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Pompeo declaration should be a wake up call to liberal Zionists

Opinion
on 28 Comments

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration revoking the notion that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, has had seismic effects, at least rhetorically.

It ended the lip service the U.S. was paying to that elusive “two-state solution” and international law, and elicited condemnation from progressive Democratic leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Elisabeth Warren. It was also widely seen as trying to influence the never-ending Israeli election, by aiding Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over Benny Gantz. Former US Ambassador to Israel and ‘peace-process’ negotiator Martin Indyk saw this as influenced by the pro-settler US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman:

A totally gratuitous move by a discredited @SecPompeo. Why slap the Palestinians in the face again? Why boost the settlement/annexation movement at the very moment that Gantz is trying to form a government? This has Friedman’s fingerprints on it.

But notice the suggestion here, that Gantz is somehow an antidote to that “settlement/annexation movement”?

Here is what this Gantz actually said about the Pompeo announcement:

I applaud the US government for its important statement, once again demonstrating its firm stance with Israel and its commitment to the security of the Middle East. The fate of the settlements should be determined by agreements that meet security requirements and promote peace.”

Gantz applauds. When Netanyahu recently suggested to officially annex the Jordan Valley as a first step to a wider annexation, Gantz’s Blue White party complained he stole their idea. That’s the opposition.

And that’s also the bigger picture in Israeli politics and its parliament: Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post observed that, “the vast majority of the Knesset is in favor of Pompeo’s announcement that the US no longer considers settlements illegal” and that “party leaders representing 96/120 MKs are in favor (which just shows how little of the Knesset could really be considered left-wing these days)”.

The Israeli settlements are a flagrant violation of international law. Until now, virtually the whole world except Israel has considered them as such, and the U.S. played a double-game. Palestinian-American human rights lawyer and activist Noura Erekat points out the American hypocrisy: “What Pompeo is announcing is not a rupture in US foreign policy, but a culmination of it,” she said, adding that since 1967 the U.S. has “spoken out of both sides of its mouth,” both criticizing settlements and helping to fund their expansion.

But no more. The ‘Pompeo declaration’ as it may be called in the future, is saying ‘no more pretending!’ This declaration is also a litmus test that will show what respect people actually have for international law. While American politicians may be using this to voice their liberal concerns, in Israel it hardly causes any uproar, and any criticism is overwhelmed by the applause from both the right-wing government, and the vast majority of its supposed opposition.

There are no Israeli political dynamics to oppose Israeli criminality. Liberal Zionists need to wake up from their imaginary dreamland. There is no effective agency for upholding international law and basic human rights in Israel, as far as Palestinians are concerned, Israeli is a squarely criminal state.

Those who seek to influence Israel with soft pressure without ending the United States’ militant support are just trying to “live up to the Zionist dream,” a dream which they believe can be liberal. But the thrust of Zionism has never gone that way; it was always about apartheid in one way or another.

The Trump administration has taken another step in the complete Israeli takeover of historical Palestine (after having recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the embassy there, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Jolan/Golan). The next step is further annexations of parts of the West Bank, and Pompeo’s declaration will assist that. Without a prospect of a Palestinian state, Israel’s perpetual ruling of a people without equal rights will become increasingly difficult to defend as both “Jewish” and “democratic”. This is what liberal Zionists are really afraid of – the end of the dream.

There’s only one game in town that seems to have the prospects of changing this: a concerted campaign of boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel. Those who want to handle Israel with kid gloves and supply it with even more weapons for its massacres, will only be abetting Israeli criminality, no matter what enlightened words they utter.

H/t Annar Follesø

Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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28 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on November 19, 2019, 12:31 pm

    RE: “The next step is further annexations of parts of the West Bank, and Pompeo’s declaration will assist that.” ~ Ofir

    SEE: “After US settlement shift, PM said backing push to quickly annex Jordan Valley”
    By Michael Bachner | timesofisrael.com | Nov. 19, 2019
    In wake of Pompeo’s announcement, Netanyahu reportedly approves effort to have Likud MK’s bill go up for Knesset vote as early as next week; however, timing could prove problematic
    LINK – https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-us-settlement-shift-pm-said-backing-push-to-quickly-annex-jordan-valley/

  2. wondering jew on November 19, 2019, 6:20 pm

    How would you define a liberal Zionist, mr. Ofir?

    I would first define it by policy: someone who favors a solution pretty darn close to what beilin and abd rabbo signed.

