Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Jeffrey Goldberg Sits With the Self-Styled “Friends of Israel”

For liberal-hawk supporters of Israel like Jeffrey Goldberg (and Alan Dershowitz and Marty Peretz and a host of other Democrats forty-four and over), the last years have been difficult. They blink uncomprehendingly at how the Jewish state has increasingly been "abandoned" by the left and by liberals. They are personally uncomfortable about the Occupation and the settlement enterprise, but not so uncomfortable as to raise their voices loudly against Israel's human rights violations and systematic discrimination against its Palestinian citizens and subjects. For one thing, Israel is so fundamentally good in their eyes that it is hard to consider them worse than other states who are "existentially threatened"; for another, to speak openly of these matters would be to ally themselves with the "delegitimizers" and the "detractors."

Goldberg blogged about his attendance at the dinner of the new "Friends of Israel" organization founded by the former president of Spain, Jose Aznar, a strong supporter of George W. Bush and an Islam basher. Aznar is a superhawk who sees radical Islam as a major threat to the West. And he sees Israel as standing in the forefront of the battle against this major threat. (I often wonder how some goyyim are so quick to push the Jews to the front of the line when it comes to Armageddon.)

As I have said many times before, it is important for these sorts of "friends of Israel" to know that they include only those "liberals" who supported the Second Iraq War, urge (somebody's) military action against Iran if crippling sanctions don't work, and accept the "clash of civilization" thesis that lumps groups like al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbollah, and Iran's government in the same boat.

A glance at the names that the ex-president managed to gather shows the conservative bent of all of them (and not only John Bolton, who is a member of the board). Even Vaclav Havel, who was trumpeted as a human rights defender (like his friend, Natan Sharansky; for the possible Sharansky-Havel connection, see Jim Lobe here and here), has joined the group. I wonder precisely how Havel, who did not attend, reacted to this part of Aznar's speech:

On top of that, Israel is under a new kind of attack. Not conventional war as in 1948, 56, 67 or 73. Not terrorism as we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But a new kind of attack – an attack on Israel's legitimacy, on her right to exist. A "soft-war", where many of its adversaries are employing legal tricks, multinational bodies, and an army of dubious NGO's to present internationally Israel as an illegitimate state, as a barbarian State, a State that should be isolated and converted into a pariah State.

Take that, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, not to mention B'Tselem! How dare you criticize Israeli human rights violations? What, you don't actually question Israel's right to exist? Well, maybe you don't, but you sure bash it enough that it is hard for it to exist.

And that is no doubt why Jeffrey Goldberg is at this meeting of (mostly) out-of-power conservatives. It all boils down to those existential fears which trump everything. As Goldberg puts it,

What other country, sixty-two years after its birth (rebirth, actually) requires advocates to argue that it should continue to exist? Why is it that the world's only Jewish country is the only country to persistently face questions about its own legitimacy?

Actually, it is not the only country to persistently face questions about its own legitimacy. As Paul Woodward of War in Context points out, Taiwan's legitimacy is persistently questioned. He writes (in a personal communication):

The existential threat to Taiwan posed by the People's Republic is vastly greater than that posed to Israel by any combination of Middle East threats one wants to conjure up, but that does not lead the Taiwanese to engage in the same kind of histrionics that the Israelis are subject to.

But here's the main point for the self-styled "Friends of Israel" to consider: What other country founded after World War II involved the displacement of the natives by a foreign settler nationalist movement, plunging the region into a still unresolved conflict, and which has occupied territory for forty-three years, denying basic human rights to the natives while expropriating their land and controlling their lives – AND, all the while, claiming to be a Western-style liberal democracy?

Israel's inability to live in peace with the Palestinians– even if it is not solely responsible for the mess – is primarily responsible for raising the questions not of its legitimacy, but of the root of its persistently bad behavior. It's the Occupation and the Conflict, stupid. If the Occupation were to end and a just solution to Palestinian statelessness would arise, then Israel would still have plenty of foundational problems, especially in its discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens. See here for the latest. But the world would not care about those, just as it now does not care about those now.

