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Liberal Zionist arguments against one state are born of moral or political weakness

on 24 Comments

A recent post here in Mondoweiss printed Michael Manekin and Peter Beinart’s sunless one-state prognostications. They claim equal rights in Palestine can’t work. Their arguments are bad – and they make bad arguments in service of Jewish privilege in Palestine.

Before addressing the arguments themselves however, it’s worth considering The Cult of the Sober-Minded Analyst. You know them when you see them – the men and women who employ a gravitas-laden manner of speech to make a point. They overlay stentorian pronouncements with a patina of foreboding. It’s supposed to be impressive when people do it but it’s really just masque; bluster can’t supplant intellectual or moral authority, particularly when its real purpose is to dismiss alternative views as “unserious.”

Anyway, the arguments:

Manekin claims that one state is a “fantasy.” He doesn’t use the word “solution” because he regards it as inapplicable, now and forever, it seems.

In fact, Palestine/Israel is already one country. It’s just a state riven by deep apartheid and a doctrinal belief held by one half of its inhabitants that they are the just beneficiaries of racial privilege. It’s an odious outlook but one that (some) Zionists proclaim accords with humanist values. They project a crimson light through the year 1945 to color our present-day reality. The rest of us, meanwhile, struggle to draw breath in 2015.

The second argument goes to “safety.” In honesty, I struggle to suppress my deep and abiding contempt for Zionism when its supporters argue for apartheid through the evocation of personal insecurity. All things flow from the suppurating wounds of 1948. The savage occupation and apartheid regime guarantee the abscess’s continued productiveness. But a spirt of generosity dictates that the arguments are addressed in good faith.

So: If you want “safety” dismantle your apartheid regime. Commit your efforts in forums and conference calls to defunding and dismantling the vicious “reality on the ground.” Spend less time worrying about the maintenance of your Jewish privilege in Palestine. It’s an ugly thing that only you and a dwindling number of wan zealots really believe in.

The last point Manekin makes is about the army. How can an army work in a single shared state, he asks. There’s a subtext here. “How can an army that spent decades savaging, pillaging, dispossessing, and murdering work in a shared state?” The right answer is that it can’t. Like every implement of apartheid it will have to be reformed just like the army in South Africa (if not Iraq) was. It also stands to reason that the army’s role will be diminished in society – since it will no longer be charged with oppressing the apartheid subjects of the state.

The spirit of the question – the psychological frame necessary for its issue by anyone – is of more serious concern than the question and its answer are. It seems to assume a static or reactionary posture whereby an individual’s (or civil society’s) efforts and real social and political outcomes are untethered to anything, much less to one another. History unfolds. And the efforts of ordinary humans to shape it are ineffectual. In other words, Jewish-Israelis like Jewish privilege in Palestine, so why bother?

It is unlikely that Manekin and Beinart really believe that they are powerless – they wouldn’t engage in Zionist advocacy if they did. Rather, their message appears to be targeted at activists who would work for true equality. “Don’t do it,” they seem to say, “It’s just too hard. Plus, my safety… and it’s dangerous…”

Ultimately it’s an argument born of moral or political weakness. It’s a reflection of unacknowledged personal disempowerment (who, after all, is more irrelevant at this stage than “liberal Zionists?”). It amounts to pleading, “I do not have the power to shape events, but please, don’t you either.” It’s an argument that would cause Theodor Herzl, once a politically-empowered racist in Palestine, to lament the desiccated state of his intellectual inheritors today.

And that’s the real story here. We are in the privileged position to watch a loathsome and once-fierce intellectual movement wither in full public view. The unimaginative and embarrassing reactions to student activity on college campuses belie a childish and petulant view of Zionist exceptionalism. Truly, they’ve trundled a long way from, “If you terrorize them, they will come.”

Ahmed Moor

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American who was born in the Gaza Strip. He is a PD Soros Fellow, co-editor of After Zionism and co-founder and CEO of Twitter: @ahmedmoor

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24 Responses

  1. pabelmont on February 20, 2015, 2:27 pm

    A not-so-liberal (or not-so-“liberal”) (or more honest) Zionist might say that 1SS (other than like the present apartheid version) cannot succeed because Israeli-Jews have become so viciously and so outspokenly racist against Arabs that if a supposedly democratic 1SS should somehow come into existence, it would immediately be riven by racist civil-war — a replay of 1948 with a Zionist “need” to be protected from the holocaust and European hatred of Jews generally replaced by a Zionist “need” to be protected from Arabs, never mind that (alleged, perhaps exaggerated) Arab hatred of Zionism and Israeli-Jews was manufactured by Zionist behavior (1930-present).

