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You can’t save Israel from itself by appropriating BDS

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Last weekend the Washington Post published an article supporting boycott of Israel written by two scholars who identified themselves as lifelong Zionists, Steven Levitsky at Harvard and Glen Weyl formerly of the University of Chicago now at Microsoft. Omar Barghouti had this response to the article, which he allowed us to publish.

A remarkable and very courageous, I must admit, article that helps to shatter some of the important myths and misrepresentations propagated by “soft” Zionists in the US and elsewhere about boycotting Israel.

The authors are self-declared Zionists. Their view, therefore, suffers from the same two ills that afflict all Zionist arguments: selective amnesia and deep-seated, irredeemable racism.

This article below, like almost all Zionist writings, conveniently forgets the Nakba and the fact that the current Zionist state of Israel was criminally built on the ruins of Palestinian society and the ethnic cleansing of more than half of the indigenous Palestinian people.

It also adopts the view that Palestinians, from a typical racist and utilitarian Zionist perspective, do not per se deserve equal human rights to the rest of humans. They should be “given” some rights only when doing so is safely expected to improve Israel’s image and entrench its regime of oppression.

Yet, these two authors take the tough love, or pressure Israel to “save” it, argument to the next level. They make a strong case for a full boycott of Israel, demolishing the typical soft Zionist argument that only a boycott of “the occupation” is allowed and going beyond that takes one — intentionally or not — into “anti-Semitic” territory.

Like all committed — yet apparently confused or questioning — Zionists, the authors of this qualitatively new line of thinking still base their endorsement of an Israel boycott on the “saving Israel from itself” motive but with an interesting and far-reaching twist.

Rational Zionists have for years been advocating for an end to the Israeli occupation of most of the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory — usually skipping East Jerusalem and other integral parts of the OPT — to avoid the ethically “corrupting” effects of the occupation on the otherwise “ethical” Israel and its “soul.” It’s funny, in a painful way, when settler-colonialists speak of a noble soul that they strive to nourish and protect from corruption.

Ethnically cleansing about 800,000 Palestinians and destroying more than 530 of our villages, often deploying massacres and unspeakable horrors, are not considered a blemish on this soul. As the Israeli historian Benny Morris once said, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” While a truism, this argument, I believe, assumes that you are breaking your own eggs, not those you stole from someone else!

Corrupting the Zionist soul aside, the other, often unarticulated but omnipresent Zionist goal, is demographic — getting rid of more than 4 million indigenous Palestinians in order to entrench the Jewish colonial majority in the entire land of historic Palestine.

Here’s how PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, views this argument:

“After failing to slow the spread of BDS, motivated by genuine fear of the demise of Zionism, and with an explicit ‘save apartheid Israel’ agenda, some so-called left-leaning Zionists have recently tried to muddy the waters by suggesting a Zionist-friendly boycott to undermine the Palestinian-led BDS movement, which is attracting an increasing number of younger Jewish activists in the West, especially on college campuses.  BDS is an ethically-consistent rights-based movement that is anchored in international law and universal human rights. As such, BDS rejects and cannot coexist with racism of any type, including Zionism. A ‘Zionist BDS’ is as logical as a ‘racist equality’!

“BDS is not about saving Israel as an apartheid state, giving up some occupied lands that are densely populated by Palestinians to make Israel a more pure apartheid, and to prolong the life of this apartheid for several more years. BDS is all about achieving Palestinian rights, paramount among which is the inalienable right to self determination, by ending Israel’s three-tiered system of colonial and racial oppression: colonialism, occupation and apartheid.”

The fresh and possibly unprecedented line of argumentation offered in this Washington Post article, however, goes as far as justifying hitherto taboo, “extreme” means to achieve the same Zionist end of maintaining a purer apartheid regime. Boycotting Israel as a whole, according to this new Zionist thinking, is the terribly bitter pill that one if obliged to take in order to truly “save” Israel.

A mere boycott of  settlements, the argument implies, cannot suffice, as it is at best too weak to produce the desired level of pressure that can force Israel to end — most of — its 1967 occupation, get rid of millions of undesired “Arabs” who present a demographic threat, and consequently save its settler-colonial “soul.”

This new Zionist thinking clears the waters like never before. It is the goals of BDS, far more than its tactics and strategies, that must be fought by all means. Freedom, equality and justice, which would necessarily entail ending Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid, are the ultimate “evil” that Zionists of all shades — and degree of softness — must fight by all means, they argue.

