New Israel Fund’s Daniel Sokatch exposes the bankruptcy of liberal Zionism

Israel/Palestine
on 18 Comments

Last week I wrote a response to an article published in Haaretz by Petra Marquardt-Bigman. In it, I criticized her decontextualized, vile and one-sided smear of the Tamimi family, which read like a propaganda document, not an article in a liberal outlet such as Haaretz.

But Marquardt-Bigman is an easy target. Her bias is so obvious that attacking the premises and motivations of her article was as easy as paddling downstream. Marquardt-Bigman’s piece is a perfect example of right-wing propaganda and its insidious nature – how it manipulates facts to drive an anti-Palestinian, pro-Zionist and ultimately racist agenda.

Earlier this week, I read another Haaretz Op-ed, this time by New Israel Fund (NIF) CEO Daniel Sokatch titled Netanyahu’s Real Target Isn’t Israel Boycotters. It’s Israel’s Democracy.

Sokatch echoes the liberal “opposition” to Netanyahu, and thus deserves scrutiny.

The title of the piece, plus the NIF slogan (‘Advancing and protecting liberal democracy in Israel’) are good places to start. Both position NIF as a vanguard for Israel’s “democracy”. Sokatch goes on to claim in his piece that “Israeli democracy is not dead yet”, but is that accurate? Was there ever a democracy in Israel? And if not, what is NIF truly a vanguard of?

According to the UN ESCWA report (Page 63) under the first of several ‘Recommendations for the United Nations’:

‘Each United Nations body should promptly consider what action to take in view of the finding that Israel maintains a racist regime of apartheid in its exercise of control over the Palestinian people, taking due account of the fragmentation of that people by Israel, which is itself an aspect of the control arrangements that rely on “inhuman acts” for the purpose of systematic racial domination.’

The report goes on to say (Page 64):

‘The “country” from which Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory are excluded could arguably be Mandate Palestine as established by the League of Nations. The League’s intention was for it to gain independence as a State representing the shared patrimony of the entire multi-sectarian population of Palestine. That model, overtaken by events, was confused from the start by language about a “Jewish national home” and in any case was rendered moot by war, expulsion and other events on the ground. However, exclusive Israeli control since 1967 over all of Mandate Palestine has preserved the original geographical unit of Palestine. Hence the “country” in which Palestinians are being deprived of rights could be the Palestine that was never allowed to form, and arguably should form. The remedy in that case is to restore the standing of the original Mandate, which holds that the region is properly one country that has wrongfully been divided by racial agendas.’

Clearly, Sokatch is familiar with this report and the data it relies on yet chooses to ignore them. The only logical conclusion would be that he and his organization focus solely on the democracy afforded to the privileged among Israelis – the Zionists.

From this disingenuous jumping off point, Sokatch continues to reflect the liberal Zionist approach of “eating a slice of pizza, yet leaving the pie whole”. He makes an attempt to build an argument against the new blacklisting of organizations that support BDS by Israel, i.e. placing himself to the left of the government, yet with one big caveat.

Sokatch claims: “I, along with the New Israel Fund, oppose the global BDS movement that most of the blacklisted organizations support. But right now, it doesn’t matter what you think of BDS. Because that’s not the real issue.”

When someone claims “that’s not the real issue”, it is usually a good time to reevaluate that very issue. “Don’t be distracted”, Sokatch beckons, after which he goes into an exercise in hand waving and smoke screening.

But in fact, support or rejection of BDS is the only issue here and Sokatch is attempting to change the subject in order to maintain NIF’s image as a lefty/liberal organization, though it does not recognize Israel as an undemocratic, apartheid state, does not support BDS, and therefore serves as a tool for continued oppression of the Palestinian people, who overwhelmingly support the call for BDS.

Sokatch declares: “The government has to rely on a strategy of distraction because its own values are so obviously at odds with Israel’s founding values.” However, it is Sokatch himself, and the NIF by extension, who are engaged in an act of distraction in this article, for it is those very founding values, calling for equality and justice, which animate the BDS movement.

So why are Sokatch and NIF so afraid of BDS? It may be because BDS threatens the most fundamental premise inherent in Zionism – the supremacy of one group of people over another.