    And with something of an out-flow of non-racist Israeli-Jews to Europe and elsewhere, the Israeli-Jews who will remain will tend to be even more racist (and personally violent) than Israeli-Jews are, on the whole, today.

    Really, I have never read that Palestinian-Jewish racist hatred and violence was anything like what it is today back in the halcyon days of 1930-1945, say. Rather, there was some violence from Arab farmers pushed off the land their families had tended for generations when the land was sold by absentee landlords. But better-informed may educate me and us all.

    • Mooser on February 20, 2015, 3:11 pm

      “And with something of an out-flow of non-racist Israeli-Jews to Europe and elsewhere, the Israeli-Jews who will remain will tend to be even more racist (and personally violent) than Israeli-Jews are, on the whole, today.”

      Than I guess they will, indeed, go away mad, instead of just going away.

    • DaveS on February 20, 2015, 11:26 pm

      Peter, as the invaluable Hasbara Buster has pointed out, there were many notable instances of Jewish (pre-Israel) terrorism against Arab civilians in the 1930’s.

  2. wondering jew on February 20, 2015, 3:30 pm

    “They project a crimson light on history until 1945”. Really Ahmed Moor, do they really need to project a crimson light? You do not discern that light, but only see the crimson a result of a projection?
    Gimme a break.

    Yes, we are in 2015.

    And you apparently separate the Palestinian struggle from the Arab world. The Arab world is in turmoil and that is a kind word. (There are many causes for this turmoil, but few solutions.) Of course you are here to attack liberal Zionists and including the sad state of affairs in the Arab world does not help your argument, therefore the primary argument of the nonliberal Zionists is simply omitted. Liberal zionists are engaged in two losing battles under current circumstances: losing against Netanyahu (nonliberal Zionists) and losing against the world opposition towards the occupation of 67.

    Which brings us back to 48. Yes, it needs to be mentioned and remembered again and again. but my upshot comes to the following: 67 years later you can only scoff at Jews who want an army in Israel and scoff at Jewish history. You can only offer an analogy to South Africa which seems like some paper written by academician and nothing to do with reality in Israel.

    Scoffing is the first step towards dialogue? I don’t think so.

    • Mooser on February 21, 2015, 11:11 am

      “Scoffing is the first step towards dialogue? I don’t think so.”

      You are right, as usual. Before we go asking for dialogue, we should work on the Jewish birth-rate, and even more important, the Jewish retention-rate, and the Jewish out-marriage rate! Get those humming, and we will be in a much better position to “dialogue”.

      Lemme’ tell you, Yonah, with the people we got now as our “Jewish Leaders” all anybody has to do is wait about twenty more years and we will be gone. Work out the math, Yonah.

      • Mooser on February 21, 2015, 11:27 am

        Btw, Yonah, I notice you can’t write a comment now without acknowledging both original sins: ’67 and ’48! Good for you!
        Yonah, you bring your carefully cultivated, almost pathological suggestibility around here, the results are inevitable. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
        Be nice, of course, if you could be convinced instead, but that ain’t happening.

  3. Shingo on February 20, 2015, 4:41 pm

    Superb piece.

    Every argument is articulated in a way better than I myself could – especially the last point about how Zionism had led to the atrophy of intellect by it’s members.

    • just on February 20, 2015, 5:17 pm

      Seconded, Shingo!

      Take a bow for justice, Ahmed! Kudos on this piece~ you speak for me in this instance.

      “Liberal Zionist arguments against one state are born of moral or political weakness”

      I’d say it was both. There is also pesky disingenuousness at play. I still believe that “liberal Zionism/Zionist” is an oxymoron.

      • lysias on February 20, 2015, 5:24 pm

        I still believe that “liberal Zionism/Zionist” is an oxymoron.

        Like “humanitarian intervention”.

      • just on February 20, 2015, 5:34 pm


      • Mooser on February 20, 2015, 5:35 pm

        I liked the article a lot. And unlike me, he’s civil about it.

    • Laurent Weppe on February 20, 2015, 5:57 pm

      Every argument is articulated in a way better than I myself could – especially the last point about how Zionism had led to the atrophy of intellect by it’s members.

      Institutional privilege tends to eventually turn its beneficiaries into drooling idiots: why make any intellectual effort when you can use the powerful blunt instrument of stately violence to crush the populace into submission? Why make any attempt at finding new answers when you know that merely proposing non-conformist solutions will make you the extremists’ next target?

  4. American on February 20, 2015, 7:16 pm

    Excellent, excellent piece.
    Like a drink of sparkling ice water in a desert of parched hasbara.

