Haber: BDS is about justice and self-determination, not one-state/two-state

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Jerry Haber (Magnes Zionist) responds to Ahmed Moor in their dialogue about liberal Zionists and BDS. 

Since Ahmed Moor and I agree on many fundamental goals — transforming Israel from an ethnic Jewish state to a state of all its citizens, dispensing justice to those who have been wronged, enabling the Palestinian people to exercise their inalienable rights – and since we also agree on the stated goals of the global BDS movement, let me reiterate briefly where we disagree.

We disagree over the tactics of the global BDS campaign, or to be more precise, Moor disagrees with the tactics of the global BDS campaign. I argued, and he did not challenge this, that the global BDS movement takes no position on regime change in Israel, and it certainly does not take a position on the one-state issue. It bases itself on international resolutions and international human rights law. That allows for a pretty broad coalition, and so it is not surprising that prominent Jews and Israelis who supported the Berkeley divestment resolution included two-staters like Noam Chomsky and self-described Zionists like Prof. Lev Grinberg of Ben-Gurion University. In many battles the global BDS movement has faced, it has been aided by two-staters, and those people are essential and valued allies (Neither Chomsky nor Grinberg would qualify for Moor’s “racist neighbor” example.)

I don’t know whether Moor realizes that one can be a two-stater and not a statist Zionist, or for that matter, a Zionist who is opposed to a Jewish ethnic state. One can hold, for example, that alongside a state of Palestine will be an Israeli state of all its citizens, one that can have an Arab prime minister, grants full civil equality to all its citizens, and fosters the culture and heritage of its principle ethnic and religious groups. Such a state would abolish the current Israeli Law of Return and Naturalization laws, which privilege one group and does not provide for naturalization (except by ministerial fiat). It would look a bit like what Bernard Avishai calls “a Hebrew republic. “ Unless I am mistaken, Moor confuses the call for the transformation of Israel into a liberal democracy with the call for its replacement by one state. In fact the one-state, two-state debate at this point is not the issue – what is at issue is how to provide justice and self-determination for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. 

My point about Palestinian Israelis not opposing Israel as a Jewish ethnic state was not with respect to their ideology or their wishes. It is a no-brainer that Israeli Palestinians, like any people, want to live in a society in which they are not foundationally discriminated against, and the Jewish ethnic state does just that. What I meant to say is that many of these Palestinians want very much to live in an *Israel* that does not so discriminate. They are, despite everything, Israeli Palestinians with an Israeli Palestinian identity. And that certainly is true of intellectuals like Azmi Bishara and politicians like Ahmed Tibi, who know Hebrew and Jewish culture better than most Jews outside Israel (and many within Israel.) 

Moor and I find the compromises offered by the liberal Zionists at best inadequate and at worst deeply offensive. He and I are rightfully annoyed with the many attempts to give the Palestinians crumbs. Since I am not a statist Zionist but a cultural one none of his arguments against liberal Zionism affects me. He mistakes my call to liberal Zionists to support BDS, despite some misgivings, with the call for Palestinians to hold hands with liberal Zionists. Did I say anything about dialogue in my post?

The anti-apartheid movement brought together different groups with different ideologies. Even so, it was not enough to bring down apartheid by itself; historians still debate about the efficacy of the movement. Moor says that he would rather see the Berkeley student senate vote down partial divestment than for some of its members to support it for the wrong reasons. His and my disagreement on this point may stem, in part, from the stages in life in which we find ourselves. Moor is a young man and has a lot of time. He can wait for the world to grow up and see the light. Neither I nor, apparently, the global BDS movement can.

Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments