Philip Weiss: A Jewish Argument around the Arab Revolt

Click to listen to Chris’ conversation with Philip Weiss. (65 minutes, 30 mb mp3)

Photo from bigthink.com

Philip Weiss, exulting in the glorious news from Egypt, says: “the handwriting on the wall is Arabic.” The 55-year-old meta-journalist dedicates his website MondoWeiss to “the war of ideas in the Middle East.” His project is more daring and difficult than that sounds. Really it’s to start something between a moral argument and a civil war over the big book of Jewish tradition and “spiritual wholeness” — over US national interests, the Palestinian condition, Israel and the whole modern idea of Zionism, by which he means the judgment from 19th and 20th Century European experience that Jews cannot be safe as a tiny minority in non-Jewish countries.

On the page and in conversation Philip Weiss is celebrating the revolution in Egypt for the bold non-violent genius of the Arab street. It moves him to tears that youngsters are using the social Web — Western technologies of gossip and hooking up — to liberate a great people. He also writes bitingly that the revolution is a gift for us Americans, too, to help us purge decades of disinformation and denial about what our policies have accomplished.

Not the least of many ironies in the story is Philip Weiss’s acknowledgment of “another feature writer,” the Austrian journalist Theodore Herzl (1860 – 1904), usually cited as the father of Zionism. Herzl grew up, as Weiss did, a “Christmas tree Jew,” but he was alert to the reality of his day in Vienna and Paris in the late 19th Century — personal threats to Herzl and shouts of “Death to Jews” on the streets of Europe’s capitals. “Anti-Semitism made me Jewish again,” was Herzl’s line. Philip Weiss’s analog is “Neo-conservatism made me Jewish again.” The reality of Philip Weiss’s day in America is that “I went to Harvard-fucking-College. I lead a really privileged life. I’ve never had an obstacle placed in my way, career wise, that I didn’t put there myself. And that is true of my whole generation, and the next generation… So what does that say — what does that real experience say — about the central tenet of Zionism which is that a minority is unsafe in a Western country? It’s bullshit — that’s what it says. And the type of society that we treasure in which a minority is safe and free is one that we as a community are destroying in the Middle East! destroying that idea! … The denial of the real conditions of Palestinian life by Jews is shocking to me… that my people would be so blind to the suffering.”

We are sitting in Philip Weiss’ living room in a snow-bound house high above the Hudson River, an hour north of Manhattan. Iraq was “a war of ideas,” he’s arguing — many of them out of the Jewish-American right wing. It’s not enough to hate “that bastard Bush,” as his mother does, because George Bush wouldn’t know an idea if one bit him. The Best and the Brightest, Phil Weiss reminds you, was not about JFK but about his brains-trust. Iraq “came out of a Jewish neo-con fantasy… We haven’t dealt with it, but we’re starting. In five years it will be debated at centers for Jewish history. It will take a while.”

I want a civil war in Jewish life. My dream is to have a Jewish family on stage, arguing about this in front of everyone. Remember what it did for gay rights that Lance Loud was coming out on television in the early 70s. That family — whatever price they paid in their privacy, and certainly they entertained us — also helped liberate a lot of suffering homosexuals… I want the Jewish family on stage to be having that reality show around this issue. So that people get to see my surrogate in that family — there are many of them out there, the young Jews. I want to see the tears. I want to see the rage. I want to see the charges of betrayal. I want this all out on the stage. I want “you’re a traitor,” “you’re a self-hating Jew,” I want the whole fuckin’ thing. I want everybody to watch, because it’s vital. It’s just like the gay people. In the Jewish family, these people have been closeted. You know, I never thought about this before: they are just like the gay people, when they were closeted. A lot of them are afraid to come out, and a lot of people who help me on the website are not public. A lot of the Arabs aren’t, and a lot of the academic and government officials aren’t because their careers would suffer. One guy says: “you can’t use my name because my father will have a heart attack.” But this should be done publicly. Right now I want to tap into reality, and I’m actually trying to find a Jewish family that will do it. Because the Neo Cons believe what they believe. But I think as soon as they start offering their bullshit on stage, and start talking about Anti-Semitism on stage, I want Americans to understand what price we’re paying for the belief that Anti-Semitism is a persistent factor in Western society, and that Jews need a refuge. Americans have a right to judge the reality of that statement.

