Note from a former Zionist

Peter Beinart gave a very good talk – at once eloquent and morally and intellectually serious – at UCLA Hillel last night. The talk explored the complexity of loving Israel and yet disapproving of the pattern of ethnic subordination that characterizes Israeli rule over the West Bank. Beinart mentioned the fact that settler violence against Palestinians sometimes fits any plausible definition of “terrorism” – attacks on innocents to make a political point – and that very few of those attacks ever lead to law enforcement action against the perpetrators.

The response from part of the audience left me sick to my stomach. The basic theme – stated in so many words by one participant – was “they brought it on themselves.” To hear Jews talking about collective ethnic guilt in tones worthy of Der Sturmer was really more than I could handle.  I left after being personally accused of indifference to the Shoah because I refused to profess indifference to the suffering of Arabs.

And today I learn that Tony Kushner – whose views about Israel seem roughly to track mine – has been denied an honorary degree by a minority of the trustees of the City University of New York, based on a typical cowardly wingnut smear job, launched without warning in a way that gave Kushner no chance to defend himself.

I know most Israelis don’t deserve their worst American defenders, but if the result of having to defend Israel is that Jews start acting like bullies and sounding like Nazis, at some point the price gets to be too high.

Like Beinart, I support the continued existence of a democratic and Jewish Israel within, roughly, its 1967 boundaries; unlike him, I can no longer count myself a Zionist.* In the immortal words of Sam Goldwyn, “Include me out.”

* Footnote That won’t keep me from completing the fairly major task I accepted on behalf of the Israeli Education Ministry; I’m on the committee doing a review of all of the public-policy degree programs in Israeli universities. As it happens, an earlier version of the committee was dissolved over accusations that someone on it was “anti-Zionist.” Beinart reports an attempt by an NGO, egged on by the current Education Minister, to purge “anti-Zionist” faculty from Israeli universities; our committee ran into no evidence that the effort had dented any of the departments we reviewed, but it’s another bad sign.

 

Comments

  1. Ed Whitney says

    What kind of Zionism are we talking about here? They never seem to specify whether they mean Cultural Zionism, Labor Zionism, Political Zionism, or Revisionist Zionism; from the tenor of the discussions, I infer that they mean the latter and only the latter. I once listened to a lengthy debate on the “Intelligence Squared” website in the UK about whether Zionism was a liability to the Jews; no one even asked for clarification. This seems to demonstrate that only Vladimir Jabotinsky counts as a Zionist; Ahad Ha’Am be damned.

  2. Cynical Traveler says

    It would seem to me that ceding the term “Zionist” to those who define it in the way you describe is an unattractive option. Allowing those attitudes to define Zionism as a movement means that its transformation will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Additionally, it’s unclear to me how the attendees of a discussion at UCLA’s Hillel are representative enough of “Zionism’s defenders” to base philosophical or attitudinal changes upon.

  3. CharlieC says

    I wish I’d heard the talk, and enjoyed reading you put to words what so many American Jews feel when they encounter the Israel-Palestine debate. I spent my undergrad days as an Israel advocate going to AIPAC conferences, leading our school’s students for Israel group, etc., but became increasingly unsatisfied with many of the answers I offered to Israel’s critics on campus. I was uncomfortable with the cynical and sometimes illogical justifications I offered to explain away Israeli violence. The turning point for me came when the pro-Israel student group I had formerly led hosted a far right Israeli for dinner who publicly advocated ethnic cleansing of Israeli-Arabs. I couldn’t break bread at Hillel with someone who sounded so much like a Nazi, and I couldn’t be indifferent to the plight of Palestinians. I wasn’t alone in this experience. Of the 8 student leaders (including myself) from my pro-Israel student group, about half are either no longer Zionists or on the far left of Israeli politics (one works for Amnesty International in Israel), and the rest are no longer involved in any form of activism.

  4. larry birnbaum says

    So you’re not a Zionist because of some comments by kibitzers that embarrassed you? I’m not impressed by this reasoning.

    In any case the objective result is that someone else has to pick up the burden of defending you. It is the belief that this is somehow a moral act that Zionism was conceived as a response to.

