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Israel’s upcoming elections and the false nostalgia of Liberal Zionism

Israel/Palestine
on 27 Comments

Recent media reports and opinion pieces of liberal Zionists expressed concerns and discomfort with the rightward shift in Israeli government policies. Apparently, there is a desire for a change in the Israeli government in the hopes of restoring the spirit of 1993 – the Oslo period, or the times of Israel’s founding prime minister. Notably, a piece entitled “Can liberal Zionists count on Hillary Clinton?”, published in the New York Times Magazine (December 17, 2014), articulates the worries of liberal Zionists such as Rabbi Daniel Zemel, who are feeling compromised with respect to their Zionist connection to Israel in light of the Israeli government’s rightward turn. Thomas Friedman’s column in the New York Times (“The Israeli Election Matters”, December 16, 2014) describes the call of Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former chief of defense intelligence, for Israel’s center to run on the core values of its founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. His piece ends by expressing a hope for a prime minister with the “attributes of Ben-Gurion to test and retest whether hope is possible”.

A common thread through these articles, and others like them, is the allusion to an utterly false belief that left-center-wing Israeli governments represent an agenda of peace, positive change, and liberalism. That false association is a red herring and its unexamined pursuit will continue to make peace elusive.

Bringing the Debate to You

As much as it seems that a shift to the center-left would bring greater hope for a real change and better life for us all in Palestine/Israel, Palestinian experiences bring me to believe that the promise of liberal Zionism is illusory, if not outright deceptive. To start with, the first Israeli governments (1948-1977) were Labor Alignment (or Mapai, ‘the Laborers’ party of the Land of Israel’) governments, beginning with David Ben-Gurion and ending with Yitzhak Rabin as prime ministers. These were all considered firmly left-leaning governments. For me, as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, these were the governments that ripped my father’s family apart, planted fear and despair, and turned my people into refugees, internally displaced persons, and second class citizens.

Under these governments, collective punishment, oppression and fear were an immutable part of the daily lives of each and every Palestinian who stayed in their homeland. These governments denied hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland rendering them stateless, confiscated lands and built Jewish-only towns and settlements (including kibbutzim) on the ruins of hundreds of destroyed Palestinian villages. These were the governments that ran a military rule until 1966, under which all Arabs were required to obtain permits for any travel, and political rights were severely restricted especially for political activists. All the histories of Palestinian families in Israel during the period of these supposedly “left-wing” governments would reveal a regime under which Palestinian liberty and equality were systematically eroded, contrary to any basic principles of liberalism. While Israel’s founding fathers like Ben Gurion paid lip service to democratic principles and equal rights for Arab citizens, they had established a system of oppression and institutional discrimination against non-Jewish citizens.

The later intermittent Labor “left” Israeli governments were between 1992-1996 (Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres) and 1999-2001 (Prime Minister Ehud Barak). While these Labor-led governments were more committed to achieving civic equality between Arab and Jewish citizens, especially addressing the vast disparities in allocation of government resources to education and infrastructure, these steps were short-lived and were never intended to address the root causes of our second class citizenship – namely the contradiction between liberal democratic principles and the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.

Moreover, the impetus behind the Oslo Accords, negotiated during the Labor-Meretz government, was to rid the Israeli government of the liability of ruling over millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and to maintain control over 80% of the historic Palestinian homeland. The ultimate goal is to establish a solid Jewish majority that enjoys special privileges and protections including institutional, economic, political and cultural superiority. In other words, the goal of the “left-leaning” political parties in Israel, which are aligned with liberal Zionism, was and remains the protection of Israel’s ethno-religious status as a Jewish state that has a democratic character but not necessarily full commitment to liberal democratic principles such as equality for all and separation of religion and state.

Under this version of the State of Israel, people like Rabbi Daniel Zemel, Thomas Friedman and other self-proclaimed liberal Zionists will have the right as Jews under the Law of Return (1950) to make Aliya (the Zionist word for Jewish immigration to Israel) and gain full citizenship rights overnight simply by setting foot in Israel, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants are denied the right of return to their homeland.

For many liberal Zionists, the next election is about saving Israel from the right wing government that has made it more difficult to defend Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state, in the face of increasingly discriminatory policies and apartheid-like laws enacted against the Palestinian minority – not to mention the perpetration of war crimes and other gross violations of international law against Palestinians living under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. For liberal Zionists like Zemel and Friedman, it might be a matter of feeling good about Zionism while turning a blind eye to ongoing injustices, especially the plight of Palestinian refugees and the second-class citizenship offered to Palestinian citizens.

