We_stand_with_IsraelOn 29/12/2015 I travelled to Birmingham to participate in a panel at the ‘Limmud’ conference. Being a writer rather than a speaker, being given control of a microphone wasn’t something I was particularly looking forward to, yet having seen the list of talks, some of which appeared interesting, I had decided to stay for a couple of days and engage a little. I arrived at 11:00, by 14:50 I was on my way home. At least now I understand why Israel is losing the battle on campus.

In 1967 Israel engaged in a defensive war that was to change entirely the political make-up of the nation. Today an entire spectrum of opinion in Israel exists, ranging from those that believe every inch captured in 1967 should remain with Israel, to those that believe every inch should be returned to Arab hands. Within this spectrum is a fluid majority, willing perhaps to find a compromise, but doubting to different extents that the political reality for such compromise exists.

Whilst the Zionists created mythology on top of underlying historical truths, the anti-Zionist camp have done the opposite. Wherever possible, malicious intent supplants cause and effect and their narrative manipulates and intentionally distorts historical fact. When challenged, the anti-Zionist tale unravels the way most conspiracy theories do, and to sustain itself it exists in a perpetual cycle of denial. The non-Zionist political narrative avoids debate or shouts down opposition because it must.

The people pushing anti-Zionism in our universities are split into several camps. The Arabs who are pushing a narrative fed to them since birth, left wing radicals, ‘universalists’, who believe in open borders and are anti-nationalist by default and a well-intentioned group who have swallowed a false narrative that uses messages of peace and humanity as a disguise. Then of course there are antisemites, people who feed off stories of Jewish power and are drawn to anti-Israeli activity like moths to an artificial light. The other group worthy of note, perhaps the most inexplicable and note-worthy of them all, is one that is placed at the front of every anti-Zionist movement as a figurehead, the anti-Zionist Jew.

So as I sat on a panel intending to discuss how these Jewish led anti-Zionist forces now control sections of the campus, I lost heart as the pointless politics kept flowing across the stage. It became clear to me that each participant, rather than discuss the problem, intended to focus on unrelated issues they each felt more at home with. I was the last to speak and the first to mention ‘academia’. As the question and answer section developed, one of the questions came from someone who declared they were a ‘Yachad activist’, then following this, the youngest of the speakers proceeded to proudly tell those in the hall that she is firmly on the ‘left’ and suggested that to strengthen our children’s ‘Zionist’ education they need to be introduced to groups like ‘Breaking the Silence’. I considered walking off the stage, today I am sorry that I didn’t. As someone who would not have agreed to participate in an advert for groups that aid BDS, the event certainly left me thoroughly deflated at the time.

I think it worthwhile at this stage to introduce a quote from British MP Gerald Kaufman:

“In her first decades, Israel’s achievements had been disappointing only to her own perfectionists” – Kaufman, To Build the Promised Land, 1973 (pp241).

WP_20151208_18_21_57_ProHaving read his 1973 book, if I now had to label Kaufman, I would call him a ‘self-hating Zionist’, a peculiar product of a unique set of events. Kaufman was born into an era of growing right wing nationalism, when antisemitism could be encountered quite openly in the UK, the Nazi menace was growing in strength and in a far off land, Jewish people, Zionists were rebuilding the National home. There was a tin on the mantelpiece in the Kaufman home, to collect money for those building the Zionist dream.

Zionism to these people was to be a flawless, socialist, Eden, that would shine its humanity into the dark recesses of its barbaric neighbourhood. With an imaginary land of impossible being in his head, Israel could never live up to such standards. If one draws a line between Kaufman of 1973 and Kaufman of 2015, the change becomes logical, almost predictable. Despite Kaufman’s ‘Zionism’, Kaufman never allowed Israel actual existence and his relationship with the state was doomed to failure. Kaufman’s Zionism was a theoretical construct, but Kaufman is not alone. The young student who sat with me on the panel has the same basic problem. However much she may maintain she has deep support for Israel, the truth is she doesn’t support it in practice at all. Kaufman today is an anti-Zionist, the other simply places herself ‘on the left’, but the difference between them is almost non-existent – as Israel is at the moment, for both of them it has no right to exist.

Zionism is Jewish nationalism and as a movement 100 years ago it succeeded in gaining enough political support to begin a journey that would lead to the creation of Israel. Born from a civil war in the British Mandate of Palestine, Israel is the fruit of the Zionist project. Given the variables of location, timing and demographics, Israel is how Jewish nationalism expresses itself. It exists in a difficult neighbourhood, and its original Ashkenazi dominated population was diluted with massive Jewish refugee immigration from nations such as Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Ethiopia & Yemen. As generations passed and Israelis became a people in their own right, Israel became a true state of the Middle East. Looking at Israelis born today, these are people born into a thriving and successful democratic Jewish homeland in the heart of a region that knows no freedom outside of Israel’s borders. A truly incredible achievement.

Israel has always sought peace. As a nation that works on the same democratic and economic principles as most nations in the West, it does not benefit by conflict. As its neighbours seek conflict to deflect attention from their perpetual failings, Israel wants stability and peace. All the revisionist tales that depict Israel as the aggressor are illogical positions that cannot provide a single example from all of global human history to support such a notion. Nations such as Israel seek peace not war. ‘Aggressive Israel’ is a fable born out of desperation.

