Israel, Politics

Where the Mind Goes

My lovely friends are getting married in Jerusalem next week, and as their wedding gets closer, I’ve been thinking about them more and more-how they’ve been together for longer than most people I know, the unfathomable amount of patience required to hold a relationship in place during army service, college, and many, many miles. I hate that now they have to think about how today’s bombing  is going to effect their wedding.
A few weeks ago, I read a piece in the New Yorker called “The Dissenters,” about the future of Ha’aretz (the newspaper). The author, David Remnick, interviewed the paper’s columnists, including Zeev Sternhell, one of the founders of Peace Now. The quote below is from him, and it’s been in my head since reading the peace. I think now is as a good time as any to post it.
“I still am a Zionist—a super Zionist…That has never changed for me, you know. If I didn’t want to keep Israel as a state of the Jews—a state in which the Jews are a majority and enjoy sovereignty—I would have lived elsewhere. I came here when I was sixteen because I wanted to participate in this story. This was a Jewish renaissance. And I wanted to be part of that. That was the meaning of Zionism for me. If the result is to be the end of the Jewish state, by the creation of an apartheid state or even of a binational state, both of these solutions are unacceptable. This would be the end of it.”

19 thoughts on “Where the Mind Goes

  1. This post makes me want to scream and throw things. Maybe I’ll elaborate on that later…after I take many deep, cleansing, anti-Zionist breaths.

  2. Doesn’t this illustrate the great difference between activists who founded Peace Now in the 1980s and those who run and participate in Peace Now today? The ones I know would call Sternhell a racist, Jewish supremacist, genocidal, ethnic cleansing Zionazi. Last I checked my local chapter, its board was anything but Zionist, except for the token Jew who everyone called an apologist for Israel.

  3. So I read the New Yorker article and then went a-web surfing. Imagine my surprise when I came upon this:
    What a surprise. It turns out that while writing about all the Jews at Haaretz, and how Zionist and Israeli it is, Remnick neglected the fact that a quarter ownership (enough for influence if not control) is neither Jewish, nor Israeli nor Zionist.
    I’m sure it it warms the Schockens’ hearts to be reporting to their new bosses in their old Vaterland, but what happens to thier employees if the Euro disappears? How will they cash their paycheques?
    And how could Renmick have missed this fact? He had no trouble writing about the ownership of Haaretz’ comptitors.
    I just can’t understand how he could have missed it.

  4. I was a bit active with Peace Now from the late 80s to the late 90s. My impression was always that they were very opportunistic, always alert to how the actions they took served or didn’t serve Labor and Meretz.
    There was a deep seated concern about appearing to be working too closely with Arab Israelis, while at the same time reaching out from time to time to make sure that Arabs would participate in the most meaningful actions.
    I remember one faction always going on about the connection between peace and social justice, and championing efforts to rouse the working class for peace – never happened of course.
    And of course, I remember the tension of needing to hew closely to the decisions of the real power brokers (OG founders serving in the Knesset) and not the staff or membership, who from time to time thought they had power.
    Peace Now was once an authentic movement. Today it’s just another peace NGO.

  5. @boxthorn – what are you saying? Many respected newspapers are at times partially held by multinational corporations. JPost was owned by Hollinger for a time.
    The Euro isn’t going anywhere any more than the US Dollar.
    What I don’t understand is your point- are you here to lurk, contribute our make trouble.
    @ Chanel Thanks for reminding me to read the piece. An interesting insight into an important Israeli institution.

  6. @adam
    1/’interesting insight’ = missing information
    ‘important Israeli institution’ = unread (by the vast majority of Israelis) newspaper
    2/’Jpost was owned by Hollinger for a time’
    ‘is’ is more important than ‘was’
    Anyhow the article was supposed to be about Haaretz-the only, er, ‘important Israeli institution’ media outlet one quarter owned by non-Israeli or non-Jewish people.
    3/The article mentions Adelson’s lack of knowledge of Hebrew in comparison to the folks at Haaretz.
    I’m sure Adelson knows more Hebrew than those Haaretz owners in Europe.
    And we know why Adelson started up his newspaper. Why did those Europeans buy into a money-losing operation like Haaretz?
    Now if Renmick was a real reporter he might just want to find out.
    4/I don’t lurk. I post.

  7. 4/I don’t lurk. I post
    you don’t post, you comment. and i don’t see how you commenting precludes you from lurking… like it or not, you have the reputation around here as being the resident troll. maybe if you actually contributed something more positive your reputation could evolve.

    1. Adam and Justin-
      How are you defining “lurk”? “Lurk” and “troll” aren’t the same thing. I think Boxthorn is right on this one – he’s a troll but not a lurker.

  8. Peace Now was once an authentic movement. Today it’s just another peace NGO.
    Interesting distinction, JG. How do you differentiate between the two? The Sheikh Jarrah protests are a movement, right? I’ll assume we all remember the Sheikh Jarrah charter published about a year ago. But they’re a movement without a coherent political platform, and from what I remember of their charter, this is by design. They don’t offer holistic policy solutions as a movement, they’re just protesting what they think are individual cases of injustice.
    So, how does a peace movement impose organization and structure without becoming “another peace NGO”?

