Against all odds: Canadian liberal Zionists struggle to save a “two state solution” that Israel clearly doesn’t want

 

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/265305Shaqued Morag, being arrested by Israeli police during a recent demonstration in Jerusalem. In May, she was on a 3 city speaking tour in Canada. Over a hundred concerned Canadian Jews came to hear her speak in Ottawa. Her criticism of the illegal Israeli settlements, and her argument that Israel should end its occupation of the West Bank is popular among many Canadian Jews, but very unpopular in Israel where her organization is regarded as “extreme leftist”. Read more.

Shaqued Morag, executive director of Peace Now, a liberal Zionist Israeli organization, was invited to do a three city speaking tour in Canada by its Canadian counterpart – Canadian Friends of Peace Now (CFPN). Morag hopes for an Israel that is “both Jewish and democratic”. She is trying to convince liberal Canadian Jews that the 2 state solution is not only still possible, but necessary, if Israel is to continue to exist as a Jewish State.

cfpn morag poster

Saqued Morag was in Ottawa on a 3 city Canadian speaking tour last May.

 

Peace Now argues that allowing the Palestinians to have a small unarmed state of their own is in Israel’s best interest because making some compromise with the Palestinians will increase security and prosperity for Israel.

The idea of protecting Israel by the creation of a mini state for Palestinians is a relatively easy sell to many Canadian Jews. But in Israel, the “left” (i.e. defined as those would support ANY accommodation with the Palestinians) has been reduced to a tiny number.

Marc Mackinnon, Senior International Correspondent, Globe and Mail

“The left in modern Israeli politics, is a term conflated with anyone who opposes the increasingly nationalist right-wing consensus (…). Leftists are, in the inflammatory words of Mr. Netanyahu’s son Yair, “traitors.”, notes Mackinnon.

Morag’s attachment to what she calls the “original vision” of Zionism as a Jewish State is very clear. She refers to the lofty ideals expressed in Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence, which was promulgated at the very same time Zionist forces were forcibly expelling Palestinians and confiscating their lands.

“Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence envisions a democratic Jewish state with equality for all citizens regardless of race, religion or sex,” says Morag, in a CFPN summary document called Morag Speaking tour – 7 takeaways. But that inspiring vision is being undermined through a right-wing ethos that champions Jewish supremacy above all.

“The regressive Nation-State Law, declared last year, emphasizes Israel’s Jewish character but omits mention of democracy and equality. The military rule of 2.8 million disenfranchised West Bank Palestinians is supposed to be temporary. But the increasingly entrenched settlement enterprise threatens to make the occupation permanent”.

Liberal Zionists – friends or not?

Morag and her small organization show considerable courage in the face of vicious attacks by an increasingly right wing Israeli society which brands her a “traitor” (and worse). As an Israeli Jew, her principled call to end the occupation of the West Bank is admirable and deserves support.

But ending the occupation, and creating a Palestinian mini state (less than three times the surface area of Ottawa) does little to help the five million Palestinians who remain, and would remain, refugees living in appalling conditions in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan (not to mention Gaza).

Those who believe in the principles of democracy and equality will have a difficult time accepting Morag’s willful blindness to Israel’s “original sin” – the creation of a Jewish State through the forcible removal of over 750,000 Palestinians in 1947/48 (“the Nakba”).

That event, and the ongoing consequences for the refugees who are denied their right to return so that Israel can remain a Jewish State, have to be acknowledged and dealt with.

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Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) encourages and promotes a thoughtful discussion among Canadians on the Israel/Palestine issue, including a well informed and sensitive discussion about solutions. CTIP encourages serious people who disagree with any column to make comment. Disagreements respectfully offered are welcome. To learn more about what CTIP does, contact us at chair.ctip@gmail.com.

 

 

18 comments

  1. Shaqued seems to be a courageous and honest person. I respect that as a Palestinian-Canadian. The problem, though, with Peace Now that it is still running on an outdated platform. Israel has totally destroyed the two-state solution, and they can not pretend otherwise. For example, it rejected a historic offer in 2002 when all Arab states offered Peace Initiative based on a 2SS and full normalization of relations with Israel:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Peace_Initiative

    Israel has a different agenda: ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in all historic Palestine. Israel is working to expel and force all Palestinians out.