Philip Weiss in conversation with Chris Lydon in Cold Spring, New York, February 16, 2011.

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  • Philip Weiss represents a “tikkun olam” “repair the world” point of view (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tikkun_olam) to which the Jewish situation is a footnote, an afterthought, or perhaps a beneficiary.

    A moment’s reflection will reveal the fatal weakness in this:

    Had there been an Israel in 1938 and not 1948, there could not have been a Holocaust since the Jews would have gone to Israel.

    They were excluded everywhere else (See Arthur Morse book, “While Six Million Died”) and hence perished.

    For want of some ‘soil under one’s feet” on this earth, the Jews of Europe died. The fact that the third digit in 1948 was a 4 and not a three or a two decided everything.

    (One could make a parallel argument for Armenians and Tutsis, not to mention Palestinians, who are the new “Jews.”)

    Philip Weiss, by not being able or willing to grasp these nightmare truths, vitiates his arguments to some extent.

    It reminds one of the pre-war Jewish “assimilationists” who expressed these “tikkun olam” viewpoints and wound up very dead, very soon.

    The truth is that the assimilationists were self-tangentializing dreamers who were “lost in space” and the Zionists made sense.

    The Jewish calamity is that:

    1. the Jews didn’t listen to Jabotinsky before the Holocuast, who warned about the Holocaust to come.

    2. after the Holocaust, the Jews did listen to Jabotinsky, which has made Israel a neocolonial settler state with an apartheid agenda not only locally but globally. The Sharon Walls represents this dual apartheid nightmare.

    Thus the Jews have been walking along the surface of a Jabotinsky-type “Mobius strip” not able to get the timing right. Neither the neocons nor Philip Weiss sees the erroneous geometry of the Jewish trajectory.

    The point is therefore not to pooh-pooh a Jewish state but to see the need for such a permanent refuge as well as a Palestine along 1967 lines.

    To the extent that the world is a “computer that seeks out weakness”, pushing for the absence of “national soil’ for Jews cannot make sense since it denies that Auschwitz and Babi Yar and Belzec, having happened once, could, ipso facto, happen again.

    It makes no sense to duck these issues, as Philip Weiss tends to do.

    American leadership would force a two-state solution and lead the world into a practicalized (ie two-state) post-Zionist epoch.

    As of now, the Palestinians are the new “Jews” and Israel is a neo-colonial settler state smack dab in the era of decolonization, which means that the supporters of Israel are in the gearbox of history, wrapped around the wrong gear, pushing the wrong way, with the wrong attitude and misdirected by the wrong rear-view mirror.

    In other words: the deepest historical truths are equidistant from the neo-con Jews as well as the “tikkun olam” Jews a la the otherwise exemplary Philip Weiss.

    See:

    http://www.radioopensource.org/india-pakistan-vazira-zamindar-on-the-raw-wound-of-partition/

    My Comment Two to Radio Open Source Interview:

    In the case of Israel/Palestine, the backdrop is even more pathological, in a way that is never discussed: After the Germans murdered the Jews of Europe, they received the Marshall Plan and the Palestinians received the “Holocaust bill.”

    My Comment Three to Radio Open Source Interview:

    http://www.radioopensource.org/shiva-balaghi-egypt-in-the-spotlight-the-us-on-the-spot/
    America will either lead the world into a post-Zionist era or the world will lead itself into a post-American one.

    Thus, America’s imperial crisis continues.

    • Lyn

      “Had there been an Israel in 1938 and not 1948, there could not have been a Holocaust since the Jews would have gone to Israel.”

