If you can’t say ‘equal rights,’ I can’t work with you

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on 69 Comments

This is a short talk the author gave on August 3 about building a broad based movement for Israel/Palestine, at the annual ‘Gathering’ of British Quakers held at Warwick University near Coventry. He thanks the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) for the invitation to speak. It was originally published on the Patheos site.

A movement requires a broad consensus.

There’s has to be some agreement on the nature of the problem and what the best outcome would be.

Photo of the yearly gathering of British Quakers, this year in Coventry at Warwick University

It needs a clear, easy to understand message. A bold ambition. But, ultimately, an achievable one.

Something that most people can unite around.

When it comes to Israel/Palestine we still don’t have that single, bold, unifying message.

Personally, I don’t believe our starting point should be ‘anti-Occupation’ or ‘anti-Settlements’.

I don’t believe a movement should be built around the idea of ‘Two States’. Or ‘One State’. Or ‘Boycotts’.

None of these things, on their own, quite captures where we need to be.

A real broad-based movement requires something more fundamental. Something more elemental. Something that needs to be agreed upon before anything is considered.

Luckily for you, I have that clear, bold, easy to understand message.

It’s in my pocket.

I can read it out if you like.

Okay, are you ready?

Standby.

It’s two words.

“Equal rights”

That’s it.

It’s simple, it’s clear, it’s easy to understand.

But tragically, it’s also highly contentious. Highly controversial.

What counts on Israel/Palestine?

The strange thing is that calling for equal rights is generally considered ‘a good thing.’ At least it is in Western liberal democracies.

Except when it comes to Israel, when suddenly a whole set of other considerations come in to play.

Because equal rights, International Law, UN Security Council resolutions don’t appear to count for much when it comes to Israel/Palestine.

So what does count?

Well, the relationship between Christians and Jews in Europe across two millennia, counts.

How the West, and most Jews, have come to understand the Holocaust, counts.

Christian Zionist reading of scripture, counts.

The Jewish pro-Israel lobby in America, counts.

Jewish understanding of the ‘right to national self-determination’, counts.

Recent definitions of antisemitism that attach themselves to a political agenda, count.

The international arms trade and the demand for high tech civil surveillance equipment, also now count.

None of these things are terribly helpful when it comes to building a movement based on equal rights for all who call the Holy Land home.

We have created too much complexity, too many excuses. Far too many reasons to justify injustice.

But despite all that’s in our way, I still believe that the concept of equality is where we should start. Because starting out from any other place quickly leads you back to inequality.

That central message of equality may derive from religious belief or secular belief. I don’t mind how you get there, as long as you get there.

How this then plays out in practical arrangements on the ground could go in a number of directions.

Two states, one state, a federation. But if our starting point is equality, backed up by equal rights for everyone from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, then that will radically alter the nature of the discussions from day one.

The greatest issue, the greatest challenge

If you’ve read any of my writing over the last six years, you’ll know that I come at all of this from a particular Jewish perspective.

I come to this issue out of solidarity with the Palestinian people but I come to it firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism.

I’m in no doubt that as Jews, our relationship with Israel and the Palestinians is the greatest issue, and the greatest challenge, facing us in the 21st century.

Everything else either relates to that relationship, or it pales into insignificance against it.

The tragedy is that right now we are making a terrible hash of it.

From my perspective I’d like to build a movement on Israel/Palestine that has widespread Jewish support. But I can’t because most Jews in Britain are still asking themselves, and everyone else, the wrong questions about Israel/Palestine.

Questions like:

“Why do they teach their children to hate us?”

“Why do they incite violence against us?”

“Why do they pay their terrorists?”

Or at best, “Why can’t they (the Palestinians) share the land?”

I find it exasperating that my community consistently asks the wrong questions, counts the wrong things, and mistakes symptoms for causes.

There is a paradox at the heart of modern Jewish identity.

It goes like this:

“We wholeheartedly support equality in every land apart from the place we call our national home. There we claim privilege, we claim superior rights, we claim a superior history, we claim a unique story of oppression which, we argue, requires a unique and discriminatory response.”

There’s not time for me to discuss the seamless merger that has taken place over the last 70 years between Judaism and Zionism and modern Jewish identity.

All I’ll say is that the merger has taken us down a moral cul-de-sac that’s now very difficult to walk back out from.

It’s a cul-de-sac that’s left us bereft of the vocabulary, whether religious or secular, to make sense of what has taken place and what’s still taking place in the name of the Jewish people and Judaism itself.

I would love it if my own people could do some catching up and recognise that we are no longer the victimised people, no longer the oppressed people.

For perhaps the first time in two millennia we are strong, we have status and we have respect.

In all of those places where we enjoy equal rights we have succeeded and we have made outstanding contributions to those societies.

In Israel we have something more. We have power over another people. We are not handling it well.

However, most of us still don’t see it like that.

But to build a movement you can’t afford to move at the pace of the slowest participant.

Especially, if they still don’t really see the problem in the first place.

I can’t work with you

Because if you say: “Zionism is nothing more and nothing less than a Jewish movement of national liberation and self-determination”, then, I can’t work with you.

Mostly because you need to read more books and talk to some different people and you need to understand what happens when your sacrosanct understanding of Jewish identity plays out as a catastrophe for another people.

If you say that Zionism is a “noble and integral part of Judaism”, then, I can’t work with you.

Mostly because you are very ignorant about Jewish history and Jewish theological understanding of exile – and this is especially problematic if you also happen to be Britain’s Chief Rabbi.

If you say boycotts in support of Palestinian rights are a form of antisemitism and/or should be illegal, then I can’t work with you.

Mostly because you don’t understand the history of political protest and you certainly don’t understand Nazi Germany boycotts of Jewish businesses in the 1930s, and because you also oppose free speech.

