Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Zonszein Op-ed: A Tale of 2 Peace Camps

While there were some very troubling phenomena this summer, I must say that I have some serious problems with this article.  First of all, I should note that I do not know Mairav Zonszein, who apparently, like some of her other colleagues at +972-- with all due respect and appreciation for the valuable work that they do-- belongs to what is usually called the radical peace camp, rather than the mainstream peace camp.

      I want to say these things, not in order of importance:

1) I don't like her comment that "The vilification of the few Israelis [my emphasis] who don't subscribe to right-wing doctrines is not new." What she means is the few Israelis who think like her in the radical peace camp.  The many hundreds of thousands (probably millions) who support Meretz, the Labor Party, Hatnua, and most of the supporters of Yesh Atid-- not to speak of Hadash and the Arab parties-- are many more than just "a few Israelis" who don't subscribe to right-wing doctrines.

Ex-Staffer's NYT Op-ed; Haaretz Rebuttal

Mairav Zonszein is a bilingual and bi-cultural American Israeli who worked for our organization nearly a decade ago, for about a year.  She returned to Israel shortly afterwards, where she's made her mark as a passionate activist and journalist, especially as a regular blogger for the +972 magazine.

She's reached an important milestone in her career with this NY Times op-ed, "How Israel silences dissent." She cites some alarming instances of intolerance and repression in the wake of this summer's Gaza war, concluding harshly:
After so many years of repressing those who stand in the way, the transition to targeting ‘one of your own’ isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies. . . .
This drew a critical response from Noah Efron, in Ha'aretz, "Israel really hasn’t silenced dissent." He does not dispute the incidents of intimidation and repression mentioned by Zonszein, but draws different conclusions:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NY Times Report on European Antisemitism

This article is alarming without attempting to be alarmist.  The writer cites examples of officials, community leaders and average citizens opposing antisemitism, but it also describes some very unnerving incidents of anti-Jewish hatred, and an extreme unease and even fear, generating a substantial emigration of Jews from Europe now and the potential for a mass exodus later.  To read it, click on this title: "Europe’s Anti-Semitism Comes Out of the Shadows."

Unfortunately, the Gaza war and Israeli policies toward Palestinians in general are triggering these events.  This threatens to shatter truths we've lived by for a long time:
  • that Israel is the cure for antisemitism, 
  • that antisemitism has nothing to do with what Jews do, 
  • that the Western world has unalterably changed for the better in its attitudes toward Jews.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Postscript on Tony Judt: An article in Dissent

Most of us share the late Tony Judt's hopes for a more cosmopolitan and post-nationalist world, but sadly this is not where things seem to be headed. Europe is fraying along ethnic lines, and the Middle East is threatened by violent ethno-religious convulsions that make Israel's right-wing resurgence appear tame in comparison.  (This is a followup to my recent post on "Scottish nationalism, Tony Judt, and Israel.") 


Daniel Solomon is impressively erudite in his new essay on Tony Judt, "Between Israel and Social Democracy: Tony Judt’s Jewishness" (Dissent, Fall 2014); yet he erred in his understanding of Dror, the Zionist youth movement that Judt had belonged to, and this may have more than academic significance.  He quotes J. J. Goldberg’s description of Dror as a Labor-Zionist movement with “a quirky mixture of doctrinaire Marxism and equally doctrinaire Greater Israelism.”  This description is apt, but Goldberg did not belong to the same movement, as Solomon claims; he was a member of Habonim, the youth group of the more moderate Mapai party.  What may be confusing for Solomon is that these two youth groups merged in 1980 to form Habonim-Dror, as it is known to this day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Shanah Tovah from Meretz Party Chair

Zehava Galon
Dear Friends of The Meretz World Union,

Here in Israel we had a difficult summer. We lost 72 people in yet another military operation that was doomed to be a strategic failure. This war had no feasible goals; it took the lives of many innocent people on both sides and increased Hamas' power while hurting the Israeli population residing near the Gaza strip.
Meretz, prior to the operation and during opposed the widespread operation, pushed for a long term diplomatic solution and is still doing so today. The operation and the overall policy of the right wing government in Israel have led us to countless failures and lives lost. As I said in the peace protest in Tel Aviv which was initiated by Meretz, the reality is difficult but the power to change it is in our hands. The public in Israel supports compromise, Jewish-Arab cooperation and ending the siege of Gaza and the occupation. It seeks for a two state solution and longs for democracy, equality and peace.
Rosh Hashana is fast approaching and I would like to wish you all Shanah Tovah Vemetuka. I want to thank you for your hard work and for supporting Meretz. We will continue working relentlessly for a genuine peace process in the region. May this coming year bring hope and peace to us all.

Happy New Year 5775

All of us at Partners for Progressive Israel send you heartfelt greetings for this New Year 5775. May it bring you health and happiness, and may it bring us all -- our brothers and sisters in Israel, Jews throughout the world, and our neighbors in Palestine and everywhere -- closer to our precious goal of peace/ shalom/ salaam.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Writer Meredith Tax on Getting to 2 States

Meredith Tax
Thanks to our colleague Lilly Rivlin, this is from a mass email by the writer/activist Meredith Tax, who has been focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for some time:
During the war in Gaza, I wrote a 4000 word piece about why I still think a two state solution is the only way to build a broad enough movement against the Occupation to turn Washington around, and what kinds of strategy and tactics are needed to build such a movement.  These are focused on opposing the national-religious right on both sides, and on the need for nation-building in Palestine, including freedom for Marwan Barghouti.

I realize that some people on this list think BDS is a sufficient strategy to eventually end the Occupation. This piece is not addressed to them but to those who oppose the Occupation but have a problem with a one state solution and cultural boycotts.

Because of the length constraints of internet publishing, the article could not be published in one place.  The practical demands section was published first, last week in Dissent, while the accompanying argument was published today [Monday, Sept. 22], in openDemocracy 5050.  . . .
The following opening selection (with embedded Web link) of "A fresh look: towards an Israel-Palestine two-state solution," shows that Ms. Tax is in our camp, arguing with appropriate references and links to other commentators on how getting to two states is still possible and preferable:

Monday, September 22, 2014

Settlements Hire 'Civilian Security Coordinators'

From the Israeli NGO Yesh Din ("There is Law"), we hear of what appears to be a disturbing development in the West Bank.  Our thanks to Carolyn Oppenheim for informing us of this Yesh Din Facebook message, which also includes a brief satirical animation on what this job entails:
Today, we published "The Lawless Zone" report, which deals with Civilian Security Coordinators in settlements (Ravshatzim) and the way in which they influence the IDF's conduct and serve the interests of the settlers in the West Bank. 
What is a security coordinator? In most cases, the position is filled by a member of the settlement who holds quasi-military powers in several fields of law enforcement. It is hard to miss the structural conflict of interests that this position holds - the power originally granted to the security coordinator with the goal of encouraging law enforcement and security is often used in practice as an instrument for expanding the area of the settlement or outpost and for breaking the law. Not to mention the fact that the security coordinator receives his salary from the defense ministry and the weapon from the IDF.

Read "A Constant Conflict of Interest" to understand more about the problematic role of the security coordinator --> 
Read the full report: The Lawless Zone --> . . .

Friday, September 19, 2014

Scottish nationalism, Tony Judt, and Israel

I've been thinking of how the late English-born historian, Tony Judt, would have taken this week's Scottish referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.  The renowned New York University scholar died tragically of ALS in 2010.  In a famous article in the New York Review of Books ("Israel: The Alternative," Oct. 23, 2003) this one-time Zionist youth movement leader described Israel as an "ethno-religious" state that’s "an anachronism."  He indicated a preference for one bi-national state over the two-state solution favored by our dovish Zionist camp.  (To be fair, PPI's Zionist lineage has early roots in the pre-1948 Hashomer Hatzair movement that also favored bi-nationalism, but in a different era; after more than 66 years of the ongoing bitterness of this conflict, it's hard to envision such an arrangement as a peaceful solution for our time.)  The NYRB article instantly transformed a mainstream progressive into a hero of radical opponents of Israel.    

Judt's scholarship and the positions he championed generally favored the pan-national project of the European Union and the moderate left political camp of social democracy.  Yet nationalism and even "ethno-religious" nationalism (as he put it) have been on the rise since the disintegration of the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia over 20 years ago -- not to mention the violent (nearly genocidal) splintering of Sudan, and the ethno-religious divisions shattering Syria and Iraq at this very moment.  It would surely have been a bitter pill for this liberal internationalist, that his native United Kingdom has come so close to disunion, with the secession of Catalonia from Spain, and the dissolution of Belgium between Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons still very possible elsewhere in Europe.