Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Creating A New Communal Tent For Ending the Occupation

For some time I have had a dream about a community, a coalition, a big tent that includes within it all those constituencies who cry out to end the occupation now. Yes, I know, there already is a US Campaign to End the Occupation, and they do good work. Read about them here. But I am thinking of something else

I am thinking of people of all colors, races, creeds, ethnicities, sexual orientation – and of varying, even opposing ideologies. Under this tent are committed anti-Zionists who believe that a Jewish ethnic state is a bad thing; others who don’t think that Jews have right to national self-determination in Palestine; Palestinians who would, if they could, liberate all of Palestine from Zionist hegemony, and liberal Zionists, who believe that Israel, for all its flaws, offers promise to the Jewish people, the world, and, yes, even to the Palestinians. What unites these constituencies is the conviction that the occupation and subjugation of one people by another over three generations is morally intolerable and can go on no longer. And that now is the time to link arms, despite our profound and irreconcilable differences, and act to end the occupation.

But what does “ending the occupation” mean? It doesn’t mean merely a withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces from the West Bank. It doesn’t even mean the creation of a Palestinian state. It means simply this: that Palestinians can live freely and with dignity, that they are not under the control of anybody else, that they are free at last. And that this freedom extends not only to the Palestinians living still within Palestine but wherever they may be, in the camps, in the Arab emirates, in Jordan, in Detroit. It also means that Israelis, Jews and Palestinians, can also live a life of freedom and dignity, enslaved neither to fear, nor to feelings of ethnic entitlement.

Who is not in the tent, aside from the usual suspects?

Well, if you want to drive Palestinians or Israeli Jews into the sea, or coerce them in all sorts of ways to leave Palestine, you are not in the tent.

If you think that the occupation, though unfortunate, cannot end soon because of the possible threat to Israel’s security, you are not in the tent.

If you oppose the occupation, but hold it hostage to a bilateral “peace process,” you are not in the tent.

If you, like Prof. Ruth Gavison, claim to favor two states but oppose Palestinian unilateralism because it does not really advance the two-state solution, you are not in the tent. (Especially if you, like Prof. Gavison, have no qualms about supporting the Zionists’ unilateral declaration of statehood in 1948. That surely advanced the two-state solution, didn’t it?)

If you think that a Jewish right to self-determination trumps the Palestinians right to live freely in their homeland, you are not in the tent.

If you are more worried about the Fateh-Hamas reconciliation than the ongoing theft of land and resources, you are not in the tent.

If you are more concerned with tribal loyalty, and with possible coalitions with “enemies” of your people, then about the subjugation of a people for decades, you are not in the tent.

If, when people bring up the occuption, you say, “Yeah, well what about terrorism and the kassam rocket firing?” you are not in the tent.

Every day, more and more liberal Zionists are entering the tent. They are not checking their liberal Zionism at the tent’s opening. Some of them are swallowing hard when they see who is inside the tent (as do the others, when they see the liberal Zionists hovering at the entrance flap). But the actions of this horrible government and the equally horrible Knesset are pushing them into the tent.

When Peace Now – the grande dame of liberal Zionism, always so careful not to break the establishment Zionist consensus – issues public calls to boycott the settlements in a knowing act of civil disobedience it moves closer toward the tent. When Palestinians, though they refuse to “normalize” relations with Israeli Jewish peace activists, are nevertheless convinced that there are Israelis who support their cause in a non-condescending and non-paternalistic manner, they move closer to the tent.

This is happening here in Palestine/Israel. On Friday at 2 pm at Jaffa Gate, there will be a solidarity march of Israeli Jews and Palestinians (and others) in favor of Palestinians Statehood, and the September initiative. Liberal Zionists should be at the head of the line on this one. As Zionists, they should rejoice that the Palestinians are acting unilaterally, as did the Zionists in 1948,and that they are doing so within the framework of two states. As liberals, they should be appreciative that the Palestinians are seeking their self-determination in a diplomatic and non-violent manner.

The only liberal Zionists who can oppose the move, in my opinion, are the ones who are more Zionist than liberal, and indeed, their self-perceived “liberalism” is nothing more than a delusion.

It’s time for liberal Zionists to get off the fence and start heading towards the tent with the one-staters and the BDSer’s – without, necessarily, accepting those ideologies. This move will come first, in Palestine/Israel, and then throughout the world.

“For Torah Will Come from Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” The Torah that proclaims liberty throughout the land and the Word of the Lord that procaims, no more fear.



shmuel said...

I think the real test of whether I and other liberal zionists can enter the tent will be which flags will fly there. (Figuratively and literally)
If both P/I flags are there - I'm in, but if one or the other is "muktze" then I will have to stay outside.
Same for the demonstration on Friday

Jerry Haber said...