      That’s a great argument, posit something that didn’t happen and claim it proves that if it had happened, something else wouldn’t. In fact there were a couple of nations which were open to Jewish immigration in 1938, I think one was Argentina and the other either South Africa or Australia. Why didn’t the Jews escape Poland and go there? The fact is, Germany didn’t invade Poland until 1939, and the USSR invaded from the other side, and after that the Jews as well as Poles were caught in the war with no good escape route. Jabotinsky and the other Zionists had a program of trying to recruit Jewish immigrants to Palestine in order to take over the place and get rid of the Arabs, some of them dealt quite happily with the Nazis as they expelled Jews from Germany. The slaughter of Polish Jews was by the German invaders, and perhaps some of their puppets. It seems a little funny that Jabotinsky was so accurately able to predict the holocaust, but not the German invasion that brought it on (at least his wikipedia bio makes no mention of such a prediction). The only logical conclusion is that Jabotinsky was trying to recruit Jews to immigrate to Palestine by scaring them with tales of impending slaughter, which sadly, turned out to be accurate.

      If Israel had been formed in 1938 and had committed the mass murders and terror against innocent civilians it did in 1948, it would have had no support at all from the international community. It might not have been recognized by the League of Nations, it probably would have tilted those Arab countries that were independent or semi-independent solidly on Germany’s side (most were European client states or colonies at that time, e.g. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya were all ruled directly or indirectly by Britain, France or Italy), and would have done nothing to prevent Germany’s invasion of Poland and other European countries and the consequent slaughter of Jews in those countries. That’s my analysis, but you can argue forever about what would have happened if something that didn’t happen had happened.

  • Avec Frites

    Interesting presentation, but it begs one nagging set of questions:

    What would Weiss have Israel do NOW about Gaza? What about the legitimate concern that, absent the territorial lockdown which is causing suffering, Hamas would import ever more capable missiles to use against Israel? And what should Israel do when Hamas rockets attack Israel? Should they fight back? If so, how?

  • nother

    An all around courageous work of journalism, both from Weiss and Lydon. Mr. Cooke was right, “A change is gonna come.”

  • U.S./Israel foreign policy has to change and no doubt it makes little sense to young people everywhere. Like they say – every time Israel cracks down on Gaza and the West Bank, they create more Palestinian rappers around the world!

  • Potter

    I like Richard Melman’s comment above and where he ends up.

    Philip Weiss says after the war there should have been a greater effort to solve a European situation in Europe (which sounds like what Helen Thomas said sort of). Was Israel maybe then an effort to solve a Christian problem by foisting the remaining Jews off on Arabs and Muslims? I am being snide. Regardless.. I could not believe Weiss was able to say this.

    The neo-conservative (right wing brain trust) idea to go to war in Iraq in order to precipitate a domino effect ostensibly for Israel’s sake to bring about democracy and as Weiss says, to risk bringing about safety for Israel. It was supposed to be a cakewalk. It ended up bolstering Iranian influence having, or being taken as having, the opposite effect. Real movements towards democracy from within, ironically and as was said I think by Chris, are bringing more fear of Islamism. I don’t think war is or that there is any outward cure( “deterrence”) for the Jewish disease of insecurity.

    I read Mondoweiss; I value Philip Weiss’s comments. But it was hard to listen to this interview at times. It was hard to listen to Phil gloss over, omitting actually compassion over Jews’, his people’s, very traumatic history simply because he had no problems and went to Harvard Fucking College. Persecution culminated in an horrific suffering in the last century, the reverberations of which, he agrees about but does not seem to acknowledge, that on the psychological level is still with us. I did not hear any understanding of this syndrome or mindset that he rails against (and rightfully) as being a reaction from history, one that has taken hold of a large section of the Jewish collective, a view that has prevailed over some of the more expansive embracing original ideas that many admired and signed onto, of Zionism. This change happened not without Arab rejection either- which I do try also to understand and have sympathy for. But this victimness is also nurtured from within and abused politically to Israel’s detriment. It is not what Israel was founded upon… not to my reading. We never get Phil’s definition of Zionism , but it seems that it is this prevailing view and it is, I agree, poisonous.

    This sickness or dysfunction (I see it that way) as I understand it perpetrates a cycle best explained to me by Judith Herman in her book “Trauma and Recovery”. It’s real, it’s tragic, it’s harmful and I don’t know it can be broken through, repaired, healed. But I found it too hard to listen to Phil’s questioning about the need for Jews to have a place of refuge at all, that they should have “worked it out in Europe”, or Russia or the Arab countries. Clearly they did need a place to go desperately. The UNGA. Most of the world thought so too. Abram Sachar’s “The Redemption of the Unwanted” made a mark on me. I doubt Israel would exist were it not for the Holocaust. But Phil asks his questions of Jews now which is not the same as asking it of Jews in 1945, 1948, or even of Jews of the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s. more recently in France. That would be another another play.

