False Dichotomies

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Tell the truth, Omar

Omar Barghouti supports the destruction of Israel. It’s very clear from his words and writings, and it would be better for all concerned if he had the guts to be honest about it. By destruction, I don’t necessarily mean he seeks the physical destruction of the Jewish State or the extermination of its citizens, although, judging by his equivocations when it comes to Hamas violence  (from the leader of a supposedly non-violent movement, remember) I wouldnt be surprised. Rather, he wants Israel to be replaced by a Palestinian-Arab state. Or, as his recently murdered friend Juliano Mer-Kharmis  put it so succinctly, “I’m in favour of a single Palestinian state from the river to the sea. If the Jews want to live with us, ahlan wasahlan (welcome).”

The BDS movement seeks Israel’s destruction through a slow-burning campaign that aims to depict the Zionist entity as uniquely evil and deserving of the harshest sanctions of the international community. The clever aspect of this campaign, and what marks it out from the old-school Arab boycott of Israel, is how it is wrapped up in rhetoric of international law and human rights, downplaying Palestinian nationalism as obsolete and focusing on the inalienable rights of the individual. As Barghouti put it in a recent interview with ‘Democracy Now’: “It’s a basic, liberal, decent agenda based on human rights that any person can join.”

Threats work best when they are unambiguous. A good youth leader knows that threatening to send a child home from camp won’t work if he can’t act upon it. Conversely, the person on the receiving end of the threat needs to know what they have to do for the threat to be lifted. This is why the boycott of South Africa (of which I have reservations) was effective: it was very simple. For the boycott to be lifted, the Afrikaans simply had to end apartheid.

What about BDS? “It’s not just to end the occupation,” says Barghouti, “because the 1967 occupation victimises one-third, a mere one-third, of the Palestinian people.” What else is about, Omar?  “To have a minimal kind of exercising of our right to self-determination, we would need to end the occupation of 1967, end Israel’s system of racial discrimination – so, have full equality in Israel for Jews, non-Jews and so on – and the right of return for refugees in accordance with U.N Resolution 194.” I suspect Omar and I would disagree over the meaning of Resolution 194, but I’ll save that for another time. What exactly does Barghouti mean by right of return for refugees? Does he mean the formula that has been floated by which Israel will recognise the Palestinian right of return and the Palestinians will in turn exercise that right in the Palestinian State and not the State of Israel? Does he mean that he wants as many of the refugees as possible to return? Or does he merely mean that he wants them to decide? And would he allow them to be given another choice, such as third-country repatriation? He should tell us. He should tell the people he is boycotting so we can decide whether or not to meet his demands. And if he means the full exercise of the right of return to the State of Israel, then he should acknowledge that this will almost certainly result either in the Balkanisation of the land or in Israel being replaced by a Palestinian-Arab state (even Noam Chomsky acknowledges this). Either way, he must tell us.  

The same goes for his demands regarding Israeli-Arabs (or, perhaps more accurately, Israeli-Palestinians). What does he mean by Israel’s “system of racial discrimination”? He can’t be talking about denying Arabs the right to vote, because they can. He can’t be talking about the restaurants Arabs aren’t allowed to enter, because there aren’t any. He might be talking about the low funding for Arab municipalities, or the discriminatory land laws, or the discrimination Israeli-Arabs can face when applying for jobs or looking for apartments in Jewish-majority areas. These are problems which Israel need to urgently tackle. But there are plenty of other countries, even a few wonderful liberal western ones, where minorities are often treated as badly - de facto if not necessarily de jure – and the Israeli polity will not look fundamentally different when there is full civic equality for minorities. Plus he surely knows that it’s better to be an Arab in Israel – at least materially speaking – than almost anywhere else in the Middle East.  So what is he talking about? He must tell us. I suspect he objects to a state where the language is Hebrew and the national holidays are Jewish being founded on his ancestral land. I have some sympathy for his position. But he should be more honest, especially if he wants to achieve his goals.

Omar Barghouti, in his role as the unofficial high priest of the BDS movement, is apparently studying for his Phd at Tel Aviv University. So perhaps he’ll drop into the Vineyard before I go to India (or when I come back) for some hummus and to answer my questions. I’d be happy to pay. But shrouding his true intent in rhetoric about supposedly universally accepted norms of human rights and international law is blatantly dishonest, and I don’t know what I have to do to make him stop. I couldn’t find the answers in his book. So please do tell, Omar.

74 comments

74 Comments so far

  1. Anonymous April 14th, 2011 3:44 am

    “I’m in favour of a single Palestinian state from the river to the sea. If the Jews want to live with us, ahlan wasahlan (welcome).”

    Anyone who says this is a racist.

    On the other hand, I want a single ethnically pure state from the river to the sea. If anyone else wants to live here they can be subject to our democracy…. Ahlan wa Sahlen.

  2. Alex April 14th, 2011 6:48 am

    Where have I said anything about Israel being a single ethnically pure state from the river to the sea?

  3. Ben White April 14th, 2011 10:18 am

    “Plus he surely knows that it’s better to be an Arab in Israel – at least materially speaking – than almost anywhere else in the Middle East.”

    Now that does sound familiar… http://bit.ly/eP7ak2

  4. Alex April 14th, 2011 10:29 am

    Ben – 1) I was quite clear in my opposition to selection committees. It’s almost important to remember that they’re not just targeted at Arabs. Israel – rightly or wrongly – is currently a communitarian society. For example, as a secular Jew, I can’t live on a religious kibbutz. You can read more about this here – http://www.commongroundnews.org/article.php?id=29366&lan=en&sp=0. But I don’t think they justify BDS>

    2) You are surely aware that there is nothing legally preventing Palestinians in East Jerusalem from taking up Israeli citizenship. Presumably you would call them traitors if they did so.

    3) I do not think the continuation of the occupation justifies a full-scale boycott of Israel, although I think a targeted boycott of the settlement enterprise is reasonable. The point is that Barghouti doesn’t either – his statements clearly show that he isn’t so interested in the question of the occupation. For him, 1948 is the problem.

    4) Check the life expectancy for Christian-Arabs in Israel. I think you’ll find that it’s as long if not longer than for Israeli-Jews. Again – things are more complicated than you say. And at no point did I deny that Israeli-Arabs live under worse conditions than Israeli-Jews. My point was that was hardly unique to Israel (which of course does not justify it), and does not justify BDS. And I think you’ll find that apartheid South Africa didn’t have a monopoly on using that kind of argument, and the fact that they did does not invalidate it. It remains relevant.

    I am happy to repeat our Comment is Free article and debate this issue more formally if you would like.

  5. Ben White April 14th, 2011 11:03 am

    “I am happy to repeat our Comment is Free article and debate this issue more formally if you would like.”

    I’ll decline thanks. People can re-read our last exchange if they want.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/24/israelandthepalestinians.middleeast

  6. Phalanx Whine April 14th, 2011 11:11 am

    What do you actually mean by “destroy Israel”?

  7. Alex April 14th, 2011 11:15 am

    I mean replacing the current State of Israel with a Palestinian-Arab state of some kind.

  8. Phalanx Whine April 14th, 2011 11:32 am

    specifics please. Equal rights for the savages?

  9. Alex April 14th, 2011 11:35 am

    I mean Arabic instead of Hebrew, Muslim holidays instead of Jewish ones, the revocation of the Law of Return, and much more. Think everything you currently think about Israel, and then imagine if it were 100 times worse.

  10. Phalanx Whine April 14th, 2011 11:50 am

    If you believe the hype Arabic is already one of Israel’s official languages and Muslim holidays are already respected. So why don’t you be more honest about what you are defending. You want to protect your privileged which is based on nothing more than particular interpretations of an arbitrary ethnic distinction at the cost of a lot of other peoples rights and in some cases lives. You are worried about BDS because it is effectively and calmly and nonviolently exposing the racism and violence of your own position. Everything else is bullshit.

  11. Alex April 14th, 2011 11:54 am

    I get you. You are saying that Israel is currently no better for its Arab/Palestinian citizens than a post-BDS Palestine would be for its Jewish ones. I don’t think that’s the case. As for what I want to protect – you have to be more specific for me to answer you.

  12. Phalanx Whine April 14th, 2011 12:52 pm

    The law of return juxtaposed against the denial of citizenship to East Jerusalemites, the denial of return to refugees and the denial of access to there own lands of Palestinians in the West Bank etc. demonstrates manifest privilege for certain persons against others based explicitly on an ethnic distinction that Israel itself reserves the exclusive right to make.

    That is what you are defending.

    It is you who should tell the truth.

  13. Alex Stein April 14th, 2011 3:26 pm

    Wrong. I envisage a Palestinian state alongside Israel. There, the Palestinian people will be able to exercise their national rights just as the Jewish people are able to do in Israel. Barghouti, on the other hand, believes that there should only be a Palestinian state. He is the one in favour of priviliging one people over the other, not me. I suspect that you agree with him.

  14. David Lehmann April 14th, 2011 6:58 pm

    I attended a meeting last year organized by the Cambridge University Palestinian Students Society. He and the person from Exeter University who shared his platform made many valid points, but the feeling they communicated was of fierce hatred not just of Israel but of Israelis, and they did not say a word of criticism of anything Palestinian. When I raised the issue of religious excess and religiously driven violence in Palestine and Gaza they blamed the religious element on Israel too. True: in the same week an Israeli diplomat was hounded out of a hall a Manchester University, so this was quite a polite affair. But Ben certainly seems to want to punish all Israelis for the sins of their government. These people have no desire whatsoever to share a state with Israelis. Nor of course do many Israelis. But Ben and co want to have a single state – which most Israelis reject.

  15. Tzur April 15th, 2011 12:55 am

    We have not needed to wait for Omar Barghouti to polish his views for presentation in a self-serving book. He has already stated them frankly in the friendly and uncritically minded environment in an interview on an antisemitic website. The interview was published in December 2007, with the telling title: “No to the apartheid 2 state solution: Omar Barghouti: ‘No State has the Right to Exist as a Racist State.” See http://www.voltairenet.org/article153536.htm In the interview he also stated that the “Right of Return” would by itself necessarily dissolve the Jewish state. Of course, admitting millions of Palestinians (who have been schooled from infancy in justifications for terrorist violence, in extreme hatred of Jews, and the belief that their homes were stolen illegally from them) would bring chaotic murder to every Jewish house and home in the state, the largest pogrom in history. If Yasser Arafat “could not control” the terrorism he endorsed and even furthered after the Oslo Accords and during the Second Intifada, how could the Palestinian leadership “control” it once those millions flooded Israel? Whether many Jews would survive to enjoy their new dhimmi status a la Lebanon is an open question Barghouti does not concern himself with.

  16. Alex Stein April 15th, 2011 6:15 am

    David – spot on!

  17. Phalanx Whine April 15th, 2011 7:25 am

    Classic argument of the colonialist.

    We treat the natives terribly but our sins are legitimate as civilized sins.

    The natives are angry and we perceive their intentions not only as hostile but as unjustifiably apocalyptic.

    There is no sense to their anger because everything we did was for the sake of civilization.

    There can be no room for us to trust them because everything they will do will be uncivilized and angry.

    We must keep them locked down, disenfranchised or dead because our civilization is at stake.

  18. Alex Stein April 15th, 2011 7:44 am

    Phalanx – is that directed at me or Tzur? If it’s at me, it would help if you could explain exactly what I’ve said that justifies that kind of response.

  19. Tzur April 15th, 2011 9:13 am

    If directed to me it is nonsense. I said nothing about “colonialists” or “natives.” I simply described the almost certain outcome of introducing millions of hate-filled Palestinians into Israel. The assumption that Israel is a “colonial” state, and that the Palestinians are the only legitimate “natives,” or are even “natives” at all, is Phalanx’s propaganda rubbish. Next to none of the Palestinians around today were even born in the land Israel presently inhabits. Jews too were in the region for many centuries, in fact their habitation goes back thousands of years, and they have every possible right to establish their state there. Moreover, Israel was established by the United Nations, not a colonial power, and was almost immediately recognized by the Soviet Union, no proponent of Western colonialism, as the legitimate state it was. The Soviets had a strong expectation that Israel would be a strong anti-Western state and a Communist ally, since it was established against the will of most Western countries and was led by democratic socialists at the time. In particular, it was founded against the will of the British, in fact, whose colonial interests had led them to favor the Arabs strongly and one-sidedly by the 1930s. Israel was established in the course of an epic and desperate struggle of the Jewish people, against the heaviest odds, as the most moral national liberation movement in modern times. Many of the Arabs in the region, moreover, were themselves immigrants from other Arab states, drawn by Jewish economic growth, so that as many as 300,000 of them by 1948 were non-natives or the immediate descendants of such immigrants. As for the alleged terrible treatment of the Arabs, actually Arab inhabitants have more rights than in any other neighbouring states, which is precisely what the current uprisings elsewhere make crystal-clear even to ideologically blinded people like Phalanx. Meanwhile, the rights of Jews in Arab states effectively do not exist at all; they have been ethnically cleansed from or forced to flee almost all Middle Eastern countries and have taken refuge in Israel. The situation of Christians throughout the Middle East gives us no optimism about their fate either.

  20. Phalanx Whine April 15th, 2011 5:20 pm

    your ‘spot on’ to David’s floundering: ‘I got the general sense that that those we’ve defined as savages for ages are fitting the definition we have set out for being savage… not in any specific way but I’m shocked… and whats more I’m surprised that I am shocked’

    Also your wistful belief in a ‘Palestinian state’ next to Israel with ‘full national rights’ helpfully overlooks the fact that Israel has persistently denied rights to particular people based on a definition that Israel maintains the exclusive right to make. It also overlooks that Israel maintains a military occupation over the Palestinian lands, settled hundreds of thousands of civilians in that land, maintained exclusive rights over Jerusalem and demands a permanent military presence in that land. It further maintains various vetos and other controls over the Palestinian economy.

    Finally – your vialed accusation of anti-semetism is as absurd as it is misplaced when it is intrinsic to philosophy and practice of Zionism to deny the rights of others who do not fit a particular ethnic definition (the making of which is reserved exclusively by an undemocratic and self interested party).

  21. Phalanx Whine April 15th, 2011 5:23 pm

    Tzur – the US was an ‘anti-colonial’ settler colony and it proper fucked the ‘natives’ didn’t it.

  22. Alex Stein April 16th, 2011 6:55 am

    Phalanx – I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the only person referring to savages here is you. There’s simply no indication of any of that in what David actually wrote.

    Re. wistful belief – it doesn’t overlook anything. I want to solve the problem by ending the occupation etc etc. It is you who wants there to be one Palestinian-Arab state and no Jewish state. Tell the truth.

    I also don’t know where I have made an accusation of anti-Semitism, veiled or otherwise.

    If you are going to distort everything I write to fit your narrow ideological prism, we are not going to get very far.

  23. Phalanx Whine April 16th, 2011 4:55 pm

    1. It is your ideological prism that enables you to see the Palestinians as the aggressors in general and in particular to see a non-violent campaign against a racist ideology as a smokescreen for apocalypse.

    2. Perhaps instead of ‘savages’ (Melanie Phillips’ term) I should use the term ‘Einsteinless transferable rightsless Arabs’ to reflect Ben Gurion’s sentiments.

    3. Answer my point about an arbitrary and ethnically exclusive (again based on an ethnic distinction monopolized by a few) ‘law of return’

    4. “He is the one in favour of priviliging one people over the other, not me. I suspect that you agree with him” what is this code for then? Why do you think I don’t agree with you?

  24. Alex Stein April 17th, 2011 6:00 am

    1. When have I said that the Palestinians are the aggressors in general? You have to stop repeating dogma and learn to think for yourself. Oh, and Zionism isn’t a racist ideology. Nor have I said that the end of Israel would be the apocalypse. But it would be the end of Israel.

    2. Are you trying to ask me how I see the Palestinians? The answer is that I seem them as Palestinians.

    3. It’s not arbitary. Nor is it racist or ethnically exclusive. Anyone in the world can convert to Judaism and come and live in Israel. It is discriminatory, but then immigration legislation usually is, and – whatever its flaws – its certainly no justification to call for the end of that state.

    4. Do you support a two-station solution of some kind?

  25. Phalanx Whine April 17th, 2011 2:28 pm

    1. you implied that Palestinians are a threat to your and that Israel is not the aggressor. Ergo: Palestinans are the aggressors seeking to ‘destroy Israel’.

    1.a. Of course its racist. Zionism says: people we define as Jews have the right to exclude people we define as Arabs from a particular area of land (Transfer). Yet if someone says people that define themselves as Arabs have the right to exclude those they define as Jews from a particular area of land – that is racist. I say both are racist and nation states are problematic ideas altogether. Individuals have rights not ethnic groups and no one gets go ‘discriminate’ any of those rights out of existence any more than it would be legitmate to ‘discriminate’ on the basis of gender or sexual preference.

    2. No – I saying that your articles and comments beautiful examples of Orientalism reduced to tasty bite-sized chunks – you happily define ‘the other’ in order to examine and you take your own epistemology as ‘common sense’.

    3. Of course its arbitrary, (granted it might not be any more or less arbitrary than various other things elsewhere) but given the wide scope of difference between and amongst Israelis and again between and amongst Palestinians (and anyone else for that matter) What possible sense can it make to argue for national distinction which creates one group that includes everything to bigoted zealots to hippies, liberals, capitalists and non-believers from and define it as separate from another group which is in fact probably (dynamically) as diverse operates under different (common sense) labels.

    You need look no further than this crap to see how arbitrary it all is: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4031176,00.html

    Had any of those spies been women their offspring would certainly fit the criteria for the ‘Law of Return’ regardless of their upbringing being Palestinian… what about 2 generations of women – an Israeli Jewish female spy has a daughter who has a daughter – living in a Refugee camp possibly brutalized by the occupation… is the daughter Jewish – thus potentially Israeli or Palestinian thus her ‘right to return’ is subject to your interpretation of 194. On a grander scale – what if (and I have no idea if this would really be possible or not) genetic tests proved that Palestinians now in camps in Lebanon or Syria were proven to be more directly descendants of the Jews in the ‘holy land’ before the exodus than various groups currently in Israel? Do they get granted a ‘Law of return’? or are they still excluded without a ‘right to return’? (wouldn’t it be horrifying to make a judgement about whom is deserving of rights based on the results of such a test).

