‘The Nation’ and the privileging of Jewish voices on Israel/Palestine

Israel/PalestineUS Politics

An important argument has broken out between the Electronic Intifada and The Nation over the issue of the left privileging Jewish voices on the conflict and not being hospitable to Palestinians.

Screenshot: Electronic Intifada

Screenshot: Electronic Intifada

Three days back, Electronic Intifada published Rania Khalek’s piece, “Does The Nation have a problem with Palestinians?”, saying that the magazine gives Jews and Zionists assignments in disproportion to others and that it is pulling up the rear on Palestinian solidarity, which should be front and center for progressives.

The Nation then responded with a piece by its executive editor, Richard Kim, titled “On The Nation and Palestinians,” saying that The Nation has published many Palestinian voices and that if it performs a balancing act, it is only reflecting the American liberal scene, which includes people who oppose the boycott movement, BDS.

Khalek began her piece by noting that the American Studies Association vote in favor of academic boycott of Israel is forcing the left to get its act together at last on the Israel/Palestine issue.

progressive media outlets are being forced to acknowledge Israeli apartheid like never before.

While it’s certainly an improvement from just five years ago, when pro-Palestine views were relegated to the most marginal corners of the left, the coverage has still been problematic, most notably for its near-blanket exclusion of Palestinian and Arab voices.

Khalek cites The Nation‘s imbalance in its forum on BDS (which we noted last week) and levels this charge:

The Nation habitually reinforces Israeli apartheid by privileging Jewish voices over Palestinian ones.

Kim responds that if Khalek had asked him, he

would have directed her to at least fourteen articles on Palestine by ten different Palestinian or Palestinian-American writers that we have published since the beginning of 2008 alone.

our archive in this regard is a rich and varied one. It includes contributions by some of the most prominent Palestinian activists, scholars and journalists in the world, including the founders of ISM and BDS.

Kim points out that The Nation has done a lot to expose the occupation (including a piece we often link, by a liberal Zionist describing the West Bank as “apartheid on steroids”).

Of course, the lib-left media broadly suffer from the racism that Khalek identifies. How many Palestinians appear on MSNBC? The Nation is a lightning rod for Khalek’s criticism because of the presence there of an ardent Zionist, Eric Alterman, who obviously has a constituency inside The Nation‘s liberal Jewish New York community. Khalek is withering on this point:

Worse still is the continued employment of The Nation columnist Eric Alterman, whose well-documented racist hostility toward Palestinians is regularly praised by right-wing outlets like Commentary and the Washington Free Beacon.

Kim never refers to Alterman, but he acknowledges the presence of Zionists inside the left. American liberals now need “to wrestle” with the Palestinian call for solidarity, he says diplomatically, and points out that the Park Slope coop voted against boycott. The Nation‘s forums

were weighted towards an American audience—because those were the moral agents being asked to make a choice. Should they have included more Palestinian voices? That is a perfectly fair—and quite interesting—subject for discussion.

Khalek is particularly biting when she compares the Nation’s support for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to its dithering re the BDS movement.

There is no shortage of Jewish American writers at The Nation lecturing Palestinians about what constitutes acceptable resistance to Israeli apartheid. The Nation justifies publishing these opinions in the name of diversity. But that certainly wasn’t the case at in the days of South African apartheid.

A search through The Nation’s archives reveals unflinching condemnation of South Africa’s apartheid regime and editorial support for the divestment movement in its earliest days.

In the 16 August 1965 issue, Stanley Meisler (who would later become an LA Times foreign and diplomatic correspondent) refers to South Africa as an “evil” and “neo-Fascist state” (“Our Stake in Apartheid”). Fast forward to 2013, and the magazine is printing Eric Alterman’s tantrum-induced smears of Max Blumenthal for having the audacity to write a book about Israel’s descent into fascism….

An article in the 24 January 1987 issue opens with: “The appalling intransigence of the South African government in the face of worldwide pressure to abandon its apartheid laws, its brutality and violence, its censorship of the press, have combined to elicit a dramatic resurgence of corporate-action campaigns in mainstream America” (“Corporate Accounting: Give Your Dollars a Political Spin”).

That The Nation feels compelled to continue hosting debates on the merits of BDS is troubling given that no such debate existed at the magazine during South Africa’s apartheid regime. The existence of apartheid was not subject to debate then, and it shouldn’t be now.

This is an important battle. That Khalek drew Kim’s response is a positive reflection on The Nation‘s sense of responsibility on this urgent question, a sign that The Nation understands it can’t be AWOL on Palestine. (Phil thinks Alterman is going the way of Chris Hitchens, out of the left community over a central issue).

It is bracing it is to read Khalek counting the Jewish writers. Any reader of this site knows we think this is difficult but necessary work, scrutinizing Jewish privilege. This tweet from Ali Abunimah tells the story:

.@Ali_Gharib @thenation has published 14 articles by all Palestinians in 6 years. It’s published 25 just by Neve Gordon and Bernard Avishai

— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) December 22, 2013

At times we have done the same sort of counting vis-a-vis the Council on Foreign Relations, the State Department, NPR and so on. This issue isn’t unique to The Nation, if anything the numbers reflect the broader cultural bias against Palestinians and Arabs more generally. Pointing this out doesn’t make us anti-Semites; it means we believe in diversity, and broadening the perspectives through which this issue and the region is understood. More and more media seem to understand the need for diversity here, including Huffington Post.

We are somewhat enmeshed in this controversy. We have been privileged as Jewish voices at The Nation–and also casualties of the organization’s timidity on the issue. We were invited to write cover articles for the magazine on the BDS movement and shifting American Jewish views on the conflict and we were also shown the door at the Nation Institute (our past fiscal sponsor) because our stance against Israeli apartheid made some uncomfortable. Still we maintain active friendships with the magazine, and our publisher Scott Roth is a Nation partner. As an institution, The Nation still struggles over these issues and Electronic Intifada is right to force the question. As Naomi Klein, another Nation friend, points out:

 

The Nation should view Khalek’s critique as an opportunity to lead by introducing the left-liberal community to the Palestinians who are charting the way towards freedom, equality and justice in Israel/Palestine. Rather than reflecting American cultural bias against Palestinians, The Nation should challenge it. This is their chance.

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48 Responses

  1. Krauss
    December 23, 2013, 9:39 am

    Rania Khalek is more or less right about the central issue which is why Kim was defensive about the subject, he knows like most liberals that there is a huge bias towards Zionism. And for Alterman, a man she rightly notes is famous for racist hostility towards Palestinians, to be employed on a left-wing magazine is increasingly bizarre. Would the Nation have employed a writer progressive on social issues inside America and on economic matters but who had a profound hostility towards those who opposed the Boers in Apartheid South Africa? Of course not.

    Still, I have some criticism.

    The Nation habitually reinforces Israeli apartheid by privileging Jewish voices over Palestinian ones.

    This quote is just weird. How is the Nation reinforcing Israeli Apartheid by employing Jewish writers in America? Many of whom are for BDS, too, if we’re looking at those who were active in the BDS debate.

    So the Nation was reinforcing Israeli apartheid when it published articles by American Jews advocating for BDS and by definition against Israeli Apartheid, too?

    I believe Rania was nervous at the obvious Jew-counting that you had to make, which both of you say is needed to be done on these issues, because the privilege is glaring. Just like people are not afraid of counting men on instances where there are lack of women on women’s issues(esp in GOP settings) or whites in most elite settings, not least in the media.

    And a way out was to somehow bring in Israel into the picture. True, the nation are reinforcing Israeli Apartheid(although much less than other publications) by being timid on this debate and even on the left there is a Zionist, although weakening, concensus among Jews. Especially for older Jews on the left, where that concensus is strong.

    So again, I agree with much of what she had to say. It’s an inevitable discussion, but some of that phrasing was weird and I believe that nervousness centered around Jew-counting was behind it.

    Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that if most voices were Jewish, as they are, but most of them were pro-BDS she still would have written it. Not because she would have disagreed with the content but more around the identity of the messengers. And that’s okay too, but I think she should be more upfront about it, rather than trying to say merely employing Jewish writer is somehow “enforcing Israeli Apartheid”.

    • JeffB
      December 23, 2013, 10:43 am

      @Krauss

      Would the Nation have employed a writer progressive on social issues inside America and on economic matters but who had a profound hostility towards those who opposed the Boers in Apartheid South Africa?

      I’m not sure about that. For example in mid 1970s constructive engagement was still a very acceptable position on the left, and it wouldn’t have shocked me if in 1975 you saw a writer for the Nation who believed that evolutionary change and a gradual move towards civil rights might be preferable. I doubt you would have seen that in 1985 but the BDS movement is nowhere near where the anti-apartheid movement was in 1985. The first major sanctions bill to pass a subcommittee was in 1972 (14 years from then to make it all the way). How long do you think it is till any subcommittee would be willing to vote for sanctions on Israel?

      For a modern example Mehdi Hasan is prolife yet a major player for Huffington Post.

    • HarryLaw
      December 23, 2013, 11:34 am

      Whether the situation in Israel proper can be described as Apartheid could be debatable, people of non Jewish origin are certainly discriminated against, the state through it’s many laws which openly favor people of Jewish origin and discriminate against non Jews attest to that fact. The situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory however is definitely Apartheid, or as Hostage has pointed out better described as persecution, the transfer of citizens of Israel into occupied territory is a well documented war crime in breach of the Geneva Conventions, that crime is built upon with the further crime of Apartheid/persecution, and then the further war crime of pillage, better known these days as theft, puts the top hat on a trio of war crimes, all of which the leaders of the state of Israel will one day be indicted for.We hope.

      • Hostage
        December 23, 2013, 6:15 pm

        Whether the situation in Israel proper can be described as Apartheid could be debatable, people of non Jewish origin are certainly discriminated against, the state through it’s many laws which openly favor people of Jewish origin and discriminate against non Jews attest to that fact.

        I think the Prawer Plan ended any such debate. The government of Israel talks openly about a socio-racial “problem” to be expurgated from the Jewish nation-state in order to preserve its character and demographic majority – while right across town the Yad Vashem museum says that very same thing was the beginning of “the persecution” of the Jews, the Sinti and the Roma.

        Israel’s authorities have even broken-up homes and deported guest workers for the crime of exercising the basic human right to have children and a family life. Now the police are ignoring Court decisions and are rounding-up “migrants” who have the same status as the one held by Eastern European Jews in the German Weimar Republic or stateless Russian Jewish protégés in Ottoman Palestine. Nothing distinguishes these vile acts, policies, and practices carried out by modern-day Israeli officials from those other examples that liberal Zionists invariably say were crimes of persecution perpetrated against Jews in other eras.

