What’s Left of Liberal Zionism?

We’re looking at liberal Zionism, enduring a crisis after a brutal summer in Gaza. It’s prompted handwringing for American Jews and Israelis who are still looking for a way to peace, and still worried about the clash of democratic and Jewish ideals in the political culture of Israel.

It’s a testing time for a moderate ideology in an age of extremes. In his new and controversial book, My Promised Land, the Israeli journalist Ari Shavit — perhaps the most prominent of the liberal Zionists writing today — begins his history in Lydda. The Palestinian town was evacuated of its 50,000 residents by Israeli force in 1948. Shavit concludes that this is where the problem of Zionism lies:

The truth is that Zionism could not bear Lydda. From the very beginning there was a substantial contradiction between Zionism and Lydda. If Zionism was to be, Lydda could not be. If Lydda was to be, Zionism could not be. In retrospect it’s all too clear.

Where does this leave us in 2014? Two peoples, two claims to territory, two distinct histories — and no agreement. Is something like a liberal Zionism possible?

Guest List
Phil Weiss
Author and editor of Mondoweiss, a blog covering the war of ideas in the Middle East from a "progressive Jewish perspective."
Bernard Avishai
Israeli-American professor of business and author of several books on Israel, including The Tragedy of Zionism and The Hebrew Republic.
Reading List

For perspective we're reading Jonathan Freedland's review of My Promised Land in The New York Review of Books:
In the toxic environment that characterizes much, if not most, debate on the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a special poison is reserved for the liberal Zionist. Such a person, who stands by Israel even as he yearns for it to change, is fated to be hated by both camps: hawkish Zionists despise the liberal for going too far in his criticisms, accusing him of a hand-wringing betrayal of the cause that can only comfort the enemy, while anti-Zionists denounce the liberal for not going far enough, for failing to follow the logic of his position through to its conclusion and for thereby defending the indefensible

Antony Lerman concluded, in The New York Times, that this is politics caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: "The only Zionism of any consequence today is xenophobic and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism. It is carrying out an open-ended project of national self-realization to be achieved through colonization and purification of the tribe."

Our guest Bernard Avishai responded on The New Yorker's blog with a complex argument for pragmatism and "international backing" for the best of Israeli liberals, and our friend Adam Shatz sent up the entire debate with a sharp parody of Shavit and his tortured associates in 972 Magazine.

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  • Ephraim

    None of these people are really part of the growing expanding inexorably “living” Judaism (i.e. Yiddishkeit as it celebratorily hailed). Beinart is the only actual somewhat marginal participant, but only it seems for professional, career, vocational purposes. He will tell you he sends his children to Jewish schools; true, but in and of itself, marginally meaningful in that the school itself has a history failure in terms of the ascendancy of Jewish thought and lifestyle over that of the host non-Jewish culture–as exemplified in Beinart himself. You have to really reach for an Adin Steinsaltz (extremely knowledgeable thinker in historical and contemporary Jewish affairs, or a Jonathan Sacks (former UK Chief Rabbi, now a professor at NYU) or someone of that intellectual acumen and commitment. Otherwise, from the names you’ve listed, you have a rather boring echo chamber of thoughts and ideas.

    • Potter

      Ephraim, Is there some grand poo-bah gatekeeper that says who is part of this “living” Judaism? what schools are “meaningful”?

      Rabbi Sacks quotes Amos Oz recently about the Gaza War, and then he goes on from there. This part of the Oz interview in”Die Welt” has been quoted a lot but here is Rabbi Sacks mentioning it recently:

      “As Amos Oz asked, what would you do if your neighbour across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap, and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?”

      And then R. Sacks goes on to defend how Israel responded.

      But Amoz Oz question stood without challenge. skewed as it was, as if the response could only be self evident. Did Oz himself or anyone then ask why would his neighbor, as presented in this example, be shooting at him? For me this blindness the the essence of the problem on the part of some Israelis. It would seem blindness on the part of Oz himself. But if you go on in the interview Oz clarifies and exonerates himself a bit. But Rabbi Sacks does not.

      This discussion here is presumably not about those who defend Israel unquestionably, but those who criticize and have trouble morally with Israel’s policies.

  • Potter

    1967 troubled me. 1982 troubled me. Now that you mention it Lydda should also have… but I was too young. My Grandma died that year, 1948, a heart full of emotional feeling for Israel. She had a vial of sand from Jerusalem that was poured into her grave in New York.. She did not live to see so many of her progeny “make Aliyah”, move to Israel. They are hundreds now. So add all else in between to the present that has happened. I can’t keep hoping. The Gaza war was too much to absorb.

    I have always rooted for and felt deeply for Israel’s survival.

    There should be an Israel, a homeland of the Jewish people. But Zionism has morphed into something ugly. I agree with Antony Lerman.

    Yes so much has been built and with the help of Jews and others outside of Israel. Israel is not and was never an island. It is the creation of many who had such high hopes.

    I am disturbed by what is being transmitted from today’s Israel. I reject Israel (now Netanyahu recently) claiming that it represents me and the entirety of the Jewish people. I reject that we must support it unquestioningly until that long off day that it is somehow secure. I say that despite (as Bernard Avishai says correctly) the beauty of the Hebrew language, culture, poetry, songs, inventiveness, astonishing growth in modern times.

    What is coming out of Israel can’t be the sole representative of Judaism, nor it’s sole repository and guardian. Wikipedia has the figure of 56.6% of Jews living outside of Israel, mostly in the USA.

    The diaspora did a fine job of preserving Judaism since Roman times preserving and growing it’s culture. It’s still doing that. There is kitsch Jewishness here for sure, (and no kitsch in Israel?) but there’s a lot in the diaspora that is not kitsch, that is honest soul-searching, questioning, embracing (tolerant) and peace-loving.

