The case for liberal anti-Zionism

Middle East
on 43 Comments

Steven Salaita wrote recently that we must exclude Zionists from left-oriented protests. I don’t agree with him. I think any movement that has no room for Noam Chomsky, Uri Avnery, Lisa Goldman and IfNotNow because they are or have been Zionists is not a broad one nor one that will be successful.

I came to the movement for Palestinian solidarity as a liberal. I’d been blacklisted by my former elite media employers for my anti-Zionist convictions in the wake of the Iraq war, and gained support from two communities, the conservative national interest crowd and the radical left crowd. I developed respect and affection for members of both those communities, though neither completely reflected my views. And let me emphasize that I speak here as one writer; this site reflects a diversity of opinion.

Over time the left community became dominant at this website and in the Palestinian solidarity movement, while the national interest group moved on to other questions and is today split by Trumpism. That’s just how things fell out. As someone whose goals were primarily to extricate American foreign policy and Jewish politics from the Zionist agenda, I joined the radical left community because its human rights values are so compelling and because it leads the anti-Zionist movement.

And yet the ultimate political question remains, how we convince other Americans, most of whom are sympathetic to Zionism if not Zionists themselves, of the rightness of our stance.

Salaita worries that the presence of Zionists will be a hindrance to creating a “sense of community,” and more must be said about that word, Community. Today it is a truism in the mainstream media that U.S. politics are “tribal,” and certainly that holds for political communities, right, left and center too. Everyone agrees. They have shibboleths that they repeat to make sure that no one who isn’t of like mind doesn’t join up—if you don’t believe the Russia story or you support BDS, you can’t be in the mainstream tribe, for instance. The internet has accelerated this trend, because birds of a feather can now find one another across huge distances. These new communities have wielded power. They helped to elect Trump. They are driving the Metoo movement and BLM and the immigrant rights movement and Palestinian solidarity too: such is the intersectional spirit of progressive politics today.

These communities differ from traditional geographical groupings, religious-communal ones, and intellectual and political ones too. Intellectual life was neither as hived nor as democratic when I was young as it is now. There used to be liberal generalist magazines. They reflected privilege and the barriers that a guild erected to preserve an elite, but they told people what to think, and helped create consensus in the Democratic establishment. That liberal consensus gave us the Iraq war and the Israel lobby.

Today the center cannot hold, and I don’t want it back; but it’s not as if the communities that we have on the left are all that broad. They’re grassroot communities, which thrive through social media and radical intensity. They are not very interested in convincing people who disagree; that’s not the “conversation” they’re having. They rally their forces and aim to win by sweeping mainstream media opinion along with them. This has been the pattern of the Metoo movement. It has succeeded by a wave of cultural and generational intensity aided by the shock of a groper being in the White House instead of the woman who won a majority of the votes.

Palestinian solidarity will not sweep to victory in this fashion. There are too many stops on it inside mainstream culture. Maybe the Ahed Tamimi case is what Ferguson was for Black Lives Matter, vaulting the movement to a wider following inside the Democratic left. I hope so. But we are not going to win the battle over Israel and Palestine in the U.S. without Zionists shedding their Zionism. As Sarah Schulman advised the BDS conference at Penn a few years ago: You’re a vanguard movement, like queer rights once was; and you will have to put aside ideological purity tests to grow your following.

However much Zionism is a settler colonial project, as leftwing intellectuals contend, it is not a traditional colonial project. It arose after the colonial era was declared finished, it battled a colonial power for a time with terrorism, and its root is not a colonial power’s interests but the religious nationalism of a formerly-persecuted people, Jews, who have great prestige in the west and huge influence inside the Democratic Party. Most American Jews are supportive of Zionism, older Jews often vehemently. Many have sincere reason to be Zionists, as black people had good reason to be black nationalists: Their experience taught them that they were not safe in the west. I reject this understanding and spend my working hours trying to discredit these views for the next generation because they strike me as selfish and racist. But there it is:  Many Zionists genuinely regard Zionism as a liberation movement.

They need to be unpersuaded of their Zionism through argument/discussion. As Lisa Goldman said of the Ahed Tamimi case, brutalized Nabi Saleh was where her Zionism died. What a brave statement, by a thoughtful progressive. We need more Lisa Goldman’s to have that revelation. I see my work as pointing out Palestinian conditions to Jews and liberal Zionists and American Zionists in an earnest and angry but also respectful way. These people bar the gate to the Democratic Party. I want them to agonize about stuff we write here; but I never wish to exclude them; because the battle happens in the United States. Steven Salaita himself recently wrote for a Zionist publication, the Forward, surely out of the same impulse; that is where the power is. (As it was at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in 2014, when the board and chancellor held secret discussions to fire him). I batten on to Roger Cohen of The New York Times because I am hopeful he will be on our side one day, as I am hopeful of the New Israel Fund (which will host the non-Zionist Avraham Burg’s tour). And look: Tablet is now running Yakov Hirsch.

Salaita rightly deplores all the energy that goes to catering to Zionist anxieties—“to assuage Zionist fragility,” as he puts it so well. He’s right, it is maddening. But that is the game board in the U.S. This is a country devoted to Zionism. Throwing the Zionists out of the Chicago dyke march struck me as a mistake. It armed the Bari Weisses of the world to state that the left is rigidly orthodox. Such approaches allow middle-of-the-roaders to write the movement off as intolerant and doctrinaire. And they leave me as someone who prizes open-mindedness, who is not entirely sure how things will end over there, and who is duly apprehensive about the many proposed paths, uncomfortable with the righteousness. I have enormous respect for the radical left as the leaders on this question, the ones who drive the train; but I often think of the early feminist Margaret Fuller’s critique of the abolitionists, they were dedicated to a high cause, but as company, they were tedious, narrow and rabid.