So I wonder and ask: are these calls by liberal Zionists to “rekindle the spirit of 1993”, for a desired leader “with the attributes of Ben-Gurion to test and retest whether hope is possible”, solely calls for a presentable “liberal” Israeli government, no matter what its policies really are? Or are these calls merely an attempt by liberal Zionists to preserve connections with Israel while ignoring the consequences of its discriminatory nature, that limits liberalism to those who are selected, based on their religion, to connect with Israel as their home? Or perhaps all of these are fabrications of an illusion, that I might take part in as well, to perpetuate the hope that we hold and carry close, believing that these unbearable circumstances will somehow fade away and we will all live happily ever after, if only regional politics will take a more liberal turn?

Zionism by definition defies bedrock principles of liberalism. A philosophy that values and treats every citizen equally despite differences in ethnicity and religion, is fundamentally at odds with a “Jewish state” and therefore liberal Zionism is an oxymoron. If Zemel and Friedman are truly concerned about liberalism and the future of all in Israel, they would do better to address the inherent contradictions between their liberalism and their Zionism. This is the discussion that many progressive Jews (those who are supporting Palestinian human rights) are eager to have, and the American public deserves to engage in, rather than futile arguments about a prime minister who might manage the crisis and make liberal Zionists feel good while actually perpetuating injustice and creating more hate and oppression. It seems that establishing a clear understanding of liberalism and Zionism is absolutely crucial, even beyond fighting the inertia that leaves two contradicting terms entangled as one, if we are ever to begin to establish patterns of true liberalism in my homeland.

Dr. Reem Khamis-Dakwar
About Dr. Reem Khamis-Dakwar

Dr. Reem Khamis-Dakwar is an Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Adelphi University, Long Island, New York. She is an Arab citizen of Israel who was born and raised in Nazareth.

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27 Responses

  1. amigo
    amigo
    December 29, 2014, 12:30 pm

    Bank robbers hide their faces by wearing masks but close scrutiny by skilled investigators will invariably unmask them.

    Some Zionists hide behind the mask of Liberalism but they too are easily unmasked.They are no less criminal that the Zionists who are now openly stating their goals.Someone in the Liberal Zionist camp had better come up with a new description for their group.Liberal no longer passes the smell test.

  2. ramzijaber
    ramzijaber
    December 29, 2014, 5:49 pm

    “The promise of liberal Zionism is illusory, if not outright deceptive”.

    Great article Reem! Thank you.

    You got it 100% right. Liberal zionism is DANGEROUSLY deceptive. As I said here before….. left, right, center, center-left, center-right, extremists, it doesn’t matter. ALL zionists are the same and have the same goal: NO PALESTINIAN STATE. They just go about it differently, with different faces, different words, different superficial acts. But their goal is one.

    What makes it really worse for us is our treasonous leadership. Totally abdicating anything and everything to the zionist occupier including the outsourcing of security operations. What a shame. Just give them their VIP passes and money and they shut up.

    Look what’s happening now at the UNSC. We have a proposed resolution that is TOTALLY aligned with USA and zionist left in occupied Palestine: peace with all Arabs and Moslems, two states, Jerusalem shared with East for capital of Palestine, etc. etc. BUT USA is against because it does not want to finalize a settlement in one year and withdrawal in thee years. UNREAL!

    WHY? One year is more than ample to conclude an agreement. After all, the end has been known for decades. Withdrawal by end of 2017 is more than enough, marking 50 years of the 1967 occupation.

    Abu Mazen is colluding with the zionists and the usa. He wants to rush a vote this week to pretend that he’s doing the right thing for Palestine. In reality, this is all cooked with the us and the zionists. Vote it this week and avoid the us to veto since we will not get 9 votes. But WAITING a few more days will ENSURE that we do get NINE votes and force usa to reveal its true intentions.

    Of course, this is not good for Abu Mazen. He does not want to forfeit his VIP pass and money. He wants to rush the vote now and avoid embarrassing his masters, usa and zionists.

    Sad. Pathetic. Distressing.

    Speak up my compatriots. Act up my compatriots.

    1S1P1V, one state one person one vote – this is the only just, feasible, logical, and sustainable way forward.

  3. jon s
    jon s
    December 30, 2014, 4:54 am

    I must say that this election season is proving to be surprisingly dramatic.

    Initially, when Netanyahu called the elections, it looked like the outcome would be easily predictable, a foregone conclusion: Netanyahu will form the next government, this time with the ultra-orthodox and possibly Kahlon’s new party , instead of Lapid’s and Livni’s parties.

