Clarissa's Blog

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Archive for the category “Israel”

Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Part II

The reason why I decided to stick with Ilan Pappe’s book and keep reading it even after the “greedy Jews” started making a regular appearance is that I do think that there is an important story to tell here. I kept hoping that Pappe would finally get himself together, get over the “sly, tricky, exploitative Shylocks Jews versus simple-minded, hard-working and trusting savages Palestinians” dichotomy, and start discussing this issue with the seriousness that it deserves. This never really happened, however.

The greatest problem I have with the book is that Pappe chooses the culprit for the entire conflict from the start and then massages the story to fit his predetermined explanation. This culprit for the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is Zionism. In his rush to pile every possible evil at the feet of this particular bugbear, Pappe often makes himself sound not a little ridiculous. The following quote made me practically weep with laughter:

It was one British officer in particular, Orde Charles Wingate, who made the Zionist leaders realise more fully that the idea of Jewish statehood had to be closely associated with militarism and an army, first of all to protect the growing number of Jewish enclaves and colonies inside Palestine but also – more crucially – because acts of armed aggression were an effective deterrent against the possible resistance of the local Palestinians.

I really wonder how all those other countries figured out that statehood requires an army without this hugely crucial Orde Charles Wingate character, whoever he is.

What I find very curious about the discussions about the formation of Israel is how scandalized everybody gets because Israel followed the exact same nationalist journey as every single other nation-state in the world. A journey towards nationhood is always – and I mean, without exception, always, toujours, siempre – bloody, miserable, filled with lies, rewriting of history, xenophobia, etc. That’s the nature of nationalism.

Before you get to wave your flag and feel all warm and fuzzy about doing that, a lot of effort needs to be made to endow that piece of fabric with meaning. The more disparate the elements that go into your particular imagined community, the more blood needs to be spilled to make the myth of a nation mean something.

So what do we have in the case of Israel? People from all over the world come together to create a myth of a nation. These are people who have been hugely traumatized very recently and who see themselves (not unreasonably, I might add) as having been abandoned by the entire world to a horrible extermination and needing to fend for themselves. In their project of construction a nation, they use the same tools as everybody before them used: violence, ethnic cleansing, falsification of history, etc. What is so very surprising about this story? And more importantly, what makes these people’s journey towards nationhood worse than yours? Except for the fact that yours happened fifteen seconds before, of course.

I believe that the story of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine needs to be told. But to tell it in order to condemn Zionism makes just as much sense as narrating the crimes of the Holocaust in order to condemn Hitler’s left pinky finger. Of course, the reason why nobody wants to look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in terms of nationalism is that this would involve letting go of bashing the vile Jews (or the vile Arabs, whatever your personal preference is) for a moment and looking at how the nation whose flag you worship came into existence.


Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Part I

I keep looking for a source of information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would at least try to depart from the “bad Jews/good Arabs” or “bad Arabs/good Jews” model. Both of these approaches are equally reductive and offensive. Still, I’m getting a feeling that nobody is even attempting to discuss the issue in any other manner. Initially, I had high hopes for Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine but I have to admit that the book has been a serious disappointment. I listed some of my objections to Pappe’s writing here but that was only the beginning.

For some incomprehensible reason, Pappe decided to alienate every Jewish reader – even the potentially anti-Israel and pro-Palestiane one – from the get go. It is hard for a Jewish person to remain open to a point of view that insistently equates the displacement of the Palestinian people from their villages with the Holocaust. I don’t see why it is so necessary to equate two such different events at all. The forcible removal of the Palestinians is a horrible, horrible crime and a huge tragedy. But it cannot even begin to compare to the Holocaust. Pappe tries to make the two tragedies similar by making it hard to figure out that the Palestinians were displaced from their villages without being killed. (It took me a while, for example, to realize that when Pappe says, “Village X was destroyed,” he is forgetting to mention that only the physical buildings were destroyed (or simply damaged), while the people were not.)