    So again overall this was difficult interview to navigate for the emotions that were evoked in me. Like Phil Weiss, I too feel this conflict strongly also being at strong odds with my large family a good half of whom have migrated to Israel, some to “the territories.” Like Phil, I too am trying to make some amends. But I think Phil, and moreso some on his blog, go overboard and lose an audience they should need… or want.

  • Potter

    My grandparents, all four and separately, arrived in New York City shortly after the turn of the last century from the pogroms of Eastern Europe: the Pale of Settlement of Russia and little towns of Poland and Lithuania. One grandfather was running away from the Russo-Japanese war, an unwilling conscript of the Czar. Another grandfather was an “intellectual” who loved music, wrote it, conducted a choir in a “shtetl” near Kiev (the Jews were not allowed to live in Kiev) as a young man. All of my grandparents had it hard here when they arrived with practically nothing to their name, working at menial jobs to make a living. It’s an American story, not specific to Jews. People came out of one hardship or another and many not easily but with hope. There was another America, too, outside of New York City, and sections of Boston, Philadelphia even Cincinati where Jews gathered, that was quite unwelcoming and anti-Semitic. Signs read “No Jews, No Blacks”. In the 1940’s my father felt the need to Anglicize our family name. That was during the Second World War in order to blend in while he helped build planes in “goyish” restricted Connecticut, where I was born.

    Had each one of my grandparents not left their families (most never to see them again, which must have been wrenching) to come here I would not be here. A third cousin who has spent years looking into this tells me that most of my distant relatives perished in the Holocaust. Mine is a lucky and rather mild story, because growing up in New York City we were still seeing those arrive with horrible stories to tell… This was during the late forties and early fifties; they arrived from their treks across Europe to places like Cuba and then headed here with varied success. Some came with numbers on their arms, but there were other tattoos buried in hearts. They had shiny gold teeth, were poor, looking for relatives. My childhood doctor, from Czechoslovakia, had numbers on his arm. At about age 12, I noticed and asked. My mother told me some of it, and she was very serious and somber about it. I doubt she knew what we know now.

    I did not have the Holocaust drilled into me but there were those around me who were fresh out of it, trying to get a hold on their lives. I later gradually learned more details. Anna, the older girl sitting next to me in biology class had just arrived- I never before or since have seen anyone eat chicken to the bone as she did one lunch period. This very small quiet observation stays with me all these years.

    • Allison Jablonko

      Thank you. The story of your grandparents is beautiful and grounding. The story of your classmate who ate the chicken to the bone brings back the memory of my late husband, who lived through the Holocaust by pure luck. During the 50 years of the rest of his life, he, too, ate chicken right down to the bone. I learned a great deal of gratitude from him.

  • generalisima

    Is there a transcript of this fascinating entire conversation available?

  • Mr. Weiss says there is a “belief that anti-semitism is a persistent factor in Western society,” but I see something more dangerous. Descriptions of anti-semitism so often make it seem as if the Jewish people are more than any other people susceptible to persecution, as if anti-semitism exists outside of historical context, as if it is somehow natural for Gentiles to hate Jews. Perhaps not even just Gentiles, as the term “self-hating Jew” is used quite often. (It is Google’s top recommended search after typing “self-hating,” beating “self-hating gay,” “self-hating asian,” “self-hating white,” “self-hating black,” even “self-hating liberal.”) What does it do when it is believed that being hated is not a quality of those who are hating you, but one of yourself?

  • Philip and Chris: MY HAT IS OFF TO YOU BOTH.

  • Basem Masry

    I am very glad to hear how people like you think at least logically and with sense of Justice. You are a saint and would love to meet you one day.

    Jewish people should be very proud of your existence, hope you will be able to play a more active role in getting our people the freedom, if ever you are in the region pls pass by to Ramallah. We would love to met you and listen to your experience among many Palestinians who rarely hear Jewish voices speak out for their rights.

  • Deb Reich

    Outstanding! Inspiring! Instructive! Thank you…both!