Surely Goldberg realizes that no Zionist ever maintained before the nations of the world that the price for a Jewish state in Palestine would be unending war and deprivation of basic human rights, unless the Palestinian natives capitulated. Even Lord Balfour would not have issued a declaration for that sort of Jewish homeland.

So the issue is not whether Israel is a liberal state or not, or a state of which liberals can be proud. Goldberg writes:

Israel's many flaws have not (yet, at least) overwhelmed the fundamental truth that it is the safest and best place in the Middle East to be, among other things, a woman, a gay person, a journalist, and a dissident

This is true, and worth being proud about, though the trends toward increased fundamentalism and illiberalism in Israel are disturbing. (And the fact that Israel is better than Saudi Arabia on this point isn't exactly worth crowing about.) But Israel is also a place of systematic and never-ending discrimination against Israeli Palestinians and deprivation of human rights of all Palestinians. In terms of fundamental human rights, West-Bank Palestinians are much worse off than the Jews of Morocco and Iran.

A true liberal shouldn't crow about a country's liberal achievements and quietly put the violations on the back burner – until peace comes

Goldberg wants to marginalize deligitimization? To do that he is going to have to marginalize a lot of Israeli human rights groups, the New Israel Fund, Meretz, Haaretz newspaper, etc. He'll have to marginalize the people he admires.

And I don't envy him for that one bit.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

"What other country founded after World War II involved the displacement of the natives by a foreign settler nationalist movement, plunging the region into a still unresolved conflict, and which has occupied territory for forty-three years, denying basic human rights to the natives while expropriating their land and controlling their lives – AND, all the while, claiming to be a Western-style liberal democracy? "

Powerful but misleading rhetoric. The Western-style democracy is not the primary cause of the conflict today as it wasn't in 1948. The so-called natives, many of whom moved to the land in the same years Jews emigrated there (Winston Churchill publicly crows about the 500,000 Arabs who emigrated to Palestine in the years of the Mandate - read Martin Gilbert), were part of a war machine launched against the Jews. Prior to that war, the Jewish community twice accepted partition of the land. Since then, it has offered peace again three times. This peace is also based on partition and sharing of the land. The refusal comes from the so-called "natives" although most of the natives today are Jewish.

That's not even getting into little problems with your proclamations about Israeli Arabs who now enjoy the Middle East's highest life expectancy - almost at par with Jewish Israelis, and extremely high literacy rate. Yes, yes, there's discrimination, but let's be honest at least about the fact that a conflict still exists and contributes to the general situation that exists between Jewish and Arab Israelis.

The fact is that Israel is a Western-style democracy that, unlike most other Western democracies, is under a siege which is enhanced by its small size and relative absence of valuable natural resources. It is a siege that also seeks to undermine the existence of the state in a manner which virtually no other Western democracies face.

Israelis can and should take pride at the fact their democracy remains as strong and vital as it does.

Peter H said...

Actually, I don't think Marty Peretz feels even "personally uncomfortable" about the Occupation. I don't think Peretz feels anything but a pathalogical hatred of Palestinians.

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous:

The so-called natives, many of whom moved to the land in the same years Jews emigrated there (Winston Churchill publicly crows about the 500,000 Arabs who emigrated to Palestine in the years of the Mandate - read Martin Gilbert),

Ah, yes, moving from Southern Syria to the Galilee is exactly the same as moving from Odessa to Tel Aviv, isn't it?

"Read Martin Gilbert." What do I care about what Churchill or Martin Gilbert says? The first was a British politician; the second a historian of Churchill (and a Zionist apologist). You should reading some Israeli historians, like Morris, Shlaim, Pappe, Kimmerling, and, for that matter, even Karsh. The whole canard of massive Palestinian immigration suggested by Joan Peters was discredited by even rightwingers like Yehosha Porath. But even if there was significant immigration, does it permit Jewish settlers from Russia and Poland to bar Palestinians from returning to their homes, shooting at them when they tried to do so? And do you what the percentages of Jews to Arabs was in 1948 before the mass exodus began (well before any Arab country declared war, by the way.)

