Fear of democracy in the Jewish community

Israel/Palestine
on 120 Comments

Last week a number of Jewish groups staged a historic debate inside a New York synagogue of the question, Can a Jewish state be democratic? Alex Kane reported on the discussion last week, but I wanted to convey my impressions. 

The actual business of the debate was bracing: virtually everyone in the room acknowledged that Israel’s political values are completely inconsistent with U.S. democratic values. But the running theme of the discussion was fear:  even in this leftwing Jewish space there was an awareness of the fear in the broader Jewish community about what is going to happen to Israel. And the panelists all in their way called on us to be sensitive to those fears if not to respect them.  Moderator Lizzy Ratner began the evening with a parable aimed at proving that Jews can discuss these things as Jews and the sky won’t fall: she quoted the Talmud, a passage involving a dispute between the houses of Hillel and Shamai, in which a heavenly voice was heard to say that both sides are the word of God. 

Here’s a short list of other fears people addressed:

To begin with, the fear of having the discussion, which had caused the Upper West Side synagogue Ansche Chesed to back out and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of the downtown LGBT-focused synagogue Beit Simchat Torah to step in. Then there was the fear of historical Jewish persecution, which every speaker referred to. This included fear of another wave of anti-Semitism–the likelihood of  which, Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark said boldly, Israel’s conduct was enhancing globally rather than lessening. Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace called on us to attend to the Israeli Jewish fears about losing power, and JJ Goldberg of the Forward echoed this, saying that top generals and Mossad chiefs are terrified by what is happening to Israeli society. Of course Goldberg also mentioned the fear of Palestinians: he said Israelis are scarred by the second intifada and angry about it. And he spoke of the fear felt by American Jews of losing the dream and responsibility involved in supporting the Jewish state: he said they are afraid of the growing delegitimization of Israel on the left. That is surely why Ansche Chesed refused to have the conversation.  

Sure sounds like a lot of handwringing! And Ratner ended the evening by declaring firmly that the conversation must now continue outside the Jewish community, with non-Jews participating. I can’t wait. But for the time being the handwringing seems a necessary component of the American Jewish awakening to apartheid; so let me quote from three statements by panelists that capture the mood of the night.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, who has lived in Israel, spoke forcefully about Israeli Jewish fears and called on others to use a language of hope not fear so as to urge that society forward toward equal rights– which she said emphatically is the only guarantee of safety.

She described the positive feeling she had on first arriving in Israel of being among people who look more or less like herself, a positive feeling she has even now when she watches Tel Aviv wind down on Friday as the Sabbath approaches.

“That feeling of living in a society where culture is dominant is for many of us if not most of us [Jews] in the United States really pretty seductive because it’s not something that we experience here. At the same time I cant justify to myself the oppression of another people for the sake of that feeling. There’s no getting around the fact that Israel is based on a system of ethnic supremacy, and that what kind of life you can lead there is largely determined by whether you are Jewish or not.”

But Vilkomerson stressed her own Americanness, and her pride in this country’s social changes and the Jewish role in those movements.  

“I’m very proud that as a community we’ve often stood in solidarity with those who are oppressed and joined struggles for freedom and equality. And so I see these positions [her own, on equality in Israel] as a continuation of that tradition. But I do think that it’s important to acknowledge the feelings of loss and fear that contemplating a more equal and just society in Israel bring out. As the ones in power we are the ones with the most to lose. The systematic history of persecution of Jews in many eras was real, so these emotions especially of fear have real weight.”

Acknowledging those fears doesn’t mean ennobling them. Yes, there is fear and sadness and discomfort among Israeli Jews about what a thorough transformation of Israeli society would involve. But “those emotions can’t trump” Palestinian rights; and– now addressing the monstrous selfishness of the situation– Vilkomerson said American Jews must ask themselves why Palestinians must be patient “in order to better accommodate our fears.”

“We should remember that the U.S. was founded as a democracy but for a select group, propertied white men.” It then took 100s of years of struggle, carried on by many popular movements, and accompanying Supreme Court decisions, to give all people access to the privileges initially bestowed on one group.

“Today we don’t think of that as a tale of destruction. We think of it as one of the greatest accomplishments we’ve ever made.”

That process is not complete in the U.S. But Vilkomerson concluded by turning the Israeli fears on their head:

“I would ask the question. Why when people push for the same in Israel is that considered a threat?”

JJ Goldberg of the Forward also addressed the fears inside Israel. While he placed himself in the camp of the critics on the panel and in the audience, he called on anti-Zionists to help change the American Jewish community by working inside it, so as to broaden its diversity. It wasn’t entirely clear whether Goldberg, who said he pitches Israel bonds, was calling on anti-Zionists to say good things about the Jewish state. Certainly he wants Israel’s critics to support Israeli liberals, so that that society can “get back to the job of becoming the democracy it should be.”

You cant underestimate the fears of Israelis Jews about violence and American Jews about this whole delegitimization stuff, which I think is a lot of nonsense. But  people are scared.

And in that spirit, he called on Jews “to say, I am part of your community– and to keep your facts straight.”

Vilkomerson and Goldberg are clearly reflecting emotions inside the Jewish community. Even CBST the leftwing synagogue that was hosting the discussion has started a committee to begin exploring how to have this conversation– rather than simply embarking on the conversation. The fear reflects the no-man’s-land the Jewish community finds itself in in terms of old paradigms, including the two-state solution. The official Jewish community used to have one solemn task, to support Israel. Now those leaders know in the back of their minds that things have gone wrong, and they are afraid to acknowledge as much, because if they do, the American support crumbles, and they will thereby betray their kinsmen in Jerusalem.

I can relate to these fears because a lot of my initial activism on this issue involved handwringing: workshops about the Jewish family and trauma and our inhibitions about speaking our minds and hurting our parents, all because we were looking into the Nakba and uttering phrases like, equal rights. Given that so many activists had to go through this process before they could be clear and effective, I imagine the official Jewish community is now embarking on its own handwringing interlude– in which it discovers the Nakba and doesn’t know what to do about it.

The best answer to these fears was a statement by Marilyn Neimark. Neimark was responding to her friend Kathleen Peratis, a civil rights attorney and member of the Peace Now board, who said frankly that she holds on to a glimmer of hope that Israel will become a democracy. After all, it took America a long time to become a democracy; it’s still not there.

Neimark began by saying that the argument over whether Israel is a democracy is a “derelict pilpul”– pilpul means Jewish moral debate. And she concluded by saying that the Jewish attachment to Israel was skewing our moral vision.

Practically speaking there’s no such thing as distinct Green Line Israel. It’s a fiction or maybe a fable that we tell ourselves to sustain some shred of hope. The fact is some residents of the lands Israel controls can vote… and  many millions more don’t have votes. That seems to me to make a slam-dunk case that Israel is not by any common definition a democracy. Yet we seem to keep wanting to debate the old question of whether a Jewish state can be a democracy and debating it as if it’s an abstract question. After 65 years of evidence, and a significant majority of those years involving Israel’s occupation…. it seems like a kind of derelict pilpul not to talk about the concrete reality….

Maybe it’s better to ask, has Israel ever been a democracy? And if we add the reasonable caveat that no country lives up to the best ideals of democracy, then maybe it’s better to ask, over these 65 years has Israel been tracing an arc that bends toward justice, speaking of Martin Luther King, of course. If the answer is No, could it be because no matter the potential merits and good will of the founding plan, the effort to establish and sustain the Jewish character of the intended Jewish democracy doomed the democratic character from the start, and it’s been spiraling downward ever since? For whatever the starting point was, I think we mostly agree that Israel has become less democratic in recent years, and every time the separation between religion and state dwindles, free speech  is curtailed, or  minority rights are trampled, it is … in the name of preserving the state’s Jewish character– that is, Jewish hegemony.

Peter Beinart, the liberal, religiously-observant American Jew who’s taken a lot of heat for his useful and eloquent book, The Crisis of Zionism, exemplifies well the ways that Jewishness trumps democracy in even the most liberal [circles]. Here’s what he told the Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg a few years ago.

“I’m not asking Israel to be Utopian. I’m not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I’m actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel’s security and for its status as a Jewish state.”

This is the kind of thinking that has long justified not only the de facto but the de jure discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

I don’t know how anyone can counter that argument. In fact, listening to my taperecording and reading Neimark’s words over and over to transcribe them, I understand the fear inside the organized Jewish community. For if you admit this discussion inside Jewish spaces, then people are going to hear Marilyn Neimark; and allowing her to speak means the debate is over. American Jews are going to nod their heads at her devastating judgments and begin to abandon the ideal of a Jewish national project. I don’t see any other outcome.

Then maybe we can move on to the hard business of building a different future.

About Philip Weiss

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

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120 Responses

  1. seafoid
    April 10, 2013, 11:40 am

    The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

  2. Dutch
    April 10, 2013, 11:57 am

    Phil: “American Jews are going to nod their heads at her devastating judgments and begin to abandon the ideal of a Jewish national project. I don’t see any other outcome.”

    Insha’llah this will happen before 10:00 pm as otherwise it will be completely useless.

  3. seafoid
    April 10, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Great piece. I think the fear derives from concerns that the Palestinians will be as cruel and vicious as Israel has been. And they won’t. Because they have more continuity and grounding than the Zionists do.

    • MLE
      April 11, 2013, 12:24 am

      Agreed. That’s always the biggest fear of oppressors

    • Ellen
      April 12, 2013, 3:52 am

      FEAR…the great controller and enfeebler.

      Don’t be afraid.

      • MHughes976
        April 12, 2013, 5:42 am

        But surely it is inescapable that the more you ill treat and humiliate, without eliminating, some others the more you must fear them?

      • seafoid
        April 12, 2013, 9:56 am

        They are so afraid of change. But it will free them. Zionism is a mental prison.

      • Obsidian
        April 12, 2013, 12:10 pm

        @seafoid

        Better a mental prison than a death camp.

      • seafoid
        April 12, 2013, 12:50 pm

        FFS Obsidian. Sharing a bus with a Palestinian woman is Auschwitz redux, is it?

      • Sumud
        April 12, 2013, 12:57 pm

        Better a mental prison than a death camp.

        False dichotomy: (logical fallacy) A situation in which two alternative points of views are presented as the only options, whereas others are available.

      • MHughes976
        April 12, 2013, 1:33 pm

        Being so afraid of death that you accept madness is not wisdom.

      • seafoid
        April 12, 2013, 1:55 pm

        I had this vision of the Stone Roses turning up to play in East Jerusalem on the day Zionism collapses with a Palestinian children’s choir performing alongside singing “I am the resurrection”

        I am the resurrection and I am the light
        I couldn’t ever bring myself to hate you as you’d like

        link to youtube.com

        Fairuz would follow singing “ya qudsu”

        Then there would be Abdel Halim on video singing Ahwak

        link to youtube.com

        Cue mass confusion and bewilderment in West Jerusalem and the settlements in East Jerusalem.

