Posted on: April 22, 2007 Posted by: Mitchell Plitnick Comments: 66

I found the article in the Forward this week by Stuart Eizenstat absolutely fascinating. Eizenstat had a great deal to say, and much of it bears listening to, because this article contains many important points and many debatable ones.12-eizenstat1-225.jpg

Eizenstat is a former American ambassador to the European Union, deputy secretary of the Treasury, under secretary of commerce for international trade, and under secretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs. He served as President Carter’s chief domestic policy adviser and as President Clinton’s special representative on Holocaust-era issues.

The overall theme of the article is a plea for rational thinking. Eizenstat discusses candidly the anti-Semitism around the globe, but he says this must be confronted in a thought-out way, not in a panic that we are living in 1938 all over again and that the next Holocaust is around the corner.

He’s right about that, of course. One thing caught my attention in this article early on and that was Eizenstat’s description of the Holocaust. “[Hitler’s] ‘Final Solution’ became official policy later, as a result of both his vehement antisemitism and the failure of the Allied powers to agree to take any additional Jewish refugees, a failure he took as a clear signal that the world’s democracies put a low priority on saving Jewish lives.”

I might put it differently, but Eizenstat raises here and absolutely critical point that too many people fail to grasp when trying to understand the direction many Jews and the most organized parts of the Jewish community have gone in these days. For many Jews, there is nearly an obsession with self-reliance and with ensuring that there will always be a place for Jews to seek refuge. Many believe that mind-set comes from the horrors and scope of the Holocaust, but this is only one part of the reason.

Jewish history is replete with persecutions, pogroms, mass murders, expulsions and torture. While the methods and systems the Nazis used were different, in effect, the Holocaust was simply the largest of many incidents of persecution. What was most different, what was, in fact, unique in Jewish history was the fact that Jews had nowhere to flee to.

For a wide variety of reasons, most countries closed their doors or admitted few Jews fleeing the Nazis. That is a part of the trauma of the Holocaust that is rarely mentioned but accounts for a great deal of the Jewish post-Holocaust attitude regarding Israel. It is at the core of many Jews’ ability to tolerate some very horrifying actions in the occupation in the name of a false sense of security. If we fail to understand this, we are going to have a much harder time winning people, Jewish or otherwise, over to a different stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Eizenstadt identifies as a major problem facing the Jews “…the canard that the so-called “Jewish lobby” controls American policy in the Middle East in ways that are disadvantageous to America’s national security interests.” He’s right that this canard is a threat to Jews. But he also contributes to its ongoing life by dismissing the point as mere anti-Semitism. Whatever amount of anti-Semitism, great or small, there is in such thinking has to be separated from legitimate criticism not of Israel but of pro-Israel lobby groups. Until we can have a rational discussion of AIPAC and whether it acts as and should be registered as an agent of a foreign country; until we can honestly debate the histrionics and fear-mongering of the David Project; until we can honestly confront the one-sided propagandizing of groups like CAMERA; and until we can rationally discuss how much more exposure our leaders get to the Israeli point of view as opposed to the Palestinian how can we expect this view to do anything but grow?

I’m glad Eizenstadt’s thrust was to try to temper the alarmism that runs rampant through the Jewish community. Policies urged at the behest of fear are just about always ill-advised. Indeed, this is the very point of creating fear, whether through military or propaganda operations or through terrorism. And when it comes to Iran, Eizenstadt does not say they are not a threat (nor would I), but he does say they can be dealt with. In stark contrast to groups that try to activate hysteria in order to support increased militarism in both the US and Israel, such as the David Project, Eizenstadt points out that there is a global community, including much of the Muslim and Arab world, that opposes Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. His point is simply that now is not the time for rash or impulsive decisions.

Of course, Eizenstadt also over-estimates the threats faced by world Jewry, real though they might be. And it comes as no surprise that he fails to identify the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as a major factor aggravating hostility against both Israel and Jews around the world. Nor does he address the fact that Israeli refusal to work for a negotiated settlement and its backing in this by the United States also adds fuel to that fire.

Still, one doesn’t really expect that of Eizenstadt. If he can simply inject some sanity into the discussion, I suspect there are others of us who can do the rest.

66 People reacted on this

  1. “[Hitler’s] ‘Final Solution’ became official policy later, as a result of both his vehement antisemitism and the failure of the Allied powers to agree to take any additional Jewish refugees, a failure he took as a clear signal that the world’s democracies put a low priority on saving Jewish lives.”

    I believe I understand for the first time why any and all criticism of Israel is taken by some Jews to be anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel is perceived, however irrationally, as a threat against the place of refuge, which, it is feared, under 1938-like circumstances, could somehow be lost, leading to another Holocaust. Correct?

    But here’s the danger in writing off every criticism as rank Judenhass while blinding onesself to real factors aggravating the hostility against Israel (and the U.S. as Israel’s chief supporter):

    “And it comes as no surprise that he fails to identify the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as a major factor aggravating hostility against both Israel and Jews around the world. Nor does he address the fact that Israeli refusal to work for a negotiated settlement and its backing in this by the United States also adds fuel to that fire.”

    Clearly, fear – on all sides – is the enemy.

  2. Mitchell:
    You wrote:
    “And it comes as no surprise that he fails to identify the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as a major factor aggravating hostility against both Israel and Jews around the world. ”
    That being hypothetically so, then the conflict serves the purpose of fueling the flames of anti-Semitism and could well be understood to be the natural out-cropping of same. Essentially, if the Jews can’t be stoped through genocide, place them in a classic no-win situation whereby they will be shamed into submission.

  3. …a classic no-win situation

    Isn’t the “answer” somehow to break the cycle of fear and change this into a win-win situation by listening to the criticism and doing the painstaking work of sorting out legitimate criticism of Israel’s policies from rank anti-Semitism? It seems to me if there is any threat to Israel, it is not an existential threat but a threat to its standing which is perceived as existential, and that the best way to disarm that threat would be to begin to listen and to sort out legitimate criticism and make some corrections in policy. Israel’s oppressive policies in the OT are counter-productive and unnecessary.

  4. To Para-quote from “Mississippi Burning”
    When Gene Hackman’s father character killed the Black neighbor’s mule. Hackman asked his father why he did that and recounted his father saying:
    “Because no n****r is gonna be better then me!”
    The Jews always seem to have the mules. During the bubonic plague, the Jews had far less illness and so they were blamed for poisoning the wells. In between times of shortages, Jews are merely an annoyance and source of resentment. During periods of poverty, they become a ‘piggy-bank’ to be cracked open.
    Really, not that complex. As far as Israel:
    There are many explanations. Fear is one. Cultural and traditional religious attachment is another. But there is a third, also very simple explanation: How come we don’t see that Many Arabs walking around U.S. cities wearing the traditional robes and head-dress? Or Japanese wearing kymonos? Jews may not feel confortable (in mixed company) with their side-burns and 16th century Northern Europe clothings. This embarrassment is often mistaken for racism.

  5. Mitchell wrote: “And it comes as no surprise that (Eizenstadt)fails to identify the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as a major factor aggravating hostility against both Israel and Jews around the world.”

    I don’t believe it matters. Were Israel to withdraw from all the so-called occupied territories from the West Banks, from the Golan, from east Jerusalem, back to the 1948 armistice lines, still there would be hostility against both Israel and the Jews around the world. Perhaps even more hostility. Hostility increases when Jews are perceived as weak and defenseless.

    Israel retreated from Gaza, August 2004; expelled thousands of Jews from their homes; most are living as refugees in their own land, betrayed by their own government. Still the Palestinians are arming to the teeth for war in Gaza —— smuggling arms across the Egyptian / Gaza border at Rafah —- and firing rockets into Sderot and Ashkelon.

    Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon and Hezbollah attacked Israel without provocation last summer. Hamas terrorists murdered Jewish soldiers and captured a Jewish soldier (Corporal Schalit) from Israeli territory, whom they are holding as ransom for the release of over one thousand terrorists, most with Jewish blood on their hands.

    Polls demonstrate that majorities of Palestinian Arabs support suicide bombings of innocent Jewish women and children. Both Hamas and Fatah are dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish state, regardless of borders. Only tactics between the two terror groups differ. Mr. Bush calls arch-terrorist and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Abbas a man dedicated to peace. The world is nuts.

  6. I wondered why that guy was saying the same thing over and over, and then I noticed it was in different languages. Just kidding.

    Steve Klein said,

    “Hostility increases when Jews are perceived as weak and defenseless.”