Today Palestinian solidarity is as righteous a cause as abolition, and engaged in similar work: bringing  freedom to a group of people far away. But abolition succeeded in the end because of a terrible bloodletting and because a great number of people in the middle came over to its point of view. (Abraham Lincoln was a colonizer at one point: his answer was to ship blacks back to Africa. He wanted nothing to do with abolitionists.) It is my fear of a massive bloodletting in Israel and Palestine that leads me to support BDS and to try and build a broad coalition to pressure Israel toward democracy. I have no doubt that many Palestinians would prefer the peaceful path. As Salaita says, Arab “sensibilities” have been left out of the American discussion of  this issue. But there are also conservative Arabs; as the support for dictators in Egypt and Syria (and the Saudi flirtation with Israel) reminds us.  For us to write off all Zionists is like the Democratic Party ignoring Obama-turned-Trump voters in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The biggest reason for inviting anyone into our rooms is that our side has the winning hand, and we should have great confidence in our beliefs. Conditions in Palestine are awful, but almost every event of the last year has increased Palestinian prestige in the eyes of the world. The 50th anniversary of the occupation with more settlements, the identification of Trump and Netanyahu, the medic-turned-killer case and its revelations about Israeli intolerance; the Jerusalem embassy decision and the Ahed Tamimi case that flowed from it; the savagely-stupid responses of Zionist leaders from Shaked to Oren– all these events show reasonable people that the Palestinians have been screwed again and again, and Israel is a Goliath. The crashing favorability numbers in the Democratic Party are a demonstration of the fact that we are winning; and if South Africa is a model, the battle ultimately is for liberal Democrats who are committed to equal rights and separation of church and state. Like my Congressman who has a safe seat but says he is with Israel till the death, and BDS is anti-semitic.

For years the Zionists have maintained their control by shutting out our views. I have been blacklisted, Steven Salaita lost his tenure-track job. The 92d Street Y can’t have a Palestinian alone on its stage, our leading outlets fall over one another to promote Israeli propaganda about its wonderful assassins; the New Yorker publishes a provincial Zionist’s account of the Lydda expulsion— and ignores a masterpiece account by Raja-e Busailah who lived through it. Some day this racist exclusion will be the subject of museum exhibits and scholarly conferences. Why when we have the moral high ground should we imitate that censorship?

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43 Responses

  1. Peter Feld
    February 24, 2018, 12:02 pm

    I agree with you but Salaita isn’t saying anything that would exclude Chomsky or Goldman. He is talking about groups that come to left protests as Zionists, to cloak Zionism in progressivism. (“Redwashing,” maybe.) Groups that “frequently wave Israeli flags (or pinkwashed facsimiles).” When Chomsky or Goldman or Avneri or If Not Now come into these progressive spaces, they come not waving their Zionism, as trolls or for redwashing, but as critics of what Israel is doing.

    He says explicitly: “‘No Zionists’ isn’t necessarily an individual litmus test. Protest leaders cannot vet the opinions of each participant, nor should they desire that kind of power, but they do influence messaging and sense of community. And in these areas Zionism is a hindrance.”

    And he continues: “Plenty of people are opposed to the Israeli occupation but still consider themselves Zionist. Views change all the time, often when we engage new communities. Protest doesn’t exist simply to make a point. It creates an environment in which people can search, debate, and, ideally, grow. I have no problem sharing a picket line with folks whose views on Palestine differ from mine. [Emphasis mine] The problem arises when those with a messianic attachment to the fantasy that Israel and justice are compatible perform displays of Zionism in order to aggravate or proselytize. Lest we forget, Zionism is an expansionist ideology that endeavors to dominate its opponents, so it is difficult to accept the presence of its advocates in good faith.”

    Unless I’m very wrong (?) it seems pretty clear from that this last statement is not meant to exile Noam Chomsky from the progressive movement. He means astroturf trolls like Zioness.

    • Misterioso
      February 26, 2018, 12:01 pm

      I just received the following from a Canadian friend.

      It’s a response to Michael Enright, host of CBC radio’s “The Sunday Edition” from a member of Canada’s Independent Jewish Voices (IJV)

      “Dear Michael Enright,”

      “I have been an admiring listener to ‘The Sunday Edition’ for many years. You bring an informed and compassionate light to bear on Canadian and world issues, and as a Canadian concerned with democracy, equality and human rights, I appreciate your commitment to these basic Canadian values.

      “As a Canadian Jew, I appreciate your concern about anti-Semitism. Like you, I was appalled by the crude anti-Semite whose letter you cited on Sunday, Jan. 28. The person had apparently written several times complaining about ‘Jewish content’ on ‘The Sunday edition’ (‘just Jews and jazz’).

      “Your powerful response to that letter, ‘Anti-Semitism is not just going away; it’s growing,’ warns about the danger of anti-Semitism in Canada, which you describe as ‘in large measure…a hatred of Israel.’ To support your claim that anti-Semitism is a growing problem, you cited information from a B’nai Brith study reporting a total of 1,728 incidents of ‘anti-Semitism’ in Canada in 2016, an increase of 26% over 2015 – a shocking statistic indeed.