    I reject the Israel of today as representing anything other than itself. Israel is the custodian of Jewish antiquities. Beyond that, I don’t know anymore. This Gaza War and the promise of more of the same, is just too much anymore. I do sympathize with Lerman’s NYTimes op-ed.

  • Mirza Borogovac

    Narrative of “peace” and “two sides one land” is a scam. Groups do not have rights, only individuals do. If you assume group rights than you can excuse violating individual rights of a person who happened to be in a wrong territory.

    Peace is not above justice. In fact, there is already peace there, but there is also an unjust occupation. Palestinian deaths get blamed on some nebulous “conflict”, instead of the state that is slowly ethnically cleansing Palestinians. (Israeli deaths, on the other hand, are clearly blamed on Hamas, terrorism, etc)

    Truth is that Israeli STATE and GOVERNMENT is oppressing Palestinian INDIVIDUALS. This is covered up by framing it as two sides in a conflict with similar claims to land.

    That would be like treating the death of that kid in Ferguson MO as conflict between whites and blacks and not as a crime against one individual.

  • zus

    Chris: you are talking to the elite jews who are not on the ground in the palestinian state of israel. If they step there alone they would quickly learn about the arab apartheid against jews, they would learn that the density of jewish population is 3 timrs higher than
    Arabs. Arabs occupy 85% of palestine including israel.
    Jews are the downtrodden palestinians

  • Rosenberg

    I wonder why all four of the guests that you have on have various flavors of anti-Israel positions – at least one of whom describes himself as an anti-semite. Jane Eisner has the least anti-Israel position, but she doesn’t seem to be very strongly pro-Israel. I think the show would have been much more useful if you had had some people with strong pro-Israel positions (for example, Melanie Phillips or Caroline Glick). Perhaps to compensate, there should be another show with four pro-Israel guests.

  • GTV

    Chris: Your portrayal of early Zionism as a cosmopolitan ideal leaves out the right-wing Zionism of the early 20″s when one of the early leaders of that movement, Zeev Jabotinsky, published “The Iron Wall,” which outlined a “rationale for Jewish colonization and attacks against Palestinian civilians.” (See Jerome Slater’s well-documented essay in “International Security,” Vol. 37, No. 2, Fall 2012.)

  • Judith

    Philip Weiss does not seem to know the difference between an Israeli Arab and a Palestinian! If he wants Palestinians to have the vote in Israel, Israel would first have to annex the West Bank!

  • braunze

    What a cluster! As a black person from the south it seems to me that the commentators want to claim to be under assault like my people during the sixties but with the power of Bull Connor. This is a real oxymoron. Let’s acknowledge that if I am assaulted it does not justify my assault of another person or group in another place and time.

  • Potter

    Zionism is not one philosophy or program or movement as maybe more than one of the comments here indicate. The Zionism of Ahad H’am that I am connecting to Bernard Avishai’s is not that of Jabotinsky connecting to Netanyahu’s. The elephant in the room not mentioned is that the latter trend has been overwhelming, towards the Right and extremism and less democracy. This has moved to match the Hamas extremism and violent approach on the Palestinian side, now more popular than ever from this Gaza War. Abbas non-violent approach has gotten nowhere.

    David Grossman’s pleas (and Avishai’s as well) for a responsible grown-up (the US?-the President?) to force a peace-solution, perhaps Avishai’s confederation idea, is just not happening. I don’t see it happening. No real pressure is being put on Israel and there is no prospect of that that I can see given the forces here in the US. So the BDS movement arises and the plan to take Israel to the international criminal court for war crimes gains support.

    The side that has the most “agency” (ref- Eisner in this discussion), Israel, acts with impunity, claiming to be the victim. Art Spiegelman (recently in The Nation) is correct about collective PTSD ( not a new assessment) from the Holocaust, but maybe from the last 2000 years as well. It’s nurtured (indulged) and protected by Israel’s military might and a chorus of supporters, groups, here and there. Netanyahu is pretty cynical about using this, fear mongering, to further his opportunism and goals for Israel. Jane Eisner in speaking about “agency” of the Palestinians, might have mentioned their collective PTSD, constantly refreshed by the traumas visited upon them of daily occupation despite their willingness by and large to live with Israel in peace within the 67 borders. But they will not agree to the deal that Israel wants to force on them after they are defeated. What do they have left other than “steadfastness”?

    As if the punishment for the killing of the three yeshiva boys, which included killing and arrests in the West Bank and then moving the action to “Protective Edge” in Gaza, massive killing and destruction to a magnitude we have not yet seen (while claiming to be the most moral army)- as if that was not enough, for revenge, Israel has just taken more land in what should become a Palestinian State or part of a confederation.

    By and large, it seems Israeli’s support this ongoing “status quo”. Do they want and will they accept international or US intervention were it forthcoming? Not without an uproar. Where are the Palestinians allowed to protest other than with rockets before they get “mowed”?

    So this has become the face of Israel, what “Zionism” has come to mean. Defending that image is not easy; it sticks in the throat of those Jews who feel not only for their own, who want to see Israel succeed which includes a way for Palestinians to succeed. It’s too simple to say that a liberal Zionist is someone who loves or supports Israel but not it’s policies. It’s policies make Israel what it is. Bernard Avishai seemed to be saying that this war is not all that Israel is about. Well it drowns out what else. Last night was all about wishes and visions except for Jane Eisner who was struggling to defend Israel.