    You have locked yourself in a completely closed system in which nothing can ever change. There are Palestinians who believe exactly the same thing, about Palestinian weakness and defenselessness, that is. They believe that if they submit to the occupation, the oppression will only increase. From what you say, they might be right, too.

  7. John:
    Your beliefs represent the polar edges of (at least) what is acceptible to say in public. If everyone believed as yourself, (or its mirror image) there would truely be zero hope for peace, because a rift of that magnitude can never be reconsiled without massive casualties.

  8. Isidore said,

    “Your beliefs represent the polar edges of (at least) what is acceptible to say in public.”

    Can you be more specific? What are you accusing me of?

    Here’s an article from Haaretz which illustrates what I was just saying:

    Nothing really unusual there. Just the routine attack on “militants” (aren’t they all?). Even Haaretz makes this point, though:

    “The fighting threatened to strain the cease-fire declared last November between Israel and militants in Gaza. The truce has brought a sharp drop in fighting, though sporadic rocket attacks have continued. Israeli officials have said they will not tolerate continued rocket fire.”

    So that’s the situation. A truce has been holding well since November. Movements toward the peace table seem to be stirring. And Israel chooses this moment to put on a show of force in response to some Qassam attacks [the Palestinians too are afraid to appear weak, defensive, submissive] that destroyed a wall and caused four people to be treated for shock. And ultimately, it’s because of the belief that “hostility increases when Jews are perceived as weak and defenseless.” And nothing causes one to be perceived as weaker or more defenseless than extending the olive branch. So, you end up being afraid of peace, an enemy of peace. What kind of life is that? What kind of refuge?

  9. John:
    There are those who believe (as Meier Kahane did) that there should be no Arabs in Israel, zero. Then there are those who believe that there should be no Israel, and say so, like the President of Iran and at pertinent times, the leader of Hammas. (At least these people are honest, if not crazy). Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the Jews of Israel should go back where they came from, namely, escapees from a holocaust that never occurred. Statements like that empower statements such as you sometimes make about the Jewish National Home;
    “Ethnic cleansing . . ”
    “ . . . above all human laws. . . “
    “ . . . . rogue nation. . . . “
    “Who wants to live in a country that operates in the world without any legal constraints whatever?”
    . . . because the fore-mentioned statements make your (latter) statements seem moderate, which they certainly are not.
    I don’t agree with everything Israel does and I have made my feelings well known on that point. However, you seem to miss no opportunity to convict Israel for everything is ever does, as well as those things it never did. “ . . . above all human laws. . . “ DON’T BE RIDICULOUS! Compared to whom? Saudi Arabia? Egypt? Iran?? Yasser Arafat shooting fellow Arabs in the head?? Your statement is idiotic at best and I can’t say what the worst case is because it might tend to run afoul of the limitations of free speech imposed on participants of this web log.
    PS> The same goes for Carter and Finkelstein.

  10. You have a tendency to take my words out of context and to twist them and thereby accuse me of taking extreme positions that are not really mine. So allow me to resupply some context to those words of mine you have lifted from context.

    Here’s where the “above all human laws” and “rogue nation” language came from, see previous thread:

    I had asked Steve Klein, since he had said he had little respect for “international law” (he characterized it as “neighborhood bullies ganging up on Israel”) and did not accept the legitimacy of the International Court of Justice, if there were any other court or body he would recognize as fit to pass judgement on Israel.

    His answer was,

    “Yes, maybe a heavenly court. I don’t trust any mortal[emph. added]

    Since that eliminates all earthly courts and courts with earthly jurisdictions and earthly laws, what else could I conclude but that he had placed Israel “above all human [i.e., mortal] laws”?

    My next point was this:

    “And if that is the case, then the nation so described is by definition a rogue nation, i.e., one which recognizes no earthly authority higher than itself.”

    What I am talking about is exceptionalism, whether it be Israeli, American, Japanese, or any other. Show me an “exceptional” nation, and I will show you a nation that in at least some of its policies is “a rogue nation.” It doesn’t matter if we are talking about Israel, the U.S.A., or any other. That is the problem with extreme nationalism, of which exceptionalism is a part: it does not give a fig for international law or the opinions of other peoples, and so it operates without constraints.

    I do not question or challenge the legitimacy of Israel (or of America). I simply believe Israel is a better nation (and America is a better nation) when it adheres to international law and recognizes the legitimacy of the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

    I don’t believe this is an extremist idea, or at least it shouldn’t be if it is. It does not threaten the legitimacy of Israel (or of America). Exceptionalism is extremism.

    Maybe Japanese whaling would be a less emotional way for us to discuss the issue of international law?!

  11. Steve’s respons was,

    “Yes, maybe a heavenly court. I don’t trust any mortal on this earth.”

    The italics should have ended after that.

  12. John:
    I have no belief in a ‘heavenly court’ and I have little faith in earthly courts either. They all suffer from the same malady, namely, lawyers. Since there are likely few (if any) lawyers in Heaven, I guess that supports my contention that there is no Heavenly Court either. But I digress. When Steve asserted the notion of a “Heavenly Court”, he did it to try and defend Israel. You rhetorically agreed but tuned the concept 1,800 degrees to characterize this as “rogue” Israel being “above all human laws”. Steve did not say that. He said that in one specific argument, Israel does not trust the “world court” and Steve agreed with that decision. You’re right that I took your statement out of context but your stated context is not much wiser then the total lack of context.

    But lets cut over to whaling:
    This is an excellent example of how and why the U.N. is not a useful organization. The original anti-whaling treaty of the 1980’s stated that any public or private party may enforce the provisions of the treaty. Imagine that, the mighty United Nations, too impendent to enforce an anti whaling treaty, where the only two non-signatories were Japan (without a military) and Norway. Then came the Sea Shepard Society. A private, legal, para-military organization, which had to go into action because the giant United Nations could do nothing to enforce its own treaties. Pathetic. In the mean time, every year or two some of the Sea Shepard crewmembers get arrested for enforcing international law, against the public policy of the very nations who signed the same law. And this is why the notion of a “World Court:” would be a joke, if it weren’t so depressingly pathetic.

  13. Of course he did not say that. He does not realize the ultimate implications of his Israeli exceptionalism. That’s what I was pointing out to him.

    I’ve said all I mean to say about that.

    Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be accused of holding extremist views (a la Kahane, Ahmadinejad, and Hamas!) for advocating adhering to international laws, the Geneva Conventions, and to the legitimacy of the ICJ. Go figya.

    Scofflaws always claim they are being “picked on” when they get caught violating the law.

    I don’t really want to discuss whaling. I was just “baiting” you. ;o)

  14. John:
    Extremists almost never consider themselves extreme. They spend a good deal of their time rationalizing how and why they are moderates. I am certain that Sheehan and Chavez, Hannity and Limbaugh also have this self-image. The warpation of reality begins with the false notion that a ‘silent majority’ of good and decent people agree with them. From there the illusion is almost already complete. Only a very slight further nudging of truth is required to close the circle, namely that the ‘self’ is also normal, reasonable, rational and most important, right.
    The other day, the 200th convicted U.S. felon was released from prison, due to being exonerated by DNA evidence, not available during their trial. Quite simply, they were conviced based on partial evidence, which turned out to be false. If one actually applies the same ratio of false convictions, to the population of U.S. prisoners who ARE NOT involved with crimes that DNA could ever be a factor, the results are astonishing. Fully 2% of all persons serving long term sentenses may be innocent, at least of the crimes that they were conviced of. Our society is OK with that because to our thinking, better have this 2% victoms, then the opposite, namely, every violent criminal running free — due to impossible standards of evidence. Black civil-rights activists will say: Just a minute, that may be OK for the White society but the defects in the system manifest themselves unfairly in the Black population. And, basically, that is the same argument I am making regarding the ICJ. Their decisions re: Israel may be more politically motivated then judicially. To the world at large, Israel could easily be the 2% wrongly accused incarcerated and it would not bother them one little bit. Better that, then having 1.2 billion Arabs and Muslims calling us (the rest of the world) racists.
    As I said earlier, since the underlying question of the legal defination of U.N. 242 has never been adjudicated, or for that matter the legal ramifications of Balfore or the treaties which preceeded it, the ICJ is in not in any position to rule on such questions as a security fence. Doing so is exactly akin to having DNA evidence but not reviewing it during the trial. Or, more precisely, accusing someone of stealing without identifying who the rightful owner of the property was to begin with. Such questions are merely being assumed based on politics.

