Who now REALLY cares about 'the Jewish state'?

January 14, 2014
Sarah Benton

This is an American Jewish banner – but of the ‘two testament’ synagogue Beth Hillel which recognises Jesus (Yehoshuah) as the Messiah.

Rabbi Lerner Recommends

Tikkun editor’s Note: It’s hard to know the right reaction to Israel’s latest craziness (mishugas)—its attempts to block Obama’s deal with Iran to stop the potential militarization of Iran’s nuclear capacity. Israel is trying to block the deal by using its American allies to push the Senate to vote on new sanctions against Iran now, instead of allowing the process toward a possible accommodation to be explored. Israel’s goal is transparent: create conditions that Iran cannot accept, then argue that this proves Iran is really after the militarization of its nuclear capacities, then attack Iran with U.S. backing, and then use Iran’s military response as proof that it was seeking nuclear capacity to attack Israel. Should one respond with sadness (see MJ Rosenberg’s article below) or with outrage?

Below I am also sharing a piece in which Israeli peace movement (Gush Shalom) leader Uri Avnery shows the craziness of Netanyahu’s latest attempt to block an agreement with the Palestinians, this time by demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel not just as a state the way all other parties recognize Israel, but as a JEWISH state (presumably meaning its right to discriminate against non-Jews or something of the sort).

Israel: The Dream Dies

By MJ Rosenberg, Tikkun Daily
January 09, 2014

Nobody I know is interested in talking about Israel anymore.I think that may be because virtually all my friends are essentially pro-Israel and have supported Israel their entire lives. Now their attitude is “what’s there to say?” as if Israel was a friend with an alcohol problem who, despite everyone’s best efforts, simply chooses drinking to excess over being sober. You know the alcohol is killing him but you also know that it’s his considered choice to drink. He’s weighed the risks and chosen alcohol. There isn’t anything anyone can do.So you stop talking about him, other than the occasional sigh at the mention of his name. It’s wrong, but essentially you stop actively caring.

That is the way it is with Israel. Nobody wants to discuss the new conditions Prime Minister Netanyahu keeps adding in his effort to defeat not the Palestinians but Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to achieve peace. First the demand that Israel be recognized “as a Jewish state.” Then allowing the fanatic settlers in Hebron to remain along with the satellite outposts populated by the violent “settler youth.” Then there is keeping troops in the Jordan Valley, along the border with Jordan, thereby ensuring that any Palestinian state in the West Bank would be as sovereign and viable as the ghetto Israel created in Gaza. The latest: Netanyahu is hard at work trying to prove that President Mahmoud Abbas, who Netanyahu himself credits with preventing terrorist attacks against Israel, is, you guessed it, an anti-semite.Why waste time discussing these things? Everyone knows that these Netanyahu conditions are nothing but pretenses.

So we ignore them, even though we know Israel is committing suicide.

In fact, our indifference helps create the conditions for suicide. After all, if Jews don’t much care about Israel anymore, then who does?

PM Netanyahu addressing Christians United for Israel Christian supporters with John Hagee in Jerusalem March 2012. Their enthusiastic support is not to be relied upon – especially if AIPAC money dries up. Photo by Amos Ben Gershon / Government Press Office

Right-wing Christians? True, they “love” Israel but not nearly as much as they love the idea of banning abortion, discriminating against GLBT people, lowering taxes on the rich, erecting walls against immigrants, eliminating unemployment insurance, and winning the War Against Christmas. They like talking about Israel a lot (mainly to inoculate themselves against the charge of anti-semitism which most Jews sense they are) and as part of the active dream of some to convert the Jews. But that is about it.

No, the only Americans that Israel can count on is Jews and they are losing interest. Big time.

But, you say, Israel still can count on the politicians who look to AIPAC for campaign contributions. They aren’t going anywhere.

And that’s true. So long as there is money in it, one can count on Bob Menendez, Lindsey Graham, and the like to “stand with Israel.” But that will last only as long as there is money it. And that money will run out as the old Jews die off and their children choose other causes, causes that are not morally compromising.

AIPAC is the only thing that is keeping Congress in line in support of Netanyahu’s refusal to compromise with the Palestinians and his determination to destroy any chance of ending the Iran nuclear problem peacefully. Anyone who thinks that will last knows nothing about the political trajectory of Jews under 70, let alone under 40.

Jewish indifference is Israel’s biggest enemy and Israel, like an alcoholic who decides that he prefers drinking to abstaining, will pay the price.

Does this mean that Jews opposed to Israel’s suicidal course should just shut up. No, although most have. There is, after all, J Street, which struggles to turn things around but is simply not a factor in Congress. That is not its fault. Congress is bought by AIPAC and J Street can not outbid it. If it could, Chuck Schumer woud be leading the forces for peace with the Palestinians and for a deal with Iran. But that won’t happen.