Ilan Pappe is altogether very careless about the Holocaust. He discusses it as a reality that has certain bearing on the actions of the international community. He says, for example, that after the Holocaust, any instance of ethnic cleansing in the world becomes impossible to conceal. This is a very strange statement to begin with, since the Holocaust was very obviously not an example of ethnic cleansing but of genocide. As Pappe explains at length, ethnic cleansing does not involve the mass murder of the displaced ethnicity while the genocide does. At the same time, there is no discussion in the book of how the Holocaust might have influenced the Jews. To the contrary, Pappe suggests time and again that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would exist in pretty much the same form had the Holocaust never happened.

For those who manage to keep reading the book even in the face of this cavalier dismissal of the Holocaust, Pappe brings out the argument that will surely convince any person who does not passionately hate the Jews as a group to stop reading. I am speaking, of course, of the trope of the greedy Jew.

For a while, the suggestion of Jewish greediness is made without the direct use of the word “greedy”. This allows a reader to keep convincing herself that she is being too sensitive and is imagining anti-Semitism where there is none. Until, that is, a story of “a greedy Tel-Aviv municipality” that sets out to steal the crop of oranges grown by hard-working Palestinians. And the story of the “monstrous villas and extravagant palaces for rich American Jews” that have been created because of “constructors’ greed” and that are disfiguring the architectural ensemble of Jerusalem. And many other stories of greedy, dishonest Jews who don’t create anything of their own but, rather, steal the fruits of the labor of others. (The words “exploit” and “exploitation” appear constantly in the text to describe the intentions of the Jews.)

(To be continued. . .)

P.S. I would very much like to avoid the third-grade level of discussion of this serious issue that such debates almost always slip down to. This is why I’m asking everybody to refrain from the egregiously unintelligent analysis of who was where “first” and whom “this land initially belonged to.” I have to issue this warning because I looked through the Amazon reviews of the book and this is all I have seen there.

Stalin and Israel

Jews greet Golda in Moscow

It seems like there are people who don’t know that Stalin not only supported the creation of Israel but also was key in helping the Jews win the War of Independence in 1948.

There is a long-standing myth that Stalin was an anti-Semite. He wasn’t, though. Stalin was a pragmatist. When it served his purposes to like Jews, he liked them. When it became more useful to hate them, he hated them.

After the end of World War II, Stalin was preparing to make yet another effort at “world revolution.” He needed a foothold in the Middle East, and the Palestinian Jews, who were fighting against the British Empire and who had many people interested in the ideas of socialism and communism among them, seemed to offer a perfect possibility to establish a presence in the region.

Soon, however, it became clear that the Jews of Israel were not planning to create a Communist state and were not likely to repudiate the advances of the US. Still, Israel could play a useful role for Stalin. He could now champion the Palestinians and condemn Jews for their colonialist, Zionist agenda. He needed a conflict with the US, the only existing world power that could compete with the USSR for world domination, and he was going to find a way to provoke the Americans in one manner or another.

In 1948, when Stalin still had hopes for the Soviet-friendly Israel, Golda Meir came to visit the Soviet Union. What happened was completely unexpected for Stalin. He wanted the Soviet Jews to explain to Golda that they were so happy in the internationalist Communist state that they had no need to be Jews any more.

Instead, tens of thousands of Soviet Jews came to a Moscow synagogue to meet “our Goldele.” Stalin was livid. As I explained before, the price that the Soviet Jews had paid for the complete absence of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1948 and the great advances they were allowed to achieve was renouncing their Jewishness. And now, in 1948, Stalin was seeing crowds of Jews coming out into the streets of Moscow, inspired by the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine and very conscious of their Jewish heritage.

Since his first days in the Communist Party, Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, was convinced that nationalism was the greatest danger to the Communist dream. And he was right. In the late 1980ies and early 1990ies, nationalism will destroy the USSR. This is why Stalin could not allow nationalist sentiments and ethnic allegiances to flourish among the Soviet Jews. He unleashed a campaign of vicious anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. The campaign’s goals were two-fold: on the one hand, Stalin was teaching a lesson to all those people who, in the aftermath of WWII, were recovering their nationalist feelings, and on the other hand, he was preparing to provoke the United States into starting a third world war.

>Why Can’t Israel Negotiate With Hamas?

>What people often forget when they ask this question is the following set of considerations that I found in a great post on a blog by Izgad, a historian and a fellow autistic:

Hamas is an institution devoted to the delegitimization of the Jewish people and ultimately the violent destruction of the State of Israel. As such it is impossible for Israel to ever engage in any form of official dialogue  with Hamas. To do so would be to admit that there is some validity to their claims to the extent that these claims deserve to be placed before the forum of polite society for consideration. If such a discussion were ever to occur Israel would automatically come out the loser simply in terms of the fact that it would mean that Israel, unlike other countries, would be placed in the subservient position of having to defend its own legitimacy. This would be the case even of Israel actually were to win this debate.

Izgad and I have had passionate arguments about a variety of issues, both on my blog and on his. However, I applaud him for his lucidity when he talks about what I consider to be the central problem of our Western civilization:

I do not see either Goldstone or Bollinger as anti-Semites who wish to see Israel destroyed. I see them as simply modern liberals unable to resist granting legitimacy to radical Islam even as this means asking first Israel and eventually the rest of western civilization to write its suicide note. If we in the West, including liberals, are going to survive it will because we understand the difference between those ideas which we can respectfully disagree with and tolerate and those ideas which, by definition, are declarations of war to be fought at all costs. 

Izgad offers the same line of reasoning here as Žižek who insists that our ridiculous belief that we need to tolerate all kinds of intolerance and barbarity will end up destroying our civilization. Unless we recognize that not every opinion needs to be tolerated and not all lifestyle choices deserve equal respect, we are doomed to lose all the advances our civilization has made in terms of human rights to those who are unfettered by such inane beliefs. 
Westerners still follow the colonial model that forces them to interact with non-Westerners as if they were little children in need of paternal guidance and kind condescension on the part of the wise and all-knowing West. The West’s incapacity to see representatives of other civilizations as valid human beings in their own right leads it either to drop bombs on them whenever it feels like or to patronize them through fake tolerance. Western Liberals congratulate themselves for being different from Conservatives in their attitude to the non-Westerners. In reality, though, both attitudes stem from the same profound conviction that non-Westerners are not fully human and, as a result, there is no need to hold them to the same standards and treat them in the same way as we do our fellow Westerners.
In the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Western Liberals have demonstrated clearly that, for them, Israelis belong to their own Western civilization, while Palestinians do not.

>Is Hamas Anti-Women?


People love simplifying complex issues, paring them down to the degree where all complexity is lost, and all that remains is an oversimplified, meaningless slogan. Thus the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is transformed into “Israel bad, yay to independent Palestine” or vice versa. The proponents of such an approach tend to feel extremely self-righteous. They believe that they have solved the problem and found a solution, so they despise all of us who dare remind them that the issue may be a little bit more complex than what their Hollywood-inspired “good guys versus bad guys” mentality suggests to them.

Liberals are especially funny in this respect because they have a history of vocally supporting regimes and political movements that, if successful, would have killed, imprisoned or muzzled these very liberals in the matter of seconds. Take, for example, the liberal sympathies towards Hamas. You have to be deaf, mute and blind or have just moved here from the moon not to realize that Hamas is extremely anti-women and anti-gay. To give just a little example of the most recent instance of Hamas’s anti-women barbarity:

 A Gaza rights group says the ruling Hamas militant group has barred male hairdressers from working in women’s salons. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Monday that five male hairdressers were interrogated and forced to sign declarations that they wouldn’t work in women’s salons. Male hairdressers for women are rare in conservative Gaza where genders rarely mix in public. Hamas tried to impose a similar ban last March, but backed down after an outcry. It’s the latest attempt by Hamas to impose its strict version of Islamic law on Gaza’s 1.5 million people. The group took control of Gaza in 2007. It has also banned women from smoking waterpipes or riding behind men on motorbikes.

So how ridiculous are the so-called liberals who claim they are feminist and militate for gay rights, while simultaneously thinking that handing over an entire region to anti-women and anti-gay religious fanatics is a wonderful idea?

>Do the Jews Have a Right to Free Speech?


1) Last year,  a group of students at UC Irvine shouted down a speech by an Israeli ambassador. Today, the students are facing charges:

More than 50 protesters — some with masking tape plastered over their mouths — rallied in front of the Orange County district attorney’s office Tuesday, objecting to subpoenas and a grand jury investigation that could lead to criminal charges against 11 students who disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador last year.The district attorney’s office declined to comment. The office has one year after the event to file charges. . . “These students aren’t criminals, they shouldn’t have their lives ruined by criminal charges at this point,” said Carol Sobel, an attorney who has worked with the 11 students who were disciplined and represents the other six students who were subpoenaed. “And we should all move forward.” The Feb. 8, 2010, incident sparked a debate about free speech at the campus after a group of students disrupted a speech by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Oren was shouted down repeatedly and supporters cheered as students were escorted away by police.

2) On September 9, 2002, a group of students at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada prevented the former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from giving a scheduled speech at the university. Two months later, a Jewish student club Hillel was banned from campus for distributing flyers aimed at recruiting for the Israeli Defense Force.

3) The University of Aix-en-Provence cancelled a conference of Mediterranean writers in the summer of 2010 after a group of protesters decried the participation of an Israeli writer at the conference. 

4) In 2009, protesters boycott Toronto Film Festival for screening a film by an Israeli film-maker:

The protest of Israel began Aug. 27 when Canadian filmmaker John Greyson released a public letter stating he would withdraw his film from the 10-day festival, which opens Thursday, to protest Israel’s “brutal” military assault on Gaza earlier this year. On Thursday Sept. 3, writer Naomi Klein and others joined Mr. Greyson’s protest and issued ” The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation.”

5) Students at Arizona State University in the United States of America (a country that is constantly waging wars in different parts of the globe)  demonstrate their conviction that only American soldiers are allowed to kill, maim, and torture:

Arizona State University students protested the visit of Nadav Weinberg, an Israeli soldier who came to speak to students about his experiences serving in Israel’s army.  The protesters voiced their opposition to the Israeli army through a silent protest. Shortly after Weinberg began speaking protestors took off their jackets to unveil their red shirts that had the names, ages and dates of innocent civilians whose lives were taken by Israeli troops. Protestors covered their mouths with red tape to express solidarity with the victims. One sign held up by a protestor in the back of the room read: “Giving Voice to Civilians Silenced by IDF Policy.”

 6) An Israeli chess player gets kicked out of a chess tournament in Los Angeles just for being from Israel:

The Israeli chess player Anatoly Bykhovsky has been deleted from lists of competitions in Los Angeles as it has arrived from “the terrorist state”. . . The Israeli grand master Anatoly Bykhovsky has been surprised and shaken, when it have discharged of tournament which starts within the next few days in Los Angeles. The newspaper “Ediot Ahronot” informs that Bykhovsky has registered in tournament, but in the beginning of week has received enough gruff reply from its organizer – heads of city club Mika Bighamiana. The letter said that Anatoly do not suppose to participation as “we do not allow to participate to players from the terrorist states in our tournament”.

What all these people have in common is their firm belief that Israeli Jews should not be entitled to same rights (namely, the right to free speech) as everybody else. It is especially curious that protesters who do all they can to shut up Jews then claim freedom of speech in their defense.

P.S. International Holocaust Remembrance Day, created in 2005 by a UN General Assembly resolution, coincides with the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp by Soviet forces on January 27, 1945.  

>Middle East Primer

>By Guest Blogger Geo.

While I find plenty of disagreements related to Israel and the Palestinians, I find myself clearly “highly prejudiced” and not fully understanding “the other side” in many ways. While I can understand the fears many Jews have of another Holocaust, my sense is that the real, major dangers are long-term continuing with the status quo.

I’d like to state a number of “facts” and try to talk separately about issues relating to them:

1. Jews were a tiny minority in Palestine, which began growing after World War I.

2. Palestinians were a diverse vast majority of the population in Palestine after World War I.

3. Turkey lost its control of Palestine after World War I

4. Conflicting promises were made promising both Palestinian and Jewish States beginning in 1918.

5. Increasingly after World War I the Jewish residents of Palestine gained in numbers and power which met increasing resistance from some Palestinians particularly in the riots of the late 1930’s.

