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Response to Burg: Israel's democracy flawed from inception

The New York Times continues to push the myth that Israel was once liberal and democratic, and is now growing detached from these values. Now it publishes an op-ed by a former Knesset speaker, which promotes this notion and similar misconceptions about the United States and the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Only a couple of weeks after its unusual editorial arguing that Israel’s democracy is in peril, the New York Times has published an op-ed in the same vein, written by a prominent Israeli public figure. Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, who almost became leader of the Labor party in the early 2000s, has moved sharply to the left over the past few years, and is now very far from the Israeli mainstream. Yet in many ways, his article perpetuates classic liberal myths about Israel (impressively refuted by Yossi Gurvitz), which have already appeared in NYT’s editorial.

Burg takes these misconceptions one step farther, applying them not just to Israel but to the United States and to both countries’ relationship as well. He argues:

My generation, born in the ’50s, grew up with the deep, almost religious belief that the two countries [Israel and the US] shared basic values and principles. Back then, Americans and Israelis talked about democracy, human rights, respect for other nations and human solidarity. It was an age of dreamers and builders who sought to create a new world, one without prejudice, racism or discrimination…. Where is that righteous America? Whatever happened to the good old Israel?

It is certainly true that Israelis and Americans “talked about” all these values a generation ago. However, that has not changed. And neither have their actions: in the 1950s and early 1960s, Israel and the United States were not fully committed to democracy, internally or externally, nor respectful of other nations. And whereas Americans have significantly strengthened their internal democracy since the Civil Rights movement (not without some recent backsliding on voting), in all other respects, we are witnessing a continuity rather than a sharp break.

From its inception in 1948, Israel imposed a military government on its Palestinian citizens, which was abolished less than a year before the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began. The United States had Jim Crow. Externally, both countries advocated for democracy only when it suited them, and did not hesitate to support heinous and repressive regimes: Israel with South Africa during apartheid; the United States around the world – with one of the most blatant examples being Iran, where the CIA instigated the military overthrow of a democratically elected government by a tyrannical monarch.

Burg laments that “what ties Israel and America today is not a covenant of humanistic values but rather a new set of mutual interests: war, bombs, threats, fear and trauma.” Yet an honest observer of the two countries’ relationship is likely to conclude the opposite. After a brief romance in 1947-1948, when the U.S. led the effort to create and recognize Israel, the two countries had a complicated and often tense relationship, shaped by geopolitical interests in a decolonizing Middle East during the Cold War. The dynamic began to change after 1967, and this change accelerated with the rise of the pro-Likud American evangelical right in the 1990s. Today, the relationship seems more detached from calculated interest than it has ever been, although the values that bind it are more xenophobic than humanistic.

Burg goes on to make some peculiar statements about Israel’s past:

In the early years of statehood, the meaning of the term “Jewish” was national and secular. In the eyes of Israel’s founding fathers, to be a Jew was exactly like being an Italian, Frenchman or American.

To the best of my knowledge, one can become a Frenchman or an American in a (relatively) secular process (that will surely not expel all biases or discrimination). However, it was never possible, not even during the time of the “founding fathers,” to become a Jew except through (arduous) religious conversion, or through birth. Burg, of all people, should know that quite well.

So how can he be so mistaken? One clue can be found in the following sentences:

We never gave much thought to the Palestinian Israeli citizens within the Jewish-democratic equation… Moreover, we never predicted the evil effects of brutally controlling another people against their will.

The key word in this text is “we.” Who is “we?” Jewish Israelis thought a lot about Palestinian Israeli citizens, but they mostly thought of how to exclude them from the state’s protection, and this was no less true in the 1950s and 1960s than it is today. It was during that period, after all, that massive amounts of Palestinian land were confiscated from citizens, and – as mentioned above –military rule was imposed on them. Few Israelis may have warned about the dangers of the 1967 occupation (mainly because most supported it), but the prediction was certainly made at the time, if one wanted to listen.

Nonetheless, there was a group, to which Burg clearly belonged, that never gave much thought to these issues and never predicted what was to come. These were the people who willfully ignored what was going on, and many of them did so for the U.S. as well as Israel. It is that willful ignorance which has brought us here.

