The last 24 hours have been a glorious moment for liberal Zionists. They have taken on Benjamin Netanyahu with fervor. First, Peace Now in Israel torpedoed the Prime Minister as he was meeting with Obama by publicizing the fact that the Israeli government had advertised for a new settlement in the southern part of East Jerusalem so as to completely ring the city on the east with Jewish settlements. Netanyahu thought the fact that his government did this in Hebrew somehow made it invisible– “exactly the duplicity” he accuses Palestinians of. Americans for Peace Now has challenged Obama “to immediately intervene and block the plan.” Maybe that means sanctions? J Street has actually found a little spine for once. Years ago it folded on settlements; now it wants Obama to tell Netanyahu that settlements are illegal: “It’s time to make it plain to the Israeli government that continued settlement expansion isn’t just an obstacle to peace, it’s against American interests, American policy, and the Geneva Convention.” And here comes the New York Times, calling Netanyahu a liar for his claim that he remained “committed to the vision of peace for two states, two peoples.”
But don’t worry. Netanyahu has back-up. From Mr. Progressive himself.
— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) October 2, 2014
This is why liberal Zionism is struggling. It failed to organize against rightwing Zionism when it might have made a difference, five years ago, because rightwing Zionism is part of the larger Jewish community and part of the Democratic base. It’s like de Blasio partnering with Netanyahu to build a tech campus in NY. It’s like the liberal Rabbi Susan Talve in St. Louis, fiercely opposing the settlement project while calling occupied Jerusalem Israel and praising AIPAC as necessary to deliver Iron Dome funds to Israel. It’s Barack Obama, standing up for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and for Israeli settlements at AIPAC in 2008 and at the Democratic convention in 2012 and at the Security Council in 2010. The liberal Zionists are part and parcel of the Israel lobby with the rightwingers, and they have been unable to support sanctions against Israel lest they break up that coalition.
I’m thrilled as anyone by the new liberal rage toward Netanyahu. NPR’s Steve Inskeep is another harbinger of this change, tackling the prime minister on his lie that the settlements are in South Jerusalem not East Jerusalem yesterday, and today tackling the PM on his lie that the Arab countries are on Israel’s side against Hamas. But I’m afraid the new liberal consensus will mean nothing politically. The ground has shifted in the wake of the Gaza massacres and the failed peace process and the tremendous psychological division between Israel and the Palestinians that even Dennis Ross admits. Jerusalem has been devoured; Gaza is in rubble; Israel is a militant religious nationalist project. The way to take it on is to oppose the root cause, the ideology of Jewish privilege. Liberal Zionists can’t do that.