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On anti-normalization, dialogue and activism

“Thanks, this was the most awful thing I have read in a long time. Going into fetus position.”

This was the reply I got on Twitter from a friend after posting the Facebook anti-normalization debate yesterday. The exchange between Palestinians from Jordan and Israeli activists was unpleasant for me to read as well. I posted it because I think we should deal with the things that shake or trouble us, and because I have witnessed similar conversations taking place lately – perhaps in a more civilized manner – in different forums, and not just online.

Here are some of my own thoughts on this issue, and on anti-normalization in general; though they are not very conclusive or well-organized:

Three out of the four Palestinians in the conversation expressed a complete and absolute rejection of the Israelis they were speaking with – all of whom are anti-Zionists, and to the best of my knowledge, supporters of a one-state solution. “The problem” was not that the politics of the Israelis was rejected but that their mere right to existence here was denied.

When asked for their political vision or solution, the Palestinians replied that the Jews should leave Palestine and go back to their native lands. Yet there are no “native lands.” By now, the Israeli identity and existence is as real as the American, Australian or Afrikaner. Take my case for example: my father was born in Basra, Iraq. My mother’s family (except for my grandfather) has lived in this land since the 19th century. When Palestinians talk about us “leaving Palestine,” what people like me hear is expulsion and annihilation. If there is anti-Semitism directed at Israelis, this is it.

But should we expect this kind of nuanced understanding from Palestinian refugees in Arab countries? Read this comment, which was posted this morning on this site by someone named Farouk:

This is to anti-Zionist Jews in Palestine (I am anti-normalization and dialogue with Zionists) who are disturbed by the views in that conversation. Even if you reject Zionism it does not change that you are in a position of massive power.

You are living on lands and homes stolen by force from Palestinians who were expelled from their homeland and since then have lived a life of non-stop misery and humiliation. You are benefiting from the crimes of Zionism, even if you had little choice in that.

Palestinians expelled since 1948 are in the total opposite position, their homeland has been taken from them and they mostly have lived in refugee camps with no citizenship, no rights, and are oppressed by other Arab states/gangs who don’t want them there.

Palestinians have been massacred by Lebanese factions in the 1970s and 80s (supported by Israel and Syrian regime), I live in Lebanon and know Palestinians in the refugee camps and how they’ve been abused by all Lebanese factions alongside Zionist invasions and massacres.

Palestinians were also expelled and massacred by Jordan in 1970 (again supported by Israel). They were expelled from Kuwait in 1991 because Arafat supported Saddam, from Libya in 1993 because Arafat signed Oslo. They were massacred by Iranian regime allies in Iraq War and are now being killed by both sides in the Syrian War. This is just a picture of what being Palestinian is like, you have no safety or security because of being expelled from your homeland, you always being treated horribly and can be expelled again or killed at any time. No one supports you. No one protects you. Simply because they are Palestinian.

Jews in Palestine cannot understand this and will never experience anything like it. Open your mind and see it from their side. They have suffered their entire lives because of the stealing of their homeland which you are living on yet they will be killed if they try to return. How can you demand that when Palestinians come into contact with you that they be nice and want to give you flowers when you are a citizen of the terrorist state that destroys their lives every day, that you live in their homeland they can’t return to even for a visit and you are benefiters from their suffering? Would you not feel rage if you were in their position? They are only human.

You are in the position of illegimate power and privilege, you have a responsible to accept that and to work to destroy that privilege you have. Palestinians do not owe you anything. You do not have the right to use some of them being angry at you as excuse to join with Zionists.

I believe that the existence of Israel is the cause of the war and hatred and after the state of Israel is put to an end (peacefully or not) that the hatred will reduce, and it is possible for the Jews, Muslims and Christians in Palestine to live together in a democratic state and I am opposed to expelling anybody as it is not justice.

Farouk makes some very solid points, especially with regards to the feelings of Palestinian refugees.

Still, I hear this rejection of any form of Jewish existence here also from activists who are not refugees or not even Palestinians. And it’s not just the personal threat I sense that troubles me, but the feeling that the conversation is dominated by a fantasy of moving history backwards. Solutions are always political in their nature, and they bring into account changes that occurred over years and decades. Then again, when Israel expresses zero interest in any form of justice for the Palestinians, and ethnic expulsion continues, it is no surprise that Palestinians and some of their supporters would express total anger and frustration at the first Israeli they meet (and the second, and the third).

Within Israeli society, anti-normalization benefits the Israeli right – at least in the short term. Take the joint struggle for instance: I have read a well-articulated text by a leading Palestinian activist arguing that Israelis should not come to the protests in the West Bank, and instead demonstrate against the occupation in Tel Aviv. It showed a lack of understanding of political activism in Israel: Facing soldiers alongside Palestinians is the most radical thing an Israeli Jew can do; protesting in Tel Aviv, even getting arrested, is much easier and even well-received by the mainstream.

Radical anti-normalization plays also into the hands of those wishing to impose ethnic segregation in Israel and Palestine; it prevents the political transformation some Israelis experience when they engage in joint political action with Palestinians; and it is often used as “common sense” argument that the one-state Solution is impossible, because if Palestinians reject all forms of cooperation with Jews, how could they share a state with them? For these reasons, most Palestinian anti-normalization activist I know of support the joint struggle and other forms of ties with Israelis which are in the context of opposition to the occupation – yet I don’t know for how much longer this position will hold, given current trends.

At the same time, anti-normalization, in all forms, has the strange effect of keeping the conversation more honest.

At the end, I feel that what the recent Facebook conversation showed is the futility of any form of “dialogue” at this point in time. As long as the political issue remains unsolved, such contacts make both sides more angry and “extreme.” The heart of the matter are the issues on the ground – the occupation, the refugee problem – and when these are solved, or even when there are some real steps taken in the right direction, I believe that rhetoric and ideologies will change too, at least in the mainstream.

Some of the Israeli activists shared yesterday’s exchange on their Facebook walls, and interesting internal debates followed. I want to close with a comment posted by Israeli activist Tom Pessah (who is also an occasional contributor to +972):

Considering the reality of refugees after more than sixty years, I am always surprised that not everyone [express such opinions]… So there is no room for depression or for despair. Pessimism is an irresponsible position when it comes from those with the privileges. As a man, I have no right to feel pessimistic about women’s chances for equality… think of the people of Bil’in, who suffer tear gas, live bullets, fines and arrests every week, and don’t give up. If they can do it, we can stand an unpleasant exchange on Facebook.

