This weekend's Times magazine will contain an article titled Can Liberal Zionists Count on Hillary Clinton?
It has everything you could want from engaging hand-wringing over Israel, including:
The steady right-ward shift in Israel.
Micah’s liberal Zionists remained wedded to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and estranged from the policies of a right-wing Israeli government, along with the reflexively Israel-can-do-no-wrong sentiment on Capitol Hill.
Vocal voices comparing Israeli policies towards Palestinians to South African apartheid and Jim Crow.
But they also felt alienated by Jewish groups to their left, some of which chanted, “Stop the murder, stop the hate, Israel is a racist state.”
An overview of the political calculations that push most "serious" Democratic candidates to reflexively support Bibi.
The political arithmetic for Clinton is easy — knowing you can take the larger liberal Jewish vote for granted, you support Israel’s right-wing government to keep moderates from bolting.
Messianic yearning for Bill Clinton.
Other liberal Zionists are hoping that Bill Clinton could be a more sympathetic voice within a Clinton White House. After Zemel’s Rosh Hashana sermon, in which he talked about the need for “Jewish genius” to solve the problem in Israel, Al From told me, “Bill Clinton has this little bit of genius.”
Perhaps surprisingly, it quotes Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Vilkomerson (whose sister, an entertainment writer, is a friend of mine) said she felt no sympathy for the concerns of the liberal Zionist agonistes, whom she considered toothless and intellectually dishonest in their attempts to reconcile their liberal values with Israel’s right-wing government. She reserved special indignation for what she referred to as “PEPs,” or politicians who were “progressive except for Palestine.”
My thoughts below the fold...
I empathize with those who feel betrayed by the rightward shift in Israel.
At the same time, I wonder whether they were willfully blind to the treatment of Palestinians in the years and months leading up to the declaration of an Israeli state. Did they really believe all these towns, villages and cities were devoid of people? Or did they think it was justifiable to confiscate the property of those fleeing violence?
Benny Morris's work is over 25 years old, so it should not come as news to anyone that the Haganah/Irgun/Lehi conducted mass-expulsions of Palestinians civilians from their homes in 1947 and early-1948, before the mandate expired, well in advance of any "Arab invasion".
Reading Morris' early work, you come away with a sense that he is indignant at the expulsions. He's since changed his mind and said it was justified in the interests of establishing a homeland for Jews, to quote Morris:
A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.
To me, this leads to the heart of the problem. If you go along with the claim that "bad things were done but in the interest of a good cause", you have to examine both the "good cause" and the nature of the "bad things". This is why Miko Peled keeps prodding audiences to tell him why it is inherently good to have a Jewish state (or a Muslim state, or a Christian state, or a Hindu state I might add).
There are no voices in the mainstream who delve into that question honestly. And that's the problem with this article as well, it's largely about the crisis of conscience faced by Daniel Zemel, the head rabbi at Temple Micah in Washington:
“One is torn,” Zemel told me from Tel Aviv. “I can’t imagine not wanting to come to Israel every chance I get. But what would happen if an Israeli government were to decide, ‘O.K., we’re going to declare the entire West Bank to be part of Greater Israel and we’re not going to grant the Palestinians full citizenship.’ How could I then come to visit this country? But how could I not come? I just can’t imagine it.”
Noam Chomsky, Ilan Pappe and Miko Peled look at the same facts and come to a different conclusion, that the Zionist project as it is presented today was flawed from the start. Flawed because it sought to create and maintain a "democratic" and "Jewish" state by controlling who had citizenship rights within territory it controlled (the solution post '67), or by expelling non-Jews (the solution in '47/'48).
The same sort of expulsions had occurred across Eastern Europe in the inter-war years and then after as the Austro-Hungarian empire fell apart taking its cosmopolitan nature down with it. The goal there too was to create states that were as ethnically homogeneous as possible. there was no room for certain diaspora, including Jews and Gypsies. Almost the same thing happened as the Ottoman empire dissolved. Maybe that is the fate of all multi-ethnic societies which leave populations in place. A reflection of our tribal nature.
Most people excuse Israeli actions, tacitly or overtly by referencing the holocaust. This just raises another moral question, whether victims, their families, tribes and co-religionists are justified in victimizing unrelated third parties. We do not excuse such behavior for individuals, even though we acknowledge that humans do act this way.
In the end, I don't think peace is possible till Israel and its supporters acknowledge what happened during the Nakba and how complicit some of the lionized founding fathers of Israel were (including Ben-Gurion). And I think a just and lasting peace can only come with one state in Israel/Palestine that guarantees equal rights to all, with restitution for Palestinian refugees.
I whole-heartedly agree that it will require a political genius to achieve peace.