  9. So, not that anyone cares, but I’ve thought about it further and come up with some possible reasons why this post makes me want to scream and throw things:
    1)Given the amount of human suffering which the matzav has caused, primarily for Palestinians, the fact that we’re sitting around talking about how thinking about a bombing will affect someone’s wedding seems offensive, to say the least.
    2)With respect to Sternhell and Peace Now, I don’t know why it’s never occurred to anyone to even consider that the state he describes – a state in which the Jews are a majority – is many things, but might not be a democracy in any meaningful sense. While of course at any given moment, a democratic state may be a Jewish majority state, it seems difficult to ensure that a state remains so, accept by non-democratic means. Because in a democracy, things could happen – birthrate trends, cultural changes, etc – which “de-Judaize” the state.
    3)While I’m certainly in favor of reflection and thoughtful engagement with the world, this post is one of several recent ones which seems to me like hand-wringing naval-gazing (to mix the metaphors) with the intention of asserting equality between sides of the conflict. Here’s a suggestion: maybe we should quit with the anguished meditations on the complexity of the conflict, at least temporarily, and discuss the ways in which the conflict is actually not so complicated. Specifically, by focusing on the massive human rights abuses which characterize both the state’s founding and its existence ever since, and which – I would suggest – are unfixable except by a massive and total reconsideration of the Zionist project.

  10. I find “reconsideration” to be a disingenuous use of language. You’re not actually proposing a “reconsideration”, where we evaluate the pros and cons of reality as it exists, as opposed to what could exist. Instead, I think you have quite a specific project of your own in mind. So let’s just have it, miri. Tell us what kind of world you envision, what tools you need to accomplish that project, and how many eggs you think its reasonable to break to see your utopia made real.

  11. I think Boxthorn is right on this one – he’s a troll but not a lurker.
    As one who has been intermittently referred to as a “troll” in this forum–by BZ and others–I’m still confused about the whole concept.
    Boxthorn is as harmless as the rest of us. If you don’t like what he has to say, then perhaps just argue with his points or ignore him. It’s doubtful that his motives are really so nefarious. Get off this guy’s case already.

  12. Hey Miri, thanks for laying all that out. I also found it really offensive to hand-wring about how the bombing will affect a friend’s wedding when people are actually horribly injured/dead (and lets be real–most of the injured/dead civilians will be Palestinians).
    @Victor, I suppose that it’s acceptable to break as many eggs as necessary to ensure Jewish sovereignity within Israel? Palestinians in Israel should just shut up and accept their lot as second-class citizens, I suppose.

  13. Miri, the challenge isn’t ‘merely’ to overcome Zionism and the contradictions between Zionist and democracy. It’s to see it happen as an evolution, not a trauma.
    There is nothing like Zionism in America. It’s nonsensical. But in 1776, being a Patriot meant something. I’d like to see nationalism degraded in Israel over time, in favor of multicultural, salad bowl, secular, transactional relationships with state power. That’s what we have in the US outside the flaggiest provinces of flyover country. The emphasis on rethinking Zionism is, in a contradictory way, serving to prop up the significance of Zionist thought. It will wither away, or not, but I doubt it can be overthrown.

  14. the contradictions between Zionist and democracy
    Zionism inherently is a contradiction of certain traditional notions of liberal Western democracy–that’s clear . . . . but so?
    There is nothing like Zionism in America.
    Isn’t this a bit of Western chauvinism? Why does every political system/society need to mirror the US, to a T?
    Palestinians in Israel should just shut up and accept their lot as second-class citizens
    Israel needs to do a much better job in protecting Israeli Palestinian rights–in terms of ensuring fair employment opportunities, infrastructure funding for their communities, affirmative action in the universities, and proper treatment in the courts.
    On the other hand, maybe I’m the only person here who has no problem saying that the state of Israel should be the one country in the world intended to be the home for Jews. If that leads to certain inherent inequities against minorities, then Zionism still has value. If Palestinians in Israel have such a problem with that . . . God willing there will soon be an independent Palestinian state and, by the way, there are already 21 Arab countries in the area, which sit on a pretty large portion of the Middle East’s land.

  15. There is nothing like Zionism in America
    I remember a particularly engaging lecture I attended while in university on the modern iterations of manifest destiny. Every nation has a certain vision of itself. The French, Germans, Russians, Poles, British, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese or whoever… every nation has a national ethos based on the dominant culture. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this.
    There are no structural impediments to Israeli-Arab enfranchisement, well-being or self-actualization in Israel – none. There are problems of minorities – poverty, lack of integration, etc. – but these are present in every other Western society also. There is nothing particularly pernicious about minorities in Israel being worse off as compared to minorities in France or the USA being worse off. It requires remedial attention, yes, education, yes, multi-culti sensitivity training, yes of course, all of these things, and who is saying otherwise? That doesn’t make Israel unique or special; it’s makes the country normal.
    That Israel is not now and never will be a Palestinian or Arab state is a function of its majority culture, and that culture’s level of vitality, which will ensure its majority status. I don’t know any Jews who bear children to fight a demographic war with the Arabs. People don’t have children out of fear, they have children out of hope, a hope for the future. It says something that Jews have more children in Israel, on average, than elsewhere in the world.
    I largely think this discussion is moot. The Arab Israeli activists who scream the loudest about being second class Israeli citizens, in my experience, are the least representative. I’ve met Arab Israelis that celebrate Chanukah and Passover like national holidays. They understand that these are Jewish holidays, but they want to be a part of the dominant culture, to celebrate with everyone else. I think that’s the reality; future generations of Arab Israelis will increasingly integrate into Israeli society and rely less on the “resistance” of their parents to define their identity in opposition to the State. It is a process of normalization, of cultural diffusion, of assimilation that is irresistible in the long run, and in my opinion, in terms of Israel’s future, and the future well-being of its Arab minority, this is all to the good.

  16. victor- the zionist in me says “insh Alla” while the multiculturalist in me says “hashem ya’azor”… its enough mizrachi haredim wearing bekeshes, for israeli arabs to be cooking matza balls is a bit post post vision of geula for me…

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