In the past week, Haaretz published two articles, which are seemingly at opposite poles of the Zionist political spectrum – Marquardt-Bigman’s and Sokatch’s. An analysis of these pieces demonstrates that regardless of several important differences in their approaches, both advance an agenda meant to preserve privilege for Zionists in Palestine/Israel and maintain the oppression of the land’s indigenous people – the Palestinians. Importantly, they demonstrate that there is no worthy left-wing discourse within the Zionist political spectrum, and certainly nothing meriting the term “opposition”.

About Yoav Litvin

Yoav Litvin is a doctor of psychology/behavioral neuroscience, a documentary photographer and writer living in New York City. You can find him at yoavlitvin.com.

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18 Responses

  1. eljay
    January 11, 2018, 10:10 am

    It’s no mystery that the NIF is a Zionist organization (albeit of the kinder, gentler persuasion). As I indicated in this thread last February, the organization’s FAQs state:

    … The New Israel Fund was founded more than 30 years ago to actualize the vision of Israel’s Founders, that of a Jewish and democratic state …

    According to NIF’s CEO:

    “In the end, what is most Jewish about the Jewish state is that it was founded to be a state for the Jews … That founding vision, enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, referred to the multilayered connection that the Jewish people has always had to Israel, to the arc of Jewish history that necessitated the creation of a state for the Jews … “

    Also:

    “In a charged conversation with Makor Rishon, the International Director of the New Israel Fund, Daniel Sokatch, rebuffs the criticism against his organization: ‘They say that we are anti-Zionist. It’s a mistake, we want what’s best for Israel’. … “

  2. Citizen
    January 11, 2018, 11:19 am

    “It’s a mistake, we want what’s best for the Jews in Israel.”
    There, I fixed it Mr. Sokatch.

  3. pabelmont
    January 11, 2018, 12:26 pm

    It is said that there were Germans in Germany during the period 1933-45 who were upset or outraged by the racism and other inhumanity of the Holocaust and Nazi oppression of all its other victims :

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    Niemuller

    I guess there must have been some, perhaps many, maybe even a majority. Hard to tell because Germany was a scary place then, a scary place to speak out, a scary place to criticize the master-race policy.

    And in Israel today, it is getting scarier to oppose the master-race policy, but I do not get the idea that many Israeli-Jews really want to oppose this policy. The triumph of the Jews in Palestine was the reason for forming Israel, not an accident, not a later invention. How could anyone comfortable with being an Israeli-Jew oppose such thinking? (And the education and propaganda and IDF all promote these views endlessly and tirelessly, just in case anyone were to lapse.)

    I think there were more “good Germans” proportionally then than there are “good Israeli-Jews” today.

    • Tony Greenstein
      January 12, 2018, 2:45 am

      This is the cold war version of what Niemellor wrote. It is the version in the US Holocaust Museum and it’s wrong The first line was
      ‘First they came for the Communists and I did not speak out

      Because I wasn’t a communist’

      More generally. There is some truth to what Sokatch says but with one caveat. Israel has never been democratic for Arabs. They lived under military rule until 1966 and still they are tolerated, gastarbeiters.

      WHat he means is that the democracy for Jews is also going. It was the same in South Africa. As Apartheid progressed so democracy for Whites was whittled down. So too in Israel.

  4. Annie Robbins
    January 11, 2018, 2:39 pm

    In the past week, Haaretz published two articles, which are seemingly at opposite poles of the Zionist political spectrum – … these pieces demonstrates that regardless of several important differences in their approaches, both advance an agenda meant to preserve privilege for Zionists

    what else could they do? opposite poles of “the Zionist political spectrum ” preserve privilege for jews (even when those jews are not zionists), because that is a tenant of, and primary function, of zionism.

    a tad OT, but something that’s been on my mind i have not read anything about. none of the discussion about the banning of 20 bds supporting groups from entering israel touch on a (if not the) primary reason this ban is so draconian. israel controls who enters palestine.

    so behind the facade of ‘you can’t enter israel because you support boycotting us’ , is something akin to the damage done to prisoners by not allowing friends and family, or guests of the prisoner, to enter the prison. israel is preventing those who support palestine from entering palestine. people who would attend conferences and cultural events organized by palestinians taking place inside palestine are denied entry — palestinians are not allowed to meet with their global supporters in person. because those twenty groups, it’s not so much israel they are trying to reach, it’s palestine. just thought i’d mention that. the ban isolates and punishes palestinians even further, under guise of something less draconian.

    thanks yoav!

