here goes back to his feud with Tony Greenstein, who has acted as a gatekeeper and sought to censor and ban people who disagree with his analysis, that disagreement includes any mention of the Israel Lobby as a force in US politics. (Greenstein in England is the equivalent of the leftist gatekeepers in the US that Jeffrey Blankfort has discussed.) I used to frequent JSF years ago, before MW, and I can attest to the smallness of Greenstein on this matter, who seems to be quite vindictive and more interested in his own brand of intellectual purity than he is in helping the Palestinian cause. This particular piece of Atzmon’s is weak and poorly written, and I would venture a guess that one of the reasons for this is its wrapped up in his personal dislike of those 3 or 4 people he mentions who have gone out of their way to silence him and attempted to force everyone else to silence him. Anger usually interferes with good analysis and that’s the case here. However, his point that Machover’s insistence that Islam is backward and the Palestinians must throw it off in order to achieve their goals is in fact a rather bigoted idea. Atzmon sometimes gets it wrong, and puts force weak or faulty arguments like the “no motherland” one here, but that doesn’t make him anti-semitic.

        I think Jean Bricmont summed up the problem with interpretations of Atzmon’s work as “anti-semitic” quite cogently here.

        It is ever so easy to “demonstrate” the alleged anti-Semitism of Atzmon. Frequently, including at the very start of his book, Atzmon makes a distinction between three meanings of the word “Jewish.” It can apply to persons who adhere to the Jewish religion, with whom he has no quarrel; to people of Jewish origin, with whom he has also no problem; and, finally, to what he calls the third category, that is, those who, without being particularly religious, constantly stress their Jewish “identity” and set it before and above their simple membership in the human race. It suffices thereupon to interpret in the first sense (people of Jewish origin) the word “Jewish” when Atzmon uses it in the third sense, in a style that is often extremely polemical, to “prove” that he is anti-Semitic.
        [ my note: I suspect that is what you are doing, subconsciously or consciously. You can't understand the his of the term as a third category and instead continue to see it as only a first or second category descriptor. ]

        However, when a French essayist, Bernard-Henri Lévy, uses all his immense influence to push his country into a war against Libya and then declares afterward that he did so “as a Jew” and “faithful” to his name – which is not exactly a rational argument, but are wars ever waged for rational reasons? – people who are not of Jewish origin should at least be allowed to wonder about that Jewish identity in whose name they are dragged into a war which, whatever one may think about it, was clearly not a war of self-defense for France.

        Is it legitimate to criticize Jews in the sense of Atzmon’s third category? To start with, it is obvious that each individual has a perfect right to “feel” a sense of belonging to a group of which he or she is proud, or which he or she thinks contributes something important to the idea the person has of himself or herself, whether Jewish, Breton, French, Catholic, Black, Muslim, etc. Since all these identities stem from the hazards of birth, such feelings of pride are irrational, but who would try to force human beings to be rational?

        The problem arises when these identities acquire a privileged political status, exactly as when religions acquire such a status. When a community, grouped around its “identity,” demands certain rights – or compensations, or privileges – others who do not share that identity should be allowed to challenge the justification of those claims. Just as when a religion seeks to impose its own morality on society as a whole. Identity politics is to be found among blacks, Muslims, women, etc. One may even suggest that politics today is more and more reduced to a conflict between identities, socioeconomic questions having been relegated to the management of nonelected experts. But there is also a Jewish identity politics, whose implications go far beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and which affects, among other things, freedom of expression or relations with Muslims.

        But whereas identity demands, especially by Muslims, are regularly attacked in public, the great merit of Atzmon is to recognize the existence of Jewish identity politics and to criticize it – something practically nobody else dares to do.

        I suggest reading the whole piece, which is exemplary, I think, and is the forward to the French edition of Atzmon’s book.

        link to gilad.co.uk

        I’d also like to pass along Alison Weir’s take on all this, also well worth the read, which includes a comment from Jeffrey Blankfort as well.

        link to alisonweir.org

        Both of them state the argument much more clearly than I can. As can David Rovics, whom I linked to in a post up above, and is also well worth the read.

      • tree
        April 9, 2012, 3:20 pm

        Danaa,

        And listen to tree who says it so much clearer than the rest of us (which makes me thinks she is Jewish or just smart-in-the-Jewish-way, which statement should totally prove my own inadequacy as debater, as well as serious ethical lapses as a human*).

        Thanks for the complement, including the one about being Jewish, which although admittedly a stereotypical one (kind of like “mighty white of you” or “how Christian of you”, I guess) was intended as a sincere one and so I take it that way.

