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Will Israel’s policies fail of their own accord?

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

With another New Year approaching and no positive movement on the ground, the word from the Israeli left, at least what remains of it, is foreboding. The indefatigable reporter, Amira Hass, is on her own non-violent warpath. Avraham Burg, a former architect of the apartheid he now sees as the end of Israel as a Jewish state, isn’t mincing words either.

Hass is a must read. Hass relates her battle on the road where she speaks as an Israeli Jew. It seems that the space for thought, especially with reference to history, has narrowed. On the worldwide Left, Israel’s existence is being defined as a colonial enterprise without reference to the anti-Semitism and the Holocaust in Europe. As a child of Holocaust survivors, Hass can’t go there and for good reason. She asks whether Israel can still be spoken about intelligently without forsaking the demand for Palestinian freedom. But Hass’s challenge is broader. As she holds her ground as a dissenting Israeli Jew, she warns Jews outside of Israel not to become accomplices with Israeli aggression.

Unfortunately, Hass is too late on both counts. In the main, Israel will continue to be discussed as a colonial state. Jews have been and will continue to be accomplices in Israel’s crimes.

Avraham Burg goes further than Hass. His first lines are strong:

It must be said out loud: The ascendance of the right is not temporary, the occupation is permanent and Israel is one state with two regimes: One is good, and does well by Jews; the other is bad, wicked and discriminates against Palestinians. Now it’s time to fight it.

The struggle Burg sees is unequivocal:

The time has come for all the princes of the left and all its frogs to stop giving their services to the right-wing mechanisms of self-destruction that are being applied full-throttle in Israel today. We must admit, openly and unequivocally: The ascendance of the right is not temporary, the occupation is permanent and Israel is one state with two regimes: One is good, and does well by Jews; the other is bad, wicked and discriminates against Palestinians. From here on the battle is not over delusions of peace being just around the corner, nor over creating an illusory reality according to which any minute now, out of nothing, a separation agreement will appear and redeem us. This is a battle of life and death, between a bad one-state regime and one state that is good for both peoples.

The difference between Hass and Burg is important. Hass continues to argue the case for Israel. Burg has left Israel behind. In Burg’s mind the Jewish Left provides a fig leaf for Israeli oppression. It’s time for Jews to let go. Let Israeli power has its way:

It must also be said, to the same flaccid left: Don’t start now with empty claims of “responsibility” and “we must not abandon the state” and all the other things that end with sitting around the cabinet table. Israel’s hardball politics require two things that you don’t have. The first is to offer a full, complete alternative and to fight for it tooth and nail. The second is to allow for the ripening and completion of processes. No one appointed you the saviors of the right. Let Bibi-ism run its course and it will fall of its own accord. It will fall into your hands if you are ready with a worthy alternative.

Is Burg right, that left to its own devices, Israeli policies will fall of their own accord? It may be the case that the Jewish Left is powerless to stop Israel’s aggression. Why fight what you cannot win? Burg may also be correct that moral arguments by Jews prolong the reckoning needed to transform Israel into a unified democratic state for all of its people. But the sense that Israel will fail in its essential mission to conquer Palestine and subject Palestinians to an apartheid without end may be another fig leaf, a faith statement rather than a political program.

As enablers outside and inside Israel, Jews listen to Hass and Burg with hope that a breakthrough will somehow occur. But with Israel consolidating its power with its Arab neighbors, and with the United States and Europe strongly committed to Israel as a Jewish state, hope is difficult to sustain.

As Israel consolidates its power, the weakness of Jewish dissent becomes more and more apparent. It may be the case that Jewish dissent awaits another more distant day than either Hass and Burg, Jews and Palestinians, can afford to contemplate.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His new book, Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures, is forthcoming.

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27 Responses

  1. Ossinev
    December 22, 2015, 12:43 pm

    “with the United States and Europe strongly committed to Israel as a Jewish state, hope is difficult to sustain”

    I agree that the United States is currently strongly committed to Israel as a Jewish state courtesy of the Zionist Lobby and the franchise which it holds over both the Republicans and Democrats, together with the warped support of the Evangelical Christian base. This situation on it`s own is not immutable.

    I disagree that Europe is committed to Israel as a Jewish state either at a political level or even more importantly on the street. There are no remotely comparable Zionist lobby groups in terms of extreme power and influence that I am aware of and there are certainly no Evangelical Christian movements salivating over the end of days prophesy.

    I think the only exception might be Germany where the WW11 atonement factor is still very strong both politically and on the street – but even this committment is starting to wear thin.