      • Ellen
        April 13, 2013, 5:22 am

        Sumud, Zionists must resort to even absolute false dichotomies such as Obsidian’s bizzare attempt here.

        Pillars of ongoing support for Zionism are built on fear. Take the fear away and there is light and rationality. Entlightement.

        Hence the cultivation of fear. It helps keep Zionism and other nationalist ideologies alive and the fearful controlled.

  4. iResistDe4iAm
    April 10, 2013, 12:18 pm

    “For if you admit this discussion inside Jewish spaces, then people are going to hear Marilyn Neimark; and allowing her to speak means the debate is over. American Jews are going to nod their heads at her devastating judgments and begin to abandon the ideal of a Jewish national project. I don’t see any other outcome.”

    I see another outcome, the outcome aptly summarised in Change of Plan (September 22, 2012) link to mondoweiss.net — “they don’t want to know” or in this case, they don’t want to hear.

    • seafoid
      April 10, 2013, 2:02 pm

      There will be a big split between American and Russian Jews over what to do with the black sheep of the family who lives in the shtetl by the Med.

      The Russians are all for YESHA style nihilism and the Yanks won’t be.

      • Citizen
        April 10, 2013, 6:25 pm

        @ seafoid

        Where do you posit Rachel Corrie’s parents in your vision?

      • seafoid
        April 11, 2013, 12:47 am

        Here’s my take on it, Cliff. The Israeli Jews don’t know who they are. Their leaders run a very tight ideology but it’s cracking. Everything that made sense said f*** the Palestinians, thatcherise the territories, you take what you need and we will bless it.

        The Corries represent a different mentality. They are grounded and they know who they are. They know what is right and what is wrong. They passed that on to Rachel. It ain’t right to shaft Gaza . Rachel knew that. She was killed for that.

        Israel still hasn’t dealt with the Shoah. The answer to grief is not violence. And Israel has so many layers of deep pain to deal with.

        Israel is a failed settler colonial experiment. There was no continuity with the values of the people who went before them. They thought the Shoah redefined everything. And there is no thought for the people who will come after them. It’s all deeply traumatised.

        link to youtube.com

        The Corries have that rootedness that the Israelis do not have . They will be vindicated.

        BTW I think the 60s in the US were a part of the process of the US finding out who it was. And it probably needs another round they way things are going.

      • Chu
        April 11, 2013, 2:39 pm

        I agree. I don’t think they know who they are. They know how to stick together (sort-of) and act like a Spartan nation as they all sing haktiva. But, their narrow and insular way of life from their surrounding neighbors has caused them a lot of retardation as a real presence in the middle eastern realm and the greater world. Even if some of them get to leave their fortress encampment to visit the US or Europe, they lot of them are trapped in a bubble that is slowly leaking.

      • RoHa
        April 11, 2013, 9:10 pm

        “The Israeli Jews don’t know who they are.”
        “The Corries …know who they are.”

        Sorry, I don’t understand. What do you mean by saying “they know who they are”? I’m pretty sure you don’t mean anything as simple as “Mr. Corrie knows he is Mr. Corrie”.

      • seafoid
        April 12, 2013, 1:55 am

        I mean that they know where they come from and what values matter to them. When Rachel was 11 or whatever and stood up in her class to say she wanted to help poor people, that didn’t come from nowhere. She probably spoke a lot to her grandparents and parents . At a young age she already had a solid values system.

        It was natural that when she went to the occupied territories she felt drawn to helping the Palestinians. Zionist indoctrination is all about cutting out empathy.

        I have never met Mrs Corrie but I’m sure she would be a wonderful person to talk to. She is very unlikely to drone on about nothing .

      • W.Jones
        April 12, 2013, 2:20 am

        I think he is talking in terms of identity. The Corries have a family, they understand their nationality is American.

        But the Israelis are still working out how they want to define their political and State identity. For example, can Palestinians be a full part of that? Can someone who converts to another religion be a part of that?

        In some ways this might have been true for early America. Could black people be full Americans? What about the Indians? How about people from other countries colonies like Spanish Florida? America had an advantage that it did not define itself as an ethnic state, as I understand it correctly. So any “free man” could be a full American.

        In reality though this took a long time to work out, because for example the black slaves were counted as part of a person. So I could see Americans in that era being unsure whether being “American” meant having a certain nationality.

      • seafoid
        April 12, 2013, 6:41 am

        Exactly, Chu. They have this idee fixe of the world and the world has moved on. Nobody is a barbarian these days, bots . They are all potential consumers! High growth markets!

      • RoHa
        April 12, 2013, 10:38 pm

        “I mean that they know where they come from”

        The Israelis know they come from Israel.

        “and what values matter to them.”

        On that some of them might be a bit confused.

      • RoHa
        April 12, 2013, 10:39 pm

        “I think he is talking in terms of identity.”

        [Sigh] So the Israelis are caught up in this identity drivel?

        Thanks for the clarification. It helps.

  5. piotr
    April 10, 2013, 12:35 pm

    This business of fear went out of hand. As I commented earlier, part of it is that “organized Jewish life” is organized as a lobby that is constantly fundraising and constantly moaning that “now more than ever Israel needs your support”. This fear supports decent lifestyle of quite a few people.

    The other face of fear is security, which sounds nice but it is a shorthand for security organizations, those that are awake so we can sleep, those that have a licence to kill, torture, falsify, etc. to keeps us safe. Those whom we trust most.

    Right now, Israel is more secure than ever. Unless a forest can start walking, nothing wrong can happen. There is also a small matter of stains on hands, but in modern times we have sleeping pills.

    • Citizen
      April 10, 2013, 6:29 pm

      @ piotr

      It’s pretty beguiling to stand for Israel’s security, and make a lucrative career out of that too? Does that not account for much influence now, and, what the hey, who cares about the USA’s security and prosperity down the far line?

      • piotr
        April 11, 2013, 8:25 am

        USA have their own security fetish which nicely meshes with the “imported fetish” you mention. It is most visible when the “enemy” is not a terrorist but a criminal. Absurdly long prison sentences, tolerance of false police testimony and prosecutorial excesses, obliviousness to inhuman practices in incarceration (“they deserve” solitary confinement and rape) etc. Once the popular and elite approved thinking is that bad people should have no rights, the discourse on ME degenerates to diatribes who are the bad people. Because they should have no rights.

        Some Afghan prisoners were killed by US interrogators in most appalling tortures, the terrified military coroner wrote “murder” on the death certificates, and the military launched investigation after two years when the story became public, and one grunt got two months sentence. Needless to say, public outrage was very underwhelming. This is the type of thing I keep in mind when I ask “what are the Western values” (from Western movies?).

    • RoHa
      April 11, 2013, 7:58 am

      The Scottish Play as an analogy for Israel!

      “Unless a forest can start walking, nothing wrong can happen.”

      As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
      I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
      The wood began to move.
      (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 5)

      “There is also a small matter of stains on hands, but in modern times we have sleeping pills.”

      Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the
      perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
      hand.
      (Macbeth Act 5, Scene 1)

      • seafoid
        April 11, 2013, 1:32 pm

        Comfortably numb by Pink Floyd captures the essence of where the Diaspora is now.

  6. pabelmont
    April 10, 2013, 12:53 pm

    Phil, I love the idea of openly expressing a Jewish (or is it principally an Israeli-Jewish) fear of loss of power if Palestinians are allowed equal rights.

    It calls to mind questions like, shall they murder and then inherit?

    If keeping (some) Palestinians as prisoners for 45 years is a crime (as I believe it is) and keeping (other) Palestinians as 2md class citizens and keeping (still other) Palestinians as exiles for 64 years BE A CRIME, ISN’T IT TIME to stop the criminal behavior irrespective of the tender feelings of the criminals?

    They fear the intifadas where were never aimed at destroying Israel but only at “shaking off” the occupation, which is part of the crime.

    When will discussants stand up and CALL a CRIME a CRIME, and STERNLY demand an end to it, askinmg the fearful ones to “suck it up” and defend whatever is legitimate without continuing to participate in the perpetuation of a long-running crime.

    Question: would these folks have welcomed it if Germany soldiers, back you-know-when, even after having participated up-til-then in you-know-what had decided to STOP PARTICIPATING? Or do they think that they would haeve preferred the (possily fearful) German soldiers to keep on keeping on?

    • Citizen
      April 10, 2013, 6:36 pm

      @ pabelmont

      Does anyone see any difference in the average Werhrmacht soldier, the average US soldier, or the average IDf soldier? I sure don’t. What does this mean? I speak as a former average US soldier.

  7. piotr
    April 10, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Can a state be democratic and theocratic?

    Today’s news is that Rabbinical courts can order the state to incarcerate indefinitely husbands who refuse their spouses so-called get contrary to recommendation/order of such a court. Hitherto there was a 10 year limit. Get is agreement to divorce. So a husband has a total power over wife and a Rabbinical court has a total power over the husband.

  8. hophmi
    April 10, 2013, 1:21 pm

    “The actual business of the debate was blunt and historic: virtually everyone in the room acknowledged that Israel’s political values are completely inconsistent with U.S. democratic values”

    I wouldn’t speak for others in the room. But the panel was either anti-Zionists or strong critics of Israel and was moderated by Lizzy Ratner. It shouldn’t be surprising that it attracted a like-minded crowd.

    “Lizzy Ratner began the evening with a parable aimed at proving that Jews can discuss these things as Jews and the sky won’t fall: she quoted the Talmud”

    A nice parable, but one meant to describe an intellectual discussion about legal practices, not a discussion about politics.

    “And Ratner ended the evening by declaring firmly that the conversation must now continue outside the Jewish community, with non-Jews participating.”

    This has become one of those false things we here repeated on the left. Non-Jews have participated in this discussion for a long time. Nobody is keeping them from saying what they want. At the end of the day, what happens in Israel will happen because of the people who most care about it, and the people who most care about it are Jews. This is, at the end of the day, a foreign policy issue. It’s just not going to catch fire in general society.

    You have attended many events, Phil, where Israel is discussed by non-Jews. Most members of MESA who teach college kids about the Middle East are not Jews, to my knowledge. I’m not sure why you continue to believe that non-Jews are not involved in the discussion. I’m honestly not sure what you want the conversation to look like. At the New School, you watched Brian Baird debate the conflict with Anthony Weiner. Baird is not Jewish. A good deal of Israel’s support in the United States comes from Christian Evangelicals. They’re not Jewish either.

    As far as Rebecca’s comment: ““I would ask the question. Why when people push for the same in Israel is that considered a threat?”

