The clarity of Dani Dayan: Settler leader exposes the ethnic privilege underlying Israeli society

Today’s NY Times has an op-ed from settler leader Dani Dayan, who urges that the world accept the status quo of occupation, albeit with some vague improvements.

Dayan repeats some of the nonsense that we would expect:

Arabs called for Israel’s annihilation in 1967, and Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria in self-defense. Israel’s moral claim to these territories, and the right of Israelis to call them home today, is therefore unassailable.

Dayan should know; he emigrated from Argentina in 1971, and his right to rule as a member of the “indigenous” Jewish population over the “non-indigenous” people who have been living there for centuries, is similarly “unassailable.” One would expect to see such use of language in a particularly outdated Twilight Zone episode where every spoken word signifies its opposite.

While it’s difficult to see any merit in the racist arrogance of this op-ed, there are moments when Dayan stumbles, for his own perverse purposes, into some clarity.

Approximately 160,000 Jews live in communities outside the settlement blocs that proponents of the two-state solution believe could be easily incorporated into Israel. But uprooting them would be exponentially more difficult than the evacuation of the Gaza Strip’s 8,000 settlers in 2005. The attempts by members of the Israeli left to induce Israelis to abandon their homes in Judea and Samaria by offering them monetary compensation are pathetic. This checkbook policy has failed in the past, as it will in the future. In the areas targeted for evacuation most of us are ideologically motivated and do not live here for economic reasons.

It’s hard to argue with that logic. Indeed, Norman Finkelstein has conceded an even higher figure – 200,000 – as the number of settlers who would be relocated within the green line in a two-state settlement. Yet he foresees 95+% of those settlers accepting monetary inducements, and the remainder fleeing in fear when the IDF announces it will no longer protect them. On virtually all other matters, a comparison between the likes of Dayan and Finkelstein would be absurdly one-sided in the other direction, but on this, I find Dayan to be more persuasive.

Dayan also should be taken seriously in his plea for continuation of the status quo. We often use words like “unsustainable” and “intolerable” to describe the occupation, but those are clearly aspirational rather than accurate descriptions of present-day reality. The occupation has been sustained, and has been tolerated by the international community, for nearly half a century. While we debate one-state versus two-state solutions, and speculate whether Israel would ever dare a large scale expulsion of millions of “ethnic undesirables,” with or without cover of war with Iran, continuation of the status quo is a short-term certainty, a medium-term likelihood, and a long-term option. No one ever thought it would last 45 years, and Israelis, the people in power, seem to be able to function quite well in callous disregard of the misery they are imposing on millions of others. Indeed, without considerable international pressure, continuation of the status quo of occupation, which is truly unbearable only for its victims, is likely to continue indefinitely.

Another inadvertent “virtue” of Dayan’s piece is that it lays bare the “Jews rule” foundation underlying all of Zionism. Dayan casually proposes perpetuation – forever, it seems – of a system in which Israeli Jews, through the actual use and/or threatened use of its highly advanced military firepower, exercises complete domination over another people who are denied any authority over their own lives.

Presumably, Dayan is unconcerned with the niceties of pretending to live in an actual “democracy” where the government rules by consent of the governed. By contrast, “liberal Zionists,” whom he charitably calls the “Israeli left,” place a much higher value on this fig leaf deemed necessary in polite circles of the 21st century. However, Dayan, more than his liberal country(wo)men, exposes the ethnic privilege underlying all of Israeli society. No doubt he would unapologetically acknowledge that there can be no true equality between Jews and others in the Jewish State, while the “Israeli left” would prefer the fiction that discrimination against non-citizens can be minimized to tolerable levels.

About David Samel

David Samel is am attorney in New York City.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Settlers/Colonists

{ 7 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi_G. says:

    On virtually all other matters, a comparison between the likes of Dayan and Finkelstein would be absurdly one-sided in the other direction, but on this, I find Dayan to be more persuasive.

    [...]