  15. “Extremists almost never consider themselves extreme.”

    I know, I know. See, that’s why I felt I had to point out to you both why exceptionalism is extremism.” You start out simply loving your country, which is fine. Next thing you know it’s, “My country right or wrong.” And that’s when it happens. Suddenly, no one and no thing on earth can tell your country what to do or dare criticize it. And then – BINGO! – you have placed your country [any country] not only out of the reach of the law but above the law. Nationalism is a slippery slope, isn’t it?

  16. John:
    You wrote:
    “My country right or wrong.”
    I was marching against the Vietnam war when I was 8 years old and knew why I was objecting.
    My motto is not: “My country right or wrong.” and of course, Israel is not even my country.
    My motto is: ‘My country, love it by making it better’.
    My motto re: other nations is:
    Truth first, equity second, bullsh*t nada.
    I do not agree with your characterization that my position or Steve’s position amounts to ‘exceptionalism’. Plus, I believe that exceptions do exist and should exist (to many rules) and that does not make me any sort of extremist. Even army officers are allowed to disobey a certain type of direct order, if they can not carry it out in good concience.

  17. Isidore wrote,

    “I do not agree with your characterization that my position or Steve’s position amounts to ‘exceptionalism’”

    OK. Fair enough.

    “I believe that exceptions do exist and should exist (to many rules) and that does not make me any sort of extremist.”

    I agree. Neither you nor Steve are extremists.

  18. Extremism is an interesting word. I’m busy ready William Garrison’s Biography (by Henry Mayer). Garrison was a leading proponant of the abolition of slavery in the US in the mid-1800s. Even among many fellow abolitionists he was considered extreme because of his uncompromising position that slavery should end – period, and all former slaves should have equal rights with white folks. Today his positions seem self evident.

    I guess my point is that sometimes extreme positions are merely an articulation of ideology that is out of step with the times. All of us in this conversations are considered extreme by others ‘out there’ whose opinions are diametrically opposite. These are usually the people with whom conversation is all but impossible on issues of importance.

    So for some the idea of Israel withdrawing from territory that was ‘won’ fair and square in a war seems extreme. they consider advocates of two states, or a liberal democratic state to be traitors.

    Whereas for others it seems ideologically extreme that a country can call itself a democracy when the founding tenets, immigration policies, and governing principals are based on maintaining a perpetual majority of a single ethno/religious group, in this case the Jews. Many well meaning people consider this to be a form of ethno-fascism disguised as a democracy.

    History will tell us which views will pass into the mainstream as common sense. Just as today all decent people agree that slavery was/is an abomination, in the future no doubt there will also be a consensus that the Israel/Palestine issue was obviously solved appropriately by . . . . . . . . . . . ?

    We’ll have to wait and see.

  19. “Surtout pas de zèle” -Talleyrand

    “Above all, no zeal.

    Fred makes a good point. We each have to reckon with the possibility that – in the eyes of history – we may be…wrong! The worse thing though, it seems to me, is to have been wrong and loud. Or is it to have been right but silent?

  20. Fred wrote:
    ” . . . sometimes extreme positions are merely an articulation of ideology that is out of step with the times. . . ”
    Or, perhaps more commonly so, out of vogue for the given population. People who live in the Tobacco growing areas of the South East USA, were the last to be willing to admit that Cigarettes cause cancer. “Times” per-se were a fortuitous component.
    As I said earlier, everyone likes to think their position is the moderate and reasonable one. Times do not always help clarify anything because sometimes the society can go backwards.
    Now onto the specific statement and topic:
    You wrote:
    “So for some the idea of Israel withdrawing from territory that was ‘won’ fair and square in a war seems extreme. they consider advocates of two states, or a liberal democratic state to be traitors.”
    I do not believe your characterization to be fair, for a few reasons:
    First, a large contingent of Israelis (and Israeli supporters) believe that further withdrawal is an option, but only in return for a credible and lasting peace. Thus far, that has not been a realistic expectation. Secondly you blur a very important distinction between a partial withdrawal (already offered by Barak and refused by Arafat) versus an “every inch” withdrawal. Remembering that Clinton offered to pony up $30-Billion in return for the difference between Barak’s offer and the “every inch” demand, that distinction should not be blurred.
    Lastly, you assume in your comment that the disputed land rightfully belongs to a future (perhaps even a past-tense) Arab state. You make this assumption when you say that:
    ” . . won’ fair and square in a war . . ”
    How about:
    ‘already owned, title, deed, tradition and equity ?? We know that legal and moral opinions vary on this subject but I remind you that they vary. An ‘extreme’ position would have the tendency to deny that varied opinions even exist, or, as a fall-back, that such opinions should be taken seriously or even be acknowledged.

  21. Were abolitionists extremists?

    Some were. John Brown, for example. I would distinguish between holding extreme views and taking extreme actions. Even then history may vindicate such a person, depending on the outcome of a conflict and who gets to write the history books. One group’s insurgent incendiary is another groups freedom fighter.

  22. Isidore said, and went on to quote Fred,

    ” . . won’ fair and square in a war . . ”
    How about:
    ‘already owned, title, deed, tradition and equity ??

    Yes, moral opinions vary. But “won fair and square” at least fits the facts better than “already owned, title, deed, etc.” By the end of the war in 1948, for example, “of 20,418,023 dunums of land held by Israel, only 1,474,766 were owned by Jews.” (Finkelstein, Image and Reality, p.86)

    I will say this for the early Zionists. They did recognize and wrestle in genuine moral anquish over what was called “the Arab question” rather than claim as some do nowadays that the land was empty, or that Jews had held title to its entirety through continuous occupation from “time immemorial”, or that Palestinian Arabs were somehow “less than.” (Arab question? What Arab question? What’s that?)

  23. Isidore said,

    “…further withdrawal is an option, but only in return for a credible and lasting peace.”

    Sounds very reasonable except that the land in question did not belong to Israel in the first place but was captured and is being held, occupied, and settled illegally (does this even have to be said?) as the spoils of war. Withdrawal or “land for peace” means in reality giving the Palestinians some of their confiscated land back as part of a negotiated settlement.

  24. John:
    You already know I disagree. Further debate is not going to enlighten enyone. You use the term “ownership” very loosely.
    You say the Arabs were the legitimate owners will total rights and I say many of the Arabs were not legitimate the owners. The world is full of imperfect solutions, based on competing interests. Abortion is just such a controversy. Since no one gets pregnant solely in order to empower themselves to have one, it could be said that there can not be any perfect solution. The damage is to be measured in degrees to the various parties. The establishment of a new nation where none before existed (at least for 1,900 years) is a special event. It can not be looked at like who’s shopping cart made it to the check-out line before whom. A pregnant woman (for example) may need to (and have the equitible cause to) cut the line. The establishment of the Jewish National Home was the reversal of a longstanding wrong. While it may not have been 100% fair to the Arabs, there was no way to accomplish both. It wasn’t 100% fair to the Jews either, bacause their nation had been chopped down from 45-k sq. miles to 8,000 sq. miles and their population had been chopped down by 40% in the same interim period. Plus, they have not had a moment of peace since oil became a major international commodity in 1907. This entire ‘international crisis’ has been manufactured and maintained to keep the Jews tied up as either victoms, or perceived as tyrants, and keep them from embarrassing their neighbors with success, invention, innovation. This has nothing to due with the relitively small pocket of Arabs who dispute Israeli control over what amounts to 2% of the land in the reigon. 1% would still be too much, or even 1/2%. They hate us for our continious success and so do several other populations in the world. Traditionally, Christians have hated Jews because Jews did not accept Jesus, which is really a rationalization to excuse the resentment for the Jews having attained greater wealth then they. This resentment could easily be explained as the Jews gaining their wealth through illegitimate and unholy means — and to this day I can find you people (both Christians and Muslims) who insist this is so. They fear we will take over the world because that is what they would do. This entire facade is so incredibly shallow. “Refugees” for 60 years . . . pleeeeeeeeez. And 60 year old “refugee camps” inside their own P.A. zones even. That notion is more rediculous then finding out Anna Nicole Smith has a penis. Has everyone gone insane? Hold on . . maybe they have.

  25. “While it may not have been 100% fair to the Arabs, there was no way to accomplish both.”

    This is the “tragic conflict” canard.

    Actually, there was a way, but it was too difficult. A solution should have been negotiated and between Jews and Arabs, preferably without involving the imperialist powers of the day, but both sides were too frightened of each other. Ignoring “the Arab question” did not make it go away. It’s now sixty plus years later, difficult negotiations still lie ahead, and the negotiations will be immeasurably harder now with much bad history on both sides. But even today the differences are not irreconcilable. Witness the Saudi / Arab Proposal. Where there is a will, it will find a way.

  26. John, you quote, Finkelstein, Image and Reality.

    Is Norman Finkelstein and impartial scholar? Doesn’t he essentially deny the Holocaust and side with Israel’s enemies? Isn’t he widely quoted on Nazi web sites?

  27. Steve Klein asks,

    “Is Norman Finkelstein and impartial scholar?”

    Like any scholar, he documents the evidence he presents so that anyone may check his references and sources, and all of his publications are subject to peer review by scholars in his field. He is very knowledgeable and his books are deeply researched and thorougly documented. He has strong opinions, but his arguments are supported by evidence. It goes without saying that no one has the final word, and that anyone is welcome to make counter-arguments on the basis of other evidence. Yes, I would say he is an impartial scholar, in contrast to Dershowitz who is not a historian or political scientist in pursuit of historical truth but an avowed partisan advocate for Israel.

    “Doesn’t he essentially deny the Holocaust and side with Israel’s enemies?”

    No, he doesn’t. As a matter of fact, both his parents were survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto and of Nazi concentration camps. He is opposed to what he calls “the ideological representation” or “dogma” of the Nazi Holocaust, actually a set of mischaracterizations of the historical facts, particularly since 1967, employed as a rhetorical means to immunize Israel from criticism against its policies and to impart total blamelessness on it. His objective is not to “side” with anyone but to write history based on research into the facts.

    “Isn’t he widely quoted on Nazi web sites?”

    Having never visited a Nazi website, I have no idea. If you say so, I’ll take your word for it. It would not surprise me. Hitler quoted from the Bible on more than one occasion, I recall. Nazis are not above taking anyone’s words out of context, twisting them beyond recognition, and then misusing them to suit their purposes.

  28. peer review

    Raul Hilberg is considered the dean of Holocaust scholars. Finkelstein has a number of brief interviews with Hilberg on his website regarding Finkelstein’s book, “The Holocaust Industry.” He explains popular reaction against Finkelstein in America and why he thinks Prof. Finkelstein is on the right track in debunking the economic exploitation of the Holocaust.

  29. Steve asked: Were abolitionists extremists?
    They were certainly regarded as such by the vast majority of Americans up to the beginning of the civil war. Most abolitionists during the mid-eighteenth century advocated emancipating the slaves and sending them back to Africa. This reflected their underlying racism that Blacks and Whites could never be equal citizens. Even many northern states that had resident Free Blacks did not allow equal citizenship. And of course the 3/5th clause in the constitution precluded Federal citizenship rights.

    Garrison and his supporters advocated immediate emancipation with full civil rights as citizens. he never waivered on this point. This was considered an extreme view.

    Most Americans at the beginning of the civil war did not believe that peoples of all colors were entitled to the same rights and protections under the constitution.

    Albeit for different reasons, Zionist ideology and most Jews, believe that democracy in Israel is compatible with laws and government policies that mandate and enforce Jewish control of the country.

    As a matter of principal, we cannot have democracy in Israel without full equality and civil rights under the law, and a more evenhanded immigration policy.

    Of course this is why the state calls itself a ‘Jewish and Democratic Country’.

  30. John, you wrote: (Normon Finkelstein) like any scholar documents the evidence he presents so that anyone may check his references and sources, and all of his publications are subject to peer review by scholars in his field.”

    Shalom Freedman, Jerusalem, has reviewed several books on Israel and the Middle East for The following is his review of Finkelstein’s “Image and Reality.” Quite honestly, I’ve not read this book. I did watch Professor Finkelstein do an interview on U-tube recently. He does seem to have it in for Israel; he did appear rather belligerent and demeaning toward the Jewish state. Do you know if he would be willing to debate or has debated anyone qualified from the other side of the argument? Can you read this review and comment on it please?

    “Dishonest and one-sided , December 29, 2005
    Reviewer: Shalom Freedman “Shalom Freedman” (Jerusalem,Israel) – See all my reviews

    Finkelstein is a one-sided advocate of the Palestinian Arab cause. For some reason he has not bothered in all his years of research to read the Palestinian or Arab press in regard to their intentions towards Israel. Because of this he totally ignores the unrelenting Arab ambition to destroy Israel, and the hate-filled Arab propaganda which is its fundamental note in relation to Israel. This means he gives no credibility whatsoever to the idea that Israel might possibly be engaging in certain military operations in order to, God forbid, defend itself.

    Finkelstein totally ignores Jewish victims of the conflict, and shows no human sympathy whatsoever. Without going into questions of his personal psychology or pathology, it is possible to simply see in his attitude a callousness toward Jewish suffering .

    Finkelstein claims that supporters of Israel who he calls `philo- Semites’ call anyone who criticizes Israel, `Anti-Semitic’. The absurdity of this remark should be apparent to anyone who has ever read an Israeli newspaper, or followed Israeli political discussion. In fact if Jews called anyone who criticizes Jews or Israel ` anti- Semitic’ they then would be calling almost every Jew, `Anti-Semitic’.

    The distinction Finkelstein fails to make is in one sense simply that between constructive and destructive criticism. There are those who criticize Israel with the intention of helping it do better, and those who criticize Israel out of hate and with a desire to injure and even destroy it. Not simply the substance but the whole tone of Finkelstein’s remarks put him in the latter category.

    And it should also be added that with the desire to injure comes the desire to insult and humiliate. This is in fact one of Finkelstein’s major traits as writer and person. And one of the reasons he has lost several academic positions is because of his frequent personal abusing of students who had opinions that differed from his.

    Finkelstein totally ignores the unremitting hate which has come from the Arab media for the past eight years.

    He ignores the violence of Arab society in general , and their having time and again initiated violence and war against Israel.
    His work is totally dishonest, and one- sided.”

  31. Steve,

    I don’t know anything about Shalom Freedman. As with Dershowitz though, he is responding to this book in terms of sides or side-taking. You use the term too in asking if Finkelstein would debate someone from the other side. I believe this use of “side” goes to a basic misunderstanding about Finkelstein’s book(s). For one thing, his books cover a multitude of topics relating to the history of Arab-Israeli conflict, the occupation, the “new anti-Semitism,” and the Holocaust. His object as a historian is to advocate for the truth as he discovers it to be through his research; not to advocate for a “side.” His critics, such as the reviewer and Dershowitz, don’t like his findings. What they need to do is show that his conclusions are not just unpopular but are based on faulty evidence, incomplete evidence, or faulty reasoning, which they are welcome to do. What everyone must do, if they suspect there is Judenhass involved in criticism of Israel is to look at the evidence and sort out legitimate criticism from rank anti-Semitism. I personally do not believe Finkelstein’s criticisms are anti-Semitic. The reviewer here does present an unsupported allegation and makes a personal attack on Finkelstein but, at least here, offers no criticism of Finkelstein’s evidence or argumentation. In fact, it’s hard to know from this what exactly he is reacting to in the book. (It can’t all be wrong). So in essence the “review” is an emotional reaction, a extended blurb. As a review it’s like a seventh grade book report, “This is a dumb book and I hated it.” In other words, it’s not a serious review. One expects that a reviewer would show some evidence that he has at least read the book.

    As to debates, I believe there have been several. His website gives contact information.
    Thank you for asking about Finkelstein. I would encourage you to read Image and Reality, look carefully at his arguments and evidence, and decide for yourself.

  32. John wrote:
    “without involving the imperialist powers of the day, but both sides were too frightened of each other.”
    Another invention.
    The Hebrews of the Mid East were (and continue to be) in a unique position to deal with the Arabs on their own level, as most Israelis speak some Arabic, eat similar foods and don’t even look that physically different.
    When (some day) the oil is either all gone or obsolite, the Arabs may begin to appreciate that the Jews are their best (perhaps only) ‘life-line’ to the modern world.

  33. “the other side”

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that, from my reading of his books, there is not one other side. It doesn’t make sense to frame the discussion in that way, just as it would not make sense to announce there will be a debate about today’s New York Times. What? What are the two sides there? There is too much there to cover in a debate between two people each taking a side.

    Similarly, Finkelstein’s books make hundreds of assertions based on interpretations of thousands of pieces of evidence. And any single assertion could be the subject of an academic discussion. But if there were twelve scholars in the room there might be twelve sides; not just “the other side.” His books are written for an academic audience written under the rules of academic disputation. They are not written to be the stuff of Crossfire between two “sides”, though they can lend themselves to that.