In the 1970’s Israel traded Sinai for the peace treaty with Egypt and in the 1990’s it sought to solve the unsolvable by making moves towards a long term settlement with the Palestinians, the descendants of those people that lost the 1948/9 civil conflict. It was in this process, the Oslo process, that the left/right struggle over the possible final status deals came to dominate Israeli politics.

Late September 2000, the Arab camp used Ariel Sharon’s visit to Temple Mount as an excuse to launch the 2nd intifada. It is true that both camps had not been strictly faithful to the Oslo accords, true too that both camps had elements that sought to bring about the end of negotiations. But the underlying assumption that a two state solution was the fundamental ‘end-game’ for both sides was torn apart by the Arab violence during the 2nd intifada. Whether Arafat ever intended to sign on any dotted line is a matter for debate, but as the Israelis began to pay such a high price for having been deceived, the central body of the left wing peace camp fell apart. The second intifada saw the end of the traditional strength of the Labour party in Israel.

The vast majority of Israelis place themselves at every election somewhere around the centre, willing to negotiate, but just as in the 1990’s, concerned to different degrees about the brutal realities of the region in which they live. There is currently a vicious myth sold by Israel’s enemies (anti-Zionists, those on the far left and an international community who find this myth comfortable for their own political situations) that Israel has never been so extreme. It is a barefaced lie. In many ways the Alignment (left wing block) platform of the early 1970’s reads like a modern Likud document. The Likud platform of 1977 reads further right than the platform of ‘Zionist Home today. In 1988 the right wing Moledet party ran on a policy of transfer. These are historically verifiable facts. If anything, there was a fundamental shift to the left during the 1990’s that has not been reversed. Those pushing the ‘extremist’ myth today are spreading vicious propaganda that unfairly damages the international image of Israel. This includes almost all of the contemporary non Israeli left wing movements who declare they are Zionist, such as Yachad in the UK and J Street in the US. When Israel officially recognised the Palestinians and Fatah as their representatives, the political earth in Israel shifted left. To pretend otherwise is deceitful.

article-doc-168r0-6X7kVWJhM-HSK1-177_634x422What is true is that the void created by the collapse of the labour party has not and cannot be filled until such time as the general population of Israel witness movement within Palestinian society that presents an opportunity for resurrecting the lost hope of the traditional Israeli left. As it stands, with international movements such as BDS pushing insane notions of Israel being a pariah state, with the Hamas/Fatah split signalling any negotiations could be decades away, and with Islamic forces gathering in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, Israelis look around and see only storm clouds of further conflict on the horizon. This is a true reflection of the feeling of the vast majority of the Jewish Israeli electorate. The factual evidence for such a statement can be provided through the results of the Israeli democratic electoral process in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2013 & 2015.

Which brings us to the extreme left of Israel. In every election, Zionist parties to the left of Labour receive very few votes. As an internal political force they are the equivalent of a party such as the Greens in the UK or a vague independent candidate in the US. They are irrelevant in number, and their ideas, positions and politics do not represent any sizeable part of the Israeli population. As a democracy, their opinion in Israel is as valid in theory as any other, but also as a democracy its relevance should reflect that of its proportional share of the national vote. Or in other words, this group, despite their protestations, are exposed as a tiny minority at every single election that is held. To dispute this is pointless.

And that is where the matter would end, if it were not for Israel’s enemies. Dave Sewell is a journalist at the Socialist Worker, like 100’s of similar writers on the far left globally, it is unlikely you would have heard of him. Major media outlets like Sky or the BBC, are not lining up to suggest his views are representative of UK opinion and his articles receive few if any shares on social media. Very few would suggest his work is a picture of the ‘truth’. CrimethInc is an anarchist’s collective in the US, until I googled for an example for this article, I hadn’t even heard of them. Every nation has its >5% on the fringes, sitting in the shadows, believing it is part of an elite group that possess a vision that the world should share. They are almost invariably ignored. Ignored that is, unless that >5% is Israeli.

Gideon Levy’s articles are shared worldwide, as are the writings of Amira Hass. 972 Mag is an online reservoir of information for groups such as BDS who seek to both demonize and de-legitimize Israel. This insignificant group in Israel are transformed into virtual celebrities through the simple fact that Israel have enemies that will both provide them with a platform and fund them. They receive invitations to speak all over the globe. *Any group*, however unrepresentative can become far more than the sum of their parts when money is fed towards their cause. This is exactly what is happening with the Israeli extreme left, an anti-democratic bubble utilized by those who seek to undermine Israel’s government. Ask yourself this, if there were a group of British or US soldiers ‘breaking their silence’, who would fund them? How would the British Army react to soldiers breaking the Armed Forces Act 2006? Would they be allowed into British schools? Would they also receive an international audience?

Yesterday in a thread on Facebook, I criticised the Israel group Breaking the Silence over clear discrepancies between a group that claims it seeks to address issues within the IDF, and political activism that seems more interested in swaying international public opinion against internal Israeli political policies. I believe one is valid, the other is not. My remarks were picked up by a respected member of the Jewish community from North West London who began to attack my opinion. He suggested the IDF was a mess, asked who would check them if they are killing women and children and continued by using Mugabe’s reign in Zimbabwe as an example of how external pressure is sometimes required to address international crimes. In an apparent reference to Israel’s latest move to bring more transparency to the dealings of hostile NGO’s, he declared “This is a war on Liberty by the extremists currently in charge in Israel”. When pressed on his source, he responded that ‘he went on a trip to Hebron’ to witness the ‘atrocities’. A trip no doubt that was designed to ‘enlighten him’ put together by the British activist group called Yachad.

