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If there’s mansplaining and whitesplaining, then why not Ziosplaining? – on Yossi Klein Halevi’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

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I haven’t heard the word used before, so here goes my version: Ziosplaining would be the efforts of Zionists of so-called moderate stripe, who are endlessly pained by reality, to explain to Palestinians (and the world) that they have no choice but to support the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Moreover, as these Zionists implore Palestinians to understand, they seek to convey how deep their own suffering at being occupiers runs—if only, if only, that is, those rightless, stateless Palestinians could understand how much grief it gives the Israeli occupiers to do what they have no choice but to do (build illegal settlements on stolen land, imprison vast numbers of the population, detain without charge (including children), engage in ethnic cleansing, kill with impunity, etc.). If only the Palestinians could grasp the essential goodness and justness of the occupiers and accept life under occupation, then perhaps everyone could at last live happily ever after.

Thus, we have this latest effort in the genre, Yossi Klein Halevi’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor. That neighbor, by the way, is the author’s imaginary neighbor—the only one possible for such an exercise, because few and far between would be the Palestinians who wouldn’t gag at this patronizing effort to have their situation “explained” to them.

If you’ve been “‘splained” to in any context, you know what I’m talking about.

Now I hadn’t even heard of Klein Halevi’s latest book until seeing the review entitled “A Palestinian Responds to His Israeli Neighbor” by Raja Shehadeh in yesterday’s New York Times. Shehadeh, for your information, is not an imaginary construct at all but is, rather, a renowned flesh-and-blood Palestinian “neighbor” who takes seriously Klein Halevi’s challenge to respond. And Klein Halevi has proposed, I’ve read, even to publish a second book, a collection of responses to Letters from Palestinians.

Could it be that Klein Halevi’s book is not actually addressed to Palestinians at all, as it purports to be, but is, instead, just the latest of politically “moderate” feel-good apologias for the occupation aimed at Jews who are not quite comfortable with occupation and apartheid and need some balm to soothe their nagging cognitive dissonance? If that’s so, then I guess one could argue that the Times, in inviting a Palestinian “neighbor” to respond to Klein Halevi in a review, is a “hit job,” as the critic Liel Leibovitz charges in the Tablet. After all, the paper could have invited one of the moderate-sounding, slightly uncomfortable Israeli or American Jewish defenders of the occupation to offer instead just the perfect balance of loving, conscience-easing critique (“tough love” is the term often used). There’s an endless pool of Ziosplainers out there to ‘splain why it (the occupation) is really not so bad—and therefore, if only the Palestinians could be a little more generous . . .

Shehadeh writes in his “Dear Yossi” letter that the goal of the book is admirable, but that:

reading your words, I wonder how aware you are of what our feelings are on the other side. Though you do at least acknowledge that there is a Palestinian “counterstory,” one of “invasion, occupation and expulsion,” a history of “dislocation” and “humiliating defeats,” the sentiment you most express, again and again in your letters, is how deeply we, the Palestinians, misunderstand you. It is our ignorance of your history and religion and attachment to the land that you seek to correct here.

Over the years I myself have made serious attempts to come closer to my Israeli neighbors, to form friendships and appreciate their worldviews, and many of my books have been translated and published in Israel. Yet in reading your letters I couldn’t help feeling condescended to — an unfortunate reaction since I am, I believe, your intended interlocutor. In one of your letters you wonder how your people can “empower” mine. But it seems the wrong question when all most of us wish is for Israel to withdraw from the territories it has occupied and leave us to go on with our lives.

It also doesn’t help that while claiming a new understanding of and sensitivity to our plight, you rehearse old and discredited narratives, . . .

Your letters seem like an intellectual exercise, which is a privilege that you enjoy but we do not. “If you were in my place, neighbor, what would you do?” you ask. But we are not in your place. . . .