  • zus

    Ari Shavit does not check the facts included in his book and his article in The New Yorker in October 2013. Here are a couple of examples. He mentions Munkacz in the Carpathian Mountains and calls it a Russian town. It has never been a Russian place either by jurisdiction (Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the USSR and Ukraine) or by population (Jews, Hungarians and Ukrainians.) Writing about the 1948 events in Lod (Lydda) he calls the Arab Legion’s soldiers in Ramle and Lod the “Jordanian” troops. The Arab Legion invaded the Western Palestine from Transjordan, or Eastern Palestine! There was no the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1948.
    Mr. Shavit writes, “While Israel is frenzy and constant change, England is tranquility and continuity.” He observes, “There are no nuances for Israel; everything had to be fierce and aggressive.” What a superficial take! It smacks like both the apparent and subliminal anti-Israelism. (Israel is polled and found to be one of the happiest sovereign countries in the world.)
    “We are not sure who we really are,” decides Ari. He concludes, “No continuous past.” Wow! He dreams on, “Without a burden of being Jewish.” Is it an apparent Freudian slip of tongue or a Jungian telltale?
    To make sure, there are many Israels but Ari got an agenda to malign the ultra-Orthodox and the “settlers” who represent the real Jewishness while the lackey Ari sings his refrains, “Our history is that of ‘Get thee out of thy country,’ or ‘Zionism skated on thin ice,’ or ‘my Anglo-Jewish ancestors,’ or ‘We may never have peace.’ ” He is just Ari (“lion” in Hebrew, not Ariel, the “lion of god”) who dropped “El” and godliness and started to despise the observant Jews in the heartland of Western Palestine.
    I want to assure Ari Shavit et al that we already enjoy peace in Palestine—the Palestinian Kingdom and the Sinai caretaker Egypt have peace treaties with Jerusalem; Lebanon keeps a good order on its border with Galilee and Syria enjoys all the serenity on the Golan Heights and munches on the Druze apples exported from the Israeli side. As for the Inner Arabic Cisjordan in Samaria and Judea, they apparently decided that the “bad coexistence is better than good quarrel.” Our mostly quiet Hamas ministate in Gaza—after ethnic cleansing of Jews by Jews—keeps good work.
    It seems to me that Ari Shavit is damn proud of his Anglo-Saxon Realty’s origin and he is longing for the life not lived somewhere in London, Cambridge or Stockholm. After such a book, his dream might become a reality, say, in Oxford.
    He is a hidden haiku poet:

    clear winter day
    the radar
    scans the sky


    storm brewing
    outside the tall window…
    he paces the room


    a lone tamarisk
    in the desert.

