Friday, May 20, 2011

credit where due

Because of my incredible influence and vast readership, and because I know how desperately the Internet yearns for my opinion on recent blogging about Israel/Palestine:
  • Matt Yglesias is at the height of his considerable powers when it comes to the conflict, and has really shined lately. See this post for a good example. I really believe liberals online need to do a better job of making the case for our values, and I think Yglesias writes about the conflict in just that spirit. 
  • I will echo Andrew Sullivan in saying that Jeff Goldberg, whatever my reservations about how he defines the conflict or his history, has been on fire.
  • This from Jon Chait is characteristically well-expressed and (in foreign policy discussion at least) uncharacteristically sober and fair.
  • Natasha Lennard offers a good rundown of some of the nutty reaction to Obama's invoking the (absolutely banal) use of the 1967 borders as guidelines for a two state solution.
To respond to an emailer, I want to point out that I can endorse particular posts from particular people and that shouldn't be taken as a blanket endorsement of that person's general attitudes towards Israel and Palestine. Yes, I am disturbed by the way that the mainstream political media, in describing this conflict, foregrounds Israeli needs above Palestinian needs as a matter of course. Yes, it is occupiers who bear responsibility for ending occupation, not the occupied. Yes, there is a disturbing tendency for people to treat both participant groups in this conflict as equally culpable in the name of moderation. Yes, pursuing this particular path to peace involves cooperation with some noxious actors, like the bigoted Benjamin Netanyahu. (Or, potentially, the vile terrorist elements within Hamas.)

But I believe there is genuine opportunity here. If the United States, given its unique relationship with Israel, bears a moral responsibility to help to ease the suffering of the Palestinians and restore lost legitimacy to the Jewish state, then that responsibility is shared by the members of the American democratic polity. And as much of an idealist as I am, and as much as I hate compromise, this is a situation where the status quo is simply untenable. To abandon this opportunity for peace because we dislike some of the actors involved would be disgraceful.

20 comments:

  1. Restore "lost legitimacy to the Jewish state"?

    Not your finest moment, Mr. deBoer.

    It has no legitimacy. It never had any. It's complete abolition is the only legitimate justice possible.

    Unless, one can find a bright note to celebrate about the shitty colonial garrison race state...

    Can you do that, Mr. deBoer? Do you have that sort of gall in you?

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  2. Technically speaking, Mr. Crow, I am not a Zionist. I can't support a state with an explicitly religious or ethnic character. I support almost nothing about the founding of the modern state of Israel. But the world needs a state where Jews can always find a home and be safe; long history has demonstrated that. Perhaps "lost" is the wrong word. Whatever the case, we have this state called Israel. It's existence, despite what the less temperate on the Israeli and American right will tell you, is assured. My interest is in the Israeli state becoming the most democratic and moral actor it can be. There is an incredibly long way to go, but not one inch of it will be walked without working with those who are far more comfortable with the character and founding of Israel. That's the best I can do for you.

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  3. It's funny that almost no one ever makes that argument ("the world needs a state where...can always find a home and be safe") about Gypsies. Or the rump remnants of my father's people.

    Why a state for Jews - for a religion? For a people defined entirely by their not-Christianity?

    Because Europe - and almost exclusively Europe - was not safe for them?

    Because Christendom had its own copious problems, a colonial outpost, and exportation of discontent, merits legitimacy?

    I'm sure the millions at the fences and garrison checkpoints roundly sympathize; they lost real land so that the oldest, most bronzed aged of the Abrahamic religionists didn't have to sully too many good European neighborhoods.

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  4. How ideal would you like our theories here to be? In the long range, there will be no nation states, as they are illegitimate fictions. For now, we have them. Would I like a state for the Romansh? I would like any structure that could protect their safety and their prosperity, just as I would for all of the world's oppressed and dispossessed peoples. I am trying to grapple with the reality of the Israeli state and with the reality of several thousand years of anti-Semitism. Of course, support for a safe space for Jews in the world doesn't mean I lack support for other downtrodden people. In fact, my support for a free, contiguous and prosperous Palestine stems exactly from my desire for a good outcome for one of the most beleaguered groups on earth.

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  5. God, what a sellout. Jeff Goldberg? Unbelievable.

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  6. "For a people defined entirely by their not-Christianity?"

    Freddie,

    This racist slur is obviously the responsibility of the person who posted it. Still...that doesn't even elicit a frown from you? This is your space, but as a reader I find that disappointing.

    Mr. Crow,

    Legitimacy is a legal fiction. The unfeasibility of dismantling Israel as a state without the slaughter of millions of people is something approaching a fact, or at least an intractable problem. If that is less important to you than the world of ideas in which things are or are not legitimate, then you are an evil person. Ideas are not more important than human beings.

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  7. Charles,

    Defining Jews by Judaism and Jewish practice is not "racist," anymore than defining practitioners of Santeria according to that minority faiths beliefs or practices is or could be. As a person who is descended from people identified as Jews in Europe, but as Italians in the US - I can report that what mattered was the religion. Specifically, the "pernicious rejection of Christ." Once they assimilated as Catholics, in New England, they were accepted as Italians, who lived in Italian communities, spoke Italian at the table, attended Mass at Italian majority or language churches (after Vat2), and married other Italians.

    Not insignificantly, this is the entire premise of the Shlomo Sand's "The Invention of the Jewish People." A Jewish author identifying that Jews were such because of religion, in specific contrast to Roman Christianity, and developing that identity as reaction to it, not because there is a demonstrable "Jewish race."