Or perhaps, you do understand all these things but you prefer to play politics with history for the sake of a very narrow and short sighted advantage.

If you can’t acknowledge that Israel/Palestine is an asymmetrical conflict in which one side has power, and a state apparatus, and a standing army, and is maintaining an illegal occupation with the backing of the world’s super power, then I’m going to struggle to work with you.

Mostly because you are in a serious state of denial.

If you count incidents of antisemitism but refuse to acknowledge that Israel’s behaviour and our Jewish community insistence that Israel is central to Jewish identity are contributing factors to that antisemitism, then I can’t work with you.

Mostly because you’re debasing the meaning of antisemitism and reducing all criticism of Israel to mindless hatred.

If you think it’s okay to hang out with Christian Zionists who love the State of Israel but have a theological problem with Judaism, then I can’t work with you.

Mostly because you think Jewish nationalism is more important than Judaism itself.

So I don’t think I can work with such people but I am happy to talk to them. I don’t want to demonise those I don’t agree with. I don’t think that’s right or helpful.

But the truth is they don’t want to talk to me.

I receive many invitations to speak from across the country. Thank you for your invitation today. But I’ve not had a single one from a mainstream Jewish organisation. In their opposition to boycotts, there’s lots of talk of “bridge building” and “local dialogue” from the leadership of my community, as if the heart of the problem is that Jewish Israelis and Palestinians just need to get to know each other better.

But if you question Zionism (whether you are Jewish or not) you find yourself firmly boycotted.

That tells me something about the inability of the Jewish community in Britain to cope with open debate on this issue. It also tells me the limits of including mainstream Jewish institutions and their leaders in a movement based on equality through equal rights. They don’t have the language or conceptual thinking that will allow them to champion Jews and Judaism and at the same time lead us back out of the ethical cul-de-sac of Zionism.

A more serious problem

There are other people I have an even more serious problem with.

They are the people who claim to be motivated by Palestinian solidarity but who too easily slip into real antisemitism in their opposition to Israel.

If you say the Holocaust didn’t happen, I don’t want to talk to you. And you need help.

If you say there’s a Jewish media conspiracy, or Jewish control of governments or international finance then I’m not interested in working with you or talking to you. You need to grow up.

If you say Jews have no place in Palestine, I can’t work with you.

If you think a Free Palestine is free of Jews, I can’t work with you.

Building a movement

So now I’ve ruled out so many people, let me finish with who I can work with and where we should look to build a global movement.

If you’re starting position is equality through equal rights, whether you are Jewish, Christian or Muslim, I can work with you.

If you can accept that a great injustice has taken place against the Palestinian people, then I can work with you.

If you agree that Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) are legitimate forms of protest, even if you don’t want to take that action yourself, then I can work with you.

If you think liberal democratic societies that respect and protect all of their citizens are good for all people, everywhere, regardless of history, culture and religion, that’s fantastic, I can work with you.

I’m in no doubt that this will not be easy or straight forward.

A  movement based on equal rights will be shunned, attacked, and yes, branded as antisemitic.

But the principle of equal rights is the place to begin the journey and from which to build the movement.

Equal rights recognises that that this is not about terrorism, it’s not about security, it’s not about competing nationalisms, it’s not about antisemitism.

Equal rights recognises there has been a great injustice that must be acknowledged in order to move on.

Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to. Both people are now permanently part of the future landscape.

Equal rights recognises that both Jews and Palestinians are connected to the land – historically, culturally, religiously. It even recognises that American and Russian born West Bank Settlers, whether we like how they got there or not, also have rights.

For me this must be the basis of the movement. It may sound outrageous to some ears. But the more people like me that say it, the easier it becomes to have this new conversation. What is now considered political suicide, or in my case ‘self-hatred’, starts to become normal discourse.

So we need a ‘paradigm shift’ and that means taking this issue away from our current crop of world leaders, certainly May, Macron and Trump. It means taking it away from our current crop of religious leaders and many of our current community leaders.

They are all failing us. They aren’t promoting peace and justice, they are in practice holding it back.

Equal rights is the lesson I draw from Judaism, from two thousand years of Jewish history, and from the Holocaust.

Equal rights is the way.

Equal rights is the movement.

Let’s build it.

Thank you.

About Robert Cohen

Cohen is a British writer. He blogs at Micah's Paradigm Shift. http://micahsparadigmshift.blogspot.co.uk/

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69 Responses

  1. Talkback
    August 6, 2017, 11:01 am

    If you can’t acknowledge the right to return, I can’t work with you.

    • Mooser
      August 6, 2017, 12:09 pm

      “If you say Jews have no place in Palestine, I can’t work with you.”

      The right of Jews to leave Palestine, if the conditions are not to their liking, or if they feel uncomfortable, should never be denied, either! That is an essential right.

    • jd65
      August 6, 2017, 12:47 pm

      Bingo, Talkback. I assume you’re referring to this from the above article:

      Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to.

      It doesn’t matter that he “qualifies” that sentence w/ his reference to the future landscape afterward. And it doesn’t matter how you try to explain away, linguistically, what you may have intended that sentence mean. It’s too easily read as stating that Palestinians expelled prior to “Israel independence” have no right of return; nowhere to return to. One could argue that this is mere semantics and that he simply meant “equal right of return for all,” but I can’t swallow that; and that alternate meaning itself brings up more problems.

      Much more problematic for me, however, and likely the reason he was able to write the problematic sentence about right of return, is this:

      I come to this issue out of solidarity with the Palestinian people but I come to it firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism.[emphasis added]

      Compared to his right of return sentence, the problem here, as far as I’m concerned, is black and white. If, when working on the Palestine Question, you prioritize your concern for Jews and Judaism over the expulsion of Palestinians from historic Palestine and the Zionist theft of that land, then I can’t work with you. It’s why I left JVP.