  5. DaveS on February 20, 2015, 11:41 pm

    I join the chorus of appreciation of your brilliant essay, Ahmed. While people like Manekin and Beinart reject one state of equal citizens for supposedly insurmountable difficulties like the uncertain composition of the army or the loss of a safe haven for world Jewry, they do not seem to be troubled by consigning millions of people permanently to a second-class existence in the land of their birth and even the country of their citizenship. No, they can live with that, even if they would (rightfully) be outraged if any other country on Earth treated its Jewish population precisely the way Israel treats its non-Jews.

    There is another prominent liberal Zionist argument not discussed here because it was not proffered by either Manekin or Beinart: the idea that Israeli Jews have shown themselves to be so stubborn about ending the occupation and accepting a true two-state solution; they would never agree to a one-state solution that requires dissolution of the Jewish State. This reasoning suffers from the same moral and political weakness.

  6. just on February 21, 2015, 8:00 am

    Gilad Atzmon (from 2/14/2015)

    “I was born in Israel and it was many years before I realized that Israel was Palestine. I was relatively patriotic. I was looking forward to serving in the army and then I grasped that there was little truth in the Jewish historical narrative. I then gathered that I was living on someone else’s land. At the same time I discovered the saxophone. By the age of 30, I left Israel and never went back.

    Q: You were born in Israel but you are against Israeli occupation and its politics. You are living in the West, how do you cope?

    A: Let me tell you something and it is crucial. In my entire career, I have never been subject to abuse by the British government, never been subject to abuse by the American government. Although the infamous Alan Dershowitz, who is now implicated in a huge sex scandal with minors, labelled me ‘as the number one enemy of the Jewish people,’ I’ve never been subject to direct abuse by the Israeli government. Even the NSA doesn’t harass me. The only people who stalk me continuously are the Jewish left and the Guardian newspaper. I can say that it’s not a problem but I came to the realization that the biggest enemy of our elementary freedoms are the progressives and I’ll explain why.

    In the West and maybe in Turkey as well, we have issues with political correctness. What is political correctness? Political correctness is politics that doesn’t allow political opposition. But this is clearly the definition we associate with dictatorship. But political correctness is far worse than dictatorship. Why? Because in the case of dictatorship you experience an opposition to a regime that is distinct from you, but in the case of political correctness it is you who silence yourself. Political Correctness is a form of self-censorship. The Jewish left and the progressives made us into a collective of impotents. Our task is to move on and to erect our resistance against this cancerous ideology.

    Q: Can we separate Judaism from Zionism
    A: No. Israel isn’t called the ‘Zionist State,’ it defines itself as the ‘Jewish State.’ The parties in the government are called “Israel Our Home” and the “Jewish Home” not the “Zionist Home”*. Now the Israeli cabinet has approved the National Bill that defines Israel as the Jewish state not the Zionist state. Zionism from an Israeli perspective died in 1948. Zionism was a promise to erect a Jewish state in Zion (Palestine). Once, Israel was established, Zionism was finished with its role. The only people who maintain the Zionist nonsense are the Jewish left because they want to differentiate between Jewishness and Zionism. This is why they call Israel colonialism. But Israel is not colonialism. Colonialism is a clear exchange between a mother state and a settler state. Israel is a settler state, yet there is no Jewish mother state. This is why they call it apartheid. Israel in not apartheid: Apartheid is a racist system of exploitation. But Israel doesn’t want to exploit the Palestinians, it wants them gone. Israel is a Hitlerian ethnic cleansing model. The Left uses the terms ‘Colonialism’, ‘Zionism’, and ‘Apartheid’ in an attempt to divert attention from the ‘J’ word. For solidarity with Palestine to be meaningful, we have to de-Judify our terminology. Not to kick out the Jews, but to prevent Jewish interests from defining the boundaries of the discussion.

    Q: Can we see Israel and Palestine as two states?

    A: No.

    Q: Will the Palestinians be able to return to their county?

    A: This is what they are fighting for. And any person who doesn’t accept the right of return is not a genuine supporter.

    Q: What do you think about what Ahmadinejad said about the Holocaust?

    A: I agree 100 percent with everything Ahmadinejad said about the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad basically said that Holocaust must be treated as a historical chapter. At the moment it is treated as a religion. And if it is a religion I want to maintain my right to be an atheist. In contemporary Judified reality it is OK not to believe in God but if you don’t believe in Auschwitz you will be penalised and severely. I don’t accept it.

    Q: What does the US gain from supporting Israel?