  • Potter

    Kento- I don’t think anti-Semitism exists out of historical context. When the question is asked “how can Jews do to others what was done to them?” as Phil Weiss does (whether there is equivalence can be argued but it’s a valid question) it’s not enough to ask the question and at the same time gloss over history as though the effects of that history had no bearing.

    I don’t think Jews are more susceptible to persecution (or persecuting) than any other people today. It’s just that over the long haul they have been persistently and severely persecuted and today they are a people who have survived, — but changed and somewhat distorted by that history one way or another.

    Self-hating Jews are so labeled pejoratively (not clinically) by their own because they disagree with the prevailing narrative as dictated by the bullies that claim that narrative. A so-called self-hating Jew most likely hates that narrative more than his/her Jewish identity and wants to dissociate from that loud and clear. I’ll bet Phil Weiss has been called a self-hating Jew at least once. I don’t think mostly all of those called self-haters really hate themselves either, maybe the opposite is more true. Your last question defines more of a real self-hater and I believe it is a serious pathology. The “self-hating” epithet is abused, used to essentially end a discussion or argument with name-calling. It’s deplorable. And since we have pulled the curtain on that one, it’s surprising that it still gets used. Goldstone was accused of being a self-hater because he dared to expose Israel as being immoral, not justified in the Gaza War.

  • I comment regularly on Mondoweiss, often critically.

    There are things that Phil is doing and saying that are wonderful, “Tikkun Olam” as expressed earlier.

    And, there are things that Phil remains blind to, and has chosen to in ways. On Mondoweiss, there is a large general discussion of whether Israel is primarily/solely a perpetrator or oppressor, or whether Israel is in a state of conflict.

    It is a significant distinction.

    Phil has argued that as anti-semitism is no longer a primary factor in the US and in Europe, that the state of Israel is unnecessary, and being unnecessary should dissolve into a single state (with implications of unlimited right of return of Palestinians from anywhere regardless of whether their family home was in Israel, West Bank, or even East Bank.) Some that post on his site assert that Israelis should go “back where they came from”.

    The sequence of Israel’s forming was in an environment of severe anti-semitism. 1900 was one setting (Herzl’s time). 1917 was another (similar to Herzl’s time, but WW1 realpolitik), 1948 was an entirely different time qualitatively. Even after the holocaust, Jewish European refugees were largely still unwelcome back in their homes. Pogroms continued, executed by Poles, Hungarians, Rumanians. Migration to the US, Canada, Great Britain, elsewhere was severely restricted by draconian limits on numbers of immigrants from Eastern Europe in particular.

    At the time of the formation of Israel, the desparation of the people made it necessary, made the struggle necessary. Incidents of brutality and prohibition from return (in an environment of continued civil war and terror) did not address the necessity of the time, the desparation of the time.

    It is revisionist, misrepresentative to forget that.

    While among Americans, Phil’s experience of not encountering an obstacle that he didn’t create may be accurate for him (not even for Jews outside of big cities). But, it definitely was not and is not true for Israeli Jews, who are shelled, shot at, suicide bombed (thankfully past).

    The theory that Israel is unnecessary, is a false one, a cruelly false one. Cruel to our grandparents’ memories. Cruel to those that are currently harrassed, threatened (even if it is not Phil Weiss, or Richard Witty).

  • annie

    wonderful excellent impassioned interview. Weiss is a brilliant american jewish revolutionary. i too am immersed in hope and excitement about the revolutions in egypt and tunisia.

    while anti semitism is a horrible thing it’s not currently on my radar very much in the american discourse unlike islamophobia and racism against arabs which spills out of our television and media constantly. this fear mongering against arabs and muslins has to stop. it’s cruel and unamerican.

    the one thing i might add wrt the question of jewish youth and their views on zionism. american youth today were born post martin. ethnic nationalism is not very american and conflicts with concepts reinforced in our culture. zionism doesn’t really mesh with an american way of life so it is hard to understand conceptually without a narrative of necessity due to the hatred of others. “i have a dream” doesn’t mesh with apartheid.

  • Shlomo

    The assumption that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened if, instead of living in Europe, Jews had lived in Israel during the 1930s…is suspect at best. If antisemitism is toxic, universal, and real, why wouldn’t Hitler have treated Israel like Guernica …bombing the shite out of it?