      Saying you come to the Palestine issue firstly out of your concern for Jews is like saying you come to the issue of equal rights for Women out of your concern for Men; Or like saying you came to the issue of Slavery in the Unites States out of your concern for White People. I suppose Cohen might argue some sort of rational selfishness or Objectivism, but I’ve never been an Ayn Rand fan myself.

      Cohen obviously has a decent understanding of Palestine/Israel, and he also obviously cares about everyone there. Too bad he prioritizes Jews over all others. I couldn’t work with that…

      • Mooser
        August 6, 2017, 2:25 pm

        Thanks jd65.

      • jd65
        August 6, 2017, 3:19 pm

        Sure thing, Mooser. I read that sentence and immediately knew it needed a serious response.

        I’m kinda hoping Cohen reads comments to his pieces ‘cuz I’d be interested in a reaction from him. However, I posted another relatively extensive response to a piece he blogged a couple years ago, and he didn’t respond to me (though he responded to others in the same “thread.”). Oh well…

      • Mooser
        August 6, 2017, 4:34 pm

        . “I read that sentence and immediately knew it needed a serious response”

        And I think you supplied a good one.

      • RoHa
        August 7, 2017, 12:08 am

        ‘ “Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to.”

        It’s too easily read as stating that Palestinians expelled prior to “Israel independence” have no right of return; nowhere to return to. ‘

        I find it difficult to read it that way. To me, the obvious meaning is “Zionism brought a lot of Jews to Palestine, and they are going to stay. Accept that they are now part of the population.”

      • jd65
        August 7, 2017, 11:56 am

        Hello RoHa:

        ‘ “Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to.”

        It’s too easily read as stating that Palestinians expelled prior to “Israel independence” have no right of return; nowhere to return to. ‘

        I find it difficult to read it that way. To me, the obvious meaning is “Zionism brought a lot of Jews to Palestine, and they are going to stay. Accept that they are now part of the population.”

        So your reading of that sentence ignores its inclusion of the word/idea of return altogether. Ok…

      • Annie Robbins
        August 7, 2017, 12:07 pm

        ignores its inclusion of the word/idea of return altogether.

        the most common understanding of the term “return” implies a person is going back to a place the have already been to. a jewish refugee coming to palestine for the first time, by common definition, is not returning anywhere. that term, adopted by israel and inserted into legislation ( as i recall, i think with israel’s nationality law in 1952) began after the (UN?) phrasing of the palestinian right of return — which of course referenced the term “return” in its common usage, at least common at that time.

      • Talkback
        August 7, 2017, 3:34 pm

        Jd65: “Bingo, Talkback. I assume you’re referring to this from the above article:

        Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to.”

        Really? Only this line? First of all. Being a former Jew I don’t trust anybody who writes about Jewish values. It always ends in a debate what is Jewish and what not to distract from the fact that the debate will never be about universal values. You won’t find a single statement in his article that is universal. There’s no symmetry at all. There is only Jews, Jews, Jews and Jews. And when he is making a case for equal rights it seems as if only Jewish settlers were suffering under inequality.

        Look at his lenghty article called “As Jews, we welcome refugees” (unless they’re Palestinian).”
        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/writingfromtheedge/2017/02/jews-welcome-refugees-unless-theyre-palestinian/

        Do you expect from this title that he supports the Palestinians right to return? Not a single word. That’s the bottom line:

        “Until we confront our complicity in the creation of the Palestinian catastrophe we will never be able to move towards a peace that honours and protects all who today call the land their home. And while we continue to ignore or deny our responsibility our insistence that we Jews welcome refugees is going to ring hollow – at least in my ears.”

        Protect all those that TODAY call the land their home. If this would include refugees he could have simply written: Protect all those that call the land their home.

        Just read his four points about equal rights:

        1.) “Equal rights recognises that that this is not about terrorism, it’s not about security, it’s not about competing nationalisms, it’s not about antisemitism.”

        So equal rights should recognize that his list of topics that don’t deal with equal rights actually don’t deal with equal rights. Duh. And not with antisemitism which bizarrly takes a lot of space in his article but without loosing a single word about Jewish racism/supremacism towards Palestinians.

        “2.) Equal rights recognises there has been a great injustice that must be acknowledged in order to move on.”

        Same like his other article. Confess to move on. That’s enough.

        “3.) Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to. Both people are now permanently part of the future landscape.”

        In other words. Recognise that settlers are equal to natives. More explicit in point four:

        4.) Equal rights recognises that both Jews and Palestinians are connected to the land – historically, culturally, religiously. It even recognises that American and Russian born West Bank Settlers, whether we like how they got there or not, also have rights.

        So Palestinians are only historically, culturally, religiously CONNECTED to the land. They haven’t lived there PHISICALLY for generations. They are not NATIVES. They are equal to illegal settlers which should have thes same rights as natives and not the same rights as illegal immigrants which should be deported.

        Isn’t it telling and bizarre that he condems that “equal rights, International Law, UN Security Council resolutions don’t appear to count for much when it comes to Israel/Palestine.” and then tries to make a case for illegal settlers whose illegal settlemets should be dismantled according to Security Council 465?

        It’s a scam. What’s the difference between him and an right wing one stater illegally settling in Bohemia and Moravia, sorrry, Judea and Samaria?

        He’s just using the equality argument to make his case for settler colonialism.

        And your observation is spot on.

      • RoHa
        August 7, 2017, 8:41 pm

        Since he wrote “pre-Zionist Palestine,”, rather than just “Palestine”, I automatically interpreted “return” more metaphorically, as in “return to the status quo ante“. So I read it as “old Arab Palestine no longer exists, and cannot be restored”. The immediately following sentence about “both peoples” reinforced this interpretation. I saw no denial of the Right of Return, and I note that Cohen explicitly affirms that right below.

