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Bret Stephens echoes Stephen Douglas, defending Israel’s new law in ‘NYT’

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The new basic law declaring Israel the “nation state of the Jewish people” continues to create problems between Israel and the rest of the world, including many Jews. Notably a devoted British Zionist named Vivien Duffield, who has given tons of money to Israeli projects, announced “I hate Israel” and “My Israel is dead,” and averred that the law establishes apartheid. And David Rothkopf, the former editor of Foreign Policy, said the racist law makes it the “duty” of American Jews to oppose Israel, including by boycott.

Such views must be taken on, and Bret Stephens does so in a column– in the New York Times of course — saying that while the law was unnecessary, provocative, and divisive, the press has misreported the law because it does not change anyone’s real status in Israel. Alan Dershowitz’s line, too.

Bret Stephens, WSJ columnist

Here are two ways Stephens is wrong.

First, the law privileges Jewish settlement. “The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.” Stephens admits that “sounds like” West Bank settlements. But he goes on to excuse the language, saying it’s a “mostly symbolic codification of Israel’s Jewish character in the face of persistent efforts to deny that character.”

But the law is already being used to justify annexation of large portions of the West Bank by Israel, for Jewish towns. Yossi Alpher told Peace Now earlier this week:

[T]he ultra-nationalist right, currently Israel’s political mainstream, intends to continue absorbing the land of the West Bank into Israel. Simultaneously it seeks, in one form or another, to disenfranchise more than three million Palestinians living there lest they become Israeli citizens and tilt the demographic balance away from “Jewish” and (with a combined population including 45 percent Arabs but still excluding Gaza) toward “bi-national”. A Jewish nation state in which only Jews determine the country’s constitutional nature is the perfect “legal” legislative vehicle for taking the necessary apartheid-like measures to make this happen.

News reports state that Israel’s government is citing the nation-state law to try to make legal illegal settlements in the West Bank.

But state attorney Harel Arnon [himself a settler] told the Walla news site that the clause promoting Jewish settlement would be used to back the so-called Regulation Law, which allows the state to legalize outposts built on private Palestinian land ex-post facto…

Arnon acknowledged that the rights of Palestinian property owners need to be taken into account. However, he pointed out that the nation-state law gives Jewish settlement a “higher normative hierarchy.”

Indeed, Ori Nir of Peace Now explained that the law’s definition of Israel as the “historic homeland of the Jewish people” furthers West Bank settlement.

The law…  does not limit settlement to the lines of sovereign Israel. By doing so, the law gives a further push to annexationist trends that characterize this government’s actions and legislation. Worse, it gives further legal coverage to the settlers’ insatiable appetite for expansion with the stated goal of denying a future Palestinian state. Whenever establishing another hilltop outpost in the West Bank, unauthorized by the government, settlers could point to the law and argue that this Basic (constitutional) Law trumps any legal technicality complicating the ultimate goal of settling the land.

Second, there is the law’s identity provision:

The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.

Stephens says this provision is unimportant. “The bill’s purpose was to codify into Israel’s Basic Laws — akin to a constitution — aspects of Israeli identity long taken for granted by Israelis and outsiders alike.”

David Bromwich responds that it has great significance.

“Self-determination” was the criterion for statehood promoted by Woodrow Wilson in the aftermath of the First World War. It gave central emphasis to the idea that the nation, based on blood and belonging, is the foundation of a legitimate state. “The people” thus endowed with the right to form their own state are, by definition, a mass of persons already unified by tribal or traditional affiliation. The only possible pragmatic reduction of the sentence in the Israeli law comes out of this understanding. “The Jewish people” can have no empirical meaning other than “Jewish persons” or “persons of Jewish descent.” Only they, the new law affirms, can determine the nature of the state of Israel. Recognize that Jewish persons also means neither more nor less than “Jewish citizens endowed with the right to vote” and you see the inference.

Imagine an American law that declared “The right to exercise national self-determination in the United States is unique to persons of white Anglo-Saxon protestant descent.” In fact, Stephen Douglas said something similar in reply to Lincoln’s statement that the proposition “all men are created equal” was meant to apply to both black and white people. On the contrary, said Douglas, “this Government was made. . .by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever.”

That was during a debate in October 1858 in Illinois. And as Alpher said, “A Jewish nation state in which only Jews determine the country’s constitutional nature is the perfect ‘legal’ legislative vehicle for taking the necessary apartheid-like measures…”

We are going to get a lot of Stephens’s argument. Nothing to see here, move along. Like Yaacov Lozowick, Israeli state archivist.

Look, Israel’s Nation-State law wasn’t necessary & we were doing fine without it; but all the frothing at the mouth is ridiculous. Or malicious.