    An insane leader (who kept gassing Jews while his armies were being defeated) wouldn’t have let geography stop his mad quest to kill all Jews. V3-4-5 rockets would have rained down on Tel Aviv.

    The danger to today to “Fortress Israel” is that an international boycott will make it a huge, self-created ghetto imprisoning Jewish citizens.

    Are the Irish better off in Boston and New York rather than Belfast and Dublin?

  • Frank Goodman, Sr.

    Anti-semitism in America is a fake. Everyone in America is against everyone else in the conquest of economic life in a democracy. It is not blacks against whites, Jews against everyone else, women against men, kids against parents, or Jehovah’s Witnesses against the rest of Christians. It is not even mothers against pedophile priests. Repeat: It is everyone against everyone else. We have found in the evolution of Western Civilization, new paradigm in which we can live a macro-existence in a microcosm of hate and revulsion. We can curse our teachers and coaches while winning the games of life and learning the lessons of survival. We can be against gay lifestyle without being against human rights. We can be Christian without being against Muslims. Americans can and are against whatever they are against but still recognize and guarantee human rights of criminals, deviates and fanatics of all stripes. That gives the freedom of religion to Christians of all 3000 skewed theologies, Jews of all 21 skewed theologies, Muslims of all 5 skewed theologies, Hindus of all 4 billion skewed theologies, and the Spaghetti Religion with atheistic theologies. None of these freedoms are available in Israel or Berlin of Hitler reign. None are available in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In a United States of Arabia, a United States of Africa and a United States of Asia, each with a constitution and a practical will to enforce it that protects the human freedoms we are born with, there will be a microcosm of individual error in a macrocosm of freedom and economic pursuits that allow a lifetime of satisfaction of needs and expectations. Peace on Earth.

  • Rasta

    Weiss is amazingly honest in a society so dedicated to being dishonest on this issue.

    Richard Melman and Potter above are a part of the problem (but so are tens of millions of other Americans).

    They miss the big picture. The past suffering of Jews is not a valid excuse for inflicting suffering and anguish on the Palestinians.

    @ Melman: Would there have been a holocaust if there was an Israel? Yes! Your argument that they would have had a place to flee has already been disproven by history. Those who could leave did. Most were simply not allowed to leave. Of those who did get away, Palestine was one of the places they were welcomed. We can’t honestly say the same about the U.S. The U.S. turned away boatloads of Jews (some that we now know perished in the holocaust).

    The Big Issue: In return for Palestinians’ hospitality to Jews, they have been murdered in mass, tortured, oppressed, imprisoned by the millions (Gaza is a small prison for the 1.5 million residents), forced off of their land through force of arms and coercion… and the oppression of Palestinians at the hands of Israel continues today.

    The Europe and the U.S. (with Jewish blood on their hands) have passed the burden of Jewish reparations and future security onto a people that had nothing to do with the centuries of crimes committed against Jews. Instead of giving the Jews a place in Europe to live (to make up for the horror they put Jews through), they backed a plan to send them to Palestine to take Palestinian land, lives, water, rights, dignity, and freedom.

    Those who reply “but what about Jews” miss the point. They are so blinded by a sense of superiority that they believe that their past suffering is the only suffering that matters. They continue to use this as an excuse to make others (Palestinians) suffer. And as long as they can convince themselves and much of the U.S. that Palestinians must suffer so that Jews don’t, they feel they are justified in continuing the despair they cause.

    Jews are not the only ones that feel pain.

    The pain Europe inflicted on Jews is not justification for the bellicose and racist state Israel has become. Nor is the vilification and misclassification of all Arabs and Muslims as terrorists a justification for continuing the apartheid existence of Israel.

    Jews are not the only Semitic people in the world. ARABS ARE SEMETIC PEOPLE and there are many more Arabs than Jews. I suppose you can also label an Arab who opposes Israel’s policies, self-hating…

  • Jeech

    Great conversation. I love the comments too. Thanks to you all.

