Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BDS. Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions.

Sent 25.May.2010
I recieved the following question from a friend who works within B'tzelem:

This was my answer:
Aaron - I was wondering what your feelings (gut and reasoned... may not be the same) are about the divestment movement that is stirring (whether targeted at the Occ. Territories or at all of Israel) (I'm taking a poll). I feel very uncomfortable about jumping into bed with the majority of that movement, people who do not support Israel's right to exist, who are exercising the double standard (i.e. why target Israel, of all nations... is there a lack for nations behaving unethically). On the other hand, an end to the occupation is just not going to happen from internal pressures only, and time is precious.

Your query ("just curious"….."taking a poll") is giving me an opportunity to try and put in writing some things I've thought about recently.

BDS. Boycott, Divestment (actually disinvestment), Sanctions.
I find it easy to identify with those words, and I find myself involved with incitement among my friends towards activating the meanings behind those words.

Boycott our companies producing goods in the occupied territories? Of course. Divest ourselves of investments in firms owned by supporters of our Palestinian policies? Of course. These are sanctions I support both as legitimate political activities and as forms of self-decontamination.

But the term BDS is used today by an amalgam of movements and organizations in ways that I cannot be part of nor support.

While I’m a constant critic of our Jewish State, there are clear borders within which I need to come to its defense. No doubt this is an emotional response, but it is one that I’ve had to investigate in order to understand my own self, and to assess whether my sentiment runs contrary to my judgment.

The BDS movement singles out Israel in our less than perfect world, though we are up against a totality of enemies so much larger than us and so much closer to our homes than other nations.

The BDS movement singles out Israel in our less than perfect world, because we are smaller and more vulnerable than other nations who are no less perfect (such as, Russia, United States) but much more formidable.

The BDS movement is crowded with individuals and movements who have no intention of evaluating both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

And perhaps most damning in my eyes:
The BDS movement seems to be saturated with individuals and movements who use its moral heading (BDS) to obscure a genuine intention to delegitimize the very existence of the State of Israel. (So is my impression). Perhaps we are the only country in the world today whose very existence is put into question by so many.

Having long ago laid aside my youthful indoctrination as a Zionist, I spent time reinvestigating both my indoctrination and those many missing pieces left out of that indoctrination. As it turns out, in my non-youthful years I re-became a Zionist…..with fewer illusions and many more misgivings, but with a fair certainty that history carved a path that needed to happen, to a place that needed to be the place. Needed to happen one way or another……and certainly the better way was not always taken….but Israel needed to be the place, the only place.

My misgivings are many….how we got here and what we did along the way….where we are and what we’re doing today. Nevertheless, I’ll voice and activate those misgivings directly towards my country, to the Jews in my country and to my people around the world……..and not alongside and through groups who include so many who would prefer to solve the conflict (and the oppression) by the demise of the Zionist State. [and yes, I think a Zionist State can be a democracy, and yes I think a (primarily) Jewish State must have a separation between religion and state. but these matters also need further elucidation.]

We are staged in an end game for a Two-State resolve (I never call it “solution”) to our local conflict. Likely, if it doesn’t happen soon, it will never happen. Time will allow us Israelis to engineer the kind of map which will make that possibility totally unacceptable. We will then be on our way to continue the conflict on the basis of a One-State reality. It’s a reality which will be undemocratic at its worse. It will legitimize a continuation of the conflict and violence. It will eventually (demographically and otherwise) put an end to a Jewish homeland, which will not cause a tear to drop from a great many in the scattered BDS movement. It will soon also have a striking affect on the safety and security of Jews in the Diaspora. Back to square one.

Our struggle against policies and actions of our own country need not combine us with those who may also want to be rid of us. We struggle not simply as liberal cosmopolitans. We struggle as Jewish Israelis who know that our country is doing wrong and are trying to invest the rest of our people with that understanding.

And finally, a direct answer to your original question:
I will “jump into bed” with any non-Jewish partner who also accepts my Zionism, and who also appreciates the complexity of both sides of the conflict. With such a partner I will B-D-S (such as, I saw Obama as a partner). But most of all I’ll look for partners within our people both in Israel and in the Diaspora. Mostly through these will a change of policy come via understanding rather than via coercion or arm-twisting. For that reason I am slightly encouraged by the advent of JStreet in America and JCall in Europe. You are right in saying that time is precious, but how we get there is usually no less important than where we’re going. It generally affects the outcome.

This is longer than I meant for it to be. Yet so much is still left out. As always.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More on "Justification thru Misinformation"

Sent 18.May.2010

After sending my previous letter, "Justification thru Misinformation", I recieved the following interesting remarks from a friend (and my response to those remarks):

After reading Ahad Ha’Am on workshop, Peter Geyl’s book about Napoleon and wading through Sholmo Sand’s book “The Invention of the Jewish People” it is hard for me to understand the ‘lie’ concept. All peoples who ultimately believe that that are a ‘nation’ create a collective persona which for some is real, for some is make believe and for the majority is a cornerstone for what they were going to do anyway. While I think I understand your objection for believing our own lies as the beginning point in any debate, that form of self delusion seems to me should be taken as a given so that you can move beyond it rather than attempting to pursue a policy of changing the minds of those who have already accepted the mindset. I think it was Shimon Peres who is quoted as saying that he looks to the future to make a difference not the past.

