Welcome Jeremy Ben-Ami, JStreet.com, and Host Phil Munger / EdwardTeller, ProgressiveAlaska.com

A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation

Host, EdwardTeller:

I. In midsummer 2006, while my wife and kids were on our yearly trip down to Seattle, to be with our extended Norwegian-Jewish-Cambodian-Icelandic-Swedish-Texan family, the so-called Israel-Hezbollah War was in full rage.  My brother-in-law and I were watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN, as he interviewed one pro-Israel talking head expert after another, describing the war not just from the Israeli point of view, but from a right-wing Israeli standpoint.

After the program, he lamented that the voice for Israel in the American media, in public affairs and in politics is almost always from a perspective much further from the right than it should be to reflect the views of the average Israeli, or those of the American Jewish community.  He longed for a new organization, based from the positions of moderates, to counter the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other hawkish pro-Israel groups.

“But,” Lee lamented, “that’ll never happen.”

Some say it has now happened.  From what I’ve learned by reading Jeremy Ben-Ami’s recently published book, A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for Survival of the Jewish Nation, I’m inclined to have hope that it has.

Jeremy Ben-Ami is the prime guiding force behind the creation of J Street, which many cite as being exactly what Lee had hoped might come into action in the American political and public information arenas.  Ben-Ami, like Lee was frustrated that one public affairs advocacy group, often expressing the polarizing and militant views of a small minority of American Jews, was seen as the sole voice in a struggle that is very nuanced, and contains many diverse viewpoints, suggestions, narratives and hopes.  Judging from some of the positive reactions to J Street on the left and right, and from negative ones on right and left, one might suspect that J Street is doing its job of changing the nature of the game in Washington DC’s political battles for influence rather well.

II. A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for Survival of the Jewish Nation is structured to tell Ben-Ami’s personal story, and to give that compelling journey a context which reinforces the reasons he wrote the book.  He wants to give the background for “a new definition of victory for pro-Israel advocacy.”  He divides the book into three parts:  Four Generations of Zionists, The Rulebook and Fulfilling the Dream.

Four Generations of Zionists tells the story of his family and how that is important to the depth of his personal makeup.  He introduces these fascinating people with “My great-grandfather was a bootlegger, my grandfather was a card shark and my father was a terrorist.”  He then goes on to describe his family’s oddysies from the Czarist Pale to Ottoman Palestine in the late 19th century.  His ancestors lived in Jerusalem, on agricultural settlements, and were among the founders of Tel Aviv.

Ben-Ami’s father – the “terrorist” – came from Israel to the U.S. as part of the Bergson Group‘s efforts toward “bringing the Irgun’s message to the United States.”  In 1940, he fought the mainstream American Jewish establishment’s efforts of “supporting the notion that only ‘selected’ [Jewish] immigrants ‘trained in Europe for productive purposes’ be allowed to enter Palestine [from Europe].”  Ben-Ami’s dad and colleagues were followed and bugged by J. Edgar Hoover, as they were harassed by the Jewish establishment.

His dad didn’t just have run-ins with the Jewish establishment in America. When his dad, after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, tried to bring a former American LST, renamed the Altalena, ashore in Palestine/Israel in the summer of 1948, 16 members of the crew, some close friends of his father, were killed by rival members of the Haganah on the beach or in skirmishes.

Jeremy Ben-Ami was born in the USA, and has since identified more as an American than as his grandparents might have enjoyed.  The first section of his book not only describes his family’s fascinating history in Russia, the Ottoman Empire and the Palestinian Mandate,  it gives a living pulse to what it might have been like to be there, and describes in detail the intricacies of Zionism in the making, and of conflicts in his coming of age about what that term means.

The Rulebook may be the best description yet in book form of the rules American politicians are required to play by, regarding Israel, if they want to succeed and survive in the national arena.  He opens with a detailed description of a series of events I have long wanted to find out more about – the way Gov. Howard Dean’s 2003-2004 presidential campaign went from being a huge growth phenomenon, rapidly gaining a momentum that gave Dean political rock star status, to one in its slow death spiral.

On September 3, 2003, at a campaign meetup in Santa Fe, Dean stated, when asked what the U.S. role should be in mediating the disputes between Israel and Palestine, “It’s not our place to take sides.”  Needless to say, this was a big screw-up, and there was no way Dean could walk it back.

Ben-Ami’s story on how this unfolded, along with his following explanation of “The Rule Book,” might be worth printing as a separate volume sometime.  Many readers here are quite familiar with individual stories of politicians brought to heel or to retirement by the ways the rule book works; and we’re familiar with the way each politician’s speech to each Israel advocacy group has to contain the same shopworn lines of fealty; and we’re familiar with how boiler-plate House and Senate resolutions, churned out in the offices of AIPAC or JINSA get 99 to zero votes, or 435-3 votes.  But nowhere before, from such an insider’s viewpoint, has all this been out together.

Fulfilling the Dream is Ben-Ami’s story of how his quest for a reasonable advocacy and lobbying voice in DC for the majority of American Jews has become J Street.  It is an ongoing story, and the book benefits from the way a volume like this can take advantage of incorporating the latest events (the story goes up to late June,2011) into a book’s conclusions. (On the other hand, this is not a quickie book.)

He describes initial frustrations as he and his colleagues found difficulty in getting influential people in the progressive American Jewish community from being supportive to the point of letting anyone know of such support.  Aspects of this theme come in throughout the book.  One thing AIPAC and allied groups are immensely successful at is instilling fear in the heart of anyone who contemplates coming out against one of its policies, no matter how ill-advised or just plain stupid that policy might actually be.  Fulfilling the Dream is a must read for anyone who might consider creating an effective advocacy agency that is destined to run up against the most powerful special interests afoot.

III. One message Jeremy Ben-Ami reiterates as a mantra throughout A New Voice for Israel is his belief in a two-state solution that not only contains security for Israel, but justice and viability for the resultant Palestinian entity.  Although he criticizes Israeli governments and their American supporters for not being able to show a map of what those two states’ borders would be, Ben-Ami, too, is vague, perhaps purposefully, on just what that map might look like.  His description of a future Jerusalem also seems to lack something that one might draw on a piece of paper.

Ben-Ami writes in the book, in a section on President Obama caving regarding the renewal of West Bank settlement expansion in early 2011, “settlements are a symptom of the underlying disease – the lack of a defined border between Israel and the state-to-be of Palestine.”  He also regards Israeli treatment of Palestinians as morally repugnant, and the attitudes of American Jews who either support those policies or ignore the immorality of that as diminishing what Judaism is in the eyes of the world.

Recently, Ben-Ami’s and J Street’s commitment to eventual Israeli evacuation of the West Bank have been called into question.  It would be helpful if J Street would clarify what might be done with large settlements such as Efrat and others that the Israelis certainly intend to keep, when the value of these blocs represent far more than what anyone thinks the Israelis will cede in return.

Friday, Philip Weiss wrote about his concern by the recent statement from J Street representative, Steven Krubiner, at a recent event in Massachusetts.  Weiss:

Krubiner is a liberal, surely thinks of himself as a liberal, but his messaging was very conservative. As I noted earlier here, he never talked about the occupation and didn’t mention settlements until the Q-and-A. Settlements isn’t J Street’s agenda. There was a lot of unpleasant demographic talk. If we make a 6 percent land swap, the state of Israel will go to 86 percent Jewish (yes, and what about the Palestinians dealt out of Israel into a Palestinian state, on ethnic transfer terms, will they dig that?). Or: If you put a GPS device on everyone in Jerusalem and made the Palestinian dots green and the Israeli ones blue, you would find that it’s very “clean,” Jews move around in West Jerusalem and Palestinians stay in East Jerusalem.

Mr. Clean! Not for me!

Krubiner said, “Ideally, especially for American and Israeli Jews they would want… all of the land… of Israel,” from the river to the sea. But they can’t have that without either sacrificing democracy or giving up the idea of a Jewish state. And therefore because J Street is “unconditionally” for a Jewish state in Israel, we must give up the land so that the inevitable Palestinian majority will have a place to go.

The revelation in these statements is that Krubiner is doing outreach to a very conservative community. You can talk all you like about secular Jews, but American Jews believe in a way that can only be called religious (because most have never seen the West Bank) in their right to the “Land of Israel.” And so when asked about settlements, Krubiner was somewhat apologetic about J Street’s backbone moment of February, when it criticized Obama for voting against the U.N. Security Council’s resolution opposing Israeli settlements. Yes, our position didn’t play very well in the Jewish community, Krubiner said. I.e., this community is behind the times, and it is driving policy.

In the past, Weiss has voiced both his respect for Jeremy Ben-Ami’s astuteness in being able to build J Street from scratch, and his understanding that J Street has to be able to defend itself against incredibly hostile attacks from the right.  Weiss has yet to review this important book.  I’m sure he will.  Hopefully, that evaluation will take into account Ben-Ami’s convincing exposition of his moral commitment on Palestinian rights, which I find to be similar to those of Weiss in most areas.

Since publication of A New Voice for Israel, just a short few weeks ago, J Street has issued statements on two important events:  The passage in the Knesset of the stifling, anti-democratic Anti-BDS bill in mid-July was promptly condemned.  And on July 21st, J Street countered articles appearing then that had questioned American Jewish support for Obama, with its own polling, which was thorough, and showed a better result for the president.

J Street hasn’t yet changed “the rules of the game” on how DC politicians and American Jewish voters perceive the playing field to be structured.  They have the best, most creative shot at that I’ve ever witnessed, though.  Jeremy Ben-Ami’s book not only comes at a key time in J Street’s growth history, it clearly shows the reasoned writing of the man who is most often their voice on the radio, their face on television.  There’s no cognitive dissonance here, as Ben-Ami has long struck me as not only a commentator and expert who is patient and reasonable on TV, but quite often as the most mature voice in the room.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

117 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jeremy Ben-Ami, A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation”

BevW July 31st, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Jeremy, Welcome to the Lake.

Phil, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Hi, Bev. Thanks.

Welcome to firedoglake, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:01 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Thanks Bev, glad to be here.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:02 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 2

Hi Phil.
Looking forward to the next couple of hours.

Eiron July 31st, 2011 at 2:02 pm

It is a pleasure to have this opportunity. Jeremy, to what degree do you think the current demonstrations for affordable housing and living wages are affected by, or influencing the thinking of the Israeli leadership on the “september crisis”?

Elliott July 31st, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Welcome to the Lake Jeremy
Hi ET, very nice introduction.

This will be a good discusiion

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:04 pm
In response to Eiron @ 5

Very interesting question. I’ve been looking for a public/visible connection being drawn in these protests to the economic consequences of the occupation and it hasn’t been happening yet. What’s been interesting to date has been the cross-partisan flavor that the demos seem to have – spanning from Likud to Meretz members.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Jeremy, I understand you will be appearing in San Francisco on the 10th, at the World Affairs Council of Northern California, to talk about the book and J Street. Are there any other events coming up our readers should know about?

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:06 pm
In response to Elliott @ 6

Thanks for promoting the book salon earlier, Elliot.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:06 pm

I’ll be speaking about the book as I travel around the country for J Street – and the best way to find out about those events will be on our website http://www.jstreet.org. One event I’m really looking forward to is appearing with Peter Beinart at the 92nd Street Y on September 20 in New York City.

Eiron July 31st, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Is there a prospect for an emerging activism by the “sensible middle” rejecting the costs of security, occupation, and preferential subsidies for the coalition parties, at the expense of social investments?

I note with interest the anger against the wealthiest families, and the government response. Is this simply “class warfare” or can Israel teach us something about how to think abut concentration of wealth?

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:09 pm

For anyone interested in watching Jeremy being interviewed about A New Voice for Israel, here is a Youtube link from July 19th. He was interviewed by Daniel Levy of the Middle East Task Force, for the New America Foundation.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I think it’s too early to tell where this is all heading. There’s a big difference between the middle and working classes erupting in frustration over the high cost of living and their anger at economic favoritism and how hard it is to make ends meet and a large scale movement that recognizes the time has come to make a two-state deal with the Palestinians. As you probably know, polling continues to show skepticism in the Israeli public about the prospects of ever making a deal and many of those in the streets yesterday and in the tent camps probably share that skepticism even as they have reached the breaking point on social and economic issues. It is going to be interesting to watch how this evolves and whether leaders will emerge who help to draw that connection.

I do think that there is the prospect of an emerging activism on these social issues that bodes well for Israeli society – but I’m trying to draw a careful distinction between my optimism on that front and a wait-and-see attitude on how this relates to reaching a two-state deal.

Eiron July 31st, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Whither JINSA, now that Turkish-Israeli relations have soured?

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:15 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 7

One thing I’ve been trying to pin down over the past couple of years is whether or not there is an active movement promoting serious environmental quality cooperation between and among ecological activists in Israel, the occupied territories, Lebanon and Jordan. All have environmental groups. Some have chapters of the same worldwide organizations. But they don’t seem to have many opportunities to work together as cross-border teams. When I write to some of the directors for answers, I’m never satisfied.

It is one of the most seriously compromised areas in the developed/developing world when it comes to water quality and other issues. Have you had any contacts, Jeremy, with groups over there that seem to be cooperating internationally in the local area?

Jane Hamsher July 31st, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Welcome Jeremy, and thanks for all you do. And thanks for hosting ET.

I have to take issue with this, however:

J Street hasn’t yet changed “the rules of the game” on how DC politicians and American Jewish voters perceive the playing field to be structured.

I think they’ve had a profound effect on DC politics, and they have been an important force for shifting the dialog.

I also have to ask about the wisdom of bringing in another writer, in this case Phil Weiss, and his critiques of JStreet that have nothing to do with the book, into Jeremy’s book salon.

We don’t let commenters go off-topic. That should be true for diarists as well.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:17 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 15

The group that I know best is Friends of the Earth – Middle East which has a cooperative program among Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis. The Israeli Director is Gidon Bromberg and I think he’d be a good person to dig into that with in more depth. I’m not aware of any such cooperation with Lebanon. Their website is http://www.foeme.org.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 16

Thanks for your comment/critique, Jane. Whatever.

I am hoping Mr. Weiss will himself invite Jeremy to explain the book. Maybe he will do it here.

As to whether J Street has yet had a profound impact on DC politics or wider perceptions: you live in DC, I live in Alaska, so I’m happy to defer to your close-hand observaion on this.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 16

Thanks Jane – nice to chat with you and thanks for having me. I don’t mind addressing Phil’s (or other’s) critiques, however – and I think it’s fair to ask whether – with the enormity of the problem that I’m outlining in the book regarding the political dynamics around Israel, we’re making any progress at “rewriting the rules” as I call for in the book…

It is a slow process – and we’re looking to change one of the most entrenched dynamics in American politics!!

Eiron July 31st, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I have seen where many of the sensible middle have accepted the palestinian/Israel dispute as essentially irreconcialable and ‘permanent”, but their tolerance of the burdens of occupation (expense, the draft, etc.), seems to be waning. Can you comment?

Jane Hamsher July 31st, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 19

Thank you Jeremy, that’s very gracious of you. It’s the guest’s choice if they want to go off-topic or not, so it’s up to you.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Eiron @ 20

I think you’re spot-on, Eiron. There’s a certain fatigue/acceptance of the status quo with the Palestinians that has set in – and anger over the economic consequences of the occupation and the diversion of tens of billions of dollars from a small country’s economy to the settlement enterprise is one issue that has the potential to shake that acceptance and re-order the political status quo. I think there’s a lot of excitement today among many who are hoping that the Israeli people will wake up soon and recognize the unsustainability of the path they’re on and change course. I talk a lot about that in the book: as a friend of Israel and someone who cares deeply about its future, I can hope for nothing more than this to be a wake-up call.

CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Aloha, Jeremy and Philip…! Mahalo for this Book Salon…! Jeremy, what is J Street’s take on Gaza’s siege…!

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 16

I think they’ve had a profound effect on DC politics, and they have been an important force for shifting the dialog

Could you give some examples, Jane. I’m not doubting what you’re saying at all, but it might help to get a DC resident’s viewpoint on this, especially the views from somebody, who, like Jeremy, is fighting so hard to get something sensible done in an environment where it is a struggle to go so intensely against the grain, and against the ingrained.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:29 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 23

Aloha! Our take on Gaza is this: The Palestinian people (in Gaza and the West Bank) need their freedom and independence – and the Israeli people within their borders need security. So we believe that Israel should immediately move toward a two-state solution that grants real freedom to the Palestinian people. We also believe that Israel has a right to defend itself and that includes reasonable measures to ensure that rockets and other weaponry is not getting into Gaza. A full-on blockade is counterproductive, as are restrictions on goods and people moving out of Gaza. But reasonable security measures to check goods going into Gaza for weapons would be acceptable.

CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 25

Would reasonable ‘security procedures’ mean machine gun turrets every 200 meters or so, and, 350-700 meter no-go zones, etc…?

Eiron July 31st, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Thank you for what you do, Jeremy. An optimist might say Israel is in the cusp of victory after the 1948 war, a recognized state, within defined and sovereign boundaries, under the protections of the International community (and more acreage than envisioned under UNGA 181), why isn’t this celebrated as a huge win?

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 25

In the last part of your book, you refer to the 2002 Arab League Peace Initiative, which was introduced in Beirut. You describe it as something close to the best “regional” deal for peace that has recently been presented. Although there have been more than one Israeli government since then, why do you think none of them have responded to this comprehensive plan for regional peace?

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 26

What I’m referring to is the ability to inspect incoming goods. There’s a whole transfer station set up at the border between Israel and Gaza that could be used to inspect goods. Right now it is simply sitting silent. Instead the policies of the Israeli government have driven most of the trade and commerce for Gaza into the tunnels controlled by Hamas. This is empowering Hamas rather than the legitimate business people in the Gaza Strip. Similarly I’m talking about the ability of Gazans to get out through Israel to the West Bank and other destinations. Freedom of movement out of Gaza with appropriate security checks would seem better than keeping people in Gaza.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 28

The failure to respond to the Arab Peace Initiative is one of the greatest mysteries/mistakes that has been made. The API (as it is called) is not a peace treaty – it’s an offer… and as in business, an offer is often an opening position that can then be best answered by a counteroffer. Recently a group of leading former Israeli officials including PM Yitzhak Rabin’s son, Yuval, put together a civil-society-led counter-offer that they called the Israeli Peace Initiative. I really hope that at some point soon Israel will have a leader who will choose to respond to the Initiative rather than to ignore it. What Israel has always wanted – and what most Israelis want – is to be accepted into the region as a permanent fact and to set borders that are recognized internationally. That’s the promise of the API – and it seems to me to be an offer too good to refuse. I just hope it’s not too late.

colindale July 31st, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Regrettably, ‘A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation’is a misnomer. ‘Fighting for the Survival of the Israeli nation’ would be more accurate. The Jewish nation, of whom the majority live in the Diaspora, have no need to fight for its survival – other than to try to disassociate itself from the politics of right-wing extremism in Israel that feeds latent anti-Semitism.

It has long been a tactic of the Likud party to endeavor to link Zionism and Judaism together as synonyms, when, in fact, they are no such thing. Judaism is 5000 years old – political Zionism is 150 at most. Judaism is one of the world’s oldest and most respected faiths, Zionism is a late 19th century, political movement. The connection is tenuous in the extreme.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 17

FOEME is as close as any group I’ve discovered to seeming to be ready to accomplish what must be done. The biggest frustration to me is the immense amount of polluted waters being discharged from the larger settlement blocs onto open land, or in the case of the Atarot industrial complex, raw toxic waste onto Palestinian farmlands. Tghere doesn’t seem to be a viable way for international environmentalists to be able to stop this toxic mess or others in court.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to colindale @ 31

Thanks Colindale. There’s a long and storied tradition to the discussion over whether Jews are a “people” in the national sense or just co-religionists. Obviously the movement to work toward bringing about a national home for the Jewish people was started by those who believed that only if Jews had a “home” of their own could they survive after centuries/millenia of persecution, etc. This was even before the Holocaust. There were many then – both religious and secular – in the Jewish community who were anti-Zionist and didn’t believe in this vision for the Jewish people. There are still those who feel that way today.

I obviously am not one of those people! I do believe that the Jewish people are a nation as well as a religion and that they should have a state of their own – just as I believe that the Palestinian people should have a state of their own.

But it’s a great debate – this question of whether we’re a people or a religion – and it’s probably never going to be settled!!