      • Sibiriak
        August 10, 2017, 12:29 am

        Robert Cohen: Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to.
        ———————-

        Nada Elia puts it this way:

        Anti-Zionist Jews, especially Israelis, who understood the need to engage in co-resistance before “co-existence” will need to continue to support self-determination for the indigenous people.

        Palestinians will need to come to terms with the reality that “post Zionism” does not mean a return to 1947, before Israel came into being, or even 1916, before the Balfour Declaration. Because, just as there is no return to a “pre-colonial past” for any country that has been colonized, there can be no return to a “pre-Zionist” past for Palestine. This is the reality of the world today.

        http://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/as-threats-against-bds-grow-it-is-time-for-sumoud-in-activist-communities/#comment-834489

        [emphasis added]

      • jd65
        August 10, 2017, 2:59 pm

        @ Sibiriak:

        Robert Cohen: Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to.
        ———————-

        Nada Elia puts it this way:

        Palestinians will need to come to terms with the reality that “post Zionism” does not mean a return to 1947, before Israel came into being, or even 1916, before the Balfour Declaration. Because, just as there is no return to a “pre-colonial past” for any country that has been colonized, there can be no return to a “pre-Zionist” past for Palestine. This is the reality of the world today.

        Ok. I’m not sure I understand what the point either Cohen or Elia is trying to make w/ their two statements above. And when I say I don’t understand, I don’t mean I disagree. I mean I literally don’t understand. Surely they aren’t simply trying to say that time marches on, right? I mean, we all know this. Seems to me that they’re implying something by telling us that time doesn’t stand still. But I can’t see what they’re trying to imply. Or how coming to the (simple/given) realization that time moves on would change some fundamental attitude toward this issue. I don’t get it. Maybe I’m just tired…

    • LHunter
      August 6, 2017, 8:01 pm

      Jews have a right to return (despite never having lived there) so I imagine Palestinians would have a right to return in a country that provides equal rights for all.

    • Susan A
      August 7, 2017, 5:07 pm

      Of course he acknowledges the right of return; how much do you think he can pt in a short speech? I’ve read enough of his articles over the years to think he’s an excellent, kind, caring person. And I’m NOT Jewish!

      • Talkback
        August 8, 2017, 4:45 pm

        Acknowledging does not necessary mean supporting. Can you quote him supporting this right?

  2. [email protected]
    August 6, 2017, 11:07 am

    This article is sort of like some bad dates I’ve had. There are so many you must believe and can’t work with you unless type statements that it is exhausting. The strange thing is that I’d pass his 20 or 30 point baseline assessment but after doing so it would occur with me I wouldn’t want to work with a person who puts so many conditions on having a working relationship with me.

    • Donald Johnson
      August 6, 2017, 11:38 am

      I thought it was a good piece. The conditions just spell out what equal rights should mean for the most part. I suppose the phrase ” can’t work with you” rubs you the wrong way, but if you agree with the substance then try remembering that it doesn’t actually matter if you want Robert Cohen as your date. If he asks you for one you can turn him down.

      • echinococcus
        August 6, 2017, 7:01 pm

        Johnson,

        Did you really have a look at the phrase “equal rights”?

        Equal rights between invaders on one side, and owners of all sovereignty on the other. Between pirates with all the armed force, part of, nay masters of the world’s dominating superpower, and totally powerless invadees and exiles.

        That’s some equality. At that rate, equality means “all resistance is futile –might is right”.
        Way to go!

      • Susan A
        August 7, 2017, 5:22 pm

        I too thought it was a good piece Donald. Not injected with the humour that’s sometimes there, but this was a short speech. The first piece of Robert’s I read was “How to deal with those pesky BDSers”. I loved it. We need to laugh sometimes in order to be able to carry on! He’s with us all the way; in fact, in my opinion he IS one of us. And yes, there are some people he can’t work with; I have that problem too sometimes, you know, the divisive types. But whereas I can’t work with some in the Palestine Solidarity Movement all the “I can’t work with you” statements that Robert made are aimed at the British Jewish community. I think some people need to sharpen their powers of comprehension quite honestly. As someone once wrote about Robert: “Bless you Robert. You have the knack of saying the most difficult things in the kindest possible way.” I totally agree. Bravo and Bless you Mr Cohen.

    • catalan
      August 6, 2017, 12:23 pm

      “This article is sort of like some bad dates I’ve had. ”
      You mean women are not interested in a guy who spends his time uncovering Jewish conspiracies?

      • Mooser
        August 6, 2017, 2:27 pm

        “You mean women are not interested in a guy who spends his time uncovering Jewish conspiracies?”

        No, all the women are hot for rich Zionists, “catalan”.

    • RoHa
      August 6, 2017, 9:16 pm

      I hope you took the dates back to the greengrocer and got some fresh ones.

  3. AddictionMyth
    August 6, 2017, 2:33 pm

    I agree but in addition to equal rights they also need full freedom of speech, religion and press. Without exceptions like ‘hate speech’ or ‘incitement’. Basically the same as the US, and not like Europe, which is heading for another conflagration.

  4. JosephA
    August 6, 2017, 4:30 pm

    Overall, I agree with the spirit of this article. Thank you for sharing a thoughtful and well-reasoned piece.

    • Susan A
      August 7, 2017, 5:28 pm

      Yes, Joseph, his writing is always thoughtful and well-reasoned. It’s a pity that some commenters on this site can’t think and reason before coming ups with all these accusations. Still, that’s what our adversaries want: to “drive a wedge between” activists in the movement.