    Freddie,

    I'm not being idealist, here. I'm suggesting that there's no legitimacy, and by assuming it of of some misplaced apathy/realpolitik, you're making the mistake of apologizing for the status quo on account of not possessing a well defined concept of or route to alternatives.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. It is Jewish state and religious law which gives me "Return" rights, despite having no forebears who can demonstrate having ever lived in or even near to Palestine, and with a documented legacy stretching back to the 10th century in Italy, Charles.

    That law defines my membership in a religious and national entity I don't recognize, as a member of a people to which I do not belong, solely on the account of religious and court judgments.

    It is not "racist" to elucidate the religious foundation of actual, existing Jewish idenity.

    I have, by fiat of a religious court of elders and rabbis, a "right of return" denied, by law and religion, to a Palestinian whose father and mother were expelled from land his forebears farmed and tended for a thousand years, while mine over the exact same period of time made their living as doctors, merchants and artisans in the toe and heel of Italy.

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  10. In the long range, there will be no nation states, as they are illegitimate fictions.

    And other kinds of states are presumably legitimate?

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  11. Some trivia: Natasha Lennard appears as 'Tash' in Emily Witt, 'That Room in Cambridge, n+1 number 11.

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  12. Charles, if Jack Crow was offering that as any kind of a complete definition of what a Jew is, then yes, that is offensive (and not particularly helpful). I don't know that he meant it in that spirit but perhaps you are right. In the larger context, I would echo you in saying that I'm not responsible for what commenters say.

    Jack,

    I think that the question of the legitimacy is very complicated and important. It happens to not be the argument I'm considering now.

    And other kinds of states are presumably legitimate?

    Nope, all illegitimate, in the long run. In my opinion.

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  13. One ameliorative aspect of having moderate liberals in charge is that Jewish moderate liberals and other moderate liberals who make a name in part by staunchly defending Israel tend to give the moderate liberal in charge a break on Israel when they (of course) stay within the lines in the How-to-Have-Moderate-Liberal-Views-on-Israel coloring book. Quelle surprise!

    Nevertheless, all in all, a pretty okay state of affairs to my way of looking at things.

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  14. If we are to have a Jewish state we must have a means to enforce Jewishness.

    It seems to me that this is a recipe for future conflict and violence no matter how the issue with the Palestinian people is settled. Enforcing Christianity worked so well for Europe.

    Of course, along with the notion of Jewish state there is the Hitlerian question of who is and who is not a Jew - and just as important - how do we maintain the purity of Jewish blood.

    Theocracies and fascist states are never legitimate. They may exist - even for 1,000 years, but they are not legitimate. There really aren't any other choices when it comes to ethnically or religiously pure states. The roots of Israel were born out of the same impulses that lead to Hitler. There is no legitimacy for Israel to loose.

    Not only must Israel be shoved down the throats of the Palestinians - it must also be shoved down the throats of a number of Jews as well. A Jewish state not only denies fundamental rights to Palestinians, it denies them to Jews as well. It replaces the rights of the individual with the rights of the "church".

    That Jews deserve a Jewish state is a sickening thought - at least as racist as anything Jack Crow has said. Having been on the receiving end - let's just say I'm not planning to suck it up and get over it for the greater glory of Judaism any time soon, and I'm not going to look to kindly on those who think I should.

    Your post and comments lead me to scratch my head. You want to be on both sides of the fence at the same time. It is a lot like the left within Israel. It doesn't work and it leads to irrelevance.

    If you don't believe in equality for Jews, and if you do not believe in the right to marry whomever one chooses, then you do not believe in freedom.

    Make your choice, support the concept of a Jewish state or the Universal declaration of Human Rights. You can't have both.

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  15. What thread on Israel couldn't benefit from the Reductio ad Hitlerum?

    I must say, the input from those commenters to the left of Mr. de Boer gives some clue to where he's coming from. In light of them, his adherence to an ameliorist approach does him credit.

    To those baleful commenters, I would just point out that:

    1, the question of who is and who isn't a Jew predates by some years the rise of National Socialism (really)

    2, while the creation of a state as an answer to the "Jewish question" is certainly problematic, this insight is hardly unique to the anti-Zionist left

    3, however unsatisfactory that partial answer has been, it was certainly superior to other answers that have been attempted over the years by both the political left and the right

    4, the absolutist approach preferred by some of the commenters to Mr. de Boer's left might in its effects have more in common with those other answers

    5, hence Mr. de Boer's ameliorist approach, however unsatisfactory to those commenters, might actually lead to better outcomes for all involved -- particularly the Palestinians whose cause they are notionally championing.

    Of course that approach lacks the satisfactions of self-righteous rage, but such satisfactions are not really compatible with political responsibility.

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  16. meliorism helps only those with the power to enact it, and enforce. hence, the status quo, always.

    It is "reasonable" people, with power, who maintain these fictions as a cover for their banal, ordinary, quotidian monstrosities of state, military and capital.

    Unreasonable critics may have no prospects for success, according to the terms of those with power, or those who apologize for it - because they have no power.

    But, they also do less harm, since they are not in the mind and business of making pretty that which is inherently ugly.

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  17. And it's amusingly odd to be called a racist for arguing that the "Jewish race" is, like all racial fictions, a social construct which serves a political and religious purpose.

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