These folks are doing damage control, but not effectively. As Yakov Hirsch says, “No one is policing the Jewish discourse anymore.”

 

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29 Responses

  1. eljay
    eljay
    August 11, 2018, 3:24 pm

    Like all Zionists, Stephens and Dershowitz are of the opinion that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to hold it the right to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

    Like all Zionists, Stephens and Dershowitz don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with a law passed by their preferred supremacist state which confirms what they believe to be true.

    Like all Zionists, Stephens and Dershowitz are hateful and immoral supremacists and – like all supremacists – hypocrites.

    • catalan
      catalan
      August 11, 2018, 6:19 pm

      “Like all Zionists, Stephens and Dershowitz are hateful and immoral supremacists and – like all supremacists – hypocrites.” Eljay
      But why the need to paste the same sentence over and over?

      • eljay
        eljay
        August 11, 2018, 8:11 pm

        || catalan: … But why the need to paste the same sentence over and over? ||

        No pasting involved. But thanks for asking.

      • JWalters
        JWalters
        August 11, 2018, 8:14 pm

        Because the Zionist propaganda machine spews their hateful, immoral, supremacist lies over and over and over and over.

      • lonely rico
        lonely rico
        August 12, 2018, 5:24 pm

        “I am interested in pretty much everything …” says catalan.
        https://mondoweiss.net/user/catalan/

        So let’s talk about the rhetorical device known as –
        Repetition : a literary device that repeats the same words or phrases
        to make an idea clearer and more memorable.

        Like all Zionists … the right to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”

        Like all Zionists … preferred supremacist state

        Like all Zionists … hateful and immoral supremacists

        You see catalan, eljay proposes this central truth of Zionism,
        from which the criminal project called Zionist Israel arises.

        Nothing good, whole or just can grow from the corrupt core of racism which is at the heart of Zionism.

      • catalan
        catalan
        August 12, 2018, 7:05 pm

        “So let’s talk about the rhetorical device known as …repetition” lonely rico
        And Eljay is the uncontested master of this device; thank you for dispelling my confusion Rico.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        August 13, 2018, 5:27 am

        catalan: “And Eljay is the uncontested master of this device.”

        Eljay just responds to the endless repetitions of hasbara idiocies. The only difference is that he cuts through their BS and reminds us that it doesn’t take much to do so.

      • eljay
        eljay
        August 13, 2018, 6:50 am

        || catalan: … And Eljay is the uncontested master of this device … ||

        Not true: You and your fellow supremacists contest my mastery every day.

    • JWalters
      JWalters
      August 11, 2018, 8:11 pm

      Yup.

      “while the law was unnecessary, provocative, and divisive, the press has misreported the law because it does not change anyone’s real status in Israel.”

      That’s because the status quo was already provocative and divisive. The Zionist invasion of 1948 was provocative and divisive. e.g.
      “Terrorism: How the Israeli state was won”
      http://mondoweiss.net/2017/01/terrorism-israeli-state

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      August 12, 2018, 3:58 am

      Is Dershowitz Orthodox? When he talks about US politics he appears lucid but when it’s about Israel he is rabid. Most of the points he brings up about the US come from a sustainability point of view whereas with Israel he supports collapse.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    August 11, 2018, 4:20 pm

    ANOTHER EXCELLENT COMMENTARY BY BROMWICH:
    Online exclusive · 9 August 2018
    6407 words
    “American Breakdown”
    By David Bromwich
    LINK – https://www.lrb.co.uk/2018/08/09/david-bromwich/american-breakdown

  3. JWalters
    JWalters
    August 11, 2018, 8:20 pm

    Vivien Duffield is discovering that her beloved Uncle Israel is actually a serial abuser.

  4. JohnSmith
    JohnSmith
    August 11, 2018, 9:21 pm

    How about that NYT opinion piece from a week ago, where the online tag line talked about Israel’s recent status being pressured by the newly “militant left” and the far right? “Yeah, we [myself and people like myself] believe in human rights! We believe you shouldn’t be forced to do business with a Nazi state and should be able to buy goods from other countries! Gay people should go to Greece or Sydney and shouldn’t pinkwash Nazis! People should be able to decry the Nazi regime in Israel! Woo-hoo! We’re so extremist! Shopping elsewhere and decrying vicious abusers! We’re so extremist! We’re so militant!”

