"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul." - Mark Twain

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Republican National Committee endorses one-state solution

Thanks a million to Mitchell Plitnick on The Third Way for sharing the mind-boggling news that the RNC, probably without fully realizing it, has unanimously endorsed a one-state solution in Israel-Palestine. The full text of the resolution, which I append below, which reads rather like the Republican Party has suddenly fused with the Southern Baptist Church, confronts us with the following key paragraph:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the members of this body support Israel in their natural and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others; and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people. (emphasis added)
Of course, the RNC doesn’t know what it’s doing. I doubt the drafters have any idea that Palestinians outnumber Jews in Israel's "own lands" -- it’s just drawing on a Sunday-school version of Biblical accounts telling them that God gave the land to the Jewish people for a Jewish national home. (The RNC doesn't even know, saturated as it is in biblical sanctimony, that the Bible does recount that God “rescinded his grant of said lands”.) But taken in the context of the the whole resolution, the one-state call is still definitive. And I think it's sincere. What makes this resolution especially interesting is that it reflects a fundamental grassroots sense of decency common to many grassroots Republicans, particularly Christian ones, which inspired the generous if oblivious line, “one law for all people”.

So what intrigues me now is how the RNC can possibly back out of this. It can't exactly reverse this resolution in any way that would imply dividing the biblical land, and it certainly can't call for NOT having one law for all the people. I'm not even sure that the Republicans will understand the problem even if they are told that Arabs are an approximate majority -- again, their idea of things is pretty simple and there's not really any reason why a Jewish national home can't coexist with a mixed population anyway, even a majority non-Jewish one. 

At any rate, we can hope for some kerfluffle from this. RNC high-ups, alerted to the trouble, will probably try to bury this resolution and hope it just fades from all knowledge, or maybe put out a vague correction that it was intended as a general statement of principle pending the "final status talks" blah blah. But the contradictions of nice Christian values with actual Israeli policy are laid bare by this resolution, and it's just possible that a few Republicans themselves might get a wee learning curve out of this and find themselves with a seed of doubt. Hopefully enough publicity will assist this modest process.

 Here's the full text, with thanks again to Mitchell:


WHEREAS, Israel has been granted her lands under and through the oldest recorded deed as reported in the Old Testament, a tome of scripture held sacred and reverenced by Jew and Christian, alike, as the acts and words of God; and

WHEREAS, as the Grantor of said lands, God stated to the Jewish people in the Old Testament; in Leviticus, Chapter 20, Verse 24:  “Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey”; and

WHEREAS, God has never rescinded his grant of said lands; and

WHEREAS, along with the grant of said lands to the Jewish people, God provided for the non-Jewish residents of the land in commanding that governance must be in one law for all without drawing distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, as contained in Leviticus 24:22, and

WHEREAS, the Nation of Israel declared its independent control and governance of said lands on May 14, 1948, with the goal of re-establishing their God-given lands as a homeland for the Jewish people; and

WHEREAS, the United States of America, having been the first country to recognize Israel as an independent nation and as Israel’s principal Mideast ally, has enjoyed a close and mutually beneficial relationship with Israel and her people; and

WHEREAS, indeed, Israel is the United States of America’s greatest friend in the Mideast; and

WHEREAS, the roots of Israel and the roots of the United States of America are so intertwined that it is difficult to separate one from the other under the word and protection of almighty God; and

WHEREAS, there are those in the Middle East who have sought to destroy Israel from its inception as a nation; and

WHEREAS, those same enemies of Israel also seek to destroy the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, the United States of America and the nation of Israel have enjoyed cordial and mutually beneficial relations since 1948, a friendship that should continue to strengthen with each passing year.

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Republican National Committee that the committee by this resolution commends the nation of Israel for its relations with the United States of America.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the members of this body support Israel in their natural and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others; and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and Senate Leadership and each of the legislatures of the states within the United States of America with the request and recommendation of this body that a similar resolution to that stated herein be proposed within their respective bodies.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Israel: No Iranian nuclear threat

Well, there you go. After years of flailing and shrilling about existential-threat this and pre-emptory-strike that, giving the whole world the heebie-jeebies about the entire Middle East collapsing into fiery conflagration after an Israeli attack to stop Iran's (supposed) nuclear weapons program, it's now out of the bag. Ha'aretz reports: Israel knows full well that Iran hasn't even decided whether to make a nuclear weapon, let alone when. And Israeli intelligence will "brief" US Army Chief of Staff General Dempsey to that effect this week (as if Dempsey didn't know). So, that Israeli bombing run that would toss us all into Armageddon? "Very far off," says Ehud Barak, waving a metaphorical airy hand at those sillies who have believed and obsessed about Israel's incessant claims of imminent peril. "It's certainly not urgent."

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Adalah's battle will get harder

In the battle against racist Israeli laws, there is no substitute for the website of Adalah: Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. So it's with huge respect and deep admiration for this extraordinary centre that I refer anyone to its work. Yet also, the following caveat: while supporting Adalah and others to fight this law is courageous, principled and necessary, we should be careful not to slip into a major error, which is to believe Israel's democracy has just gone off on some alarming side track, and can be got back on track by a little steering -- defeating this or that offensive law or practice. This error is related to a deeper one: the mistaken idea that racism in Israel is getting worse.

We see this error in alarmed denunciations of the Citizenship Law as though it's a change of some kind, and generally in those anxious warnings that "right-wing tendencies" springing up under Netanyahu are hijacking the country away from its liberal and tolerant ethos. If we take a frank look at Israeli practices toward Arabs since 1948, what strikes us is how little has changed. True, Arabs inside Israel got citizenship and the vote and much more liberty after 1967. But until recently, their situation remained crushed or delimited in every sense: geographic, political, economic, social. A subtle system of Israeli laws, linked to the Law of Return, ensured Jewish citizens' privileges regarding land, jobs, education, culture and religion, while Arab dissent (among a population still traumatized by the Nakba) was effectively silenced by other laws but also by inculcating plain fear, through a nefarious system of patronage, spies, bribes and intimidation.

Remembering this history, also recounted in books by Nadim Rouhana, Ian Lustick, Ilan PappeBen White and others, we can better understand why these "new" reactionary laws are springing up now. The old system of domination is taking some heavy legal and moral thumps, as Arab citizens (including Adalah staff) are not only getting uppity but launching serious legal challenges against the system. As these challenges force open statements by the High Court and other official voices endorsing discrimination, they expose the ugly truth behind of Israel's once-glossy moral image to domestic and international view. This exposure threatens the old system's ability to exclude, marginalise and silence Arab citizens as firmly as before. So new laws are being hastily drafted to shut those challenges down.

What's really important to grasp about these "new" laws is that the racism they codify was always there in the old laws. It was just more genteel. Israel's public image (to its own Jewish citizens, not least) had the superficial gentility of an Old South of the US or a 1950s white South Africa: whites and darkies could get along as long as darkies were good darkies and kept their place -- over there. It was only when the darkies picked up some signs and marched toward the white part of town demanding better housing, or simply showed up at Town Hall demanding to vote, that the facade of happy hierarchy cracked, exposing its reeking underbelly, and the racial order was threatened. And then it wasn't more than hours before the white hoods and flaming torches came out and horses galloped through the local black township to terrorize the darkies back indoors and sent the message again that they had better keep their heads down. Oh, and maybe one or two "troublemakers" get strung up, just to make the point stick: arresting Ameer Makhoul, for example.

But this time, for Israel as for all those racist orders before it, the old methods are not going to work. Once the fear quotient drops below a crucial level, it's going down for good. At that stage, trying to bury the upstarts by the old familiar methods, an Old South or an Israel or an apartheid South Africa only starts digging its own grave. That's what we're seeing now: gravedigging, with the dirt flying ever faster and higher off Israeli shovels from an ever-deeper hole, as the pressure on Israel gets worse. And so the Israeli government rails about Adalah and everyone else "delegitimizing" Israel, without realizing that the racial order regarding Jewish statehood was always illegitimate and it is Israel that is delegitimizing itself, by proving the critics right and exposing the real character of its racism to the world. Israel's predicament now is emerging just as Gandhi foretold: once one forces genteel racism to become crude and crass racism, old language and symbols that once seemed vaguely admissible are suddenly revealed as morally repulsive. "Demographic threat" indeed -- in this day and age!

Yet this is what people too often miss. Contrary to still-hopeful but increasingly anxious beliefs by some, Israel is not a proper democracy with some regrettable (and recently worse) anti-democratic tendencies. Yes, it walks and quacks a bit like a democracy. But it's a democracy like apartheid South Africa or White Australia were democracies: a democracy for one group. Yes, Jews compete and argue and form parties and vote for them just as people do in any democratic system. This competition is genuine. Arab citizens can go through the same motions, but for them it is not the same. What makes Israel not a democracy is that "non-Jews" (that infamous term of erasure), even if they can vote, can only vote for a system that ensures Jewish ethnic supremacy. Giving citizens the vote, but not allowing them to vote for their own equal rights, is like giving slaves the right to vote -- but not to vote against slavery.For we must never forget that, unlike in the US, where the Constitution provides for equal rights and is a tool in campaigns for it, Israel's Basic Law makes it illegal to form a political party that even calls for equal rights -- that is, for Israel not to be a "Jewish state" but simply a state of all its citizens.This is why Israel's hysterical reactions now are much more like the reactions of South Africa when the anti-apartheid movement got hot. One can't just reform a system whose very foundations have to go, and Israeli government people know it, just as apartheid South African government people knew it. They know it better than some human rights activists know it.

Recognizing that Israel is only looking worse, not getting worse, we should expect that Israel will not cave into the collapse of its cherished racial order without a fight. The South African apartheid regime got seriously vicious when its white adherents felt their world was on the skids and faced the dreadful prospect of living side-by-side with them -- blacks. So my prediction is that, unfortunately, pressures on Adalah and its supporters and its human-rights activist kindred will get worse in coming months and years, not better, as Jewish statehood fights for survival. The good news is that Adalah, like its predecessors who leaned into similar storms in South Africa and Jim Crow South, will come out shining in the end, when the old system is ashes and no one wants to admit ever having endorsed it.

Israel’s ‘national suicide’ parsed ...

The anti-democratic Citizenship Law pending in the Israeli Knesset, which would require all Israeli citizens to sign an oath of allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state, and the recent Israeli High Court decision squashing its opposition, continue to draw international alarm, controversy, and analysis. Mark LeVine at the University of California at Irvine has written an excellent and concise article in al-Jazeera, "Israel's 'National Suicide'", exposing the Supreme Court decision further illustrates Israel's ethical and political difficulties of maintaining Israel as a Jewish state:

... Because to recognise that Jews and Palestinians can become one in the most intimate way possible - through love, sex and children - is to open Israeli Jews to the possibility that there is nothing essential that separates them from Palestinians, that as human beings with deep roots in this land, Palestinians have the same human rights as Israeli (or diaspora) Jews.

Once people accept this reality, Zionism - which, at its core, is based on the exclusive Jewish claim of rights to and sovereignty over the Land of Israel - loses whatever remains of its moral and political legitimacy.