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:48 pm
In response to colindale @ 31

Jeremy covers this misnomer: Zionism = Judaism in the book, describing it as cynical. One of the strongest parts of Mr. Ben-Ami’s narrative is not only his belief that he has a responsibility to help reclaim the central humanity and humanism of Judaism as being over-arching, but also his description of how that is an important part of his own family’s history, that he feels responsible for maintaining.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:50 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 32

I wish that I knew more about the environmental field. I care deeply about environmental issues and am aware of the enormous environmental challenges facing the whole region. There is a great deal of respect for the land built into the Israel psyche and I do think there is hope of developing a real environmental movement there over time. There has been great progress made toward a national program for electric cars and there has also been a lot of progress made toward making mass transit and biking more viable modes of transportation.

RevBev July 31st, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 30

I may have missed it….but is there some/any agreement on what would constitute the land mass for Israel? It seems to me the proposals I’ve heard have always been rejected. I may be wrong. Im just interested in how the borders would be set in a way to be acceptable.

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 29

So would you support the right of Palestinians to inspect “goods” coming into and out of Israel?

Or is this, essentially, a one-way concern, Jeremy?


EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 35

Living in an area where fundamentalist Christians have an important and shortsighted voice in environmental policy, I can’t help but find similarities in the views expressed by representatives of the more fundamentalist settlers in the occupied territories, regarding these same issues. Stewardship means something different to end-timers than it does to those of us who consider that viewpoint dangerous hogwash.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:57 pm
In response to RevBev @ 36

Thanks Bev – The negotiations around a border that have taken place over the past two decades have always assumed that the starting point for drawing a border would be the pre-1967 line dividing Israel from the West Bank and Gaza – with modifications to account for some of the largest settlements right alongside pre-67 Israel. These modifications would include swaps of land from pre-67 Israel. That’s the framework that Israeli PM Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were discussing in 2008 when they came so close to agreement. Abbas offered about 1.6% of the West Bank and Olmert wanted in the neighbohood of 6.5% – so they were within 5%.

There was a model peace deal in 2002 called the Geneva Initiative reached by ISraelis and Palestinians who had been official negotiators and they agreed on a swap of about 3-4% of the land.

So it can be done – and we’re talking about a few square kilometers that divides the sides…

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 37

absolutely – DWBartoo.

Every sovereign state has the right to set up whatever border control arrangements and security arrangements are necessary to ensure its security. I would expect a Palestinian state to have VERY robust security oversight at its borders – that in fact would be a condition of a peace deal – and there would almost certainly be international oversight of all the security arrangements.

papau July 31st, 2011 at 2:59 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 33

Excellent discussion – I suggest the “response” to the API is the TABA accords that Arafat said he should have agreed to. Geneva is another “response”.

Indeed the PLO seem – per the leaks to Al Jazeera – have been trying to get TABA agreed to – but Bibi is refusing to go there, throwing up road blocks to wording as more settlements get more housing.

Now Bibi has dropped 20 points in popularity – but that is based on the economy.

How do we get Israeli voters to worry a bit more about 2 state – put it on par with the economy?

You have been sane voice in all this – thanks for your book and coming to FDL.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 38

What is fascinating is that the Jewish settlers are not “end timers” and they have such deep respect for the land. You would think that they would want to do a better job of caring for it.

They are convinced that they are back on the land that their ancestors lived on thousands of years ago. So if they still want it to be there thousands of years from now, they should take better care of it and care about environmental issues – I agree.

But, again, this is not my area of expertise. I’m better equipped to talk about borders, security, the protests this week, the UN vote – and of course my book!

RevBev July 31st, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 39

Thank you. I had missed the details, and that is encouraging. On a more cynical note, do you think there is any intent that I would call a desire to keep moving the goalposts in order to keep the dispute going for whatever purposes?

colindale July 31st, 2011 at 3:03 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 33

Jeremy, your response unfortunately managed to avoid the central point that I raised, which was about “the politics of right-wing extremism in Israel that feeds latent anti-Semitism”. To my mind, that is perhaps the most important factor in both the survival of the state of Israel and the long-term future of the Jewish Diaspora. That factor is not, or should not be, IMHO, the basis for a philosophical argument – as its consequences might well, eventually, be a matter of life or death.

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 40

Excellent, then you envision a truly autonomous Palestinian state, not an appendage, or satellite “province”?

How much support for such a solution would you expect to find in Israel, today, Jeremy?

And would such support be age-based, philosophy-based, or something else?


Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to papau @ 41

Thanks papau…

The amazing thing about the API vs Taba is that the API offers regional recognition from 23 Arab countries. Taba was bilateral – Israelis and Palestinians… What really ends this conflict and brings peace on this particular front is to put an end to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict and that’s what makes the API so intriguing.

I agree that the leaked Palestine Papers show that Abbas and the Fatah leadership were willing to go to extraordinary lengths to try to reach a deal. And I agree that I wish that this Israeli government were able to match that kind of compromising and peace-oriented attitude. But that does not seem to be the case.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to RevBev @ 43

Well, I do think that there are those who are not interested in reaching a deal – yes. And I think that they introduce new conditions (or pre-conditions) all the time. The latest good example of that is the introduction into the negotiations of a demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” before beginning negotiations. Prior to 2009, any diplomat involved in the negotiations can tell you that this was never raised as an issue. What was needed before was simply recognition of Israel. So yes the goalposts do get moved by those not so interested in compromise.

RevBev July 31st, 2011 at 3:09 pm

What is the goal of not reaching a deal? Must be some benefit in the ongoing struggle.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:11 pm
In response to colindale @ 44

Sorry Colindale, I do agree that the way in which Israel conducts itself as a nation is a reflection on the Jewish people as a whole – because it is the national home of all the Jewish people. That is one of my main arguments when people ask what right I have as someone who doesn’t live there to criticize government policy there or to lobby here for an American policy that may help to push toward compromise and a two-state deal. I think part of our right to do so from the diaspora is that we all have a stake in how this whole issue plays out.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 42

Speaking of your book, you seem to be exasperated by Alan Dershowitz, who you describe as “the man who has defined for a generation or more how to “make the case for Israel.” If only it weren’t true. I admire your restraint!

You don’t mention some of the most important people on the other side – those who criticize J Street as not being progressive enough or perhaps too naive about the “borders” and what not. Norman Finkelstein, for instance. I had hoped the book, which reaches out very well toward moderates, and seeks to explain J Street fully to mildly conservative people, would reach out in more detail to people who believe the only long-term solution is one state, without a religious basis. Are you considering addressing that faction more fully in future writings? I know these issues do come up frequently in your public forums on the book, and as J Street’s spokesperson.

Also your book seems to stand out strongly against the Palestinian push coming up in the UN in September. Do you have any predictions as to what the Israeli government will do if the UN vote grants the Palestinian state the status they seek?

CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Jeremy, do you support this policy on Gaza…

Defense Ministry ordered to release internal documents on Gaza policies

The ministry has been ordered to release information regarding the minimum nutritional requirements needed to sustain Gaza residents, names of officials responsible for policy of limiting the entry of goods into the strip.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to papau @ 41

Welcome, papau. Glad to see you here.