6. Palestinians in the period 1918-1948 – were not a single, unified group. The strongest Palestinian leader was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, however he had significant opposition amongst Palestinians.

7. The United Nations proposed the creation of separate Jewish and Palestinian States as hostilities increased in 1947 which was rejected by various Arab States and Palestinian leadership.

8. Israel declared its independence in May, 1948 and was invaded by several Arab armies.

9. There was no “Palestinian Army” and significant numbers of Palestinians did not fight against the new Israeli Army and State.

10. Significant numbers of Palestinians fled their homes often under pressure from the neighboring Israeli forces.

11. Other Palestinians remained within Israel and became Israeli citizens.

12. After the 1967 War, Israel took control of East Jerusalem, the West Bank (both of which had been in Jordan prior to the War), the Golan Heights (which had been in Syria previously) as well as a significant part of Sinai and the Gaza Strip (which had both been within Egypt previously).

13. Israel later negotiated peace treaties with Egypt and later Jordan. The peace treaty with Egypt resulted in a return of significant land in Sinai to Egypt. Jordan basically regained no substantive land.

14. Israel has unsuccessfully (to date) negotiated with Syria regarding making peace related in part to the proposed return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

15. Since the 1973 War the only serious military actions have been Israel’s incursions into Lebanon and most recently in Gaza.

16. No country neighboring upon Israel poses a military threat to Israel. Israel’s military strength is substantially greater than its neighbor’s military forces.

17. Various efforts have been made to make a permanent, comprehensive peace between the Palestinians and Israel.

18. The Palestinians under the leadership of Yasir Arafat and his Fatah Party increasingly sought peace with Israel eventually recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

19. The Oslo Accords of 1993 and the Camp David Summit of 2000 both did not lead to a permanent peace agreement. One major area of disagreement from Wikipedia was explained as: “Barak offered to form a Palestinian State initially on 73% of the West Bank (that is 27% less than the Green Line borders) and 100% of the Gaza Strip. In 10 to 25 years the West Bank area would expand to 90-91% (94% excluding greater Jerusalem).[1][2][3] As a result, “Israel would have withdrawn from 63 settlements.”[4] The West Bank would be separated by a road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, with free passage for Palestinians although Israel reserved the right to close the road for passage in case of emergency. The Palestinian position was that the annexations would block existing road networks between major Palestinian populations. In return, the Israelis would cede 1% of their territory in the Negev Desert to Palestine. The Palestinians rejected this proposal.”

( )

20. In the United States criticism has been leveled at Arafat and the Palestinians for rejecting the Israeli proposals at Camp David in 2000. IF – Arafat had accepted the terms proposed by Israel he almost certainly would have lost power, most probably being assassinated because of how much the Palestinian leadership would have conceded to Israel – related to The West Bank, Jerusalem and the rights of refugees.

21. Towards the end of Arafat’s life and since his death Hamas, a much more radical group, has increasingly gained power as the more moderate Fatah Party has failed to bring an independent Palestinian State into existence.

22. Free and fair elections were held in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006 at the urging of the United States and others.

23. Hamas won a significant victory in the 2006 elections.

24. The United States (in particular) has significantly Not recognized the leadership of Hamas because of its failure to fully recognize the existence of The State of Israel.

25. Violence in the West Bank and around Jerusalem has been minimal in recent years.

26. Problems have persisted in Gaza despite its supposed “independence” when Israel required its Jewish residents (who had occupied a huge amount of its land despite being a tiny minority of its population) to leave it.

27. Shelling of Israel coming from Hamas ceased after a ceasefire was established between Hamas and Israel. This ceasefire was broken by Israel, not Hamas in November, 2008.

28. Israeli’s invasion of Gaza in December, 2008 was intended to stop the shelling and weaken the power of Hamas as well as ending the smuggling of arms from Egypt into Gaza.

