Siegman says Palestinians are turning to violence ‘to achieve freedom and self-determination’

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Henry Siegman has an important piece up at the Nation in which he explains the recent Palestinian violence as a natural political response to an unending occupation.

Siegman is a former head of the American Jewish Congress who has expressed more and more sympathy for Palestinians in recent years with the downfall of the two-state solution. His jumping-off point is a recent New York Times ad from rightwing Rabbi Shmuley Boteach in which the rabbi accuses Secretary of State John Kerry of justifying “the spilling of Jewish blood” because he has deplored Israel’s settlements as a factor in the recent outbreak of stabbing attacks.

Siegman says that Boteach, who is funded by Sheldon Adelson, is acting like Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi PR man. Siegman can get away with the Nazi parallel because he himself escaped the Nazis as a boy

Boteach's ad accusing John Kerry of anti-Semitism
Boteach’s ad accusing John Kerry of anti-Semitism

Then Siegman explains that Israelis have no right to demand that Palestinians “forgo violence in their struggle to end their suppression.” He characterizes the Palestinians as freedom fighters:

 Successive Israeli governments have sustained a half-century-long occupation of the Palestinians through the application of deadly violence by its military. What right do they therefore have to demand that Palestinians forgo violence in their struggle to end their suppression? Is the Palestinians’ resort to violence to achieve freedom and self-determination—considered “peremptory norms” in international law—less legitimate than Israel’s resort to violence to deny them their freedom and self-determination?

Siegman reminds us of the history of Jewish terrorism under the British mandate– “violent resistance to occupation”:

In fact, no one has asserted the right to violent resistance to occupation more forcefully than the Jewish terrorist groups in the pre-state era. The Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin (which became the Likud, now headed by Netanyahu), terrorized the pre-state British occupiers.  Yitzhak Shamir, who was also elected prime minister of Israel, headed the Stern Gang. He wrote in the journal of his terrorist organization, LEHI, “Neither Jewish ethics nor Jewish tradition can disqualify terrorism as a means of combat.… Terrorism is for us a part of the political battle being conducted under the present circumstances and it has a great part to play.”

And here is the dramatic conclusion of the article, in which Siegman says that Boteach and Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that the Palestinians are the powerful party is reminiscent of Nazi propaganda, saying Germans were being victimized by Jews:

Boteach argues that there cannot be moral equivalence between victims and their oppressors, but he, like his patron [Adelson], believes Palestinians who have lived for half a century under Israel’s occupation are the oppressors and their Israeli occupiers are their victims. As someone who was born in Germany and lived for two years under Nazi occupation and the Vichy regime that rounded up Jews for deportation to Auschwitz, I can assure Boteach, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, that their perspective is one that Goebbels, who considered the German people to have been the victims of the Jews, would have greatly admired.

Remember that Shmuley Boteach served as UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s consort to the Israel lobby two years ago so she could get her job; he vouched for her pro-Israel bona fides. A few months after she got the job, Boteach’s protector, Sheldon Adelson, called on President Obama to nuke Iran. Now Boteach, a rightwing Republican, turns on Power’s colleague, Kerry, as an anti-Semite. Again, the lobby is a force that transcends partisan politics, and liberals/Democrats must kiss the ring, even when that ring has a Sheldon Adelson connection.

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I have long admired Henry Siegman, his many fine pieces published in the London Review of Books and elsewhere. From the Nation article – The accuser is a Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has designated himself as nothing less than “America’s Rabbi.” He ministers to the spiritual needs of the casino… Read more »

In the USA , shooting a teen can get you life. “Officer Jason Van Dyke, 37, turned himself in to authorities Tuesday morning and was later ordered held without bail in connection with the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, according to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office. Van Dyke… Read more »

But will violence be helpful for Palestinians? Especially given its random nature, namely you kill somebody that you know nothing about. Even Arab countries now denounce terror – unlike their erstwhile sympathy when it was only directed against Israel – they came to understand to where it leads. It appears… Read more »

Siegman gets it and dares say it. When Boteach teaches that Kerry is an antisemite, then Siegman teaches that Boteach is like the greatest of the Nazi liars. You want name calling? You got name calling in spades. We’re so lucky to have Siegman. Long may he prosper. As to… Read more »

I had the pleasure of having a workshop in Ramallah with Mr. Siegman, very understanding and very aware man.

I’m curious to see how they are going to try to spin that an actual survivor of Nazi Germany is a self hating Jew.