Detroit Jews ask: Are targeted Israel boycotts the same as BDS? [ssba]

Detroit Jews ask: Are targeted Israel boycotts the same as BDS?

Our petition, Demand Detroit’s Walk for Israel include all supporters of Israel, promted Ron Kampeas to published following article in the the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

(JTA) — For the second year in a row, the Detroit area’s Walk for Israel has rebuffed the sponsorship of left-wing pro-Israel groups because of their support for boycotting settlements.

At the heart of the dispute is a question of definitions: Is support of a boycott targeting Jewish enterprises beyond Israel’s 1967 borders the same as backing the blanket economic and cultural boycott of Israel called for by the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement? Read More »

Why Detroit’s “Walk for Israel” excludes progressives? [ssba]

Why Detroit’s “Walk for Israel” excludes progressives?

May is a celebratory month for supporters of Israel: Israel’s Independence Day, the Israel Day Parade in New York, and smaller Walks for Israel in cities all over the United States. Detroit is one such city poised to host its eleventh annual Walk for Israel.

We at Partners for Progressive Israel wished to join this year’s Walk for Israel in Detroit. But for the second consecutive year the Detroit Walk for Israel steering committee unilaterally decided to prevent us and Americans for Peace Now from participating. They say their mission is to “unite the metropolitan Detroit community to celebrate the establishment of the modern Jewish State of Israel and support its right to live in peace and security.” So why are they dividing the community by deeming who is and isn’t an adequate supporter of Israel’s “right to live in peace and security?” Read More »

Review of ‘1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict’ [ssba]

Review of ‘1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict’

“1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict” by Hillel Cohen (translated by Haim Watzman); Brandeis University Press, Waltham, Mass., 2015, 288 pp.    

On September 2, 1929, several weeks after the deadly riots in Palestine, the newspaper Ha’aretz called for the British to impose collective punishment on the town of Deir Yassin, as the British had imposed on several other Arab towns in preceding weeks. I had not realized that many who participated in the Irgun raid on Deir Yassin in 1948 saw it as payback for what had occurred some twenty years earlier.

Read More »

Imagining the Future: Is a Single State Possible? [ssba]

Imagining the Future: Is a Single State Possible?

“One hundred years ago, could you imagine Protestants and Catholics marrying each other, or Jews and Christians could marry each other? Seventy years ago could you imagine Germany and France leading Europe together – with an open border? No, but look at it now!”

Thus Avrum Burg entreated his audience to consider the possibility of a confederation-style state as the most likely possible outcome for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, rather than the standard liberal position of two states for two peoples.

Burg stated that the two-state solution is dead in the water. A two state solution is no longer the answer to the conflict, if it ever was. Instead, he laid out a confederation model that would include elements of both the two-state and one-state solution. Read More »

Slavoj Žižek’s views on Zionism and EU’s refugee crisis [ssba]

Slavoj Žižek’s views on Zionism and EU’s refugee crisis

Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, an itinerant academic and an author of a number of books.  He writes frequently for In These Times, initially founded in the 1970s as a democratic socialist news magazine and now more generically left wing.

I’m usually not very receptive toward his ideas.  His opinions are ponderous and his views on Israel are hard to take — not entirely wrong, but not well-informed about the internal dynamics of Zionism and Israel, as illustrated in “Whither Zionism,” dated March 2, 2015 (an article that cherry picks extreme quotes as emblematic of Zionism).  Nevertheless, a long ITT web article, posted Nov. 16, is insightful and brave for questioning left-wing shibboleths. This is from his penultimate paragraph:

When Angela Merkel made her famous public appeal inviting hundreds of thousands into Germany, which was her democratic legitimization? What gave her the right to bring such a radical change to German life without democratic consultation? My point here, of course, is not to support anti-immigrant populists, but to clearly point out the limits of democratic legitimization. The same goes for those who advocate radical opening of the borders: Are they aware that, since our [European–RS] democracies are nation-state democracies, their demand equals suspension of—in effect imposing a gigantic change in a country’s status quo without democratic consultation of its population?

I agree that it’s only prudent for Europe to reinvigorate border controls, both for the sake of security screening and to manage an orderly processing of asylum seekers; the Europeans need to decide if it’s to be done on an individual national basis, as is increasingly happening. The United States, because of the relatively small numbers involved, faces much less of a risk of culture clash than Europe. (Click here for a post on the elaborate US vetting of asylum seekers today, and the historical parallel with Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.) 

