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The following is dialogue from a dinner party I went to with four other liberal media/literary folk in their 50s and 60s, this weekend in the New York exurbs. (Names changed. Jewish/non-Jewish not a factor.) 

Dave, the host, to me: And what is it you do, you write about Israel?

Me: I work for an anti-Zionist website.

Dave: But you do it because you’re pro-Israel?

Me: No. I don’t really like Israel. It’s not for me.

Dave: So what do you want– no Israel?

Me: No, I’m an anti-Zionist. I’m against the idea of a Jewish state. That’s where I put all my energy. It’s like if they said the U.S. was a Christian state, tomorrow, I’d throw myself into the struggle against a religious state here.

Dave: But we’re not a Christian state, and that is a Jewish state.

Me: Yes, and it’s in my name. I’m against it.

Dave: What do you mean by Zionist? That’s an awfully big word.

My wife: Yes Phil. Good question.

Me: It means people who are for having a Jewish state in Palestine.

Dave: But the world said there should be a Jewish state. The U.N. did.

Me: That’s true, back in 1947.

Dave: And you want to just end that?

Me: Well, it didn’t work out. That’s just what has happened. Communism was great on paper, but we saw how that turned out, and Zionism didn’t work out. It has just led to the oppression of other people. Not to mention the effect on U.S. foreign policy.

Amory, the hostess: I don’t like all the settlements. That they kept building homes on the land that’s supposed to be for Palestinians.

Dave: We’re not talking about that part. That’s after 1967.

Me: But Netanyahu and his ministers would say that they are just doing with the settlements what they did in the beginning. That it’s the unfolding of Zionism. Zionism turns out to be about one thing. Land without Palestinians on it. And everything follows from that belief. Ethnic cleansing and occupation and checkpoints. More land for Jews.

My wife: Yes, they were given half the land in 1947 and now they have 90 percent. And I’ve been there, and you go around with a Palestinian, it’s awful. They tell you, this is where our house used to be, then we got kicked out, this was our backyard before the Jews wanted to build a road. That’s where so and so lived and they got killed. It’s really like seeing what it was like in the South in Jim Crow or in slavery.

Dave: See that is why I really want to go there. To see that. But you can’t just get rid of Israel.

Me: I don’t want to get rid of Israel, I want it to reform. I didn’t want to get rid of the south, or white people, we wanted them to change the order.

Amory: But what would you do– right now?

Me: Israel should become a country of its citizens, not a Jewish state. Just as I would be against a Christian state here. Everyone under its governance should get to vote. That’s pretty simple.

Dave: I don’t see how that happens. It is a Jewish state. The world went along with that.

Me: I’ll tell you the wisest thing about the conflict I’ve heard. A friend who works there says she goes back to Spain and everyone says, What is the peaceful resolution of that conflict? And she says to me, you’ve been here so you know, There is no peaceful resolution to this conflict. They have heaped up the materials of a huge political conflagration. And they keep on heaping them up. So there is bound to be violence.

Amory: Here is the part I don’t understand. What about the Arab countries? Why are they so dysfunctional?

Dave: And the Palestinians don’t get along either.

Amory: But the Arab countries– they have come up with nothing.

Me: Well algebra and zero. Arabs invented that.

Amory: I mean now. What do they have to show for anything? And it doesn’t count that you wound up living on land filled with oil! What have they done? Where is the Picasso or even the Mark Zuckerberg, I don’t see it. And I think, it has to do with how the women are treated. If you treat women well a society will prosper. There will be achievements and great distinctions and culture.

The conversation shifts to a different subject. At a lull I touch my hostess’s knee.

Me: I want to return to something you said, Amory. The treatment of women. Some people would say that our society hasn’t treated women well. That we’re also on a path to greater freedom for women but they have much lower status.

Amory: But that’s not true. Women are treated very well here.

It’s late, and the conversation pitches on in another direction.

Philip Weiss

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

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32 Responses

  1. JohnSmith on March 25, 2018, 1:37 pm

    It must be bliss to be a Hasidic female in Brooklyn or the settlements! Thank goodness there’s no physical abuse or making women wear special garments or headgear to show an inferior status!