A few years after BDS was launched by the absolute majority of Palestinian parties, unions and networks in 2005, there were some patently arrogant, patronizing soft Zionist attempts, mostly Israeli and American, to present an alternative leadership for BDS to the Palestinian (BNC) leadership, the broadest coalition in Palestinian society. That alternative, more “kosher” leadership was to be more “rational” and “modern” and therefore more open to dropping the second and third demands of the BDS call to limit Palestinian rights to ending the 1967 occupation. That, they argued,  was the most pragmatic — and therefore ethical! — course of action to advocate.

Needless to say, that attempt failed to impress anyone except those in the soon-to-become-extinct ranks of the Zionist “left.”

So a new, smarter, more nuanced Zionist attempt must be made that appropriates some of the ungodly tools of BDS, like boycotting Israel as a whole, to undermine its goals and save Israel from imminent collapse as a system.

The problem with this new attempt, although it is certainly more intelligent, is that it still ignores the huge elephant in the room. Ending the 1967 occupation, even if it included East Jerusalem, at best addresses most of the rights of only 38% of the Palestinian people — those living in the OPT. What of the UN-stipulated rights of the remaining 62% of the Palestinian people (12% are citizens of current Israel and 50% are in exile, who are entitled to their right of return)?

And what of the right of return of more than 40% of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who were ethnically cleansed during the Nakba and denied their right to go home?

As I’ve argued before, soft Zionists have a compulsive addiction to advocating for a liberal racist society, to a squared circle, that is, and when they fail to do so, they try new ways rather than give up, thus losing many who see the light on the way. No wonder they are becoming extinct, and young Jewish support for BDS keeps rising.

Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. He is a co-recipient of the 2017 Gandhi Peace Award.

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50 Responses

  1. pabelmont on October 30, 2015, 11:29 am

    Wonderful argument.

    To all you’ve said I’d add that the Zionist-inspired “save Israel from itself emotional explanation for full-BDS” intended to save Israel as an apartheid colonial racist still-and-forever-ethnically-cleansed entity is not a necessity only for Liberal Zionists (too fuzzy to approve of the post-1967 occupation/settlement/land-grab but still so stern or confused as to approve of Israel as the fruit of 1947-49).

    It is something more: it is also, importantly in the USA, a requirement (or so it seems to me) for publication of the lib-Zionist explanation in WaPo. It’s part of the program called: “only Zionist Jews are allowed to discuss Israel in the USA by American MSM”.

    A tad better than nothing though to see a liberal Zionist call for full-BDS even if its motivation (and motivational explanation in WaPo) is racist colonialist etc. etc. etc. ad naus.

    On the other hand, consider: if all the Liberal Zionists in the USA energetically supported full-BDS and many of them said so, in the Forward and NYT, etc., and if other Americans saw that “the Jews” or “all the Jews” (as they misguidedly supposed, for not all Zionists are Liberal Zs) now support full-BDS and if these other Americans did so as well, then what we’d have is — gasp! — full-BDS in America. Not half bad! So maybe the motivation doesn’t matter so much as the “act”.

    Nevertheless, of course try to publish a Palestinian view of the importance of full BDS.

  2. eljay on October 30, 2015, 11:55 am

    Less-hardy Zio-supremacists like jon s (and RW before him) despise and object to justice, accountability and equality. They prefer a “peace” that:
    – allows Israel to remain a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
    – absolves Israel of its obligations under international law and of its past and on-going (war) crimes.

    But their proposed “peace” doesn’t guarantee that Zio-supremacists will never again commit acts of injustice and immorality against non-Jews in Israel. As “liberal Zionist” RW once pointed out quite eloquently:

    “I cannot consistently say that ‘ethnic cleansing is never necessary’.”

    “Currently its [sic] not necessary.”

    • Rashers2 on November 2, 2015, 9:16 am

      Anyone who cannot (whether ‘consistently’ – whatever that means in this context?! – or simply as a statement of their understanding of what is right and what is wrong) say that, ‘ethnic cleansing is never necessary,’ tells all that one needs to know about them…..

  3. W.Jones on October 30, 2015, 12:37 pm

    I am not sure whether this argument applies to the Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation as well.

