Votes Are Not Enough–Hillel Cohen’s “Good Arabs”

Haim Watzman

All too often, Israel’s supporters kill their cause with clichés. One of the most common and problematic of these clichés is the claim that Israel’s Arab citizens have always enjoyed full and equal rights because—and here’s the clincher—they vote for and sit in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

As Hillel Cohen shows in Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs, 1948-1967, my translation of which is to be published shortly, suffrage and representation do not in and of themselves guarantee a minority the rights that a democracy is supposed to grant to all its citizens.

In Good Arabs, Cohen continues the study he began in his previous book, Army of Shadows (see my earlier post Good Arabs, Bad Arabs) about the complex relationship between the Zionist movement and the local Arabs in Palestine. As in that earlier work, Cohen eschews the slogans long shouted by Palestinians and Israelis, rightists and leftists. He shows how both Israeli officials and leaders of those Palestinian Arabs who became inhabitants and citizens of the Jewish state adopted a variety of strategies in reaction to real and perceived threats and opportunities.

Israel wished to present itself to the world as a democracy that respected the rights of its minorities. This was in part motivated by the democratic values to which its leaders sincerely subscribed, but also in part to Israel’s need, as a country dependent on the friendship and aid of the U.S. and Western Europe, to present itself as sharing the values espoused by those nations. So it was clear to the Israeli leadership that the Arabs would be able to vote, and pictures of Arab men in traditional headdresses sitting in Israel’s parliament were important for the young country’s public relations.

That did not mean, however, that the Israeli establishment was going to leave the choice of how to vote to the Arabs themselves. As Cohen shows, the Israeli military government—under which nearly all the country’s Arab citizens lived from 1948 until 1966—used its powers to issue or deny travel and work permits and to provide budgets for local projects to wheedle, induce, and compel Arabs to vote as the country’s establishment wished. The government, led by the Labor-Zionist Mapai party, wanted the Arabs to vote for satellite Arab parties it had founded and which were under its control. (It did not want them to vote for Mapai itself because it wanted to ensure the election of Arab community leaders who supported its policies.) And it wanted to prevent them from voting for the Communists, the major independent political force in the Arab community.

Cohen quotes a secret memorandum written by the Jewish police chief of Nazareth, the country’s largest Arab city: “The GSS [the secret state security service, also known as the Shin Bet or Shabak] officials, military government representatives and I presented an oral report on what is being done in the field and the party’s activities in Nazareth and the region, in anticipation of the elections to the third Knesset.…The committees were to study the situation in the villages, give an indication to the Arabs to vote for the Arab slates and not directly for Mapai.… [T]he governor announced that the committees will be given powers to issue permits to go out of the territories [i.e. to the Jewish towns, outside the military-governed areas], and will likewise offer recommendations on granting gun permits as circumstances may dictate. These powers will be in effect until 28 July 1955 [two days after the election].”

The Israeli establishment’s fear of the Communists were not unfounded. That party was explicitly allied with the Soviet block, and pursued an Arab nationalist agenda in a Jewish state that had recently fought against local nationalist Arabs for independence, and which remained under threat from Arab nationalist regimes around it.

Israel is hardly the only democracy to manipulate the votes of minority ethnic groups. Some of the tactics Cohen mentions sound much like those used by big-city political machines in the U.S. during the first half of the twentieth century. And like those machines, the Israeli system provided a form of ethnic representation that managed to achieve some benefits for the community. However, the military government was able to impose far more severe restrictions and punishments on Arabs who did not cooperate than machine politicians could.

Fundamentally, however, Israel’s Arabs were not equal citizens. In any democracy, suffrage and representation are necessary but hardly sufficient conditions for equal rights. In the absence of complementary freedoms of speech, movement, employment, and political organization, they can be merely symbols with little real content. Contrary to the cliché, Israel’s Arab citizens have not historically enjoyed equal political rights.

69 thoughts on “Votes Are Not Enough–Hillel Cohen’s “Good Arabs””

  1. Suffrage is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for equal rights. But that’s a minor point.

    The major point in the article is the use of the past tense. Yes, Arabs are a lot better off today. They enjoy true suffrage in free, fair elections, but (as I’ve ranted before) Israel is not a democracy of all its citizens in any substantive sense of the word. Arabs have equal rights, at least in theory, but it’s a truism that rights are a characteristic of liberalism, not of democracy. Arabs are not included in the Israeli democracy because there is no single polity comprising both Arabs and Jews. Arabs do not accept the legitimacy of Israel’s constitution as a Jewish state (as opposed to a “state of all its citizens”). Therefore there are two publics, two demoi, two public interests: a Jewish public and an Arab public. Ahmed Tibi said it best: Israel is a democracy for the Jews and a Jewish state for the Arabs. It cannot be otherwise in the foreseeable future.

    For those who don’t like political theory, here’s a hypothetical example. The Martians invade the US. After a bloody war with many American refugees, the Martians have settled America, dissolved the US government, and established the Martian State of America (MSA), a “Martian, democratic state”. The Martians are an enlightened race, so they grant civil rights and universal suffrage to all citizens, including earthling Americans who make up 20 percent of the electorate. (Obviously the earthlings wouldn’t have been given the vote if they weren’t a minority.) The earthlings don’t recognize the “Martian, democratic state” or its special connection to the Martian people (including unlimited immigration from Mars); the earthlings’ general will is to repatriate the earthling refugees, which would give them an earthling majority and change the fundamental existence of the state, but of course their will is thwarted “democratically” by the 80 percent majority of Martians. But the elections are free and fair, unlike in the past. Now, who would say that the Martian State of America is substantively a democracy of all its citizens?

  2. Aaron – your comment exemplifies the Kafkaesque state of affairs for the israeli Palestinians. The article Haim refers to (and we are awaiting eagerly the translation) does not mention the divide-and-conquer tactics used by israel’s security AND political machines to fragment the Arab vote. Interestingly, even the invention of the “communist” party was a convenient ruse that served to marginalize the Arab vote. hey – they actually love Stalin(!) they could say – and did.

    But the most glaring evidence of the absence of true democratic representation for the Arabs is the fact that no ruling coalition has ever invited them in, and that’s the way it’s likely to stay. By definition, they are relegated to a perpetual minority status, whose voice need not be taken into account in the wheeling and dealing that characterize israel’s political system.

    Ultimately, there’s only one way out and that is to form joint Jewish-Arab parties, fashioned around common platforms. Hadash is an excellent model and the recent elections show that a party that looks to the future and is based on shared interests can have some success. Sure, they are still tagged with the ‘communist” label, but in reality hadash’s platform is closer to the greens than the reds. The way forward is for some of the other small parties – like the greens and others – to coalesce around common themes of progressive values for all, be they the environment, minority rights, civil liberties or consumer advocacy. I wouldn’t expect such a party to get huge votes from the establishment – which ios moving rightward at an ever increasing speed anyways, but it does have the potential to siphon off much of the disenchanted left, as well as alienated youth and technocrat votes, as well as many minorities – who currently have no political home. I believe that a platform that advocates for strict church/state separation a la the US – would be an absolutely critical part of such a joint party for it to be a success. This will attract not only many more members of an increasingly sophisticated arab electorate but possibly even quite a few russians (at least the more liberal minded among them) and maybe even some orthodox who prefer an opportunity to practice true Judaism as opposed to cronyism masquerading as piety.

    How about that?

  3. Dana, maybe what you’re suggesting would create substantive democracy, I don’t know. For me, the question is whether it would create a single public interest or common good or whatever you want to call it, where currently there are two (Jewish and Arab) public interests concerning the existential question of the State of Israel. That would mean either the Jews giving up the idea of Israel as a Jewish state, or the Israeli Arabs truly accepting the State of Israel as the state of the nation of Israel, i.e., of the Jews. A current example of what I mean by sharing a single common good is the Israeli Jews plus the Druze communities on the Carmel. Despite differences on specific issues, these two ethnic groups are part of the same polity. Maybe Hadash’s program could transform two political entities, Arab and Jewish, into one, I don’t know.