This man is not a Zionist. He may think he is, but he considers Israel an extremist state that kills women and children. His Zionism is on a theoretical level. He may believe in Jewish nationalism, yet he doesn’t support the only instance of Jewish nationalism that exists. Rather he is active against it. For him, Israel’s right to exist is conditional on his political approval. He does not live there, he does not know the reality of being Israeli, he is not in Sderot facing Hamas or Jerusalem facing knives or living on the northern border. Instead he takes an elitist approach by arrogantly declaring, from the safety of his home in London, that if he was Israeli, if he had experienced what Israelis have experienced, he would vote in a manner differently from the way that they do.

yachadFrom the point of view of the Israelis they see no difference between an anti-Zionist and an extreme left wing Zionist who stands in front of Jews in a conference and tries to discuss whether it is ‘Zionist to recognise Palestine’. This isn’t Zionism, it is anti-Zionism. That in theory, these people would support a Zionist enterprise if it were politically aligned with the radical left is irrelevant. Israel’s experience is driving it through a different path, therefore these people actively work against the will of the vast majority of Israelis who live there.

The anti-Zionist platform (pre 1949 politics) is fundamentally flawed. The Arab rejection of Jewish immigration was both incessant and extremely violent. It led to civil war, and the opportunities to create an Arab state alongside a Jewish one were historically recorded, and categorically rejected, in 1936, 1947, 1948 and again, in a continuous period between 1949 and 1967. Extreme left wing Zionism faces the same fundamental flaws. This is why as a movement it almost doesn’t exist in Israel. People who live there, people who have real experience on the issues, *in the vast majority* think very differently. It is no coincidence that most extreme left wing ‘Zionists’ *do not live under direct threat of Arab attack*. No coincidence either that if their ideas were tried and failed, they themselves would not pay the consequences.

Therefore, both Zionist-extreme left and non-Zionist politics are forced to distort the underlying truth beyond recognition to make a case. It takes a rather twisted ethical summersault to actually ‘switch’ from a side that despite its flaws, represents reality, to a side that have invented a story to excuse the clear evidence their own actions created and perpetuate the conflict.

I attend many anti-Israel events, far more in fact that I do pro-Israeli ones. It is currently my main area of research. In the past few months I sat in a High Court in London, watching University of Southampton Professor Oren Ben-Dor attempt to stop his anti-Zionist conference from being cancelled. I was there when Max Blumenthal, pushing sales for his book on the 2014 Gaza conflict, suggested that Israel kills children for profit. I have seen Illan Pappe, on several occasions, discard public Palestinian opinion as irrelevant as he pushes his pet BDS platform as being in their best interests, and I was present and recorded MP Gerald Kaufman infer that ‘Jewish Money’ buys British political blindness so Israel can get away with executing random Palestinians. Remember this is the same Gerald Kaufman who in 1973 suggested criticism of Israel was undeserved.

BDS itself, though presented as a call from within Palestinian society in 2005, was born in South Africa in the UN anti-racism conference in Durban in 2001. The academic boycott surfaced publicly in England less than a year later on 6 April 2002, in an open letter to The Guardian. The letter was initiated by professor Steven Rose and his wife Hilary who is also an academic. Only later did the international activists tell the Palestinians to make the call to galvanize the cause. The academic boycott of Israel that we see across our universities, was started by a Jew.

Only recently the American Anthropological Association in the US endorsed this academic boycott, with its supporters insisting that the boycott is not personal in nature, and targets the institutions rather than the academics. At about the same time in November, a 13-year-old Israeli girl set a project at school that involved external research, sent a few questions about her chosen subject to an academic in the field, This was the exchange:

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As can be seen from the exchange, Marsha Levine is Jewish. Not for her the half-hearted measures of the institutional boycott, Levine wishes to punish a 13-year-old schoolgirl because of her nationality. Levine’s reasoning – “the Jews have become the Nazis”. At the event, as I sat on the panel, all the other speakers agreed that an academic boycott, as such, does not exist in the UK. They clearly haven’t spoken to Israeli academics. It isn’t about those who add their names to petitions, it is about organisations and people who might even agree with Israel but do not want to face the hostile activists and so avoid Israeli contact and do not publish Israeli papers. It is a boycott of cowardice that bows down before a few bully boys. How can Israel be defended by those who cannot see the army at the borders?

Oddities like Gilad Atzmon aside,  most of those Jews lining up as Jewish anti-Zionists or extreme left Zionists made their career and their money on the back of their obsession. These people are what I describe as ‘opportunistic haters’, people who have little importance or standing outside of the value of their venom. If they didn’t hate Israel, if the Islamic crowd were not in need of Jewish cover, these people would be nobodies, adrift from society, trying to sell sub-standard worthless opinions to a disinterested marketplace. Only with Israel, because of the conflict, they are used as a cover for pure Israel hatred, helping antisemites hide behind extreme left wing Zionism and legitimizing an attack that without them would not be allowed to develop. For it is true that the pro-Arab camp would look very different if they were not hiding behind these Jewish activists. It is even doubtful the pro-Palestinian groups would have made serious headway in the university campus, unable to withstand the accusations of antisemitism, if they did not have a Jew by their side. It is the primary reason the Jews are used.