Now, when the world’s aesthetic standards for democracy are a little higher, and Israel’s public figures are a lot less eloquent, the New York Times and Israelis like Burg are startled. They shouldn’t be. Nor should they believe that “a nondemocratic Israel, hostile to its neighbors and isolated from the free world, wouldn’t be able to survive for long.” So far, the country’s nondemocratic character and its hostility towards neighbors have not caused the “free world” to sever its ties; and after 64 years, the Israeli model seems as sustainable as ever.

The problem is not Israel’s resilience – right now, at an all time peak – but rather its moral character and just conduct. In order to change it, one must first recognize that the problem runs much deeper than a recent, sharp and unexpected anti-democratic turn; and that the US has never played the role of a shining humanistic beacon to which Israel aspires, and is unlikely to play such a role in the future.

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    1. Jehudah

      Israel has been and continues to be a liberal democracy in which all have been and continue to be equal before the law: blacks and whites, men and women, Arabs and Jews, religious and secular, left oriented and right oriented, short people and tall people, all!
      Furthermore, all Israeli citizens are not only entitled to elect and be elected, the overwhelming majority of them participate actively in the very dynamic democratic life of the country, and take part in the activities of civil society of the country.
      Beyond that, one finds people of all backgrounds in government – all three branches of it: legislative, administrative and judicial – in the military, in the economic, education and other cultural aspects of society.
      Surely, Israeli society, as any society, evolves and renews itself all the time, and in certain areas it needs some tinkering and improvements. But to deny Israel’s liberal democratic nature is totally absurd.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Roi Maor

      It is not true that all people are equal before the law: even in the formal sense, there is discrimination against secular Israelis, who can only get married in a religious ceremony.

      At the slightly less formal sense, planning policies are explicitly geared towards Jews and towards the Judaization of large parts of the country. If you look at the patterns of land confiscation and allocation you will see an overwhelming bias towards Jews. The discrimination against (black) Jewish Ethiopians has also been extensively documented; etc.

      Participation in Israeli elections has recently declined from 80% to 65%. People who oppose Israel’s definition as a “Jewish” state are not allowed to run to the Knesset. Only 6% of civil servants, 10% of judges and 3% of university professors are Arabs, although they make up almost 20% of population.

      How many Arabs head one of Israel’s 100 largest companies? How much is allocated to Arab theaters, films and music in comparison to Jewish ones? Of Israel’s prime ministers, all have been secular Jews of European descent.

      And so on, and so forth…

      Reply to Comment
    3. I hope, Jehudah – if that is your real name – that you didn’t exert yourself too much cutting and pasting this boilerplate text.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Jehudah

      Israel a “Jewish state”. Indeed!!
      Israel is a nation-state of a people, of the Jewish people, and in this sense it is a “Jewish state”; not unlike Greece which is a Greek state or Denmark which is a Danish state, or Poland which is a Polish state, or Ireland which is an Irish state.
      This is the nature of any nation-state: its characteristics are determined by the predominant national group of it. Therefore, the weekly day of rest, in the case of Israel, is Saturday and not Sunday. The official language of the country is Hebrew. The symbols of the state, e.g. Menorah, David’s Shield, the flag, are all Jewish in orientation. Indeed, the very name, Israel, is Jewish.
      But, the fact that a nation-state is such, it doesn’t negate the fact that it is also a liberal democracy, just as Norway, a nation-state of the Norwegian people is their nation-state, or Portugal, a nation-state, is a liberal democracy, and so on.

      Reply to Comment
    5. The article ended with “Yes we can” and “Im Tirzu Ein Zo Agadah”. The whole article was written as if Burg were running for office – and this was part of a profile and fund raising effort.

      Is he thinking (again) of running?


      Reply to Comment
    6. That is of course very true Roi – great essay – not that there was anything we didn’t know already.

      It is of course a romantic distortion to try to portray Israel’s history as anything but that of a racist colonial ethnocracy with a horrendous track record of crimes against humanity (such as the ethnic cleansing of Palestine – the crime against humanity that created the Jewish ethnocracy).

      However, I do applaud Burg and understand his constraints and the limits of the discourse when trying to appeal to the American Jewish liberal readers of the NYT. As they say: “cut him some slack”.