Returning to Žižek, he refers to a film by Udi Aloni, the filmmaker son of the late human rights champion and Meretz founder Shulamit Aloni: Read More »

Phil Weiss following Paris terror: ‘Zionism’ root of all evil (along with Bibi’s spin and Salaita’s latest screed) [ssba]

Phil Weiss following Paris terror: ‘Zionism’ root of all evil (along with Bibi’s spin and Salaita’s latest screed)

Phil Weiss writes on Nov. 15 in his Mondoweiss online publication, responding to the attacks on Paris, that “The way for Americans to take on the Islamic state is to end support for Jewish nationalism.”  Weirdly, this Harvard-educated and seasoned journalist/polemicist interprets American-Jewish political theorist Michael Walzer (a supporter of the Zionist peace camp) as promoting a religious conviction, rather than making a reasonable analytical point on the evolution of Jewish political thought in the following passage:

Its point of departure is always the Hebrew bible…. [Its] big issues [are] election or ‘chosenness’, the holiness of the Land of Israel, the experience of exile, and the hope for redemption….That tradition begins with God’s authority, with divine rule and divine revelations. Exactly how much room there is for human authority and decision making is always a question.

Quips Weiss, revealing his ignorance along with his sarcasm: “And you’re worried about Christian evangelists? But Walzer is a leading authority on Israel in allegedly secular publications like the New York Review of Books!”

Yet of course Jewish political traditions (including Zionism) draw inspiration from the Hebrew Bible — not simply a religious tract, but a central artifact of traditional Jewish culture.  Anyone who knows Prof. Walzer also knows that he’s very secular.  Weiss then quotes without context a sentence attributed to Todd Gitlin, a new PPI board member, to employ the theological concept of “Chosenness” in Rabbinic Judaism in a further attack on Jews and Zionism.

Read More »

Syrian Kurds’ Anarcho-Feminism resembles early Israeli socialism [ssba]

Syrian Kurds’ Anarcho-Feminism resembles early Israeli socialism
Dilar Dirik

Dilar Dirik

On Oct. 22, New York’s New School hosted a fascinating talk, sponsored by Dissent magazine, between the writer, feminist and left-wing activist Meredith Tax and Kurdish activist Dilar Dirik, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge in England. (Ms. Dirik’s writings can be found on her blog.)  For more background, read Ms. Tax’s April 2015 Dissent article on “Rojava” (as the Kurdish region of northern Syria is known); click on its title: “The Revolution in Rojava.”

Tax informed readers that it was Syrian Kurdish fighters who crossed into Iraq to rescue the 50,000 Yazidis cornered on a mountain by ISIS. Also news to me is that although most Kurds are Sunni Muslims, the Yazidis are Kurds who practice a religion that predates Islam.

There are about 40 million Kurds divided among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria.  The largest group are Turkish Kurds, of whom Dirik is one.  The Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq, which Dirik disdains as capitalistic and corrupt, is conducting an economic blockade of Rojava.

The dominant political influence among the Syrian Kurds, according to Tax and Dirik, is the radical Kurdish movement in Turkey, the PKK.  Its long-imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, has undergone an ideological transformation from Marxist-Leninism to a kind of communitarian anarchism inspired by the writings of American anarchist Murray Bookchin, “world systems theorists” Immanuel Wallerstein and Fernand Braudel, and social scientist Benedict Anderson.

What Dirik described as happening on the ground in the autonomous Kurdish enclaves in northern Syria, with women’s empowerment, cooperative enterprises and decisions made via community-wide voting, reminded me of Israeli kibbutzim, moshavim and worker-owned cooperatives — especially during the most experimental times in the pre-State Yishuv.  Israeli socialism was closer to anarcho-syndicalism than state socialism, but David Ben-Gurion was very much a “statist,” perhaps out of necessity, and Israel has developed very differently than the “one big kibbutz” or confederation of autonomous communities as envisioned by some early left-Zionist theorists. Today, most kibbutzim and moshavim are pleasant communities that have been basically absorbed into a corporate economic culture, with mere remnants remaining of their original collectivist ethos.  And the degree to which Israeli women actually were empowered was very limited, to say the least.

Tax elaborated in her article on the theoretical basis for the Rojava “revolution”: Read More »

The Coming End of the Israeli Experiment [ssba]

The Coming End of the Israeli Experiment

Israel, November 2015

A couple of days after arriving in Israel, I realized something was different; My friends and family were all ready to pack their bags and leave. My best friend jokingly told my partner, “When the time comes, you will divorce her and marry me.” My aunt, though desperately missing her son who lives in the United States, told me she was happy he was starting a family “there” and not “here.” At some point I was at a large dinner party in which everyone agreed that “the experiment called Israel is going to end.” They merely disagreed on how and when. The most optimistic gave it fifteen years. The pessimistic, five. Read More »

The Recent Ameinu Conference [ssba]

