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Avi Shlaim on liberal Zionism, the ‘dead’ two-state solution, and colonial pizza

Israel/Palestine
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Avi Shlaim, one of the leading Israeli “New Historians” (along with Ilan Pappé and Benny Morris), is an incredibly principled and thorough scholar. Although he is soft-spoken, he ceaselessly and bravely raises his voice in opposition to those who spread lies and propaganda in defense of Israel.

Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hasan held a debate with former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami in February 2014. Hasan’s program Head to Head features a variety of very high-quality debates that are, by leaps and bounds, significantly more diverse and balanced than those that occur in the US corporate media and Dr. Shlaim, a lifelong liberal Zionist who now identifies as a “post-Zionist,” was one of the three members of the panel accompanying the debate. In the short segment, the quiet professor succinctly exposes the reactionary contradictions inherent in liberal Zionism.

Debates about liberal Zionism and the two-state solution vs. one-state solution were reinvigorated with the March 2015 re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu. Bibi was sworn in on the promise that there would never be a Palestinian state. Netanyahu, now in his fourth term, has a substantial base of support, and his opposition to a Palestinian state clearly resonated with the Israeli public. If Bibi completes his present term, he will be the longest-serving prime minister in the history of Israel—ruling even longer than Israeli Founding Father David Ben-Gurion.

This mass support, throughout years of rule of the right-wing Likud government, has led some to lament “the end of liberal Zionism.” As can be seen in the following segment, nonetheless, others, like Prof. Shlaim and more, have argued that liberal Zionism scarcely even existed in the first place.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat remarked that “Netanyahu has done everything possible to bury the two-state solution.” Shlaim on the other hand—along with scholars such as Ilan Pappé, Rashid Khalidi, and more—has long argued that the two-state solution was already dead in the first place, and that liberal Zionism has in fact never lived up to its promises of democracy, inclusivity, and equality.

Liberal Zionism

Ben-Ami is one of the most prominent liberal Zionists. He is about as progressive as Zionists get. Shlaim indicates at 7:19 in the segment that

Professor Ben-Ami represents the most liberal strand within the Zionist movement, and he represents the views of a handful, maybe a few percent, of the Israeli population. But mainstream Zionism has never been liberal. The gap between the lofty Zionist ideals and the reality of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians on the ground has always been so huge that Zionist leaders filled it with hypocrisy and humbug.

Although Ben-Ami considers himself a man of the Left, he hardly lives up to these values in the debate. Throughout the segment, the former Israeli foreign minister fails to address the criticisms that Zionism is inherently racist and discriminatory, as it inevitably preferentially treats one ethnic and religious group above all others.

The cornerstone of Ben-Ami’s argument is that Palestinian citizens of Israel are treated equally under Israeli law, just not in Israeli culture. Palestinian-Canadian lawyer Diana Buttu, at 21:16 in the video, calls the ex-minister’s claim that Israeli Palestinians are treated the same as Israeli Jews under law “absolute rubbish” and draws attention to some of the overtly discriminatory laws non-Jewish citizens face.

Leading Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem and Adalah have documented “more than 50 Israeli laws enacted since 1948 that directly or indirectly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in all areas of life, including their rights to political participation, access to land, education, state budget resources, and criminal procedures.” At 22:11, Ben-Ami acknowledges “That is true. That is a reality, and it is not a reality that should be condoned,” yet still firmly insists on the importance of maintaining a demographic majority.

In Ben-Ami’s view, Israel is far from perfect, but it is gradually moving to the left, toward greater equality. Avi Shlaim takes issue with this position, stating at 20:06

I would like to disagree with Professor Ben-Ami when he says that Israel is less and less discriminatory. I think that is the exact opposite of the truth. Because, ever since the breakdown of the Camp David summit, Israel has been moving further and further to the right. And today we have a prime minister who embodies the most right-wing, xenophobic, exclusivist, and racist brand of Zionism. And his government is an extremely chauvinistic government, which not only is opposed to any withdrawal on the West Bank—in other words, it is opposed to peace with the Palestinians—but it is also increasingly discriminatory toward the Arab minority within Israel.

Later, at 31:03 in the debate, Hasan bluntly asks the former Israeli minister, “Do you see Palestinians as a demographic threat?” Ben-Ami turns his head away and sits in silence for a few seconds, before the host asks again, “Do you use that language?” The liberal leader replies ambiguously, yet effectively in the affirmative: “It does not respond to the original plans of Zionism.”

Hasan continues prompting, asking what percentage of Palestinians would be “too much” for Israeli society. The leading liberal Zionist responds simply maintaining that the state must maintain a Jewish majority. He proceeds to argue that Israel is not a “special case,” asking how many Muslim immigrants would be “too many” for the UK (although Muslim immigrants are not indigenous to Europe and 80% of them were not ethnically cleansed from their land in 1948). Hasan emphasizes that Israel “is a special case; it is the only democracy that defines itself on ethnic grounds.”

Israeli Ethnocracy

Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland—whose views are representative of those of many mainstream Zionists—uses European anti-immigrant sentiment to defend Israeli’s policies, contending at 33:27 that, “If you said in Britain today that you would open your borders to immigration from around the world, you would have riots.”

Previously, in the debate, at 19:24, Charney conceded “I accept that Israel has some way to go for all its citizens to be 100% equal in its society, not in the law, but in the society, and that takes time.” He stressed that Israel’s treatment of minorities is not much different than the treatment of minorities “in every democratic society the world.”

The host pushed back, pointing out that, in Western liberal democracies, it is not mandated that specific ethnic groups must remain in the majority. Charney countered stating “You will see parties like the BNP talk about different races and different minorities.”

Bewildered, Hasan commented “So you are comparing Israel to the British National Party, a far-right, fascist party?”

Shlaim then addresses the contradictions in Israeli democracy at 32:26, averring

Israel within its pre-1967 borders is a democracy, a flawed democracy, but Israel plus the occupied territories is most emphatically not a democracy; it is an ethnocracy where one ethnic group dominates over the other.

Ethnocracy is a concept developed by Israeli scholar Oren Yiftachel. Tel-Aviv University law professor Aeyal Gross discusses Israel’s particular strand of ethnocracy in leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Israel already identifies itself constitutionally as a Jewish state, thus associating itself with only some of its citizens. As a result, a comparison to other democratic nation-states fails. The separation between the element of nationality (Jewish) and the element of citizenship (Israeli), and identifying the state by its nationality – anchored solely in the Jewish religion – disaffiliates 20 percent of the nation’s citizens.

No such definition exists in democratic states where the citizenship and nationality element overlap, as in France. Nor does it exist in states that constitutionally recognize the existence of several national communities but are built on partnerships and equality among them, as in Belgium and Canada.

So, for example, if the United Kingdom had declared that it is the state of the English, and the Scots and other groups were a minority within it that would only receive rights as individuals, the Union would have collapsed long ago. But in Israel, even the “softened” versions of Elkin’s bill determine that the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people, a perception that identifies the state with one ethnic and religious group, and reinforces its status as an ethnocracy, not a democracy.

The Two-State Solution “Is Dead as a Dodo”

Dr. Shlaim details critical problems with mainstream Zionism at 29:09 in the debate. He argues Israel is only concerned with its own security, and that it continues to colonize Palestinian land while claiming it wants to negotiate.

Paul [Charney] privileges Israel’s security. For him, what matters above everything else is Israel’s security. He completely ignores Palestinian rights, both individuals rights and collective rights. Now the trouble with the Israeli concept of security, Israel wants 100% security for itself, which means zero security for the Palestinians.

And I would say that the American-sponsored peace process since 1991 is an exercise in futility, because it is all process and no peace.

Benjamin Netanyahu pretends that he wants to negotiate with the Palestinians, but he keeps expanding Israeli settlements. He is like a man who pretends to negotiate over the division of a pizza, and he keeps eating it.

Shlaim appears so benign when he speaks, but he steadfastly calls pundits out on their mendacity. In this comment, he openly condemns the man sitting next to him—the chairman of one of the UK’s most prominent Zionist organizations—but his delivery is so calm and reserved, it hardly seems like an insult (Paul even finds himself nodding his head in agreement during the first two sentences, before he realizes where they lead).

In light of this political reality, Shlaim further explains why he has abandoned any hopes for a two-state solution, and even for Zionism itself. In the debate, Ben-Ami claims that Israel will eventually end its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and help to create a Palestinian state. Shlaim finds this idea to be wholly incorrect. At 32:50, he states unequivocally

All my life I supported a two-state solution, but now I believe that the two-state solution is dead. It is dead as a dodo. It is as dead as the Oxford dodo, which you can see at the entrance of the Pitt Rivers Museum not very far from here. [The audience laughs.] And Israeli governments destroyed the two-state solution, systematically destroyed the basis for a viable Palestinian state.

Buttu, the only Palestinian on the panel, takes issue with the idea that Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians only began in 1967. She resists the liberal Zionist notion that a return to pre-1967 borders would be a solution to the conflict. At 16:16, she reminds viewers

It is important to keep in mind that between the period of 1948 and 1967, which people are trying to idealize as being the great years of Israel, Palestinians who were citizens of that state were living under military rule.

In Buttu’s view, the one-state vs. two-state solution debate is no longer necessary, as Israel has already turned historic Palestine into one state. Hasan asks Charney if he considers “Palestinians immigrants in their own land.” The chairman of the British Zionist Federation skirts around the question and, after being asked a second time, replies at 33:44 “Non-Israelis, which is fundamentally part of Judaism, are limited in the amount of people that can come into Israel.” Buttu interjects at 33:52

This is precisely the face of Zionism, the fact that Israel comes to me and now I am considered to be an immigrant to that country. This is precisely the ideology.

The problem with Israel is that it views me either as a demographic threat or as a security threat.

And if you look at Israel today, it already is one state. It is no longer a question of whether it is going to be one state; it is one state. The problem today is that it is apartheid. That is what we are living under.

About Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer based in New York City. His work has been featured in a variety of publications. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton. His website is BenNorton.com.

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32 Responses

  1. marc b.
    April 28, 2015, 4:46 pm

    splitting hairs, I take exception to the Israel as a enthocracy argument. ethnicity is defined by religious authorities, so it’s a theocracy. like Iran.

    • Boo
      April 29, 2015, 2:43 pm

      True. A state that considers Ethiopian and Dutch Jews to be full citizens, while marginalizing Palestinians whether they be Muslim or Christian, can only be considered a theocracy — not an ethnocracy.

  2. amigo
    April 28, 2015, 5:24 pm

    “Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland “.

    Somebody ought to inform this guy that the republic of Ireland is not part of Britain.

    They should change their name to “Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, that is for the time being .

    • lysias
      April 28, 2015, 5:33 pm

      I wonder what they’ll do if and when Scotland secedes.

      I take it from the name of the organization that Ireland does not have its own Zionist organization?

      • David Gerald Fincham
        April 29, 2015, 9:59 am

        “I wonder what they’ll do if and when Scotland secedes.”

        Then it will be of ‘Britain, Scotland and Ireland’. That is, if it is Scotland that makes Britain great. The Welsh might argue with that.

      • lysias
        April 29, 2015, 10:23 am

        I should think it would be “England, Scotland, and Ireland”. After all, “Ireland’ in the name covers Northern Ireland as well as the republic. And, as for Wales, the name of the state before the union with Scotland was “Kingdom of England”, even though it included Wales.

      • David Gerald Fincham
        April 29, 2015, 10:50 am

        @lysias – ““England, Scotland, and Ireland”.

        No, the Welsh would certainly not like that.

        Wales was part of Roman Britain. On the union of England (then including Wales) and Scotland, the King of England became King of Great Britain. So the “Greatness” came from Scotland. So I was right first time “Britain, Scotland and Ireland”.

        Any on-topic thoughts?

      • amigo
        April 29, 2015, 11:38 am

        Great Britain AND Ireland. This does not imply that Ireland is part of Great Britain. “DGF

        “David, the original union was referred to as “Great Britain and Ireland” formed in 1801 without our agreement..That came to an end when Irish people like Palestinians objected to colonialists stealing their land.The only difference is we got rid of our oppressors , well not completely .Palestinians have yet to do so.You can have the Great Britain and Northern Ireland zionist club name if you so desire but if you don,t mind we would prefer if Zionist,s who have a propensity for land theft keep out of Ireland or at best quit spreading hasbara in our MSM.

        The Chair of a zionist org misrepresent the facts.I responded to that.I am not off topic.

      • RoHa
        April 29, 2015, 6:55 pm

        Historically there were two Britains. One consisted of what is now England, Scotland, and Wales. The other was what is now Brittany. To distinguish them, the terms “Greater ” and “Lesser” were used.

      • David Gerald Fincham
        April 30, 2015, 4:54 am

        I had no idea – thanks very much.

    • David Gerald Fincham
      April 29, 2015, 9:55 am

      Great Britain AND Ireland. This does not imply that Ireland is part of Great Britain.