      Reply to Comment
    7. I can add to the crimes of that post-1948 “good old romantic Israel” the massive land and property confiscations, the destruction and evacuation of non-Jewish villages and their appropriation to Jews, the ethnic cleansing of the Negev, the racist immigration laws (still in force today), the mass shootings of unarmed refugees, the 1956 Kfar Kassem Massacre (which was supposed to precipitate the ethnic cleansing of the remaining Palestinians), the Sinai invasion, the Koenig Memorandum (formulating ways to encourage Arab citizen emigration), the ethnic cleansing of 1967, the destruction of Quneitra.

      The list goes on and on and on. Let’s face it: there was never a “good old Israel”. What Burg considers better is that it was easier for Israel back then to manipulate world public opinion to portray itself in a positive light and propagate the myth of “poor little Israel versus big bad Arabs”. It may have also been better amongst Jews themselves as it was more of a socialist state but from the point of view of non-Jews and Israel’s neighbors, there certainly isn’t any difference.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Jehudah

      P.S. Regarding the nature of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people: This reality of course is based on the Jewish people’s historic right to its homeland; it is based on the ethical right afforded all peoples of national self-determination and independence; and, it is based on the legal right afforded the Jewish people by the San Remo conference, 1920; the League of Nations decisions, 1922; and the United Nations Charter, Article 80, 1945.
      My question to some: Why single out the Jewish people of all peoples and deny it and only it that which considered a universally accepted right of all peoples? Isn’t this singling out of the Jewish people and denying it its right a form of racism – if to use the term race in its British meaning – anti-Jewish racism at that?
      And, why is it the people who consider themselves “progressive” are so intensely engaged in this form of anti-Jewish racism?

      Reply to Comment
    9. Jack

      To you question, its very simple. Annexation is not legal, in fact it became illegal at the same time as world recognized that colonialism was wrong and that the people under such conditions must have the diginity as other people, simply – a right to self determination and a state.

      Another problem is the de facto ethnic cleansing of palestinians from their land which is the core of the problem of the conflict.

      Of course its not racism to be against the placement of a state upon other peoples head.
      Likewise I sense you are against a palestinian state, that doesnt make people racist.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Jack

      Likewise its very easy for Israel to claim to be a fully democratic state with the minority either occupied and excluded or the minority living inside of Israel are too small and weak to change the foundation that keeping discrimination alive.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Jehudah, as the site’s Zionist propagandist, you should know that repeating these nonsensical claims that we have heard our entire lives does not make them true.

      There is no such thing as “historical right to the land” to a “nation” of immigrants. You would first have to produce your PERSONAL property deed from 2000 years ago in order to be taken seriously. And even in the unlikely case that you will, you will have to prove that the property was confiscated by someone rather than your ancestors sold it and moved away. And even if you manage to prove that your ancestor was forced out of the property 2000 years ago, it will still not grant you the right to evacuate the current residents.

      I challenge you now: please produce your ancestor’s PERSONAL property deed from 2000 years ago, tell me his name and point where he lived.

      You are still making up stories to legitimize a project of colonization and dispossession. You are still confusing state sovereignty with “rights to land”.

      You still don’t get it do you? You are just subscribed to a Nazionalist creed, not much different from Nazism. I bet you didn’t bother reading my essay:


      Reply to Comment
    12. Jehudah

      “To you question”.
      Since I have asked a number of questions it is not entirely clear to which question the poster refers.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Aaron

      As Trotsky might have said: Everyone has the right to be stupid, but Avrum Burg abuses the privilege.

      Reply to Comment
    14. CigarButNoNice

      Israel’s idea of a democracy for its nation, an idea quite acceptable back in 1948, was right from its inception. Alas, times have changed, and the World Left commands all nation states to degenerate into Lebanon-style multinational clusterf***s where a genocide is only a matter of time.
      Alas for the World Left, not for Israel. Israel’s Jews know what’s good for them, and they know their survival requires telling the World Left to pound sand. Tough to be a Leftist…

      Reply to Comment
    15. What’s funny about CigarButt’s rant is that I can imagine him an American Jew living in America who would be the first person to cry gewald if America declared itself as a state of white protestants.

      So for Israel he prescribes a Jewish Supremacist state while for America the opposite – whatever fits his interests.

      Reply to Comment
    16. CigarButNoNice

      America was never founded as a nation state, AhaDafooki. It began as a refuge for English Puritans and then became a general refuge for all lovers of liberty in the world. As someone who claims to have the historical truth at the center of his interests, I’m surprised you don’t know that (sarc tag off).

      Reply to Comment
    17. Jack

      To your questions posted 8:35.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Latter Day President Howard W. Hunter on the subject: “We do not need to apologize nor mitigate any of the prophecies concerning the Holy Land. We believe them and declare them to be true. But this does not give us justification to dogmatically pronounce that others of our Father’s children are not children of promise. … Both the Jews and the Arabs are children of our Father. They are both children of promise, and as a church we do not take sides. We have love for and an interest in each.” (Devotional speech BYU 1979)
      Mitt Romney is conducting a violation of Mormon creed by being Israel’s agent, advocating a pre-emptive strike against anybody on behalf of a fictitious Zion, or insisting an exclusively ‘Jewish state’ to be the case.

      Israel-influenced media doesn’t remember the extent the USA went
      to keep Israel non-atomic, and failed. Did we have a Mormon candidate then who advocated bombing Israel? We’ve got one now that advocates bombing Iran when the same ‘last wire’ means of operation (all production done except for assembly) was practiced by Israel as much as its practiced by Iran today.
      Since when did the Mormans and their newspapers become Israel’s bitch, advocate a Jewish state, and give a pass to one of its flock to intimidate and threaten another country?

      ‘last wire’…just like present day Iran charge.


      Reply to Comment
    19. Aaron

      It’s interesting that Ahad Haadam’s charge of hypocrisy is used by white nationalists in America, too. “If it’s OK for Israel to be a Jewish ethno-state, why isn’t it OK for America to be a white ethno-state?” CigarButNotNice’s answer is exactly right, and it’s the same answer to both the universalists and the white nationalists. But this is usually where the conversation stops. Then it picks up again later with that answer ignored or forgotten, over and over…

      Reply to Comment
    20. Jan

      Jehudah – You speak of other countries and try to compare Israel to them. There is a great difference. In France, for example, one religion is not preferred over another. As a Jew I could go to France and become a citizen if I so chose. My becoming a citizen would not be affected one way or the other based on the fact that I am Jewish. But if, for example a French person of Arab extraction went to Israel he or she could neither get permanent residence or become a citizen.

      If a French woman or man fell in love with someone from another country and wanted to marry that person they would not be forced to live apart or to live in the country of the spouse’s origin. But in the “democratic” state of Israel if an Israeli Arab falls in love with someone from the West Bank they cannot live together in the “democratic” state of Israel. They must either live apart or leave Israel. That way Israel can continue the “Judiazation” of the state. Sounds nasty to me.

      If a secular Jewish couple want to marry in Israel they are forced by the law of the theocratic state of Israel to have an orthodox ceremony. Many hundreds of Israelis go abroad to marry rather than have to face an orthodox ceremony. Most countries that consider themselves to be democratic do not have such draconian rules regarding marriage and divorce. But a theocracy does and that is exactly what Israel is and has been from the beginning.

      As for the land belonging to you because you are Jewish that is a pile of rubbish. Neither you nor I have a legitimate claim to the land. You can cite various conferences that were heavily influenced by the Zionists but there are plenty of Palestinians who still hold the deeds and the keys to their homes, homes that were likely destroyed and looted by the Israelis. I personally know one Palestinian who can trace back his ancestry in Palestine at least 600 years. I doubt that there is even one European Jew who can trace back his or her ancestry in Israel more than 100 years. His home in Jerusalem still stands but he cannot return to his home. A travesty of justice.

      The Bible/Torah is not a land grant. The Jews just saw it as such and thought it was their right to do to the Palestinians what they did to the Canaanites thousands of years earlier. Drive them out.

      Reply to Comment
    21. CigarButt – isn’t it the Israel propagandists who claim that the US and Israel “share the same values”? The fact that you declare yourself “an ethno-national state” does not exempt you from the rules of humanity in the same way that the crimes of an Aryan State do not become legitimate because it declared itself to be the “a nation state of the Aryans”.