    If this is the bridge to the better future then if someone is deep enough into politics to know who and what beilin and rabbo signed (more or less), they are bound to be aware of the long odds of such an agreement without a major shift in Washington or elsewhere on the globe. So they are already awake.

    One assumes that they are dubious of Omar barghouti and his plan and that is the reason they are still in the two state solution tent and while Pompeo trump confirm the current long odds they move the goal line a few inches further away at worst. Instead of being at their own 10 yard line, they’re 9 yards, 2 feet and 9 inches. Big deal.

    • eljay on November 19, 2019, 6:34 pm

      || wondering jew: How would you define a liberal Zionist, mr. Ofir?

      I would first define it by policy: someone who … ||

      …believes that the religion-based identity of Jewish grants to those who choose to embrace it the “right” to be supremacists, to have a supremacist state and to do “necessary evil” unto others. Because that is the policy of all Zionists, “liberal” or otherwise.

    • Jonathan Ofir on November 20, 2019, 9:50 am

      Wondering Jew: “How would you define a liberal Zionist, mr. Ofir?” –

      I would define it as a Zionist who believes they are liberal.

      This is why I personally apply the term ‘liberal Zionist’ in quotations. I accept that Mondoweiss wants it without quotations. I apply them myself because I think it is a fantasy concept – it’s a dream. Zionism can be as liberal as Apartheid can be liberal. It doesn’t really work out.

      • Misterioso on November 20, 2019, 11:14 am

        @eljay and Jonathan Ofir

        BINGO. Well and truly stated.

        Past words of wisdom regarding Zionism as stated by four eminent Jews:

        Henry Morgenthau Sr., former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, 1919: “Zionism is the most stupendous fallacy in Jewish history…. The very fervour of my feeling for the oppressed of every race and every land, especially for the Jews, those of my own blood and faith, to whom I am bound by every tender tie, impels me to fight with all the greater force against this scheme, which my intelligence tells me can only lead them deeper into the mire of the past, while it professes to be leading them to the heights. Zionism is… a retrogression into the blackest error, and not progress toward the light.” (Quoted by Frank Epp, Whose Land is Palestine? p. 261)

        Asked to sign a petition supporting settlement of Jews in Palestine, Sigmund Freud declined: “I cannot…I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state….It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land….I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.” (Letter to Dr. Chaim Koffler Keren Ha Yassod, Vienna: 2/26/30)

        In 1939, Albert Einstein wrote: “There could be no greater calamity than a permanent discord between us and the Arab people…. We must strive for a just and lasting compromise with the Arab people…. Let us recall that in former times no people lived in greater friendship with us than the ancestors of these Arabs.” (Einstein and Zionism by Banesh Hoffmann, in General Relativity and Gravitation, eds. G. Shaviv and J. Rosen, Wiley, 1975, p. 242)

        Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, 1944: “The concept of a racial state – the Hitlerian concept- is repugnant to the civilized world, as witness the fearful global war in which we are involved. . . , I urge that we do nothing to set us back on the road to the past. To project at this time the creation of a Jewish state or commonwealth is to launch a singular innovation in world affairs which might well have incalculable consequences.”

      • annie on November 20, 2019, 12:06 pm

        exactly, the term is an oxymoron

      • wondering jew on November 20, 2019, 1:29 pm

        Mr. Ofir, It is always confusing when the headline reflects Mondoweiss’s point of view and the article’s point of view is different, as in this case.

      • annie on November 20, 2019, 5:02 pm

        Liberal Zionists need to wake up from their imaginary dreamland. There is no effective agency for upholding international law and basic human rights in Israel, as far as Palestinians are concerned, Israeli is a squarely criminal state.

        i fail to see how the headline reflects a different view than what’s in the article.

    • Jonathan Ofir on November 20, 2019, 3:03 pm

      Wondering Jew: “Mr. Ofir, It is always confusing when the headline reflects Mondoweiss’s point of view and the article’s point of view is different, as in this case.”

      Headlines are basically a prerogative of editors, and there can be slight differences in view or preference between the writer and the editorial view. In this case, we are speaking about a question of placing single quotations or not. The body of the text is basically true to my draft, with some small editorial suggested adjustments. The body of the text explains my meaning, whether or not there are single quotations in the title or not. I have explained in the text why I think the ‘liberal Zionist’ ideology is essentially a dream, not a reality. I have pointed to Zionism being Apartheid. For me to make an issue of single quotations here would be to split hairs (or to split single quotations if you like).

      Likewise I believe that your issue is not really with the single quotations or confusion due to lack of them, but rather the central argument of the piece itself.