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    1. niz

      It’s very tricky really. The issue is that you are asking Arabs to humanize the Israelis while the social reality is still that of oppression and occupation. I understand that by engaging with Israeli activists you would be eliminating the ‘us’ and ‘them’ in the context of fighting against zionism (i.e. we elivate the conflict from people towards ideas) okay…but at the end of the day, in the real world, our bodies act different, are constrained in a different way…you are the superior race, the dominant and we are the annihilated or those in the process to be annihilated. Now, for me, I have extreme emotions towards Israelis. I sometimes find them really cool, and I want to engage, discover myself through them (them being my nemisis) and at the sametime, there is the urge to cut his/her neck, to take revenge violently. I think that is normal because eventually we are human and the conflict has not ended. The conflict is still alive. It’s easier for Israelis to be calmer, to engage with Arabs, they are secure, by engaging they do not lose anything, they gain(maybe an easining of guilt). For the Arabs it’s different, we demand justice and justice is a bitch, it’s not just sweet talk about humanity, justice is about the real world and justice requires some form of retribution…because the conflict is not between equals and is not a miscommunication…is a real trangression of human morality, it is pure aggression that dislocated and dismembered a whole community. (Jews could find in their WWII experience something of that hatred we feel) You are asking that the victim has coffee with a rapist…and this is not my subjective opinion…soemthing happened in the real world that was fucked up and its restoration requires more than your cool hipsters of Telaviv demonstrating or revising their history…The idea that we will not talk, should not be seen as a rejection of ‘you’, but maybe an invitation for something more..that our pyschological need of a real apology has not been satisfied yet!

      Reply to Comment
      • Sinjim

        Perfectly put. Niz speaks for me.

        Reply to Comment
      • Toby

        Well, the first and most compelling reason to reject “normalization” with the Israeli “peace movement” is rather simple IMHO: It does not achieve anything.
        That goes both for “normalization” in particular and the “peace movement” as a whole. Israelis who actually give a damn about Palestinians’ rights are a tiny, entirely powerless minority, and I do not see this changing in the foreseeable future.

        The only thing that will bring about any halfway just solution is outside pressure directed at the majority of Israeli Jews who are apathetic towards the massive suffering inflicted by their state, but would be quite a bit less apathetic towards reductions of their own standards of living brought about by boycotts and sanctions.

        Israel-Palestinian contacts and “dialogue” do not usually contribute to the goal of bringing that about, and in fact are possibly harmful – because they detract from the reality of the Settler Power’s supreme reign in Israeli politics.

        So, in my eyes, this is really not so much about how morally wrong you are (“Farouk” explained that rather well) and more about how ineffective you are.

        Reply to Comment
        • Toby

          P.S.: That was meant in reply to the article, not to the response by Niz.

          Reply to Comment
      • Aaron the Fascist Troll

        If your oppressors aren’t human beings, then what are they? Monkeys? Robots? Oppression machines?

        You can’t “humanize” human beings. Just treat them as human beings.

        Reply to Comment
        • Interesting question. A while ago, when I was taking a group of kids through the Ibrahimi checkpoint in Hebron, one little guy wouldn’t let go of me and walk through the turnstile by himself. He was too scared of the border policeman. So I asked the policeman for his name. He seemed friendly enough, and I knew that having a name might have helped the child to be slightly less afraid. “Sorry. We’re not allowed to tell you that.”

          ‘Oppression machine’ seems like a good way to describe it – green, armoured, nameless, crushing. It’s composed of human beings, but the system itself doesn’t make that easy to recognise. It is itself dehumanising (of both Palestinians and, in another way, perpetrators). You are asking Palestinians to see through the system (that in many cases forms their only contact with Israelis) and relate to Israelis on an individual level. It’s a seriously big ask.

          It also happens to be the right thing to do. But people’s ability to do it should not be taken for granted by anyone, certainly not by those at the other end of the gun.

          Reply to Comment
          • Codify those stories, don’t let them drown fast in comments.

            Reply to Comment
      • Aaron the Fascist Troll

        This mau-mauing game has been going on for as long as I can remember. Maybe it started, in earnest, in the 1960s with the anti-colonialism and black power movements. I’m playing it myself by joining in here. So I’ll try to play my role well.

        These Palestinians aren’t talking to Jews, so I hope they don’t expect Jews to listen to them. It would be very easy to talk to Jews, and I’d guess (though I can’t be sure because it hasn’t been tried) that Jews would be willing to listen. Especially the +972 Jews, but even mainstream Israelis as well.

        By the way, nobody’s going to get what they consider justice in any final compromise. The only way to get justice is through extermination. As long as both sides demand justice as their highest good, there will be no peace.

        Reply to Comment
        • Aaron the Fascist Troll

          Oops, this wasn’t meant to be posted as a reply, but as a regular comment.

          Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Poppycock. Of course not talking to people like Noa is a rejection of ‘you’. It is a rejection of individuals that can’t stop apologizing for perceived wrongs and who consistently act in opposition to all those things that you find offensive. What precisely about them can you possibly be rejecting except for their existence in the first place? How much deeper can the rejection even conceptually be? Your comment is dripping with hypocrisy.

        Reply to Comment
      • Richard Witty

        “justice is about the real world and justice requires some form of retribution”

        The failing of the argument.

        Reply to Comment
    2. rakiba

      Hi Niz,

      If you are engaging justice and your vision is a state which does not make distinctions based on religion, then there should be no problem engaging people of any background who are your genuine allies.

      Otherwise, you are engaging and perpetuating tribalism and your goal is not a democratic state but a Judenrein state.

      Reply to Comment
    3. “When Palestinians talk about us ‘leaving Palestine,’ what people like me hear is expulsion and annihilation. If there is anti-Semitism directed at Israelis, this is it.”
      ‘What people like me hear…’ that’s the problem no? Zionist indoctrination at work. The savages have to be civilized before they have the right to express their frustration.
      The whites in South-Africa, unfortunately for them, didn’t have a concept like anti-semitism to defend themselves against the blacks claiming justice.
      This piece could have been ordered by Bibi himself.

      Reply to Comment
      • Not a fair criticism Engelbert. There really is mass dispossession in recent Jewish history, and Jews have suffered recent persecution as a minority group. The same can’t be said for whites in SA at the time of apartheid. Your community history inevitably influences you, for better or for worse. I think Niz is right to suggest that people try to use this history in an empathetic way, to help them understand the ambivalence that Palestinians may feel towards Israelis. But the history can’t be just discarded altogether.

        Reply to Comment
        • Vicky, when suffering and victimhood become a religion that justifies any atrocity, we should ask ourselves serious questions. The blacks, nor the “native Amerians” (racist in itself), nor the Armenians, nor any other group have had the privilege of getting a shielding concept. Everybody else has to deal with the generic ‘racism’, extremely hard to prove.
          I don’t want to minimize the suffering of the Jewish people, but the use of anti-semitism in this article – against the broader background of colonialism, the Nakba and the occupation that should be addressed – is populism in my view. It only helps those who say “there is no partner for peace”. Based on a couple of youths.