Let's just say that your reading of history is, how shall I put this charitably, oh, Israeli propaganda circa 1950. Reading Mitchell Bard is no excuse.

How generous that the foreign settlers, a large number of them illegal immigrants, offered to split the land with the natives? You live in Texas, by any chance?

"The refusal comes from the so-called "natives" although most of the natives today are Jewish."

Yes, that's what happened when one population kicks out another population after a time.

"about Israeli Arabs who now enjoy the Middle East's highest life expectancy - almost at par with Jewish Israelis, and extremely high literacy rate"

Life expectancy: "While life expectancy of Arabs was lower than Jews during 1975–2004, there was a decline in this gap during 1975–98. However, during the following years the gap increased and the difference in 2004 was 3.2 years for men and 4 years for women."


The gap is widening.

It should be, but it isn't. And that is because life expectancy is tied to income and standard of living.

Do you really need me to teach you about the systematic legal and de facto discrimination of the Palestinians -- citizens who are excluded by the Israeli Declaration of Independence from the nation state of Israel.

Here is what the Association for Civil Rights in Israel says:

"Though legally entitled to full equality, they're effectively victimized by institutional discrimination "deriving from the concept of the State and its actual policies:"

-- Judaizing the Negev and Galilee, for example;

-- legislation favoring Jews over Arabs, such as the right to citizenship;

-- anachronistic institutions since the founding of the State that strictly serve Jewish majority interests in all respects;

-- laws, court rulings, government policies, and official documents discriminate against Arab citizens.

My friend, spend some time reading the posts on my blog. You are living in the la-la land of old (and stale) propaganda.

As for being in a state of siege -- the only siege that is going on now is the siege of Gaza. Jordan and Egypt has peace treaties with Israel. Syria hasn't made a serious move against Israel territory since 1948, nor has Lebanon, and the only country that has more territory than it had in 1948 as a result of war is, yup, Israel.

You really have to break out of your ghetto and start reading works not authorized by your tribe (but written by members of it.)

bacci40 said...

jerry, just curious

at the end of yom kippur, when everyone is screaming, lshana haba beyerushalaim....do you keep your mouth tightly closed?

may you have a meaningful taanis

Jerry Haber said...

Bacci40,

Why should I keep my mouth closed?

I express my desire that next year we shall all be in Jerusalem, which will miraculously widen to include all Jews and Palestinians, living in perfect peace and harmony.

You want athalta de geula? I prefer geula mamash.

And a tzom kal to you. Remember, Yom Kippur is a chag!

Y. Ben-David said...

Wrong about Syria "not making a move against Israel territory since 1948". Remember the Yom Kippur War in 1973? At one point, some of their tanks broke through and got to the edge of the Golan Heights and the old pre-67 cease-fire line. Bloody battles took place on the Golan with high Israeli casualties. I presume you are going to say that since the Syrians weren't able to go into Israeli territory in force that "it wasn't a move against Israeli territory" but they sure would have if they could and Israel paid a high price in that war. Quibbling over the fact that they didn't acutally capture any pre-67 Israeli territory is not relevant. They tried to do it and, thank G-d, they failed.

Metternich said...

"In terms of fundamental human rights, West-Bank Palestinians are much worse off than the Jews of Morocco and Iran"

A fair comparison would be the Arab citizens of Israel to the Jews of Muslim countries, not the West Bank Arabs, who are have been at war with Israel.

Lumping Iran together with Hamas and Hezbollah is hardly a problem; they lump themselves. Al-Queda and the others sometimes fight, sometimes cooperate. But they have a lot of ideology in common. Overall, it's a correct lump, and your criticism of it is unfounded.

The Arabs of a small part of Palestine could have lived under Jewish administration since 1948 and be much better off than they are, but they chose instead to continue the pogroms of the 1920's and 1030's, resulting in massive Arab dislocation and many deaths. When they say they love death, you should believe them.