    Electronic Intifada has a similarly forceful article:

    The term solidarity — much like co-existence — is so overused in the liberal Zionist discourse as to render it meaningless…. Can every instance of Israelis flocking to the streets chanting “End the occupation” be blithely described as solidarity? …Many argue, though, that struggling shoulder-to-shoulder with Zionist leftists widens the support base for Palestine and provides Palestinians with an opportunity to debate and convince the other side. This would be true if Zionists viewed Palestinians as equal partners but they do not. …A “joint” Palestinian-Zionist march does not offer an opportunity to engage in a productive dialogue; it rather gives Zionists one more chance to marginalize Palestinians’ voices and lecture Palestinians on how they should resist and what they should accept. …For all their activism, they have failed to fully embrace the Palestinian public and get it involved. Their demonstrations are dominated by white, secular liberal Zionists and the Palestinian voice, which they supposedly want to make heard, is inaudible amid a chorus of Hebrew-language chants about peace and coexistence.

    On one hand, the US Campaign to End the Occupation does say that it supports the refugees’ rights to their land, and that it is against discrimination in Israeli society. Doesn’t a major part of the “liberal Zionist” movement accept these as well, proposing that the right of return, which they recognize, should be compensated financially? If these positions are the same, then does the US Campaign to End the Occupation contradict or fully accord with Solidarity and real equality (as opposed to “Separate but Equal”?

    The main difference I see is that Liberal Zionism explicitly promotes the state’s system, while the US Campaign to End the Occupation does not take a position on Zionism. If the US Campaign to End the Occupation takes a clear position on it, then what is the Campaign’s stated position?

    In other respects, by concentrating such a high portion of its energy on ending the occupation, rather than strongly addressing the events of 1948, the Israeli system, US lobbying, Palestinians’ right of return, the Israeli nationalist philosophy, and Israeli domestic discrimination, does it appear that the US Campaign is in accordance with the liberal proponents of the system that Omar Barghouti is discussing above?

  4. annie on October 30, 2015, 1:03 pm

    this is probably a tad OT but one of the pacbi statements jumped out at me and reminded me of something:

    As such, BDS rejects and cannot coexist with racism of any type, including Zionism.

    i am just wondering how this squares with the recent passage of the ETO racism statement and the jvp rejection of all racism except they don’t think zionism is racism. or they make some exception for zionists, or something. i mean pacbi and the bnc has strong affiliation w/jvp (strong allies), which i am a member. but pacbi’s statement regarding coexistence wrt zionism here is different than jvp’s. so how does one fit that cornered peg into the round hole.

    • YoniFalic on October 30, 2015, 1:15 pm


      I am not sure what ETO is, but real Zionism, which defines the environment in which I grew up, is without doubt and by self-definition völkisch racist.

      When I was taking courses at Columbia, in my readingsI ran across a type of Zionism called refugeeism. It was espoused by American Zionists like Brandeis.

      While refugeeism seems not to have been racist, this sort of Zionism has no connection to the politics of the Eastern European genocidal settler colonists that created the State of Israel.

      • annie on October 30, 2015, 2:50 pm

        yoni, by ETO i meant end the occupation. i should learn and use their acronym. regarding “real Zionism” or cultural zionism or whatever, that is not my point. i don’t use “anti” in my self identification, not even w/ the term zionism. i was specifically speaking to pacbi’s declaration which certainly implied zionism was racism.

      • W.Jones on October 30, 2015, 5:36 pm

        Yoni and Annie,
        As Annie said, ETO is what some people use to name the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. (

        Based on naming conventions, in which abbreviations are made of the capitalized initials of proper nouns in a title, the organization’s abbreviation is US CEIO.

    • W.Jones on October 30, 2015, 1:31 pm

      Your question is not off topic, Annie, it’s a direct case in point of the thesis Barghouti is proposing that simply opposing the Occupation or even imposing BDS does not mean disagreement with the Israeli system’s principle of “Separate but Equal” in the Land of I-P.

      Norm Finkelstein explained how the Palestinians could get a “independent state” under a 2SS that was in fact a demilitarized bantustan state scattered with settlements and cut off with massive walls, but which was no longer “occupied” anymore than Gaza, since the Israeli army would not regularly patrol it.

      Ben Gurion’s proposal for a 2SS is of course a corollary of his own political system, and thus a strong demand to End the Occupation does not in any way contradict the Separate but Equal philosophy, but in fact could be a more effective implementation of it. On this score, the Washington Post article’s authors are right.

