Category Archives: Op-eds

Foreign Policy: Who’s afraid of a one-state solution?

Well, plenty of people are, and understandably so. But my new piece for Foreign Policy covers some of the people who are not.  And since this is a debate that’s only now beginning to emerge into the mainstream, I thought it would be useful to open a rolling post here documenting the pro and anti voices on this issue.

First, the article I refer to by Meron Benvenisti, is here. If there’s one article you’re going to read by a pro-one-state Israeli, this is it; and if there’s one article by a pro-one-state Palestinian you need to read, it better be the classical one, by Edward Said.

Second, there have been a number of books published on the matter in recent years:

Burg’s book is particularly important for understanding the Israeli perspective, as he hails from the kernel of the heart of centre-Zionist mainstream. You can read an unpublished interview of mine with Burg here .

[Note: The links are to Amazon, but if you actually want to buy books, I recommend Book Depository, who ship free worldwide]

Third, for Hebrew readers, there’s a good roster of articles for and against the one state here.

And finally, if you have recommendations and links to articles and/or books on this issue, please use the comment button below. The list above will be updated as we go.

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Foreign Policy: Is Israel trying to fool foreigners or itself?

I’ve an article up on Foreign Policy.com today, considering a couple of recent Israeli campaigns and asking whether Israel is trying to persuade the world or its own citizens. I’m also just back from the opening hearing of the civil lawsuit brought forth by the parents of Rachel Corrie against the State of Israel. Full report tomorrow.

Update 12/04: The article got translated into French, for Slate. You can find it here .

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op-ed | If you marry a Jew…. part 2

My op-ed on the anti-assimilation as is up at the Guardian. I’m being told, incidentally, that “miscegenation” is a better translation for התבוללות (hitbolelut) in our case. While that’s certainly true for the narrow specifics, I think  assimilation still taps into the wider social, psychological and historical trends of the phenomenon…

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op-ed | On organ-grinding and mincing words

Two quick updates – my take on the Swedish “IDF steals organs” brouhaha is up on Index on Censorship; I look into the Aftonbladet article (a tiring and revolting experience- like dissecting a chunk of decaying lard to prove that it’s, well, lard), and I examine the political angle of both Swedish and Israeli reactions and overreactions.  Also, there’s my translation of a chilling Meron Rapoport piece on 15 minutes of hate in East Jerusalem, just up on Comment is Free.

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op-ed | No state for refugees

What if we were white? Eritrean asylum seekers protest in Tel Aviv

"What if we were white?" Asylum seekers protest in Tel Aviv. Photo: Activestills

I’ve got a new op-ed up on the Guardian‘s Comment is Free – looking at the phantasmagorical Infiltrators Law [pdf] being rushed through the Knesset. The bill aims to “deal” with the Congo, Darfur,  South Sudan and Eritrea refugees who manage to sneak into Israel – past their own genocidal/brutish governments and Egyptian snipers – by sticking them in jail for up to 20 years. What makes it even more similar to the fugitive slave laws of 19th century US is that similar punishments are set in store for anyone who assists them or eases their stay in Israel. This very broad phrasing means everyone trying to help the refugeses acquire a legal status in Israel, anyone who treats them in volunteer clinics, and anyone who serves them a glass of water or gives a refugee a ride, is liable to get up to 20 years as well. Feel free to comment either here or there (although it’ll be easier to have a proper conversation here).

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blog: On ethnic cleansing

There’s another op-ed of mine up in the Guardian. It poses the question of whether we might, in the very near future, face ethnic cleansing of Israel’s Palestinian citizens. By that I don’t mean instant DYI gas chambers springing up by the weekend.  Ethnic cleansing, as I propose below, is a complex dynamic that is very difficult to confidently predict or confidently deny. But in my personal opinion, the answer is “yes.”

On the grassroots level, racism in Israel is growing steadily; On the political level, more and more decision-makers are realizing that giving up the West Bank and Gaza – or, effectively, closing them off into bantustans – will no long guarantee the preservation of Israel’s character as an ethnic Jewish state.

Now, a reasonable question at this stage would be, do you have concrete evidence of planned ethnic cleansing? Has there been a Wannsee Conference? Is there a Final Solution under way, and would you kindly post the documents that prove it?

The answer, of course, is “No”; and the reason is that ethnic cleansing is a political, social and above all dynamic process that very rarely evolves in the mind of some maniac in the gory form it sometimes takes. Even the most extreme example – that of the Nazi holocaust – escalated through the war. I find that the phenomenon of ethnic cleansing was best described by Berkley sociologist Michael Mann:

Murderous cleansing… results where “demos” (democracy) is confused with “ethnos” (the ethnic group)… Danger arises when two rival ethno-nationalist movements each claims its “own” state over the same territory. Conflict escalates when either the weaker side fights rather than submit… or the stronger side believes it can deploy sudden, overwhelming force. But the state must also be fractionalized and radicalized by external pressures, such as wars. Premeditation is rare, since perpetrators feel “forced” into escalation when their milder plans are frustrated.”

