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Home arrow Blog arrow December 2009 arrow December 8, 2009

December 8, 2009
December 8, 2009: On myths and reality and a related link
Security for Israel can only happen through Justice for Palestine.

Injustice anywhere reverberates every where. We American taxpayers annually provide over 3.2 billion US tax dollars to Israeli that all go to support the military occupation of the indigenous peoples of the Holy Land.

As an American of conscience I want to see an equitable U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine that upholds the best interests, values and ideals of America.
 
As an American of conscience I support the right of Palestinian Christians and Muslims to the same freedom and equality just as Israeli Jews enjoy. I support Palestinians seeking freedom and equality through nonviolent actions against Israel's occupation and discriminatory laws. I stand with all Israeli citizens and civic organizations, such as Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and Anarchists Against the Wall who in word and deed prove they are neighbors, friends, sister and brother to the other committed to equality and seeking reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.


American politicians must be lead to do the right thing and end the military occupation of Palestine which is now in its 42nd year.

Under international law, occupation is to be temporary and maintain the status quo. Under international law, the transferring of populations into settlements and erecting walls upon Palestinian property is illegal.

American tax payers provide over 1.5 million per mile to build that wall which also divides Palestinians from their families, land, resources, jobs and holy sites.

Politicians can sign treaties, resolutions and road maps-but it is up to Palestinians and Israelis to decide whether they should have one state or two states.  

Our government's responsibility is not to negotiate detailed governmental structures or border arrangements for other countries, but rather to ensure that our government works to create an environment in which the parties can negotiate such matters based on the principle of equal rights, not unequal political power and military might.

Power to the peaceful for every child deserves the right to a future without the nightmares of the past and the now that we now have.



Israel must unpick its ethnic myth
By Tony Judt
Financial Times December 7 2009

What exactly is “Zionism”?

Its core claim was always that Jews represent a common and single people; that their millennia-long dispersion and suffering has done nothing to diminish their distinctive, collective attributes; and that the only way they can live freely as Jews – in the same way that, say, Swedes live freely as Swedes – is to dwell in a Jewish state.

Thus religion ceased in Zionist eyes to be the primary measure of Jewish identity. In the course of the late-19th century, as more and more young Jews were legally or culturally emancipated from the world of the ghetto or the shtetl, Zionism began to look to an influential minority like the only alternative to persecution, assimilation or cultural dilution. Paradoxically then, as religious separatism and practice began to retreat, a secular version of it was actively promoted.

I can certainly confirm, from personal experience, that anti-religious sentiment – often of an intensity that I found discomforting – was widespread in left-leaning Israeli circles of the 1960s. Religion, I was informed, was for the haredim and the “crazies” of Jerusalem’s Mea Sharim quarter. “We” are modern and rational and “western”, it was explained to me by my Zionist teachers. But what they did not say was that the Israel they wished me to join was therefore grounded, and could only be grounded, in an ethnically rigid view of Jews and Jewishness.

The story went like this. Jews, until the destruction of the Second Temple (in the First century), had been farmers in what is now Israel/Palestine. They had then been forced yet again into exile by the Romans and wandered the earth: homeless, rootless and outcast. Now at last “they” were “returning” and would once again farm the soil of their ancestors.

It is this narrative that the historian Shlomo Sand seeks to deconstruct in his controversial book The Invention of the Jewish People. His contribution, critics assert, is at best redundant. For the last century, specialists have been perfectly familiar with the sources he cites and the arguments he makes. From a purely scholarly perspective, I have no quarrel with this. Even I, dependent for the most part on second-hand information about the earlier millennia of Jewish history, can see that Prof Sand – for example in his emphasis upon the conversions and ethnic mixing that characterise the Jews in earlier times – is telling us nothing we do not already know.

The question is, who are “we”?

Certainly in the US, the overwhelming majority of Jews (and perhaps non-Jews) have absolutely no acquaintance with the story Prof Sand tells. They will never have heard of most of his protagonists, but they are all too approvingly familiar with the caricatured version of Jewish history that he is seeking to discredit. If Prof Sand’s popularising work does nothing more than provoke reflection and further reading among such a constituency, it will have been worthwhile.

But there is more to it than that. While there were other justifications for the state of Israel, and still are – it was not by chance that David Ben-Gurion sought, planned and choreographed the trial of Adolf Eichmann – it is clear that Prof Sand has undermined the conventional case for a Jewish state. Once we agree, in short, that Israel’s uniquely “Jewish” quality is an imagined or elective affinity, how are we to proceed?

Prof Sand is himself an Israeli and the idea that his country has no “raison d’etre” would be abhorrent to him. Rightly so. States exist or they do not. Egypt or Slovakia are not justified in international law by virtue of some theory of deep “Egyptianness” or “Slovakness”. Such states are recognised as international actors, with rights and status, simply by virtue of their existence and their capacity to maintain and protect themselves.

So Israel’s survival does not rest on the credibility of the story it tells about its ethnic origins. If we accept this, we can begin to understand that the country’s insistence upon its exclusive claim upon Jewish identity is a significant handicap. In the first place, such an insistence reduces all non-Jewish Israeli citizens and residents to second-class status. This would be true even if the distinction were purely formal. But of course it is not: being a Muslim or a Christian – or even a Jew who does not meet the increasingly rigid specification for “Jewishness” in today’s Israel – carries a price.

Implicit in Prof Sand’s book is the conclusion that Israel would do better to identify itself and learn to think of itself as Israel. The perverse insistence upon identifying a universal Jewishness with one small piece of territory is dysfunctional in many ways. It is the single most important factor accounting for the failure to solve the Israel-Palestine imbroglio. It is bad for Israel and, I would suggest, bad for Jews elsewhere who are identified with its actions.

So what is to be done?

Prof Sand certainly does not tell us – and in his defence we should acknowledge that the problem may be intractable. I suspect that he favours a one-state solution: if only because it is the logical upshot of his arguments. I, too, would favour such an outcome – if I were not so sure that both sides would oppose it vigorously and with force. A two-state solution might still be the best compromise, even though it would leave Israel intact in its ethno-delusions. But it is hard to be optimistic about the prospects for such a resolution, in the light of the developments of the past two years.

My own inclination, then, would be to focus elsewhere. If the Jews of Europe and North America took their distance from Israel (as many have begun to do), the assertion that Israel was “their” state would take on an absurd air. Over time, even Washington might come to see the futility of attaching American foreign policy to the delusions of one small Middle Eastern state. This, I believe, is the best thing that could possibly happen to Israel itself. It would be obliged to acknowledge its limits. It would have to make other friends, preferably among its neighbours.

We could thus hope, in time, to establish a natural distinction between people who happen to be Jews but are citizens of other countries; and people who are Israeli citizens and happen to be Jews. This could prove very helpful. There are many precedents: the Greek, Armenian, Ukrainian and Irish diasporas have all played an unhealthy role in perpetuating ethnic exclusivism and nationalist prejudice in the countries of their forebears. The civil war in Northern Ireland came to an end in part because an American president instructed the Irish emigrant community in the US to stop sending arms and cash to the Provisional IRA. If American Jews stopped associating their fate with Israel and used their charitable cheques for better purposes, something similar might happen in the Middle East.


The writer is University Professor at New York University and director of the Remarque Institute

Financial Times <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7f8fafee-e366-11de-8d36-00144feab49a.html>

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