    National identities are merely social constructs – there are necessarily transient and in the long run they’ve been proven frequently to be fundermentally meaningless. They are only given meaning when they are reinforced through social practice and, ultimately, through the allocation of material… social practices change frequently or be reinterpreted and material can decay, be lost or be transformed or revalued subject to a changed environment.

    4. Obviously I’m not ideologically committed to any kind of state least of all one based on the nonsense of ‘national rights’ – but a Palestinian state that isn’t by design (although it might choose to be – which would be different) a Quisling of Israel (because this would be an extension and entrenchment of the status quo) might be helpful compromise. But Israel hasn’t yet (and seems like it won’t) accept a Palestinian state with control over its boarders or give up sovereignty over Jerusalem. Such a two state compromise is laid out in “the case against Israel” by Michael Neumann

    4.a. Thus I wouldn’t support a Palestinian killing for Palestinianness either: its killing for bullshit – you might as well kills someone for the emperors new clothes. But BDS doesn’t kill anyone, it doesn’t even hurt anyone any more than they could be hurt by the other risks they encounter as part of their daily business (if I was a zionist I’d be more worried about the US’s deficit). BDS is simply the marketing of a certain social consciousness into the framework of free market liberalism. Where I spend my money is no business of yours and if boycott musical acts or academic events because I disapprove of the choices they’ve made what right do you have to tell me I’m wrong?

  26. Alex Stein April 17th, 2011 6:41 pm

    1. The piece was about Omar Barghouti, not ‘Palestinians’.

    1a. Every nation state excludes and discriminates. That’s the international system. It is indeed discriminatory. But it’s not racist. I say that both peoples deserve a nation-state where they can choose the polity. You say there should only be one for the Palestinians. It is wrong to separate your utopianism from the reality on the ground.

    2. Can you give me an example of this?

    3. The diversity of the Jewish people is part of its beauty. I’ve never tried to suggest that national distinction is rational. Re. the spies – your ‘what if’ is correct, but given that it never happened, I don’t really see the relevance. As for genetic tests, they do not define who is or who is not a Jews, so I don’t see why you have brought them up. National identities are indeed social constructs, as are all forms of identity. This might be news to you, but almost everything we say about ourselves is a ‘construct’. So what? In this case the notion of a Jewish people has remained a constant for thousands of years – Shlomo Sand’s dubious scholarship notwithstanding – something that I think is deserving of recognition.

    4. I hope for a Palestinian state with control of its borders and sovereignty in East Jerusalem, as agreed by both sides.

    4a. I have every right to try and convince you to change your mind. In any case, I am more concerned by attempts to boycott Israeli academics etc than I am by economic stuff. But the article wasn’t about this. It was about demonstrating that Barghouti a) didn’t think Israel should have been created in the first place, b) doesn’t think it should exist today, and c) thinks it should be replaced by a Palestinian-Arab state. Nothing you have said thus far makes me think I was wrong.

  27. Tzur April 18th, 2011 3:10 am

    Alex, you will have noticed that Phalanx does not present actual responses to your points, nor to anyone else’s. He just introduces more red herrings, changing the subject mindlessly in service of his hatreds. It is pointless to treat him as if he is a rationally accessible person who is capable of changing his mind if the counter-arguments are sufficiently rational and conclusive. He is not interested in that.

    It is telling that his only response to my own posts are completely off-topic red herrings of the sort I mentioned. If one bothers to answer them it will only divert attention from the positive points of the article on “False Dichotomies” — and that is his obvious intention. He is not interested in the truth of the article and has nothing to say about it, but only wishes to smother it in rant. When I showed that Omar Barghouti (who is after all the subject of the article) wishes the annihilation of Israel, and that the “Right of Return” has that as its inevitable bloody outcome, his only response was a tirade about “colonialism” and “natives,” completely off subject. And when I showed that Israel was not a colonial implant, and that many Palestinians are not by any stretch of the imagination “natives” in any case, his only answer was something about the U.S. being a “colonial” implant. Really, why waste any time with such a person?

  28. Tzur April 18th, 2011 4:14 am

    There is, however, at a certain deeper level something relevant in certain of the issues Phalanx brings up, even if he intends them as diversions. He apparently thinks that national or group identities are fictions imposed on individuals, and thus there is no legitimacy to Israel as a Jewish nation. There are quite a few post-modernist leftists that hold these views and use them to seek the delegitimization of Israel, and, usually, and on the other hand, the legitimatization of the Palestinians “national resistance.” Omar Barghouti himself uses such leftist double-dealing rhetoric when it suits him, and the terminology of “colonialism” and “natives” serves this openly Palestinian nationalist agenda. But the selective double standards and self-refuting hypocrisies of such stands escape most leftists. At least Phalanx says he is against Palestinian nationalism too, although he inconsistently pretends that the “Palestinians,” who do according to him have a group existence as the sole “natives,” have a group right to defy Israeli national autonomy. Thus his discourse refutes itself on its own terms.

    But the really fatal flaw in all this is its wilful and cruel disregard for the realities. People and national identities are part of each other (people always come to be as full individuals only within groups who convey culture and values that give shape to personal identity). The impact of their religious and national history has particularly been strong and important for the Jews both in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.

    Down through the ages, Jews have preserved with extraordinary love and tenacity a very distinctive religion and national culture in all sorts of other societies, and they have been seen by themselves and by others in terms of this group national identity. The unparalleled influence of their wonderful religion on the rest of humanity has brought in its train constant attempts by non-Jewish societies both to appropriate what they can of Jewish religion and culture, claiming it as their own and that they alone understand its true meaning, while damning the Jews as individuals and as a group for maintaining their distinctive independence and dissent from the ambient societies. This persistent autonomous self-definition is seen as undercutting the ambient cultures’ claims to be the authentic recipients, fulfilment and perfection of Jewish religion and teachings. Jewish group “difference” has therefore been seen as a fundamental reproach to Christian, Muslim and even Nazi and Communist claims of legitimate ideological, moral and historical dominance. Close to the core of these groups’ self-definitions has been a need to demonize Jewish persistence and Jews. Down through the ages, as a result, Jews have been persecuted for their group affiliation. This is a simple fact, which Phalanx’s pie-in-the-sky distinction between individuals and group identity ignores. Group identity in reality does radically shape individual lives and identities, and real people are the fruit of both personal histories and group histories.

    Israel draws its right to exist precisely from that reality of national identity shared by all Jewish individuals down through the age, forged in the fires of time. Israel exists as a protective refuge for all these Jewish individuals and provides them with a majority society within which, for the first time in two thousand years, Judaism and Jewish culture can flourish on its own integral terms and not as defined by others. Jews as individuals have a right to want such a state, to establish such a state, and to live in it. They come home to themselves when they do, and even if they live in other lands, a deep level of their own identity and spirituality is confirmed by the existence of an autonomous Jewish state in the Biblical homeland that their more pious members read about every week in their religious services.

    It is this message that Passover, which is now upon us, still carries as freshly minted as when it was first created nearly 3,500 years ago. Not merely to our ancestors did those epochal events occur which created the Jewish people, but also to us, and we should all regard ourselves as having experienced the Exodus to Sinai (religious revelation, the Torah) and the Land of Israel (social and national autonomy and independence) in our own time. Hag Sameach!

  29. Alex Stein April 18th, 2011 4:46 am

    Thanks Tzur. Hag Sameach to you.

  30. False Dichotomies » Racist Racist! April 18th, 2011 7:54 am

    [...] Omar Barghouti, I admire Ahmed Moor’s honesty, and I sincerely thank him for it. As he writes, the [...]

  31. Phalanx Whine April 18th, 2011 1:27 pm

    Its because your approaches are so obviously representative of an orientalist attiude. you are talking about a situation where the ‘subalterns’ face daily denial of their basic rights which is justifiable because it serves to preserve your standard of living. the whole frame of your argument shows that you simply don’t get it…

    I have no idea whether Barghouti accepts Israel or not – but ask yourself why should he? what reason has israel ever given someone like him too accept the state? Is he suppossed to accept the trasfer, occupation and aparthied because you (Tzru) think that you need a nation state (on land populated by other people) in order to “Jews have preserved with extraordinary love and tenacity a very distinctive religion and national culture in all sorts of other societies” – I’m all for that – dude, If it makes you happy – please have at it with agengence… BUT WHY do you need an exclusive political entity which removes other’s rights to do that? why is this worth the transfer of others? I can’t see how you can possibly defend this possition against an equal an opposite alternative which states that others who want to “preserve with extraordinary love and tenacity a very distinctive religion and national culture in all sorts of other societies” in what you claim as your land – if it is legitmate once, then why not a second time?

    How is my distinction pie in the sky? tell me – from where do these comunal rights come? were there jewish national rights prior to the state of israel? what about yugazlav national rights? or basque? or pan germanic? If in the US whites start talking about they’re national identity they’re generally called something else even though they can be ‘easily identifiable’ as a single people by anyone with a mind to.

    While we are at it – you honestly think the USSR’s endorsement Israel anti-colonial? its obviously a settler-colony – BG planned the transfer of the native population since the peel commision.

