Yesterday I went to an event at the University of Pennsylvania, featuring Max Blumenthal discussing his book Goliath, with Ian Lustick, Penn political scientist and author of the recent groundbreaking piece in the New York Times on the end of the two-state paradigm.
My video excerpt (which you can also watch by going to 34:00 in the complete video here) is one of the more interesting exchanges, in which Lustick challenged Blumenthal to say what he believes Israel/Palestine should look like.
There is some anxiety in Lustick’s question. He took care during the discussion to dissociate himself from the one-state movement. He comes from a religious Zionist background and has long supported the two-state solution. But because two-states is such magical thinking, and he wants to have an intellectual engagement with real ideas, he said, he has abandoned the paradigm. And acknowledges that violence is inevitable in Israel and Palestine.
But leftwing ideas about the conflict obviously frighten him. I can see your facts, Lustick says to Blumenthal, but “I don’t know what your conclusions are.” So he asks Blumenthal to play God, and refers to the Genesis story in which God says he would save Sodom if he could find just 10 righteous men living there.
“You do say there are good people in Israel,” Lustick says. But your last chapter is the Exodus, and one can infer that you endorse the idea that the only logical course for the colonizer “is to leave. Which is a form of the end of the country, the end of Jewish collective life in the land of Israel. I’m asking you is that your conclusion?”
Because, Lustick goes on, the impression your book leaves is that “Israel is not just a little bit fascist, Israel is a lot fascist–” a word “that’s being increasingly used” in the discourse. And fascist is the ultimate delegitimizer. Because we all know that in the post World War II landscape, a state cannot be fascist and be allowed to survive. “It must be ended?”
Blumenthal responds at some length. Here is part of his answer.
“Zionism as a philosophy that has animated the facts on the ground… is an absolutely failed project.” His book exposes failure after failure after failure. Such a statement might hurt the feelings of some Zionists, but Zionism has “hurt the bodies of a lot of Palestinians, and that’s really what matters.”
So his concern is first is to find a scenario that relieves the sufferings of the indigenous people.
“As for the Jewish Israelis… These are Israelis who are attracted to Europe, who do not feel that they are part of the Arab world. And it’s that attraction to Europe, that manifestation of Herzl’s famous quote, that the Jewish state will be a rampart of civilization against barbarism which has led to the present crisis and the failure of Zionism. Because there is absolutely no way for Jewish people in Israel/Palestine to become indigenized under the present order, and that’s really what has to happen. You have to be willing to be a part of the Arab world, because you’re living in the Arab world. If you don’t, then you have to maintain this system and continue to harden the present system.”
Here Blumenthal refers to the separation wall running along the West Bank, aimed at preventing “demographic spillover,” per Netanyahu. And he refers to Israel fencing off Jordan, the Golan Heights, and other borders (or claimed borders), to protect its ethnocracy.
All this reflects a “dystopian future inaugurated by Herzl in his desire to create” Europe in the Middle East. So Blumenthal says: “There should be a choice placed to the settler colonial population.” They must become indigenized, which he says a lot of Israeli Jews would be happy doing. Many of his Israeli friends have become attracted to the Arab world, they go to Cairo and Amman. And many Mizrahi Jews identify as Arabs. But:
“If you think that you can maintain a kind of Berlin reality, you’ve created a recipe for the current dystopia and the environment that many describe as fascist. So this choice needs to be placed to the Israeli Jewish population, and it can only be placed to them by external pressure, the kind of pressure that the BDS movement is exerting.
“The maintenance and engineering of a non indigenous demographic majority is non-negotiable, and that’s a conclusion I will freely come to and make. And so what you see between the two covers of my book is the outcome of a system of demographic manipulation and settler colonialism in a very terminal phase but without any real external pressure.”
Lustick doesn’t answer Blumenthal, opens the discussion up to the floor. I think he was somewhat taken aback, and intimidated by Blumenthal’s forceful presentation. I differ with Blumenthal here. I think we live in a multicultural world, with many people crossing borders, and similar attitudes about indigenous culture have been used in intolerant ways in our society. I see some intolerance in that answer. Many Arabs have also been “attracted” to European culture, even if it’s a non-indigenous culture. The issue in the end involves the choice between an Algerian and a South African outcome; I’m for the South African outcome.