  5. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    Mark,
    You’ll at least need to support a one-state solution if you want to stop being a Zionist. If you support a Jewish Israel, you’re a Zionist. That’s pretty much the definition of the term. You may not be a Schmionst (Zionazi is a bit too strong), but you remain a Zionist.

  6. Bloix says

    “some comments by kibitzers”
    It gets to the point that virtually everyone on the side of the table you want to sit on is not someone you can bear to sit next to. You keep looking for a seat on the Zionist side of the table that doesn’t put you next to someone who turns your stomach, and you can’t find anyone.

  7. larry birnbaum says

    If you want your stomach to be turned, it can be.

    I mean, look who you have to sit next to on the other side of the table.

    Here’s how I view this: maybe Beinart is genuinely disgusted by, I don’t know, say us killing bin Laden even though he wasn’t armed and probably could have been captured, and killing a woman and genuinely traumatizing a dozen completely innocent children in the process. Maybe he’s voicing this disgust loudly. Maybe he’s constantly going on about how terrible it is that we’ve killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during the invasion and subsequently, and how these things completely undermine the historical rationale of America and its rights to defend itself. Maybe these will be abiding themes in talks he gives at college campuses across America. Otherwise, as far as I’m concerned what he’s doing is adopting a social and psychological mechanism with a very long history in the West — I won’t give it a name or associate it with any particular religion — in which guilt is projected onto the Jews. I’m no longer surprised that Jews also utilize this mechanism.

  8. says

    I want to extend my feeling of solidarity to your Mark and my admiration for your intellectual courage.
    All best wishes to a former student from someone who wishes he were a better friend.

  9. bobbyp says

    I mean, look who you have to sit next to on the other side of the table.

    Well, Larry, if the ends justify the means, and the shoe fits….then please wear it.

  10. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    Larry,
    Why don’t you just say “self-hating Jew”, rather than beating around the bush? Your euphemisms are showing, or at least telling.

  11. larry birnbaum says

    It isn’t about hatred. Projection is a lot more complicated than that. Of course there are self-hating Jews just as there are self-hating Americans and self-hating anything. I don’t think Beinart is a self-hating Jew. I think he can’t bear what’s involved in defending oneself in the world as it is, including the fact that we make mistakes, often terrible mistakes, in trying to do so. In his particular case that mistake might be supporting the invasion of Iraq. It also includes the fact that some of our compatriots will defend themselves emotionally, not through projecting their guilt onto someone else as he does (that someone else being, paradoxically, people who identify as he does), but simply by denying it, i.e., by denying the humanity of the people we kill or control by force, or by denying that it is even happening.

    “A Few Good Men” wasn’t a great movie, in part because it grossly oversimplified the actual moral ambiguities and difficulties raised by Jack Nicholson’s peroration at the end, but what made his speech interesting is that we understood that it wasn’t just the ravings of a lunatic.

  12. Ed Whitney says

    When governments pursue policies contrary to national self-interest, and some of its citizens object, they may be pilloried as self-hating by other citizens.

  13. Foster Boondoggle says

    LB, I think the problem is perhaps with the idea of “defending oneself” as entailing keeping a population of millions under 40+ years of house arrest while confiscating their land to create “facts on the ground”. And then calling anyone who thinks this is reprehensible anti-Zionist and a Nazi.

  14. Mark Kleiman says

    Of course Ed Whitney is right; Zionism has an honorable past, and – if Peter Beinart and many Israelis have their way – an honorable future as well. But “actually existing Zionism” is, as a matter of descriptive fact, mostly Revisionist. That is, it has become a “nationalism” in Orwell’s sense: a stance that views the world in terms of prestige and power competition among groups, and is willing to justify anything that promotes its own group at the expense of others.

    If I had a strong personal religious commitment to “The Land” – as Beinart seems to have – Israel might be able to claim from me the same sort of “My country, right or wrong” loyalty that I give to the United States. But I don’t. A visit to Stonehenge many years ago, immediately after a visit to the Western Wall, showed my where my emotional loyalties truly lay: with the source of my language and my political culture.

    So I can, and do, feel goodwill toward Israel. But I can’t be an Israeli nationalist. I’m already living in my homeland, and I don’t call the direction toward Zion “up.”