    Well, Rebecca, it is and it isn’t. Many Israelis would not see a push for Palestinian civil rights, which would take a few changes much less seismic than Brown v. Board of Ed, as a threat. What Israelis see as a threat is a relentless global campaign, driven mostly by its authoritarian neighbors, to reverse the outcome of the 1948 war in a region where most minorities do not enjoy anything like full civil and political rights, Jews in Arab lands were treated as at best second-class citizens, and their neighbors engage in bloodthirsty rhetoric on a regular basis. The real question is how Rebecca can expect the Israelis to not see a BDS campaign, and the rhetoric that has accompanied it, as a threat.

    “The official Jewish community used to have one solemn task, to support Israel. Now those leaders know in the back of their minds that things have gone wrong, and they are afraid to acknowledge as much, because if they do, the American support crumbles, and they will thereby betray their kinsmen in Jerusalem.”

    The official Jewish community never adopted the right-wing vision of Israel as settler of the West Bank. The fact of the matter is that the official Jewish community has no interest in including anti-Zionist voices and anti-Zionist voices have no desire to be a part of the official Jewish community. No one, at all, is stopping anti-Zionist kids from coming to an ADL meeting or an AJC meeting and expressing his view. They don’t come, and they don’t come because most of them just don’t care very much about being Jewish. JJ Goldberg understands the structure of the official Jewish community as much as anyone (and his book “Jewish Power” is really a modern classic), but this particular notion of his is wrong-headed.

    Neimark:

    “For whatever the starting point was, I think we mostly agree that Israel has become less democratic in recent years, and every time the separation between religion and state dwindles, free speech is curtailed, or minority rights are trampled, it is … in the name of preserving the state’s Jewish character– that is, Jewish hegemony.”

    Yes, it’s true that in recent years, Israel has moved toward curtailing some civil liberties.

    But it has also had its first Arab cabinet member (Raleb Majadele), instituted a program of affirmative action in 2010 to foster greater social inclusion of Arabs in Israeli society, and that most of these bills put up by the far right have not passed. And during Oslo, things got better west of the Green Line. There is little question in my mind that the further we move from a two-state solution, the further Israel moves from democracy. There is also little question in my mind that anti-Zionists like Neimark have a vested interest in portraying Israel as hopeless and ignoring the almost complete lack of democracy in the region, which really is hypocritical if you’re asking the Israelis to rely on the Palestinians to retain a democracy in the context of a one-state solution.

    “I don’t know how anyone can counter that argument.”

    I think it’s really relatively easy. There is no reason Israel cannot agree to a two-state solution and then extend full, equal citizenship to Palestinian-Israelis and others and remain a Jewish state with a constitution that protects minority rights. Peter may not think of that as a Jewish state (I’m not honestly sure why), but I think most Zionists would. For all the crap they take, most of the people who are active in the New Israel Fund, which works on civil rights issues in Israel and supports this vision, are strongly Zionist.

    “American Jews are going to nod their heads at her devastating judgments and begin to abandon the ideal of a Jewish national project.”

    I tend to doubt it for two reasons. The first is that the strongest support for Israel today comes from the right and the Orthodox community, and they will never give a platform to someone like Marilyn Neimark. They would choose the Jewish over the democracy in an instant and bear the political consequences. They are not the majority of American Jews, however.

    The majority will not hear Neimark at all because most don’t care about the issue one way or the other, and wouldn’t go to an event like this in the first place. Not caring is the same thing as supporting the status quo, as far as the politics of the issue are concerned, because politicians don’t listen to people who don’t care.

    The rest will hear her and have heard people like her before, but are sophisticated enough to understand both that her conclusions are extreme, that we do not live in a utopia, and that Israel’s problems are far from insurmountable. People like me are perfectly familiar with B’Tselem and Peace Now (AJC has hosted conferences featuring both Uri Zaki of B’Tselem and Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now), know what’s going on, and know that Israel is not the simple picture Neimark presents.

    • K Renner
      April 10, 2013, 3:25 pm

      It’s interesting with the Zionists who post here. Sure, they can write as much as they like, and cite whatever they like, but at the end of the day all their posts in defense of the absorption of Palestinian land and the atrocious treatment of Palestinian people revolves around hatred or fear of Arabs and a mass generalization of how all Arabs supposedly think.

      We all know that the Arab world has problems- how could it not? After fighting wars of resistance against European occupiers which ravaged entire countries, Arab governments were enticed to become proxies of either side during the Cold War. So, that means disproportionate foreign influence, coups, assassinations, ploys by the West and the Soviets to divide people along ethno religious lines, and so on.

      A far more complex situation than in Israel/Palestine and yet all this guy can talk about is “Arab authoritarianism” and “Arab hatred of Israel” to try and prove that Israel is better and must be defended.

      People in Arab nations have never all agreed with this government or that government, which is why one still sees turmoil. People in Arab nations have had the courage to stand up to governments who implement unjust policies and have died fighting governments who use violence to hold onto power. People in Arab nations have died fighting to protect minorities, like those who stood alongside the Coptic community in Egypt.

      • RoHa
        April 10, 2013, 8:06 pm

        “After fighting wars of resistance against European occupiers which ravaged entire countries”

        Many of those coutries had already been ravaged by Europeans fighting each other during WW2.

      • K Renner
        April 10, 2013, 10:01 pm

        And what came after only exacerbated the situation more so.

      • RoHa
        April 11, 2013, 7:09 am

        The foreign influences that came after WW2 usually didn’t do a lot to improve the situation.

        Sixty-seven years after the war, the Tunisian, Libyans, and Egyptians are still digging out WW2 landmines.

      • miriam6
        April 11, 2013, 1:25 pm

        “People in Arab nations have died fighting to protect minorities”

        What evidence do you have to support such a claim?
        You certainly have a rather rosy picture of things.

        link to bigstory.ap.org

      • K Renner
        April 11, 2013, 11:09 pm

        Well look at the Copts in Egypt, for example. After they were attacked by extremists, Muslims in Egypt rallied around them. Also, during the early phases of the revolution, Christians and Muslims protected each other.

        I don’t see very many Jews in Israel even verbally opposing the actions of the government and the apathy of the populace in regard to the oppression in the West Bank or the massacres in Gaza. Most Jews don’t seem to take issue with the state of inequality in the state proper either.

      • miriam6
        April 12, 2013, 5:14 pm

        KRenner, did you read the AP news article I posted a link to in my april 11 th comment?

        “Brotherhood official urges Egypt’s Jews to return”

        It was about the debate surrounding the Jewish minority and history in Egypt and it mentions the Copts.
        About 65,000 Egyptian Jews left or were coerced to leave since ’48 and ’67.
        Most, almost all went to Europe and America.
        Very few chose to settle in Israel, apparently.

        Incidentally, in the wake of the Cast Lead Operation, Egypt acted punitively against Egyptian citizens married to Israelis citizens, by stripping those Egyptians of their citizenship.

        I think this idea of Israeli Jewish indifference is unlikely.
        Why would Israelis be indifferent when they, too, like the Palestinians have so much at stake?
        I think they are too pragmatic a people not to care.

        Israeli Human rights organisation Gisha, the legal centre for freedom of movement.

        Yoni Eshpar is one of Gishas’ directors. He is also a writer.

        A piece by him appears today on the + 972 website ( about Syria).

        He has also written challenging the myth of the Israeli “Good Life” -a myth that was manufactured by the Israeli media in the aftermath of Cast Lead to “explain” supposed Israeli indifference to the situation.

        I think his piece is a great refutation of the idea that Israeli’s are complacent.
        :—-http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/11054/—-:
        link to spiked-online.com

        ” Shooting down the Myth of The Good Life in Israel” by Yoni Eshpar

        Information and articles about Gisha can be found at : link to gisha-org.

    • Don
      April 10, 2013, 3:31 pm

      “Jews in Arab lands were treated as at best second-class citizens…”

      I have read this 3 zillion times (always by Israel supporters).

      Could you be so kind as to supply at least some minimal amount of historical evidence for this statement? (i.e. evidence that existed prior to the State if Israel’s founding…and evidence created by an historian without an “Israel axe to grind”, so to speak? Such evidence may be abundant…but I have never seen it.

      • K Renner
        April 10, 2013, 5:21 pm

        Palestinians in Israel are treated as at best second class citizens and a “demographic threat to the Jewish majority”.

        I think this site does a good job at debunking the “Arabs have equal rights in Israel” myth:

        link to adalah.org – Main page.

        link to adalah.org – list of laws discriminating against Palestinians within the green line.

      • hophmi
        April 11, 2013, 10:35 am

        “Could you be so kind as to supply at least some minimal amount of historical evidence for this statement [that Jews in Arab lands were treated as at best second-class citizens]?

        Sure. It’s really not in dispute.

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        link to jewishvirtuallibrary.org

        “The position of the Jews was never secure, however, and changes in the political or social climate would often lead to persecution, violence and death. Jews were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors; peaceful coexistence between the two groups involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews.”

        There are many other sources, but this is a beginning. Even an Arabist would not claim that Jews had the same rights as Muslims did in Arab lands when things were good.

      • marc b.
        April 11, 2013, 12:01 pm

        Sure. It’s really not in dispute.

        too funny. links to Wikipedia and an article by mitchell bard of aipac and aice. well, that settles it then.

      • Light
        April 11, 2013, 12:12 pm

        Hophmi writes

        Sure. It’s really not in dispute.

        and wikipedia is your first source?

        link to muzzlewatch.com

      • tree
        April 11, 2013, 12:42 pm

        And so you quote from Mitchell Bard, who is a known liar and propagandist for Israel. Did you miss the part where Don asked for

        i.e. evidence that existed prior to the State if Israel’s founding…and evidence created by an historian without an “Israel axe to grind”, so to speak? ?

        Bard has a large Israeli ax to grind, and continually resorts to lies, omissions and distortions to do so.

      • K Renner
        April 11, 2013, 1:38 pm

        Whilst in Christian Europe, the distrust and hatred of European jews culminated in the holocaust, as we are reminded every five minutes.

        What’s with the pissing contest? Because no one here is saying that the Arab states were/are perfect. More like the Arabs are human and equal on a level of civility to the jews, which is something that people like you seem to have a problem accepting.

      • Chu
        April 11, 2013, 2:46 pm

        Hophmi, from your link, Jews were dhimmis, that’s protected persons and were allowed to practice their faith under Muslim rule. But they had to acknowledge the superiority of the Muslim majority rule, just as the Christians did in that period.

        If your going to say ‘Jews were treated at best second class citizens, you may want to modify it to say ‘Minority religions were treated as second class citizens’.

      • Ecru
        April 11, 2013, 2:48 pm

        Wikipedia? Have you looked at the “Talk” pages? Hardly the world’s most trustworthy source when it comes to Palestine, it’s basically just an ongoing argument. The Jewishvirtuallibrary, well the name kind of says it all really, the content just backs up the initial suspicion. The fact you’d even think of putting the latter forward as an unbiased source just goes to prove (again) how mired you are in the Zionist pov.

        However – since I’m feeling “nice.”