    Personally, I want Israel to be a Jewish state, and I have no problem with its being nondemocratic, as long as all citizens are treated decently. Therefore, to the extent that your program would weaken the tie between the State of Israel and the nation of Israel, I cordially wish for it to fail. But that’s just my personal preference, and it’s not my aim to argue for it here. I’m simply pointing out that – as you apparently agree – all talk of Israel being a “Jewish, democratic state” is pure cant, whether one is talking about 1955 or 2009. The proper response to such platitudes is scornful laughter.

  4. Aaron, I appreciate your answer and believe I understand where you are coming from, as I assume you live and were brought up in Israel, and were therefore brain-washed from infancy on what “jewish” means in the context of Israel. That means that you are likely wedded to a concept of “Israel as a jewish state”, and this statement means something specific to you. I propose however that you are not taking all the implications and corollaries into account, and that those have rather ominous overtones, for both you and the country as it makes its way in a new century.

    I was pointing out that there are many ways to be Israeli as well as jewish, while maintaining the civilized mores that western societies strive for (or claim to, in some cases). You are effectively arguing for creating a permanent sub-class in Israel, consisting of the natives on one hand, and the more recent immigrants (cf “Jewish”) on the other hand. That is the model of India BTW, where castes trace their origins to the invading Aryans (who became the upper classes over centuries’ time) and at the bottom, the untouchables and other lower castes who typically descend from the native population. It’s also the model of past islamic countries, where non-muslims (including jews) were considered “dhimmis”, ie, others.

    All I am suggesting is that sometimes it may be better to look forward and come up with new models of co-existence appropriate to a modern world, rather than look backward and adopt models developed for more tribal societies. Seems to me you are arguing for a tribal model in a modern context; one where democratic ideas cannot be extended to all citizens because, well, you don’t care for the idea of equality before the law, as that undermines the implied superiority of a specific class of society.

    The direction you are going is bound, however, to bring Israel into profound conflict with western societies which uphold values such as justice, liberty, equality for all, tolerance, rule of law and separation of state and religion each to its own sphere. It was indeed predicted by many that in due course, Israel will revert to middle eastern and/or middle age like models of governance, even as many countries in the ME will increasingly tilt towards western models.

    On a more personal level, I’d point out that you can glibly say that “Jewish and democratic” is a “rant” and that giving full rights to the arab minority would weaken the tie between israel the nation and israel the state. But you choose to ignore possible dire consequences of such a state of mind. And you may not like those consequences in the long run. Already american/european values and israeli ones have been – and are- rapidly diverging. Most in europe have grown to understand just how deep the schism is, but what happens when the americans wake up to the fact that they are allied with a deeply reactionary ally committed to parochial, tribal mind set? That waking up has started, as you can surmise from the variety that crept into jewish american discourse. It will accelerate. And as I said, that will have consequences you may not like, furthering Israeli paranoia and deepening the fortress mentality that’s taken place.

    Are you willing to live with these consequences? would you continue to laugh scornfully when the blowback starts in earnest?

  5. Apologies to the blog editors for turning their comment thread into a dialogue. I don’t have much to add, but I’ll respond to Dana’s latest comment.

    Once again, I’m mostly in agreement with Dana’s analysis. I think Dana understands Israel’s situation better than do Watzman and Gorenberg. Taking Dana’s last and most important point first: there’s a real danger that the US will turn against Israel in the future, for exactly the reason that Dana says. The Zionist left is mistaken in thinking that granting Palestinian statehood will win Western sympathy for Israel. The opposite will more likely be the case. As Dana points out, Israel is hated today not for what it does but for what it is and always has been: a discriminatory ethnic state where (this is the truly unforgivable part) the Staatvolk is “Western” and the minority is non-Western. Once Palestinians have a state, anti-Israel rhetoric will switch from the “occupation” to Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, and I expect that the rhetoric will intensify. So yes, I am very worried about what Dana predicts, and I’m particularly worried that the Zionist left, for instance Watzman and Gorenberg, seem blind to the true extent of that danger.

    However, I don’t see any need for preemptive surrender to Western pressure. The anti-Israel movement which Dana describes will not be satisfied with a few civil rights laws here and there. It will accept nothing less than the annihilation of Israel as a Jewish state and its replacement as something else, perhaps a “state of all its citizens”, like in South Africa. Reaching out to Israeli Arabs might be good for other reasons, but it won’t save the Jewish state. For one thing, it’s a truism that improving the condition of an “oppressed” class usually makes that class more, not less, radical, at least in the short run. And the anti-Israel, “anti-racist” rhetoric will probably be driven by irredentists in the State of Palestine, so I don’t see how Arabs in Israel could oppose it without being “traitors”.

    A few minor corrections. My model for Israel is the 19th-century-style nation-state, not “tribalism”; although both are equally evil in Western eyes, when the tribe or Staatvolk is “Western”. I came to Israel as an adult, for non-Zionist reasons, and while I strongly support Israel as a Jewish state, I’ve never been idealistic about Zionism. Unlike many on the Zionist left, I recognize that Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is necessarily, and tragically, unjust to Arabs. We should recognize and try to mitigate that injustice, for instance by ensuring equality under the law. And finally, what I’m laughing scornfully at is the statement that Israel today is a Jewish, democratic state. I don’t scorn those who want to make it truly democratic (and thereby not Jewish); I respect their position.

  6. Alex-No need to apologize for good dialogue as far as I am concerned; this exchange is good and necessary.

    The Zionist left is mistaken in thinking that granting Palestinian statehood will win Western sympathy for Israel. The opposite will more likely be the case.

    I disagree strongly but say you are right( based on what?)- either way Israel loses.

    Once Palestinians have a state, anti-Israel rhetoric will switch from the “occupation” to Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state, and I expect that the rhetoric will intensify.

    Who? and so what? and for how long will that dog hunt?

    Unlike many on the Zionist left, I recognize that Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is necessarily, and tragically, unjust to Arabs.

    An astonishing statement, including what precedes it. Tragically yes- consequences still to be played out. Instead of asking what you mean by a Jewish State the question is perhaps what do you mean by Jewish; what is your Judaism about? Why do you think you lose if you are just?

    Unless you have separation of religion from the state itself even within a “Jewish state” there will be (is) civil discord.


    Thanks to Haim for translating Hillel Cohen- and thanks to Hillel Cohen for his work.

  7. There is no way that Palestinians can participate in the charade of a Jewish state. I support Palestinians being citizens of Israel only to obtain the benefits that were stolen from them when the land was stolen in 1948. Ultimately, Palestine will expel the non-Arab israelis, just as it has expelled other foreign invaders like the crusaders and the mongols. The sooner you leave, the less agony it will be for all, and perhaps an easier transition when you move back to Europe or the US, places where you have a more legitimate claim. I vigorously dispute the conversations above, because one cannot be a good zionist, ie using good to modify the the term stolen, anymore than one can be a chaste whore

  8. I second Aaron’s apologies for taking up space here, but since we started the dialogue here, precipitated by the summary of Hillel Cohen book, might as well continue (till we run out of things to say?).

    Aaron, you sometimes make confounding statements. Now you know we like to put commentatoors into tidy little drawers, where we can label them by ideology/religion/perfidity… what not. That’s the way of the blogosphere. So now i’m not sure any more where to file away the Aaron Program.Does it belong in the “let’s have a jewish state for as long as possible; democracy can wait”, or “since jewish and democratic is an oxymoron, the whole enterprise is doomed, so might as well enjoy it all while we can” or just the catch-all “if wishes were horses”, that refuge of the all-knowing cynic, who for knowing it all, is barred from actually taking action – all actions having unintended consequences.

    OTOH, you clearly recognize what the conflict is about – both above and below the surface(s). OTOH, you deem most action rather hopeless, including the modest start of joint political parties, for which I hold some hope, if only because it may create new space for the entities now hermetically locked out of each other’s world. The point of that suggestion is precisely to break up the dysfunctional political dynamic created by arab-only, religious-only, russian-only, mizrahi-only, seniors only, etc parties, that now prevails in israel. It’s not that I think this can happen over night – has vehalila. But something like this has to start happening at least politically, if there is any hope of changing the current direction (which, as you’ve correctly surmised, I believe is heading straight to never-never land).