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 3:13 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 47

Is it really “compromise” or a simple unwillingness to recognize and accept a common bond of humanity and history?

Are not the Palestinians understood by Israelis to be, also, a Semitic people? Do not the Jews and the Arabs share a common heritage, ultimately?


Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 45

Yes, I do – with the proviso that the Palestinian state be demilitarized (i.e., no full-scale armed forces). The state of Palestine-to-be must be a fully independent, viable, sustainable state. That’s in Israel’s interests and in America’s interests. On the demilitarization issue, that’s always been accepted by Palestinian leaders who have negotiated to this end as part of the deal.

Polls in Israel consistently find 60-65% support for a comprehensive two-state deal that actually ends all claims, and includes a resolution of all the issues between the two people. Support is higher among older Israelis than among younger Israelis. Older Israelis are less Orthodox on the one hand and I believe also have a memory of a time with Israelis and Palestinians actually did live together in some modicum of peace and coexistence. That’s not in the consciousness of the newer generation sadly.

RevBev July 31st, 2011 at 3:18 pm

In your book, do you address the history and the wisdom of the post-war creation of Israel? It seems to me sometimes that very issue gets re-litigated.

jwill5587 July 31st, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 54

Isn’t it hypocritical to insist that a Palestinian state be completely demilitarized while Israel has an arsenal that rivals most modern nations?

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 53

I think you’re asking a really important question – which gets to a really serious problem on BOTH sides – which is the failure to be able to see the shared humanity of the people on the other side.

There are attitudes on both sides that are really mirror images of each other and that is so sad. Both peoples have suffered a great deal – and by that I’m not trying to draw comparisons between the depth of the tragedies on either side.

The people have so much more in common in their heritage and history than they like to admit – and I talk in the book about how Jews and Muslims managed for centuries to live together and thrive together in coexistence.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 54

In terms of reparations for Palestinians who lost their homes, businesses etc. in the Nakba: In exchange for such losses, does anyone rationally attempt to quantify what that might mean? One friend’s father lost his medical practice (started in the time around WWI), his farm 30 miles away, and an apartment building he owned. He was able to bring out his paper work of ownership when he escaped to Lebanon. How would his surviving kids’ reparations be computed?

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to jwill5587 @ 56

OTOH, do you think more weapons provides a rational solution? Deterrence only seems to work if both sides are close to being equal, which would involve many scores of billions of dollars spent on armaments.

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 54

Yet, presumably Israel would remain militarily powerful, possessing even atomic weaponry?

Are you suggesting that Israel would function as the primary protector of a militarily “weak” Palestinian state?

And, thank you for answering my query @45.

Have you any idea of the percentage of support for such a solution among Palestinians?

And, I share your sadness regarding the younger generation’s lack of experience with living peacably with their neighbors, though both of us must realize that policies pursued for a number of decades are largely responsible for this less than hopeful state of “understanding”.


Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to jwill5587 @ 56

Yes it is hypocritical.

And I’m willing to own that. After all that the Jewish people have been through and the wars that Israel faced and the threats it does face today, I side with the Israelis in seeking a real sense of security. If they do pull back from this territory and recognize a Palestinian state – I think that would be a very serious sign of their goodwill and of a decision to give up a claim to the land in the future.

But there are real security risks associated with that – and real enemies. So, yes, I believe that the Israelis need a strong military and I believe the Palestinian state has to be demilitarized.

CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 3:26 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 58

What about the ‘right of return’ of those Palestinians that reside in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan…?

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:26 pm
In response to RevBev @ 55

Getting back to your question RevBev about the book and whether I address the ‘wisdom’ of the creation of Israel – I absolutely do and as you can gather from my responses, I am obviously a believer that the national cause of the Jewish people to re-establish their home there after 18-19 centuries was and is just.

I am just as clear, however, that the national aspirations of the Palestinian people are just and they too need to be met. Hence my support for a two-state solution that shares the land.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:29 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 62

On the issue of the “right of return” – I believe that ultimate resolution of this conflict will require an acknowledgement of the suffering and the loss incurred by Palestinians who left in 1948.

However, for there to be peace, their legitimate claims need to be settled with assistance in permanent relocation to the state of Palestine, permanent homes in their present country or relocation to a third country. THis has always been assumed to require massive financial commitments and resources – and it should.

Perhaps as important will be an acknowledgement of the suffering. I think that’s the first step toward reconciliation.

But the ‘right of return’ for Jews needs to be to the state of Israel and of Palestinians to a state of Palestine.

I do not support a “one state solution”.

If I’ve lost any of the threads and am not responding… please re-post and my apologies!

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 60

DW, on the question of Palestinian support for a two-state solution – the polling over time has shown similar percentages of Palestinians and Israelis supporting the two-state solution. Particularly when asked to compare it to a one-state solution.

I am always saying that the term “one state solution” is a mis-nomer because one state is not a solution – it’s the problem! The two peoples will continue to fight over the land until they agree how to divide it.

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 63

Jeremy recommends that American Jews, when they visit Israel, also visit the West Bank to, as he writes:

see the old central market of Hebron, its metal gates shuttered, surrounded by military checkpoints, its streets divided by Jersey barricades to make clear where Jews and non-Jews can walk. They should read the hate-filled graffiti in Hebrew. Witness the chicken wire that provides a roof over the street so the garbage thrown by Jewish settlers won’t land on the heads of Palestinians walking below, They should be encouraged to explore the moral dimension of the occupation.

Eiron July 31st, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Thank you for your vision and the courage of your voice.

jwill5587 July 31st, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Jeremy, thank you for your time. I’ve seen you be critical of both Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein. Would you say one is more correct than the other or do you hold that both represent extremist views that are simply unhelpful?

RevBev July 31st, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 63

Thank you…Just to say I love the Hebrew Bible and the history/story …God’s call, the wilderness, the prophets,all of it; yet, the current landscape makes me incredibly sad that strong voices for justice do not seem to prevail.

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 61

Well, Jeremy, you are honest to own such hypocrisy, and in that honesty, I am certain you perceive the unbalance and the appeal, not wholly to reason but to emotion … and, as well, to historic grievance?

Let me say, on the one hand, that your position is somewhat understandible, yet on the other, I would ask you to understand the certain intractible aspect which inevitably accompanies such a position?

Such a position, ultimately, is based upon fear, is it not? And as we all know, fear, too often, begets actions intended to strike fear into the hearts of others; would you accept that as a potential stumbling block to the trust which will be required, of both “sides”, but one that places an especial burden of courage, if we are to be fully honest, on the side possessing the greater power and strength.?

This is a question for America’s empire, today, which she steadfastly refuses to acknowledge, to the clear detriment of peace and humanity.


Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Interesting question Jwiii….

