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Is J Street repeating the mistakes of the irrelevant Israeli peace camp?

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Noam Sheizaf has a very interesting article in the Forward where he explains the demise of the traditional left in Israeli society:

What enabled the right’s current success was the ideological turn it took. The last decade has seen all the right’s leaders — from Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to, finally, Netanyahu — accept the left’s idea of a Palestinian state. They did so not because they suddenly abandoned the desire to hold on to the entirety of the Greater Land of Israel, nor because they realized how unjust the occupation is. The only reason leaders from the right are today willing to consider withdrawal from Hebron and even from East Jerusalem is that one argument made by the Zionist left did strike a chord with them: that a Palestinian state is the only way to keep a clear Jewish majority in Israel.

By raising the flag of “the demographic battle,” the Jewish left was able to win the debate over the West Bank and Gaza. But it did so in a way that betrayed the same values the left has always claimed to represent — humanism, equal rights and brotherhood. That’s also where the left’s political fate was sealed. When the left abandoned the hope for true partnership with the Palestinians — on both sides of the Green Line — and became almost solely defined by its focus on demography and ethnic separation, it opened the door for Lieberman and his vision of an exclusionary Jewish state.

What’s striking to me about this is how similar it is to the demographic fear mongering we heard at the J Street conference in October. Is this the best that left Zionism has to offer – ethnic separation? Where does this leave human rights or democracy? And if these values are absent, how can a solution simply based on exclusion and separation – often at the point of a gun or a 30 meter high wall – lead a peaceful solution to the conflict?

We remarked at the time of the J Street conference that what is considered a liberal solution in the Jewish community to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is regarded as racism in any other context. Sheizaf’s useful article shows the danger of heading down that road.

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