      Reply to Comment
    22. I think, as someone mentioned above, Burg was writing specifically for an American Jewish audience. And indeed, Sydney, maybe about to run for office. He was a pupil of teacher and mentor Yeshayahu Leibowitz, so I can’t believe he’s as naive in thinking as it appears on first glance or belongs to the blissfully unaware…

      But I do find Burg confusing. Some of his writings and presentations at conferences are just SO articulate, deep, humane and spiritual. And then sometimes, for me, he (or is it just me?) gets totally lost or doesn’t go deep enough. Fair enough, he ain’t Leibowitz. More than anyone else, that’s who we seem to lack today. Are there any rabbis out there with that level of spiritual authority and prophecy and lack of bullshit and truth-seeking at all cost?

      Reply to Comment
    23. Richard Witty

      NO country’s origination is pure, in any form.

      Name one.

      Burg was there. He knows what he experienced, what he and others said and did.

      The attempt to refute his portrayal as somehow untrue is an attempt at Orwellian revision. (He never said anything that was unqualified, as in “is”. All of his points were, “my experience was”.)

      ALL states, all communities have varying voices, varying apparent realities.

      His Zionism remains relevant, in form, in aspiration, in goal, as much as it appears to be receding in public weight.

      The liberal view remains the only hope for the region. ANY ideological view imposes as much as it liberates.

      The liberal view encapsulates the dual goal of “Live #AND# Let Live”. The ideological view of “your community is only interloper” is a fascist one, whomever says it.

      Again, the refutation of Israel is not only a critique, but

      Reply to Comment
    24. Jehudah

      One is still puzzled: Why do some here view the non-violent (not pacifist, mind you) national liberation of the Jewish movement, Zionism, should be viewed pejoratively?
      In addition to the fact that Zionism has been, for more than 3,000 years, the strong affinity of Jews to Zion/Jerusalem and the country in the middle of which it is located; it has taken upon itself, as a movement, in the 19th century, to: 1) In-gather members of the Jewish people in this people’s homeland by joining those Jews already there. 2) Re-institute Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish people’s homeland of 4,000 years. 3)Re-vitalize Judaism, the civilization of the Jewish people.
      The above three goals were to be accomplished on the basis of the laws that are and in collaboration with the powers that be, and with as much cooperation as possible with the non-Jewish residents of the Jewish people’s homeland.
      The result: The proclamation on 14 May 1948 of the independent nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel, whose ethos is expressed in the Declaration of Independence of that date, one of the most progressive documents of this nature.
      So, one wonders, why single out the Jewish people and deny it and only it that which is a universally accepted right of all peoples….??

      Reply to Comment
    25. berl

      “Why single out the Jewish people of all peoples and deny it and only it that which considered a universally accepted right of all peoples?”
      For the simple reason that the League of Nations and the San Remo conference were just “western tools” created with “white man’s burden approach”. Millions of human beings on which that decisions were imposed have no say in any of the decision that the colonialist powers had in mind. Is it this your moral legitimacy?
      Israel has all the right to exist but please don’t use colonialistic arguments because they look stupid to everybody knows a bit of history

      Reply to Comment
    26. Jehudah

      “…that decision…” is part and parcel of international law. And, if we, as a society, didn’t live by some accepted legal standards, international law being one of them, what would the results be? Therefore, regardless of how some of us feel – and it is mostly a matter of feeling rather than rational thinking…!! – about this or that part of the legal system, this is the only system by which we can live as a coherent society. Therefore, let us accept it, live by it, and, for the sake of an accommodation of peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jew, between the Muslim-Arab world, local and regional, and the sovereign nation-state of the Jewish people, apply it, as is.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Jan

      Jehuda don’t make me laugh. You blithely write of international law yet every time Israel adds another apartment or house to a settlement she violates international law. Building settlements in occupied territory is considered by every country, with the exception of Israel the violating country, to be against international law.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Jehudah

      “…every time Israel adds another apartment or house to a settlement she violates international law”.
      1) First, from a legal perspective alone I would disagree with the above statement.
      2) Every time a mortar is fired at Israel, or a Grad rocket is launched at its civilian population centers form territory claimed to be under Palestinian Authority is a violation of international law.
      3) My interest is not to score points about who violates what laws more often. My interest is rather to bring about an end to the Arab Israeli conflict, local and regional alike. In my humble opinion that can be done by the application of the RELEVANT elements of international law, done by the international community, and “forced” upon the parties. It is in this context that my emphasis on international law is so strong.
      Let us hope this is also the goal of the poster.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Jack

      Why do you keep ignoring my answers to your questions?