    “Where is the Picasso or even the Mark Zuckerberg.” Wow. I can think of Marc Chagall as one of the supreme artists of the world, but otherwise…. “Wow! Camille Pissarro was a decent artist and his work goes for a lot at auction because people can’t afford good Monets any more! Wow!”

    And Mark Zuckerberg??? Do morals and how he betrayed the Winklevoss twins even matter? I guess caring about morals is just for losers….

    And why do Arabs or Palestinians or Bedouins need any sort of artistic or intellectual accomplishments that any one else might deign to approve of before they deserve basic human rights?

    These friends of Mr. Weiss sound like old-time British colonialists at the height of the Raj.

    • on March 25, 2018, 1:51 pm

      Hear hear

    • Emory Riddle on March 25, 2018, 7:16 pm

      Casual racism and incredible naivite.

      “But the world said there should be a Jewish state. The U.N. did.” As if the world came up with this plan to create a Jewish state!

    • JWalters on March 25, 2018, 7:37 pm

      Yes, old-time aristocrats at any time in human history, in other words, predators.

  2. on March 25, 2018, 1:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing Phil. A lot of what was said is said often in my conversations with those interested in israel/palestine.

    I always end with – what would you do if I told you I had a religious right to take your house and throw you and your family to the curb. And that your neighbours allowed for and supported this along with the police. Daily you walk past your old house on your way to the tent you pitched in the park – a tent you have to continuously move when the police show up. Often the police arrest or detain you and your family for any resistance you partake in. The newspapers are not interested in your story and instead have written well of me and my family living in your former home. Each day you see me enjoying your former home, bbqs in the back yard, a blossoming garden with cherry tomatoes, a new car, kids playing ball, neighbour’s visiting all the while you struggle to feed your family and find fresh water. People look at you and your family as vagrants, filthy and beneath them. They often express their low opinions of you by calling you vulgar names. Every time you push back you are beaten or jailed. Your kids see and experience all this emotional and physical violence as does your wife.

    Look them straight in the eyes as I always do and ask them – what would you do – im all ears?

  3. Mooser on March 25, 2018, 1:50 pm

    Gee, I know something else we are always complaining about “the world going along with”.

  4. eljay on March 25, 2018, 3:21 pm

    Not surprisingly, the Zionist arguments are:
    – entitlement (Jews are entitled to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine); and
    – whataboutism.

  5. Jon66 on March 25, 2018, 5:08 pm

    “Well algebra and zero. Arabs invented that.”
    Algebra yes
    Zero, not really. It seems it was the Indians.
    ““Brahmagupta’s text Brahmasphutasiddhanta, written in 628 A.D., is the first text to talk of zero as a number in its own right and to include a discussion of the arithmetic of zero, including the dangerous act of dividing by zero,” he said.

    Historians theorize that zero was spread from northern India by Arab traders along the Silk Road, an ancient trading route that connected Europe and Asia, and may have helped to develop more complex schools of mathematical thought.”

  6. Edward Q on March 25, 2018, 6:59 pm

    The scary thing is Americans with this parochial mentality get to make decisions about the affairs in other countries. I don’t really have a huge problem with this Archie Bunker ignorance provided America has an isolationist policy. Instead the U.S. is the “exceptional country” setting up puppet governments and military bases everywhere.

    As for their perception of Arab accomplishments, it probably reflects the negative portrayal of Arabs on T.V. Since when do a person’s legal rights depend on the accomplishments of their ethnic group? I might add that these days there are probably plenty of trenchant criticisms people around the world could make of Americans.

  7. Keith on March 25, 2018, 7:21 pm

    DAVE- ” But the world said there should be a Jewish state. The U.N. did.”

    No it didn’t. Nothing in the recognition specifies that Israel be a “JEWISH” state. Transforming Israel from a Jewish state to a state of all of its citizens would not affect UN recognition.

    DAVE- “But you can’t just get rid of Israel.”

    No, but you can get rid of the stench of “Blood and Soil” nationalism by making Israel a state of all of its citizens. Why should Israel remain as the last bastion of ethnic nationhood?

    AMORY- “Here is the part I don’t understand. What about the Arab countries? Why are they so dysfunctional?”

    Western colonialism, for cry sakes. And now the neocolonialism of neoliberal globalization.

