Israeli Criticism of Zionism and the Treatment of Palestinians: The Politicians

Critically analyzing the political ideology of Zionism, or criticizing Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, almost invariably leads to attacks from the defenders of Israel. This is especially true in North America, but far less true in most other countries in the World. As a result most North American politicians have learned to be very careful with their words when it comes to the subject of Israel and the Palestinians.

Here is what noted financier, George Soros, writing in The New York Review of Books, on April 12, 2007, had to say on this the lack of debate in the United States and how open the political debate on the Palestinian issue is in Israel:

The current policy is not even questioned in the United States. While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed. The debate in Israel about Israeli policy is much more open and vigorous than in the United States. This is all the more remarkable because Palestine is the issue that more than any other currently divides the United States from Europe …1

Former U.S President Jimmy Carter who helped bring about the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt has also written and spoken out on Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. Carter’s book Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid generated severe criticism from the American Jewish community. Here is what Cecilie Surasky, from the Jewish Voice for Peace and Muzzle Watch, had to say about this treatment.

Few people anywhere have endured more vicious demonization regarding the Israel issue than Nobel-prize-winning former US president Jimmy Carter. It is a sad statement that the man who did more for peace for the Israelis than any other U.S. president, is now vilified as an anti-Semite in Jewish communities across the land, most notably for titling his book Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid. In fact, Carter is one of Israel’s few true friends who remains impressively committed to doing whatever he can to bring about some kind of resolution, rather than taking the easy road by giving the self-destructive government more of what it wants: arms and money to occupy more land.2

Issues that are virtually forbidden in the North American public arena are treated much differently in Israel where such topics are part of the general political discourse and debate. It is worth reviewing the political debate and critical public discussion of these issues in Israel to compare the environment in North America.

Two unlikely sources for Israeli criticism of “the Jewish State’s” policies are former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and former Israeli UN Ambassador and Israeli Labor Party Foreign Minister Abba Eban. In response to what Begin considered “hypocritical” criticism of his government’s bombing of Beirut in 1981 which killed hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians he offered a “partial list” of more than 30 Israeli military attacks against Arab civilians under Israeli Labor Governments. This exchange was published in the Israel Press in August 1981.

Begin wrote that: “under the Alignment government, there were retaliatory actions against civilian Arab populations; the air force operated against them; the damage was directed against such structures as the canal, bridges and transport.”3

A rather shocked Abba Eban, wrote in reply: “The picture that emerges is of an Israel wantonly inflicting every possible measure of death and anguish on civilian populations in a mood reminiscent of regimes which neither Mr. Begin nor I would dare to mention by name.”4

Here is Edward Herman’s analysis of the exchange and other statements on the use of military force made by Israeli officials:

Eban is harshly critical of Begin’s letter because of the support it gives to Arab propaganda; he does not contest the facts. He even defends the earlier Israeli attacks on civilians with the exact logic which orthodox analysts of terrorism attribute to-and use to condemn-retail terrorists: namely, that deliberate attacks may properly be made on innocent parties in order to achieve higher ends. Eban writes that, “there was a rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations [i.e., innocent civilians deliberately bombed] would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities.”

Begin’s list is indeed “partial.” It is supplemented by former Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur, whom stated that “For 30 years, from the War of Independence until today, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities,” offering as examples the bombardments that cleared the Jordan valley of all inhabitants and that drove a million and a half civilians from the Suez canal area, in 1970, among others. The Israeli military analyst Zeev Schiff summarized General Gur’s comments as follows: “In South Lebanon we struck the civilian population consciously, because they deserved it … the importance of Gur’s remarks is the admission that the Israeli Army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously … the Army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets … [but] purposely attacked civilian targets when Israeli settlements had not been struck.”5

Michael Ben-Yair was Israel’s attorney general from 1993‑96. He writes that after Israel won the Six Day War in June 1967:

We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we developed two judicial systems: one ‑ progressive, liberal ‑ in Israel; and the other ‑ cruel, injurious ‑ in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture.

That oppressive regime exists to this day.6

Avraham Burg was speaker of Israel’s Knesset in 1999‑2003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. Here is how Burg is described in an article published in The New Yorker magazine.

Short of being Prime Minister, Burg could not be higher in the Zionist establishment. His father was a Cabinet minister for nearly four decades, serving under Prime Ministers from David Ben‑Gurion to Shimon Peres. In addition to a decade‑long career in the Knesset, including four years as Speaker, Burg had also been leader of the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel. And yet he did not obey the commands of pedigree. “Defeating Hitler” and an earlier book, “God Is Back,” are, in combination, a despairing look at the Israeli condition. Burg warns that an increasingly large and ardent sector of Israeli society disdains political democracy. He describes the country in its current state as Holocaust‑obsessed, militaristic, xenophobic, and, like Germany in the nineteen‑thirties, vulnerable to an extremist minority.7

In 2003 Burg published an article titled “The end of Zionism.” In it he wrote:

Israel must shed its illusions and choose between racist oppression and democracy.

The Zionist revolution has always rested on two pillars: a just path and an ethical leadership. Neither of these is operative any longer. The Israeli nation today rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice. As such, the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep. There is a real chance that ours will be the last Zionist generation. There may yet be a Jewish state here, but it will be a different sort, strange and ugly.8

In 2007, another article was published in Haaretz on Avraham Burg. He is quoted: “to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It’s dynamite.” In the interview Burg said that he was “in favor of abrogating the Law of Return and calls on everyone who can to obtain a foreign passport.” This statement one of the strongest anti‑Zionist pronouncements yet made by the former leading member of Israel’s Jewish establishment. Burg, who was interviewed on the occasion of the publication of his book Defeating Hitler said “the strategic mistake of Zionism was to annul the alternatives. Israeliness has only body; it doesn’t have soul.”9

Here are the words of another veteran Israeli politician, Yossi Sarid, on the comparison of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and Apartheid. Sarid served as a member of the Knesset for the Alignment, Ratz and Meretz between 1974 and 2006. A former Minister of Education and Minister of the Environment, he led Meretz between 1996 and 2003.

The white Afrikaners, too, had reasons for their segregation policy; they, too, felt threatened – a great evil was at their door, and they were frightened, out to defend themselves. Unfortunately, however, all good reasons for apartheid are bad reasons; apartheid always has a reason, and it never has a justification. And what acts like apartheid, is run like apartheid and harasses like apartheid, is not a duck – it is apartheid. Nor does it even solve the problem of fear: Today, everyone knows that all apartheid will inevitably reach its sorry end. One essential difference remains between South Africa and Israel: There a small minority dominated a large majority, and here we have almost a tie. But the tiebreaker is already darkening on the horizon. Then the Zionist project will come to an end if we don’t choose to leave the slave house before being visited by a fatal demographic plague. It is entirely clear why the word apartheid terrifies us so. What should frighten us, however, is not the description of reality, but reality itself. Even Ehud Olmert has understood at last that continuing the present situation is the end of the Jewish democratic state, as he recently said.10

Another prominent Israeli politician who served many years in the Knesset, Shulamit Aloni, has also been scathing in her criticism of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.11 Aloni, is the Israeli Prize laureate who once served as Minister of Education under Yitzhak Rabin. She wrote, “Jewish self‑righteousness is taken for granted among ourselves to such an extent that we fail to see what’s right in front of our eyes. It’s simply inconceivable that the ultimate victims, the Jews, can carry out evil deeds. Nevertheless, the state of Israel practises its own, quite violent, form of Apartheid with the native Palestinian population.”12

Aloni also defended former U.S. President Jimmy Carter:

The US Jewish Establishment’s onslaught on former President Jimmy Carter is based on him daring to tell the truth which is known to all: through its army, the government of Israel practises a brutal form of Apartheid in the territory it occupies. Its army has turned every Palestinian village and town into a fenced‑in, or blocked‑in, detention camp. All this is done in order to keep an eye on the population’s movements and to make its life difficult. Israel even imposes a total curfew whenever the settlers, who have illegally usurped the Palestinians’ land, celebrate their holidays or conduct their parades.12

On the Palestinian issue she argued:

…Israel is an occupying power that for 40 years has been oppressing an indigenous people, which is entitled to a sovereign and independent existence while living in peace with us. We should remember that we too used very violent terror against foreign rule because we wanted our own state. And the list of victims of terror is quite long and extensive.

We do limit ourselves to denying the [Palestinian] people human rights. We not only rob of them of their freedom, land and water. We apply collective punishment to millions of people and even, in revenge‑driven frenzy, destroy the electricity supply for one and half million civilians. Let them “sit in the darkness” and “starve.”12

Here is what Yossi Paritzky, a member of the Shinui Party who served in the Israeli Knesset and also in the Israeli cabinet, had to say about racial discrimination in Israel:

One of the clearest rules that distinguishes a democratic state from a non‑democratic state is the principle of equality when it comes to rights and obligations. In a democratic country, all citizens regardless of race, religious, gender or origin are entitled to equality when it comes to national assets, services and resources, and all citizens regardless of race, religion, gender or origin are equally obligated by national duties.

For example, in a democratic country everyone must pay taxes (although at different rates, of course,) and everyone must obey the law. On the other hand, every citizen in a democratic state is entitled to enjoy individual freedoms. One is entitled to purchase assets in the country, marry anyone he or she wish, work wherever one wants, study whatever one wishes, and express himself or herself as they wish.

In short, equality is the basic tenet of a liberal western democracy and without it a country is not democratic in practice although possibly democratic by law.

… in a series of three decisions that are separate but connected through a stench of racism and discrimination, Israel entered the dismal pantheon of non‑democratic states. This past Wednesday, Israel decided to be like apartheid‑era South Africa, and some will say even worse countries that no longer exist.13

The following are comments made by Yossi Beilin, a member of the Knesset, and chairman of the Israeli Meretz‑Yahad Party, on the uproar caused in the United States over former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

I cannot recall when the publication of a book has generated such a debate in Israel. And even though we are talking here about a book that was published in the United States and has yet to be translated into Hebrew, the quiet way in which “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” has been received in Israel is nevertheless noteworthy, not least because it is Israel itself that is the object of Carter’s opprobrium.

Part of the explanation for why Carter’s book did not set off any public outcry in Israel lies in the difference in literary culture. For better or worse — and I, for one, certainly think that it is for worse — books just don’t matter here in the way they still do elsewhere. Yet perhaps a larger part of the explanation lies with the difference in political culture, and with local sensitivities (or perhaps insensitivities) to language and moral tone.

It is not that Israelis are indifferent to what is said about them, but the threshold of what passes as acceptable here is apparently much higher than it is with Israel’s friends in the United States. In the case of this particular book, the harsh words that Carter reserves for Israel are simply not as jarring to Israeli ears, which have grown used to such language, especially with respect to the occupation.

In other words, what Carter says in his book about the Israeli occupation and our treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories — and perhaps no less important, how he says it — is entirely harmonious with the kind of criticism that Israelis themselves voice about their own country. There is nothing in the criticism that Carter has for Israel that has not been said by Israelis themselves.14

Uri Avnery, the leader of the Israeli peace organization Gush Shalom, also served in the Israeli Knesset. He has written many articles criticizing the occupation of Palestinian land after the 1967 War.15 In one of his many articles he compared Manifest Destiny in the United States and Israel.

In this respect, too, Israel resembles the United States, which was founded along the Eastern seaboard and did not rest until it had reached the Western shores on the other side of the continent. The incessant stream of mass immigration from Europe flowed on westwards, breaching all borders and violating all agreements, exterminating the Native Americans, starting a war against Mexico, conquering Texas, invading Central America and Cuba. The slogan that drove them on and justified all their actions was coined in 1845 by John O’Sullivan: Manifest Destiny.

The Israeli version of Manifest Destiny is Moshe Dayan’s slogan: “We are fated”. Dayan, a typical representative of the second generation, made two important speeches in his life. The first and better known was delivered in 1956 at the grave of Roy Rutenberg of Nahal Oz, a kibbutz facing Gaza: “Before their [the Palestinians in Gaza] very eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived … This is the fate of our generation, the choice of our life – to be prepared and armed, strong and tough – or otherwise, the sword will slip from our fist, and our life will be snuffed out.”

He did not mean only his own generation. The second, lesser known speech is more important. It was delivered in August 1968, after the occupation of the Golan Heights, before a rally of young Kibbutzniks. When I asked him about it in the Knesset, he inserted the entire speech into the Knesset record, a very unusual procedure in our parliament.

This is what he told the youth: “We are fated to live in a permanent state of fighting against the Arabs … For the hundred years of the Return to Zion we are working for two things: the building of the land and the building of the people … That is a process of expansion, of more Jews and more settlements … That is a process that has not reached the end. We were born here and found our parents, who had come here before us … It is not your duty to reach the end. Your duty is to add your layer … to expand the settlement to the best of your ability, during your lifetime … (and) not to say: this is the end, up to here, we have finished.”

Dayan, who was well versed in the ancient texts, probably had in mind the phrase in the Chapter of the Fathers (a part of the Mishnah, which was finished 1800 years ago and formed the basis of the Talmud): “It is not up to you to finish the work, and you are not free to stop doing it.”

That is the hidden agenda. We must haul it up from the depths of our unconscious minds to the realm of consciousness in order to face it, to reveal the terrible danger inherent in it, the danger of an eternal war which may in the fullness of time lead this state to disaster.16

Sometimes the sons and daughters of leading Israeli politicians also strongly disagree with their parents’ politics on the Palestinian issue. Here are the comments of Steven Plaut, a strong Zionist supporter, who has taken upon himself the task of attacking former Israeli critics of Israel.

Perhaps the most bizarre anti‑Israel expatriate… is Yigal Arens, who works at the University of Southern California in computer technology. Arens is the son of Moshe Arens, the militant nationalist political leader of the Likud in Israel, who served as Israel’s Minister of Defense. Arens junior however has devoted himself to demonizing Israel and promoting boycotts of Israel. Perhaps he enjoys making his daddy angry.17

What Plaut does not acknowledge is that a highly regarded authority on International law Richard Aren’s, the brother of Moshe Arens, also was a strong critic of Israel. He equated Israeli policies towards the Palestinians with the Nazi persecution of the Jews.18 Their family gatherings must have been interesting.

Uri Davis, author of Israel: An Apartheid State (London: Zed Books, 1987) and many other studies19 on Israel and Zionism was elected in August 2009 to serve on the Fatah Revolutionary Council. 20 In an interview with the British daily newspaper The Observer, Davis explained his views on Zionism. To quote the article:

Davis is careful with his definitions of both “Zionism” and his own “anti‑Zionism”. The Zionism that he opposes is the “political Zionism” of Israel’s founders, the Zionism that amounts, he says, to land grab based on ethnic cleansing.

Davis himself insists on reclaiming a wider meaning for the word, not least because he was shaped, as he grew up, by a different school: the “spiritual Zionism” of thinkers such as Ahad Ha’am, religious philosopher Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, co‑founder of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

In contrast to political Zionism, which saw Jewish statehood alone as a solution to the Jewish question, these spiritual Zionists believed Palestine could not accommodate a Jewish homeland but should become a national spiritual centre that would support and reinvigorate the Jewish diaspora.21

Davis is not the first Palestinian Jew to serve in Palestinian governing structures. Ilan Halevi, a Jewish Palestinian, held a top‑ranked position in the PLO. He was the PLO ambassador to Europe and its representative to the Socialist International.22

The anti‑Zionist Neturei Karta Jewish religious sect has also asked for affiliation with the Palestine National Council. Rabbi Moshe Hirsch has even offered to serve as minister for Jewish Affairs in a Palestinian government‑in‑exile.23 Rabbi Hirsch stated:

We are as Palestinian as Yasser Arafat. There are Jewish Palestinians, and there are Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians. In regard to issues relating to the Palestinian people, we also have our interests. If a state is established we would like to have our representation in the government.

Another example of the type of discussion that goes on in Israel is the following statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert: “For sixty years there has been discrimination against Arabs in Israel. This discrimination is deep‑seated and intolerable.” Olmert made this statement while addressing a meeting of the Knesset committee that was investigating the lack of integration of Arab citizens in the Israeli public service.24 Prime Minister Olmert also made the following comment in an interview with Haaretz: “If the day comes when the two‑state solution collapses, and we face a South African‑style struggle for equal voting rights, then as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”25

Yet another example is Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (from the right-wing Likud Party) who called for a fundamental change in relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel. He urged the founding of a “true partnership” between the two sectors, based on mutual respect, absolute equality and the addressing of “the special needs and unique character of each of the sides.” The Speaker was reported to say all this in an address to be delivered at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on August 3, 2009. Quoting from Rivlin’s prepared speech which was released to the media:

… the establishment of Israel was accompanied by much pain and suffering and a real trauma for the Palestinians (in large part due to the shortsightedness of the Palestinian leadership). Many of Israel’s Arabs, which see themselves as part of the Palestinian population, feel the pain of their brothers across the green line ‑ a pain they feel the state of Israel is responsible for.

Many of them encounter racism and arrogance from Israel’s Jews; the inequality in the allocation of state funds also does not contribute to any extra love.26

Can you ever imagine a top American or Canadian politician making statements like these, or a leading Canadian or American newspaper publishing comments like these ones? If the politicians did make statements like these what would be the reaction?