      • MHughes976
        April 29, 2015, 11:10 am

        Geographically, GB + I, politically at the moment RoI + UK.
        I would think that any final settlement in the ME will include a 2-state phase, at least if it is in any way at all ‘negotiated’, even in the most cosmetic and unreal kind of negotiations. If the movement is towards a just and equal 1-state there will have. in order avoid unmanageable tensions, to be a transition period in which there is a Jewish and a non-Jewish majority in different areas. If the movement is towards the final transfer of the Palestinian population there will have to be autonomous areas of a kind which are gradually cleared as the funds for this become available.

      • David Gerald Fincham
        April 29, 2015, 2:52 pm

        Yes, I agree. My belief is that the final solution will be a one-state-two-nations solution, along the lines of the Scotland-England model, where the two nations have their own national institutions, legal systems, educational systems, national sports teams, etc., with a defined but open border between them. There is a sovereign state parliament, with powers over local matters devolved to the two national parliaments.

  3. just
    April 28, 2015, 6:32 pm

    Absolutely stunning. I still need to digest it,

    Thank you, Ben.

  4. JLewisDickerson
    April 28, 2015, 6:47 pm

    RE: Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland—whose views are representative of those of many mainstream Zionists—uses European anti-immigrant sentiment to defend Israeli’s policies . . . Charney countered stating “You will see parties like the BNP talk about different races and different minorities.” Bewildered, Hasan commented “So you are comparing Israel to the British National Party, a far-right, fascist party?” ~ Ben Norton

    SEE: “UK Jewish Chronicle Hosts BNP White Supremacist Blogger”, by Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam, 4/17/12

    [EXCERPT] Stephen Sizer reports that the UK national Jewish community’s ‘Jewish Chronicle’ has offered a blog-column to Carlos Cortiglia, a leader of the British National Party, the nation’s leading white supremacist political party. Cortiglia is the BNP candidate in the London mayoral race.
    I asked Electronic Intifada’s Asa Winstanley to put BNP’s politics in a U.S. context, and whether it could be compared to the Tea Party. He replied that BNP carries more political weight, but its politics are more extreme. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2012/04/17/uk-jewish-chronicle-names-british-white-supremacist-as-regular-columnist/

    ■ British National Party (BNP) — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_National_Party

    ALSO SEE: “British Anti-Muslim Nativists Riot, Muslim Immigrant Murdered”, By Richard Silverstein, 09/10/09

    [EXCERPT] In the Be Careful What You Wish For department, [here is] a Daily Mail story about a race riot in Birmingham featuring rioting drunken anti-Muslim nativists who have appropriated the title of Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League in their own group’s name, English Defense League. The coverage features a picture of the lily-white demonstrators proudly waving an Israeli flag. With ‘friends’ like this does Israel need enemies? . . .

    SOURCE (with photo) – http://www.richardsilverstein.com/tikun_olam/2009/09/10/british-anti-muslim-nativists-riot-muslim-immigrant-murdered/

    ■ English Defence League (EDL) — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Defence_League

    • JLewisDickerson
      April 28, 2015, 6:48 pm

      P.S. MEET THE EDL: This Is England, 2006, NR, 100 minutes
      Set in 1983, this semiautobiographical drama from writer-director Shane Meadows follows a lonely 11-year-old boy named Shaun as he grieves over the recent death of his father, who was killed fighting in the Falklands War. When he falls in with a gang of young skinheads, Shaun’s pain and anger make him susceptible to carrying out the group’s hateful agenda, exposing a dark side of modern Britain not often seen in the movies.
      Cast: Thomas Turgoose, Andrew Shim, Stephen Graham, Kieran Hardcastle, Frank Harper, Jo Hartley, George Newton, Jack O’Connell
      Netflix listing – http://movies.netflix.com/Movie/This_Is_England/70061577
      Internet Movie Database (7.7/10) – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0480025/
      This Is England Trailer HQ (VIDEO, 02:28) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXDNsPRTANw

    • Bumblebye
      April 28, 2015, 7:17 pm

      Steven Sizer has been banned by church authorities from speaking/writing about I/P, at all. Can’t link, read it some weeks ago now.