    • Edward Q on March 25, 2018, 9:18 pm

      Just to add to your points:

      1) Truman depended on Zionist money for his re-election. He over-ruled the state department, which strongly opposed the partition resolution, and ordered them to make an all-out effort to pressure other states to support partition. In 1948 the world was emerging from colonialism and the UN was dominated by European countries. The UN is not authorized to hand over territory from one group of people to another group and the Arab countries tried unsuccessfully to challenge the resolution’s legality. The partition resolution was a non-binding resolution passed by the General Assembly. The Zionists did not abide by the resolution anyway and tried to seize the entire territory; the 1948 war was fought on territory the resolution gave to the “Jews”. The resolution was hardly equitable; it gave a majority of the land and the best land to the “Jews”. It did not explain what was supposed to happen to the Palestinians living on that land. In any case, today Israel is in violation of more then 60 resolutions.

      2) We got rid of South African apartheid. Rhodesia and Algeria are other examples of colonial states that have bit the dust. The Crusades ended with the expulsion of the Crusaders.

      3) Iraq used to be the most developed country in the Arab world. At one point it had a Communist government until the CIA successfully supported a coup that brought Iraq the Baathist dictatorship. The hellish tyrannies in the Gulf would not exist without U.S. support. The first U.S. regime change operation after WWII was against Syria. Today the U.S. is eliminating the secular Arab governments. After WWI, the British and French redrew the borders in the Middle East to create dysfunctional states, in violation of promises made to the Arabs. The only state with water, agriculture, and oil– ingredients for sovereignty, was Iraq.

      The Palestinians are one of the most educated groups in the world; they are more educated then Americans. Palestine used to be one of the most developed parts of the Middle East. When it was destroyed a vital social and cultural center was eliminated from the area. It would be like America losing part of the East coast.

      If Amory “doesn’t understand” then maybe he should withhold judgement until he learns more about the subject.

      • RoHa on March 26, 2018, 2:02 am

        “The Palestinians … are more educated then Americans. ”

        Faint praise.

        (“Than Americans”)

      • Citizen on March 26, 2018, 7:42 am

        I agree with all the comments made so far here. I will just add to Edward Q’s comment, the last one at this time: Truman sold out the State Dept view, the more objective, realist POV when he rushed to sign the letter of recognition of the new state of Israel before the USSR beat him to it–if you go to that letter as it sits in the Truman Archives Library, you will see he crossed out the adjective “Jewish” & retained “State of Israel.” Not even all the Zionist money he got to do his whistle stop campaign to bring him public recognition competitive with Dewey could force him to recognize a specifically Jewish state. Also recall, he grew very annoyed at the Zionists pounding on his oval office door, and at the huge pile of Zionist-orchestrated letters to him, which he burned, so he barred Zionists from his office. But his Jewish business buddy coxed him to let the Zionists back in, and the rest is history. We all know the Zionists worked hard to get all the “Arabists” out of the state department. I also recall Truman wrote in his own notes , complaining the Zionist Jews were the unterhunds who instantly dropped all their principles to play uberhunds when the opportunity, the power to do so came to them. Truman always said “the buck stops here.”

      • wondering jew on March 26, 2018, 9:21 am

        Truman recognized the Jewish state of Israel. The state dept. was opposed, but his recognition was straightforward. The document was produced before Israel was named and therefore referred to it as the Jewish state. By the time he signed it, the state had a name, so he could call it by name, rather than a description. That was the reason for the cross out, not any philosophical compunctions. ( He opposed the Israeli refusal to allow the return of the refugees. His conception of a Jewish state did not recognize israeli concerns of demography.)

      • Citizen on March 26, 2018, 1:18 pm

        @ Yonah Fredman

        You make no logical sense at all. Truman crossed out the adjective “Jewish” in his recognition of the newly claimed State of Israel because he wanted to show what sort of state he was recognizing in behalf of his country. Obviously, if he had prepared this letter of recognition himself, he wouldn’t have need to cross out anything. Was President Truman Pro-Israel? via @lobelog

