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Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

One Hundred Years of the Balfour Declaration – An Analysis (15 March 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

part I – The Balfour Declaration

 

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced that Britain will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration later this year. The Conservative Party leader addressed her party’s “Friends of Israel” faction and declared that the Balfour Declaration was “one of the most important letters in history” while pledging that her government would celebrate it “with pride.”

 

Her determination to do so is a clear indication that those who control national politics also control official interpretations of history. In the case of the Balfour Declaration’s centenary, it is the ongoing alliance of Zionist special interests and British political power that is about to turn what has been a disaster for Britons, Jews and Palestinians alike, into a source of national pride.

 

I have told the story of the Balfour Declaration in documented detail in my book America’s Palestine. Here is a brief synopsis: The November 1917 declaration was a World War I expedient undertaken by the then British government to enlist the aid of worldwide Jewry (mistakenly believed to be led by the fledgling World Zionist Organization) to the British side. In exchange the British government promised to create a “Jewish National Home” in Arab Palestine after the war. In so doing it sought to buy Jewish assistance with someone else’s currency – that is, with territory then belonging to the Ottoman Empire.

 

Key members of the war cabinet in London, such as the Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, were believers in the myth of worldwide Jewish power, and on that basis were convinced that Jewish influence in Washington could help bring the United States into the war as a British ally, and at the same time keep their eastern front ally, the Russians, from leaving the war. Though the U.S. did soon enter the war, it had nothing to do with Jewish influence, and the Russians, now led by the Bolsheviks, proceeded to make a separate peace with the Germans.

 

At the end of World War I the Ottoman Empire collapsed and Britain found itself in military control of Palestine. The government in London then proceeded to follow up on its promise to the Zionists. It did so by allowing the massive immigration of European Jews into Palestine. At this point the policy was driven by a blend of religious and racist beliefs, along with imperial ambitions. First there was the fact that the Jews were seen as European allies who would allegedly help secure a strategic part of the Middle East for the British Empire, and second there was a mesmerizing mythic belief that a Jewish National Home was somehow in line with the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. In the end none of this played out well for the British. In 1948 they were driven out of Palestine by both violently hostile Zionists and Arab nationalists. They left with their tails between their legs.

 

It appears that Prime Minister May and her party’s “Friends of Israel” reject this history. Or, perhaps they don’t care about documented facts because all that now matters is keeping for the Conservative Party the financial backing of the Zionist lobby. Such is democratic politics in the West.

 

 

Part II – A Disaster All Around

 

 

It is worth repeating that the consequences of the Balfour Declaration have proven to be disastrous. British hegemony lasted but thirty years and, as just mentioned, ended in an ignominious withdrawal. The Palestinians have suffered decades of dispossession and ethnic cleansing. And the Jews, religious and secular, of the resulting state of Israel, now officially tied to the Zionist ethos, have been politically seduced and culturally converted to a racist ideology. Today, for many Jews, Zionism and Judaism are two sides of the same coin. One way you can demonstrate this latter point is by calling the ideology of Zionism into question. In doing so you will be labeled an anti-Semite.

 

Why has this situation come to pass? Certainly the history of European anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust, has a lot to do with it. Anti-Semitism always constituted a threat for the Jews of the West. However, traditionally, that threat was mostly local. That is, even as the Jews of a particular shtetl in, say, southern Russia were being slaughtered, those elsewhere might be prospering. So, the danger was always there but only sporadically realized. But then came the Nazis and the dimensions of the threat changed radically. As a result, there was a total breakdown of European Jewish life. And, for a significant number, the old Torah-based insights and philosophies that explained the world no longer sufficed.

 

So what did those Western Jews who managed to survive do in such circumstances? Their customary social order was gone. They were adrift in a world which did not make sense except in terms of its mortal danger. Under such conditions an applicable single idea that appeared to be historically logical could serve as a life preserver – and that idea was Zionism.

 

Zionism seemed historically logical because it melded the historical success of the nation-state, which was after all the dominant political system of the age, with a biblical myth that rationalized a “Jewish state” in the Arab land of Palestine. To both the survivors of the Holocaust and to those Jews who had watched the destruction of European Jewry from afar (i.e., from such places as the U.S.), the whole package must have had an internal logic that was irresistibly comforting – promising permanent security in a Jewish national home.

 

 

Part III – Conclusion

 

 

While one can understand the seductive power of Zionism, it, like other exclusively racial or ethnic political ideologies, only led to predictable disaster. The truth is that it is impossible to create a state exclusively for one people (call them people A) in a territory already populated by another people (call them people B) without the adoption of racist policies by A and serious resistance on the part of B. Under such circumstances, for A, there can be no real security nor can there be anything like a healthy national culture.

 

The whole process has proved remarkably self-corrupting for Zionist Jews. It is ironic that now most Zionists are themselves anti-Semites. In this case the Semite targets are the Palestinians and the growing number of western Jews who have come to support their cause.

 

Thus, the plans to celebrate the centenary of the Balfour Declaration is based on an illusion that something awful is really something prideful. The only way you can pull this off is if you have the power to twist the entire historical episode into something it is not – and that is what Theresa May is planning to do.

Running from the Law – An Analysis (3 January 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – Netanyahu Repudiates International Law

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threw a temper tantrum (24 December 2016) after the U.S. failed to veto United Nations Security Council Resolution 2234 condemning Zionist settlements on Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu called the resolution “shameful.” He went so far as to tell the foreign secretary of New Zealand, one of the countries that brought the resolution forward for a vote, that this action was the equivalent of “an act of war.” He then started recalling Israeli ambassadors from the Security Council states that backed the resolution. Finally, Netanyahu said Israel would “not abide by it [the resolution].” All in all it was quite a performance.

In order to put the prime minister’s outrage in context, let’s look at what, in part, the resolution actually says. It “reaffirms the obligation of Israel, the occupying Power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War … and recalling the advisory opinion rendered on 9 July 2004 by the International Court of Justice, condemning all measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, including, inter alia, the construction and expansion of settlements, transfer of Israeli settlers, confiscation of land, demolition of homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law and relevant resolutions…”

In other words, UNSC Resolution 2234 told the Israeli government that it is obliged to follow the rule of law – in this case international law. Mr. Netanyahu’s response was to repudiate that law. Thus, the Israeli prime minister ran from the law – something outlaws do.

This is nothing new. Israel has been acting in a criminal fashion in (among other areas) the West Bank of Palestine for the past fifty years – and doing so with impunity. “Impunity” is the key word here. The prime minister’s response was, in part, to the unexpected refusal of the United States to continue its half-century practice of protecting the Zionist state from any consequences for its illegal behavior.

 

Part II – Inadequate Responses

 

The response to Israel’s response has been telling. The European leaders have been very low-key in their reaction even though Netanyahu has bad-mouthed and snubbed many of them. The White House position is that Washington has always regarded settlements as “an impediment to peace” and a threat to a two-state solution, so their abstention on the resolution should be seen as consistent and appropriate. On the other hand, Republicans in Congress sided with Israel. Take for instance the baffling assertion of Senator John McCain that “Today’s passage of an ill-conceived resolution on Israeli settlements marks another shameful chapter in the bizarre anti-Israel history of the United Nations.” No mention here of the Israeli Prime Minister’s “bizarre” behavior.

However, and this is the important point, what is missing from these responses to Netanyahu’s tantrum is any public recognition of the main point of Resolution 2234. That is the fact that Israel stands in violation of the rule of law. And by doing so for decades, the Zionist state has eroded the force of international law generally. No state leader, including those who directly voted for the resolution at the U.N., has deigned to follow up on this point publicly.

 

Part III – The Importance of the Rule of Law

 

Just to make things very clear, many aspects of civilized society are made possible by the rule of law. It’s the way all of us seek to maintain a tolerable level of order and strive to administer humane justice. However, such efforts can be fragile. There are problems:

 

— In practice, both laws and justice are traditionally defined by culture. Thus, it is possible that what is legal in one community is illegal in another, and that what is justice in one place might appear to be injustice in another. This is obviously an aspect of Israel’s problem. Israeli governments have seen things through the lens of a culturally determined and racist ideology which precludes justice for those who have been subjected to ethnic and religious discrimination. Yet history has proven that such practices are a threat to everyone because of the dangerous precedents they set in a world of growing diversity. In such a world, laws assuring humane intergroup relations should be consistent across national and ethnic lines.

— In a world of nation-states, the concept of national sovereignty has often served as protection against outside interference even in the face of criminal state behavior. For instance, a national government can claim that its laws oppressing minority groups reflect national security needs. Israel is not the first state to take just such a position. Outside states have traditionally been reluctant to interfere lest their own national sovereignty be eroded by the precedent of open intervention. On the other hand, surreptitiously, Western powers have been avid practitioners of selective “regime change.” Hypocrisy is rampant. In such conditions the rule of law and the notion of justice are allowed to remain provincial and, at an extreme, indistinguishable from criminality.

 

It was in response to these problems that, starting in the
19th century, efforts began to create international treaties and organizations that promulgated international law – law that seeks to move the concept of justice beyond culture and alleged national interest by giving it universal application. Such efforts were actually attempts to take civilization to a higher level. The horrors which spurred on such efforts, ranging from war crimes to genocide, proved to be strong motivators.

There have been some successes in this effort, notably the series of treaties arrived at in Geneva, Switzerland. Notable here are the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which updated previous agreements in the wake of crimes committed during World War II. Of these, the Fourth Geneva Convention provided protections for civilians in time of war. Resolution 2234 cites this Convention.

 

Part IV – Conclusion

 

The development of international law has always posed a problem for states that are warlike, expansionist, or driven by intergroup hatreds. Israel certainly fits this description and the fact, so often brought up by Zionists, that there are other states which also fit the bill, should not be allowed to confuse the issue. Indeed, Israel has made strenuous efforts to deflect blame and suborn the foreign policies of other states through the use of special interest allies and agents wielding such sophistic arguments. However, such lobbying efforts are starting to bring diminishing returns. It is the hard reality of Israel’s stubborn refusal to conclude a just peace with the Palestinians, while concurrently stealing their land, that has made the country so notorious – notorious enough that most of the world’s nations are now willing to declare that the Zionist state is in open violation of international law.

Unfortunately, there are no policemen to apprehend criminals of Benjamin Netanyahu’s stature. Even the International Criminal Court will probably not attempt to do so. But that does not mean the Zionist state will continue to escape the consequences of its criminal behavior. Step by step Israel has become a pariah state that lives in increasing social, cultural and economic isolation. It is to be fervently hoped that Netanyahu’s recent tantrum will speed up this process.

Zionism Goes from Bad to Worse, Taking Judaism with It – An Analysis (24 July 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – From Bad to Worse

Zionism’s range of influence is shrinking. One can see this progression worldwide. At a popular level the Israelis have lost control of the historical storyline of Israel-Palestine. They may teach their own citizens their version of the story, the one wherein the Jews have a divine and/or historical right to all of Palestine’s territory. But beyond their fellow Zionists and the loony Christian right, no one else believes this story. Significantly, an increasing number of Jews no longer accept it either.

None of this means that the Zionists are not still influential. Yet their influence no longer has a broad popular base. It is now largely restricted to Western government circles. Of course, that is still impressive, and such lobby power does a lot of damage in the West through the corruption of elites and the perversion of state policies. We are seeing examples of this in the many stories of American police officers being trained by Israelis while (coincidently?) episodes of police brutality in the U.S. multiply.

It is to be noted, however, the Zionist ability to maintain a close connection between Western governments and Israel is now based on their ability to spread around enormous sums of money, and not on what once was popular emotional admiration for the “Israeli experiment.” In truth the Zionists are left with a narrowing base of support for a country that is increasingly seen as, at best, inhumane and racist and, at worst, ruthless and criminal.

Zionism’s internal reaction to the loss of popular support is to defensively circle the wagons ever more tightly and press on with transparently illegal policies of settlement expansion and oppression. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the secular-political leader of this hunker-down strategy. However, for Jews worldwide what is perhaps more alarming, and certainly as depressing, is the role played by Judaism’s religious representatives – members of Israel’s rabbinic officialdom – who keep publicly calling for, and religiously justifying, the slaughter of Palestinians. Here are some recent examples:

In early March of 2016 Israel’s chief Sephardic rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, announced that it is “a religious imperative” to execute “Palestinian assailants” as soon as they are apprehended, despite more judicious directives given by Israel’s military high command and law courts. Yosef then managed to show himself utterly out of touch with the history of Palestinian resistance (which he incorrectly mixes up with modern terrorism) when he declared that “It deters them too. The moment a terrorist knows that if he comes with a knife he won’t return alive, that will deter them. That’s why it’s a mitzvah [a blessing] to kill him.” There is, of course, no evidence that such a policy of on-the-spot executions deters Palestinian violence.

Yosef’s call for on-the-spot executions is actually a follow-up to a statement made by his predecessor, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, in 2007. At that time Eliyahu pronounced that “there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza.”

In December 2015 Chaim Kanievsky, an important “ultra-Orthodox” Israeli rabbi, instructed the members of United Hatzalah, a West Bank settler-run ambulance service, that when confronted with a Palestinian “terrorist” who has “a life-threatening condition, they should leave him or her to die.” This pronouncement has sparked a lively debate among some Israeli rabbis, but the resulting impact on the practice of Israeli ambulance crews has been to give them an excuse to disregard their obligations under international law, and leave injured Palestinians untreated.

This attitude has long been evolving, and it has even produced the equivalent of “saintly” figures. For instance, there is the American Zionist settler Baruch Goldstein who in 1994 killed 24 Palestinian worshipers and injured another 125, at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. The settler community at Kiryat Arba has erected an elaborate tomb to Goldstein with an epitaph that reads, in part, that he had “clean hands and a pure heart.” The tomb remains today a site of pilgrimage for Zionists of genocidal inclination.

All those Zionists who justify the murder of Palestinians lawfully resisting unlawful occupation are themselves in violation of international law. Those who rationalize this behavior by evoking violent and wrathful biblical images go further and put themselves in the same category as al-Qaeda and ISIS fanatics.

Part II – An Existential Dilemma

Zionism did not start out advocating slaughter. The original Zionist preference for the disposal of the Palestinians was “transfer” – the removal by force or economic inducement of the Palestinians from conquered Israeli territory into the surrounding Arab lands. This scheme, in its forceful guise, was put into effect during the 1948 and 1967 wars. This certainly cleared out some of the indigenous population, but by no means everyone: there are today some 6 million Palestinians living under Israeli control.

For most of those who have remained, policies of enforced poverty, enforced immobility and daily harassment have made life miserable. It has also encouraged continuous violent resistance among Palestinians and a corresponding growing frustration among Israeli Jews. This frustration soon began to encourage Zionists, both secular and religious, to replace the traditional notion of transfer with newer visions of slaughter.

The participation of the rabbis, who play the role of “spiritual guides” for millions of Orthodox Jews, in preaching a call to murder creates an existential dilemma for the adherents of the Jewish religion – existential because it speaks to the religion’s evolving nature. In terms of its present adherents, it places them in the same situation experienced by many Catholics and Protestants during the eras of the Crusades and Reformation wars. It was in those eras that official religious institutions and leaders espoused and religiously rationalized wholesale slaughter. Today we have created standards, supported by international law, that render such repulsive behavior illegal. But the Zionist leadership seems not to care about such standards and laws.

There are certainly those among today’s Jewry who understand the watershed nature of this turn of events. In August 2014 the American rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, called on his fellow Jews to “mourn for the Judaism of love and generosity that is being murdered by Israel and its worshipers around the world, the same kind of idol-worshipers who, pretending to be Jewish [are] actually assimilated into the world of power.” The organization of Rabbis For Human Rights attempts to ally with Palestinians so as to keep alive the notion that there are still Jewish religious leaders who understand the potentially humane essence of their religion. Organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace give an alternative for Jewish laity who want to work against Zionist policies. In the meantime, increasing numbers of Western Jews have silently broken with Israel and the Zionist movement. They have retreated to a passive apolitical position, rendering Israel no aid. Unfortunately, Jews in active opposition to Zionism, be they rabbis or laity, while growing in number, are still insufficiently organized to challenge Zionist political influence in official circles.

Part III – Conclusion

The existential problem that now confronts Judaism is the logical consequence of the World War II era alliance made by the religion’s leadership and the secular ideology of Zionism. There are clear historical reasons why this alliance was made: a millennium of anti-Semitic persecution in the West culminating in the Nazi Holocaust; the existence of the national state as the premier model for collective self-protection; the colonial tradition that rationalized European control of non-European lands; and finally an age-old religious devotion to biblical tales of wandering and conquering Israelite tribes.

This offers the context within which the modern Jewish religion got captured by the Zionist movement, but whatever you think of these reasons, none of them, nor all of them together, mitigate the predictable disastrous consequences, laced with racism, chauvinism, intolerance, and violence, that was bound to follow Judaism’s collaboration with Zionism. As Rabbi Lerner says, the end product of all of this sends him into mourning.

In the eyes of increasing numbers, the country of Israel is a pariah state, and the behavior of its rabbinical officialdom may have already thrown its religious establishment into similar disgrace. Those Jewish organizations that stand against the Israeli debacle are like candles burning in an otherwise political-religious darkness.Their struggle will go on. Indeed, it may never cease until Israel’s racist behavior ceases. But right now, it has become evident that it is not only the existence of the Palestinians that Zionism threatens. It also has put in danger whatever humane instincts are left within organized Judaism.

On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism – An Analysis (10 May 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – Misuse

How do you misuse a racial prejudice? At first glance this ought to appear to be an absurd question. Racial prejudices already constitute the distortion of perception and emotion. Nevertheless, when a particular prejudice has a distinct pedigree and an age-old definition, and then is purposely exploited (particularly by those purporting to represent its victims) solely for political gain, the issue of misuse becomes anything but absurd.

The racial prejudice in question is anti-Semitism, one of the most devastating of bigotries and responsible for untold misery. It has always been defined as hatred of Jews as Jews. This hatred is underpinned by a vast number of historical myths and fantastic conspiracy theories, but at its core, what we have here is close to pure racism – a Jew is bad not because of what he or she has done, but because of some racial taint.

Now here is the complicated part. This age-old definition has been reformulated by an ideologically driven sub-set of Jewry – Zionists – for political purposes. The Zionists have declared that there is no difference between the State of Israel and the worldwide community of Jews and therefore, if you are opposed to Israel you are anti-Semitic. This identification of Israel and the Jews en masse is historically, demographically, and certainly religiously false. But no matter, the Zionists shout this redefinition loudly and endlessly. And, by backing their claim with political pressure and a lot of money, they have managed to get it accepted in some Western political circles. This, then, is what constitutes the misuse for political purposes of a dangerous racial prejudice.

Having laid this foundation, the Zionists are now using this bastardized concept of anti-Semitism as a weapon against those critical of not the Jews as a group, but the political state of Israel, its policies and behaviors, which are, themselves, racist and barbaric. Indeed, it is Israeli behavior, specifically toward the Palestinians, that has encouraged a revival of anti-Semitism after more than a half a century of quiescence – thus the very striking irony of the Zionist insistence that opposition to Israeli racist policies is itself a racial prejudice.

Part II – Attack on the British Labour Party

There are many examples of this Zionist perversion, but the latest one is a full-blown attack on those members of the British Labour Party who are critical of Israel yet not of Jews as such. Charley Allan, a columnist for the British paper Morning Star, has described the resulting atmosphere as a “witch hunt.” Below are two examples of isolated statements made by Labour Party members which have caused a purposefully exaggerated brouhaha over the issue of anti-Semitism.

In late April it was revealed that Naseem Shah, the Labour MP for Bradford West, had posted on her Facebook account a map that showed Israel transferred to within the borders of the U.S. She labeled it as “a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Shah’s posting, which she sourced from the website of the Jewish American scholar Norman Finkelstein, was made at the height of Israel’s 2014 invasion of Gaza and pre-dated her election to Parliament. While the suggestion of the wholesale transference of Israel to the U.S. is but a fantasy, associating the U.S. and Israel certainly has an underlying logic. The United States is Israel’s major protector and financier. The U.S. Congress treats Israel as a privileged 51st state. And, most of those who emigrate from Israel go to the U.S. Accusations that Shah’s post was an anti-Semitic attack on Jewry were now belatedly raised, leading to her suspension from the Labour Party pending an investigation. She subsequently, and rather abjectly, apologized. Nonetheless, the fact is that Ms Shah’s display of the map was not anti-Semitic at all. It was not an attack on Jews as such, and there is no evidence that it was motivated by a hatred of Jews. What is really objectionable is the Zionist effort to perversely manipulate the post as if it really was anti-Semitism, in order to attack those opposed to their own racist political ideology.

The second example concerns the veteran Labour Party leader Ken Livingstone, who is also a former mayor of London. In late April Livingston stated on a British radio program that “Hitler was a Zionist” whose policy was that “the Jews should be moved to Israel.” Now this is certainly not a true statement. What is true is that Hitler wanted the Jews out of Germany. Up until 1938 they could leave that country (albeit without any possessions) if they could find another country that would let them in (which wasn’t easy). During this time Hitler did not particularly care where the German Jews went, and most who did have the foresight to leave did not go to Palestine.

Though historically inaccurate, Livingstone’s statement was not anti-Semitic. Its principal subject was Hitler and the Zionist movement, and, again, there is no evidence that it was motivated by hatred of Jews. Nonetheless, for making his statement Livingstone has been accused of being anti-Semitic, and he too has been suspended from the Labour Party pending an investigation.

It would seem that the present Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is running scared, tossing out members like Shah and Livingstone, rather than counterattacking against Zionist offensive with the truth – that the charge of anti-Semitism is being improperly exploited for political purposes.

Corbyn himself, who is of the left wing of the party, and has repeatedly expressed sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, is probably among the real targets of this campaign of intimidation. It seems that the right wing of the party have joined up with the British Zionists to run Corbyn out of office using, or rather misusing, the charge of anti-Semitism.

Part III – Conclusion

Despite what amounts to ever-present paranoia in some circles, there are no signs of a future Holocaust in the making. That does not mean that history holds no important lessons for the Jews. It certainly does. The primary lesson is that the Jews, like other minority groups, need to protect their collective interests by maintaining strong support for universal civil and human rights, as well as the rule of law both domestically and internationally. However, there is another lesson the past, and specifically the Holocaust, ought to have taught us: that it is dangerously counterproductive to engage in a defense of group interests that involves the persecution of others. To the extent that they have followed this path, the Zionists have failed to learn from history.

This suggests that it is not the Jews as a people who are remiss. It is only those who have abandoned the protections of civil and human rights and now flout international law in favor of a cruel nationalist policy. The Zionist claim that they have pursued this path to protect the Jewish people is highly suspect for, since its founding, Israel has always been the most dangerous place a Jew can reside. We are led to the conclusion expressed by Professor Stephen Bronner in a deeply insightful work entitled The Bigot. “Disentangling genuine prejudice from a legitimate critique of Israeli territorial ambitions should be the aim of all progressive inquiry into the problem of anti-Jewish bigotry.” That critique of Israel’s behavior is not only legitimate, but central to future peace in the Middle East.

Zionism is an ideology gone seriously astray. And the use of the charge of anti-Semitism as a weapon against its critics is a dangerous exploitation of that age-old bigotry as well as a betrayal of the lessons of history.

Netanyahu’s Mind – An Analysis (22 April 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

 

 

Part I – The “Fresh Perspective”

Dan Illouz is an Israeli lawyer and a former legal adviser to both the Knesset’s leadership coalition and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He is also a big fan of Prime Minister Netanyahu. On 13 April 2016 he wrote an opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post entitled, “A Fresh Perspective: Understanding Netanyahu’s Mind.”

Among the many synonyms of “fresh” offered by your average on-line dictionary are “unusual” and “undeveloped.” Though Illouz would certainly not agree that these terms fit his effort to explain the prime minister’s consciousness, it turns out that they actually do. For instance, there is his unusual claim that “Netanyahu is one of the deepest thinkers among world leaders.” At the same time Illouz emphasizes that Netanyahu comes from a “very ideological” background bequeathed to him by both his Revisionist Zionist father, Benzion Netanyahu, and the American neoconservative worldview. As we will see, both outlooks are undeveloped one-dimensional frames of reference.

It is true that our perceptions reflect a worldview structured by the aspects of family and society we choose to embrace, or rebel against. It could go either way. According to Illouz, Netanyahu has embraced the restricted worldview of a brand of Zionism that teaches that, if the Jews are to survive in the modern world, they must be militarily all powerful and remain unmoved by any and all calls for compromise with alleged enemies. Also, according to Illouz, Netanyahu sees the world through the myopic lens of the American neoconservative movement, which preaches that both the United States and Israel are allies in a never-ending battle of good against evil. The unalterable consequences of compromise in such a struggle have been taught to us by the history of the 1938 Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler. All such compromises in this imagined struggle must end up in catastrophe, especially for the Jews.

Part II – “Deep Thinking”

The conclusions Illouz draws from this description of Netanyahu’s mindset are, to say the least, baffling. Not in the sense that Netanyahu is cemented into a worldview that itself is modeled on a narrow slice of history. This indeed seems to accurately describe him. But rather in the claim that by seeing the world this way, the Israeli prime minister shows himself to be a “deep thinker.”

What does it mean to be a “deep thinker”? It should entail some capacity to break free of the structural framework or the worldview we start out with. For example, a degree of independent thought that allows us to discern when the past serves as a useful guide to the present and when it does not. This all adds up to an ability to be original – to understand present circumstances in novel ways that lead to breakthrough solutions to problems, be they political, social or scientific.

That is what it takes to think deeply. Does Benjamin Netanyahu qualify? No, he does not. He is no more a “deep thinker” than George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or John Bolton. Then why does Illouz say he does qualify? Because this Israeli lawyer, who is himself no “deep thinker,” mixes up profundity of thought with a skewed notion of “prudence” – which, in this case, he interprets as a “reluctance to embrace a utopian view of the world that progressives push forward.” Examples of such “utopian views” are peace agreements such as the Iran accord, and the notion of “unilateral withdrawals.” In other words, Benjamin Netanyahu is a “deep thinker” because, in the name of “prudence,” he shuts down all consideration of diplomatic compromise. For Illouz that also makes him one of the world’s leading “realists.”

In truth Illouz’s assessment of his prime minister’s mind is itself a product of the same narrow, static worldview shared by neoconservatives and Likudniks alike. For instance, according to Illouz, Netanyahu’s refusal to withdraw from the Occupied Territories (OT) is stark realism motivated by a desire to “stop history from taking a wrong turn” – as it did in 1938. The comparison of the Palestinian desire for an independent state in the OT and the Munich agreement of 1938 is so patently inane that I won’t waste words on it. However, Israel’s absorption of the territories can be judged as the very opposite of realism – it is a utopian (actually dystopian) scheme that is in the process of doing untold damage to both Jews and Palestinians while isolating Israel from the rest of the world.

Part III – Conclusion

There is a contradiction between profundity of thought and the ideologically determined worldview. To be in a position to achieve the former, one must, at the very least, eschew the dogmatic aspects of the latter. Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor Dan Illouz are capable of doing this.

Analyzing Illouz’s presentation is not hard. His mistaken take on “deep thinking,” the lessons of history, the notions of realism and utopianism are quite obvious. This being the case one might ask why the editors at the Jerusalem Post thought it proper to print such balderdash? Perhaps because they too see the world in the same one-dimensional fashion.

If we are to believe the reports coming out of Israel, the Jewish majority there is undergoing an unchecked withdrawal into itself. The “us against the world” attitude that has always characterized some of world Jewry has now taken command in Israel. And, except for a small portion of the population that has managed to break free of this warped worldview (and as a consequence is being labeled as traitors), the mass of Israeli Jews are following their Pied Piper leaders into dangerous isolation.

This state of detachment has led to a series of policy decisions that are anything but realistic. The continuing expansion of illegal settlements and destruction of Palestinian houses, the resulting ethnic cleansing, the utter barbarism of Israeli policy toward Gaza, and the labeling as terrorist behavior all reactions against these policies, mark an official, and internally popular, worldview that is increasing detached from reality. Dan Illouz’s piece in the Jerusalem Post is a clumsy effort to rationalize this way of thinking and seeing.

For a nation (and also individuals) in this state of mind positive change can only come from the outside. The resulting pressure is never pleasant and sometimes may become severe. However, in cases where the behavior of the offending state is criminal and often barbaric, change, be it easy or hard, must ultimately come. And, in fact, the Israelis and their supporters are in the process of learning the price of following the dictates of “Netanyahu’s mind.”

The Zionists Censor a Textbook – An Analysis (20 March 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – Map Censorship

What is the difference between a textbook publisher giving into pressure from Christian fundamentalists seeking to censor the teaching of evolution, and a publisher giving in to Zionists seeking to censor awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine? Neither phenomenon is a matter of opinion or perspective. One act of censorship denies facts established by scientific research. The other denies the documented violation of international law (for instance, the Fourth Geneva Convention) and multiple UN resolutions. So the answer to the question just asked is – there is no difference.

In early March 2016 executives at McGraw-Hill took the extreme step of withdrawing from the market a published text, Global Politics: Engaging a Complex World, and then proceeded to destroy all the remaining books held in inventory. (Did they burn them?) Global Politics, which had been on the market since 2012, was a text designed by its authors to “offer students a number of lenses through which to view the world around them.” Why did McGraw-Hill do this?

Apparently the book was obliterated (this seems to be an accurate description of the publisher’s actions) because, like a biology text that describes the established facts of evolution, Global Politics offered a “lens to view the world” that was judged blasphemous by a powerful, influential and ideologically driven element of the community. Of course, that is not how McGraw-Hill rationalized its action. Instead, the publisher claimed that a serious inaccuracy in the text was belatedly discovered. This took the form of a series of four maps that show “Palestinian loss of land from 1946 to 2000.” The maps are the first set which can be seen at the following link: http://www.thetower.org/3027ez-mcgraw-hill-publishes-college-textbook-with-mendacious-anti-israel-maps/

The maps in question are not new or novel. Nor are they historically inaccurate, despite Zionists’ claims to the contrary. They can be seen individually and in different forms on websites of the BBC and Mondoweiss and are published in a number of history books, such as Mark Tessler’s well-received A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Perhaps what the Zionists can’t abide is lining up the maps together in chronological order.

In truth, the objections reported to have been used by those who pressured McGraw-Hill are historically perverse – the sort of grasping at straws that reflects a biased and strained rewriting of history. For instance, an objection was made to the labeling of public land in pre-1948 Palestine as “Palestinian.” Why? Because the Zionist claim is that Palestine before 1948 was a British mandate and so the land was British and not Palestinian. As their argument goes, “no one called the Arabs [of this area] Palestinians.” Of course, prior to 1948, no one called the East European Jews pouring in at this time “Israelis.” Further, according to those taking these maps to task, the West Bank at this time was controlled by Jordan and so it too was not Palestinian. Obviously, no one brought up the fact that in September of 1922 the British had divided Palestine in two in order to artificially create what is now Jordan. The period after World War I was one of territorial transition, however, in Palestine, the one constant was the persistent presence of the Arab Palestinians.

The Zionists offered many other dubious objections to the maps, which seem to have sent the publisher into something of a panic. It would certainly appear that no one at McGraw-Hill knew enough relevant history to make an accurate judgment on the complaints.
Part II – Running Scared
McGraw-Hill’s response was to “immediately initiate an academic review,” which “determined that the maps in question “did not meet our academic standards.” Who carried out the review? Well, McGraw-Hill won’t say, but insists those who did so were “independent academics.” Just what are McGraw-Hill’s “academic standards”? Well, those haven’t been articulated either. The publisher’s reluctance to elaborate its claims makes their actions suspicious at best.

As Rania Khalek noted in an 11 March 2016 article on the incident in Electronic Intifada, these particular maps, showing the loss of Palestinian land over decades of Israeli expansion, “have the ability to cut through Israeli propaganda that portrays Palestinian anger and violence as rooted in religious intolerance and irrational hatred rather than a natural reaction to Israel’s colonial expansionism, land theft and ethnic cleansing, all of which continue today.” This gives insight into the strenuous efforts made by Zionists to keep the sequenced maps away from any mass market distribution. As it is, they seem to have overlooked this textbook source for some four years. However, once they spotted it, and began “flooding” McGraw-Hill with complaints from “multiple sources,” it took the publisher only about a week to suspend sales of the book.

The next obvious question is why didn’t McGraw-Hill move to change the maps or just remove them? Why destroy the entire inventory? The extreme nature of the publisher’s response remains unexplained but may stand as a testimony to the fact that the Zionist lobby has the same power within the corporate ranks of this textbook publisher as the anti-evolution fundamentalists have over most biology textbooks.

Part III – The Zionists’ Maps

The Zionists who made the claim that the Global Politics maps are “mendacious” do so from a starting assumption that all the land from the Suez Canal to Golan Heights and Jordan River has always been Hebrew-Israeli. On this basis they posit their own maps to make the claim that modern Israel, at least since 1967 and “in the pursuit of peace,” has voluntarily relinquished land rather than illegally taken it. These maps are the second set seen at http://www.thetower.org/3027ez-mcgraw-hill-publishes-college-textbook-with-mendacious-anti-israel-maps/

It is significant that the Zionist maps begin in 1967, a year of major Israeli expansion through conquest. And, of course, the only land concession of any consequence since then is the Sinai Desert. The Zionist cartographical suggestion that Israel has given up Gaza and West Bank land is just a sleight of hand, given Israel’s use of Gaza as a prison colony and continued military control of every inch of the West Bank.

Finally, it is important to note that Israeli school maps are often pure propaganda. For instance, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz recently carried a story about a map used to teach seventh graders about the country’s geography. The map omits the “green line,” which is recognized internationally as Israel’s eastern border, as well as the majority of the nation’s Arab-Israeli communities. Maybe the Israeli Ministry of Education used McGraw-Hill’s “academic standards” to create this map.

Part IV – Conclusion

Within academia there is the belief that textbooks are not to be subject to ideological censorship. This is a rather naive, but important, ideal. If such texts cannot maintain this level of integrity, the entire educational exercise becomes open to propaganda. Unless McGraw-Hill becomes transparent about its “independent academic review” and offers an explanation as to why it went to the extreme of destroying its inventory of Global Politics, one can only assume that the publisher has no objection to censoring its products in the face of pressure from an ideologically driven group. No doubt the motivation here is fear of controversy and subsequent market losses. In the absence of substantiating information, the whole story of an independent review and academic standards must be dismissed as a cover-up.

The sad truth is that the suborning of textbooks addressing culturally sensitive subjects has become a standard practice. Thus, the process of education is indeed threatened by incessant propaganda. This includes the culture wa.r that swirls around American biology textbooks. It also includes the powerful Zionist drive to literally wipe the Palestinians off the map

What the Trump Phenomenon Means for Israel – An Analysis (11 March 2016) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – Trump and Israel

On 3 March 2016 Chemi Shaley, the U.S. correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote an interesting piece on what the Donald Trump phenomenon means for U.S.-Israeli relations. Here are some of his points:

1. Trump’s insistence on staying “neutral” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian problem has not cost him any popular support. Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have “sneeringly lambasted” Trump for not supporting Israel, but to no avail. Trump just “laughed all the way to the top of the Republican presidential field.”

2. Republican evangelicals are paying no mind to Trump’s equivocations about Israel. They vote for Trump despite this. “Evangelical leaders … are heartbroken that so many Believers are flocking after the thrice married, dirty-talking reality star. They are less perturbed by his deviation from the strict pro-Israel party line, however, and more by the sinful ways for which he has not asked forgiveness.”

3. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy decision to “put all of Israel’s eggs in the GOP basket” – a decision confirmed when he appeared before Congress in 2015 to denounce the Iran nuclear agreement – has turned into a political disaster.

Part II – Waning Interest in Israel (U.S. Gentiles)

The rise of Donald Trump certainly suggests that the right-wing Israeli politicians badly misread the Republican political scene. Trump has tapped into a large and growing stratum of citizens who never cared very much about foreign policy, much less Israel-Palestine specifically. And, now that that indifference has been plainly revealed on the Republican side of the ledger, it may not be long before Democratic voters also start to say, loud enough for their leaders to hear, that Israel isn’t important to them either. As Shaley suggests, what is happening here is the exposure of Israel’s weakness in the United States.

Thus, for the first time it is becoming publicly noticeable that a lot of voters don’t regard Israel as a linchpin ally upholding democracy in the Middle East. In fact, Israel simply is not a priority as far as they are concerned. However, start emphasizing to this largely isolationist-minded crowd the huge amount of their tax money that goes to Israel, and not caring might quickly turn to hostility. Mr. Trump is certainly not above providing the little push necessary for this to happen. How might this scenario play itself out?

 

If Trump becomes president and, like most of his predecessors, tries to settle the Israel-Palestine problem, he will no doubt be met with not only the usual Israeli stonewalling, but outright hostility. After all, Trump as president will have to deal with Netanyahu as prime minister and they are alike in that both tend to “shoot from the lip.”

As Shaley points out, “Trump refuses to acknowledge United Jerusalem [and] wants to remain neutral so that he can broker a peace deal with the Palestinians, which is a challenge worthy of a master dealmaker like him.” Netanyahu will loudly express his opposition. Perhaps he will refuse to deal with Trump at all. But Trump, unlike Obama, will not respond to Netanyahu’s insults with discretion. He will readily blame Israel for any failure and do it loudly and disparagingly. Then he might start to publicly question why the U.S. should be wasting vast amounts of treasure on such an unthankful nation as Israel. This could be a public relations disaster from which the Israelis will not be able to recover.

Part III – Waning Interest in Israel (U.S. Jews)

As an Israeli born and bred to the perennial fear of anti-Semitism, Shaley senses a danger in Trump not only to Israel but to Jews in general. “The Jews will run away from Trump because he scares them. Because his demagoguery is ominous, his willingness to slash and burn anyone standing in his way is disturbing, his tendency to incite his supporters against other ethnic groups … is a source of deep anxiety.”

All of this may be true, but so is the important point Shaley makes that “the Jews won’t be fleeing Trump because of his policies toward Israel.” In other words, increasing numbers of U.S. Jews are losing patience in the ever stubborn shenanigans of the Zionist state. And as they do so, Israel loses their support.

Part IV – Conclusion

The truth is that today’s Zionists have bought a political elite and not much more. Right now they can rely on a thin veneer of politicos who are in the process of losing influence with an alienated citizenry. When the politicians make their adjustments to this new environment, one of the casualties may well be the U.S. alliance with Israel. Hillary, Bernie, Ted and Marco may be the last generation of American politicians who will give Benjamin Netanyahu and his ilk the time of day.

Israel Divides the Jews – An Analysis (19 November 2015) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – Reform Judaism vs. Israel

 

Something significant recently happened in the ongoing political-ethical drama that grips Israel and, by extension, Jewish communities worldwide. As reported by the Jewish Daily Forward on on 6 November 2015, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism (a position that makes him the leader of largest Jewish denomination in the United States), publicly broke with Israel’s political and religious leadership. In a major speech at the Union’s biennial conference he said, “Asking Jews around the world only to wave the flag of Israel and to support even the most misguided policies of its leaders drives a wedge between the Jewish soul and the Jewish state.” Going public in this fashion is significant and welcome. However, as we shall see, this aspect of his critique has a long history.

 

Jacobs then got more specific: “the treatment of Israel’s minorities” and the “way ultra-Orthodox views of Judaism are being enshrined in secular law” are indications that Israeli society is “broken” and that Reform Jews will not be quiet about this. Jacobs offers the concept of Tikkun olam or “good works that benefit the wider community” and the “power and wisdom of pluralism” as antidotes that can help “repair” Israel. This is potentially powerful stuff for the situation here in the U.S., if not in Israel itself. If Jacobs moves to mobilize America’s Reform Jews behind a campaign opposing present Israeli behavior, it will constitute a major challenge to Zionist tribalism. It might also help liberate the U.S. Congress from its present role of accomplice to Israeli crimes.

 

Part II – The Past as Prologue

 

While the Zionists will never admit it and it is unlikely that the great majority of Reform Jews are aware of it, Rabbi Jacobs’s criticism is not new. Indeed, warnings and skepticism of what Zionism meant for the Jews and Judaism go back to the late nineteenth century and intensified with the announcement of the Balfour Declaration in 1917.

 

I wrote a long essay on this subject in 2004. It is entitled “Zionism and the Attack on Jewish Values” and appeared in the online journal of ideas Logos (Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 2004). Here are some excerpts:

 

— Ahad Ha-am (the pen name of the famous Jewish moralist Asher Ginzberg) noted as early as 1891 that Zionist settlers in Palestine had “an inclination to despotism. They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their rights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds; and no one among us opposes this despicable and dangerous inclination.”

 

— In England, on May 24, 1917, the Joint Foreign Committee of two Jewish organizations, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association, issued a statement which asserted, “the feature of the Zionist program objected to proposes to invest Jewish settlers in Palestine with special rights over others. This would prove a calamity to the whole Jewish people who hold that the principle of equal rights for all denominations is essential. The [Zionist program] is all the more inadmissable because … it might involve them in most bitter feuds with their neighbors of other races and religion.” 

 

— Hannah Arendt, one of the most insightful Jewish political philosophers of the twentieth century, characterized the Zionist movement in a 1945 essay as a “German-inspired nationalism.” The result of this was a modern form of tribal ethnocentrism that led to virulent, politicized racism. In 1948 she and 27 other prominent Jews living in the United States wrote a letter to the New York Times condemning the growth of right-wing political influences in the newly founded Israeli state.

 

— Toward the end of his life, Albert Einstein warned that “the attitude we adopt toward the Arab minority will provide the real test of our moral standards as a people.” An investigation of the conclusions drawn by every human rights organization that has examined Israeli behavior toward the Palestinians over the last 50
years, leaves no doubt that the Zionists have failed Einstein’s test.

 

Yet that is just the conclusion that today’s Zionists cannot face. Any revival of these early and prescient objections as part of a contemporary critique of Zionism represents, to the ardent Zionist, the promotion of supposedly traitorous anachronisms that are not only an embarrassment, but also politically dangerous. Jews who express such concerns are systematically denigrated and non-Jews who are critical of Zionism are slandered with charges of anti-Semitism.

 

Part III – Judaism Divided

 

Thus, Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the latest in a long line of important critics. Now that he has joined their ranks, the question is, Will Jacobs be able to popularize his critique while withstanding the enormous pressure that is certainly about to befall him? He will be libeled and threatened in an effort to force him to back down.The movement of Reform Judaism might itself come under fire as subversive. After all, officially Israel doesn’t even see Reform Jewry as real Jews.

 

Though an effort to discredit Jacobs and the Reform movement will be made, it will only make matters worse for the Zionists and Israel. Thanks to its racist policies and brutal aggressiveness, the Zionist state has become the most divisive issue for Jews throughout the Western world. Jacobs’s pronouncement is a sure sign of this. A Zionist counterattack on Reform Jewry will make it more so.

 

The truth is that Zionism has always divided Jews. On one side have been those sensitive to humanitarian issues and the religion’s traditional championship of egalitarianism and justice. And on the other side have been those who have committed themselves to a Jewish future defined in Zionist ideological terms. Before World War II those on the humanitarian side were mainly outspoken intellectuals. At that time the Zionists were better organized than those who opposed them and they were politically savvy and assertive. However, apart from areas of Eastern Europe, the vast majority of ordinary Jews remained neutral. With the advent of Nazi persecution the entire balance shifted in favor of the Zionists, who saw vindication for their statist philosophy in the Holocaust. By 1948, few Jews said a word against Zionism and the state of Israel.

 

But that pro-Zionist balance could not last. Eventually Israel’s combining of religion and state power produced the worst of both worlds. In the name of defending Judaism, Israel has conquered, persecuted, and massacred, and it has self-righteously refused to acknowledge its own culpability for the ongoing tragedy of both itself and its victims. Now, more and more Jews are disgusted and alienated, or just mightily confused, by the ongoing malfeasance of a movement that was supposed to create their ultimate safe haven.

 

As the journalist Laurie Goodstein noted in a 22 September 2014 article in the international edition of the New York Times, ever greater numbers of younger American Jews are turning against the Zionism and Israel. However, older and more conservative Jews still remain ardent Zionists. These are the big donors not only at their local congregational level, but also when it comes to politics. They will continue to try to intimidate Jewish skeptics into silence and to sway members of Congress. Hopefully, the efforts of men like Rabbi Jacobs will make it easier for those Jews who support more progressive and humane policies to stand up and compete for influence.

Culture and Conflict Resolution – An Analysis (31 October 2015) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – Culture for Coexistence

 

There is a new British organization called Culture for Coexistence the aim of which is to end to the cultural boycott of Israel – an effort that is relatively effective in raising public awareness of oppressive Zionist policies – and replace it with “open dialogue” and “cultural engagement.“ A “galaxy of 150 British artists and authors” signed an open letter published in the Guardian newspaper on 22 October 2015 announcing the group’s position:

 

“Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory and will not further peace,” while “open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict.”

 

While concepts such as open dialogue and cultural interaction are, in principle, hard to disagree with, their efficacy as agents of conflict resolution have to be judged within a historical context. In other words, such approaches are effective when circumstances dictate that all parties seriously dialogue and interact meaningfully – in a manner that actually promotes “mutual acceptance.” Is this the case when it comes to Israel? The burden of proof here is on Culture for Coexistence because they are the ones asking the Palestinians and their supporters to put aside a strategy (boycott) that is actually putting pressure on Israel to negotiate seriously.

 

The Culture for Coexistence signatories do not address this the question of efficacy. Instead they make the simple assertion that cultural boycotts are bad and won’t help resolve the conflict while cultural interaction is good and will work to that end. How do they know this? Without evidence of its workability, such an assertion is merely an idealization of cultural engagement that ignores that pursuit’s historical futility during a nearly century long conflict.

 

Part II – Do the Israeli Leaders Want a Just Peace?

 

Cultural interaction with Israel went on for decades before the boycott effort got going. It had no impact on the issue of conflict resolution. Such cultural activity certainly did not change the fact that Israel’s leaders have never shown interest in negotiating a resolution with the Palestinians except solely on Israeli terms. And, that stubbornness is a major part of the reason why peace talks (and also the Oslo agreements) never worked. There is a whole set of histories, written by Israelis and based on archival research that support the claim that Israel has not sought a just resolution to the conflict. Here I would recommend the Culture for Coexistence signatories read the books of the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.

 

Given this historical Zionist attitude, what sort of “greater understanding and mutual acceptance” does Culture and Coexistence expect to accomplish by swapping the boycott for “cultural engagement”? It is a question the signatories of the open letter might address to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who just recently, was reported to have proclaimed that Israel will control all Palestinian land indefinitely.

 

The “galaxy of British artists and authors” aligned with Culture for Coexistence seem oblivious to all these contextual issues. Of course, there is a good chance that some of them are more interested in undermining the boycott of Israel than in the alleged promotion of peace through “cultural engagement.” As the Guardian article discussing the group notes, “Some of the network’s supporters are closely aligned with Israel,” including individuals associated with Conservative Friends of Israel and Labour Friends of Israel.

 

Part III – Does Cultural Contact Necessarily Lead to Peace?

 

There is another, more generic misunderstanding exhibited in the group’s statement. It is found in the letter’s closing assertion that “cultural engagement builds bridges, nurtures freedom and positive movement for change” – a position reiterated when Loraine da Costa, chairperson of the new organization, told the Guardian that “culture has a unique ability to bring people together and bridge division.”

 

No matter how you want to define culture, high or low, there is no evidence for this position except on the level of individuals or small groups. On the level of larger or whole populations the assertion that “cultural engagement builds bridges” is another naive idealization that is belied by historical practice. Historically, culture has always divided people (both across borders and across classes) and acted as a barrier to understanding. At a popular level, most people are uninterested in, or suspicious of, foreign cultures and are unwilling to try to pursue cultural interaction.

 

Israel is a very good example of this cultural xenophobia. Historically, the European Jews who established the state despised Arab culture. They tried to eradicate it among the Mizrahi Jews who came to Israel from Arab lands. This intra-Jewish Israeli prejudice is still a problem today. What aspects of Arab culture (mostly having to do with cuisine) Israeli Jews are attracted to they try to repackage as “Israeli.”

 

Part IV – Conclusion

 

There are two final considerations here: First is the need to be serious and clear in the use of language. One can, of course, say “culture has a unique ability to bring people together” but is this a statement that has any real meaning or is it just a platitude? And second: If you are going to give advice about a century-old conflict you should know enough about its history to be sensible in your offering. Thus, in this case, if you know that high or low cultural intercourse with Israel (and, as suggested above, there has been plenty of it since the founding of the state in 1948), has actually improved the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, you should lay out the evidence. However, if one is just offering a banal cliche, well, only the ignorant can take that seriously.

 

Those who first proposed the cultural boycott did not do it out of some anti-Semitic dislike for Israeli artworks, music, literature or theater. They did it because cultural interaction with Israel had not only failed to promote an equitable peace, but in fact camouflaged the policies of a nationstate that practices ethnic cleansing and other destructive policies against non-Jews. The logical conclusion was drawn that if you want to pressure the Israelis to change their ways, you withdraw from cultural contact and make any reconnection a condition of their getting serious about conflict resolution.

 

How is it that the 150 artists and authors who signed the Culture for Coexistence open letter do not know the relevant facts? Setting aside the confirmed Zionists, whose ulterior motive is pretty clear, do these people take this stand because it “feels right” – that is, because they believe cultural interaction ought to, or even must, promote conflict resolution? Alas, this is wishful thinking and, taking history seriously, Palestine may go extinct before such an approach actually helps lead to a just peace.

The Ideologue’s Tunnel Vision – An Analysis (24 October 2015) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Part I – Ideologues

 

An ideologue is someone who sees the world in the limiting terms of a doctrine or dogma. It is limiting because the human world does not operate or evolve according to any one dogma. Therefore ideologues must wear blinders that result in tunnel vision – a tunnel which, like a Procrustean bed, tries to force the world to fit their chosen ideology.

 

There are hundreds of ideologies out there, both religious and secular, and in every case the resulting tunnel vision eventually results in absurdities – claims about the world that, seen from outside of the ideology, make little or no sense. So it is with the ideology of Zionism and the doctrinaire interpretations its adherents make about their own behavior and the behavior of others who oppose them.

 

One such proponent of Zionist ideology is David Harris, the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The AJC describes its mission as “to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel.” This is a point of dogma for the Zionists – that the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel are bound together. I am often confronted with Harris’s ideological take on events because, curiously, he has me on his mailing list.

 

Part II – David Harris’s View of Ongoing Violence in Israel

 

On 11 October 2015 Harris posted an essay on the ongoing violence in Israel-Palestine. It is entitled “Attacks Against Israelis: The World’s Silence Is Deafening” and the entire piece can be found both on the Huffington Post and The Times of Israel. The essay seeks to promote a picture of Israeli victimhood. As such it opens up a clear window on the Zionist’s view of the present situation and therefore is worth taking a look at.

 

What I am going to do is take representative segments from Harris’s essay and show how the grievances he reserves for Israelis seem somehow wrong when considered from outside the Zionist perspective. Indeed, as Harris’s complaint about the “world’s silence” in the face of violence against Israelis suggests, for many people his picture of Israeli victimhood is quite untenable. Because his ideology will not allow him to consider the possibility of Israel’s responsibility for the present violence, the world’s “silence” leaves him aggrieved and bewildered.

 

Here then are some representative parts of Mr. Harris’s essay.

 

Harris starts this way: “For days now, I have been watching in dismay as Israeli citizens face random attacks, some deadly, by Palestinian assailants on the streets of their cities and towns. Children have been orphaned, parents have lost children, and some survivors are doubtless scarred for life.”

 

It is true that individual Israelis have been hurt or killed in the recent past in apparently random attacks by Palestinians. Unfortunately, this is as far as Harris’s understanding goes. Thus, his tunnel vision renders invisible other perspectives, such as the possibility that dead and injured Israeli Jews, like the Palestinians themselves, are victims of the aggressive Zionist society and culture they live in, the government and laws they obey, and the racist policies they tolerate.

 

Given this perspective the present Palestinian violence becomes understandable as a product of anger and frustration caused by Israeli occupation and long-standing discrimination against Israeli Arabs. There has been no need for an indoctrination of hate by Hamas or any other religiously inspired group (a favorite red herring of Zionist ideologues) to explain Palestinian actions. Israeli policies and practices in and of themselves are quite sufficient.

 

Harris cannot perceive, much less understand, this perspective. Yet, in ever greater numbers, the people outside of Israel can see that any portrayal of Israeli victimhood is in conflict with an objective reading of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

 

David Harris continues, “And I’ve been wondering, not for the first time, what it would take for the world to wake up and acknowledge … that Israel, the lone liberal democracy in the Middle East, is facing violence that must be condemned unequivocally, and that it, like any other nation, has the obligation to defend itself.”

 

This “wondering” is also a product of Mr. Harris’s constricted view. There has never been any Zionist complaints, from Harris in particular, about the world’s silence while the Palestinians experience “liberal” Israel’s ethnic bias and occupation. Nor did he and his fellows take note of the world’s silence when Palestine’s own 2006 democratic election was suppressed by Israel and its American ally. It is exactly this silence in the face of Palestinian suffering that has left Israeli power in place and allowed for its oppressive use. Yet this particular silence has no place in Harris’s ideologically constructed world.

 

Harris goes on, “It’s striking how … some otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people in government, media, or think tanks, just shut down their critical faculties. Instead, they resort to a Pavlovian response mechanism that essentially rejects any possible legitimacy for the Israeli position and blindly defends whatever Palestinian narrative comes along.”

 

As noted above, an ideological outlook usually leads to absurdities. The truth is that until recently the Zionist narrative on Israel-Palestine held a monopoly in the West. Now, finally, Israel’s consistent apartheid-like practices are being noticed and as a result that monopoly is crumbling. The best Harris can do is evoke a fictional “Pavlovian mechanism” to explain the responses to Israeli policies. Nonetheless, the weakening of the Zionist narrative is at an early stage, which means that, even now, it is often not the Israeli narrative that has to fight its way into the media, think tanks and government councils. It is the Palestinian one.

 

There is much more to Harris’s missive, and almost every paragraph is shaped by the doctrinal demands of his ideology. The ersatz victimhood he claims for the Israelis is in fact a measure of the resulting distortion. For he, and his fellow Zionists, have stolen that depiction of suffering from their own victims, the Palestinians. Such is the power of ideological blinders.

 

Part III – Conclusion

 

To pull off this reversal of roles and posit the Israelis as victims of the Palestinians, Harris’s essay must leave out the seminal fact that for the past 67 years Israel has possessed overwhelming power. With this power Israel has oppressively controlled almost every aspect of Palestinian life. The inevitable result is the violence of resistance. Israelis who suffer from that violence should take this reality into consideration. But, few of them can do this.

 

The explanation for this inability brings us back to the problem of tunnel vision. Consider the following: many Palestinians can understand Western Jewish history, including the Holocaust, and recognize how it shapes, though ultimately cannot excuse, Zionist behavior. This ability to understand is facilitated by the fact that the Palestinians were not responsible for the suffering of Western Jewry. Unfortunately, the Zionists can’t reciprocate by understanding the history that drives Palestinian behavior. They cannot do so because their ideology precludes the possibility that they are in fact responsible for Palestinian suffering. Ideologues are not known for their skill at self-criticism.

 

One of the most renowned Jewish journalists, I. F. Stone, once said, referring to his own Jewish brethren, “how we act toward the Arabs will determine what kind of people we become: either oppressors and racists in our turn like those from whom we have suffered, or a nobler race able to transcend the tribal xenophobias that afflict mankind.” Well, the verdict is in, at least for those Jews who adhere to the Zionist ideology. For them “oppression and racism” has won out. And so has denial – just read David Harris.