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Response to Joseph Dana: A case for liberal Zionism

Yes, Zionism is at odds with liberal values. But it’s less at odds than the alternative; moreover, it has the capacity to be liberalized almost without limit.

I want to take issue with Joseph Dana’s claim that liberal Zionism is a “dishonest system of thought.” I don’t, however, want to take issue with his statement that “the Zionist ideology, in so far as it privileges one ethnic group over another, is at odds with liberal values.” I won’t argue with that second point because I’m an honest liberal Zionist, and I don’t think any honest liberal Zionist, such as Bernard Avishai or Gershom Gorenberg, would argue with it either, because it’s undeniably true. Zionism privileges the Jews over Arabs and other gentiles, and that’s at odds with liberal values. So if I believe in liberal values, such as civic equality, why am I a Zionist, i.e. why do I want Israel to remain a Jewish state?

Because if Israel stops being a Jewish state it will become a Palestinian state, and on the way to that it will be a state at civil war that will bring on the exodus of the Jews – and that’s even more at odds with my liberal values than Zionism. You cannot have two warring nations in one state, and that’s what the Jews and Palestinians are in this part of the world – warring nations. The only way a state can work is if one of those nations is the stable, unchallenged majority, and there is such a Jewish majority in Israel and it should stay that way. I also believe that the Palestinians have as much right as the Jews to be the clear majority in a sovereign state of their own, and the Palestinians’ state – by right – encompasses the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

At home, I think the responsibility of Zionism is to realize that it inherently privileges Jewish citizens over Arab citizens, and to rectify all the inequalities and do away with all the discrimination, except in one area – immigration. While Israel has to get rid of its miserable “Jews-only” immigration policy and allow Palestinians and other gentiles to become citizens, it should still gear its policy so that a solid Jewish majority is maintained. It doesn’t have to be 80% like it is now, but if Israel is going to be a Jewish state and not a Palestinian state, the Jewish majority has to stay pretty solid.

Which means, naturally, that I’m against the right of return. I’m against it both on practical grounds, which I think I’ve laid out, and on moral grounds. It’s not just that the Palestinians started the 1947-48 war, it’s that they, too, carried out expulsions in that war, expulsions of thousands of Jews from the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, Gush Etzion, Kfar Darom and several other kibbutzim and moshavim. As Uri Avnery, a veteran of that war, said in a debate in 2007 with Ilan Pappe: “There can be no dispute that ethnic cleansing took place in 1948 – though allow me to remark, in parenthesis, that the ethnic cleansing was on both sides, and that there was not a single Jew left residing in whatever territory was conquered on the Arab side.” The Arabs were trying to do to the Jews what the Jews were trying to do to the Arabs; the Jews, to be brutally frank, just did it better. So I don’t see that the Palestinians have any right of return, especially since they started the war in the first place.

If there had been a small number of refugees, I personally would have had no objection to letting them come back – not as a matter of right, but rather because there would have been no good reason to refuse. Today, if it would allow the peace to be made, I’d personally agree to let up to a few hundred thousand refugees return to Israel over, say, a 10-year period. But again, not as a matter of right, because I don’t think it is their right.

The above is a capsule version of my idea of liberal Zionism. I don’t see anything dishonest about it.

Related posts on +972:
A sad commentary on the state of liberal Zionist discourse
+972 readers weigh in on Zionism debate

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    1. Larry, so much to talk about here but I am just so busy today. I think that there are a couple of issues here. One is that you adopt Avishai’s language of relative symmetry between Palestinians and Israelis while ignoring the Occupation, or more specifically, the Israeli social constructs, to be found in the Zionist ideology of supremacy, which are necessary to maintain the occupation. Here I am specifically pointing to the cognitive dissonance, separation principle and necessity of domination which maintain the occupation as demonstrated recently in J14. These have been trademarks of the Zionist experiment since the beginning.
      You note that two ‘warring nations’ exist here and that the “Arabs started the war of 1948.” OK, fair enough. Why not include, mention or start with the notion that Zionism in practice is a European colonial project which took hold in Palestine and attempted to implement an ideology that benefits one ethnic group over the other (an ideology that you argue should continue to do this in at least one realm). Even if I assume that this was necessary for the Jewish people and thus somehow correct, it is the engine which drove this conflict, in the early phases and today. Could a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon just as easily say, “European colonists came to my land and kicked me off. They started it and so I deserve my right of return”?
      Finally, I think that this statement, “if Israel stops being a Jewish state it will become a Palestinian state” is simply not true. If Israel stop privileging one class over another, we might be able to live in a democracy in which all under Israel rule had their rights. As I noted earlier, because of statements like the last one, the need to have open an honest discussion about Zionism among Palestinians is pressing.

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    2. Falastinyeh

      Oh Larry… This only shows ur not only libral zionist but far worse.. ur 100% zionist with ideas that make me see no future for any kind of peace of states or anything…… I cant believe what I just wrote,, honestly makes me sick,, I think u need to double check your historical facts!

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    3. Ben Israel

      I think the arbitrary defintions of what is “moral” and “immoral” by the Liberal Zionists can not stand up over time.
      For instance, the PLO’s Charter said that all Jews who came after the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration came to the country illegally (I don’t know if the PLO and PA still view that as officially operative in view of the Oslo Agreements, but it is an existing sentiment among Palestinians).
      Thus Derfner’s aliyah to Eretz is moral in his eyes, but immoral in the Palestinians’ eyes.
      Derfer and other Liberal Zionists who may be living in what were Arab-owned houses before fleeing in 1948 may say “Jewish settlement in the West Bank are immoral” but on the other hand “The Arabs should accept me living in their pre-Nakba homes and so it is moral in my eyes”.
      These things are arbitrary. It is based on nothing more than preferences that Derfer has. Who says his values are better than anyone else’s? As the “progressive”-Left keeps hammering away at these Liberal Zionists, it is inevitable that they will go one of two ways, either to become full, unapologetic Zionists who go back to the roots of Zionism and the Jewish connection with the ENTIRE country, or they will chuck Zionism out completely. Liberal Zionism and post-Zionism are dead-ends. It’s all or nothing!

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    4. Ben Israel, on your last point, we agree. How sad is that the reactionary, racist and aggressive right are some of the only honest people left in Israel. Tragic if you ask me.

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    5. Seb

      Larry, you just caused me to spend 5 valuable mins of my life with this crap you wrote.

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    6. Sarah Reut

      @Larry, I thought you “left” the Jerusalem post because everybody thought you were supper left,, now seems like thr truth reviels, you are on the furthiest right than ever! What changed?? Or maybe nothing, I think zionism is zionism, there is no such as left or right zionist, it all serves the same perpose, if we Israeli do not agree with the fundemental demand of the Palestinians “Right of Return” then we better stop bluffing about 2 states solution, 2 states on 67 was never the main demand of the people!!

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    7. Bosko

      Ben Israel
      I am not sure I agree with you on this one. There is absolutely nothing inconsistent with the idea of drawing a line (by whatever criteria) and call that line the border beyond which Zionism declares that it has no claims. Otherwise, where would you stop? Every nation has a border. So does Israel.
      Of course one may argue about the criteria which is to be used to define the borders. But that’s another argument in which different people may choose to establish different criteria. Some may use the bible, some may use history, yet others may choose pragmatism and the art of the possible. Pick your chpice. Larry obviously picked his already and it isn’t necessarily inconsistent.

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    8. Joseph, first, Zionism wasn’t always synonymous w/occuption; it was here a long time before the occupation arrived. And if Nazism, fascism, slavery, colonialism and apartheid were reversible, so is the occupation.
      Second, if Zionism was a European colonial movement, what was the mother country? The Jews weren’t conquering or settling Palestine for Russia, Europe or the Middle East, they were leaving behind centuries of shitty treatment toward Jews in those regions. That’s what set Zionism in motion, not colonialism.
      Third, you say without Zionism, Israel can be a democracy. But if Zionism is immoral, that means the Palestinians have the right of return, which means Israel, even if somehow it avoids civil war and Jewish exodus, will become a binational state. What sort of democracy, what sort of state, will it be? Who will serve in the army – Jews and Palestinian refugees side by side, guarding the borders and training to fight Syria? How could it have a cogent foreign policy, a cogent security apparatus – a cogent anything, given that one of its two nations is part of the greater Arab nation and Muslim faith of the region, while the other nation is isolated nationally and religiously in the region, and has a history of mutual hatred and hostility in the region? Could the Jewish half of a binational Israel survive? Do you think the Palestinian half would even agree to call it Israel?

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    9. Bosko

      “Larry, you just caused me to spend 5 valuable mins of my life with this crap you wrote”
      Argued with incisive logic and panache (NOT!!!!). SEB, may I suggest that sometimes it is best not to speak if you have nothing to say?

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    10. Ben Israel

      Zionism claims what was the entire British Palestine Mandate territory is open to Jewish settlement. That still stands, particularly since the Arabs rejected the 1947 plan. I firmly maintain there can be no peace unless Jewish rights to live all over the country is protected. This is without regard to whatever political arrangement may or may not be reached regarding the future of the West Bank. Even should the Palestinians finally agree to accept an independent Palestinians state (which I don’t believe they really want-see Sarah Reut’s comment above) we can go back to the provisions of the original UN 181 resolution which called, as I understand it, for two states linked together in a customs union, open borders and free movement of people of both nationalities across that border, including Jews who would continue to live in the West Bank settlements.

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    11. Ben Israel

      J Dana-I vehemently reject your characterization of support for classical territorial Zionism as “racism”. You apparently don’t even understand what the word means.

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    12. Larry, I never said that Zionism was immoral. Zionism is a settler colonial movement composed of Europeans, and later Arab Jews who had no chance but to join, attempting to recreate a form of late 19th century nationalism, which had disastrous results in Europe and is having horrible results in Palestine, in state form. You are right, there was no one mother country but that does not discount the fact that it is a settler colonial movement. I think even Avishai accepts this point. Perhaps the word colonialism is the sticky term here given that nature of exploitation on native society is different in the Israeli context. However, reading Fanon’s words on French rule in Algeria, it is hard to see how his definition of settler colonialism in not at play here.
      Your last comments confuse a lot of terms for me. Let’s take as a staring point the current day. Right now Israel is a bi national state. The Israeli army controls all territory between the river and the sea. Some are given full rights and others are given no rights. Some are occupied while others live with Jim Crow like governance. It is not equitable but it is a form of a bi national state. This is the composition of the state and its maintenance is reinforced by the Zionist ideology which privileges one ethnic group over another. If this state was to turn into an equitable democracy where everyone had equal rights, the nature of the army would radically change. Also, the ideology of privilege, in all capacity, would have to cease. No occupation means a major change to the Israeli army and also a reduction in the amount of combat tested weapons and technology Israel is able to sell worldwide. Religion has nothing to do with issue and is only used to divert attention from the nationalist conflict. If Eskimos were to set up a state in Zulu land under the same pretext, similar violence and problems would emerge. Given that we live in this binational state
      What do you think?

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    13. Bosko

      Ben Israel
      Yet in 1947, Ben Gurion chose to use pragmatism and the art of the possible as a criteria for the borders, after UN resolution 181 was adopted. Had the Arabs too accepted those borders then, todays borders would be the borders of that UN resolution. In the same way, today too there is nothing in Zionism which says that Israel cannot be pragmatic and negotiate acceptable borders. The fact that the Palestinian Arabs still choose intransigence instead of compromise does not negate the fact that Zionism has the capacity to choose pragmatism as a criteria for negotiating it’s borders.

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    14. ramsey

      First step in fixing your problem is admitting you have one! I’m really glad to hear that you can admit that zionism is at odds with liberalism. Liberal zionism is one of the most dangerous kinds of zionism for Palestinians.

      Liberal values are deeply problematic in that they try to equate everyone and make us all equal, or “flatten us.” In reality, the complex makeup of Palestinian, Jews and Arabs in general is varied and mixed to the point where the borders of “christian”, “jew” “muslim” “palestinian” all fade away quite quickly if you get out and talk with people.

      They are construction that we’ve internalized thanks to liberalism.

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    15. Israel does not have a right to exist, no state does.

      Jewish people, like people who are adherent to any other faith, have a right to self determination. They do not have a right to a state in which they are a majority.

      You started well, with “I’m an honest liberal Zionist”, then came crashing down with “It’s not just that the Palestinians started the 1947-48 war”.

      Now, that’s a pretty difficult contention to make, especially since many of the readers here are very familiar with the Zionist conquest of Palestine.

      The very idea of creating a “Jewish state” on an area of land that would have contained an Arab majority was in itself ridiculous. And the systematic cleansing and Judaization of Palestine was happening well before “the war” began.

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    16. There’s also a lot of misunderstanding here surrounding the legalities of Israel’s creation.

      The Partition Plan, or UNGAR181 was only ever a recommendation to the British. The British knew that without Arab support it could only be implemented by force. The British declined to partition Palestine and referred the matter to the UNSC. The members of the UNSC agreed that partition was impossible, and that Palestine should be placed into the UN trusteeship system. Unfortunately, sensing the evaporation of political support, the various Zionist political and terrorist groups chose to unilaterally declare Israel to exist in direct violation of UNGAR181.

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    17. sh

      The word moral should be thrown out of the window because in all honesty, none of it is moral. You can’t claim to have been at war with the Palestinians when the Palestinians have no territory on which to fight that war. There’s either what we quaintly call Israel Proper, or the West Bank and Gaza, whose people were occupied. These are fighting back with sticks and stones and whatever noxious bits of iron and chemicals they can stitch together or smuggle past the real army, which is ours, on territory that we dominate and control. We have fought real wars with Arab countries, but never with the Palestinians. They have no country and consequently no army – unless you count Gaza as an independent, autonomous Palestinian territory, which in itself wouldn’t be moral.
      If we left the word moral behind and left the words Liberal and Zionist in place, what would we have? We’d have a country that has to fiddle its immigration policies to ensure that it remains Jewish. That would mean, just as an example, that an exemplary, contented Arab citizen of the new Israel would not be able to marry a foreigner and hope to bring that spouse home, unless that foreigner was Jewish. And a Jewish citizen whether exemplary or criminal would be able to marry a foreigner and bring that foreigner home whether Jewish or not.
      Why are we not thinking beyond the idea of either two entirely separate states or one unified state dominated either by us or by the Palestinians? Are there no alternatives?

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    18. Ben Israel, it’s only right-wing Zionism, the kind you support, that’s forcing the choice you want Jews to make – all or nothing, Greater Israel or no Israel. And the way things are going, you’ll get your wish – Israel will be purely a Jewish Sparta, a country only for nationalistic, militaristic Jews, and at that point all the other Jews in Israel and the world – myself included – will say kaddish for it.

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    19. Ben Israel, what do you mean my principles regarding Israel are arbitrary, that there’s no moral difference between Jews living on one side of the Green Line or the other? The difference is that one side is a (badly flawed) Zionist democracy, the other is a Zionist military dictatorship. Israel rules my Arab neighbors in both Ramle and Ramallah, but those in Ramle are enfranchised as Israeli citizens, they can go where they want, they answer to Israeli democratic law; those in Ramallah are disenfranchised and stateless, they go only where the IDF lets them go, and they answer to IDF law. It doesn’t matter whether you recognize the difference or whether Palestinians do; it makes all the difference in the world.

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    20. Bosko

      Tim Haughton …
      “And the systematic cleansing and Judaization of Palestine was happening well before “the war” began”
      So the immigration of refugees to the land of their ancestors and joining other Jews who never left those lands is something sinister, called Judaization. Fair enough.
      Now remind us Tim please, how did Palestine end up with other people who speak Arabic and are mostly Muslim? Could that process too be described as something equally more sinister called Arabization? How did that happen again? The way I understand it was military invasion and cultural colonization except that it happened about 1000 years earlier. Now remind me again, why was that more moral than the return of the Jews to their ancestral home lands? Would you have preferred those Jews to remain in the lands that they were persecuted for 2000 years? Persecuted in Arab lands too …

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    21. Anonymous for now

      Larry, you’re introducing parallels that undermine your point:

      “…if Nazism, fascism, slavery, colonialism and apartheid were reversible, so is the occupation.”

      The problem here is that Nazism, fascism and apartheid were ideologies that had to be physically removed and discredited in order to reverse the damage they caused. That was accomplished through periods of deadly violence. However, occupation is not an ideology but rather the necessary result of an ideology. Forgive me for putting words in your mouth but I would imagine your response to the idea of destroying Zionism in order to end the occupation as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      Colonialism and slavery on the other hand were essentially tools for economic domination driven and justified by ideas of racial supremacy. In this framework it is possible to simply end the occupation without destroying and discrediting the ideology of Zionism, but that raises the question of whether the continued existence of Zionism (a state with a Jewish majority in its current form) is possible without the occupation. There was only one year in Israel’s history in which one Arab population or another was not subject to military rule: the period between the lifting of martial law for Palestinian citizens of Israel in 1966 and the start of the post-1967 occupation. While I’m not saying Israel cannot deal with an Arab population without occupation, I am saying that it has very little experience or any track record to show it can.

      Joseph, I think you employ cognitive dissonance yourself in assuming – or ignoring – the likelihood that the formation of a liberal bi-national state would not result in prolonged civil war, regardless of the eventual results. The ultra-nationalism deeply engrained in both sides will take a long, long time to overcome. That, I believe, is what Larry is warning of.

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    22. We are all guilty of cognitive dissonance, ANONYMOUS FOR NOW and I take your point. However, I am not convinced of prolonged civil war in the case of real democracy between the river and the sea. We are, sadly, no where close to the point of democracy for all.

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    23. Becca

      Larry Derfner is displaying a very limited understanding both of the history of colonialism in general, and the history of Zionism in particular.

      Historically colonialism has taken two main forms:

      1) Traditional exploitation colonialism, in which a (generally imperial) motherland despatches its respresentatives on a short-term basis to exploit the natural resources and indigenous labour of the colonised territory for the economic (or other) benefit of said motherland, e.g. British in India.

      2) Settler colonialism, in which organised collectives of non-state representatives establish long-term or permanent settlements for a variety of economic and political reasons. Such enterprises often work through traditional (generally imperial) powers as part of this colonial process, e.g. the Dutch in South Africa, the Pilgrims in N. America.

      The Zionists in Palestine are a classic example of this type of settler colonialism. They were indeed inspired and motivated by their Jewish nationalist consciousness and identities, and the objective to establish a Jewish nation-state did undergird their activities. But the process through which they went about achieving that objective was classic settler colonialism, e.g. land, labour, and immigration policies.

      Moreover, they worked through the imperial British Mandatory power to secure support for their project, as exemplified by the Balfour Declaration.

      To quote Gabriel Piterberg, “Zionism, its own historical peculiarities notwithstanding, was both a Central-Eastern European national movement and a movement of European settlers which sought to carve out for itself a national patrimony with a colony in the East. To say that it is either one or the other phenomenon is an impoverished, restricted interpretation” (see Piterberg, The Returns of Zionism, xii).

      Zachary Lockman comes to the same conclusion and states that Zionism was, had to be, not simply a conventional nationalist movement, but a colonising and settlement movement as well (see Lockman, Comrades and Enemies, p. 27).

      Thus, to say Zionism has been, and arguably still is, a settler colonial project is not to say it is not also a nationalist one. It can be, and indeed has been, both nationalist and settler colonialist at the same time.

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    24. @Bosko – “So the immigration of refugees to the land of their ancestors and joining other Jews who never left those lands is something sinister, called Judaization. Fair enough.”
      The influx of European Jews into an area of the world that was overwhelmingly non-Jewish, and the systematic destruction and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous poeple I call Judaization.
      “Now remind us Tim please, how did Palestine end up with other people who speak Arabic and are mostly Muslim?”
      Don’t try to equate the two, it’s dishonest. International law was sufficiently mature in 1947 for the right of indigenous peoples to be protected. Zionism was a colonial project 100 years too late.

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    25. Raya

      My thoughts on the arguments that you used:


      1-How can you claim stability within the Israeli society, while the Israeli society is divided into different classes: European Jews, Russian, Arab Jews, Ethiopians Jews, and Palestinians?

      I’m sure you know enough about the Black Panthers and the beginning of a civil war inside Israel due to its discriminatory system against its own citizens? What about the orthodox? You can read more for Rachel Shabi, or you can have a quick look at the military system and the percentage of the European Jews in High positions.

      2-The above mentioned points contradicts with the two main arguments that you used: Israel is a democratic state- Israel is a stable (I wonder what would happen once there is no external enemy to unite the Israeli society)

      48 war:

      I do not agree with your historical narrative, so does Ilan pape and the new Israeli Historians, how can you connect your story with the first Zionist conference in 1897 when Hertzel with another 200 or so Zionists decided to have a Jewish home in Palestine?

      Don’t you think that this fact by itself shows us who really started the war? The war did not start 47, the massacres against Palestinians started way before, re-check history, and why did you totally ignore the Britsih mandidate (occupation) in Palestine? Why did you ignore the 36 revolution? Why did you ignore Plan Dalet and the role of the Hagana in massacring and occupying Palestinian villages? If you are a real “liberal” anything at least you would seek reconciliation with the “enemy” one of these ways is “truth” how can you talk about two states while you don’t acknowledge the outcomes of the Nakba?


