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Is the Law of Return Unjust?

“Occasionally, one sees a picture of an anti-Zionist Jewish and Palestinian protester side by side. With a smug look on their faces, as if they’ve discovered the secret that will solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, they hold two signs. In the picture accompanying Sam Bahour’s piece on the Law of Return, the Jew’s sign reads, “I’m from Austin TX. Israel would pay me to move to his land because I’m Jewish.” Next to her is a Palestinian whose sign reads, “I’m from Palestine. I cannot return to my land because I’m not Jewish.”

Without context, this may seem convincing. Once one understands the logic behind the Law of Return, though, the picture becomes much more blurred. The Law of Return was promulgated in 1951 to grant automatic Israeli citizenship to every Jew. There were two main reasons for this piece of legislation. First, it was an attempt to rectify the injustice whereby, since the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE, Jews have never been guaranteed the right to visit (let alone live in) their ancestral homeland. Second, it was designed to provide a safe haven for Jews, based on the reality that majority non-Jewish states have consistently failed to guarantee the safety of their Jews.” Read on at Open Zion.

2 comments

“State for all its Citizens” = Palestinian-Arab State Instead of Jewish One (2)

A response to Joseph Finlay’s critique of my critique of Ben White. 

1) You say that ‘his prognosis is to replace the Jewish state with a Palestinian-Arab one’. But of course that is the very opposite to what he is proposing – his piece is calling for a state for all its citizens – ‘a state where all have equal rights’. You are a making an a priori assumption that the nature of a state is dependent on which group is in the majority – when Jews are in the majority it is a Jewish state, when Arabs are in the majority it is an Arab state. But this is not necessarily so. In Britain, white Anglo-Saxons are in the majority, but it is not a white Anglo-Saxon state.  A clearer example is Northern Ireland – since its foundation it has had a Protestant majority, and for years was run as a Protestant state, where Protestants held all the power and ran the state for Protestant benefit. Since the Good Friday agreement and power sharing, Northern Ireland has become a state of all its citizens, where both communities share power, where the police force is mixed etc, despite there still being a Protestant majority. The nature of a state is defined by its constitutional setup and legal practices, not purely by the ethnic balance of his citizenship. So I reject the claim that White is calling for a Palestinian-Arab state.”

First of all, this is not just a theoretical exercise. Clearly you are right in saying that ‘a state where all have equal rights’ could mean just that. To understand whether this is what the author is advocating, we have to examine his writings a bit more deeply in order to see what his motivations are. That’s why I wrote, “Why can’t the second part of White’s vague vision not be fulfilled in a two-state, or a federal model? Why the insistence on one state in which Palestinians are guaranteed to outnumber Jews? More importantly, given Jewish history (which White never acknowledges), and the justifiable fear of surrendering the sovereignty that was regained 2000 years after it was lost, why does he not offer some comfort,  some qualification beyond the usual slogans? Why is he not interested in gaining the trust of those who – if he is to believed – will be at the heart of this wonderful new state?” Read more

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“State for all its citizens” = Palestinian-Arab State Instead of Jewish One (I)

In his article ‘Israel’s definition as a ‘Jewish state’, Ben White belatedly addresses the main criticism of anti-anti-Zionism and BDS; namely, that through BDS anti-Zionists seek to replace a Jewish state with a Palestinian-Arab one, rather than the so-called “state where all have equal rights”, which White claims to be the movement’s goal. Read more

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Back to the Globe

This is a guest post by Nick D

The other day, I wrote a review for this blog of the Merchant of Venice at the Globe Theatre, performed by the Habima theatre company (who receive state funding from the Israeli government). Review is maybe inaccurate, because the core focus of my article was on the protests that accompanied the performance. One commenter responded fiercely to the article, accusing me, in effect, of being a shill for Zionism and a “useful idiot”, among other epithets denigrating the shallow nature of the piece. While I condemn the ad hominem nature of his attack, viewing it as part of the problem, and utterly reject his characterisation of my politics, I accept that the vicious nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is bound to generate intense anger, as banal as that statement is. There are some serious issues embedded in his attack which merit a response; moreover there is an element of hypocrisy in my description of the protesters as hate-ridden which deserves further comment. There is also truth to his charge that my article was not analytical enough. I hope in the following remarks to open up discussion about a range of issues that we have both touched on. Read more

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Live from the Globe

This is a guest post by Nick D

The most telling aspect of the utter failure of pro-conflict advocates to disrupt proceedings at the Globe last night came after it had all finished. I was standing in line, waiting to collect my bag, and everyone I could hear was discussing the show – that is, the performance by Habima Theatre of Israel, who carried off what by general consensus seemed to be a magnificent Merchant of Venice. My Hebrew is negligible, restricted to the odd words I recognise from Arabic, but deprived even of Shakespeare’s language the actors were able to convey to me with awesome power the tragedy of Shylock and the malice of his persecutors. A steady, droning beat on the frame drum provided a superbly ominous counterpoint to the psychodrama unfolding before us, on stage and off stage. Jews were on trial – and witless protesters proving once again to be a curse rather than a blessing to the Palestinians – were props in an awesome, all-enveloping spectacle. Read more

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Justice, Equality, and BDS

There’s not much new in the Omar Barghouti vs. Bernard Avishai debate, and I’ve dealt with a lot of the issues raised elsewhere, but Barghouti does make one point that urgently needs to be challenged: the idea that BDS is simply a movement concerned with dispassionately implementing the demands of “justice” and “equality” in such a way that would be standard for resolving similar conflicts elsewhere. This, as I hope to demonstrate, is false. Read more

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On Villas-Boas and BDS

Sometimes the BDS crew remind me of the manager of a mediocre football team desperate to convince everyone that their team is brilliant. When a football manager uses every result (no matter how poor) as evidence that the great change is imminent, you know that they are destined to remain in mediocrity. When he’s honest about the team’s strengths and weaknesses, however, it’s a sign that they might yet become a force to be reckoned with.

In +972, Sean O’Neill argues that BDS is on the verge of achieving widespread support. His evidence? Norman Finkelstein’s declaration of civil war on the boycotters. Demonstrating that the BDS movement remains habitually unable to deal with honest criticism, O’Neill declares the interview “a sign that the ground is shifting on Israel/Palestine issues”, without producing much evidence to back up this claim. The following is all he could come up with: “I recently witnessed BDS’s growing clout at a meeting I attended with a woman working with an Israeli artist helping set up a series of salons in New York to explore and question the Birthright Israel programs, and the idea of a “birthright” in general. The project sounds very interesting, and the woman was visibly frustrated at their inability to find people willing to work with them in the city. They are partially funded by the Israeli Consulate, and as a result have had the proverbial door shut on them by activists, artists, and professors, Arab and Jew alike. This would have been incomprehensible five years ago, when I first heard of the BDS movement at the annual Bil’in conference and it was, at that point, divisive even among conference attendees.” Read more

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The boycott of Israel is a campaign of elimination

Greens Engage pick up the baton.

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The Myth of BDS Universalism

One of the many lies told by supporters of the BDS movement is that their solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is absolutely uncontroversial, and that they are merely in favour of guaranteeing that international norms are observed. In a recent article, Omar Barghouti picks up on this theme, suggesting that those who point out that BDS threatens the “existence” of Israel are attempting “to muddy the waters and to push beyond the pale of legitimate debate the mere statement of facts about and analysis of Israel’s occupation, denial of refugee rights, and institutionalized system of racial discrimination, which basically fits the UN definition of apartheid.” Read more

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Racist Racist!

Unlike Omar Barghouti, I admire Ahmed Moor’s honesty, and I sincerely thank him for it. As he writes, the “BDS movement seeks to correct the effects of decades of imperial control and colonization of Palestine/Israel by Zionists.” If that wasn’t clear enough: “The right of return is an inviolable and sacrosanct principle which necessarily spells out the end of the Jewish state, as such…Many Palestinians, me included, would prefer to march alone than march alongside anyone who does not endorse our right to return, meaning Zionists.”  In a follow-up piece, “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.”  And: “Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself.” This honesty is to be admired. I think we’d both agree that it’s better we both know where our enemies stand. Read more

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