        Or was it just a clever way to find out my chosen self identity? ;-)

        I have some Jewish background, one generation too far removed to help my Israeli sister, who gained entrance there by Orthodox conversion here, rather than by a bogus “right of return” to a place she’d never been. I also have Methodist and Episcopalian backgrounds, and probably others I’ve never heard about, and grew up going to Unitarian Sunday School until I was old enough to opt out, had a very short fling with Catholicism (I loved the churches and the singing, but not enough to put up with the dogma), a longer fling with paganism, and settled on good ol’ agnosticism with an atheistic bent.

        Interestingly, on my non-Jewish mother’s side, my DNA puts my ancestors in the Middle East at some point, allowing me, of course, to dispossess anyone of my choice there, or in Africa or a few places in Europe as well. Decisions, decisions!

        As for intelligence, if the little bit I possess, which you generously overrate, has a genetic basis I’d trace it back to my mother’s side (all non-Jewish as far as I know), as one of my great aunts was a physicist in a time that very few women were. However, I’m often reminded of two studies on intelligence. One had to do with Asian women who took a math tests after being told that they were expected to do well because they were Asian and Asians do well in math. All other things being equal, they did better on the test than when they were told that they weren’t expected to do that well because they were women and women don’t do well in math. Expectations influenced intelligence. The other study was similar in that ordinary students chosen completely at random were told they were highly intelligent and put in special classes and their test scores all improved. So is it nature or nurture or both?

    • Ael
      April 4, 2012, 7:38 pm

      Warning. Thread-jack in progress.

    • breakingthesilence
      April 5, 2012, 2:24 pm

      This essay on Beinart is excellent! Nails liberal Zionism for what it is. I want to urge people to read the General’s Son, a book by Miko Peled, the son of general Matti Peled. Miko’s journey is the journey of someone who begins as a liberal Zionist, but someone who has the integrity to eventually understand the horrors of his native Israel and the horrors of Zionism and what Israel has done to the Palestinians.

  3. Sin Nombre
    April 4, 2012, 2:43 pm

    David Samel wrote:

    “Liberal Zionists are caught in the middle. Their “liberal” side propels them toward equality, but their Zionist inclination makes preservation of the Jewish State the paramount concern.”

    I think this is letting them off lighty, albeit unintentionally. Being “caught in the middle” implies at the very least being torn between two poles, if not actually having to choose between same.

    The fact is there’s been no choosing nor—at least as far as eye can see least—cvvtearing on any big scale for liberal Zionists: How many after all have become One-Staters? And yet, how many have openly or even otherwise rejected the main tenets of liberalism outside of Israel?

    Instead of being “caught in the middle” then clearly the far more accurate is that they want it both ways. They want every place and person on earth other than Israelis or Israel to be “liberal”—and indeed condemn those there who are not in the most thundering, derogatory fashion possible—but can’t imagine applying any of those ideas to Israelis generally or Israel.

    • David Samel
      April 5, 2012, 9:21 am

      Sin, I’m not sure about the difference in terminology, but your concluding sentence is a gem that sums it all up.

      • Thomson Rutherford
        April 5, 2012, 4:05 pm

        David, congrats on an outstanding post, very well written.

        But I agree with Sin Nombre’s comment. Just as “Jewish and democratic state” is an oxymoron, so is the term ‘liberal Zionist’. One cannot be a liberal in the American sense and accept the racist and theocratic premises of Israeli Zionism. Therein lies only political Zionism, no liberalism. Just call them Zionists and avoid confusion.

  4. pabelmont
    April 4, 2012, 3:02 pm

    The political/psychological problem being worked out by Beinart is the clear (to him) problem of the occupation/settlements and — maybe, just maybe — a subliminal (again, for him) problem of the blemishes of Israeli democracy. But he is not alone, and he may turn out to be a leader for people of his politics/ideology/psychology.

    And later, after there is (one hopes) movement to end the occupation/settlements, there may come movement on the problem of internal-Israeli democracy.

    The problem is that those who dig in their heels most deeply in Israel are the zealots/racists/territorial-maximalists and if they are forced (by a mechanism not yet clear) to leave the OPTs (and Golan), they may strike out at the Palestinian Israelis upon re-entry as it were.

    For this reason, it would be better if USA’s “liberal Zionists” could be brought to look at the WHOLE problem instead of at Beinart’s slice of the problem.