      1-Drawing the borders: on the Palestinian side what would be the plan to overcome the physical separation (Apartheid wall)? And how will in manage the Geographical connectivity between Gaza and the West Bank? –Taking into consideration the density and the small geographical space? Will that lead to displacing people?

      2-Will Israel accept declaring its final borders? Joint natural resources (especially water?)


      1- If a Palestinian state was declared will it have an army or any autonomous means to defend itself and its borders? Will it be always subjected to constant surveillance by land, sea and air?


      2- Does a two states solution have the potential to erode the divisiveness of sovereignty? Will this allow the two states enjoy the same set of sovereign rights?

      3- How can we have two sovereign states given the fact that1: the two share single resources, 2- there is an interdependent relationship between Israeli employers and Palestinian employees 3- Many Israelis (illegal settlers) live in the West Bank and many Palestinians live in Israel (1948)?

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    26. Ben Israel

      Larry Derfner-
      The Israeli Arabs are enfranchised in a state that was forced on them and they feel does not represent them. Just like the Catholics of Northern Ireland or the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The Israeli Arabs view themselves as having been forced into being a minority
      by having, as they see it (not me) a border arbitrarily drawn, cutting them from the rest of the region’s Arab/Muslim population which is the majority culture/language/people of the region.

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    27. Joseph, let’s use a clearer term than colonialism – tyranny, the taking away of people’s freedom. That’s what the French did to the Algerians, it’s what Israel does to the Palestinians in the WBank (and to a lesser extent in EJlem and Gaza) since 67. It is not what the Jews did to the Arabs in pre-1948 Palestine, and for all the entrenched discrimination, it is not what Israel does to its Palestinian citizens, either. Zionism is not tyranny; the occupation is. And if you go back to the early Zionists, yes, nationalism was a motivation, but the desire to flee anti-Semitism was the driving force. They didn’t have it easy here, they didn’t come here for economic opportunity; they didn’t fit the popular image of “colonialists.” (As for the post-48 Jewish immigrants from the Middle East, yes, there was some coercion by the Zionist establishment, but it’s not like they wanted to stay or are sorry they left.) You seem to say Zionism can’t exist without occupation – why? Again, if Europe can exist w/out colonialism, America w/out slavery, etc., why can’t Israel also undo its sin? At the end, when I spoke of a binational state, I meant the binational democracy you propose, which I don’t think can work. If millions of Jews and millions of Palestinians can live in one country without a border dividing them, it would seem that any two nations, or three, or more, can live together without borders – that there’s no need for borders in the world at all, and that’s not the case. If any two nations in this world need a border between them, it’s the Israelis (Jews) and the Palestinians – with neither side tyrannizing the other. What we’ve got now is a binational state without a border in which the Jews tyrannize the Palestinians (not counting the Palestinian citizens of Israel, or Israeli Arabs, who get screwed but who do not live under tyranny, who are basically free, and whose road to equality would be immessurably smoother and faster, I’m convinced, if the occupation ended).

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    28. Ben Israel

      Larry Derfner-
      I should add that it is the Arabs who are forcing continued Israeli control of the West Bank by their ongoing refusal to reach a peace agreement with ANY Israeli gov’t, even though offers have been repeatedly made by the Israeli side. They have been rejected with the argument “they haven’t offered enough” and this will continue to be their response NO MATTER WHAT ISRAELI PARTY IS IN POWER, so you are blaming the wrong side.

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    29. @Larry – Borders and states are a pretty recent European invention. And a terrible one at that. They have been responsible for so many wars and so many lives lost.
      If you look at the history of borders in the Near East, back to the Sykes Picot Agreement, to Lawrence of Arabia, to the aftermath of WWI, you have to question, why on Earth are these borders there? It makes no sense.
      Switch from the mentality of the nation state to a borderless region containing communities of communities.

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    30. Bosko

      Jewish return to Palestine did not start in 1947. The Jewish return started in the late 1800s and please don’t assume that only Jewish refugees sought sanctuary in Palestine. There was an influx of Arabs from neighbouring Arab countries too alyhough exact numbers of those are not known.
      Now, remind me again, which bit of international law forbade the influx of Jewish refugees into that province of the Ottoman empire and later into the British mandate? I didn’t know there was an international law against Jewish refugees returning to the land of their ancestors. And I didn’t know that the military invasion and conquest in the 7th century was more moral than the “invasion” of refugees who were fleeing from persecution. One learns something every day. I find your attitude (and many like you) amazing. Are you sure that you advocate morality? Maybe you should read history a bit more critically, cross check and cross reference. History is not black and white with goodies and baddies. As the Arabs would have you believe. The bottom line though is that the Arabs chose war because they didn’t want ANY Jews in what they called “THEIR LANDS” which of course it wasn’t ONLY theirs. And in that ensuing war, both sides have committed immoral, wrong acts. As all sides do in all wars.

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    31. BEN ZAKKAI

      “Zionism” is defined differently by different people. I have no use for the term and no emotional attachment to the “Jewish people.” However: domestic tranquility is generally best served when a country’s people share a common language, history, culture, and (sometimes) religion. Even model countries like Belgium and Canada have trouble getting past their linguistic differences. To think that today’s Israelis and Palestinians, with all their differences and mutual hostility and distrust, could get along within one country, is crazy. So I favor the two-state solution, with the Palestinian state getting AT LEAST all the territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem. I’d want the Jewish state to grant its non-Jewish inhabitants equality in every respect. However, I’d also allow Israel to have some discriminatory immigration policies for the sake of maintaining homogeneity (lots of countries do that). Does that make me a Zionist? Whatever.

