Monday, March 12, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 3/12/2012: Examples Of Pro-Palestinian To Pro-Israel Worldviews

From DG:
1) From anti -Israel to pro-Israel
Israel is a refuge, but a refuge under siege - Nicky Larkin (h/t Tom Carew)
The problem began when I resolved to come back with a film that showed both sides of the coin. Actually there are many more than two. Which is why my film is called Forty Shades of Grey. But only one side was wanted back in Dublin. My peers expected me to come back with an attack on Israel. No grey areas were acceptable.
An Irish artist is supposed to sign boycotts, wear a PLO scarf, and remonstrate loudly about The Occupation. But it's not just artists who are supposed to hate Israel. Being anti-Israel is supposed to be part of our Irish identity, the same way we are supposed to resent the English.
But hating Israel is not part of my personal national identity. Neither is hating the English. I hold an Irish passport, but nowhere upon this document does it say I am a republican, or a Palestinian.
Larkin's article reminded me of one from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Transitioning from a pro-Palestinian to pro-Israel perspective by Philip Mendes, a few months ago.
One negative consequence of my bias was that I tended to politically excuse Palestinian terrorism as acts of a desperate people living under occupation (the so-called "root causes" thesis), and downplay the traumatic impact of these actions on Israeli political views and fears. 
Using Western cultural assumptions, I constructed the Palestinians as helpless victims who lacked agency and could be absolved of responsibility for their actions. In contrast, my friendship with Israel was limited to statements of solidarity with left-wing Israelis who shared my two state views. I tended to caricature most other ordinary Israelis as implicit or explicit supporters of the Greater Israel project which ignored the enormous diversity and plurality within Israel's liberal democratic political system. 
Later the events of July and then September 2000 drained my pro-Palestinian sympathy, and forced me to apply the same critical analysis to Palestinian views and actions that I had always applied to Israel. The Palestinian demands at the Camp David negotiations for an unconditional return of 1948 Palestinian refugees to Green Line Israel rather than to a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suggested that they had not come to terms with even the basic parameters of a two-state solution. Shortly afterwards the indiscriminate violence and extremism of the second Palestinian Intifada finally removed my infantile prioritising of one form of national rights over another. I now accepted that the Palestinians had and always have had political choices, and that their actions seemed to be driven by a zero-sum political culture which demanded absolute rather than partial justice.
...
In contrast, it has become very difficult if not impossible to be pro-Palestinian, and support a two-state perspective. Many Australian leftists who strongly advocated peace and reconciliation in the Oslo era have instead regressed to the earlier pre-1988 PLO position in favour of Israel's destruction. It is now called in this politically-correct era the so-called "one state solution" instead of the earlier terminology of a so-called "secular democratic state". In practice, it means that Israel will cease to exist either by military violence or political coercion, and will be replaced by an exclusivist Arab state of Palestine, neither secular nor democratic, in which Jews will at best be allowed to remain as a tolerated religious, not national, minority.
The particulars of Larkin's change are different from those of Mendes. I would have thought that many more people would have reacted as Mendes did. The rejection of Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David and the subsequent launching of the "Aqsa Intifada" seemed to show that the premises of the peace process until then were mistaken. But those events did not change many minds, perhaps evidence of the groupthink Larkin encountered.

In turn these two essays remind me of two older ones.