      To partly answer your question, JVP announced that JVP chapters can coalition with pro and anti-Zionist groups, but not with groups with pro- or anti- Zionist slogans. I do not really understand that, except that it must mean the coalition groups can take a position on Zionism, but not include that position in its slogans. See here:

      The US Campaign seems to comply with the requirement of not using pro or anti-Zionist slogans, and it’s not clear it even has a position.

      • annie on October 30, 2015, 2:53 pm

        JVP chapters can coalition with pro and anti-Zionist groups, but not with groups with pro- or anti- Zionist slogans.

        if jvp chapters coalitions with zionist groups and pacbi cannot “coexist” with any type of racism “including zionism” then how can pacbi coexist with jvp’s coalitioning? i just find it confusing.

      • echinococcus on October 30, 2015, 6:16 pm


        Just to make it more obvious: in the unequal strubble between invader and genocidee, opposing “both pro and anti-Zionist” positions is massively supporting Zionism.
        I don’t think there’s anyone left who continues to be confused by the “confusing” thing.
        Clearly the tribals are trying to apply a Zionist boycott, when we well know that its aim is only to defang any effective action that could contribute to cripple the invaders.

      • W.Jones on October 30, 2015, 6:32 pm


        I see the problem you pose. JVP says it can coalition with Zionist organizations, while in its letter to Weir, JVP announced that it cannot work with Solidarity activists who associate at all with racists, even by giving interviews to them.

        Meanwhile, PACBI announces that it considers Zionism to racist. So how can PACBI coalition with JVP, if anyone who even gives interviews to racists is banned by JVP? The only logical explanation would be if PACBI does not accept JVP’s principle of banning anyone who has even rare association with racists. In fact, that explanation applies to anyone else who claims Zionism is racism.

        So for example, if Ali Abunimah considers Zionism racist and he agrees with banning anyone (in his view especially Weir) who apparently has a principle of allowing herself to give rare interviews to racists, then logically Ali A. would must ban cooperation with JVP, as being in coalition with racists is a far stronger “association” of mutual support than just giving an interview. It’s one thing to be interviewed by a far right speaker, and something else to be in coalition with one.

        I’m hardly in expectation though that PACBI and Ali A will apply the same standards to JVP with regard to Zionism that Ali A and JVP apply to Weir and her rare interviews with intolerant programs. As the Electronic Intifada article itself said:

        Should Palestinians be simply grateful that, amid the increasing construction of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the overwhelming surge of racism in Israeli society, there are still some Israeli voices willing to “recognize” a Palestinian state?

        In the current situation, PACBI and others have a hard time making strong demands on JVP and the US CEIO in regards to holding the same standards in regards to Israeli politics.

  5. Wandering Arab on October 30, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Just popped in and came across this article.

    “The fresh and possibly unprecedented line of argumentation offered in this Washington Post article, however, goes as far as justifying hitherto taboo, ‘extreme’ means to achieve the same Zionist end of maintaining a purer apartheid regime.”

    How can forcing Israel to end its occupation (the stated goal of the Washington Post article’s authors) help it achieve a “purer apartheid regime”? Apartheid is about separate and overarching legal systems (in other words, not simply personal status laws) for groups of people within a single political entity. But were Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, and were these Territories to become the independent and sovereign State of Palestine (withdrawal itself is not enough, especially if Israel maintains a form of control, as it does with Gaza), there would no longer be two sets of laws in force — one for Israeli citizens, and another for stateless Palestinians — as is currently the case in the West Bank.

    Does BDS seek to end the occupation or dismantle Israel? BDS has long maintained that it has no position on the one state/ two state debate. Barghouti’s latest article would seem to indicate otherwise.


    • Mooser on October 30, 2015, 3:22 pm

      “Does BDS seek to end the occupation or dismantle Israel?”

      Oh, it’s much worse than that! Why, I would bet heavily that BDS supporters would be delighted with any, even the slightest, lessening of Israeli intransigence.

    • annie on October 30, 2015, 3:42 pm

      Does BDS seek to end the occupation or dismantle Israel

      that’s a ‘have you beat your wife today’ question because it offers two either or options neither of which even mention equality.

      can you rephrase your question referencing equality.

    • echinococcus on October 31, 2015, 4:49 am

      “Does BDS seek to end the occupation or dismantle Israel?”
      Strange question.
      One does not exclude the other –one can very well ask for both.
      In fact, considering the nature of Zionism, one cannot happen without the other. Vice versa, you can’t keep one without keeping the other.
      As for Zionists who say they oppose the post-1967 occupation and would perhaps like to “end” it, what about pre-1967 occupation?
      Anyone, lots of people in the BDS movement, and each is free to contribute as much as heshe can or will. Even Zionists. So “BDS” is unable to have any position on anything but the need for boycott, divestment and sanctions. Anything else is worthless pap by bureaucrats.

