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Arthur Finkelstein ruined Israel, says Ehud Barak

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Over the weekend, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak published an op-ed in the New York Times, saying Israel needs to be saved from Benjamin Netanyahu, and spoke at the Saban Forum in Washington, arguing that Netanyahu, not Iran, poses an “existential threat” to Israel because he is slowly annexing the West Bank and undermining Israel’s “moral high ground” in the “advanced” world.

Netanyahu has solidified his power by touching fascistic chords in the Israeli public, Barak said. “Any ultra-national movement– I don’t want to use the word fascist” heightens the awareness of “enemies” who can never be reconciled, Barak said. The result is identity values: “[Israeli Jews] want to belong to a group, they respect authority, they hold certain things sacred.”

Barak said Netanyahu transformed Israel through the black magic of the late Arthur Finkelstein, the U.S. Zionist political consultant who died three months ago:

The right-wing… educated the Israel public to judge its political identity through two filters. I call it the late Arthur Finkelstein questions. Question number one, Inward-looking. Question number two, outward-looking. Inward-looking. Are you first of all Israeli then Jew? …  If you’re first Israeli, you are left. If you’re first Jew, you are right.

Second is outward-looking question. Do you love Arabs or do you hate Arabs? If you love Arabs, you are left. If you hate Arabs, you are right.

As long as we agree that these are the filters that should be used, the right-wing will be forever in power.

The left has to change the identity questions into substantive political questions about the danger to Israel’s existence, because Israelis actually seek separation from Palestinians.

I can tell you, 70 percent of Israelis believes in two-state solution. Eighty percent believe in separation. I say, why, what’s the difference? There is a difference. Israel never wants to be suckers. So two-state solution sounds as if you are yielding to a demand or a right of the Palestinians. Separation is something more neutral. And 85 percent support divorce.

(Ali Abunimah long ago said that this Israeli Jewish desire for “separation” was simply apartheid by another name.)

Netanyahu has set in motion a dangerous trend, Barak continued: Israel is gaining a reputation for obstinacy, and thereby is losing the moral high ground with “advanced” western societies, and with Jewish communities in particular. Forget about the 160 “photo-op” countries.

What I see is a major problem for Israel that we lost this instinct that Zionism had from day one to always hold the moral ground… in the minds of your own people, in order to hold them united; in the minds of the Jewish communities in the world; in the minds of friends in the advanced world.

After all, Western Europe, North American, Australia, New Zealand– that’s our reference group. The rest of the 160 nations where we do a lot of mileage, we make visit, they visit, and it’s great for photo ops, the real core of our identity are those countries and we should make sure that we hold the moral high ground there.

This has created a crisis among Israel supporters:

When you look at the crisis that we have now with Americans, especially young generation and with many people who were– devoted supporters of Israel for decades in their own nations, you see that the real underlying cause, that we lost this instinct. The instinct to always find a way to make sure that if something is rejected it will be genuinely understood by objective observers and friends all around the world as being rejected because of the insistent obstination or whatever on the other side. Not because Israel was kind of framing it in a way that does not allow you to fly.

Dennis Ross, the US mediator (who has said that U.S. Jews must side with Israel), expressed a real fear about what Israel has become.

“You said 85 percent of the Israeli public would prefer divorce. And yet, there seems to be no real debate within Israel over the danger that you’re describing, so how do you explain that?”

Barak said that the left had failed to tear the masks off the right wing agenda for one state and show how it is destroying Israeli security and democracy– creating a one-state solution outcome that will be non-Jewish, non-democratic, and insecure.

Dani Dayan, the Israeli consul general, objected that Barak himself was responsible for the Israeli attitudes toward Palestinians.

I think that the simple answer to the question of Mr. Ross is that Israelis overwhelmingly do not believe that the Palestinians are ready to have peace with Israel and actually, you are the first person that rightfully taught that to the Israelis.

Dayan referred to Barak’s explanation of the failure of Camp David talks in 2000, that Palestinians are not a partner for peace (what Avi Shlaim calls a “tragic mistake” that delivered the Israeli public to the right wing).

As for Barak’s peace plan, he offered it in the pages of the New York Times and at the Saban Forum: Israel gets to keep Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and the settlement blocs, comprising 80 percent of the settlers, and leaving 100,000 settlers to be removed from “isolated settlements” in the West Bank. The Palestinians are compensated with “land swaps.” And Israel keeps its army in the West Bank. This is a recipe for a non-viable rump state, and, as Scott Roth says, it is Israelis setting the terms of negotiations ahead of time, and leaving out Gaza, refugees, and any notion of justice.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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13 Responses

  1. pabelmont on December 4, 2017, 7:01 pm

    Barak self-described peace-plan is very generous from his intensely fearful-greedy-self-impressed point of view. How generous of me, of us, he seems to think and perhaps even says, since we don’t have to offer anything at all. We control all, all, all of this little world!