    I have been questioning why zionists chose to join the “Christian Club.” Specially, when they needed sort of “protected state” in the Arab lands. Why they jointly created relationship like “Juda-Christianity” with Christians instead of “Judo-Arab” with Arabs? The relationship is basically with western Christians who historically had been wrestling down Jews ocasion to ocasion and seldom accepted out-side people.

    Zionist argument is based on “Protection(1)” in “Homeland(2).” They needed, historically seen, “protection from those western Christians” otherwise they have been living peacefully amoungst Arabs. They were the Crusaders exiled them from their home-land not the Arabs. Jews have been even the part of Arabs. The point is who needed that state, Jews or those who historically wanted to get rid of Jews?

    If such Jews who deeply were in need of protected state from descriminatoins, did establish relationships with their ethnic brothers, Arabs, the situation certainly would have been quite different. With that confidant renewation of relationships with Arabs entire the region would have becom a bright example of peace and prosperity. Thus the “Jewish question” would have been solved and the dream of “Greater Israel” would also have come true…. as well.

    • Avec Frites

      How exactly would Jews in Israel establish relationships with their ethnic brothers, the Arabs? Which Arab countries would have them? When should they have started doing this, and how?

  • Jeech

    Look at the situation, Jews needed a protected state and the western Christians wanted to get rid of Jews, what happened? Foolishness, the ethnic brothers, Arabs and Jews, are killing each other though the Arab Palestinians are paying the most. I’m hard skeptical about the purpose of the “procting state” and in first place, Judochristianity. The marriage should have been established the state in Europe or American. Or if the matter was of Greater-Israel the relationship should have been with Arabs.

  • Potter

    Gaza is not the Warsaw Ghetto

    Average food rations in 1941 for Jews in Warsaw were limited to 186 calories, compared to 1,669 calories for gentile Poles and 2,614 calories for Germans……..

    ……Over 100,000 of the Ghetto’s residents died due to rampant disease or starvation, as well as random killings, even before the Nazis began massive deportations of the inhabitants from the Ghetto’s Umschlagplatz to the Treblinka extermination camp during the Grossaktion Warschau, part of the countrywide Operation Reinhard. Between Tisha B’Av (July 23) and Yom Kippur (September 21) of 1942, about 254,000 Ghetto residents (or at least 300,000 by different accounts) [7] were sent to Treblinka and murdered there.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_Strip
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_War
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Ghetto

    But I just read Phil’s article on the Egyptian revolution and it’s very good, very good. Thank you Chris for pointing to it. Going through some of the numerous comments on that website I am struck by Richard Witty’s (a commenter above) bravery in the face of the offensive retorts and piling on. This is a tough landscape to speak one’s mind and heart.

    On the Mondoweiss site, the criticism of Bernhard Avishai’s recent New York Times article about the Olmert-Abbas talks: the characterization of it as the NYTimes own position, which it was not, missed the point, the good of that article. The article showed that it was possible to avoid violence and to thereby save lives with compromise. Both sides were compromising. It served to make evident that the finger should be pointed now at Netanyahu and his right wing government as the blockage. It put the lie to right wing propaganda that Abbas was not responding to Olmert’s “generous offer” of a couple of years ago. Abbas would agree to accept a majority Jewish state.

    Saab Erekat just resigned because of opposition to leaked explorations of compromise (see Palestine Papers). So there is opposition to compromise on both sides. As well, and perhaps most importantly, the Avishai article stressed the importance of a resolution for US national security hoping that Obama would act much more forcefully than he has and to bridge the differences. This looks forward. If you have a truly better idea, other than reversing history, let’s hear it.

  • Potter

    Mark LeVine, activist , harsh on Israel, Prof of Middle East History at UC has an excellent article on Al Jazeera English (from Feb. 2009) about the use of the Warsaw Ghetto in comparison of the situation in Gaza, especially the use of it to make an emotional appeal, how harmful it is to Palestinians:
    Gaza Is no Warsaw Ghetto
    The whole article needs to be read for factual comparison as well as reasoning (quote, my bold):

    Pointing out that the suffering endured by Gazans is not comparable in scope to the Holocaust or other well-known genocides, does not diminish it. However, it is crucial to provide accurate historical context to the current conflict, for two reasons.
    Firstly, the use of highly charged historical comparisons that do not hold up to scrutiny unnecessarily weakens the Palestinian case against the occupation.

