Israel has a “better” democracy than the American one, Israeli consul general Dani Dayan told an Israel advocacy group at Columbia University this week, and both countries commit “injustices.” The diplomat then reeled off four American examples.
We [Israel] made our share of injustices. We still do. In a 100-year conflict, there is no country that does not make injustices– Guantanamo, drones that kill in Afghanistan– participants in a wedding or in a funeral, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War 2. We do our share of injustices unfortunately, and you know what, we do our share of stupidities. But in the big picture we have by far, the upper moral hand, deserving again to be the banner of the progressive movement in this country.
I emailed Dayan to ask him if he could specify Israeli injustices as he had American ones. “I’d rather not,” he wrote back.
The thrust of Dayan’s remarks to the young Israel advocates was that “we have a duty to restore the honor” of a word that has been “vilified and distorted” — “the Zed word” — Zionism. Dayan set out to clear Zionism’s name by several arguments: there is no more progressive cause than Zionism because it rescues threatened Jews; Zionists are similar to the Algerian revolutionaries in that they prevailed over colonial “oppressors”; and Zionism is needed because the Charlottesville white supremacist rally tells us it can happen to Jews again.
Here are several excerpts of Dayan’s remarks, made February 5 to to Students Supporting Israel at Columbia.
Dayan said he had met with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Mayor de Blasio told me, “You know, my staunch support for Israel and my staunch opposition to boycotting Israel stems from my progressive values. I am pro Israel not in spite of the fact that I am progressive, but because I am progressive.”
Dayan then asked: “Why contrary to all that is being said in the media and on campus, why is there no cause that merits more to be the flag for the progressive movement in this country than Zionism and the state of Israel?”
The answer, he said, is that Israel was established during an era in which a number of “national liberation movements across the world, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Asia, prevailed over their oppressors.” He said, “Israel was liberated from the British rule,” just as India and Pakistan were liberated from the British. And just as Algeria and Singapore were liberated a decade and more later “from other oppressors.”
Today the intellectual fashion is to see Israel as “reactionary,” ethnocentric country, Dayan continued. “So why Israel is a Jewish state. Why do you need a Jewish state? Why are you so adamant that Israel should be a Jewish state?”
The reason a Jewish state is needed is because of the Holocaust and sequels of anti-Jewish persecution, he said. As an example, in 1991, the Jewish community of Ethiopia was in danger, and the Israeli government airlifted 15,000 Ethiopians out of Africa over three days. Only Israel would save them.
Would any other country have participated in the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry? We know the answer: No. How come we know the answer. Because we were there. We were there in the 40’s when the Jewish population of Europe was decimated, and no country– no country whatsoever except the Dominican Republic that showed good intentions but couldn’t deliver– no country came to our rescue. That’s the reason we need a Jewish state.
The antisemitic marchers in Charlottesville last summer show that it can happen again.
Can we be sure that it won’t happen again. Look at Charlottesville. How can we be sure after Charlottesville. Look at Teheran, how can be sure when we listen to the words coming from Teheran? That’s the reason we need a Jewish state, we will never give up the idea of a Jewish state.
Dayan said Israel’s founding was the triumph of national liberation over British colonialism. And superior to other liberation struggles. And yet today Zionism is vilified:
During the second half of the 20th century there have been a number of successful national liberation movements. I dare to say, all of them were justified. The fight against colonialism is always justified. But none of them was as extraordinary and as just as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people that brought about the creation of the state of Israel, and that national liberation movement has a name: The zed word, Zionism, one of the words today that are most vilified, are most distorted. and I believe we have a duty to restore the honor of that word.
When people speak of Israeli apartheid, Dayan said, remind them of the African rescue of 1991.
If the salvation of human beings is not a progressive cause, I don’t know what a progressive cause is….
Israel was the first until now the only country in history… that sent a fleet to Africa to liberate black Africans rather than to enslave them….all other countries that we know in history sent huge fleets to Africa to enslave Africans.
And Israeli democracy is superior to American democracy.
They say look, but your democracy sucks. Well, that’s right, our democracy sucks. Democracy is a messy form of government…. I have to be careful. I don’t want to be expelled from this country. I am a foreign diplomat, my visa depends on the State Department. But really I think our democracy is better than American.
Dayan, who lives in an illegal Israeli settlement, continued with his standard argument, the reason there is not peace is that the Palestinians have rejected the Jewish national liberation movement for nearly a century, and every time the Palestinians were offered a state they turned it down, going back to 1936.
Instead of a state they decided to found a terrorist organization to fight Israel. That’s the only reason a Palestinian state was not established.
The peace process will begin when Palestinians accept the Jewish right to the land of Israel as an indigenous people, not colonizers.
When Palestinians come to terms with the fact that we are not the French in Algeria, we are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel] exactly like they are indigenous to Palestine, that day the peace process will begin. Until then… the peace process is a farce.
Dayan took a risky path when he lauded Israeli wealth. “Israel is a wealthy country.” GDP per capita “skyrocketed in the last 2 decades.” It is now above Italy, and “maybe as we are speaking we have already surpassed the GDP of Japan.”
That wealth raises the question of why the U.S. gives Israel so much aid, close to $3.8 billion a year, putting Israel near the top of American beneficiaries.
In other riffs, Dayan smeared Linda Sarsour as an anti-Semite and said that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) was failing to hurt Israel. “Every single performer that you want to hear in Tel Aviv, will come…. There is one nudnik named Roger Waters.” Waters, Dayan said, had convinced “a 19 year old from New Zealand” not to play Israel, a reference to Lorde, who is 21. The consul general channeled Henny Youngman:
Sometimes I wish BDS to be more successful. We already suffered three times Justin Bieber. Justin– it was a joke, you are welcome.
Reflecting on Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, Dayan said he had long pooh-poohed concerns about such a move.
My response was always simply, the embassy will be in Jerusalem. That’s the only thing that will happen. All the alarmist scenarios as in many cases were nonsense. We had a few weeks, a few days of rage.
As for the Palestinian response, yes they declared days of rage, but again Dayan dismissed the issue.
Someone said when the Palestinians declare a day of rage, you would believe that the other days are days of yoga. Every day they have an excuse to declare it a day of rage, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about that.