          Reply to Comment
    4. Larry Snider

      I am not a Palestinian living in the West Bank. I am not a Palestinian living in a refugee camp in Lebanon. I am not an Israeli living in Tel Aviv. I am not an Israeli living in a settlement. I am an American Jew 5000 miles removed from the bullets, rockets, missiles, closures, and everything else. I pay attention and act the best I can to build understanding between people of different faiths here and in the process a new constituency for Middle East Peace. I cannot feel what a Palestinian feels in her heart. But I do not believe that anti-normalization or BDS offers a path to anything that is good for Palestinians except to give people a vehicle to express anger. I hope, pray and work for more.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Niz

      Yes Larry. I understand and probably agree. I would agree with you only when it comes to cultural boycott (Also there I would pick my fights- like I wouldn’t boycott Israeli intellectuals or academians. I would boycott singers trying to white wash the Israeli apartheid though). We need to engage with Israeli activists and especially targeting the Arab Jews in Israel/Palestine, but again we need to agree on the limits. Economic boycott and divestment should continue… I am not sure it will succeed…but that’s what we’ve got? Give me other options other than rolling over and dying?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Kolumn9

      The heart of the matter is the absence of a practical solution acceptable to the Palestinian narrative that would deal with the occupation (which occupation?) and the refugee problem without expelling the Jews from the region. This article and the facebook conversation that prompted it are a display of Israeli leftists running into an extremely heavy conceptual problem in the Palestinian rejection of not just their state, but of their existence. Let’s be frank about what both you and other leftists are proposing as a solution to this dilemma and that is to ignore the Palestinian position and focus on action that is derived from your own narrative. In one way that is a perfectly valid defense mechanism against the glaring contradictions in your view of the world, yet in another it is a very arrogant and I dare say almost Orientalist position.

      The potential ethical problem for you is that you lying explicitly when you make attempts to propose your solutions (whether two state or binational or unitary) to yourselves and to your country on the basis of fictional Palestinians that you yourself acknowledge DO NOT EXIST.

      Reply to Comment
      • The letter itself does not seem to have been Palestinian-authored, and as Noam points out in his article, it is receiving support from people who are not refugees or even Palestinian themselves. (In my personal experience, such people are often the most vociferous and vitriolic on this topic.) But I knew when I read the letter last night that supporters and architects of Palestinian dispossession (it doesn’t matter which year we refer to, because they’re both cut from the same cloth) would seize on this as the de facto Palestinian position – because that is what they want the Palestinian position to be. Any other Palestinian is fictional. Any other perspective doesn’t exist. What is needed is a pretext for ongoing ethnic cleansing, and the letter provides that – because look, wouldn’t ‘they’ do the same to me if they had the chance? So I’m perfectly justified in supporting and celebrating the demolition of Walajeh, in treading on them a bit harder, in killing a few more…

        This struggle is not about narratives. In the short-term, it’s about the achievement of basic civil rights (which all people deserve, irrespective of their views – especially as twisted views may arise from life in a horrible situation). In the longer term it will be about reconciliation. Ethnic nationalism of any stripe is not compatible with either, which is why I object to that letter. It has a toxic strain of ethnic nationalism in it. But no supporter of occupation has any reasonable grounds to complain about that, because the occupation itself is built on the exact same thing. Justice involves scrapping it.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          I too am not surprised that those who have idolized the Palestinians are incapable of coming to grips with the idea that the Palestinian national movement on the whole is an ethnic nationalist movement and so might actually hold ethnic nationalist positions on dealing with the conflict. Oh, the shock. Welcome to reality.

          The struggle is all about narratives. Until the Palestinians have one which allows for the existence of Israel there is no need for a pretext to continue the status quo because no reasonable and realistic alternative has been presented. Hell, the Palestinian narrative at this point hasn’t even come to grips with the continued existence of Jews here as individuals that wouldn’t be displaced or replaced and whose language, culture and most other aspects of their identity would not be entirely abolished during the Arab Palestinian revival of the mythical Arab state of Palestine.

          Who is complaining? I am pointing out that the ideas presented by those on the extreme left in Israel are done from within a bubble that tries to ignore certain obvious facts. This letter and the general sentiment behind it are hardly radical. They derive from the historical and political narratives as popularized by Palestinian national institutions. The defense mechanism that most bubble leftists embrace is ignorance because were they to acknowledge the prevailing winds of individual and collective exclusion of Israeli Jews as being the natural consequences of the Palestinian national narrative then they would find it entirely impossible to suggest that peace of any kind is possible until that narrative changes and that the fault for the inability to make peace does not rest solely on Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • There are movements for Palestinian liberation that are not rooted in ethnic nationalism. I’m aware because I live with a Palestinian family in a Palestinian city, and I work in some interesting places that bring me into contact with many and varied viewpoints. I think to some extent what you say about left-wing activists operating from within a ‘bubble’ is correct. Yair Lipshitz summed it up well: “Nobody really sees the other side. Invisible to us, we cannot say what the other side wants. It is easy to imagine peace with an invisible, imaginary other – while at the same time refusing to look at him in the eye.” But that also holds true for Israelis with your views. You want the other side of the wall to be populated by ethnic nationalists, so you would seize on a letter like this no matter whether it was written by a Palestinian or an Oompa-Loompa.

            I don’t idolise anybody. In the words of Mourid Barghouti, “We were not always a beautiful scene, but this does not absolve the enemy of his original crime.” The issue here is mass dispossession, not just of property but of all basic rights, carried out in the name of ethnic nationalism. It’s a toxic ideology and no one should be surprised to find its venom in the body of those it bites. Leaving that aside, there are Palestinians who would be proponents of ethnic nationalism even if this had never happened to them – because such streams of thought exist in every society. It’s always an unpleasant ideology, but it doesn’t negate the civil rights of those who hold it. Now we have people holding up this letter as proof that Palestinians do not ‘deserve’ justice, as though civil rights really are contingent on people’s political views, as though Palestinians have to become a ‘beautiful scene’ in every respect before they can have the rights that their critics take for granted. This process is apparently to include the disavowal of a political ideology that their critics themselves typically uphold.

            Those critics are concerned that Palestinian narratives don’t allow room for the existence of Israel, apparently without pausing to think that Israel as a state has never allowed much room for the existence of Palestinians, and still doesn’t. When the state no longer refers to Palestinians as demographic threats, when restrictions aren’t put on Palestinian building projects and their communities aren’t subject to demolition and dispersal, when Jews aren’t privileged above Arabs in every respect, hostility will diminish and it will become easier to think outside ethnic lines. But it’s beyond unreasonable to expect people to make space in their minds for the existence of an ethnic state that was built on the negation of their own personal existence. It is not unreasonable to ask that they make space for Israelis as individuals, but those are two different things.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Mitchell Cohen

      “The whites in South-Africa, unfortunately for them, didn’t have a concept like anti-semitism to defend themselves against the blacks claiming justice.” [End of Quote]
      What a piece of manure. The blacks in South Africa were not demanding that a particular ethnic group pack up and leave (including those who were born there, had no other passport, and whose family had lived there for multiple generations)….