[P]erhaps the problem with your letters is that they don’t read as if they are seeking an answer, hoping for that Palestinian neighbor — me — to respond, but instead seem like lectures, half a conversation with a partner who is expected to stay quiet and listen.

It’s true that I am writing having not read the book itself but only two articles about the book—Shehadeh and Leibovitz’s critique. But I feel confident enough in my knowledge of the situation in Israel/Palestine to be able to comment.

Therefore, in the interests of offering up a fuller picture, here is the link to Liel Leibovitz at the Tablet: The New York Times’ Hit-Job on a Pro-Israel Book Is a New Low.” It’s the perfect opportunity for Leibovitz to engage in his own Ziosplaining disquisition.

Leibovitz directs his rage at the Times for publishing such a “malicious review” with its “noxious premise” against Klein Halevi’s “soulful and nuanced book,” this “moving and eminently deserving book.” Indeed, I see that Leibovitz explicitly resents in Shehadeh’s critique of Klein Halevi’s book the perceived crime of “mansplaining.” Per my own thought, as I’ve said, the problem, far from being misperceived, is just the latest case of out-and-out Ziosplaining.

In conclusion, permit me to repeat myself. As I see it, Leibovitz is essentially asking: Why on earth did the Times invite a Palestinian to respond to Klein Halevi’s “letter to a Palestinian neighbor” when it could have invited—why not?—perhaps, I surmise, even this very Liel Leibovitz or at least an Israeli in the consensus to write the Ziosplaining review of the latest Ziosplaining book? Alternatively, he might complain, did the Times even try to find that “good” Palestinian who would write the review that lavished praise on this “eminently deserving” book?

Ilene Cohen
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45 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    August 27, 2018, 11:13 am

    Mr. Klein Halevi seems to believe that evil committed by Jews is transformed into virtue if the evil-doer cries hard enough while continuing to shoot.

    I have no doubt that Mr. Klein Halevi would feel entirely differently about evil committed against Jews.

    If there’s one thing about which Zionists – like all supremacists – are consistent, it’s their hypocrisy.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      August 28, 2018, 10:02 am

      @eljay, et al

      “Ziosplaining would be the efforts of Zionists of so-called moderate stripe, who are endlessly pained by reality, to explain to Palestinians (and the world) that they have no choice but to support the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

      What utter bilge. At least, however, “Ziosplaining” further confirms that panic reigns in the Zionists’ camp. The monster “state” they have created in historic Palestine is increasingly and rightly seen as such by peoples around the world, including Jews.

      To borrow from Shakespeare: Fascism by any other name would still be fascism.

      • kev
        kev
        August 28, 2018, 12:29 pm

        “To borrow from Shakespeare: Fascism by any other name would still be fascism.”

        To retain the sensory feel (and, perhaps, some of the judgment) of the Shakespeare, it should be more like, “Zionism by any other name would stink to the heavens”.

  2. lyn117
    lyn117
    August 27, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Ziosplaining is a great word. Leibowitz’s rant that Shehadeh’s review is “hate-filled” is entirely unmerited, Shehadeh’s review was kind and gentle. Perhaps Leibowitz can’t get beyond his own prejudice about Palestinians?

  3. Liz
    Liz
    August 27, 2018, 1:09 pm

    This is amazing. The use of the term “Ziosplaining” is brilliant. I thought the same thing when I read the review in yesterday’s New York Times. The fact that the book even got published–when it’s not even directed to a real, live, human Palestinian, but a hypothetical one–speaks volumes about Halevi’s inability to truly engage. In this light, the book ultimately is meaningless and does nothing constructive other than to help liberal Zionists feel good about themselves, as Cohen states.

  4. Mooser
    Mooser
    August 27, 2018, 5:43 pm

    ” it’s not even directed to a real, live, human Palestinian, but a hypothetical one”

    What shamelessness. “My Palestinian Problem- and Ours”

  5. JohnSmith
    JohnSmith
    August 27, 2018, 7:31 pm

    Would this be one of Mr. Klein Halevi’s Palestinian neighbors in one of the 150 or so Palestinian villages in Israel “proper” where Israel has driven out, or is attempting to drive out, all of the Palestinians, declared the villages Jewish-only, and Aryanized–sorry, Zionized–the names of the towns with new Hebrew names?