If your objective is to make a more tolerable society which is humanitarian driven, better to proffer honest solutions based upon ‘best practice’ than try to quilt, either way, the followers to move forward. Maybe that is why I personally have such a hard time using the Shoah as a basis for Israel’s existence but then again some ‘story’ needs to be made up, doesn’t it?
To which I respoded:
Dear J----,
Thanks for your comments on my latest diatribe. Actually, I agree with quite a lot….. But you are perhaps confusing the conceptual “non-lie” of how a people see themselves (for example: as a nation), and the “lie” that is born out of a policy of “deception” in order to portray as a “lie” someone else’s “non-lie”. I hope you followed that.

We see ourselves as a “nation” (the Reconstuctionists call ourselves a Civilization). Perhaps others see us merely as a "religion”. What counts, as you rightly say, is our own assertion of our “collective persona”. This is what we and others need to work with regardless of past (historical) interpretations of how we created our belief in the particular “collective persona”. In the same light our collective persona is imbued with a series of beliefs regarding our property rights to the Land of our Forefathers. That, too, is all right (regardless of internal disagreements as to the validity of one belief or another). While others may or may not see this as self-delusion, for us this is completely real, our artistic and beautiful creation sculptured through centuries of historical and emotional illusions. These are our Truths.

……Unless……..or until…….we run into someone else’s “collective persona” which drastically conflicts with our own and is imbued with it’s own set of Truths.. At that point we leave the realm of “Truth” (for there are more than one, and they conflict), and enter the world of politics, the interaction between people (and peoples) in the present, often in order to influence (or manipulate) a particular future. This is not a world of historical and emotional creations rooted in a conception of the past (though perhaps greatly influenced by it). This is a world accustomed in the use or misuse of power, a world of honesty and dishonesty, integrity and knavery, deception and candor. This is the Israeli/Palestinian world which I live in, travel in and, once in a while, write about.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Justification thru Misinformation

Sent 16.May.2010
Many of us receive and abundance of "I Love and Justify Israel" mail. Some of it is informative and worthwhile reading. Unfortunately, a goodly portion of the mail is a patchwork of gross misinformation at best, and misleading lies at worst.
Recently a friend forwarded one such e-mail entitled “Top 10 Anti-Israel Lies”. I reciprocated with the following response:

Thanks for sending us the informational file about the “Top 10 Anti-Israel Lies” (see attachment). I too see in the world media, the internet, and other propaganda material so many attempts to defame and malign our country through the use of lies, half-truths and devious misinterpretations of reality. We need to answer these accusations through our own media and propaganda tools. The above mentioned file attempts to do just that.

However, when disputing our antagonist’s lies and half-truths, we should not resort to our own lies and half truths. Otherwise we essentially arm our enemies with more propaganda ammunition. Unfortunately, the above file, released by the prestigious Simon Wiesenthal Center, does just that. Almost every one of the file’s rebuttals to the “Top 10 Anti-Israel Lies” contains either outright lies, half-truths, or contorted misrepresentation of real issues. These are so easily exposed, and will be used by our enemies to show how “the Zionist Propaganda Machine” deceives the world.

A couple of blatant examples will perhaps clarify the type of assertions which cause undue damage to our honesty and credibility:

In “Lie #1” the writer asserts that “Reclamation of the largely vacant land by pioneering Zionists blossomed into a Jewish majority long before the onset of Nazism.” This is not a half-truth nor a distortion. This is a lie. Or, can the writer be so ignorant?? “long before the onset of Nazism”???....by 1922, in the wake of the first, second and third Aliya, we Jews numbered about 10% of the Palestine population. In 1929, immediately before Hitler’s Nazi Party mustered 20% of the votes to the Reichstag, we numbered a little over 17% of the Palestine population. By 1939, at the outset of our Shoa in Europe by the Nazis, our Jewish population in Palestine rose to about 30% . In 1948, eve of our War of Independence, there were about 850,000 Arabs in the area that was to become Israel (not including the rest of Palestine.) There were about 650,000 Jews in the same area. We became a majority only after close to 700,000 Arabs fled or were evicted as a result of the war. True, there are marginal disputes on numbers, but nothing to change the overall statistics. “a Jewish majority long before the onset of Nazism”??? This blatant lie or ignorance portrays the accuracy and candor of much of the rest of the file.

Seemingly, much of what is asserted prefers distortions to lies, but these too are quickly sniffed out by our adversaries and used to show our lack of honesty. For example: In confusing East Jerusalem with “Jerusalem is Holy” there is an intentional attempt to blind the reader to the fact that most of East Jerusalem was never part of the East Jerusalem municipality prior to 1967, and was never part of the biblical “Jerusalem is Holy”. In fact, most of today’s “East” Jerusalem is made up of 28 Arab villages and their lands which had always been outside of the Jerusalem municipality.

As a Zionist and as a resident Israeli citizen (also native-born), I am daily involved with the need to struggle against the attempts at delegitimizing our right to a Jewish State. I have always felt that this can be done with integrity, honesty and truth. Truth often needs to be searched and researched, and at times an issue will have more than one truth because life and history can weave complicated scenarios. I am certain that our own use of lies and half-truths have a greater affect on delegitimizing us, than our adversaries’ propaganda. Therefore I am woefully distressed that such is the propaganda coming from the respectful Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Zev Jabotinsky is the father of our right-wing political party (Revisionism to Herut to Likud). In the 1920’s or 30’s he commented on our Palestinian-Jewish confrontation by stating that both peoples have a justified cause to see Palestine as their own. Jabotinsky was an honest leader. I fear many of his successors today are not.

Once again, I thank you for the material sent and the opportunity given to respond.