    Alex – if you were truely interested in a two state compromise you’d make the case for it. BDS is hardly a threat to the state of israel in any real sense and if a two state compromise were ever to be truely implmented the broad coaltiion of support for Barghuti would surely be gutted… but what you are really afraid of is that the BDS campaign is exposing the dirty contradictions in Israels foudning mythology and in the bullshit dance which has been the ‘peaceprocess’ to date. you want people to do nothing other than wait faithfully for their political leaders to ‘find a deal’ even though the both the Palestinan government is a Qusling to ISraeli securocrats, the occupation continues and Israel continues to undermine any negotiation with its colonies and wall in someone else’s country.

    “Re. the spies – your ‘what if’ is correct, but given that it never happened, I don’t really see the relevance” – this has got to be a joke hasn’t it – of course its relievent. if YOU decide on if someone gets the ‘law of return’ or the ‘non-right to return’ yet your ‘discriminatory’ calculation can be flumoxed by something so simple as an Israeli and a Palestinian having unprotected sex then that shows that this ‘founding structure’ is built on nothing but sand.

    As for the genetic test – you’ve missunderstood. I’m not saying that you can define who is or who isn’t jewish etc. by which – but that if the ‘law of return’ is about ‘returning’ the ancestors of those who were there prior to the exidos to that land – maybe tests would show that palestinians are the decendents of those people — I’m not advocating this – I think its absolutely a revolting
    idea – but I’m not the one advocating a ‘law of RETURN’ where a mix of historical and religious mythology trump actually tangable property deeds and even the keys to houses that victims of the Nakbah took with them.

    “This might be news to you, but almost everything we say about ourselves is a ‘construct’. So what? In this case the notion of a Jewish people has remained a constant for thousands of years – Shlomo Sand’s dubious scholarship notwithstanding – something that I think is deserving of recognition.” I don’t even know who Shlomo Sand is. but for fucks sake its obvious isn’t it. if ‘constructs like gender and race are subject to change (for the better usually through deconstruction) then you must recognise that your interpritiation of ehtnicity is equally vunerable… how can you therefore maintain it as the foundation of your case.

  32. Alex Stein April 18th, 2011 6:56 pm

    Re. two-state solution. I always make the case for it; just not in this article, which is about Omar Barghouti. I agree with your analysis of what the effect of a two-station solution would be for the BDS movement, which is one of the reasons that I hope it is adopted forthwith.

    I don’t understand your follow-up point regarding the spies.

    I think you’re understanding the law of return in too broad terms. The mythology is about the descendants of the exiles, but it’s simply about ensuring that every Jew is able to take up citizenship in the national home, should the wish to. Re. the Nakhba point – in most other areas of the world this kind of stuff doesn’t persist for sixty years. See India/Pakistan or Greece/Turkey.

    As for your final point, I don’t rule out the decline of nationalism, but for now it’s certainly proving more durable than post-nationalism, and it seems to represent the democrat will of millions of people around the world. In that sense, I’m very comfortable for the foundation of Israel to be Jewish nationalism.

  33. Phalanx Whine April 18th, 2011 7:00 pm

    “The diversity of the Jewish people is part of its beauty. I’ve never tried to suggest that national distinction is rational.” so its only an irrational distinction on ethnic/national grounds that is permissible. I’m sure you could use this excuse to justify another ‘discriminatory’ policy: ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’.

    Looked up Shlomo Sand: why is it that all the academics you don’t agree with are ‘dubious’.

  34. Alex Stein April 18th, 2011 7:22 pm

    Re. Shlomo Sand’s dubiousness, you can start here – http://rabbionanarrowbridge.blogspot.com/2010/03/on-invention-of-jewish-people.html

    There’s a difference between not being (purely) rational and being irrational. And you could use rational distinctions to justify nasty policies as well. So not sure what your point is.

  35. Phalanx Whine April 18th, 2011 7:51 pm

    you do use it to justify nasty policies! this is what I mean about your orientalism – you think everything is just swell – you cannot bring yourself to see it from the perspective of those your lifestyle is built on oppressing. if you think Omar Barguti is ‘against Israel’ the only ‘point’ that your drivelus post makes then thats not the end of the argument. I would pay real money to see someone like you try and engage the question WHY that is rather than just find various reasons to defend an epistemology that just ‘happens’ to work out in exactly your favor.

  36. Phalanx Whine April 18th, 2011 7:52 pm

    your link doesn’t work.

  37. Alex Stein April 18th, 2011 8:07 pm

    The link worked fine for me. Google Jeremy Gordon and Shlomo Sand and a piece from Rabbi on a Narrow Bridge should come up.

    I don’t think everything is just swell, and the only nasty policy I am trying to justify is one whereby the Jewish and Palestinian people will divide the land between the river and the sea between them.

    I don’t understand your final sentence, but I have a feeling it might be interesting (and not just because you might end up offering me money!), so please expand.

  38. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 11:50 am

    “Omar Barghouti, in his role as the unofficial high priest of the BDS movement, is apparently studying for his Phd at Tel Aviv University. So perhaps he’ll drop into the Vineyard before I go to India (or when I come back) for some hummus and to answer my questions. I’d be happy to pay. But shrouding his true intent in rhetoric about supposedly universally accepted norms of human rights and international law is blatantly dishonest, and I don’t know what I have to do to make him stop. I couldn’t find the answers in his book. So please do tell, Omar.”

    If you could ask him why he “favor’s the ‘destruction’ if Israel” – what do you think he would say, and why do you think he would say that?

  39. Alex Stein April 19th, 2011 2:58 pm

    I think he’d say that he wanted Israel to offer a vote to all the Palestinians in the WB and Gaza and then allow Palestinian refugees to return. I hope he’d understand why I’d be opposed to that.

  40. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 4:30 pm

    I don’t understand why you oppose that

  41. Alex April 19th, 2011 4:33 pm

    Because it would mean the creation of a Palestinian-Arab state, and the destruction of the Jewish state. Doesn’t sound very equitable to me.

  42. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 5:11 pm

    It could mean the creation of a bi-national (or better non-national) secular democracy. That sounds perfectly equitable.

    Your analysis sounds like projection… the only thing that has actually been destroyed are the lives of the Palestinian refugees. You accuse the victims of plotting the crimes of their oppressors.

    “Re. the Nakhba point – in most other areas of the world this kind of stuff doesn’t persist for sixty years.” – again, why on earth are Palestinians at fault? Its your government thats persisted in colonizing occupied land, your government that persists in its annexation of E. Jerusalem and your government which has both undermined the possibility of a productive Palestinian economy and, on a massive scale, abused human rights. You have the world at your back nobody in their right mind believes that Israel with withdraw from all of the ’67 lines (and offer the peace that you claim that you want) unless it has to.

    Its fine for you to say you want this to happen because you know that it won’t. I could say that I recognize your right to all the tea in China – but I can’t give it to you so it doesn’t mean anything.

    The way that Israel treats Palestinians every single day is as an aggressor in a war. Omar Barghouti, for all his many, many, faults, is not the high priest of a fiendish anti-semitic/anti-Israeli cult, he is an activist who has found he has access to a rare thing – a weapon that causes virtually no collateral damage.

    If you are so concerned with academia then I agree to the extent that there will be thousands of decent people who have *nothing* (except military service – I would be even more sympathetic if they were sarvanim) to do with the occupation that might suffer directly or indirectly from BDS. That of course is immoral and I would regret that. But it is the most minor damage that one could cause and as a result BDS is many times more morally acceptable compared to any other tactic.

    If your red line is that Israel must remain Jewish – I obviously think that is stupid (more precisely I think its stupid that its necessarily tied to a military and discriminatory policy which is obsessed with another group that Israel itself defines) but its not the most stupid thing. What might be the most stupid thing is that you can’t accept that others might have similar red lines and that at the very least they see it as necessary to force Israel out of the 22% of land that it said it would give up.

  43. Alex April 19th, 2011 5:18 pm

    Re. projection – that’s exactly what they planned. Every are conquered by the Arabs during the War of Independence was left Judenrein, and it’s clear that would have been the fate of the rest of the country had they won. As for the other issue, on the one hand Barghouti says the Palestinians have justified anger against Zionist colonialism etc etc, on the other hand he expects me to believe that things would suddenly be hunky-dorey in the event of a bi-national state. For real? Can you give me any example in world history where this has been the case?

    Re. the persistence of the occupation – I’ll repeat, I am opposed to it. If I had my way, I would withdraw tomorrow. But I don’t accept that it’s solely Israel’s responsibility.

    Re. Barghouti – I never called him an anti-Semite. But he is my enemy.

    As for your last paragraph, when have I had any problem with people wanting to force Israel out of the OPT?

  44. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 5:25 pm

    “As for the other issue, on the one hand Barghouti says the Palestinians have justified anger against Zionist colonialism etc etc, on the other hand he expects me to believe that things would suddenly be hunky-dorey in the event of a bi-national state. For real? Can you give me any example in world history where this has been the case?”

    Classic argument of the colonialist.

    We treat the natives terribly but our sins are legitimate as civilized sins.

    The natives are angry and we perceive their intentions not only as hostile but as unjustifiably apocalyptic.

    There is no sense to their anger because everything we did was for the sake of civilization.

    There can be no room for us to trust them because everything they will do will be uncivilized and angry.