  34. Isidore wrote,

    “the Arabs may begin to appreciate that the Jews are their best (perhaps only) ‘life-line’ to the modern world.”

    I agree. The possibilities are stunning. I also think the Arabs have a great deal to offer the Jews. Again the possibilities are stunning.

    But what did you mean by “an invention”?

  35. Re: Abolitionists and extremists:
    Ben Franklin was one of the earliest abolitionists and he did not advocate sending blacks anywhere else. Nonetheless, he cast the deciding vote in favor of a confederation of states where slavery was safe and legal. His reasoning was NOT to avoid the appearance of being an extremist. Therefore, his position was NOT considered an ‘extreme’ one in its time. He simply realized that without this consession, there would be no consortium of ‘United States.’
    Re: Finkelstein and ‘all critisism of Israel being accused of being anti-Semetic’.
    People who say anything to detract from the absolute right to own unlimited numbers of guns are called “anti constitutional” by the NRA. People who call for simple measures, such as licenses and/or training courses are so labeled, as are people who call for background checking and closing the ‘gun-show’ loopholes. This technique is a common rethorical measure, typically used by scoundrels, who seek to ill-define (and therefore disempower) their advesaries. Finkelstein is just a scoundrel.

  36. “This technique is a common rethorical measure, typically used by scoundrels, who seek to ill-define (and therefore disempower) their advesaries.”

    I believe this is precisely Finkelstein’s point. Those who may be critical of Israeli policy are not necessarily anti-Semitic nor even anti-Israel, just as those who may be critical of the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment are not necessarily anti-Constitutional. But scoundrels label them as such as a rhetorical ploy to disempower all their assertions.

    Here’s a good one on the subject of “the new anti-Semitism” by Uri Avnery:

  37. Isador –
    I never mentioned Franklin in my post. Why the diversion?
    Of course Franklin wasn’t an extremist!
    It’s idiotic to say he was an abolitionist. Framklin subordinated the rights of African slaves to a union of states controlled my property-owning white males over 25 years old (the original voting criteria). Franklin presided over an accommodation that resulted in another 100 years of slavery in the USA and you call him an abolitionist?? He participated in sacrificing the freedom of millions of people for generations. As such Franklin was on a par with some of the worst tyrants in recent history, and all the US Presidents who followed him until after the civil war.

    Slavery was/is a absolute moral issue and as such there was/is no compromise. Either one was an abolitionist and demanded the immediate emancipation of slaves, or one does not. Franklin did not. Garrison and his colleagues did indeed demand an immediate end to slavery and were considered extremists until vindicated in the runnup to the civil war.

    Isador wrote “People who say anything to detract from the absolute right to own unlimited numbers of guns are called “anti constitutional” by the NRA”
    Similarly people who demanded the abolition of slavery were called anti-constitutional and traitors.

    One of the problems in today’s cosmopolitan globalism is that very few people advocate from positions of moral certainty. Issues are generally considered (especially where Israel is concerned) in shades of gray. Once is expected to seek ‘balance’.

    So it is here in Israel. We don’t have a constitution, just a bunch of ‘Basic Laws’ that require a larger majority to pass the Knesset. However the ideology of Zionism permeates the entire structure of government, and most Jewish frameworks abroad. Thus if one criticizes Israel in a manner that strikes at the the core of the ideology one is often branded a traitor, or anti semitic, or a self-hating Jew.

    True Abolitionists were considered the self-hating whites of their era. But no-one today disputes the rightness of their cause. Who knows which of today’s ‘extremists’ will be the heroes of tomorrow.

  38. Fred,

    I appreciate your posts. You always shed lots of light on a topic rather than heat. Thank you.

  39. Fred:
    You speak inaccurately about Franklin. Therefore, my statement can not be “idiotic”, since it is accurate. You confuse the right to vote with the right not to be bought and sold like livestock. Two distinctly different things. Since you are too smart to make such a base misstatement, I shall chalk it up to the standard lefty double-speak.
    Franklin was a longstanding opponent of slavery. That makes him an abolitionist. No amount of word-smithing will alter basic reality on this point. The fact that he voted against his conscience on the subject (when push came to shove) only made him a weak abolitionist.
    I have criticized Israel and I am certainly no Jew-hater. I believe in a free Tibet but that does not make me a Chinese hater either. I believe in full independence for the Kurds but that does not make me an Iraqi hater. However, there are lines and when those lines are crossed, the accusation becomes appropriate.
    1. Those who hold Israel to a higher standard of morality and/or justice then other nations; {Chesler}
    2. Those who are singly concerned for the wellbeing of the Palestinian-Arabs, while paying little or no attention to other suffering peoples — especially other suffering Arabs and double especially, to other suffering Arabs, who are suffering at the hands of other Arabs; {Lewis}
    3. Those who consistently lie or warp reality or deliberately confuse otherwise simple precepts in order to emphasize their point(s), whereas such fallacious emphasis always cuts against Israel. {Farash}.
    Most Anti-Semites will engage in all three. However, only one tendency is required to qualify.

  40. Well John, I just ordered a copy of Finkelstein’s book, “Image and Reality.” I cannot believe I am contributing to this hater. At least I can tell my critics that I have a copy. As I read this book, I will comment on it for you.

    I just watched a debate this morning between Finkelsteing and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer this morning on U-Tube. Now there’s a fair debate! I am being faceteous. Why can’t Finkelstein debate a real Zionist?


  41. John,
    Yes, the book is on its way from Amazon and I will try to plow through most of it. But I’ve got to ask you John, why does “Democracy NOW get such “light weights” to debate Finklestein like Shlomo Ben-Ami. I watched this or another debate between the two on U-tube. Ben Ami and Wolf Blitzer are kindred spirits with Finkelstein. These so-called debates are absurd. Get a real historian, a real Zionists, a real scholar to debate Finkelstein! Then send me a link. This is a joke. The following is what one reader wrote about Ben-Ami’s book “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy.” Why did Democracy Now pick a Pseudo-Intellectual Naive Fool to debate a first-class debater like Finkelstein, other than for the obvious reason???? Finklestein might not be able to hold his own against a true Zionist historian and scholar.


    ” Ramblings By A Pseudo-Intellectual Naive Fool, July 20, 2006

    Ehud Barak, who was willing to compromise, cater and appease the Arabs so much that he not only offered 96% of Judea-Samaria to Arafat at Camp David, but also chose to deliberately betray Israel’s only true Arab Ally and Friend, the South Lebanese Army, knowingly chose Shlomo Ben-Ami to be his Foreign Minister in the talks with Arafat. He did so after David Levy balked at Barak’s plans to return to the 1967 pre-Six Day War borders. Ben-Ami would be extremely willing, and like Barak willing to give up the Israeli store.

    Enter Ben-Ami. Ben-Ami had always been on record advocating peace, to his credit, but the peace he always advocated reflected Barak’s own thinking of one-sided concessions without nothing in return from an Arafat and his cronies who wanted nothing more than the destruction of Israel. The blinders fell off Ben-Ami at Camp David when after signing off to practically everything Arafat demanded and Barak offered, the Palestinians refused Barak’s offer of joint sovereignty over Jerusalem as well as all of the territories both Barak and Ben-Ami were willing to turn over to them. They wanted COMPLETE CONTROL of the Old City. Even Ben-Ami, who hadn’t heard this, was horrified, and ended up in a shouting match with one of Arafat’s stooges. Arafat returned home, and promptly ordered the New Intifada to target Israeli women and children rather than seeking peace.

    Despite this, or in spite of this, Ben-Ami still doesn’t get it. He will blame his own leaders, Golda Meir and Menachem Begin for standing firm in the face of Arab terror and aggression. He openly admires James Baker, who with Madeleine Albright were the two most hostile Secretaries of State in American Diplomatic History (along with John Foster Dulles) when it came to Israel’s security interests. He thinks peace is still possible, and that Arafat is an anomaly – to his credit he singles out the PLO head for the failure of peace negotiations.

    Despite witnessing Palestinian duplicity and lies, Ben-Ami suggests that a primarily hostile world, America excluded, should impose a settlement on Israel.(It would be interesting to see how this appeaser sees who is behind the current carnage initiated by his negotiation partners today) But Ben-Ami remains clueless on what was behind the election of Hamas, or why the majority of Palestinians would be happy if Israel ceased to exist. An inept foreign minister, and a clueless ex-foreign minister in a peace camp that has been all but destroyed by missiles descending on Israeli cities, and the kidnapping and murder of Israeli soldiers.