29. Despite the killing of many in Gaza and a clear “military victory” the power of Hamas in Gaza has increased, not decreased as a result of the invasion.

I would argue that prior to 1973 there were serious threats to Israel coming from Egypt, Jordan and Syria, but that the Israeli military was stronger than the combined armies of those three countries. Since 1973 the only potentially serious threats to Israel from Middle Eastern countries have been from Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) and Iran at various times. Iraq and Iran are the only major Middle Eastern States where the Shia (as opposed to Sunni) Moslems are the majority population.

Hamas is no friend to the leadership of all the Middle Eastern countries currently with the possible exception of Iran.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank have grown substantially and continue to grow. Palestinian resentment and violence, where there has been violence, has often related to the expansion of these settlements as well as the expansions within the Jerusalem Area in formerly Palestinian dominated areas.
Peace is possible for Israel. Israel has long not wanted to make peace absent a serious expansion of its pre-1967 borders within the West Bank. Initially it had military concerns related in part to how narrow Israel is in the middle of its country. More recently the concerns are largely not military. The concerns now relate to the desires of some Jews, mostly highly religious, to keep control of: “Judea and Samaria” where an ancient Jewish history certainly exists. These desires inevitably conflict with Palestinian desires for their own country in the West Bank.

Peace is possible IF Israel will accept an independent state primarily of nearly all of the West Bank (with possible “land swaps” in small areas) and Gaza. The negotiations in these areas could result in peace within a relatively short period of time.

The more difficult negotiations will occur related to Jerusalem. Even there, there are certainly possible compromises which can result in peace.

It would seem highly logical to me for The United States – to pressure Israel to make peace with the Palestinians related to: 1.) Settling permanent boundaries in the West Bank and ceding Gaza and 2.) Creating a framework for negotiating related to Jerusalem.

Negotiating related to the rights of refugees won’t be simple, but is also resolvable.

A Palestinian State would presumably be demilitarized and thereby not any military threat to Israel.

While I don’t want to overly simplify things in my descriptions above, it really is not that complicated. The big issues are: 1.) The Radical Right forces that control much of Israel’s political base, 2.) The powers that radicals in Israel (and to a lesser extent within the Palestinians) that sabotage the few honest efforts that are made, 3.) The necessity of negotiating with Hamas and holding them accountable with Serious Negotiations, 4.) The totally crazy – control that the U.S. has pushed in both letting Israel do what it wants and in rare instances doing things against Israeli interests to prevent peace.

We in the U.S. could force Israel to negotiate seriously and probably help bring about peace. Logically we would do this by listening to the moderate forces that exist elsewhere in Europe, Turkey and other places who would work with us if we genuinely sought peace.

Certainly, there are risks to trying to make peace as I’ve proposed above. I would argue though that the risks of Not Having Peace – are much greater both in the short-term and long-term. Israel will likely eventually lose its strategic importance as oil reserves run out in the Middle East in coming decades. It will likely gradually lose its strategic importance and support from the United States then (if not sooner). It is best to negotiate from a position of strength, not weakness.

The U.S. should focus its energy on making peace and dealing with Iran, which certainly potentially is much more dangerous (as well as Pakistan – which is far more dangerous).

The post originally appeared here.

>Who Do They Think They Are?

>Who the hell do those Israelis think they are? Americans? Don’t they know already that the only country in the world that is allowed to act aggressively with or without provocation is the good old US of A?

Who would have known they are that naive? So they go and create a blockade of the Gaza strip and then they actually expect somebody to care about that. To think that such ingenuity is possible in this day and age. Don’t they know already that the only blockades, military actions, torture, destruction, in short, any kind of political decisions that are to be respected on this planet are those of the US?

Don’t they realize that the so-called liberal journalists need stuff to write about? Of course, when the US invaded Iraq for no reason whatsoever, they didn’t dare to emit a sound in protest. When the economy was being destroyed by endless deregulation, they did nothing but cheer. When the human rights were trampled in an unprecedented manner, they had nothing to say. No matter what kind of atrocity the US commits, they keep sitting on the sidelines with patient resignation, waiting for a chance to show their complete approval.