This isn’t about criticism. No doubt, as has been done before, it will be argued that I am suggesting criticism of Israel isn’t legitimate. This is a weak argument. Nobody is pretending Israel is perfect. For example, I believe that the world is a far better place with the United States and I fully support it. It does not mean I believe in everything it does, like every president, or visibly support every action. The US is a democracy that bends to the will of its electorate. As soon as I pick up a banner, and become an activist, that in any way, undermines the democratic choice of the American people, I am no longer a supporter of the US. I am in fact now an enemy. So too with Zionism. If you are a Zionist but do not support Israel, your Zionism is theoretical. You may believe in a Jewish nationalism but are unwilling to support the product of such a nationalism. Israel will always have flaws.

So what is one to do if they disagree with how Zionism is playing out? Personally I’d say go to Specsavers, but if they are of the mind that Israel has it wrong and true left ideals are the only way, then they are free to pack their bags and go to Israel to help the Zionist project. If as they believe the majority of the Jews in the US and Europe are of the same mind, then wouldn’t the answer be for all those Jews to go to Israel, and turn Israel into their own Zionist dream? That however they are not willing to do, they let other Jews live under the threat of war, whilst they actively undermine them.

We are left with people who live safely in nations such as the UK and US, working against the democratic choice of another nation. Argue it how you like, it doesn’t sound very democratic to me. How would the citizens of the US or UK feel about movements that undermine their national governments and yet exist *outside* of the democratic process? The movements in Israel have failed because they did not work, and were shown to be wrong. But financed from abroad, these visions exported the fight into the US and Europe and left wing idealists have picked up the cause. Far away from any danger and far away from Israeli voters. At least let it be known that not a single one of these people have a right to suggest they believe in democracy. These are anti-democratic activities.

It cannot be said often enough or strongly enough that Israel is at war. Not a theoretical ‘cold war’ but a real battle, a battle that they cannot afford to lose. Israel is only there today because the IDF is strong. Can you imagine if Israel was protected by extreme left wing ‘Zionists’? This is why Israel has lost campus, because its international diplomatic corp – the Zionists- have been duped into giving platforms and status to people who do not like the Zionist state. How do you defend something you don’t like very much? When someone from one of these left wing groups argues against BDS, how can they win? The position they put forward doesn’t even exist beyond a dreamlike theory of a Middle East that is disintegrating before Islamic radicalism as I write. Remember, almost every one of these people would have wanted Israel to give up the Golan in the 1990’s. Today, had they been given their wish, ISIS would be on the shores of the Kinneret.

Limmud was overrun by ‘theoretical Zionists’. On every platform, people who represent a tiny minority in Israel were given massive coverage. Activists roamed the halls trying to persuade others to follow their vision. This isn’t Zionism, it is the demise of Zionism in the UK. Israel is only your state if you make it your state. Pack your bags and work to change it from within. If, as seems the case, you choose merely to criticise, not to build, not to plant, not to donate, but rather to work  from the outside against the democratic forces that exist there, then it is not your state at all. Indeed, you have set yourself up in opposition. You are an anti-Zionist or a theoretical Zionist at best. Either way it makes little difference, as Kaufman has shown, they end up being one and the same.

What arrogance to sit in the comfort of the US or Europe and decide from afar what is best for a people who truly know the price of war. Being Jewish doesn’t give these groups any additional validity. If Israel was to follow or be pressured (as seems to be Yachad’s wish) into making massive territorial compromise within the current environment, what would Yachad activists do if it crumbled? When the rockets started to fly, who would be there to fight for the state – these activists certainly wouldn’t. The world these activists live in is built on a load of theoretical poppycock. Just like their Zionism.

 

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21 thoughts on “‘Breaking my Silence’, discussing the ‘theoretical Zionist’.

  1. The issue is simpler than you make out. No other country on planet Earth has had its very existence challenged in the way that the existence of Israel is challenged. There are many other countries that have no right to exist, Pakistan is a good example, Israel is not one of them. The self-hating Jew, aka Marsha Levine and Gerald Kaufman, is a typically Jewish phenomenon, in fact I venture to say it is uniquely Jewish, born of generations of persecution.

    1. There are a considerable number of Muslim born vibrant and loud critics of Islam and Islam’s behavior in the modern world. Of course, they do need special protection which anti Zionists don’t.

  2. Your assertion that Arafat’s lying shamed and ‘killed’ the Israeli left is very true. For me, belonging to that left,, there is little chance of any true peace until a Palestinian leader tells his people clearly exactly what they have to give up to have peace with Israel. Namely, that Israel will be ‘Jewish’ land as opposed to ‘Muslim Land’. All else will flow from that.

