Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Semitism’

Recommended reading: Bernard Avishai on BDS

June 17, 2010

I will continue to defend the rights of those urging sensible economic actions against the occupation, as I did when writing about the divestment proposition at UC Berkeley. Such efforts, even if I don’t agree with them are not, by definition, anti-Israel, much less anti-Semitic. As I’ve said, there are such strains within those movements, and we must consciously discern between those who are trying to bring legitimate economic pressure against the occupation and those who are motivated by animus towards Jews or some bizarre Zionist conspiracy theories.

But I do not believe BDS is an effective strategy strategy, even though Israel’s own sometimes cruel and always harsh and self-destructive are lately giving that movement a good deal of steam. Bernard Avishai, an economist, professor, writer and activist explains very well why this is a dead-end strategy. His article was published in The Nation and at his blog here.

Whether you support BDS or not, I think considering Avishai’s clear-headed arguments, which do not demonize the BDS movement but merely argue about the tactic, is well worth your while.

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Helen Thomas Scorned, Caroline Glick Praised

June 8, 2010

Helen Thomas made an extremely offensive, off the cuff remark, and has now announced her retirement.

I met Thomas some years ago; she is definitely someone who shoots from the hip, and she has, for quite some time, been in a position where she could do so. She has generally asked tougher questions, on the Middle East as well as many other issues, than other reporters because she has had virtually guaranteed access to the White House.

I have enormous respect for the work she’s done as a journalist. But I have absolutely no sympathy on her for the

The now-fallen Helen Thomas

reaction her remarks have garnered. They were offensive and inappropriate. Her apology, which I believe was sincere, didn’t really address the offensive content of what she said.

Some, like Think Progress’ Matt Duss, have pointed out that similar comments regarding Palestinians have not garnered serious criticism. He’s right. Still, I do believe that while anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry remains shamefully tolerated in the US, had Thomas’ comments been directed at African-Americans, women, or other groups in this country who have made some progress in fighting discrimination, she would have been in just as much trouble.

In any case, there was a great outcry, and Thomas, who could be argued to be the premier serious female reporter in the country, has retired as a result.

In Israel, the premier woman journalist in the country went a hell of a lot farther, in a premeditated, rather than an impetuous fashion. And there is hardly a peep in response in her home country.

Caroline Glick is well-known to readers of right-wing e-mail lists, and of course, of the Jerusalem Post, where she is the deputy managing editor and a regular columnist. She is also a fellow at the extremist neoconservative Center for Security Policy in Washington. (more…)

Can there be a Liberal Zionism?

May 22, 2010

A version of this article appeared in Zeek Magazine.

Peter Beinart’s essay in the New York Review of Books about the demise of liberal Zionism has caused quite a stir. But I don’t really want to add to all the commentary surrounding it.

Instead, I found interesting one small piece of an exchange between Beinart and Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic. During their discussion, they touched briefly on Israel’s raison d’etre. Beinart  was the one who, at least initially, stressed the need for a place for Jews to flee to in case of persecution (an under-appreciated aspect of the Holocaust was the fact that, after so many episodes of persecution and flight by Jews over the centuries, a great many of Europe’s Jews had nowhere to run tp from the Nazis). Goldberg emphasized Israel as a homeland and center of national

A peace rally at Rabin Square

expression for Jews.

These two notions were both symbiotic and a source of tension for most of Zionist history before the creation of the State of Israel. There is obviously overlap between them, particularly when it comes to building a strong, independent, Jewish society, which was Zionism’s ultimate goal. But there is also tension.

Theodor Herzl, as is well known, was inspired by anti-Semitic events, notably the Dreyfus Affair, to develop his vision of Political Zionism. But Herzl didn’t envision a state whose pride and identity were wrapped up in its military might, but in its wisdom and enlightenment.

This question has largely disappeared from the landscape. In the pre-state years, Zionism, whatever else it may have been, was a liberation movement with a revolutionary discourse. It could be whatever it wanted to be, and as such was wide open to all sorts of ideological, even utopian, thinking. The establishment of the state changed Zionist discourse from a significantly theoretical one – “what kind of state shall we build?” – to a more practical one – “how does our government deal with the current and future situation?”

Israel held on to a liberal model of ideological thinking for a long time after that shift, but, in combination with a permanent state of conflict, the ethnic nature of that conflict, the occupation and a significant rightward drift over the past 35 years, Israel became a state of refuge for its Jewish supporters in the Diaspora and its citizens were cemented into a bunker mentality. (more…)

More on BDS, Israeli Consul General Responds to Me, I Reply Again

May 14, 2010

My recent piece on UC Berkeley’s divestment vote, Principled Opposition, drew a response from Akiva Tor, the Israeli Consul General for the Pacific Northwest region. Zeek printed it at this link.  It was also posted at the consulate’s site.

Today, I published my own response to Tor. You can read it below or at Zeek’s web site.

Response to Akiva Tor

By Moshe Yaroni

In Principled Opposition, I discussed some of the implications of the divestment vote at UC Berkeley. Akiva Tor, Israel’s Consul General for the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, took the time to write a response. It is a response one must read carefully. I have.

Mr. Tor begins by relating two incidents of anti-Semitism that apparently occurred among members of the crowd. It is indeed a sad reality of activism on the Israel-Palestine question that bigotry too often raises its ugly head.

But that bigotry occurs on both sides. Some might be interested in comparing the frequency or viciousness of the bigotry among activists on different sides of the issue. I find such comparisons distasteful. The important point is that, as someone who is in very regular contact with both activists and supporters of different sides of this issue, I can attest that neither side has a short supply of such people.