      Again, for the sake of domestic tranquility, I’d oppose the Palestinian “right of return” to Israel. Instead, I’d pay Nakba and Occupation damages to the Palestinians, to help them get their country started the way that German reparations helped Israel. Unlike Larry, I don’t oppose the Palestinian ROR on moral grounds, because even if SOME Palestinians initiated hostilities and fought the Jews mercilessly in 1948, that didn’t justify kicking OTHER Palestinians out of their homes and villages and not allowing them to return. But it’s 2011, not 1948. You can’t turn back the clock and restore the status quo ante, and if you try you’ll just start a civil war.

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    32. @Bosko – Forgive my lethargy, I’ve had this debate too many times to be excited by it.
      “Now, remind me again, which bit of international law forbade the influx of Jewish refugees into that province of the Ottoman empire and later into the British mandate? ”
      It was not international law, it was limited by the Mandatory power. Much of the Jewish immigration into Palestine was illegal. This isn’t a contentious point.
      “I didn’t know there was an international law against Jewish refugees returning to the land of their ancestors.”
      That’s a ridiculous argument. The links between European Jews and Palestine were, let’s face it, at best extremely tenuous. But your argument could be considered at least honest (if inaccurate) if you were arguing in favour of a right of return for Palestinians as well as Jews.
      “As the Arabs would have you believe.”
      OOOooohhh. If I had seen that sentence written with the word “Jews” in place of “Arabs” I would have described it as anti-Semitic.
      As much as it must pain you, I study the documentary record, I am not led to believe things by “the Arabs”, or “the Jews” for that matter.

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    33. Volodinyev the Great

      @Tim Haughton

      “International law was sufficiently mature in 1947 for the right of indigenous peoples to be protected. Zionism was a colonial project 100 years too late.”

      So Euro-Americans get to keep their ill-gotten gains in North America, and Arabs theirs in the Middle East, while the Zionists have to pay through the nose, just because the law didn’t exist in the 8th and 19th centuries but did after 1947. I bet you also think a driver killing people driving at 150 MPH is a criminal only after the authorities have put up a speed limit sign.

      Taking refuge from the consequences of your actions in the letter of the law, because you know that if you went by its spirit, you’d have to leave your comfortable stolen North American or Middle Eastern home and go back to Europe or Arabia. That is the essence of convenience.

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    34. Henry Ezra Ong

      Henry Ezra Ong, an Indonesian Christian
      Why don’t you guys (Jews and Palestinians) be just like English, Scottish and Irish? Please.

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    35. @VOLODINYEV THE GREAT – The US was built largely on genocide, as opposed to ethnic cleansing. And, perversely, this makes for a much quieter crime.
      I’m not American by the way. But international law is a living breathing thing. It changes to adapt to the world in which we live.
      The fact is that the time of colonialism had passed, and we were in the post-colonial phase, where the rights of indigenous peoples were given prominence over the rights of imperial powers. Or at least that’s how the theory goes.
      There was no legal basis for the formation of the State of Israel. The League of Nations had dissolved, and the British had only committed themselves to giving its “best efforts” to the establishing of a Jewish homeland somewhere in Palestine in a way which did not prejudice the civil and religious rights of the indigenous peoples.
      As it happened, this was not possible, precisely why Britain declined to partition Palestine.

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    36. Jalal

      I only read the post, didn’t have time to read the comments.
      I just wanted to comment because, you know…the Arabs started the 1948 war. The Arabs caused the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Also the Arabs ethnically cleansed Jews during the war.
      Come on.
      I couldn’t indulge one word you have said in this piece, it is not hypocrisy but it is zionism at its best definition. One thing there is, I am glad you are an HONEST “Zionist” who also calls himself a liberal. I haven’t seen much of this lately.
      Lets get back on topic, Arabs shouldn’t have attacked Israel in 1948 because Israel didn’t ALREADY ethnically cleanse 300,000 Palestinians either brutally or by terrorizing them.
      Zionists DID NOT ALREADY steal regions well beyond the area of the original Jewish State that was proposed by the UN in 1947.
      Zionists DID NOT ALREADY massacre HUNDREDS in Deir Yassin village…This happened in April, 5 weeks before any “war” was INITIATED by the Arabs. And guess what, it was also beyond the area of the proposed Jewish state according to the UN.
      By the time “Arabs attacked peaceful zionists” on May 15, there were 380,000 Palestinian refugees.
      I love this kind of zionist talk.’we only killed killed ethnically cleansed and stole land…why would the Arabs attack us?’

      I know you are an “Honest” Zionist, but please don’t be deceiving people with the utter bs that “Arabs started the war” and “Arabs are to blame” Cut the crap.
      Keep your posts “Honest”, I love your racist Zionist honesty. kudos

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    37. BERL

      Dear Mr. DERFNER,
      Your article is fraught with historical inaccuracies. And the parallelism between Kfar Darom/Gush Eztion and 400 hundred Palestinian villages ethnic cleansed and destroyed (plus other 100 occupied) is morally unacceptable. If you don’t accept the “right of return” at least you should mention the “right to have some kind of compensation”.
      Due to the fact that the author quoted Uri Avnery, I invite all of you to read what Avnery himself wrote about one of the author’s one-sided theories: “The Palestinians started the war”.
      Uri Avnery:
      “It goes like this: in 1947, the Zionist leadership accepted the UN partition plan, and the Palestinian Arabs rejected it. Instead, they attacked the Jewish community in the country and were later joined by the regular armies of the neighboring Arab states. They wanted to throw us into the sea. They lost the war and paid the price.