    • peterfeld on October 31, 2015, 1:11 pm

      BDS lists as one of its 3 goals the end of the apartheid system within pre-1967 Israel. Despite propaganda claims of full equality for so-called “Israeli Arabs” (Palestinian citizens of Israel), there are over 50 laws within “Israel proper” that discriminate against Palestinians, in areas such as employment, the military, housing, immigration/family reunification, marriage, political expression and freedom of movement.
      Whether or not ending Jewish privilege in Israel means “dismantling” Israel is an interesting topic. Zionists say it would, but to me that says more about them than it says about the boycott.

  6. Liz on October 30, 2015, 2:16 pm

    This is a superb piece. It really captures how the soft Zionists continue to make Israel about them, to “save Israel from itself.” It’s an old argument among liberal Zionists, one I find devoid of any real sense of justice. Barghouti does a great job of pointing out that soft Zionists will only defend Palestinians insofar as it is good for the Jews.

  7. Interested Bystander on October 30, 2015, 2:51 pm

    Bargouti seems to think that he has some type of right to claim what the message or goal of BDS should be. He doesn’t. A boycott movement consists of a multitude of actors refraining from purchasing from , doing business with, or interacting with Israel and Israelis in order to apply pressure. The vision of what might be accomplished with that pressure, or how Israel “should” respond to it, or how we hope Israel would respond to it…. well that belongs to each individual actor. Bargouti does not get to call the shots on the vision thing.

    The Zionist idea of a state with a Jewish demographic majority, that can act as a home for Jews suffering persecution elsewhere, that is democratic, and provides equal protection for all citizens of that state, is not “irredeemably racist.” I’m not sure it’s racist at all in that it does not contend Jews of the state are better than non-Jews in any way. [Not that there isn’t real racism on the ground, and not that the idea of a Jewish state doesn’t present risks of institutionalizing racism; but a Jewish demographic majority and a Hebrew Republic in the Avishai sense, aren’t per se racist]

    Bargouti doesn’t want to divide the land. He rejects UN Resolution 181. He suggests the Palestinians have a fundamental right to self-determination in all the land. What is a Palestinian “fundamental right of self-determination” if not to establish a Palestinian state? Would such a state be run like 2015 Germany or the U.S., or more like 2015 Syria or Lybia? I’m not sure where he gets the idea that the former is more likely than the latter. Would such a state be better at respecting the equal rights of all citizens than a Jewish Democratic state inside the green line, with no occupation? I’m not sure why Bargouti would think that.

    If BDS pressure resulted in Israel committing to dividing the land (e.g. as in declaring borders along the ’67 lines) and ending the occupation, and started to take concrete steps to implement that commitment, …. that would be a huge accomplishment for BDS, I would think.

    For Bargouti to spit on that goal is a bit naive, and arrogant.

    • Mooser on October 30, 2015, 3:05 pm

      “The Zionist idea of a state with a Jewish demographic majority, that can act as a home for Jews suffering persecution elsewhere, that is democratic, and provides equal protection for all citizens of that state, is not “irredeemably racist.””

      Okay, when that state appears, we’ll talk about it. If that state ever existed, we could talk about it, too. But it never did and never will.

      • annie on October 30, 2015, 3:45 pm

        persecuting palestinians for the purpose of acting “as a home for Jews suffering persecution elsewhere” is a logically challenged concept.

      • Mooser on October 30, 2015, 4:02 pm

        “as a home for Jews suffering persecution elsewhere”

        I don’t know, the idea that Jews will never be able to live with others, and others will inevitably persecute us (It’s inevitable enough to make a state necessary, right?) is, well, “irredeemably racist”, to me. But I’ll give it this: It’s racist toward everybody!

    • Xpat on October 30, 2015, 3:09 pm

      “The Zionist idea of a state with a Jewish demographic majority, that can act as a home for Jews suffering persecution elsewhere, that is democratic, and provides equal protection for all citizens of that state, is not “irredeemably racist.”

      Ok, I’ll say it: look who’s being naive.