The Israeli expansion in the wars of 1948 and 1967 are the result of the conflict, not the cause. And you know this.

Metternich said...

And Shana Tova to you all...

Daniel Chase said...

I appreciate your blog, and come away more informed and enlightened with each new piece. Please keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

bacci40, you seem to be getting angrier and less patient with each blog post.. your comments no longer even try to have an connection with the posts themselves but just anger towards jerry. what's the deal? time to move to another blog?

Anonymous said...

"Ah, yes, moving from Southern Syria to the Galilee is exactly the same as moving from Odessa to Tel Aviv, isn't it?"

Yes, it is. Especially when the claim is that the land is stolen from its original inhabitants.

You should care about Churchill since he, as leader of Britain, was in a position to know the numbers. Gilbert is a respected historian and his quote of Churchill is accurate. Joan Peters wasn't mentioned at all.

Benny Morris tells us that "Russian and Polish" immigrants to Palestine barred Palestinians from returning - and in some cases actively removed them - because of the war that began with the Arab rejection of 181. The rejection was followed by Arab attacks and a war involving many villages strategically placed to support the pending attack by Arab national armies. Considering that over 1000 Jews (out of 600,000) were murdered and killed in the months between the 181 vote and May 15 speaks to the type of war the Arabs launched. It also explains why the Yishuv responded as it did.

"How generous that the foreign settlers, a large number of them illegal immigrants, offered to split the land with the natives? "

You mean, after Palestine was divided so that TransJordan got the vast majority of the land? What did the Jews get, 12% of Palestine? Of their historic homeland? Of that 12%, half was unarable Negev. The "natives" - as if there were no Jewish natives - received 11% of Palestine and the other 77% too. Blame it on the British if they put a line on a map at the Jordan River and gave the Hashemites control.

"Yes, that's what happened when one population kicks out another population after a time."

In a war launched by the other side in order to evict the population that ended up victorious. And if there are few native Hebronite Jews, I'm sure you know the reason.

Life expectancy: the difference between Jews and Arabs in Israel is closing again "Jewish women rose slightly to 83.9 and for Arab women to 80.7. For Jewish men, life expectancy is 80.5 and for Arab men 76.3." The Arab Israeli male figure places them in the top 20 in the world and the females are in the top 40 in the world - competitive with the USA.

Thanks for not debating the point about the literacy rate.

Discrimination exists in Israel. Arabs also keep electing anti-Israel reps leaving this large, potentially influential group outside of coalitions and influence. Also, some wars have had Arab Israelis openly supporting Israel's attackers. Even so, and contrary to your quote from the biased organization, ACRI, the country and courts are making great efforts to treat Arab Israelis fairly. There is a public consciousness about this and things have already changed plenty and will continue to change.

Regarding the siege on Israel, two Iranian proxy armies sit on Israel's borders while Syria possesses numerous chemical warheads and have threatened war repeatedly. Iran continuously vows to see to Israel's destruction.

I stopped reading Bard many years ago. Perhaps you should stop reading Electronic Intifadah?

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous, Martin Gilbert is not a respected historian of the Middle East. And Churchill was a politician. His statement should be looked at within the context of other statements. Read Yehoshua Porat (who fwiw supported Netanyahu against Peres in 1996) and who completely debunked the massive immigration of Palestinian thesis. If Churchill said otherwise, Churchill got it wrong.

I have written many posts against the systematic legal and practical ethnic discrimination against Palestinian Israelis (Israeli Arabs is not the term they prefer). You are advised to look at those, or better, to read the works of Hillel Cohen. He is a historian; he has read the memos concerning the "Divide and conquer" policy with respect to the Muslims and the Druze; he has seen how Palestinian nationalist teachers were barred from the Arab educational system; he documents how Arab lists were devised in order to support Mapai (whose interests in those days were considered to identical with that of the state.) And what about the Jewish National Fund, the nationalization of Arab private land, the parceling of land to kibbutzim, the creation of Carmiel, etc., etc. And all of it "legal".