      Reply to Comment
    8. There really is not much obvious basis to distinguish between Zionist Jewish invader colonists in Stolen or Occupied Palestine and the French invader colonists in imperial French Algeria except perhaps in that the pieds noirs had fewer delusions or illusions about their connection to Algeria.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        You mean other than the absence of a Jewland metropole and the thousands of years of religious and cultural attachment to the land?

        Reply to Comment
        • Like European Christians, European Jews have no ancestral connection to Palestine whatsoever.

          Ethnic Ashkenazim are descendants of various Eastern European and Southern Russian populations that converted to some form of Judaic religion in the last two thousand years.

          Zionist (Jewish Nazi) primordialist ideology is more extreme than Zionist primordialist Nazi ideology.

          The real homeland of Jews consists of the transnational network of business and trade relationships that Jews have built among themselves since the crystallization of Rabbinic Judaism in the 10th century.

          How Jewish National Consolidation Works

          Before the nature of Jewish national consolidation can be addressed, a serious look at historical Jewish political economics is required as well as the broadening or rethinking of certain basic concepts in political science and economic theory.

          The critical approach requires us to start thinking in terms of transnational politics instead of local, national, and international politics. A new framework should elucidate both transnational Jewish Zionist and transnational Arab-Islamic politics as well as other similar transnational political situations.

          Assuming that national consolidation must be territorial and linguistic as has generally been the case with modern European nationalism is far too limiting. Historically Jews constituted a metapopulation (a term from statistical population biology) united by an international trade network and obedience to a sacred law that served as a sort of universal commercial code.

          As faith declined in Europe, Jewish leaders looked for other means to maintain Jewish social economic networks of trust in order to maintain Jewish incomes. Commitment to building a Jewish state in Palestine was one of several proposed substitutes for adherence to sacred law.

          From this standpoint, consolidating a virtual Jewish national consciousness is a Jewish Diaspora phenomenon that defines modern Jewish transnational politics.

          The concept of virtual state consolidation explains

          (1) why there was an Israel Lobby for approximately four decades before there was a State of Israel and

          (2) why Israeli politics often seems so much less important than Jewish Diaspora politics,

          (3) why Jewish political and economic behavior so often looks conspiratorial, and

          (4) why Jewish aggression so often expresses itself economically, so often includes character assassination or defamation, and so often involves subversion or manipulation of third parties to do they dirty work of harming those that Jewish leaders target for destruction.

          Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      “At the end, I feel that what the recent Facebook conversation showed is the futility of any form of “dialogue” at this point in time. ”

      Sadly, this also furthers the status quo rather than opposes it.

      The action of asserting one’s peer status by dialoging as ultimately peers, is the most effective means of asserting one’s own dignity, and of conveying one’s dignity to others.

      In some sense the lack of confidence that dignity can be maintained while communicating with someone with differing power relations is the problem itself, that some have come to believe that their dignity depends on external material relations, and not from some existential indissoluble reality, nurtured by a spiritual inner well.

      Interaction is the only path to changing hearts and minds with any prospect of confidence in the other.

      Historically, in virtually all successful non-military social change movements, the willingness to experience indignity (knowing that one’s dignity originated in other spheres than the confirmation of how one is treated).

      I’ve personally NEVER experienced a setting in which some sense of power was not evident. A mass in a room relative to an individual that dissents from the mass movement. A gun relative to fists. An RPG relative to a handgun.

      The reality of Jewish settlement in Israel/Palestine is of settlement. Civilians. Refugees.

      The characterization of occupier/colonizer is an after-the-fact proposal, a reaction, a false analysis that sounds good, but tastes like crap relative to the progressive assertion of democracy in the present.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Ali Saleh Shamkhani

      If you want normalization with the world, follow Lisa Goldmans example and leave. You guys are are really pathetic-steal Palestinian property and then claim you are not zionists

      Reply to Comment
      • Aaron the Fascist Troll

        Hi, Ali, let’s dialogue!

        Reply to Comment
      • Richard Witty

        Of the 6 million Jews in Israel/Palestine, 4.5 million were born there. (75%)

        It is their home.

        You are really advocating for forced removal?

        Reply to Comment
        • The Zionist invader colonists born in Stolen or Occupied Palestine are no different from Pieds Noirs born in French Algeria.

          They can certainly leave just as the Pieds Noirs did and certainly should.

          The German Nazis sent German colonists to live in Occupied Eastern European territories. These colonists left those territories with the defeat of Nazi Germany. Once the Zionist state collapses the Zionist invader colonists should similarly leave.

          Reply to Comment
    11. Rachel

      What strikes me the most, is that if you replace much of Farouk’s paragraph with the word “Jews” instead of Palestinians, you transform this piece into exactly what the majority of Jews (not just right wing Israelis) feel about anyone, Palestinians especially, who want to remove them from Israel/Palestine. The Jews history is the Palestinian present, ironically caused by Israel. There is no question that Jewish history is chock full of this same kind of suffering, occupation, life as refugees, etc. Because the Jewish people are tied together more by collective memory than anything, and because today’s modern Israel is built on this historical narrative of nearly 2000 years of suffering as refugees culminating in the Holocaust, this policy of anti-normalization just continues to stoke the machine of the status quo. A majority of Israelis refuse normalization with Palestinians because even though they are in power now they cannot ever let go of this memory of suffering. They would rather keep up the Occupation rather than risk losing this power to Farouk’s vision. Clearly – the anti-normalization people on both sides are the ones who keep us stuck and unfortunately they are in the majority.
      This is just a reminder as to how difficult it truly is for those few who are willing to engage in normal human relations between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, leave the past in the past and try to envision a different future.

      Reply to Comment
    12. David

      Noam
      .
      I think you’ve realised, from this exchange, that were your politics to succeed, you would indeed be expelled from Israel/Palestine.
      .
      Now, if you are well qualified, and if you have developed “portable” skills, you may be able to find another country which will accept you. That would be your escape balloon.
      .
      Three thoughts.
      .
      1. What about ordinary working class Israeli Jews? What will happen to them?
      .
      2. Are the Mizrahim who found their very last regional refuge in the Middle East to be entirely ethnically cleansed from the Middle East
      .
      3. Which countries will accept the Six Million displaced former Israelis? Remember, explicitly antisemitic politics is hugely on the rise in Eastern Europe, and there are a number of disturbing initiatives in other European countries which would make Jewish life impossible there.

      Reply to Comment
    13. David

      The other tragic thing is this.
      .
      My politics was similar to yours. What shattered it was dialogue with Palestinians, Arabists, Islamists and their supporters. What I realised was that these were not socialists or liberals, but people who were absolutely entirely opposed to everything that I value.
      .
      The equivalent might be a person who was sympathetic to Israel and Jewish self-determination suddenly discovering that the ONLY allies he had were supporters of Kahane.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Daniel Callen

      LOL Noam, when are you going to get the message: as a Jew in Israel – anywhere in Israel – you are an “occupier”. You are a Zionist as much as Meir Kahane. They want you to leave. Why not heed their wishes, except move instead to Area A or B – or better still Gaza – as their guest and set up that fabled Jewish/Arab coexistence we hear so much about?