    Peace Now may argue that their platform was progressive 25 years ago. Today, the context has totally changed and this platform is irrelevant. Israeli election results demonstrate that. I believe they need to choose a new path. One option is to work with Palestinians and international human rights activists towards a new vision based on equality for all and addressing the rights and needs of Palestinian refugees.

  2. “The idea of protecting Israel” belies the idea of a “principled call” to anything. Same old problem of ghastly immorality: all that matters to these people is what is arguably beneficial to Israel, damned be the Palestinians. Zionist left and right differ only on how damned they ought to be.

    Precisely why the pseudo-debate inside Israel at best is irrelevant to a just peace.

    1. Hey Robert, Thanks for your comment.

      My main concern is the debate inside Canada, not in Israel. And here, I don’t believe it is a “pseudo debate”, I think it is real.

      Most Canadian Jews are fearful of what might happen to Jews if they didn’t have a strong state of their own. Many liberal Zionists know about and are concerned about the injustices inflicted on the Palestinians but fear that the injustices that might be inflicted on Jews could be much worse (e.g. some kind of expulsion, massacre, etc. etc.)

      I don’t share that assessment of risk, but it is not groundless. it has to be addressed seriously. With respect, I don’t think “damning” them will help move things forward.

      1. Peter, I beg to differ. You’ve entirely missed my point:

        The two-state solution is as dead in the water as a too many right whales. Israel had condemned it to it’s doom years ago. Pretending otherwise is disingenuous.

        This “most Canadian Jews are fearful” canard is as old as the hills. Canadian Jews have a strong state for them: it’s called Canada. Any “state of their own” as you put it, you mean Israel perhaps, requires that they disenfranchise if not dispossess those who are not not “their own.” Please re-assure us you don’t support this.

        Yet as long as we use fear to rationalize evil, evil will prevail. The Palestinian Church has called the occupation “evil.” Full stop. My faith commitment refuses to allow me to provide a fig leaf for evil.

        Damning won’t move things forward: Precisely. Zionists left or right, two-state, three-state or no-state, continue to damn Palestinians to dispossession, servitude, and misery. You disagree?

      2. Hey Robert, sorry if you think I have missed your point. Would you mind restating it?

        I don’t think that the statement that “most Canadian Jews are fearful” is a canard. I think it is a statement of reality. I base it on quite a bit of experience in my courses, public speaking and private conversations with Jews.

        You and I may think that that fear is exaggerated (or even completely unfounded) but that does not make the fear any the less real, or powerful as a motivator.

        I don’t agree with Zionism – of any variety. But I know that most Jews, and probably most Canadians, do accept the Zionist idea that Jews need/deserve to have a state of their own. (This is even accepted by the NDP, Elizabeth May, the United Church of Canada, etc. etc.). I wish this were not the case, but damning it doesn’t really help much.

      3. Peter,

        The fear of which you write is both real and deep. It has been carefully planted and nourished. Some adults cynically expand and exploit it to justify their actions,

        As children, we hear two kinds of stories:

        The first are origin tales. Both in Hebrew School and in our family we hear stories from Biblical times. In these stories, the protagonists and heroes are invariably Jews. When other people appear they are usually quite secondary and often characterized as barbarians, invaders, or people to be conquered by the Israelites. The Jewish heroes capture cities, repel invaders, and build. The others invade and destroy. From these stories we get the impression that Jews were the dominant group and the righteous owners of what came to be known as the “holy land”.

        These stories are sometimes elaborated to the point that they contradict the Hebrew Bible. Recently, I read claims that the Jews are the ones who first settled Jerusalem whereas the Bible says that King David conquered it from another group and made it his capitol.

        Archeological research does not always support these stories but they persist. Pro Israel writers seize on every bit of Archeological evidence of early Jewish presence but rarely mention the many pieces of evidence that others were also there.

        I imagine that all cultures use such stories to build a sense of identity. I know that I heard the same kind of identity-building stories in Ireland and read them in older German books. They remind me of the “Cowboy and Indian” stories that I also heard as a kid. In those stories, cowboys were the heroes and did no wrong. The Indians were just in the way of progress.

        The second class of stories we hear as children are Holocaust stories and stories of Progroms. These were often personal stories told originally by from family members who had experienced true antisemitism in Europe and escaped the holocaust. We never heard of the suffering of non-Jews at that time..

        It is the combination of these two sets of stories that is the source of the fear that we need to fight. I have met Jews who are fully aware of the bias and incompleteness in these tales but deliberately distort events to justify the conquering and “cleansing” of Palestine. This allows them to interpret every anti-semitic act as evidence of the need for Israel and every criticism of Israeli policies as anti-semitic.

        Discussion of the scandalous mistreatment of non-Jewish people in Palestine does not defeat these stories. It only leads to groups like Peace Now who recognize the policies as wrong and want to stop the mistreatment of Palestinian Arabs but insist on (and believe strongly in) the need for a Jewish State.

        The fear is also strengthened by the understandable but counterproductive rhetoric of some Palestinians who claim to want to kill or exile the immigrant Jews and their descendants. Such statements are frequently quoted in pro-Israel literature as evidence that Israel needs to do what they are doing.

        I think that the only way to fight the fear is with other stories. The origin stories must be matched by origin stories by other groups represented in Palestine. The Holocaust stories must be supplemented by other tales of racist behaviour in Europe and elsewhere. If the stories are complete enough, people will understand that they cannot build their group’s security by making others insecure.

      4. Peter, rather than restate, here’s clarification. On damning (as in “condemning”: Zionists of all stripes have and continue to “damn Palestinians to dispossession, servitude, and misery.”

        On fear: on previous posts you have been rightly questioned about for speaking about “most Canadian Jews,” hence “canard.” Such a claim merely parrots what some Zionist organizations want us to believe.

        Moreover, to then make “Jewish fear” the issue that needs to addressed, rather that the evil of dispossession, violence, war crimes and occupation that is rationalized by fear perverts any hope of a just peace, something Zionists have successfully done at least since Oslo. Why? By making Jewish fear the issue that its Palestinian victims must solve, rather than what has been done to the Palestinians the problem that Israel, its perpetrator, must solve, turns justice on its head. A parallel would be making white man’s fear the problem in Canada, and one that aboriginals here must solve, rather than vice-versa.

      5. Robert,

        You are correct when you say that it is “the evil of dispossession, violence, war crimes and occupation ” that must be addressed and defeated. However, to do that, the fear that Peter wrote about must be recognized and understood. Understanding and reducing that fear is a means to the end, not the end itself. Defeating a fear does not mean accepting it or yielding to it. It means recognizing it and getting people to deal with it themselves. When people recognize that their fear is irrational, they can stop using it as an excuse to do evil.

  3. Peace Now envisions a small “unarmed state”. I consider that an oxymoron.

    Moraq says “Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence envisions a democratic Jewish state with equality for all citizens regardless of race, religion or sex,” That too contains an inherent contradiction. It is the word “Jewish” that introduces the inconsistency, It is completely unnecessary.

    When Israel was being founded, many Jews sought a refuge, a safe place. By trying to make their refuge a state that was biased against other inhabitants, they made it unsafe for all. By insisting on having a Jewish State, they created a state where someone wearing a T-shirt bearing the Hebrew word for Peace is arrested and considered to be a traitor.

    For Israel to be a place of safety for all Jews, it needs to be a place of safety for all.

  4. About all you can say now is that if Israel rejects the last chance for a 2 state solution, either advanced by the Israeli left or the international community, it should expect the international sanctions and shunning recently proposed by the UN Palestinian rights UN rapporteur Michael Lynke and every kind of resistance by the Palestinian people through all means both violent and non violent. And if Canada is still able to speak frankly to its friend Israel it shld make clear that the worst is coming and Israel should never expect to be accepted as a Jewish democratic civilized state free from conflict.

    1. Israel de facto already had rejected the last chance for a 2-state solution years ago; if there was any doubt, Trump supported them in sealing its fate.

      This dead horse being flogged serves only as a convenient diversion for the ever-deepening nakba, while providing a fig leaf for its supporters such as our government.