    That outcome may still come to pass, but it’s no certainty. In fact, almost every day has seen new twists and turns, surprises and drama, great days for news junkies like me.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      December 30, 2014, 2:52 pm

      great days for news junkies like me”

      Yeah, sure “Jon s” I bet you’re just loving the Yisrael Beitenu scandal and all the arrests of Likud politicians.

      • jon s
        jon s
        December 31, 2014, 4:29 pm

        More drama today, with the split in Shas and Aryeh Deri’s resignation. Is he bluffing? Also the Likud primaries . Stay tuned…

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        December 31, 2014, 4:35 pm

        Super fascinating news from the back seat of the Israel limo with fighting between Shas and Likud over whether or not to roll down the window. Meanwhile the vehicle is on autopilot headed for the cliff

  4. Bornajoo
    Bornajoo
    December 30, 2014, 6:23 am

    Dear Dr Reem

    Thank you very much for your extremely accurate analysis.

    I fully agree with your comment above Ramzi and thanks for highlighting the treachery on the part of the PA and their collusion in all of this

    Personally I very much hope that Jon S is correct with his prediction about the elections in his comment above. Everyone has been calling the current right wing government the hard right of Israeli politics. I don’t agree. I believe that these people are the real and true face of zionism who are too brutally honest and simply not scared to expose their real views, their true agenda for all to see and hear. The so called liberal left is exactly the same. Their objective is the same but the difference is their approach. They are fundamentally dishonest and insincere because they know that by being honest they will continue to lose support among the international community. So they are the masters of disguise, the masters of intransigence, the masters of the handshakes on the lawns and the masters of the rhetoric that all the zionists and pro israel supporters need so desperately to hear to make them feel better about their ongoing brutal occupation and frequent mass slaughters of the innocents.

    There have been gains for the Palestinian side in recent times but these gains appear to be directly linked to the right wing Israeli governments. In my opinion it would be a disaster if the centre left (so called) did win because they would simply say whatever is necessary to pretend that everything is gong to be alright and everyone will live happily ever after, in order to roll back those gains and regain international support. And it would make the USA feel so comfortable again. They could just go on supporting this rogue state without being embarrassed by these right wing idiots who are so stupidly and unabashedly honest in everything they do. That’s all the USA really wants, they want the illusion of the peace process back. And if that’s what the USA wants then that’s what every other country who actually counts will agree with. But most of all this is what the liberal zionists want to be able to appease their consciences. They feel so vulnerable now that the honest right wingers have so crudely removed their mask

    And what are the two main contenders saying in any case? Livni has said she will not negotiate with Hamas, only the PA. Err..hasn’t she noticed that the PA and Hamas have formed a unity government?? So she’s already put an end to any negotiations now. And both she and Lapid have stated that they will not even consider dividing Jerusalem. Lapid has stated this explicitly while Livni has stated that she will not consider giving up control of the Old City. It’s already a complete non-starter but it has nothing to do with actual peace or actual solutions, it only has to do with reinstating the illusion of peace and get back to the usual status quo.

    So let the Right win, let them have more power than before, let them behave as they really want to behave, let them do what they have been desperate to do for ages and just get on with their true agenda in the time and manner of their choosing. Because this is the real face of zionism on display and it’s only this display that will make the vast majority of the misled, the unaware and the misinformed truly aware of the actual reality on the ground. Then and only then, real change may come. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it has to get a lot worse before it can get better

    • ramzijaber
      ramzijaber
      December 30, 2014, 10:58 am

      Very well said Bornajoo. Thanks for that. Agreed.

      If the “left” wins, it will be back to zero due to the left’s lies and duplicities, and to the west’s and PA’s gullibility (or collusion?), enamoureness, and infatuation with the “left”. Once the “left” wins, the West and PA go back to “trusting” and “believing” them and another 50 years will pass by with nothing.

      But you know, come to think of it, since 1S1P1V is the only path forward as I see it, maybe we need the “left” to fool the world for the next several years so 1S1P1V becomes a reality. According to PCBS, in 2017, Palestinians will outnumber Israeli Jews in Historic Palestine.

      http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/site/512/default.aspx?tabID=512&lang=en&ItemID=1292&mid=3171&wversion=Staging

      1S1P1V – the only just, fair, logical, feasible, achievable, and sustainable way forward.

      • Bornajoo
        Bornajoo
        December 30, 2014, 11:54 am

        Thanks for the link Ramzi. This contradicts what Feiglin claims in the video. He says that even without paying Palestinians to leave the stats are on the side of the Jews. But these statistics tell the real story. And he and his kind are surely aware of thereal facts hence the panic in thinking of new and sinister ways of how to get rid of the Palestinians asap.

