A debate about the two-state-solution with Norman Finkelstein

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Norman Finkelstein Gaza City June 2009
Norman Finkelstein Gaza City June 2009

Last month I wrote to Norman Finkelstein offering to debate the chapter dealing with the Israel lobby theory of Walt and Mearsheimer in his new book, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End. He wrote back to say that’s just one section, and the book has much larger aims, why not discuss them? I agreed, and our email dialogue of the last two weeks follows. Note that this dialogue preceded Finkelstein’s appearance on Democracy Now! Monday. 

Norman Finkelstein: My new book is the fruit of three decades of scholarly reflection on the Israel-Palestine conflict and also of being an active participant in the solidarity movement. (I first got involved on June 6, 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon.) It is also the result of perhaps five years of intensive research, and three comprehensive rewrites of the manuscript. An honest reader would, I think, conclude that my book is the substantive version of the “Beinart thesis,” which, as it happens, I articulated in multiple venues long before Beinart came along. You might recall the conversation we had on the bus in Gaza after the 2008-9 Israeli invasion where I laid out my thesis that liberal American Jews were distancing themselves from Israel, and you expressed deep skepticism.

We are now at a crossroads in the conflict. I truly believe it is possible—not certain, not even probable, but still possible—that we can achieve a reasonable settlement within the two-state framework. But achieving this goal will require a maximum of political clarity and a vastly reduced amount of sloganeering.

Weiss: Here is where we differ. A historic compromise has been vitiated. Even David Shulman in the New York Review of Books understands this. And the crossroads we face is explaining to Americans that one regime exists between the river and the sea, and the trick is to make it a democracy. Unlike you, I believe, I would have been a bourgeois in the 1850s, and a Lincoln Republican; I would have been for a two-state solution that allowed slavery to persist in the south and vanish in time. Those historic compromises were also vitiated in the space of a few years; and lo and behold some Americans grew impatient and quoted the words, All people are created equal. As Palestinians are impatient today, and who can blame them. There is no equality under the Israeli regime. There has been none since it was founded.

The error here, on the part of American leaders and maybe you too, is the belief that somehow the failure of the peace process between 1994 and 2012 represents some form of treading water before we really swim. But 18 years is a very long time historically; it blights more than a generation; Arabs took Obama at his word when he went to Cairo and said that the settlements must end.

When the historic compromises of 1830 and 1850 were flouted in the 1850s, there were real results. People became impatient and within six years there was war. And my belief that the intractable question in Israel/Palestine is also likely to be resolved by “verry much bloodshed”—as the revolutionary egalitarian John Brown put it, a person I am sure I would have opposed at the time—is why I support BDS. It is a peaceful process.

Finkelstein: Our disagreements are three-fold: historical, political, and material.

A. There never has been a peace process, but rather an annexation process that used the “peace process” as a facade. The record is quite clear that the Israelis never envisaged a full withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory and the emergence of a truly independent Palestinian state. Rabin explicitly said this in the Knesset just before his death in 1995. (I run through the record on pp. 232-237 of Knowing Too Much.) Interestingly, even the International Crisis Group, which is generally strong on facts, but feeble (if not awful) on analysis, and which has championed the “peace process” since its inception, comes close to conceding these facts. (See its latest report, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”) The Palestinian leadership under Arafat signed onto the “peace process” at Oslo because it was headed towards oblivion (bankruptcy) after backing the wrong horse in the First Gulf War. In return for being rescued by Washington and Tel Aviv, the Palestinian leadership agreed to act as Israel’s subcontractors in the occupied Palestinian territory. (Former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, in Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, is very frank on this point.) It is therefore analytically incorrect to draw any inferences for the prospects of a two-state settlement from a process that, from the outset, was never intended to achieve a two-state settlement. The only possibility for creating a real peace process, and not the sham of the past 20 years, is to mobilize the Palestinians’ most potent asset—i.e., the population itself—in a nonviolent grassroots struggle along the lines of the first intifada. The succession of practical victories won by the Palestinian hunger strikers (with relatively little concrete support from the Palestinian population) again demonstrated the efficacy of this strategy.

B. The question then becomes, if and when such a grassroots movement takes flight, what will be its goal? Here I think the answer is practical-political, not abstract-moral. Even an invigorated grassroots movement cannot possibly succeed unless it wins the backing of international public opinion, both popular and governmental. In the absence of such broad public support, Israel will have carte blanche to crush Palestinian resistance, however nonviolent. If the mass movement to end Apartheid in South Africa won international support, it’s because the international community had already embraced democratization—i.e., internal self-determination—as the appropriate goal in the South African context. When the Bantustans declared “independence” in the mid-1970s (first Transkei, then Ciskei, Bophuthatswana, and Venda), the international community overwhelmingly voted (in the case of Transkei, 134-0; the U.S. abstained) to declare these entities null and void under international law. But the identical overwhelming majority of UN member States has repeatedly voted to support a two-state settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict (167-7 in the last General Assembly vote). It’s easy to proclaim abstract-moral solutions when you lack the obligations of power, but each time a Palestinian leadership has reached a position of official responsibility (first the P.L.O. in 1974 when Arafat spoke at the UN, then Hamas in 2006, when it won the parliamentary elections), it had to revise its political program from a “one-state” to a “two-state” settlement, because otherwise it could not function on the international stage. Many self-described radicals have called this “selling-out,” I call it accommodating intractable—at any rate, in the here and now—political exigencies.

C. But is a two-state settlement materially feasible? Here, I think one has to look closely at the facts on the ground. In my opinion, the Palestinians have presented reasonable proposals for resolving the borders/settlements issue—a 1.9% land swap that leaves 300,000 of the illegal Jewish settlers in situ, without encroaching on the future Palestinian state’s territorial contiguity. But these proposals can only be properly assessed if one is attentive to the facts, and doesn’t fabricate preposterous numbers (such as David Samel’s figure of “600,000-750,000″ illegal Jewish settlers posted on your web site) in order to “prove” the impossibility of a two-state settlement. I acknowledge the difficulties of resolving the refugee question within the two-state framework, but I do think a body modeled on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (which, recall, had to confront,in the case of Guatemala, the perpetrators not of ethnic cleansing but of genocide), and composed of respected and authoritative figures (such as Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu), and after allowing all sides to air their grievances and reservations, can come up with a reasonable proposal.

In my opinion, your invocation of Lincoln and the Abolitionists is morally stirring, and I do like to be morally stirred—although my preference is Rosa Luxemburg—but it lacks any historical, political or material grounding. It’s as if I were now to advocate DOP (the Dictatorship of the Proletariat—the abbreviation of my youth back in the day, before BDS came along), and Trotsky’s Permanent Revolution in Palestine. I can’t help but feel, with all due respect, that you are being swept away by the throbbings of your heart and the flutterings of your soul, while blithely ignoring the mundane, un-poetic facts of the situation. If we can coerce a real Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory, and you are there at the rendezvous of victory, I am sure that tears will be streaming down your cheeks, because you will have realized how significant a victory it is, and how hard-won it was.

Weiss: Two quick points, Norman. 600,000 settlers is not that much of an exaggeration of Jeremy Ben Ami’s 550,000 the other night at B’nai Jeshurun. And I’m glad you’re morally stirred. Notice that I am invoking your inheritance, of radical imaginers, as opposed to my bourgeois stick in the mud types. In this case I have joined up with the imaginers, and not because of a daring feeling, but from a sense of American realism.

Finkelstein: The two principal groups monitoring settlement growth are B’Tselem and the Foundation for Middle East Peace. You can check their web sites now (btselem.org/topic/settlements; fmep.org/settlement_info/overview.html). Each puts the figure for the number of settlers at around 500,000. I noticed that Jimmy Carter the other day put it at 525,000 (I assume his staff keeps him up to date). To leap from there to 600,000-750,000 is either ignorant or irresponsible.

A few weeks ago on the plane to and from the UK I read a new edition of Rosa Luxemburg’s letters. You cannot conceive how it swept me away. I was, if only for a fleeting moment, transported back to the high spirits of my youth. Each of her five senses was so refined, and alive. I even made some resolutions after reading her, such as my early morning RLW—Rosa Luxemburg walk—in order to take in the world around me. (Unfortunately, I spend most of my time lost in thought cursing its denizens!) So, I remain an “imaginer,” even if one verging on decrepitude. But I cannot let my imaginings get the better of my moral responsibilities.

People are suffering; isn’t that why we—or, at any rate, I—first got involved in the conflict? It’s also why I can’t leave it behind, even though G-d only knows how sick I am of it, and how I would like to move on finally and do something else, just one other thing, with my life, before I pass into eternity. I noticed in the just-released BBC World Service Poll (May 2012) that Israel’s stock is plummeting everywhere in the world, except here in the US, where it has bounced back a bit. So, so frustrating. But how does it help to advocate political solutions that have zero traction, and zero possibility of gaining traction, among Americans, who will never support a settlement that—whatever euphemism you use and however you articulate it—entails Israel’s disappearance?

Weiss: I am also impatient to be done with this conflict. But I must say that our weariness is an easy one. We lead good lives in the U.S. This is why I listen to the Palestinians. They are the people who have to suffer the occupation.

I believe that the conservative side of you is showing when you allow an establishment consensus to guide your dreams. And it’s unbecoming. Again to go the 1850s frame, I as a bourgeois want-to-be insider, would likely have been for colonization—sending the blacks to a country in Africa where they could be free, because we were afraid they would murder us if we set them free here… You would have said that’s racist, and all people are created equal. But I would have had powerful consensus entirely on my side, or not even entirely. The slave power was regnant in NY and the South. My position would have been the J Street of the time. The lesson is that consensus changes very quickly. People’s ideas actually shift when they recognize the new reality. I made many stupid comments about homosexuality when I was young. Today I’d be ruined if I expressed these ideas, and that’s a good thing.

David Shulman preparing American Jews for the end of the Jewish state in New York Review of Books is informing people about reality. There is only one regime, and realists should work to convert it to equality. American Jewish consensus will dissolve under the force of this logic, if we will only stand up and say, I believe in democracy.

Finkelstein: You confuse and conflate support for a two-state settlement with support for racism. If the two-state settlement really were a racist goal, it would be hard to comprehend why it has been endorsed by nearly the whole of the United Nations (including many African and Arab-Muslim states) as well as by the human rights community and the International Court of Justice. So far as I understand it, nothing in the two-state solution inherently validates a discriminatory state on either side of the Green Line. The original 1947 UN Partition Resolution, although recommending the creation of a “Jewish” and an “Arab” state in historic Palestine, also explicitly called for complete equality of rights for the respective minorities. Personally, I have said many times that Palestinians should not recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” (whatever that even means), unless Israel also explicitly endorses full and equal rights for its minorities and rescinds all discriminatory legislation. You might then argue that, if I oppose discriminatory states on either side of the border, then “logically” I should, like you, also support a single democratic secular state. Alas, a huge chasm separates logic from politics. The U.S. stole half of Mexico, about one of every ten Americans is of Mexican descent, and the Mexican economy is totally dependent on remittances from Mexican workers in the U.S. So “logically” we should solve the problem of illegal Mexican immigration, which causes several hundred grisly deaths along the border each year, by merging the U.S. and Mexican democracies into a unitary secular state. Indeed, isn’t it “racist” to oppose such a solution? But, this “solution” has exactly zero prospects of gaining traction in the U.S., so politically serious people work for immigration reform. Does it make them racists or sellouts? I think not.

Weiss: But Mexicans haven’t called for a single state. I do believe in self-determination. I also believe in the legal principle of stare decisis. Preserve a peaceful status quo. Partition was racist, inasmuch as it was rejected by the majority who lived in the region. But it was effected—more or less. And rejected by the Palestinians and ultimately dissolved by the expansionist Israelis.

I might accept partition if it had any basis in reality. I believe there are many unjust situations that are beyond my control and that, out of the desire to preserve order, I’m not attempting to overturn. I’m a realist in that regard. Stare decisis meant not wanting to revolutionize slavery in the south during the time of historic compromises. In this situation, a realist recognizes that these people, Palestinians, whom neither of us can really speak for, have never had any sovereignty and are being bullied and oppressed from one day to another to the point that hundreds have put their lives on the line in nonviolent protest and hunger strikes. What is the likeliest way to freedom? You care about that goal; that’s why you’re for the two-state solution. I care for it, it’s why I heed Palestinians, most of whom I talk to don’t believe that the two-state solution is possible any more. My friends simply don’t believe a viable state can be created in what’s left of the 22 percent.

Wanting to end their suffering and subordination is also why I have heeded the boycott call, which represents a very broad segment of Palestinian society and which is nonviolent. If there was a real path to a viable two-state solution I might support it, and I believe that most Palestinians would. But there’s not.

I didn’t mean to conflate the racism of the colonization scheme under slavery with partition. Apologies. But the analogy for me is the pace of historical development in an unjust situation in which hopes have been dashed. We went in a very short period of time from bourgeois people like me tolerating slavery and abolitionists like Wendell Phillips calling for “non resistance” to slavery to…Emerson endorsing violent resistance…to a very bloody war to extirpate slavery—all over a 6-year period during which the establishment felt it could get away with breaking historic compromises. If the settlements hadn’t been extended in 1854—if the slaveholders hadn’t pushed slavery into Kansas—John Brown might not have been radicalized. He was. His radicalization is among the real human consequences that flow from major events.

In this situation, historic compromises also have been vitiated, and every time I see activists in the West Bank, they are more radicalized and focused than they were the last time. They are involved in a real, living movement against never-ending oppression, and their hearts and minds are now shaped by that process—and I have come to the understanding that if there is one thing I can do it is to give that movement oxygen because I share the goal of a peaceful solution.

Who am I to tell a college student who has never been to the sea, which he can see from his rooftop, not to throw a rock? A John Brown type could ignite a great bloody war there— another reason I’m for boycott.