    I also would like to take issue with your prognosis, of ‘equal rights beget more demands for still more rights, etc etc” as well as with the perception of the continuation of the “world”‘s negative reaction to Jewish state even in the absence of occupation. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, but there are indications that palestinian arabs may prefer slower progress for reasons of their own, including cultural ones. And if change – in the sense of equal rights – comes gradually – it may not be as traumatic as all that, or go to extremes. But then, I admit to a streak of optimism. So yes, i basically disagree with suzy ghenem regarding what palestinians are likely to do, should they be able to experience freedoms similar to those of other Israelis. I also happen to believe (and it’s only a belief) that the palestinians kind of like to have the jews around (if not all of them). partly because they are used to having them around . Partly because it beats having to put up with some of their fellow Arabs. I think that the past 60 years had the the cumulative effect of really making the palestinians a distinct people, quite different from other Arabs, and rather self-defined. Ultimately, there’s no fundamental reason it can’t be a symbiotic relationship between the two people, whether in one state or two separate states, or a republic or a crazy condominium..

    Finally, I’ll second Susan’s question – you say you want a jewish state – but that really requires a specific concept of just what Judaism means to you. I suspect it may not mean the same thing as to a haredi, or to a new Russian immigrant. So just what is it that would make israel jewish enough in your view to allow you to live there contentedly? My take on this issue is that the divisions within the jewish community are so deep that trying for some agreement on this score will tear the country apart faster than any arab could do. it is therefore far better that religion and state be separate, thus allowing each jewish group to set its own customs and preferences without having to coerce the rest of the country’s citizens into it.

    PS if you arrived in israel as an adult then indeed the brain-washing from infancy syndrome will not apply. Be glad – it’s awfully hard to shake off. I should know.

  9. What I mean by a Jewish state is very simple: a nation-state in the 19th-century sense of the word, where the nation is the Nation of Israel. I consider Israel to be a Jewish state today and ever since its founding. The Law of Return and the corresponding ban on the repatriation of Arab refugees are the most obvious expression of this. The State of Israel is already Jewish enough for me to live in contentedly. On the big question What Does Judaism Mean to Me, I’m a secular Jew (hiloni) with a deep respect for traditional Jewish belief and practice.

    I don’t believe the Jewish state is doomed, but if trends continue – always a big “if” – it will come under much stronger attack in the near future. The Zionist center-left, people like Ehud Olmert, are playing with fire when they say that the State of Israel’s legitimacy depends on ending the occupation. These Zionists don’t understand that if the legitimacy not just of the occupation but of Jewish sovereignty in Israel is contingent on Arab consent, then Israel’s legitimacy will be almost as shaky after the end of the occupation as before. The anti-Israel movement doesn’t buy the Zionist argument that Israel is a democracy, and therefore legitimate, simply because Jews cast a numerical majority of the vote. Israel is now in the position of having to justify its existence to the West, and the “democracy” argument no longer works. It’s no longer convincing to Europeans, and it might not convince Americans much longer either.

    Israel can’t do too much about basic Western attitudes. The recent challenges to Israel’s legitimacy are all about what the West has become (self-hating), not about what Israel does, whether in the territories or anywhere else. But that doesn’t mean we should be fatalistic. It’s nowhere near inevitable that this trend will continue. Israel’s standing in the West may improve dramatically in the future, as a result of an anti-Muslim backlash or whatever (some parties on the European far right are already strongly pro-Israel). So my answer to the question “What should Israel do?” is to do what good statesmen always do: foresee and respond to constantly shifting challenges and opportunities. Just keep looking at reality, and avoid Shimon Peres-like wishful thinking.

    Suzanne, regarding injustice I meant that the Zionist conquest of Palestine was unjust to the natives as was the European conquest of the Americas. Any complete correction of the injustice against Arabs would be unjust to Jews. On your question of how long an anti-Israel movement will last, who knows? Maybe not long at all, to be followed by a pro-Israel shift. Or maybe till Israel is destroyed, like the white regime in South Africa.

    P.S. Dana, I’m glad to hear that your Zionist brainwashing was so hard to shake off. That gives me more hope for Israel’s future.

  10. Aaron- I escaped brainwashing, a very close call- but have not escaped being Jewish. I dearly hope that Israel’s future does not depend on the brainwashing I know of and that you are joking. You say you are secular.

    Trying to move forward, we don’t do “conquer” anymore since international law and the modest formation of a global community trying to do better (w re universal values). We, not only westerners, of this century and the last half of the last century try to correct injustices in all sorts of ways. “Never again”.

    I don’t see that a complete correction of the injustice to the Palestinians is necessary or possible. It will never be for Jews. But some correction is necessary and possible. Efforts in that direction change the social/psychological landscape in a positive direction (as failures change things negatively ). A correction, justice towards the Palestinians, is necessary for Israel’s survival.

    Jews are blessed having their modicum of justice, having Israel. That would not be without without foreign aid/support and approval.

    Insofar as it is at the expense of Palestinians having theirs, the justice that Jews have is not secure.

    I am so tired of the analogy to what happened here in America as justification for continuing the age of conquering. As if that was okay to repeat on and on. As if that also did not mean that Israel also can be legitimately threatened and conquered at some later date by those with the will and the means.. It’s not okay.

    For Israel there are already enough exceptions to the rules. Amends have to be made.

    So I agree with you that if trends continue, the Jewish state will come under much stronger attack- but it will be not only from Arabs. World community will be a part of it. It’s happening already.

    These Zionists don’t understand that if the legitimacy not just of the occupation but of Jewish sovereignty in Israel is contingent on Arab consent, then Israel’s legitimacy will be almost as shaky after the end of the occupation as before.

    The issue of the legitimacy of the occupation is now linked, harmfully by some, to the legitimacy of Israel within the 48 borders. It’s a self destructive argument – to Israel’s survival. It assures strong opposition. Going anti-western in the process compounds it. Wishing for anti-muslim backlash in order to keep holding on is more desperation.

  11. I also happen to believe (and it’s only a belief) that the palestinians kind of like to have the jews around (if not all of them). partly because they are used to having them around . Partly because it beats having to put up with some of their fellow Arabs….what a bunch of racist bullshit. This is why I think sometimes left wing zionists are worse than the right wingers. The right wingers say, we stole the land and we have more force, and we will kill you if you try to take it back. Kind of like a bacteria that exerts a strong inflammatory response on the part of the world. The left wingers say, yes, we stole the land (after careful and lenghty historical examination), but we are willing to “share” our stolen property, as long as we can get the world to accept and justify our theft. This is more of a viral infection that is less inflammatory and perhaps more dangerous. In terms of theft, there is not a shred of difference between Aaron, Dana, Gershom, Haim and Baruch Goldstein, and the whole world knows it. The emperor has no clothes

  12. Dana :“I also happen to believe (and it’s only a belief) that the palestinians kind of like to have the jews around (if not all of them). partly because they are used to having them around . Partly because it beats having to put up with some of their fellow Arabs….

    The reverse may also be at least as true.

    My interpretation of that is less severe: There are unpleasant people you don’t want to be around on both sides; you can often find more in common, more friendship, more interest, with those who are supposed to be “the enemy” than amongst your own.

    Suzy, looked at from outer space as opposed to looking at things on the viral-bacterial level, suspect your views may look closer to right wing Jewish: the other side of the same coin which says on both sides “no legitimacy”.

    The left wingers say, yes, we stole the land (after careful and lenghty historical examination), but we are willing to “share” our stolen property, as long as we can get the world to accept and justify our theft.

    They don’t say that. The world has accepted Israel within the 48 borders,therefore not to be called stolen (get over it) much of it legitimately purchased, some won in the 48 war of independence which Israel did not start That is internationally accepted as Israel.

    Both sides are using historical examination selectively to affirm themselves, to promote expanded goals and de-legitimize the other.

  13. Sorry, Suzanne, there is such a thing as right and wrong, and in this case the Palestinian people are in the right. it is just like Madoff and his victims. They are not equally innocent

  14. My analogy with the European conquest of the Americas wasn’t meant to justify Zionism, of course; it was meant as just the opposite. I agree with Suzy that the Zionist settlement of Palestine was theft – morally speaking, despite the fact that it was legal under the Mandate. It can’t be justified morally, any more than the European conquest of America.

    The State of Israel was conceived in sin, as were most states, including the USA, but Israel was legitimated by international recognition in 1948. Suzy denies that legitimacy. I wonder what makes a state legitimate or illegitimate in her eyes? Is the US, which was founded on the brutal conquest of American Indians, a legitimate state today? Was it a legitimate sovereign state (by your standards) 60 years after its founding, when slavery was becoming institutionalized in the South and Indians were being driven off their land? I wonder how many states in the world today are legitimate, if Israel isn’t.

    I’m not so sure that Suzanne is wrong about some Israeli Arabs would prefer to have Jews around. I’m sure most Arabs oppose Jewish political supremacy, but I think most of them appreciate the benefits of living in a state with a significant Jewish population. Remember the reaction in Um al-Fahem, one of the most anti-Zionist communities in Israel, when Lieberman suggested that the future borders be drawn so that they’ll be under Palestinian rather than Israeli jurisdiction? They sure as hell didn’t want to be liberated from Zionist oppression.

    Finally, Suzy is right that all who support the existence of Israel are the same (me, Watzman, Baruch Goldstein et al.), because all of us support the existence of Israel. But beyond that tautology lie interesting and politically important differences.

  15. “Sorry, Suzanne, there is such a thing as right and wrong, and in this case the Palestinian people are in the right. it is just like Madoff and his victims. They are not equally innocent”

    Suzy. I am sorry too, but it’s opinions like yours that make me, someone very sympathetic and interested in justice for the Palestinian people, want to say :

    Palestinians are not exactly blameless for the situation they find themselves in….and I mean all throughout this conflict. They could have had some justice years ago. When I believe they were not ready for it- that’s being kind.

    In this world, there is very little justice. But you don’t get justice through showing hate anger resentment and denying legitimacy of those from whom you seek it. That’s more like shooting yourself in the foot.


    Aaron -it’s an endless exercise to go back in history to talk about morality and the theft of land from day one. At some point- especially in this conflict- I agree if you are also saying we have to draw a line, but especially to talk practically about justice.

    It was Dana who said Arabs might prefer to have Jews around. I said yes and also vice versa: Some Jews might prefer to have Arabs than some of their own.

  16. Your tepid and nonconvincing responses prove my point. If you were a legitimate entity, you would be able to provide a defence. You use the UN declaration in 1948, but it was not ratified by a majority of the worlds population. You have less claim to Palestine then the French did to Algeria, and eventually you will end up as the French. Just as Madoff was unable to offer a really good defence, you too are unable to because any supporter of zionism is really a Madoff

  17. Suzy compare your obsession with Madoff’s stealing ( which smells of what you accuse Dana) to Arafat and his wife making off with millions probably billions of money that belonged to his people.

    Arafat’s Financial dealings

    Arafat’s Billions

    Israel within the 48 lines must be accepted by all nations that have signed the UN charter. That means all those who also want ( their legitimacy and boundaries) to be accepted within the international community.

  18. Oh puhleeez, not more ziocrap about Suha Arafat. No one believes that anyhow.

    In 1948, the UN had 51 nation states. Today, it has 192. The theft of Palestine received a slight majority of the 51 states in 1948. Care to see how the theft of Palestine would do today- lets see (US, Israel, Micronesia-yes), everyone else-no. I dont think it would pass today

  19. Suzy : As an outsider with “no dog in this fight” but as a lawyer I would let you make all your stolen real property arguments and counter with the equity “adverse possession” doctrine and unless you can show clear title in fee :The Jews win.

  20. Re – Arafat’s stolen millions.

    Alas, being clever out of necessity, resulted in false accusations.

    Arafat invested widely on behalf of the Palestinian cause. Admittedly his methods were not transparent. However in order to prevent funds being ceased it was a necessity.

    In the final audit, ALL the funds were retrieved and put into a transparent central body. Since becoming transparent Arafat’s fears have of course been realized, in that some of Palestinian funds have been frozen.

    According to a Bloomberg report (no longer available) the IMF audit reported $799m was returned to the PA, with the difference accounted for by investment losses.

    Shrewd? Yes. A thief? No.

    PS .. nice to see polite discussion on the subject.

  21. george a.hilborn ” As an outsider with “no dog in this fight” but as a lawyer I would let you make all your stolen real property arguments and counter with the equity “adverse possession” doctrine and unless you can show clear title in fee :The Jews win.”

    The LAW says otherwise and the judgment IS in. The US veto vote in the UNSC has only prevented atcion being taken against Israel for activities that have already been deemed illegal by the UN/UNSC.

    The Law still stands and Israel is still obliged to it.

  22. I agree with Suzy that the Zionist settlement of Palestine was theft …Aaron

    Jews are blessed having their modicum of justice, having Israel. That would not be without without foreign aid/support and approval. …Dana

    You are all Madoffs- you recognize the theft but since you are zionists its ok

  23. Aaron:
    General agreement here on the thrust of your analysis and its implications. But do you really think that the European conquest of the Americas (or Australia or southern Africa) is fully analogous to the Jewish conquest of Palestine? The historical connection between Jews and Eretz Yisrael (including continuous presence in the land for thousands of years) does not matter?

  24. EZS, why do the analogies have to be comprehensive for the point to be valid?
    That point is not why people would want to migrate – Jews to Palestine for different, but equally valid reasons as Europeans to North America – but that such reasons entitle no one to subdue and evict the native population.

    (Australia and South/Central America were of course different stories altogether, the former being a British prison colony and the latter being conquered to loot its riches.)

  25. talknic: The LAW is subject to interpretation by all sorts of authorities.

    The green line is accepted internationally well enough and long enough now as Israel’s present border. It’s the basis for all talks- accepted even by Arab nations in their proposals.

    Speaking of analogies and Madoff and Arafat. One difference between the two is that Madoff had a huge Ponzi scheme going which did not need large amounts of actual money though it did involve large amounts on paper.

    Arafat on the other hand stole “squirreled away” (ahem) actual money… money that was supposed to be for the betterment of his people, much money given by the taxpayers of Europe. Can anyone say it was used for the betterment of his people. Did his wife not live in luxury in Paris and his corrupt officials not live in luxury in Ramallah?

    And to anyone who claims he never had money why was Fayad looking for something that did not exist? And why did the French open up an investigation? And Why did Suha move to Tunisia?

  26. Suzy, I never said Israel’s legitimacy depends on the UN partition resolution. Just the opposite, in fact: that was a nonbinding General Assembly resolution which therefore had little if any legal significance. Israel was legitimated by the conventional forms of international recognition (exchange of ambassadors, etc.) after it declared itself a state.

    State sovereignty isn’t something you put up to a UN popularity contest each year. Once a state is recognized, it stays legitimate, even if its ratings go down. That’s what it means to have a world order based on sovereign states.

    Legitimacy does not mean niceness. The Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Khmer Rouge Cambodia – all were legitimate states. Suzy could argue, if she wanted, that Israel is a legitimate sovereign state and that it should be wiped off the map. I’d actually respect that position, which would have been consistent with public law on jus ad bellum as recently as a century ago; and I think the law was much better then than it is today. But then of course you wouldn’t be able to appeal to UN authority, because the UN charter protects the existence of member states, even unpopular ones.

    Once upon a time, Arab discourse against Israel’s legitimacy was based on a revolutionary, “anti-imperialist” theory of legitimacy. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, that discourse hasn’t worked too well for groups who now want to gain favor with the US. So now the choice seems to be between an anti-Western, Muslim theory of legitimacy, or else purely ad hoc reasons of the kind Suzy has posted here.