      “According to that report, 11 incidents involved some level of violence and 158 involved vandalism. However a careful reading of that B’nai Brith report shows that these incidents of violence or vandalism against Jews or Jewish institutions have sharply declined over the last five years. What has increased are reports of ‘harassment’ of Jews.

      “’Harassment’ is a broad category. B’nai Brith says it includes in the term harassment any statement by supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) who, it says, ‘are guilty of unfairly targeting the world’s only Jewish state, therefore engaging in anti-Semitism.’

      “Here is the crux of the matter. I am a non-Zionist Jew, a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, an organization that does not support the idea of a Jewish state. We believe in democracy, in equality for all, in Israel as in Canada. Along with thousands of other Canadians, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and unaffiliated, support the international call to boycott Israel until it respects the three democratic demands of the BDS movement: an end to the occupation, equality for non-Jews living in Israel, and a just solution for Palestinian refugees. That means that every time I say this, write it or attend a demonstration, B’nai Brith can report it as an anti-Semitic ‘incident.’ B’nai Brith should brace for more anti-Semitic ‘incidents’ as the BDS movement continues to grow. But to call them ‘anti-Semitic incidents’ is utter nonsense.

      “Many Canadians, including Jewish Canadians, support BDS, driven not by anti-Semitism, but by a sense of justice and a commitment to equality and democracy. Their support for equality makes them opponents of Zionism, which proposes a Jewish state as a way to defend Jews. The Zionist notion of protecting Jews by creating a Jewish state in the middle of the Arab world, expelling most of the people living there and refusing refugees the right to return, while giving Jews more rights than non-Jews, is not a good approach. It is a recipe for continual friction, pain and strife.

      “The only lasting approach to protecting Jews is the same as every other minority – a culture of tolerance. Supported by a strong legal framework. Ironically, while anti-Semitism was the kindling for Zionism in the 19th century, today it is Zionism and its claim to an exclusive Jewish state that are the fuel for what B’nai Brith calls anti-Semitism.”


      Martha Roth,
      IJV Vancouver

      • eljay
        February 26, 2018, 12:42 pm

        || Misterioso: I just received the following from a Canadian friend. … ||

        Well said, Ms. Roth!

        … “The only lasting approach to protecting Jews is the same as every other minority – a culture of tolerance. Supported by a strong legal framework.” …

        All people – including those who have chosen to be/come Jewish – should advocate, support and defend the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality.

        Zionists seem to prefer undermining international laws and human rights and the protections they are meant to afford all people including their fellow Jews.

    • Maghlawatan
      February 26, 2018, 12:24 pm

      At its core Zionism is about justifying the existence of Israel. That no matter what it did Israel was worth it. That has a built in 2 fingers to justice. And the future will be built on justice.
      We don’t need Zionism. We need Jews who can think independently to help build a sustainable future for Jews and Palestinians.

  2. eljay
    February 24, 2018, 8:42 pm

    … It is my fear of a massive bloodletting in Israel and Palestine causes me to support BDS and to try and build a broad coalition to pressure Israel toward democracy. …

    I get how “liberal Zionists” may help pressure Israel toward ending its on-going occupation and colonization of not-Israel, but I don’t get how they’re going to help pressure Israel…
    – to become a state of and for all of its citizens, immigrants, expats and refugees, equally; or
    – to honour its obligations under international law,
    …when – like all Zionists – they:
    – advocate and defend Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine;
    – reject the right of return of “threatening demographic” refugees from Israel to their homes and lands; and
    – reject accountability for their / state’s past and on-going (war) crimes.

    • Citizen
      February 25, 2018, 6:06 am

      Maybe Phil feels, let’s take this one step at a time?

      • eljay
        February 25, 2018, 1:57 pm

        || Citizen: Maybe Phil feels, let’s take this one step at a time? ||

        Sure, but I don’t see how that’s supposed to work – how, after you’ve resolved the problem of hard-core Zionism you’re going to try to force “liberal Zionists” to abandon the fundamental beliefs they share with all Zionists – without it looking like betrayal and making instant enemies out of them.

      • Mooser
        February 26, 2018, 11:35 am

        “Maybe Phil feels, let’s take this one step at a time?”

        Hey, who knows? Zionism and anti-Zionism are polar opposites, of course, but liberal anti-Zionism and liberal Zionism may be much closer together. An easy hop-skip and jump away.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 25, 2018, 5:24 pm

      i think an example he gave was lisa goldman. her article about where her zionism died. he talks about people who are sympathetic to zionism, but i think ultimately people are going to have to realize there either has to be a massive overhaul in the definition of what zionism is to accommodate equal rights for all people, or else people are going to distance themselves from it in a mainstream way. because it’s not natural for a liberal to identify with apartheid and all this oppression. it requires denying it or lying about it.

      anyway, pressure to end its on-going occupation and colonization, in itself creates pressure Israel to become a state of and for all of its citizens, the alternative being to create 2 states. so either one of those is a vast improvement over what exists now.

      • eljay
        February 26, 2018, 12:28 pm

        || Annie Robbins: … anyway, pressure to end its on-going occupation and colonization, in itself creates pressure Israel to become a state of and for all of its citizens … ||

        Which means there’s even less reason for “liberal Zionists” to want to get involved in ending the occupation and colonization of not-Israel. I can see them wanting to help if they’re guaranteed that Israel will continue to exist as a “Jewish State”, but not if they know up front that their assistance will only hasten the demise (reform) of the one thing they want most.

        || … the alternative being to create 2 states. … ||

        Seems to me a 2SS would be the outcome preferred by “liberal Zionists” because it has the best chance of guaranteeing the existence of a “Jewish State”.

        || … so either one of those is a vast improvement over what exists now. ||

        I will agree that what exists now is broken and must be repaired.