    • David Samel
      April 5, 2012, 9:19 am

      Peter, the storm of criticism against Beinart surely indicates that he has boldly stepped in a forbidden direction. While I see him taking merely one tentative and obviously necessary step toward reason, he has violated some fundamental precepts of Zionist hasbara that must be punished. I think it is natural to be more irked by the irksome parts of his book than pleased by the parts I agree with, but to be fair to Beinart, his book does make some great points that I overlooked in my search for dreck. In another thread, Annie links to a Huffpost article by MJ Rosenberg, which goes into some detail on this.

      Also, let’s not forget that Carter’s groundbreaking book 6 years ago was similar in outlook to Beinart’s, only not nearly as good; that Goldstone stood by his Zionism throughout that whole saga; and that even Finkelstein, who goes infinitely beyond them both in criticizing Israel, has always clung to a form of Zionism, that is, belief in the viability of a Jewish State. In fact, as briefly and inadequately as Beinart examines his own Zionism, it seems to me that Finkelstein does not even broach the subject.

  5. seafoid
    April 4, 2012, 5:24 pm

    “In an ironic and even perverse twist, Kahane, the diehard unapologetic racist criminal, knew that people like Beinart, Slater, Gorenberg, and Burston are refusing to recognize the obvious but uncomfortable truth.”

    Most respectable middle class Jewish intellectuals don’t want to lift up the bonnet of Israel and see what’s inside. The truth is the country is run closer to the principles of Kahane than of Beinart.
    You don’t turn Gaza back to the 17th century by respecting law or morality.

    This schmuck nails it in this video at 2:32

    link to eranvered.com

    The only reason he can swim in his pool in Greater Tel Aviv is because there are legions of armed Jews (IDF and civilian) abusing human rights in the territories.
    And when the respectable middleclass intellectual Jews eventually sever all ties with the settlers the latter will be entitled to feel shafted . Because hypocrisy is at the heart of liberal Zionism- that Tel Aviv is not a settlement but Ariel is. In reality there is no difference.

    When Israel eventually breaks the discussion isn’t going to stop at 1967. It’s going to go back to 1948. The original sin.

    • David Samel
      April 5, 2012, 9:07 am

      The truth is the country is run closer to the principles of Kahane than of Beinart. seafoid, I completely agree. The things Kahane proposed a generation ago that got him barred from the Knesset make for fairly commonplace discussion today. Sounds like the basis of a good article. As Israel moves steadily in a right-wing lunatic direction, the silver lining is that its truer nature is being exposed. The cloud, however, is that this rightward drift causes immense suffering in its wake, with dispossession, deprivation, imprisonment and death.

      • LeaNder
        April 6, 2012, 6:58 am

        David, I have something for you to make them think. It’s always bad to block out reality. I think Norman is right, the momentum should be used to help the Palestinians?

      • LeaNder
        April 6, 2012, 8:11 am

        Ooops, why did I put a question mark behind this? Now it fits.

    • Chu
      April 5, 2012, 9:41 am

      The 1948 map gives much of the desirable land to the Israelis, and Israel’s colonial ethnic cleansing operation over the last half century should not be rewarded with 78% of the territory. This may have worked in the early American settlements, but the influx of immigrants was unending, and Israel doesn’t have these reinforcements. Even the nuclear arsenal is just a deterrent, that is completely impractical for the war that could be waged. Additionally, they’ve soured their relations with the neighboring countries – and that damage will never fully be repaired.

      Eventually one state will be implemented and the the most of the Jews in Israel, mainly Ashkenazi, will take flight to live in other countries. The CIA report about Israel’s collapse in 20 years could be a reality sooner than we think.

      You take my water. Burn my Olive Trees. Destroy my house. Take my job. Steal my Land. Imprison my Mother. Bomb my country. Starve us all. Humiliate us all. But I am to blame: I shot a rocket back”. – Sign carried near Hyde Park Corner during a demonstration in London on 2/15/09 by a Member of the British Parliament.
      link to palestinechronicle.com

      • seafoid
        April 5, 2012, 10:19 am

        Chu

        Have you a link to that CIA report?

      • Chu
        April 5, 2012, 10:28 am

        Sorry, Seafoid. -see below.

        “Some members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have been informed of the report.”

        “The study, which has been made available only to a certain number of individuals, further forecasts the return of all Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, and the exodus of two million Israeli – who would move to the US in the next fifteen years.”

        link to allvoices.com

      • Chu
        April 5, 2012, 10:32 am

        This may be the report through amazon:
        A CIA study casts doubt over Israel’s survival beyond the next 20 years. It predicts “an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region”.
        link to amazon.com

      • lysias
        April 6, 2012, 5:11 pm

        What’s the date of the report? I.e., when will the 20 years be up?