Rivlin, however, still tried to focus the blame on the Palestinian leadership for the problems and does not fully acknowledge Israel’s part in the expulsions. These expulsions and massacres started before the official declaration of Israel’s Independence on May 14, 1948 and before the “intervention” of the Arab armies. According to Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe there were expulsions of the Palestinians from 30 villages after the War had ended in 1949 and in fact continued until 1953.27

Here is what Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe wrote on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians:

Ethnic cleansing is not genocide, but it does carry with it atrocious acts of mass killing and butchering. Thousands of Palestinians were killed ruthlessly and savagely by Israeli troops of all back grounds, ranks and ages. None of these Israelis was ever tried for war crimes, in spite of the overwhelming evidence.27

Rivlin also does not address the land seizures from Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes but remained in Israel. These individuals were considered Israeli citizens, but still lost all of their property. These individuals are called “present Absentees,” an Orwellian phrase if there ever was one. Here is how one Israeli academic, Gabriel Piterberg, describes the phrase and how it relates to Israel: “How the founding myths of Israel dictated conceptual removal of Palestinians, during and after physical removal. The invention of ‘retroactive transfer’ and ‘present absentees’ as the glacial euphemisms of ethnic cleansing.”28

Nor does Rivlin acknowledge that most of the Zionist leadership wanted all of Palestine without its Arab population and this wish “miraculously” came true.29 Palestinian leadership, inept as it was, cannot be blamed for everything.

Veteran Israeli Peace activist, and former Knesset member, Uri Avnery had the following to say on the Goldstone Commission findings:

Is there no limit to the wiles of those dastardly anti‑Semites?

Now they have decided to slander the Jews with another blood libel. Not the old accusation of slaughtering Christian children to use their blood for baking Passover matzoth, as in the past, but of the mass slaughter of women and children in Gaza.

And who did they put at the head of the commission which was charged with this task? Neither a British Holocaust‑denier nor a German neo‑Nazi, nor even an Iranian fanatic, but of all people a Jewish judge who bears the very Jewish name of Goldstone (originally Goldstein, of course). And not just a Jew with a Jewish name, but a Zionist, whose daughter, Nicole, is an enthusiastic Zionist who once “made Aliyah” and speaks fluent Hebrew. And not just a Jewish Zionist, but a South African who opposed apartheid and was appointed to the country’s Constitutional Court when that system was abolished.

All this in order to defame the most moral army in the world, fresh from waging the most just war in history!

Richard Goldstone is not the only Jew manipulated by the world‑wide anti‑Semitic conspiracy. Throughout the three weeks of the Gaza War, more than 10 thousand Israelis demonstrated against it again and again. They were photographed carrying signs saying ‘End the massacre in Gaza’, ‘Stop the war crimes’ ‘Israel commits war crimes’, ‘Bombing civilians is a war crime’. They chanted in unison: ‘Olmert, Olmert, it is true They’re waiting in The Hague for you!’

Who would have believed that there are so many anti‑Semites in Israel?!30

Avnery also commented on the reaction of Israelis to the accusations of Israel committing war crimes:

The instinctive reaction in such a situation is denial. It’s just not true. It never happened. It’s all a pack of lies.

By itself, that is a natural reaction. When a human being is faced with a situation which he cannot handle, denial is the first refuge. If things did not happen, there is no need to cope. Basically, there is no difference between the deniers of the Armenian genocide, the deniers of the annihilation of the Native Americans and the deniers of the atrocities of all wars.

From this point of view, it can be said that denial is almost “normal”. But with us it has been developed into an art form.30

The 2009 Israeli election which occurred after the attack on Gaza saw a further shift to the right in the Israeli electorate. Right-wing parties that were once considered racist fringe parties had moved into the Israeli mainstream and Kadima, founded by Ariel Sharon, found itself on the left of the Israeli political spectrum. The out emigration of more than one million Israelis,31 clearly has had some effect on Israel’s politics. Many Israelis who were opposed to the direction Israel politics was taking and being opposed the continued occupation of the West Bank left Israel. Many of these emigrants did not want their children to do their compulsory military service in the Occupied territories and be part of a perpetual war with the Arabs. This exodus supplemented by the immigration of militant right-wing Zionists and right-wing religious Zionists to Israel, in my opinion, has resulted in a decided shift towards the right in Israeli politics. This shift has supported the rise of politicians like Avigdor Lieberman who openly calls for the expulsion of the Arabs. Here is what one Jerusalem born Israeli expatriate had to say on the shift in Israeli politics:

The Arab citizens of Israel, traditionally ignored by left and right Zionists as a “barely tolerable” minority, embody the impossibility and futility of the attempt to achieve ethnic purity by means of division. A few years of rising racism inside Israel turned its Arab citizens into a “ticking bomb” of the “demographic danger”, and unleashed unprecedented attacks against them by the right wing, with little to no response from the Zionist left. Avigdor Lieberman gained his startling achievement in Tuesday’s elections by riding this wave to its natural conclusion. His revolutionary idea – giving up not only territories in the West Bank and Gaza but even territories of Israel proper, in order to get rid of as many Arabs as possible – confused and embarrassed the Zionist left. It had also exposed the absurdity and moral unacceptability of the whole Zionist idea by taking it to its only rational conclusion. If having a Jewish state is the most desirable goal, than getting rid of the non‑Jewish citizens is the only rational way to go about it. And hey, it is all to take place in a very benign way: no more talks of “transfer”, but an adoption of the “lefty” slogans of division. And all this under the new sinister banner “No loyalty – No citizenship”.