    Well, he’s right. That’s why we need BDS or some other mechanism to get the nations (the advanced nations especially) to say that the days of settler colonialism are over, to say that that horse has left the stable, to say that we (USA, Canada, Australia, NZ) all benefited from it in our day, but that day is no more.

    I’m not sure where the villain is around here. I doubt that it is the sympathy of the “advanced nations” for Israel’s “right” to commit settler colonialism & apartheid. More likely the villain is Mammonism (neoliberalism, free-trade capitalism, and capitalist nad other BIG-MONEY control over governments, including that of BIG-ZION) so that the governments of the advanced nations (despite what their citizens may feel) are trapped in Zionism.

    • Citizen on December 5, 2017, 6:19 am

      Couldn’t they get out of that trap by saying in effect, “that was then, this is now”-the time marked change since 1945, since the Nuremberg Trials and their Geneva progeny, such as Geneva IV? Those markers were paid for by all the millions of the world’s people who died innocently in WW2.

  2. [email protected] on December 4, 2017, 7:04 pm

    Arthur Finkelstein got it right possibly about Israel but certainly about America. If you put Christianity first over being an American, you are on the right, if you put America first over your religion, you are on the left. If you like Blacks and refugees you are on the left, if not you are on the right.

    • dgfincham on December 5, 2017, 11:56 am

      Pdxmuscle: I disagree. There is an excellent movie, “A few good men”, in which two US Marines are on trial for the murder of a colleague. They explain their honor code: the Unit, the Corps, God, and the United States of America. If someone puts their duty to the state above their duty to God, they are fascists, not leftists.

    • biggerjake on December 5, 2017, 4:24 pm

      I would prefer to think of myself as a human first and second as a resident of a small, delicate planet. I don’t believe in the spirit in the sky but that doesn’t define me… it is merely incidental to who I am. I would rather be defined by my concern for all of my fellow human residents of this tiny, insignificant world.

      An interesting thought experiment is to consider Palestine as if it were the 51st state or an unincorporated territory of the US.

      Think about how we would all feel if those were Americans who live with the daily terror of being under the boot heel of Israel.

      Think how much fun it would be to see the cowardly IDF if they had to face a real well-trained military bristling with modern state-of-the-art weapons… instead of women and children and teenagers wielding rocks.

      How many Hellfire Missles would it take to convince settlers to stop the illegal, immoral attacks on Palestinians?

  3. homingpigeon on December 4, 2017, 8:00 pm

    This caught my attention: “There is a difference. Israel never wants to be suckers.” I think the word they use is “frayer” which I have seen in Israeli movies. I’m under the impression that doing their best to outwit others while not being outwitted is a concern of many Israelis.

    • Citizen on December 5, 2017, 6:21 am

      Yep. Also spelled “freier” if memory serves.

    • Tuyzentfloot on December 5, 2017, 7:16 am

      Freier is german (and dutch)for suitor or boyfriend. A derived meaning is that of someone who visits prostitutes, which is then derived again metaphorically to become loser.

      If you then start associating any form of decency , fairness or honesty with being a loser then the result is really pretty.

  4. JosephA on December 4, 2017, 10:03 pm

    I am mildly surprised that any Israelis (let alone brainwashed Israel-firsters) believe this would be any sort of long-term solution. The right wing has turned so fascistic, they are now also delusional.

  5. Ismail on December 5, 2017, 7:03 am

    Barak is peddling the hoary origin story that Israel began as the project of robust and right-thinking Zionists, tilling the land and bringing civilization to the jungle. Highly moral and wanting nothing more than refuge for themselves and peace with the natives, Zionists were forced to defend themselves again and again from the depredations of the irrationally violent Palestinians – which they did, of course, with utmost devotion to the principles of Just Warfare. And then, the fall from grace, ushered in by the right-wingers.

    Sheer horseshit, as any reader of this site is aware. And Barak is right that most of the “advanced” world bought this nonsense at the beginning. Trouble is, he still seems to think they were justified in doing so – the tale, he says, was true.

    What would left Zionists do without their right-wing counterparts? …..”You think I’m bad? You should see my cousin Dave!”

    The right wingers are happy to cut your head off. The “leftists” do, too, but they give you a coupla Tylenol first. You should be grateful.

    • annie on December 5, 2017, 10:11 am

      Barak is peddling the hoary origin story that Israel began as the project of robust and right-thinking Zionists, tilling the land and bringing civilization to the jungle.

      yeah, all that mumbo jumbo about the “moral high ground”:

      we lost this instinct that Zionism had from day one to always hold the moral ground

      this is not an instinctual. this thinking, that zionism, from day one, had to hold ‘higher ground’ — is a carefully crafted brain washing.

      • Tuyzentfloot on December 5, 2017, 10:16 am

        Brain washing , is that like saying look how smart Jews are so they can’t be bad?

  6. eljay on December 5, 2017, 11:40 am

    … What I see is a major problem for Israel that we lost this instinct that Zionism had from day one to always hold the moral ground …

    Zionism – Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine – has never had any moral ground to hold on to.

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