    The atomic research reactor in Dimona attracted Avi’s attention. After torturing an old nuclear engineer just months before his death and giving the account of it in this book, Ari Shavit joins a “good” company with Sasha Poliakov-Suransky and Gunther Grass who are unhappy with the Jewish nukes in the Middle East. These authors would pat him on his shoulder.
    And Ari becomes indignant when he meets the top on the list of the best Jews in Ofra—the people who sacrifice money and comforts and abhor the Ari Shavit’s worship and reverence for the megarich in Britain, a leader country in the Anglo-Germanic cul-de-sac encompassing the Norman peninsulas and islands in the least disturbed part of Europe.
    Our valiant author becomes a hero in his own eyes; he calls himself the “interpreter of actions.” Shamelessly, Ari Shavit announces in this book, “I am consciousness.”
    He does not want the Jews living in peace beyond the “green line” but he does not mind the Arabs building new homes on the Jewish side of the 1948 armistice line and squeezing Jewish families out.
    He lashes out against the Ofra’s giants—Bin Nun, Wallerstein, Etzion, Harel leading—according to Ari Shavit—the Jewish homeland in modern Palestine to the “suicide.” Morever, Ari got his eureka moment, “[Settlers are] more ignorant than evil.” Verily, Mr. Shavit considers himself a public intellectual in the know. The famous Russian Jewish bard Alexander Galich composed, “Beware of those who know what should be done and how.”
    Well, right from the start of my review I showed the ignorance of Mr. Shavit. Here is another one. He calls the 1948 Lydda a city. It was rather a small town. He also mentions the “tales of Tolstoy.”
    Which Tolstoy? We got two famous authors by this name. And which tales does he talk about? He won’t reply to me; he is basking in adoration of other people “in the know.”
    I have a feeling that we are all dwarfs in comparison with the people in Kfar Darom, Elon More, Kiryat Arba and Shilo. Including—among us—the flyleaf praise singers F. Foer, J. Goldberg, D. Gordis, J. Meacham and D. Merkin.
    Ari Shavit calls Palestine in the 1920s the “undefined land.” It is simply untrue. In 2013 the National Geographic Magazine republished the 1922 map of the world (Gilbert Grosvenor, Editor). It clearly shows Palestine on the both banks of the River Jordan and on the both shores of the Dead Sea (no Kingdom of Jordan whatsoever). It also includes the cities of Jaffa, Haifa, Acre and Jerusalem. It was defined better forty years later when Jews were barred from the heartland of the country.
    In the 1970s Jews won the right to enter the Old City or to drive from Ein Gedi to Jerusalem via the northern road. Or march from the Mount of Olives to the Dead Sea via Maale Addumim (this road is closed now for Jewish traffic and pedestrians but Arabs are allowed to drive and walk.)
    He also shares his negative observation that “Palestine was replaced by a great mass of housing, by ugly housing estates.” Soulless development towns… As if Jordan, Greece or France escaped the task of building for people who flocked there to be safe. No more than 10% of the Western Palestine is covered by housing projects. Ari (yes, he did drop from his name Ariel the reference to deity—“el”) does not notice the unsightly locales or the urban blight in his beloved England. Since his father’s Hebraized last name is Shavit—“returnee”—Ari(el) Shavit might “return” to England or another English-speaking country. After all, he apparently wrote his “masterpiece” in English without translators or editors (no credits are given to any native speaker of English on any page of the book). It means that English is a mother’s tongue of Ari Shavit.
    On page 396 he drops “When the Jews went mad” weaving his version of the battle of Lydda. As if Jews should keep their cool not only in Baby Yar but in Sobibor and Hevron too.
    And Mr. Shavit is so generous on the derogatory terms as “intimidation” and “occupation.” I am breaking the news for him—it is precisely the Arabs who occupy Judea, the Sinai and the Galilee. In spite of reaping the benefits from the Jewish Israel, many active Arabs intimidate travelers in the Holy Land. Just try to hike, say, from Safed to Tiberias.
    This Ari follows the two previous Avis—Avi Shlaim and Avi Raz— who were selling themselves as Jews betraying the peasant Jews dumped on their reservations in Palestine including the entire acreage of Israel.
    On page 160, Ari Shavit proclaims, “We annulled their homeland.” Is he bluffing? No, he literally jumps on the anti-Judean bandwagon of Arab sympathizers who are not happy with the Arabs occupying right now 85% of Palestine including the beleaguered State of Israel with its Theresienstadt camps fashioned and built for Jews by Arabs and Northern Europeans. They want to beat Jews down to 10% or 5% or 1%. Any speck of land in Palestine must be Judenrein.
    Hey, Ari, how about the utter destruction of Eastern Prussian homeland of innocent Germans? How about their columns heading westwards to your Saxony? The Anglo-Germanic friends of Arabs are not happy with Jews living in their tiny Israeli regions where the density of population is three times higher than in the Arabic speaking areas of Palestine. (They are probably planning to move Jews and coral them in their Gush Dan ghetto.)
    And Ari wags his tail; he gets attention of his true masters in London, Paris, Berlin and Philadelphia and registers their Nordic nod of approval in a form and shape of his book, his future lucrative engagements and employment. He also sets an example for his children and their friends all too ready to liquidate the State of Israel in their souls and on the map of the Eastern Mediterranean.
    Ari Shavit strives to comply with this “goal” by using the term “Palestinians” (page 323) regarding only the people whose native tongue is Arabic. This exclusivity shows on page 324 when he administers more invasive surgery to the Hebrew speakers using the foe terminology— “Israel’s Palestinian community.”
    On page 391 Mr. Shavit again writes “Palestinians” and sheds tears dusting the history of siding with the enemy by many Arab families in Ramle and Lod in 1948 to the point of shooting the non-combatant Jews.
    He distorts the facts or tries to rewrite history to please his publishers all too willing to dismantle the State of Israel piece by piece or drown it in the sea of enemies or, say, the local aliens immigrated to Palestine from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Arabia. Ramle’s and Lydda’s Arabs failed to proclaim a peaceful and hospitable Arab State in Cisjordan. In 1948 they looked to the Palestinian Kingdom of Transjordan, it’s Arab Legion—trained by the British—as their saviors and true fellow citizens. They also counted on the armies of Iraq, Al Misr (Egypt) and Syria to deliver them from the “dominance” of their Jewish neighbors, to crush these neighbors who started the Jewish revolt in Palestine to free themselves from the British Empire and the monarchs of Egypt, Transjordan and Iraq as well as from the Arab brigandage in the hills and valleys of Palestine.
    Paraphrasing the famous American saying, if you enter Palestine, you foreign powers, you own it (and you get responsible for its people!)
    And enter they did. Egypt occupied the swathes of southern Palestine including Gaza. The Syrian army grabbed the Jordan Valley in Galilee. The Palestinian Arab Legion led by Glubb Pasha and King Abdullah of Transjordan (Eastern Palestine) conquered the entire Samaria, Judea and Jerusalem while throwing the hapless Jews out. But Ari’s bleeding heart belongs only to Arabs. Otherwise, his book won’t sell. Who needs a Jew lamenting a Jewish fate or defending the minuscule Jewish domain in Palestine? But a Jew whose compassion for numerous Arabs exceeds his compassion for few Jews—perks and money to such a wonderful Jew who knows his dhimmy place! To a Jew who behaves like a protected class person. A Jew who is not a Zionist spinning his own narrative!
    Lo and behold, Ari Shavit knows well that for many decades Palestine experienced the civil strife under eyes of the British. He knows well that some movement of communities was inevitable on both sides of the conflict between the minority Hebrews and the majority Arabs.
    After all, the gigantic yet fragmented Caliphate was in a state of war with the Jewish revolutionaries in Palestine. The small Arab neighborhoods on a seam with restless Jewish Bantustans hoped for the protection by monarchs and Muslim masses of Panarabia. Palestinian Arabs hoped to be the dominant group in Western Palestine, not only in Transjordan.
    Ari Shavit uses the anti-Semitic catchphrases like “getting rid the country of its Arabs” as if the small outflow of manipulated people who refused to be nice neighbors really amounts to ethnic cleansing. (See the cases of Turkey and Greece or Pakistan and India, or Czechoslovakia and Germany.)
    He conveniently “forgets” that nowadays Jews are allowed only 15% of the country! To appease his Anglo-Germanic masters and Muslim masses to please publish, praise and buy his false account. He sees the Lydda (Lod) Arabs in a “long biblical-looking column of thousands” adding the farcical slant to the illustrious legends written by ancient Jews. He pedals to his readers such messages as “dozens of Arabs were shot dead, including women, children and old people.” Not a word about the Arab combatants dispatching the nine Jewish defenders in Lod or lynching the captured Palestinian Jews. He calls the human shield victims in the Lydda’s small mosque a “massacre.” It was not a massacre which is defined as “an act or an instance of killing of human beings indiscriminately and cruelly.” The raiding Transjordanian soldiers and, perhaps, the Arabic speaking Lydda combatants did fire on Jews from or behind the small mosque. In turn, the Jewish defendants fired on the mosque.
    The Palestinian Arabs—being a part of the huge Greater Syria—were not particularly hospitable to Jews arriving to the Jewish birthplace and the amazing Canaan crucible. Yet the Palestinian Arabs themselves expected and received a cordial and generous attitude while building their towns in California or settling among Scandinavians, Padanians or Parisians.
    The clue is that, in spite of making Palestine attractive for the Arab settlement and the high Arab birthrate facilitated by Jewish newcomers, the Arabs did not like the European Jews so advanced in many fields, their genetic resemblance to Arabs notwithstanding. The inflows of the overseas Jews and the overland inflows of Arabs, Circassians, Egyptians and Bedouins competed since the 19th century.
    Ari Shavit omits the inconvenient truth that some Arabs supported the El Kuds Mufti (Jerusalem Mufti) who befriended Hitler. The Mufti hoped for the utter destruction of the Jewish community in Palestine by Nazis. And, well, our acclaimed author does not include the entire Shmarya Gutman’s account depicting the piercing look of the youngster in the departing column of mostly hostile Lydda’s Arabs, “We have not yet surrendered. We shall return to fight you!”
    [For that matter, see a precise book Israel. A History by Martin Gilbert, the researcher knighted in Great Britain.]
    Mr. Shavit’s misconstrued history goes unchecked; his corruption is oozing from pages of this lavishly produced book. How modest Mr. Gilbert’s book’s cover is! How balanced and informative!
    To my amazement, many accolades are displayed on the cover of My Promised Land. I believe that the majority of dithyrambers did not read this poetic tome to soak up its haikuish snippets—“Israel is a harsh, hot land,” “dimness of nightfall,” “Stay in Lod, [my dear Arab friend]! No, I’ll become a traitor,” “Go to your King Abdullah!”
    Dig this. On page 124 Ari Shavit cites a Jewish soldier barking to the front line Arabs “Walk towards Legion!” Our crafty writer skillfully truncated the term “the Arab Legion.” He does not explain to his readers that the Arab Legion was the army of the Palestinian Kingdom of the foreign Hejazi dynasty of Hashemites. Mr. Shavit does not inform readers that the Palestinian Kingdom of Transjordan captured almost all the West Bank (Cisjordan) slated by the UN for the formation of the Arab state (Filasteen? in Samaria and Judea. Gaza with its outlying steppe of Arava and Negev was conquered by the monarch of Egypt in 1948.
    Ari Shavit: “I was born Israeli, I live Israeli and I will die Israeli.” Since he is a poet and an Anglophile I remind him that he is a Palestinian too. England is Britain is Britannia is Albion. It is possible to count on the afterlife as a British earl.
    “Come what may” is the last phrase of his erroneous, subtly subversive and subservient text.
    The future is peaceful and bright and Jewish with or without the likes of Shavit.
    Josephus Flavius betrayal and his reward—the elevation to fame and riches—still finds its willing Jewish emulators two thousand years later. Am Yisrael chai!

