In Britain, lobbying for Israel has increasingly become the preserve of a wealthy Jewish elite who between them run a number of Jewish organisations. This article by four researchers at Bath University doesn’t look so much at what lobbying work goes on or to what effect, as to when and why the left stopped admiring Israel as an ‘emancipatory’ project leaving its support to people who are older, more right-wing and richer than the average Briton.
Canadian activist Suzanne Weiss, whose mother died in Auschwitz, links her childhood experience of being protected against the German occupiers by French villagers with the imperative to cross the borders (of ethnicity and nation) to show solidarity today with Palestinians and other indigenous people. Their home environment is always wrecked by colonising settlers.
President Obama is the new Chamberlain and President Rouhani the new Hitler: America’s political commentators are serving their readers badly when they can only interpret today’s relationship with Iran by using analogies from Europe’s attempt to delay war against fascist Germany in 1938. The sacrifice of Czechoslovakia to Hitler has no analogy to the interim deal in Geneva – except for those who believe Israel has been sacrificed.
In a thoughtful and descriptive piece, Eva Illouz moves from her Jewishness in her birth country of secular France to the state-enforced Judaism of her new country, Israel. In the transition, what had been a creative and protective separateness from other people, an ‘almost invincible shield of identity’, has become a racist protection of ethnic purity and a denial of the ethic of a secular universalism.
We don’t need to argue about Balfour or show title deeds to prove we exist. We simply need to show the historical maps of Palestine says historian Salman Abu Sitta, who has made this his life’s work. He has had no help or interest from the Palestinian leadership, about which he is scathing. “In the absence of true representation of Palestinians, the Israeli regime has gone wild. It removed every mask from its face. It became openly racist”.
Adam Shatz has written this extensive account of the life and legend of theatre director Juliano Mer-Khamis who was assassinated by masked gunmen in Jenin in 2011. His killers have never been identified. He was unstintingly against the Israeli Occupation and for Palestinian resistance and described himself as Palestinian and Jewish. But to some Palestinians he was just Israeli and he was distrusted by some on both sides.
75 years ago Jews were the primary target of those who hated immigrants and ‘aliens’. That was dramatically demonstrated in Germany/Austria in ‘kristallnacht’. Today in much of the world, gypsies and Roma, Muslims, Pakistanis and gays, Africans and asylum seekers are the likely targets. It is time for Jews to stand with these vulnerable groups and speak out against the ‘toxic sentiments’ behind the attacks.
Doublethink was George Orwell’s term, in 1984, for “the acceptance of contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination”. A new paper reported by MERIP contrasts the arguments Israel used to gain admission to the UN in 1948-49 (essential for the peace process) with the arguments used by the US/Israel against Palestine gaining even UN Observer status in 2012 (it would harm the peace process.) Hat tip to G. Orwell.
In this week of anniversaries, Amos Harel looks at the impact of the Yom Kippur war (1973) in which Syrian and Egyptian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel making considerable early gains. The shock of this possible defeat (the war was ended by UN intervention) has skewed Israeli thinking since. In particular, no-one seems to have learned the lesson of the importance of diplomatic initiatives.
Jillian Kestler D’Amours begins with the Begin plan and goes back through the Prawer plan to Sharon’s Individual Settlement plan, all of which scheme to rid the Negev of its historic Bedouin residents and land-users and replace them (with dubious legality) with true, i.e. Jewish, Israeli citizens.
In the second of three postings on democracy in Israel Tsafi Saar starts with the latest ‘threat’ to democracy – but then asks was there ever a democracy in Israel to be threatened? There has been a closed room of ‘democracy’ for Jews only. But since its foundation Israel has governed the non-Jewish population – the Palestinians – with an iron fist, an abomination which is hidden by a set of self-flattering myths – or lies.
In a richly argued essay, Natasha Gill asks why the Palestinians said No to giving up even half their homeland to a Jewish state – and why, lacking any knowledge of or curiosity about the native inhabitants, pro-Israelis from Balfour through Israelis to Obama, have refused to know that Palestinians have their own narrative to tell. Instead, they have invented Palestinian attitudes to suit their own narrative.
Firing back at all pressure, even from the best of friends, with cries of ‘antisemitism’, ‘delegitimisation’ and ‘existential threat’ governments of Israel have set the state on the road away from democracy and equal rights – and away from their one-time defenders who feel subverted by Israel’s racism. Zeev Sternhell has a long and distinguished intellectual history, giving weight to this deceptively simple and heartfelt article .
Displacing Palestinians from their homes and lands has been a continuous practice and defining policy of all Israeli governments since 1948. Munir Nuseibah describes the array of measures governments have used and argues that ‘transitional justice’, not narrow rights, is the only framework for exercising justice.
Despite innumerable diplomatic and political reproaches and votes of censure from EU, UN and even US bodies, Israeli encroachment on, and seizure of, Palestinian land has been continuous since 1967 with two breaks: the withdrawal from Gaza, 2005, and the Oslo Accords which made the small enclaves of Areas A and B off-limits to Israelis.
Uri Avnery, an MK in 1967, looks back at the reasons for Israel’s preemptive strike against (a blustering and unprepared) Egypt, the hysterical triumphalism at the ease of his country’s victory – and the terrible curse that has handed down to both Palestinians and the younger Israelis who can’t imagine an Israel without its colony of defeated Palestinians.
So powerful has been the Israeli story of its own creation and acquisition of Palestinian land that testimony from Palestinians has had little effect. But formal documents in the state archive provided evidence for the ‘new historians’ to convince many Israelis of the untruth of the official story. Since then the archive has been closed – except for one file accidentally left out. This has now been been found to show the pressure young academics felt to ‘prove’ that Palestinians left on the advice of their own leaders, and how aware Ben-Gurion was of the role of Jewish militias in seizing the land.
If Jews are defined as a separate ‘race’ there is little to choose between antisemitists and zionists in their desire to get Jews out of Europe, argues Joseph Massad in a patchy survey of beliefs about race and Jews. (He ignores the distinctive zionist fanaticism for state-building). He mourns the defeat of the Jewish ‘Haskalah’ (enlightenment’) which sought to integrate Jews in European modernity and, in the cold war, as ‘white’ people – news to the Rosenbergs’ family. Mira Sucharov takes issue with the omission of Liberal Zionism which defines the Daily Beast for which she writes.
Since 1967, the approach to Israel/Palestine taken by the USA and EU has rested on the notion that Israeli governments would be happy to negotiate a stable peace agreement but Arab and Palestinian leaders will not. Evidence that this belief is a fallacy has existed since the release of ‘The Palestine Papers’ by Al Jazeera in 2011 and, says Jonathan Cook, by Wikileaks’ disclosure last month of US diplomatic cables, which speak of Israeli self-destruction. At every stage, leaders of Arab states and the West Bank have been flexible and leaders of Israel (and Hamas), wholly obdurate.
Most Israelis are not as extreme as Im Tirtzu who protest against any commemoration of the nakba. The preferred position is of studied indifference. Anything more means either openly deciding for or against Im Tirtzu’s totalitarian zionism, or openly acknowledging that a great wrong continues to be done, in the name of Israel. Here, one member struggles with the one thing he thinks he knows about Palestinians – their holocaust denial. Perhaps he should know out about the refusal of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine) to make saving European Jews their priority.