    No doubt he would unapologetically acknowledge that there can be no true equality between Jews and others in the Jewish State, while the “Israeli left” would prefer the fiction that discrimination against non-citizens can be minimized to tolerable levels.

    Indeed.

  2. Krauss says:

    The Op-Ed is a very clever move from NYT, as it moves right to the source and beyond the Hasbara ‘interpreters’ like Abe Foxman(and other assorted supporters of the Levy report which denies there’s even such a thing as an Occupation).

    Just this last Sunday, there was a very strong piece on their editorial page about Israel and I would presume that they got pressured by the lobby to run a reply from a ‘pro-Israeli perspective’.

    Well, they went right to the source. And as David Samel concludes, the honesty of the settler leader is, in a way, refreshing when compared to the army of ‘shoot-and-cry liberals’ like Jeff Goldberg and others who keep mouthing platitudes about the 2SS but always, without fault, attacks even the tiniest attempt to actually make it happen.

    This new approach is far more aggressive and also truthful than the meandering miasma we had seen from the Times.

    Let’s see if they can keep it up or if we’ll get a pure Hasbara piece in the coming week(which I think the odds are heavily in favour of).

    • This new approach is far more aggressive and also truthful

      i think it’s cowardly. it’s the fox news approach, the ‘both sides’ thing. they run a decent truthful article (finally) re israel’s ‘democracy’ and then they have to do payback. so instead of putting themselves on the time with this drivel narrative they move over and provide free advertising and hasbara to the lowest of lows.

      that’s my opinion. where’s the journalism? they should have interviewed him and matched it with some fact based information. cowards.

      • Krauss says:

        Well, then we disagree. It’s not the Fox News approach because the opposite side of their damning editorial was Dayan’s out-and-out attack on anything even remotely close to peace negotiations. And that’s why I called it more aggressive and truthful, because if they went with the Fox News approach they would take a ‘shoot-and-cry’ liberal. (The best is actually Gershom Gorenburg).

        Yet they sidestepped the army of Hasbaraists who have a job to try to ‘relate’ to Western audiences and went straight to the unfiltered racist source. That requires guts, because the lobby will not be pleased when they are sidestepped, because after all, Mr. Dayan isn’t part of the lobby. He is part of what the lobby wants to sanitize.

        So no, Annie, the cowardly thing to now would be to move away from this path and revert back to giving the Goldbergs, the Gorenburgs, the Dershowitzes of the world the privilege to ‘define Israel’ for their readers.

        When Mr. Dayan is the interpreter of Israel’s policies, it’ll be a lot harder to sanitize Israel’s image.

        So, again, let’s hope NYT keeps this up. But I have my doubts.

        • krauss, just for clarity..you said the nyt was clever for running this piece. and now you are saying it is not like fox news because Dayan’s report is aggressive and truthful?

          the nyt wimped out. if they wanted to push dayan’s narrative they should have grabbed the dog by the tail and put their own friggin name on it.

        • Krauss says:

          Heh, true. On the other hand, the mere fact that they published him as a response to their Sunday editorial instead of the usual litany of apologists is the main contention.

          In some ways it’s smarter to use him instead of an in-house editorial. It shows that it isn’t a bunch of isolated Upper West Side liberals mouthing of, but that this is the real face of the Occupation.

          But I do agree with you on one point, namely that it’s past time for them to take a tougher stance on their editorial pages instead of just meeking about like they did on Sunday. That editorial was a step forward, but nonethless filled to the brim with bromides.

          Nontheless, progress is being made. Slowly but surely.

  3. ColinWright says:

    “… honesty of the settler leader is, in a way, refreshing when compared to the army of ‘shoot-and-cry liberals’ like Jeff Goldberg and others who keep mouthing platitudes about the 2SS but always, without fault, attacks even the tiniest attempt to actually make it happen…”

    I don’t think ‘honesty’ is the right word. The lies are more brutal, but they are still lies. The piece is loaded with ‘em. Dayan need take second place to no one when it comes to dishonesty. He’s a fine Zionist.