The one-state solution is anti-Semitic? In response to a piece recently published in the Forward, Jerry Haber takes down, one by one, criticisms of the left we’ve heard time and time again.
By Jeremiah Haber
Recently, Forward contributing editor Jay Michaelson wrote a long piece challenging the leftwing critics of Israel to reveal their endgame. According to Michaelson, Jewish Voice for Peace says that it is agnostic but the JVP folks he has talked to are for one state. And a one-state solution involves nothing less than the “cultural genocide” of Israel. “There is no way that a binational state will be a safe haven for the Jewish people or that it will preserve Jewish culture.” Well, so much for those benighted fools like Hannah Arendt, Albert Einstein, Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, and Rabbi Benjamin. To quote Michaelson, “NO WAAYYY.”
May I respectfully suggest to Michaelson that he stick to issues he knows about in the LGBT community, instead of spouting Hasbara 101, the sort of stuff that intelligent rightwingers would never demean themselves by doing.
Let me just take thirty seconds or so to answer his main assertions.
JVP hides its endgame, which is the one-state solution. No it doesn’t, and no it isn’t. Had Michaelson bothered to google that organization (he doesn’t bring a single reference, or link, to anything he asserts) he could see that they have a whole list of principles including, “Israelis and Palestinians have the right to security, sovereignty, and self-determination within political entities of their own choosing.” Now what Michaelson should have at least argued was that that’s what they say, but you can’t believe those “cafe leftists” (his offensive dig). Instead he writes that the JVP people he has talked with are one-staters. So what? The organization includes one-staters, two-staters, no-staters, etc. I, for one, am not a one-stater. I am not at all agnostic on what I want for the endgame, which is that Israelis and Palestinians will have security, soveignty, and self-determination. On Michaelson’s logic, if there are gay-right activists in an organization who prefer Obama over Romney that commits the organization to being a front for the Democrats.
The one-state solution is “anti-Semitic” because it means that “every people on the planet, from Peruvians to Pakistanis, deserves self-determination — except one. This is where anti-Zionism slides into anti-Semitism. Why are Jews to be treated differently from every other nation on the planet? Is Jewish nationhood more dubious than others?” In fact, there are many nations that don’t have a state, including the Palestinian nation, which was repeatedly promised a state, but whose territory is under the control of the “Jewish nation.” I never knew that peoples have a right to a state at the expense of another people’s, or on that people’s territory. And, let’s face it, shouldn’t a liberal have problems with any nation-state who accepts new members into the nation on the basis of religious conversion alone?
Israel is singled out for moral opprobrium by the left. Oh, how I wish that were true — the left, including the Arab left, has spent enormous time in the last year or so on something called the “Arab spring,” “Arab civil society,” and the Syrian civil war. And, darn it, the human rights organizations are always devoting most of their time and resources to other countries besides my own. But Michaelson bizarrely insists that the left — including the Jewish and the Palestinian left — are anti-Semitic unless they show more concern about the plight of the native Americans than about the fate of the Palestinians. But that is nonsense and offensive nonsense at that. Michaelson himself cares more about the plights of U.S. gays than about the genocide of the Native Americans. Does he really think that gay rights in the U.S. is more important than the fate of the Roma in Europe? And if he does, should he be suspected of bigotry toward the Roma for that? For that matter, does he think that leftwing criticism of Israel is a greater tragedy than the Chinese suppression of Tibetan rights? So why is he writing about Israel and not writing about Tibet? (For more on this ridiculous hasbara point see my essay here.)
Michaelson and I write on Israel because we are Jews and stakeholders. Palestinians and their allies are also stake-holders. If I arrange for a family member who has committed a crime to be arrested, am I to be criticized because I didn’t tell the cops to go after more serious killers? Should I have merely tried to solve the problem within the family? Written a letter to the editor? Flaunt my liberal creds?
I have a lot to disagree about with Peter Beinart, but at least Beinart makes arguments, cites sources, and takes his subject seriously. When I read stuff in Jewish media outlets like Michaelson’s piece here, I am reminded of Maimonides’ point about the illness that afflicts experts in a certain field who feel that they can make pronouncements in areas outside their expertise.
Had he lived today Maimonides may have called it “contributing editor syndrome.”
Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber is the nom de plume of an Orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor, who divides his time between Israel and the United States. This post was originally published on his blog, The Magnes Zionist, on August 3, 2012.