      How do you achieve a Jewish majority in a land where Jews are a clear minority?
      You start with a nakba and clear out most of the previous non-Jewish majority, then you kill those who try to come back as fedayeen and finally you make life hell for those who stay behind in the hopes that they too will leave.
      If the Israeli state were to provide equal legal rights to all its citizens it would no longer be a safe haven for persecuted Jews (which persecuted Jews? and why seek haven in Israel of all places?). It would cease to be a Jewish state. It would be democratic.
      As Omar Barghouti says, you gotta choose: square or circle, democratic or racist.

    • diasp0ra on October 30, 2015, 3:10 pm

      Isn’t it wonderful to speculate when you take things in a vacuum and ignore the context in which they were created?

    • JoelReinstein on October 30, 2015, 3:25 pm

      This particular boycott movement is actually led by the Palestinian BDS National Committee or BNC, a coalition of groups representing each corner of Palestinian society, and of which Barghouti is a leading member.

      The BNC’s leadership helps protect the movement, as Barghouti does here, from confusion and misdirection by people who oppose its goal of equality for Palestinians.

      If BDS pressure resulted in Israel ending the occupation while remaining a state “for one people and one people only,” it would be a disaster for the goal of equality for Palestinians in essentially cementing Israel’s racist regime. All three BDS demands absolutely must be met and are as nonnegotiable as Palestinian humanity.

      • annie on October 30, 2015, 3:31 pm

        thanks joel, this too is my understanding.

  8. Interested Bystander on October 30, 2015, 3:04 pm

    Please read “Barghouti” throughout my comment. Apologies.

  9. mattrb on October 30, 2015, 5:05 pm

    Perhaps Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl are willing to have the same goals as Omar Barghouti.
    Their article includes the following sentence:

    “Until Israel seriously engages with a peace process that either establishes a sovereign Palestinian state or grants full democratic citizenship to Palestinians living in a single state, we cannot continue to subsidize governments whose actions threaten Israel’s long-term survival.”

  10. tuppington on October 31, 2015, 3:38 am

    There are a few things omitted in the article in terms of tactics. Is violence an effective tactic? I believe lengthening war selects for the people most cruel and calculating to be in power. As the influence hopefully shifts to an enlightened new generation, after 15, 20, 25 more years of resistance, what will happen to Palestine’s political order? A new Sun Tzu in Palestine would only validate the deep colonial fear of a vicious indigenous population, much like Bin Laden served in the popular Western imagination. That could create further support for Israel, maybe even excuse a coup attempt.

    I disagree on your reading of the overall significance of the article in the Post. The incoherence of the criticism isn’t an accident of ideology. While these professors seem to me as genuinely in grief, US elites will often tolerate a state while rebuking its rulers. The NYT for example has sometimes roused itself to belittle Germany and Egypt. It wasn’t because they were about to undermine their political order, or were concerned with the rights of prisoners or women. The US still holds its nose and supports Netanyahu and Sisi with weapons and diplomatic support, and cameras, which are welcomed by the far-right rulers there. As you noted, the argument is incoherent because its true purpose is not to educate people on Israel but to express an intentionally neutered dissent toward the offending client. It’s certainly a hopeful sign that dissent against Israel is somewhat printable. But the US elites are not on a crash course against Israel. The US needs an obedient client.

    And this is not a threat to Zionism either. The Zionist cause has always thrived on antagonism. To honor this mangled interpretation of politics only plays into the hands of those who seek to dominate Palestinian life. Max Nordau, pupil Herzl, welcomed a “sharp trial which the weak cannot stand, but from which the strong emerge stronger or more confident in themselves.” In other words, Nordau perversely welcomed a crucible to make change happen despite the lack of willpower. This is hard to fit into a framework of recruiting Jewish activists who actually willingly be making change happen. What we can expect instead is at best, half-heartedly welcoming the bad press we can only wish Israel were to get from the elite media. Very iffy strategy.

    The psychology here is important to stopping the violence. I more or less agree with your labeling of Zionist actors as neurotic. Specifically I would reassign the diagnosis as anxiety. Just look up on Youtube of a video of Jeffrey Goldberg (1) and you’ll see. There is an effect of participating in violence that leads to anxiety, more violence and outbursts, and sometimes depression (2). One proposed treatment of this is narrative therapy, specifically to say how the past makes you feel in the present. It’s not enough to recognize that the past happened. To reckon with the past and resolve the anxiety, the visceral, honest emotion of the present perspective of the past has to be expressed as well. e.g. “I went and killed someone and knowing I did that makes me feel ___”

    Until we resolve that issue, the question of “what do we do now?” will be guided by malice and the compulsions you describe. If Palestine stays a technocratic puzzle that can only be solved by obscure research on British colonies, there’s no hope for an enlightened Jewish population. As reported, “much of Israel’s secular Zionist majority feels no need to take the difficult steps required for a durable peace, such as evicting their countrymen from West Bank settlements and acknowledging the moral stain of the suffering Israel has caused to so many Palestinians.” Short of sending in the UN troops against Israel, which the US would instantly block if recommended, a far better strategy is to popularize in sympathetic circles books like Simha Flapan’s Birth of Israel which honestly reckons with the past abuse.

    (2) Child Psychiatry & Human Development April 2015, Volume 46, Issue 2, pp 180-193 First online: 16 May 2014 The Guiltless Guilty: Trauma-Related Guilt and Psychopathology in Former Ugandan Child Soldiers

    • Mooser on October 31, 2015, 1:02 pm

      “Soft Zionists try to save Israel”…

      …says the headline on the tab. And as the old saw has it: “the hour produces the man”.

  11. Boo on October 31, 2015, 1:00 pm

    “As the Israeli historian Benny Morris once said, ‘you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.’ ”

    Benny Morris may be quite a mensch, but the first known English citation of that maxim was in a 1796 issue of Walker’s Hibernian Magazine. They state it as being used (in French, “on ne saurait faire d’omelette sans casser des œufs”) by Royalist general François de Charette, but it apparently dates to the 1740s.

    Of course, “eggs” is simply a euphemism for “heads” and the phrase has been used historically to justify mass violence.

    Link to interesting Slate article on the phrase:

  12. James Canning on October 31, 2015, 1:06 pm

    I am one of those who think it would be good for Israel if friends of Israel forced Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank.

    • Mooser on October 31, 2015, 1:36 pm

      “I am one of those who think it would be good for Israel if friends of Israel forced Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank.”

      But then they wouldn’t be “friends of Israel” any more, would they?
      Is the US supposed to be one of those “friends of Israel”? And the friendship includes the capacity to ‘force’ Israel to “end the occupation of the West Bank”?

      I don’t think Israel and you have the same definition of “friend”.

      • James Canning on October 31, 2015, 2:29 pm

        True friends deliver “tough love” from time to time.

      • Mooser on November 1, 2015, 12:39 am

        “True friends deliver “tough love” from time to time.”

        I agree, but it’s pretty obvious that Israel doesn’t.

      • James Canning on November 1, 2015, 1:01 pm

        Mooser – – The core problem is the failure of the US to deliver the “tough love” Israel needs, so that it gets out of the West Bank.

      • Mooser on November 1, 2015, 1:09 pm

        “The core problem is the failure of the US to deliver the “tough love” Israel needs”

        I see. Or maybe I don’t. What is the “tough love” policy the US uses? Since it seems to be a “core” component of our foreign policy.
        But just so I know what we are talking about, could you name some of the other countries to which the US has applied the “tough love” policy, and the results?
        Or is it the “tough love” doctrine?

      • James Canning on November 1, 2015, 2:24 pm

        Mooser – – I do not expect the US to force Israel to end the occupation of the WB even if this would be doing a good service to Israel.

    • Interested Bystander on October 31, 2015, 8:40 pm

      Here is what Barghouti said in 2005 (from Electronic Intifada):

      “Omar Barghouti makes this point in his book BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights:

      While individual BDS activists and advocates may support diverse political solutions, the BDS movement as such does not adopt any specific formula and steers away from the one-state-versus-two-states debate, focusing instead on universal rights and international law, which constitute the solid foundation of the Palestinian consensus around the campaign. Incidentally, most networks, unions, and political parties in the BNC still advocate a two-state solution outside the realm of the BDS movement (pages 51-52)”

      The assumption of Barghouti in the opening article seems to be that 2SS is off the table for him. Several of the comments make the same assumption. That’s the basis for his criticism of Levitsky and Weyl.

      I think Levitsky and Weyl advocate what James Canning suggests… and they would consider themselves “friends of Israel.”

      • James Canning on November 1, 2015, 1:04 pm

        Some people back BDS in hopes it will help Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank. Others wish to prevent Israel from ending its occupation of the WB.