I have a significant issue with Alan Dershowitz because he and I are purportedly striving toward the same goal – which is to protect and save the concept of Israel – as an embodiment of the values of the Jewish people as well as simply a secure home. Yet Alan’s inability to get beyond reflexive us-vs-them argumentation and to essentially de-legetimize anyone who criticize’s Israeli policy is emblematic of the problem with the way the American Jewish Establishment deals with Israel advocacy.

That’s different from my arguments with Norman Finkelstein with whom I don’t necessarily share the same end goal!

I frankly don’t enjoy appearing publicly with either one of them but it’s the interaction with Alan that I find more troubling. We should be able to have a rational discourse about difficult policy issues, but he instead goes into his litigatory cross-examining mode and we lose sight of the substance of the debate.

CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 3:43 pm

The two peoples will continue to fight over the land until they agree how to divide it.

Meanwhile, the bantustans are becoming the de facto reality…

IDF Civil Administration pushing for land takeover in West Bank

Inclusion of Jordan Valley, northern Dead Sea and area surrounding Ariel in ‘settlement blocs’ whose takeover the administration is advancing, would prevent establishment of Palestinian state with territorial contiguity.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 70

Yes, DW, on all counts.

I think fear is the most potent of all human emotions. I mean at the end of the day we’re still just like all other creatures of nature and trying to survive! It’s that survival instinct that kicks in and overwhelms most others. I think that the Jewish people have enough of a history – through WWII, the Holocaust, the pogroms in Russia, and onward back through history – of persecution and suffering that the fear ingrained in our communal psyche is understandable.

I also acknowledge that as the side with the power (at the moment), Israel and the Jewish people should be the side that steps forward first, offers a hand in peace, puts forward a reasonable compromise and makes every effort to help get a Palestinian state launched successfully.

I’d love to see the Israeli Ambassador to the UN be the one to introduce the Palestinian statehood resolution – ONCE THERE IS A DEAL. And it would certainly help there to be a deal if Israel’s leaders would step forward to take the initiative since they do have the balance of power and security in their favor.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 72

You’re right, CTuttle, steps being taken by Israel day in and day out make it that much harder to get to a two state deal – and at some point it may become practically impossible – though remember that nothing physical (walls, roads, even towns) can’t be ripped up and out to make way for peace.

The most potent missing piece right now is the political will for changing the status quo – and perhaps, to bring it back to where we started, there’s the beginning of a crack in the status quo happening in Israel with these demonstrations now.

We can only hope and push and cajole!

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Eiron @ 67

Thank you for the kinds words Eiron.
And thank you RevBev for your strong commitment to the history of the land and to justice.
Justice, Justice Shall Ye Pursue – the prophets of the Jewish people were commanded…
And I hope that as a people we can remember that as a watchword of our people as we think about how to address this critical phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

eblair July 31st, 2011 at 3:51 pm

“I also acknowledge that as the side with the power (at the moment)”? Why do you think this parenthetical qualification is necessary? I’m sorry to say that it seems like pure fantasy. Do you really think that in some future moment, Israel won’t be the side with power? If so, what are you possibly imagining? If not, why put that spin on it?

BevW July 31st, 2011 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Jeremy, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and Israeli politics.

ET, Thank you for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Jeremy’s website and book

ET’s website

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to eblair @ 76

Israel has not always been the side with the power – and it remains one nation among many in its neighborhood. The balance may be tilted in its favor militarily today, but that may not always be the case. We can’t predict the future!

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 3:53 pm

There simply are not enough natural resources in Gaza and the West Bank, nor is there enough capital interested in investing in these places for a viable Palestine to exist alongside Israel. More importantly, the two state solution is inimicable to the very ethnocratic logic of Israel. In 50 years Palestinians will be a majority inside the Green Line. Blood and Soil nationalism is a disaster no matter who practices it. Israel as a Jewish state can only be an apartheid state. The failure Oslo proves the impossibility of a two state solution. As more Palestinians inside the Green line develop political confidence Jewish Israelis will have a choice. Either become fascists and openly support apartheid – ala A. Lieberman (the more likely choice), or stop practicing blood and soil nationalism and embrace a single, secular, democratic, multiethnic (and possibly socialist) state in all of historic Palestine.

History will vindicate Gasan Ghanafani – and his assassin (Moshe Dayan) will go down in history as a racist alongside P.W. Botha

RevBev July 31st, 2011 at 3:53 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 75

Thank you…from FDL to God’s ears, we hope. Good luck with the book and with your work.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thanks Bev and to the FDL community for an engaging couple of hours. I hope that you’ll enjoy the book and pass it along to others.

And for those interested in helping to change the dynamics of American politics around these issues, please do join us at jstreet.org and get involved as well in our local organizing in your communities.

Thanks, Jeremy

EdwardTeller July 31st, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 71

I have to admit that watching a debate between Dershowitz and Finkelstein, back when the former was trying to block the publication of the latter’s book, was extremely painful. It was the only time I have ever felt an iota of sympathy for Dershowitz. Finkelstein has since become far less abrasive. This has not been the case with Alan, who ages like a bottle of fine wine with a pierced cork.

To those questioning Jeremy Ben-Ami’s degree of self questioning on all these issues in the book, you need to read it – either through purchase, or at your library. He brutally examines Israeli policies. He shreds the AIPAC meme on several fronts. He confronts the defamation of Judge Richard Goldstone head on and unabashedly.

But – to reiterate – he describes how he has built an advocacy group that – as Jane Hamsher corrects me above, has “had a profound effect on DC politics, and they have been an important force for shifting the dialog.” And he built it from scratch. In that part of the book, there is a very important message for young people who want to do as Jeremy is doing, or what some of activities at fdl seek to do.

eblair July 31st, 2011 at 3:56 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 78

Well, the comment was forward looking and the question was about the future. And you did not answer it.

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 3:57 pm

“However, for there to be peace, their legitimate claims need to be settled with assistance in permanent relocation to the state of Palestine, permanent homes in their present country or relocation to a third country. THis has always been assumed to require massive financial commitments and resources – and it should.”

So Jews have a right to return, but Palestinians can file a claim for compensation? [modnote: please don't make it personal.].

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 3:58 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 79

Obviously sn, we don’t agree.

The Palestinian and Israeli economies working in tandem together could become a real economic powerhouse – the two best-educated people in the region. The combination could be dynamic.

Demographic realities inside the Green Line are not as you think – which raises a whole ‘nother can of worms but ultra-Orthodox birth rates are actually far higher than non-Jewish birthrates. 50 years is a very long time and much can happen. A successful peace and the economic progress that that should allow for all sectors of Israel and Palestine will go far toward addressing the challenges that will face our grandchildren in 2061!!

papau July 31st, 2011 at 3:59 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 52

Thanks for the Welcome!

have to go in and out – but I would not miss the discussion!

RevBev July 31st, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 84

You waited til late in the day….but name calling usually gets the mods’ attention on this site.

CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 81

Mahalo Nui Loa, Jeremy for all your efforts and taking the time to be here…!

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 74

I suspected that we are much in agreement, Jeremy.