    • Keith
      December 22, 2015, 5:18 pm

      OSSINOV- “There are no remotely comparable Zionist lobby groups in terms of extreme power and influence….”

      Sure there are. I can’t recall the name of the British Jewish Zionist organization, however, in France it is the CRIF. Both organizations are affiliated with the World Zionist Organization which can arrange for international support. These groups are responsible for the European laws mandating Holocaust education and criminalizing Holocaust denial, where Holocaust denial is broadly construed to include comparing the Holocaust to other incidents of mass murder (Russian WWII death toll, etc), as well as defining criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism. These laws were not passed immediately following WWII to protect a weak and defenseless minority, rather, they are more recent and reflect the rise of Jewish Zionist power within the Western democracies, and the ability of the Zionists to utilize that power to control the narrative.

      • annie
        December 22, 2015, 5:43 pm

        I can’t recall the name of the British Jewish Zionist


      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        December 22, 2015, 6:36 pm

        ” I can’t recall the name of the British Jewish Zionist organization”

        Conservative (or Labour, or Liberal Democrat) Friends of Israel.

        Approximately 4 out of 5 of the current members of the UK parliamentary party – including the Prime Minister and Chancellor – are card carrying Friends of Israel. Witness the panic engendered by the election of the pro-Palestinian Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition. Not a single mainstream British politician explicitly criticised Israel’s massacre last summer, though almost all were free-flowing in their condemnations of the Palestinian resistance. The BBC is also heavily influenced by the Zionist lobby, even though it’s funded by taxpayer money.

        So while the situation in the UK may not be quite as bad as in the US, Zionist lobbies still have a huge amount of baneful influence.

      • Keith
        December 22, 2015, 6:40 pm

        ANNIE- “BICOM”

        I don’t think so. Your response encouraged me to google the name of the umbrella group which is “The Board of Deputies of British Jews.” From Wikipedia:

        “The Board receives Deputies elected by individual synagogues, confederations of synagogues, and other organisations within the Jewish community such as charities and youth groups. It serves as the principal reference point for government, the media and wider society. All matters tending to impact on the life of Jews in Britain fall within the Board’s remit, including an active interfaith programme.

        The Board of Deputies offices are co-located with the United Jewish Israel Appeal in Camden Town.

        The Board is the British affiliate of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), the world-wide umbrella organisation of Jewish communities and is the UK member of the European Jewish Congress (EJC).”

      • italian ex-pat
        italian ex-pat
        December 22, 2015, 7:14 pm


        “. . . where Holocaust denial is broadly construed to include comparing the Holocaust to other incidents of mass murder . . .”

        That, I believe, is the reason behind the Jewish community’s strong opposition to labelling the Armenian genocide, ‘genocide’. There can only be ONE legitimate genocide.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        December 23, 2015, 5:08 am

        Yes, I think part of it is ‘stealing our Holocaust’ nonsense.

        But another factor is Israel’s relationship with Turkey (which despite the Mavi Marmara massacre and Erdogan’s bluster, is still fairly solid) as well as with Turkey’s oil-rich client Azerbaijan, with which Armenia fought a bloody war not so long ago.

    • talknic
      December 23, 2015, 3:21 am

      @ Ossinev

      In Europe the lobby is spread thin over many states

      Germany doesn’t wield a UNSC veto vote

      • talknic
        December 23, 2015, 5:24 am

        Israel only needs one UNSC veto vote in order to be continually protected from the consequences of being in breach of the UN Charter and International Law.

        The Zionist Federation and its many arms have only been able to fully concentrate their efforts in maintaining the US UNSC veto. All their eggs are in the one basket and it only allows the frog to stay in the pot.

        Of the states who might otherwise wield a UNSC veto vote to protect Israel from the consequences of being in breach of the UN Charter and International Law:

        China – Israel has nothing of real value to offer China and the Zionist lobby groups are in-effectual – Very doubtful.

        Russia – Based on the Russian recognition of the State of Israel and likewise Israel having nothing much of any real value to offer and the Zionist lobby groups being relatively in-effectual – Very doubtful

        UK – Based on the UK recognition of the State of Israel and what Israel might have to offer in return – Very doubtful

        France – Being an EU Member it would be at odds with the rest of the EU community, who have far more to offer – Doubtful

        The USA – is the only contender on the starting block due to the Zionist’s entrenched influence.

        However, the USA can only go so far, the US recognition of the State of Israel is by far the most damning to the Zionist narrative. It clearly recognized Israel as being ” within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947″. Which is why the US has not and cannot legally have its embassy in Jerusalem.