And as for zero traction for the one state solution: the two-state solution has had zero traction in the Obama administration. European support for two-state solution can’t keep people from being shot in Gaza or their cisterns being destroyed all over the West Bank. I believe the two-state paradigm is dying even inside establishment consensus. People are searching for a new paradigm. And so I fall back on the same solution I supported for the Mubarak tyranny…the right of the people to vote for their rulers…

Finkelstein: I am sure that some Mexican “one-staters” want to abolish the border or, at least, and in the name of the “right of self-determination,” want the areas stolen by the U.S. to be returned. Would you then support this political program because of the Mexicans’ “right to self-determination”? If Salafis manage to gain primacy in the Palestinian movement (not an altogether impossible prospect: witness what’s happening in neighboring Egypt), and demand an Islamic state, and the expulsion of all Jews from Islamic Palestine, would you support this demand in the name of the Palestinian “right of self-determination”? Do Palestinians, as a component of their “right of self-determination,” also get to dismantle and incorporate the Kingdom of Jordan, which after all was part and parcel of historic Palestine before Churchill chopped it off?

You make out “the right of self-determination” to be a Palestinian blank check to do whatever they want wherever they want. The “right of self-determination” is a moral principle that still must, in each individual application, be filled with political-legal content. Of course, “people” have the right to self-determination, but then the thorny questions set in: which people, where and how? Do New Yorkers have a right to self-determination? Do Upper West-Siders in Manhattan? Regional or personal autonomy within a state is also a form of self-determination. On a moment’s reflection, it becomes evident that these are enormously complex questions, and in fact a scholarly literature that can fill several good-sized libraries has been devoted to untangling them. Not very successfully, in my opinion—which was why one of Woodrow Wilson’s advisors warned him that this right was “loaded with dynamite.” 

In the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the near-unanimous consensus for the past three decades has been that the Palestinian people do have a right of self-determination, to be exercised in the “occupied Palestinian territory,” which consists of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. I see no cracks in this consensus; quite the contrary, judging by all international forums, it has only gotten stronger over time. The concluding sentence of the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion speaks to “achieving as soon as possible…the establishment of a Palestinian State, existing side by side with Israel, and its other neighbors, with peace and security for all in the region.” Do you really believe that the sentiment expressed in this historic and authoritative statement is less representative of international opinion and the current understanding of international law than that of your activists, who invoke the Palestinian “right to self-determination”as if it were a blank slate on which one can write as one pleases, and invoke “international law”as if it were whatever one wants it to be? Incidentally, I don’t understand how one can claim a Palestinian right of self-determination and not a reciprocal right to self-determination of Israelis (or Jewish Israelis, depending on how you define the unit of self-determination) residing there the past 60-130 years (depending on where you start counting). In the name of a distinct and unique identity, Palestinians rejected their incorporation into the Jordanian state as equal citizens. Don’t Israelis (or Jews residing in Israel) also get to claim a distinct and unique identity? And, if so (I cannot see why not), then where do they get to exercise their right of self-determination? The international community says, inside the Green Line. You might reasonably disagree with this cartographic distribution, but still, so far as I can tell, you don’t make any allowance for their reciprocal right. You might say that Israelis (or Jewish Israelis) can exercise this right alongside Palestinian Arabs within one unified state. But then, why shouldn’t Palestinians exercise their right within one unified Jordanian state? Distinct and unique identities cut both ways, don’t they? 

I personally don’t see any point in engaging in these intellectual acrobatics because they don’t lead anywhere, just as trying to figure out what’s “just” seems to me a dead-end. I have read through the record of deliberations after the June 1967 war at the United Nations, and it seems to me that many of the States assembled made a good faith effort to find a just and reasonable solution (see pp. 203-221 of Knowing Too Much). The framework laid out in UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) eventually metamorphosed into the two-state formula for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Instead of conjuring new notions of justice, I think it makes more sense—and here, I agree with Gandhi—to try to get people to act on existent notions of right and wrong. Ending the occupation and finding a “just solution” to the refugee question would, in my opinion, significantly ameliorate the wretched conditions of Palestinians, and would not preclude working for a yet more just future. To realize these goals would be ascending one rung on Jacob’s Ladder, which—like ending Jim Crow in the American South, and Apartheid in South Africa—would be both a historic victory and an insignificant one in the eternal struggle (“every rung goes higher and higher”) for human emancipation. 

Weiss: Norman, I think you are playing some word games here. While I recognize the wisdom in the warning Wilson’s advisers gave him, when I speak of self-determination I am speaking of a Palestinian national community that is now well defined, albeit with the trans-geographical wrinkle of the Palestinian exile community, which asserts a role here.

And when I honor Palestinian self-determination, what I’m saying is that my sense of that Palestinian community is that, They don’t believe in the two-state solution anymore, and why should they? I have a dear friend in East Jerusalem. He had some hope in statehood. Now he feels deceived. I defer to his feeling. My friend doesn’t like Salafis, and neither do I; and in fact when Egypt emerges into democracy and is freed from meddling from the West, or freer from it, I think Salafi influence will diminish. As a progressive, I believe that some of these traditional and intolerant trends in the Arab world we can influence best by getting out of their business. And that in fact Zionism with its Jewish nationalist ideology has fed Islamic ideologies. As the U.S. helped to foster Iranian Islamism by depriving the people there of democracy…

But let’s get to the central question here: As you say, there are now two national identities attached to the same land. This has always been the problem. Though I never had any truck with the Zionist claim, they did create an Israeli people. I’m reading Amos Oz right now—Israeli through and through. And these competing and irreconcilable identities/narratives/claims are now the intractable problem that poses such a huge risk. It seems that more violence is inevitable, we want to forestall it. You want to do so by imposing a solution that I don’t believe Palestinians seek any more. Let alone Israelis. Because it is as you say the consensus of the world. And that is true, though a decrepit consensus.

And when I say the two-state solution wasn’t that fair to begin with, I’m saying, I don’t think such an imposed solution can last. It doesn’t seem very fair to me as an outsider. It involves a 25-mile tunnel underground between West Bank and Gaza. Oh my god…Who would like that?

I find the two state paradigm both ineffective—it didn’t stop expansion one bit and led Palestinians to hope for a nation that was never delivered, even as countless other peoples got nations—lately Kosovo, South Sudan, East Timor—and not especially appealing. That tunnel! And today Ali Abunimah’s historical model—It’s South Africa, and world pressure will force it ultimately to change its character—is more reasonable and persuasive than Daniel Kurtzer’s/J Street’s Save the two-state solution. I think that’s the way things are more likely to work out in a peaceful manner.

(The other historical model I find compelling is Fawaz Gerges saying in the Nation some time back that Israel is like a Crusader state, it will die away in 100 years.)

But truthfully, I find a lot of this sort of argument abstract and even somewhat meaningless. Do I have any power to effect the outcome? I doubt it. I would have been an Oslo liberal if I’d paid any attention during the 90s; and Oslo had no effect, I believe, because both Israelis and Palestinians didn’t really want that. And given my absence of power over the Israelis and the Palestinians and their sense of competing peoplehoods, I think of the communities over which I have some influence, because they’re actually mine: I’m an American, a Jew and a citizen of the world. All these communities I hope to move toward recognition of Israeli apartheid and act out of that knowledge.

The other night Jeremy Ben-Ami of J St said that the next chapter of the struggle is that the world endorses one man/one vote between the river and the sea. I think he is right about this, and though he sees this as a fearful prospect, I say as a world citizen that it will be a good thing. That gives me an important imaginative task. I want to unconvince American Jews of their Zionism, and explain to them that it is the kind of separatism that blacks once sought under Marcus Garvey. I want American Jews to embrace for Israel the sort of status we have here. I will undertake this task as a left wing progressive. I reflect that the U.S. has changed enormously since 1967 in countless areas of culture and human and civil rights. Gays, feminists, blacks– I don’t need to tell you. Now US births are majority minority, and we have a minority president.

And during the very same period, Israel, as a direct consequence of Zionist ideology and occupation—and a warrior state isolation and dependency on western powers, the political conditions Hannah Arendt anticipated 70 years ago—has gone down a wholly different cultural/social path. Toward greater racism and intolerance.

If American Jews understood all this, and honestly espoused for Israel the type of society/polity they seek in the U.S., Israel would transform itself.

Finkelstein: I do not think practical obstacles constitute the root of our difference. A cosmopolitan like yourself couldn’t possibly believe that a 25-mile-long tunnel (I am not sure from whence you get tunnel: most experts speak of a highway) is such an insuperable obstacle: doesn’t the typical New Yorker commute at least 1.5 hours to and from work each day? The heart of our difference is time frames. You seem at ease gesturing to a solution that might take a “hundred years.” It’s easy enough to prognosticate in terms of centuries if you live among the creature comforts here, and not amid the abject misery there. South Africa began implementing Apartheid in 1948, and the U.N. General Assembly passed its first resolution condemning Apartheid in 1961. It then took some thirty more years and a vastly different world before Apartheid was dismantled. The Soviet Union, a critical backer of the ANC, was gone, while the Civil Rights Movement had transformed the cultural landscape of the U.S., without redistributing wealth—all of which meant that privileged South African whites realized by 1990, rightly, as it turned out, that they had much less to fear than hitherto imagined from Black empowerment. 

You euphorically herald on your web site every inch closer Israel itself draws to a full-fledged Apartheid state. I might also note that you often, misleadingly, conflate predictions by, say, Shulman in the NYRB, that Israel will become an Apartheid state if…  with an acknowledgement that Israel proper has already become an Apartheid state, which is something quite different. In this regard you resemble your political bedfellow, Omar Barghouti, who proclaims that a 40 percent vote at a Park Slope coop in favor, not of boycotting Israeli products, but of holding a referendum to decide whether or not to boycott Israeli products,signifies that 40 percent “voted for BDS.” (See The Nation, 3 May 2012. Do Nation fact-checkers give BDS a free pass?) What’s more, Barghouti explicitly and emphatically equates BDS with, at a “minimum,” full implementation of the Palestinian right of return (see his book BDS: The global struggle for Palestinian rights). So, if 40 percent of these coop members “voted for BDS,” and if support for BDS signals support for full implementation of the Palestinian right of return, then it must mean, and Barghouti must be saying, that 40 percent of these coop members in the heart of a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York support the return of 6.6 million Palestinian refugees to Israel. Whenever I come across hyperbolic nonsense like this, it brings to mind the sage exhortation of African revolutionary Amilcar Cabral: Tell no lies, claim no easy victories.

Now, returning to the main point, I do not see why it’s so terrific if Israel becomes a full-fledged Apartheid state “from the river to the sea.” You seem to believe that it will cast a bright light on the ghastly reality—as if Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank and open-air prison in Gaza weren’t enough of a ghastly reality!—and thereby hasten a solution along the lines of South Africa. But if Israel was able to evade the international consensus favoring a two-state settlement for the past 40 years, why won’t it be able to evade a one-state settlement for an even longer time? Indeed, the reality of Israel’s existence is so deeply entrenched in the international system that it’s just as likely that Israel’s absorption of the occupied Palestinian territories will lead to calls for a new partition. Has the Balkans experience in the 1990s already vanished from memory? Ironically, such a new partition would probably be some version of Avigdor Lieberman’s plan: annexation of the Jewish settlements to Israel, and detachment of predominantly Arab areas from Israel. As the Chinese proverb goes, Be careful what you wish for

Weiss: You are right to say that I embrace any statement by anyone that it’s either apartheid or about to be apartheid in the West Bank, and conflate the two. I do so from a moral impulse: I need to bear witness to what I have seen in the West Bank. It’s horrifying. The legal separation, the separate roadways, the two classes of resident, one that can vote and one that can’t, one that can travel freely and one that can’t, and all on a racial basis—this is apartheid. Apartheid on steroids, as Stephen Robert wrote in the Nation lately. Yes, some statements have been prospective and I probably pushed them. But David Shulman’s statement was not. He writes:

“At the moment, this single state, seen as a whole, fits Beinart’s term—a coercive ‘ethnocracy.’ Those who recoil at the term ‘apartheid’ are invited to offer a better one.”

Norman, I urge you not to put yourself in the position of extenuating the conditions on the West Bank.

Do I sound gleeful or overbearing? I agree that’s a problem. But I see a duty in bringing Americans the news. I should work on my tone; you know that I want to reach Jews. I think that’s where the power is over this question. But let me get to the heart of our difference, not the practical—and no I don’t see any virtue in a 25 mile tunnel, as Bernard Avishai promoted the connection, I think it’s an environmental, emotional disaster—but the conceptual.

As you say, and I love this statement, the destruction of apartheid over many years was achieved because of cultural changes in the U.S. We respect minority rights. We have seen the hearts of homophobes and sexists and racists transformed by social change. And this is all that I as an idealist prescribe for Israel. Because it has sealed itself off from these larger changes in the formaldehyde of Marcus Garveyism—Jewish separatism—and embattled militarism (all those wars that you playfully titled Atilla the Hun and the like, when we were on the bus in Gaza), it becomes an uglier place all the while. And meantime the Arab Spring has electrified young Arabs with the idea that they will get to choose their leaders. Palestinians want that right. I think American Jews could fairly quickly convince Israelis to embrace one man one vote too if we only were honest to ourselves, and spoke up about the kind of polity we actually love: one in which a minority has rights, and Jews can aspire to run things. I believe you are in denial of the psychic reality of Israel, the world they have made. Lia Tarachansky reporting on Jerusalem Day:

“Every year tens of thousands of right wing Israelis celebrate the occupation of East Jerusalem 45 years ago. This year the celebrators marched through Damascus Gate and the Muslim Quarter chanting ‘Muhammed is Dead’ and celebrating a 1994 massacre of 29 Palestinians in Hebron.”

