Trending Topics:

I divine the powerful lobby in an anonymous letter. I’m wrong

on 32 Comments

A week or so back, I wrote that Andrew Sullivan was getting pushback from the Israel lobby, witness a letter he had run anonymously on his site. Said I:

take it from me, kid, this is from a powerful friend of his, otherwise he would not have run it at such length. Also it has the pokey prickly manner of a powerful Jewish friend in the media who– while I have always admired what you’re doing Andrew, I needed to point out one flaw in your argument. And instead of taking the person on, Sullivan runs it. I bet the writer is American, too.

Well I was right about American. Subsequently I got an email from Emily Hauser, a liberal Zionist writer in Illinois who has been a leader on Gaza (whom I’d actually quoted in a Nation Magazine article last year). She wrote:

The "powerful friend" who Andrew Sullivan quoted at length yesterday about "colonization" was me. Ta-daa! I’m surely not powerful, I’m not his friend, and in my humble opinion, I am right.

Following is the email I sent him in its entirety — he snipped off the last paragraph, which is a little more explanatory and which I included in a post on my blog, but the gist of my argument was: If I accept and acknowledge one side’s story, it’s only right that I accept and acknowledge the other side’s as well. We cannot win people over by telling them that they’ve been wrong for centuries. If we want to win them over, we have to acknowledge their narrative — and then tell them that there is a bigger issue at stake.
Also, not for nothing, but I didn’t say "national discourse," I said "nationalist discourse." If we accept nationalism as our organizing principal (which, I will say again, I’m not at all certain is a good idea), then, in the terms of the modern notion of "nationalism," then the West Bank is far more "home" than Tel Aviv for the Jewish people. You’ll note that I also said "We Jews have to get over ourselves."
Anyway, I thought you might want to know.

So: I’m wrong. Not dead wrong (let’s talk about nationalist discourse in a land that someone else has dwelt in for millennia; that’s part of the lobby). But wrong. Hauser is not a powerful media person with economic/professional suasion. 

Before I run Hauser’s letter in full, I’d interject one other bit of self-justification. I don’t understand why Sullivan runs this kind of thing without naming his "reader." I find it arrogant. The reader wants to be identified, and credited; but Sullivan deprives her of the credit. Where’s the fairness or spirit of readerly generosity? I think Emily Hauser has a beef with him too. And, yes, it sows confusion in the hard of hearing.

Hauser’s letter-in-full:

Dear Andrew,
Re: being sick of the Israelis and the Palestinians, as an old two-states-for-two-people hand, I couldn’t agree more. I’m sick of the violence merry go round, of the endlessly diminishing hopes, of the blindness to the suffering, of the the willingness of my US government to take whatever my Israeli government hands it — oh my god. So sick of it. (As evidenced by this, among many other, posts:
But you used one word that I happen to have written to someone about today, and so it is much on my mind: "colonization."
It may seem like too much to focus on a single word, but I think that occasionally, individual words really matter, and while I am deeply, deeply opposed to the settlement project (and it is, indeed, as you describe, "brutalizing"), I find referring to it as "colonization" to be very problematic.
If I work from the assumption that Palestinian nationalism is legitimate, and that the Palestinians are as deserving as any other people to define themselves, and furthermore, if the international community accepts nationalism as the basis on which we’re organizing international life (and I’m absolutely not certain that that’s a good idea, but the fact is, that’s what we’ve done), then I have to accept/acknowledge the story of Jewish nationalism, as well — and it’s rooted in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. This isn’t like the English in Ireland or the French in Algeria, because the Jews aren’t trying to establish a new, "civilizing" presence but are rather, in the terms of nationalist discourse, coming home.
Now, the fact is, we Jews have to get over ourselves. The Palestinians are in (already were in) their home, too. The fact is our home = their home and their home = our home. So, sharing is the only choice we have, and the Palestinians have already ceded the 78% of their home that they lost through war to us, so we have to be smart (and more aware that we actually WON the war) and cede 22% of our home to them.
But having said that, it’s important to acknowledge peoples’ perceptions of themselves and their narratives. Unlike the English or the French, to Jews, Hebron is just as much "home" as is Tel Aviv — more so, in fact. If I want Israelis and Jewish nationalists around the world to acknowledge the Palestinian narrative, to come to a place where they can realize that the Palestinian narrative is absolutely equally legitimate to our own — well, I have to acknowledge the Zionist narrative as well. I won’t win anyone over by saying "Look, this thing you’ve thought about yourselves for centuries is all wrong," but I might (very big might) win them over by saying "Look, I understand why this is important to you, and I’m not saying it shouldn’t be. I’m saying that there is something even more important going on here, and we all need to find a way forward together."
Ultimately, my hope is that humanity will move beyond nationalism. But for now, this is where we are.
All the best,

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

Other posts by .

Posted In:

    Leave a Reply