    I agree with Fiddler’s answer to EZS. The historical Jewish connection to Israel did not justify the Zionist settlement project of the last century.

    Some of the commenters, including a lawyer, seem to understand “theft” literally, in terms of private law (even if they are speaking tongue in cheek). I meant “theft” metaphorically, because the “theft” of Palestine, no matter how unjust, was basically legal (League of Nations). And I meant theft of a public homeland, not of private property.

  27. Fascinating and informative discussion, all. I think I disagree comprehensively with both dana and Aaron. I don’t think it’s at all problematic to call Israel a democracy. In democracies political views often correlate with ethnicity, and certain political views are forever doomed to minority support. And sometimes, as in Israel, these two unremarkable phenomena coincide. Democracy should be understood in solely the minimalist procedural sense of having elections, being able to campaign, and so on, not in terms of a group being able to enact its popular will. (I don’t really believe in demoi, public interests, or “legitimacy” anyway. My preferred superstition is Torah mi-Sinai—there’s another difference between dana and Aaron and me.) There are, of course, serious questions about whether these procedural requirements of democracy are totally in place with respect to the Palestinians in Israel, but it’s a problem that’s amenable to a political solution in principle.

    I also disagree with Aaron that a successful two-state settlement would simply lead to international condemnation being transferred to Israel’s treatment of its Palestinian Arab minority. (Though I can see why someone who believes that the West has succumbed to self-hatred would believe that.) I’m no great shakes in the predictions department, but it seems likely that Israel that had managed to come to a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians would simply be one more Western country with a large not-entirely-assimilated minority in a world that has accumulated several such countries already. Like most such countries (and here I suspect Aaron will disagree with me), the approach will be an attempt to provide some sort of reasonable accomodation for the needs of the minority, while refusing to alter principles that are basic to the concept of a legal democracy. There will be messiness, but we’ll all pretty much get by.

  28. Aaron: “Some of the commenters, including a lawyer, seem to understand “theft” literally, in terms of private law (even if they are speaking tongue in cheek). I meant “theft” metaphorically, because the “theft” of Palestine, no matter how unjust, was basically legal (League of Nations). And I meant theft of a public homeland, not of private property.”

    I think anyone who uses the word “theft” does use it that way- metaphorically and in the private sense especially by bringing in Madoff (an individual Jew) or Arafat (Palestinian leader responsible to his people presumably, but also a flawed individual).

    I use the word theft in that way with regard to Israel’s taking of land in the West Bank and Gaza ( as well as East Jerusalem and the Golan), metaphorically, though it’s actually not legal in terms of international law that Israel has promised to abide by.

    Accusing Israel of “theft” of the land within the ’49 armistice lines, the green line, is transparent enough, more about wishing to be rid of Israel altogether. It also begs making a case against the legitimacy of all UN members and their accepted borders.

    Whether the taking of land (within the green line) belonging to Arabs during the ’48 war was just is another story and I believe some amends should have been made and still should be made.

    Suzy’s case for theft disregards the geo-political completely, trying to dispense with it and simplify the matter to “right and wrong” on a personal level and at that from one point of view only. Totally disregarded is the right or wrong ( the facts ) of the causes:

    “Sorry, Suzanne, there is such a thing as right and wrong, and in this case the Palestinian people are in the right.”

    What the Palestinians people are right about is that they should end up with legitimacy and a measure of justice. But they are not right to require Jews to move back to Europe or the US (want the end of Israel). It’s such opinions that have played their part in keeping Palestinians in limbo all these years.

  29. Fiddler: I’m not saying that there is not something to the analogy. But there is also something crucial that the analogy misses. Zionists may have been new to the land; Jews were anything but.
    (Much of this discussion is devoted to the *legal* basis for the claim to a Jewish state. But the *moral* claim derives from Western Civilization’s acknowledgment that the Jewish people of today are continuous with the people of the same name who held sovereignty in Palestine until it was taken away from them by the Romans, and who cried “Next Year in Jerusalem” ever since).

    Aaron: On what basis do you assert that the historical Jewish connection to the land does not make the Zionist settlement project more legitimate than the European settlement of the Americas? Two questions to ponder: (a) Is there anyone who doubts that the pre-Zionist Jewish population would have been greater had this been allowed by the Ottomans and their predecessors? (b) Was it more legitimate for an Arab from Damascus or Haifa to move to Jerusalem in 1905 than for a Jew to move there from the Pale or Baghdad? Why? And if there is no difference in the case of Jerusalem, is there a difference in the case of Safed? Rishon Le’Zion? Where exactly?

  30. A reply to Raghav. I see nothing wrong with defining democracy formally, in terms of ballots. Israel would then be a democracy. What I object to is the sleight of hand when you take that formal definition and implicitly associate it with all the goodies (superstitions) from substantive definitions of democracy: identity of governing and governed, popular sovereignty, public opinion, etc. Otherwise, who cares about ballots? If you want to characterize Israel as a democracy where the Jews rule over the Arabs without their consent, then I have no problem with using the word “democracy” because it’s clear that it’s meant only formally, not substantively. But I don’t see Israel described in those terms.

    Of course legitimacy, public opinion, consent of the governed, etc. are all just metaphysical ideals (“superstitions”), but like it or not, political life today depends on belief in them. The essential thing about Israel is that there’s a permanent, significant political group, the Arabs – the fact that it’s ethnic is unimportant here – which doesn’t accept the state’s very existence (as a Jewish nation-state). Democracy implies consent of the governed, and Israel doesn’t even have that. Reconsidering your earlier example, note that separatists in Quebec don’t negate the existence of Canada. They just want to secede.

    On the question of what happens after a final peace agreement: do I really have to list the ways in which Israel is not just another state with a minority problem? It’s the only state in the West that I can think of which proudly defines itself as a nation-state and not a “state of all its citizens”. The “white” Staatvolk rules over a “brown” minority against its will. (My description of the West as “self-hating” was over the top, but I was talking about the West’s vastly disproportionate response to injustice when it’s white-against-brown.) Israel will have an irredentist state (Palestine) on its border which stands to gain from attacks on the Jewish nature of the State of Israel. Israel is in a Muslim region when Muslim power is on the rise in Europe, for the moment at least.

    None of this means that antagonism to Israel will continue after a withdrawal from the territories. I don’t claim to know what will happen. I guess our difference is that you believe that Westerners sympathize with Arabs against Israel “on the issues”, particularly the occupation, and I think Western sympathy with the Arabs against Israel is more basic than any particular issue.

  31. To EZS: (a) Alternative histories (what if the Ottomans had allowed Jewish immigration) aren’t relevant. Whether or not Jews wanted to be the predominant part of the population in Palestine, they were not in fact.

    (b) The difference in your example is between Arab migration – or to sharpen it, Arab immigration – and Zionist settlement. There would have been nothing unjust per se about Jews immigrating to Palestine. But Zionism’s aim was to settle Palestine, to take it over.

  32. Correction: I meant that Israel is not a substantive democracy for its entire citizenry. It is a substantive democracy of the Jews.

  33. Aaron:

    On (a), such hypotheticals may not be legally relevant, but they are morally relevant.

    On (b), what is the difference between immigration and settlement? Presumably, the difference is that settlement involves the construction of particular kinds of institutions– i.e., those that further the interests of a specific collective identity, and in particular, assert priority for that collectivity on a particular piece of land. Fine and good. But then how is this different from the construction of any nation-state? For instance, if Zionism was never conceived and an Arab state of Palestine were to take shape, Palestinian Arab institutions would have to been built. So the only difference between the Jewish national project in Palestine and any Palestinian Arab national project lies in the claim that Palestinian Arabs were indigenous to the land. The problem with this, as I have suggested, is that given the historical Jewish connection to the land, there is no basis for saying that the Arabs are any more indigenous to the land than are the Jews. (As I have further suggested, the claim that the Jews were a numerical minority is highly problematic because: [a] that was in part because they were constrained from emigrating to Palestine; and [b] this would imply giving the Jews sovereignty over the city that everyone regards as the capital). I don’t mean to suggest that the Palestinian Arabs do not have a legitimate claim too. They certainly do. But there is simply no basis for asserting, on a *moral* basis, that one people’s claim is more legitimate than the other.