      • wondering jew on November 21, 2019, 5:28 pm

        A wake up call can be friendly, if shall we say, tough love. Your tone is not friendly, at all. There’s a difference. the headline is an invitation to liberal zionists to react, with the promise of interaction. Your tone is not friendly at all, and is an invitation to be yelled at.

      • echinococcus on November 22, 2019, 1:49 am

        A Zionist, of all people, can’t complain about “tone”.

      • Lbanu on November 22, 2019, 11:56 am

        I understood your article in that way. The use of ‘liberal’ is problematic for me though I detect signs you too consider yourself liberal and often feel you are writing to a liberal audience?

      • Mooser on November 22, 2019, 1:17 pm

        ” Your tone is not friendly at all, and is an invitation to be yelled at.” “wj”

        Uh-oh, it’s gonna be total “The Menuvel That Roared” around here when “wj” starts in Ziosplaining and “interacting”.

      • Jonathan Ofir on November 23, 2019, 10:27 am

        Lbanu: ‘I understood your article in that way. The use of ‘liberal’ is problematic for me though I detect signs you too consider yourself liberal and often feel you are writing to a liberal audience?’

        Language is always a shifting matter, it is containing meanings that are affected by the culture and discourse about a given term at any given point in history. In this sense, it is always subjective – subject to the bulk of views and ideas about a subject matter. The term ‘liberal’ is generally supposed to mean someone who supports and respects views and behaviors different from one’s own, one who genrally allows for diversity and rejects isolationist supremacy. Yes, in that sense, I basically consider myself a liberal. And yes, I think that I am writing for an audience which also contains many liberals. But the problem that I point to here is the pairing of the term ‘liberal’ with ‘Zionist’. I have been pointing to this in many writings – that Zionism is essentially an isolationist racial supremacist ideology, and thus cannot be liberal, regarding of the professed liberalism of some of its proponents. I am trying to call this out, and saying – please decide, are you a Zionist or a liberal? This is of course offensive in its very nature to the ‘liberal-Zionists’ (I think most Zionists actually wish to consider themselves liberal anyway), and it is therefore not surprising that Wondering Jew below sees the “tone” of this as “not friendly, at all”, and as an “invitation to be yelled at”. These people generally want to have the cake and eat it – be Zionists, promote racial supremacy, and be considered liberals.

      • wondering jew on November 23, 2019, 11:34 am

        One reason I like the group “If Not Now” is because they invoke the saying of hillel, which begins, if i am not for me, who will be for me and if i am only for me , what am I?
        and these describe the first two values : self preservation and social living.
        the crisis of jewish survival might seem distant in 2019, but was not distant when i was a child. whether single minded focus on this crisis might be an overreaction, any group: national or of some other grouping, would seek a means towards survival and the homeland in Palestine was the route that was well established by the time I came of age.
        the clash between the zionism of this “solution” and the idea of “playing well with others”, has been shown to clash. The forced exile of a large group (Palestinians) in the course of this independence is more than problematic plus the history of 67 to today has turned brutality into the foremost image when one thinks of an Israeli soldier.
        I wish to balance the idea of survival responsibility with the idea of social responsibility, but Israel is not moving in the direction of social responsibility and on the other side, the anti Israel-niks are free and loose with their animus and lack of responsibility to the survival aspect. they hand it over to others, they say survival responsibility equals brutality and therefore we resign from survival responsibility and hand that over to the brutal ones. social responsibility yes. survival responsibility, no.

      • Mooser on November 23, 2019, 3:29 pm

        “wj” that’s all sickening blather based on a fantasy of Jewish-Zionist power, and imaginary , undefined qualifiers like “survival responsibility” and a “social responsibility” which includes, well, who?

        So Israel has the power to exterminate the Palestinians, consequence free, as an act of “survival responsibility”?

        Oooooh, but what about that scary “social responsibility”? Easy! A Jew’s “social responsibility” is Jewish survival!

      • Jonathan Ofir on November 24, 2019, 4:25 am

        Wondering Jew: “One reason I like the group “If Not Now” is because they invoke the saying of hillel, which begins, if i am not for me, who will be for me and if i am only for me , what am I?
        and these describe the first two values : self preservation and social living.”

        I believe that the other reason you like IfNotNow, is that their focus is primarily and almost exclusively on the Israeli 1967 occupation, rather than Zionism. This is a convenient position for many Zionists – it allows to leave the question of Israel’s founding (and current) state-ideology alone, render it as an irrelevant past matter, and supposedly move on with political realism.