      • Mooser on November 1, 2015, 4:27 pm

        “Some people back BDS in hopes…/… Others wish to prevent…”

        Oh it’s worse than that! I’ll wager every BDS supporter, of every stripe, would be delighted by any lessening of Israel’s intransigence and brutality.

      • James Canning on November 2, 2015, 12:25 pm

        Your point is that BDS is a good thing, if it helps to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank?

  13. German Lefty on October 31, 2015, 7:43 pm

    OT – Question to everyone around here. In a few weeks, Naomi Chazan will give a talk about Israel in a town near me. I intend to go there. However, I haven’t heard of her before. So far, I learnt that she’s critical of Israel. But how critical exactly? Is she a so-called “liberal Zionist” or an anti-Zionist? Does anybody know? I’d like to know in advance, but I find it hard to tell. On the one hand, Chazan is with the NIF. On the other hand, her talk is organised by a Zionist organisation and only deals with the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Would a Zionist organisation invite an anti-Zionist to give a talk? I don’t think so.
    I have never actually attended a talk about Israel before, only watched them online. That’s why I am really nervous. I have no idea what will expect me. Will I be the only anti-Zionist there? The thought of sitting in a room full of Zionists really scares me.

    • W.Jones on October 31, 2015, 10:21 pm

      German Lefty,


      The NIF’s Naomi Chazan On Why BDS Is Wrong

      Samah Sabawi: a Palestinian woman’s response to Naomi Chazan on BDS

      Thus, NIF is similar to J Street, with slogans such as pro-Israeli, pro-Peace, anti-BDS, liberal Zionist, anti-war, 2SS, etc. N. Chazan is the founder of the NIF, and a former Knesset delegate. So probably she will say some things you agree with (pro-Peace) and other things you may criticize (some of the premises of the Israeli ideology WRT relations with Palestinians). Perhaps you will ask some good questions in the Q&A, and also point out areas on which you agree.

      • German Lefty on November 2, 2015, 3:19 pm

        @ W.Jones
        Thank you for your comment. The Wikipedia entry about NIF was what confused me. It says that NIF wants “democracy and equality for all Israelis”. This clearly sounds as if NIF is an anti-Zionist organisation. Naomi Chazan’s statements in the linked articles, however, sound Zionist. Apparently, NIF is anti-Zionist on paper only.
        As this will be my first time at such an event and as I am a shy person, I don’t think that I will dare to ask any questions or make any comments. However, if someone explicitly asked me for my views, I would answer honestly that I am an anti-Zionist BDS supporter.

      • W.Jones on November 2, 2015, 6:25 pm


        You write: that in Wikipedia it says that NIF wants: ((““democracy and equality for all Israelis”. This clearly sounds as if NIF is an anti-Zionist organisation. “))

        You should know by now that just because someone says that they want democracy and equality for all Israelis does not actually distinguish between strong supporters of the Israeli system and its strong critics. I am sure Ethan Bronner, J Street (“pro-Israeli, pro-Peace, … … … pro-Palestinian”), JVP, Chomsky, IJAN, NIF, Rabbis for Human Rights, Tsipi Livni, and many others with mutually opposing views would all say that they want democracy and equality there. You might consider engaging with hardcore PEPs in online forums for a week to get a better handle on the PEP way of thinking and talking, to see how the terminology compares to a dissident view.

    • Mooser on November 1, 2015, 12:36 am

      “The thought of sitting in a room full of Zionists really scares me.”

      Don’t blame you at all. Yes, caution is merited

      Lefty, if you go, bring a couple of extra handkerchiefs, and maybe some of those packaged ‘moist towelletes’ things. (And your camera, phone and note pad)

      • German Lefty on November 1, 2015, 11:23 am

        Mooser, please tell me: Why do I need the handkerchiefs and moist towelletes? Do you think they will use tear gas on me or something?

      • Mooser on November 1, 2015, 4:50 pm

        “Why do I need the handkerchiefs and moist towelletes?”

        I might be projecting there. But I was thinking; “Hot room, packed with people, emotions run high while listening, goes on for a while…” Stuff like that. I would need extra H’s and MT’s to swab my face and neck, but you might stay cool as a cucumber. I’d be schvitzing like a lawn sprinkler. Good luck GL!

      • Mooser on November 2, 2015, 7:10 pm

        “However, if someone explicitly asked me for my views, I would answer honestly that I am an anti-Zionist BDS supporter.”

        Bring some extra H’s and MT’s. Better be safe than sorry.

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