  • Will Tomlinson

    Zionists always bring up the holocaust as a way of justifying the existence of the state of Israel. The truth is that they have taken the wrong lesson from the holocaust.

    The lesson they took was that the Jews needed their own ethnic nationalist state in order to have a safe place to escape to in case there was another attempted genocide. The lesson they should’ve taken was that ethnic nationalism is a malevolent force that we must fight whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head throughout the entire world.

    It all comes down to what you mean by “never again.” Does it mean “never again – to us,” or “never again – to anyone”? Should we fight for international human rights, or just for the human rights of our own people?

    • “Does it mean “never again – to us,” or “never again – to anyone”?”

      Well Will, it doesn’t have to be either/or, it can be both.

      What the Jews rightly understood after WWII was, as diverse group fighting each other throughout their history, they had no way to defend themselves – they were always divided and imminently conquerable.

      What the idea of nationhood does is get people to stop fighting amongst themselves and group up.

      If you believe, as I do, Israel has a right to exist, how should it exist?
      Should it exist as a pluralist, democratic, and open society?
      How can it exist in that way, if the elements that would comprise its pluralism are committed to its destruction?

      I am not aware of any nation on earth that allows people to wander around trying to destroy it.

      • Robert, you’re missing Will’s point here. Obviously, if it’s “Never again – to anyone” that includes Jews.

        Circling the wagons to protect your distinct group is indeed a big part of the problem. Martin Niemöller said it very well, “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came …”

        Even in the Holocaust there is room for solidarity that hasn’t been embraced by Zionists. Gypsies, people with physical & mental disabilities, gay men, lesbians, transgender people, political opponents and Jehovah’s Witnesses were also killed in this great tragedy. Yet, that’s not the common narrative we hear about it.

        Nations are constantly in flux. It is not uncommon for these man made creations to be re-imagined and for a community to struggle for independence. There are democratic means to address this. The struggle for self-determination is a never ending one and every state should be constantly working to meet the needs of all of their citizens.

    • Mike

      I’m with you. Also, consider this perspective. The global Jewish community was not monolithic in its view that Jews needed their own state. Far from it. Additionally, what Jews, or anyone, needs is security, not their own state. Jews are doing very well in America. So it wasn’t necessary, or assumed, that the only solution for them was to knock another group off their land and claim it for yourself, and knowingly set up a NEW perpetual state of insecurity for your people. Also, if some Jews didn’t think about the need to maintain a pure blood line (ie, a racist view) this wouldn’t be necessary.

    • Jacob Arnon

      You allow people to vote up a comment but not to vote down.

      This Will Tomlinson isn’t just wrong he is way out of line.

      The Holocaust is an abstract term for the murder of most Jews in Europe.
      If people bring up that hideous murdering of a people it’s because anti-Zionist target, again, the Jewish people again.Israel is not only a Jewish State it’s the only Jewish State in the world. (There are dozens of Christian and Muslim States.

      American Jews have the luxury of searching for an ideal Jewish State: they were never the target of antisemitism to the same degree Jews around the world were and are.

      Even in Germany anti-Zionist demonstrators were yelling “Jews go back to Auschwitz.” If Mr. Tomlinson wants to be in such company, that is his business.

      But don’t pretend that Auschwitz is not relevant to one’s views of Israel.

      btw: there is always someone to say that “Palestinian” Arabs did not participate in the Holocaust let me remind you that The Jerusalem Mufti lived in Berlin in the early 40’s and lobbied the Germans to kill all Jews.
      The Nazis had promised him that they would kill all Jews in Palestine once they beat the British.