  3. I wasn’t at your panel session; to be honest the subject doesn’t interest me. But you claim in this blog that the Green Party are irrelevent in the UK: I beg to differ. Londoners are represented by 3 Greens from more proportional elections plus 4 local councillors, and we held out seat in Brighton Pavilion. Labour has now shifted towards the very policies Greens were proposing in the 2015 general election. These very policies are the most popular in blind tests according to the app vote for policies, at around 25%. Around 80% of Londoners support Green Party policies such as railways, living wage, or tackling air pollution. The Greens are probably more global now than the Labour movement. And yes, many argue that it tends to be amongst academia that the Greens gain the most support.
    Your blog paints a one-sided painting of the left. As far as I could see from the programme there were lots of events you would have enjoyed, from advocacy online, to the JC to an Israeli stand-up comedian and culture. So I’m sorry you felt depressed from your experience. As a British Jew I am not proud of some of the outbursts from my side of the argument but I found the interruptions of Olim advocating for Israel really very rude, during the Yachad talk, that they wouldn’t put their hands up and that they would argue back the whole time.
    As for Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the incident when the child was boycotted totally goes against official policy and the group’s leadership were very quick to distance Dr Levine’s comments from representing JfJfP.

    1. Ben.

      Regarding the Green party. I understand your emotional investment, and your reliance on surveys. We work in a democratic system, as does Israel. The system is built around each person over a certain age having a vote and every few years, having the option of voting for the party that they feel best represents their interests. As we both know, the Greens don’t do very well. I reached around to find a party that only gathers a low percentage at elections and they were the party nearest at hand, so trying to overstate the use of the example by reaching for specific policies (that don’t really ‘belong’ to the Greens) isn’t really relevant. However you wish to spin it, the extreme left wing peace policies do not get voted for by Israeli Jews at Israeli elections. It isn’t really a matter for dispute. Let’s not take an example used and cloud the entire argument with it.

      I have no problem with anybodies opinions. I do think that when a self declared Zionist group petitions the Prime Minister of the UK to pressure Israel they have overstepped the mark. They can do so as individuals, they can do so as British citizens, but to do so as a ‘Zionist movement’ is simply absurd. The action was anti-Zionist.

      I did not attack Limmud at all. I left because I am dissapointed Zionist British movements have elevated people who do not like the Zionist project very much to be the ones who defend Israel on campus. It is beyond stupid.

      If people who are Zionists do not like Israel they are free to go and change it from within or create another Zionist project elsewhere. Their Zionism (the belief that a ‘different Israel’ is possible) is only theoretical. That people in Israel pay for mistakes with their lives makes this type of theoretical gameplay by people living in comfortable and safe homes in London quite disgraceful. Opinion about Israel is fine, acting against it is anti-Zionism. If people on the far left are wrong, and pressuring Israel ends in massacres of Jews, would they go to Israel to fight? Would you? Who pays for the mistakes?

      Jews for justice for Palestinians are pointless. They are an irrelevant bunch of people who use their ‘Jewish’ label to claim some type of elite position in the argument over a state they hate. Many of them only get involved because their hatred drives them to political action. Trying to pretend Dr Levine’s comments are not representative is simply a way of trying to push that hatred under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist. JfJP are riddled with such hatred, just as BDS are a movement riddled with antisemites.

  4. You should be ashamed of supporting the openly anti-Israel – and thus antisemitic – Green Party. Yes, their views are popular, largely because every sensible thinking person would support renationalisation of the railways, the living wage and tackling air pollution! This isn’t Green Party policy, this is common sense. Natalie Bennet and her party are openly hostile to Israel and would love to see it destroyed and if you identify with that you are a turkey voting for Christmas.

  5. You just come across as quite intolerant of disagreement, David. What gives you the authority to determine who is a ‘proper’ Zionist and who isn’t?

    1. I think you missed the point somewhat Gabriel. A ‘proper Zionist’ is a meaningless term. I have many friends who I do not see eye to eye with and you have no idea how I voted when I lived in Israel. Put it this way

      a, Can you point me to a place where your idea of Zionism exists and is operational?
      b, When Yachad petitioned the British PM, it was an anti-Zionist action. How can you justify this as a Zionist?
      c, If Israel was to withdraw and it was to go wrong, would you go there to fight?
      d, If the libel suit against Breaking the Silence goes ahead and they lose. What does that mean for Yachad activists?

      1. I don’t really care how you voted when you lived in Israel. My concern is that you have just written an article opining that some people who self-identify as Zionist are, it turns out, not Zionist, just because you disagree with their views. That implies you have the authority to determine the limits and boundaries of Zionism and (as far as I am aware) you don’t.

        In response to your questions:
        a) I don’t know what that means. Can you clarify?
        b) I cannot see how the British citizens comprising Yachad writing to their elected Prime Minister can possibly be described as “anti-Zionist action”. Zionism is defined in the WZO’s Jerusalem Programme, broadly speaking as ‘the belief that there should be a Jewish state in the land of Israel’, and on my reading of the JP I can’t see anything which conflicts with Yachad’s letter.
        c) I’m probably not going to make any firm commitments here but I don’t rule it out…

        1. Of course some people who identify as Zionist are not Zionist. It has nothing to do with views. If Yachad only had ‘their views’ and argued with everyone around the dinner table, then they’d have no problem with me. That of course is not what they are doing. People who consider themselves to be loyal Brits, actively promote discord amongst communities and in some places participate in violence. Would you consider a BNP member who firebombs a mosque a loyal Brit?