This is the way it will be until either the Israelis bring down its government of setters and religious fanatics, the President decides to ignore the lobby and impose an agreement on both sides, or the Palestinians succeed in changing the situation on the ground. (As for Iran, I think Obama is going to achieve a deal despite AIPAC and its bought friends in Congress, so I am less worried about that).

But basically, I think 2014 will be like every year since the Israeli right murdered Yitzhak Rabin. Israel will unravel and we, American Jews, will look away. It took 1900 years to realize the Zionist dream. It’s taking only a few decades to destroy it. No, not the reality which will hang on, unloved and isolated, but protected by its massive arsenal (that is infinitely better than the alternative). It’s the dream I’m talking about.

By now Herzl would be thinking about moving back to Europe. The secular Herzl, who wanted rabbis out of positions of influence and the Arab minority very much in, would have no place in Israel. But I’m sure he would visit every so often, maybe along with Chaim Weizmann, Ahad Ha’am, and Martin Buber.

Bibi & Libie

Netanyahu’s Demand that Palestinians Recognize Israel not Just as a State, but as a Jewish State

By Uri Avnery, Tikkun Daily
January 11, 2014

PERHAPS I am too stupid, but for the heck of me I cannot understand the sense of the Israeli demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

On the face of it, it seems like a clever trick by Binyamin Netanyahu to divert attention from the real issues. If so, the Palestinian leadership has fallen into a trap.

Instead of talking about the independence of the putative State of Palestine and its borders, its capital in Jerusalem, the removal of the settlements, the fate of the refugees and the solution of the many other problems, they quarrel endlessly about the definition of Israel.

One is tempted to call out to the Palestinians: what the hell, accord them this damn recognition and be done with it! Who cares!?

THE ANSWER of the Palestinian negotiators is twofold.

First, recognizing Israel as a Jewish State would be an act of betrayal towards the million and a half Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, If Israel is a Jewish State, where does that leave them?

Well, that problem could be solved by a provision in the peace treaty stating that irrespective of anything else in the agreement, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will enjoy full equality in every respect.

Second, that the recognition of Israel’s Jewishness would block the return of the refugees.

That argument is even less valid than the first. The solution of the refugee problem will be a central plank of the treaty. The Palestinian leadership, at the time of Yasser Arafat, already tacitly accepted that the solution will be an “agreed” one, so that any return will be at most symbolic. The recognition issue will not affect it.

The debate on this Israeli demand is entirely ideological. Netanyahu demands that the Palestinian people accept the Zionist narrative. The Palestinian refusal is based on the Arab narrative, which contradicts the Zionist one on practically every single event that happened during the last 130 years, if not the last 5000.

Mahmoud Abbas could just come forward and announce: OK, if you accept our practical demands, we shall recognize Israel as whatever you want – a Buddhist State, a Vegetarian State, you name it.

That famous handshake, Guardian 14 September 1993: ‘Clinton brokers historic Middle East peace deal: Israeli-Palestinian accord appears to put a lasting settlement within reach.’  Palestine and Israel recognised each other.
Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat after the signing of the Israeli-PLO peace accord at the White House. Photo by Gary Hershorn/Reuters
On September 10, 1993 – which happened to be my 70th birthday – Yasser Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian people, recognized the State of Israel, in return for the no less momentous recognition of the Palestinian people by Israel. Implicitly, each side recognized the other as it is. Israel defined itself in its founding document as a Jewish State. Ergo, the Palestinians have already recognized a Jewish State.By the way, the first step towards Oslo was made by Arafat when he told his representative in London, Said Hamami, to publish in The Timesof London on December 17, 1973, a proposal for a peaceful solution, which stated among other things that “the first step must be the mutual recognition of these two sides. The Jewish-Israelis and the Palestinian-Arabs must recognize each other as peoples with all the rights of peoples.”

I saw the original draft of this statement with corrections in Arafat’s hand.

THE PROBLEM of the Palestinian minority in Israel – about 20% of Israel’s eight million citizens – is very serious, but it has now acquired a humorous twist.

Since his acquittal from corruption charges and return to the Foreign Office, Avigdor Lieberman is at it again. He has come out supporting John Kerry’s peace efforts, much to the chagrin of Netanyahu, who does not.

Why, for heaven’s sake? Lieberman aspires to become prime minister some day, as soon as possible. For this he has to (1) unite his “Israel Our Home” party with the Likud, (2) become leader of the Likud, (3) win the general elections. But over all these there hovers (4): obtain the approval of the Americans. So Lieberman now supports the American effort and peace.

Yes, but under one condition: that the US accept his master plan for the Jewish State.