      Facts? Incontestable? Well…

      IT IS indeed a fact that the Zionist leadership accepted the partition plan – formally. Many Zionist leaders objected, but were persuaded by David Ben-Gurion to agree to the official acceptance. However, in several secret meetings Ben-Gurion made it clear that the partition borders were unacceptable and must be rectified at the first opportunity. The minutes of these meetings are there for all to read.

      The other side of the mantra – “the Palestinian Arabs rejected” – is more complex. There was no democratically elected Palestinian Arab leadership. In the 1936-39 Arab revolt, the Arab leadership – such as it was – was destroyed, partly by the British but mostly by the foremost Palestinian leader, the Grand Mufti Hajj Amin al-Husseini. He had most of his competitors killed off.

      During World War II, Hajj Amin fled to Nazi Germany and the rest of the “leaders” were deported by the British. After the war, the discredited Hajj stayed abroad. A distant relative of his headed the so-called “Arab Higher Committee”, which was unelected and had shallow roots among the population. There was no effective Palestinian leadership in existence.

      No one asked the Arab Palestinians whether to accept or reject anything. If they had been asked, they would probably have rejected partition, since – in their view – it gave a large part of their historical homeland to foreigners. The more so, since the Jews, who at the time constituted a third of the population, were allotted 55% of the territory – and even there the Arabs constituted 40% of the population.

      The governments of the Arab states rejected partition, but they certainly did not represent the Palestinian Arabs, who were at the time still under British rule (as were we).

      As a matter of fact, during the war there was no effective united Palestinian Arab leadership, nor was there anything even remotely resembling a united Palestinian fighting force.”

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    38. Mikesailor

      Zionism was constructed as a philosophy opposed to the European enlightenment. Its purpose was not to ‘save’ Jews from persecution or discrimination, it was a method to prevent Jews form being ‘infected’ by the great anathema: assimilation. Note that as the European nation-states moved more and more toward equality and the granting of rights to Jews as full fledged members of their ‘host’ countries’ body politic, the deeper the reaction of Jews who wanted to remain unassimilated from becoming true ‘citizens’. Herzl railed against the French Jews after the Dreyfuss affair because those Jews witnessed the reaction of many French gentiles who rallied against blatant asntisemitism in the name of justice and therfore they did not wish to partake of the Zionist project. If you read Lord Montagu’s letter decrying the Balfour Declaration, he criticizes the idea of a ‘Jewish Brigade’ and asks the primary question: Am I a Jewish Englishman or an English Jew?
      In the 1850’s, Germany allowed the Jews to partake of all rights of citizenship: The right to vote and attend German universities quickly come to mind. Yet, by the 1890’s Zionism reared its ugly head promoting the idea that Jews were a separate ‘people’ deserving a ‘homeland’ on someone else’ property. Why? Why didn’t the Jews, those eternal ‘victims’ agitate for civil rights as citizens of their respective countries if they still felt discrimination? Why did the Jews in Eastern Europe create their own language ‘Yiddish’, so that they were kept apart, by language and an ersatz culture, insisting on maintaining distance between themselves and their neighbors?
      The overwhelming Jewish goal has been to remain unassimilated, to remain and ‘dwell apart’. And no crime has been too great to deter this zionist project. Larry wants to remain in this ‘Jewish ghetto or shtetl’ advocating a Jewish dominance over the idea of equality or , horror of horrors’ becoming and allowing equality and therefore ‘assimilation’. Apparently, so do most of the commenters. They attempt to defend the indefensible: apartheid, theft, discrimination, humiliation and brutalization of the ‘other’ under a pseudo-nationalist guise. Joseph Dana, on the other hand, sees value on promoting a true liberal philosophy yet also backs off from condemning Zionism for what it really is: an immoral philosophy rejecting any semblance of universal moral values in the name of fomenting a Jewish dominance.

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    39. Ben Israel

      Mike Sailor-
      Thank you for proving why we need Zionism more than ever.

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    40. Jalal, I didn’t say the Arabs started the war in May 1948, I said the Palestinians started the war right after the UN Partition vote, but then the war became inevitable when the Palestinians and Arabs rejected partition. As for Deir Yassin, I’m ashamed of that, and Lod, and Dahaniya I think the name was, and the other Jewish atrocities of the war. Are you ashamed of Gush Etzion and Hadassah Hospital and the other Palestinian atrocities of the war?

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    41. Emet

      Just 4 decades before the war of 1948 the Palestinians were about the 8-9/10 of the total population in the Holy Land.
      In 1948 the total Jewish refugees from Kfar Etzion, Kfar Darom and other kibbutzim (most of them created just few years before the 1948 war) were some hundreds. The Palestinian refugees were 800,000.
      None of these aspects are considered by the author.

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    42. aristeides

      I’m coming late to this discussion (wrong time zone) but I have to take issue with Larry Derfner’s statement: “Because if Israel stops being a Jewish state it will become a Palestinian state, and on the way to that it will be a state at civil war that will bring on the exodus of the Jews – and that’s even more at odds with my liberal values than Zionism.”