        UPDATE: I see the report was being referred to in print in February 2009: Fearing a One-State Solution, Israel’s President Serves Pabulum to Washington:

        According to a CIA Study currently being shown to selected staff members on the US Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Israel’s survival in its present form beyond the next 20 years is doubtful.

        The Report predicts “an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region.”

        To President Peres’ chagrin, the Executive Summary states that “during the next fifteen years more than two million Israelis, including some 500,000 Israeli citizens who currently hold US green cards or passports, will move to the United States. Most Israelis not in possession of these documents will receive ‘expedited waivers.’ The Report claims that, “Alongside a decline in Jewish births and a rise in Palestinian fertility, approximately 1.6 million Israelis are likely to return to their forefather’s lands in Russia and Eastern and Western Europe with scores of thousands electing to stay, depending on the nature of the transition.”

        So 3 of those 20 years have already passed.

  6. Michael W.
    April 5, 2012, 12:04 am

    What if we think of it in these terms – Israel can attempt to be
    1. as Zionist (or Jewish) as democracy allows?
    or
    2. as democratic as Jewish nationalism (or Zionism) allows?

    For liberal Zionists, they think in terms of the first question. Conservative Zionists think in terms of the second question.

    So, can a state be “Jewish and democratic”? Why can’t a state have elements of both? Not all western democracies have the same laws and some even have laws that resemble the nationalist laws of Israel.

    So what do you guys think? Are the terms mutually exclusive? I think not since “Jewish” is not a system of government.

    • Koshiro
      April 5, 2012, 7:39 am

      So, can a state be “Jewish and democratic”?

      Short answer: No.
      Slightly longer answer: Not in the sense you mean, namely with a Jewish majority, Jewish norms and Jewish culture imposed. Democracy is not compatible with built-in ethnic supremacy. There is no such thing as a democratic Apartheid state.

      In a practical matter, this theoretical question is irrelevant anyway. Israel is not democratic because it rules millions of people without these people having any say in it.
      In an actual democratic state, subject and sovereign are one and the same. In Israel, the Jewish people are the sovereign and subject (if you’re generous, you can also include the fig-leaf minority of Arabs inside the Green Line in this category), while the Palestinians are subjects only.

      Not all western democracies have the same laws and some even have laws that resemble the nationalist laws of Israel.

      Which countries are you referring to?

    • David Samel
      April 5, 2012, 9:01 am

      Michael, of course Israel has “elements” of both Jewishness and democracy. For that matter, apartheid South Africa had elements of democracy; after all, it did have genuine elections, but restricted by race. But Israel is not a true democracy, for two principal reasons, as Koshiro points out. First, it rules over 4 million people who have no vote. Liberal Zionists see this as a “threat” to democracy, which I guess has not yet become a reality because the situation has lasted only 45 years, and will disqualify Israel as a democracy at some undetermined future date. The other reason is that it is generally considered a fundamental feature of democracy that all citizens are treated equally under the law, and Israel discriminates in favor of its Jewish citizens, and in a sense even diaspora Jewish non-citizens, over its non-Jewish citizens. This problem with democracy is usually overlooked altogether by liberal Zionists, who at most claim it is a correctable flaw rather than one that totally undermines the true meaning of democracy.

      • MHughes976
        April 5, 2012, 4:19 pm

        You can’t believe in equal rights for all to the extent permitted if you also believe in special rights for some, that extent being nil.
        You can’t believe in democracy to the extent permitting by accepting the disfranchisement of many people, since the whole basic idea of democracy is that no one should be disfranchised.

  7. yourstruly
    April 5, 2012, 2:42 pm

    “a slight blemish on an otherwise beautiful face?”

    and not an acquired blemish either but one that’s built into a colonial society’s dna.

    raises the question what were they thinking, theodore herzl et al, that history wouldn’t catch up with their racist scheme?

  8. yourstruly
    April 5, 2012, 3:08 pm

    just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link so is one’s liberalism only as intact as its most glaring omission. which translates into liberal except on palestine being a misnomer, since zero times anything = zero.

  9. Shmuel
    April 5, 2012, 4:41 pm

    Thanks, David. Great post. I just had the first fight of the holiday season on this very subject. Close elderly relative pulled a Kahane-Burston combo, and I was forced to answer with both hands tide behind my back, for fear of a grave diplomatic incident that wouldn’t have changed any minds anyway. Sigh.

    • David Samel
      April 5, 2012, 6:20 pm

      Haha, Shmuel. My elderly parents are hosting the Seder on Saturday night, and by tradition, one topic is taboo. Since a couple of unpleasant seders about a decade ago, everyone has complied with the unwritten rule. No minds have been changed, but none would have been, and the macaroons and chocolate matzoh have tasted sweeter as a result.