      • MHughes976
        April 29, 2015, 12:49 pm

        There was an article in the Church Times, ‘the leading Anglican newspaper’, on Feb.15 last, easily available, which gives the full details. Sizer has been absolutely crushed, humiliated – near destroyed, I think – with the fullest publicity by a Bishop whose reason was ‘the rising tide of anti-Semitic incidents’. I do not think that the Bishop acted constitutionally: Sizer did not insist on his day in court. I don’t see how a priest whose conscience has been so overridden can continue his work in the Lord’s name with any confidence. A remarkable, rather unexpected and absolutely total triumph for British Christian Zionism.
        Appointments in the CofE require (more or less) the cooperation of a ‘patron’, the local Bishop and the local Parochial Church Council, patron and Bishop often being the same. I am sure that there is no such combination interested in offering alternative employment to Mr. Sizer: your church would cease to exist (well, that’s a bit melodramatic but you know what I mean) within six months.
        Sizer’s offence was to give an appearance of sympathy to Mossad-related 9/11 ‘conspiracy theories’. I have never felt any sympathy with these, really. I’m a bit of a sucker for official accounts of things – I even still think Shakespeare was right about Richard III and the princes in the Tower. Other Mondoweissers may be ashamed of me. Despite my difference of sympathy I still feel that there is a moral enormity in the way Mr.Sizer has been treated. Anti-Semitism in the UK may be very bad, but it is not a completely dominant matter compared with the sufferings and cruelties in Palestine.

      • David Gerald Fincham
        April 29, 2015, 3:16 pm

        I agree totally with your comments. As a member of the Church of England I was shocked to hear this story. Have you found any information about the response from his congregation? They usually support their priest in any dispute with the bishop.

      • MHughes976
        April 29, 2015, 2:02 pm

        Just to add: there was little stir in Church circles. I presume Mr. Sizer had discouraging legal advice.
        The Bishop began by absolving S of anti-Semitism – why then such a fierce penalty? If the Bishop’s disclaimer were not to be believed, it would follow that (if we assume that S spoke from prejudice) that prejudice against Israel is taken as prejudice against Jewish people – ie the ‘anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism’ argument triumphs massively.

  5. Eva Smagacz
    April 28, 2015, 7:33 pm

    For me the most chilling part of this debate was the last remark of Shlomo Ben-Ami. He acknowledged that the end construct of Zionist project In Palestine is creating several Gazas.

  6. Bumblebye
    April 28, 2015, 7:36 pm

    Why pick a prog from 14 months ago?
    Mehdi’s current “Head to Head” is about the “new” antisemitism, as propounded by expert in the subject (?!), Robert Wistrich:
    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/headtohead/2015/04/anti-semitism-islamophobia-fears-threats-150401072138777.html

    Arkush is there again, but there’s also Hannah Weisfeld of Yachad, Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Sharif Nashashibi.

  7. amigo
    April 29, 2015, 5:38 am

    It,s official–The West Bank and East Jerusalem are in Israel.

    “25 sites you can only see in Israel”. Haaretz

    http://www.haaretz.com/st/c/prod/eng/2015/sites25/

    Check the maps to the left of the images.

    Not one mention of Palestine or the occupied territories.

  8. David Gerald Fincham
    April 29, 2015, 9:52 am

    Schlaim. “All my life I supported a two-state solution, but now I believe that the two-state solution is dead… Israeli governments destroyed the two-state solution, systematically destroyed the basis for a viable Palestinian state.”

    Palestine has existed as a recognized state since 1988. The problem is that Palestine is occupied by Israel, and is being illegally colonized. Israel has never been put under any pressure to end its illegal behavior. A Chapter VII UNSC Resolution saying that Israel must halt the building of settlements, end the blockade of Gaza, and withdraw its armed forces from the West Bank, would create two independent states.

    It could achieve it tomorrow. The next step would be to agree a mutual border, with the help of a Boundary Commission under UN auspices. I am not talking about land swaps about the Green Line, Palestine needs much more territory than that. http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/documents-borders-palestine

  9. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    April 29, 2015, 11:12 am

    ”Ben-Ami claims that Israel will eventually end its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and help to create a Palestinian state.”

    I simply do not understand how anyone as well informed as Ben Ami can make such a statement.

    When, precisely, does Ben Ami think that ”Israel will eventually end its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and help to create a Palestinian state?” If that’s what Israel intends to do, why not do it….. now? For the past several years, Israel has enjoyed the most peaceful period of time since the creation of the statelet. Surely, if they were going to end the occupation, this would be a perfect time to do it? Instead, we’ve got ever increasing ‘settlements’, overtly racist rhetoric from mainstream politicians, and Sderot Cinema.

    Could it be precisely because occupation has become so cost-free, that Israel has no intention of ending it? Not that it ever did, but it does amaze me how anyone can say, with a straight face, that Israel is going to end the occupation. Some day.