  15. The New York City Math Teacher With New! Improved! Law School! says

    This largely tracks my own emotional and intellectual evolution re: Zionism. Part of it is disgust at the dominant (and very Russified/Post-Sovietized) Revisionist Zionism. Part of it was a realization that my Jewish identity was not and could not be bound up in a territorial expression. Germany wasn’t safe for my grandparents, and Israel looks like it will not be safe for my grandchildren. Who knows about the evolution of the United States, but anti-Muslim racism could easily rub off on outwardly religious Jews – and from there, it gets back to us Haskalah fence-sitting half-assimilated, half-refusing to assimilate Moses Mendelsohn followers. Opa told my father, “Remember who you are.” Dad told me the same, and I’ll tell my as yet unborn child the same thing when the time comes around to do so. And for sure no earthly principality will be safe for the Jews forever and forever more – not even when Jews have the Bomb.

  16. JohnN says

    “I think he can’t bear what’s involved in defending oneself in the world as it is, including the fact that we make mistakes, often terrible mistakes, in trying to do so.”

    Wow. So that’s what 40 years of occupation, slow expropriation of land, endless checkpoints, all of it. Just a pesky “mistake.” Because, you know, have to be tough, in “the world as it is.” In that world might makes right, the stronger always pushes out the weaker.

    You know, it is so tempting to reach for analogies to the American West of the 1800′s. To plantation owners in the south. Or to a certain mad leader of a Western European country from the last century. In part it is because the language justifying dominance is so perfectly the same. Just change a word or two and you can sound like something really horrible. But that’s not totally fair either. The historical analogies are not perfect. And there is that special history of persecution against Jews.

    But when does it stop? Would going back to the 67 borders, and building a very high wall along that line really be so terrible for Israel? Because, to those of us not Jews we really have this sinking feeling that the objective of Israel is simply to eliminate Palestine. Take another 20, 30 years, but …

  17. Brian says

    Beinart’s love for Israel seems to be expressed exclusively in policy prescriptions which would cause it to be obliterated by its military enemies in less than a year . It’s a funny kind of love, but it’s shared by Tony Kushner and Mark Kleiman.

  18. says

    Marj: “A visit to Stonehenge many years ago, immediately after a visit to the Western Wall, showed my where my emotional loyalties truly lay: with the source of my language and my political culture.”

    It’s not fair to expect such moments of insight to be fully rational, but as a Brit it behoves (behooves?) me to point out that Stonehenge was built by pre-Celtic people who left no trace of either their language or political culture, and their great religious monument is inscrutable, beyond the fact that it’s about astronomical cycles not the Celts’ trees and rivers.

    For the political culture, I go to the Song of Lewes, written by a partisan of Simon de Montfort after the eponymous battle in 1264:

    Diciter vulgariter: ut rex vult, lex vadit;
    Veritas vult aliter, nam lex stat, rex cadit.

    (It’s commonly said that the King’s will is the law. The truth is otherwise: the law stands while the King falls.) Still today a far from trivial principle.

  19. Barry says

    Larry: “Maybe he’s constantly going on about how terrible it is that we’ve killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during the invasion and subsequently, and how these things completely undermine the historical rationale of America and its rights to defend itself. ”

    Or sitting next to a liar who defends an invasion and slaughter on the grounds of fraudulent claims of ‘self-defense’.

    Or were you trying to make the point that the people on your side of the table are scum?

  20. Barry says

    Mark, thanks for posting this. There was a comment by a leader of a ‘pro-Israel’ group that ‘we asked young jewish people to check their liberalism at the door in regards to Israel; instead, they checked their Zionism at the door’.

    I don’t see any reason for change that would affect the people running the government and power centers of Israel. What’s going to happen is that Israel becomes even more of a beacon to right-wingers who – well, I won’t go there, but they will.

