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Ali Abunimah KO’s Jonathan Tobin in ‘Democracy Now’ debate

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This morning, there was a segment on Democracy Now about the recent recommendation of an Israeli government commission that Israel’s West Bank settlements be deemed legal, deemed an “authoritative document” by Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau. DN hosted a debate between Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine and Ali Abunimah. The flaws in the report have been fully discussed on Mondoweiss: It flies in the face of the virtually unanimous consensus on international law; it rewards Israel for continuing the Occupation for so long that it no longer is deemed an “occupation”; and it so obviously leads to the conclusion that Israel is one apartheid state that it has drawn the condemnation of dedicated Zionists like Shimon Peres and Jeffrey Goldberg. While the DN hosts asked pointed questions about the committee’s recommendation, the most interesting aspects of the debate arose when Tobin preferred to talk about broader issues and Ali met him head on.

Essentially, Tobin agreed with the report, but said it was immaterial, because the real issue was Palestinian intransigence. Tobin resorted to the well-worn distortions of hasbara, such as Palestinians wish to focus on the illegality of settlements so that “Jews can be thrown out willy-nilly”; “Palestinians have to start dealing with the reality that Jews aren’t going away”; “Palestinians don’t wish to share”; peace is not possible “if [Palestinians] focus on fantasies about throwing the Jews out.” He repeatedly tried to conflate “Jewish life” with the “Jewish State,” using the terms as synonyms, insisting that one cannot have one without the other: “Palesitnians won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish State, the legitimacy of Jewish life, anywhere in that country.”

Ali would have none of it. He answered that “this isn’t a question of Jews.” It is about the “assertion that Jews have the right to superior rights than the indigenous Palestinian people.” The debate became most heated when Tobin falsely claimed: “what we heard from [Ali] is the Palestinian fantasy that some day Israel is going to be destroyed. . . they are talking about the destruction of Israel.” Again, Ali pointed out the deception, arguing that advocating for “equality” is not equivalent to urging “destruction.” This being DN, Amy Goodman pressed Tobin to identify where Abunimah had talked about destruction, and Tobin of course had no coherent answer. At one point, he even said to Ali: “don’t try to lie your way out of it.” One more highlight of the debate was when a question was posed about Shimon Peres’s criticism of the commission recommendation on the ground that it would lead to an untenable demographic situation. This is the classic “liberal Zionist” response. Let’s not appear to be too greedy because it could come back to haunt us. Again, Ali would have none of it, refusing to see any reasonable conciliatory position in Peres’s statement. Instead, he asked how Palestinians could ever recognize an entity that views their “mere reproduction” as a “mortal threat.” Ali’s intense focus on the call for equal rights regardless of ethno-religious-national status, and his confrontational challenge to Tobin’s dishonest mischaracterizations of “equal rights” as advocacy for destruction easily carried the day. Well worth watching.

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Disgusting level of deception and dissimulation by Tobin. He knows what he says is mostly false and outright lies but is simply hoping to appeal to the largely ignorant masses (ie U.S. public) who would not know better. The nerve to refer to the defunct League of Nations, which certainly… Read more »

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it! Whether it’s a one-state or two-state solution, we can’t leave it to the Israelis to administer. What will it take? The UN? NATO? The US? Private NGOs? The US Army of Liberation? No matter what the solution is, who is going to see it doesn’t… Read more »

Those in power, who daily oppress and try to expel as many Palestinians as they can, appeal to the world’s sympathy by claiming that those who who have no power want to throw them out. It confirms that Israel doesn’t exist in the real world. The flag of Israel and… Read more »

“Palestinians don’t wish to share” I’ve always found that position singularly infuriating. How can a group that refuses to content itself with 78% of the land seriously talk about how others are unwilling to ‘share’? Dude needs to give me his bank account info. I’ll drain four-fifths of it —… Read more »

Abunimah calls for equality for all, and Tobin insists that means destruction of the Jewish State.
Equality = Destruction. Where else (or when else) in the world might that apply?