    I just want to know how many pounds of gas Israel dumps on refugee camps every year, solely to get Israel’s victims to shut up about their victimization. I just want to know how the toxicity of those nerve agents compares medically and scientifically to the nerve agents used in the Nazi death camps. I just want to know how many pounds of nerve agents Nazis used on Jews, and how those amounts compare to the amounts used by Israel every year. I’ll bet you Israel’s use of toxic nerve agents on subject, victimized people far outstrips that of the Nazis. Obviously, strafing people in the open air isn’t the same as the enclosed spaces used to exterminate victims of the Holocaust, but using these agents at all, in such massive amounts, viciously, is not good. You can only imagine the longterm effects on innocent victims of Israel’s genocidal policies.

  5. RafinSFastur
    RafinSFastur
    August 12, 2018, 12:22 am

    Do Americans truly want to be called friends of a country that has just made it legal to declare 20% of its’ population as second class citizens? I don’t think so. America has proven with great effort and through its’ Constitution that we are better than that. Shame on you Israel. In the lowest and most arrogant way you have betrayed your foreign friends.

  6. Kay24
    Kay24
    August 12, 2018, 5:53 am

    Do they ever criticize Israel for ANYTHING? It seems Stephens feels absolutely comfortable to appear in the US media, and criticize this president and country, but is unable to say ONE WORD against Netanyahu and Israel, just like the other apologists/Israeli supporters.
    Apparently, Israel can do not wrong. They never mention the occupation, illegal settlements, and certainly do not condemn the killing of innocent civilians. That would indicate Israel has the right to occupy, steal, and kill. They have no credibility when it comes to Israel.
    Disgusting.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      August 12, 2018, 4:38 pm

      Kay,

      Grammatically it makes sense, but.
      Half the US population are only now attacking the US Government, and only on non-war, more importantly, non-Palestine issues. Before that, all we’ve seen from the Demolican War Party is behavior like the one from Stephens with regard to the Zionist entity (under both Bush and Obama administrations.)
      Let’s make sense of that.
      It’s easy to attack isolated clowns like Stephens but that’s not where any real danger is.

  7. RoHa
    RoHa
    August 12, 2018, 9:34 am

    I’m confused, Kay. First you say “Do they ever criticize Israel for ANYTHING? ”
    Then you say that Stephens is ready to criticise this country, and immediately follow up by saying that he is unable to criticise this country.

    Do you mean he wants to criticise Israel but isn’t allowed to?

    • Kay24
      Kay24
      August 12, 2018, 1:27 pm

      Your confusion is not a huge surprise. Read my comment many times, perhaps you just might get it.

    • amigo
      amigo
      August 12, 2018, 3:08 pm

      “I’m confused, Kay. ” RoHa.

      Seems pretty clear to me.

      Kay states that Stephens is quite comfortable critising the USA but cannot criticise Israel.

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        August 12, 2018, 6:20 pm

        Thank you Amigo, I always knew you could get it, and not the “confused” type. :))

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        August 12, 2018, 6:51 pm

        That makes sense, but there is no mention of the USA. Israel is the only country mentioned.

      • eljay
        eljay
        August 12, 2018, 7:09 pm

        || RoHa:That makes sense, but there is no mention of the USA. … ||

        Hmmm:

        || Philip Weiss: … Such views must be taken on, and Bret Stephens does so in a column– in the New York Times of course … ||

        || Kay24: … It seems Stephens feels absolutely comfortable to appear in the US media and criticize this president and country … ||

        I see a mention of the U.S.  ;-)

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        August 12, 2018, 10:54 pm

        “I see a mention of the U.S. ;-)”

        Not in Kay’s comment. Mention of the US media, but not the country.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        August 12, 2018, 11:27 pm

        RoHa,

        In American, “this” country means God’s Own Country, by default.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        August 14, 2018, 12:40 am

        And God’s Own Country means the USA, and not Australia? (We in Australia have read the Old Testament, so we think Australia is a better fit to God’s character.)

        I’ll try to remember that, though I’ll have to know which commenters are Americans in order to apply it.

        Of course, in normal written English, and even in what passes for it (though God knows it shouldn’t) these days, “this country” means “the last country mentioned”, and that is how I read it.

  8. snaidamast
    snaidamast
    August 13, 2018, 10:49 am

    Lincoln\Douglas are very poor monikers for such a proposition by Bret Stephens. Lincoln was as racist as Douglas was and had no use for Africans within the United States at the time.

    He may have promoted that “all me are created equal” but that was just Lincoln pandering to the abolitionists.

    In reality, he wanted to ship all the Africans back to Africa or somewhere else that was the most feasible.

    And his supposed freeing of the slaves never happened. Whatever freedom Lincoln granted the Africans was done strictly for military strategic purposes. And many of the leading generals in the Union Army were either pro-slavery or indifferent to it.

    Most people who comment on the “War of Southern Independence” or that period of time such as Bret Stephens rarely have any understanding of the true history behind such events. They merely rely on what they were “indoctrinated” with…

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