        Lose the US UNSC veto vote and Israel is a basket case

  2. Keith
    December 22, 2015, 5:31 pm

    MARC ELLIS- “Is Burg right, that left to its own devices, Israeli policies will fall of their own accord?”

    It is much more complicated than that. The fate of Israel is so intimately joined with the fate both of the American Jewish Zionist elites and with the fate of the American led transnational corporate/financial empire that linearity is unlikely. We have entered a period of massive change and social turbulence which will likely affect US/Israel’s policies in potentially unpredictable ways. The next five years could see truly dramatic changes, few of them good.

    • echinococcus
      December 23, 2015, 8:11 am

      The Zionist operation is certainly not directed from the Zionist entity. The Owners are owners of the US, too. No doubt the concentration of most owners is in the States.

  3. Ossinev
    December 22, 2015, 7:03 pm

    Sorry I still don`t see any ” remotely comparable ” Zionist lobby groups in terms of extreme power and influence here in Europe.I don`t see mainstream politicians across the political spectrums cravenly and overtly seeking Zionist funding to support their campaigns. I don`t see an AIPAC or an ADL. I don`t see any European Adelsons and I certainly don`t see a huge Evangelical movement supporting the Zionist drive for the apocalypse.

    I would be interested to know the details of European Laws whether EC or National Government Laws defining criticism of Israel as “anti -semitic”. Those who deny the Holocaust IMHO are seen rightly as fringe lunatics by the vast majority of Europeans and the vast majority of Europeans would simply not compare what you call “other incidents of mass murder” with the Holocaust. Even if that were the case “broadly construing” something may already be on its way to becoming a capital offence in the Land of Creation but here in Europe perceived inference has no legal standing.

    A good measure of the relative weakness of the Zionist lobby in Europe is that the European Parliament as well as various individual European Parliaments have voted overwhemingly in favour of recognizing Palestine (albeit couched with the term “in principle”) as well as the recent EC labelling requirement for settlement products. Either of these actions would simply be impossible in the US because of the Zionist lobby.

    Having said all that I respect your views and your right to challenge my views.

    • Keith
      December 22, 2015, 11:50 pm

      OSSINEV- “Sorry I still don`t see any ” remotely comparable ” Zionist lobby groups in terms of extreme power and influence here in Europe.”

      Who am I to believe, you or the Saker? A quote followed by a link.

      “It is important to keep in mind that the French Zionist Lobby is even more powerful and more arrogant, in a uniquely “in our face” kind of attitude, than, say, AIPAC in the USA. The French CRIF – a Likud controlled outfit – is basically in full control of the three branches of government and the French media. To even mention that fact is a death sentence for the career of any politician, author or journalist. Even the National Front has now caved in and made a pretty clear, if futile, attempt at showing a total subservience to this Zionist Lobby (Marine Le Pen’s betrayal of her father).” (The Saker)

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      December 23, 2015, 5:15 am

      “.I don`t see mainstream politicians across the political spectrums cravenly and overtly seeking Zionist funding to support their campaigns.”

      No, but that’s not how politics work in Europe, or anywhere outside the USA. Pressure is a bit more subtle than that, but it’s there. Read my comments above about the ”Friends of Israel” groups, the hysteria over Corbyn and the blatantly Zionist BBC.

      ” as well as the recent EC labelling requirement for settlement products”

      I take completely the opposite view. It took the EU literally YEARS to come up with what is in reality no more than a symbolic slap on the wrist. Have they banned Israeli products? No. Have they even banned ”settlement” goods? Not even that. This is an extremely watered-down move which means very little in practice. Had they wanted to genuinely punish Israel, they’d have imposed sanctions and/or revoked the ‘favoured trading partner’ status which Israel enjoys. They did neither.

      By contrast, witness how speedily they imposed sanctions on Russia following the Crimea annexation. It took them no time at all. This, despite the fact that these sanctions seriously harm the economies of EU members such as Poland. Sanctions on Israel would hurt nobody except Israel – despite us being told that every hospital and office in the world would have to shut down without the fruits of Israeli genius.

      Zionist lobbies have a huge amount of power in Europe, they just wield it in slightly less in-your-face ways than in the US.

  4. pabelmont
    December 22, 2015, 7:26 pm

    Without either a withdrawal of USA aid (unlikely short term) or a strong push from EU (ditto), Israel’s one-apartheid-state will continue and get worse (grabbing more territory, pushing more Palestinians off their land, confiscating water, etc.) USA’s MSM see-no-evil and Americans don’t know what’s going on. Be different, one hopes, if they did. But the hysteria about “terrorism” in France and in USA and the ignoring of “terrorism” in M/E is a bad sign — “white” skinned people circling their wagons against “dark” skinned people. Not a recipe for a change in MSM behavior. Or nation-state behavior by now-and-formed-colonial powers.