    Ben-Ami is praised by other reviewers, and the consensus is that he is a peace-loving intellectual. He might be peace-loving, but this is not a very-well written book, and he comes across naive and stupid, surprising for an someone who claims to be an Israeli realist. Don’t bother.

    Read Yossef Bodansky’s “The High Cost of Peace” for a truer account of what happened at Camp David instead, and how inept and foolish the Israeli negotiators including this pseudo-intellectual “piece (of Israelis) now” minister Ben-Ami really were in the face of Arafat’s true desire to destroy their country.

  42. John,
    One of the points — I seems to recall — that Ben Ami made in his debate with Finkelstien was, no nation has come into being without sin.

    I thought it was a fair point and an inference that Finkelstein did not address. That is, why has Israel been held to such a high standard of perfection given this fact. I mean, look at the European invasion of the America’s, its’ ethnic cleansings, murders and theft of Native American lands.

    Beyond this however, the United Nations voted in November 1947 to partition Palestine into a Jewish (smaller) state and and an Arab (larger) state. The Arabs rejected the partition plan out of hand opting to exterminate the “Zionists” from the land of Israel.

    The Jews reluctantly accepted the UN partition plan. The rest is history. Consequently, why shouldn’t the recalcitrant Arabs accept the lion’s share of the blame and guilt for their refusal and their opting for annihilating the Jews?

  43. “Get a real historian, a real Zionists, a real scholar to debate Finkelstein! Then send me a link.”

    A real historian? He was educated at Tel-Aviv University and Oxford University from which he received a Ph.D. in History. He was a historian at Tel-Aviv University from the mid-1970’s, serving as head of the School of History from 1982 to 1986. His initial field of study was Spanish history, but later he turned to the history of Israel and the Middle East.

    The problem, as I explained before, is that when you have a historian debating a historian you don’t get so much a debate or even “sides.” They have points of agreement and disagreement. Finkelstein is not an Israel-basher or a Jew-hater much as some people would like to make him out to be. The work of a historian is to find out the truth. Who wants to take the opposite “side” from that? You can’t. You have to debate individual assertions and conclusions on the basis of some kind of evidence. You may disagree with his conclusions, but it is what it is.

    Let’s look for a minute at what he says about the Shoah. He says since 1967 apologists for Israel have made novel re-characterizations about the Nazi Holocaust and exploited these to make Israel blameless and immune from criticism. One of those new re-characterizations that he found was the idea of the uniqueness of the Jewish Holocaust, that no people had ever suffered in such a way, that Jews were the only people so devastatingly affected. Prior to 1967, the Holocaust was discussed in America at least in universal terms, as something that affected the Jews but also all of the human species. OK, that was his observation. On what did he base this? First of all on not finding that characterization much prior to 1967. And secondly on the fact that the earliest targets of Nazi genocide turn out to have been the retarded, the mentally-ill,(Schwachsinnige), the crippled, and also Gypsies. Now this point of his is what some people call “Holocaust-denial” or “Holocaust-revisionism,” and for this they accuse him of being a Jew-hater, of minimizing Jewish suffering or denying its uniqueness. Excuse me, but that is absurd. Anyway, what you find is evidence, argumentation, and conclusions. Not hate-speech.

  44. “Consequently, why shouldn’t the recalcitrant Arabs accept the lion’s share of the blame and guilt for their refusal and their opting for annihilating the Jews?”

    Finkelstein’s point is that whether you agree with his characterization of the origins of the refugee problem or with that of Benny Morris, there must be a recognition of responsibility on the part of Israel for its deliberate and considered refusal in 1948 to allow the refugees to return to their homes.

  45. Steve:
    I will answer your last question:
    “why shouldn’t the recalcitrant Arabs accept the lion’s share of the blame and guilt for their refusal and their opting for annihilating the Jews?”
    Lion’s share?
    They have yet to accept one molecule.
    There are two distinct types of people in this world. Those who want like hell to be on the winning side (about 80%) and those who couldn’t care less.
    Most people’s frame-of-reference is horribly scewed and disfigured due to fear of being caught on the wrong side. This holds true for all sorts of situations. One’s job, one’s spouse, one’s investments, politics, friends, etc.. There are 1.2-billion Arabs and Muslims in this world. Almost 100/1 over Jews. The idea that we could possibly push them around is abserd. For Israel to even try would be certifiable insanity. That is the main reason why people who find more then a token amount of blame with Israel can not be thinking clearly. Perception is therefore more important then reality. “Reality” (to the majority of people) is what the big-dog says it is. During the Soviet era, the “big-dog” said that the Jews wanted to take over the world, so that’s what its citizens believed. The Nazis turned the Jews into parasidic sub-humans and that too was common belief in its day. The “Grand Mufti” stated that the Zionists would not be happy with a 45,000 sq-mile nation and ultimately would aquire all of Arabia abd beyond. Each in turn accused the Jews of exactly what they themselves were guilty of. How do you expect the Arabs to accept blame when they can’t even bring themselves to admit that the Temple of Solomon existed, or that the Holocost happened?? Calling people “Sheep” is a profound insult to sheep.

  46. Steve, the book review again is not a serious review. It’s a reaction. It’s again like a 7th grade book report with one addition, “The guy that wrote this book is a jerk. It’s a dumb book and I hated it and you will too.” You know, maybe sometime he’ll tell us what he really thinks?

  47. PS>
    In the days of Franklin, there were significant numbers of white, European “indentured servants” [read: slaves with acceptible credit]. These people (mainly from Germany, Holland, Belgium and some English) were bound to work (as virtual slaves) for terms of years, just in order to pay for their passage. They could not vote either. Only white, male land owners had the right to vote. Therefore, Franklin’s idea of abolition would have merely promoted the Blacks to the 2nd class level of the poor white servant class.
    Please, I have a hard enough time dealing with you on the subject of Mid East history, without you devling into the ancient ‘streets of Philadelphia’.

  48. Interesting. New poll out in Haaretz. 75% of Israel’s Arabs would support a new constitution that maintained Israel’s status as a Jewish state while guaranteeing equal rights for minorities.

    “IDI Managing-Director Amir Abramovich said the results prove that an agreement on a constitution, based on the principle of a Jewish and democratic Israel, is possible. “We have been in dialogue with the Arab public for years in order to reach an agreement,” he said.”

    There you go. Keyword: dialogue.

  49. Isador wrote:
    Therefore, Franklin’s idea of abolition would have merely promoted the Blacks to the 2nd class level of the poor white servant class.
    The point is that Franklin didn’t do anything to better the lives, or free the slaves. How could he be an abolitionist if, in his entire political life he did not even attempt to enact any legislation or constitutional amendments to free them? Indentured servants could work off their debt, work hard, save money, buy property and become a voting citizen. A hard life to be sure, but with hope. The slaves had no hope. Your statement sounds like an apology for slavery.

    John – The poll is encouraging. The main problem we have to cut through here is that the majority of Israeli’s Jewish citizens and politicians still see ‘equal rights’ as code for ‘liberal democratic state’. They may be right. The country is not quite ready for a western style democracy, but we’re getting there. The idea of Israel being a Jewish state, as Great Britain or Holland is a Christian state with full rights for all, is slowly catching on. Unfortunately most Israelis still have a medieval idea of what ‘Jewish state’ means, and think that non-Jews need to be perpetually kept in some kind of second class status under the law.

  50. Fred:
    1. Franklin was a prolific author.
    2. His writings were consistently very anti-slavery.
    3. He conceded to political pressure during the ‘Constitutional Congress’ because it was clear that this issue was going to become a deal-breaker.
    4. He voted to form the USA with slavery being legal, over his own longstanding objections.
    5. I think this was a mistake. I do NOT believe in appeasement as a solution.
    6. Therefore, I am NOT apologizing for slavery or for Franklin’s vote.
    7. I merely point out that he WAS an ‘abolitionist’ albeit, a weak one — who lost his nerve at the critical moment.
    8. Therefore, your facts are wrong and your conclusions are likewise wrong. Please take careful note.

  51. Fred asked,

    “How could he be an abolitionist if…?”

    He became a vocal abolitionist late. In his early years he, like most of the founding fathers, owned some slaves. Later, though, his views changed and he became president of an abolitionist society. At the very end of his political career he did, as president of that society, ask Congress to put an end to slave trading and to end slavery by freeing the slaves. It went nowhere, and it was too little, too late.

