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Kushner effect: Beinart calls for an American conversation re Israel that includes anti-Zionists

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Kushner degree flap has produced a serious piece in Peter Beinart’s call the Daily Beast for anti-Zionists to be included in the conversation about Israel. This is huge: this means that the discourse truly is shifting, as Beinart is a gatekeeper, and Kushner is mainstream too.

There are only two intellectually honest positions. Either you believe so strongly in a Jewish democratic state that you actively oppose everyone who opposes that vision, or you widen the public discussion to include both those who want a democratic state that is non-Jewish and those who want a Jewish state that is non-democratic. Either would be better than what we have now: organizations like Hillel and figures such as Wiesenfeld who pay lip service to democratic Israel but only defend Jewish Israel. If Tony Kushner lays bare that hypocrisy, he will have more than earned his honorary degree.

Then this:

I think he’s wrong. Israel was created not merely to be a Jewish democracy, but to be a Jewish refuge, and even though most American Jews can’t imagine needing one, the long history of Jewish persecution suggests that we should not blithely assume that diaspora Jewish communities will always be as fortunate as us. Secondly, while there is certainly a tension between Israel’s Jewish and democratic character, Israel’s Arab citizens (those within its 1967 borders) do serve in Israel’s parliament and supreme court. Indeed, they enjoy more rights and live better lives than do their cousins in most of the Arab world, which is why most Israeli Arabs would rather live in a Jewish state than a Palestinian one….

Apparently Rashid Khalidi last week at Columbia dealt with this point. He said, Israel happens to be where these people live. Who wants to leave their home? He was angry about it. And justifiably. And fyi, those Palestinian Israelis have about the degree of political freedom that blacks in the south had in the 60s; they are not included in the governing coalitions of the state. Some franchise.

Jerry Haber at Magnes Zionist:

Peter Beinart has written a post worth reading, and worth heeding, on the Kushner-CUNY affair (which has now been settled in favor of Kushner.) Worth heeding, because he calls for a Jewish communal discussion on Israel that includes non- and anti-Zionists, Worth reading, because he sees where the communal discussion is headed. That is Beinart’s main point, and I agree with it.

But after conceding to Kushner some of the problems inherent in the Jewish regime founded in 1948, Beinart offers his own reasons for rejecting Kushner’s call for transforming Israel into a more democratic and less ethnically exclusivist state. More on that below, but first a word on the ethnocracy/binational dichotomy.

Traditionally, statist Zionists have claimed that Israel is faced with two alternatives: either a Jewish state like the one founded in 1948, ora secular state of all its citizens, which, at best, is binational. That stacks the deck in favor of a Jewish state…

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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