The Recent Ameinu Conference

Ameinu’s  organization, “The Third Narrative,” sponsored a “progressive academic teach-in” at the CUNY Journalism School on November 1.  It featured outstanding advocates of Peace, the two-state settlement, and social justice in Israel and Palestine, among them Peter Beinart, JJ Goldberg, Ghaith al-Omari, Todd Gitlin and Michael Walzer, among others.  It should be said at the outset that Ameinu assembled a progressive cast that does it credit; the Board Members of PPI in attendance, including Irwin Wall, Leanard Grob, and Lilly Rivlin found little if anything to criticize, except, perhaps, that the panelists all agreed with one another as well as with us.  One also could say the gorilla in the room, boycott, was ignored; all seemed to accept that Beinart’s kind of Zionist boycott of the West Bank only, also the policy of PPI, is legitimate.  The conference would seem to presage a warmer and more energetic cooperation between our organizations, along the lines of our successful joint petition in favor of supporting the Iran agreement.  If this colloquium is indicative of Ameinu’s views, there is little daylight between them and Partners.  On the other hand, Israel’s Labor party, of which Ameinu pretends to be the American arm, came in for some severe criticism at the conference.  None of the panelists made reference to Meretz.  This was regrettable, because it left the implication that there are no voices in Israel to partner with in pursuing the struggle for two states and against the occupation.

Peter Beinart led off, and although most of what he said we have heard before, his argument was cogent and well put-together and his recommendations for action strong and doable.  In fact I will propose here later that PPI immediately follow up on one of them.   What are Beinart’s points?  The Israeli Right and the American Jewish establishment believe that Jew-hatred in the world is visceral and elemental, and all enemies of the Jews are reincarnations of the original Biblical enemy, sons of Esau, Amalekites in the biblical era, today called Nazis or Palestinians.  They hate us no matter what we do and they can only be stopped by Jewish power.  Settlements today in Palestinian land do not matter or are a smokescreen because our enemies will oppose us anyway, so Israel must keep the settlements and its control over the entire Jordan valley.  Palestinian hatred of us precludes allowing the existence of a Palestinian state.

Anti-Zionists, on the other hand, claim as theirs the entire land of Palestine and contest the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism.   They reject Oslo or the legitimacy of Jewish national self-determination.  The 1967 frontiers are irrelevant for them as they are to Jewish nationalists; there must be one state in Palestine for Jews and Arabs.

To get out of this bind, Beinart says, each side must learn to understand the narrative and legitimacy of the claims of the other.  In 1993, in the Oslo agreements, they basically did.  However, Rabin’s assassination upset the apple cart and brought the Right to power, and in all subsequent negotiations the Israelis have sought to keep the bulk of the settlements and refused the concessions necessary to create a Palestinian state.  The failures of the Palestinians to accept the “offers” made by Barak in 2000 and Olmert in 2008 were due to the fact that the Palestinians were being offered less that they had agreed to at Oslo; the 1967 frontiers with territorial swaps.  When they agreed to recognize Israel, they agreed to the 1967 frontiers which gave Israel 78% of the land and the Palestinians the remaining 22%.  That is already a big defeat for the Palestinians, and the Oslo accords were never a real recognition of the legitimacy of Israel as a realistic recognition of Israel’s power, a pragmatic surrender.  They cannot accept even less than the 22% of the British mandate that Oslo promised them.  The danger now is the collapse of the Palestinian Authority because it has failed to deliver a state, either through struggle or diplomacy.  Diplomatic movement is necessary to end the current crisis and the renewed violence. Read More »

New Year’s Greetings from World Union of Meretz [ssba]

New Year’s Greetings from World Union of Meretz
WUM newsletter logo

What follows are selections from the WUM newsletter.

From Dario Teitelbaum, Secretary General, The World Union of Meretz:

The heat of July and August has passed and these were definitely heated months all around. There were many occurrences in Israel that to this day are very hard to leave behind. The murder of a teenage girl, Shira Banky, in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade, the house burning of the Dawabsha family and individual casualties of Muslim terrorists in different locations. Through all of these the Zionist left tried to remain sane and emerged as a brave force in the mainstream public, one that does not incite but acts out of good will and the love of man.

Trains filled with refugees in Europe, ports where refugees that fled from the horrors done in the name of Islam are denied asylum. Whether it’s a result of ISIS, Assad, Hamas or other collapsing regimes, it reminds us of pictures of Jewish refugees and puts the lessons of history under a test.

Besides this, the World Union of Meretz is working hard to preserve our power in the Zionist Congress, to be a central force in our joint faction with the Reform [movement] and the World Labor Zionist Movement and make an impact in the National Institutions through hard meaningful work.