        I fully agree that 1S1P1V is the only just and proper way forward but I’m afraid I’m way too pessimistic to believe it will ever happen. They will come up with some devious nasty way to try and expel as many as possible. It will be based on so called security. I just really hope I’m wrong but the last 30 years has forced me to believe they are capable of absolutely anything

      • Bornajoo
        Bornajoo
        December 30, 2014, 1:42 pm

        Ramzi. Back to that word “collusion”
        As I’m writing this I’ve just read that the UK has stated it will not support the Palestinian statehood bid. This is after the USA has already said it will not support it.

        So why are the Palestinians rushing it through right NOW? In a very short time there will be new members (including Spain, Venezuela and Malaysia) in the Security Council who would definitely support the bid and give them the minimum 9 votes required which would force either the USA or UK to use their veto. But forcing it through now appears to be an actual attempt to sabotage the bid by giving it no chance at all. It will fail without any need for any veto which is the worst possible outcome.

        The only conclusion I can think of is that the pa wants it to fail. Why? Even the Jordanians have said they don’t want to rush it and need more time

        Am I missing something here?

      • ramzijaber
        ramzijaber
        December 30, 2014, 5:42 pm

        Bornajoo, there you have it……. COLLUSION. UNSC voting results: 8 YES. usa escapes veto thanks to abbas.

        Waiting TWO days would have forced the us to veto and show its true colors.

        The outcome of this resolution was never in doubt: fail to pass either by not having the nine threshold or by a us veto. The matter by which it failed is critical. Now we know thanks to the treasonous abba and pa.

        what next??? the only redemption for abbas is to file tomorrow morning for ICC and ICJ and ALL other UN agencies.

        O Palestinians, my brothers and sisters, what has happened to us?????

        1S1P1V. As President Arafat always said: we will win Palestine through the womb not war. Demographics is the true coming tsunami.

      • Bornajoo
        Bornajoo
        December 30, 2014, 7:09 pm

        Ramzi
        I’m genuinely shocked. This was an absolute and deliberate ploy to prevent embarrassing the USA from having to cast their veto. This is like some theatre show where everything is worked out beforehand; followed by all the usual crap lies and clichés but it was so fricking obvious it’s almost unbelievable

        The only chance that this could have happened was by rushing the vote in right now before the new member states had joined up in 2 days from now. Israel and the USA knew full well that they could pressure Africa and Rwanda and and so did the PA! They were all working closely together to achieve this outcome. The whole thing is just one big game, a farce, a staged play for the dumb masses

        Abbas and Erekat are zionist stooges. Now I fully understand where Hamas is coming from.

        I saw the Palestinian papers on Al Jazeera and have read about this and have been reminded by certain commentators including you and Walid …. But it’s still a shock to see it happen so blatantly.

        This subject needs to be looked into in more detail

  5. NickJOCW
    NickJOCW
    December 30, 2014, 6:30 am

    It has long seemed to me there are two quite separate issues and conflating them obfuscates both. The first is getting Israel out of the occupied territories, all of them out of all of them. The second is the Israeli treatment of its non Jewish citizens. They should get the hell out of the occupied land, and treat all their citizens equally and I have never understood what there is to negotiate about either. Zionism may well be the motivation for Israel’s behaviour but I don’t see what motives have to do with it since no motive. not even convinced faith in a flat earth, justifies occupation. Kerry is again rabbiting on about Israel’s security, which is absurd as anyone with eyes and ears sees it is the Palestinians’ security which is undermined to the point of non-existence.

    • MHughes976
      MHughes976
      December 30, 2014, 1:15 pm

      Absolutely agree about the half-racist, half plain inhuman indifference to the security and dignity of the Palestinians.
      I see the logic of the situation slightly differently. On Zionist views there is no occupation, there is simply redemption of Jewish land regrettably full of people with no right to be there. Zionism is a claim to the whole Holy Land: any redefinition of Zionism that permitted sharing in any sense, ie accepted that some other claim had validity equal to the Jewish one would destroy the whole moral (supposedly moral) case for everything Israel has done. How could the Palestinians have been excluded in the first place if they had as much right to be there as Jewish people have?
      Belief in rights which exist specifically on grounds of ancestry or religion is very difficult to reconcile with liberalism in the sense of belief that all political rights arise from having the human endowment of senses, emotions and reason.

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        December 30, 2014, 1:40 pm

        “Belief in rights which exist specifically on grounds of ancestry or religion is very difficult to reconcile with liberalism in the sense of belief that all political rights arise from having the human endowment of senses, emotions and reason.”