The fact that Lieberman can easily claim to be a genuine successor of Israel’s founder, Labourite David Ben Gurion, should be an alarm bell in the ears of any Israeli liberal. It is time for any Israeli with an enlightened self‑image to look at the mirror and see Avigdor Lieberman staring back. It is time to stop the procrastination over the question whether Israel can be both Jewish and democratic. Lieberman provided the answer loud and clear: it cannot. At this late hour, when the shadow of proto‑fascism is hovering over the land, it is time to join forces with Palestinian citizens in the battle against ethnic purity, and for a true democracy. It is time to stop fidgeting, and to admit that mono‑ethnicism cannot be a framework for liberal values. It is time to apologise to MK Azmi Bshara, who was dabbed “an Arab nationalist” by Israeli liberals because of his call for “a state of all its citizens”. It is time to rethink Zionism.32

Other critical voices from Israel’s political circles include the late Livia Rokach, (also transliterated as Rokah) the daughter of Israel Rokach, Minister of the Interior in the government of Moshe Sharett, second prime minister of Israel;33 and former General and Knesset Member Mattityahu Peled who headed the Progressive List for Peace;34 his daughter Nurit Peled-Elhanan a lecturer in Language Education at Hebrew University;35 and his son Miko Peled;36 and Meron Benvenisti, former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem.37

This article only reviews a portion of the critical debate in Israel from Israeli politicians. There is much more debate and critical examination of Zionism and of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. Serious discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must include the full spectrum of opinion in keeping with democratic values, free speech and much needed critical inquiry. In Israel, there is a vibrant political debate, and while this debate and democratic discourse is coming increasingly under attack, this debate contributes to the vitality of Israeli society as it deals with the Palestinian issue, the nature of a “Jewish State” and how to govern its society.

America, which provides a great deal of financial, military and political support for Israel, needs to be aware of this debate in Israel and in Jewish circles, and to understand the ramifications of uncritical support for the policies and actions of Israel toward the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. To stifle and censor the discussion of these important issues does no favors for the United States or for Israel or the Jewish people.

  1. George Soros, “On Israel, America and AIPAC,” The New York Review of Books, Volume 54, Number 6, April 12, 2007. []
  2. “Jimmy Carter’s apology to the Jewish people,” by Cecilie Surasky. Muzzle Watch. December 28, 2009. []
  3. Menahem Begin, letter, Haaretz, August, 4, 1981; translated in Israleft News Service, 191, August 20, 1981, cited in Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77. []
  4. Abba Eban, “Morality and warfare,” The Jerusalem Post, August 16, 1981 in cited in Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77. []
  5. Edward Herman, The Real Terror Network, (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1982), p. 77-78. For further discussion of what Edward Herman describes as “Israel’s Sacred Terrorism,” see p. 76-79. []
  6. “The Six Day War’s Seventh Day,” by Michael Ben‑Yair, Haaretz, March 3rd, 2002. This article is also reproduced in The Other Israel, Voices of Refusal and Dissent, Foreword by Tom Segev and Introduction by Anthony Lewis, edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin. (New York: New Press, 2002), p.13-15. []
  7. “The Apostate: A Zionist politician loses faith in the future,” by David Remnick, The New Yorker, July 30, 2007. []
  8. “The end of Zionism,” by Avraham Burg, The Guardian, September 15, 2003. []
  9. “Burg Defining Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end,” by Ari Shavit, Haaretz, June 7, 2007. See also “Leaving the Zionist ghetto: Interview with Avraham Burg,” by Ari Shavit Haaretz June 8, 2007. []
  10. “Yes it is apartheid,” by Yossi Sarid, Haaretz, April 25, 2008. []
  11. “You can continue with the Liquidations, by Shluamit Aloni, January 18, 2002 published in “The Other Israel, Voices of Refusal and Dissent,” Foreword by Tom Segev and Introduction by Anthony Lewis, edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin. (New York: New Press, 2002) p. 85-87; and “Murder of a population under cover of righteousness,” by Shulamit Aloni, Haaretz, March 6, 2003; “Just make sure we don’t know,” by Shulamit Aloni, YNet News, April 8, 2006. Also see “First Lady of Human Rights: A Conversation with Shulamit Aloni, Former Knesset Member Who Headed the Meretz Party,” interview with Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, August 14, 2002. []
  12. “Indeed there is Apartheid in Israel,” by Shulamit Aloni, Yediot Acharonot, May 1, 2006. The article is was published in Israel’s largest circulating newspaper in the Hebrew edition but not in the English‑language YNetNews. It was translated by Sol Salbe, an Israeli-Australian editor and translator, and distributed through the Australian based Middle East News Service sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The Hebrew original is here. [] [] []
  13. “Our apartheid state, Three racist, discriminatory decisions undermine Israel’s democratic character,” by Yossi Paritzky, YNet News, July 24, 2007. []
  14. “Carter Is No More Critical of Israel Than Israelis Themselves,” by Yossi Beilin, The Forward, January 19, 2007 republished in Occupation Magazine, February 2, 2007. []
  15. See for example “On Israeli Fascism: A Little Red Light,” by Uri Avnery, CounterPunch, April 28, 2009; and “Racists for Democracy,” by Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, May 30, 2009, published in Occupation Magazine, May 31, 2009. []
  16. “Manifest Destiny?,” by Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, April 12, 2008. []
  17. “Network of Expatriate Treachery,” by Steven Plaut, FrontPage Magazine, July 9, 2007. []
  18. Rosie DiManno, “Israeli policies like Nazi persecution Arens’ brother says,” Toronto Star, September l9, 1983, (published only in the Metro edition). See also John Motavalli, “The Arens brothers, agreeing to disagree,” The Middle East, March 1983, p. 19‑20. []
  19. See for example Uri Davis, Palestinian Arabs in Israel: Two Case Studies (co-author), (London: Ithaca Press, 1978); Citizenship and the State: A Comparative Study of Citizenship Legislation in Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, (Reading, Berkshire UK: Ithaca Press, 1997); and Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the struggle within, (New York: Zed Books, 2003). []
  20. See, “First Jew is elected to Fatah Revolutionary Council,” by DPA, Haaretz., August 15, 2009. []
  21. “Why Israeli Jew Uri Davis joined Fatah to save Palestine,” by Peter Beaumont, The Observer, August 23, 2009. See also “The lonely struggle of Uri Davis: The Jewish born Fatah councillor is widely mocked but his secular vision for a binational Israel is not so crazy,” by Seth Freedman, The Guardian, September 1, 2009. []
  22. Brendan Weston, “An Interview with Ilan Ha‑levi: Both Jew and PLO Member,” The Arab World Review, April 1988, p. 16. For an example of his work see Ilan Halevi, A History of the Jews: Ancient and Modern, translated by A. M. Berrett (London & Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Zed Books, 1987). []
  23. Press release: Tevet 20, 5748, January 10, 1988, from Seven‑man Neturei Karta Supreme Council. See also Ed Krales, “Orthodox Jews Oppose Israel,” Palestine Focus, July‑August, 1987, p. 8. []
  24. See “PM slams ‘discrimination’ against Arabs,” by Elie Leshem and Jpost.com Staff, Jerusalem Post, November 12, 2008. For another example of see “Olmert voices sorrow for plight of Palestinian, Jewish refugees,” by Shahar Ilan, Haaretz, September 15, 2008. []
  25. See “Olmert to Haaretz: Two-state solution, or Israel is done for,” by Aluf Benn, David Landau, Barak Ravid and Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz, November 29, 2007. “Olmert: Clock ticking on Jewish state,” Jewish Telegraph Agency, November 29, 2007. See also “Olmert warns of end of Israel,” BBC, November 29, 2007. Olmert also made similar statements in an interview in November 2003. See “Maximum Jews, minimum Palestinians,” Haaretz, November 13, 2003. []
  26. See, “Knesset Speaker: Establishment of Israel caused Arabs real trauma,” by Haaretz Service, Haaretz, August 3, 2009. []
  27. See “Completing the Job,” Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2006) p. 179-198. See also “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” by Ilan Pappe review by Stephen Lendman, Global Research, February 7, 2007. [] []
  28. See “Erasures,” by Gabriel Piterberg, New Left Review, July-August 2001; see also “Unrecognized` Palestinians,” by Stephen Lendman, ICAHD website, September 09, 2007, published in Occupation Magazine, September 9, 2009. []
  29. One unrestrained expression of this view is found in the book They Must Go, by Rabbi Meir Kahane (New York: Grossett & Dunlap, 1981). []
  30. “Those Dastardly Anti‑Semites,” by Uri Avnery, Information Clearing House, September 19, 2009. [] []
  31. Emigrating from Israel is called yeridah (going down). Immigrating to Israeli is called “Aliyah” or “ascent”. Demography is a sensitive topic for Israelis and there is considerable debate over the numbers of emigrants and their reasons for leaving Israeli. See “Israel’s demographic dilemma,” by Howard Skutel, International Perspectives, March/April 1987, p. 21-23. A YNet News article reports that 800,000 Israelis are living in the United States. See “Demographic threat a myth: The Jewish majority west of the Jordan River will remain strong,” by Yoram Ettinger, YNet News, February 9, 2006; see also, “Recent Trends in Emigration from Israel: The Impact of Palestinian Violence,” by Ian S. Lustik, paper presented at annual meeting of the Association for Israel Studies, Jerusalem, June 14-16, 2004; and also “Aliyah sees 9% dip from 2005,” by Moti Bassok, Haaretz, February 21, 2007; “Emigration from Israel exceeds immigration, report,” Deutsche Presse‑Agentur (dpa) April 20, 2007 posted on the St. Louis Jewish Community’s web site. To quote the article: “….Maariv newspaper reported that approximately a quarter of the Israeli population was considering emigration. Almost half of the country’s young people were thinking of leaving the country, the report said. Their reasons included dissatisfaction with the government, the education system, a lack of confidence in the political ruling class and concern over the security situation.” []
  32. “It’s time to rethink Zionism,” by Daphna Baram, The Guardian, February 17, 2009. Daphna Baram is a freelance writer and journalist. Her features and articles have appeared in the Guardian, New Statesman, Independent, Jewish Quarterly, Ha’aretz and Yediot. Born in Jerusalem 1970, she worked as a human rights lawyer in the military courts in the Went Bank and Gaza, and later as a feature write, commentator, news editor and deputy editor‑in‑chief for the Jerusalem based weekly Kol Ha’ir. Her book Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel (2004) was written during a fellowship period at the Reuters Foundation programme and a year as a senior associate member at St Antony’s College in Oxford. Her translation into Hebrew of The Nuremberg Interviews was published in March 2006 (Ivrit). She is based currently in London. []
  33. Livia Rokach, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism: A study based on Moshe Sharett’s Personal Diary, and other documents, (Belmont, Massachusetts: Association of Arab‑American University Graduates Inc, 1986). See also “Livia Rokach Israel’s Sacred Terrorism: A Study Based on Moshe Sharett’s Personal Diary and Other Documents,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 18, 1985, p. 11. Review by Richard Curtis. []
  34. On the 1967 “Six Day War” General Mattityahu Peled, a member of Israel’s general staff in 1967, opined that “the thesis according to which the danger of genocide weighed on us in June 1967, and that Israel struggled for its physical existence is only a bluff born and developed after the war.” Le Monde, June 3, 1972, p. 4; For an example of his views see, “Israeli‑Palestinian Peace: If Not Now, When?” by Mattityahu Peled. keynote speech given at the Breira National Conference in 1977; see also, “The Palestinian Position: An Exchange,” by Mattityahu Peled, and Reply by Bernard Avishai, New York Review of Books, Volume 27, Number 3 × March 6, 1980. See The Other Israel for commemorative articles published in his honor after his death including, “A ‘traitor’ before his time,” by Teddy Preuss, Translated from Davar, March 12, 1995; and “I shall not see his like again,” by Uri Avnery, translated from Ma’ariv, March 3, 1995. []
  35. “On education, racism and murder,” by Nurit Peled‑Elhanan, Jerusalem, March 16, 2006, translated and published in Occupation Magazine, November 24, 2007; and In the State of Israel the Jewish mother is disappearing,” by Nurit Peled‑Elhanan, speech given to the Israeli Peace group Women in Black, on December 28, 2007, translated and published in Occupation Magazine, January 6, 2008. She blamed Israel’s policies for the death of her daughter Smadar. Smadar (14 years old) was killed by an Arab suicide bomber on September 4, 1997. []
  36. See “Fighting for peace,” by Judd Handler, San Diego Jewish Journal, October, 2003; “It’s Time To Visit Gaza,” by Miko Peled, Electronic Intifada February 17, 2007. “Torture: Read it in the Israeli press,” by Miko Peled, The Electronic Intifada, April 4, 2007, republished in Occupation Magazine on April 5, 2007; “A crack in the wall,” by Miko Peled, The Electronic Intifada, October 1, 2007; “Pardon me, But I’m Jewish,” by Miko Peled, Activist Magazine, October 15, 2008. “They like to call it war,” by Miko Peled, Occupation Magazine, September 20, 2009. He is an Israeli peace activist and writer living in the US. Peled is co‑founder of the Elbanna Peled Foundation in memory of Smadar Elhanan and Abir Aramin. []
  37. “A ridiculous war against the gaps,” by Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz, June 29, 2006. []

Edward C. Corrigan is a lawyer certified as a Specialist in Citizenship and Immigration Law and Immigration and Refugee Protection by the Law Society of Upper Canada in London, Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at: corriganlaw@edcorrigan.ca. Read other articles by Edward, or visit Edward's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. cweinblatt said on July 30th, 2010 at 1:21pm #

    The US sends more money to the enemies of Israel than to Israel. How is this not balanced? Should it matter that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and the enemies of Israel are fascist theocracies that deny women and non-Muslims equal rights? Why does this not seem to matter to “Jew-controlled American foreign policy?”

    Those who engage in contemporary anti-Semitism have no details to offer, just antagonistic statements. This is simply a new twist on the old Nazi propaganda. “Jews are mendacious. They control too much. They own too much. They plan world domination.” Strangely, no one can offer any logical way that less than 1% of the world’s population can gain control over everything.

    Israel has been attacked repeatedly in every decade since its inception, in 1948. How would you defend your legal home from suicide bombers and daily rocket attacks? What would you have Israel do, surrender and walk away from their ancestral homeland? Since giving Gaza to Palestinians in 2005, more than 4,000 rockets have been launched from that land into Israeli cities and towns, aimed at defenseless Jewish women and children. And people have the chutzpah to call Israel “aggressive.” The world has become difficult to understand. I’m sure that my family thought the same thing, before they were marched into Nazi gas chambers.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage
    http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

  2. kalidas said on July 30th, 2010 at 3:04pm #

    “Jacob’s courage.”
    A work of fiction.
    Correct?

  3. urbanomad said on July 30th, 2010 at 4:15pm #

    @cweinblatt, your arguments are the typical Zionist line, labelling anyone questioning the Zionist régime as anti-semitic. I am not anti-jew but I am definitely anti-Zionist. There’s a huge difference.

  4. teafoe2 said on July 30th, 2010 at 5:48pm #

    hey cweinblatt, that tired crap you’re regurgitating may still have a few buyers in some places, but you won’t find many on DV, even amongst Chomsky fans. Suggest you may have more success if you seek suckers elsewhere? Rotsa ruck:)

  5. yoni said on July 30th, 2010 at 7:53pm #

    @urbanomad – perhaps you’re really anti-Zionist and not anti-Jew, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. But replacing one bigotry with another bigotry doesn’t make bigotry right. Whether you’re anti-Jew or anti-Zionist, you’re still demonizing and delegitimizing an entire people (not surprisingly, using almost the same arguments in both discourses…).
    Anti-Zionism is as illegitimate as anti-Semitism. To deny the Jewish people of the same rights given to any other nation is illegitimate. To stereotype and demonize the Jewish people and to distort their national aspirations and movement – is illegitimate, and should be denounced as anti-Semitism is denounced today in the civilized world.

  6. mary said on July 31st, 2010 at 12:11am #

    How outrageous that the dangerous PA quisling met with AIPAC. That was kept very quiet.

    http://www.palestinechronicle.com/
    07/30/2010
    Don’t Deny Our Rights: Open Letter to Mahmoud Abbas

    The following open letter to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose elected mandate expired in July 2009 and who has remained in power under controversial emergency laws, was issued on 22 July 2010:

    We are Palestinians of diverse perspectives and affiliations — scholars, intellectuals, artists, activists, trade unionists, human rights advocates and civil society leaders, inside historic Palestine and in exile — who are united in our commitment to the fulfillment of the fundamental rights of all Palestinians, particularly our inalienable right to self-determination. This universally sanctioned right encompasses, at a minimum, freedom from occupation and colonization in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem; full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

    During a 9 June meeting with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you reportedly said: “I would never deny [the] Jewish right to the land of Israel,” a statement that you have yet to retract. We regard this announcement, which adopts a central tenet of Zionism, as a grave betrayal of the collective rights of the Palestinian people. It is tantamount to a surrender of the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live in equality in their own homeland, in which they have steadfastly remained despite the apartheid regime imposed on them for decades. It also concedes the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

    No Palestinian institution or leader has ever accepted an exclusive Jewish claim to Palestine, which is irreconcilable with the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people. Our rights inhere in us as a people; they are not yours to do with as you please.

    We, as Palestinians urgently need a legally and democratically elected leadership that is responsible, capable and committed to the fulfillment of our national rights and aspirations to live in freedom, dignity and just peace in our ancestral homeland. We call on all Palestinians to immediately revive the democratic processes that our people have struggled so hard to build, so that we can designate leaders with an effective vision and strategy for achieving our rights as a people.

    Initial Signatories:

    Saleh Abdel-Jawad, Assoc. Prof. of History, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Abdul-Rahim Al-Shaikh, poet and academic (Jerusalem); Naseer Aruri, Prof. Emeritus, University of Massachusetts (Dartmouth); Mourid Barghouti, poet and author (Ramallah/Cairo); Omar Barghouti, commentator and human rights activist (Jerusalem); Ramzy Baroud, author and editor of the Palestine Chronicle (Seattle); George Bisharat, Prof., UC Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco); Haidar Eid, academic and boycott, divestment and sanctions activist (Gaza); Samera Esmeir, Assist. Prof. of Rhetoric, Univ. of California, Berkeley (Haifa); Wael Hallaq, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Nadia Hijab, author and human rights advocate (Washington, DC); Jamil Hilal, sociologist and author (Ramallah); Islah Jad, Assist. Prof. of Gender & Development, Birzeit Univ. (Ramallah); Hatem Kanaaneh, medical doctor and author (Sakhnin); Ghada Karmi, author and Fellow, Exeter University (Exeter); Nur Masalha, Prof. of Religion and Politics, St. Mary’s Univ. College (London); Joseph Massad, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Jean Said Makdisi, author (Beirut); Saree Makdisi, Prof., University of California at Los Angeles (Los Angeles); Zakaria Muhammad, novelist (Ramallah); Karma Nabulsi, Fellow in Politics, University of Oxford (Oxford); Eyad Sarraj, psychiatrist (Gaza)

    (alphabetical order – institutions for identification only)

    Endorsers:

    Mohammed Abu Abdu, Pal. Student Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) (Gaza); Bashir Abu-Manneh, Prof., Columbia University (New York); Mohsen Abu Ramadan, civil society activist and independent political commentator (Gaza); Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine Land Society (London); Abdefattah Abusrour, President of Palestinian Theatre League, Jerusalem – General Director of Alrowwad Cultural and Theatre Society, (Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem); Majeed Al-Barghouthi, poet and writer (Amman); Musa Al-Hindi, Coord. Comm. member, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN); Hala Al-Yamani, Assist. Prof., Bethlehem University (Bethlehem); Lubna Arikat, community activist (San Diego); Huwaida Arraf, attorney and human rights activist, New York; Khaled Barakat, writer and activist, Vancouver; Nasser Barghouti, human rights activist (San Diego); Diana Buttu, lawyer (Ramallah); Yasmeen Daher, lecturer at Birzeit University and human rights activist (Jaffa); Seif Da’na, Prof. of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Parkside (Parkside); Lamis J. Deek, attorney and human rights advocate (New York); Noura Erakat, human rights attorney (Washington, DC); Leila Farsakh, Assoc. Prof., University of Massachusetts (Boston); Jess Ghannam, Prof., University of California, San Francisco (San Francisco); Lubna Hammad, lawyer and human rights activist, Adalah-NY (New York); Rema Hammami, Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology, Birzeit University (Ramallah); Nizar Hasan, filmmaker (Nazareth); Zaha Hassan, civil rights attorney and human rights advocate (Oregon); Kamel Hawwash, Assoc. Prof. in Civil Engineering, University of Birmingham (Birmingham); Monadel Herzallah, US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), San Francisco; May Jayyusi, Exec. Director of Muwatin, Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy (Ramallah); Ray Jureidini, sociologist, Cairo; Jamal Kanj, author, (Nahr el Bared refugee camp); Osamah Khalil, PhD Candidate, University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley); Suleiman Mansour, visual artist (Jerusalem); Dina Matar, academic, SOAS – University of London (London); Moammar Mashni, Co-Founder, Australians for Palestine (Melbourne); Mazen Masri, lawyer and human rights activist (Toronto); Fouad Moughrabi, Prof. and Head of Dept. of Political Science, Univ. of Tennessee (Chattanooga); Rana Nashashibi, activist, Coalition for Jerusalem (Jerusalem); Mary Nazzal-Batayneh, Barrister, Palestine Legal Aid Fund (London); Mahmoud Oriqat, Engineer (San Diego); Mazin Qumsiyeh, Prof. (Bethlehem); Ahmad Sadi, Academic (Galilee); Grace Said, activist (Washington, DC); Dalal Yassine, lawyer and human rights advocate (Beirut); Raja Zaatry, journalist (Haifa); Elia Zureik, Prof. Emeritus of Sociology, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario)

  7. John WV said on July 31st, 2010 at 2:56am #

    Jews have always been persecuted. Israel continuously provides evidence of the causal Jewish behavior. Did German Jews acquire disproportionate media, financial and political control as they have in the United States? Did they then collectively act to the detriment of Germany and thereby precipitate the Holocaust? America’s multiple and continuing mid east wars have all been initiated with the urging of AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, and other Israeli agencies. All have benefited Israel at our expense. American Jews were central to, and grossly enriched by, the Wall Street obscenity. Israel is a Jewish state, a racist apartheid state by, of, and for the chosen people. It feigns and exploits alliance, but an ally Israel will never be.

  8. mary said on July 31st, 2010 at 6:51am #

    The torment continues for Mordecai Vanunu.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/93478

  9. Ismail Zayid said on August 5th, 2010 at 11:47am #

    It defies credibility how Israel has acquired this unique immunity from any criticism of its policies, an immunity that is not available to any other state…

    Ed. Corrigan displays the manifestations of this unique phenomenon accurately and eloquently.