        From Wikipedia’s “Talk” pages an interesting discussion of what was going on at the time the Jews left Iraq.

        On October 12, 1950, Nuri as-said summoned a senior official of the company and made similar threats again, equating the expulsion of Jews with the expulsion of Palestinians.

        So the expulsion of Iraqi Jews was a DIRECT RESPONSE to the expulsion of the Palestinians by Israeli Jews. Now I agree, that’s not on not by a long shot, but it does go to show that the expulsions were not, as Zionists claim, without any link to the issue of Palestinian expulsion.

        In 1951 the Iraqi Government passed legislation that made affiliation with Zionism a felony and ordered, ‘the expulsion of Jews who refused to sign a statement of anti-Zionism.’

        Now where have I heard this type of threat before. Oh yes, that’s it – the Israeli Knesset and the “Loyalty Oath.” Now what’s funny is the number of Zionists who found such a demand abhorrent from the Iraqis but defend to the hilt a similar demand when made by Israel’s ruling Jews. In years to come the dictionaries will define “double standard” with “see Israel, see Zionism.”

      • Misterioso
        April 13, 2013, 12:22 pm

        I recommend that all of you take the time to listen to this lecture:
        Audio file:
        link to soas.ac.uk

        “How Islam Saved the Jews” – Professor David J. Wasserstein (Vanderbilt University, U.S.A) University of London, 14 May 2012.

        “In the early seventh century C.E. Judaism was in crisis. In the Mediterranean basin it was battered by legal, social, and religious pressure, weak in numbers and culturally almost non-existent. It was also largely cut off from the Jewry of the Persian Empire, in Babylon, present-day Iraq. The future seemed clear: extinction in the West, decline to obscurity in the East. Salvation came from Arabia. Islam conquered the entire Persian Empire and most of the Mediterranean world. Uniting virtually all the world’s Jews in a single state, it gave them legal and religious respectability, economic and social freedoms, and linguistic and cultural conditions that made possible a major renaissance of Judaism and the Jews. The significance of Islam for Jewry has been interpreted very variously since the middle ages and is a source of controversy to this day.

        “David J. Wasserstein is professor of history, classics and Jewish Studies and inaugural holder of the Eugene Greener, Jr. Chair in Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he has taught since 2004. Between 1990 and 2004 he was a professor of Islamic history at Tel Aviv University. He teaches medieval Islamic and Jewish history. With a background in classical studies, he is especially interested in the ways in which Judaism, Islam and the classical world intersect culturally, linguistically and politically. He is the author of The Rise and Fall of the Party-Kings, Politics and Society in Islamic Spain, 1002-1086 (Princeton 1985); The Caliphate in the West. An Islamic Political Institution in the Iberian Peninsula (Oxford 1993); and, with his late father Abraham Wasserstein, The Legend of the Septuagint, From Classical Antiquity to Today (Cambridge 2006).”

        Also, here are three memorable statements by eminent Jews:
        Rabbi Sassoon Kehdouri, Iraq’s Chief Rabbi for 48 years, speaking before the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry on Palestine: “Iraqi Jews will be forever against Zionism. Jews and Arabs have enjoyed the same rights and privileges for a thousand years and do not regard themselves as a distinctive separate part of this nation.”

        Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, also addressing the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry: “I would not like to do any injustice. The Muslim world has treated the Jews with considerable tolerance. The Ottoman Empire [of which the Arabs were a major part] received the Jews with open arms when they were driven out of Spain and Europe, and the Jews should never forget that.”

        Albert Einstein, 1939: “There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people…. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs.”

        Prof. Wasserstein is also the editor and co-editor of several books, including Dhimmis and Others: Jews and Christians and the World of Classical Islam (1997); Daghestan and the World of Islam (2006); Language of Religion – Language of the People: Medieval Judaism, Christianity and Islam (2006); and From Hellenism to Islam: Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East (2009).

        He has been a Lady Davis Fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a visiting Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin, and a Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society. In 2008-2009 he was a Visiting Fellow at the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University.

      • piotr
        April 13, 2013, 7:44 am

        In part, this is nonsense, because pre-colonial Arab countries were feudal (as was most of Europe up to that time) and there are no “citizens” in a feudal country but a social hierarchy. Jews were neither at the top nor at the bottom.

        It reminds me Chuck Schumer complaining how “we” were not allowed to live in Moscow. But “we” could live in Warsaw and Odessa and a lot of other nice cities. Mr. Schumer, visit Odessa and stop complaining!

      • Citizen
        April 14, 2013, 11:09 am

        @ piotr

        “In part, this is nonsense, because pre-colonial Arab countries were feudal (as was most of Europe up to that time) and there are no “citizens” in a feudal country but a social hierarchy. Jews were neither at the top nor at the bottom.”

        This is a very important point to make. It appears there is a regular pattern where Israel First types always conflate 100s of years to make their misleading point in a contemporary setting, but when those criticizing Israel do so in the contemporary setting, the Israel Firsters ignore it, reaching back in history for their justifications while ignoring the present world’s humanitarian progress, hard won through, for example two world wars.

    • Don
      April 10, 2013, 3:36 pm

      “Non-Jews have participated in this discussion for a long time. Nobody is keeping them from saying what they want”

      Hophmi. with all due respect…how would you know this?

      Why do you think most of us here do not use our real names?

      For that matter…why don’t you use your real name, if discussion of this topic is so benign?

      • Citizen
        April 10, 2013, 6:46 pm

        @ Don

        Exactly.

    • Citizen
      April 10, 2013, 6:43 pm

      @ hophmi
      You said, “Non-Jews have participated in this discussion for a long time. Nobody is keeping them from saying what they want.”

      You are wrong. When Mearsheimer and Walt had to to go England to publish their book, that should tell you something. It’s been even harder for the average Dick and Jane who don’t agree with the the US “special relationship” with Israel

      • hophmi
        April 11, 2013, 10:40 am

        “You are wrong. When Mearsheimer and Walt had to to go England to publish their book”

        M and W didn’t publish their book in England. They published their article in the London Review of Books. Their book was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, an major American publishing company.

        It’s been even harder for the average Dick and Jane who don’t agree with the the US “special relationship” with Israel”

        How so? Where can’t you go that you want to go? The NY Times regularly publishes Rashid Khalidi’s writing on Israel and has for a while. It has published Ali Abunimah on its op-ed page. The LA Times publishes non-Jewish voices critical of Israel all the time.

        What exactly do you want? You want to win in the court of public opinion, that’s what. And until you do, you’re going to complain, falsely, that your voices are excluded. Nobody is excluding them. You just aren’t winning.

      • Citizen
        April 12, 2013, 5:47 pm

        @ hophmi

        Yes, they published the forerunner of their book, their article on The Israel Lobby in the LRB because they could not get it published in US despite their high credentials. Only once it was published in LRB, it was taken on by a top US publisher. As to whether or not a vocal criticism of Israel comes with no problem if you are an American professional with a budding or on-going career, I will leave that up to what Americans born and bred here know.

    • talknic
      April 11, 2013, 7:26 am

      @ Hopmi

      ” At the end of the day, what happens in Israel will happen because of the people who most care about it, and the people who most care about it are Jews. This is, at the end of the day, a foreign policy issue. “

      “what happens in Israel” is a unilateral internal issue. Israel is an independent sovereign state. What it does “in Israel” is non of the US’s business.

      Foreign policy issues the US and American Jews might have a say in are things like; what Israel does in “territories occupied” and never un-occupied. In non-Israeli territories acquired by war and never legally annexed to Israel. In territories illegally settled by Israelis.

      “And the people who should most care about it should be Jews“, because the Jewish homeland state is ignoring Laws, the UN Charter and relevant Conventions that were adopted in large part because of the treatment of our Jewish fellows under the ^&%$%^ Nazis!

      Which makes the Jewish state no better in those respects than the ^&%$%^ Nazis and those who support its illegal actions in those respects, no better than the ^&%$%^ Nazis

      ” There is no reason Israel cannot agree to a two-state solution and then extend full, equal citizenship to Palestinian-Israelis and others and remain a Jewish state with a constitution that protects minority rights. “

      Correct. There is no reason. In fact the Jewish Agency did!! link to pages.citebite.com

      Yet by occupying non-Israeli territory for 64 years and never un-occupying or legally annexing any non-Israeli territory it has acquired by illegal means, Israel has prevented the Arabs from declaring independent statehood. Not that it is obligatory for the Arabs to have declared independence or even necessary to the existence of Israel. link to pages.citebite.com

  9. Danaa
    April 10, 2013, 1:53 pm

    I find it interesting that hardly anyone notes that this American Jewish “conversation about democracy vs Judaism” has no equivalent on the Israeli side. Give or take a few score or so of American Israelis (ie, israelis of American origin) such as Bradley Burston, Larry Derfner, Bernard Avishai, Gorenberg etc. The vast majority of israelis have already chosen their verdict – ages ago. It’s something along the lines of “demcracy is for sissies” – and of course for PR consumption to cheer up some softie Americans, and give them cover.

    I never fail to be impressed by the fact that Jewish Americans so totally fail to process just how deeply and radically different they are from Israelis. The two communities hardly have any common frames of reference. they certainly have no language in common, or experience, or culture, for that matter. As I mentioned before, part of the reason Americans know so absolutely zilch about israelis is the language barrier. Most jewish Americans cannot read or comprehend Hebrew and the vast majority of Israelis do not process English very well. As a result, the tenor of life in israel – to which hebrew is critical – goes uncomprehended by the Americans. one can pay lip service to hebrew culture all day long, but at the end of the day, israeli movies require subtitles and their books need to be translated. And their facebooks are literally a world apart as are their blogs and just about everything else. The gap is so huge that frankly to me it seems that jewish Americans can more easily understand Christian zionists and/or Texas cowboys than they can the average Israeli. At least they can read things in the original.

    Funny thing is – the Israelis do know how far the communities are and the most average of average Israelis can articulate (in Hebrew, of course) the depth of their disdain – and indeed contempt – for those Jewish Americans that seem to wring their hands ever so delectably over some elusive “democracy”. Just keep the money coming, is the common refrain. Shared values, indeed. Stuff for comedians…

    The agony of individuals such as JJ Goldberg would be a laughing matter to most Israelis – were you to ask them (again, be sure to use Hebrew when you ask. Their English vocabulary is alas, not even up to the task of perceiving irony, assuming perception of any kind other than self-interest is even part of the tool kit). As for Vilkomerson – she is far closer to what the real task is – the conversation in America can only be American, which means it must include non-Jewish Americans – as fully equal members. That conversation is far more relevant – and likely to bear some fruit – than any pretend influence Liberal jewish people can have on conversations in israel by that miniscule group known as “liberal israelis”.

    When are people going to face the truth? israelis and American jews have very little in common other than a tenuous ethnic/religious affiliation. I think it’s time to cut the umbilical cord and go with what there is, not some unrealistic notions of what could be. May be as more people see the increasing drift away from democracy in israel they’ll wake up.