    • Nathan
      August 7, 2017, 7:51 pm

      JosephA – How surprising it was to read that you agree with the spirit of this article. Notice the use of the pronoun “we”: “In Israel we have something more. We have power…..” The meaning of “we” in this case includes all Jews – in Israel and in the Diaspora. You always argue that there are “Zionists” and there are “Jews”, but our author doesn’t agree with you at all. He’s certainly anti-Zionist, and although he speaks about Zionism, he never speaks about “Zionists”. He speaks only about Jews. So often one reads in the anti-Israel context that Israel does not represent the Jews of the world; hence it was interesting to read that “in Israel WE have something more…” Our anti-Zionist author admits that Israel is about all Jews (and it is quite surprising that none of the commentators so far noticed it).

      “If you say Jews have no place in Palestine, I can’t work with you”. You have mentioned that the Jews should have founded their state in Europe. You have been quite clear that they had no business coming to Palestine. So, again, it is quite surprising that you agree with this article in spirit. The article totally negates your spirit. The author even opposes the undoing of West Bank settlements. In general, his point of view is that which has been done will not be undone (no return to pre-Zionist Palestine) – in opposition to your spirit to say the least.

      • Annie Robbins
        August 7, 2017, 8:59 pm

        you agree with the spirit of this article…..Our anti-Zionist author admits that Israel is about all Jews

        not sure “Israel is about all Jews” accurately captures the spirit of the article.

        The article totally negates your spirit…. – in opposition to your spirit to say the least.

        i don’t agree. joseph argues:

        As long as the result is the removal of worse-than-apartheid from Israel and equality of all citizens, the removal of racist laws that discriminate against the native Palestinians, right of return, etc.

        i think this has much in common with the article. i’d advise, when arguing joseph negates the spirit of the argument, basing it on something more than him saying jews should have made a state in europe instead of the ME, which makes for complete common sense.

      • eljay
        August 7, 2017, 10:14 pm

        || Nathan: … So often one reads in the anti-Israel context that Israel does not represent the Jews of the world; hence it was interesting to read that “in Israel WE have something more…” Our anti-Zionist author admits that Israel is about all Jews (and it is quite surprising that none of the commentators so far noticed it). … ||

        Zionism is all about Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine, so the author’s admission that Zionist Jews in Israel wield “power over another people” is not at all surprising.

        I did not see any admission by the author that Israel is “about all Jews” or that Israel represents “the Jews of the world”. The anti-Semitic conflation of Israel with all Jews and all Jews with Israel is the product of your Zionist mind. And that’s not at all surprising, either.

      • Mooser
        August 7, 2017, 10:34 pm

        “Nathan”, I knew you would see through all the verbiage and reassurance and appreciate just how much Robert Cohen seeks Israel’s destruction.
        And I can hardly see how the spectacle of Israel destroying itself in fear of equal rights for Palestinians, redress and reparations for Palestinians, and going back behind the Green Line could possibly be “good for the Jews”
        Certainly you can’t expect Israel to stand still for those things. Look how Israel reacted when Rabin threatened it with peace!

      • Talkback
        August 9, 2017, 5:30 am

        eljay: “Zionism is all about Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine, ”

        I would add “and with as less as possible Nonjews”.

        Question of clarification. Is the following statement true?

        Zionism is about Jews creating a state in Palestine.

      • Sibiriak
        August 10, 2017, 1:44 am

        Talkback: Question of clarification. Is the following statement true?

        Zionism is about Jews creating a state in Palestine.
        —————————

        No, that statement is not true; it is incomplete, inadequate and fundamentally misleading.

        Zionism was never about Jews simply “creating a state in Palestine”.

        It was about creating a very specific kind of state, a state in which Jews were a super-majority, in which Jews dominated, in which Jews would deny the local inhabitants their right to collective self-determination, if not expel them.

        To believe otherwise is to believe Zionism is compatible with liberal, secular democracy. It is not.

  5. Keith
    August 6, 2017, 5:07 pm

    ROBERT COHEN- “I come to this issue out of solidarity with the Palestinian people but I come to it firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism.”

    Is it good for the Jews? Yes, let us push justice and morality to the side so that we can decide if Israel no longer serves the interests of the “Jewish community.” I suspect that more than a few anti-Zionist Jews feel the same way.

    ROBERT COHEN- “If you’ve read any of my writing over the last six years, you’ll know that I come at all of this from a particular Jewish perspective.”

    Finally, we have someone to provide a Jewish perspective! What took you so long?

    ROBERT COHEN- “We wholeheartedly support equality in every land apart from the place we call our national home.”

    Do you? Does the Jewish community? Does the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations? No “kinship” advantage? No striving for wealth and power? “Equal rights” on an unequal playing field are meaningless. But the words sound nice.

    ROBERT COHEN- “There are other people I have an even more serious problem with. They are the people who claim to be motivated by Palestinian solidarity but who too easily slip into real antisemitism in their opposition to Israel.”

    Why am I not surprised that this is toward the top of your list? It is, after all, a rather defining comment.

    ROBERT COHEN- “There’s not time for me to discuss the seamless merger that has taken place over the last 70 years between Judaism and Zionism and modern Jewish identity.”

    Judeo-Zionism? Something we agree upon. Actually, a lot of what you say sounds okay, yet I question your emphasis. Equal rights is too legalistic. Human rights more encompassing. Plus your emphasis on Jews, Judaism and Jewishness doesn’t seem like much of a commitment to the Palestinians, or to human rights, or to universalism.

    • Mooser
      August 7, 2017, 11:55 pm

      “They are the people who claim to be motivated by Palestinian solidarity but who too easily slip into real antisemitism in their opposition to Israel.”

      Oh my, does that happen a lot? One second, it’s a BDS or Palestinian solidarity meeting, the next, something slips, they’re pouring into the streets shouting “Death to the Jews”?

  6. CigarGod
    August 6, 2017, 9:03 pm

    What a ridiculous list of pre-conditions.
    If you talk just to hear your tongue rattle, I automatically tune you out.

    • Susan A
      August 7, 2017, 5:30 pm

      What a shame CigarGod! If that’s your opinion then there are many wise words to miss out on.

