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One-state solution gets fairer shake in a NY synagogue than it gets in NY Times or MSNBC

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Last Wednesday night, an American who had emigrated to Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Forces press office and is now a military correspondent for the Times of Israel, gave a speech at a New York synagogue titled, “The West Bank without spin.” I went to the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue to hear the talk with extreme prejudice. An hour and a half later I left the synagogue sensing that I had heard that rare thing, a reasonable Israeli.

Here are some of the things that Judah Ari Gross said:

–The West Bank is an “ugly thing.” The rule of law is skewed against Palestinians. The rate of convictions for Palestinians accused in military courts is 99.7 percent. The opposite is the case for Israelis accused of crimes against Palestinians.The Israeli national police who investigate those cases are “terrible.”

The Israel national police that operate out of the West Bank are– terrible. I’m sorry to say, but they’re not very good at their job. In between 2013 and 2014, there were 150 complaints filed by Palestinians against Israelis for attacking their cars, or setting fires to their fields, or doing any number of antagonistic acts. Two of those 150 between those two years resulted in any kind of indictment. They’ve also been caught a number of times ruining investigations by having shoddy police work.

–The Israeli army spokespeople are “terrified” of international media reporting on the West Bank.

It’s a tough sell, honestly. It’s a tough sell… The IDF has a ridiculous spokesperson’s unit, it is massive, they have people everywhere. But at this point the IDF is terrified of foreign media so they lock down a lot, and they don’t explain themselves because they’re scared of being taken out of context and not being presented properly which is understandable but doesn’t work well for their benefit when they actually have something to say.

–Israeli soldiers finish their service “crazy.”

Generally speaking Israelis coming out of the army are a little crazy… They come out crazy, and so they clean their head as they say in Israel.

The veterans go off to South America or Southeast Asia and “just do drugs for about six months” so as to come back and be productive members of society.

–An army of unsophisticated 18- and 19-year-olds is in no position to police Palestinian society. The soldiers think they are there to defend Israel and so have no responsibility for Palestinian lives. Gross was clearly referring to, among others, Elor Azaria, who was 18 when he killed Abd al-Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying on the street in Hebron last March, a case that has rocked the political leadership of Israel.

–The strongest leftists in Israel are the people who command those soldiers:

Israeli commanders and officers and generals, a lot of them when they get out of the army go into leftwing political groups. Which sort of gives you some indication of where a lot of them stand on the issues.

–The solutions to this mess are two: the two-state solution and the one-state. “To be perfectly frank neither of those has much traction at that point,” Gross said. “More and more people are seeing the status quo maintaining itself.” Many Palestinians, seeing the turmoil in the surrounding region and the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, would accept Israeli sovereignty if they only had rights in the society at last.

–The two state solution is being pushed by “Israel’s left wing,” Yesh Atid and the Zionist Union camp. But they’ve made no progress. Moving 41 families from the settlement of Amona is a huge ordeal for Israeli society, as Gross described it—and he left us to imagine what would be involved trying to create a viable Palestinian state by removing thousands of settlers outside the “settler blocs.”

–The one state solution has several varieties. There is Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s idea of annexing Area C on “an interim basis,” but that is disingenuous because it is not interim, it is his endgame, with unequal status for Palestinians and Jews, and Palestinian population centers dealt out of Israel.

“There are other people that say regardless of whether or not Israel is Jewish, it should just be a one state solution, call it a day, and what will be will be. These people are more to the left.

“There are other people exploring a canton system, where there is one overall country but broken up into two different states, one Jewish, one Palestinian.

So a New York synagogue offers a more open discussion of the reasonableness of the one-state solution than our press or politicians. “Call it a day and what will be will be.”

Gross’s manner was disarming. He has a rambling informal slightly shlumpfy attitude. Tan jeans desert boots, a yarmulke. He studied journalism but when he moved to Israel was determined not to write about the conflict because there was too much competition for that beat and he wanted to write about food and become the Israeli Michael Pollan. But the military beat was thrust upon him; and his absence of ambition or zeal is becoming.

I sensed that he is post-Zionist and personally supports a one-state outcome with equal rights. Notwithstanding boners I’ve left out about how great the IDF is, Gross’s entire talk was aimed at the idea that people should just get along and Palestinians must have dignity and rights and the only people you should trust are the people who are trying to build something together in the country. He told a touching story. An Israeli mother was driving in the dark on the winding roads of the West Bank when she came to a Palestinian car blocking the road and freaked out. Someone was about to descend from the hills and kill her children in the back seat. She did a rapid three point turn and drove fast back to Otniel, a settlement she had visited. The Palestinian car followed her. Her heart raced. She flew to the guard house and guards came out with guns and the Palestinian car stopped. A Palestinian man got out and said in broken Hebrew that he had gotten lost on the road and was trying to find his way home. The settlers gave him directions. In the end there are just people, trying to live together, Gross said, many are decent, some are idiots.