  52. I just read the JVP essay on Israel involvment in Iraq war. Of course some people in Israel and also in its government favored removing Saddam!! Why wouldn’t they?? The entire question is inane. Saddam favored removing Israel too!! After 9-11, his statement was: “The U.S. has inhereted the sharks’s teeth of its own ulgy behavior”
    No other ‘head of state’ in the world made such brazen remarks, while the buildings were still smoldering no less. Did that hope for Saddam’s demise translate into support for a protracted military invasion? No correlation.
    The essay hints that this Jewish support was somehow clandestine. Because that (it was also inferred) would be the only way to try and show that the support was somehow improper.
    Saddam was a ruthless tyrent, mass murderer and oppressor of his own people, his neighbors and especially Israel. May his sole rot in hell. Anyone who trys to construct a moral equivelency between Saddam and a civilized world is not being intellectually honest. Israel would also be better off with functional democracies in control of all its other neighboring countries, except for the political / military / religious control of speech and the media, which (sadly) renders such concepts impractical.
    But everyone in the world (not just Israel) should hope for an evolution in all the Arab Nations, to viable, sustainable and functional democracy, with free speech, press and religion. Every single Arab country involved with the 1967 war had a military coup, in the years that followed. Pretending that such events are normal and customery and that the decendants of such can be reasonably compaired with ordinary working democracies, is a bald faced untruth.

  53. Actually, Arab democracies would be even more hostile to Israel than they are now. We see that in Egypt, for example, where the Kifaya movement is calling for the Camp David Treaty to be revoked.

  54. Peter H.
    Of course, our U.S.A. democracy (Constitutional Republic) is far from perfect either.
    Perfection should be the goal but not the expectation.
    Certainly the Arab ‘pseudo-democracies’ (or proto-democracies) are dangerous, as is the Iranian counterfeit democracy.
    This is because there are be no possibility of any authentic democracy without the ‘three-frees’:
    *Free Speech
    *Free Press
    *Free Religion
    The primary blunder made in the Iraq strategy was that the planners mistakenly believed that imposed democratic reforms would usher in these freedoms. That is like saying that legalizing prostitution would discourage it and ultimately do away with it.
    Egypt does not have a free press or free speech and their so-called democracy is a sham. Sometimes a marginally benevolent dictator can be a better deal than a sham democracy. But like Forest Gump said: “Life is like a box of chocolates, ya never know what ya gonna get”. When you have free speech and free press, you at least know what chocolates are included in the box.

  55. PS>
    Headline from
    “French police have arrested a total of 592 people across the country as bands of rioters protested conservative Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential election victory Sunday, French media reported.”
    5,000 rioters
    367 vehicles set on fire.
    So as you can clearly see, even in France, the democracy is only as good as the people within it.
    (I can not post links because my posts get trapped in the JVP spam filter)

  56. Isisor,

    I agree that a healthy democracy requires more than majority rule. However, that’s not relevant to my point that Arab democracies would be even more hostile to Israel than the autocratic regimes that are in power now. The anger and outrage that most Arabs have toward Israeli polices is real, and is not simply a matter of being manipulated by autocrats.

  57. Peter H.
    Their hate may be real but is based (in large part) on falacious history and other assorted disinformation. Not that they are alone. Some people I debate with on this blog share some of these same beliefs. The hate can be real enough, but is the cause of that hate real, imagined, contrived and/or rationalized? A “democracy” per-se will not stop propaganda. Therefore, your observation that Arab “democracies” might be more hostle towards Israel then dictators is not wrong, its just besides the point.

  58. Henry Lowi is an activist who lived for many years in Israel. His views are similar to those of the anti-Zionist Left in Israel (Matzpen, etc.) . It occurred to me that his views are pertinent to this discussion. This is background information to a debate that is taking place in Tel Aviv tonight.

    Henry Lowi sent this message to his listserve

    Dear Friends:

    The Avnery-Pappe debate will take place on Wednesday, May 8th, according to the notice below. See also:


    My comments follow:

    The public debate between Uri Avnery and Ilan Pappe is a welcome event. Uri Avnery, who was “a machine-gunner in the Samson’s Foxes commando unit,” participated as a young man from Europe in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which Ilan Pappe has described so well in his recent book. Uri Avnery became an intrepid and tireless campaigner for a peace agreement between the State of Israel and the Palestinian leadership. Ilan Pappe is a spokesperson for the Right of Return of the Palestine refugees. The very fact that this public debate is being held is a sign of the dissatisfaction of peace activists with the old strategies and the old slogans, and an openness to new ideas, previously thought to be “beyond the pale”.

    Unlike Avnery and Pappe, I am not today on the front lines of the struggle in Israeli-occupied Palestine. Nevertheless, I am as interested as anyone that the political debate not get bogged down in false dichotomies or in secondary issues.

    Briefly put, in my view, the important issue is not the number of states, but rather the quantity and the quality of the rights enjoyed by the people. So, there needs to be a discussion about goals. There is a no less important discussion about the slogans, the immediate demands, and the transitional demands, that form part of the strategic bridge to get from here to there.

    Partition and Nakba

    It should be recognized that the “one state-2 states” debate revisits the debates of the 30s and 40s. Moreover, with the benefit of hindsight, we can ask: From the point of view of securing peace and security in Palestine, was the Partition resolution of November 29th, 1947 correct? Further, was the war of 47-48 a just war, on the Israeli side, a war for national independence and national defense? Or was it an unjust war of conquest, occupation, and ethnic cleansing?

    Israeli supporters of the so-called “2 state solution”, while purporting to be “realistic and pragmatic”, tend to support the Israeli side in the Nakba. They should admit this historic position openly or, rather, abandon it.

    The Partition resolution needs be reconsidered, and analyzed, and denounced explicitly, and in detail. There is good reason to re-visit the positions taken by those democrats, worker-activists, and socialists who opposed Partition in the 1940s. The consequences of Partition – a Zionist state that prevents Palestinian self-determination, threatens the region, and serves as a death-trap for the Israelis – must be exposed in detail.

    This is not a matter only of historical narrative and perspective. In October 2000, Arik Sharon noted that the 1948 war was still being fought. In fact, the “1948 file” was re-opened in Israel on Land Day 1976. The Partition resolution and the ethnic cleansing of 1947-48 must be re-evaluated in order to find the path to a peaceful modus vivendi in the Holy Land.

    End the Occupation

    One of the arguments of those peace activists who support the so-called “2 state solution” is that the oppression and suffering caused by the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is so acute that ending this occupation, and this oppression, and this suffering, is and must be an urgent priority. This is a powerful argument for a mass movement, in Israel and the occupied territories, to demand the unconditional end to the occupation. It is not an argument in favor of the so-called “2 state solution”, either as understood by Bush-Olmert, or by the Geneva Initiative, or by Gush Shalom.

    The organized struggle to end the occupation need not be submerged in either “2 state” diplomacy, or in “one state” pie-in-the-sky. The strength of the anti-Zionists organized in Matzpen immediately after the June 67 was expressed in the demand: “Down with the occupation!” No ifs, ands, or buts.

    This is also the slogan and the goal that mobilizes most people for struggle in the occupied territories. The Palestinian activists who risk their lives to end the Israeli occupation do not thereby endorse Partition or the so-called “2 state solution”. They merely want to be free. For them, a future “independent state of Palestine” need not be one that accommodates the Zionist entity.

    In Israel, the fight to end the occupation is key to demonstrating solidarity with the oppressed. A commitment to removing the yoke of occupation and oppression from the Palestinian people, and thus open the way for them to freely determine their destiny, is the litmus test for any honest Israeli peace activist. Demanding a“2 state solution” (or “a Palestinian state alongside Israel”), rather than an unconditional end to the occupation, is evidence of liberal illusions in diplomacy and a betrayal of solidarity with the oppressed. Demanding a “one state solution” without demanding the unconditional removal of the yoke of oppression is a form of institutionalizing that oppression.

    For Israeli peace activists and pro-democracy activists, who are truly motivated by solidarity with the oppressed, the demand to end the occupation unconditionally is a central plank of their political strategy, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

    Let the refugees return

    Too many Israeli “left-wing” opponents of the right of return warn ominously of a “tsunami” of returning refugees. Thus, these “left-wingers” contribute their share to generating and proliferating Israeli attitudes of hostility, vilification, and contempt against Palestinians. Israeli peace-activists and democrats have a duty to fight these racist attitudes and to cultivate feelings of solidarity with the oppressed. Advocacy for the right of return is a central component of democratic activism and solidarity.