        All of the above is, of course, IM(most)HO.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 26, 2018, 5:15 pm

        Which means there’s even less reason for “liberal Zionists” to want to get involved in ending the occupation and colonization

        this is kind of a fuzzy area for me. not sure want to get involved accurately describes the situation. like someone wanting to have their tooth pulled, it’s more likely they just want to stop the pain or the infection.

        I can see them wanting to help if they’re guaranteed that Israel will continue to exist as a “Jewish State”, but not if they know up front that their assistance will only hasten the demise (reform) of the one thing they want most.

        hmm, like seeing them wanting to go to the dentist if they’re guaranteed to be able to keep their tooth, but not if they know up front that their tooth can’t be saved and any assistance getting to the dentist will only hasten the demise (of their tooth) the one thing they want most?

        sometimes you just can’t get everything you want but you know if you do nothing the infection will only get worse. so while you may not want to go to the dentist you find a way to get there none the less. it could be like that for liberal zionists, for some sooner than later and maybe some not at all. but the pressure will still be there until the situations is resolved or at a minimum massively relieved.

      • eljay
        February 26, 2018, 5:34 pm

        || Annie Robbins: … this is kind of a fuzzy area for me. not sure want to get involved accurately describes the situation. like someone wanting to have their tooth pulled, it’s more likely they just want to stop the pain or the infection. … ||

        If infection means an end to the tooth while curing the infection does not, there’s incentive to visit the dentist.

        If the occupation means an end to “Jewish State while ending the occupation also means an end to “Jewish State”, IMO there’s no incentive to help end the occupation.

        But maybe “liberal Zionists” can be convinced to abandon “Jewish State”. Dunno.

      • rhkroell
        February 27, 2018, 4:03 pm

        I like to believe that the separatist policy of muskel-Judenthum [muscular Judaism] — or Zionism — could somehow disengage itself from both its ethnonationalist foundation and its long association with (and support of) the strategy of settler colonialism.

        Noam Chomsky, for example, clearly seems to recognize that the colonization of Palestine by “muscular Jews” was carried out in an illegal — and in some ways horrifying — manner, and he often suggests that the Zionist policy and practice of further dispossessing Palestinians of their land since the Six-Day War is even more deplorable in many ways.

        My main criticism of Chomsky, and other “liberal Zionists, is that he/they seem to hedge, at times, when discussing solutions to the Palestinian/Israeli problem. He/they apparently oppose(s) the nonviolent BDS movement, but — to my knowledge — he/they offer(s) no compelling reason for opposing it. To me, he/they seem(s) to become evasive and equivocal, at times, when discussing what specifically needs to be done in the Middle East to achieve a lasting peace and, more importantly, how and when a peaceful solution could — if ever — be carried out successfully.

  3. inbound39
    February 25, 2018, 3:09 pm

    Scott Horton has a great podcast on following link with regard to upcoming conference and numerous speakers talking about and discussing Israel Lobby and obstruction of Al Jazeera Israel Lobby in America Expose………..

  4. echinococcus
    February 25, 2018, 3:12 pm

    “Broad” means the general population. Your greengrocer. Not Chomsky or goddam JVP.

  5. Annie Robbins
    February 25, 2018, 5:52 pm

    Today it is a truism in the mainstream media that U.S. politics are “tribal,” and certainly that holds for political communities, right, left and center too. Everyone agrees. They have shibboleths that they repeat to make sure that no one who isn’t of like mind doesn’t join up—if you don’t believe the Russia story or you support BDS, you can’t be in the mainstream tribe, for instance.

    i am reminded of reut’s misnomer “big tent” with deep broad “red lines” determining who was and was not allowed in the tent. they blacklisted the most successful progressive palestinian initiative ever –bds — as beyond the pale. they stamped down hard accusing it as being anti semitic as they did with the very notion of anti zionism, it being the “new” anti semitism.

    They are not very interested in convincing people who disagree; that’s not the “conversation” they’re having. They rally their forces and aim to win by sweeping mainstream media opinion along with them……

    Palestinian solidarity will not sweep to victory in this fashion. There are too many stops on it inside mainstream culture.

    i think right now, normalization of atrocities is not popular. i agree it doesn’t look pretty or generous kicking the zionists out of the parade, but hey, the parade wasn’t about them. and had they come clearly as well as simply to support the chicago dyke march representing jewish americans but they didn’t. they used a politicized flag. and no, i don’t think the current time or era allows for the symbol of a militarized state to be considered separate from that state. there’s a lot of ways to say “jewish solidarity” without flying an israeli flag, or one that symbolizes it, especially given israel’s reputation for pinkwashing its state violence. they knew it was controversial and that’s exactly why they tried to impose themselves into this march — already having a history of the community rejecting zionism.

    so yeah, the optics are perhaps harsh, as well as the lying ” No Jews Allowed” headlines but that’s why the zionists did it.

    and given the reut red lines, i respect the palestinian call not to normalize. the older folks are going to be left out. but i think the youth get it. and i do tend to think Palestinian solidarity will sweep to victory in this fashion.

    of course, i could be wrong!

    anyway, stellar masterful article phil. just amazing imho.

  6. ritzl
    February 26, 2018, 12:25 am

    It’s not a question of excluding anyone, as I read Salaita’s piece. It’s a question of Zionists needing to choose which side they’re on. Bigotry (partial or otherwise) vs. universal rights. If they can’t choose the latter they exclude themselves. By choice. Period.