    • Yoav Litvin
      January 11, 2018, 3:02 pm

      Hi Annie,
      Though it may seem obvious to you and me, many liberal Zionists do not understand that they live in or support a society that privileges one group over another. I feel this is a point worth accentuating.
      Re “preserve privilege for Jews”, I tend to disagree, and this ban actually proves it – it privileges Zionists, not Jews as a whole. The whole fiasco re the African “infiltrators” further proves that it is a Zionist-supremacist/White-supremacist ideology, not a “Jewish supremacist” one.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 11, 2018, 3:29 pm

        i find that mindboggling yoav, that liberal zionists don’t understand zionism privileges jews. and i don’t disagree it’s worth accentuating. but i’m disappointed in haaretz. why not publish opposite poles of the political spectrum? zionists often tout how “diverse” israel is and call it a democracy (absurd), so where is some of that diversity of opinion coming from the other side?— the non zionists, the palestinian-israeli even? it reminds of two articles, at opposite poles of the male political spectrum, discussing feminism. and nobody notices no women voices!

        and that’s one reason i brought up all the discussions of the 20 banned groups, thus far (including this site i think, although i might be mistaken), is that in every instance it talks about the groups not being able to enter israel. but who doesn’t know those same gatekeepers are controlling the entrances to palestine? isn’t that the bigger story? that israel is not allowing 20 groups, supporters of palestinians and bds, to enter palestine?

        it’s not uncommon at all and it’s so infuriating. and i meant it when i said thanks for the article. i liked it. i’ve liked all your articles thus far.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 12, 2018, 11:59 am

        The whole fiasco re the African “infiltrators” further proves that it is a Zionist-supremacist/White-supremacist ideology, not a “Jewish supremacist” one.

        i’d have to think more about that. the “fiasco re the African “infiltrators” ” — not sure they are truly recognized, by the Zionist-supremacist/White-supremacist ideology, as jews. and if so, that refusal is not a zionist refusal per se, it is a jewish refusal of recognizing the jewishness of the african community.

        when i said privileging jews was a tenent of zionism, i meant it. even non or anti zionist jews are privileged over and above palestinians, muslims, christians, or any non jews by the zionist entity. this is clarified in the nationality law.

        who is Sokatch addressing when he writes:

        Alongside its legislative strategy, the current government uses incitement, scapegoating and lies to suppress free speech and weaken Israeli democracy even further. Arabs, government watchdogs, independent media, the judiciary and those who defend democracy and equality, including NIF and our grantees, are explicitly singled out and demonized by government officials, including Prime Minister Netanyahu.

        and this:

        It deflects attention and demonizes its political opponents, who value democracy, equality, and human and civil rights, in order to keep Israelis from asking difficult questions about where their leaders are taking them.

        The state of freedom of speech and the right to dissent are direct reflections of the health of a democracy. By those measures, Israeli democracy is in critical condition.

        again, who is he addressing wrt dissent. when palestinian-israelis dissent, the current government response is not limited to incitement, scapegoating and lies to suppress their free speech. no, they use ammunition. people die. people go to jail. when was the last time the government sent out an army and attacked jews who were protesting. my point, is that in his article, even Sokatch privileges jews because that’s who he’s addressing and who he assumes his audience is. not because he is a zionist necessarily, but because he is jewish-centric. yes, the zionist entity demonizes anti zionst jews, their ideological opponents, but they do not find them so unworthy as to kill them or detain/abduct them at the border and imprison them which is what they have done to palestinian dissenters. they also detain and imprison palestinians for their face book postings. so i think it’s very much a jewish supremacist mentality that fuels their zionism, whether it be ‘liberal zionism’ or otherwise.

      • genesto
        January 12, 2018, 12:11 pm

        You’re right, Yoav. Israel does privilege only Zionist Jews. Anti-Zionist Jews, and even liberal Zionist Jews, are considered ‘lefties’, a derogatory term meant for those Jews that don’t toe the hard-right Zionist line. Those Jews in Israel who dare criticize the government on this issue are ostracized, even imprisoned, while diaspora Jews, supposedly part of the worldwide Jewish ‘nation’ represented by the Jewish state, are banned from even visiting Israel if they show sympathy for BDS.

      • Mooser
        January 12, 2018, 1:57 pm

        ” that liberal zionists don’t understand zionism privileges jews.”

        Gets hard to tell the crackers from the matzohs, sometimes.

      • Annie Robbins
        January 12, 2018, 2:31 pm

        Israel does privilege only Zionist Jews.

        i think it’s relative. wrt jews perhaps. but in relation to palestinians, even anti zionist jews are privileged. because (for the most part!), the state of israel and the armed forces of israel, and the border police etc, doesn’t kill dissenting jews regardless of their politics. they are not targeted for death or execution.

        imagine a mob of dissenting jews. anti zionist or otherwise. when are they attacked with live ammunition? that may not seem like a “privilege”, but in an apartheid state, it is.

  5. brwencino
    January 12, 2018, 11:17 am

    Daniel Sokatch has a long history of calling himself “progressive” on Jewish issues, going back to his younger days in Los Angeles, while serving the interests of the most right wing Israeli interests and, serving them better than right wing advocates of Israel, because he appealed to mostly Christian progressives with his nuanced support for Israel’s right wing policies. The only difference is that now many folks know who Sokatch is, while in the early days his disguise was much more effective.

  6. Paranam Kid
    January 12, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Yoav, good analysis and thanks for flagging this issue and the sneaky, backdoor Hasbara of the NIF. 1 term that should be banned from all discussions is the term “liberal” Zionist. Zionism is a racist political ideology by definition, therefore it is NOT and CANNOT BE liberal, it is as simple as that.

    The longer that term is used, the longer confusion will reign and the longer the extreme zionists will get away with murder, literally.

  7. DaBakr
    January 12, 2018, 7:29 pm

    “Marquardt-Bigman is an easy target. Her bias is so obvious that attacking the premises and motivations of her article was as easy as paddling downstream. ”

    And the same thing can be said about 95% of the pieces published here on MW. As are 95% of the commenters here are. As PW is. As Annie is(no matter how skilled a debater she is) . The whole conflict has long since become anything but an unbiased affair. The foolish ones involved convince themselves their bias is well researched righteous fact. Cynical folks know it’s about which side’owns’ the truth and not about truth itself (eg: the tamimi family is a family devoted to resistance to Israel by any means necessary, propaganda, peaceful, violent otherwise. The haartz piece didn’t provide any so-called “balance’ because she was answering the international uproar the stupid “slap” incident caused. It proved how stupid people are Ann’s how easily they are manipulated that they either don’t care or don’t realize that the Tamimis lives are always ‘cameras on’ whenever the IDF is involved because they never want to miss an opportunity to blacken israels eye, which is their goal, and right many believe. And they are effective. That’s why they are famous.
    . There area so many areas in this conflict where Israelis, Jews and Muslims have a wink wink attitude about the simmering conflict. Palestinians would never deny to your face, if you weren’t a reporter, that what they do, they do. And Israel has its own winks. It’s not really a conflict, is a war.

    • Mooser
      January 12, 2018, 9:30 pm

      ” It’s not really a conflict, is a war.”

      Mutter, mutter, mutter.

    • Talkback
      January 13, 2018, 4:00 am

      DaBakr: “The whole conflict has long since become anything but an unbiased affair.”

      Well, what do you expect if settler colonialsm has to be justified.

      DaBakr: “It proved how stupid people are Ann’s how easily they are manipulated that they either don’t care or don’t realize that the Tamimis lives are always ‘cameras on’ whenever the IDF is involved because they never want to miss an opportunity to blacken israels eye, which is their goal, and right many believe.”

      To claim that it’s not the IDF’s behaviour that blackens Israels eye, but the fact that it is documented fpr self protection really shows how stupid peple are and how easily they are manipulated because they only care for settler colonialism, and the racism and violence which is inherent and has led to the creation of Israel and its seven decades long of history to put Nonjews of Palestine under martial law and Apartheid.

      DaBakr: “It’s not really a conflict, is a war.”

      Exactly. That’s true for every form of settler colonialism.

    • Paranam Kid
      January 13, 2018, 7:30 am

      @DaBakr: for someone who uses every possible opportunity to criticise just about everything about MW without fact-based arguments, you nevertheless show a remarkable interest in the site. Wouldn’t you be a lot happier & at peace with yourself if you stopped reading its articles & stopped posting comments that get ridiculised?

  8. JoeSmack
    January 15, 2018, 11:55 pm

    The only person I know personally that works/worked at the NIF was someone in college who actively opposed literally every act of Palestine solidarity on our shared campus when I was in college with her. I’ve always considered it a shit-hole.

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