    A: We cannot think of America as an independent entity anymore. America’s political system is a Jewish occupied zone. America, Britain, France, [and generally] the West woke up one morning to realize that there was a loop hole in their legal system that facilitated the ability of invasive foreign lobbies such as AIPAC, CFI, CRIF to interfere with their foreign affairs. America has sacrificed its foreign interests on the Jewish alter. It is a disaster. But history teaches us that this Jewish political impunity always comes to an end in a totally tragic circumstance….”

    more @

    also @

    • American on February 21, 2015, 10:13 am

      Re Atzmon

      I realize the PTB at MW dont like Atzmon but I do not read him as an anti semite, self hating jew or holocaust ‘denier’.
      The worst I would say about him is he might enjoy his notoriety a bit too much.
      I think he’s a myth buster mostly.

      This comment may go down the rabbit hole per the policy of no criticism of jewishness or jewish culture which is what Atzmon does and advocates. But he is right imo, the left or so called progressives still maintain a absolute firewall against examination of anything in jewish culture/tradition, whatever you want to call it , that existed before official zionism and may have played a part in many Jews embracing it.
      IMO the victim and special nation/group of people firewall doesn’t allow normal or rational examination. Why? Only two reasons I can think of—-those who object and won’t allow it believe it would encourage anti semitism—and then some Do Want to maintain the illusion of their people being a special and completely innocent people for their own agenda or ego.
      Every other culture/ group I can think of has been dissected, had its innards exposed, condemned or praised for various traits and collective attitudes at one time or another.
      The white group culture has certainly been in the petri dish and has taken a beating for decades, as have the Christians, now the Muslim Islamic culture is getting the same treatment.
      I object to examination of cultures that are just for demonizing but not to exposing what needs to be ‘owned up to’ or changed in a group.
      I see all the time on here for example Palestine activist who rail against Israeli aggression and also rail against any collective blaming of jews—-and then turn around in their comparisons of Isr’s occupation to Jim Crow ‘Southern culture’ and ‘collectively’ condemn Southerners. As a southerner I see the hypocrisy but I shrug it off, its not worth correcting or explaning how the South came to its own necessary self examination.

      The point being if a group won’t allow or examine its own cultural negatives then whatever the problems are will continue. The hypocrisy in this taboo does not work.

      • Mooser on February 23, 2015, 3:54 pm

        “—-and then turn around in their comparisons of Isr’s occupation to Jim Crow ‘Southern culture’ and ‘collectively’ condemn Southerners. As a southerner I see the hypocrisy but I shrug it off, its not worth correcting or explaning how the South came to its own necessary self examination.”

        I know, all that stuff about the South having a system of legal segregation and nearly re-instituting black slavery through the penal system is just a Northern myth. And of course, the pernicious myth of different standards of justice for the two and even accusations of a different value of lives. And nobody will admit it was stopped by self examination. We persist in saying it was Federal intervention. Pure hypocrisy, and I’m as bad as the rest about it.

    • ziusudra on February 21, 2015, 11:06 am

      Re.: just,
      Thank you, just.
      He, Gilad Atzmon not only has a brillant & beautiful mind, he also has Menschkeit.
      No one can convince me that He & others are only a minescule minority under 14 mn of World Jewry. There are millions!
      PS The Dersch must hate him all the more for qualities of which he has none.

    • Mooser on February 21, 2015, 11:17 am

      Gilad Atzmon, if this is a typical example (and it’s dated 2/14/15 so it is, if nothing else, recent) has really tuned up his talk! He’s not hitting all of the sour notes, false octaves and spurious harmonics which used to jump out now and then.

      • Mooser on February 23, 2015, 3:42 pm

        “The worst I would say about him is he might enjoy his notoriety a bit too much.”

        He seems to have gotten more tightly focused, and as I haven’t read anything of his in a long time (since his review of Sands “How I Stopped…”) this sure does seem a lot better, to me, anyway.

  7. JLWarner on February 21, 2015, 8:41 pm

    I am surprised at your obfuscation. Your response to Manekin and Beinart seems to assume that the alternative to a democratic single state is the present apartheid situation. You know that is not true – both favor a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

    • Mooser on February 22, 2015, 1:29 pm

      “both favor a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

      Sound’s great. I can only assume you are talking about the original 1948 partition and Israel’s declaration of Stateness to define the area called “Israel”?
      And all Israel has to do is get back inside it, for a start.

    • eljay on February 22, 2015, 2:17 pm

      || JLWarner: … both favor a Palestinian state alongside Israel. ||

      – both favour Israel as a supremacist “Jewish State”; and
      – neither favours Israel within its / Partition borders.

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