  5. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    December 22, 2015, 9:35 pm

    I happen to have read both pieces by Hass and Burg before reading this post by Marc Ellis. Hass is an exemplar of a journalist who remains steady in her principles. Burg is a man who found the truth after many unprincipled years in government, freed from the realities of politics and the voting booth, now he can tell us what he really feels. Which is fine, because reality and practical politics are primary facts of life on this planet and if only that path might have yielded progress we would not be here today in this Bibi = Zionism reality. So it is kosher to have gone from Knesset Speaker to heretic in his post Knesset career. Burg’s despair is appropriate and the future is grim. Left Zionists who are more devoted to the evils of the occupation than they are to the evils of BDS have yet to find enough leaders to show the way and Burg is one of the voices that we are counting on.

    • diasp0ra
      December 23, 2015, 2:46 am

      What exactly are the evils of bds, yonah?

    • talknic
      December 23, 2015, 3:25 am

      “Left Zionists who are more devoted to the evils of the occupation than they are to the evils of BDS”

      Wanting a UN Member State to adhere to the UN Charter and International Law is evil? WOW!

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    December 22, 2015, 9:39 pm

    The Amira Hass post in particular deserves to be read. It is behind a paywall. Here it is.

    I should warn you. Amira Hass is a Zionist,” a pro-Palestinian activist in South Africa wrote about me two months ago. When she left the room, her fuming eyes already conveyed that what I had said in my conversation with her and her colleagues had gone beyond the party line. For example, I didn’t come out in favor of the magic, one-state solution and didn’t define the wars against Gaza as genocide.
    I also told that same audience that it is not enough to analyze the colonial roots of Israel. The historical context must also include the Nazi industry of murder and the fact that most countries refused to take in large numbers of Jewish refugees.
    The thing that apparently angered them most was that I dared claim that the use of weapons does not advance the Palestinians’ cause today. It was not because of my Israeli identity that I was critical of the worship of the armed struggle and wars, I clarified, but rather out of a feminist and socialist worldview. I disparaged the lethal male mimicry (whether among soldiers or between Palestinians and soldiers) of competing over “whose is bigger.” The Israelis’ is bigger. Their capacity for destructive revenge is bigger so other means need to be found in the struggle. After all, there is also revolutionary responsibility for preventing more devastation and destruction, and not just understanding the human need of the oppressed for revenge.

    I tell every audience also what it doesn’t want to hear. I tell Zionists how surprising it is that Palestinian acts of violence are so few compared to the systematic and humiliating violence that Israelis authorities employ against them. At a pro-Palestinian conference in the Netherlands about two years ago, I said that the Jewish linkage to the Holy Land cannot be ignored, which also prompted fuming eyes, as if I had never written against the dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians.
    In meetings with socialist Zionist youth in South Africa I told them they should not immigrate to Israel. As the other Whites, they still benefited from past privilege of criminal proportions in South Africa, so they should stay in their country and fight to genuinely curb the crimes of apartheid. Fully consciously exploiting additional privilege and moving to Israel would be choosing to participate in another crime.
    I said something similar on a panel that I moderated at the HaaretzQ conference in New York last week that dealt with struggles for equality. The audience comprised mostly liberal Zionists. The newspaper’s representatives made it clear that Haaretz is a Zionist publication, that its opposition to the occupation stems from Zionist principles. I found it appropriate to distinguish myself from this stance.