This is a masterpiece of constructive statesmanship. Its main proposal is to move the borders of Israel – not eastward, as could be expected from an arch-nationalist, but westward, slimming Israel’s narrow hips even further, to a mere 9 (nine!) km.

The Israeli territory that Lieberman wants to get rid of is the site of a dozen Arab villages, which were given Israel as a gift by the then king of Jordan in the armistice agreement of 1949. Abdallah I, the great-great-grandfather of the current Abdallah II of Jordan, needed the armistice at any price. Lieberman now wants to give these villages back, thank you.

Why? Because for this stalwart of Jewish Israel, the reduction of the Arab population is a sacred task. He does not advocate expulsion, God forbid. Not at all. He proposes attaching this area, with its population, to the Palestinian state. In return, he wants the Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank to be joined to Israel. A transfer of areas with their populations, reminiscent of Stalin’s redrawing the borders of Poland, except that Lieberman’s borders look completely crazy.

Lieberman presents this as a peaceful, liberal, humane plan. No one will be displaced, no property expropriated. Some 300 thousand Arabs, all of them ardent supporters of the Palestinian struggle for statehood, will become Palestinian citizens.

SO WHY do the Palestinians in Israel cry out? Why do they condemn the plan as a racist assault on their rights?

Because they are far more Israeli than they care to admit, even to themselves. After living in Israel for 65 years, they have become accustomed to its ways. They don’t love Israel, they don’t serve in its army, they are discriminated against in many ways, but they are deeply rooted in the Israeli economy and democracy, much more than is generally recognized.

“Israeli Arabs”, a term they hate, play a significant role in Israeli hospitals and courts, including the Supreme Court, and in many other institutions.

Becoming citizens of Palestine tomorrow would mean losing 80% or 90% of their standard of living. It would also mean losing the social security net enjoyed in Israel (though Lieberman promises to continue payments to those currently eligible(. After being used for decades to fair elections and the lively give-and-take of the Knesset, they would have to get used to a society in which, as of now, important parties are forbidden, elections are postponed and parliament plays a minor role. The place of women in this society is very different from their role in Israel.

The situation of the Palestinians in Israel is unique in many respects. On the one side, as long as Israel is defined as a Jewish State, the Arabs will not be fully equal. On the other side, in the occupied Palestinian territories, these Israeli citizens are not accepted as fully belonging. They straddle both sides of the conflict. They would like to be mediators, the link between the two sides, bringing them closer to each other. But this has remained a dream.

A complicated situation, indeed.

IN THE meantime, Netanyahu and Lieberman are hatching another plan to make Jewish Israel even Jewisher.

There are today three factions in the Knesset which derive their votes from the Arab population. They constitute almost 10% of the Knesset. Why not 20%, to reflect their part in the general population? First because they have many more children, who have not yet reached voting age (18 years). Second, their rate of abstention is significantly higher. Third, some Arabs are bribed to vote for Zionist parties.

The part of the Arab MKs in enacting laws is negligible. Any bill they introduce is almost automatically voted down. No Jewish party ever considered including them in a government coalition. Yet they have a very noticeable presence, their voice is heard.

Now, in the name of “governability” (a trendy new term that can be used to justify any attack on human rights), Bibi & Libie, as someone called them, want to change the minimum share of votes that any election list needs to enter the Knesset.

I was elected three times to the Knesset when the threshold was 1%. Later it was raised to 2%. Now the plan is to raise the threshold to 3.25%, which in the elections a year ago would have equaled 123,262 votes. Only one of the three “Arab” parties crossed this line – and then only barely. There is no assurance that it could do so again.

In order to survive, they would have to unite and form a large Arab bloc. Many would think that this was a good thing. But it is very difficult to accomplish. One party is communist, another Islamist, another secular-nationalist. Also, competing extended families play an important role in Arab electoral politics.

The Arab lists may disappear altogether. Or two may unite, eliminating the third.

Some Israeli leftists fantasize about a dream party – a united parliamentary bloc that would include all the Arab parties with the Labor party and Meretz, turning it into a formidable challenger of the right wing.

But that would be too good to be true – no chance at all of this happening in the near future.

IT SEEMS that Kerry and his Zionist advisors already identify with the Israeli demand for recognition as a Jewish State or, worse, the State of the Jewish People (who were not even consulted).

The Palestinian side is unable to accept this.

If the negotiations come to naught on this point, Netanyahu will have achieved his real aim: to abort the negotiations in a way that will enable him to blame the Palestinians.

As long as we have a Jewish State – who needs peace?

See also Israel does not recognise itself as a state – so what is being demanded of Palestinians?
Who now REALLY cares about ‘the Jewish state’?

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