    • ritzl
      February 26, 2018, 1:06 am

      I love this site. It is/you all are courageous imho. But sometimes the straddles go to far, for me at least. Maybe not in terms of calculated, intra-Jewish cajoling, but certainly in terms of right and wrong. This is one of those “sometimes.”

      There are three types of Zionists, imo. A) Hard core; B) Liberal; and, C) those who would like a Jewish-oriented/attentive state, but recognize that Palestinians are people, with equal rights to Jews in that state. The first two are almost certainly never going to change and therefore don’t count. Jeff Halper(?)/ICAHD and some of the folks at 972 may be examples of (C).

      Are you appealing to (A) and (B) to accept Palestinians as equals? Not gonna happen. Or maybe you are appealing to people who advocate for Palestinian rights to accept the fact that (A) and (B) are never going to accept them as equals, but yet should accept, well, (B) as comrades in the cause in which they don’t believe and/or don’t support on general principles.

      Why is it always this way around? Why isn’t the argument for Zionists to accept universal rights, wherever that may lead? You know, do the right thing….and then be accepted into the “movement.”

      • LHunter
        February 26, 2018, 11:27 am

        ritzl – admirable attempt at breaking out the various “types” of Zionists. Confusion is what the Zionists want – make it as complicated as possible, make is sui generis, make it so only Jews are permitted to talk about it.

        I agree that there are likely various strengths of commitment to the Zionist ideology. Those who would and do kill to keep Israel Jewish only (the vile Naftali Bennett), those who don’t promote violence but support the use of same to keep Israel Jewish only (Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens of the NYT), those who desperately want a Jewish only state but cant handle all the brutality that goes along with it (Roger Cohen). Perhaps the latter are reachable if we can get more and more of them to actually bear witness to the violence and oppression. The others are unreachable barring divine intervention.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 26, 2018, 4:49 pm

        Why is it always this way around? Why isn’t the argument for Zionists to accept universal rights, wherever that may lead?

        not sure “always” is accurate. we do sometimes publish arguments for zionists to accept universal rights, wherever that may lead. many articles by nada elia come to mind.

        here’s 2 recent examples by phil

        let me know if this is not what you’re talking about.

      • ritzl
        February 27, 2018, 5:00 pm

        Yes, you’re right Annie. Sorry to you and Phil for the overgeneralization. Since the stroke I’ve been getting less and less able to contemplate nuance. My bad.

        I guess this particular article cut it too thin for me. I’m not sure if MLK would be credibly counseled to accept “separate-but-equal” types (liberal Zionists is this context) into the civil rights movement, nor would he be credibly criticized for not doing so. I see it as the same thing here (in say 95%+/- of Zionist cases).

        The “only go this way” part came from the shunning of Allison Weir. She was ejected for allegedly violating some vaguely-defined exclusion principles regarding Jews, whereas here counsel is given to accept people into the movement for Palestinian rights who do FAR worse (the two-state, separate-but-sorta-equal concept being the least offensive) as a consistent pattern over a far longer period of time. I don’t know. It just struck me as being a one-way consideration. Weir is back in or Zionists are excluded, would seem to me to be the consistent, non-ethnicly differentiating position. I get confused why when one is so categorically PNG, the other is tolerated.


      • Annie Robbins
        February 28, 2018, 2:19 am

        ritzl, i am so sorry about your stroke, i don’t recall hearing about that before. and if it’s any consolation my mom had an awful stroke way into her 80’s and doctors said she might not ever recover but she did, and with time her confusion became less and less. please, no need to apologize — no need at all. it’s perfectly normal to have an article just hit you the wrong way and it’s also normal when one is feeling like that to maybe sort of generalize. but over the years we’ve hosted so many kinds of articles, so many views and different voices. many of palestinians too and whole series (like roots of resistance come to mind) where nary a voice of accepting or including zionism shows up. so i just posted a couple recent ones. not a big deal.

        re allison, this hit the whole community hard with repercussions all around. and mondoweiss for the most part stayed out of it except for holding the forum which lasted for days and ran way over 1000 comments. and i think henry may have written an article — my memory is vague. i thought it was a result of long time animosities within the community. not sure how much of it can be laid at the feet of mondoweiss as it wasn’t our initiative. it’s something you’d have to take up with phil or adam. i think of the site more as stuck in the middle of it. personally, i like allison and think she’s been, overall, an overwhelmingly asset and dedicated warrior wrt exposing israel’s crimes and zionist malfeasance.

        anyway, please take care. and no need to apologize for anything.

      • echinococcus
        February 28, 2018, 3:33 am


        “Nuance” be damned. In fact, what really counts is not where they bring in one or the other liberal to advocate continued conquest and invasion under the name of “equal rights” –of course MW does a lot of that but that is already as Zionist as it is “liberal”.

        What seems to be almost verboten here (not absolute; that’s why it’s still worth reading and participating) is the argument for justice, which is the opposite of equal-rights-for-invaders. The concept that Palestine is exclusively Palestinian by any kind of law is still (almost) taboo and that is exactly the key characteristic of passive support to Zionism. The lynching of Alison Weir and several other hardcore anti-Zionists is also something to continue screaming about –it’s still ongoing, not a peep from the usual liberals.

        Back to the start: the more you look into it, the more “Liberal” shows itself to be almost as damning as “Zionist”.