Gross was honest about the fact that you can’t have a Let’s-just-all-get-along solution to this situation without addressing the terrible power imbalance. I hope he gets a wider hearing in synagogues, though, because he could change the minds that need to be changed, American Jewish ones.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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14 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth on December 26, 2016, 4:27 pm

    They can ‘all just get along’ as long as full freedom of speech, religion and press are firmly baked into the new Constitution. They’ll be fine I promise. :-)

  2. Atlantaiconoclast on December 26, 2016, 8:40 pm

    According to Zionist Jews and Christian Zionists, all Jews who show some semblance of compassion for the Palestinians are self hating Jews. So not sure how much impact there will be if even a majority of American Jews come to oppose the status quo favoring Israel. Phil, would you please consider interviewing American Evangelicals who are challenging the dominant Christian Zionist narrative?

    I am not a Christian, well not anymore, but I have seen a number of anti Zionist Christians of varying stripes on youtube who would make for very interesting subjects. Alliances can be made with these people.

  3. RoHa on December 26, 2016, 9:39 pm

    “The Israel national police that operate out of the West Bank are– terrible. ”

    What about those that operate in the West Bank?

  4. Ossinev on December 27, 2016, 6:23 am

    “The veterans go off to South America or Southeast Asia and “just do drugs for about six months” so as to come back and be productive members of society.”

    So after all that Zio glue sniffing during induction and “most moral” combat they go off piste for six months and switch to proper drugs AND they come back “productive members of society”.


  5. CigarGod on December 27, 2016, 9:59 am

    Interesting picture Mr. Gross paints.
    Sounds like just following orders requires people to be their own doctor.
    I assume there is no mental health care for conditions which result from – legal – orders.
    Surely no real mental disabilty can come from following the orders of the most moral military in the world.

  6. Elizabeth Block on December 27, 2016, 10:32 am

    I am one of a group of people – some Jewish women, some not – who hold a weekly vigil outside the Israeli consulate in Toronto. We carry placards saying “End the Occupation” and other things, and hand out leaflets, a different one every week. We still get a few Zionists who say we’re crazy, but we get a lot of support from passers- and drivers-by, and the occasional inquirer who actually wants to know why we’re there.
    One such man, a few months ago, finally asked, “Why can’t they just get along?” I said that if they would, or could – if the Jews would share the land and the water – we wouldn’t be there.

  7. Jasonius Maximus on December 27, 2016, 11:39 am

    Speaking of MSNBC, their coverage of the UN resolution on the Settlements yesterday and today has been sickeningly one sided! The myths, false narratives and mistruths by Israeli officials and US Congressmen that have been allowed to stand unchallenged on live TV by so-called journalists, who should know better, is disgusting! I never would have believed it but MSNBC has managed to flip to the right so far over the course the last two days, that they’ve actually “Out Foxed” Fox News with regards to Israel!

    • chinese box on December 27, 2016, 1:17 pm

      This is nothing new for MSNBC.

      Rachel Maddow was making excuses for Israel during the Gaza bombing a few years ago. She knows who butters her bread.

      • Jasonius Maximus on December 27, 2016, 1:40 pm

        True! It breaks my heart, because I know that Maddow, who is usually unflinchingly fearless on every single matter, knows better than this! That she generally avoids this topic like the plague and when pressured bends the wrong way shows just how taboo and toxic the Israel question is for even the most astute and articulate journalists on TV.

    • RobertB on December 27, 2016, 10:37 pm

      The MSM reporters are not there to provide and report true journalism when it comes to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; they are there as agents of propaganda and lies. They follow their zionist producers & bosses rules and demands. They do what they are told or else!!!

      One often sees on their panel discussions …. radical zionist Jews & Christian zionists, Israelis with American accents and our spineless US Congress/Senate members who crawl on their knees in order to please their AIPAC handlers.

      FalseNews had Mike Huckabee on tonight and he was there without anyone from the Palestinian side to counter or challenge his zionist hasbara. It was the classic diversion method….. the Holocaust, the ancient wall, the Syrian massacres, Iran…..and yet nothing was said about the Israeli “For Jews Only” settlements…..!!! The current number of Jewish-only Settlements & outposts is 261….all built on confiscated and occupied Palestinian land.

      Huckabee & the spineless US Congress members know whats good for them and who fills their pockets…

  8. Maghlawatan on December 27, 2016, 3:44 pm

    Gross sounds like an intuitive who understands the big picture . 95% of Israeli Jews don’t. They live in a system that works for them and is now failing. Israeli incomes are 20% higher than they would be absent the occupation. Everyone will lose when the system collapses . So they beat on.

  9. Maghlawatan on December 27, 2016, 3:55 pm

    Ha’aretz described Mondoweiss as far left today

  10. xanadou on December 27, 2016, 7:44 pm

    This just proves that religion (here: Judaism) and politics are very different concepts that can be used by one to the benefit or detriment of the other but cannot be made into one as israel tries to corrupt the sanctity of believers’ sanity to derive parochial temporal political and monetary gains to benefit a few at the expense of the believers’ naivete and trust. So how does this make israel “special” or different from other such attempts elsewhere? (rhetorical)

    I am curious, however, to know how the congregation reacted to Gross’s words.

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