We’re in the midst of a sea change in the American mainstream’s treatment of the conflict. US media are beginning to reflect the awareness that the two-state solution is over and that violence around Jerusalem and the West Bank is caused by occupation and fostered by rightwing intolerance inside Israeli political culture– the “nightmare” of greater Israel. There are countless examples of the shift. Last night on MSNBC Richard Engel said many people are angry at the US because of torture and drones, but also “because of Israel/Palestine, and Gaza.” When Israeli finance minister Naftali Bennett was confronted by Khaled Elgindy at the Brookings Institution last Saturday to explain why Palestinians are “the only group of humans in the world that do not have the right to self-determination,” the Beltway audience was evidently on Elgindy’s side. Leon (AIPAC) Wieseltier is gone from the New Republic. The New York Times is publishing Max Blumenthal. And the New Yorker‘s David Remnick is staying in East Jerusalem.
The New York Times published two anti-Zionists in a forum on the Israeli government’s turn to the right. After more than a year of ignoring his book about tyranny and intolerance in Israel, Goliath, The Times gave Max Blumenthal a platform to explain that Israel has always been rightwing.
Over 60 years before [anti-Arab group] Lehava’s segregationist crusades, there was the socialist Zionist “Conquest of Labor” that organized Jews-only work collectives and boycotted businesses that employed Palestinians. Before the settlements, there was the kibbutz movement whose admissions committees denied residency to anyone but Jews. Before the wave of vigilante “price tag” attacks on Palestinians, there was the Nakba that expelled some 750,000 Palestinians in order to establish Israel’s Jewish majority. And as Marzel mentioned, there is the Jewish National Fund, a para-governmental group founded by Theodore Herzl to provide land exclusively to Jews which recently oversaw a program that would have led to mass expulsion of Bedouin called the Prawer Plan.
If a shift is underway in Israeli politics, it is primarily tonal. Israel’s rightists intend to carry on the Zionist project as originally conceived, but without the pretense of democracy. In a way, their honesty is refreshing.
Blumenthal’s non-marginalization is a crushing blow to Zionists. Liel Leibovitz,who wrote a book saying we are the chosen people, labels Blumenthal an anti-Semite and says that the Times should apologize for the publication. Tablet is marginalizing itself with this kind of smear, as well as draining even more meaning from the term, anti-Semitism.
That Times forum also features Diana Buttu bringing news to Americans: Palestinians have always seen Zionism as a colonial movement that forces them off their land; the continuation of these policies will only produce violent reprisals; and the US is supporting Israel against its own interest.
Whoever wins these elections and whatever the composition of the next government, the same situation will prevail for Palestinians.We will continue to live under inequality or under foreign military rule in our homeland. Israel will continue to steal our land, demolish our homes, strip us of our rights and demand our loyalty and subservience to a system and society that seek to oust us.
Israel’s perpetual rightward shift reflects the hubris of America’s spoiled child. Every elected American official pampers and lavishes support for Israel, even as Israel’s actions defy U.S. interests and presidential statements. The world’s unwillingness to halt Israel’s illegal behavior, cements a mindset that illegality is permissible.
It is nonsensical that Palestinians, occupied and stateless, must negotiate their freedom with their occupier and oppressor. It is the role of the international community to make known that it will not tolerate colonialism in the 21st century.
As the New Republic fallout demonstrates, anti-Arab racism is at last becoming problematic in the U.S. mainstream. Six weeks ago the Times ran Rula Jebreal’s op-ed saying that Israel needs a civil rights movement to end a “pervasive institutionalized system of discrimination.” While Foreign Policy readers lately learned of Israel’s Jim Crow conditions from Sayed Kashua in “The Country That Never Wanted Me,” citing facts you used to only hear at Palestinian solidarity events:
“[N]ot a single Arab town has been established since the State of Israel was founded — in contrast with some 700 Jewish settlements.”
New Yorker editor David Remnick shapes opinion among the elites, and maybe most important in this roundup was his piece last month reporting that Israeli claims to the West Bank have established a “one-state reality” and Israeli political culture is getting scarier by the minute. While few elements of that piece would surprise readers of this site (Naomi Klein talked about the one-state reality long ago), the mood was surprising: Remnick seems to want a trial separation from Zionism, noting pointedly that he was staying in the American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem. He quoted Meron Benvenisti explaining that 1967 was merely a continuation of 1948, and name-checked Ali Abunimah (without interviewing him).
Even better at conveying the “nightmare” was Henry Siegman at Huffpo, “Will Greater Israel Transform Into Greater Palestine?” filled with bleak realist pronouncements about Israel’s future. Israel is losing contact with world opinion and the enlightened are leaving the place (just watch Naftali Bennett’s manic performance at Brookings, dismissing “a little thing called the rest of the world”). Seigman sketches an Algeria-like scenario of decolonization in which political violence plays an important role. Just as political violence played a role in creating Israel.
If the slaughter in the Jerusalem synagogue will make the Palestinian dream of statehood an even more unreachable dream, it will also turn Israel’s illusion of the sustainability of the occupation into a nightmare. For the more hopeless the expectation of Palestinian moderates that non-violent means can bring about the promised and repeatedly denied two-state solution, the more Palestinians will believe that violence is the only way to change Israel’s cost-benefit calculations for its theft of Palestinian territory in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian violence against non-combatants discredits the Palestinian national cause. But who is to say it may not work for the Palestinians as well as it worked for the Jews in their War of Independence, for it achieved Ben Gurion’s goal of triggering the flight of over 700,000 Palestinians. Palestinian violence may similarly serve to drive many of Israel’s most creative and productive elements to abandon the Jewish state and renew their lives in the Diaspora, a reaction that is already discernible.
Jay Michaelson at the Forward is also bleakly realistic. He confesses that Israeli racism and Sheldon Adelson’s political crudeness have caused him to become “binational-curious.”
Like everyone else in the peace camp, I am dejected by the current state of affairs and pessimistic about the future. I’m exhausted by Israel’s unethical behavior, by renewed (and condoned) Palestinian terrorism and by vulgar, bloviating billionaires dictating policy by checkbook. I am ready to stray from my two-state views, and I am open to all other realistic options.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any.
So Michaelson finds himself shifting. So does Princeton student Maya Wahrman, writing in Haaretz, “Despair is driving me towards BDS.” Wahrman has long condemned boycott of Israel, but if BDS can change Israel’s political climate, she must support BDS.
Some people fear BDS because they think it will be harmful to Israel. I answer that most of Israel’s current policies regarding Palestinians harm Israel because they harm humanity. If we fear anti-Semitism, let us be just, and our strong allies will support us. I suspect that others fear BDS because they are afraid it might actually work. Which makes it all the more promising….
[D]o not immediately disqualify [BDS] because it is harsh on Israel. Nor should you immediately support it without considering the wide-reaching and serious consequences.
I have by no means run the full gamut of important considerations. I do not know if BDS is the answer. But if commercial sanctions effectively pressure the Israeli government and show them that the injustice must end, potentially leading to commitment to a peaceful resolution, then who am I to stand in the way?
All this talk is getting some pushback. I mentioned Liel Leibovitz’s smear on Blumenthal. Even the Times ran Caroline Glick and Jonathan Schanzer in its forum with Blumenthal and Buttu. Even more regrettably, the Atlantic asked Matti Friedman to rehash/expand his argument in Tablet of last August that Israel is a “tiny village” situated on a volcano of Islamic hatred. Friedman says that foreign correspondents hanging out at the American Colony hotel have fashioned/imbibed “the ‘Israel story,’ which is a story of Jewish moral failure”–
Mingling occurs at places like the lovely Oriental courtyard of the American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem, or at parties held at the British Consulate’s rooftop pool. The dominant characteristic of nearly all of these people is their transience. They arrive from somewhere, spend a while living in a peculiar subculture of expatriates, and then move on.
Isn’t that orientalism? Remnick left it at: “a beautiful old hotel in East Jerusalem.”
Wahrman, Remnick, Michaelson, and Siegman all seem to fear the future, how far this could all go, and suggestions that Jews must decolonize. This is the biggest argument for BDS; it respects the human rights of everyone in the country; Those fears are also the greatest argument for democracy I can think of. How many liberal American Zionists would wash their hands of the ideology entirely if they could only be assured that there could be a nonviolent resolution of Israel’s predicament. A lot, I’m sure. (There is one way to marginalize rightwing racists; and that is to grant everyone who is governed by Israel the right to vote for the government of the land. The UK losing Scotland would have swung hard right. The Congress, if Jim Crow were in place, would be absent many progressive urban representatives. Advocates of the two state solution say that the great Palestinian middle and the great Israeli middle just want peace. Well, let them work together, in political combination. Right now Israeli national political candidates have to appeal to religious zealots. Imagine if they had to campaign to Palestinians.)