      Of course, the only place where there is any degree of significant Jewish/Arab coexistence in the Middle East, however flawed, is in the areas under Jewish sovereignty. Don’t be ashamed of that fact.

      Reply to Comment
    15. jump

      “I have read a well-articulated text by a leading Palestinian activist arguing that Israelis should not come to the protests in the West Bank, and instead demonstrate against the occupation in Tel Aviv. It showed a lack of understanding of political activism in Israel: Facing soldiers alongside Palestinians is the most radical thing an Israeli Jew can do; protesting in Tel Aviv, even getting arrested, is much easier and even well-received by the mainstream.”

      This is the most revealing comment into the mindset of a certain portion of the radical left in Israel. Of course you should not be going to protest in the West Bank! I remember going to these events and it has a certain absurdist quality: you stand with the occupied against the occupiers, while relying on the infrastructure of the occupation to get to and from the demonstration and going back to your privileged life in Tel Aviv while your “comrades” remain in Bil’in or wherever. It seems completely obvious that the most appropriate thing for an Israeli to do vis a vis the occupation, is to oppose it within Israel.

      There is a consistent theme running through the posts of the anti-Zionist Israelis – Noa, Lihi, Noam – that I find really amusing. Namely, the idea of insisting that they belong in the Palestinian struggle because “they have no place else to go” or “we are against the segregation”. That is all fine and good, but that is not what Palestinians are struggling for and you do not have the right to impose your personal desires upon their struggle. Just look at it from the Palestinian view: these people who live on our land are colonizing our national struggle.

      The revealing part of the comment is that Noam’s insistence that Israeli Jews protest should alongside Palestinians because it is “the most radical thing an Israeli can do”. This shows that being an anti-Zionist is more about the politics of prestige within Israel than it is about the Palestinians. That their ultimate goal is not the liberation of Arab Palestine – an entity which does not in its ideal form include them – but the restructuring of political and cultural power in an enlarged Israel (that is what a single-state is) in a way that favors anti-Zionist Jews over Zionist Jews. This motivation may be framed in the language of Palestinian human rights, but that is only a secondary concern.

      If Israelis want to help solve the conflict with the Palestinians, they should:
      1) Protest the occupation within Israel and demand a government that takes a more conciliatory tactic with Palestinian demands on other issues
      2) Leave Israel.
      3) Follow Uri Davis’s example and withdraw from Israeli society altogether by living with Palestinians, and stop defining your nation as Jewish/Israeli, and perhaps convert to Christianity or Islam.

      The bottom line is that you can scream and shout that you are “anti-Zionist” all you like – but if you are Jewish and insist on your right to live in Palestine, and especially if you call yourself is Israeli, the only part of “anti-Zionist” that Palestinians will here is “Zionist”. And they are right. Like it or not, that is what you are.

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      • David

        This is in fact a very good suggestion:

        “Follow Uri Davis’s example and withdraw from Israeli society altogether by living with Palestinians, and stop defining your nation as Jewish/Israeli, and perhaps convert to Christianity or Islam.”

        Look, Noam. You have two misfortunes.
        – The first is that you’re Jewish, and are therefore likely for cultural and historic reasons to encounter hostility, wherever you are.
        – The second is that you’ve discovered that the nature of your ‘progressive’ opposition to Israel puts you at odds with the Palestinians you’d hope would be your allies.

        It is not within your power to solve either of these problems.

        Jews are a small minority, dependent – even when concentrated in Israel – on the goodwill and forbearance of others. Your position as a Jew is precarious now, as it always has been, despite the illusion that Israeli security presently provides you. Throughout history, and particularly at times of crisis, Jews have responded to this pressure by ceasing to be Jewish. After the Shoah, a number of families escaped to places of safety, changed their names, and never told their children that they had a Jewish family history. I have friends who have family stories like this.

        It isn’t always easy. People will often identify you as a Jew. But you can manage it, if you try.

        I’m not being sarcastic. I’m serious. I don’t blame people for trying to keep themselves and their children safe. It isn’t something to be ashamed of.

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      • “It seems completely obvious that the most appropriate thing for an Israeli to do vis a vis the occupation, is to oppose it within Israel.”

        This sentence makes it sound as though Israel is neatly detachable from the West Bank. No matter whether Israelis protest against the occupation in Tel Aviv or protest it at the Tel Rumeida checkpoint, they are still pickled in occupation. Everybody is. You see it every time you turn on the tap and are rewarded with an uninterrupted water supply. If Israeli activists didn’t go to the West Bank protests, they would be accused of wanting to stay comfortable in TA and of deliberately keeping themselves ignorant of life under martial law. And I have heard such activists being accused of these things, often by the same people who argue that they shouldn’t be protesting in the West Bank. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t. The same extends to talk of Israelis leaving. Some people argue that it’s an ethical thing to do, others say that it’s wrong of Israelis to jump ship and go off to a nice life elsewhere while Palestinians continue to endure occupation.

        Even the choice to leave is tinged with occupier’s privilege, as Palestinians can’t opt out with the same ease. If you are born into a position of power and privilege there is no easy way to separate yourself from that. You have to fight against it as best you can while accepting that it’s sewn to your heels, and you’ll never be free of your shadow so long as the injustice persists. The same is true of men involved in feminist activism, or non-disabled people in disability rights. The list goes on. It’s fine to debate the most effective ways for such people to fight, but sometimes the debate slides far beyond the constructive and people end up being criticised for any and all of the choices they make. Sometimes the whole debate seems to tilt into a contest over who can be the biggest and best radical – which is perhaps why the sport seems to be particularly popular amongst internationals.

        “Follow Uri Davis’s example and withdraw from Israeli society altogether by living with Palestinians, and stop defining your nation as Jewish/Israeli, and perhaps convert to Christianity or Islam.”

        Uri Davis has stated that his religion or lack thereof is his own private business – as it should be, unless you particularly want a state that dictates its citizens’ faith for them. A state that defines itself on ethno-religious lines automatically becomes exclusionary. You are advocating a continuation of current Israeli policy if you start identifying certain religions as less compatible with the country and its culture. As well as being just plain wrong, such an approach is simultaneously funny and sad when you consider Palestinian Jewish history.

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    16. David

      This is the nub of the issue:

      “Uri Davis has stated that his religion or lack thereof is his own private business – as it should be, unless you particularly want a state that dictates its citizens’ faith for them. A state that defines itself on ethno-religious lines automatically becomes exclusionary. ”

      The trouble is that:

      (a) there are no states in the region which regard religion as a private matter; or

      (b) there are no states in the region which do not define in ethnic or religious terms.

      There is an additional problem for you – the Palestine which Fatah would create would be Arabist (and Muslim). Muslim/Not-Muslim are the only two categories which count for Hamas. So, they’re not your allies – unless your desire to see the disestablishment of Israel is greater than your desire for a state which is not defined in any way by ethnicity.

      There are lots of states, in Europe, which do to some degree define themselves ethnically or religiously. Typically, this is because they’re the product of self-determination struggles.

      They’re a little bit exclusionary, of course. But not in an intensely problematic way. So, it really is possible for states to define in this manner and not become hell holes.

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      • Jump/David,

        I’m a bit reluctant to reply to this, as your first comment reminded me so much of that kindergarten skit from Eretz Nehederet in which the little girl sighs, “I used to be a leftist, but I got disillusioned.” ‘Arabist’ refers to academics studying the Arab world, and is now sometimes used in a semi-pejorative way; it’s hard to imagine someone who had been in regular contact with pan-Arab nationalists using the term like this. Seeing ‘Islamists’ conflated with ‘Palestinians’ was also interesting, as was the reference to your dialogues with said Islamists (they’re in a chatty mood now?), as was your closing dramatic comment about your ONLY allies being like Kahane supporters. Basically the comment reads as a transparent missionary treatise on seeing the political light, invoking all the shadowiest figures in Israeli imagination.

        Palestinian liberation isn’t defined by Fatah and Hamas, so their positions don’t represent any problem for me personally. (I’m also aware that ‘liberation’ goes far beyond debates on the nature of statehood – if people are voting Hamas for the sake of its social welfare provision, I can ally with them, as such provision is extremely important.) As for the existence of other ethno-religious states, that is an argument against ethnic nationalism rather than in favour, as those countries aren’t exactly great at guaranteeing rights for all their citizens. It is precisely the reduction of such nationalism that led to the achievement of minority rights in Europe, and it needs to go further.

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      • Although Uri Davis should answer for himself, he did declare that his conversion to Islam was for ‘national’ reasons, as was his immersion in Palestinian society. In his words he is ‘ A Palestinian of Hebrew origins’

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    17. Jump

      Vicky,

      For those of us who do believe in a two state framework, there is a very real difference between Tel Aviv and Tel Rumeida. If your objective is to detach Israel from the West Bank, then you – as an Israeli, *** or even a visitor to Israel *** – should not be going from Israel into the West Bank.

      However, if you do not want a two state framework, the question becomes what do you want. To believe that “identifying certain religions as less compatible” is only an Israeli policy and not part and parcel of Palestinian nationalism, you are being completely foolhardy. If you believe the best solution is “Palestine”, non-Zionists cannot continue to consider themselves Israeli. I meet many who know that and introduce themselves as Palestinian – but if they are not able to trace their lineage before 1917 or 1882 or whenever, this status will be no doubt be questioned.

      If anti-Zionist Jews believe in a single, non-ethnic democratic state which allows Israeli Jews to live as citizens in a new national, binational, or non-national framework, they have to realize this is an absolutely Zionist position. Such a position has always been a part of the larger Zionist movement – from the Ottomanist Zionists before World War I, to Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, to the Canaanites in their own way. Thus, we see anti-Zionist Jews attempting to change the nature of the Palestinian struggle, or at the very least, emphasize what includes them and de-emphasize what excludes them. Anti-segregation is a very visible example: opposition to ethnic governance or religious segregation has never been what the mainstream Palestinian national movement has been about. And if indeed anti-Zionist Jews are also opposed to the Palestinian national movement, they need to realize that their “neutral” anti-occupation movement is simply a replacement for Zionism and Palestinian nationalism, or it is a nationalism that includes Zionism and Palestinian nationalism. Either way, it is in some aspect Zionist.

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      • David

        Short version:

        Wherever Jews are, they are considered aliens and unwanted.

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      • 1.) I’m a lot more interested in rights than I am in states. I see one multiethnic state as being the most likely and effective means of achieving said rights, as West Bank and Gaza Palestinians (not to speak of the refugees further afield) have family ties with Palestinian Israelis and places in what is now Israel. They can’t be surgically severed (and no more can the ties of Israeli Jews). The objective isn’t detaching one place from another but in securing justice for those who live in it.

        2.) The cultural/spiritual Zionism of Magnes and the political Zionism that led to the Nakba were never the same thing. It is not logically possible to impose a completely different definition on people like Arendt as a way of retroactively discrediting their own political philosophy, which bears no resemblance to political Zionism and never has.

        4.) The article that Noam quotes and that you endorse was written by a supporter of the one-state solution. She has very little time for anyone advocating two states. In trying to suggest that the two-state position is *the* Palestinian position and that anything else is an Israeli Jewish imposition, you yourself are excluding Palestinian voices. I find it a little odd that an international would presume to comment on what ‘the mainstream Palestinian national movement’ is and what it wants, while cherry-picking which Palestinians he listens to and telling Israelis to keep out of the West Bank on the basis of what he hears (or mishears).

        5.) I support civil rights for all Palestinians, irrespective of what they believe; as I said in a comment above, your basic rights as a human shouldn’t be contingent on what you think politically. Doing this does not mean I need to abdicate my own views, and I have plenty of neighbours in Bethlehem who share them. Others who don’t. That’s life. They don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t think and where I should and shouldn’t go, and I doubt they’ve appointed you to do it for them.

        6.) I’m not Israeli and nor am I a visitor. Either way it’s irrelevant to what I wrote.

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        • David

          Here’s a question:

          “I’m a lot more interested in rights than I am in states. I see one multiethnic state as being the most likely and effective means of achieving said rights, as West Bank and Gaza Palestinians (not to speak of the refugees further afield) have family ties with Palestinian Israelis and places in what is now Israel. They can’t be surgically severed (and no more can the ties of Israeli Jews). The objective isn’t detaching one place from another but in securing justice for those who live in it.”

          Are you in favour of the re-establishment of Yugoslavia?

          Should Greece be reabsorbed into Turkey?

          Apart from the fact that millions would die in attempting to achieve such an outcome, why shouldn’t we equally be working for this?

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          • The states of former Yugoslavia are all sovereign and their citizens possess rights that Palestinians have never had. Palestinians are stateless, living under a military rule, as refugees in Diaspora, or as second-class citizens in Israel; this is not a discussion about dismantling several sovereign states in favour of the reestablishment of one single state, but about the dismantling of military rule and the most effective means for Palestinians to achieve rights that they have never had. The comparisons you make don’t work for that reason.

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          • David

            You misunderstand the point I’m making. I’m asking you why you think that superstates composed of distinct national groups with a history of killing each other will best protect their rights. That is a separate and unrelated question from the issue of the establishment of a Palestinian state.

            “The states of former Yugoslavia are all sovereign and their citizens possess rights that Palestinians have never had. Palestinians are stateless, living under a military rule, as refugees in Diaspora, or as second-class citizens in Israel.”

            These states are, incidentally, defined in ethnic and (in some cases) religious terms. The logic of “one state” is that they should cease to so define, and that Yugoslavia should be recreated, to address the injustice of the population exchanges and deaths that arose from their creation.

            There are many Palestinians who desire a Palestinian state. The difficulty is that the political campaign to create that state is dominated by the desire to create such a state *in place of* Israel.

            Hamas is clear about this – it has a theological basis for such an approach which it regards itself as powerless to modify. What is the position of Fatah – I found it instructive that, during the last Palestinian Statehood bid, PA/Fatah officials were clear that such a Palestinian State would not be a homeland for stateless Palestinians (including those living as ‘refugees’ in the West Bank/Gaza), who would be denied citizenship.

            There probably are Palestinians who share your vision of an ideal state. But they’re not organised, and indeed almost anything they might do with any Israeli or Jew, or frankly anybody, in furtherance of such an outcome would be regarded as normalisation, collaboration, and treachery.

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        • Aaron the Fascist Troll

          Hannah Arendt was very much a political Zionist. You could even call her an ultra-political Zionist: the political awakening and expression of the people Israel was, for her, of the highest importance.

          She opposed a sovereign Jewish state, and sovereignty in general, but she wanted a nationally based federation in Palestine, with one of the nations being the Jews. This would have meant that the Jews in Palestine would be a political agent *as* Jews, though they would not have sovereignty.

          I think this would have led immediately to civil war, but of course none of us knows what exactly would have happened.

          We do know what Arendt thought of Magnes’ proposal, though: She said that it would leave the Jews as a small minority in an Arab empire and that Palestinian Jews might then even become “the Diaspora’s biggest problem.” She also called the Magnes proposal “suicidal.”

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          • Aaron the FT, you are in the slow motion evolution of civil war right now; occupation creates a single entity, out of which some form of rebellion will come.

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    18. Mathilde

      What about the nearly 1 million of French people that had to leave Algeria after the Algerian Independance ? Many of them had never seen France, because Algeria has been occupied during more than a century ! Was that a reason to go on occupying Algeria ? Of course not. If Israelis look at where their grand-parents come from, they will find where to return. And antisemitism has nothing to do with that.

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      • Mitchell Cohen

        @Mathilde,

        Aside from the fact that the French in Algeria didn’t have to learn a new language or acquire new passports to live in France (unlike the millions of Israeli born Israelis who don’t speak a lick of German, Polish, etc. and have no other passport), we (Jews) have been there before, done that (lived in Europe). It didn’t end very well. Thanks, but no thanks!!!!

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      • Bluegrass Picker of Afula

        so Mathilde, are you willing to apply that same criteria to everyone in Europe who is not a pure Neanderthal? Or to everyone in South America who is not pure Aztec? Or everyone in Canada who is not pure Inuit? Or everyone in Japan who is not pure Ainu?

        Or does your heart only bleed when there’s a Hebrew-speaker to be exiled?

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    19. Jump

      Let me begin by stating that I do not intend this debate to be personal. My use of the second person was meant as a hypothetical – more of a y’ than a you. I make no claims to know anything about you. I apologize for personalizing it – I will adjust my language accordingly

      “The cultural/spiritual Zionism of Magnes and the political Zionism that led to the Nakba were never the same thing. It is not logically possible to impose a completely different definition on people like Arendt as a way of retroactively discrediting their own political philosophy, which bears no resemblance to political Zionism and never has.”

      Sticking an adjective in front of a type of Zionism does not change the fact that it is Zionist. A Jew who settles Zion seeking to create a new society alongside Palestinians is as much a Zionist as a Jew who settles Zion seeking to create a new society without Palestinians. What makes Zionism Zionism is the new society part, not the intra-Zionist debate about what happens to Palestinians. These two streams of Zionism were much more in bed with one another than you portray them: Buber began his career as a secretary for Herzl, Magnes’s co-founded Ihud with Henrietta Szold, who helped Jewish refugees move to Israel, and he was chancellor of the Hebrew University – what was, in its day, the biggest achievement of the Zionist movement (Jeez, Balfour laid the cornerstone).

      For a Jew to lay claim to any part of Israel and call themselves Israeli is, in some way, to be a Zionist – or, at the very least, accord Zionism a sort of de facto legitimacy. So-called “Anti-Zionist Israelis” are not truly being anti-Zionist unless they renounce their Israeliness completely.

      I am not trying to exclude Palestinian voices. I recognize that there are Palestinians who do seek to incorporate non-Palestinian Jews into their movement. However, like you, I recognize that these “cultural/spiritual Palestinians” (to borrow your terminology for Zionists) are not now, nor have they been, the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement. Given the mutual exclusive attitudes of both national movements, Israeli Jews who seek to join the Palestinian movement should not take their membership in the Palestinian nation as a given – and it is hard not to see their (well-intentioned) attempt to guide the Palestinian movement as yet another form of colonization.

      If we, as Palestinians and Israelis (and here I am including myself), seek to build a new single state – it must simultaneously allow both of us to be ourselves and to create a new identity that includes both. In short, it *must* be Zionist, as much as it must be Palestinian.

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      • Richard Witty

        If one is a Zionist and subscribes to “live and let live” sincerely, then more power to them/us.

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      • sh

        “Sticking an adjective in front of a type of Zionism does not change the fact that it is Zionist. A Jew who settles Zion seeking to create a new society alongside Palestinians is as much a Zionist as a Jew who settles Zion seeking to create a new society without Palestinians. What makes Zionism Zionism is the new society part, not the intra-Zionist debate about what happens to Palestinians.”

        That cancels itself out and makes all the categories meaningless. A Jew who settles Zion is just a Jew, ask Satmar or Ger or Neturei Karta or all the rabbis who came over the ages because the place was holy to them. They were not here to create a new society and Neturei Karta only came into being because of its vehement opposition to Zionists whom they saw as interlopers.

        Truth is, instead of recycling the same serpentine analyses we should be less concerned with how it will work out in the end (that doesn’t depend on Israelis alone) or what is or is not anti-semitism and more concerned with setting up a prototype justice system that gives everyone the same rights, freedom of religion and movement, equal protection from violence and vandalism. The concepts of “Arab”, “Jewish”, “mixed” cities (haven’t noticed any in the pipeline for seculars lately) are obscene. In democracies people who wish to live a certain life-style collect naturally into neighborhoods or communes. There are oxymorons like present absentees and unrecognized villages to be ironed out and the most important point of all is that it has to happen now, not next year or in a decade.

        The new identity of which you speak is in reality an old identity, topped by what is by now much too large a dollop of shell-shock. But we need to get going, not expend all our efforts on keening over the latest monstrosity that the government voted in by Jews-only has committed on the Egyptian border or in Gaza, or the fact that the violent and the bigoted now set the agenda although they are not necessarily the majority.