      • JeffB
        December 23, 2013, 8:15 pm

        @Harry —

        , and then the further war crime of pillage

        I love this one. Pillage is going into a country, stealing stuff and leaving. It is an army pulling off armed robbery on a grand scale. Under any reasonable definition Israel does not commit pillage institutionally. Taking land isn’t pillage, that’s conquest.

      • just
        December 23, 2013, 9:01 pm

        It’s thievery & pillaging. It’s not conquest. Of course you “love” it!

        Here you go:

        “Definition
        Pillage (or plunder) is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary as “the forcible taking of private property by an invading or conquering army from the enemy’s subjects”.[23] The Elements of Crimes of the Statute of the International Criminal Court specifies that the appropriation must be done “for private or personal use”.[24] As such, the prohibition of pillage is a specific application of the general principle of law prohibiting theft. This prohibition is to be found in national criminal legislation around the world. Pillage is generally punishable under military law or general penal law.”

        Much more here:

        link to icrc.org

      • just
        December 23, 2013, 9:16 pm

        Oh, and here’s some court sanctioned pillaging:

        “High Court asks Palestinians to drop land case against settlers
        Haaretz 23 Dec by Amira Hass — A High Court of Justice panel has asked farmers from the West Bank village of Yatta to withdraw a petition against settlers who allegedly seized their lands – despite the state’s admission that the Palestinians proved their legal attachment to the land. The State Prosecutor’s Office said the Palestinians should pursue the matter by civil legal action, and the High Court panel’s request that they withdraw the petition indicates that it agrees. This could signal a change in the High Court and State Prosecutor’s Office position of recent years, and it comes amid repeated, increasing incidents of settlers seizing control of Palestinian land … While admitting that the Palestinian petitioners had proved “substantial administrative” attachment to the lands, the state argued that the use of the land by the settlers hasn’t changed since the 1990s, and therefore decrees allowing army commanders to evacuate trespassers within five years of their takeover of the land should not be issued. The petitioners presented evidence that the land seizure did not occur as early as the 1990s, but Naor said she would not hear evidence regarding ownership, but only examine whether the IDF and Civil Administration should take administrative steps to evacuate the settlers.
        link to haaretz.com

        link to mondoweiss.net

      • Hostage
        December 23, 2013, 11:46 pm

        I love this one. Pillage is going into a country, stealing stuff and leaving.

        You need to go back to school. The Courts in Israel are constantly finding examples of pillage that aren’t warranted by military necessity in violation of Articles 28, 46, and 52 of the Hague IV rules of 1907.

        “Leaving” is not a necessary element of any war crime involving state or personal property.

        Article 8 (2) (a) (iv)
        War crime of destruction and appropriation of property
        Elements
        1. The perpetrator destroyed or appropriated certain property.
        2. The destruction or appropriation was not justified by military necessity.
        3. The destruction or appropriation was extensive and carried out wantonly.
        4. Such property was protected under one or more of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.
        5. The perpetrator was aware of the factual circumstances that established that protected status.
        6. The conduct took place in the context of and was associated with an international armed conflict.
        7. The perpetrator was aware of factual circumstances that established the existence of an armed conflict.

        Article 8 (2) (b) (xvi)
        War crime of pillaging
        Elements
        1. The perpetrator appropriated certain property.
        2. The perpetrator intended to deprive the owner of the property and to appropriate it for private or personal use.
        3. The appropriation was without the consent of the owner.
        4. The conduct took place in the context of and was associated with an international armed conflict.
        5. The perpetrator was aware of factual circumstances that established the existence of an armed conflict.
        *As indicated by the use of the term “private or personal use”, appropriations justified by military necessity cannot constitute the crime of pillaging.
        See ICC Elements of Crimes link to icc-cpi.int

      • JeffB
        December 24, 2013, 6:56 am

        @Hostage —

        Good reference. I’m comfortable with 8.2.b.xvi as a definition of pillage. Possibly even a bit narrow but a reasonable definition. 8 (2) (a) (iv) is something entirely different.

        Obviously a state can’t even commit 8.2.b.xvi as written.

      • amigo
        December 24, 2013, 9:01 am

        “Taking land isn’t pillage, that’s conquest.”jb

        Do shut up you insufferable pretentious arrogant bigot.

        It,s a crime whether it,s conquest or pillage and only an immoral vacuous moron such as you would attempt to justify such behaviour.

        YOU give decent Jews a bad name.

      • SQ Debris
        December 24, 2013, 5:06 pm

        Pillage is in fact the correct term. The Israeli army takes Palestinian water out of non-Israeli territory into Israel for the use of Israelis. You could also call it looting the natural resources. This pillage includes water, stone illegally quarried in the WB, and even 1,000 year old olive trees. Israeli pillage is but one aspect in the spectrum of Israeli war crimes. In fact if you read the Geneva Convention you would be hard pressed to find a single article that Israel isn’t violating. It’s a national hobby.

      • JeffB
        December 24, 2013, 5:41 pm

        SQ Debris —

        If the Israeli army is doing, i.e. institutionally with full government support then it isn’t pillage. I was fine with the distinction Harry made between pillage and “War crime of destruction and appropriation of property”. I don’t agree with the UN to consider the Israeli situation an occupation but if I did consider it an occupation then that seems to me a reasonable term for Israeli actions. Pillage does not.