In 2003, the Italian journalist and (now) politician Fiamma Nirenstein wrote, How I became an 'unconscious fascist':
When I went back to Italy, some of my fellow students stared at me as somebody new, an enemy, a wicked person who would soon become an imperialist. My life was about to change. I didn't yet know that, because I simply thought that Israel rightly won a war after having been assaulted with an incredible number of harassments. But I soon noticed that I had lost the innocence of the good Jew, of the very special Jewish friend, their Jew: I was now connected with the Jews of the State of Israel, and slowly I was put out of the dodecaphonic, psychoanalytic, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, Freud shtetl, the coterie that sanctified my Judaism in left wing eyes. 
I have tried for a long time to bring back that sanctification, and they tried to give it back to me, because we desperately needed each other, the left and the Jews. But today's anti Semitism has overwhelmed any good intention. 
Throughout the years, even people that, like me, who had signed petitions asking the IDF to withdraw from Lebanon, became an "unconscious fascist" as a reader of mine wrote me in a letter filled with insults. In one book it was simply written that I was "a passionate woman that fell in love with Israel, confusing Jerusalem with Florence." One Palestinian told me that if I see things so differently from the majority, this plainly means that my brain doesn't work too well. 
Also, I've been called a cruel and insensitive human rights denier who doesn't care about Palestinian children's lives. A very famous Israeli writer told me on the phone a couple of months ago: "You really have become a right-winger." What? Right winger? Me? An old feminist human rights activist, even a communist when I was young? Only because I described the Arab-Israeli conflict as accurately as I could and because sometimes I identified with a country continuously attacked by terror, I became a right-winger? In the contemporary world, the world of human rights, when you call a person a right-winger, this is the first step toward his or her delegitimization.
Also in 2003, Sol Stern wrote Israel without apology:
When I returned to Berkeley, I wrote about my visit for Ramparts, the flagship publication of the New Left, of which I had been an editor. Thanks to my leftist bona fides on virtually every other issue, I had permission to deviate from the party line on Israel. It was the first and last time that anything remotely sympathetic to the Jewish state appeared in Ramparts or in any other New Left journal. 
Still, my article was no ringing endorsement of Israeli policies—only an effort to convince my fellow leftists that Israel was more complicated than their vulgar Marxist categories allowed. For authority, I cited the work of Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher, an icon of our antiwar movement, who during the 1950s had expressed sorrow that his doctrinaire anti-Zionism had kept him from urging European Jews to go to Palestine, where they might have escaped the gas chambers. I also profiled some of the Israeli leftists I had met on my trip, including Ran Cohen. I hoped Ramparts readers would find themselves moved by this sympathetic Israeli radical, experiencing the demonization of his country by the same international Left he nevertheless pined to join.
...
In any event, my quest proved futile. I doubt I persuaded a single leftist to change his view. On the other hand, opponents called me a lot of names, of which “Zionist Pig” was the kindest.
While this doesn't appear to be an article about someone's change of opinion or, at least, a break from his former political allies, Understanding the BDS movement, by Avishai Don is by someone who was willing to question the assumptions of Israel's critics.
If the BDS movement were more open about its aims to purge the Jewish state from the Middle East—rather than just end some of its policies—I could have written an op-ed decrying the movement for its distortion of international law rather than its duplicity. I could have asked, for example, how the movement could possibly believe that a liberal democracy cannot have an ethnic identity when democracies across Eastern Europe—including members of the European Union like Finland, Slovenia and Germany—explicitly privilege one ethnicity over others in areas like immigration and culture. I could have also noted how odd it is that the movement vocally opposes the ethnic nature of the Jewish state, yet says nothing about the myriad Arab states that surround it. 
But the BDS movement hides its ultimate goal of dismantling the Jewish state behind its public rhetoric. As a result, it has co-opted numerous individuals—and quite possibly donors—who desire to see both a Jewish and Palestinian state flourish into supporting its campaign. Although some members of the movement might actually support the Jewish state’s continued existence, as Barghouti makes abundantly clear, the Palestinian BDS National Committee—the “reference and guiding force for the global BDS movement”—cannot do so under any circumstances. 
So because this movement will not broadcast its ultimate aims loud enough, I will do it for them. If you support the BDS movement, you are supporting an organization that is actively working to undermine the Jewish state. Utilizing the vocabulary of international norms, the movement actually systematically attempts to undermine the international consensus that recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. And if you support this right—regardless of your politics, regardless of your stance on the occupation, and regardless of your feelings towards the current Israeli right-wing government—then there is only one moral option. Boycott the BDS movement.
2) Politics first?

Ynet reports on an article in the Sunday Times of London that claims that President Obama as Prime Minister Netanyahu not to strike Iran until after the American elections. (via memeorandum):
According to the report, Obama has taken Israel's warnings about a possible strike in Iran very seriously. The Washington source added that the president “might visit in the summer to reassure the Israelis that the US commitment to defend Israel is unshakable and thus thwart a possible autumn attack.” 
Obama insisted that any attack on Iran should be postponed until after the US presidential elections in November, possibly even until next spring. The source revealed that Netanyahu consented to delaying a strike, but wished to know until when. “The question is how much time,” he reportedly said.
Israel Matzav observes:
In other words, if Israel agreed to delay a strike, it did so subject to a lot of conditions that will likely never be fulfilled. Netanyahu also tried to show Obama why a strike is an American interest. 
I don't think this is as big a deal as it's being made out to be. Netanyahu has retained freedom of action. The question is whether he understands that Obama cannot be trusted.
But I'm skeptical that such a request was made. If President Obama made such a request he is hopelessly naive and politically motivated. If Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to the request unconditionally, he would be putting political interests over security. While I wouldn't be surprised if Netanyahu mapped out what Israel's concerns were and what events would trigger a military strike, I'd be very surprised if Obama asked him to wait until after the American elections.
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