Opinion

Liberal Zionists use arguments — ‘There is no equality between us and the Palestinians’ — that echo white nationalists

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One good thing about Israel’s annexation push is the crisis in the Israel lobby. Powerful rightwing Jewish groups that are holding the bag for Netanyahu have been exposed as moral dimwits. AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee are in freefall right now because their only response to events is, Stand by Israel.

While liberal Zionists can brag that they have seized the moment and have seemed to slow Israel’s plans.

But hold on. As I listen to liberal Zionist arguments against annexation, it is stunning how many of them are ethno-nationalist, or even Jewish supremacist. Jews and Palestinians aren’t equal. We Jews need a strong majority. You’d think that the liberal Zionist groups might be a little ashamed of offering space to such arguments, but no– they charge right in.

Many of these arguments are from Israeli Jews. Israel is a rightwing society. So if you’re a liberal Zionist group that defers to Israeli speakers because they live there — well, you’ve got a problem!

On an Israel Policy Forum call two days ago, Israeli expert Shira Efron dismissed Peter Beinart’s call for one state in Israel and Palestine by saying Palestinians are just too poor to mix with Israelis. [The section starts at 45:11 in the video below.]

The GDP difference between Israel and the Palestinians I think it’s a multiply of 40, if not more. You can’t merge these economies, so I really appreciate Peter Beinart as a scholar and it’s really important to have these conversations… but I think it’s a fantasy talking about a one state solution.

That GDP difference was cited by Israel Policy Forum in a report by Efron and Evan Gottesman on the only “viable” option being two states. It warned that income disparity would lead to “demographic hemorrhaging under one state, with Palestinians leaving Ramallah, Jericho, or Gaza to try their fortunes in Tel Aviv and Haifa.” Can you imagine an American warning about black people moving into the suburbs?

On that same IPF call, former Israeli security chief Nimrod Novik said we can’t have a one-state outcome because Israelis will never, ever grant Palestinians equal rights.

There is a growing slide among young Palestinians in support of the one state solution. [Pollster Khalil Shikaki’s] interpretation is, They have given up [in] frustration from the two state solution… OK, so if not independence– then, equal rights!…

If you look at the flip side in Israelis, there’s none of that, and I agree completely with Shira, I cannot see circumstances where Israelis will voluntarily grant Palestinians equal rights– ever. By ever I mean in the political realm in the future. So absent a two state solution, we’re talking about 100 years of conflict blood shed and civil war, and not these two peoples living happily with each other under the same roof.

Merav Michaeli is a Labor member of Knesset, who has been embraced by J Street as an anti-annexation voice. As the “left” speaker on a recent call with the American Jewish Committee, Michaeli made openly-Jewish-supremacist arguments about separation from Palestinians.

We need to go back to the forming of the state of Israel and ask ourselves What is the Zionist dream, what is the Zionist vision? And I think it is very clear, it is a state for the Jewish people, a democratic state for all the Jewish people. And in order to have that we have a border that separates us from the 2.7 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank… Unless there is some kind of magic stick that Ambassador [Dore] Gold has that will make 2.7 million Palestinians just disappear, then we need to find a solution.

Jews and Palestinians are not equal. Israel is a modern society, Palestine isn’t, Michaeli all but stated:

You know, I am not an advocate of the Palestinians. I’m an Israeli leader, I work for the interest of my country, my people, my society… I believe that Israel today is so strong and so capable– it’s so much in our hands. Really there is no equality between us and the Palestinians in their very very problematic situation in every possible way. And it’s in our interest to work in order to find out how we work this out.

Michaeli said she liked Trump’s peace plan — which even J Street calls a peace sham — and said she’d be “happy to have all the land.” But we got to give Palestinians something or we endanger the Jewish state.

My interest as an Israeli is that the Palestinian people live in a way that enables me to live in peace and in security and safety. Pushing them constantly again to a corner where they have to uprise again and again is not in my interest… I want to already be over this… It really does crumble the state of Israel. It really does eat the foundations of what it means to be a Jewish state…

Back in June, Jonathan Kamel, the head of Israel Policy Forum’s youth branch, called for a “strong Jewish majority” in Israel and “separation” from the Palestinians. He made arguments familiar to Americans from the Jim Crow era.