If you won't go to a march supporting Palestinian independence because of your insecurity about Israel being accepted by the Palestinians.

You're not in the tent.

Seriously, if there are Israeli flags there, I won't go. It's not enough what Israel has done to the Palestinians for the last 60 years, you need to be assured that they want you?

After there is a powerful Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state,a state that could wipe out Israel with the same ease that Israel can today wipe out Palestine -- then, and only then, must there be two flags in the tent.

Till then, it's like Georgians demanding of the Blacks in Selma that they recognize the Confederate Flag.

It's their day, not yours and theirs.

Jerry Haber said...

ps shmuel,

as i said, swallow hard -- but do the right thing. It's not about you and your state.

It's about theirs.

shmuel said...


I'm not afraid or insecure.

If it were under a black flag or UN flag I'd have no problem, but I'm not at the stage where I can prefer another nation's flag to my own.
Demonstrating with people who might even consider me an enemy is ok, but not if I have to hide my identity. I want to be there as an identifying proud Jew and (liberal) Zionist and not feel like I'm being a traitor to my country.
You can imagine how it would look if people carrying Israeli flags and wearing kippot rally together with anti-zionists with Palestinian flags and kaffiyot. That's making the point of how bad occupation has become when people who look like "normal Israelis" (as opposed to the usual 25 anarchists who are hated by most Israelis) stand arm in arm with Palestinian victims.

Anonymous said...

Do the right things. All of them.

Be proud to seek peace, real peace, that includes others and includes your own community.

Jerry Haber said...

Shmuel, I am genuinely surprised. You wrie:

"I'm not at the stage where I can prefer another nation's flag to my own.
Demonstrating with people who might even consider me an enemy is ok, but not if I have to hide my identity."

If you demonstrated with Palestinians in front of Shaar Yafo, you would have to hide your identity? From whom? What, do you think you would be mistaken for Chinese? Or second generation Palestinian?

I assure you, the people who would be "hiding" their identity in such a march would be the Palestinians, even waving their flag, and not you. After all, they are by far the weaker party. They would be demonstrating with members of the people who are oppressing them. It would be perfectly reasonable for them to demand that you not be allowed to demonstrate with them. That they come to demonstrate at all with Israelis is an enormous concession on their part.

And you know that the vast majority of people at the march will be Israeli Jews, of course. And that Israeli Jews run few risks at marches like that, compared with Palestinians.

Once again, I am sure that there are many Southerners who are deeply proud of their Confederate past. But what for you is a symbol of national pride is for many Palestinians a symbol of oppression, of conquest, and of dispossession. And you want to wave that in their faces in East Jerusalem? Like the frum Jews on Jerusalem Day who parade through East Jerusalem with flags showing them who is the boss?

The last thing I feel when I walk through Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, or for that matter, in the Galilee, is pride that I am an Israeli.

Mark said...

Jerry Haber says "The last thing I feel when I walk through Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, or for that matter, in the Galilee, is pride that I am an Israeli."


Akiva L. said...

I generally agree with you and I wish I could go to the march at Sha'ar Yaffo. However, I think you go too far in demanding putting down any Israeli flags or showing of Israeli identity. Your comparison of Israeli and Confederate flags is flawed in this situation. Whereas the Confederacy of the US has long been dismantled and will, and should, never rise again, Israel is here to stay regardless of its justification for existence or how it came into existence. It would be wonderful to have both flags flying side-by-side not for some phony political event like in all the peace-process meetings, but rather as two peoples marching side-by-side for a common, good cause. Perhaps you are still scarred by the horrible march on Jerusalem Day. You're right, that was bad. But you can't let the "bad guys" ruin waving the Israeli flag forever. It is essential that Palestinians recognize Israel is permanent just as Israelis must recognize that Palestine will be a permanent part of their world. Furthermore, and perhaps most dangerously, you are making it harder for Zionists of all stripes to enter the tent.

The Taker said...

Before you go all 'Occupationy' on the west bank, don't you live in jerusalem? of which ~80% was confiscated?

As opposed to many parts of the west bank, which were purchased as opposed to taken. All in all, it is just a gross oversimplification of an extremely complex situation.

edwin said...

I think I remember other posts with a similar idea that you have written. It might be useful to link to them.

I like very much your response to shmuel. I think it covers some of my concerns about your proposal.

I think that when it comes to Palestinians there must be some understanding of what life is like for them, and accordingly we must cut them some slack.

I do want to note that without a fairly large contingent of Palestinians you don't have any tent at all no matter how many Zionist Jews are "in it". In some ways the Palestinians and what they want, not what you want, are the centre of your proposal.

Another issue that is not completely unrelated is the oppressive nature of any religious state. Whatever happens to the Palestinian people, I'm not going to be supporting a state that limits freedom of religion and marriage either directly or indirectly. The state has no business in the bedrooms or the synagogues of the nation.

Even though I am a one-stater, I support the Palestinian people even if they go in directions I think will result in failure. If they choose to create a second bigoted state, as opposed to a state based on universal values, it will be sad but at some point I would not be supporting such a state.

myron said...

As i have entered a more "self critical" state i also have become sensitive to fact that i am opening myself to possible self denial. Shmuel's precondition that one flag not be "muktzeh" may be coming from this scarey place.
Jerry's response sees the flag not as "self identity" but as a symbol of the sovereign, the one in control- always flying high above and subjugating the oppressed. I think he has a point. Shmuel, think of Flag parades in Yafo for example.
If only we had a different, inclusive flag ... in the meantime Shmuel, maybe a pin with two flags will be your solution.

Jerry Haber said...

Akiva there is a time and place for everything, including both flags waving. I never wanted to give the impression that the Israeli flag is a no no in all circumstances., even at solidarity rallies. But not at Shaar Yafo and not at this rally.

By the way, I don't even know what the organizers policy is!

Anonymous said...

Am I invited into the tent?

Knowing that I am concerned about the Hamas-Fatah unity. My concern is not the Netanyahu invocation of "any government that includes Hamas is rejected", but that Hamas full and permanent unconditional commitment is necessary for Palestine to form, and for their to be any prospect of peace.

Or, am I invited into the tent if I state that I will leave the tent if the tent includes "Zionism is racism" on its markings?

Me and the couple hundred thousand Israeli and American Jews that formerly demonstrated enthusiastically for peace.

Jerry Haber said...

edwin, thanks for the comment, with which I agree

Jerry Haber said...

the Taker

I have written much on this blog about this question. Here's my short answer.

Liberal Zionists wish to distinguish between the 48 conquest and the 67 conquest, if for no better reason than the Palestinian leadership since 1988 has accepted Israel within the armistice lines. So, retroactively, Israel has to compensate the Palestinians for the 48 conquest, certainly those places to which Palestinians were not allowed to return (and vice-versa for expelled Jews.) That includes Jerusalem.

That said, Jerusalem should be internationalized, or at the very least, equitably divided.

Finally, most of the land on which settlements are built was not purchased, or if some was, those were often fictitious straw deals.

Needless to say, any bona fide purchase of Palestinian land by a Jew will remain under Jewish ownership and under Palestinian sovereignty. When an American purchases a flat in Jerusalem, the flat doesn't become subject to American sovereignty.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask, Mr. Haber. You said that one shouldn't bring/wave an Israeli flag to such a rally mentioned; fair enough. But going by your other responses and prior posts, you won't consider bringing a flag to be 'OK' until your pre-conditions are met.

Doesn't that negate your 'big tent' theory? I support two states, and I consider practically everything to the right of someone like Larry Drefner to be too right-wing, but if one considers waiting until there's complete parity between the sides is complete (not just in self-determination and compensation from both sides), then when the conditions for it to be OK ever occur? Both sides have shown disagreement on what the perfect arrangements will be, and even now the maximalists on both sides will work (possibly together, albeit unintentionally), depleting my faith in such an agreement could ever be reached.

If I'm not welcome to go to such a rally, or not 'be in the tent', because I can't show some concern for Israel, then I don't think I'll be welcome into such tents, regardless of my agreements with them involving the occupation.

Jerry Haber said...


Larry Derfner is in the tent. You are in the tent. At the rally, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of participants aren't card carrying two-staters of the liberal Zionist persuasi0n. You want to wave a flag? Tfadal. As I said, I don't know what the flag policy will be. I think it is bad taste to have large Israeli flags. But I would rather you to be there with a flag than not to be there.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing Ruvi Rivlin or Dan Meridor there either.

If you are at the march and support is goals, I don't care what the heck you look like or bring with you.

Palestinian freedom now!

Anonymous said...

If I attend, I'll be carrying two flags, a Israeli and Palestinian one.

pabelmont said...

Jerry, This is a good post. REPEAT IT NOW, IN LATE SEPTEMBER.

Negatively, among the comments, appears a very strange phrase to my ears, "second generation Palestinian". Palestinians count their ancestry IN PALESTINE back, in some cases, 500 years.

There may be "second generation Israeli Jews", because the Jews are recent immigrants/conquerors/colonizers. The Palestinians have been there, most of them, far longer than Mr. Herzl's books have been on the shelves.