    • puppies
      December 23, 2013, 8:05 pm

      “Still, I have a sneaking suspicion that if most voices were Jewish, as they are, but most of them were pro-BDS she still would have written it. Not because she would have disagreed with the content but more around the identity of the messengers.”

      Correct. What many here refuse to see is that a lot of people who do call themselves Jewish do it out of tribal loyalty, especially in the Godless Left. Many times their involvement in the Solidarity movement is motivated by a desire to limit losses to the tribe, avoid the impending catastrophe, clean the tribe’s reputation, etc., in short looking for “what is good for the Jews”. It is perfectly conceivable that their predominance in the solidarity movement may lead to actions incompatible with the basic principles.
      MW is different, being an avowedly intra-Jewish site, never mind other contributors, that offers a pulpit also to liberal Zionists (and to Hasbara people in the comments.)

  2. JeffB
    December 23, 2013, 10:25 am

    Once you start looking at the details between South Africa and Israel you start seeing huge deep fundamental differences. And this article demonstrates just one of those. Israel has a two domestic constituencies (Jews and Christian Zionists) which are loyal to it, while South Africa had 0.
    It is very easy to say “who cares what Zio-Nazis think”. But in reality:
    Jews are 2% of the population
    Jews are 4% of the electorate
    Jews are 10% of Liberals
    Jews are about 50% of political Liberalisms most active donors / and volunteers

    None of that was true for Afrikaners.

    The question for liberal American institutions is “will Jews walk if we become openly pro-Palestinian i.e. show solidarity”. And every-time we look at the evidence the answer seems to be “yes”. The peace movement’s anti-Zionism prior and just after the start of the Iraq war resulted in a peace movement being divided and weak. This is a a really good example of what an anti-Zionist liberalism in America looks like.

    The Nation cannot alienate its Jewish readership at reasonable cost. Without Jews there may not even be a Nation magazine. Even if the Nation survived it certainly would be less influential. The Nation can only go as far on Palestine as liberal Jews are willing to go. The Nation cannot take a united stand, it cannot unequivocally condemn.
    Khalek has ever reason to consider that unfair, it is unfair but life isn’t always fair.

    I should also comment that nuance is much more part of Liberal discourse in 2013 than it was in 1973. Conversely Conservative discourse was very nuanced and intellectual in 1973 while today it is emotional. These things cycle with which group has influence.

    Rania Khalek’s article is dead on accurate about the differences And it shows how facile the comparison is between South Africa and Israel is. Israel fifty years ago was more like support for the IRA/PIRA where America’s leadership may have been pro-British, the majority of the population may have been pro-British, but the population who cared mostly backed the Catholics. Today that support for Israel is even more institutional.

    Israel is not South Africa. It is just an analogy and not a great one at that.

    • talknic
      December 23, 2013, 11:48 am

      @JeffB “Israel has a two domestic constituencies (Jews and Christian Zionists) which are loyal to it”

      Ziosupremism ignores 20% of Israeli citizens.

      • JeffB
        December 23, 2013, 12:10 pm

        Ziosupremism ignores 20% of Israeli citizens.

        Yes it does. And hopefully that can get fixed. It was getting fixed all during the 1960s to the early 1980s but the Intifada changed that. Maybe by 2100 this problem won’t exist. But in 2013 it does and I’m not sure why injecting into a thread about USA politics helps things. The Israeli Arabs most certainly do not have a powerful domestic constituency.

      • talknic
        December 23, 2013, 1:00 pm

        @ JeffB //Ziosupremism ignores 20% of Israeli citizens//

        “Yes it does”

        It was you I quoted…

        ” It was getting fixed all during the 1960s to the early 1980s but the Intifada changed that. “

        How was it ‘getting fixed’ exactly? Was Israel withdrawing from any of the non-Israeli territories it had illegally acquired by war before becoming a UN Member state or any of the Palestinian and Jordanian territories (the West Bank) it occupied in ’67 as a UN Member state?

        Was the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem a part of ‘getting fixed’?

        Please explain/describe ANY attempt by Israel towards the issues ‘getting fixed’ … thx …..

      • JeffB
        December 23, 2013, 1:52 pm

        @Talknic —

        There isn’t much point in discussing things if you are going to use language like, “Was Israel withdrawing from any of the non-Israeli territories it had illegally acquired by war before becoming a UN Member state”. In the 1960s (prior to the 67 war) the UN wasn’t upset about Israeli territory.

        More importantly you always throw a conniption about the Israeli Arabs being part of Israel. If you want to think of them as full citizens then they as much as any other Israeli were the ones doing the “illegal annexing”. If you don’t want to hold them responsible for Israeli actions then you yourself don’t think of them as citizens.

        Please explain/describe ANY attempt by Israel [during the 1960s-early 1980s] towards the issues [Israeli Arab integration] ‘getting fixed’

        1950s — Israeli Arab parties form allied with Mapai
        1962 — many reforms which will lead to the end of military rule implemented
        1965 — several non-Zionist parties with strong Israeli Arab representation in Knesset. Example Progress and Development won several seats, and Maki forms as a joint Jewish / Israeli Arab communist party
        1966 — martial law entirely lifted and Israel removes most forms of legal discrimination
        1968 — Jewish–Arab Brotherhood forms
        etc…

        By the 1970s the Israeli-Arabs start becoming more anti-Zionist / pro-Soviet along with much of the Arab world and this progress ends. It starts to reverse in the early 1980s.

      • Hostage
        December 23, 2013, 6:23 pm

        Ziosupremism ignores 20% of Israeli citizens. Yes it does. And hopefully that can get fixed.

        I call bullshit. Israel used to systematically discriminate against that 20%, but Goliath outlines the fact that it has taken-on the characteristics of fascism that delights in actively persecuting them. It will be apartheid until that gets fixed.

      • JeffB
        December 23, 2013, 8:20 pm

        @Hostage —

        I’m not sure what part of that you think is bullshit. Goliath is propaganda. They have been acting more like a 5th column and Israel is treating them much worse than it had. That’s an unfortunate escalation. OTOH by and large neither side has done anything irreversible yet. This could turn around very quickly.

      • Hostage
        December 23, 2013, 9:41 pm

        I’m not sure what part of that you think is bullshit.

        Every word of it. The shameful use of martial law and emergency regulations by Israel to isolate, segregate and impoverish its own Palestinian Arab citizens and the on-going efforts to use political coercion and outright bans of Palestinian Arab political parties during the 1950s and the 1960s was highlighted in “Apartheid Outside Africa: The Case of Israel” by Prof. John Quigley. A book-length treatment of the same subject was reviewed here just the other day on Mondoweiss: Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the birth of Israel’s liberal settler state

        In the 60s Israel unilaterally declared its sovereignty over the DMZs and used its now-shopworn techniques of declaring the Arab inhabitants a security threat and the land they inhabited or cultivated a closed military zone that could be expropriated for settlement. None of those abuses, which are still entrenched in law, were ever addressed or “getting better”. In fact they became more acute in the 70s when Israel adopted Sharon’s plan to establish inland settlements to deliberately disrupt the contiguity of adjacent Palestinian and Israeli Palestinian Arab population centers. Then Israel formally adopted the Jerusalem and Golan Heights laws in the 1980s and began screwing over even more of the inhabitants.

        All of that was going on long before the Intifada happened in the occupied Palestinian territories.

      • JeffB
        December 24, 2013, 9:16 am

        @Hostage

        I think you may have forgotten what’s being debates. My point was in the 1960s we saw the situation for Israeli Arabs getting quite a bit better and that continued through to the early 1980s where we mostly had a reversal. I’ll address the specifics but let’s keep that in context.

        The shameful use of martial law and emergency regulations by Israel to isolate, segregate and impoverish its own Palestinian Arab citizens

        I don’t agree that was the purpose of martial law at that point. I think the purpose of martial law was to keep a minority loyal to hostile foreign governments from being able to act on that hostility. The isolation assisted in the Israel Arabs developing political beliefs where they viewed themselves as Israeli Arabs and not Palestinians. They were in 1948 and on a danger to the state. In the 1962 they no longer were. The state got a lot stronger but also part of what happened was a political reorientation.

        outright bans of Palestinian Arab political parties during the 1950s and the 1960s

        There shouldn’t be any Palestinian political parties in Israel. The United States wouldn’t tolerate a Al-Qaeda political party getting tens of millions of votes. The USA did for example did start to ban the communist parties when they were conducting bombing campaigns. However, it is possible that Israeli Arab parties might be a good intermediate step towards assimilation. And those did exist and were often encouraged including by Ben Gurion personally.

        In the 60s Israel unilaterally declared its sovereignty over the DMZs and used its now-shopworn techniques of declaring the Arab inhabitants a security threat and the land they inhabited or cultivated a closed military zone that could be expropriated for settlement.

        A government doesn’t expropriate its population’s land it reallocates it. Every dunum of land ultimately belongs to the Israeli government. Especially Israel was at that point still a socialist country. Much of the the land was in border areas the state needed it for functions other than farming. You have the same problem as talknic you want to consider them entitled to the rights of citizens but not the responsibilities of citizens. During the 1960s Israel was moving away from the agricultural economy and reallocating land throughout the country.

        The ethnically Palestinian population was experiencing economic growth.
        For example infant mortality fell from 56 per 1000 to 8 per 1000 (currently 6.5 better than the USA)
        life expectancy
        schooling went from an average of 1 years to an average of 11 years
        etc…

        Those kinds of data are inconsistent with a government attempting to impoverish a minority population.

        In fact they became more acute in the 70s when Israel adopted Sharon’s plan to establish inland settlements to deliberately disrupt the contiguity of adjacent Palestinian and Israeli Palestinian Arab population centers.

        Of course! For the same reason the USA government doesn’t want average americans exposed to cocaine. The primary risk for the Israeli Arab population is that they revert to being Palestinian and thus non-citizens. Israel trying to prevent that is helping not harming them. They aren’t behind military fortifications, there is no separation even geographically (as the 2000 riots showed). If they start identifying with the enemy Israel will no choice to but to take drastic horrible actions. Preventing that is a mitzvah.

        Then Israel formally adopted the Jerusalem and Golan Heights laws in the 1980s and began screwing over even more of the inhabitants.

        As far as I know Jerusalem inhabitants were offered full citizenship, the option of becoming Israeli Arabs and starting on the process of assimilation. They refused. How is that Israeli’s fault? I don’t know much about Golan.

        All of that was going on long before the Intifada happened in the occupied Palestinian territories.

        All of what was going on? A process of assimilation that was hitting bumps but mostly was successful. Yes that was going on. By the early 1980s it started to reverse.

    • George Smith
      December 23, 2013, 12:33 pm

      JeffB: Precise calculation of liberalism’s pivot point on the Pro-Israel/Pro-Palestinian axis is a loser’s task. BDS lies on an orthogonal axis: Pro-equal rights/Anti-equal rights. Is there any question where The Nation should be on that axis? The analogy with South Africa is very close indeed.

      • Sibiriak
        December 23, 2013, 10:50 pm

        George Smith:

        BDS lies on an orthogonal axis: Pro-equal rights/Anti-equal rights.

        True. But BDS –implicitly if not explicitly–lies on another axis as well: Pro-equal rights/Anti -equal rights of the Jewish and Palestinian peoples to claim a collective right of self-determination in Palestine.

        The only way for BDS to remove itself from that axis would be to come out explicitly in favor of “two states for two peoples in Palestine”, which it has not done and, of course, will not do.

    • Citizen
      December 23, 2013, 1:56 pm

      @ JeffB
      “Jews are 2% of the population
      Jews are 4% of the electorate
      Jews are 10% of Liberals
      Jews are about 50% of political Liberalisms most active donors / and volunteers
      None of that was true for Afrikaners.”
      Yes, it’s true Dutch-Americans and Anglo-Americans supported the BDS against apartheid S Africa.

      So, why can’t Jewish Americans support BDS against Jim Crow Israel and Apartheid OT?

      Or you just stating that the Pro-Israel supporters in USA have the advantage because they are the major donors in American political campaigns? If so, we all know that, and the American public has the choice to be aware of it ever since the Israel Lobby by Mearsheimer and Walt, at least.

      Am I missing something in your comment? What is it?

      • JeffB
        December 24, 2013, 11:31 am

        @Citizen —

        Am I missing something in your comment? What is it? … , why can’t Jewish Americans support BDS against Jim Crow Israel and Apartheid OT?

        The comment is about the reality that they don’t and the impact that has on liberal organizations. The original author was asking why does The Nation treat Israel different than it did South Africa and my point was that the BDS has to contend with a domestic constancy that plays a major role in Liberalism.

        I wasn’t really addressing the lobby or political campaigns I was addressing the discussion within liberalism not within the Democratic parties. For the lobby you have mainstream political causes. But Jews are more powerful within liberalism than they are in the Democratic mainstream i.e. JStreet has more relative power, though obviously not absolute power, than AIPAC.

        Finally as far as Jews, it is not that Liberal Jews can’t support BDS, it is that Jews don’t support BDS. They don’t agree that Israel is comparable to Jim Crow. They don’t agree that apartheid is going on in the OT. And moreover when you try and make the analogy you have to say stuff they disagree with strongly enough to offend them.

        The Nation’s Jewish readership is willing to tolerate, “well some of us support BDS and some of us don’t. BDS is a morally legitimate position that liberals can hold.” But that’s where the debate is right now. The author was arguing that The Nation should take a position of “all of us support BDS. Opposition to Israel is the only morally legitimate position that liberals can hold”. Which is to say kick Zionists out of liberalism or at least off the pages of The Nation.

        My post was about why that is not a reasonable thing to ask the editors of The Nation to do. The cost to them, the cost on too many other issues they care about is probably much too high.

  3. chris_k
    December 23, 2013, 10:35 am

    I read the Nation cover to cover in the 1990s until the internet was invented, at which time I started to read only feature articles for specific research. I can tell you that in that phase, anything the Nation published about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was utter fluff – non-content concluded with an assurance that the editors long for an amicable solution. Alterman’s column is a relic from that era. Like other publications that vie for the ‘liberal’ market, they have had to keep up with internet content and coverage has improved slightly, and of course they published Blumenthal’s book.

  4. ritzl
    December 23, 2013, 10:55 am

    The Nation may be facing a fracture and are trying to navigate it. But pretty soon people are just going to have to quit straddling and choose a side on this issue. It’s coming.

    Occupy had this problem as well. Despite all the collective broad-front protestations, if too much of a point was made of Palestinian Solidarity and/or Israeli Apartheid, it was deemed anti-semitic and many Jews threatened to bolt. Palestinian issues were dropped.

    • Citizen
      December 23, 2013, 2:00 pm

      I guess we need to make a slight chance from “Freedom of the press is for those who own it” to “for those who are rich enough, they can bury it.” In America it always comes down to: follow the money. You don’t need Sheldon Adelson to tell you that, do you?

  5. W.Jones
    December 23, 2013, 11:10 am

    Mr. Kim, the Nation editor said:

    The Nation‘s forums “were weighted towards an American audience—because those were the moral agents being asked to make a choice. Should they have included more Palestinian voices? That is a perfectly fair… subject for discussion.”

    I am confused. Zogby is an influential American, due to his polls and surveys. Why equate American voices with non-Palestinian or non-Arab ones?

    Mr. Kim points to how there are different opinions on the left on IP. But aren’t there really different opinions on homosexuality as well? Hispanics and Blacks make up a major portion of the US left voting base. Perhaps their anti-homosexual views need to be aired?

    • JeffB
      December 23, 2013, 12:23 pm

      @WJones

      Mr. Kim points to how there are different opinions on the left on IP. But aren’t there really different opinions on homosexuality as well? Hispanics and Blacks make up a major portion of the US left voting base. Perhaps their anti-homosexual views need to be aired?

      Hispanic and Black social conservatives make up a major portion of the Democratic voters. They make up a major portion of economic liberals. They don’t by definition make up a major portion of Liberals (i.e. social liberals) nor a large percentage of The Nation’s readership nor influence. Moreover even if we ignore the social conservative aspects and ask about blacks and hispanics in general most aren’t liberals.

      Jewish issues in the nation in 2013 are covered as “in the family” to some extent. Black issues aren’t. You’ll very rarely see issues in the Nation regarding issues on which the Black community is divided. For example there is a lot of Black on Black tension over electoral strategies, in mixed districts and cities. These don’t get much play in The Nation.

      Anyway here is the basic data on race and political ideology: link to people-press.org

      • Citizen
        December 24, 2013, 5:53 pm

        So you are equating gays with Zionists? They can’t help they were born that way? Seems so, but maybe you are equating all Jews? In either case,
        is either good for human society as a whole? Just asking.

      • JeffB
        December 24, 2013, 8:02 pm

        @Citizen —

        So you are equating gays with Zionists? They can’t help they were born that way? Seems so, but maybe you are equating all Jews?

        In that post above? Nah I wasn’t really equating anyone with anyone. WJones had asked a question about specific demographics and I was saying who did or didn’t read The Nation. There was no equation, just a discussion on the politics of three groups and their interplay with Nation readership in general terms.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 26, 2013, 11:28 am

        you missed his most salient point tho, which was Why equate American voices with non-Palestinian or non-Arab ones?. after all, there are as many arab americans as jewish americans (aren’t there?). so the implication of mr. kim’s reasoning (“were weighted towards an American audience—because those were the moral agents being asked to make a choice “) is that an american audience would likely be more jewish-leaning. which could be true for their own publication, but made more likely because of the disproportionate ethnicity of their writers. anyway, he did say “That is a perfectly fair… subject for discussion”.

      • JeffB
        December 26, 2013, 12:42 pm

        @Annie —
        up a level

        you missed his most salient point tho, which was Why equate American voices with non-Palestinian or non-Arab ones?. after all, there are as many arab americans as jewish americans (aren’t there?).

        I’m not sure who is doing the equating. I was talking about how The Nation’s readership / subscribership / target is demographically unbalanced and thus their idealogical identification is unbalanced.

        Kim is contrasting Palestinians with non-Palestinians and just saying Palestinians are a small percentage of the “people of conscience” who have to evaluate BDS as a strategy. Palestinians may get to decide what they want “people of conscience” to do but those people have to decide if they agree to do it. I’d assume that by “people of conscience” he means something like politically active liberals, in which case… my demographic arguments hold up. If he means Americans in general by “people of conscience”, then you are right about demographics. Of course at the same time, The Nation isn’t a terrible good place to be having the debate, since for most of them it isn’t credible.

    • Citizen
      December 24, 2013, 5:55 pm

      @ W. Jones

      Yes.

      • W.Jones
        December 25, 2013, 10:23 am

        I think so too. I get that homosexuals’ rights as people need to be respected and that we should have concern for homosexuals, but why not question whether homosexuality is normal or healthy? If it is a disorder or abnormality, then if you care about society and the homosexuals, why not recognize this and discuss how to deal with it?

        Perhaps on some issues of mental or sexual health there can be a scientific debate that considers opposing views in a neutral, non-judgmental way?

        Alternately, even if there is only one view, if a large number of people who generally are leftwing have a view, why not give them serious space to explain their view, even if after a few paragraphs they are thoroughly rebutted? This could be the case in many areas and topics, ranging from the IP topic to the 2nd Amendment to healthcare, etc.

      • Citizen
        December 26, 2013, 10:43 am

        @ W.Jones

        Some homosexuality is learned behavior, but many homosexuals found and find themselves drawn to their own sex romantically and lustfully at an early age, no matter how homophobic the culture they are brought up in. Zionism is definitely learned behavior. Logic has nothing to do with having homosexual feelings. Half-baked, specious logic has everything to do with Zionism, or racism. Homosexual activities will never bring down any state nor harm the benefits of basic individual liberty. Zionism does both.

      • W.Jones
        December 26, 2013, 9:20 pm

        Citizen,
        Max Blumenthal wrote a book called “Republican Gomorrah”. Using this as a jumping off point, let’s think- if a state glorified gay sex and became a kind of licentious Sodom and Gomorrah, perhaps it would end up bringing it down. Basically the state would be glorifying a sexual abnormality as if it was good for everybody. In reality, the gay relationships in prison however are also part of the low levels of degredation that the prisoners are brought. All of this indirectly leads to an idea that abnormalities are good and can bleed into other areas of society, facilitating other social abnormalities.

        In other words, I am making the argument that perhaps there can be more than one social-minded view on homosexuality, rather than just seeing it as normal and OK. Certainly many leftists in America have mixed views on the topic. Why not allow those views to be expressed?

        But perhaps one should take the view that there is only one valid left wing set of ideas on sexuality? If so, who gets to determine that one viewpoint in the pages of The Nation?

        And then when we turn to the IP Conflict, who gets to determine what the one valid view is for The Nation?

        I recognize what you are saying in your paragraph, Citizen, but some people may disagree. So who decides? The way The Nation has answered those questions, I think you will agree, says much about The Nation’s “orientation.”

        :)

        All the Best.

      • W.Jones
        December 26, 2013, 9:24 pm

        Citizen,

        One “answer” might be for the Nation, when answering these questions about the “progessive” viewpoint, should discuss the kind of issues you did. They should address whether there is logic, learned behaviour, liberty, and societal health. But do we get much questioning, skepticism, or self-criticism in the pages of The Nation on these topics?

  6. Nevada Ned
    December 23, 2013, 11:29 am

    I’ve been reading The Nation for years and observing their coverage of Israel and the Palestinians.

    The Nation published the late Alexander Cockburn, who criticized Israel and supported the Palestinians. And he brought the Electronic Intifada to the attention of his readers.

    The Nation also published Edward Said, a Palestinian and a distinguished professor at Columbia, author of the seminal works The Question of Palestine and Orientalism. I have to say that Said’s pieces occurred only occasionally, and often on other topics (e.g., music). And after Edward Said’s death, the number of Palestinians on their masthead is zero.

    The Nation published articles by Alexander Cockburn and by Edward Said attacking the fraudulent book From Time Immemorial, by Joan Peters. The book claimed to demonstrate that Palestine was nearly empty of people when the Zionist pioneers arrived. In the rest of the media, the book received ecstatic praise. Supporters of the book included Marty Peretz of The New Republic, Bernard Lewis, Saul Bellow, Elie Wiesel, and many other people prominent in American culture. And I have to say, none of the supporters have received much criticism (in The Nation of anywhere else!) for their support for a hoax.
    The publication that really blasted Joan Peters was In These Times, a plucky little newspaper from Chicago with a small circulation, who ran an article by Norman Finkelstein attacking the book. Finkelstein submitted his manuscript to The Nation, which declined to publish it.
    (Finkelstein has published a half dozen books, none of which have been reviewed in The Nation.)

    I think the Nation has performed a valuable service by publishing articles by Jewish authors who are critical of Israel. After all, some of the sharpest criticism of Israeli policy has come from Jews (e.g., Noam Chomsky). But I do think the The Nation largely excludes Palestinian voices. Where is Rashid Khalidi (for example) in the pages of The Nation? Khalidi holds the Edward Said chair at Columbia.

    • chris_k
      December 23, 2013, 12:38 pm

      Great post, but I’ve been struck by how the frequency and depth of Cockburn’s writings about Israel increased for the Counterpunch web version. Without question, he had a lot edited out before then. Other than the Peters retort, in which as you said he was in the ‘in house voice’ to the exclusion of others, he wrote relatively little about the I-P conflict in the Nation.

  7. Philip Munger
    December 23, 2013, 11:36 am

    IIRC, Back in May, 2006, Phil Weiss’ article in The Nation, “Too Hot for New York,” about the NYTW’s cancellation of the play, “My Name is Rachel Corrie,” led to a number of events that helped prompt Weiss to become the beacon of honesty we regard him as here (and elsewhere).

    link to thenation.com

    That The Nation has gone from where it was 7-plus years ago, to what we have now – Alterman painting himself into a corner, and executive editor Kim engaging in somewhat open debate on how to address Israeli apartheid, is undoubted progress.

    There are certainly many Palestinian voices deserving of more opportunities at which they are treated respectfully as full equals with so-called liberal Zionists on this subject. But the push-back is enormous. Hang in there, Richard Kim. 2014 is going to be a watershed year, and you will be recognized for your courage, if you take the next steps. The same goes for Michelle Goldberg: Talk to more Palestinians this coming year – many more Palestinians. Engage them, become their close friends, get to know their stories and hopes.

  8. Les
    December 23, 2013, 11:57 am

    The US media is such that you are more likely to hear from and about Palestinians than you are to hear from and about Jews opposed to Israel’s occupation and ethnic cleansing. The reason seems pretty obvious considering the ownership of our big media.

  9. Nevada Ned
    December 23, 2013, 9:34 pm

    While this discussion is very useful, there’s an important omission. About 2-3% of the US population is Jewish, and roughly comparable number are Arab-Americans. This leaves over 90% of the US population that has no ethnic ties with either Palestinians or Israeli Jews. When this group becomes critical of Israel, the world will really change.

    Right now the biggest subgroup of the 90% are Christian Zionists, but middle-east politics is only one issue for them: other issues are gay rights, gun control, pornography, welfare, feminism, divorce, abortion, prayer in schools, etc.

    Another group are liberal christian churches and activists, who have often come close to passing divestment resolutions, but somehow don’t quite get a majority. They may be a good population to get a copy of Max Blumenthal’s bombshell new book, Goliath.

    • JeffB
      December 24, 2013, 11:42 am

      @Nevada

      When this group becomes critical of Israel, the world will really change.

      What makes you think this group ever cares enough about Israel to be critical?
      For example

      right now Thailand which once was a peaceful constitutional monarchy has had years of political violence and is moving towards fascism in response. Would you change your vote for an American party based on their position on Thailand?

      Japan is redistricting in a way to almost eliminate the political power of rural voters? Would you change your vote for an American party based on their position on Japanese democracy?

      Sudan just recently split into 2 countries. South Sudan looks to be heading towards an ethnic civil war with Uganda backing the anti-government side. North Sudan’s position is unclear. Would you change your vote for an American party based on their position on South Sudan?

      Let’s move down. Would you donate regularly? Would you even be willing to read about these causes more than once or a month or so? Most people have only a vague opinion on most issues. We have a two party system people have to rank their priorities. I suspect that 99% of the population doesn’t care all that much about Israel. But 1% that’s willing to swing, is active and donates is a heck of a lot of people.

      • Citizen
        December 24, 2013, 5:40 pm

        @ JeffB
        Yeah, Americans are as much like pre-WW2 Weimar Germans as anybody. Is that a good thing?

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