    We must keep them locked down, disenfranchised or dead because our civilization is at stake.

  45. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 5:26 pm

    “Re. projection – that’s exactly what they planned. Every are conquered by the Arabs during the War of Independence was left Judenrein, and it’s clear that would have been the fate of the rest of the country had they won.”

    Neither you nor Barghouti was alive in 1948 but I bet you ‘served’ in the army… what did he do?

  46. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 5:31 pm

    “As for your last paragraph, when have I had any problem with people wanting to force Israel out of the OPT?”

    If you really believed in it and you had any sense of the reality of live in the oPts you’d a lot more fucking radical than you are, just because its not only almost impossible now – its getting worse every day. At the moment you are just an apologist for attacking ‘your enemy’.

    I bet if the status quo wasn’t operating completely in your favor you would be a bit more creative.

  47. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 5:33 pm

    “Re. Barghouti – I never called him an anti-Semite. But he is my enemy.”

    Are you going to write his name on a ‘people who’ve been mean to Israel’ list?. Grow the fuck up.

  48. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 5:39 pm

    “Re. the persistence of the occupation – I’ll repeat, I am opposed to it. If I had my way, I would withdraw tomorrow. But I don’t accept that it’s solely Israel’s responsibility.”

    Maybe so – In Algeria there were some natives who were were unnecessarily vicious to the French… no one doubts that as the occupier France was overwhelmingly responsibile.

  49. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 6:02 pm

    “As for the other issue, on the one hand Barghouti says the Palestinians have justified anger against Zionist colonialism etc etc, on the other hand he expects me to believe that things would suddenly be hunky-dorey in the event of a bi-national state. For real? Can you give me any example in world history where this has been the case?”

    Northern Ireland, South Africa are relatively post conflict states. Nepal is arguably on its way.

    Reunified Germany stands as an example of how two vastly different economies can integrate with enough effort and support. Post War Japan shows that states can be completely transformed and be very successful in the long run. There are also hundreds of other different examples of multi-national states with many many different ways of approaching the issue.

    I’d say that partition (India/Pakistan, Ireland, N/S Korea) has proven pretty poor by comparison. But then, I’m not a racist.

  50. Alex April 19th, 2011 6:03 pm

    For obvious reasons, I don’t believe the status quo is working in my favour. I also find it interesting that people say that it’s ‘almost impossible’ for Israel to withdraw etc, and yet tell us that a utopian bi-national solution is within reach.

  51. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 6:03 pm

    That should read:

    Northern Ireland, South Africa are relatively sucessful post conflict states. Nepal is arguably on its way.

  52. Alex April 19th, 2011 6:05 pm

    I did serve in the army. I did one year in the external relations unit of the Home Front Command (civilian defence) and I would do so again.

    I should have said this earlier, but I find your confrontational tone (inc. the very witty falsedicuntomies) totally unnecessary, and – other than being a Zionist – I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve it.

    Incidentally, would you care to lift your mask? I assume we’ve had some contact in the past, because you were pretty quickly over to this site, and I haven’t even started publicising the re-launch properly yet.

  53. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 6:06 pm

    “For obvious reasons, I don’t believe the status quo is working in my favour. I also find it interesting that people say that it’s ‘almost impossible’ for Israel to withdraw etc, and yet tell us that a utopian bi-national solution is within reach.”

    You compare your live with a Palestinian and you see who’s favor it works in.

    Otherwise thats a cotton candy ass bullshit argument and I think you know it.

    BDS is a weapon to weaken Israel – a weaker Israel is more likely to concede ground – thats what we both want. Thats what Omar B. wants.

  54. Alex April 19th, 2011 6:07 pm

    As for the ‘classic argument of the colonialist’ stuff, it’s the second time you’ve used that here. It wasn’t impressive the first time. It bears no relation to what I’ve written. If you use it the third time, please quote my lines next to the stuff you’ve learnt during your Franz Fanon classes.

  55. Alex April 19th, 2011 6:09 pm

    I think to describe South Africa as relatively successful is a bizarre claim. Re. Northern Ireland – the constitutional changes have been slight.

  56. Alex April 19th, 2011 6:10 pm

    Do you think I’m a racist? If so, why?

  57. Alex April 19th, 2011 6:18 pm

    I should also emphasize that I completely reject the notion of calling the Palestinians natives.

  58. Eamonn April 19th, 2011 6:24 pm

    To the extent that NI is a successful post-conflict state it’s because the British and Unionists won and the Provos are now administering the part of the UK they spent 30 years trying to conquer.

    http://blog.z-word.com/2008/08/the-northern-ireland-analogy/

  59. Phalanx Whine April 19th, 2011 6:41 pm

    Ok – “racist” is maybe a bit strong.

    But if you boil the argument down to: rights for one group and less rights for another group because of nothing more than a criteria monopolized by the first group then its hard to see how it isn’t at least some kind of bad -ist.

    Northern Ireland and S. Africa both prove that the oppressive side are not immediately killed by the oppressed side once the opportunity arises. As an Israeli I’d think you’d be more happy with that kind of set up than the current or even a ‘Hamas state’.

    What’s wrong with Franz Fanon?

    I found your blog when I google searched about Omar Barghouti at Tel Aviv university – I met him once and wanted to know how he justifies going there from a BDS perspective.

    How exactly will you publicize your website by the way? flyers? tickertape parade?

    Whats wrong with confrontational? I think some of the methods you’ve used in your article to discredit Barghouti pretty contemptible and I think your inability to at least try and see this conflict from any other perspective quite appalling.

    It doesn’t take great mental acrobatics to imagine “external relations unit of the Home Front Command (civilian defense)” describing Omar’s role. Perhaps in that world you would have been one of many “high priests” of Zionist colonialism. LOL!

  60. Alex April 19th, 2011 7:49 pm

    Phalanx – for the umpteenth time, I support the creation of a Palestinian state where they can be as nasty to their Jews as we apparently are to our Arabs.

    Re. Northern Ireland – did you read Eamonn’s link?

    Nothing wrong with Fanon, per se. I just find it irritating to have you paraphrase stuff that doesn’t apply to my arguments.

    Re. publicity – yes, I am rather earnest.

    Re. other perspective – “So what is he talking about? He must tell us. I suspect he objects to a state where the language is Hebrew and the national holidays are Jewish being founded on his ancestral land. I have some sympathy for his position. But he should be more honest, especially if he wants to achieve his goals.”

    I think you are getting too hung up with my use of ‘high priest’.

  61. Tzur April 20th, 2011 8:45 am

    Alex, I see that you continue to treat Phalanx as if he is a rational debater. Silly guy. It is this sort of determinedly blind naivety that has left Peace Now-niks in Israel with such a bad name amongst most Israelis, causing their movement to implode when, in the 90s, and most blatantly in Camp David in 2000, the Palestinians under Arafat so ostentatiously and contemptuously ignored the Left’s fondest self-delusions and rewarded Ehud Barak’s concessions only with the Second Intifada. The Palestinians under Abbas still continue the utter rejectionist, anti-peace and terrorist-glorifying positions of the past, right up to the present refusal of the PA even to sit down to peace negotiations. That is why there is very little credibility left to the leftist positions in Israel itself. The Palestinians as a whole want 200%, not even 100% of their demands for a Palestinian state: the Right of Return assumes the annihilation of the Jewish population and the replacement, as you rightly say in regard to Barghouti, of Israel with another Palestine. Another proof of the 200% demands of the Palestinians is the official P.A. denial that there are any Jewish holy sites anywhere in the Biblical Land of Israel: this means the rejection of Judaism’s legitiimacy as such. It is root-and-branch stuff. They manifestly still intend the destruction of the Jewish state, and only that. The major difference in this regard between the Fatah Council and Hamas is just a matter of tactics. Is this not obvious?

    But to a more practical question, why do you think that collective covenants in isolated Jewish settlements in the Arab-dominated Galilee, in the Old City of Jerusalem, East Jerusalem, etc., are bad and should go? Would not the only possible end result of this dissolution of protective security for Jewish residence be the dissolution of Jewish residence as such in those areas? Elimination of gated communities would necessarily eliminate Jews from the Galilee, the Old City, East Jerusalem, and various other areas of mostly Arab settlement. For without the security of those collective security covenants, Jews would simply not be able to live in Arab-dominated areas at all. It is no response to say that most Arabs are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates that organize such massive rallies in the Galilee, etc., nor are they voters for Balad. It only takes a significant percentage happy to excuse violence, and the silence of the Arab majority and you will have disaster. As you will know, the P.A. has officially demanded the murder of any Arabs that sell land or property to Jews, not just in the West Bank and Gaza, but anywhere in Israel itself (thus making clear their claim to the whole of Israel, just as the “Right of Return” does). And they have killed some such Arabs. Moreover, Jews who try to live in Arab villages in those areas, unless they are women married to Arabs and/or converts to Islam, have a very tough time. The lucky ones are stoned, their cars wrecked, etc., until they are forced to leave, and of course if they stay who will protect them from the odd home invasions and riotous murders or other “excesses” that might occur? Because of such very real risks, Nazareth Illit was necessary, and so are the collective gated Jewish communities that bravely perch on previously uninhabited hill-tops in the Galilee. Now of course the very leftist liberals want to put a stop to any gated Jewish community covenants at all in the name of equal rights, ensuring not that Jews will suddenly mingle equally with Arabs in Arab villages (for no one can force that: it would be suicidal), but rather that Arabs from the surrounding area will of course penetrate and buy into the gated communities and put everyone in them at immediate risk, and eventually by simple numbers take the communities over and drive out the Jews. This is the real world we are talking about. If there are to be Jews in the Galilee, Old City, etc., at all, they will have to have defensible community structures and safeguards.

