Last week PBS aired the anti-occupation Israeli documentary, The Law in These Parts, and afterward had a panel of experts. They were: Roane Carey of the Nation, Noura Erakat of Jadaliyya, Daniel May the director of the liberal Zionist campus arm J Street U, and rightwing Fordham Law professor Thane Rosenbaum.
The best moment took place at 11:00, after Erakat, correcting Rosenbaum– who had said that Israeli Palestinians enjoy the full “panoply” of Israeli rights– said, “They are absolutely not treated the same as Israelis within Israel itself.” She went on to explain that there are 30 laws that advantage Israeli Jews or disadvantage Palestinians, and the state bifurcates nationality from citizenship; so even if you’re an Israeli citizen, you’re not eligible to be a Jewish national, with a “whole host” of rights non-Jews don’t have. She mentioned the 40,000 Palestinian citizens in the Negev who are being forced out of their villages and into urban townships.
Erakat: “Israel actually tells the world that it treats them the same as its citizens, and that’s not true…This doesn’t happen to their Jewish Israeli counterparts.”
“Is that accurate, Daniel?” the host, Rafael Pi Roman, asked May.
May: “Certainly what she’s describing is accurate.”
May went on to say that the laws in the occupation are worse toward Palestinians.
Still, I have to ask, How can J Street be celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech and the March on Washington and Congressman John Lewis, as Jeremy Ben-Ami did in an email to me today, and wrap its arms around a society that discriminates against 20 percent of its population in such invidious ways? It doesn’t add up.
The other significant thing about the discussion is the extent to which the two-state solution is still valorized inside the U.S. The PBS discussion accepted the idea that the two-state solution is the international consensus of a just resolution of the conflict and also the desire of the Palestinians. Though Roane Carey made it clear that it’s one state right now, and an apartheid state, and Erakat said that the Palestinian state envisioned is a “truncated” vision of Palestine, the discussion reveals the poverty of the American conversation generally. Really, Pi Roman ought to be saying, Why not a one-state outcome? But he didn’t.
Carey also offered an excellent summary of the brutality of the occupation. “[The film] shows a very thin veneer of legatlity covering what is in effect a very brutal system.” Torture, seizure of land– all violations of Fourth Geneva convention, he said. And what it does to all Israelis: “It turns Israel into a– Baruch Kimmerling called it a herrenvolk society, an oppressive dictatorial society… This country has turned itself into a brutal regime.” And for all those who think that this is a stable situation, he says, Palestinians will not stop struggling for their freedom and independence.
Finally, I enjoyed Thane “the Mane” Rosenbaum’s response to Erakat at 35 or so about inequality within Israel.
“But I will say this– Noura’s point about the disparate treatment within Israel between Jews and Arabs. To the extent to which–even if I said it’s true– it’s a Jewish state. For the love of god, can we have one Jewish state?”
Good to have both a rightwing Zionist and a liberal Zionist acknowledging this reality. And accepting it, too, on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s dream.