The liberal Zionist group J Street continued its attempts to resuscitate the endless “two-state solution” process after U.S. Ambassador David Friedman was quoted accepting that Israel may exercise its “right” to absorb some or all West Bank territories in addition to its annexation of Jerusalem.
“Under certain circumstances, I think Israel has the right to retain some, but unlikely all, of the West Bank,” Friedman said. “Certainly Israel’s entitled to retain some portion of it.”
Dylan Williams, J Street Senior Vice President of Government Affairs wrote to supporters June 11,
The interview puts the Trump administration on record condoning a course of action that violates international law, tramples Palestinian rights and endangers Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish homeland. [Emphasis added.]
“As the saying goes, it is ‘Jewish’ for Arabs and ‘democratic’ for Jews,” scholar Ran Greenstein commented about Israel in 2010.
Before Israeli statehood, it was necessary to describe the planned Jewish homeland as a liberal democracy in the period of gaining American Jewish support for the Zionist project.
In a series of meetings with Chaim Weizmann in 1941-42, American Jewish Committee president Sol M. Stroock and successors worked out an agreement to generally support Zionist plans in Palestine.
The AJC agreed to support
the original purposes of the Balfour declaration whereby there shall be established, for such Jews as now reside there and for such others as choose to go and remain there and for their descendants a legally secured national home in Palestine where they may expect to constitute a majority of the population and may look forward to self government, it being clearly understood that
a) in such a self-governing community…all the inhabitants…shall enjoy complete equality of rights, and
b) the establishment of this self-governing community shall in no way affect the political and civil status or allegiance of Jews who are citizens of any other country, nor shall any effort at any time be made to effect such status or allegiance and
c) only such Jews or non-Jews who are or become inhabitants of Palestine may be eligible to become citizens thereof.
Clauses “b” and “c” fulfilled the AJC’s goal of protecting in some manner Jews in the diaspora from Jewish nationalism, which many of its members felt was a menace to Jewish life.
In 1942, Manhattan lawyer and AJC Executive Committee member James N. Rosenberg angrily objected to the formula being developed for AJC cooperation with the Zionist plans to make Palestine a Jewish state. He noticed what supporters of a Jewish homeland in Palestine were willing to avert their eyes from: that the fate and rights of non-Jews were unimportant in Zionist planning, even before the Nakba.
You set up a kind of democracy which I do not recognize as a democracy; one which begins to work as a democracy only when Jews become a majority there, and only when operating their sole direction (except perhaps for a sovereign policeman to protect you from the surrounding Arab countries). You profess to protect ‘equality of rights’ for Arabs and Christians though you give them no immigration rights, deny them any part in forming the autonomous commonwealth and demand that Palestine immigration should be conducted to bring about a Jewish majority. Your demand that the exclusive power to set up the ‘autonomous commonwealth’ be in Jewish hands refutes democracy because it cancels out the rights of others.
J Street still clings to the contradiction of “Jewish and democratic” Israel that Rosenberg foresaw.
Even Bernie Sanders, in his latest admirable advocacy for Palestinian rights, is “someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.” Support for Palestinian rights to exist is progress, but his stance seems to include support for the survival of political Jewish primacy in Israel/Palestine that non-Jews must work around.
Most observers of Israel/Palestine would be happy with any resolution that doesn’t leave people seething with revanchist goals, so that normal life can resume. The half-century of “Troubles” that Ireland suffered after the amputation of the northern counties warns against a solution that perpetuates an injury.
In this case, Israeli identity is predicated on perpetual Jewish domination, or at best custody, of Palestinian lives.
These are thoughts in a different dimension from the American political stage in which Sanders is performing. It’d be too much to expect Sanders to mention the idea of negating the partition and allowing Palestine to be a democratic multi-ethnic state.
It may be that an American politician, or “mainstream” J Street, cannot question political Zionism, or even call it fanaticism or implicit antisemitism as some Jews did before the declaration of the state in 1948.
Now, an American politician is expected to be affirmatively “pro-Israel” if they wish to demonstrate their philosemitism to Jewish voters and donors, and J Street’s reason for being is to have its counsel accepted as reasonably conventional.
Sanders’s declaration of support for Israel means protecting the dream of ingathering/return and Jewish self-rule, validating the displacement of and 71-year stateless vulnerability of a population only because of their handicap of not being Jews.
J Street’s distaste is with Ambassador Friedman’s vulgarity in openly approving what must be only implicit in “Israel’s future as a democratic and Jewish homeland.”