    Zionism preaches in favor of the immigration of Diaspora Jews to Israel. Every liberal Zionist Jew living well in the Diaspora needed to know that even without “making aliyah,” Israel was granting them rights denied to Palestinians who were born in the country or whose parents were. Diaspora Jews have the right to visit Israel, to acquire Israeli citizenship, to live and work on either side of Israel’s pre-1967 border with the West Bank, to marry an Israeli, travel between Israel and the United States and not lose their rights in either country.
    Everything Israel provides Diaspora Jews, it denies the Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians who live abroad are not even entitled to visit the land of their mothers and grandmothers (their real ones; not imaginary ones from thousands of years ago). Those who are allowed to visit are subject to restrictions: Some can’t leave the West Bank, others are not allowed to enter the West Bank, most are barred from going to Gaza.
    Israel is not only barring them from returning to their country. It is also preventing them from settling down in the enclaves of the West Bank. Palestinians who have fled or are trying to flee the nightmare of the Syrian slaughterhouse can’t even dream about the most rational of options: taking refuge in their country of origin.
    As a rule, Israel bars Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from traveling abroad, to Israel or to the West Bank. It bars them from living in the West Bank and bars West Bank Palestinians from living in about 60 percent of West Bank territory. Jews from Brooklyn or Tel Aviv can settle tomorrow in the Jewish settlement of Ofra. Residents of the Palestinian village of Silwad, whose land was stolen for Ofra, are not entitled to settle in Jaffa or to establish a community on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Palestinian citizens of Israel lose their social rights if they dare live in the West Bank.
    People born in Jerusalem are expelled from the country and lose their residency status if they dare marry and work in the U.S. By the way, Israel also prohibits them from living in Kafr Qasem inside Israel, or in Be’er Sheva. They are only allowed to live in the ghettos that we created for them in the united city.
    Israel uses Jewish immigration to excuse and deepen the dispossession. Immigrants to Israel become conscious collaborators with the increasingly extreme apartheid policy. Apartheid is considered a crime. We who were born in this country are collaborators against our will. All that remains for us is to use our privileges to fight the regime of privileges and, as much as possible, reduce the level of our collaboration with the dispossession. This course of action is not unique to us. Israel is not the only evil regime in the world creating rights for some groups and depriving others of them. But Israel, by default, is our home.
    read more:

  7. MaxNarr
    December 22, 2015, 11:24 pm

    Hass is literally THE worst.

    • talknic
      December 23, 2015, 3:28 am

      @ MaxNarr

      A state in breach of the UN Charter and International Law is far better, right?

    • eljay
      December 23, 2015, 7:26 am

      || MaxNarr: Hass is literally THE worst. ||

      If by “literally THE worst” you mean “nowhere near as horribly awful as hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists like me”, yes, Hass is literally THE worst.

    • Eva Smagacz
      Eva Smagacz
      December 23, 2015, 7:56 am

      Is Hass the WORST because she is lying or because she is saying the truth?

    • talknic
      December 23, 2015, 8:18 am

      @ MaxNarr

      I’ll take you on your word , tho without any reason it’s not as convincing as it usually is

  8. xanadou
    December 22, 2015, 11:48 pm

    “Will Israeli policies fail of their own accord?”

    I tend to agree with Mr. Burg.
    Since there is no balancing discourse, there is no one to give pause to maniacal idiots such as Gopstein, who has come to believe his own violent rhetoric. And it’s contagious: just consider what is coming out of the mouths of the members of the Knesset, even the Minister of Justice, of all people.

    The current situation reminds me of the one-sided, unopposed hysterical howls in Nazi Germany about 2 years before the start of WW2, and no one with a death wish to call for a time out.

    The exodus out of Ghetto Israel of the sane, but silent/silenced citizenry is balanced, even exceeded by the incoming stream of extremists with no concept of caution, or common sense, even self-preservation.

    The hysterical Screamers are taking over Asylum Israel. If this continues, even at the current rate of incremental deterioration, how long will it take for the US to tone down its professed loyalty and support? When that goes, so will the tenuous “strong” ties with the despotic tyrants of the region.

    Has Israel already forgotten what had happened in South Africa and how quickly that quagmire fell apart? Or are historical facts an optional nuisance in Israel?

  9. Ossinev
    December 23, 2015, 7:18 am

    “Not a single mainstream British politician explicitly criticised Israel’s massacre last summer”


    This is Gerald Kaufmann,a Jewish MP in the UK, and Designated Leader of the House of Commons.

    Have a look also at for a list of Labour Friends of Palestine.

    Yes there are a host of MP`s in the UK mostly Conservative who are members of Friends of Israel and yes there is a great deal of below the radar Zionist influence on policies towards Israel in the UK and in Europe generally as opposed to the in your face American variety.

    I am not naive on this. The point I was trying to make in my original and follow up comment is that the Zionist influence in Europe is minimal compared with the US and as I said the proof of this particular pudding is the recognition of Palestine by the EU and the settlements products labelling. You may well consider these as ” watered down” and “symbolic” but I venture that these moves would be absolutely impossible in the US and the reaction to them by Israel indicates that it is very worried about anti – Israel trends in the EU and in individual European countries.

    The pressure which needs to be applied on Israel to change its apartheid policies can only come from Europe, whatever views one may have on the extent of Zionist influence over European politicians and policies – that pressure simply cannot come from the US, whether run by Democrats or Republicans precisely because of the grotesque stranglehold which the Zionist lobby has.

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