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Bernard Avishai

  • Bernard Avishai on the "right of return" and other rights

    Professor and author Bernard Avishai published an article in Harper's Magazine that sparked a +972 debate on  Zionism. Here, in a post that originally appeared on his blog, he responds to some of the charges against his positions that have since been sounded in the blogosphere. By Bernard Avishai At bottom, the question my Harper's piece tries to answer is deceptively simple and by no means relevant to the Palestinian right of return alone. It is this: how can a democratic state, a commonwealth of free citizens, be reconciled with the right of citizens, collectively, to sustain national distinction? How is an…

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  • +972 readers weigh in on Zionism debate

    A critique of an article by a noted liberal Zionist leads to an interesting debate about Zionism. In the polarized world of debate about Israel/Palestine, certain terms have acquired such strong connotations that an honest and factual discussion of important issues is almost at a standstill. From the family dinner table to college campus throughout the world, terms like “BDS,” “anti-Zionist” and “liberal Zionist” have become virtual conversation stoppers - depending on the circle. Yesterday, I wrote a strongly worded critique of Bernard Avishai’s new piece on the Palestinian Right of Return (RoR), which appears in this month’s edition of…

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  • A sad commentary on the state of liberal Zionist discourse

    Recent work by authors Bernard Avishai and Gershom Gorenberg reflect the inability of liberal Zionist champions to engage in an honest debate about the core issues of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The noted liberal Zionist writer, Bernard Avishai, has a longish piece on the Palestinian Right of Return (RoR) in this month’s edition of Harper’s Magazine (no online version yet). Before I discuss its content, I believe it crucial to note one general aspect of this piece. We must ask ourselves why an openly Zionist thinker who happens to be a Canadian immigrant is writing about Palestinian right of return without…

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  • Rebecca Vilkomerson thinks that BDS is both legitimate and effective

    Earlier this week, an Israeli security company named Hashmira has announced it will stop supplying equipment to the West Bank. Hashmira is owned by Danish giant G4S, which was under considerable pressure due to its projects in Israel. This was another success for the boycott campaign, which seems to gain momentum, especially when it targets activities directly involved in the occupation. The Boycott is extremely controversial in Israel. While there is some tolerance, especially on the left, for the boycott of the settlements, supporting the BDS is a political taboo. Furthermore, a new Knesset bill would make it illegal for…

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  • Israeli liberals are not the right audience for anti-occupation activists

    Bernard Avishai thinks that BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) is mostly ineffective, and so do I. But our reasoning is not only different – it actually relies on completely opposite premises about the role of liberal and cosmopolitan elites in Israeli society. This is the first in a series of posts about those elites. Bernard Avishai's basic argument against divestment in international companies implicated in the occupation of the Palestinian territories is highly confused, verging on the bizarre. He seems to imply that these companies are incapable of distinguishing between the products they sell to the settlements or the IDF,…

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  • At J-Street, new terms describe Israeli reality

    There was something slightly frustrating about the J Street conference. At times, participants seemed to be discussing the same old problems, wondering why the same old solutions haven’t worked, while talking about them in the same old terms. Meanwhile, the Middle East is undergoing enormous changes with every new minute. Old policies have become slogans, drained of meaning by failure. We need an arsenal of new ideas; empty rhetoric is a liability that must be exposed. You can’t take aim at the future with a cartridge full of blanks. Take one example: “the peace process.” At the conference, the columnist…

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  • Please, no more peace plans

    The Israeli leadership wants to hold on to the status-quo, the Palestinian leadership is split, and the US discovers the limits of its power. Under these circumstances, the problem is not the lack of solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the absence of political forces that could implement them. A response to Bernard Avishai Some 20 years ago, just before I started my mandatory service in the IDF, I remember reading "No Trumpets, No Drums" by Sari Nusseibeh & Mark Heller. The Israeli and Palestinian authors of the book conducted negotiations for several months, leading to the outline of the…

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  • Carmel scapegoats III: the meaning of responsibility

    The settlers and the ultra-orthodox are not the cause for Israel's collapsing public services. The professional middle class, which considers itself a "silent majority" of "responsible citizens" but is quite the opposite, should take a hard look in the mirror. This is the third and final installment in a series of posts, examining arguments, which have resurfaced following the Carmel fire, that assign the blame for Israel's problems to the ultra-orthodox or the settlements. To read the first post, dealing with the ultra-orthodox, click here. To read the second post, dealing with the settlements, click here.  The debacle surrounding the…

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  • Carmel fire scapegoats, part II: the settlements

    The settlements are a moral and practical disaster, but they are the symptom rather than the cause of Israel's ills. This is the second in a series of three posts, examining arguments, which have resurfaced following the Carmel fire, that assign the blame for Israel's problems to the ultra-orthodox or the settlements. To read the first post, dealing with the ultra-orthodox, click here. The third and final post will examine the myth of Israel's "silent majority" of "responsible citizens".   The settlements are a moral and practical disaster. They have already exacted a brutal toll from Palestinians, but eventually, Jews…

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