      Let’s not be hypocritical, Mr. Tomlinson.

      • Potter

        The Holocaust is very relevant to the existence of Israel, no question about it. The next issue is the dispossession of the Arabs of that land in order for there to be an Israel. And then there’s the different ideas of what the state should be and where its borders are. Biblical borders?

        Those who are liberal, or Jewish Liberal Zionists, accept that the Arabs, Palestinians, are a legitimate people with a legitimate right to this land as well (in fact they have the same genetic makeup as Jewish ancestors). Liberals want the 47 year occupation to end. They are disturbed by what it is doing to Israel, how Israel is being distorted by it. And as well this is nurturing Palestinian anger in what David Grossman describes as a cycle that feeds on itself, a way of life already. This does not make Israel an attractive place, not much of a safe harbor for Jews. Defending this “status quo” is very tortured. The arguments are distorted to make Israel look like the perennial and eternal victim. Is this what the original Zionists intended, dreamt of?

        The campaign to take over Palestinian lands, destroy their collective will to keep resisting,treating them all like terrorists or potential terrorists, collectively punishing them, was on full display in this Gaza War.

        Some, like myself are horrified that Jewish people with such a history can visit such treatment, can dehumanize another people so blatantly and conduct campaigns in the media rationalizing and justifying and even lying about the need for this.

        I have heard all kinds of arguments in Israel’s defense including yours, dragging in one-sided historical memory about what THEY did only and of course mentioning Aushwitz. The world does not see Israel as the victim in this situation. As well, Jews everywhere are on the defensive and vulnerable because of Israel’s actions.

        Bernard Avishai was trying to make a case that there is so much more to Israel and the Jewish people than this conflict. He is right. But the shame of it is that this conflict, how Israel behaves as a nation, is the face of Israel. And this bothers Liberal Zionists….Jews who have a conscience to deal with.

  • Mike

    Yea, that’s really moving that Israel sent planes to pick up the Jews in Egypt. But there have been much greater acts of charity, assistance, and sacrifice throughout history. Think of all of the American boys who DIED to help Europe. I could go on, and on, and on, but I won’t.

  • Jacob Arnon

    According to some people Jews have the choice of being “liberal” or being sent to Auschwitz.

    This is a ridiculous theses.

    The number of liberal States around the world is small and growing smaller, yet I don’t see many programs about “liberalism in Turkey,” or liberalism in Russia.

    Show me one Arab liberal democracy and then tell me why Israel has to be liberal to be allowed to exist but not “Palestine” or Jordan or Lebanon?

    I don’t want to hear some dialectical sleight of hand for an answer.

    Israel has been threatened with extinction since it was founded and it’s a miracle that it is a country with any democratic values at all.

    btw: There are over a million Arabs living in Israel is there an Arab country with a million Jews?

  • Potter

    First you claim that I said Jews have no right to statehood, which I have not- not ever, not here.

    Then you call me pro-Arab and anti-Jewish. If I feel sympathy for the Palestinians, then I can’t be Jewish or maybe I am a so-called self-hater.

    Never mind that some Jews feel that the moral ethical issues here, the treatment of Palestinians, reflects poorly on Judaism especially given Jewish history and especially since Israel claims to be “the Jewish state” representing Judaism and all Jews.

    I have a question of whether you would allow any criticism of Israel before the name-calling and labeling.

    Liberal Zionism, when you reject it as “liberal antisemitism” destroys having to deal squarely with the moral issues raised here.

    Judaism is about moral and ethical values. It’s all about that as far as I am concerned. Israel will never be right with itself or many of us until there is an end of conflict with the Palestinians and they are treated equitably. I think the guests on this show generally agreed on that. But I don’t think the current Israel wants any such arrangement; they want total defeat of the Palestinians no matter how long it takes.

    I was horrified by the Gaza war, totally unnecessary, a massacre that left horrible destruction for Palestinians and the clean-up squads from the rest of the world to deal with for years to come. And too, it left so many and another generation to come of traumatized Palestinians that have what to be angry about, and what to hate Israel for.

    • If you are walking down the street and an individual points a gun at you and asks for your valuables. Screaming “I empathize with your need for money – here is my wallet,
      the keys to my car and the deed to my house”
      could work as tactic . I can see this tactic disarming the individual to the point they are running away thinking, “She is crazier than I am.”
      That same situation with a group behind the gun, would leave you dead, your wallet gone – the keys to your car
      and deed to your house lying on the pavement.

      Group dynamics are different. You can NOT empathize with the Arab (as you did Hamas ) and Persian leadership – it is a sign of weakness.

      It is simple formulae being applied: When you empathize with those who would destroy Israel, you are against the existence of Israel.
      Practically, those two things cannot coexist. A state cannot be made up of people committed to destroying it.

      I should add, if Arab and Persian agree to Israel’s existence, I would expect and demand that Israel be pluralistic with reparations to the Palestinians.

      Until such time, it is up to Israel to determine how they will proceed. It is up to the Palestinians how long they will persist.

      Unfortunately, each side has set a course toward eternity.
      David Ben-Gurion said: the old die off and the young forget.

      That is a double-sided bet…..

      • Potter

        Check reality Robert Peabody.You admit on the one hand that Israel has the upper hand. Then you claim that Israel is vulnerable to being destroyed by the weaker party.

        Israel has the mightier weapons and has been using them to the point of diminished returns. I will grant you that. They ( those in power) are trying and have been trying to get the Palestinians to give up and leave. Who can destroy who in this situation? Better yet, look at who IS destroying who? I think your sympathies are misplaced but even if you buy Israel’s weakness in this struggle ( I don’t see how, just let’s say) the only way Israel is going to be safe and secure ever is by allowing a Palestinian state or some form of justice that is equitable. Palestinians are just not going to give up and go away. But I will tell you some Israeli’s will leave. I know some.

        So- I do not think Palestinians can destroy Israel. But Israel can destroy itself.