  7. YoniFalic
    August 6, 2017, 9:05 pm

    “If you say Jews have no place in Palestine, I can’t work with you.”

    Do Polish Christians (ethnic Slavs) have a place in Palestine except as guests of the natives?

    Why should they have any right except to request resident alien status?

    Do Polish Jews (ethnic Slavo-Turks) have a place in Palestine except as guests of the natives?

    Why should ethnic Slavo-Turks whose Slavic and Turkic ancestors converted to Judaism relatively recently by historical standards have any more rights in Palestine than ethnic Slavs whose ancestors converted the Christianity relatively recently by historical standards?

    Christianity unlike Rabbinic Judaism is a religion that actually originates in Palestine.

    Rabbinic Judaism is a Mesopotamian religion that never really got much traction in Palestine.

    • Mooser
      August 7, 2017, 11:47 am

      “Do Polish Jews (ethnic Slavo-Turks) have a place in Palestine except as guests of the natives?”

      Don’t know why you are so hung up on the Slavo-Turk thing. I am a direct descendant of ancient Judean Chef Rabbis, and it makes no difference in my attitude. There’s no intrinsic Jewish right to anything in Palestine, except an imaginary genealogy and history.

      • YoniFalic
        August 7, 2017, 11:50 am

        Exactly! :-) Mooser can say in 100 words what it takes me at least 1000 (maybe 10000).

      • Mooser
        August 7, 2017, 1:09 pm

        “Mooser can say in 100 words…”

        You know what they say, “Yoni”: “Levity is the soul of wit”.

        And a man who can cook well can make a living almost anywhere in the world.

      • Susan A
        August 7, 2017, 5:36 pm

        Mooser and YoniFalic: two commenters I normally love and respect. Excuse my impudence, but a lovely person such as Ilan Pappe was born in Israel and in the introduction to “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” he used the words “…my beloved country.” I repeat: he was born there. Do you think that he has no right to live there? If so, you’re no better than the Israeli Zionists who hounded him out of his job at the Hebrew University and subsequently his country. We need a bit more reason in the discussions on this thread methinks! At least not everyone in this comment thread was so quick to judge as some. And as for Keith, well, I expected nothing more nor less from him.

      • Mooser
        August 7, 2017, 9:55 pm

        “quick to judge as some.”

        I was too quick to judge, that’s true, and jumped to conclusions, but Mr. Cohen’s comment made it clear. Robert Cohen advocates everything necessary to utterly destroy Israel. “Equal rights” could do it on its own, but he upped the ante with reparations and return.

        Think about what might happen if Israel was threatened, seriously threatened, with any one of those things, let alone a combination of the two? The disruption would be immense, and most probably violent, the political repercussions incalculable.

  8. RayJosephCormier
    August 7, 2017, 9:49 am

    None calls for Justice, nor any pleads for Truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
    They hatch cockatrice’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he that eats of their eggs dies, and that which is crushed breaks out into a viper.

    Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.
    Their feet run to evil, and they make hast to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.

    The way of Peace they know not; and there is no Judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goes therein shall not know Peace.
    Therefore is Judgment far from us, neither does Justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
    We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.
    We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for Judgment, but there is none; for Salvation, but it is far off from us.

    For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;
    In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.

    And Judgment is turned away backward, and Justice stands far off: for Truth is fallen in the street, and Equity cannot enter.
    Isaiah 59

  9. Mooser
    August 7, 2017, 12:05 pm

    “And Judgment is turned away backward, and Justice stands far off: for Truth is fallen in the street, and Equity cannot enter.”

    If I ever own a dive bar, I will name it “Isaiah’s”.

    • Annie Robbins
      August 7, 2017, 12:31 pm

      omg i can’t stop laughing! .. mooser, the vast majority of the time i crack up because of you and don’t say a thing. yesterday it occurred to me it must have been a creative mind just like yours that wrote the original scriptures (stories). i think you were saying something about noah and the arc — i can’t keep track.

      • Mooser
        August 7, 2017, 1:32 pm

        “something about noah and the arc”

        Oh, that. Everybody knows welded steel plates is the only way to build a boat that big. There’s no reason to go for wood.

      • Susan A
        August 7, 2017, 5:38 pm

        Yes, Annie, Mooser makes me laugh too, though I was slightly peeved that he tended to agree with Robert Cohen’s detractors on this thread! But that’s Mooser perhaps…oh well, go with the flow :)

      • Annie Robbins
        August 7, 2017, 6:20 pm

        yes, sometimes its best to go w/the flow susan. i like robert cohen’s blog and his many columns over the years but i think his detractors on this particular article make some salient points. firstly, i always find it a tad bewildering whenever i hear a jewish person (or any person for that matter) express that firstly they come to this issue out of concern for jewish people, or in this case the future of jewish people and judaism. it always strikes me as sort of “say wha???” it just seems to me at this juncture it’s sort of a slam dunk as to who takes on the overwhelmingly heavier load of suffering, so i come to it firstly as a humane and moral issue, and a concern for justice and since it appears to me a genocide is taking place, to end that genocide and suffering. although i am certain cohen’s intentions are noble and good, there seemed to me some lopsidedness surrounding the choice of his firstly concern.

        but i agree with you “there are many wise words”.

      • Mooser
        August 7, 2017, 6:14 pm

        “Yes, Annie, Mooser makes me laugh too,”

        And I’m glad to hear a word in my behalf. I know it’s a problem; how do you take a clod and pin him down?

  10. Ossinev
    August 7, 2017, 1:25 pm

    IMHO this article is little more than Zionism=-lite at its finest. No reference to or “can`t work with” the ludicrous Birthright programme. Mainly though it is the underlining insistence of Jews world wide as being a “people” as opposed to fellow members of a religious cult either recently converted or long standing converted ( to include the economically converted Russians).

    “Equal rights recognises that both Jews and Palestinians are connected to the land – historically, culturally, religiously. It even recognises that American and Russian born West Bank Settlers, whether we like how they got there or not, also have rights”

    This perhaps is the most disingenuous statement in the article as to put it simply it snopakes the Nakba in much the same way that apologists for Nazism choose to erase the Holocaust.
    Worse still there is an implicit recognition of the “rights” or “legality” of the thefts and dispossessions of native the Palestinians lands , properties and resources by foreigners . He seems to be saying let`s accept what has been done (ie the crimes that have been committed ) as a done deed and the only way to move on is to commit to “equal rights”accept these crimes and make no attempt to address/redress the grievances of the native Palestinians.

    It is I`m afraid Mr. Cohen who is trapped in the”moral cul de sac”and who is not showing the true courage needed move on. He is the one in need of a”paradigm shift” He could and should start by saying that he can`t work with those who continue to advocate support indoctrinate or action the “Jewish” anywhere anyhow “right of return”.

    • Talkback
      August 7, 2017, 5:48 pm

      Ossinev: “Worse still there is an implicit recognition of the “rights” or “legality” of the thefts and dispossessions of native the Palestinians lands , properties and resources by foreigners.”

      No, no. That’s just his call for “equal rights”. I mean why should only Nonjews have the right to settler colonialism and dispossessions of natives? That would be antisemitic. Sure the Nonjews may suffer under Jews, but the primary concern is for Jews an if they suffer while the make Nonjews suffer.

      You obviously misunderstood him, otherwise he would have adressed it.

  11. Robert Cohen
    August 7, 2017, 2:54 pm

    IF ONLY I’D HAD 13 MINUTES!

    A 10 minute speech is never enough time to do justice to an idea.

    I’ve had a great many positive comments about this blog post but also questions, concerns and some anger. Plus a small crop of antisemitism and holocaust denial too (not on Mondoweiss).

    So let me provide some brief clarification.

    ‘Equality’ does not mean forgetting the ‘sins’ of the past. I’m not suggesting that the ‘slate is wiped clean’ and everyone just moves forward as if nothing happened. To get to equality first requires acknowledgement of wrong doing, redress and reparations for the Palestinian people. There’s a great deal of ‘levelling up’ before equality can be achieved.

    As for Settlers, when I say equality applies to them too that does not mean they or the Settlements could possibly continue as they are. Same goes for the other side of the Green line. Equality means the end of Zionism. Zionism has always required theft.

    I’ve been asked about the Jewish ‘Law of Return’ (I don’t support it) and the Palestinian ‘Right of Return for Refugees’ (it’s a moral imperative).

    And why do I come at this from a Jewish perspective ahead of Palestinian solidarity? Because I’m Jewish and that’s what makes this issue my problem. I would be dishonest not to say that upfront. And don’t underestimate the damage Zionism is causing to Jews. It’s different but it’s real.

    Finally, is any of this ever going to happen? Or is it just wishful and worthless thinking?
    Right now I see no reason for optimism. In fact, matters just get worse. I doubt I will see an Israel/Palestine based on human rights, equal rights, democracy, free speech etc in my life time. But I remain hopeful.

    The point about articulating my thoughts on how to build a movement is that we need to create a climate of public debate very different from the one we have today. It will takes decades to achieve.

    But isn’t it worth making a start?

    • Talkback
      August 7, 2017, 3:42 pm

      Just say it: “I, Robert Cohen, support the Palestinians inalienable right to return without any limitation. And I don’t support any violation of international law and human rights law, including the violation to settle in occupied territories.”

      THAT will be the start.

    • jd65
      August 7, 2017, 3:51 pm

      Hello Robert Cohen. Really appreciate you taking some time to post here.

      ‘Equality’ does not mean forgetting the ‘sins’ of the past. I’m not suggesting that the ‘slate is wiped clean’ and everyone just moves forward as if nothing happened. To get to equality first requires acknowledgement of wrong doing, redress and reparations for the Palestinian people. There’s a great deal of ‘levelling up’ before equality can be achieved… Equality means the end of Zionism. Zionism has always required theft.

      Yes to this.

      I’ve been asked about the Jewish ‘Law of Return’ (I don’t support it) and the Palestinian ‘Right of Return for Refugees’ (it’s a moral imperative).

      Yes to this as well. However, in my opinion, what you wrote in the above article/speech – Equal rights recognises that there is no pre-Zionist Palestine to return to. – doesn’t square in my mind w/ what you’ve written in the above comment. But I understand your point about “A 10 minute speech is never enough time to do justice to an idea” being an issue here and could let that one slide. However, this one I can’t get past…

      And why do I come at this from a Jewish perspective ahead of Palestinian solidarity? Because I’m Jewish and that’s what makes this issue my problem.

      Interesting. What you write in this comment, in my opinion, is very different from what you wrote in the article/speech. Saying that you “come at the issue from a Jewish perspective” is not at all the same as saying “…I come [at this issue] firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism.” Those two statements are in no way the same thing. One can come at this issue w/ a Jewish perspective and prioritize one’s concerns of the crimes committed against Palestine/The Palestinians over one’s concern for Jews. In case you didn’t see my above post, I’ll repeat part of it here: Saying you come to the Palestine issue firstly out of your concern for Jews is like saying you come to the issue of equal rights for Women out of your concern for Men; Or like saying you came to the issue of Slavery in the Unites States out of your concern for White People. I suppose [you] might argue some sort of rational selfishness or Objectivism, but I’ve never been an Ayn Rand fan myself.

      And don’t underestimate the damage Zionism is causing to Jews. It’s different but it’s real.

      Agreed.

      • Talkback
        August 7, 2017, 5:53 pm

        jd65: “Yes to this.”