    In a propaganda war in which Palestinians have always struggled to compete, handing Israel’s supporters the gift of inaccurate or exaggerated comparisons does not help this struggle, particularly not in Israel and the US, the two most important battlegrounds in this conflict….

    After noting Egyptian and US complicity in the sealing of Gaza….

    …….The second and more important reason for developing a more accurate historical model for Gaza is that comparing Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto diminishes Palestinian agency.

    If Gaza is today’s Warsaw, then Palestinians have no hope. There is no solution, no new strategies worth considering besides nihilistic violence that invites a far more deadly response.

    Such a view, which has long characterised Hamas’s worldview, limits if not closes the horizons of political action by Palestinians, making it harder to come up with more creative strategies to resist and even transcend the occupation.

    Ultimately, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the inertia of hopeless violence produces ever more intense responses.

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  • This is a fine interview. I like the straight, clear and focused talk of Philip Weiss. Asked about his motives he says:
    “a desire that the 4 or 5 million of palestine get their rights, their basic human rights which they’ve been denied. So the issue of palestinian solidarity is central to the website [Mondo Weiss]. I am drawn to that because I think that is a central moral jewish task to heal my own community and to heal my country, the United States.”

    Very helpful with respect to the publich opinion is his remark that there already has been an enlighted and reasonable US approach to the question of palestine. This position over a long period of time was the one of the State Departements so-called “Arabists”. They precicely predicted the problems to occur if the UN imposes the partition plan onto palestine – as it happened back in nov. 47. Their proposal would had been the better one: to put palestine under a UN trusteeship until a wiser solution had been found.

    Thanks for this interview!

  • nother

    one state solution

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  • Rob Crawford

    What an excellent interview. I will have to follow Weiss’ blog now.

    I was for many years a staunch supporter of Israel, but in recent decades I have watched its militarization with increasing disgust. Sure, Gaza might not be the Warsaw ghetto, but the repression, the injustice, the colonization, and the arrogance of the Israeli state make anyone who is honest question its legitimacy and whether the US is best serving its interests by unconditional support.

    The debate whose terms Weiss is posing is a necessary one. For far too long, we have allowed the accusations of anti-semitism for any criticism of Israel to stop all debate.

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  • mara ahmed

    unapologetic, vigorous, dazzling. mondoweiss has always been on my reference list – something to consult to get properly oriented, properly informed, much like a glenn greenwald column or a john pilger film. hope that u will interview them as well one day. thank u for this most interesting, stunningly honest conversation.

  • Jean Pierre Katz

    Phillip Weiss does not suffer from anti-semitism, but he is an enemy of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and is not an enemy of anti-semitism.

    If he was consistent he would give up his beautiful home overlooking the Hudson River to Native Americans today.. He would not allow for Americans right to this country. He would move to whatever country his ancestors came from (except of course if his ancestors came from the land of Israel in which case he would have to live on a raft in the Atlantic)

    After my parents survived the concentration camps and hiding in Slovakia, I was born stateless in France, and when I told my landlady that I was Jewish she couldn’t believe it She checked my head for horns and concluded I couldn’t be Jewish.

    Zionism is as old as the Babylonian Exile, which began in 586BCE. Separation from the Land of Israel as they were being led into captivity by their conquerors rested crushingly upon the spirits of the Jewish exiles; a longing for the homeland consumed them. Turning in the direction of Judah, they then took an awesome vow: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand lose its cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy” (Psalms 137:5-6).

    Why did the Jewish people not have aright to independence? Some Jews have lived continuously in the land of Israel for thousands of years. Others immigrated there under Turkish and British governments.Why should Kosovo, Kashmiri, and Midanao Muslims have a legitimate right to independence, but only not Jews?

    There are of course other views. These arguments all lead to an uncomfortable position that whereas all other self-declared nationalisms have validity, the Jews have no such claims. Yet in different ways the arguments about Zionism can be easily adopted to almost all other national situations. Yet no one asks ‘So exactly how is it that you are Australian?’ This question is posed to Jews a great deal. On the whole Anti-Zionism is close to, or a mask for, Anti-Semitism.