And you’re worried about Salafists? We must clean up our house first. I wonder if in your heart you actually believe a core idea of Zionism, that Jews need sovereignty in their own land. That Jews are unsafe in the west, and we should have our own country. Myself I don’t believe these things. And more, I believe the existence of a Jewish state is causing endless turmoil in the Middle East.

As an American who was indifferent through Oslo, I was willing to accept Partition. I don’t actually think it’s my business if some foreign country is Jewish, Catholic or Muslim, though they all ought all to guarantee minority rights. But inasmuch as the peace process has failed again and again and the Israel lobby has caused Obama to capitulate, I understand that young Palestinians have turned their back on that road; and if my community is being polled, I’m going to stand up for what I believe in, multicultural democracy.

I’m sincerely asking you what you—who writes God “G-d” and whose beloved mother somehow survived the Warsaw ghetto and a German concentration camp—believe in. I think you’re imprisoned by old paradigms and not siding with the human dreamers. John Brown believed so firmly in human equality that he had blacks eating at his table when no abolitionist did so. He did not care what anyone thought on this score; and his dream had tremendous consequences. The Egyptian revolution was the most exciting public event of my adult life. If you and I had been having a dialogue about Egypt even two years ago, neither of us would have predicted anything like it. But young visionary Arabs toppled a system by not believing in its powers. And they communicated that lack of belief to people who for generations had been fearful of a tyrannical government. The triumph of the revolutionaries was the triumph of imagination and democracy. I want that Arab spring to come to the Jews. I want a new generation to liberate us from the tyranny we have so long accepted as necessary.

Finkelstein: The point to which I responded was not whether Israel has created an Apartheid-like regime in the West Bank. Ever since publication of B’Tselem’s report “Land Grab” in 2002, I have repeatedly cited its explicit conclusion on this point as authoritative. And by now, so many unimpeachable Israeli figures (including former Israeli attorney-general Michael Ben-Yair) and institutions (such as Haaretz’s editorial board) have made the Apartheid analogy that it would appear to be beyond reasonable dispute. I was referring to your designation of Israel proper (i.e., inside the Green Line) as an Apartheid state. I have not seen any compelling or authoritative argument(s) on this assertion. Jimmy Carter swung radically in the opposite direction when he depicted Israel (as against the West Bank) as an exemplary democracy (see Palestine Peace Not Apartheid). Still, under the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court, Apartheid constitutes a “crime against humanity.” A State would arguably have to cross a very high threshold before it can be held culpable for practicing Apartheid, unless one wants to risk trivializing Apartheid, and the attendant suffering it entails.

“As you say, and I love this statement, the destruction of apartheid over many years was achieved because of cultural changes in the U.S.”

But that’s not what I said, and that wasn’t my point. I meant that one reason South African whites ultimately acquiesced in the dismantlement of Apartheid was that, observing from afar the U.S. in the post-Civil Rights Movement era (and after the ANC’s principal ally, the USSR, imploded), they realized that the system of White privilege can remain largely intact despite the enfranchisement of the Black population. In the parallel instance of the Israel-Palestine conflict, I can envisage a couple of possibilities: (a) Israeli Jews might acquiesce in a one-state settlement if and when they become convinced that it won’t undermine their Jewish privilege, or (b) they will resist a one-state settlement with much greater ferocity than South Africans because of the real and imagined fears of “Arab domination.” Neither of these possibilities bodes well for the prospects of the “one-state solution.”

“I think American Jews could fairly quickly convince Israelis to embrace one man one vote too if we only were honest to ourselves, and spoke up about the kind of polity we actually love: one in which a minority has rights, and Jews can aspire to run things”

This strikes me as an “if” along the lines of, “if Grandma had wheels, she’d be a baby carriage.” All the evidence I’ve seen shows that American Jews can be very critical of Israeli policy, and even convinced that it must grant equal rights to the Palestinian Israeli minority, but it is inconceivable that American Jews can be won over en masse, now or in the foreseeable future, to the dismantlement of Israel. When you make such predictions, you have crossed over, not into the Promised, but to La-La Land.

“I believe you are in denial of the psychic reality of Israel, the world they have made”

The fact is, countries can and do change. During the first half of the 20th century it would be fair to say, and not to extenuate in the least the crimes of other “Great Powers,” that the two most racist and militaristic nations in the world were Germany and Japan. But if you look at the annual BBC World Service polls nowadays of global public opinion, the countries said to exercise the most positive impact on the world are…Germany and Japan! When I was growing up, it was not long after Blacks were still being lynched in the U.S. (Paul Robeson campaigned, unsuccessfully, for an anti-lynching law during the Truman administration). Now, an African-American is president. Israel, too, can change. I don’t see its political effacement (you might recall that after World War II, Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary, wanted to reduce Germany to an agrarian society) as the necessary denouement of its current lunacy.

“I wonder if in your heart you actually believe a core idea of Zionism, that Jews need sovereignty in their own land. That Jews are unsafe in the west, and we should have our own country. Myself I don’t believe these things”

Are we now going to embark on a “fantastic voyage” in order to probe each other’s hearts? I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the theory of Zionism more than a quarter century ago, and settled accounts back then with it. I do not have to beat my breast now to show the world that I am not a Zionist. After many books, and not a small amount of troubles along the way, I think people have gotten the message. On the other hand, I am also not a fanatical anti-Zionist, if one conceives Zionism as wanting to preserve and develop Jewish-Hebrew culture (the strain with which Prof. Chomsky seems to identify). Each to his or her own, so long as it is tolerant of difference, and respectful of basic principles such as equality under the law.

“But inasmuch as the peace process has failed again and again and the Israel lobby has caused Obama to capitulate, I understand that young Palestinians have turned their back on that road”

I have already said that, in my opinion, there has never been a peace process, but rather an annexation process that used the facade of a “peace process” to achieve its goals. As for “young Palestinians,” so far as I can tell, outside the “Ramallah bubble” and its ever-multiplying, foreign-sponsored NGOs (a.k.a. “Palestinian civil society”—shouldn’t we all get behind an NGO-nonproliferation treaty for Palestine?), the overwhelming majority of Palestinian young people have “turned their back” on every road, and are, right now, despondent and cynical, with good reason, of course.

I will not try to match your peroration. What I stand for is not a matter of rhetoric, speculation, or posturing, it is, literally, my life’s story. I have stayed faithful to the ideals of my youth, whereas virtually everyone else I knew back then, “grew up,” and “matured”—i.e., sold out. I gave over most of my life to lost causes. Now, however, I do think it is possible to achieve something that can make a difference, however marginal, in the lives of real people. I will persist in making this case, because I think it is right, and even if it isolates me yet again. I am not out to win popularity contests or, for that matter, to keynote conferences on politically meaningless topics such as the “one-state solution.” Whenever I am tempted by the dual allurements of power and privilege, I remember the suffering of my late parents, and I remember the suffering of my friends in the West Bank, and I remember: There but for the grace of G-d, go I. Or, as my late mother said, when some neighbors protested the construction of a homeless shelter in our neighborhood, “You never know where you will be tomorrow.” (She, along with my late father, learned this bitter truth the hard way.) We all need to crawl out of our navels, and to remember what the struggle is all about: our human responsibility to those who, because of G-d’s throw of the dice, were born into less fortunate circumstances than ourselves. I fear that many people in the Palestine solidarity movement have lost sight of these elementary truths—for some it’s become a lucrative industry, for others it’s a cost-free way to prove one’s radical bona fides—and don’t actually want the conflict to end. I do.

Weiss: I have/had the impression that you have shifted your opinion on some aspects of the conflict — say, in line with Professor Chomsky, who said that he supported Right of Return out of solidarity for a while; but doesn’t really support it (a defensible hypocrisy, it comes with movement politics). So I have genuinely wondered about your beliefs re West Bank and Zionism. I don’t want to be disrespectful.

Finkelstein: In fact I do think it is a fair question to ask, “But haven’t you softened your opinion on the right of return over the years?” As it happens, I have agonized over this issue in part because my oldest and closest friend in the West Bank (from Fawwar camp) is the son of a Palestinian refugee and, as he says, he is a “conservative” on the refugee question. (When once we got to talking about the Palestinian right of return he brought me to the tiny hovel in which his very large family grew up.) I have struggled with it, and I just can’t figure out how to cut the Gordian knot. It is for this reason that I wanted Mouin Rabbani—who is both a brilliant, non-sloganeering political analyst and the son of a 1948 refugee—to treat the refugee question in a then-forthcoming book on solving the Israel-Palestine conflict, and why I now support resort to a Truth and Reconciliation-type commission.

Weiss: In this case I am more of a movement person than you are. While I prize individualism, and think of myself as an individualist, and yearn to return to life as an Old Coot Writer who can alienate wide segments of my readership with an offensive word… I defer in this case to the overwhelming, and it is simply overwhelming, attitude of the Palestinian community, that the Right of Return has not been extinguished. And I defer in part because of the ongoing grotesqueness of the Law of Return, and because of the determination of several American presidents through the 1970s to gain the return of 100,000 Palestinian refugees to no avail in part because of the lobby, and because of Truman’s being stirred by the Displaced Persons, still refugees 2 and 3 years after the Holocaust, to act re Palestine. The symbolic importance of this issue reflects this grievous history, leave alone human rights law, so I defer to the sentiments of my brothers and sisters.

I think a call for Truth & Reconciliation is misplaced. No one has sought a Truth & Reconciliation commission here because there has been no acknowledgment of the crime, even after 64 years. I believe the world would be moved by the Palestinian response to American and Israeli acknowledgment of the Nakba. But the world has no right to discover that response until it compelled such an acknowledgment.

Finkelstein: I should make clear, lest there be any misunderstanding whatsoever, that the Palestinian right of return is a universally validated right that must be supported (see my most recent statement on the subject at http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2012/05/20/liberal-hopes-for-the-jewish-state/read/up-for-discussion/). But there is a distinction between law and politics. Here I will quote a smart and decent judge (Kotaro Tanaka from Japan) at the International Court of Justice:

The essential difference between law and politics or administration lies in the fact that law distinguishes in a categorical way what is right and just from what is wrong and unjust, while politics and administration, being the means to attain specific purposes, and dominated by considerations of expediency, make a distinction between the practical and the unpractical, the efficient and the inefficient. Consequently, in the judgment of law there is no possibility apart from what is just or unjust (tertium non datur), [whereas] in the case of politics and administration there are many possibilities or choices from the viewpoint of expediency and efficiency. Politics are susceptible of gradation, in contrast to law, which is categorical and absolute.

The challenge is to work out a political solution once the legal right has been affirmed. Hollow rhetoric won’t help: it requires mental and moral lucidity. The basic facts are these. Prospects for achieving a more or less reasonable settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict have never been better. The new regional configuration of power—in particular, Egypt and Turkey—will henceforth impose real constraints on Israel’s reflexive resort to brute force. International opinion has wearied of the conflict, and grown frustrated and impatient with Israel’s intransigence and bellicosity. Jewish opinion in the diaspora has also begun to distance itself from Israel. The principal challenges now are two-fold: for the Palestinians in the occupied territories to get their act together—something over which we have no control—and for the solidarity movement to get its act together. For our part, we need to articulate a goal that has real prospects of reaching a broad public; otherwise, it’s pointless, except as an exercise in moral posturing. My own judgment, based not just on reading dusty tomes and documents but also on three decades of experience testing in the wider world what works and what doesn’t, is that the most effective appeal is one grounded in international law. Because the legal consensus regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict is so broad and deep, Israel has no convincing answer to it. But one cannot invoke the law selectively, it must be embraced in its wholeness: two states based on the June 1967 border, and a just resolution of the refugee question based on the right of return and compensation.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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89 Responses

  1. seafoid
    June 6, 2012, 11:50 am

    “You might recall the conversation we had on the bus in Gaza after the 2008-9 Israeli invasion ”

    is this the vehicle under which Israel was thrown by Obama, according to AIPAC ?

  2. Kathleen
    June 6, 2012, 12:02 pm

    “Unlike you, I believe, I would have been a bourgeois in the 1850s, and a Lincoln Republican; I would have been for a two-state solution that allowed slavery to persist in the south and vanish in time. Those historic compromises were also vitiated in the space of a few years; and lo and behold some Americans grew impatient and quoted the words, All people are created equal. As Palestinians are impatient today, and who can blame them. There is no equality under the Israeli regime. There has been none since it was founded.”

    Ok just started reading. The above is pretty honest..because Phil it seems like you have known for a very long time what has been going on in that conflict and it took you decades to finally respond to the oppression and abuse that the Palestinians have been suffering. But when you did finally admit what you more than likely knew what had been going on…you moved in a big way…Mondoweiss etc. But was it humanitarian issues that moved you or your desire to save Israel. Which is not a bad desire but wondering what truly motivates you?

    On the other hand Finkelstein (I believe a true humanitarian) responded long ago to their suffering. Walking a mile in Palestinians shoes early on before it became sort of popular.

    Finkelstein basically points out that Beinart is an opportunist

  3. seafoid
    June 6, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Great stuff. Finklestein is such a powerhouse .

    I suppose it comes down to how credible Israel is. Can it pull off apartheid ?
    And manage all the other problems it has buried under the carpet which is now moving independently ? Does it have the cultural and institutional flexibility to follow Keynes who observed “when the facts change I change my mind” ? Or is it locked into YESHA come hell or high water ?

    Does it really matter what American Jews think ? Danon would say WGAF about the community.

    When the system undergoes severe stress will Israel ultimately be in control ? Has the Jewish community got the tools to manage this and if now what will happen when it becomes unmanageable ?

    • Kathleen
      June 6, 2012, 12:50 pm

      Will have to read at least three times. Lots there. Two very smart individuals. Interested where their brain and heart strings get into sticky territory. Have always appreciated Finkelstein’s commitment and focus on international law and UN resolutions. Have always thought that made the most sense. But what do Palestinians do when Israel keeps expanding, keeps bulldozing Palestinian land and homes and building illegal settlements? Not much legal Palestinian land to discuss when that keeps happening.