        By the way re your above: Scottish tartans are made in Pakistan.

        • In the linked documentary about the Islamic State, the minister of information made a similar request: “Don’t fight like cowards and send drones, send your troops.” Terrorists that blow up busses filled with innocent civilians all seem to be making the same claim: the power imbalance is not fair !

          “You admit on the one hand that Israel has the upper hand.
          Then you claim that Israel is vulnerable to being destroyed by the weaker party.”

          Could you please put in quotes where I said “Israel has the
          upper hand” and where I said “Israel is vulnerable to being destroyed by the weaker party”. It is most certainly the
          intent of both Arab and Persian leaders that Israel be destroyed. C’mon Potter, are we ignoring major portions of history here?

          There is a status quo in this situation where the superior
          firepower is rendered ineffective – that is basically how terrorism works.

          • Potter

            Hamas and Fatah are not ISIS. So the quote is misused. ISIS, the Islamic State, do not represent the Palestinians.


Until such time, it is up to Israel to determine how they will proceed. It is up to the Palestinians how long they will persist.


I interpret that as Israel calling the shots because it can until such time as the Palestinians give up.

            If you are walking down the street and an individual points a gun at you and asks for your valuables…… 

In your example, who is walking down the street (supposedly innocently) Israel? When the robber ( supposedly the Paletinians?) points the gun? Who is the robber in this situation? Palestinians, their leaders, are not asking for more than what should be theirs as their land is being taken away bit by bit. Who is the group behind the gun threatening ( by your own inferences)? the more powerful?

            Regarding the intention to destroy Israel by “Arab and Persian leaders”, I recall Ahmadinejad’s inciting language to that effect, with nothing to back it up, but nothing more since from the Iranians. Regarding the Arabs- all- there are many leaders and so far the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, which has been renewed, which accepts Israel, has not been taken up seriously by Israel.

            So you give me some quotes from the leaders that you are talking about.

            There is no “status quo” in this situation. Israel keeps taking and terrorizing. Yes terrorizing- what else is the daily military occupation of 47 years and the various wars in the West Bank and Gaza, including this current, about other than death and destruction and teaching the remainder a lesson not to resist or pay a very heavy price. So who is threatening who? Who is back to normal life now and who is not?

            The “major portions” of history (beyond the Holocaust and the preceding 2000 years), recent history since WW2, there is a fuller story which I am not ignoring, nor should you.

  • plaintext

    As an outsider I am having difficulty resolving what seems to be an oxymoron, Liberal Zionism. My teaching comes from the Tony Judts of the world and is likely more Liberal than Zionist or any kind of “ist” for that matter. It is what it is or ist is what it ist – at the end of the day people can choose to live together or they can choose something else. Having been reminded of The Reagan Years, I don’t recall too many talking about Liberal Irish Republicanism but at the end of the day, people were killing each other and it’s difficult to assess what great benefit to humanity was founded there. One is greatful that the “ist” is over at least on some small corner of the world, and one is hopeful that it’s contagious.

  • Cambridge Forecast

    In the last few years, the Hebrew University historian,
    Ilan Pappe, published and discussed his masterful book, “The Ethnic Cleansing
    of Palestine”. This book, presented and discussed at Harvard University (Austin
    Hall, the Law School) in recent years, shows that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine
    was woven into the fabric of Israel’s establishment as a state in the late
    1940s. It wasn’t a Likud innovation but a turbo-charged intensification of Ben
    Gurion’s vision from the forties.

    Wikipedia explains:

    “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is a book authored by New
    Historian Ilan Pappé and published in 2006 by One World Oxford.

    During the 1948 Palestine war, around 720,000 Palestinian Arabs out of the 900,000 who lived in the territories that became Israel fled or were expelled from their home. The causes of this exodus are controversial and debated by historians. In his own words, Ilan Pappé “want[s] to make the case for the paradigm of ethnic cleansing and use[s] it to replace the paradigm of war as the basis for the scholarly research of, and public debate about, 1948.”[1]
    The thesis of the book is that the forced move of Palestinians to the Arab world
    was an objective of the Zionist movement, and a must for the desired character of the Jewish state. According to Ilan Pappé, the 1948 Palestinian exodus resulted from a planned ethnic cleansing of Palestine that was implemented by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly David Ben-Gurion and the other ten members of his “consultancy group” as referred to by Pappé. The book argues that the ethnic cleansing was put into effect through systematic expulsions of about 500 Arab villages, as well as terrorist attacks executed mainly by members of the Irgun and Haganah troops against the civilian population. Ilan Pappé also refers to Plan Dalet
    and to the village files as a proof of the planned expulsions.”


    Ancillary points:

    1. The phenomenon of “Liberal Zionism” occurs in a political ideology “twin pathology” setting which works like this:

    The Left analysts (Marx and Trotsky) want to say that ”The
    Jews might have to die so the world might live.”

    The Right (Netanyahu, Neocons, etc) want to say that “The
    world might have to die so that the Jews might live.”
    This means that the very framing of the problem starts off with unstable tendencies towards Left and Right extremisms.

    2. The binational Judah Magnes kind of liberal Zionism was already dead by the time of Ben Gurion who argued about the millions of ethnically-cleansed Palestinians, “The old will die and the young will forget.” The massacres of Deir Yassin, 1948, occurred long before the Likud era from Begin (1977) to Netanyahu, through Sabra and Shattila.

    3. In order to make a more rational security architecture for the Middle East and a more rational financial architecture for the world economy, one must have intensive Arab and Muslim cooperartion. This is blocked and made impossible by the Israel Lobby worldwide (Londonj and Paris are also paralyzed, not only Washington).

    4. Obama throughout 2009 was pushing for just such a rationalized world system (Cairo Speech, Pittsburgh G20 globalism) but his spine was broken by the Israel pressure groups and now the world is simply adrift.

