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Thu, 1 Feb 2007
75 houses in Amra Tarabin, unrecognized village in the Negev, receive demolition orders
Israeli occupation forces attack Nablus killing two Palestinians
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Irish foreign minister visits Egypt
Israel imposes requirement for passport/laissez passer on Palestinians from Israel/Jerusalem entering Gaza Strip
Wed, 31 Jan 2007
Irish foreign minister visits Bethlehem and Jerusalem
British parliamentary committee issues report criticising the boycott of the Palestinian National Authority and calling for sanctions against Israel
Tue, 30 Jan 2007
A large Israeli occupation force invaded the village of Kufer Kalil and kidnapped 23 Palestinian men
end of Visit to Qatar by Shimon Peres
Israeli military bulldozers demolished a building in Aljeeb village
Mon, 29 Jan 2007
About 100 houses in Al Jofr, an unrecognized village in the Negev, received demolition orders
start of Visit to Qatar by Shimon Peres
Fri, 26 Jan 2007
Fifteen killed in Fatah-Hamas clashes in Gaza Strip
Wed, 24 Jan 2007
Dozens of settlers enter the town of Awarta and caused much damage to Palestinian property
end of Seventh Herzliya Conference
Israeli Knesset passes law to revoke citizenship of 'unpatriotic' Israelis
Israeli occupation forces kill 17-year-old youth in Gaza and kidnap two residents
British Parliamentary Committee approves publication of damning report and calls for sanctions against Israel
Sun, 21 Jan 2007
start of Seventh Herzliya Conference
Thu, 18 Jan 2007
Israeli occupation forces assassinate Palestinian in Nablus

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Taken for a Ride by the Israeli Left

<<< Earlier issue of this journal ^ This issue of this journal (2 other articles) Later issue of this journal >>>

Article/book #: 56249
Title: Taken for a Ride by the Israeli Left
By: Steven Friedman   Virginia Tilley  
Published in: Electronic Intifada
Date of issue: Friday, 26 January 2007
Topic(s) addressed: People/entities mentioned in this item:
Commentary (by a person who is not a member of the UCC Palestine Solidarity Campaign ):

Friedman and Tilley refer to this article. It is well worth reading both of them.

The article is available in Spanish


»Uri Avnery is a human rights crusader of venerable standing. He has fought, written, published and campaigned for Palestinian rights for some sixty years. He has stood on the political barricades and faced down bulldozers to defend Palestinians from Israeli military abuse. His articles, books, and magazine denounced Israel's seizure of Palestinian land before most of the "new historians" learned to write. He even denounces legalized discrimination against Palestinian Israelis in uncompromising terms and has called for Israel to become "a state of all its citizens", although still retaining a large Jewish majority (e.g., see his recent "What Makes Sammy Run?"). As a founder of the peace group Gush Shalom, he remains the recognized godfather of liberal Zionism and no one doubts his sincerity in insisting on a two-state solution.
Given all this, it may seem odd that many people working hard for a stable peace in Israel-Palestine find Mr. Avnery so immensely irritating. The reason stems from his moral contradictions, all too common to liberal Zionism: that is, while taking an unflinching moral stand against racist abuses of Palestinians, he somehow drops the same principles in assuming that Israel itself has a right to preserve its "Jewish character" at the expense of Palestinian rights. For it is all too obvious that sustaining an "overwhelming" Jewish majority in Israel, essential to preserving its "Jewish character," requires that Israel sustain a whole cluster of racist practices, such as giant Walls to keep people from mixing and not allowing Palestinian exiles to return.«

»The result of this conundrum is moral chaos. While bald ravings about ethnic cleansing by racists like Avigdor Lieberman are considered repellent, the earlier ethnic cleansing that gave birth to Israel is considered acceptable -- a convulsion of war violence that has (it is never explained how) been morally transcended. The solution, in this view, is not to redress that founding sin but simply to stabilize Jewish statehood, which is understood mostly as relieving Jewish-Israeli fear of attack or annihilation. Recognizing that some modicum of justice is required to achieve this "peace", the liberal-Zionist goal is to create a Palestinian state next door (safely demilitarized, of course, and not necessarily within the 1948 green line).«

»Mr. Avnery's main argument stems from his most profound misconception. He warns that a campaign for South African-style unification in Israel-Palestine would only trigger new ethnic cleansing, because brooding Jewish anxiety about the "demographic threat" (too many non-Jews) would inspire Israeli reactionaries to forcibly expel the entire Palestinian population. Yet he considers this risk special to Israel, on grounds that it didn't exist in South Africa: "no White would have dreamt of ethnic cleansing. Even the racists understood that the country could not exist without the Black population." Yet a key feature of apartheid was forcible population transfers. Celebrated books have been written about the forced removal of hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and lands in an attempt to create a "white South Africa" in which blacks would be allowed only as "guest workers". So widespread was the policy of "forced removals" in order to "whiten" South Africa that we will probably never know how many people were really moved; the campaigns were far more systematic attempts at "ethnic cleansing" than anything attempted in Eastern Europe. If Mr. Avnery thinks apartheid had nothing to do with population transfer, he does not even vaguely understand apartheid.«

»Third, Mr. Avnery points to the different demographics of the two conflicts. In South Africa, a 10-percent white minority ruled over a 78-percent black majority (as well as "coloreds" and Indians), while in Israel-Palestine the Jewish and Palestinian populations are roughly equal, at about 5 million each. But this point leaves the argument hanging -- so what? Any idea that it somehow makes the comparison inapplicable fails in two ways. First, it fails morally. Does oppression change qualitatively if the population distribution between the oppressor and oppressed vary? Would apartheid not have been apartheid if whites were half the population? Second, it fails in its political logic. Surely the black "threat" perceived by a 10-percent white minority in South Africa was far greater than the Palestinian Arab "threat" now feared by a Jewish-Israeli population standing at roughly 50 percent. Not surprisingly, the fear of being "swamped" by a large black majority was frequently cited by apartheid's supporters as a rationale for continuing to deny black rights. Yet Israeli Jews are far better positioned to retain political and economic power in Israel than were whites (especially Afrikaners) in South Africa.«

»In his conclusions, Mr. Avnery argues that the apartheid comparison also fails on the question of an international boycott. "It is a serious error," he insists, "to think that international public opinion will put an end to the occupation. This will come about when the Israeli public itself is convinced of the need to do so." This argument suggests that Mr. Avnery does not understand how apartheid fell, either. White South Africans did not change their minds about apartheid simply because the moral and political case was finally brought home to them by black street demonstrations and labour strikes. They did so when a strategic campaign of hard and bloody domestic struggle was supported by concerted international pressure, which included boycotts of South African products and the currency as well as artists and sports teams.«

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