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        • Jump

          Sh,
          Let me clear that I was discussing those whom Vicky called “Spiritual/Cultural Zionists”, who were absolutely – by their own consideration – Zionists. We are talking about people who wrote Zionist books (Martin Buber, Ahad Ha’am) and helped establish some of the main expressly Zionist institutions. In fact, I am not sure why I forgot it before, but one of the most prominent pre-state binationalists was Arthur Ruppin – who oversaw land purchases for the World Zionist Organization. So, please, let us not pretend that this binational tradition is completely separate from the Zionist Enterprise.

          As you said, the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox groups were not trying to create a new society, but were coming for religious reasons and had a set place in what we might today call Palestinian society. However, the two societies were different – that was why even then people differentiated between the Old Yishuv and the New – and they still are. However, I would argue that there is evidence that many opponents of Zionism did not differentiate between the two – Jews moving to Palestine were viewed simply as Jews moving to Palestine, regardless of their motivations. After all, did any Neturei Karta synagogues remain open when the Jordanians occupied East Jerusalem?

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          • sh

            Jump, why should it matter whether the two societies are different? On the plane of religious culture and the role it plays in their daily lives, Palestinians and traditional Jews aren’t that different. And how the aliyot are viewed by opponents of Zionism who choose not differentiate between the Old Yishuv and the New is their problem (btw this could also be viewed as positive) not ours. The Neturei Karta synagogues should have remained open for whom exactly, during the Jordanian occupation? Have you heard any Neturei Karta complaining about that? My understanding is that they get on very well with the Jordanians.

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      • Feeling a cultural/spiritual affinity with a place and using that affinity as a source of inspiration for social betterment is not the same as a political movement supporting colonisation and ethnic cleansing. You are tarring groups like Brit Shalom with the same brush as political Zionism because you possess hindsight that its members didn’t have (although many were possessed of remarkably good foresight – Martin Buber warned that any project founded on militarism would ultimately fail). Their social vision was mirrored in many respects in urban Palestinian society; particularly notable are shared educational aims. The aspirations of these two communities were not incompatible – and in some places it gets difficult to speak of ‘two communities’, as the line was blurry. A quick glimpse at the Ladino press is enough to reveal just how blurry.

        Leaving aside the Aliyot, Palestine has always seen waves of immigration and emigration, partly because of its location on the trade routes, partly because of its religious significance, and partly because borders are a fairly modern concept – in the Ottoman years they were porous. You talk about making room for two strains of ethnic nationalism as though these are ingrained in the landscape, when the nation-state is an artificial and relatively modern construct and categories like ethnicity are notoriously fluid and hard to define. This is why I prefer to focus on rights and welfare of actual people, rather than on the endless ideological debates with the navel about whether it’s Zionist to call yourself ‘Israeli’. I also don’t deal with ‘the Palestinian national movement’, I deal with specific people of all political stripes who have needs that are not met and rights that are not given. Shifting the focus onto those rights automatically means looking beyond borders and gives us something more substantial to grapple with than the politics of identity. As Yehuda Shenhav put it, the Nakba led to ‘the dismembering of Palestinians across and beyond the space’, so it is difficult to present restitution as a simple question of territory with the answer lying in the WB and Gaza. Any ethno-religious framework restricts justice and perpetuates further violence by treating rights as privileges and community as an exclusive club, and the creation of two such clubs side by side is not going to change that.

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        • David

          “partly because borders are a fairly modern concept – in the Ottoman years they were porous”

          The Ottoman Empire most certainly had borders, and strove to extend them – largely by defeating rival “ethno religious states”. You might as well argue that the British Empire was much better than India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and that these countries should be reintegrated into that Empire.

          “Any ethno-religious framework restricts justice and perpetuates further violence by treating rights as privileges and community as an exclusive club, and the creation of two such clubs side by side is not going to change that.”

          In which case, why shouldn’t Bangladesh be re-integrated into Pakistan. Oh, granted, a million died when Pakistan broke free, but at least it wouldn’t be an ethno religious state. Ditto, Yugoslavia – what possible objection could the Bosniaks have to being brought back into that great socialist federation? And so on.

          Your argument is an argument for Empire, but you don’t realise it.

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          • David

            sorry, not ‘when Pakistan broke free’ – rather, ‘when Pakistan resisted Bangladesh breaking free’.

            Similarly, Ethiopia/Eritrea. Western Sahara. etc.

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          • Bluegrass Picker of Afula

            David: sorry to burden you with expectations that you might do a 30-second Google search, but….. Bangalees fought for their independence over the right to use their language as a National Language. Just as occurred in 1948 with the Hebrews.

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        • Tom P.

          say more about the Ladino press?

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    20. If Israelis look at where their grand-parents come from, they will find where to return. And antisemitism has nothing to do with that.

      It is so destructively indifferent to the rights of the Jews in question that excluding it from the definition of anti-Semitism just suggests that we need an expanded nomenclature for drooling bigotry.

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    21. Laurent Szyster

      They want you gone or dead and you really think peace is possible with people who cannot even bear talking to you ?

      You make yourself believe that for the sake of peace Jews should tolerate genocidal hatred from Palestinians because they did not win the war in 1948, were abused by their Arab brothers since then and are not today in a position to do any serious harm.

      Sorry Noam, but I don’t buy that and nor should.

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    22. Vicky: “I deal with specific people” (the last phrase before you hit the word maximum). Doing so leaves no excuses. You can’t hide behind race, even behind family; nor ask God for a warrant. Each faced person has the potential to disrupt all protection, and protection is what humans create, as they can. It calls for a humanity not yet made and never to be made; yet to be called nonetheless. You will never achieve what you envision, but you will be an aid to others in their vision. Heaven is found in the step, not in any place.

      Noam Sheizaf, you have a knack for beginning remarkable threads.

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    23. The Palestinian narrative should be respected and understood, but also put into context, just like everything else. It is a reality that many Palestinians were forced from their land and massacred by many sides. It is also a reality that out of control Soviet backed Arab regimes continuously put miscalculated aggression aimed against Israel to destroy her ahead of promoting legitimate Palestinian interests or the wellbeing of their own people. There is a balance between understanding the narrative of the other and accepting it as THE narrative. Why it seems Israeli and Jewish-American left-wing activists fail to capture the attention of anyone in the center is because they fail to acknowledge the mentality born out of “The Six Day War.” Israelis are in a position of privilege and power compared to Palestinians if you want to seal your conception of the conflict at the borders of historical Palestine. But that is just as naive as only looking at the conflict as Israel vs the Muslim world without recognizing the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. There is some middle ground, and since liberals always talk about recognizing the narrative of the other regardless of its truth, how bout you do the same for the right-wingers and the vast center.

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