      • yourstruly
        April 5, 2012, 6:54 pm

        as the patriarch of my extended multicultural family i’m pleased to say that there are no taboos on what can be said at our passover seder. never has been, but perhaps i’m lucky for having been born into a family that values free thinking, unorthodoxy & icon-busting, with most of its members siding with the palestinians against their zionist occupiers.

      • Shmuel
        April 6, 2012, 3:09 am

        David,

        Your family’s self-discipline is commendable (awe-inspiring, actually). In ours, the taboo inevitably gets broken, and it is only the self-restraint of the odd people out (my wife and I) that prevents total disaster. The generational hierarchy doesn’t help either.

        As I was biting my tongue last night, with thick clouds of hasbara wafting through the air, the thought “WWDD” (what would Danaa do?) popped into my head. It made me feel even guiltier for not putting said relative in her place, but it also made me smile, under my beard.

        The Seder could go either way tonight. It’s at our house, will be lead by my wife and me, and the contentious component will be in the minority. A painful concession has been to respect the taboo in the text and ritual – no mention of Palestine, and no symbolic olives on the Seder plate. WWDD?

      • David Samel
        April 6, 2012, 8:56 am

        Shmuel, the taboo in my family is only with respect to my parents’ generation. I do not try to persuade my dad, whose childhood was interrupted by a move from Vienna to Havana in the nick of time, or my uncle who survived Auschwitz, etc. that the miracle of Israel wasn’t so great after all. I now recall that the last heated argument was around 2005, while visiting a sick aunt at a nursing home, when my father and I got into it in front of dozens of elderly infirm. It only ended when my mom asked, Who raised this subject anyway?, and we both snapped at her simultaneously, You did!, then started laughing. I left the place, saying Never again (curiously echoing one of Kahane’s favorite slogans). As for the seders, ours have never been the discussion-type anyway. We breeze through the story in mumbled Hebrew, and only pause to drink wine, sing songs, and eat. btw, I have an advantage over you; I can read Hebrew, though slowly, but I understand only a very few words. It helps.

      • LeaNder
        April 6, 2012, 9:32 am

        sorry, for stumbling into your thread loudmouthed and eyes half open only. Of course this would belong down here. And since I cannot take it back, excuses, if it felt insensible: Happy Pesach.

      • Danaa
        April 6, 2012, 3:52 pm

        “WWDD” (what would Danaa do?)

        She would be shocked….and awed by such exhibits of temperance! and in the face of a traditional seder provocation, no less! hope you get through it quick, is all she can say (we already know it’ll be in one peace)..

        And not even one little olive? a tiny green, red and black flag, carefully hidden just under the afikoman stash – would that be too much to ask? no eye rolls during the recitations of the plagues upon the innocents? not even a symbolic walking out during the dipping in glory of god’s massacre of the first borns? say, for a bathroom break?

        But then Danaa ain’t got nowhere to go this passover night (except to the local church service of the seder tradition “as Jesus would have experienced it”). Ah, the sacrifices we must make for universal justice!

        PS if you invite danaa over next year, perhaps a demonstration of proper intemperance can be arranged? with recitations of selections from a book the title of which ends with a question mark? won’t be boring, promise!

      • Shmuel
        April 6, 2012, 5:42 pm

        PS if you invite danaa over next year, perhaps a demonstration of proper intemperance can be arranged? with recitations of selections from a book the
        title of which ends with a question mark? won’t be boring, promise!

        Danaa may consider herself officially invited. Hopefully, next year we will be free to discuss anything we like (including books with a question mark in the title) – and if not, I’m sure it won’t be boring. You have a year to brush up on your Italian! Good food and wine guaranteed, BDS observed.

    • Danaa
      April 5, 2012, 6:58 pm

      The ultimate irony: Israel – and anything to do with it – as a taboo subject. And not just among jewish people. The subject that dares not speak its name in family gatherings around the seder table, or in polite society, in general.

      Today, a non-Jewish friend put the perfect words to it:

      Israel, a topic bathed in bitter contention.

      When I mention to people – average people in anywhere, America – where I am from, there is more often than not an awkward moment of silence, as people try hard to think of something polite to say. 99% of the time, no further questions come my way. At least till I add the somewhere else from which I hail, and one can stick the relief that follows with a fork. Halleluiah, their faces say that which their words don’t, and cannot.

  10. ToivoS
    April 5, 2012, 5:22 pm

    Thomas

    One of the signatures was As’ad abuKahlil, who is someone that is not under the influence of any Jewish organization