    Or not.

    And pay the price.

    • seafoid
      April 10, 2013, 4:34 pm

      “As I mentioned before, part of the reason Americans know so absolutely zilch about israelis is the language barrier”

      Simon Kuper in the FT said recently that politicians in the US can say whatever they want about the Netherlands . Because nobody in the US knows any different. Hebrew is important as well of course. The memes are so filthily racist.

      • miriam6
        April 11, 2013, 1:08 pm

        It’s true about the language barrier.
        However, some Israeli’s cross it.
        link to spiked-online.com
        Simon Kuper mostly writes on football.
        He also knows a lot about racism in Holland
        Most of Holland’s Jews were given up to the Nazi’s by Dutch bureaucrat’s.
        link to spiked-online.com

      • seafoid
        April 12, 2013, 12:49 pm

        Kuper is more of a generalist now, I think. He doesn’t do the football any more in the FT.

        The Dutch sent 75% of their Jews to their deaths. Very Calvinist rule following. Got the Palestinians to pay for it which was very slick.

      • Danaa
        April 12, 2013, 1:10 pm

        My point was that very few Israelis do, and those who do acquire real command of the English language (say, enough to have a meaningful discussion on say, politics or philosophy or, for that matter, relationships) are typically those who spent some years abroad in an English speaking country. These individuals will generally be the most highly educated and/or technologically mobile. You know, even in the US I meet israelis that even after 20+ year in the country are still having a hard time conversing fluently in English. partly that’s because if they are married, they still speak hebrew at home. Partly, it’s because of that other factor I mentioned – becoming fluent in English is accompanied by a change in sensibilities. It is no minor matter to make a move to a language with more than an order of magnitude greater vocabulary. it IS accompanied – almost by definition – by an expansion of consciousness – even on an ordinary, day to day level.

        As for Holland’s jews being given up – so would most of Israel’s Arabs and Asian slave laborers. I doubt there would be found as many Israelis giving shelter to an Arabic or Asian person/family as there were ordinary Dutch citizens either – in similar circumstances. So I wouldn’t go around knocking the Dutch, miriam6 – you’d be better advised to look to your own. You might find them greatly lacking in that mysterious quality, known as compassion, when extended to anyone outside the “tribe”. of course, the tribe is not of a cloth either, so I would assume there would be a whole lot of “giving each other up” too.

    • yonah fredman
      April 10, 2013, 11:32 pm

      Danna- Meretz has 6 seats in the Knesset. That’s 5% of the Knesset. Surely not an encouraging number, but there are Israelis who support the sissy position of American Jews.

    • mcohen
      April 11, 2013, 8:03 am

      Danaa says:
      April 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      “When are people going to face the truth? israelis and American jews have very little in common other than a tenuous ethnic/religious affiliation.”

      i have to agree with you here -i just hope that all those billions of hard earned dollars jews have donated to israel over the years will have been well spent
      lets face it -even a combat unit needs a good pair of boots.

    • hophmi
      April 11, 2013, 12:10 pm

      “I find it interesting that hardly anyone notes that this American Jewish ‘conversation about democracy vs Judaism’ has no equivalent on the Israeli side. ”

      What on earth are you talking about? This discussion is going on all the time. Read an Israeli newspaper.

      “The vast majority of israelis have already chosen their verdict – ages ago. It’s something along the lines of “demcracy is for sissies” – and of course for PR consumption to cheer up some softie Americans, and give them cover.”

      Poll? Cite? Anything other than political invective?

      “As I mentioned before, part of the reason Americans know so absolutely zilch about israelis is the language barrier. Most jewish Americans cannot read or comprehend Hebrew and the vast majority of Israelis do not process English very well. ”

      In fact, many of them speak perfectly good English, and among more religious Jews, knowledge of Hebrew is quite common now. Moreover, the notion that there is this monolithic Israel that the American Jews can’t relate to is absurd.

      “As a result, the tenor of life in israel – to which hebrew is critical – goes uncomprehended by the Americans.”

      The tenor of life just about every place where English is not the first language goes uncomprehended to some extent by the Americans. In fact, the tenor of life in Israel is probably better understand than most countries because of the saturation of media there.

      “Funny thing is – the Israelis do know how far the communities are and the most average of average Israelis can articulate (in Hebrew, of course) the depth of their disdain – and indeed contempt – for those Jewish Americans that seem to wring their hands ever so delectably over some elusive “democracy”. Just keep the money coming, is the common refrain. Shared values, indeed. Stuff for comedians…”

      It’s certainly true that there are many cultural differences between American and Israeli Jews. One of the ones I find remarkable is that Israeli Jews tend to live with and convey to their children a far greater sense of freedom and independence than American Jews do while incorporating a greater societal sense of responsibility. The film Start-Up Nation does a good job of showing how this culture is a major reason why Israelis tend to be entrepreneurial. If Israelis disdain the American Jewish community, it’s because large parts of the American Jewish community seem to lack this culture of responsibility and independence. American kids grow up slower. The Israelis are not the only ones who have some disdain for the Americans on that ground.

      Some Israelis disdain Americans who opine on Israeli policy and think that by giving money to Israel, they are entitled to have as much of a voice on what happens there as Israeli citizens do. These Israelis see Zionism as entailing a much greater responsibility than simply giving money. Perhaps the best, and one of the most strident, narratives of that critique was written by Hillel Halkin in his short book, “Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist’s Polemic.” Halkin, Israel’s most famous translator, certainly understands Hebrew and English. The book does not adopt a political point of view. It has one basic message, one that Phil might very well sympathize with: If you want to change Israel, come here and do it; we need that much more than we need your money. I happen not to agree with Halkin’s view; as long as the Israelis rely on American Jews to help them present the case that a strong Israel is in America’s interest, they must be willing to take American Jewish criticism. But I can certainly understand where Halkin is coming from.

      “As for Vilkomerson – she is far closer to what the real task is – the conversation in America can only be American, which means it must include non-Jewish Americans – as fully equal members. ”

      It is an American conversation, but like any American political conversation, the people who care the most will play the largest role in setting the policy. You guys will do anything to keep from acknowledging the truth – your cause is incredibly unpopular in America. That’s a fact.

      “When are people going to face the truth? israelis and American jews have very little in common other than a tenuous ethnic/religious affiliation.”

      I recommend Tom Segev’s book, “Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israel .” In the book, Segev, a post-Zionist, complains that, in fact, Israel has become a consumerist and individualistic society far too much like America, and longs for the days when Israeli society had more of a sense of collective purpose.

      Israelis are not the evil people you’d like them to be. If anything plagues Israel, it is apathy, brought on by two decades of a failed peace process and a string of corruption scandals that has undermined their faith in their leaders. Every public poll continues to show that a majority of Israelis support a two-state solution.

      The debate over Israeli policy here exists in the Jewish community and outside of it. Most Americans who are pro-Palestinian are not Jewish, despite the prominence of Jews like Rebecca Vilkomerson in their movement. They have held many conferences on the issue of Palestinian rights throughout the country, and all of them are reported on this blog. Walt and Mearsheimer are not Jewish; they had a book published by a major American publishing house. Rashid Khalidi is not Jewish; he appears frequently on the op-ed page of the NY Times. So the notion that this is only an intra-Jewish discussion, or restricted to being an intra-Jewish discussion is wrong.

      • Citizen
        April 12, 2013, 6:05 pm

        @ hophmi
        Anyone can check the MW archives where the fact that the average American gets only a totally one-sided view of the I-P conflict is discussed at length, with lots of evidence, makes your key point mute. Americans remain totally ignorant of the Palestinian situation. OTOH, the glory of Israel as a place just like America is pushed continually in the mainstream media, and by our government representatives and officials, and has been for many decades. W & M’s book, and Carter’s book, are famous for making the first break in the taboo. Your vision is upside down. Otherwise, every American would know about the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, and about Rachel Corrie, and the Turkish American kid murdered point blank on the Gaza flotilla boat. They don’t.

    • SQ Debris
      April 11, 2013, 2:37 pm

      “I find it interesting that hardly anyone notes that this American Jewish “conversation about democracy vs Judaism” has no equivalent on the Israeli side.”

      That’s really not the case. Take a look at Zuchrot (Remembering). They are challenging the ethno-democracy mantra daily, and certainly with more chutzpah than the speakers at the event. Many involved in the organization are 2nd generation Israelis, people who are Jewish in the moral/ethical sense rather than the “what was your mother’s ethnicity” sense. Really, check out Zuchrot and its publications. They expand this discussion.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 11, 2013, 6:32 pm

        thank you SQ Debris, Zuchrot is a fantastic important israeli org.

      • Danaa
        April 11, 2013, 10:09 pm

        Zochrot is indeed a great organization. As is Breaking the Silence. As is +972 and a few other organizations. So, how many can these worthy groups call upon? what percentage israelis even know about them, much less care? That’s what I mean about “conversation”. When such takes place in a small circle formed from among all of a few hundred or even a thousand souls, what impact does that have on the israeli society at large? how many bloggers even mention it? In israel, all these excellent organizations – and individuals – get dismissed with the disdainful, blanket epithet “leftists”. By contrast, in the US similar conversations take place across the left-right, liberal-conservative, denominational and all manner of other divides.

        Unfortunately, most liberal zionists Americans talk to those all too few similar minded israelis, when they can talk to them at all, ie, mostly to/with the few who are fluent in English. Most of the people I know in israel for example are not what I would call English fluent – though they can understand the basics and express themselves simply. The issues concerning the conflict between “Jewish” in the israeli sense, and “Democratic’ in the universal sense, are however hardly simple, so the language barrier alone makes communications quite difficult.

        And that language barrier was actually my key point, since so few can cross it, on either side. And it is my belief (which I can only back by personal and anecdotal experience) that differences in language tend to come bundled with differences in sensibilities. To me it’s as clear as air, hardly in need of explanation, but I do understand if it is not so for others. So I keep coming back to this point.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 11, 2013, 11:25 pm

        i’m not disagreeing with your main point danaa. ilan pappe mentioned in one of his interviews there was a time when it seemed like the conversation was opening up w/these weekly meetings at the university, some time in the last century but they got shut down. i went to hear noam shiezaf speak in berkeley recently and he echoed a similar concern that there just isn’t an interest there for the most part.

  10. American
    April 10, 2013, 2:04 pm

    ”And Ratner ended the evening by declaring firmly that the conversation must now continue outside the Jewish community, with non-Jews participating. I can’t wait. ‘…..Phil

    Judging by the brush off non Jewish American opinions on Israel get by even the most liberal Zionist who proclaim to be true blue American democracy believers, non Jewish participation might be a long time coming except in settings like MW.