  5. Thanks for this thoughtful, important discussion. As a Jewish anti-Zionist, I’d offer these thoughts to put in context (while opposing) the position of liberal Zionists:
    (1) Israel is a colonial settler enterprise, like Canada, Australia, South Africa, the US, and others. Like them, it privileges “white” settlers, some of whom originally were fleeing oppression, but it mainly serves international capitalist interests. Like them, Israel uses claims of victimhood and divine right to justify expelling, killing, and oppressing original peoples.
    (2) In the case of Israel, Zionism is the specific ideology used to justify conquering, expelling, killing, and oppressing Palestinians. Zionism is not Judaism. It violates core Jewish values. It is based on Christian Zionism, was founded by secular Jews hostile to Judaism, and historically was opposed by the three major branches of Judaism and by most secular Jews.
    (3) However, mainstream Jewish organizations and many Jews now identify as Zionists, confused by Zionist rhetoric of defending and representing Jews. Zionists play into their fears and pride in Israel. This is especially so since Jews have been granted white privilege largely because of Israel’s legitimacy. (On the other hand, a significant and rising proportion of Western Jews, especially young Jews, now reject Zionism and criticize Israel.)
    (4) The oppression of Jews in the Christian West was brutal for over 1500 years. Most imperial powers collaborated in the Holocaust and refused to admit entry to fleeting Jews. Instead, they supported the creation of Israel as a Jewish state. Zionists exploit the resulting fear and distrust that Jews feel toward Gentiles (and also the guilt of Christians) to claim Jews “need” and “deserve” a Jewish state.
    (5) Historically, Christian rulers set up a few elite Jews as middle agents—the visible face of oppression. When peasants rebelled, rulers would direct their rage against “the Jews,” often resulting in violent expulsion. Then other Christian rulers would defend Jews, and welcome them–until the next round of attacks, creating a cyclical pattern of antisemitism. Israel now functions as the middle agent, the most visible face of global corporate oppression. Its anti-Palestinian oppression and its allegiance with global oppressive powers fuels real rising antisemitism against all Jews. This terrifies many Jews, who cling even harder to Israel as their only source of security.
    (6) Zionists now claim that criticism of Israel, as “the collective Jew” constitutes “the new antisemitism.” Western governments (spurred on by the Israel lobby) attack as “antisemitic” valid criticism of Israel by progressives (such as Jeremy Corbyn, CUPW, and the World Social Forum). This confuses Jews and well-intentioned Gentiles who dread being called antisemitic and chills valid criticism of Israel.
    (7) Like liberal Whites, liberal Zionists try to appease their guilt and appear virtuous by calling for toothless reforms, while supporting the underlying oppressive system. The “two-state solution” and a diplomatic “peace process” overseen by the US are the last remaining straws of credibility to which liberal Zionists cling. The “two-state solution” was never just and is no longer even feasible. The US was never a disinterested honest broker. And Israel now has abandoned any pretence of supporting either a Palestinian state as it continues to expand and consolidate its total control. Liberal Zionists refuse to get off the fence and choose between justice and Zionism. Their credibility is shrinking, while that of non- or anti-Zionist Jewish groups is rising.
    (9) While I agree with Peter that Jewish fear helps to explain why so many Jews are Zionists, it is not an excuse for oppressing Palestinians and Zionism is a false god which actually jeopardizes the security of Jews.

    1. Hey Diana,
      thanks for your thoughtful comment.
      I hope there is no doubt in anyone’s mind – I do not agree with Zionism and vigorously oppose the oppression of Palestinians.
      Our common objective, is to change the minds of Canadians and in the end to change Canadian policy towards the Israel/Palestine issue.
      In my view, in order to do that we need a clear idea of why people think the way they do.
      Most Jews think that the idea of Israel as a Jewish State is good and justified, though the liberal ones are opposed to some of Israel’s policies.
      That is also the position of most Canadians, including ALL of the political leaders, ALL of the Church leaders and almost ALL of the union leaders.
      Our challenge is to change their minds. Best.

      1. Thanks Diana, for this great overview. Peter, I think it’s a bit categorical to say that ALL political leaders, church leaders and union leaders think that the idea of Israel as a Jewish state (assuming that means a state that gives Jews more rights than others) is good and justified. From where I sit in faith-based advocacy for Palestinians, I think there is increasing ambivalence, if not outright disagreement with that notion. I think that’s true of union and political leaders as well. The United Church of Canada, Mennonite Church Canada, Friends, and the Unitarians are challenging Zionism in various ways, especially now that the “left” is being squeezed out.
        .