  34. EZS, the moral claim you make seems quite arbitrary to me. I accept that the Jewish people of today are continuous with the people of the same name who held sovereignty in Palestine until it was taken away from them by the Romans, but I can’t see any moral claim arising from that today. Every person, and consequently every people, has ancestors reaching back to the beginning of the human race, and all of them have had sovereignty over this or that place at one time or another. So what? Do present-day Italians have a “moral claim” to get their Roman Empire back? Do Germans get Charlemagne’s empire back? I live in Aachen, so I sure have a moral claim to that, don’t I?
    There are two relevant moral claims I accept: the right of every human being to live in peace wherever s/he happens to live, and the right of a self-described nation to a cultural identity.
    Neither implies a right to lord over others – the division of the planet into sovereign states is practical, not moral.
    (Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. Etc.)

  35. Suzanne // Oct 18, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    talknic: The LAW is subject to interpretation by all sorts of authorities.

    The highest Authority, in the end, is the UNSC. The UNSC has demanded Israel WITHDRAW. The UNSC has said Israel’s annexation of the West Bank is illegal.

    “The green line is accepted internationally well enough and long enough now as Israel’s present border.”

    An illegally created fact on the ground does not constitute a fact in law.

    Israel’s borders were defined the day it declared Sovereignty.

    Letter From the Agent of the Provisional Government of Israel to the President of the United States, May 15, 1948
    “MY DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I have the honor to notify you that the state of Israel has been proclaimed as an independent republic within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947, and that a provisional government has been charged to assume the rights and duties of government for preserving law and order within the boundaries of Israel, for defending the state against external aggression, and for discharging the obligations of Israel to the other nations of the world in accordance with international law. The Act of Independence will become effective at one minute after six o’clock on the evening of 14 May 1948, Washington time.”

    Israel has never legally annexed ANY territories outside it’s Sovereign borders

    “It’s the basis for all talks- accepted even by Arab nations in their proposals.”

    Which only shows their willingness to move on, perhaps even forgive. Meanwhile Israel has illegally taken and is still illegally taking MORE .

    “Speaking of analogies and Madoff and Arafat. One difference between the two is that Madoff had a huge Ponzi scheme going which did not need large amounts of actual money though it did involve large amounts on paper.”

    He was a PROVEN thief, with no cause but to line his own pockets. There is no analogy. Arafat had a cause and is only alleged to have stolen.

    “Arafat on the other hand stole “squirreled away” (ahem) actual money… money that was supposed to be for the betterment of his people, much money given by the taxpayers of Europe.”

    He is alleged to have. The IMF report, NEVER cited by propagnadiatas such as yourself, says he DID NOT steal.

    “Did his wife not live in luxury in Paris and his corrupt officials not live in luxury in Ramallah?”

    Does any Israeli leader or their wife live in poverty??

    “And to anyone who claims he never had money why was Fayad looking for something that did not exist?”

    You mean the monies the IMF audit reported was recovered?

    “And why did the French open up an investigation?”

    2004…….5 years later….what??? anything?

    “And Why did Suha move to Tunisia?”

    She is a free person.

  36. The LAW give me a break. The most advanced system of law was thought to be that advanced by the Meiji folks in the late 1800s which was copied after the German model.(you see where that went) Precedent or, stare decisis et non quieta movere ,is like teaching a talented little girl how to dance and equiping her with cement shoes and saying”now dance” .
    Equity0r the King’s justice is administered according to fairness not the LAW ,but may follow the rules of law , usually analogies of law.Adverse possession is reality. The Jews win.

    Having alledgedly won a moral victory is like using a new condum wih a hole in it.

    If the UN provides for veto power or in essense ,the right to negate a proposal ,then who cares what then so-called intent of the others signatories was.

  37. Aaron – Picking up from where I left off (sorry for the delayed response. living making and all that interfering with argument making – darn…). Here is a fascinating article by Micahael Neumann I just came across that presses a diametrically opposed viewpoint from yours, regarding Israel’s nature as a nation-state and its 19th century legacy (but shares a common starting point, I think):

    In the article, Neumann disputes the hope Israel might have for continued international acceptance of the claim of an exclusive state for the Jewish “people”. He points out that such a claim, based on ethnic “purity” was not made by any other “people” or state since Nazi Germany (though I’d have to do more research to ascertain whether that’s true. Am thinking of the Kosovars, the Kurds and other ethnic minorites who make such a claim but unsuccessfully. Maybe israel is unique only in that it’s the only such claim that’s been successfully staked AND carried out in fact). Neumann does make a point I agree with, which is that the notion is based on discredited concepts of “ethnic nationalism” and civil rights for “peoples” rather than individuals. He traces such political concepts back to both Woodrow Wilson’s idealism and Hitler’s exploitative cynicism.

    I don’t mean to raise nazism as an argument here, far from it. Am only pointing out that using 19th century nationalist models (which, in truth, is exactly what herzl was inspired by, as, it appears are you) have an unfortunate tendency to degenerate into Prussian-like realities years later. Both militaristic and militant in outlook, with zealotry waiting just around the corner to take over. Yes, I’m thinking of the Serbians here – and that is my preferred analogy (though no two states are alike, but it’s close enough). Another way of saying the same thing is that ethnic based nationalism (or religious) can – and has throughout history – degenerated into the very tribalism I conflated with the “Jewish state” concept. ie, tribes can become nations (as the bible makes clear) but nations can also degenerate into tribes, and the parochial, xenophobic mind-set that comes with them.

    What the “west” is waking up to is the simple fact – which you seem to agree with – that Political Zionism may be incompatible with modern international norms for nation states. Israel can sugar-coat that unpleasant truth, just as you seem to recognize, but it is unlikely to camouflage the unpleasant reality in the long run.

    Then you take it a step further and ascribe the west’s evolution to “self-hatred” (a uniquely jewish concept, if ever there was one, now projected on entirely disparate populations?). having so dismissed modern sensibilities regarding ethnic purity as a justification for colonialist enterprises, you then go on and vest your hopes in a rising tide of ‘anti-Islamism” in Europe, ie, a clash of civilization. Now, now….

    Others here pointed out some of the issues with both description and prescription. Since either is flimsy at best, where does that leave the logic of your position?

    ie, please pick a drawer from one of the three I so kindly designated (hint: the third one, with the label “If wishes were horses…” is the least logical – recommend shying away from it in your case- danger of strong cognitive dissonance. Very unhealthy).

  38. talknic:

    The May 15th 1948 Letter to the President ( Truman) you quote was Israel’s notification that it accepted partition, boundaries approved by the GA and proclaimed itself to be an independent state. it also says Israel will be bound by international law. It refers to the Israeli Declaration of Independence (which everyone should read at least once). It also asks for US support in becoming a UN member

    In any case I think UNGA Res 273 in more relevant in that this is where the UN accepts Israel as a member after it’s War of Independence. This was a war Israel did not want to fight but had to fight for truly existential reasons. And I believe this was recognized by the UN, ie.that Israel was in an hostile environment and that the partition borders were in fact inadequate for security.

    Res 273 does “take note” of the partition recommendation though (UNGA Res 181) and, after that the 1948 war and the changes, including refugees and captured land in UNGA Res 194. The last two are advisory, not enforceable.

    So the admission of Israel to the UN, the community of nations, does not seem contingent upon returning this land captured in the 48 War of Independence. I believe the UN therefore sanctioned this change in borders, only demanding that going forward Israel be a peace-loving nation and abide by the charter.

    Nowhere have I ever read that the UN required Israel to return to the parition lines. I think that you are way out in left field dancing with those who want to get rid of Israel altogether.