Jonathan Kamel

As Zionists and people who care about the long term future of Israel and the Jewish people, the one thing we know is that separation from the Palestinians and a viable two state solution is the only path forward … Israel is best when it is a strong Jewish majority and a strong democracy. And to have that you need some form of separation from the Palestinians. I see annexation as the opposite, the complete entanglement of Israel and its neighbors vis-a-vis the Palestinians. We’re seeing more push toward a one state type of solution which to me is the end of the Zionist dream and the end of Israel as we know it. To me this is an urgent moment…

Americans for Peace Now also gets into the act. It lists seven reasons for opposing annexation, and one is that annexation could spur the Palestinian struggle for “equal rights” and that as Palestinians become a majority, they will by a “democratic means deny Israel its Jewish character”:

Without a two-state horizon, the Palestinians’ agenda will shift from a struggle for national independence, in a state of their own, to equal rights in the binational, unequal entity that annexation will codify. If Israel resists international pressure for advancing Palestinian equality, it will go further down a path of an Apartheid-like regime. If it gives in to the pressure and grants Palestinians equal rights, including the right to vote, the large Palestinian minority that will be created in this bi-national Greater Israel will gradually become a non-Jewish majority, which would – through democratic means – deny Israel its Jewish character.

Yair Golan, a left-Zionist member of Knesset, is another hero of J Street. Al-Monitor reports that Golan accepts some annexation, but with the “supreme goal” of separation from Palestinians.

Knesset member of the leftist opposition Meretz Yair Golan said today that if the government decides that Israel should separate from the Palestinians, and as part of the separation annexes the Etzion or Ma’ale Adumim settlement blocs, then he will grant his support, stating, “If the Israeli government says its supreme goal is to separate from the Palestinians and reach a solution where the Palestinians no longer live under our control, than I will support it.”

There has long been a kinship of white nationalists and Jewish nationalists. U.S. racists sometimes insist on that. What is shocking is to hear these arguments being put forward by liberal Jewish groups, especially at a time that the American liberal/left is devoted to overcoming structural racism.

The problem is inherent in Zionism, which grants Jews a higher claim to land that other people were/are living on. Or as Adam Horowitz noted yesterday when Peter Beinart said “it is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish-Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish-Palestinian equality”– “What more do you need to know about Zionism = Racism than it has taken until the year 2020(!) to come to a conclusion that Jews and Palestinians should have equal rights. And that is still considered ‘progressive’ for Zionists.”

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“The GDP difference between Israel and the Palestinians I think it’s a multiply of 40, if not more. You can’t merge these economies, so I really appreciate Peter Beinart as a scholar and it’s really important to have these conversations… but I think it’s a fantasy talking about a one state solution.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/06/04/economic-divide-black-households/ ” In 2016, the typical middle-class black household had $13,024 in wealth versus $149,703 for the median white household, an even larger… Read more »

Yesh Din just came out with a report/legal opinion: “The conclusion of this legal opinion is that the crime against humanity of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank. The perpetrators are Israelis, and the victims are Palestinians….The crime is committed because the Israeli occupation is no “ordinary” occupation regime (or a regime of domination and oppression), but one that comes with a gargantuan colonization project that has created a community of citizens of… Read more »

“‘There is no equality between us and the Palestinians.'” For the record: Shortly after their arrival in the late 19th century, Zionist settlers of foreign origin made it abundantly clear that their goal was to forcibly rid Palestine of its native Arab population: Indeed,the mistreatment of Palestinians by Jewish settlers caused Jewish philosopher Ahad Ha’am (nee, Asher Ginsberg) great distress. In 1891 he wrote: ‘They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, unscrupulously deprive them… Read more »

Folks who appear to question the so-called annexation (AKA land theft) of yet more Palestinian land without demanding that Bibi face prosecution in The Hague cannot be taken seriously.

The GDP difference between Israel and the Palestinians I think it’s a multiply of 40, if not more. You can’t merge these economies, so I really appreciate Peter Beinart as a scholar and it’s really important to have these conversations… but I think it’s a fantasy talking about a one state solution.

The Germans managed a comparable situation when Communism collapsed rather well.