          a. Zionism is Jewish nationalism. Given the place (Israel) Demographics (Ashekanzi. Sphardi etc) and timing (21st century). Israel is what Jewish nationalism looks like. You don’t seem to like it very much. So, do you have an example of Jewish Nationalism *in practice* that you do like? Or do you only like Zionism in theory?
          b, If the individuals as individuals had petitioned the PM as British citizens, there would be no discussion. But rather, Yachad as a Zionist group organised and promoted a petition. That is an anti-Zionist action. Isn’t Israel as a democracy best placed to decide what is or is not in its best interests? You can disagree with them sure, but when you discount the democratic opinion of Israel and become internationally politically active against the only Zionist state that exists, how is it not anti-Zionism? It isn’t about your opinion, it is about your action.
          c, And yet you aren’t fighting for them today are you? So, your ‘fighting for Israel’ is entirely dependant on you agreeing with them politically. Or you are a Zionist’ only in theory.
          d, How do you feel the Israeli army would hold up if Yachad activists made the backbone of it? Do pacifists and left wingers today make good soldiers – can you provide me with contemporary examples?
          e, As someone who seems to be on the political left, what do you think of nationalism in general?
          f, If the libel suit against Breaking the Silence goes ahead and they lose. Does that mean Yachad activists have been spreading lies amongst Zionist Jews and indeed promoting the idea Zionist Jews should ‘convert’ to the cause because of those lies?

          1. I think that your comparison between Yachad/ BtS (who run educational tours around the West Bank) and BNP members committing acts of violent terrorism is inapt, so that dismisses your first paragraph.

            As for the rest of your cross-examination:

            a) I think this question comes from a flawed understanding of my Zionism, which is unsurprising since you’ve never troubled yourself to ask. Israel is the Jewish state and I support its existence. Does that mean I think it’s perfect? No. It’s very flawed indeed, and needs improvement. That’s why the WZO platform contains an aspiration that Israel should one day become “an exemplary society”. That’s what the concept of aliya nimshechet is about. You’re surely not saying that dissatisfaction with the current iteration of Jewish nationalism = opposition to Jewish nationalism? That would be ludicrous.

            b) I think your flaw here is confusing action against Prime Minister Netanyahu with “action against the only Jewish state”. Netanyahu is not the Jewish state. Plenty of Israelis are active against Netanyahu. Are they anti-Zionist? Netanyahu himself was active against the incumbent government when he was in opposition. Did that mean that Likud supporters around the world at the time were taking part in “action against the Jewish state”? This is why I see you as being intolerant of dissent. Zionism is a baseline belief with an infinite number of possible variants, contours and nuances. You seem determined to limit those and police the boundaries.

            c) As you say, I don’t live in Israel and am not currently in the IDF. Is your position that diaspora living is intrinsically anti-Zionist? Because last time I read the WZO platform, Zionism was a belief rather than a to-do list.

            d) I don’t really understand how this is on-point. It seems to be an argument that Yachad’s opinion is flawed or not the best one – which may be the case (tho obviously I disagree) but that doesn’t make it anti-Zionist.

            e) I’m very uncomfortable with nationalism in general. Personally I don’t identify as British (or Israeli, or anything other than Jewish) and during the Olympics I was genuinely baffled about why it should be a cause for celebration that people who happened to be born on the same island as me were better at running than people born on other land-masses. But I also have a highly developed sense of justice, and as the world is currently organised into nation-states, the Jews are just as much entitled to one as the Serbs, Peruvians, Malaysians, Palestinians etc.

            f) I’m not familiar with the precise complaints made by the libel claim so wouldn’t feel able to comment. Do you have a copy you could share?

          2. Gabriel

            I am sure you do not like the comparison, but you do not get to discard a paragraph simply because you do not like the implications. You had implied that self-identification as a Zionist was enough and I provided an example of British nationalism that I knew you’d find offensive to highlight how such a standard is absurd. Debating is much more enlightening if rather than rush to discard the others opinion in the belief that you know better, you try to absorb it and to truly understand the position (even if you still disagree). As for the rest…

            a, I have no problem with your definition of Zionism and no problem with any Zionist wanting to improve Israel. I know that you would love to place me in a right wing box and cross me off as an intolerant right winger, but unfortunately, I do not fit such categorisation. I most certainly would not suggest dissatisfaction = anti-Zionism. You can want to turn Israel into a mighty Kibbutz for all I care, I support you 100%, even if I disagree with your politics.

            b, I think you have an issue with democracy. Netanyahu when he comes, represents the choice of the Israeli people. Those people voted just a few months ago and declared quite loudly that they, as a people, do not consider there to be a worthwhile partner to make peace moves. I understand you may disagree, and you are perfectly entitled (as do a minority of Israelis), you are perfectly entitled to be vocal. As a British citizen you are also perfectly entitled to petition your own prime minister. But if a Zionist group petitions a foreign PM to work against the democratic opinion of the only Zionist state, it is clearly anti-Zionist (and anti-democratic).

            c, No, the diaspora is clearly not anti-Zionist. You have several legitimate options. You can go to Israel to try to make it better. You can sit with your friends and complain that Israel isn’t what you want it to be. You can canvass Israeli opinion to make them aware of your concerns or canvass other local Zionists. You can start up another Zionist project. These are all Zionist actions and I do not care where you sit on the political map. But if you begin to exerpt non zionist international pressure (petitioning a foreign PM) you’ve clearly overstepped the mark.

