Earthquake in Zion

Jonathan Ofer below hits the nail on the head when he describes the shock heard around the Zionist world: Peter Beinart has abandoned ship. The highly respected liberal Zionist  in the always Zionist paper of record the New York Times argues:

Israel has all but made its decision: one country that includes millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights. Now liberal Zionists must make our decision, too. It’s time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. It’s time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.

Ofer writes

A major earthquake has been happening in the Zionist camp this past week.

Peter Beinart, Prince of ‘Liberal-Zionism’, published a nearly 7K-word essay in Jewish Currents titled “Yavne: A Jewish Case for Equality in Israel-Palestine”, explaining why he is abandoning the two-state solution. It was followed up by his much shorter piece in the New York Times titled “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State”.

I don’t need to write an essay to explain just how deeply this cuts into the Zionist heart. Equality between Jews and Palestinians is anathema to Zionism, and abandoning the Jewish State is relinquishing the conceptual means by which this inequality is maintained.

These advocacies in general are not novel. Many others as well as this writer have been making them for years. But the person who is now voicing them is part of this story which makes it that much more explosive.  The prince has just abandoned the castle. Even though Beinart seems keen to soften the blow by suggesting that Zionism continue more as “essence” rather than “form”, that is, become a kind of cultural signifier without a Jewish nation-state as such, for Zionists today, this is still very much tantamount to a death blow.

And yet, the liberals can’t just throw Beinart off as yet another negligible anti-Semite cuckoo. They know he has too much clout for that. Thus come the attempts to both be respectful yet dissenting.

Chair of J Street Jeremy Ben Ami starts out with greetings then lowers the boom

“Peace process” personas such as Martin Indyk and Aaron David Miller express disapproval

These critics need to hold on to their orthodoxy in the face of this shift. Beinart has moved on from the charade of the two-state solution that only prolonged Israeli oppression, and he has abandoned the camp. Although he ostensibly offers Zionists, including himself, a conceptual refuge of identity in “essence” but not “form”, this is not a refuge these Zionists seek. They want to maintain that form.

Enter Anshel Pfeffer of Haaretz, and the critique becomes somewhat more crass.

Pfeffer’s Haaretz piece   is titled “Peter Beinart’s One State Solution Sounds So Perfect It’s Practically Utopian”, 

So, to recap Pfeffer:

Zionism is not about morals, but it is of course moral, and that’s beyond discussion. And it’s also beyond discussion currently, because it doesn’t exist anymore, and that’s why Beinart is wrong and utopian.

This is not just disingenuous argumentation – it is reactionary. “Our” pragmatism trumps all other moral considerations, because it’s singularly moral for us to survive, come what may.

Michael Sfard, Yesh Din and Israeli Apartheid

Just a couple of days after Beinart’s bombshell, came another, from another direction. The respected Israeli NGO Yesh Din which focuses on human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories published a legal opinion titled “The Occupation of the West Bank and the Crime of Apartheid”.

The claim: “[T]he crime against humanity of apartheid is being committed in the West Bank. The perpetrators are Israelis, and the victims are Palestinians.”


“Continued creeping legal annexation, let alone official annexation of a particular part of the West Bank through legislation that would apply Israeli law and administration there, is an amalgamation of the regimes. This could mean strengthening the argument, which already is being heard, that the crime of Apartheid is not committed only in the West Bank. That the Israeli regime in its entirety is an apartheid regime. That Israel is an Apartheid state.”

“Right. When I started writing the opinion, I had only Israel’s acts on the ground to prove its intention to perpetuate domination. For 50 years the Israeli government was saying the ‘right thing’ — that the occupation is temporary until peace agreements will replace the ceasefire agreements. But then the gap between the Israeli statements and the Israeli actions disappeared. With their own words, Israeli officials have shattered their own alibi — a very lousy alibi that couldn’t hide the deeds anyway. Today my work is much easier.”

This is a good moment to reflect upon Aaron David Miller’s “honest answer”, that there is “no way out”. Oh, it’s so much easier for the privileged stratum to say that there’s just “no way out” and “no solution”, when that “no solution” is by default an acceptance of Apartheid, without one having to say so explicitly. Moshe Dayan said it a bit more clearly in 1967. He proposed saying to Palestinians:

“We don’t have a solution, and you will continue living like dogs, and whoever wants will go, and we’ll see how this procedure will work out”.