Yet it is not the walls of concrete that constitute the great divide, as clearly you well know, but the embrasure of the conviction of “difference”, of being not like the “other” that our species must confront within and between individuals … for you and I know that we are all more alike than different and those “differences” must come to be among those things which we treasure about each other and ourselves – for those “things” are what make our lives richer and more interesting as well allowing all seek to evolve our understanding and humanity … the common thread of our being.

Jeremy, it has been a true pleasure to converse with you and I’m glad that yours is a voice that is heard and respected in this world of ours, which, just between you and me, is paradise, if we’ve the wit to grasp it, fully, in OUR time of living and opportunity.

Ultimately, our concern, if we are up to the task, is the unrelenting support of life and, frankly, we should all be waging unending peace upon each other … for that is the only true way forward to conscious realization and full humanity.


Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 4:02 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 84

I’m not filing for a right of return to the home in Vienna from which my mother’s family was driven in 1938. There are wrongs in history. And then we do what we can to right them and to move on. For there to be a future for Israel and Palestine, I do believe that each needs to be the national home of their own people.

I don’t think that’s racism. I think it’s realism.

eblair: my point is that the balance can shift in any direction at any time. who knows what the story will be in 2021 or 2031…

And, with that, a good night to all of you…!

eblair July 31st, 2011 at 4:02 pm
In response to RevBev @ 87

Unfortunately, there is more and more of it these days. Some by employees unfortunately.

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:02 pm

The five municipalities within Israel with the highest unemployment rates are Palestinian-Israeli. The unemployment rate among Palestinian-Israelis is usually three times higher than the Jewish-Israeli unemployment. Average Palestinian-Israeli per-capita income runs at 50% of average Jewish-Israeli per-capita income. Twice as many Palestinian-Israelis live below the poverty line than Jewish-Israelis. Palestinian Israelis infant mortality rates run roughly twice as high as Jewish-Israeli infant mortality rates. Additionally there is systemic discrimination against Palestinian-Israelis in the awarding of building permits, drilling permits and other state distributed economic resources. Arab local governments cover only 2.5 percent of Israel, and the allocation of state lands to Arab localities over the last two decades amounted to less than one percent.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 4:03 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 89

Wonderful words to close with DW – thank you…

eblair July 31st, 2011 at 4:03 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 90

I asked you what you were imagining. Specifics. Repeating the generality that gave rise to the question in the first place begs the question.

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Following the creation of Israel, the majority of the land inside the new state came under the control of an agency of the Jewish state, which now controls the clear majority of the territory inside Israel. It is illegal for this land to be sold to non-Jews. Significant portions of this land has been used to build exclusively Jewish housing projects where it is illegal for Palestinian-Israelis to take up residence. Palestinian-Israelis are required to pay the value of their land in property taxes every forty years, while Jewish-Israelis are excluded from this requirement because the land they use is owned by an agency of the Jewish state. Numerous Palestinian villages, some dating back to the Ottoman Empire, are legally designated non-entities. The physical infrastructure (roads, bridges, sewers) and utility services (water, electricity) in Israel are managed by municipalities, which are legally differentiated based on their Jewish or Arab ethnic composition. A comparison of per capita domestic water allocation between Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli municipalities found that the average per capita allocation for Jewish municipalities is three times greater than the average for Palestinian-Israeli municipalities.

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Palestinian-Israelis are now over 20% of all Israelis and given their high birth rate will, by 2020, make-up close to 40% of all Israelis, destabilizing the demographic composition of the “Jewish” state. Over 50% of Jewish Israelis are comfortable with the prospect of “transferring” the rapidly growing Palestinian-Israeli population out of the state of Israel. The “liberal Zionist” Jewish-Israeli version of “transfer” means redrawing Israel’s borders in order to accomplish the political transfer of parts of Israel’s Northern District (where Palestinian-Israelis are the majority) to Jordan or a future Palestinian statelet. For those Jewish-Israelis who subscribe to the stronger version of Zionism and the goal of a greater Israel, “transfer” is a euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from historic British mandate Palestine (i.e. Israel and the occupied territories).

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:10 pm

In one breathe you suggest that a strong Israel and a strong Palestine will help grow each other’s economy (so will Israel deport its foreign workers brought in since Oslo and closure?). In the next breathe you suggest that Demographics inside Israel favor Jewish Israelis because of the ultra-orthodox birth rate. First, I don’t accept the accuracy of the claim. Second, if the claim is accurate, it undermines your argument for two states. Such a demographic trend will only strengthen the Settler right-wing of Zionism. Those folks will never agree to an independent and viable Palestine.

Jeremy Ben-Ami July 31st, 2011 at 4:13 pm

It’s difficult to leave the thread with these final posts from sn un-answered.

My position before I run is this – Israel should be a full democracy – providing equal rights and benefits to all its citizens.

It has a long way to go to achieve this on many fronts (as do many countries) but particularly in the treatment of the Arab minority.

I want to be clear that neither I nor J Street are advocating “transfer” of Palestinian population centers – nor do most liberal Zionists. Introducing this concept to this thread is really a red herring and inappropriate, to my mind.

As for the demographics, no numbers that I’ve ever seen purport that by 2020, Palestinian Israelis will make up 40 percent of Israeli citizens. That’s simply false and again a red herring for the purposes of this discussion.

None of this is to say that there isn’t discrimination and inequality within Israel – and that I believe strongly in the work of the New Israel Fund and others to try to address them.

The democratic character of the state of Israel is as important a goal to me as is the security and safety of its citizens.

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Israeli law now bans marriage between Israelis and Palestinians. Thus far this law has negatively impacted the lives of 15,000 Palestinian Israelis and only a smattering of Jewish –Israelis. Even if Palestinians remain a minority inside the green line in 50 years, which I contest, you have to explain how these folks will be accepted as full citizens inside a Blood and Soil nationalist, explicitly “Jewish” state. Palestinian Israelis are second class citizens inside the Jewish state today. A partitioned statelet of Gaza/WestBank will only exacerbate that second class citizen status. Jeremy – are for transfer? But, since you are a liberal Zionist, I bet you will feel guilty about it afterwards.

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I typed too fast. I meant 30%. Even if I am off, you are being dishonest to suggest the “demographic” issue isn’t pressing. Anyone can google demographic bomb or demographic issue and look at what Haaretz or Jpost have to say. The Jewish character of a state with 30% Palestinians who are treated as second class citizens is a huge problem for two states. it is not a red herring.

eblair July 31st, 2011 at 4:22 pm
In response to Jeremy Ben-Ami @ 98

My point is that you seem to show an all too common attitude that wants to combine both the idea that Israel is powerful and the idea that Israel is vulnerable. But as an attitude that is a non-starter because the two ideas are contradictory. Israel is powerful. Just say it. Without qualification. Not Israel is powerful (at the moment).