    Can they handle the hard unbiased truths coming from non Jews without calling it anti-Semitism or a threat? I don’t know, I think not many can.
    Many appear to believe the non Jewish opinion is only formed by two things in non Jews–either by hostility to Jews or by a special consideration for Jews…..there are no in between people for them. They don’t believe non Jews opinions can be coming from any objective impartial place ….if you don’t love them, as in putting them in a more special category than you would others, then you hate them or don’t care about them.
    I don’t know that non Jews can break thru that.

  11. piotr
    April 10, 2013, 2:05 pm

    “The official Jewish community never adopted the right-wing vision of Israel as settler of the West Bank.”

    The official Jewish community, a.k.a. (nameless) Lobby has the official position of total deference to Israeli government if it happens to be a rightwing one, and vociferous opposition to any activity that could adversely affect the expansion of settlements, including the proposal of US administration (that unlike Israeli government, does not enjoy any deference). Additionally, there are signs of right wing creep in the “official Jewish community”, like the nomination of a resolute right winger to head TIP.

    I understand that people like hophmi wish to feel the warm embrace of the “official Jewish community”, or stay “within the mainstream”.

    ” There is no reason Israel cannot agree to a two-state solution and then extend full, equal citizenship to Palestinian-Israelis and others and remain a Jewish state with a constitution that protects minority rights.”

    There is a reason. Patriotic Israeli politicians will not make any concessions without the outside pressure, so blocking that pressure to come from USA is preventing any solution that would necessitate such concessions. Like withdrawal from Jordan valley.

  12. HarryLaw
    April 10, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Peter Beinart ” I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state”. My God and he’s a liberal, even in the Islamic Republic of Iran the Jewish population, [I think its about 20,000 strong] enjoy full citizenship and a guaranteed seat in their parliament, the Jewish community are thriving in Iran and are very happy.

    • yonah fredman
      April 10, 2013, 11:35 pm

      harry law the Jewish community are thriving in Iran and are very happy. Nonsense. Go ask the emigre community of Iranian Jews living in the US if this is true. It is not.

      • tree
        April 11, 2013, 12:32 pm

        Go ask the emigre community of Iranian Jews living in the US if this is true.

        Iranian Jews do however, whatever their emotional state, enjoy full citizenship and a seat in parliament, which is much, much more than the Palestinians in the West Bank “enjoy”.

        Emigrant populations are by in large unhappy with their position in the country from which they’ve emigrated. That’s one of the things that makes them emigrants. There are a lot of Cuban emigrants in the US that are unhappy with Cuba. And yet there are Cubans living in Cuba who are very happy with their country. Likewise, I’m sure, with emigrants from the US to other countries.

      • MRW
        April 11, 2013, 1:12 pm

        Yonah, baloney. Roger Cohen NYT did an indepth series on Iranian Jews in Iran a couple of years ago. His findings and interviews belie your uninformed assertions. Check our archives for the wealth of discussion on it.

      • yonah fredman
        April 11, 2013, 9:29 pm

        MRW- Yes, I remember. That was when Roger Cohen was taken around by someone employed by the Iranian government and took everyone’s word for how good things were going. Roger Cohen’s credibility took a blow with that column and your citing it is no surprise.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 11, 2013, 11:18 pm

        Roger Cohen’s credibility took a blow with that column

        from who? link please.

        taken around by someone employed by the Iranian government

        you mean like this: link to mondoweiss.net

        …I inquired how [Soleiman Sedighpoor, 61, a Jew] felt about the chants of “Death to Israel” — “Marg bar Esraeel” — that punctuate life in Iran.

        “Let
        them say ‘Death to Israel,’ ” he said. “I’ve been in this store 43
        years and never had a problem. I’ve visited my relatives in Israel, but
        when I see something like the attack on Gaza, I demonstrate, too, as an
        Iranian.”

        or this? link to mondoweiss.net

        so pony up the hits he took. i’d like to hear whose voice you trust on the topic.

      • yonah fredman
        April 12, 2013, 3:44 am

        Annie Robbins- J. J. Goldberg dismissed Cohen as over his head as a result of his column about Iranian Jews plus his other columns about Iran: link to forward.com

      • K Renner
        April 11, 2013, 1:39 pm

        “Our identity does not belong to Israel”.

        I would think most (Pahlavist) Iranians living in America aren’t happy with Iran right now.

  13. Newclench
    April 10, 2013, 3:28 pm

    JJ Goldberg “…called on anti-Zionists to help change the American Jewish community by working inside it, so as to broaden its diversity.”
    Excellent advice. There are a lot of anti- and non-Zionist Jews in America, some of them are active participants and leaders in traditional settings like synagogues and charitable nonprofits. All power to them.

    • Dutch
      April 10, 2013, 6:32 pm

      Stone throwing, seven-year old kids that lift ‘boulders’. And of course cycling Europeans in the Jordan Valley. Existential stuff.

    • ritzl
      April 11, 2013, 4:20 am

      Yet another example of protesting the criticism instead of the despicable acts being criticized.

      • Daniel Rich
        April 11, 2013, 11:38 am

        My mom tried lo learn how to deal with the Hitler Jugend that occupied her home back in the day. She witnessed one of them getting killed by the ‘liberating’ Canadian/Polish forces [Aprill '45] and still can feel the hot casings raining down on her when that 14 year old German soldier got shot by a liberating soldier.

  14. yonah fredman
    April 10, 2013, 5:44 pm

    The present moment of history in places like Cairo and Damascus and Baghdad are more relevant than 1965 Selma Alabama. The Muslim Arab culture can, I believe, reach democracy, but it is in its infancy and to pretend that Israel’s resistance to democracy has more to do with rejection of democracy a la the USA rather than rejection of the lack of democracy in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, is to consider the debate over. And the debate is not over. The facts in a 500 mile radius from Tel Aviv are relevant and they say, democracy is not here yet and to pretend that Zionism is the only thing standing in the way of democracy is to hear a debate in the West Village and to think you can snap your fingers and pretend that Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad do not exist.

    • yonah fredman
      April 10, 2013, 5:54 pm

      of course Israel is not heading in the direction of Selma alabama 2013, so when it flees baghdad, cairo and damascus and heads away from USA 2013 it alienates all those who value USA 2013, so the debate is over in terms of the long term that if Israel continues in its current direction, it cannot maintain support from those who value USA 2013, no matter what the basis of Israel’s movement away from those values.

    • Annie Robbins
      April 10, 2013, 6:20 pm

      The Muslim Arab culture can, I believe, reach democracy, but it is in its infancy

      have you checked out the history of democracy lately? link to en.wikipedia.org

      link to jstor.org

      • piotr
        April 11, 2013, 8:40 am

        In this article I recommend the entry on Sparta, clearly an inspiration for Israel. Interestingly, the special rights of citizens as opposed to serfs/helotes were justified by the myth of “the return” of the rightful owners to the land promised by Zeus to the descendants of Heracles (Dorian version of Chosen People?).

    • RoHa
      April 10, 2013, 8:03 pm

      “The Muslim Arab culture can, I believe, reach democracy”

      Egypt’s attempts at democracy seem to have started in the eighteenth century, but been hobbled by being part of the Ottoman Empire, foreign invasions and wars.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      The same factors inhibited the growth of democracy in other parts of the Arab world.

      In 1971, women in Switzerland were granted the right to vote in federal elections.

      • Cliff
        April 12, 2013, 6:37 am

        Who knows what may have happened within the Arab world had it not been the Mongol siege and destruction of Baghdad.

      • gamal
        April 12, 2013, 12:58 pm

        and Syria 1932, what happened when the handpicked, by France, candidates assumed control? they had a vote though but democracy was not to everyone’s liking (France’s).

    • tree
      April 11, 2013, 12:25 pm

      The Muslim Arab culture can, I believe, reach democracy, but it is in its infancy and to pretend that Israel’s resistance to democracy has more to do with rejection of democracy a la the USA rather than rejection of the lack of democracy in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, is to consider the debate over.

      You know, yonah, one could say the same thing about the Jewish Israeli culture. It hasn’t reached democracy in all its 100+ years. One could truthfully say that Jewish culture in Israel has failed to understand or implement any of the responsibilities inherent in being a majority in a democracy. From the very beginning, the Zionists sought to make deals with outsiders, including those in Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad, as well as Europe, rather than deal with the inhabitants of the land they wished to rule. Early on, they refused to agree to a parlimentary body in Palestine, unless they, as Jews, were allotted half of its membership, despite their being a 10% of the overall population, and later when the non-Jewish Palestinians agreed to give Zionist Jews half the membership, although Jews were still only a third of the population, the Zionists still refused to accept such a bargain. Their first act of true power was to ethnically cleanse, and they also the remaining small population of Palestinians under military rule for 19 years, and continue to this day to confiscate land from non-Jews, refuse to allocate them their rightful share of public funds, discriminate against them, deny them their heritage and treat them as fifth columnists. None of these non-democratic actions within Israel have anything to do with fear of Cairo, or Damascus, or Baghdad. They have to do with the deficiencies of thought inherent in setting up an ethnocratic state. Likewise with the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Frankly, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians there is merely a slow motion version of what they did to the Palestinians in the lands Israel claimed in 1948. And all of those actions could only serve to anger those in Cairo, et cetera, but the Israelis do them nonetheless, showing no fear of an understandable reaction in other Arab countries. And in fact Israel has attacked its neighbors numerous times, often without justifiable provocation. The fear of others promoted by the Israeli goverment is primarily used to excuse its own non-democratic actions, as well as its atrocities. You still have a lot of veils to uncover from your eyes.

      And on a related note, the discouragement from the mainstream Jewish community leaders of any real discussion of this reality in Israel also could be seen as a failure to embrace a real democratic outlook on the part of those leaders. You don’t put someone in herem for exercising their right to free speech if you are embracing a true democracy.

      • Danaa
        April 11, 2013, 10:16 pm

        These are all really excellent points tree. Some bear repeated emphasis since they get lost in the shuffle. may be i’ll try to do it justice later, if “they’ let the thread stay open for a bit longer (lately I noticed that of the few posts I commented on – really no more than a dozen or so in the past 6 months due to time constraints – a disproportionate number get closed a bit on the early side. Coincidence, conspiracy, or just happenstance?. The Khalidi discussion is just the latest of those. oh well….i better hurry)

      • Cliff
        April 12, 2013, 6:40 am

        I think Jewish Israeli culture has obviously achieve more democracy than some Islamist Arab States.

        But I think that is it, there will be nothing else.

        Meaning, the point we are at now roughly, is the complete extent of Jewish democracy.

        Zionist Jews are incapable of more democracy because doing so would undo the Jewish part of Jewish democracy.

        Things will only regress from here. More privilege for Jews and more discrimination and destruction for Palestinians in and out of Israel proper.

      • yonah fredman
        April 13, 2013, 4:15 am

        tree- Many true and valid points that you raise and I began to look at the situation mathematically, geometrically, inside a circle, with the origin or center of the circle analogous to perfect democracy. (Democracy has its ups and its downs, like life it is a struggle rather than a static state of achievement. In America, leaving out gerrymandering, low voter turnout particular in nonpresidential election years, the electoral college, campaign finance influence, there is the rising gap between rich and poor, between uneducated and educated.)

        Israel was established with a specific ethnicity in mind in a territory where the “opposite” ethnicity was predominant a century or less before. Israel was established with a forced exile of a large population of the opposite ethnicity. Israel is surrounded by the opposite ethnicity. Israel tends to view the opposite ethnicity within its borders as a demographic threat and the opposite ethnicity beyond its borders as a military threat.

        Ultimately my point of view is that Israel should morph into a state of all its citizens. Immigration policy could be dealt with, but the history of the exile of the Palestinians (nakba) and the continuing demographic threat would complicate this idea. Of course instead of moving in this direction Israel is moving away from this idea. (Here’s where the analogy to the center of the circle as democratic perfection and Israel moving away from the center rather than towards the center came to mind.)

        The struggles of the peoples of Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad and the current state of their journey towards self rule involves struggles between majority and minority groups that are not yet resolved nor is their resolution period predictable. It is particularly this aspect of democracy (tolerance for minority) that has yet to be proved. Certainly the predominance of Islamic parties is not encouraging to those who view issues of personal freedom to be aspects of democracy as well.

        The Jewish experience with independence has certainly involved militarization and inability to “get along with others”. Although there are differences between the history of Zionism and colonialism there are commonalities as well and a democratic attitude towards the indigenous has certainly not been present in the mainstream of Zionism nor in the history of Israel.

        Phil stated that the debate is over. And in the USA the idea of a state devoted to an ethnic group is contrary to democracy and as long as Israel fears the idea of a state of all of its citizens then it fears democracy. But ideas without reality is only half the debate. Reality should enter into the argument as well and the opposite of Zionist rule is not a state of all its citizens and a group dedicated to a state of all its citizens, but an Islamic state. And the sectarian clashes of Baghdad, the civil war in Damascus and the sad state of affairs of Cairo, let alone the rule of Hamas in Gaza all do not bode well for those who idealize democracy and wish for immediate results. These facts must be included in the debate lest our debate be purely academic in nature, which it should not be. Reality must be factored in, both the reality of the rejection of the most Israelis of a state of all of its citizens and the reality that the democracy in the neighborhood is still in its early stages in regards to sectarian cooperation.

      • Citizen
        April 13, 2013, 8:49 pm

        @ yonah fredman
        Nobody likes change, least of all those who have had a privileged position based on their race, religion, or ethnicity. Nothing you fear changes the need to end the daily Israeli abuse of non-Jews via Israel’s occupation, nor does your fear justify the scores of existing discriminatory Israeli laws inside the green line. The reality is your reluctance to help end this daily injustice helps guarantee your worst fears of the future.

  15. Keith
    April 10, 2013, 6:19 pm

    PHIL- “Can a Jewish state be democratic?”

    A liberal discussion of formal niceties will never get to the heart of the matter concerning power and control in a globalized world where the 1% is calling the shots and stomping on the 99%. Of course, too radical a critique will also lead nowhere. Suggest you consider simply discussing what role Israel performs for American Jews and for American Jewish Zionist fat-cats. Has Zionism replaced Classical Judaism as the unifier of world Jewry? Does Jewish chauvinism facilitate Jewish kinship and power-seeking? What would be the reaction of American Jewish Zionists if Israel actually abandoned militarism for peace, etc.

    Critically important is to what extent do American Jewish Zionists influence Israeli policy? “One of the best lines in film maker Yoav Shamir’s “Defamation”, was Finkelstein saying: “It’s the best thing that will ever happen to Israel if they get rid of these American Jews who are warmongers from Martha’s Vinyard; and the warmongers from the Hamptons; and the warmongers from Beverly Hills; and the warmongers from Miami. It’s been a disaster for Israel. It’s the best thing if it can ever get rid of this [warmongering] American Jewry. It’s a curse.” (Hostage)
    link to mondoweiss.net

  16. Clif Brown
    April 10, 2013, 6:46 pm

    Being special is dangerous, a double edged sword. If the special are unprotected they are abused by those who are not special. If the special are secure and cannot be touched, they will abuse those who are not special.

    The proof of the above comes first with the holocaust and then with Israel. Israel cannot be touched so it abuses, with a will, blatantly, not only without apology but with a condescending self-righteousness.

    What does this say but that Jews are no different from any other people. Power corrupts and by making Israeli power absolute, the United States has fueled the corruption until it stands flagrantly before the world. Because of previous abuse, those who follow the religion of those abused can now abuse without limit. The next tour of Yad Vashem begins in ten minutes.

    How I wish that every human being could continually remind him/herself, “my outlook and identity are created by what I was fed by my elders. This is what distinguishes me from other people and what makes them distinguish themselves from me. Beneath this indoctrination, every one alive is equally human…without distinction, human. I will make an effort to put aside my treasured opinions/identity to find the human part of me that is the basis of my existence, the real untutored me.”

    A Jew, an Arab, an Irishman, a Jain, an Inuit are all, if shuffled at birth, interchangeable human brains ready for feeding. I cringe when I hear someone say “we” when referring to history as if that person had been present at some remote time in the past, and is still alive today nursing some physical scar. We all begin anew at birth. We become what we are fed. Israel takes a commonly fed diet of ancient history and beliefs, reincarnates the phantom for the present day, to abuse, dispossess and oppress, all made possible under the label of Jew.

    My wife and I are lily white. My son is marrying a woman from Cameroon who could not be blacker. My daughter has married a Peruvian who speaks no English. Let all the world’s special creeds and religions be forgotten and let children of all colors and appearances grow to mix and mate seeing each other for what they are – equally human.

    • Citizen
      April 11, 2013, 7:12 am

      @ Clif Brown

      Did you read the recent article by Phil on interfaith marriage here? The article quotes folks who don’t think it’s such a good idea, and a substantial number of commenters under that article disagree with what you say. Personally, I agree with your approach.

      Here’s the earlier article from April 6th: link to mondoweiss.net

    • eljay
      April 11, 2013, 8:01 am

      >> Clif Brown @ April 10, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      Great post, loved the last paragraph.

    • John Smithson
      April 11, 2013, 9:46 am

      Here here Clif Brown!! I myself have ‘intermarried’ and have mixed blood kids – who are regularly complemented for their looks, behaviour and achievements!

      Never ceases to amaze me to hear about meetings like one described in this article.

      The group is not so much looking to figure out what is the right thing to do, but rather what is the right thing to do FOR THEM.

      Thinking first about yourself always, in the end, leads to just more problems.

      I’m all about dissociating myself and my government from Israel in its current form – and trying to get a fair and stable resolution to the border issue begun in 1948.

      Been on this issue since 9/11 – slowly beginning to understand roots of anti-semitism and I fear it’s resurgence – it’s like watching someone slowly fall down the stairs for 15 years and not being able to do a thing about it.

  17. DICKERSON3870
    April 10, 2013, 7:29 pm

    ● RE: “[T]here was an awareness of the fear in the broader Jewish community about what is going to happen to Israel. And the panelists all in their way called on us to be sensitive to those fears if not to respect them. ~ Weiss

    ● MAGGIE THATCHER’S “FEARS” AS TO APARTHEID-ERA SOUTH AFRICA :

    . . . While Thatcher maintained throughout her political career that she “loathe[d] apartheid and everything connected with it,” she . . . refused, alongside Ronald Reagan, to back sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. “In my view, isolation will lead only to an increasingly negative and intransigent attitude in the part of white South African,” she said in December 1977. . .

    SOURCE – link to mondoweiss.net

    ● FROM WIKIPEDIA [Constructive engagement]:

    [EXCERPT] Constructive engagement was the name given to the policy of the Reagan Administration towards the apartheid regime in South Africa in the early 1980s. It was promoted as an alternative to the economic sanctions and divestment from South Africa demanded by the UN General Assembly and the international anti-apartheid movement.[1]
    The Reagan Administration vetoed legislation from the United States Congress and blocked attempts by the United Nations to impose sanctions and to isolate South Africa.[2] Instead, advocates of constructive engagement sought to use incentives as a means of encouraging South Africa gradually to move away from apartheid.[3] The policy, echoed by the British government of Margaret Thatcher, came under criticism as South African government repression of the black population and anti-apartheid activism intensified. . .

    SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

    ● FROM foreignaffairs.com: “South Africa: Why Constructive Engagement Failed”, By Sanford J. Ungar and Peter Vale, Winter 1985/86

    Article Summary
    Ronald Reagan’s imposition of limited economic sanctions against the South African regime in September was a tacit admission that his policy of “constructive engagement”–encouraging change in the apartheid system through a quiet dialogue with that country’s white minority leaders–had failed. Having been offered many carrots by the United States over a period of four-and-a-half years as incentives to institute meaningful reforms, the South African authorities had simply made a carrot stew and eaten it. Under the combined pressures of the seemingly cataclysmic events in South Africa since September 1984 and the dramatic surge of anti-apartheid protest and political activism in the United States, the Reagan Administration was finally embarrassed into brandishing some small sticks as an element of American policy.
    [We're sorry, but Foreign Affairs does not have the copyright to display this article online.]

    SOURCE – link to foreignaffairs.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      April 13, 2013, 5:42 pm

      P.S. ALSO RE: “[T]here was an awareness of the fear in the broader Jewish community about what is going to happen to Israel. And the panelists all in their way called on us to be sensitive to those fears if not to respect them.” ~ Weiss

      MY COMMENT: For eons and eons, “fears” have been used by “enablers” (and by “enablers” of “enablers”) as an excuse (i.e. a rationalization) for their “enabling”! ! !

      FROM WIKIPEDIA [Enabling]:

      [EXCERPT] . . . In a negative sense, enabling is . . . used in the context of problematic behavior, to signify dysfunctional approaches that are intended to help but in fact may perpetuate a problem.[1][2] A common theme of enabling in this latter sense is that third parties take responsibility, blame, or make accommodations for a person’s harmful conduct (often with the best of intentions, or from fear or insecurity which inhibits action). The practical effect is that the person himself or herself does not have to do so, and is shielded from awareness of the harm it may do, and the need or pressure to change. It is a major environmental cause of addiction.[3]
      A common example of enabling can be observed in the relationship between the alcoholic/addict and a codependent spouse. The spouse believes incorrectly that he or she is helping the alcoholic by calling into work for them, making excuses that prevent others from holding them accountable, and generally cleaning up the mess that occurs in the wake of their impaired judgment.[citation needed] In reality what the spouse is doing is hurting, not helping. Enabling prevents psychological growth in the person being enabled and can contribute to negative symptoms in the enabler.*
      One of the primary purposes of a formal Family Intervention with alcoholics/addicts is to help the family cease their enabling behaviors. . .

      SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

      * “Down, down, down we [the U.S.] go into the deep, dark abyss; hand in hand with Israel.” – J.L.D.

  18. DICKERSON3870
    April 10, 2013, 7:41 pm

    RE: “JJ Goldberg of the Forward [said] that top generals and Mossad chiefs are terrified by what is happening to Israeli society. Of course Goldberg also mentioned the fear of Palestinians: he said Israelis are scarred by the second intifada and angry about it. ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: The Israelis should be angry at their own government and its army.*

    * SEE: “The Dogs of War: The Next Intifada”, By Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, 9/03/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . The second (“al-Aqsa”) intifada started after the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David conference and Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative “visit” to the Temple Mount. The Palestinians held non-violent mass demonstrations. The army responded with selective killings. A sharpshooter accompanied by an officer would take position in the path of the protest, and the officer would point out selected targets – protesters who looked like “ringleaders”. They were killed.
    This was highly effective. Soon the non-violent demonstrations ceased and were replaced by very violent (“terrorist”) actions. With those the army was back on familiar ground. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to counterpunch.org

  19. MK_Ultra
    April 10, 2013, 8:01 pm

    But the running theme of the discussion was fear: even in this leftwing Jewish space there was an awareness of the fear in the broader Jewish community about what is going to happen to Israel.

    No matter how I try to put a statement like this into a context that I can understand, it still makes no sense to me. These are people who live in Brooklyn, for crying out loud and who have probably never even been to “Isreal” how can they be afraid of what will happen to a place they don’t even know? For example, my grandparents (on both sides coincidentally) migrated from the Canary Islands in either the late 1880s or early 1990s leaving everything behind. My parents were a second-generation born out of the Canary Islands. I was a third-generation born out of the Canary Islands. Nobody ever went back to reclaim anything nor did anyone ever speak of ties to the Canary Islands and the place was never any closer to us than in passing reference to it, mostly, as a joke. I care about what happens to the Canary Islands in the global sense and in the same way as I care what happens to the Arctic, the Hawaiian Islands or Patagonia. So, I can’t understand the delusions and obsession of these people with a ….place that only came to being thru the delusions of a crazy man and the machinations of very unscrupulous characters with no attachment or real relationship whatsoever. There must be something wired wrong inside these people’s heads.

    • Shingo
      April 11, 2013, 10:58 am

      There must be something wired wrong inside these people’s heads.

      In many ways there is, which is what trauma creates, and collective trauma more so.

  20. a blah chick
    April 10, 2013, 8:15 pm

    “I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state”

    I know that this has been asked before but what is so Jewish about Israel? They let people eat pork, shellfish and boink gentiles.

    There is only one reason that the Jewish majority needs to be maintained and that is to keep the Ashkenazi elite in power. Period.

  21. yourstruly
    April 10, 2013, 10:46 pm

    be sensitive to the feelings of the occupier?

    ending the occupation, that’s being sensitive to the occupier

    how?

    the opportunity of living in a just society

    & what about israelis who prefer that israel stay the course?

    they can make use of their second passport

    those who don’t have a second passport?

    adjust to the new reality

  22. W.Jones
    April 11, 2013, 2:34 am

    Of course Goldberg also mentioned the fear of Palestinians
    For a moment I thought he meant that the discussion could also recognize that Palestinians feel fear living under the close gaze of 18-year old guards armed with machine guns.

  23. W.Jones
    April 11, 2013, 2:48 am

    Thanks for sharing, Phil.

    She described the positive feeling she had on first arriving in Israel of being among people who look more or less like herself, a positive feeling she has even now when she watches Tel Aviv wind down on Friday as the Sabbath approaches.

    Wait a minute, don’t Palestinians look relatively similar to Jews? Based on genetic DNA studies they are relatively closely related. Among Palestinians there are names like Daoud (semitic pronunciation of David), and Suleiman (from Solomon).

  24. kalithea
    April 11, 2013, 3:25 am

    Here’s what I would stand up and state at that meeting:

    Quit connecting Zionism with fear!

    Zionism is the hammer of entitlement, supremacy and power crushing, subjugating on and on and the fear excuse is the curtain that’s used to cover it’s relentless, brutal injustice. They are two separate, distinct objects, the curtain and the hammer! Tear the curtain down and expose the crime already, because you are making your so-called fear complicit with the crime! This so-called fear is an obstruction of justice. This so-called fear is really an addiction to entitlement, supremacy and power and paranoia on steroids to sustain these at the expense of the rights, freedom and dignity of other human beings!

    So don’t gimme that fear-coddling excuse!: “And the panelists all in their way called on us to be sensitive to those fears if not to respect them.”

    What happened to sensitivity and respect for the rights, freedom and dignity of the millions whose lives were destroyed by Zionism???
    ……

    • W.Jones
      April 11, 2013, 1:50 pm

      “This so-called fear is really an addiction to entitlement”

      When the Zionists migrated to the Holy Land in the first half of the 20th century they were hardly “afraid” of “Arabs”, weren’t they? What about the very many peaceful, friendly neighboring villages that had good relations with the Zionist settlements before the hundreds of villages were dispossessed? The British were the “bad” guys because they were putting weak obstacles on creating the State system. What changed?

      Let me give you another story. Normally for a person waiting for a bus it makes no sense and is incredibly stupid if a car driver makes fun of them for it, right?

      I met a polite prison guard waiting for the bus in downtown Pittsburgh one night. He told me a prisoner who got out of jail drove by him when he was waiting for the bus and made fun of him for it. He was insulted and felt that was bad behavior.

      Think about it.

  25. HarryLaw
    April 11, 2013, 11:13 am

    yonah fredman @” the Jewish community are thriving in Iran and are very happy. Nonsense. Go ask the emigre community of Iranian Jews living in the US if this is true. It is not”. Iran’s Jews reject cash offer to move to Israel.
    Expats offer families £30,000 to emigrate. Our identity is not for sale, say community leaders. link to Guardian here: link to guardian.co.uk

  26. W.Jones
    April 11, 2013, 12:29 pm

    A friend who was a young person during desegregation said that a schoolgirl asked him if everything was going to be OK when it was announced. So there was worry about it among the southerners.

  27. chrisgui
    April 11, 2013, 1:37 pm

    An oldie but a goodie:

    “Every attempt [by the State of Israel] to keep hold of this area [the West Bank and Gaza] as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state. Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state, and if they don’t vote it is an apartheid state.”

    — Ehud Barak

    It seems to me that the Zionists are afraid of that choice.

  28. biorabbi
    April 12, 2013, 10:26 pm

    Lovely, intellectual people with kind hearts.

    link to jpost.com

  29. piotr
    April 13, 2013, 8:14 am

    As the Jewish community has a number of fears and threats, perhaps we need a second weekly feature, “Israeli threat assessment”. This week feature: IDF under fire!

    Title: Bar Refaeli hits back at the army. Subtitle: Supermodel says she ‘doesn’t lose any sleep’ over IDF letter to Foreign Ministry stating she is bad role model because of her failure to complete military service. Illustration: and undated photo of well rested and tanned Bar Refaeli (looking pretty cold and condescending).

  30. DICKERSON3870
    April 13, 2013, 6:12 pm

    RE: “Yet we seem to keep wanting to debate the old question of whether a Jewish state can be a democracy and debating it as if it’s an abstract question. After 65 years of evidence, and a significant majority of those years involving Israel’s occupation…. it seems like a kind of derelict pilpul not to talk about the concrete reality….” ~ Neimark

    MY COMMENT: This reminds me of the very similar debate in the 1950s over the question of whether “seperate” could be “equal” according to the U.S. Constitution. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that “separate” educational facilities were “inherently unequal”.

    FROM WIKIPEDIA [Separate but equal]:

    [EXCERPT] Separate but equal was a legal doctrine in United States constitutional law that justified systems of segregation. Under this doctrine, services, facilities and public accommodations were allowed to be separated by race, on the condition that the quality of each group’s public facilities was to remain equal. The phrase was derived from a Louisiana law of 1890, although the law actually used the phrase “equal but separate.”[1] . . .
    . . . Although the Constitutional doctrine required equality, the facilities and social services offered to African-Americans were almost always of lower quality than those offered to white Americans; for example, many African American schools received less public funding per student than nearby white schools. In Texas, the state established a state-funded law school for white students without any law school for black students.

    Was it Equal?

    In 1892, Homer Plessy, who was of mixed ancestry and appeared to be white, boarded an all white railroad car between New Orleans and Covington, Louisiana. The conductor of the train collected passenger tickets at their seats. When Plessy told the conductor he was 7/8ths white and 1/8th black, he was advised he needed to move to a “colored’s only car”. Plessy said he resented sitting in an “colored’s only car” and was arrested immediately.
    One month after his arrest, Plessy appeared in court before Judge John Howard Ferguson. Plessy’s lawyer, Albion Tourgee, claimed Plessy’s 13th and 14th amendment rights were violated. The 13th amendment abolished slavery, and the 14th amendment granted equal protection to all under the law.
    The Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson established the phrase “separate but equal”. The ruling “[required] railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in that State to provide equal, but separate, accommodations for the white and colored races…”.[4] Accommodations provided on each railroad car were required to be the same as those provided on the others. Separate railroad cars could be provided.The railroad could refuse service to passengers who refused to comply , and the Supreme Court ruled this did not infringe upon the 13th and 14th amendments.
    The “separate but equal” doctrine applied to railroad cars and to schools, voting rights, and drinking fountains. Segregated schools were created for students, as long as they followed “separate but equal”. The notion that they were equal though has been controversial. For example the majority of all black schools received old textbooks, used equipment, and poorly prepared or trained teachers. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that black students were emotionally impaired when segregated at a young age.[5] Furthermore, many black students were forced to associate with “white dolls” or colors similar, but lighter, than their own skin.[5] State voting right restrictions, such as literacy tests and poll taxes created an environment that made it almost impossible for blacks to vote. This era also saw separate drinking fountains in public areas.
    The “Separate but Equal” doctrine was eventually overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. But blacks and coloreds were still not equal; poorer services and restrictions on voting rights still limited them throughout the United States, and they still were not granted more political and social power than before.

    • Rejection

    The repeal of such restrictive laws, generally known as Jim Crow laws, was a key focus of the civil rights movement prior to 1954. . .
    . . . In Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), attorneys for the NAACP referred to the phrase “equal but separate” used in Plessy v. Ferguson as a custom de jure racial segregation enacted into law. The NAACP, led by the soon-to-be first black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, was successful in challenging the constitutional viability of the separate but equal doctrine, and the court voted to overturn sixty years of law that had developed under Plessy. The Supreme Court outlawed segregated public education facilities for blacks and whites at the state level. The companion case of Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 outlawed such practices at the Federal level in the District of Columbia. The Brown court held:

    We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. . .

    SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

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