      No. That’s not at odds with your “liberal” values, it’s at odds with your Jewish supremacist values. There is nothing in liberalism that privileges one group over another. It is precisely contrary to liberalism. By your own statement, you illustrate what you are trying to disprove: that Zionism and liberalism are contradictory. And you choose Zionism over liberalism, as all who claim the label “Liberal Zionist” tend to do.

      Furthermore, this business of a civil war. This isn’t a fact, it’s a prediction. What is the prediction based on? Who is supposed to be the initiator of this civil war? The Palestinians? The party who benefits from the just peace? Or is it, more likely, the Jews who would find themselves disadvantaged by it? So what you’re saying seems to be: we can’t have a just peace between Jews and Palestinians, because we must privilege the unjust party. We can’t have peace because we must privilege the party that won’t accept peace. We can’t do right, because we must privilege the party that will insist on wrong.

      That’s not liberalism.

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    43. Becca – I’d more or less agree with what you’ve written above, but am not sure what relevance it has to Larry’s piece. Would be interested to hear why you have brought up this specific issue (different definitions of colonialism).

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    44. rose

      Becca, very good point.
      Bosko, a person from bilad asham should not be considered as an immigrant from the US or from Russia. the different peoples that lived at the time in this part of the world, each of them with specific peculiarities more or less developed, were part of this world. they were not settlers.

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    45. Berl, you complained of historical inaccuracies but didn’t specify any. About the imbalance between the expulsions and land losses of the two sides, that’s not because the Palestinians were more compassionate than the Jews. But yes, the Zionists certainly could have been a lot more compassionate. And I do say, and have written elsewhere, that Israel should compensate the refugees out of its own pocket, with interest, for assets left behind that could have been returned, such as bank accounts.
      About Avnery’s take on who started the war and the right and wrong of it – I’m not saying that the Jews only wanted peace and only wanted to share but the evil Arabs wanted to kill and plunder. Each side wanted as much as they could get. Each side played its hand as best it could. If the Jews and Palestinians had been in each other’s place, they each probably would have acted like the other did. But what was, was. I don’t blame the Palestinians for trying to keep the Jews from carving out a state – but I don’t blame the Jews for succeeding, either.
      The best remedy I can think of now is the two-state solution with equal sovereignty for each state; the return of up to a few hundred thousand refugees to Israel; and compensation, certainly for returnable assets.
      I have no illusions that Israel was born in innocence or anything close; no nation-state is. National liberation movements, including the Palestinian variant, aren’t as innocent as they’re cracked up to be, either.

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    46. BERL

      Mr DERFNER,
      Please don’t change the cards on the table.
      I mentioned the inaccuracies:
      1) “The Palestinians started the 1947-48 war”: it is wrong.
      2) About Colonialism: Becca explained it better than me.
      e) “They, too, carried out expulsions in that war, expulsions of thousands of Jews from the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, Gush Etzion, Kfar Darom and several other kibbutzim and moshavim”:
      it does not matter if you think that the Palestinians were more compassionate than the Jews or not. The point is that there is not comparison whatsoever between 800,000 palestinian refugees and few hundreds or few thousands of refugees of the other side. Numbers do count, interpretation not. Moreover you cannot pass over the fact that Kfar Darom, Kfar Etzion and most of that kibbutzim were new creations, while all the 400 Palestinian villages that were erased were there much earlier than the first aliyah. This does not justified any form of violence, but, once again, are crucial facts.
      Compensation starts from an open acknowledgment of the price that the majority of the population that lived in this region paid in order to make real the legitimate dreams of part of the Jewish people. You can keep your money in your pocket.

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    47. sh

      “The difference is that one side is a (badly flawed) Zionist democracy, the other is a Zionist military dictatorship. Israel rules my Arab neighbors in both Ramle and Ramallah, but those in Ramle are enfranchised as Israeli citizens, they can go where they want, they answer to Israeli democratic law; those in Ramallah are disenfranchised and stateless, they go only where the IDF lets them go, and they answer to IDF law.” – Larry
      You’ve described it as though the law in those two sides was based on territory. It isn’t. The law in the West Bank is the same for Jews as it is in Israel proper. In truth the law is based on ethnicity and while the military dictatorship is for the Palestinian population in the West Bank, the Palestinians in Israel come under Israeli (badly flawed, as you observe) civil law. Example: does anyone know of an unrecognized Jewish village in within the Green Line?

      Another one of many stories that can be found in democratic Lod, Ramle, Wadi Ara…: http://dar-elhanoun.org/DHvsMI.html

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    48. sh

      “a person from bilad asham should not be considered as an immigrant from the US or from Russia. the different peoples that lived at the time in this part of the world, each of them with specific peculiarities more or less developed, were part of this world.”

      Rose, so were the Templers part of this world. They bought up vast tracts of land in Palestine too. The Jaffa orange industry was run by them. They ran schools and orphanages for Christians, Arabs and Jews alike in Jerusalem and arguably invented the moshav. The Palestinians welcomed them, liked them and worked for them in full knowledge that they were not from bilad asham.

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    49. Rose

      No, the Templers were clearly not part of this region. They arrived from Europe starting from 1868. The fact that they didn’t want to buy/”redeem” (term used by the KKL) land at exclusive use of the Jews (as in the case of the Keren Kayemeth leIsrael) and didn’t want to create a “Templer state” in Palestine are probably the reasons why they were not perceived as a terrible threat by the indigenous population

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