    When Sharon facilitated the expansion or establishment of Jewish communities in the Disputed Territories, or, even “worse,” purchase or re-occupation of already Jewish properties in the Arab quarters of the Old City, you will recall, there was very loud and vitriolic outrage amongst “liberals” in the media and political circles in Israel and abroad. They said Sharon was being gratuitously “provocative” and even “aggressive,” and thus Arab violence was understandable and thus justified. So we must conclude that as far as leftist liberals are concerned, it is “provocative” and “aggressive” when Jews seek to live in overwhelmingly “Arab” communities, but not so, not even objectionable in the slightest, when Arabs seek to live in or even eventually to take over overwhelmingly Jewish communities: then it is “provocative” for Jews to object, and even more so when they protect themselves in gated communities.

    It is interesting to note that Arabs live throughout the cities of Israel in the midst of Jews and have done so, without any hooha, since the establishment, or even before the establishment, of the state. Arabs live, work and shop freely everywhere, without comment. The only real problems emerge when Jews try to live in Arab dominant areas. Making that as difficult and risky as possible is not a good idea nor a proper protection of the Jewish citizens of Israel.

    You even write that you “support the creation of a Palestinian state where they can be as nasty to their Jews as we apparently are to our Arabs.” Amazing. The Palestinians demand the ethnic cleansing of Jews from all their proposed “Palestine.” Didn’t you know that? Murder of such Jews is officially legitimate and their perpetrators are heroized. There are no recognized rights of Jews at all in P.A. areas, none. There is not even the right of Jews to visit from outside and worship in security at their own shrines, which are taken over as mosques or foully desecrated. Nothing remotely as “nasty” can be found in Israel in regard to Israeli Arabs. Far from it, the position of Arabs in Israel is better than their position in the P.A. itself, or in almost any other Arab country, where, you must have noticed, there have been mass uprisings going on complaining about the lack of the rights Israeli Arabs are granted as a matter of course.

  62. Alex April 20th, 2011 8:49 am

    Tzur – thanks for your post. I’d rather deal with the question of Palestinian statehood and why I am a strong supporter of it in future posts, if that’s ok.

  63. Phalanx Whine April 22nd, 2011 2:48 pm

    I thin Eamon’s post was interesting but not strictly relevant (and it was a bit lazy in places too – can one imagin Hamas leaders doing what the Sinn Fien Leadership did? maybe not now – but one could hardly imagine the IRA leadership, Mo Mowlem, De Klerke, Arafat or Sadat doing the surprising things that they did before they did it either – thats what makes them surprising). Alex Stein wrote:

    “As for the other issue, on the one hand Barghouti says the Palestinians have justified anger against Zionist colonialism etc etc, on the other hand he expects me to believe that things would suddenly be hunky-dorey in the event of a bi-national state. For real? Can you give me any example in world history where this has been the case?”

    The Northern Ireland comparison is exactly an answer to that question. Of course it shows that despite a long and brutal war (that started a long time before Zionist settlers went to mandate Palestine) that when the opportunity for peace arises – most people can live together in the same country, regardless of the various crimes they may still blame each other for.

    My broader criticism of your position is this: I think being In Principle for a 2 state solution is immoral. It is essentially saying that there can be two individuals who can have as much in common or not as you like but without regard to anything else to do with the content of their character, political opinions, hair color etc. etc. a decision to allocate them one particular set of rights or another is made based on one salient feature according to a criteria – the interpretation of which is monopolized by a small group on one side. This is nothing short of ‘separate but equal’ dressed up in other language (no one in their right mind would suggest that anyone wants to form a Palestinian state in order for it to be ‘as nasty to Jews’ as Israel is to Palestinians – and I strongly resent that accusation).

    IF however one is arguing for a two state solution as a matter of compromise because the political realities: accepting that (a) the world isn’t fair and (b) that this compromise given the transient nature of the cultural foundations (all cultural foundations) such a division is less likely to be permanent than one might hope, then one has to ask the question: do the political realities really make this compromise possible.

    I suggest they do not. I suggest that Israel’s overwhelming power and unwavering support by the US make the achievement of such a compromise that could create a ‘separate but equal’ state virtual impossible. I also suggest that at no point has an Israeli government shown a genuine will to both pursue political negotiations AND withdrawal of settlers form all of the oPts.

    You might convincingly argue that a single state of any kind is even less likely. but there are two counters to that argument also. 1 is to reread the political realities as they stand now: there is one sovereign government, one population registry and effectively one economy in the land between river and the sea. There are different classes of citizens – but this would not be the first state where that is the case in de jure or de facto terms. (There may indeed be a number of different fiefdoms supported by internally conflicting military forces – but that would only make Israel/Palestine roughly equivalent to a Latin American narco-state for instance). In this case what faces the Palestinians (and other simerlarly ‘nonmainstream’ groups) is a civil rights struggle and a prolonged and tortuous search for equality in the existing state.

    2. Is to accept that you are right and to pursue a two state compromise because no matter how hopeless it looks – option 1 is even less appealing. If this is the case then I suggest that the best way to proceed is to – as morally as possible – strengthen Palestinian hands and weaken Israel’s in order to ensure that an equitable compromise may be reached through negotiations. BDS does exactly that.

  64. conchovor April 23rd, 2011 12:16 am

    [“I am happy to repeat our Comment is Free article and debate this issue more formally if you would like.”

    I’ll decline thanks. People can re-read our last exchange if they want.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/24/israelandthepale

    Of course you will, Ben. Alex very satisfactorily finished the fight you picked. It wasn’t hard given that you resorted to your usual extracting the mote from Zionist eyes while leaving intact the plank in your own.

    What, may one ask, has that to do with Christian justice?

  65. conchovor April 23rd, 2011 12:51 am

    Phalanx Whine, might I ask whether you are in fact Ben White?

    ‘Northern Ireland and S. Africa both prove that the oppressive side are not immediately killed by the oppressed side once the opportunity arises. As an Israeli I’d think you’d be more happy with that kind of set up than the current or even a ‘Hamas state’.’

    ‘Not immediately killed’. That’s reassuring.

    And the history of the situations are very different.

    Neither Black nor White South Africans believed, for instance, that the latter had been originally dispossessed of South Africa for their sins, and the former possessed of it for their virtues; in which state the former believed it was their natural right to remain, even when the latter sought refuge from genocide.

    Among other things.

    Palestinian (and other) Arab Muslims and Christians have been Resisting Jews existing in the land in other than tiny numbers since the late 19th century, when Jews were able and needed to increasingly slip in through the cracks of the crumbling Islamic empire.

    That Resistance was rooted in a centuries old Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian apartheid against Jews, as a people exiled and dispossessed for their rejection of Jesus and the prophets, preserved by Christian and Islamic empire, an assumption which can be found still in the earliest Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian nationalist literature, and in the discourse of Hamas today.

    That Resistance evolved from the early 20th century into a Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian nationalist movement that sought to exclude, expel or eliminate the Jews of Palestine or Israel. In the case of the P.L.O. until 1988; in the case of Hamas, until today.

    One would never know any of this from the narrative of Ben White, who effectively depicts Jewish nationalism/Zionism as a colonization/crucifixion of a Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian national Victim, not Christ-like in virtue perhaps, but getting that way in effective innocence: in the historical narrative of his book, Israeli Apartheid, for instance, while he adduces many a Zionist Jewish sin, and names many a Zionist Jew, nary a Palestinian Arab Muslim or Christian is named, nor a sin mentioned. Elsewhere, while he effectively characterizes Israeli, Palestinian or Zionist Jewish society as racist, either directly or by insinuation/association, he finds only ‘individual’ Palestinian Arab Muslims or Christians racist.

    There is no way Israeli Jews are going to risk being either a minority in their own state through, say, implementing a Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian right of return, let alone a minority in a Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian majority state.

    Palestinian and other Arab Muslims and Christians have done nothing to persuade them they would be secure in such a state based on past form. Every single Jewish minority in the Arab world has either been expelled or seriously depleted.

    It’s a non-starter.

    PSC explicitly seeks the end of the ‘Zionist state’. At the very least that would mean the end of a Jewish right of return without also a Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian one, without any Jewish right of return to the territory of a Palestinian state.

    Further, I fail to see the justice in dissolving the one Jewish state in the world for its alleged apartheid qualities into the surrounding sea/desert of Arab and Islamic states and societies, including the Palestinian, which, based on those criteria, can only be described as apartheid, at least with regard to Jews, based on their histories of the last 100 years or earlier.

  66. conchovor April 23rd, 2011 1:11 am

    ‘Its because your approaches are so obviously representative of an orientalist attiude. ‘

    Hilarious.

    It is you who is the orientalist, because your construct of, say, Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians is not based on the record of the things which they have actually said and done, but on your a priori anti-Zionist/Jewish nationalism.