  6. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    August 28, 2018, 3:10 am

    YKL sounds very like Jon S. It’s just a question of putting the right words in the correct order. Then Palestinians can understand the goodness of Zionism and get that Zionism is so good for them, so there is no need to get uppity. Uppity Palestinians get white phosphorus which is so hard for Zionists who have no other choice. And the worst thing for a Zionist is having to hurt kids. But Palestinians make them do it.

  7. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    August 28, 2018, 3:13 am

    So does this mean you all will stop using the ACTUAL term for ‘ziosplain’ which would be hasbara? All of the new’terms’ like man splaining sound idiotic, juvenile and just plain ignorant. Like something trump would spew out. but hey, that never stopped anybody.

    • bcg
      bcg
      August 28, 2018, 9:26 am

      @DeBakr: Who many words for “drunk” are there?

      It often helps to enrich our collective vocabulary:

      https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/women-men-mansplain-hepeated_us_59c5a5d0e4b06ddf45f80ba7

      “People Are Loving This New Word To Rival The ‘Mansplaining’ Phenomenon…”

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 28, 2018, 12:35 pm

      “So does this mean you all will stop using the ACTUAL term for ‘ziosplain’ which would be hasbara?”

      Yes since “Hasbara” is entering the English language as a synonym for ‘lies’ or ‘bullshit’ in general, so “Ziosplain” will have a more specific meaning.

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        August 29, 2018, 2:28 pm

        @msr

        Great. So now the commenters on MW can routinely be called hasbarists.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 29, 2018, 3:16 pm

        “Great. So now the commenters on MW can routinely be called hasbarists.”

        You go right ahead and do that “Dabakr”. You can always be proud that Israel has provided the world with a premier synonym for ‘bullshit’ with the failure of its Ziosplaining.

      • amigo
        amigo
        August 29, 2018, 3:49 pm

        “Great. So now the commenters on MW can routinely be called hasbarists.”duhbaker

        Absolutely not.

        Most of us would prefer to be called ,”Anti-hasbarists”.

        Or , Anti-Ziosplainers.

        Gee thanks duhbaker, you just gave me a great idea for a t-shirt.

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        August 29, 2018, 4:32 pm

        MW commenters are Mensches. Anyone who argues using hasbara is a loser, a putz, a gobshite or all three.

  8. hophmi
    hophmi
    August 28, 2018, 7:00 am

    “It’s true that I am writing having not read the book itself”

    Oh good. Then your POV is completely without value.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 28, 2018, 12:30 pm

      “Oh good.”

      “Hophmi”, what more does one need to know about the book other than the neighbor Palestinian is imaginary?

    • Donald
      Donald
      August 28, 2018, 8:07 pm

      He is basing his views on what two reviewers say, so it has some value. You just want to be dismissive.

      I read the first few pages via the Amazon webpage and he blames Arafat for the Second Intifada, citing Clinton as the authority, and asks his imaginary Palestinian friend to accept this trauma as the reason for the disillusionment of peace loving Israelis presumably like himself. That’s been asserted a million times before and refuted too. I don’t doubt liberal Israelis believe it.

      It’s a bad start and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the book.

      • hophmi
        hophmi
        August 29, 2018, 3:51 pm

        “He is basing his views on what two reviewers say, so it has some value”

        Really? We judge books based on their reviews now?

        I know, Donald, that you will always choose the path of demonization rather than the path of listening.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 29, 2018, 6:18 pm

        “I know, Donald, that you will always choose the path of demonization rather than the path of listening.”

        “Donald”, for “Hophmi’s” master-class in argument without demonisation or Ziosplaining see: “The Phils Will Fall Away”

        “Hophmi” shows us the level of argumentation we should aspire to.

        And now “Hophmi” will tell us why an imaginary Palestinian neighbor is the best kind of all to write to.

      • Donald
        Donald
        August 29, 2018, 6:26 pm

        You are supposed to call me grasshopper when you talk like that, hophmi. That way I know you are the wise spiritual guru and can listen in the proper frame of mind. Or alternatively, you could reverse the normal word order in sentences. But always with you it can’t be done.

  9. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block
    August 28, 2018, 11:01 am

    I have a friend whom I quote when my Christian friends ask – and sometimes they do! – what is this thing that Jews have about Israel. He said, “It happened once, it could happen again, if it does we can all go to Israel and be safe.” Maybe that’s all the ‘splaining anyone needs.

    I should tell you that this friend, while he still describes himself as a Zionist, has the courage that most Zionists (and other people!) don’t have, the courage to face facts, including the facts of the Occupation. If he’s a Zionist … well, I wish all Zionists were like him.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 29, 2018, 3:21 pm

      “It happened once, it could happen again, if it does we can all go to Israel and be safe.”

      Yes, but how will we know when we are actually there, safely across the border?

      • amigo
        amigo
        August 29, 2018, 4:40 pm

        “Yes, but how will we know when we are actually there, safely across the border?” mooser

        When the authorities get a hold of you at BG Airport , you will know.In any case , you will be sent back to the diaspora with all the other self hating Jews.Borders won,t concern you.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 29, 2018, 5:58 pm

        ” you will be sent back to the diaspora with all the other self hating Jews.”

        But they won’t take me back, and I become “A Man Without a Mishpucha

        I will have to join the French Foreign Legion. To forget. Can you get kosher meals in the FFL?

      • amigo
        amigo
        August 29, 2018, 7:28 pm

        “But they won’t take me back, and I become “A Man Without a Mishpucha” “.Mooser

        Mooser, I know the thought of being banned for life from entering Israel(sans frontier) is devastating for you but you won,t be alone so you can form your own diaspora Mispucha and produce your own Kosher food.Who needs Israel.

        As to joining the FFL, I would advise against that as it is manned largely by Jew hating unassimilated French Arabs who can,t get work in France.

      • CigarGod
        CigarGod
        August 29, 2018, 8:52 pm

        Certainly, Mooser.
        Just invade at dinner time.
        That’s always Kosher.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        August 29, 2018, 10:12 pm

        Probably a good idea, Beau Mooser.
        But when you get to Fort Zinderneuf, watch out for Sergeant Major Lejaune.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 30, 2018, 6:33 pm

        Lots of well-meant advice. Thanks!
        1. Consider creating Kosher food empire if rejected by Israel.
        2, don’t be too eager to join FFL,
        3. always invade at dinner time.

      • amigo
        amigo
        August 30, 2018, 8:13 pm

        “Lots of well-meant advice. Thanks!”Mooser

        Implement option 1 , then 2/3 become superfluous.

        Hell , you might be able to get a contract supplying Kosher food to the FFL.

        I,ll settle for a small commission , thank you.You can donate it to BDS or MW .You decide.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 31, 2018, 3:29 pm

        “Hell , you might be able to get a contract supplying Kosher food to the FFL.”

        Wait! All we have to do is change one letter (N for the first F) and all the problems with tariffs, passports and international currency, go away. Okay, problem solved, future secured. Anticipate TV spots with defensive lineman bulking up on borscht-protein shakes and matzohs, football-shaped gefilte fish pieces, Shabbos Candle Goalposts, Super-Bowl chicken soup mix, etc.

        “I,ll settle for a small commission , thank you.”

        Look, I’m having enough trouble running the Seahawk’s operation. l can sell you a franchise for your state’s team.

      • amigo
        amigo
        August 31, 2018, 6:31 pm

        “Anticipate TV spots with defensive lineman bulking up on borscht-protein shakes and matzohs, football-shaped gefilte fish pieces, Shabbos Candle Goalposts, Super-Bowl chicken soup mix, etc.”Mooser

        None of the above are Kosher without Mayo and White Bread.You can decide the shape.

        Some suggestions !.

        Bengal/Lion/Panther/Eagle/Jaguar/Colt/Bear etc ,etc.

        “Shabbos Candle Goalposts, ”

        Yum , yum, I bet they melt in your mouth.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 31, 2018, 9:37 pm

        “Yum , yum, I bet they melt in your mouth.”

        You don’t eat them, you light them. Lovely Astro-turf ‘end-zone’ base, 15×7.5″ (your choice of team logo) suitable for use as a centerpiece, with goalposts rising about 12″ without candles.
        Uprights accept any standard Shabbos Candles.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 31, 2018, 9:46 pm

        Wait a minute. We’ll have to think of something else. I just remembered what footballs are made of.

  10. Elizabeth Block
    Elizabeth Block
    August 28, 2018, 11:06 am

    And I just read the review of Halevi’s book, and learned that he is from Brooklyn. I say to him: You have an American passport. Use it. The Palestinians don’t. The Gazans don’t have a passport of any kind. People born in what is now Israel have no other home. You do. Go back to it.

  11. genesto
    genesto
    August 28, 2018, 4:57 pm

    “It’s a (not so) beautiful day in the neighborhood”!

  12. Boomer
    Boomer
    August 28, 2018, 5:28 pm

    I doubt that much of the language of this thread would conform to the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.

  13. klm90046
    klm90046
    August 28, 2018, 6:29 pm

    I have always said, and I say it now, these liberal, soft-spoken, mealy-mouthed Zionists are more dangerous than the Likud variety. The latter you can attack, condemn, wage war against. WTF do you do with these harmless-looking, love-spouting human beings?

    • Keith
      Keith
      August 29, 2018, 12:29 am

      KLM90046- “I have always said, and I say it now, these liberal, soft-spoken, mealy-mouthed Zionists are more dangerous than the Likud variety.”

      Israel Shahak agrees with you.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        August 29, 2018, 12:52 pm

        Why didn’t Halevi heighten the reality and credibility of his book by having the “Palestinian Neighbor” write back?

        He missed an opportunity there.

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        August 29, 2018, 4:40 pm

        Mooser

        Hebrew is groupthink. A real Palestinian wouldn’t say the right thing and might get uppity and Yossi would have to discipline him which wouldn’t look good in the book. It might also make Yossi look unreasonable or even deluded.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        August 29, 2018, 4:50 pm

        @Mooser
        “Why didn’t Halevi heighten the reality and credibility …”

        Silly question.
        Palestinians simply don’t matter. The superior human did his duty by talking to him. Listening is only for subordinates. No one cares what a Palestinian might think and they need to behave well for their betters and shut up.

  14. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    August 30, 2018, 5:38 am

    Here’s YK Halevi’s blog response (in the Times of Israel) to Shehadeh’s response: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/dear-raja-i-want-to-be-your-neighbor-not-your-occupier/

    • eljay
      eljay
      August 30, 2018, 8:24 am

      || wondering jew: Here’s YK Halevi’s blog response (in the Times of Israel) to Shehadeh’s response: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/dear-raja-i-want-to-be-your-neighbor-not-your-occupier/ ||

      Mr. Halevi’s response is pure Jewish supremacist (Zionist) narrative, right down to the “the Jews [sic] are uprooted natives who returned home” falsehood. (Jewish citizens of homelands all over the world are neither geographic Palestinians nor Ancient, “uprooted” Israelites.)

      It’s lovely that Mr. Halevi doesn’t want to be an occupier, but he still wants to be a Jewish supremacist in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”. Justice, accountability and equality need not apply.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      August 30, 2018, 5:53 pm

      It’s a lovely day in Mr. Halevi’s neighborhood.

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