  21. larry birnbaum says

    JohnN,

    Maybe I didn’t make myself clear. I’m not in favor of perpetual Israeli occupation of the entirety of the lands conquered in the 1967 war. However, without going into the details of exactly where the border should be drawn — a high wall doesn’t make a defensible position — the main issue as I see it is this: From the point of view of its obligation to defend itself, Israel can and should withdraw from the majority of the occupied territories only when that’s part of a deal in which the Palestinian Arab state that ensues has accepted that the bases of the current conflict have been fully and completely resolved, so that no state of war exists and it could not be claimed legally in the future that these bases constitute a legitimate reason for war — i.e., the Palestinian Arabs may renege in practical terms but that would constitute a breach of the treaty they agreed to. No competent Palestinian authority has yet to accept such a deal.

    The result is terrible but the logic doesn’t strike me as hard to grasp. I understand why people grow weary and develop elaborate rationalization mechanisms for thinking things are otherwise. But I think that’s just wrong, both factually and ethically.

  22. says

    I personally would be able to support the occupation with a clearer conscience if it were not tied to the whole enterprise of Jewish settlement in the West Bank. You cannot simultaneously argue “until there is a real peace agreement with the Arabs, Israel needs to retain control of this land for its own security” and argue “Jewish civilians should be able to build homes in the West Bank near hostile Arab populations”. If there are parts of the West Bank where Jewish settlement is appropriate, those parts should be treated like Jerusalem: Arabs living there should be offered Israeli citizenship and checkpoints blocking Arab traffic to the rest of Israel should be taken down.

    Yeshiahu Leibowitz ztz”l argued in 1967 that Israel should abandon the territories, saying that the security they provided was a mirage and that long-term occupation of another people would lead to moral corruption. All of his gloomy predictions have come to pass.

    Regarding Revisionism: it is worth noting that Ze’ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist movement, believed in equal rights for Arabs within the State of Israel, and even wrote a draft constitution providing that “in every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership shall be offered to an Arab and vice versa”. The right wing of the current Israeli governing coalition makes Jabotinsky look positively dovish.

  23. larry birnbaum says

    Seth,

    Nor do I endorse the aims of many if not most of the settlers on the West Bank, which I don’t in any case think are the aims of the majority of Israelis. However I think you’re wrong about the logic of the situation. The Arabs haven’t cut a deal because they think time is on their side. For example people like Mark Kleiman grow weary and state that they can no longer support what is after all a democratic and Jewish state in its struggles against organizations whose idea of politics is to throw members of the other party in jail or even off the roof once they’ve won an election and whose idea of warfare is to shoot missiles at school busses. I don’t see any way to negotiate in such a situation except to genuinely set up a dynamic in which the question of whether time is on their side is not so clear. That’s what settlement does. If the Arabs don’t like it, there’s a solution: Cut a deal.

  24. Kurt H says

    I grew up a WASP in the suburbs of NY where many if not most of my friends are Jewish. I used to support the two state solution. I thought it was most fair to all the locals of Judea & Sumaria. I no longer feel that way. History, and especially the last decade or two have shown the world that separating a people along tribal or religious lines for the sake of one group dominating the others isn’t security at all but a facade that scared people use and call security. It’s happening right here in the US. In a hundred years, my tribe won’t be numerically dominant any longer. Here in the US, it is the Hispanics that will be numerically superior.

    But you know what? They love the land, they love the country just as much as I and my clan do. That statement is just as valid in the middle east. Numerical superiority doesn’t make one safer. And if you use your dominance at the expense of a minority, the ‘safety’ gained is an illusion and won’t last. A better alternative is to make sure that all the minorities have the same rights and the same capabilities as the majority. Then and only then will all the groups rally around the land without thinking only they own it. Only then will the possibilities of true brotherhood drop the pretense of the need to dominate another.

    I know that sounds too wishy washy & many will say it is unattainable, but it is the only path I see out where all will survive.

  25. NCG says

    I liked the referendum idea, for both sides, that Zasloff had linked to a while back. They could have it every year until it passes. Why isn’t there some eccentric billionaire around to put money into something that actually matters? If that doesn’t work, maybe we need NATO troops at some point.

    But my guess is not much will change any time soon. I don’t think this new Palestinian push for “legitimacy” will work, since it is so clearly an end-run attempt and the UN has no credibility on this issue anyway. So there will be more resolutions to be ignored. Who cares?