      Reply to Comment
    30. Louis

      Hi Roi you make great and true points. I think that there is a value in Burgs (intentional or or otherwise) revisionism sort of… in order to energize American Jews to reinvest or to finally invest in an effort to push for progressive Israel they need to anchor on this to sort of fight for the glory of the past… I think that if Burg’s effort will work to get American Jews out of AIPAC’s dungeon… Sababa…

      Reply to Comment
    31. Piotr Berman

      “The Bible/Torah is not a land grant.”

      I understand that this is a heretical, or to put it mildly, a heterodox view. From what I have gleaned in the theological discussions in the talkbacks in ynet.com, the Covenant is that in exchange for a vague promise to stick to 600 and more commandments, Jews got Cana’an in perpetuity, regardless if they obey the commandments or not. But even so, they should try. The rest of Torah is either commentary, or jokes, like “Though shall not kill.” Really? So what was wrong with sparing Amelekite women and cattle?

      Actually, I do not comprehend why G.d gave a country to Jews. Was the goal to assure that at least one nation makes a good effort in avoiding shrimp and mare’s milk? Shrimp are adorable little creatures and perhaps killing them is wrong, but why the Lord of Creation cares about mare’s milk?

      ” it is based on the ethical right afforded all peoples of national self-determination and independence; and, it is based on the legal right afforded the Jewish people by the San Remo conference, 1920; the League of Nations decisions, 1922; and the United Nations Charter, Article 80, 1945.”

      All people? I am confused again. If you expel some people, then I think that you think that some people do not have the right of self-determination and independence. Fair enough… but then you come back and say “all people”. Also, I do not recall ANY decision or resolution prior to the recognition of Israel by UN giving Jews the “right to self-determination and independence”. Moreover, San Remo etc. paid attention to the fact that Jews were not the only people in Palestine, and there was some language to the effect that the rights of those other people should not be diminished.

      Reply to Comment
    32. No point in debating Jehudah – he’s from another planet and he doesn’t even bother reading responses. You’ll have more luck reaching a common ground with a rock.

      The sad thing is that when you replace Jewish with Aryan you get the ideologies of Nazi Germany, which is not surprising given that Zionism and Nazism spring from the same well of European romantic nationalism which were popular in the 18-19th centuries. Jewish nazionalism and supremacism is vulgar in that it is upheld by by colonial immigrants (since Jehudah failed to produce his ancestor’s PERSONAL property deed from 2000 years ago), which takes extreme chutzpah to expel the natives of the land and declare an exclusive Jewish Nazionalist state on their land.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Richard Witty

      Zionism is nowhere the same as naziism.

      Its a grossly insulting parallel.

      Nationalism, whatever form, always exists in a moral tension between equal rights and the national basis.

      If you bother to study American, Canadian, any European history, there is always some definition of “us” (privileged in some direct or indirect way) vs “them”, even currently. (certainly grossly historically. American history is an embarrassment in many ways, as well as a source of pride).

      Even among the left, there are selectively Orwellian “equal” voice given to those that fit some definition of credo (“us”) vs those that don’t (“them”).

      The BEST that any activist can do, is to enhance the relative importance of the democratic in the Jewish and democratic nature of Israel.

      Its a reform movement, not a revolutionary, that takes investment in the society, participation in the society, to achieve.

      The arguments that support an emphasis on democracy do exist in both secular Israeli/Zionist and religious Jewish traditions.

      Although the Gurvitz essay describing Israeli traditions as more fascist than liberal was sited here, the fact is that like Torah or Koran even, there are Zionist quotes and reasonings that support democratic application, and quotes and reasoning that support suppressive.

      My sense is that in Torah and in Zionist originating literature the democratic is the norm, and that the suppressive applications are only applicable in exceptions.

      I consider the 180 degree rejection of the pure innocent Zionist theme, to be equally misrepresentative, more misrepresentative than representative.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Jack

      Richard Witty,
      Havent history tought us that nationalism,( not only the extreme form) is bad?