(Michael MannDark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing)

Professor Mann also provides a very handy instrument to chart ethnic cleansing as it escalates (reproduced here with his kind permission):

mann

Some of these actions have already been carried out in our much-eulogized days of innocence before 1967 – such as massacres (1948, 1956), mass expulsions beyond the border (1948-1954), land confiscation and expulsion (1948 – present), discrimination (1948 present) and cultural suppression  – from a state school in Jaffa that prohibits speaking in Arabic to the new version of the Nakba law, which threatens to cut off government funding to any institution that commemorates the mass expulsion of 1948. As you can see above, population exchange – the very term  Lieberman is euphemistically using in his propaganda – brings us right to the margin of Mann’s danger zone.

Now let us reconsider the paragraph: “Conflict escalates when either the weaker side fights rather than submit… or the stronger side believes it can deploy sudden, overwhelming force. But the state must also be fractionalized and radicalized by external pressures, such as wars.” Imagine a war with Iran or Syria; rockets falling all over the country. Demonstrations  are cracked down upon, with triple the ferocity in Arab towns and villages. Some town close enough to the border, maybe even the Palestinian community’s central city, Umm El Fahm, is put under curfew – checkpoints, permits, the works. After the war, the minister of Public Security (at the moment, a Lieberman man), says the curfew will remain in place until further notice – say, until all suspects of collaboration with the enemy are investigated.

Then, a fence is strung between the checkpoints, and residents find it very hard to get working permits west of the town – in Israel proper – but very easy to get them to go work in the east, perhaps in the new industrial zone near Jenin. Being a highly qualified workforce they are recruited there for top managerial positions, administering their less fortunate West Bank bretheren. The fence grows thicker, and the idea of “giving” the Palestinian “state” Umm El Fahm instead of, say, Ariel or Maaleh Edumim gathers force. Etc etc.

But this is the clean, non-murderous scenario of resolving the problem a large national minority suspected of allegiance with the “enemy.”  Now, scroll back to the middle of our hypothetical war, and  imagine that some residents of Umm El Fahm try to fight back – shoot at the checkpoint, perhaps. And that other Palestinians join them, in various degrees of organization, some carrying out attacks on soldiers and police, but some picking easier, civilian targets. And that the Syrian Defense Minister (or his Iranian counterpart, or whoever else we might be fighting), for sheer propaganda value, takes credit for the attacks, and calls for Palestinian Israelis to revolt. With a war on at least one front and the old colonialist nightmare of a fifth column materializing before their eyes, how will the ultra-Right, ultra-paranoid Israeli leadership react? How will commanders on the ground react?

And the recent news about a new infantry platoon being permanently stationed near – you guessed it – Umm el Fahm, “to resume control of the area in case of a war”, plus the minister of interior trying to get exclusive powers to annul citizenship, doesn’t do much to discredit such a scenario at all.

The point I’m trying to make is that any nationalism as rigid as the Israeli one, with such a preposterously purist approach to the idea of a nation state, tends to see anyone not matching it’s definition of “demos” as a problem that needs to be contained, or, preferably, solved. We’ve been “containing” that “problem” for over 60 years; Lieberman and his ilk are the just the first ones trying to “resolve” it.

Any ideology that sees people as a problem pending a solution can be confidently said to be going for a dead end; and on the way, it’s likely to extoll an enormous price – firstly and foremostly, although not only, in the minorities’ blood.  This is why the system that makes such an escalation almost inevitable needs to be urgently, yet carefully, restructured.

Update: Noam Sheizaf gives the perfect backdrop for a society of intolerance here

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Gaza: The first casualties

 

index-on-censorshipWhen I was in journalism school, we were taught that truth was the first casualty of any war. But in the current seismic violence in the Gaza Strip, truth is joined by three more casualties — decency, compassion and shame.

True, censorship is there. Not only are there no Israeli journalists in Gaza, but Israel is also preventing  all foreign media from reaching the Strip, with even the circumspect decision by an embattled Supreme Court to let in a pool of eight journalists (foreign and Israeli) not being carried out. Foreign journalists have been detained, and online forums have been contacted and requested to remove threads which the IDF considered ‘dangerous either to security or morale’. The parliament has happily joined the bandwagon, with one prominent MK suggesting to ‘block al Jazeera and al Arabiya due to the demoralising effect it has on our Arab population’.

The media itself rushes to assist them with bucketfuls of self-censorship. After the Lebanese debacle of 2006, the Israeli press was accused of being far too attentive to the other side, too critical and in fact dangerous to the security of a state in war — charges which were sadly entirely unfounded, as a report by the Keshev media monitor has since shown. Anticipatory compliance is therefore everywhere, with reporters avoiding with knowing smiles the names of Israeli townships hit by Qassams (as if Israel and Gaza were on different planets and Hamas didn’t hit those towns before the current war).

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