    You have a long way to go with your evidence of this letter to Truman, as proof of Israel’s accepted boundaries in 1949 and today.
    I don’t know what you mean by “legal annexation Israel considers that it “legally” annexed the Golan by vote of the Knesset. The international community does not accept this.
    Nothing wrong with moving on… we should.

    I reject the use of Madoff just to say we are all thieves like him. Regarding Arafat- do you think all this money- millions, billions was given to Arafat by the international community for the Palestian people and to build their state was then okay for him to take and invest, gamble away, secretly? And to take care of his buddies? And to support his military? Arafat not only stole from his people, he stole from those who gave- probably including from my taxes.

    Arafat’s Investments Included Dotcoms, New York Bowling Alley
    Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) — In 35 years as Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat raised billions of dollars. He spent the fortune to wield power, to pay militants who attacked Israel and to invest in the U.S. and the Middle East.
    ……. Arafat, who died on Nov. 11 at age 75, disclosed $799 million of investments in documents the Palestinian Authority has released over the past two years that show he didn’t just invest in building basic services in the West Bank and Gaza.
    At a time when the authority was starved for funds, Arafat’s money managers placed bets from Tel Aviv to Silicon Valley on venture capital funds, software startups and telecommunications companies.
    “Arafat was notoriously secretive, and he spread the money all over,” says Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy and author of “Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It” (Bonus Books, 2003). “He didn’t give the public a view of the investments until the donor community protested about corruption.”

    And so on and on…

    Also google IMF and Arafat and I find that the IMF estimates that Arafat funneled $900 million to his own bank account between 1995 and 2000. Less than half of that is ALLEGED to have been invested on behalf of the Palestinians. So if you believe that- where’s the rest? And the rest of the rest? Look at the sums that have been given to the Palestinians over the years. Where have they gone?

  39. Suzy Ghanem:

    “The left wingers say, yes, we stole the land (after careful and lenghty historical examination), but we are willing to “share” our stolen property, as long as we can get the world to accept and justify our theft. This is more of a viral infection that is less inflammatory and perhaps more dangerous. In terms of theft, there is not a shred of difference between Aaron, Dana, Gershom, Haim and Baruch Goldstein”

    Thanks for lumping me with Goldstein (as in “not a shred of difference”?). In the interest of truth in disclosure, a minor correction is in order though: I consider myself as more of a “Trans-Zionist” than a run-of-the-mill “left wing zionist”. What’s that, you ask? think transcendence, assuming you care to contemplate such possibilities. My dictionary of the “Guide to the perplexed – the many faces of zionism” will be available soon….I’ll post on Mondoweiss, OK?

    Regarding the business of “theft”: I think we all agree that this did happen, much as any colonialist enterprise before it. However, someone said somewhere I read recently, that even a child of rape, once born, has a right to life. That, in so many words, is the essence of Aaron’s claim as I see it. Of course, he adds something about “original claim” of Jews to the fatherland. Which to me (ie, a self-defined trans-zionist) sounds no different than the “manifest destiny” used by the European settlers to the Americas, be they spaniards or English or irish, to bind them all in the shared purpose which started with a rape of a land populated by others.

    The question ultimately is – given that the rape happened and an off-spring was conceived, how are we to deal with the issue?

    You, Suzy, focus on vengence and a turning back, as if that was an option. Aaron hopes to live (well) with a mere scarlet letter. I prefer to take what is here now and judge the off-spring by its own actions, even as the act of rape is recognized as a sin, and adequate reparations are exacted from the perpetrators. I think Suzanne would agree with that, but Suzy demands her pound of flesh. Which alas, is the equivalent of propagating the act of rape through likeminded retaliation.

    Of course, one would wish for demonstrated remorse from the offending parties for actions past, while showing every intention of breaking the pattern. At least such remorse as Americans are showing for the ill-treatment of the amerindians. Unfortunately, I do not see the capacity for remorse in the very arid spiritual landscape that Israel is becoming. They may have made the desserts bloom (may be…) but they sure made the spirit of the land wilt, watering it with arrogance, complacency and paranoia. That this is true is demonstrated daily by actions in the present. ie, the child of the original rape continues the pattern whence it was conceived. Acting out the original sin over and over, and spreading hate and disgust with no reconciliation in sight.

    That is why I believe that politics alone cannot deal with present day Israel, which has unfortunately become victim to psychosis. What neither I or anyone else here knows is how to bring the patient into the therapist’s office, so that a cure can be devised before more violence erupts.

  40. Dana
    I think your analogy is stupid. The only thing similar to a rape is that our people were raped byt those with a phony claim to the land. The zionist entity is not the offspring of a rape, it is an ongoing crime. As long as israel exists, it is humiliating to the Palestinian people. Respectable scholars such as your own Shloma Zand and Meron Beneifsty have proven that your entire history has been falsified. The only thing that connects you to Palestine is that you have been stealing it since the 1880s. We Palestinians do not advocate violence against you, we just want you to leave. When you move to a land without people, lets say Minsk, we wont concern ourselves with you

  41. Dana: “They may have made the desserts bloom (may be…) but they sure made the spirit of the land wilt, watering it with arrogance, complacency and paranoia. That this is true is demonstrated daily by actions in the present. ie, the child of the original rape continues the pattern whence it was conceived. Acting out the original sin over and over, and spreading hate and disgust with no reconciliation in sight.”

    They really did make the desert bloom.

    This, the acting out ( or reenacting) of the original traumas or dramas ( my pluralizing) is described in Judith Hermann’s book “Trauma and Recovery” which is about individuals but I think we can apply it to the collective, to social groups. Hermanns tells what it’s about. And truly this situation is ironic because it is a kind of group self-hatred ( a bringing of harm ) practiced by those who like to use the term to disparage others. Also there are political parasites that ride this well and even nurture it for all the power they can get. It’s a tragedy.

    I think the Palestinians suffer from it too.
    I came to add one more point to my post with all the typographic errors just above- to Talknic.

    That pre-war letter to Truman also can prove that the nascent Israel was very willing to live within the boundaries of the partition even though it gave much less land than Zionist leaders felt they needed to accommodate Jews who needed refuge. If you look at that partition map- and think of what’s been happening between Arabs and Jews all these years from the first – those borders never made any sense. They implied a good will, cooperation and coexistence that was just not there for too many who held sway over the rest.

    I’ll leave this for now-and thank you everyone.

  42. Fiddler:

    I actually agree with you entirely. My remarks were based on the premise that a people has a stronger moral claim to a land when that people is considered to be indigenous to that land. I invoked that premise is because it is the basis for regarding (as Aaron did, and reasonably) the European settlement/conquest of the Americas as unjust. My point is that even if you accept that premise, it does not follow that the Palestinian Arabs’ moral claim to the Land is superior to that of the Jews because it is impossible to say who is more indigenous. But I am entirely with you that it is a problematic premise, and that the only real justification for it is practical. I also agree that no one has the right to “lord it” over other groups. But unfortunately, that might be a necessary evil in a world in which you either dominate others or they dominate you. A United States of Palestine has never been a realistic option.

  43. Raghav, based on what you say, I think the disagreement you refer to may be less comprehensive than you attribute. For one, I do not dispute that there is democracy in Israel. But it’s a limited one, or as someone said (wish I remembered who): israel is a democracy for the Jews and a fascism for the Arabs. In that sense it is not unlike Athens, or – more closely, Sparta. Athens was a democracy for those lucky enough to be considered citizens. That unfortunately left out more than half of the population, including, not accidentally, the many slaves. Sparta was part oligarchy, part democracy, where the oligarchy was military-derived. That’s where I see the parallel to modern day Israel – where military men (and only men) thrive in the public sphere – IMO – to the detriment of the entire population, jews and non-Jews included, and certainly the female half.