      • Citizen on March 26, 2018, 1:28 pm

        Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, “Report to the United States Government and His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom” (Excerpt), April 20, 1946 (1 page).
        Recommendation No. 3. In order to dispose, once and for all, of the exclusive claims of Jews and Arabs to Palestine, we regard it as essential that a clear statement of the following principles should be made:
        I. That Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in
        Palestine. II. That Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab
        state. III. That the form of government ultimately to be established,
        shall, under international guarantees, fully protect and preserve the
        interests in the Holy Land of Christendom and of the Moslem and Jewish
        Thus Palestine must ultimately become a state which guards the rights
        and interests of Moslems, Jews and Christians alike; and accords to the
        inhabitants, as a whole, the fullest measure of self-government,
        consistent with the three paramount principles set forth above.
        Throughout the long and bloody struggle of Jew and Arab for dominance in
        Palestine, each crying fiercely: “This land is mine”- except for the brief
        reference in the Report of the Royal Commission (hereinafter referred to
        as the Peel Report) and the little evidence, written and oral, that we
        received on this point-the great interest of the Christian World in
        Palestine has been completely overlooked, glossed over or brushed aside.
        We, therefore, emphatically declare that Palestine is a Holy Land,
        sacred-to Christian, to Jew and to Moslem alike; and because it is a Holy
        Land, Palestine is not, and can never become, a land which any race or
        religion can justly claim as its very own.

      • wondering jew on March 26, 2018, 4:06 pm

        Citizen- Truman wanted to recognize Israel before stalin. He was in a hurry to announce it. Convenience and speed explain why it was easier to rewrite the statement with a pen. Did he make one statement in the rest of his life which backs up your assertion regarding this statement? No.

      • Mooser on March 26, 2018, 5:25 pm

        “Truman wanted to recognize Israel before stalin.” “yonah fredman”

        Oh, you bet, “yonah”! Just imagine the consequences if the Jewish State had gone over to the Commies! Truman wanted to make sure the nascent world super-power was firmly in the American camp.

      • JLewisDickerson on March 26, 2018, 11:30 pm

        NOTE TO CITIZEN: That’s what happens when you copy from a document that utilizes “word wrap”. It should not happen if you can negate the word wrap on the original before you copy it (as with Microsoft’s notepad, word, wordpad, etc.), or if you remember to select “post as plain text” on the contextual menu when you paste ( or use: control+shift+V ).

  8. lonely rico on March 26, 2018, 1:01 am

    > EdwardQ

    1948 war was fought on territory the resolution gave to the “Jews”


    “Jewish forces under Plan Dalet were already outside of the territory proclaimed by the Israeli Government in its plea for recognition on the day Israel’s borders were proclaimed effective and recognized by the US. The other Regional Powers had a right to expel foreign forces (i.e. Israeli) from what remained of Palestine after Israel made its borders clear. Israel’s wars have ALL been in territories … “outside the State of Israel” “. “

    • Edward Q on March 26, 2018, 9:14 am

      Oops– I meant to write Palestinians. Thanks for the correction.

  9. chris_k on March 26, 2018, 1:54 am

    I was thinking recently about Abbas Kierostami’s reputation as a filmmaker when he was alive. He wasn’t one to talk about politics and enjoyed living outside Iran. But it was necessary for Western media to erase him, one of the 4-5 best filmmakers of our era, so that people didn’t think that Iranians were thinking beings capable of artistic innovation. That has become true of many Arab/ Muslim/ Persian Middle Easterners. “even the Mark Zuckerberg..?” Steve Jobs had Arabic DNA.

  10. gamal on March 26, 2018, 2:19 am

    so this is Gurvitzs’ “most forward looking community in the history of the world” what a bunch of utter tossers.

  11. MHughes976 on March 26, 2018, 4:49 am

    Truman was doing what he thought was God’s will. He had read about Cyrus in the thunderous words of the King James Isaiah. I don’t think Dave was so wrong. The non-Muslim world via public and political opinion had become persuaded that massive recompense was due to Jewish people post Hitler. Many found theological validation in Isaiah and elsewhere. Many, according to my childhood memories, thought that violent successes of Zionism were themselves an indication of being in the right. I would draw the conclusion not that these things validate Zionism via world opinion but that WO – many people in many ways, not just a few corrupt politicians – bears responsibility for a terrible thing. Not that much has changed as yet, as we see from those Pew and Gallup polls, though the arrogance and cruelty against Ahed Tammi was seen for what it is.

  12. on March 26, 2018, 6:39 am

    Phil, your interlocutors are a pretty ignorant bunch, as explained by commenters above, but, at the end of the day, they are entitled to their views, even if they are somewhat blinkered.