      Reply to Comment
    35. Larry Snider

      There is little doubt that here in America we have committed our share of sins as is true in Israel. However people in both countries and far beyond have dreamed the dreams that are still imbedded in the founding of both nations. Avraham Burg has more right than most to speak about democracy and human rights. He continues to call us to be our best selves and to serve the greater call of the Jewish people to become a light unto the nations. We have a long way to go. But I am one who is glad to hear and continue to respond to his call.

      Reply to Comment
    36. David

      Setting aside its implicit racism,your assertion that Israel is a “Jewish State” is absurd. I remind you that about 25% of Israel’s population is non-Jewish and it is also the most rapidly growing segment.

      For your further edification:

      The U.S. State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom: “Arabs in Israel…are subject to various forms of discrimination [and the government] does not provide Israeli Arabs…with the same quality of education, housing, employment opportunities as Jews.”

      The Independent, Dec. 27/2011
      “…EU broadside over plight of Israel’s Arabs”

      “The confidential 27-page draft prepared by European diplomats…[shows] that Israeli Arabs suffer ‘economic disparities…unequal access to land and housing…discriminatory draft legislation and a political climate in which discriminatory rhetoric and practice go unsanctioned.'”

      Ronnie Kasrils, a key player in the defeat of apartheid in South Africa, currently minister for intelligence in the government and a devout Jew: “The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the ‘Jewish state’, and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence, their similarity to the black South Africans [under apartheid].” (The Guardian, 25 May 2005)

      Adi Ophir, philosophy professor at Tel Aviv
      University: “…the adoption of the political forms of an ethnocentric and racist nation-state in general, are turning Israel into the most dangerous place in the world for the humanity and morality of the Jewish community, for the continuity of Jewish cultures and
      perhaps for Jewish existence itself.”

      Reply to Comment
    37. berl

      “is part and parcel of international law”: perhaps your law and the one of the colonial powers in the 20s.
      The UN, although had itself plenty of shortcomings, can be considered a source of “international law”.
      The League of nations was by definition a colonialistic tool in which the colonized people didn’t have any possibility to say anything. if you feel comfortable with it is probably because you have a settler-colonialistic mentality.
      please keep your “coherent society” for you: it seems just another way to stress the “white man’s burden approach”.

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    38. David


      You state: “Regarding the nature of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people: This reality of course is based on the Jewish people’s historic right to its homeland; it is based on the ethical right afforded all peoples of national self-determination and independence; and, it is based on the legal right afforded the Jewish people by the San Remo conference, 1920; the League of Nations decisions, 1922; and the United Nations Charter, Article 80, 1945.”

      I remind you that the 1922 League of Nations British Mandate for Palestine was a Class A Mandate, i. e, Palestine was to be administered by Britain AS A WHOLE until its citizens were able to assume democratic self-rule. By incorporating the Balfour Declaration the mandate did facilitate Jewish immigration to “secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home,” but it did not call for the creation of a sovereign Jewish state or homeland in Palestine or any form of partition. This was made very clear in the Churchill Memorandum (1 July 1922) regarding the British Mandate: “[T]he status of all citizens of Palestine in the eyes of the law shall be Palestinian, and it has never been intended that they, or any section of them, should possess any other juridical status.”

      Furthermore, regarding the British Mandate, as approved by the Council of the League of nations, the British government declared: “His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.” (Command Paper, 1922)

      All of this negates the argument that Jews have a right to a state in Palestine based on Article 80 of the UN Charter, i.e. no such right was granted Jews in the League of Nations British Mandate.

      BTW, apart from restricting Jewish immigration to 15,000 per year for five years, “…following which, Palestinian Arab acquiescence would be required,” Britain reiterated the fact that Palestine was not to become in whole or in part a “Jewish State” or “homeland” in its 1939 White Paper.

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    39. berl

      David, the point is that the league of nations didn’t have any right/authority to decide about the life of this people. Full stop.
      Then, if you want to know from where the settler-colonialist menthality of jehuda comes from (and all the sentences that he has written) you can read the paper of this little human being (h.grief):

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    40. Yes, it is disturbing that there are people who try to find “legality” to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing – such is the Zionist colonial mindset. After all, what they mean by “Palestine was awarded to Jews” (complete nonsense) in practicality means that they believe Jews have a right to commit ethnic cleansing of non-Jews. That’s what Zionism boils down to.

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    41. Richard Witty

      Zionism is the assertion that the Jewish people have a right to self-govern, and reside in a coherent peace of land.