  4. OlegR
    June 6, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Fascinating correspondence, i am impressed.

    • OlegR
      June 6, 2012, 7:02 pm

      /As for “young Palestinians,” so far as I can tell, outside the “Ramallah bubble” and its ever-multiplying, foreign-sponsored NGOs (a.k.a. “Palestinian civil society”—shouldn’t we all get behind an NGO-nonproliferation treaty for Palestine?), the overwhelming majority of Palestinian young people have “turned their back” on every road, and are, right now, despondent and cynical, with good reason, of course./

      Never thought he had a sense of humor , but he has a point. Btw his last sentence
      would also apply to a lot of Israelis.
      In other news the knesset today turned down that idiotic law that was meant to
      circumvent the Bagatz ruling over the vacation of Ulpana houses.
      So that should make some people happy around here the place will be demolished.

    • OlegR
      June 6, 2012, 7:13 pm

      /explaining to Americans that one regime exists between the river and the sea, and the trick is to make it a democracy. /
      Which went really well in Iraq and Afghanistan , i would have thought that
      people learn by their mistakes.

      • ToivoS
        June 6, 2012, 10:14 pm

        Oleg could you flesh this out a bit. Are you implying that Israel should not be a democracy?

      • OlegR
        June 7, 2012, 4:54 am

        I am implying that past experiments by the US in a large scale social engineering in the Middle East failed quite miserably.

      • Sumud
        June 6, 2012, 10:38 pm

        America made the same mistake in Iraq and Afghanistan that it is making in Israel: supporting one faction over another with no regard to the legality or morality of their actions, rather than advocating for principles and the rule of law.

        Taking a long view, on the very eve of America being eclipsed by China and India, America is doing everything it can to destroy all that it is good that it ever stood for. American hubris, like Israels, will be the downfall.

      • OlegR
        June 7, 2012, 11:47 am

        / supporting one faction over another with no regard to the legality or morality of their actions, rather than advocating for principles and the rule of law./

        Well here is the catch Sumud the rule of law is almost never conclusive and
        parties on the ground all have their own interpretation of it moreover
        law like any human endeavor are imperfect and sometimes unjust
        in the eyes of one side or the other.And we still don’t have some politically independent international body (ICC is not even close or free of politics imho)

        The only two successful democratization attempts that i know of
        in countries that were not democratic by the US were Germany and Japan
        and they had to be literally pulverized to dust before they were rebuilt
        in their current image (and even now there are currents in both of these countries that look to their past not with horror but with a certain amount of nostalgia or even pride)

        The point of my rambling here is that you can’t bring substantial change
        to an unwilling population without applying a massive amount of violence
        or a very very very long educational process which is impossible to deliver without actually completely controlling that population which i doubt
        any country in the world have the will to do right now.

        All of this applies to all of the Super-powers in the world.

      • Sumud
        June 7, 2012, 9:24 pm

        There is zero ambiguity about the fact that the US shouldn’t have been in Iraq and Afghanistan in the first place – so it’s not a matter of laws being inclusive or open to interpretation.

        Also it’s not a sensible comparison to compare Iraq or Afghanistan to any more by Israel and Palestine to become a single state.

        The US should stop treating Israel like a special case though, and stop shielding Israel from the consequences of their actions by using the UN SC veto. Some harsh sanctions on Israel and a few of their leaders being charged with war crimes at the Hague would serve to bring Israelis to their sense fairly quickly.

        I like American policy on Israel to assisted suicide. Unless America shakes off the Israel lobby and changes it’s policy, – soon – I can’t see anything to stop Israel going over the cliff entirely in an orgy of killing. Israelis killing Palestinians, that is.

      • Klaus Bloemker
        June 8, 2012, 7:51 pm

        - Oleg: “two successful democratization attempts … by the US were Germany and Japan … even now there are currents in both of these countries that look to their past not with horror but with a certain amount of nostalgia or even pride.”
        ————————————
        I don’t know about Japan but in the case of Germany that’s not so. There is no “looking back with nostalgia or even pride.” – Quite to the contrary, as you said yourself in another thread: Germans more and more interpret the defeat of WW II Germany as a ‘liberation from the Nazi regime’ as if their parents or grandparents who supported and fought in Hitler’s war were not defeated but ‘liberated’.

        – The trend is to exaggerate the Nazi dictatorship and downplay its popular support in order to make the ‘liberation’ argument more plausible.

      • Keith
        June 9, 2012, 12:19 am

        OLEGR- “The only two successful democratization attempts that i know of
        in countries that were not democratic by the US were Germany and Japan
        and they had to be literally pulverized to dust before they were rebuilt
        in their current image.”

        Nonsense! Both countries underwent a nominal democratization, however, in both the fascist core was supported as “anti-communist.” In Germany, this included overlooking the war crimes of German industrialists as well as the placement of German General Reinhard Gehlen as the first head of the German BND (CIA). General Gehlen was the head of “intelligence” on the Eastern Front for Nazi Germany, which should tell you something. In Japan, we supported the same industrialists that dominated the Japanese economy before the war. Also, in Italy, Greece, Korea and Viet Nam, the US crushed the anti-fascist resistance while supporting the fascist collaborators, all of whom were staunch “anti-communists.” Need we go into the World War II history of Konrad Adenauer?

  5. Kathleen
    June 6, 2012, 12:42 pm

    Finkelstein; “There never has been a peace process, but rather an annexation process that used the “peace process” as a facade. The record is quite clear that the Israelis never envisaged a full withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory and the emergence of a truly independent Palestinian state.”

    Carter has said similar things about Israel never really wanting a two state

    Finkelstein: “If we can coerce a real Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory, and you are there at the rendezvous of victory, I am sure that tears will be streaming down your cheeks, because you will have realized how significant a victory it is, and how hard-won it was.”

    “Coerce” how much f—king money, support undermining of U.S. national security does Israel need? “coerce” what does that mean?

    Finkelstein “I have said many times that Palestinians should not recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” (whatever that even means), unless Israel also explicitly endorses full and equal rights for its minorities and rescinds all discriminatory legislation.”

    Does this come into play as far as land ownership?
    ——————————————————————-
    Weiss: “But young visionary Arabs toppled a system by not believing in its powers.” And the U.S. MSM fired it up by giving them endless coverage which has clearly not happened in the past or present when it comes to Palestinian protest which have been happening for decades. Ever hear Rachel Maddow or Richard Engel mentioning Palestinian protest…NEVER
    —————————————————————————–

    I too thought Finkelstein had questioned the “right of return” He sure clears it up here “I should make clear, lest there be any misunderstanding whatsoever, that the Palestinian right of return is a universally validated right that must be supported (see my most recent statement on the subject at link to zocalopublicsquare.org).”

    Even though Finkelstein has expressed that he thinks conversations like this are a waste of time or don’t go anywhere. Sure appreciate it.

    And Former President Jimmy Carter who I respect a great deal and Archbishop Tutu both believe that what has and continues to take place on the West Bank is APARTHEID.

    Jimmy on Apartheid in the West Bank

    • Donald
      June 6, 2012, 7:44 pm

      “And Former President Jimmy Carter who I respect a great deal and Archbishop Tutu both believe that what has and continues to take place on the West Bank is APARTHEID.”

      So does Finkelstein. He doesn’t think the word applies to Israel inside the Green Line. Here’s his statement–

      “The point to which I responded was not whether Israel has created an Apartheid-like regime in the West Bank. Ever since publication of B’Tselem’s report “Land Grab” in 2002, I have repeatedly cited its explicit conclusion on this point as authoritative. And by now, so many unimpeachable Israeli figures (including former Israeli attorney-general Michael Ben-Yair) and institutions (such as Haaretz’s editorial board) have made the Apartheid analogy that it would appear to be beyond reasonable dispute. I was referring to your designation of Israel proper (i.e., inside the Green Line) as an Apartheid state”

  6. marc b.
    June 6, 2012, 12:45 pm

    i have just plowed through the exchange very quickly, so i apologize if my impression is a bit superficial, but finkelstein is becoming less and less appealing as an advocate for ‘peace’. two quick points:

    1. although he condescends to samel about his numbers, i don’t think that the difference between ‘550,000’ or ‘600,000’ or more illegal jewish settlers radically alters the dynamic. and this bit is sheer ‘lawyerism’ on finkelstein’s part:

    (“600,000-750,000″ illegal Jewish settlers posted on your web site) in order to “prove” the impossibility of a two-state settlement. I acknowledge the difficulties of resolving the refugee question within the two-state framework, but I do think a body modeled on a Truth and Reconciliation Commission . . .

    so he leads from samel’s figures (an ‘exaggeration’ to prove a point, finkelstein the mind reader concludes) to the need for a truth commission to deal with the refugee problem. again, how an 8% difference in numbers would alter the framework for a deal isn’t clearly explained. but finkelstein has scored a point in his favor. bully for him.

    2. finkelstein’s nonsense about there being no negotiatons, only stalling by the israelis. this is disengenuous. we have, effectively, the same negotiating partners, and the same issues. stalling isn’t ‘not negotiating’, it’s a negotiating tactic. again, his arguments smacks of ‘lawyerism’, seemingly more interested in winning the argument than objective analysis.

    • Bumblebye
      June 6, 2012, 2:00 pm

      I dislike what seems to be Fink’s rather scornful, condescending tone. Those settler numbers were not pulled out of thin air – they originate from Israel itself, having been published in Yisrael HaYom and found by Richard Silverstein:
      link to richardsilverstein.com

      • Avi_G.
        June 6, 2012, 3:34 pm

        By the way, Yisrael HaYom is a Likud newspaper that is distributed for free.

        Netanyahu is the newspaper’s darling.

      • lysias
        June 6, 2012, 5:05 pm

        Isn’t Yisrael HaYom bankrolled by Adelson?

      • LeaNder
        June 6, 2012, 10:17 pm

        I noticed you are back again. I can’t believe Richard relies on Yisrael HaYom. I don’t have to time to follow the link, it’s late or strictly early. Well, maybe I do.

      • Kathleen
        June 6, 2012, 3:42 pm

        I really did not catch this. Although sure saw and heard this side of NF during that interview about BDS

    • LeaNder
      June 6, 2012, 10:15 pm

      to the need for a truth commission to deal with the refugee problem. again, how an 8%

      For whatever reason, I had the number 500.000 in mind too, I thought that was the number.

      From that perspective 600000 means +20%, and 750.000 +50, thus it is not a negligible increase.

  7. Krauss
    June 6, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Finkelstein is wincing, under the pretext of ‘realism’. This is the oldest hand conservatives have played over the ages. This hand was played during slavery as well as during civil rights.

    He does speak progressive language, but his positions are always mired in defence and retreat. I doubt that it is because of a lack of courage. Norman is anything but a coward.

    I think he simply went conservative. He’s a much softer version of Jeff Goldberg(and that’s slightly unfair because I think Norman has genuine intentions, unlike Goldberg) but that in the sense that he speaks the way you should, which leads him to the obvious conclusions. However, once he arrives at those he always finds an excuse not to endorse it or agree with it, and then retreats.

    This is a recurring pattern. Maybe Norman’s offended by this, but this is truly the most striking pattern in the interview.

    In addition to this, the interview he had with American Conservative(magazine) together with John Mearsheimer where he was pulling extreme positions out of his hat consistently(extreme in the sense that he essentially said the 2SS could be solved tomorrow) adds to the questions. Norman has gone from a realistic dreamer, but dreamer nontheless, to a fantastic naysayer, he pulls out fanstastically optimistic assertions to avoid taking the (hard, perhaps, for a Jew) positions that you must inevitably take if you follow through on the logic.

    I have no time nor space to go through all in detail, but the fact that over a half a million Jews live in the settlements(including large parts of the ministerial bodies), that the ‘left’ parties, first Mapai and later Labor, were the ones who increased the settlements the most, not Likud.

    Settlements construction has been concensus policy in Israel for half a century. It won’t be overturned in months, nor years. Most likely never when it comes to internal change.

    And today we get this:

    link to jpost.com

    Finkelstein acuses the opposition of dreaming, but it is he who is most removed. He still believes in fairy tales because he doesn’t want to accept the positions that would follow by understanding reality.

    And so he lashes out and calls everyone a cult. Conservative, indeed.

    • Kathleen
      June 6, 2012, 1:32 pm

      The “cult” comments make Finkelstein seem silly (which clearly he is not) or way too emotional….which I have never picked up before. Some odd knee jerk reaction

    • seafoid
      June 6, 2012, 1:36 pm

      I reckon Finkelstein knows Israel is fu**ed but doesn’t want to go on record and get the Goldstone treatment. He knows it’s all about transient Jewish power. And that it will come back to international law and by then it will be too late for the Jewish state (which they will have trashed anyway, the way things are going)

      • evets
        June 6, 2012, 3:00 pm

        He’s already gotten the ‘Goldstone treatment’ on steroids for decades. Fear of Dershowitz et al. clearly doesn’t sway him.

    • marc b.
      June 6, 2012, 3:06 pm

      I think he simply went conservative. He’s a much softer version of Jeff Goldberg(and that’s slightly unfair because I think Norman has genuine intentions, unlike Goldberg)

      that, and finkelstein is a brilliant guy, regardless of his current fit of psychosis, while goldenberg is a certifiable moron. finkelstein should be a full professor at DePaul or NW or UChicago, and goldenberg should be behind the counter f*cking up your order at McDonald’s. i will be forever ashamed that a catholic institution caved in to that scum bag dershowitz.

      • LeaNder
        June 6, 2012, 10:46 pm

        thanks, I see that Krauss has is still active, flags fluttering, finger in the wind. Another wonderful presentation of the Krauss ignorance masquerading as erudition and knowledgeability. Could it be a basic incapability to differentiate?

        I agree that’s pure unreflected slander.