  26. mike says

    Larry, but time is on the side of the Palestinians, settlements or not. Their population is exploding, and the only real population growth amongst Israelis is occurring in Orthodox circles….over 60% of which do not work and insist on being paid by the gov’t to study theology. No country can survive those demographics. Unable to stand up to pressure from the right, the gov’t will continue its accelerating economic decline

  27. Max says

    Mark,

    Just before, during, and after the founding of Israel, the attitude of its leading lights was that the country ought to be as separate as possible from religiously observant Judaism, especially the kind practiced in Europe. Nearly all of Israel’s leaders at the time were secular, and had a great deal of contempt for their religious contemporaries as backwards, regressive, and impractical. (And they were in many cases right to view them this way.)

    The end result, though, was not a secular state, but rather a state with the trappings of secularism that is being increasingly overrun by religious extremists. I don’t know what religious lineage (if any) you come from in the US, but Judaism as it is practiced here – liberal, modern, progressive – is almost nonexistent in Israel. There, one is either secular or Orthodox. And not modern Orthodox, for the most part, but something closer to Taliban-lite, where women are second-class citizens and non-Jews are treated with contempt that at times bleeds into violence. I lived among these people for awhile – it’s not pretty.

    I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. However I would urge you not to make the same mistake as Israel’s founders. One cannot suppress this kind of phenomenon by divesting oneself from it. Only deeper engagement will generate a solution. Precisely because of the terrible things you heard, we need voices like yours speaking out for a vision of liberal Zionism that was alive and well as little as 20 years ago.

    You have every right to not care and move on with your life and there are days when I do the same. But it sure would be a shame to let the racists among our number (as they are among every number) wrest control of a great idea from the rest of us.

    There are still outlets out there that you can be a part of. Personally, I am a fan of http://www.jstreet.org, and I know Mr. Beinart is as well. Perhaps that’s a start.

  28. Cosmo says

    Just a note, my own personal philosophy does not allow me to cede my viewpoint on a subject when someone else co-opts it. I’m a Zionist in the Theodore Herschel kind of way: I’ve read his books, as well as letters, and correspondences back in the very early days of Zionism. If anything, that is the intellectual, moral, and philosophical underpinnings of Zionism. I’m just as strong a Zionist today as I ever was, even if I feel that others who call themselves Zionist lean way to far to the right, or too far to the left. I would dare say that if you believe that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, that at a minimum is exactly the 1967 boarders, to a maximum of lands to include the west bank, JLEM, and the Golan heights, then you are by definition a Zionist. Saying you are not because you disagree with someone who says they are doesn’t change the definition of your own position.

  29. Smorkingapple says

    You want a solution? Here it is, and it’s been obvious for the past 30 years:

    - withdraw all aid to Israel, state conclusively that they’ve grown up and can now handle themselves without us and cut them loose. They have nukes and are decades ahead of their enemies militarily. They are a civilized nation. We can kick them out of the house now, they can support themselves just fine.

    Watch how quick they start playing nice with the Palestinians. Zionism will go the way of the dodo bird once they realize they don’t have big brother standing besides them which gives a lot of cover to practice jingoism.

    It’s always been amusing to hear conservatives on one hand dismiss welfare here in the states for poor people, but then cheer it on for Israel on the other.

  30. Benny says

    I cannot understand why you say you’re not a zionist. Granted, you haven’t made aliyah, but anyone who says “I support the continued existence of a democratic and Jewish Israel within, roughly, its 1967 boundaries,” sounds like a zionist. You’ve reconsidered your stance on Israel (not just specific policies, but Israel itself), because you don’t like how other people who defend Israel sound? That’s pretty shoddy intellectual reasoning. Especially considering that it was a college hillel.

  31. Don says

    What took you so long?

    Never having been a Zionist of any stripe, I don’t understand why the debate is about anything other than black-letter international law. The occupation, the settlements, the collective punishments are all illegal, whether the perpetrators have a historical grievance or not.

  32. NCG says

    It’s a fantasy to think that “the law” is going to solve this dispute. Which law? Whose law? Where are you going to find jurors? Sorry, but I wouldn’t trust the UN to hand out sandwiches fairly in that area of the world. Forget it. And I’m not against the UN usually, really. I think it is useful and flawed (like me!)