            d, It is on point because you are pressuring a soveriegn nation to take action against its democratic will. If it fails, will Yachad activists as a block take responsibility for such failure. Had Israel given up the Golan and if ISIS were currently on the Kinneret, would you be going out to fight or would you be making excuses as to what Israel is still doing wrong? There is a real war going on and it is taking real lives. It seems a bit naughty to be pressuring Israel to make dangerous concessions if most of the people doing so, would simply shrug their shoulders if it went wrong. As I believe the vast majority of Yachad activists would not fight for Israel (take responsibility for their own actions), I can criticise their political actions

            e, Yes, I get that, and that naturally makes you and Zionism uncomfortable bedfellows. I have no problem with your position, but I do think it important to point out that nationalism as a concept is difficult for you to swallow and so an ongoing nationalist struggle is difficult for you to identify with. But we do have the luxury here of being able to sit back and disengage, Israelis do not. 500 years ago, people like you didn’t exist. The world may be a better place for it, but Europe and the US is not the Middle East. I am uncertain how you can be so sure your politics is transferable that you are willing to pressure others to follow suit. Doesn’t it bother you that the vast majority of Israelis, those who have lived with the situation for so long, see this so differently from you? Why do you think this is?

  6. I understand why you chose the comparison. That doesn’t make it apt. I think a BNP terrorist is clearly further from fundamental British values than a BtS activist seeking to improve the ethics of the IDF is from Zionist values.

    a) Still not entirely sure I understood your question but it seems like we disagree.

    b) I have no problem with democracy, but democracy doesn’t mean I have to like the outcome. Again, the only argument you seem to be able to muster in support of your proposition that Yachad’s letter was anti-Zionist is: “It is clearly anti-Zionist”. That’s just repetition, not argument. Perhaps it would help if you outline your definition of Zionism, then we can work out which bit you think Yachad’s letter contravened.

    c) I think this has drifted away from your point about me not being in the IDF, which is probably a good thing because it was one of your weaker points.

    d) Everyone pressures sovereign states to change their minds. Bibi pressured Obama to take a different decision over the Iran deal, the EU to take a different decision over settlement labelling, etc. etc. Is all of that anti-democratic or is it just the usual exercise of free speech and international pressure that inevitably happens in democratic systems? As for your ‘it’s a bit naughty’ argument, I think you’re probably right. Lots of people hold beliefs without necessarily going out to support them actively. That may not be entirely creditable but it doesn’t mean they don’t hold those beliefs. You’re still not substantiating your claims of anti-Zionism. Again, perhaps it would be helpful if you could define what you understand Zionism to mean.

    e) If you ever read judgments of the Israeli Supreme Court (the judges of which are Israeli citizens, living in Israel, with Israeli spouses and children and grandchildren), they’re not that far away from my views. f you ever read speeches by Meretz MKs (who are Israeli citizens, living in Israel, with Israeli spouses and children and grandchildren), they’re not that far away from my views. If you ever listen to someone from BtS (who are are Israeli citizens, living in Israel, with Israeli spouses and children and grandchildren), they’re not that far away from my views. This doesn’t mean I’m right and it doesn’t mean I’m wrong, because opinions are neither right nor wrong and whether they are majority or minority doesn’t matter. However, I am very aware of your valid point about my armchair luxury sitting in London; I take comfort, though, from the fact that there is a large body of support within Israel for the opinions I have independently formed. That suggests they are acceptable (which isn’t to say you have to agree with them, of course).

    1. You are treating it as if I said bts=mosque attacking facist, which I didn’t do. All I did is address the self-definition issue (someone calling himself a Zionist is therefore a Zionist). I presented an extreme case to force the point down and it clearly worked, because rather than argue the point, you are focusing on the comparison.

      b) No democracy doesn’t mean you have to like the outcome but it does mean you should respect it. If you do not get that, that you do have an issue with democracy, because your way, democracy means nothing. I’ll try to give two examples to cover both sides,

      If Scottish expats in France petition the French PM to recognise Scotland as an independent state for example – anti-democratic
      If the Scots had won, and scottish ex-pats in France had petitioned the PM not to recognise independence – anti-nationalist & anti-democratic

      How would the Scottish people view such actions?

      I am unsure why you are having difficulty understanding this. Perhaps try another tact. Why do you think that a Zionist group petitioning a foreign PM to work against the democratic will of the only Zionist state is not an anti-Zionist position? As a side note, if Israel can never be the nation you want it to be (and personally I don’t think it will be) can you ever see yourself doing what Kaufman has done (he used to think like you). Would you go there to try to change it from within? Or just spend your life banging your head against a stubburn wall?

      c) It wasn’t weak at all and it clarfied the position perfectly. I asked if it went wrong (if Israel was forced to bow to pressure and Israelis ended up in a war for survival) would you go to fight. The best I got was ‘I wouldn’t rule it out’ (although be brutally honest with yourself, fighting a war isn’t really your thing at all). Given you feel driven to pressure them, the answer should have been a big fat yes. That is wasn’t speaks volumes and told me all I needed to know. You think it went off track because I didn’t have any reason to continue that point.

      d)) Yes of course, but not under the Zionist umbrella with a declaration that the action is ‘Zionist’. As for the ‘bit naughty’ element don’t you think it highlights just how errant the action was? You are on the one hand accepting that many supporting the petition wouldn’t accept the active responsibility of failure, whilst on the other maintaining it is a ‘Zionist’ position even if that action ends up with the only Zionist state being damaged and all the petitioners turning their backs. Odd.

      e). I have read judgements of the ISC, know the views of Meretz MK’s and so on. Not sure what your point is. I accept your view exists as a minority position in Israel. I have no issue with your opinions. Every few years Israel has an election and Meretz get a handful of MK’s. Or moving further left, some Jews even vote Hadash. But that is what it is, a minority position. What would you say about a group of expat’s in the US petitioning Obama to restrict trade with the UK unless they employed UKIP’s policies? As a left wing British citizen, how would you view that action? Would those people saying, ‘yes, but UKIP exists in the UK, so some British people feel as I do’ suffice for you?