Obviously, all the effort that goes into not reporting any actual news must be very fatiguing. So when an opportunity arises to let off some steam by bashing Israel – for doing a tiny fraction of what the US has been doing on a daily basis for over a century, mind you – they jump on it. Anti-semitism always sells extremely well, especially so in times of economic crisis. Of course, these so-called journalists haven’t even recognized that there is an economic crisis yet and prefer to lie to the public about being in a “recession.” Why not distract the people who keep losing their jobs from the sad reality that the economy is not about to improve any time soon by a spot of Israel-hating?

>Academic Boycott of Israel

>People at my university (a.k.a. the best, most amazing academic institution in the world) have started joining the academic boycott of Israel. [If you don’t know about this boycott, you can find a lot of relevant information here.] I have been asked to join the boycott as well, and for the past few days I have been researching the boycott and trying to formulate my attitude towards it. Since I am in Hispanic Studies, I don’t have many (or, to be honest, any at all) opportunities to collaborate with Israeli scholars or attend any academic conferences held in Israel. My interest in the subject is, thus, purely a matter of principle.

One of the reasons that people give to oppose the boycott is that it isn’t likely to effectuate any real change in the way Israel treats the Palestinian people. This line of reasoning is, in my view, completely specious. This should be a matter of ideology. We cannot avoid upholding our convictions just because they might not be practical or useful.

Having said that, I have to state that I am opposed to the boycott. As I said before, the way Israel is discussed in the liberal circles (and even among otherwise intelligent and well-informed academics) is extremely reductive and simplistic. I am absolutely convinced that both Israelis and Palestinians have a profound need for the conflict and the terrorism that they are experiencing at each other’s hands. This is the way both these groups create their national identity. This is not the matter of a bad Israel versus good Palestinians, or evil Palestinians versus good, long-suffering Israelis. This is a game that both peoples are playing with utter abandon because they need it.

People who support the boycott often reference the academic boycott of South Africa. They fail to see that the case of South African apartheid was absolutely different from what is going on in Israel. The difference lies in the way nationalism works. Apartheid was a horrible system of racial marginalization and persecution and the desire of all progressive people to see apartheid come to an end had nothing to do with state-building and nationalism. Nationalism has its own long history and its own mechanisms that make it impossible to equate nationalistic struggles to other kinds of persecutions and injustices. Pontificating about Israel and Palestine without first obtaining the knowledge about the workings of national identity is not a smart thing to do. Israelis and Palestinians do not need more uninformed people getting on a soapbox and preaching about things they do not understand very well. Anybody who has any understanding of nationalism whatsoever will realize that boycotting Israel only helps Israeli nationalists.

If you are interested in how nationalism works, here are some basic readings that will help you understand its origins and mechanisms:


> In all discussions about Israel, what bothers me the most is many people’s desire to forget that what’s going on in that country is a result of millenia of history. What’s happening in Israel today is not the result of today’s policies, or of what took place on May 14, 1948. We cannot understand Israel without keeping in mind at all times the millenial history of anti-semitism and persecutions of Jews.

For years, I’ve been very unhappy with the way Isarel is discussed in liberal circles. I hate the “yeah-sure-the-Holocaust-happened-but-that’s-not-the-point” attitude. I hate the ease with which some journalists churn out miles of articles on Israel without mentioning the word “anti-semitism” once. I’m disgusted with how the conservatives adopted as their own the “we-love-Israel” routine. And I’m annoyed that the liberals let them do that and can only respond with an equally inane “and-we-love-the-Palestinians” agenda.

I hate it when politicians pretend that “the two-state solution” will stop the terrorism instead of realizing that the day the Palestinians receive their well-deserved sovereignty the number of terror attacks against Israel will grow exponentially. I’m annoyed beyond belief with literary critics who – instead of doing their job of analyzing works of literature – go to Isarel to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers. I find it unbelievable that people would actually expect the leaders of an organization that accuses the Israelis of “attempting to “destroy” the young generation by distributing libido-boosting chewing gum in the Gaza area” will walk peacefully into the sunset after they are granted their independence.

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