    What we need to do is strengthen moderates. But that’s always more difficult than being extremist.

  33. NCG says

    And can I just say how refreshing it would be to hear someone apologize for supporting the Iraq invasion? Too bad I missed the talk. People *should* be embarrassed about that. I’m not saying they have to walk around in sackcloth and ashes exactly, but, it was a huge mistake.

  34. Don says

    NCG, there is no shortage of people who support the application of international law when it is being applied to people other than the U.S. and Israel, maybe we could start there. Or do you categorically reject the Geneva Conventions being applied to any conflict?

  35. Steven Schwartz says

    Wow — antother ueber-liberal disaffected Jew claims says he is no longer a Zionist. Dog bites man.

  36. Douglas says

    This seems like a good place to relate an incident I saw way back in 1972.

    I was spending a summer in Toronto near the U. of T. campus and William Kunstler came for a visit and to rally the local Students for a Democratic Society crowd. I was sitting in the audience before William came on stage listening to the warm-up speakers. There were a succession of speakers, three or four, who shouted slogans at the crowd etc.

    One in particular stood out: “We oppose the USA and all it’s fascist allies, expect Israel. We support all liberation movements in the world, except the PLO.” Quote-unquote. They seemed to be openly arguing for the world to adhere to a set of standards that they rejected for themselves. It was quite astonishing. The idea that Israel is different and that normal rules of conduct do not apply to it are not new.

    I suspect that most of these radical left-wingers from then went on to be the radical right-wingers of today.

  37. says

    I personally would be able to support the occupation with a clearer conscience if it were not tied to the whole enterprise of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

    This is exactly how I feel. I have no problem with Israel occupying any post-1967 conquered land for defensive purposes. The potential of an invasion route through the Jordan Valley, the Hamas rocket attacks, etc., are all legitimate and compelling justifications.

    My problem is the settlements. Not only are they not a matter of military necessity, they are actually counterproductive to it because now instead of just defending against an invasion or some rocket attacks, the IDF has to protect the settlers who were placed in harm’s way. Further, the settlements encourage– and I would argue are intended to encourage– the sort of pre-modern, superstitious, God-as-land-grantor position of religious extremists who think an invisible man in the sky gave them the land and really don’t care how many Muslims have to be killed or oppressed to make their vision a reality.

    Israel should pull all the settlements out. That’s NOT the same thing as giving the land back to the Palestinians, which can await a peace agreement.

  38. says

    Nor do I endorse the aims of many if not most of the settlers on the West Bank, which I don’t in any case think are the aims of the majority of Israelis. However I think you’re wrong about the logic of the situation. The Arabs haven’t cut a deal because they think time is on their side. For example people like Mark Kleiman grow weary and state that they can no longer support what is after all a democratic and Jewish state in its struggles against organizations whose idea of politics is to throw members of the other party in jail or even off the roof once they’ve won an election and whose idea of warfare is to shoot missiles at school busses. I don’t see any way to negotiate in such a situation except to genuinely set up a dynamic in which the question of whether time is on their side is not so clear. That’s what settlement does. If the Arabs don’t like it, there’s a solution: Cut a deal.

    And as for this, the problem is that you could use it to justify any sort of wrongful conduct as a negotiating tactic. Drop nuclear bombs on the Arabs until they sign a peace agreement! If the Arabs don’t like it, there’s a solution!

    If something’s wrong, it doesn’t become right because it is a useful negotiating tactic.

  39. Kenster999 says

    Howdy. I was raised Catholic in California, so I’m coming at this from an admittedly uninformed place. My question is simple (I hope): can someone please define “Zionism”? Is the the vague idea that there should be some sort of Jewish homeland somewhere, anywhere? (Would it have supported the creation of Israel in Africa, for example?) Or does it require that it be in the current location, subject to some set of borders (1948? 1967? today? etc)?

    I see above that there are different types of Zionism (Cultural, Revisionist, etc) as well. Are the definitions of these terms well-accepted by everyone? Finally, have these definitions changed over time?