  8. eljay
    June 6, 2012, 1:13 pm

    Great conversation! IMveryHO, Mr. Finkelstein makes the better argument.

  9. HarryLaw
    June 6, 2012, 1:32 pm

    Kathleen you ask, “But what do Palestinians do when Israel keeps expanding, keeps bulldozing Palestinian land and homes and building illegal settlements? Not much legal Palestinian land to discuss when that keeps happening”. In my opinion the Palestinians need to go to the UNGA get the majority of one required by the Prosecutor at the ICC and ask him to investigate all the war crimes [too many to mention here] committed by Israels Leaders since they accepted the jurisdiction of the court, remember Israels Leaders are not immune from prosecution, starting off with the first war crime article 49.6 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Transferring citizens of the occupying state into occupied territory, in my opinion a slam dunk, will the PA have the spine to do it? the jury’s still out.

    • Kathleen
      June 6, 2012, 4:36 pm

      I thought Palestinians are unable to present this as a case because they do not have the status as a sovereign or recognized state or something like that

      • American
        June 6, 2012, 5:21 pm

        kathleen

        Hostage seems to think that it was rejected by the present bo-pa and that might change when he steps down this year and somone else takes over.
        Check Hostage’s post about a month back on this.

  10. Adam Horowitz
    June 6, 2012, 1:42 pm

    One factual mistake Finkelstein makes is to misrepresent Omar Barghouti’s position on the return of Palestinian refugees. Norman says, “What’s more, Barghouti explicitly and emphatically equates BDS with, at a “minimum,” full implementation of the Palestinian right of return.” Barghouti never says this. He says the recognition of the Palestinian right of return is a minimal requirement for a just peace, he says nothing about the implementation of that right. Curious why Finkelstein does this? Especially considering he says something very similar himself later in the interview: “I should make clear, lest there be any misunderstanding whatsoever, that the Palestinian right of return is a universally validated right that must be supported.”

    • iamuglow
      June 6, 2012, 2:28 pm

      Trival, but he also calls Park Slope Co-Op “the heart of a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York”. Its not.

      link to bestplaces.net

    • marc b.
      June 6, 2012, 3:16 pm

      yeah, adam, and besides who elected omar barghouti president of ‘the BDS’? it’s dishonest in the first instance to conflate barghouti’s position with that of a universal BDS platform, even if he didn’t cock up barghouti’s equation. to the extent that there is an agreement on ‘the BDS’, it’s its use as a tactic to initiate good faith negotiations, not an end in itself. this is partly why BDS is such a dangerous movement in the eyes of zionists. there does not have to be anything like a consensus about what is to occur after all the good little boys are sat down at the negotiating table.

    • Kathleen
      June 6, 2012, 3:37 pm

      Such an important point. I think NF’s effort to clarify his stance on the right of return was important. I thought he leaned Chomsky’s way

    • FreePalestine
      June 6, 2012, 4:04 pm

      Does this mean that Barghouti and Finkelstein agree on the right of return? Maybe someone should ask Barghouti to confirm this.

  11. lysias
    June 6, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I’ve never read Rosa Luxemburg’s letters. On the strength of Finkelstein’s recommendation, I have just downloaded her Briefe aus dem Gefängnis [Letters From Prison] to my Kindle. For free.

  12. American
    June 6, 2012, 1:47 pm

    Interesting conversation.
    But the fact is the Palestine government is pushing for their own statehood and Israel is definitely not pushing for solution except complete takeover of Palestine.

    Frankly, I think those believing in a One State solution are naive. They think Israel is going to magically change it’s Jewish ‘supremacist’ bedrock founding and magically extend to their new Palestine Arab citizens all the rights that Jews have in Israel once Palestines and Israel become One State?
    Will not happen.
    You think they treat their African immigrants badly? Wait till you see how they would treat their new Palestine citizens.
    It will be Apartheid.
    And then that will go for years or decades more.
    Israel will never give up Jewish ‘Rule’. ..and that dictates that Jews must be privileged over others. Even if Jewish Rule was in a benign form of masters being good to their lessers it’s still not equality. They will never, ever consider “any others” to be equal in rights or in any other way to Jews in Israel.

    One State of equal citizens= Magical thinking.
    But if it comes to that then you can expect a ‘Arab Spring’ in Israel somewhere down the road.

    • Kathleen
      June 6, 2012, 3:35 pm

      Just went and planted more in our garden. As I was putting more basil in the ground I am thinking what the hell does it matter what Fink or Weiss or Horowitz or any of us think about this situation. If Palestinians feel the possibility for a two state solution is over…what can be done? And they have plenty of reasons to believe the gig is up. And as NF has pointed out Israel may have never intended for a two state solution. Sure looks like that is the case

      • American
        June 6, 2012, 4:09 pm

        kathleen,

        It doesn’t matter what any of them think.. any more than our opinons do.
        The only thing that matters is who has the power…..and if anyone can take it from the US and therefore from Israel…and will anyone take it before Israel has taken the last square foot of Palestine.
        It is too bad the Saudis and the other oil countries are not united in this. A oil embargo at this time would make the US have to focus or be crippled.

      • yourstruly
        June 7, 2012, 12:30 pm

        what unites the oil countries is preserving the absolutist control that their monarchs have over their people, and toppling the shiite government of iran.

      • American
        June 7, 2012, 2:22 pm

        yourstruly says:
        June 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm

        what unites the oil countries is preserving the absolutist control that their monarchs have over their people, and toppling the shiite government of iran.”

        Yea…for now. But watch how that changes…..when either ..1)their streets do a Egypt..or….2)if Israel is successful with Iran it turns it’s sights on controlling the oil states which in it’s delusional hubris it will try.

  13. Nevada Ned
    June 6, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Phil, Finkelstein makes some excellent points.
    Thanks for giving him space to make his case.

  14. libra
    June 6, 2012, 2:18 pm

    I liked this form of debate because it encourages thoughtful responses from both sides. Though my own position is closer to Weiss’s than Finkelstein’s I find much to admire about Finkelstein as a person. And I am forced to ask which of Finkelstein points do I find most convincing? Indeed perhaps before concluding such a civilised debate, each participant should identify points of agreement with his opponent together with any opposing arguments that merit further consideration.

    For myself I find these two related statement by Finkelstein compelling:

    The only possibility for creating a real peace process, and not the sham of the past 20 years, is to mobilize the Palestinians’ most potent asset—i.e., the population itself—in a nonviolent grassroots struggle along the lines of the first intifada. The succession of practical victories won by the Palestinian hunger strikers (with relatively little concrete support from the Palestinian population) again demonstrated the efficacy of this strategy.

    The question then becomes, if and when such a grassroots movement takes flight, what will be its goal? Here I think the answer is practical-political, not abstract-moral. Even an invigorated grassroots movement cannot possibly succeed unless it wins the backing of international public opinion, both popular and governmental. In the absence of such broad public support, Israel will have carte blanche to crush Palestinian resistance, however nonviolent.

    Finkelstein has said this before and is confident that this would force the Israeli to pull back to the 1967 border with some “adjustments”. I do not share Finkelstein’s optimism but I can see why he wants this concrete goal.

    Assuming Finkelstein’s scenario of mass, non-violent protest by the Palestinians, I would have liked to ask him 1. how long should Israel be given to agree and withdraw? and 2. what should the alternative be if Israel fails to respond as he hopes it will?

    Would Finkelstein be willing to consider a single, democratic state as a concrete alternative goal if Israel failed to withdraw to its borders within a reasonable timeframe? In other words, is their a way to find a unified approach that leads to progress rather than paralysis?

  15. David Samel
    June 6, 2012, 2:29 pm

    I have been mad busy with my day job and won’t have time until next week to read this whole correspondence, which looks fascinating, but I did notice my name mentioned about the number of settlers. Frankly, I’m somewhat shocked. Norman accuses me of “fabricating preposterous numbers” in estimating the number of settlers at 600,000 to 750,000. First of all, my range was 500,000 to 750,000 – just click on his link. I honestly don’t recall where I got the 750,000 top range figure from, but I do well remember that Netanyahu himself put the figure at 650,000 a year ago. link to mondoweiss.net. Even more importantly, I went with that low estimation of 500,000 in analyzing Norman’s two-state plan and demonstrating its flaws. So what’s the problem here?

    And what difference does it make whether the actual number is 500, 600 or 750,000? Far more important are Norman’s figures, intended to show feasibility of removing enough settlers to make the West Bank a viable landscape for a Palestinian state. While Norman wants to quibble over his own misreading of my estimation as 600,000-750,000, even though I actually went with 500,000, he should explain why he thinks only 5000 or 10,000 settlers will have to move, and that simply threatening to withdraw IDF protection will do the trick. And yes, I’ve seen his lectures with the maps and everything, and while I don’t find the map, with the numerous Israeli fingers reaching into the Palestinian State, to be realistic, even if we overlook that problem, Norman admits that 200,000 settlers would not be swapped in this map. He never explains why only 2.5 or 5% of these 200,000 will refuse to move – I think the percentage would be much higher – and his optimism that they can be frightened into leaving strikes me as preposterously optimistic.

    I am simply mystified that NF mistakenly (giving him the benefit of the doubt) changed my 500-750 estimate to 600-750 and accused me of “fabricating preposterous numbers,” but then does not answer the insurmountable problems I explored with moving a realistic percentage of 200,000 settlers — the armed and fanatic ones — out of the West Bank. He apparently read my analysis, and the only thing he criticizes is my estimated range of settlers (which he gets wrong), even though I assumed the minimum of 500,000!

    I should repeat that I have read hardly any of this conversation between NF and PW, and am not sure he does not address the other concerns I raised, but what I did read is truly ridiculous.

    • Philip Weiss
      June 6, 2012, 2:46 pm

      Thanks David, for clarification. Greatly appreciated,Phil

    • FreePalestine
      June 6, 2012, 4:03 pm

      I just checked Samel’s original post (link to mondoweiss.net). To discredit Finkelstein’s argument, Samel accuses Finkelstein of low-balling the figure of illegal Jewish settlers at “only 500,000.” Doesn’t Finkelstein have the right to correct Samel if he is throwing around figures that are 50 percent greater than the actual number? Samel wonders what’s the difference if the figure is 500,000, 600,000, or 750,000. Does that mean it makes no difference if the number is 10,000,000? Finkelstein said that to judge the practicality of a two-state settlement, one must be attentive to the actual facts on the ground. The actual numbers do matter, don’t they?

      • Krauss
        June 6, 2012, 5:54 pm

        Well, I read Samel’s original post and he did go conservative aiming at around 500,000 settlers. So his main critique was based on the fact that NF totally winced over his criticism by attacking his somewhat unstable argumentation.

        That argumentation, which you see on display again here in the comments where Samel should have stuck to the 500 k line and that’s it, he now blew it by saying the same things he said back then, he started to go “well it doens’t matter bla bla bla” and then throws a lot of numbers around.

        But if you actually read Samel’s analysis he does think these numbers matter in the way he thinks, he goes specifically for the conservative estimates and works from there.

        So NF is avoiding his analysis and is instead going for Samel’s weak rhetoric, which you do too. Samel may not be such a concise debater, but his analysis is very concrete and conservative.

        And NF totally bailed on confronting the legitmate criticism of him, which I touched upon earlier, that NF simply relies on increasingly fantastically optimistic projections.

        Witness the current mass crisis in Israel over five homes. And Bibi still allowed 850 new houses to go through, and he took the power of settlements construction and ripped it out of the hands of Barak and created this committee.

        All of this serves as backdrop to point out the absolutely ludicrous base scenarios he is working with. And NF totally evades that debate. Probably for the same reasons why he takes them on to begin with: it’s too uncomfortable for him to actually be realistic(which he claims he is, but he isn’t), because then he knows the 2SS is since long dead and that means he has to make a choice: democracy or apartheid. And he doens’t want that choice so he will evade as long as he can until it’s absolutely impossible to do so anymore.

      • David Samel
        June 6, 2012, 7:26 pm

        FreeP, actually NF did not “correct” me since I said 500 to 750 and he claimed I said 600 to 750. That’s “incorrect.” Also, Bibi had claimed 650. I know the guy’s a liar, but wasn’t it reasonable to speculate that there just might be some truth to it? Also, in my post, I did not dispute NF’s figure that only 200,000 settlers would be left after his proposed land swap. I certainly did dispute that that number could be so easily induced, by bribery and/or force, to leave the West Bank. Since you are so interested in numbers, do you think his estimation that 95+% of the 200,000 would leave for cash to be reasonable? I know you picked the number 10 million to sound absurd, but is it any more absurd than 95+%? Finally, do you think that the remaining 5000 to 10,000 armed ideological settlers who refuse to leave for money would turn tail and flee in terror if the IDF stopped protecting them? Are you really convinced by his analysis? Other than my top figure of 750,000, which I put at the end of my post, did you see flaws in my criticism of his analysis?

    • Ira Glunts
      June 6, 2012, 4:49 pm

      David,

      You wrote this about Dr. Finkelstein’s proposed 2-state solution:

      “And yes, I’ve seen his lectures with the maps and everything, and while I don’t find the map, with the numerous Israeli fingers reaching into the Palestinian State, to be realistic, even if we overlook that problem, Norman admits that 200,000 settlers would not be swapped in this map. He never explains why only 2.5 or 5% of these 200,000 will refuse to move –”

      In the recent interview on Democracy Now, NF stated that the June 1967 border should determine where “Israel packs up its bag and leaves from where it doesn’t belong.”

      AMY GOODMAN: And that victory would look like?

      NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: A victory is what the law says: when Israel packs up its bag and leaves from where it doesn’t belong. You know, last night I watched—

      AMY GOODMAN: And that is determined by? We just have 20 seconds.

      NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Mm-hmm.

      AMY GOODMAN: That is, what would those lines be?

      NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The lines are clear. It’s the June 1967 border.

      I have not looked at Dr. Finkelstein’s presentation to which you refer, although I recall he mentioned it during his interview with Frank Barat. What strikes me is that your representation of NF’s maps (whose accuracy I do not doubt) places him within the “consensus” to which he refers. This is not surprising. However, this formulation does not apply the standards of international law which would dictate the removal of all settlers.

      What I found surprising was NF’s above statement employing the 1967 borders seems to indicate that no settler would be allowed to remain in the West Bank including E. Jerusalem in his conception of a peace deal.

      Maybe Dr. Finkelstein simply forgot to add the usual qualifier of “with minor adjustments” or “with the appropriate land swaps.”

      I hope that Dr. Finkelstein will choose to address your above comment, as well as your previous critique of his plan. If he does so, maybe he would be gracious enough to explain more fully his mention of the 1967 lines in his interview with Amy Goodman.

      • David Samel
        June 6, 2012, 7:15 pm

        Ira, I’m quite sure he forgot to add the qualifiers, or time did not allow. His position is that with very minor swaps, percentage-wise, only 200,000 settlers would be left in the Palestinian state, 95+% of them would voluntarily move with financial incentives, and the remaining few thousand could be threatened with an IDF pullout to induce them to leave. He posts videos of his speeches and I viewed the ones in Scotland, where he shows the map and makes these points.

  16. HarryLaw
    June 6, 2012, 5:18 pm

    @ Kathleen “I thought Palestinians are unable to present this as a case because they do not have the status as a sovereign or recognized state or something like that” That’s correct the prosecutor at the ICC has deemed Palestine not to be a state and that to qualify as a state notwithstanding that most knowledgeable observers think they already are a state, by virtue of their acceptance with UNESCO, so in order to satisfy the prosecutor they have to go to the UNGA and get a majority of one, of all those states present and voting [most people regard this as a certain vote in favour] in order for the ICC to take up their complaints, which he has said he would do the moment the General Assembly gave them observer state status and the Palestinians wanted him to start the investigation.

  17. YoungMassJew
    June 6, 2012, 5:37 pm

    Enlightening conversation Phil, you were able to confront him point by point and was great to hear you calling him out on softening his position on Right of Return as he remained on the defensive. Your position is based on sound universal human rights while he chooses to compromise them. I’m not sure why he keeps suggesting you’re being too idealistic. Your stories about your conversations with Palestinians and what they want, and they only, provided further credability to your arguement.

  18. Keith
    June 6, 2012, 6:05 pm

    Absolutely fascinating exchange! I plan on making additional comments on this important post, however, I wanted to start by expressing my gratitude for this extremely important post which, hopefully, will lead to much productive discussion.

  19. evets
    June 6, 2012, 6:17 pm

    Phil –

    Excellent give and take.

    I’m perplexed, however, by the analogy to abolitionism and John Brown. An I/P corollary would consist of morally outraged Israelis rising in violence against their state, sparking a war in which many more Israelis would then fight to the death to change the state’s basic nature. What in the world points to that happening? BTW – I’m not denying the agency of Palestinians in deciding their fate, just trying to take the Civil War analogy seriously.

  20. tombishop
    June 6, 2012, 6:47 pm

    Finkelstein’s position breaks down when he says a return to the 1967 borders is the basis of the two-state solution. This is abstracting an historical event from time and not seeing it in the context of the whole history of Israel/Palestine. His position ignores the Nakba. Israel is an entity imposed on the Palestinians in the interests of Western powers. That is where we must start. To start at the 1967 borders is to accept the Zionist conception that this is a God given state which means history can be ignored for a mystical “Manifest Destiny” of a right to the land. This ignores the cause and effect of historical development. (Something Rosa Luxemburg would have completely rejected!)

    Historical analogies are generalizations which we use to try to conceptualize a present reality. Each is limited because we must look at the what is also unique about the present situation in Israel/Palestine. The analogy of Israel being a Crusader state is, in my opinion, not far off. Many like the analogy of apartheid because they see similarities in the conditions imposed on the Palestinians to what the Afrikaners imposed on the Africans of South Africa. Personally, I think the analogy of what Europeans did to Native Americans has many parallels in Israel/Palestine and explains the willingness of many U.S. citizens to ignore the injustice being done to the Palestinians in the interests of the “Manifest Destiny” of Zionism.

    Another analogy we should consider is the partition of India and Pakistan. For me this is one of the closest analogies because it was a partition based on religion, and isn’t religion what has been used to stoke this conflict? The bloody history of that partition (and the disastrous consequences since partition) should give everyone pause. How would a partition of Israel and Palestine be any different?

    The Zionist settlers on the West Bank aren’t going anywhere and the IDF is totally backing them up as we can read everyday on Mondoweiss. I think it is a waste of precious time to put any energy into a two-state solution. Most Israelis don’t believe in it as is shown by their actions and, from what Philip says in this dialog, more and more Palestinians see no future in a two-state solution.

    So the Western powers should stay out of it and let the people of Israel and Palestine decide how they are going to inhabit the same land peacefully.

  21. Keith
    June 6, 2012, 7:37 pm

    While I tend to side with Finkelstein’s depiction of the facts on the ground, I find myself in disagreement with both Norm and Phil in regards to “what’s realistic.” Norman makes a strong case but, alas, I don’t see much hope for a two state settlement in the near future. In fact, I think that the emphasis should be to get as much relief for the Palestinians as possible now, regardless of the final outcome. Pushing for the removal of the siege of Gaza, for example. There can be no just resolution to the Israel/Palestine issue as long as Zionism (political Zionism, references to Chomsky’s cultural Zionism only muddy the waters) has power in Israel and (primarily) in the US. Both a one-state and two-state solution are totally unacceptable within the framework of the Judeo-Zionist ideology. Israel will not willingly give up even one inch of the ‘sacred soil’ unless forced to do so. In the short run, the best we can hope for is to minimize the suffering, not an insignificant fact and one which should take precedence over long term philosophizing.

    The resolution to the conflict primarily resides in the US. Israel couldn’t do what it is doing without US economic, diplomatic and military support. This support is contingent upon American Jewish Zionist power, support from domestic concentrations of power, primarily the military industrial complex which profits enormously from Israel’s militarism, and from geo-strategic considerations regarding the Middle East. Since American Zionist support for Israel critically influences imperial support for Israel, that would seem to be the focus for change. American Jewish Zionism is inextricably linked with American organized Jewry and with Jewish success. Zionism has provided the motivation and organizational framework to enable American Jews to assault and conquer the citadels of American power such that Jews are now an integral, and possibly preeminent, part of the US ruling elite. Of course, this is all my opinion. I can’t prove that Zionism has been the catalyst for Jewish success. Yet, I feel confident that to the degree that Zionism provides the Zionist elites with power seeking advantage, it will be strongly supported.

    The bottom line seems to me not so much American Jewish support for Israel, although that is a part of it. Rather, the critical thing is American Jewish support for Zionism. One can divide American Zionist Jews into two groups: the fat-cat leadership and the organized majority. The critical group is, of course, the fat-cats who control the money which is basis for Zionist power. This group will continue to support Israel as long as they perceive that it is in their best interest to do so. What could change their mind? Well, for starters, Zionism may not be as useful as it once was. Having successfully stormed the citadels of power, there are no citadels left to storm. Also, should the Jewish community, particularly the Jewish Zionist community, come to see Israel as an albatross, the impetus for change would be strong. A lot of “ifs,” a lot of uncertainty. The question then is what effect the change in young “liberal” Jews will have on the Jewish power elite, how soon will it occur, and what should be done in the mean time.

  22. Rusty Pipes
    June 6, 2012, 7:56 pm

    Did I miss the part of the conversation where you discussed Mearsheimer and Walt? I saw Chomsky mentioned several times, but that wasn’t in relation to the Israel Lobby.

  23. HRK
    June 6, 2012, 9:54 pm

    What if any possible two-state-solution state that is left for the Palestinians simply falls below a minimal threshold of acceptability?

    I agree that a one-state solution is impossible. The vast majority of Israelis will never go for it.

    When someone is being stubborn and making a course of action “impossible,” the question must be asked: When should this impossible be confronted? When should one not settle for the other alternative left on the table? When should one stand one’s ground and insist that the impossible become possible, despite all the foreseeable and unforeseeable risks.

    I hope a two-state solution works out. I’d like to ask Finkelstein: If it doesn’t (because of expanding settlements), what then? Which is worse for you, a world which is attempting to force Israel to include the Palestinians in one state or a world in which the Palestinians are kept without equal rights indefinitely or a world in which a new round of expulsions occur?

    • Kathleen
      June 7, 2012, 8:14 am

      “The vast majority of Israeli’s” have not and will not go for a 2ss based on internationally recognized borders and will never go for a 1ss.
      Keep the situation in chaotic limbo. Keep stealing more internationally recognized Palestinian land. Keep undermining U.S. national security. Keep taking U.S. taxpayers money. Keep the American public in the dark.

  24. ToivoS
    June 6, 2012, 10:37 pm

    I have tremendous respect for Norman. His work on the holocaust and the IP issues over the past decades speak for themselves. Whatever his current morph his previous work establish his reputation. What I find so disturbing about this interchange (as well as some of his more recent pronouncements) is this sense that he has gained a right to dictate to the Palestinians the political tactics they should employ and endpoints they should seek.

    I have many ideas on how the IP conflict could be resolved. They are irrelevant. It is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to work out workable solution. I attended a talk by Omar Bourghati a few years back. He stated very clearly that he was not advocating one -state, a two-state or a multi-state solution. He was advocating justice for the Palestinians. And nonviolence resistance and BDS was the tool to achieve that goal. That sounded about right to me but it did leave up in the air how that could ever be achieved.

    Unfortunately, Norman seems to know exactly how that process should proceed. He strongly believes that the two-state solution remains viable. Perhaps he is correct but many reasonable people disagree. Again it is not up to him to insist on the outlines of a solution.

    I suppose the one thing that disturbs Norman is that there are many factions inside the BDS movement that have accepted the one-state solution as the only option. Many knowledgeable observers have concluded that this outcome means it would be impossible for Israel to remain a Jewish state. Maybe that is what Norman fears.

    • lysias
      June 7, 2012, 2:01 pm

      One state need not be exclusively a Jewish state, but, if the Israelis Jews negotiate in good faith soon, they are likely to be able to get substantial constitutional protections for the Jews in a binational half-Jewish one state.

      The longer they wait, the worse are likely to be the terms that they are able to get. The white South Africans waited too long, and so they could only get a democratic one state whose only protections for the whites were the constitutional rights assured equally to all citizens. Had they dealt sooner, they might have gotten the entrenched constitutional protections that de Klerk wanted.

      But at least the white South Africans weren’t faced with the choice the pieds noirs European settlers in Algeria faced: la valise ou le cercueil [suitcase or coffin]. That may well be the fate that awaits the Jewish Israelis, if they wait too long.

  25. dbroncos
    June 6, 2012, 10:55 pm

    NF-
    “Personally, I have said many times that Palestinians should not recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” (whatever that even means)…”

    Israel has made it perfectly clear what it means:

    THE VIOLENT SUBJUGATION AND DESTRUCTION OF PALESTINIAN SOCIETY:

    Destruction of Palestinian homes, eviction of Palestinians from their homes and land, destruction of Palestinian olive orchards, farms, poultry and dairy plants, intentionally polluting scant Palestinian water resources with raw sewage from settlements, destruction of Palestinian water wells, denial of permits to Palestinians seeking to drill new water wells, humiliating and invasive interrogations of Palestinians travelling to and from Israel, road closures, checkpoints, Jewish only bypass roads, aerial bombardment of Palestinian communities, military invasion of Palestinian communities, the Apartheid wall, the Apartheid siege of Gaza, unlawful arrest and imprisonment of Palestinians, torture, murder and war.

    No new news here, but worth repeating in the midst of so much angst over the meaning of “self determination”- in historical context, of course.

  26. dbroncos
    June 6, 2012, 10:58 pm

    Mr. Finkelstein takes the view of the pragmatist in saying that a 2ss is the preferrable outcome because it’s what so many important people keep on talking about. They’ve been talking for 20 years and Israel has ignored them for 20 years. A collossal failure
    of leadership. That’s why it’s time for BDS!

  27. Sumud
    June 6, 2012, 11:30 pm

    One and two state speculation aside, here is what I think will actually happen:

    Israel will continue to expand settlements and steal ever more Palestinians resources. They will continue on as they have since 2005 – Gaza is entirely isolated from the West Bank, periodically they will launch attacks on Gaza and probably Lebanon.

    More than anything else Israel wants the status quo. They don’t want to move towards one or two states, and they do understand they just can’t get away with another mass ethnic cleansing as they did in 1947/8/9 and 1967. They want things to stay as they are.

    As Jeff Halper describes it, the conflict is essentially over and Israel seems to have won, they have successfully “warehoused” Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The settlers move effortlessly between Israel proper and the settlements, and Palestine’s natural resources are transferred to Israel on a massive scale (primarily water) with absolutely NO resistance from Palestinians (at least the Sinai bedu are regularly bombing Egypt’s gas pipeline Egypt). Militant resistance by Palestinians has been pacified.

    But the status quo is not achievable, there are 2 0r maybe 3 ‘black swan’ events on the horizon which will at some point coalesce and overwhelm Israel, disrupting the status quo.

    The first is the BDS Movement. It’s a slow burning campaign that will for 90% of it’s life be in ‘education mode’ – informing the public and stoking debate. Boycott and Divest will be first, then the largest victories will come at the end – state and UN Sanctions on Israel.

    The second is the increasing radicalisation of zionists in Israel and the West Bank. At some point a rebel faction in the IDF (more settlers than ever before) may break away from the government and start a mass killing campaign. There are already “death to arabs” rallies occurring regularly. The Israelis government will do little to stop this. This will accelerate the sanctions aspect of BDS; it will force many countries to re-assess their support of Israel. Alternately the

    The third factor which may bring on mass violence from either a rebel IDF group or the IDF at the Knesset’s command, is the arab spring coming to Palestine in the form a mass non-violent political uprising. This one is a maybe because like Algerians, Palestinians are tired. Their will be a 3rd intifada, and it will be like the 1st in spirit, but I think this will come later rather than sooner. It will be a final push when BDS has done it’s work (that’s us – get to it!) and Israel and the US are isolated on the world stage.

    I guess none of those things are true black swan events, in that nobody could anticipate them, but I think they qualify as the changes and re-alignments they bring on will be very rapid.

    I hate to say it, because I’d like to think it doesn’t have to be that way, but the only way I see I/P being resolved is as a result of a great violence perpetrated by Israelis, which will rapidly shatter and supersede the consensus Norman talks about. Israel is a runaway train that I don’t think can be stopped. AIPAC and co. have assured Israel’s ongoing support by the US. The crash is inevitable, and zionism will becomes a very dirty word.

    So in the meantime we should continue with BDS as a tool to educate and to increase pressure on Israel. BDS will not be the decisive factor – Israel has demonstrated again and again the ability to shoot itself in the foot on the global stage – but it counts, people need to know about the great injustices in I/P so that when the mass killing starts they can quickly mobilise to bring pressure on their own governments to condemn and sanction Israel.

    Any talk of a one or state solution at this point by the BDS Movement (i.e. that they should adopt such a platform) is premature and stupid. It’s a trap designed to shift attention away from the real conditions Israel is imposing on Palestinians.

    I don’t think NF is promoting this strategy for nefarious reasons, I don’t think this for a minute even, but discussing 1 or 2 states instead of Palestinian rights only serves to de-focus the movement.

    • seafoid
      June 7, 2012, 3:55 am

      Super post, Sumud. I agree with you. There is nothing to stop Israel now – it’s like a mathematical formula iterating away. The long term value of Israel is zero but the formula needs time to get there.

      NF sees the power blocs and seems to call based on that but all the indicators from Israel indicate that the bad guys are on top and policy is implemented on that basis. Power is tricky. you can buy the decision makers but if you don’t get the people to follow the vulnerability to a black swan event is increased significantly. Mubarak has more details on this. Opposition within israel has been crushed and the house has been bet on YESHA. BDS is non violent. It offers Israel a way out but they have driven past that exit and think the road goes on forever. It’s going to be a real car crash when TSHTF.

    • aiman
      June 8, 2012, 11:24 am

      Second that. You’ve hit the bull’s eye, Sumud.

  28. dbroncos
    June 7, 2012, 12:42 am

    “I don’t think NF is promoting this strategy for nefarious reasons, I don’t think this for a minute even, but discussing 1 or 2 states instead of Palestinian rights only serves to de-focus the movement.”

    Sumud,
    Palestinian rights need a context: rights in their own separaate state or rights in a single state. Either way, it’s the Israelis who would be extending these rights, either in the form of Palestinian independence or as equals under the law and at the ballot box in a single state. The 1ss vs. 2ss debate is contained within the discussion of Palestinian rights. Otherwise I agree with your overall assessment. There will be more violence, unfortunately, and this may well include violence against American and European citizens and more wars launched by the US in deference to the wishes of Israel’s American supporters.

    I liked what NF had to say about Israeli society changing. No sign of it happening anytime soon, but Apartheid is a heavy weight to carry: the scorn and ridicule of the world, the rediculous labyrinth of “permanent temporaryness” policy designed to make Palestinians leave the country, arrest and detention of minors, and on and on.
    Israeli Jews will eventually grow weary of the demands of Jewish supremecy. Religeous/ethno centricty will exhast itself with enough time. 10, 20 years from now, who knows? How much violence and how many wars will be waged in the mean time?

  29. tree
    June 7, 2012, 2:14 am

    … but discussing 1 or 2 states instead of Palestinian rights only serves to de-focus the movement.

    I’ve got to agree. The focus should be on rights and equality of treatment. There’s been a “consensus” on a “2-state solution” for decades, but certainly no consensus on what the nuts and bolts of it would entail, and that has allowed Israel to consistently and “incrementally”, as Pappe has said, vitiate and violate Palestinians’ rights, under cover of a “peace process” that purposely goes nowhere. Simply having a consensus on 2 states for the last 20 years or so has not done anything to help the Palestinians regain their rights or oppose their oppression, so I can’t see where this “consensus” is suddenly going to make any difference now. Likewise the international law has been there from the very beginning. It hasn’t helped yet, and won’t if all the emphasis is on geography, in the particulars of borders and such, instead of on human rights, regardless of geography.

    The consensus that should be focused on, built and educated about, is the universal morality of justice and equality of treatment. This is the importance of BDS, and this is its strong point, and the Israeli government has even acknowledged this. For those worried that equality would have to mean a one state solution and the loss of Jewish majority status, here’s one possible positive scenario. With enough international pressure, Israel may balk at one state, but they could be forced to apply the same law and legal structure to all inhabitants of the occupied territories, in order to avoid the designation of apartheid, rightly applied under current conditions. Theoretically that could put all Jewish settlers under military rule, but its more likely that it would result in Israel ending its military legal system over Palestinians. That alone would greatly improve the daily situation for Palestinians, and at the same time discourage the crazy ass settlers who literally get away with murder under the present system. This could eventually lead to an end to occupation and the possible integration of some of the Jewish settlers into a Palestinian state, without the necessity of prior haggling over territorial boundaries before achieving some measure of justice and equality, upon which the “2 state solution” has been stuck. There are other possible scenarios as well, and as long as the focus is on equality and justice these alternate positive scenarios have a chance. If the Israelis can’t be made to realize that the Palestinians need to be treated as equals, even if only begrudgingly in response to outside pressure, then no “2 state solution”, or frankly any solution, will work. That’s the strength of BDS, and why it isn’t a “cult”. Its too bad that Finkelstein can’t see this.

  30. Steve Macklevore
    June 7, 2012, 4:22 am

    I found this a fascinating debate between two honourable men who hold two honourable views.

    Indeed it’s striking how much both of them agree on.

    The debate about the true numbers of settlers is rather ridiculous. Even if the Palestinians agree to the de-facto theft of their land to accommodate 300,000 settlers in Israel, that still leaves about 200,000 (a conservative estimate) who must be rehoused in Israel. Under the Israeli proportional representation system, it’s difficult to see how any Israeli government could enact that legislation and, crucially, carry it out with an Army heavily infiltrated by hardcore settlers and nationalists.

    That’s why ultimately I believe the solution will be one state, perhaps preceded by Israeli flight to the USA and Europe as the increasing extremism and unsustainability of Israel becomes clear. But I hope Norman is right and I’m wrong, because the one state solution could very easily dissolve into chaos and urban terrorism (see conflict in Northern Ireland for details).

  31. Talkback
    June 7, 2012, 7:31 am

    Finkelstein: “But these proposals can only be properly assessed if one is attentive to the facts, and doesn’t fabricate preposterous numbers (such as David Samel’s figure of “600,000-750,000″ illegal Jewish settlers posted on your web site) in order to “prove” the impossibility of a two-state settlement. …To leap from [500.000] to 600,000-750,000 is either ignorant or irresponsible.”

    It’s your own either ignorant or irresponsible misquotation to avoid Samel’s properly assessment which he even based on the numbers you use to point out that more settlers will resist relocation than you assume and to doubt that Israel’s going to pay for relocation.

    Finkelstein: “Incidentally, I don’t understand how one can claim a Palestinian right of self-determination and not a reciprocal right to self-determination of Israelis (or Jewish Israelis, depending on how you define the unit of self-determination) residing there the past 60-130 years (depending on where you start counting).”

    Basically it has nothing to do with heritage but with majority rule of the citizens. The offensive right to self determination of a minority (own state) doesn’t outweigh the defensive right to self determination of a majority (unity of the state) if the human rights of the minority are not fundamentally violated by the majority.

    The Zionists in 1948 didn’t even ask what the Jewish Palestinians wanted but simply claimed to be not only their representative but also of world Jewry and even of the Nonjews within partition borders which including Bedouins even outnumbered Jews there of whom 2/3 (being refugees or waiting for naturalization) had not even acquired Palestinian Citizenship and no political rights what so ever in Palestine. Not only a referendum and majority rule was denied, but also to bring the case to the International Court of Justice.

    Finkelstein: “I was referring to your designation of Israel proper (i.e., inside the Green Line) as an Apartheid state. I have not seen any compelling or authoritative argument(s) on this assertion.”

    Crime of Apartheid: “inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

    In this case: Keeping a majority of Nonjews segregated (expelled) and without their entitled citizenship (see Resolution 181, Chapter 3.1 and international customary law regarding the transfer of nationality of successor states) and right to vote to maintain the domination of a Jewish oligarchic regime.

    That’s the kind of ‘self determination’ you and your political “bedfellows” support, Mr. Finkelstein.

  32. Larrysturn
    June 7, 2012, 9:26 am

    Talk over Two States, One State, a Federation is a good exercise in sharpening ones wits but doesn’t change the composition of facts on the ground. People have to be led first to the opportunity to see, deal with, understand and begin the process of transforming their enemy into real human beings and ultimately neighbors. In March 2001 I spent a night as a guest of Musa and Afaf Hash Hash, (as part of a Compassionate Listening Delegation), and was asked whether I was there as a peace tourist or a peace maker. The question still troubles me because I always know that irrespective of my devotion there is more that I can do. Lets open hearts and minds on all sides once again to the possibility of peace and work together to make it so.

  33. seafoid
    June 7, 2012, 9:26 am

    This bit was particularly striking .

    What I stand for is not a matter of rhetoric, speculation, or posturing, it is, literally, my life’s story. I have stayed faithful to the ideals of my youth, whereas virtually everyone else I knew back then, “grew up,” and “matured”—i.e., sold out. I gave over most of my life to lost causes. Now, however, I do think it is possible to achieve something that can make a difference, however marginal, in the lives of real people. I will persist in making this case, because I think it is right, and even if it isolates me yet again. I am not out to win popularity contests or, for that matter, to keynote conferences on politically meaningless topics such as the “one-state solution.” Whenever I am tempted by the dual allurements of power and privilege, I remember the suffering of my late parents, and I remember the suffering of my friends in the West Bank, and I remember: There but for the grace of G-d, go I. Or, as my late mother said, when some neighbors protested the construction of a homeless shelter in our neighborhood, “You never know where you will be tomorrow.”

    It’s a pity there are so few people with his guts. I’m thinking of all the Jews down the years who were silenced so that today Jews in Israel can order palestinians to destroy their own homes. All the American politicians who gave into lobbyists who built the framework for what Fink called “Israel’s current lunacy” and which is not going to end well .

    What is it about family culture that can drive the Finkelsteins and the Hasses to produce wonderfully generous and thoughtful people while the Moscowitzes produce the opposite ?

  34. Keith
    June 7, 2012, 1:15 pm

    MORE COMMENTS- Phil says: “And this is all that I as an idealist prescribe for Israel. Because it has sealed itself off from these larger changes in the formaldehyde of Marcus Garveyism—Jewish separatism….”

    Comment: To compare the long history of Jewish separatism under Classical Judaism, now manifesting itself in Zionism, with the passing fad of Marcus Garveyism is to abandon reasoned analysis for wishful thinking. The separatist roots of Judaic influenced Zionism are strong and deep, highly resistant to change and a major obstacle to any just resolution of the conflict.

    Phil says: “And meantime the Arab Spring has electrified young Arabs with the idea that they will get to choose their leaders.”

    Comment: Once again Phil puts on his rose colored glasses and sees what he wants to see. So far, very little has fundamentally changed in Egypt and is unlikely to do so. Mubarak is gone. Big deal. The army and a co-opted Muslim Brotherhood will maintain this imperial dependency on a neoliberal footing. Significant deviation from imperial designs will invite retaliation which is easy and effective against a nation dependent upon outside aid to feed its people. Phil needs to begin to acknowledge that there is an empire, its not just AIPAC.

    Phil says: “I think American Jews could fairly quickly convince Israelis to embrace one man one vote too if we only were honest to ourselves, and spoke up about the kind of polity we actually love: one in which a minority has rights, and Jews can aspire to run things. I believe you are in denial of the psychic reality of Israel, the world they have made. Lia Tarachansky reporting on Jerusalem Day:”

    Comment: Phil appears to have lost his mind here. He claims that “American Jews could fairly quickly convince Israelis to embrace one man one vote,” then links to a video that strongly suggests that Israeli Jews would do no such thing. He then accuses Norman of being “in denial of the psychic reality of Israel.” Oy, oy!

    Phil says: “The Egyptian revolution was the most exciting public event of my adult life. If you and I had been having a dialogue about Egypt even two years ago, neither of us would have predicted anything like it.”

    Comment: So, bread riots excite you? That is what started it, you know. A guy burned himself because he couldn’t make a living and had lost all hope. All of this an inevitable and predictable response to neoliberalism. Our military has anticipated this even if Phil hasn’t. In the U.S. Space Command’s Vision for 2020, they anticipate that “globalization of the world economy” will lead to “a widening between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’” with “deepening economic stagnation, political instability, and cultural alienation” leading to violence and unrest among the “have-nots.”

    Phil says: “But young visionary Arabs toppled a system by not believing in its powers. And they communicated that lack of belief to people who for generations had been fearful of a tyrannical government. The triumph of the revolutionaries was the triumph of imagination and democracy. I want that Arab spring to come to the Jews. I want a new generation to liberate us from the tyranny we have so long accepted as necessary.”

    Comment: This is self-deception raised to the level of hallucination. It is one thing to be a dreamer, quite another to suffer the consequences of wildly fanciful interpretations. I don’t want to sound too negative. I’m all for Occupy and resisting neoliberalism, however, Don Quixote is not an appropriate role model. It is hard to keep your feet on the ground if your head is too much in the clouds.

    The one area where I do agree wholeheartedly with Phil is that the legalistic, international consensus is a top down solution which would have to be imposed. I would be happy to support it (for what that’s worth) if it was acceptable to the Palestinians and if it could be implemented. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening. Consequently, why compromise your dreams for something that you won’t get anyway? Perhaps striving for “unrealistic” yet inspirational goals will create the conditions for future compromise?

    • American
      June 7, 2012, 1:41 pm

      Yes Phil is an idealist…..unlike us cynics who got mugged by reality.
      But idealist are necessary to keep us from turning into complete animals and they do provide some juice for the realist who have to do the not so ideal things to keep the world from killing itself off.

      • MB.
        June 9, 2012, 3:24 am

        American, well said there, and clearly, that is why American neo realists are so relevant to the debate here — because American neo realists know very well that idealists have to be part of the debate if we are to achieve anything at all — that is obviously why men like Mearsheimer and Walt constantly pay constant, respectful attention to what men like Finkelstein,Israel Shahak, Mondoweiss, and other idealist sources have to say.

        The cold hearted bastards in power in USA/Germany/France/Israel/Russia and the puppet Gulf states will lead us to hell if they are allowed to — idealists and intelligent neo realists are the voice of sanity.

  35. yourstruly
    June 7, 2012, 3:37 pm

    n.f. states that what’s practical re: resolution of the i/p conflict is to be political, whereas, what’s abstract here is being moral. and by political he means counting on the force of international law to bring about change; therefore, oppose bds because it might (disputed by some on this thread) undermine the two-state solution that’s been the international consensus for umpty-ump years already, so even though the 2 states has little or no chance, what, don’t give up on it? what’s missing from n.f.’s argument is any mention of the importance of severing the u.s.-israel special relationship, for taming empire run amok as for forcing israel to the negotiating table. as americans, after all, how much can we directly influence the eventual i/p peace accord, compared, that is, to the effect that ending the special relationship would have on the i/p conflict.

  36. MB.
    June 8, 2012, 12:59 am

    I posted the following on the other Norm/BDS thread, but it is equally relevant here — The Israelis are quite right to fear the one state solution — they know, very well, the ceaseless humiliations that they have heaped on the Arabs, and they fear that the Arabs will never, ever forgive them, and will never turn the other cheek. They are right — most Israelis, surely, must know what they have done. I am not suggesting Israelis feel guilty or sorry about it — they are racist supremacists — but they know very well Arabs will not forgive them.

    It is not at all the same case as when West and East Africa was handed back to its original African owners — in those cases, the white population, annoyed and peeved that they could no longer enjoy their manicured lawns, cucumber sandwich garden parties, cricket, evening cocktails and ‘England in the summer’ lifestyle, simply packed up their colonial bags and returned to the rolling fields of Southern England or France. Think about it — how many of the original white population of settlers stayed and worked with the new African governments? Very few — an eccentric white tea planter here or there, or a working class white electrician or engineer, with little to go back to in Europe remained — but not a great amount of white people remained in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, and even fewer white people remained in Nigeria, Niger, Mozambique Algeria, Morocco, etc.

    In Southern Africa it was different — the white settlers had deeper roots going back to the late 1600’s, and had developed a rural white peasantry, a working class and an affluent middle class, who had long severed their European roots. And in these countries, the black populations usually lived in chronic under class slum poverty, servitude, and even lived quasi hunter gather rural lives, a state for the most part, worse than the serf status of Europe in the 1600’s, with no education and no real means of taking organised, directed revenge beyond numerous random gruesome stabbings and lynching of white people, etc, which did happen in South Africa.

    In Israel though, it is different — you have a literate, well educated, powerful Arab population, with a long and enlightened cultural memory, with a sense of identity and dignity that goes far further back than the middle ages, a sense of pride, supported by very powerful connections worldwide, and all of these Arabs know they have had their faces shoved in the dirt and trash for decades — and they will not live in peace with those who turned up from Poland and Russia, Paris and Brooklyn, stole their homes and then proceeded to intentionally hurt everything sacred to them.
    The Israelis know that, and thus will not accept one state — that is the truth.
    Also, as Shahak and other have shown, Israeli society, culture, and religion is riddled with racism, prejudice and exclusion – the Israelis would never accept being on equal footing with ‘the other’. Not only that, many of Israel’s immigrant population hail from Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Poland — ALL of these countries are deeply, deeply racist, macho, inward look, excluding societies, mired in ethno centric nationalism, and exclusion of the ‘other’, and the Jewish immigrants have carried that racism with them to Israel.

    Do you think Ukrainians and Poles and Moldovans would ever accept equal rights with Arabs — never. Israelis will not either.

    Two states is not going to happen — the Jews have contempt for the very idea of giving up, or sharing the land. One state isn’t going to happen either.

    Things do not look good — unless, that is, Israel becomes the leading world power, and can thumb its nose in contempt at everyone else — they seem to be doing a pretty good job of that so far.

    • Sumud
      June 8, 2012, 9:42 am

      Things do not look good — unless, that is, Israel becomes the leading world power, and can thumb its nose in contempt at everyone else — they seem to be doing a pretty good job of that so far.

      Pessimistic MB!

      I agree with you about the racism in Israeli society but I’m not sure that can’t be changed.

      I agree with you also Israel being the leading world power. As long as the US has it’s back, that is the case. But, US power is in decline, and I have to believe there would be *some* red line that would cause the US to withdraw their support for Israel. Can it really be that American politicians are so spineless and beholden to the Israel lobby that they can start exterminating Palestinians en masse and Obama will merely say “that isn’t helpful”…?

      I hope not.

      Without the US’ veto in the Security Council sanctions will quickly be imposed on Israel, hopefully starting with an arms embargo as Amnesty International called for in 2009 after the bloodbath in Gaza.

      That Israeli hubris will quickly evaporate when their leaders are charged with war crimes and they are under sanctions. For all their bluff and bluster, I don’t believe Israelis have what it takes to endure long periods as a pariah nation under sanctions.

      A serious lack of sumud!

      Either their behaviour will modify, or they will nuke all of the Middle East and Europe in childish spite. To be honest I’m not sure which is more likely, and that scares me.

      • MB.
        June 9, 2012, 12:10 am

        Sumud wrote : “I agree with you about the racism in Israeli society but I’m not sure that can’t be changed.”

        But how can it be changed? It seems to be derived from religious supremacist separatist ideas ( see the behaviour of Orthodox who do not wish to be tainted by anything or anyone that just might be ‘non Jewish’ ) and by plain old colonial racism, and, also it is informed by deep rooted tribal reactions imported from the places that Israelis immigrated from, like Ukraine and Poland (and a look at the daily papers shows us what the Ukrainian and Poles think of ‘non pure’ foreigners entering their space ). Beyond a fringe element of Israeli anarchists and peaceniks, I can’t see see Israelis ever accepting non Jews.

        Sumud : “I agree with you also Israel being the leading world power. As long as the US has it’s back, that is the case. But, US power is in decline, and I have to believe there would be *some* red line that would cause the US to withdraw their support for Israel. Can it really be that American politicians are so spineless and beholden to the Israel lobby that they can start exterminating Palestinians en masse and Obama will merely say “that isn’t helpful”…?”

        But I can’t see there is any red line at all; I can’t see that US would ever withdraw support, and even if they did, the European govts would offer support, and even if that were withdrawn, Israel has enough collosal power in its own right to continue meddling, inflicting collosal suffering and oppression in the region and beyond.

        Sumud : ” For all their bluff and bluster, I don’t believe Israelis have what it takes to endure long periods as a pariah nation under sanctions.”

        But would the world have the balls or the integrity to impose sanctions ? UK/Germany certainly wouldn’t impose sanctions, and Americans wouldn’t impose them, because, generally speaking,the American public hate Arabs and they like the religious and /or ‘white’ macho, spartan warrior, ‘frontier spirit’ aspect of Israel — you can’t under estimate the hatred of Arabs and all things Muslim — a cursory look at the US/UK tabloid/conservative press and blog pages shows a distinct support from the public ( as judged from the comments from the public on the articles ) for drone attack murders, etc. Even so called enlightened papers like the Guardian show some degree of public support for killing Arabs and Muslims via drones etc ( see ‘Comment is Free’ pages.) China and other far eastern powers wouldn’t impose sanctions, because they are un interested in the conflict, have no historical/religious connections to the region, and are pragmatic enough to see that if they had to choose sides, ‘Jewish power’ is far more useful to them than ‘Arab power’ ( though that might fluctuate depending on oil needs in Asia).

        Sumud “Either their behaviour will modify, or they will nuke all of the Middle East and Europe in childish spite. To be honest I’m not sure which is more likely, and that scares me.”

        Yes, I agree with you — it is frightening.

  37. aiman
    June 8, 2012, 11:21 am

    NF: “Here I think the answer is practical-political, not abstract-moral.”

    How about practical-moral-political? One of the most meaningful slogans, courtesy of feminism goes: The personal is the political. The personal is also moral. Also I think moral is never abstract. All human movements for peace and freedom cannot be separated from moral. It is the engine that drives us.

  38. PilgrimSoul
    June 8, 2012, 3:35 pm

    The power of these two passionate minds is incredible, and the very existence of this dialogue demonstrates the usefulness of this website. We owe both people involved a debt we cannot repay. But is the dialogue about attitudes, or about what Israel will do? The problem is that Israel’s political class and its proxies in the US may not want to think rationally, do not want solutions, do not want a settlement. Because the Israeli state has kept the trauma of the Holocaust alive, mentioning it and invoking it on an almost daily basis, the people simply cannot think straight anymore. They have internalized so much of the toxic aggression dealt out by Likud Zionism that what they really want is destruction, I’m afraid. Historically, such things have happened before.

    The real question is not what good people like Finkelstein and Phil want, and the enormous mental energy they exert to imagine their noble objectives. The brave young people of the Arab Spring are going to make it their lives’ work to get justice for Palestinians. Why? Because they see their brutal persecution every night on TV. They see the gratuitous Israel desecration of Muslim holy sites. Israel/Palestine is holy to three Abrahamic faiths, not just one. There will be another war in the Middle East, and maybe a glimmer of a chance for a settlement at some point, but not a very big window. More likely there will be ongoing military activity against Israel.
    Then Israeli leaders will make the decision about what to do with their nuclear weapons.

    Will those leaders be amenable to solutions, or will they be more invested in acting out to completion the destructive aggression that drives them?

  39. Binyamin in Orangeburg
    June 8, 2012, 6:12 pm

    Some problems with Marxism-Leninism-Norman Finklestein Thought:

    Norman says:

    “Don’t Israelis (or Jews residing in Israel) also get to claim a distinct and unique identity? And, if so (I cannot see why not), then where do they get to exercise their right of self-determination? The international community says, inside the Green Line.”

    Certainly Afrikaaners also have a “distinct and unique identity.” But no, they don’t get self-determination, if by that you mean, an army. (That is the core of “Jewish self-determination”, is it not?) Within a democratic South Africa, Africaaners are, however, entitled to equal treatment under law and perhaps some state-sanctioned protections for the Africaaner language and culture, such as the right to have Africaaner-language schools.

    Why does the one-state solution so terrify Norman, Benny Morris and Alan Dershowitz? Norman may be right that it is pie-in-the-sky. But his tone suggests its more than that.

    He says we “cannot be agnostic about Israel’s existence.” That’s a very troubling comment since it echoes the Zionist trope that to support a one-state solution is to support a second genocide. What Norman is saying is that if there is no Israel, there is no Jewish people. Do Native Americans had a “right to self-determination”? I’d say its just a strong as the Jewish people’s right, and I can think of a few parts of the North American continent where they are entitled to “redeem the land.” Does the fact that they have not done so mean that the “distinct and unique identity” of Native Americans has been abolished? I doubt it. In fact, American democracy has found ways to protect it. (I won’t even go into the African-Americans’ right to self-determination, but as a former Maoist, Norman is very familiar with the arguments for the “Black Belt Nation” and why they turned out to be drivel.)

    Norman’s opposition to one state suggests that he believes the Palestinians would use democracy as a stepping stone to a Naqba for the Jews. If he believes that is the core trajectory of Arab and Palestinian nationalism, let him say so. His talk about “Salafist” influences with the Palestinian community echoes Bibi. What is remarkable is how mellowed Hamas has become. Hamas is now the main agent for the suppression of Jihadis in Gaza. link to haaretz.com. The jihadi tendency has long failed to gain traction within Palestinian society, which is evidence for just the opposite conclusion as to its future prospects.

    What we cannot be agnostic about is Israel’s subjugation of the Palestinians, and our nation’s support for it.

    The main problem with the one-state solution is that very few Palestinians IN PALESTINE support it. If that changed, I would hope Norman would be on board, as would I.

  40. MB.
    June 9, 2012, 3:17 am

    Pilgrim Soul said : “But is the dialogue about attitudes, or about what Israel will do? The problem is that Israel’s political class and its proxies in the US may not want to think rationally, do not want solutions, do not want a settlement… what they really want is destruction, I’m afraid. Historically, such things have happened before. ”

    Exactly right — not forgetting too, amongst Israel’s founding ideologues were men like Jabotinsky and others, who were inspired by fascism and Mussolini.

    “The real question is not what good people like Finkelstein and Phil want, and the enormous mental energy they exert to imagine their noble objectives.”

    Exactly right — the ‘facts on the ground’ as Sharon, Ben Gurion and others showed, were established by sheer violence,racial contempt, and cunning, conniving evil, not by Jewish intellects and gentile voices of conscience, either inside or outside Israel — all voices of conscience have been repressed or marginalised.

  41. jewishgoyim
    June 24, 2012, 9:33 pm

    So nothing about the Israel lobby. That’s some rather extreme dilution of the original topic…

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