      To be anti-Zionist is to declare that Jews don’t have the right to self-govern.

      Burg believes that Israelis have the right to self-govern, and that the majority of them are Jews, not the same as the likud form of declaration of a “Jewish state”, implying exclusive or privileged.

      I don’t see how anyone can call themselves progressive and object to the self-governance of a people that think of themselves as a people, a nation.

      There is MUCH to criticize in the application of Zionism, but that is a different statement, application vs existence.

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    42. XYZ

      Thousands of British troops fought and died giving independence to the Arab states that were in the territory formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire. The Arabs didn’t lift a finger (with the miniscule exception of T E Lawrence’s light raiding force) to achieve this independence. That is why the British felt they had the right to dispose of the territories they had conquered.

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    43. Jack

      Richard Witty,
      You ignored my question, please answer it.
      Second you talk about self-govern but you cant place a people that want to self-govern on top of another people that want self-govern, simply you cannot build a state where there already live people. Thats the problem.

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    44. richard witty

      Nation is a body. Bodies aren’t bad. It is Only the application that can be bad.

      Is Palestinian national aspiration bad?

      The view that only indigenous have a right to coherence is a reactionary view, prohibiting change. One consequence of climate change, in addition to the history of suppression of people’s as well as the formation of new peoples, is that migration and demographic change Will occur.

      It is more unjust to prohibit change, than to accommodate it.

      And, that is the failing with “greater israel” approaches, that it doesn’t seek to live And let live, but only to live.

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    45. berl

      The arab-palestinians were not obliged to fight against or for the british. If Swiss remained neutral in the WWII does not mean that they deserve to be wiped off.
      Moreover the Palestinians didn’t have the necessity to enter in a wester mindset and to create a state with clear cut borders that could fit the purposes of the colonial powers. once again, let’s put aside this colonialistic attitude.
      thousands of british died fighting for their own interests. not for the “arabs”. the “arabs” didn’t have to pay any price because the WWI was not their war.

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    46. berl

      You write: “To be anti-Zionist is to declare that Jews don’t have the right to self-govern.”
      Could be that you are right. But could also be that an anti-zionist fully ackowledges that the Jews have the right to self-govern, but does not think that this right is more important than the rights and wishes of an indigenous population that was there before the new settlers.

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    47. Jack

      Skip the philosophical approach and deal with the facts. You dont build a state upon other people. Thats the problem. And ethnic nationalism isnt working and is bad one have to go back to world wars to recognize the dangers of such extreme views.
      Palestinian aspiration isnt built on another people. Thats the difference.

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    48. Don’t worry, the hard core Zionists here won’t budge an iota. For them, there was no ethnic cleansing. In fact, there were no people living on the land when the Zionists came – just some farm animals grazing. Jaffa, Akka, Lydia and Jerusalem were all empty when the Zionists came. Hundreds of villages didn’t exist. Then the Zionists established a state, fighting about 20 different Arab states that wanted this empty land too all of a sudden, and the Jews heroically won. According to them, even today there are no Palestinians and the people living in refugee camps is some grand show of deception produced by Arab governments out of antisemitic conspiracy to make the Jews look bad.

      This is more or less what you’re dealing with – the Zionist planet has left the solar system. Do you think you can reason with these people?

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    49. Richard Witty

      Ethnic or any other form of nation-forming is NOT bad. It is only the application and behavior that can be bad. To change behavior is to reform, not revolution.

      Democracy is in the present, not in the past. To urge in any way that Israelis not self-govern (whether as a Jewish state or an Israeli state), or that any large numbers be forcefully removed, is to suppress democracy in the present.

      What is needed is sympathy and strategy with Palestinians self-governing, to expand the numbers that self-govern, rather than pendulum swing from one setting of suppression to another.

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    50. There is no self-govern by one group in a pluralistic society. I assume you are from the US so you should know it. Jews self-govern in essence means an ethnocracy. Moreover, you cannot expel people to achieve a majority (even the white supremacists in S. Africa didn’t go that low).
      If you want Jews to self govern in a state of pure Jewish blood, you should find an uninhabited island and establish a Jewish Kingdom there. Palestine was and is populated by non-Jews so the only acceptable form of government is that of the people, not of one supremacist sub-group which is what Israel is.

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