    Limited democracies do not work in the long run precisely because they set high expectations for some, which leads to deep resentment by those left out. Discontent among the semi-and dis-empowered is bound to reach a fever pitch, BECA– USE the privileged rub elbows with the not so privileged part of the citizenry. It is not possible to have an equal-and-separate, segregationist policy, without a civil rights struggle bubbling to the surface. The longer the cork is kept on, the more explosive the struggle. Yes, India provides a counter-example as they managed to keep large chuncks of the population out of power through a rigidly enforced caste system. But somehow I doubt that’s what most Israelis want, though I realize some wish it could be just so.

    Which is why my proposition of joint arab-jewish parties make sense – ultimately, it’s the only way to keep the lid on things beore it all goes poof!.

    Also, I agree with you – and disagree with Aaron regarding western acceptance of Israel should the occupation – and all its trappings – come to an end. The west has shown willingness to come to terms with all kind of regimes that were guilty of extremely bad behavior in the recent past. I can mention Germany and China, but Algeria and Turkey come to mind as well. There are plenty of others. The “west” by definition is rather practical that way, sometimes to the opposite extreme of asking for way too little before extending the seal of approval. Too much swept under the carpet in the process, including oftentimes, true justice. Aaron, I believe, is very wrong implying some deep underlying currents that would prevent rapproachment with israel, no matter what. Just like the attribution of “self-hatred” to the “west”. Way too facile, me thinks. But since these are offered as opinions, I’m not sure what I can offer to refute them, other than my own, possibly stronger opinion. Oh well,

  44. It’s the only state in the West that I can think of which proudly defines itself as a nation-state and not a “state of all its citizens”.

    Really! So you think when Quebec secedes, it’ll be the second?

    Whether other Western states proclaim themselves nation-states or not, many are nation-states as measured against the substantive criteria you cited above. Israel has the Law of Return, just as Germany and Greece offer expedited immigration to members of what they consider to be their respective diasporas. If you don’t know which nation a Western country is based around, a quick glance at the established church, monarchy, and other national symbols usually clears things up. If it’s the price of peace, I’m sure Israelis would be okay with quietly dropping the phrase “Jewish state” from politician’s speeches while continuing to sing Hatikvah, keeping the Law of Return, etc.

    I don’t think most people really believe in the consent of the governed; I suspect they don’t have deeply theorized views on the subject. But they seem to have little difficulty with other rights that are defined solely in procedural or “negative” terms. (For instance, we have free speech because the government wouldn’t punish me for printing books attacking it, even though I don’t have the money to buy a printing press.)

    As for white-on-brown, Israel isn’t as white as all that, and plenty of European countries now have brown minorities. Yes, Israel borders majority-Muslim countries (unlike Spain, which is nine whole miles away), but I don’t see how that’s relevant to Western public opinion. I don’t actually think that Westerners sympathize with Arabs against Israel—the position of Western governments tends to be fairly close to the Israeli mainstream on most issues—but yes, to the extent that they do criticize Israel, I think the criticisms can mostly be taken at face value.

  45. A tangent, but Aaron — I’m curious as to why you remain a Likud voter despite your opposition to the settlement enterprise. I know you support the occupation, but a Kadima government is very unlikely to end the occupation of the West Bank in the foreseeable future, and a Likud government will almost certainly not clamp down on settlements.

  46. Suzy is right to object to the “pound of flesh” analogy. Her position is closer to Joan of Arc’s (from memory):

    INTERROGATOR: Are you saying that God hates the English?
    JOAN: I do not know whether God loves or hates the English. I only know that they shall be driven from France.

    Raghav, re your comment on Western attitudes to Israel: it’s a truism that perceptions are more important than realities in questions like this. Westerners perceive themselves, unlike Israel, as having transcended 19th-century nationalism, whatever the reality. Westerners perceive Israelis as white – again, whatever the reality. (More precisely, that’s “Western” not “white”, because Russians are white but they pretty much got a free pass in Chechnya; but I’ll use “Western” and “white” interchangeably here.)

    I really regret having described the West as “self-hating”. Please, look at the phenomena I’m referring to by that term, rather than the term itself. For good or ill, Europeans and European-Americans are giving up their traditional cultural hegemony in their home countries, in the name of diversity or whatever. Or rather, they perceive themselves as doing that. It’s questionable how long this will continue, and as I said above that question is very relevant to Western attitudes to Israel. Anyway, Israel refuses to give up Jewish cultural hegemony, and will pay the price for that in popularity.

    Criticism of Israel cannot be taken at face value, because it’s wildly disproportionate. Similarly with criticism of white rule in South Africa, which was relatively humane by African standards. Dana cites other oppressive regimes which were tolerated by the West, but none fits the perceived white-on-colored pattern of Israel and South Africa. (Unless “Algeria” includes French colonialism, but that supports my point: back then Israel and South Africa were relatively popular too.)

    Also, Dana, thanks for the reference to Neumann’s article. I’ve read practically all his articles on Israel/Palestine, as well as his interesting book The Case Against Israel, but I missed this one. I think Neumann is one of the absolute best Western commentators on Israel. He argues some of the same points I’m arguing here (the illegitimacy of the Zionist enterprise), but quite differently because he argues from the left while I’m arguing from the right.

    Another thing I want to make clear: I do not espouse the ideology of 19th-century nationalism. I don’t believe in any “national right to self-determination”, for the Jews or anyone else. I do believe that the institution of Israel as a Jewish state was reasonable given the particular circumstances in 1948, and that a state once constituted as a nation-state has a prima facie right to continue to exist as such.

    Raghav asks why I support the Likud instead of Kadima. Whether or not a Kadima government would withdraw from Judea and Samaria (and I think that’s still possible, though unlikely), it will put Israel in a weak political position. Also, Tzipi Livni is a moron.

  47. For a people that is rumored to be intelligent, all of you are having a remarkably difficult time refuting my arguments that israel is an illegitimate state, that unlike other states, needs another vote by the UN to remove its “legitimacy”
    Fact 1: There is no historical Jewish claim to Palestine. The myths of Moses, Davd, 1st and 2nd temples have been conclusively disproven by scholars such as Nadia el Haj
    Fact 2: The ethnic cleansing of Palestine remains the worst episode of ethnic cleansing in the 20th century
    Fact 3: Every day that you continue to exist on stolen land is a war crime

  48. Suzy: I know this will not help but I could not withstand the temptation to respond. I will concede that the third “fact” is somewhat debatable depending on how one defines those terms. The first two, however, are risible- the first because it is the opposite of a fact, the second because it says more about the motivation of the writer than anything else.

    On the second: I assume this is meant to challenge the idea that the Holocaust was the worst such incident, but really the Palestinians had it worse? What exactly would be accomplished by debating this point? All this does is remind me how tough it is to be a Palestinian. There cannot be possibly be anything worse than to be beaten up by somebody who then goes around complaining that they are the big victims– and other people seem to believe them! That really must be unbearable.

    On 1: Take a trip to Rome. You will see a victory arch there. The Arch of Titus. It was built to commemorate the Roman conquest of Judea and the destruction of the Temple. On it is an engraving of Roman soldiers carrying away spoils from the Temple in Jerusalem, including one one of the principal symbols of the State of Israel– the menorah. Take a look: . This is a piece of recorded history that is no more subject to challenge than, say, that the Romans were from Rome. It occurs to me that at the time, Arabs were still mostly pagan (and probably some Jewish!) tribes on their peninsula to the southeast.

    I imagine you’ll tell me that Nadia el Haj or someone has challenged– conclusively disproved even!!– that fact. So? There is always some idiot willing to challenge anything, and such idiots don’t exactly hold themselves up to stringent standards of evidence. There are people who believe that men did not land on the moon, that Elvis is still alive, that Obama is a Muslim, etc etc etc.

  49. Israeli doctors who had been invited to Egyptian event in the fight against breast cancer were told at the last minute not to come, according to a Monday report by Channel 2 television. The doctors were scheduled to share their experience in dealing with the disease, but were told Sunday night that the Egyptian health minister had cancelled the invitation.

    The Foreign Ministry expressed outrage at the decision and said it would ask Egypt to clarify and correct the decision.

Comments are closed.