I have already written about the coalition politics.

The issue is not how high literacy and life expectancy, the issue is the gap, especially in a society with mandatory education and health care. Also gaps of unemployment of university graduates and control over land.

How many new Jewish settlements have been created by Israeli since 1948? How many new Palestinian settlements? Since the Palestinians constitute 20% of the population, they should have 20% of the new settlements. Please explain that gap, Anonymous. And please don't answer, "Hey, it's a Jewish state. Get over it."

finally, you write:

"Regarding the siege on Israel, two Iranian proxy armies sit on Israel's borders while Syria possesses numerous chemical warheads and have threatened war repeatedly. Iran continuously vows to see to Israel's destruction."

Three statements, all false, at least one of them absurd (Hamas has an army?) But let me ask you three simple questions.

Who is a military bigger threat to the other? Israel or Iran?

Who is a bigger military threat to the other? Israel or Syria?

Who is a bigger military threat to the other? Israel or Hamas/Hizbollah.

And here's a fourth. Put Iran and the entire Arab combined military together? Who is a bigger threat to whom?

And finally, in sixty plus years of mideast conflict, what map was entirely altered by military conquest...and by whom?

You don't need to read Bard. You are a walking Bard. What's new with the Arab lobby in the US?

But thank you for reading my blog. And have a gut yontif

Anonymous said...

2nd attempt to respond.

Moving from S. Syria is exactly like moving from Mars to Palestine when your complaint is that your historic home was stolen.

You should care about Churchill because he was in a position to know the numbers. Gilbert is in a position to know what Churchill knew.

My reading of history is based on Morris, Shlaim, Karsh and many others. You choose to ignore things like 500,000 Arab immigrants and I choose to include both the facts I like and those I dislike.

The division of the land was always inherently unfair. Transjordan occupied 77% of Palestine and the Jews were then asked to divide the remainder of what was promised them in half, of which half was the Negev desert. Of the Arabs, you can say that at worst, they lost a sliver of Palestine but retained most of it. The Jews accepted, the Arabs rejected.

The reason most Israelis today are Jewish is not because "one population kicks out the other" but because one population emerged victorious in a war launched by the other side to remove said population. The very next day after 181 was approved, the Arab attacks began (Morris).

As for the discrimination and life expectancy debate, you are looking at the glass half empty and then milking it for all its worth. The male life expectancy of an Israeli Arab ranks about 20th among the nations of the world, while Arab women's ranks about 40th. They are 4 and 3 years behind their Jewish Israeli counterparts. For you to depict this negatively is ridiculous - the figures beat America's life expectancy average. Did you know that 1/3 of all fatal road accidents in Israel involve Arabs even though they are a 1/6th of the population? Is that also Israel's fault? Is everything Israel's fault? If it is, then so is giving Israeli Arabs a better standard of living, better quality of life, better health care, better life expectancy than in most of the world and certainly better than virtually all Muslim and Arab states. And I'll bet you that if there weren't 60 years of war, Arab-Israeli support for Israel's enemies and elected Arab Knesset members who attack the state regularly, that much of the discrimination would be long gone.

Finally, to suggest that Israel isn't under siege and that Israelis don't feel under siege reveals how little you understand about the country in which you live part of the year.

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous, I can sum up your response in a few words:

The Land of Israel was stolen from the Jews and belongs to the Jews. Any non-Jews living there do ao at the largesse of the Jews. Any rights they enjoy are done at the benificence of the owners. If they accept those terms, they will prosper. If they do not, they should leave. They have no rights beyond what Jews from Brooklyn and Moscow have given them. They should be thankful that they are better off (in some but not other ways) then their ethnic group outside of Israel.

That way of looking at a democracy is so foreign to me, as an American, that I can't understand why anybody who values democracy (maybe you don't) would think otherwise. You obviously do not believe in American democracy, or, for that matter, any European style democracy, which talks about equal rights among citizens, and equal membership in the nation represented by the state.