    If you took the time to treat Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians as moral and intellectual adults, instead of infants, as you do the Jews concerned, you would find a history of sinners as well as Noble Savages.

    ‘but I’m not the one advocating a ‘law of RETURN’ where a mix of historical and religious mythology trump actually tangable property deeds and even the keys to houses that victims of the Nakbah took with them.’

    But the point is that the notion of the Jews as a people exiled and dispossessed has been either normative or unremarkable for most of European, North African, Asian and, above, Palestinian Christian and Islamic history. With certain tangible consequences for Jews: in the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, most European, North African and Asian Jews were regarded, not as nationally European or, say, Arab, but ‘Judean’ that is to say ‘Palestinian’, with the result that most were killed or effectively expelled. Before 1914 mostly to America, after 1914, mostly to Palestine or what became Israel.

    A Palestinian Arab right of return is predicated on an original dispossession. A dispossession that occurred precisely because they Resisted any substantial Jewish return, then sought to expel or eliminate Palestinian Jews.

    Actually their leadership promulgated genocide for the Jews of Europe and the Arab world, as well as Palestine, and their national movement aligned itself with the Axis from the 1930s, terrorizing 100s of 1000s of Jews who could have come to Palestine and lived into remaining in Europe where they died, but that is another matter

    If they wish Israel to recognise their right of return, they must acknowledge some kind of Jewish right of return. If they cannot recognise a Jewish right of return to the territory of a Palestinian state, they must forego it the territory of a Jewish.

    Two states for two peoples, with two rights of return etc.

    One day, when both peoples have learned to look at the other and see themselves in the other e.g. Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians as the new Jews, the new dispossessed, Jews as ‘Palestinians’ i.e. stateless and dispossessed for the last 2000 years or so, then we could talk of one state, with one forged identity.

    But that is unlikely to occur for a while, least of all with characters like you, Phalanx Whine, or Ben White, stirring the mix.

  67. conchovor April 23rd, 2011 1:29 am

    ‘The Northern Ireland comparison is exactly an answer to that question. ‘

    No, it isn’t. And it is you who is being intellectually lazy for saying so. One thing is not necessarily another thing nor are all things the same.

    Hamas might change. It hasn’t yet.

    Nor did the IRA ever say, say, all of Britain was really Ireland, or even speak of expelling or eliminating the Ulster British, let alone the British in general.

    Nor, unlike the Jews, were the Irish pretty much entirely historically dispossessed of Ireland, and forced to wander the world as the ethnic incarnation of evil, enduring discrimination, apartheid, dispossession, even from the lands of exile, or genocide.

    Only to have idiots like you tell them when they had returned, against the Resistance of those who had largely kept them that way, that they were now obliged to regard themselves as the fundamental intruders and wrong-doers and their enemies as the fundamentally wronged.

    Get bent, is what they would say.

  68. Alex Stein April 23rd, 2011 7:29 am

    “The Northern Ireland comparison is exactly an answer to that question. Of course it shows that despite a long and brutal war (that started a long time before Zionist settlers went to mandate Palestine) that when the opportunity for peace arises – most people can live together in the same country, regardless of the various crimes they may still blame each other for.” I think this is rather banal. But my point is that the one-state solution as outlined by Barghouti is not an opportunity for peace. Rather, it’s victory for the Palestinians.

    I don’t see what’s immoral about dividing the land between the two peoples, and allowing them to do what they want within their own sovereign borders. Particularly as poll after poll suggests that this is what the two peoples want.

  69. Phalanx Whine April 26th, 2011 2:44 pm

    This is really poor. First there is Tzur who claims that an endorsement from Stalin is evidence of anti-imperialism… the man who constructed a maintained a totalitarian regime across all of Eastern Europe! How many Jews fled to Israel to escape Soviet ‘anti-imperialism’? (Hitler too was an anti-imperialist in the traditional sense… but the devil is in the detail isn’t it!).
    Then there is Alex Stein who makes the point that he doesn’t trust Palestinians because he thinks they will resent the brutalization the have experienced for 60 years. Where I present cases that show the brutalization of armed conflict can be transcended and addressed at a political level he argues first that, elements of the different conflicts which I never compared, are not comparable. Second, that the answer to his blockheaded point that transcendence is in fact possible is not wrong but it is merely banal.
    Banality is the point!
    The process of transforming an armed conflict into a political space involves risk – but doing nothing more than accepting an entrenched (of course one can hardly say codified because the Oslo processes and all following ‘agreements’ occurred entirely outside the framework of international law) form of the status quo is a greater risk (do you ever think that Israel CAN really destroy Hamas, and every other Palestinian who is resentful of the last 60 years – isn’t this an implicit prerequisite to the establishment of a fully formed independent Palestinian State?) – Transforming conflict means that no longer is in necessary for peoples, who do not wish it, to be trapped by the past.
    A question to you then: when has partition proven successful (to the same standards of success that you have capriciously applied to my argument – if any cogent points in your diatribe can actually be detected and interpreted as a standard for ‘success’)?
    Your ‘point’ about Barghouti’s desire for a ‘Palestinian state’ is meaningless. The real subtext of the post is that you are against BDS – and you have chosen in a cheap way to do this. Having denied the significance of your own statement that Omar is the ‘high priest’ of BDS and at the same time declaring him ‘your enemy’ you demonstrate that your intention was, crudely: to play the man and not the ball. This is absurd. An equivalent argument would be to deny the legitimacy of civil rights rallies in the US because it was suspected that Dr. King was a communist. BDS has a broad coalition of supporters – it would be virtually impossible for you not to find numerous supporters you or I, or even Barghouti disagrees with. It is the movement itself which is the weapon and it is an infinitely more moral one than any that have been pursued by either side thus far in this long war of position. Yet you remain vacant, you offer nothing substantive against BDS itself and your advocacy of an ‘alternative’ is advocacy of fiction and inaction.
    On your point about polling – again this is weak. It is no wonder that a “two state” option gains majority support. First all, the ‘two state’ option from the perspective of most Israelis is likely to be very different than that interpreted by even those Palestinians who do genuinely support a version of it (the central questions of Jerusalem, the Jordon valley, continued military presence, control over airspace, full sovereignty – including a military, full democracy – including participation of movements like Hamas – and the large settlements are obvious areas of disagreement). Second, polling Palestinians only polls those Palestinians already living in the oPts – it doesn’t poll any of the refugees and thus presupposes a unilateral ‘answer’ to one of the central causes of the conflict. Third, polling in Palestine is highly untrustworthy because it does not always occur in an environment where people feel able to express a view point openly without potentially suffering negative consequences for expressing the ‘wrong’ opinion, e.g. Palestinians in east Jerusalem fear that that voting in any kind of Palestinian poll gives Israeli authorities a further excuse to eject them, Fatah supporters/those living in the West Bank police state are not free to openly oppose their Vichy-government and Gazans live under the vice-like grip of a proto-totalitarian theocracy. Finally, organisations that conduct polling in the oPts are far from free from dependency on external donors, mostly in the United States and EU. It is therefore impossible to verify to what extent the influence of external political concerns has on the framing the questions for the polls never mind their outcome. What about any of this makes you think polling opinions on a ‘solution’ is in any way reliable?
    The immorality of ‘separate but equal’ proposition is that it is a priori unequal. Israel de facto defines who has the right to live in both states – delineating, on behalf of Palestinians, their own identity. You have proven you have no answer when the arbitrariness of these rules is called into question (perhaps Israel could adopt the ‘pencil test’ as was performed in Apartheid South Africa – if the pencil stay in the hair, then mixed race child is black, if it falls out – they are white). It also maintains that the ethnic cleansing of the Nakba, both a crime against Palestinians and a crime against humanity, remains un-reconciled – perpetuating an implicit assumption of the Jewish nation’s superiority to the Palestinians and re-enforcing the national identities as a result.
    If, however, you remain convinced about ‘separate but equal’ why do you not endorse Leiberman’s plan that redraws the boarders to exclude current Palestinian Israelis from Israel and incorporate the colonies Israel has extended into the 1967 areas. Or if you dislike the indeterminate ‘those on the left’ and ‘those on the right’ so much (to which you refer in your other posts ad nauseum without specificity) then why not impose a political test on the subjects of your conceptual kingdom?
    The only real right is the right to have rights: the right to be part of a political community – nationalism, as you have argued, is a persistent example of such (although I think this betrays a misreading the nature of so-called ‘re-emerging nationalism’ in the European context) but apart from the fact that ‘nationalism’ is hardly permanent or universally understood in the same way – to for reasonable thinkers it is clear that for the human condition it is the political aspect that trumps the community aspect – if a nationalism (or any other kind of delineation) denies the space for politics then it is itself slipping towards totality, probably violence and eventually self-perpetuating meaninglessness.
    I contend that it is better for all involved (including Barghouti) to participate willingly in a managed integration, prioritizing democracy and reconciliation over nationalism rather than to permit the continued decline toward fascism of states which, because they are overwhelming preoccupied with paranoia about their neighbors and even more paranoid about their own people, they are states without sufficient space for politics.
    How has it been for Israel to live next to a hostile Syria for instance? Has it elevated panic? Decreased the emphasis on militarism? Allowed for free and open expression of opinion? Or has it helped perpetuate a secretive state where the secret police spies on minorities? Arrests protesters? Influenced the representations of ‘the other’ in historical interpretation and media representation? Hasn’t the stalemate itself become part of the cyclical re-enforcement of conflict and identity construction (construction in opposition to the other? – as a means of ruling, not of politics)? Isn’t this the same for both sides? Who is winning in this perpetual deadlock?
    How do you presume it would be to live next door to another state of resentment filled ‘ex’refugees enjoying the perpetual-national humiliation of an impotent state – plugged in to Israel for its economy and basic amenities – dependent on the good will of its old master for water, electricity and movement between Gaza and the West Bank, subject ‘anti-terrorism raids’ by either their own state’s police or by Israel’s own military, whenever Israel’s spies or ruling class (as is their wont) determine that a ‘threat’ to its ‘national security’ exist in the ‘independent’ Palestine ?
    This is no solution – this is a plan for fascism in both ‘states’.
    I read the other day about Israel’s ‘Samson option’: “I consider it all hopeless at this point. … We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen, before Israel goes under” (Van Creveld) – while I acknowledge that such an event would only come about through absolute desperation it betrays the capacity for a recourse to fascism through paranoia – the idea that given no alternatives the state would rather kill all, including denying the possibility of any Israeli survivors, than be killed (although I do not argue that given a reversal of roles another state would not do the same) – it is this same fascist mentality that trumpets death over any hope of a better life – the absolute loss of politics – that is embodied by suicide bombers. As long as each side defines the threat as existential it will bread only totalitarian reaction.
    It is therefore the structures of division that are more at fault than the individuals who are their subjects (although they are mutually-enforcing through the conceptual frameworks through with the combatants see each other). The path out of this repeated misery is not the cynical imposition of ethnic separation: is for individuals to reject the prescribed roles and to destroy those same structures that have imprisoned them.