      2. Hey brempelburkholder,
        Thanks for your comment. Yes I was a bit categorical, point taken.

        On the church side, I was thinking mostly of the old line established churches like Anglicans, Catholics and UCC. I am not in a position to speak for ALL church leaders.

        And I don’t want to disparage the excellent work done by folks like Sabeel, UNJPPI, Mennonite Central Committee, Unitarians for Social Justice, etc.

        However, as far as I know, its still the official position of the all the big churches that the answer to the Israel/Palestine issue is a 2 state solution – in which one state will be the Jewish State of Israel. This is the same position as the liberal Zionist organizations like Canadian friends of Peace Now.

        To focus on the United Church, for example, the resolution they adopted after their big convention about 10 years was to support the right of return of Palestinian refugees “while maintaining the demographic balance of Israel”. I.e. to make sure Israel remains a Jewish state.

        Of course, I don’t know what Church, or union or political leaders believe in their hearts. But the public positions they almost ALL take reflect a liberal Zionist view.

        If you know of some who take a different view, please let me know. I will happily stand corrected.

        Best

  6. I don’t think it’s about justice. There’s been too much injustice. It can’t be fixed. It’s about a compromise that Palestinians can accept.

    I disagree with Peter that we have to worry about Jews’ feelings and fears. The vast majority of Jews in Israel will never accept a compromise acceptable to Palestinians. And Israeli Jews don’t care what Jews outside Israel think. American Evangelical Christians are more important to them.

    There are only two ways the Palestinians can win an acceptable compromise or better:
    1) The Arab world (with some Muslim allies) will get strong and united enough to wipe out Israel. Given the numbers imbalance, there’s no reason it can’t happen. Given the current state of affairs, there’s no reason to expect it soon.
    2) The international community forces Israel, through sanctions or invasion, to accept a compromise acceptable to Palestinians.
    3) (If you have a third way, insert here.)

    Let’s consider #2.

    At present, a small majority of Palestinians prefer a two-state solution (2SS), of the kind envisioned by the Arab Peace Initiative. (I’m surprised that in all the talk about justice and what Israelis and liberal “Zionists” want, there is little consideration of what is wanted by or acceptable to Palestinians. Instead, we prefer to substitute our “analysis” for what Palestinians might actually want.) Also at present, almost every country, foreign organization and Palestinian organization is on record as supporting something like the API. Proving that Israel opposes the 2SS/API is irrelevant, since Israel opposes any solution that might be acceptable to Palestinians.

    So one question is: “What is the international community more likely to do — Force Israel to dissolve itself in favour of a single state? Or force Israel to end the occupation so that a Palestinian state can be established?

    If the 2SS is not an acceptable solution for the majority of Palestinians and their organizations, they can insist on a single state. But either way, they will still need help from the international community.

    Let’s look at how they might get that help.

    Edward Said apparently said that it’s the bad luck of the Palestinians that they’re the victims of the victims of the Holocaust. The West carries a great amount of shame about what it did to European Jews. (It should carry a great amount of shame about its betrayal of the Arabs after WW1, but it doesn’t.) So this is where Peter’s concerns about fear come in. It’s not Jews’ fear that must be allayed; it is the West’s. Palestinians must convince the West that Jews will be safe in any new configuration of Israel/Palestine. How can the Palestinians do that?

    Arthur

    1. Arthur,

      It is never too late for justice. We cannot change the past but we can work to change the present; we can work to make the future just.
      s
      Life is full of compromise. We have to comprise with reality but we do not have to compromise with evil. We certainly do not have to support evil policies and that is what Canada and many other countries are doing now.

      Most Israeli Jews do care what Jews elsewhere think. How else can you explain the many programmes (such as Birthright) which are intended to get their support. Many Israelis are uncomfortable with the support that they get from Evangelical Christians. They sense that they (Israeli Jews) are just a means to an end.

      We should not be telling Palestinians what they want (and they should not listen if we do) but we should be working to give them a voice and a choice. Right now, their voice is being suppressed and they have almost no choice.

      I hope and believe that when Palestinians have a choice, they will make the same kind of choice that South Africans made when their country accepted universal suffrage or the choice that the Republic of Ireland made when it won independence from England. In both cases, the people chose equal rights over reverse prejudice or revenge. Both countries are better off because they did not make any of their citizens feel unsafe.

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