      1. I’m afraid that as you’ve tacitly declined my two requests that you set out your definition of Zionism, I don’t think we can have a constructive discussion about whether or not Yachad, BtS et al meet it.

        1. It is odd, I defined it in my second response to you. Zionism is Jewish nationalism. That is what it is. As someone who has issues with nationalism, you would clearly have trouble with a Jewish version of it. But as this was in my second response to you, let’s not pretend I didn’t answer your request.

          1. Sorry, I didn’t realise that was your exhaustive definition, because if that’s so, Yachad’s letter to David Cameron (expressly stating their belief in the continued existence of a Jewish nation-state in the land of Israel) can’t possibly fall foul of it.

          2. I understand Yachad have justified their political actions to themselves. Just the same way BtS take a valid and important position (examining the actions of the IDF) and allow the political positions of the movements activists to cross the lines. You don’t see lines and you justify everything because you disagree with the current gvnmt. BtS took a valid service and ruined it because they are a political machine. I get that you try to justify it. But as you now know what Zionism is (and my definition is extremely wide), you can perhaps have a better go at commenting on my post.

            You are treating it as if I said bts=mosque attacking facist, which I didn’t do. All I did is address the self-definition issue (someone calling himself a Zionist is therefore a Zionist). I presented an extreme case to force the point down and it clearly worked, because rather than argue the point, you are focusing on the comparison.

            b) No democracy doesn’t mean you have to like the outcome but it does mean you should respect it. If you do not get that, that you do have an issue with democracy, because your way, democracy means nothing. I’ll try to give two examples to cover both sides,

            If Scottish expats in France petition the French PM to recognise Scotland as an independent state for example – anti-democratic
            If the Scots had won, and scottish ex-pats in France had petitioned the PM not to recognise independence – anti-nationalist & anti-democratic

            How would the Scottish people view such actions?

            I am unsure why you are having difficulty understanding this. Perhaps try another tact. Why do you think that a Zionist group petitioning a foreign PM to work against the democratic will of the only Zionist state is not an anti-Zionist position? As a side note, if Israel can never be the nation you want it to be (and personally I don’t think it will be) can you ever see yourself doing what Kaufman has done (he used to think like you). Would you go there to try to change it from within? Or just spend your life banging your head against a stubburn wall?

            c) It wasn’t weak at all and it clarfied the position perfectly. I asked if it went wrong (if Israel was forced to bow to pressure and Israelis ended up in a war for survival) would you go to fight. The best I got was ‘I wouldn’t rule it out’ (although be brutally honest with yourself, fighting a war isn’t really your thing at all). Given you feel driven to pressure them, the answer should have been a big fat yes. That is wasn’t speaks volumes and told me all I needed to know. You think it went off track because I didn’t have any reason to continue that point.

            d)) Yes of course, but not under the Zionist umbrella with a declaration that the action is ‘Zionist’. As for the ‘bit naughty’ element don’t you think it highlights just how errant the action was? You are on the one hand accepting that many supporting the petition wouldn’t accept the active responsibility of failure, whilst on the other maintaining it is a ‘Zionist’ position even if that action ends up with the only Zionist state being damaged and all the petitioners turning their backs. Odd.

            e). I have read judgements of the ISC, know the views of Meretz MK’s and so on. Not sure what your point is. I accept your view exists as a minority position in Israel. I have no issue with your opinions. Every few years Israel has an election and Meretz get a handful of MK’s. Or moving further left, some Jews even vote Hadash. But that is what it is, a minority position. What would you say about a group of expat’s in the US petitioning Obama to restrict trade with the UK unless they employed UKIP’s policies? As a left wing British citizen, how would you view that action? Would those people saying, ‘yes, but UKIP exists in the UK, so some British people feel as I do’ suffice for you?

  7. Superb piece. Thank you.

    I, too, was at Limmud . . . the little Anglo-Jewish arsewipes walking around in keffiyehs, the poisoned spawn, of course, of the bigger arsewipes so pathetically uncomfortable in their own skins.

  8. Thanks for this. I live in the US and could not agree more. The left here has lost me. I really believe it is just anti-Semitism and projection that propels most of the anti Israel anti Zionist horse shit I hear. We live in occupied territory, we are the products of colonialism, as Iggy Stooge says “the runaway son of the nuclear A bomb.” Israel is blamed for neocons and the invasion of Iraq, 1967 is portrayed as a preemptive war of aggression … seriously … it is so much total bullshit that the only way to explain it is just blind anti-Semitism … oh well … have a nice day … and thanks for this blog. I am from San Diego and only a Jew by birth. I always thought yeah we just kicked the arabs out, get over it … when I actually read Efraim Karsh I was blown away … then I read the Koran! OMG! I thought the Christians were ******* nuts … these people have a prophet that kills people and **** little kids … seriously!!

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