        Israeli rights are based on the application of violence more than anything else. There is no legal basis to Zionism. And that means it will more than likely end violently.
        Because those are the rules which established it.
        Like the Mamluks. They had some great days but the end was dreadful.

  6. NickJOCW
    NickJOCW
    December 30, 2014, 7:46 am

    OT. Palestine playing Japan in the Asian cup on Monday, January 12, in Newcastle Australia.

    https://www.facebook.com/AFC2015PalestineSupportGroup
    http://www.afcasiancup.com/match-schedule

    • annie
      annie
      December 30, 2014, 8:50 am

      oh exciting nick. and did you know:

      • ramzijaber
        ramzijaber
        December 30, 2014, 11:00 am

        Very well done Palestino. You make us proud.

  7. Kathleen
    Kathleen
    December 30, 2014, 11:52 am

    No way you can logically put liberal in front of Zionist and have it make sense. Diametrically opposed.

  8. Kathleen
    Kathleen
    December 30, 2014, 11:54 am

    “in the hopes of restoring the spirit of 1993 – the Oslo period ” you mean that period of time that illegal settlements grew by leaps and bounds

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen
      December 30, 2014, 11:59 am

      Nailed it.. “So I wonder and ask: are these calls by liberal Zionists to “rekindle the spirit of 1993”, for a desired leader “with the attributes of Ben-Gurion to test and retest whether hope is possible”, solely calls for a presentable “liberal” Israeli government, no matter what its policies really are? Or are these calls merely an attempt by liberal Zionists to preserve connections with Israel while ignoring the consequences of its discriminatory nature, that limits liberalism to those who are selected, based on their religion, to connect with Israel as their home? Or perhaps all of these are fabrications of an illusion, that I might take part in as well, to perpetuate the hope that we hold and carry close, believing that these unbearable circumstances will somehow fade away and we will all live happily ever after, if only regional politics will take a more liberal turn? ”

      Thank you!

  9. seafoid
    seafoid
    December 30, 2014, 1:45 pm

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/53992380-9017-11e4-a0e5-00144feabdc0.html

    “Jordan has submitted a resolution on Palestinian statehood to the UN despite strong objections from Israel and the US, which has hinted it will veto the measure if it is brought to a vote.

    The draft resolution, backed by other Arab countries and submitted to the UN Security Council late on Monday, calls for a peace deal with Israel within a year on the basis of its pre-1967 borders and an Israeli military withdrawal from Palestinian land within three years.

    The measure marks a shift in the Palestinians’ strategy away from US-brokered peace talks and toward the internationalisation of their decades-old conflict with Israel. However, Israel and the US have warned that the resolution will make a negotiated end to the conflict less likely.

    The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in April amid acrimony over Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s political reconciliation with the militant Islamist group Hamas and Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem throughout the talks and cancellation of a planned prisoner release.

    The resolution would need nine votes in the Security Council to pass. On Monday the US, a permanent member of the council, gave the clearest indication yet that if this were to happen it would exercise its Jewish money veto, as it has many times in the past to block UN resolutions critical of Israel.”

    LOL at “making a negotiated settlement less likely”. Like a negotiated settlement was ever going to happen. Zionist thuggery . They must be so proud. This is what 2 millennia of Jews prayed for .

    • eljay
      eljay
      December 30, 2014, 2:16 pm

      >> seafoid: LOL at “making a negotiated settlement less likely”. Like a negotiated settlement was ever going to happen.

      Once he’s done with her, the rapist has every intention of killing his victim and dumping the body. Nevertheless, he warns that any attempt to free his victim will make a negotiated end to the conflict less likely.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      December 30, 2014, 2:55 pm

      ” This is what 2 millennia of Jews prayed for .”

      Absolutely! I mean, if both Sean and Yonah agree on it, it must be true!

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        December 30, 2014, 3:18 pm

        They thought of Jerusalem ever Friday after turning off the lift for Shabbat and turning off the electricity over 1500 years ago starting then every Friday without fail and prayed to be able to torture goys and make women deliver babies at checkpoints in the rain.

        and God said WTF – not again, my people, you dumb F%cks. Didn’t I tell you about this in the old testament already ?

  10. Sibiriak
    Sibiriak
    December 30, 2014, 10:37 pm

    Ramzi Jaber: “Waiting TWO days would have forced the us to veto and show its true colors.”

    ——

    The U.S. voted against the resolution; it’s true colors have been and continue to be fully visible.

  11. ramzijaber
    ramzijaber
    December 31, 2014, 12:46 pm

    President Abbas signed the ICC and 20 other organizations. Game changer, hopefully.

    Good end to the year. Happy New Year!!

    VIVA PALESTINA!!!!!!

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