    Of course, Palestinian peace activists and pro-democracy activists can help undermine Israeli racism by emphasizing that returning refugees are not a threat to peace-loving Israelis. Palestinian activists can proclaim and demonstrate that they seek the return of the oppressed people, so that they may rebuild their lives in their homeland, live at peace with their neighbors, and build together a new society.

    Upholding the rights of the refugees is key to exposing the undemocratic ethnic-nationalist character of the Israeli state and the need for regime change to open the road to reconciliation. Without reconciliation with thePalestine refugees, there can be no realistic peace plan. And, there is no “just resolution to the refugee problem” that excludes the right of return. Israelis who demonstrate their solidarity with the oppressed are necessarily in opposition to a regime based on ethnic cleansing. The demand to let refugees return must be front and center. I have suggested the slogan: “The refugees are our partner for peace. Let them come home!”

    Release the political prisoners

    The political superstructure of any state immediately calls to mind the need for political freedom. The cream of Palestinian political activists are denied political freedom because they are in Israeli prisons and detention centres. No political freedom for the Palestinian people is possible without political freedom for the Palestinian political prisoners, Intifada activists, and administrative detainees. The fight for Palestinian political freedom, and the exercise of the right to self-determination require that the plight of the political prisoners be front and centre. This is not a matter for 10th place on an agenda for diplomatic negotiations. Release of the Palestinian prisoners must be presented as a pre-requisite to negotiation and reconciliation.

    After the capture of Gilad Shavit at Kerem Shalom, and before the start of the conflict with the Lebanese resistance, Israeli public opinion presented a conjunctural opportunity to demand the release of Palestinian prisoners “in exchange” for corporal Shavit. Israeli peace activists missed this relatively rare opportunity, even while there were large-scale demonstrations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip demanding the release of prisoners. An opportunity for solidarity was missed (just as, previously, Israeli peace activists had abstained from the struggle over the removal of the settler-colonies from Gaza), instead raising the sterile slogan “negotiations now”.

    Regime change

    The real issue is not one state or 2, but a realistic assessment of the nature of the Israeli state, as projected by the Partition resolution, as established in the ethnic cleansing operations of 47-48, and as expanded in June 67. The dominant features of the Israeli ethnic nationalist regime are:

    a. settler colonialism;

    b ethnic cleansing; and

    c. racist discrimination

    It can be patiently explained that such a regime is the main obstacle to peace.

    Peace requires regime change. Nothing less.

    Unfortunately, the main forces in the Israeli “peace camp” — Gush Shalom, Maki (ICP), Hadash (DFPE), and many other Israeli leftists who claim to adhere to “Marxism” and “socialism” — are nevertheless deeply opposed to regime change. They have not learned the lessons of the 20th century, a century of wars, revolutions, and counter-revolutions, or of the upheavals of the present young century. Rather than learn how to mobilize the people for regime change, they seek to create a diplomatic patch-up promoting a diplomatic solution involving only the Israeli elite and the Palestinian elite under the auspices of the imperialist “international consensus”. Once agitating tirelessly for an “international conference,” now calling for “negotiations now” and for the “2 state solution”, they reinforce the imperialist-imposed divisions among the people. It must be said that, with Bush and Rice, who are committed to the “political horizon” of the “2 state solution” that leaves intact imperialist assets in the Middle East, the only prospect is endless suffering for the people.

    Objectively speaking, there is no alternative to regime change, which must be prepared systematically. This must be explained patiently, and demonstrated consistently with organized action. Those honest peace activists, who do not yet appreciate the need for regime change, can still recognize that the milestones on the road to peace include the demands to: a) end the occupation, b) release the Palestinian prisoners, and c) let the refugees return. Acceptance of the need for regime change will follow.

    A democratic constitution that upholds human rights

    I belong to those Israeli leftists who, in the early 1970s, welcomed the Palestinian proposal for a “secular, democratic Palestine”. The strength of this slogan, and this perspective, was its focus on the oppressive Zionist regime that needed to be removed (defeated, overthrown), while all peace-loving people, of whatever origin, could look forward to the benefits of coexistence. Ultimately, a joint struggle for liberation is the only strategy for coexistence. Then, as now, without “liberation”, coexistence is impossible, and “peace” is a codeword for the oppressive status quo. This is the true dichotomy now, as it was then.

    The question today is how to enhance solidarity and advance today the struggle for peace.

    A clear Palestinian statement, supported by mass action — demanding an end to the occupation, release of political prisoners, return of the refugees, AND coexistence under a democratic constitution that upholds human rights — would severely undermine the hold of Zionism on the Israeli population. It would re-establish the Palestinian liberation struggle as a movement of democratic reconciliation deserving the support of all decent people. Such a statement, and such a movement, would deliver a fatal blow to Israeli oppression, discrimination, and apartheid, and would strengthen its opponents everywhere.

    In his recent book, Ali Abunimah has shown that the Palestinian fight against the occupation, for the return of the refugees, and to release political prisoners is part of a fight for coexistence and reconciliation. Abunimah demonstrates how the Palestinians can recapture the moral high ground by focusing on equality and human rights. He shows that the goal is not revenge or domination, but shared democracy.

    When Palestinian activists make this goal front and center, they can obtain a hearing inside Israel that nothing else has achieved. They will pierce the armor of Zionist claims to provide security for the Israeli people. They will reach out directly to the oppressed inside Israel with the prospects of a new society.

    One cannot be oblivious to the amazing capacity for social struggle exhibited recently by university students, byHistadrut workers, and by IDF soldiers. A political strategy must be developed that reaches into the class conflict that exists in Israeli society, informs it with the anti-Zionist program, and creates conditions for the future overthrow of the oppressive Zionist regime. Any cynicism on this count – relying on the imperialist “international consensus”, all in the name of “realism” – will only postpone the day when the people ofPalestine rise up, take responsibility for their own freedom and their own democracy, and create the political conditions for peace.

    So, not one state or 2, and not illusions in diplomacy, and not passing the buck to the “international community” – but building a movement in Israel and the Occupied Territories, supported from abroad – is the way forward.

    International solidarity

    Unlike some popular misconceptions, the Apartheid regime in South Africa was not brought down by international sanctions. The struggle of the oppressed people of South African AND international solidarity are what ended the Apartheid regime. Similarly, decent people internationally must support the oppressed people of Palestine and those Israelis who recognize Palestinian rights. International solidarity with Palestine can use boycott, and other pressure tactics, thoughtfully and effectively to help the oppressed Palestinians and to help those Israelis who support Palestinian rights. It would be a shame if, in the name of “boycotting Israeli apartheid”, solidarity activists were to boycott oppressed Palestinians and their allies in Israel. The most important goal of any solidarity campaign must be the clarity of the political message that is conveyed and reinforced.

    In places like Canada, boycott has already been used effectively against wines produced in the settler-colonies and sold in Quebec Government stores. A campaign should be mounted to oppose the Canadian Government’s blockade of the Palestinian Authority. A campaign has long been contemplated to remove the tax-exempt status from the Jewish National Fund, one of the main agencies of ethnic cleansing. The anti-Caterpillar campaign can be a means to take the message of Palestine solidarity to the farmers who buy Caterpillar tractors, and to the autoworkers who produce them. I have suggested the theme: “Oppressed Palestinians need our help! Israelis who support Palestinian rights need our help!” Much is yet to be learned, and improved, in this regard.

    The Pappe-Avnery debate will present an opportunity to think about the fundamental issues, and to go beyond the false dichotomy of “one state vs. 2 states”. In any event, the resolution of this debate, in practice, is premature. When the people of Palestine are free of Zionist oppression, they will exercise their right to freely determine the political structures that they deem necessary. Now is the time to look for practical and realistic struggles and slogans to build a movement that can overcome Zionist oppression. Many Israelis and Palestinians want to break with the Oslo-era illusions in imperialist-led diplomacy, and mobilize to build a new society. Hopefully, they will find ways to strengthen their ranks for the challenges ahead.


    Henry Lowi

  59. Henry Lowi:
    More chazarigh
    Mentioned no where in this legnthy disertation is the impact of League of Nations, or Jewish rights as the original displaced Palestinian nation (who had been kept seperated by both force of law and force of arms).
    Any discussion which does not address these critical elements is a lopsided and biased position.

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