    5. Liberal Zionism might have averted this Israel-led “global traffic jam” but the rise of the Zionist ethnic-cleansers from Ben Gurion through Netanyahu, from Left and Right, killed this off. Beginism was the ideology that proposed to use bloodshed to make forever impossible a return to any kind of Liberal Zionism. Hence the impetus for Sabra and Shatila.

    6. The Holocaust taught the Jews that they must have some soil under their feet to protect themselves since the captains and kings of this world (FDR, the Pope, etc) won’t “save”

    Only you will save you. Globalization means the world as a whole needs a Palestine 1967 state so that the world as an Israel-led “global traffic jam” can finally get moving and go forward. Israel and its allies are blocking this. As radicals, they believe “worse is better” as is the wont of radicalism. Israel is now the key obstacle to a functioning world politics and to a functional Washington, which two phenomena overlap.

    Richard Melson (Mendelsohn)

    • And the whole thing is endlessly symmetrical.

      Hamas knows how to keep the young from forgetting. They launch
      a few rockets into Israel. Fatah knows how to respond as well. They are
      intending to breed Israel out of existence. A primary determinant of poverty being family size, future misery is guaranteed.

      But hey, should Scotland be a country?

      I heard a functionary say that they have the resources to
      be a country.
      It sounded like a bunker mentality being expressed.
      If the world demand for plaid drops, what guarantee do we
      have that English speaking people wont be expelled from Scotland?

  • Potter

    Yours is the typical one sided view that Jews have no right to Statehood.

    ( which I never said)

    It’s obvious that your view is pro-Arab and anti Jewish. It is also not “liberal.”…..

    (Liberal in this case means that Palestinians have a case, not that Jews do not.)

    More important or relevant than the question of “liberal” Zionism is the question of “liberal” antisemitism.”

    It seems to me that you equate Jewishness or Judaism with Zionism. Then you rename Liberal Zionism “liberal antisemitism” as though being liberal, having some feeling for Palestinians and the need for justice, is anti-Jewish. Hardly.

    Today, I don’t see how you can separate Judaism and Zionism especially since Israeli leadership claims to represent all Jews, and wants to be called “the Jewish state”, therefore the state that represents Judaism. In my first post here I challenged that. And I still do. That some right wing Jews have hijacked Zionism ( now for many years) is not debatable. The Israel of today represents Zionism, what it has evolved to. The Zionism of Ahad Ha’am, for instance and liberal Zionists, is not what drives Israel as far as I can see.

    • Jacob Arnon

      “The Israel of today represents Zionism, what it has evolved to. The Zionism of Ahad Ha’am, for instance and liberal Zionists, is not what drives Israel as far as I can see.”

      Israel is not a monolithic country and neither is Zionism a monolithic ideology.

      There is more to Israel than it’s government just as there is more to America than Obama (or Bush a few years back.)

      What I object to is the simple minded and studied naivete that likes to see Israel and Jews a single entity.

      That Zionism evolved speaks to the richness of this notion. Zionism is not static and neither are the Jewish people.

      Zionism has changed and will change again.

      You and your kind that like to see all social phenomena as static is the problem not Israel. (Or do you apply a different ;criteria when judging Jews than you do when judging Muslims or Christian conservatism and liberalism?

      • Potter

        Potter: “Liberal in this case means that Palestinians have a case, not that Jews do not.

        Arnon: This is the meaning of Jew-hatred not liberalism.

        The reason you say that “the Jews” have no case is…..

        This reverses what I wrote and chastises me for it!


        Arnon: Israel is not a monolithic country and neither is Zionism a monolithic ideology.

        No it is not, nor did I say that. Again the straw man. But Israel has been going in a right wing to extremist militaristic security state “status quo” settler direction for quite a number of years now. The peace movement is barely heard, shriveled in government. The hatred of Arabs was in full view recently (“Death to the Arabs” and cries to flatten Gaza more) )and cannot be hidden. Islam is seen as a monolithic terrorist religion by many in Israel who feel they are all terrorists.

        • Jacob Arnon

          Potter, you are repeating yourself. This conversation has hit a dead end.

          You say you are for liberalism yet you don’t write as if you were a liberal. Liberals accept other people’s point of without necessarily agreeing with them.

          The fevered way in which you try to negate everyone who doesn’t agree with you shows that there is a totalitarian streak a mile wide in your character.
          Hence this will be my last reply.

          There is hatred of “the other” in most societies in the world including France, England and the US.

          For a country that has been at war for most of its existence with enemies who want to wipe it out the hatred of Arabs is not to be expected.

          What is unexpected is the high level of tolerance towards that same “other.”

          Of course that doesn’t make he headlines in the mainstream media. Nor should it.

          I am not going to waste your time with facts and stories that you won’t want to hear.

          I believe it is your hatred of Israelis and Jews that drives your energies here, so be it.

          I don’t believe that you care very much about Arabs.

          It’s the hatred of Jews that excites your imagination.

          • Potter

            From what you have written, Jacob Arnon, I am sorry but I cannot accept your definition of liberal or a Liberal Zionist., nor your own ability to tolerate other opinions. This is evidenced by the number of names you have called me including the latest, a totalitarian, along with repeatedly a jew-hater, Israeli-hater (while justifying hatred of Arabs). As well I notice your complaint that there was no voting a comment down here. Have you voted anyone up? But you are absolutely right that this conversation hit a dead end awhile ago..

    • Jacob Arnon

      “(Liberal in this case means that Palestinians have a case, not that Jews do not.)”

      This is the meaning of Jew-hatred not liberalism.

      The reason you say that “the Jews” have no case is because of ignorance and bias. It’s obvious that you never took the trouble to study the issue impartially.

      I don’t know if you are speaking from a leftist pro Arab point of view or a Jew hating point of view.

      However, I am certain that you are not writing from a liberal point of view.

      You show no sign of understanding the nature of liberalism (or Zionism) in your replies.