You did not reply at all about money spent on the Arab sector or division of land AFTER 1948, or the role of the Jewish National Fund, or any of the things I mentioned.

What really is remarkable is that you think that the ethnic cleansing performed by Israel (Morris's term) was some sort of reaction to the Palestinians defense of what THEY perceived to be their homeland -- and not an attempt simply to get the maximum amount of land for the Jews without getting the world riled up by getting rid of all the Arabs.

Do you not understand why immigration to Israel by European Jews with the express desire of establishing a state would somehow get the natives upset? Even if you think that they should not have been upset by the benevolent Jews who were going to take such good care of them, can you not at least see how NATURAL their reaction was?

No, you can't. Because you are convinced that any thinking person would be convinced by the Zionist claim to historical rights of the Jews to the land. What a pity that to this day only Zionists were so convinced. The UN partition plan mentions nothing about Jewish historical rights. It simply suggested a way out of the mess that Palestine had come -- a state for the Jews and a state for the Palestinians.

In fact, isn't is interesting that about a century of Zionism, virtually no governments have gone on record endorsing Jewish historical rights. On the contrary, the emphasis on the Holocaust in the formation of Israel shows that most people -- even those who support Israel -- reject the historical claims.

And by the way -- most Jews left Palestine voluntarily 2000 years ago. Read my post on the myth of the Roman exile. You like to refer to historians. What nodern professional historian of the period backs your claim that the land of Israel was stolen from the Jews?

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous, I can sum up your response in a few words:

The Land of Israel was stolen from the Jews and belongs to the Jews. Any non-Jews living there do ao at the largesse of the Jews. Any rights they enjoy are done at the benificence of the owners. If they accept those terms, they will prosper. If they do not, they should leave. They have no rights beyond what Jews from Brooklyn and Moscow have given them. They should be thankful that they are better off (in some but not other ways) then their ethnic group outside of Israel.

That way of looking at a democracy is so foreign to me, as an American, that I can't understand why anybody who values democracy (maybe you don't) would think otherwise. You obviously do not believe in American democracy, or, for that matter, any European style democracy, which talks about equal rights among citizens, and equal membership in the nation represented by the state.

You did not reply at all about money spent on the Arab sector or division of land AFTER 1948, or the role of the Jewish National Fund, or any of the things I mentioned.

What really is remarkable is that you think that the ethnic cleansing performed by Israel (Morris's term) was some sort of reaction to the Palestinians defense of what THEY perceived to be their homeland -- and not an attempt simply to get the maximum amount of land for the Jews without getting the world riled up by getting rid of all the Arabs.

Do you not understand why immigration to Israel by European Jews with the express desire of establishing a state would somehow get the natives upset? Even if you think that they should not have been upset by the benevolent Jews who were going to take such good care of them, can you not at least see how NATURAL their reaction was?

No, you can't. Because you are convinced that any thinking person would be convinced by the Zionist claim to historical rights of the Jews to the land. What a pity that to this day only Zionists were so convinced. The UN partition plan mentions nothing about Jewish historical rights. It simply suggested a way out of the mess that Palestine had come -- a state for the Jews and a state for the Palestinians.

In fact, isn't is interesting that about a century of Zionism, virtually no governments have gone on record endorsing Jewish historical rights. On the contrary, the emphasis on the Holocaust in the formation of Israel shows that most people -- even those who support Israel -- reject the historical claims.

And by the way -- most Jews left Palestine voluntarily 2000 years ago. Read my post on the myth of the Roman exile. You like to refer to historians. What nodern professional historian of the period backs your claim that the land of Israel was stolen from the Jews?

Anonymous said...

taiwan's legitimacy is challenged by a non democratic dictatorship whose goal is to replace the existing regime and annex it to their country is that your model ?

do you support that same govts policy towards tibet ?

Anonymous said...

Define Insane : PUHLEASE ! Ashekenazim converts to talmudic Judaism are not Israelites. Also see Issa Nakhleh's work Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem.