Let Them Rage: Why Anti-Zionists Should Be Allowed to Run

Haim Watzman If it weren’t the fact that the fracas at yesterday’s meeting of Israel’s Central Election Committee was theater rather than serious deliberation, I might be more upset about the decision to bar from contesting the coming election two of the three Arab slates represented in the current Knesset. Everyone there, both the right-wingers … Read more Let Them Rage: Why Anti-Zionists Should Be Allowed to Run

Standing Up for Man’s Right to Cheat

Haim Watzman

<em>       Anastasia in a thoughtful moment</em>
Anastasia in a thoughtful moment

I wasn’t planning to post today but I couldn’t let South Jerusalem’s readers head into the holiday season without alerting them to Anastasia Michaeli, the superwoman who is headed for the Knesset on the Yisrael Beiteinu list led by Avidgor (“the only thing to my right is the wall”) Lieberman.

When it comes to role models for Israel’s young women, you can’t beat Michaeli. A Russian immigrant who has pulled herself up by the straps of her high heels, she’s a tv star, former beauty queen, and a mother of seven. She’ll be the first Knesset member to bring a baby to full term in term and (so the papers say) the first convert to Judaism to serve in that august body.

Michaeli will be the Knesset flagbearer of third-wave feminism. First-wave feminists demanded equal rights and opportunities; second wave feminists stressed female distinctness and pride. Third-wave feminists have taken the bold step of proclaiming that men can do whatever they like; they can trust their women to remain pure. Here’s Michaeli on how every woman should treat her husband:

Read moreStanding Up for Man’s Right to Cheat

Why I’m Going Green

Haim Watzman For years I have preached against small parties. Whenever my friends get excited by the latest new and fashionable political movement or the latest political star whose ego-trip involves founding and leading his own party, I’ve warned that a vote cast for a small party is both wasted and wanting. Wasted because, in … Read more Why I’m Going Green

Is Birthright for Bibi?

Haim Watzman

Is Birthright a wonderful program that encourages Jewish identity and commitment to Israel, or is it a propaganda machine aimed at promoting a particular right-wing nationalist vision of the Jewish state?

The latter, says Josh Nathan-Kazis in his op-ed How Your Free Trip Will Help Israeli Hard Liner Benjamin Netanyahu Become Prime Minister in the Jewish student magazine New Voices . Nathan-Kazis focuses on Birthright’s dependence on the largesse of right-wing casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. According to Nathan-Kazis, Adelson has donated $67 million to Birthright and supplied a third of its operating budget for 2008. Adelson also funds the right-wing, pro-Likud newspaper Yisrael HaYom and is a major backer of the Jerusalem-based neo-con think-tank, The Shalem Center

Nathan-Kazis is right that wherever money is involved, we should suspect political influence. And, in fact, some young American Jews who sign up for a Birthright trips find themselves being handed a largely Greater Israel, neo-con bill of goods on their trips. But certainly not all, and evidently not because of Adelson’s money.

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Don’t Finkelstein On Me

Haim Watzman

Oooh, how I hate to be associated with Norman Finkelstein, the anti-Zionist Jewish political science with the foul mouth who gives criticizing Israel a bad name.

I cross-posted yesterday’s post (Black and Blue: Obama and Golda) on The Huffington Post, where a reader with the moniker CastleBravo1 commented:

Thank you for your comments.
This past year, I had the honor of taking a 90-minute bus trip each way on three consecutive days to hear Dr. Norman Finkelstein speak at Cal State Northridge.
Every reminder that the far right does not speak for Israel is a victory for truth.

Read moreDon’t Finkelstein On Me

Zionists of the World Unite! (Around Me)

Haim Watzman

Beware of Israelis who call for unity. More often than not, what they really mean is “everyone should unite around my political program.”

In yesterday’s Ha’aretz, Moshe Arens calls for unity with an invocation of American revolutionary rhetoric (”Divided We Fall”). Yet his bottom line is that unity means acceding to the agenda of Israel’s right-wing religious extremists.

Arens is a right-winger I like to disagree with. He writes well, argues cogently and logically, and sincerely believes both in Zionism and democracy. Like me, he grew up in the United States and absorbed the principles of liberal democracy. While he’s a territorial maximalist and a hawk to end all hawks, not to mention a talented political maneuverer in his Byzantine Likud party, he has devoted much effort to promoting minority rights in Israel, in particular serving an advocate for the Bedouin.

Read moreZionists of the World Unite! (Around Me)

You Mean Environmentalists Aren’t Zionists?

Haim Watzman

Tomorrow Israel’s National Planning and Construction Board will take up a proposal to establish a new settlement in the eastern Lachish salient, southwest of Jerusalem. An ad in today’s Ha’aretz, placed by twelve of Israel’s most senior environmentalists, calls on the Board to reject the plan.

“The establishment of the settlement will lead, in the opinion of all environmentalists, to the destruction of habitats and irreversible harm to open spaces. Approval of the settlement in opposition to all environmental impact statements will make a laughingstock of national planning policy, which places great importance on the reinforcement of existing settlements and the preservation of open spaces.”

The environmentalists have everything going for them—science, research, policy imperatives—except for one thing. Apparently, they’re not Zionists.

Read moreYou Mean Environmentalists Aren’t Zionists?

Bad Times for Liberal Zionism?

Haim Watzman A recommendation: Leonard Fein’s article in the current issue of Dissent. Fein offers a good summary of the current travails of left Zionism. It’s hardly new that Zionist liberals and social democrats often feel as if they are not only out of synch, but positively rejected, by both the left at large and … Read more Bad Times for Liberal Zionism?

Don’t Spy For Me

Dear Young American Zionist,

You want to help Israel in any way possible, and you’re fired up by stories you’ve heard and movies you’ve seen about Israel’s heroic soldiers, commandos, and Mossad agents. You meet some guy with an accent who persuades you that Israel’s future depends on some classified documents you’ve got access to at your job. Here’s your chance to place yourself among those heroes.

Don’t do it.

Why not? Because it’s not the right thing for you to do as a Zionist, and not the right thing for you to do as a citizen of the United States of America.

Read moreDon’t Spy For Me

Marching up J Street, Passing Marty Peretz in a Shtreimel

Much as I’ve come to disagree with Marty Peretz, I admit that I hesitate viscerally before criticizing him. Marty opened the pages of the New Republic to me in the 1990s. So attacking him feels like an act of ingratitude, if not a minor violation of oedipal inhibitions toward a one-time mentor. In his own blog, though, Marty appears to have thrown off all inhibitions. He’s turned obscene in print, figuratively and literally, as in his new screed against J Street. Even stranger, he’s exhibiting a definite ultra-Orthodox tendency in defense of his bellicose version of Zionism.

Read moreMarching up J Street, Passing Marty Peretz in a Shtreimel

I have but one biography to give for my country

I don’t usually quibble with what’s written about me, but hey! I only have one biography to give for my nation.

Philip Weiss writes at Mondoweiss:

The ’67 War galvanized… young Gershom Gorenberg to move to Israel.

At the time of the 1967 war, I was 11 years old, in 6th grade, living with my parents in Los Angeles. I moved to Israel 10 years later. My decision had nothing to do with the 1967 war. I preferred living here because there is no split between Jewish and general politics, between being a Jew and a citizen. This is the meaning of national liberation:

Read moreI have but one biography to give for my country

Good Arabs, Bad Arabs

It’s such a pain when reality proves to be too complex to fit our favorite theories. A new book, Hillel Cohen’s Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 (University of California Press 2008), shows how varied the Palestinian Arab response to Zionism was, by investigating those Arabs who chose to collaborate with the Jews. As he demonstrates, the negative connotations we attach to the label “collaborator” can be misleading.

(I translated this book into English. I have not discussed these issues with Cohen and the view I offer here is mine alone.)

Read moreGood Arabs, Bad Arabs