        In comparison to IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace has taken on a direct and clear challenging, and negation of, Zionism. This is a difference that I find crucial.

        It has commonly been the hallmark of colonialist ventures, to claim that their oppression of the natives is merely a means of survival – implicitly or explicitly suggesting that they happen to find themselves amongst blood-thirsty savages, and that it is really for everyone’s own good that they be controlled by the enlightened saviors (‘White man’s burden’ etc.).

        But such appraisal of ‘survival’ is only extension of the original colonialist racist oppression. Once the oppression is lifted, there is no reason for the natives to resist oppression, because there isn’t any.

        South Africa has told that story. Yes, abolishing Apartheid can still entail a process of many years, where some repercussions from the bloody history still need to heal. But that’s the basics of it.

        I don’t know whether you live in Israel. Jews who live in USA for example live in general under quite good conditions, even privilege, without oppressing people as such. Many of them side with Israel as a kind of supposed ‘insurance policy’, but then they become part of the oppression, and that’s not only very sad but morally repugnant too.

        I come from Israel, I have a lot of family there. I am not careless about their survival. I seek a greater survival of humanity, that sees beyond the tribalism of ‘me – the Jewish nation’ (I think ‘Jewish nation’ is a myth, a dangerous one, anyway), one that involves freedom, justice and equality. It is completely possible, but appears anathema to Zionists. The latter is not because there is anything wrong with freedom, justice and equality, but because Zionism has it wrong.

      • Mooser on November 24, 2019, 1:44 pm

        “I don’t know whether you live in Israel.”

        Let’s just put it this way. “wj” lives where you don’t want your picante sauce made.

  3. echinococcus on November 19, 2019, 8:43 pm

    Well, looks like the US now officially is for the one-state solution. After having participated to it in first person, as an executioner.

    And that’s the only peaceful one-state solution anyone will ever get, folks.

    As for the 2-state solution, the only peaceful 2-state solution is (now was) the current ZioUS nonsense, representing the current status of the West Bank, not to mention Gaza: two separate, independent, sovereign states. Enjoy.

  4. echinococcus on November 19, 2019, 9:03 pm

    “Without a prospect of a Palestinian state, Israel’s perpetual ruling of a people without equal rights will become increasingly difficult to defend as both “Jewish” and “democratic”. This is what liberal Zionists are really afraid of – the end of the dream.”

    End of the dream? Rather the end of a fantastic pretext for the European governments to keep helping the invasion and genocide: “Look, folks, you can’t find fault with them: they are democratic, decent, democratic, law-abiding and civilized; last but surely not least, they are Westerners!”

    If a dream there is, it’s not the Liberal (or not) Zionists who are dreaming, but our silly liberals, who fall for it.

  5. Elizabeth Block on November 20, 2019, 4:02 pm

    Martin Indyk objected!!! He’s a Zionist if ever there was one. Maybe he objected because this pronouncement takes the mask off “liberal” Zionism.

    • Eva Smagacz on November 21, 2019, 7:58 am

      There will be more difficult to hide ethno-religious supremacist policies of Israel from the wider world, and Martin Indyk is worried.

      The tide is turning, and I cannot see Israel being anywhere near ready to become truly democratic – it takes number of generations.

      The only hope for Israel, is to help support stirring of the ethnic and /or religious strife in as many places as they can (police training, for example), and hope that they will not stick out with many more racist offenders on the block.

  6. Kay24 on November 21, 2019, 7:00 am

    At the Democratic Debates last night, only Bernie Sanders brought up the plight of the people of Gaza, mentioned their suffering, and stated he supports a resolution. Not a word from the others. It was quite brave of him, considering there would be a strong opposition to his stance.
    The others displayed their selective outrage at other nations, as if defenseless civilians were not being massacred on an almost daily basis in Gaza. Pathetic.

  7. just on November 21, 2019, 4:49 pm

    “Wondering Jew: “How would you define a liberal Zionist, mr. Ofir?” –

    I would define it as a Zionist who believes they are liberal.”

    Clear and concise and oh, so true! Thank you for this article, Jonathan. I’ve often called LZ an oxymoron (as annie does above) and it’s always led to the conversation that arrives at your concise definition above.

    Gideon Levy posted this column today. It is behind the paywall and I will post much of it.

    “New U.S. Stance on Israeli Settlements Is Akin to ‘Thou Shalt Murder’

    Donald Trump is turning out to be one of Israel’s most dangerous foes; he’s doing everything possible to corrupt it, deepen its rot and make it increasingly more repugnant in the eyes of the enlightened world. To worsen the corrosion, his secretary of state went so far this week as to turn the Ten Commandments on their head.

    From now on, say “Thou shalt steal,” and soon, “Thou shalt murder.” Absent any moral standing or legal authority – the last areas where the Trump administration can pass judgment – Mike Pompeo announced that the West Bank settlements don’t violate international law.

    One could hardly think of a more bitter joke. A declaration by the United States that rape no longer violates the law is already in the works. Will rape then become legal or moral? Of course not. The same applies to the settlements.

    Not one international jurist of stature would accept the U.S. declaration. So far, not one statesman around the world, except on the far right in Israel and the United States, would agree with it. The ideological intimacy between the Trump administration and Israel is but one more thing to be ashamed of. Trump and Pompeo, as well as most Israelis, don’t have the slightest idea about the settlements, the way they were established, their wild expansion and their aims, other than the propaganda spewed by Jewish, Israeli and evangelical Christian lobbies.

    I visited the settlement of Psagot this week – it has surrounded itself with an electric fence so that within its confines settlers can forcibly take over hundreds of acres of private Palestinian land that have been enclosed within the fence, with the state not lifting a finger. …

    But not one person of conscience throughout the world would remain indifferent upon seeing the brutal theft and expropriation taking place in Psagot, as in every other settlement. The claim that this isn’t a violation of international law not only reflects total moral bankruptcy and embarrassing ignorance, it has many implications internationally.

    Pompeo has actually called for the restoration of colonialism and the recognition of apartheid. For him, there is nothing wrong with these systems. The United States has encouraged Israeli colonialism and will encourage it elsewhere. It has been a long time since the world has heard the term legitimate colonialism. The United States has now recreated it.

    In this region, Pompeo’s statement has a razor-sharp meaning: It implies the death of the last chance for a two-state solution. If the settlements are legal, why should they be evacuated? If they don’t violate the law, what’s bad about them? Leaving the decision on their legitimacy and future in Israel’s hands is akin to leaving a similar decision in an abusive husband’s hands: He’ll decide if his wife-beating is legal. Let’s go for it: beatings, theft, expropriation, murder – the United States has given us permission.

    But the truth is, the decision on the future of the settlements was made a long time ago, without Pompeo’s prattle. Anyone not understanding this should drive along the West Bank’s highways and see for himself. No Israeli politician has ever intended to evacuate the settlements, nor will one ever be capable of doing so.

    The despair-inducing and shameful response by Benny Gantz, who joined the right wing’s celebrations after Pompeo’s declaration, showed the extent of the battle over the settlements, which is tantamount to the battle over the two-state solution. It was decided on long ago by nearly all Israelis. Pompeo merely signed the coffin.

    American legalization of this crime guarantees the perpetuation of the settlements and their further expansion. No statement is more certain than “Psagot forever” … The conclusion is unavoidable: Israel has crossed the point of no return, arriving at the most significant point in its history.

    Will it be democracy or apartheid, democratic or Jewish? Israel has no other options. The choice made by Trump, Pompeo and Israel is clear and frightening: The settlements are legal. There is no occupation, there is no Palestinian people, there are no human rights or international law. We can move on to the next stage – annexation and transfer. America will allow these too.”

    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-new-u-s-stance-on-israeli-settlements-is-akin-to-thou-shalt-murder-1.8157381

  8. Mooser on November 22, 2019, 5:49 pm

    Here’s one hell of a wake-up call:

    “Trump’s Recognition of Israeli Settlements Is Rooted in Bipartisan Support”

    “the Trump Administration’s decision this past week is not a dramatic shift in U.S. policy, but simply the culmination of decades of bipartisan support for Israeli settlement expansion and the Israeli occupation.” Stephen Zunes, Common Dreams 11/22.

    • MHughes976 on December 5, 2019, 3:28 am

      Thanks for that reference, Mooser. Quite a good summary in a miserable sort of way.

  9. Richard Baldwin Cook on December 4, 2019, 5:35 pm

    Yes! More and more words! Just what we need. Never too many words! Palestinians must be close to victory by now. Right? . . . Thanks for the required sop at the end of the piece about BDS . . . Ran out of room and so could not announce: What are we boycotting? What must be removed from the shelves? Or we’ll all do what?

    • MHughes976 on December 5, 2019, 3:37 am

      We do need words, I think. Far more are still being spoken against us than for us throughout the fickle Western world.

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