  70. Alex Stein April 26th, 2011 3:19 pm

    Phalanx – I am not going to respond if you continue to invent things. Last warning. I never said that I didn’t trust Palestinians. There are more examples of things going wrong – Balkans, Lebanon – than right. And I think you have to be very careful when comparing cases. Analogies can often mislead. In any case, you may be right. It is hypothetical. The point is that neither Palestinians nor Israelis currently desire one state, unless of course we accept your thesis that actually Palestinians do, in which case you are right.
    Re. your question – define “worked”? The entire international system is built on the principle of partition between different states. They didn’t come from nowhere.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that I think Israel should be able to decide who will live in the State of Palestine.

    Many injustices far worse than the Nakhba remain “unreconciled”, and people manage to get on with their lives regardless.

    Re. Syria I don’t understand what you are asking me. The same goes for much else of what you have written. Please try and be clearer.

    I will take Barghouti (and you) seriously on a one-state solution when you acknowledge that – if you were a Jew – you might find it a compelling and just idea.

  71. Phalanx Whine April 26th, 2011 4:31 pm

    I haven’t made up a damned thing – your statement:

    “As for the other issue, on the one hand Barghouti says the Palestinians have justified anger against Zionist colonialism etc etc, on the other hand he expects me to believe that things would suddenly be hunky-dorey in the event of a bi-national state. For real?”

    I took at face value that you don’t trust Palestinians… is there a hidden subtext? how on earth else does one read that? is it a declaration of trust? do you trust Palestinians but you just don’t want to live with them?

    Being clearer: I wrote ‘elevated’ – typo: should have read: alleviated

    Although I find this resort to national privilege once again quite revolting: there are dozens of Jews and other who find the idea of nationalism absurd and the prospect of a secular democracy extremely appealing. It is completely bazaar to me that you would even try to make that case.

    I challenge you (not to imagine you were a Palestinian – I see little point in these games) to honestly take stock of the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians and looking ahead, 20/30 years assess weather you really think ‘separate but equal’ is (a)realistic (b)just and compelling.

    The ‘partition of states’ if one accepts such a puerile interpretation is an anomaly produced through the narrow minded thinking of European colonialists trapped by the in ability to escape Westphalia – it is hardly organic to the rest of the world – and even if it were it doesn’t by any means reflect ‘nation states’ in the form that you are advocating. Just ask the Kurds!

    It was you who asked for an example (“Can you give me any example in world history where this has been the case?”) and I stand by my answer. I have explained the reasons and I am more than satisfied that is it sufficiently careful in the way that I present it.

    The Nakbah (it is spelled with a K not with a kh, the ‘h’ at the end is optional) may not be the greatest injustice in the history of the world – I have never said it was – but it remains central to this conflict and as long as it is, I contend that it is in the interests of participants in the conflict to address it and not (as it appears that you are suggesting) ignore. Just as it is incumbent on those perpetration and beneficiaries of crimes against Jews to do the same – for it is not just Jews or Palestinians who are the victims of these crimes – but humanity itself.

    Have you got anything substantive on BDS yet?

  72. Alex Stein April 26th, 2011 5:11 pm

    It means that I think a bi-national state – as things currently stand – would be a recipe for worse conflict than we have now. Nothing to do with trust.

    I am aware that there are plenty of Jews who are opposed to Zionism. Good for them. It’s not really about that. It’s about why Israel – uniquely among the nations – should be forced to change its political system.

    Re. the future: I think a two-state solution is the best solution currently on the table. It’s not perfect, and is unlikely to result in utopia, but it’s better than the alternatives.

    I never said partition was ‘organic’ (there you are ascribing to me opinions that aren’t my own); but it is how the international system is currently constituted. It’s also more popular than ever, which is why more and more peoples are seeking independence (just ask the Kurds).

    As for the Nakbah (bizarre is spealt bizarre, btw, not bazaar), I am happy to address it with an acknowledgement of part responsibility and compensation to the descendants of those affected by it. But I cannot accept that the refugees will return to the State of Israel, because that would be suicidal.

    I don’t understand your final question.

  73. Phalanx Whine May 1st, 2011 11:03 am

    of all the bullshit that surrounds this issue the ‘uniqueness of Israel’ is maybe the 3rd most stupid.

    Israel should change because it is right to change – even if it were the case that other states do not change, it would still be right to change.

    Other states do change. you already mentioned N. Ireland and again we have examples of S. Africa and the USA where the constitution and system of government were altered to recognize the equal rights of all under its rule. Israel is not unique among states in this respect and I don’t even think you really believe that.

    The idea that integrating Palestinians into a state which already governs them is ‘suicide’ is the biggest false dichotomy of all. Who says that it would be an end to people speaking Hebrew? why do you assume such an apocalyptic outcome to everything? Is there another way to read that than anti-Palestinian prejudice? There are any number of methods of protecting Jewish tradition etc. in a secular democracy – many of which are already instituted in states with other large minorities groups like the US/Canada. You obviously have no interest in creative approaches.

    Your question: imagine if you were Jewish – wouldn’t you think Israel was great etc. etc. and your reply to my reply betray the contradiction in your argument – you don’t really mean ‘imagine if you were Jewish’ because that won’t work for many, many Jews who don’t agree with Zionism or Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians (and neither do they all have ‘dubious scholarship’). What you mean is ‘imagine if you agreed with me, wouldn’t you then agree with me?’ … dude if this is all you have to offer, why not just jump straight to handing round the kool-aid?

    The last question: you’ve tagged this post ‘anti-BDS’ but there is nothing ‘anti-bds’ here all you’ve got is lazy slander – playing the man and not the ball (you’ve tied him to Hamas – of which there is no evidence, used someone else’s quote to represent his views, dismissed his book with mentioning a single sentence written in it and then rhetorically ‘invited him’ to make a defense of his position to you by posting on a blog he will never read – stay classy Alex Stein)

    So what is it about BDS that you argue against?

  74. Alex May 1st, 2011 11:25 am

    Of course states do change. The point is that its citizens should decide whether or not to change. If a majority of Israel’s citizens decided that they wanted to change from a Jewish state to a Palestinian state, I wouldn’t stand in their way. But why should the Palestinians decide what Israel should look like? If Brazil were occupying Argentina, would people call for the Argentinians to decide the political system of Brazil? No, they would call for Brazil to stop occupying Argentina.

    As for my fears for what would happen if you got your way, I think I am being realistic. One example: to guarantee Jewish rights, there would have to be at least a modicum of sympathy for the Zionist movement, yet the one-state brigade are radically opposed to Zionism. I don’t object to your optimism, but I do object to you not bringing a shred of evidence to suggest that there is anyone out there who cares about the future of the Jewish people (other than those within the Zionist movement) as a collective, and you then have the chutzpah to chide me for my lack of creativity. Yours is the politics of Mars.

    Re. Jews and Zionism – a majority of the Jews in the world support the existence of the state, if not the policies of the government. That’s all I’m asking for from anyone. Hate the policies as much as you want. Boycott if you have to. But if you are calling for the end of Israel, then I will oppose you to the hilt.

    Where have I tied Barghouti to Hamas? I did indeed quote Meir-Khamis – do you think that Barghouti would disagree with the sentiment? And was the rest of the piece not filled with Barghouti’s own words?

    Anyway – perhaps he will read it. I would certainly be happy to give him the right of reply, or indeed to have a debate with him, but I know I am not a superstar like he is.

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