The arguments on this blog and others have gotten fierce the past few weeks, and both sides (myself included) have been using very strong rhetoric. I want to thank Sam on Blogs of Zion for trying to cool things off. The result of this tussle is that we have been drawn into so many catfights that it is easy to lose sight over what we actually disagree on. So, let me try and bring things into focus by listing a few basic propositions that I believe lie at the heart of this and many other debates that we have.

  • The State of Israel is not inherently valuable.
    Many of the people who fall on the ‘right’ side of the debate disagree with this statement, and feel that the State of Israel is a good thing that needs to be supported regardless of what its people or government do. However, I and other progressive Zionists insist that the State of Israel is only instrumentally valuable. This means that the state is only as valuable as what it accomplishes. If the state brings about good, then it is good. However, were it to, chas v’chalilah, cause evil, then it needs to be criticized and fought against, just as we would fight against any evil.
  • The struggle between Israel and its neighbors is not a zero-sum game.
    I believe that the long-term solution to our strife will bring peace, prosperity and security to all of the people in the region. Israel’s success does not need to come at the expense of others. Israel will only fulfill its potential when everyone can benefit.
  • Jewish rights do not take precedence over other peoples’ rights.
    Perhaps this is where we have picked up the label of ‘universalists’ as opposed to our ‘particularist’ objectors. Human rights have value only because they apply to all of humanity. Often different peoples’ rights conflict, and the resolution that is necessary will not be pleasant. We don’t disagree that violence may be justified, nor do we disagree that sometimes people will be hurt. However, we think that every conflict needs to be analyzed on its own terms, and that Jewish rights do not necessarily trump any other rights.