      • RoHa
        February 28, 2018, 6:19 am

        Stroke, ritzl? (Or should I write “Ritzl”?) Nasty. But keep your brain working on those nuances and the ability to handle them will increase. Brains can reorganise their workings.

        Look after yourself.

      • ritzl
        February 28, 2018, 1:46 pm

        Thank you Annie and RoHa for your kindness.

  7. LHunter
    February 26, 2018, 2:04 am

    “And yet the ultimate political question remains, how we convince other Americans, most of whom are sympathetic to Zionism if not Zionists themselves, of the rightness of our stance.”

    Phil has suggested that perhaps Zionists can be unpersuaded through dialogue and discussion and not by shunning/excluding them from progressive rallies (the latter endorsed by Salaita). Phil argues this point in the hope that a more inclusive Palestinian movement will emerge which would have broader appeal and therefore be much more effective in the US.

    As Peter Feld has stated above in this comment section (all of which I agree with), I don’t believe Salaita is promoting the exclusion of those who may be Zionists from every progressive/left/Palestinian event but they should not attend in an organized manner to promote Zionism like the Zioness members did at the SlutWalk. No one would have cared or even noticed the Lioness members if they showed up and took part in the rallies to sincerely further the cause at hand. But to associate Zionism with causes that have at their core the protection or furtherance of human rights is disingenuous and offensive to the organizers/participants. Let’s not forget that the brutal murderous occupation is currently in full bloom because of Zioness types. When a Palestinian sees the Star of David he sees a swastika like symbol. Zionism is a Palestinian’s Nazism. White phosphorus, apartheid and military occupation guaranteed that.

    All trite for Mondoweiss but Zionism at its core is racism. From this racist ideology came the theft of life, a way of life, a culture, a history, land, dignity and human rights. Without theft there would be no state of Israel. Allowing the Zioness members or other liberal Zionists to participate in progressive movements under the banner of Zionism is to allow for Zionists to continue to steal. Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature professor at Columbia University, Hamid Dabashi, put it this way “Zionists are master thieves, they steal Palestinian land and culture, they steal Jewish history and heritage, and they steal every progressive movement to twist it to their advantage—beware!” –

    More than seventy years of continuous violent unabashed theft of life/property/culture and yet the Palestinians are still prepared to sit at the table and discuss resolutions that include relinquishing rights to more than half their country. In return for their graciousness, the Zionists have spoiled every attempt to make real peace and continue to do so today by building more settlements.

    Aside from making themselves available through dialogue and discussion to negotiate a lasting peace in accordance with international law, Palestinians and their supporters have extended themselves in many peaceful ways only to be killed/maimed/jailed for protesting, or barred from aiding or funding Palestinians and their charities, or jailed/fined for supporting BDS, or defamed and fired for speaking/writing about Palestinian rights. Every time the Palestinians and their supporters are given the rare opportunity to make their case through dialogue and discussion they are hit head on by an avalanche of Zionist hatred and hasbara if they are lucky and the loss of their jobs/reputation/life if they are not.

    What can one conclude? Here’s a thought: Zionists are not interested in dialogue or discussion. At least not interested in what Palestinians or non-Jews have to say. Turning Jews against Zionism, imho, may be better left for non-Zionist Jews. Palestinians like me are not worthy of a Zionist’s attention. We are untrustworthy and have hidden agendas, or we are a primitive backward people with a predisposition for lying and violence, or we are donkeys/monkeys/cockroaches that don’t have the intelligence to understand the just rational for stealing our lands and oppressing our people. Why would a Zionist listen to me or any non-Jew after their dear, respected, god fearing neighbourhood rabbi or politician or father or mother said as much about us.

    But Mondoweiss, JVP, IfNotNow, Chomsky, Finkelstein, Miko Peled, Max Blumenthal, Avi Shlaim, Judith Butler, Naomi Klein, Anna Baltzer, Eljay, Mooser and other Jewish organizations and Jews may have a real shot at turning members of the Jewish community against Zionism. There is an abundance of information that has been drafted/compiled/produced by Jews of what is happening to the Palestinians at the hands of the Zionist (reports, books, articles, journals, documentaries, videos and the like are plentiful). If reading or watching videos is not their fancy, then strolling the streets of Hebron is also available to Jews by Jews to get a better more vivid understanding of the oppression/occupation. Hebron has become a macabre petting zoo for anyone interested in seeing how human beings live as caged animals. Heck, Jewish American tourists might be lucky enough to reach out and touch a Palestinian provided the Palestinian is standing on the sanctioned side of the street and is quick to dodge Jewish settler spit, slaps, profanity, punches, stones and the occasional bullet. Lisa Goldman and Roger Cohen took tours and got to see the Palestinians in their natural habitat – it changed them forever.

    The Palestinians are positioned well in the left/progressive movements making many mutually beneficial associations with a wide variety of groups and movements. To me that is a broad based movement and I am never uncomfortable about being right or righteous when people’s lives are at stake. Perhaps the way the message is delivered needs to be massaged in order to be more effective but the message should remain the same.

    Thank you Phil sincerely for fearlessly speaking to Zionist Jews about the racism that is inherent in Zionism. Thank you for developing this incredible site where I have learnt so much not the least of which is that there are non-Zionist Jews that are firmly pro Palestinian. I so enjoy reading the well written/researched articles and the comments left by the amazingly insightful/intelligent commentators like Mooser, Misterioso, Eljay, Annie Robbins, Ossinev, Pablemont, RoHa, , Keith, John Douglas, MHughes976, echinococcus, Kay24, Marnie, Emory Riddle, Eva Smagacz, gamal, Kaisa, amigo, John O, Maghlawatan, genesto, inbound39, JWalters, Brewer, ritzl, Citizen, and so many more. You have created a wonderful community that I am delighted to be a part of. Mondoweiss is changing the minds of Jews and Zionists daily – I’m convinced of that.