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:24 pm

The whole logic of two homogenous mono-ethnic states in British Mandate Palestine collapses when you examine the concrete details of How Israeli society actually operates. It is a deeply racist society. Nazereth is a mixed town of Arabs (many Christian) and Jews. And nearby is Nazereth Illit, an exclusively Jewish settlement with far better infrastructure and resources than the ethnically mixed town of Nazereth. The gaps in standard of living between Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis are as wide as the white-black gaps in the US during the 1950s.

Also, notice how reluctant Jewish-Israelis are to even call Palestinian-Israelis “Palestinian.” Instead they use the term “Arab” because for Jewish Israelis there is no such thing as Palestine.

tillkan July 31st, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Over and over Jeremy says Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. Yet he admits that many Jews do not agree. But then he asserts it again – Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. This is the religion of Zionism, not Judaism. I wish I could convey how infuriating it is to have someone claim to speak for me.

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 4:28 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 102

Would you consider putting up a diary at My FDL, sn?

The breadth and implications of your concerns deserves no less.


DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 4:30 pm
In response to tillkan @ 103

You should also consider a diary, tillkan, as I know that your perspective is shared by others.


sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Jeremy, I missed your comment about Vienna and 1938. Why should any one person have a historic right to any one piece of land? We need secular, inclusive democracies. This blood and soil nationalism is evil and racist. No one’s ethnicity is magic. Making ethnicity a basis for citizenship is racist and only encourages ethnic conflict. One thing the US got right. No official religion, no official language, no official ethnicity. People should be free to choose these things with out implicating their rights and responsibilities as citizens within a political community.

sn1789 July 31st, 2011 at 4:53 pm

DW No time for the Diary. I’m an occasional FLD poster and was surprised to see such a right-winger on FDL. I thought this was more of Huffpost’s thing to keep the liberals in the veal pen.

Outside Israel, the US, and Germany (understandable)Israel is on the verge of becoming a pariah state in the global community. The UK used to be very pro-Israel but the behavior of the Israeli state since Oslo has become increasingly apartheid like (many Palestinians have nostalgia for the occupation of the 1970s because at least you could go work inside Israel – now Gaza and WB are prisons). So, seeing JStreet presented as a good thing was surprising to me.

How about having a Book Salon soon with a noted Palestinian author.


Omar Barghouti has a new book out on the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement. He is bright and thoughtful, and his values are more in line with the FDLers.

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 5:05 pm
In response to sn1789 @ 107

I hope that your suggestion may be acted upon, sn, yet urge you, when time may permit, to invest in the possibility that such a diary as you might write, would further understanding and interest in what you propose.

I think inviting a Palestinian author a very superb idea, indeed, and suspect that many, here, would thoughtfully, and happily, agree.


CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 5:22 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 108

I have lobbied Siun to host Omar Barghouti for a Salon, DW, I’m hopeful Omar will be invited…!

And I agree with ya that sn and tillkan really should post diaries, ET and I, could use an extra hand…! ;-)

DWBartoo July 31st, 2011 at 5:40 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 109

Siun came immediately to mind and I suspeculated that you might be working on just such a thing, CTut.


tillkan July 31st, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Jeremy’s comment about not demanding the right to go back to the house in Vienna that his family was kicked out of is revealing: this encapsulates the whole rationale for encouraging the Zionists to take over Palestine for the Jews. Do not bother us in Europe and the US to welcome the displaced Jews after 1945. Don’t blame us for not allowing refugees from Hitler to come to our shores. Instead it is so much more convenient to colonize some third world area and displace those people who don’t count as much.

papau July 31st, 2011 at 6:07 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 108

I was just laughing at the idea that any would see Jeremy as a right winger! Just shows that it is possible for one to be sold on a concept – state of Israel as a Jewish state is bad – to such an extent that one can get, blinded one to a few things.

Meanwhile sn seems to forget that many here can quote from the 19th century Ottoman laws and indeed explain to him how the Israeli Courts are applying the Ottoman laws that existed before the Turks lost WW1. His complaints would have more substance when I see him address the city of Baghdad population change from 40+ % Jewish in 1948 to a few hundred today, the murder and expulsion of Jews in Iraq, the annual murder and riots and terror on the Christian Coptic community in Eqypt, the terror and murder on the Christian community in Iraq, atheists murdering more than half the population of a whole country in Cambodia, etc.

There is a lot that needs people behaving better – and focusing on one area to the exclusion of others, on one side to the exclusion of seeing what the other side is doing, gives the appearance of bias.

CTuttle July 31st, 2011 at 6:18 pm
In response to papau @ 112

Personally, I wouldn’t label him a Right Winger, particularly, juxtaposed to Bibi or Avi… But, you do realize that this ‘Jewish’ state is a new wrinkle in the Hasbara Apparatchik’s ‘demands’ for I/P Peace, right…? And, by it’s very nature, biased and/or bigoted…! 8-(

eblair July 31st, 2011 at 6:25 pm
In response to papau @ 112

Pleez. Bringing up examples like Cambodia is ludicrous because our elected officials do not pay fealty to the Cambodian Lobby.

tillkan July 31st, 2011 at 9:08 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 105

Thanks for the idea, I will think about it.

sn1789 August 1st, 2011 at 6:42 am

Papau #112,

First, delimiting citizenship by membership in an ethnic or religious community has been recognized as a right-wing idea for 200 years. Left and Right don’t see nationalism the same way. Right-wingers are Blood and Soil nationalists (like the definition of Israel as “Jewish State” – where Jewishness is magically connected to some piece of territory). Left-wingers are either anti-nationalist or civic/republican nationalists who argue for membership in the political community being determined by loyalty to a particular political philosophy (like republicanism). This is ABC’s of nationalisms, some are left trending, others are right trending. JStreet is an ardent defender of Israel as a Jewish state, which means either you transfer (expel) the Palestinian-Isreali community or you treat Palestinian-Israelis like second class citizens. Second, I oppose ethnic/religious hatred no matter where it happens and to whom. I oppose the ethnic cleansing carte blanche, I oppose ethnocratic and sectarian states whether they are Jewish (Israel) or sectarian (Lebanon). More broadly, your defense of Israel as a Jewish state has degenerated down to:

1) people have butchered each other and engaged in ethnic cleansing for a variety of reasons in a variety of circumstances for a long time.
2) Therefore.
3) Israel should a state Jewish people are constitutionally privileged over non-Jews.

And you laugh at my claim that support for Israel as a Jewish state is a right-wing position???

sn1789 August 1st, 2011 at 7:15 am
In response to CTuttle @ 113

Ben Ami is Center-Right. Bibi and Avi are Far-Right. I agree that the privileging of Jewishness has intensified inside Israel in recent years. But, it has always been one key feature of the Zionist project. Before 1948 the leading “Left”Zionist labor federation was Jewish only. The Kibbutz were Jewish Only. The organization of municipalities and settlements after 1948 have had an ethnocratic character. I understand why old guys like Chomsky once had illusions that Left-Zionism was part of the Left. But, in hindsight, the left of left Zionism was a superficial veneer for a very right wing political movement. Left wing nationalists and nation builders just don’t make ethnic identity a bottlenck for participation in the political community.

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