    • MHughes976
      April 29, 2015, 11:21 am

      Why not, indeed, even put a proposal on the table which the world could evaluate, which the Palestinians could say was inadequate and thoroughly unjust? Why, in other words, are the negotiations designed to be endless? I’ve often referred to Richard Ben Cramer’s ‘How Israel Lost’ and its description, never superseded I think, of the idea of ‘living without a solution’. Mind you, I think Israel has gained a lot and lost little, except the esteem of a certain minority in the West, over the decade since the late lamented RBC wrote.

    • amigo
      April 29, 2015, 11:59 am

      ”Ben-Ami claims that Israel will eventually end its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and help to create a Palestinian state.” .mdm.

      MDM – Ben Ami is inveterate liar.Read his book !! “Scars of war , wounds of Peace” . The title is itself is an attempt to mislead..Israel suffers very little from Peace.It is Palestinians who suffer most from daily incursions and house demolitions and murder of peaceful demonstrators.

      Ben ami , blamed Arafat for the failure of talks and accused him of abandoning the talks .We all know it was Barak who quit the talks in a hurry to get back to fight the election against butcher sharon who was informing Israelis about those famous oh so generous offers and how barak was giving away the shop.

      The book is one long line of untruths so no surprise ben ami is still at it.Some people actually think he is a moderate.

    • David Gerald Fincham
      April 29, 2015, 2:55 pm

      Israel will end its occupation when enough pressure is applied to it.

    • ritzl
      April 29, 2015, 3:13 pm

      “I simply do not understand how anyone as well informed as Ben Ami can make such a statement. “

      MDM, in the video, Ben-Ami snorted at Buttu’s response to why Taba didn’t work (per DB: negotiating starting point, by even by a libzio GoI, is to assume/arrogate the proverbial “facts on the ground” in a take-it-or-leave-it challenge and/or blame game.

      Well informed isn’t part of the equation. Self-interest is.

      His gutteral, arrogant, non-verbal retort was an indication of how Israel negotiates, in the best of times. It’s the way they are. I hope people who watched the video understood that – that when Palestinians get the “blame” it’s because of this arrogation/strategy/intrinsic belief.

  10. Boo
    April 29, 2015, 1:35 pm

    Here’s another classic illustration of the illogic of some “Liberal Zionist” thinking. It’s by Lara Friedman and appears on the “Americans for Peace Now” website.

    From the article: “Backers of these measures characterize them, disingenuously, as being about nothing more than fighting boycott-divestment-sanctions (BDS) activities targeting Israel. What could be simpler or more deserving of unanimous support? [than opposing BDS]”

    This strikes me as pathognomic of the “Liberal Zionism” viewpoint — manifested in this instance by the position that settlements are bad, but so is BDS. I beg to differ. The language of S 619 and HR 825 (and its current incorporation into the Trade Promotion Authority bill and the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement bill) should be rejected precisely because of its intent to discourage/near-criminalize international and individual support for BDS. No other reasons are needed.

    There’s more: “Supporters of these measures are, in effect, promoting a view that is identical to the one promoted by many BDS activists and advocates: that settlements and Israel are one and the same. For those who truly care about Israel and its future, this deliberate conflation of Israel and the settlements is outrageous.”

    And yet, Israel is indisputably a unitary political entity; that being so, there is no logical, practicable way to distinguish between “Israel” and “the settlements”. While I’d never argue that “the settlements and Israel are one and the same“, the state of Israel encourages occupied-territory settlers (by tax breaks and other such blandishments) in clear violation of international law. Thus Friedman’s assertion that this is a “deliberate conflation” is what’s outrageous. Moreover, her claim that this “one and the same” position is characteristic of BDS advocates is patently a strawman argument. BDS is far from an attempt to punish Israel “for being Israel”; it’s intended to incentivize Israel to cease its bad behavior.

    On that basis, I can’t accept the article’s logic. Congress’ attack on BDS is wrongheaded, period. That the bills’ language also indirectly lends an aura of legitimacy to the settlements is indeed unfortunate, but that’s only a secondary reason for objecting to it. And analytical rigor is very much in order when confronted with dubious “Liberal Zionist” arguments like Friedman’s.

  11. ritzl
    April 29, 2015, 3:27 pm

    The question, “Could there ever be a Palestinian PM of Israel” was a great question.

    I couldn’t decipher Ben-Ami’s sluff. Did he mean, with his non-answer, that it will never happen, or that he was OK with it out of some fundamental belief in equality [sometime in the future]?

    Thanks for your general dissection of this event, Ben.

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