  8. Paranam Kid
    February 26, 2018, 4:03 am

    Phil, you are trying to argue in a roundabout way, through the backdoor, that Liberal Zionism exists and should be taken on board.

    I am sorry, but I have said it before, and will keep saying it: Liberal Zionism does NOT exist because it is an oxymoron. Zionism is about creating a Jewish homeland for Jewish people, run for and by Jews for the sole benefit of Jews to the exclusion of all other ethnicities, notably the Palestinians. By any definition that makes Zionism a racist ideology.

    Therefore using and accepting Zionism in combination with “Liberal” = accepting liberal racism as a doctrine. Liberal Racism does not exist anywhere in the world except in the context of Zionists who want to hide their racism.

    This masking is further exacerbated by the conflation of Zionism, a secular, racist ideology, with Judaism, a religion, in order to conveniently claim “antisemitism” as soon as Zionism is criticised.

    You contribute to the confusion and the whitewash in 2 ways:
    1. by insisting on using the term Liberal Zionism,
    2. by putting Lisa Goldman in the same bag as Uri Avnery.

    Lisa Goldman has renounced her Zionism and is therefore NOT a Zionist anymore, whereas Uri Avnery, despite his writing opposing Israel’s occupation, is a convinced Zionist, and has been so all his life. Uri is essentially a racist, whereas Lisa is NOT.

    And this brings me to another aspect of Israel: the anti-Zionists, incl. you Phil, talk about the occupation only, and so does a group like “Breaking the Silence”. That is fine and fair enough, but Israel itself is a Zionist state, i.e. a racist state that lacks legitimacy. Israel is an Apartheid state that subjugates the Palestinians inside its territory and denies them basic rights. There are many laws discriminating against the Palestinians, as listed here

    To circle back to your article: yes, Steven Salaita IS RIGHT, Zionists should be excluded from left-oriented protests because they cannot contribute positively to a cause that fights for the elimination of racism within Israel proper and in the occupied stolen Palestinian territories.

    Unless and until you show us how “liberal” racists can contribute positively, your argument presented here remains unconvincing, to put it mildly.

  9. peter
    February 26, 2018, 11:28 am

    Hey Phil, I am not Jewish, but for most of my adult life, i agreed with the liberal Zionist idea of “two states for two peoples.”

    I have changed my mind as a result of thoughtful and persistent anti Zionists (aided by a couple of trips to the region, including with Jeff Halper.)

    My experience is that people can change their minds, and I think we will have to change the opinions of millions of liberal Zionists if we are going to win the fight for human rights for Palestinians.

    I think we MUST talk to them. Some will change, and others wont.

  10. Maghlawatan
    February 26, 2018, 12:20 pm

    “As Lisa Goldman said of the Ahed Tamimi case, brutalized Nabi Saleh was where her Zionism died. What a brave statement, by a thoughtful progressive.”

    Far too late imo.
    Any of the Gaza turkeyshoots weren’t gut wrenching enough ? Zionism is an insane ideology with a Masada complex.

    • Annie Robbins
      February 26, 2018, 12:35 pm

      maghlawatan, i’d have to check, but in her article i don’t recall goldman pinpointed what year or date that took place, her zionism may have died in nabi saleh many years ago.

      • Maghlawatan
        February 26, 2018, 12:57 pm


        Nabi Salah is relatively civilised by Zionist standards . Israel exposes its core savagery in Gaza. I can’t understand how otherwise liberal Jews take Gaza for granted.

        MJ Rosenberg gave up in 2014

        Embed Tweet MJ (Mike) Rosenberg @MJayRosenberg · 3h
        Israel apologists have loved the term “blood libel” since old terrorist PM Begin started using it in the 70’s.

        MJ (Mike) Rosenberg @MJayRosenberg · 3h
        Contrary to what some are writing, Jews have no special responsibility for Ferguson. It’s Gaza that is on us.

        MJ (Mike) Rosenberg @MJayRosenberg · 3h
        Either cancel the Day of Atonement this year or make it be about atoning for Israel’s crimes in Gaza. (Unless u oppose bloody slaughter)

      • Paranam Kid
        February 26, 2018, 12:58 pm

        So it would just be coincidence that she lost in the same village of the Ahed crime? Hmmm, that *would be* quite a coincidence.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 26, 2018, 6:40 pm

        Paranam, not really a coincidence. certain villages have regular weekly protests, nabi saleh being one of the them. as such, they are sometimes besieged with internationals and journalists routinely. so as an israeli journalist it makes perfect sense to me this would be where she’d be most exposed to the brutality of the occupation. and as a writer, when the slap happened in nabi saleh, she likely told her story at that time because it seemed relevant at the time to express it.

        I can’t understand how otherwise liberal Jews take Gaza for granted.