        Really? Didn’t you notice that after “redress” and “reparation” a word like “repatriation” was missing?

        jd65: “Interesting. What you write in this comment, in my opinion, is very different from what you wrote in the article/speech.”

        ROFL. His whole article is about Jews, Jews, hatred towards Jews, Jews and Jews. And of course, equal rights for illegal Jewish settlers who suffer from being considered as something less then rightful natives.

    • Mooser
      August 7, 2017, 8:22 pm

      “But isn’t it worth making a start?”

      A start? Mr. Cohen, the things you propose in that comment (2:54 pm) looks to me like the absolute finish- of Israel!
      Leveling-up? The end of theft? Right of Return? You mean to destroy Israel, no doubt about it.
      There’s no way Israel can stand any of those things, and you know that. Demanding those things is equivalent to pushing Israel off a cliff, and saying ‘Oh gee, sorry, I was so sure you could fly’. As it falls to earth, you know not where.

      • Talkback
        August 8, 2017, 12:11 pm

        Mooser: “Right of Return?”

        He doesn’t call it a right. He calls the phrase “a moral imperative”. That’s less than a right and it’s not absolute. Jewish moral imperatives may come first.

      • Mooser
        August 8, 2017, 2:16 pm

        “He doesn’t call it a right. He calls the phrase “a moral imperative”.

        I don’t think it matters what he calls it, or even how he thinks it could work. The mere fear of it, in any fashion, even as a moral imperative, will be tremendously destructive to Zionist Israeli society.

    • RoHa
      August 7, 2017, 8:57 pm

      “A 10 minute speech is never enough time to do justice to an idea.”

      For some ideas (quite a lot, actually, though not necessarily yours) a single, contemptuous, snort is sufficient.

    • CigarGod
      August 7, 2017, 9:42 pm

      Ok, I’ve had second thoughts.
      This list of HUGE clarifications does make a difference to me.
      Would have made it harder to dismiss you had they been in the original text.
      Would love to see a revised speech.
      I took a speed reading course in college, made a huge difference. Don’t recall a course being offered in talking faster…but might be worth a try if they keep giving you ten minutes to make your case;-)

  12. catalan
    August 7, 2017, 3:57 pm

    “Right now I see no reason for optimism. In fact, matters just get worse.”
    Well I am a regular reader of Mondoweiss and very optimistic – BDS is forcing people to buy Haagendazs ice cream instead of Ben and Jerry’s because Ben and Jerry’s sells in the settlements. Also people in droves are going for French and Greek Feta over the Israeli one. European wines are chosen over the ones from Golan. This will force Israel, very soon, in fact probably in the next few months, to allow 7 million refugees and their descendants to come back and to retreat behind the partition borders (not the 67 borders, it will go all the way to partition). So there is huge reasons for optimism. The only thing is, the winning side is very bitter, I don’t know why they kick the opponent when they are down.

  13. Kaisa of Finland
    August 7, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Just came to think about this video from 2014..

  14. JoeSmack
    August 8, 2017, 3:00 am

    The author says he wants equal rights but admits his worldview is Judeocentric and comes primarily from his ties to progressives in the Jewish community. That is, it isn’t Palestinian-led. Then he tells us that Holocaust deniers are apparently a bigger problem than Zionists. Last I checked, one of those two groups is able to lobby Congress for billions in weapons while the other is banned from voicing their bizarre view of history in most Western countries. This is respectability politics at its worst. Maybe Roger should ask why anyone who believes in equality would want to work with him

  15. Talkback
    August 8, 2017, 12:14 pm

    If you come to the issue of equality firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism, I can’t work with you.

    • Mooser
      August 9, 2017, 12:42 pm

      “If you come to the issue of equality firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism, I can’t work with you”

      If you come to the issue of equality firstly from a concern for the future of Jews and Judaism, Zionism can’t work with him (Cohen), either. Zionism comes to the issue of equality from a concern for Jewish superiority, not equality.

      I think Mr. Cohen builds better than he knows. He would push Israel off a cliff, and then be sooo surprised when Israel can’t fly.
      The expectation or just the fear of even a fraction of the things Mr. Cohen advocates will be a death-knell for Israel. But why not put a little honey on the poison?

  16. DaBakr
    August 11, 2017, 6:08 pm

    “I think Mr. Cohen builds better than he knows. He would push Israel off a cliff, and then be sooo surprised when Israel can’t fly.
    The expectation or just the fear of even a fraction of the things Mr. Cohen advocates will be a death-knell for Israel. But why not put a little honey on the poison?”

    amen

    • Mooser
      August 12, 2017, 12:24 pm

      That’s right, “DaBakr”. You know a threat to Israel when you see it!

      I sometimes get the impression that antizionists think Israel is a lot stronger than it is. But you know the truth, that even the threat of certain things will send Israelis fleeing to the other side of the hyphen.

      • jd65
        August 12, 2017, 10:47 pm

        …even the threat of certain things will send Israelis fleeing to the other side of the hyphen.

        The other side of the Haifa isn’t as safe as it used to be.

  17. Paranam Kid
    August 17, 2017, 6:25 am

    A bit late to this game, but I still wanted to comment on something Cohen said/wrote in the original piece but that did not get picked up here.

    If you say there’s a Jewish media conspiracy, or Jewish control of governments or international finance then I’m not interested in working with you or talking to you. You need to grow up. (emphasis is mine)

    This mean he denies the fact that The Lobby in the US has a huge & disproportionate influence on both Houses in the US, with the most recent proof of that being all the senators sponsoring the anti-BDS bill, but starting to change their mind (e.g. Kirsten Gillibrand, but others too) as soon as the ACLU pointed out that the bill trampled on the right of free speech as per the 1st Amendment.

    It seems to me, then, that Cohen needs to become more realistic, or explain why he thinks The Lobby’s influence is so minor as to be ignored, to say nothing about his need to grow up.

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