    You made your own view/position clear vis-a-vis Zionism & Israel, which also clears up a gripe I had & had a rather expansive discussion with Annie Robbins about. Amyway, many thanks.

    I still dn’t agree with your use of the term “liberal Zionists” that you use regularly, though not in this article. I guess you use the term as a repeat of how those people describe themselves.

  13. Maghlawatan on March 26, 2018, 11:14 am

    Meeting hasbara in the flesh.
    The thing is that Israel can’t be reformed. The conventional wisdom gives way not so much to new ideas as to.the massive onslaught of circumstances with which it cannot contend.

    • Citizen on March 26, 2018, 1:47 pm

      Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, “Report to US Govt & His Majesty’s Government in UK” (Excerpt), April 20,1946 (1 page).
      Recommendation No. 3:
      Jew shall not dominate Arab & Arab shall not dominate Jew in
      Palestine. Palestine shall be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab
      Phil, next time put this on a post-it and take it along when you go to your comfortable dinner dates up there in NY state. Then, also take LHunter’s approach, making it personal.

      • Mooser on March 26, 2018, 3:12 pm

        “…making it personal.”

        And we want video, too

  14. Mooser on March 26, 2018, 1:31 pm

    The balebatim mind is a closed book to me.

  15. annie on March 26, 2018, 1:46 pm

    thanks. really interesting in it’s simplicity. this reminds me of conversations i’ve had with people who have a only rudimentary understanding of what’s going on over there. the only thing that sticks out as different than i would have responded might have been the algebra/zero response. when people say ignorant things like she did i think about what our society might be like if outside interests spent trillions oppressing and colonizing us over the last century so they could rob us blind. how has the prison population in the US added to our society? what have the reservations brought us except casinos? or those areas of our country called “sacrifice zones”, environmentally crushed by the weight of corporate greed. i don’t think it’s all the fault of western involvement in the middle east, but how can you tell what it may have been like otherwise? plus, just because amory is not familiar with the beauty and art of arab culture, the arts, literature, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. there’s just so much wrong with that kind of thinking, and i am not even educated enough to mention all the reasons why. chris_k’s point indeed.

    not sure how i missed this article til today, but i really like it. i like being a fly on the wall during your dinner conversation.

  16. ritzl on March 27, 2018, 4:45 pm

    As pretty much every commenter has pointed out, almost none of the rebuttals to Phil’s entrés are factually true. I find it impossible to refute everything, so in these conversations, once I get the sense (two comments in) that the quibble is false, I just suggest to the person I’m speaking with that nearly EVERYTHING they’ve heard about this conflict is demonstrably wrong. Start from scratch. That may insult (probably does) people who pride themselves in complex, fact-based thought but it puts the proverbial ball in their court to find out. They’ll either ask questions and expand horizons, or they’ll close down (in which case you were never going to reach them anyway).

    As someone upthread has mentioned, talknic’s site is a great source for this question-asking/fact retrieval. (Hope talknic is OK…)

    Eljay’s analogies work well also. Gets their attention and gets “them” to lean in as they try to disprove a totally supportable factual reality.

    Dinner parties are tough though. I like bar talk more. :) Direct points are made more forcefully, and sluffed commensurately (in real time) , to be recalled/reviewed in non real-time.

    Well done PW. Well asked. Well navigated. Insight into this dilemma helps us all…


  17. ritzl on March 27, 2018, 5:50 pm

    Almost forgot…

    On the “what have Arabs done?” orientalism, and the “women are treated better…” orientalism, the comeback is that Arab/Muslim democracies have been subverted since the get go. OK, since WWII in the modern sense. The seeming lack of Arab contributions to society is not only baloney, but engineered. Ipso facto.

    Syria is case in point. Stephen Gowans book documents this process. It just IS. NO society can aspire and prosper with that kind of perpetual, external onslaught. NONE. Even so, the so-called Arab Spring did not work in Syria because, despite all this external subversion (way beyond some innocuous concept of “intervention”) Syrians were Syrians. Syrians liked Syria, within the rails of violent overthrow.

    Gowans’ book is an amazingly illustrative perspective on/counter to the glib, “orientalist” toss off, dinner party contention.

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