        MJ Rosenberg gave up in 2014

        maglawatan, not sure what you mean he gave up, taking gaza for granted? because if rosenberg has given up his zionism i have yet to hear of it. i don’t know how anyone could take what happens in gaza for granted, ever.

        re Goldman, nabi saleh, gaza and 2014. goldman has a large body of work because she been a journo for a long time. and i am not familiar with her writing that much. one (of many) things about gaza that differentiates it from villages in the WB is that for the most part it’s inaccessible to israelis. so it’s less likely any israeli journalist would have a beat in gaza that gave them the kind of exposure week after week that goldman had in nabi saleh. and people are often more moved by events they witness. that said, i googled goldman and gaza and this popped up from summer of 2014 during the slaughter. “The Gaza war has done terrible things to Israeli society”: written from her vantage point, she’s talking about the protests taking place. interesting.

        in the five years since Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister and formed a governing coalition composed of far-right, racist and anti-democratic parties, something very fundamental has changed in Israeli society. It feels as though the majority is willing to suspend essential elements of democracy in favor of Jewish nationalism. There doesn’t seem to be a place for dissent anymore.

  11. brwencino
    February 26, 2018, 4:15 pm

    I have read Phil’s article and all of the above comments. Apparently, Phil and some of the commenters want the “big tent” approach by including “liberal Zionists” in the tent. I will not argue the point that there is no such thing as a liberal Zionist, even though I agree, because it was well presented in at least one post above. However, what I find curious is that neither Phil nor any of the commenters mentions an unambiguous peaceful advocate for genuine equality in all reapects for Palestinians who has been banned from Mondoweiss, along with anyone who has the temerity to express any of his views. I guess the big tent that could be interpreted to include an extreme Zionist such as Chuck Schumer is not broad enough to include Gilad Atzmon. Phil, even you may not yet recognize it, but you are tilting further to the right and this article is a good example of the drift. Hmm, will this comment be and remain posted?

  12. Krendall Mist
    February 26, 2018, 6:40 pm

    “The 50th anniversary of the occupation….”

    See, this is how even the most earnest “liberal Zionist” and many declared “non-Zionist” “progressives” see the world: the “Occupation” only began in 1967.

    Israel has to go.

    And so does Zionist domination of the dominant “pro-Palestinian” activists groups in the US.

    As Salaita points and Mr Weiss appears to concede, the Zionist dominates the “Palestinian” story, anti and pro–and overwhelming anti–in the US.

    This is just the Jewish-Palestinian version of the “white savior”–just another form of control, other-definition, oppression.

    “Liberal Zionist” participation in “leftist” activism concerning matters in which Zionist identity is irrelevant are fine. Salaita takes his argument to places it need not go.

    But the Zionist has no standing to advocate–much less control the advocacy–for “Palestinia rights.”

    First place to start: Expel them from BDS.

  13. JWalters
    February 28, 2018, 12:26 am

    “And yet the ultimate political question remains, how we convince other Americans, most of whom are sympathetic to Zionism if not Zionists themselves, of the rightness of our stance.”

    There were those clearly good guy Jews working for justice in the civil rights movement. And many Jews then saw Israel as a civil rights movement for Jews. But they did not look carefully at the details. And those details were essentially kept hidden from them. And the summer camps with sex were so memorable. It was a mistake of wishful thinking led astray. It was not a civil rights project for Jews. Nathan Rothschild, recently looking back at the Balfour letter to his uncle, made clear Israel was funded specifically NOT as a safe haven, but FOR “that sacred goal, the return of Israel to its ancestral homeland” (8:50 in video).

    Thus the Rothschild bank funded a “sacred” Jewish right to take by military force land that they claim is their ancesters’ homeland. Everybody at the time knew this would require war.

    In that decision the Rothschild bank gave more weight to a religious theory than to the law. Consequently they violated the principal of equal rights under the law for each individual. Jews were given the right to treat non-Jews as lesser beings.

    Some justify this as leading to a greater glory that will benefit all mankind. Typically this is when all the (stupid) non-Jews are ruled by the (brilliant) Jews. This is the millenialist vision that animates the most zealous “settlers”, on the front lines of Israel’s constantly expanding conquests. This is why the settlers are the most powerful faction. As the invaders they have a steady supply of support where it counts.

  14. Brian
    March 2, 2018, 1:11 pm

    A simple question. I work with a local pro-Palestinian group here in my hometown. Some members are prominent but I won’t disclose their names but will say that they are very aware the situation and all of the players from Chomsky to Abunimah, et. al. They do find Alison Weir anathema and I can only get vague reasons from them which are mostly innuendo and mentions of a taint or her personality. I have read much by and about her, her interview transcripts, etc. and I find nothing odious about her. How do you feel that she fits into this argument? I know she is pro BDS, single State and most other significant issues and has the support of prominents like Robert Fisk. Please give your opinion oif you would. Thankz

    • brwencino
      March 3, 2018, 7:28 pm

      I am going to guess that the “pro-Palestinian group” to which you refer is really pro-Israel, being a Jewish State and not a democratic secular State for all. Such groups are never for those who are for a single-state solution and will never give that as the reason. Their typical ploy is to claim that the person they oppose is objectionable for personal reasons, when this is a lie. I have seen this many times in the Los Angeles area. Alison Weir is a true champion of Palestinian rights, don’t let “hidden Zionists” (some of whom even mask as anti-Zionists) fool you.

    • MHughes976
      March 4, 2018, 9:05 am

      I just had a look at If Americans and couldn’t see anything too different from Mondoweiss – indeed there was a prominent article by Phil himself. Ms. Weir is clearly of the opinion that even right wing Ametcans, many at least, have some humane principles somewhere, so she is ready to address them with her views on the injustice and cruelty suffered by Palestinians. I hope she’s correct about that.

  15. echinococcus
    March 2, 2018, 2:12 pm


    Can anyone try to answer? I’ll start. Look at the name of her organization: “If Americans Knew”. Not If Liberals Only Knew.

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