Yet I can also say that for neither side is this the norm. Mr. Tor fails to point out that the activists bringing this issue to the fore at Berkeley publicly denounced anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

I’ll go a step further. Mr. Tor is correct that I was not in Berkeley for these events. But I am a graduate of Berkeley, and I saw first-hand both the passions and the hatred that this conflict can stir. Neither Jews, Arabs nor other supporters of either side on campus were immune. (more…)

Principled Opposition

April 16, 2010

This article was printed in Zeek Magazine.

I am not a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. For a number of years, I had direct contact with many of the international peace and solidarity groups that make it up. There’s a lot of diversity in those organizations, and amongst the people who participate in them. But for someone like me, who believes in a two-state solution, with one of those states being a democratic Jewish homeland, and who finds a great deal of fault for the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict in all parties, there is more to it than I can live with.

Berkeley students pack an auditorium to debate divestment resolution

However, as I pointed out in an earlier articlein Zeek, pro-peace supporters of Israel do ourselves a disservice when we give in to the radical rhetoric that considers it anti-Israel for anyone to use citizen-based economic action to protest or try to end the occupation.

We’ve seen a striking example of it this week at UC Berkeley. A proposed bill in the student union called for the university to divest its holdings in two American corporations that the students said were profiting from Israel’s occupation. The bill passed by a 16-4 vote.

And then things got interesting.

A wide array of pro-Israel groups (mostly those who obstruct any pressure on Israel to end its occupation, but including, unfortunately, a couple of pro-peace groups as well) came out in opposition and mobilized on campus. The ASUC president, whom I’m told was initially quite supportive of the bill, vetoed the measure.

To override the veto, the 20-member Senate needed 14 votes. In the end, the vote was 13 for overriding, 6 against and one abstention. The motion was then tabled and will be reconsidered next week. But the week leading up to the vote, and especially the night it happened, featured a vigorous and passionate debate on the issue on the UC campus.

What Kind of Divestment?

The attack on the UC senate’s decision offered little of substance. It said the bill was “based on misleading and contested allegations that unfairly targets the State of Israel while also marginalizing Jewish students on campus who support Israel.” But it never addressed the substance. (more…)

The Crisis of Jewish Democracy

April 2, 2010

In my latest piece in Zeek, I look at the new clarity of so-called “pro-Israel” voices which are not actually pro-Israel but rather anti-peace. These voices are taken to represent Israelis and American Jews and in fact are not at all representative of either group, but stand for views that the majority of those groups reject.

Readers may also want to check out MJ Rosenberg’s latest piece, which appeared just after I posted mine. It’s got a similar theme.

The End of Hasbara

February 19, 2010

In my latest piece for Zeek, I look at the recently release report by the Reut Institute, which looks at the BDS movement around the world. It has some points to it that are actually quite important, but it is fatally flawed, and it revives so many of the mistakes Israel has been making for many years.

The Perversion of Herzl

February 6, 2010

Delving into the truly horrifying developments in Israel regarding the attacks by the contemptible group Im Tirtzu abetted by some friends of theirs in the Knesset and the daily newspaper, Ma’ariv. Fortunately, in the Knesset, cooler heads seem to have prevailed, but it’s worth noting that the major incitement there came from a Kadima MK while the properly legal view came from ministers further right. The article in Zeek can be found here. And thanks to new friends at PalestineNote.com, you can also follow my articles there.

A new and really important book

June 1, 2009

Dan Fleshler is a veteran of the mainstream Jewish community and the pro-Israel, pro-peace world as well. He has written a book that everyone concerned about US Middle East policy and how to change it should read. It’s called Transforming America’s Israel Lobby: The Limits of Its Power and the Potential For Change.

I review it here for Zeek Magazine.

This is one of the most important books out there. Not only because it is a much fuller and more sober exposition of the “Israel Lobby” than anything else out there, but also because it is not merely academic–it also suggests how a peace lobby might be built.

I hope you’ll read mu review, but even more, I hope you’ll buy this book. I rarely act as a salesman for anyone, but this time, it’s really worth it.

Stupidity Runs Rampant

April 20, 2009

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad fulfilled all the promise he brought with him to Geneva for the Durban II conference.

He rambled about Israeli racism (whilst one wonders what a Baha’i observer might have been thinking) and said that the “pretext of Jewish suffering” was used to cover Israeli crimes. He firmly re-established his bona fides as an

Ahmedinejad apparently waving goodby to dozens of delegates

Ahmedinejad apparently waving goodby to dozens of delegates

anti-Semite and a demagogue, and in so doing seriously undermined the good efforts at Durban II.

The conference organizers really wanted to get past the 2001 conference. But their own short-sightedness doomed them. There was every reason to believe that Ahmedinejad’s speech was going to be just what it turned out to be-a full rehash of all the 2001 problems. Yet they welcomed him to the podium anyway. Now they have an even more formidable task of trying to overcome both 2001 and Ahmedinejad’s appearance.

In an interesting coincidence, the European Commission had just chastised some of its own member states for boycotting the conference in anticipation of Ahmedinejad’s appearance. And then most of the rest of the EU states walked out on the speech. Ahmedinejad, as this response demonstrates, dealt a serious blow to those who are advocating engagement with Iran and bolstered the case of those who contend, incorrectly, that the Iranian regime cannot be dealt with rationally. (more…)