    I’m not looking to debate the wisdom or correctness of any particular definition or policy. I just want to understand the terms. Hopefully the answer to this question would be a few short sentences, or perhaps a link to a website which gives well-defined and well-accepted definitions. For example, is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zionism a good reference? (A simple “Yes please refer to Wikipedia” would be fine, too.)

    Thanks!

  40. Rusty says

    So if you attend a Muslim student group meeting where an equal number of people say Jews have no rights in the Middle East beyond Jim Crow dhimis codes, you’re going to windsock again?

  41. larry birnbaum says

    So between doing nothing and letting the Palestinian Arabs drag their feet about negotiating as long as they want to, and dropping nuclear weapons on them, is a big space of possible actions. Settlement is incremental and continuously controllable — the amount of pressure can be modulated based on Palestinian actions or lack thereof — so it is proportional. And it is non-violent. It doesn’t kill people.

  42. Don says

    Larry, are you seriously saying that it is nonviolent to move armed settlers, under the protection of the military, into occupied territory? So it would be nonviolent, by your definition, to evict you from your home at gunpoint, as long as we don’t pull the trigger?

  43. SamChevre says

    I don’t understand why the debate is about anything other than black-letter international law.

    Me neither. I’m just not convinced, and never have been, that morality changed completely between 1946 (when the Pomeranians and Sudetendeutsch were expelled from areas they’d counted as home for a millenium after being on the losing side of a war) and 1967.

  44. Marshall says

    I don’t think there’s an argument more disreputable than the one Mr. Birnbaum articulates above, that military aggression to secure ethnic supremacy is the hard necessity of state survival in the “real world.”

    Apparently we liberal Jews just don’t know what it takes to triumph in the face of the hostile hordes of violent Muslims who want to do us in. Well, if it takes strategic malnutrition as state policy in Gaza, count me out. You can have your Lebensraum… but don’t sign my name to it.

  45. Marshall says

    “Settlement” doesn’t kill people? Please step out of the comfortable little propaganda bubble you’ve made for yourself and note the lynch mobs roaming around the West Bank and their official “State Militia” enablers from the IDF–all very Mississippi 1928, wouldn’t you say?

    What you’re saying is that state-sanctioned violence against civilians and official land-grabs are legitimate tools to secure a favorable political settlement. That point of view could be described as a lot of things, but Jewish isn’t one of them.

  46. Steven says

    Well, Marshall, apparently you are willing to sacrifice the lives of millions of Jews in Israel as you sit back in the comfort of your American home. Very righteous of you. And as for your use of Nazi-loaded terminology to describe what’s going on in Gaza, it’s beneath contempt — not to mention laughably inaccurate. Lebensraum would indicate that the Israelis want it for living space, but they uprooted all their settlements from there (or did you miss that). And as for malnutrition, it is a fact that the markets in Gaza are filled with food and there is no starvation going on there. As the heading of the blog says, everyone is entitled to his own opinion (however, odious or self-hating) but not their own facts.

  47. says

    I wasn’t there to hear what was said but I think you are making far too much of “they brought it on themselves.” The problem is that to some significant degree, they did: why didn’t the Arabs — our ethnic brothers and sisters to some degree — take in the Jews before, during and after WW2?

    But so what.

    The problem is that no seems to be able to remember. The best thing that a lot of people — Arab, Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish — is to forget history. Everyone was right and everyone was wrong and so it doesn’t matter.

    Mass amnesia would be the best thing for everyone.

  48. Marshall says

    Ah yes, I’m a self-hating entitled American sitting safely here lobbing spitballs at the hard-working men and women busy stealing Palestinian land and water for their grotesque check-pointed parodies of gated American suburbs. Millions of Jews would die if that abomination were to cease? The pathetic weakness of your argument is only the more obvious when you make it in those terms.

    At least have the balls to claim that it’s all in the service of finely-calibrated negotiating strategy, as Birnbaum did. Otherwise all you’re doing is regurgitating the made-for-the-USA propaganda about how Gaza’s not really all that bad. Save it for someone who’s happy to nod along as a generation of Palestinian children grows up with nothing better to do than become a suicide bomber. That’s the plan, isn’t it?

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