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Birthright should Promote Human Rights not Occupation

August 12, 2010 – 11:25 am126 Comments

By Larry Stillman

In July, Coteret, an Israeli news site, reported that Australian young people were taken on a tour of central Hebron by Birthright/Talglit, a program that has brought hundreds of thousands of young Jews to Israel.  The video featured interviews with some of the participants and an Orthodox, American organiser.   The tour was run by Chabad, who have a long history in Hebron, in conjunction with Israel Express and the Zionist Federation of Australia.

The video, which is still available on Coteret even though it was removed from it’s original source at WeJew.com, probably when it twigged that the visit was controversial, is particularly scary because of the naïveté of the young people – who think they are in Israel. The interviewer and organiser share a pumped up view of eternal rights in Hebron, despite the reality of extraordinary injustice to others to achieve this. I’d love my son to go on ‘Birthright’, but not on such propaganda tours that dehumanize Palestinians.

That ‘downtown’ Hebron, around the Tomb and Mosque of the Patriarchs or the old Casbah is a flashpoint, is an understatement.  Of course, Hebron has a sorry history in modern times, going back to the massacres of 1929, but this is no excuse for current behaviour by ‘settlers’. The Goldstein massacre in 1994 only intensified the tensions between the communities. The Israeli army has to maintain a very large presence to secure the safe passage and complete dominance of a few hundred settlers who make life hell for the Palestinian residents and have no compunction in taking over homes.  Economically, the locals have suffered enormously. Acts of vandalism and violence by settlers including their children are well-documented. Checkpoint abuses are frequent and monitored by organizations such as Mahsom Watch.

The tour was conducted in clear breach of  ‘Birthright’ policy.  Their website has the following stipulation: ” Our tours do not travel to or through areas of the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem, other than the Jewish Quarter of the Old City (changes are possible when permitted by the security authorities).”   It’s pretty scary that these tours are being hijacked for pumping kids full of the most extreme form of  ‘birthright’ Zionism. Alignment with current Israeli politics of repression or an absolutist view of religious history are not a very good example of respect for the rights of other people.

It also appears that Birthright kids have done other exciting things like visit an outpost overlooking Gaza and use it as a ‘photo opportunity’.  How nice. Nothing like an Arab refugee encampment in the background. Of course, technically, such visits are within Israel, but it gives the impression that Birthright is about short-term brainwashing of young people with the hope that they become strong converts and unquestioning supporters of Israel.

Palestinians are real people whose rights are trampled on, and an example that has hit the headlines has been the   destruction of a  ‘unrecognized’  shantytown of  very poor Bedouin in the northern Negev.  High school volunteers took part in this destruction.   A hard line is being undertaken towards such settlements to make way for JNF forests and later on, Israeli housing  ( some call this ‘greenwashing’ of Palestinian presence). One Israeli critics calls such actions ethnic cleansing and forced urbanization .  I find that kind of language painful to use, but it appears accurate.

It needs to be remembered that the Australian JNF has a special association with the Negev as well, and supports community development for the Bedouin, though the effects of such community development are disputed.  Whatever the case, we are vicariously linked with what goes on.  Of course, I am not associating Taglit-Birthright or the Australian JNF with such extremism, but they are all part of a disturbing pattern that can be no longer ignored as Israel embarks on an all-out campaign to ‘explain’ itself.  Such things can’t be easily explained away.  We should stand up for the underdog in Israel.

My opinion of the presence of young Australians in Hebron and others having photo ops over a community in a state of siege, or the presence of Israeli kids in the destruction of a village may make you very angry because I take the view such acts they are antithetical to human rights by Israel and in the Occupied Territories.

Of course, vehement anti-Zionists argue that these activities and attitudes are inherent in  Zionism.  I actually think that Zionism is far more heterogeneous but it is undeniable that something is fundamentally wrong in the examples I have cited.

Where do we go from here?  If the solution is ultimately to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinian people, then what should Birthright be doing to promote peace making and the fulfilment of a peaceful and democratic dream for all communities?  There are many other organizations in Israel (and even on the West Bank) which could both provide impressionable young people with exposure to identity the meaning of  human rights and democracy for both communities.

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  • Zvi Solow says:

    There is an army concept called “ruach hamefaked” – the spirit of the commander, meaning that any instituted burocracy will tend to change the focus of its activities to please the man (or woman) in charge.

    This is very obvious from what goes on in our education system since Gideon Saar – a right wing Likud ideologue (ex Techiya) became education minister.
    Specifically, there has been an ongoing struggle over the wiping out and restoring of the Green Line in the education system & the maps. When Shula Aloni and Yossi Sarid (Meretz) and later Yuli Tamir (Avoda /Shalom Achsav) were education ministers it was emphasized. When the Likud or Mafdal occupied the education ministry it was wiped out. As a result a lot of young people here are simply confused as to what is an hitnachlut and what isn’t. I’ve had young people argue with me that Ariel is in Israel because “its so normal there just like any other place” (meaning presumably its not an ideological/religious community).
    The Hebron/Birthright incident is more of the same.

  • ariel says:


    In your peace vision, will Jews be able to visit Hebron – our 2nd holiest city – in order to pay homage at the Machpelah Cave?

    I see no problem in Jewish kids visiting Jewish holy sites. Perhaps the tour could have been more balanced about the recent history of the place, but to deny these kids access to Hebron is no less offensive than disallowing Muslims to visit Karbala or Catholics the Vatican.

    If in your vision Jews can’t visit Hebron then why should any Muslim or Christian be allowed to visit one of their holy sites in Nazareth or elsewhere in Israel?

    Re Gaza:
    This week, Israel allowed Libya to deliver and install a block of prefabricated homes. Why hasn’t Hamas been building homes for their people?
    Siege or no seige: there is no excuse for Hamas’ treatment of their own people (and the past neglect of their lives by Fatah).

    If it’s all Israel’s fault, perhaps you can explain this:

  • Larry Stillman says:

    On your first point, people should be able to visit where they want, without infringing on the rights of others.

    The occupation in Hebron oppresses people. http://www.btselem.org/English/Hebron/

    I think you will find that Hamas or local builders have not been able to build many homes because of the economic restrictions imposed by Israel. Some of these restrictions are now being reduced, and some argue that that these changes are not sufficient.. See http://tiny.cc/v9ona

  • ariel says:

    The problem with your first point is that it appears that Muslim authorities view any Jewish or Christian visitation of such places as a “provocation”. Will you convince them that this is not the case?

    I won’t repeat the reasons Israel doesn’t let building supplies into Gaza as you’ve heard them before.

    But Hamas could have placed orders with Libya, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia (remember all those wealthy countries who never lift a finger for the Palestinians?) for 1000’s of prefab homes for their people.
    Instead of buying weapons from Iran…

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Let an Israeli who is active in the Hebron area, and an unashamed Zionist by the way, speak about her work in the Hebron area with Machsom Watch. I hope Hagit doesn’t mind me quoting an email–

    הם היו יכולים להיפגש גם עם קבוצות אחרות … לא רק עם המתנחילים – אתם צריכים מפה לא להסכים לשטיפת המוח

    ( They could have met with a different group, not just settlers. They need a ‘map’ so that they aren’t brainwashed)

    Of course there is tension in Hebron–so why make it worse? Palestinians under occupation have everything to fear from settlers and the army.

    I can’t speak for Hams in Gaza btw, this is a side issue to what is going on in Hebron and elsewhere, and impressionable Australian kids shouldn’t be expose to one-sided propoganda.

  • חגית בק says:

    אני נמצאת במלבורן חצי שנה במסגרת שנת שבתון והספקתי להכיר את הדעות של היהודים פה ולפעמים הדעות הללו גורמות לי חלחלה. בישראל אני שייכת לקבוצת הנשים מחסום ווטש- נשים בעד זכויות אדם ונגד הכיבוש. הכיבוש משחית אותנו והופך את הציונות שלנו לגזענית. המעשה הכי ציוני והכי פטריוטי שאפשר לעשות – זה להתנגד לכיבוש ולא לתת למתנחלים אפשרות להכרית במו ידיהם את האפשרות של שתי מדינות לשני עמים. דריסת הזכויות של הפלסטינים בידי המתנחלים זאת לא הציונות שלי – במיוחד בחברון מציאות החיים של הפלסטינים איומה ונוראית והכל ממומן על ידי ימני שחי במלבורן – גוטניק – הוא בכסף שהוא שולח מזיק למדינת ישראל ולתושביה יותר מכל תורם אחר. בישראל ובחברון פועלים הרבה ארגונם לזכויות אדם = אפשר היה לתת לחברה שבאו לתייר בארץ להיות איתם = למשל סיור של ארגן שוברים שתיקה – למשל סיור של שלום עכשיו – למשל סיור של מחסום ווטש- זה נחשב אצלעדכם לפעילות פוליטית – להיות עם המתנחלים לא. להיות בעד ישראל עכשיו אומר – להתנגד למדיניות הממשלה ולהתנגד לכיבוש = מי שלא עושה זאת פוגע במדינת ישראל.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    [I have imperfectly translated Hagit’s opinions for others to consider. So please stick with the ideas, not the infelicities in translation…]

    I have been in Melbourne for 6 months for sabbatical and I have been getting to know the opinions of Jews here. Sometime these opinions make me shudder.

    In Israel I am active with a group of women in Machsom Watch–women who support human rights and are opposed to the occupation. The occupation corrupts us and turns our Zionism into racism. The most Zionist and most patriotic thing that I can do is to be opposed to the occupation and to not give the settlers the opportunity to cut off with their hands the possibilities of two peoples and two states.

    The trampling of the rights of the Palestinians by the settlers is not my Zionism, and especially in Hebron the reality of the life of Palestinians is under threat and horrendous. It is all funded by supporters of the right who live in Melbourne. Gutnick’s substantial support, more than any other donor support does damage to Israel and its residents.

    In Israel and in Hebron there are many human rights organizations at work, and would be possible to give a group that came an opportunity for a tour with them, for example with Shovrim Shtikah (Breaking the Silence) or Shalom Achsav (Peace Now) or with Machsom Watch. This is relevant political activity, to be with the settlers–no.

    To be a supporter of Israel now is to oppose the state and to oppose the occupation. Who doesn’t do that injures Israel.

  • frosh says:

    I think this needs a little bit of perspective. Even if everything the author describes is true, to say that it pales in comparison both in frequency and degree to the kind of things that go on with Palestinian youth education programs would be a huge understatement.

    Imagine if a Zionist group organised the “Baruch Goldstein Memorial/Appreciation Summer Program”

    As absurd and disgusting as that sounds, that kind of thing is exactly what happens with Palestinian programs.

  • Larry,

    Rather than talk big picture about the nebulous, evil, “occupation”, let’s talk about Hebron itself. Surely you would agree that it ranks as one of the holiest sites for both Jews and Arabs. Should Jews be allowed to visit the place of their ultimate birthright, where our forefather Avraham is buried? If there are no Jews living there, how might we ever do that? What’s your alternative, specifically regarding Hebron?

  • Mandi Katz says:


    The spirits of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov, Sarah, Rivkah,and Leah are in our hearts and in our texts and in our songs, as they have always been . Whatever your view of the resons for the ongoing reasons for the occupation we do our tradition no service when we overlook the plight of the most vulnerable to wave flags near their graves.

    In Hevron in particular, by accounts of Bteselem and other human rights organisations, Palestinians live in appalling conditions where the lives of 30,000 or so Palestinians are dominated by the lives of several hundred Jewish settlers and approximately four thousand Israeli solders stationed there to protect them.

    and Frosh the way that Goldstein has been memorialised by some settlers and our liturgy sullied to glorify his name (after the event, settlers sang “Baruch Hagever” in his memory)is exactly the same as the as the Palestinian activities you mention.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Mandi,

    Disgusting behaviour by a small number of private individuals does not equate with the pervasive behaviour of state institutions, or a quasi state.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Of course I have no objection to religious freedom of visitation and from what I have seen from various Palestinian-Israeli proposals for a final settlement, Jewish cultural rights are not an issue. You may scoff at this, but people of goodwil on both sides have invested a lot of effort into this — (see article X of the Geneva Accords: The Parties shall establish special arrangements to guarantee access to agreed sites of religious significance, as will be detailed in Annex X. These arrangements will apply, inter alia, to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, and Nabi Samuel.)

    But how supporters of a Jewish presence in central Hebron can justify the very expensive presence of several thousand troops keeping the local community in a state of lockdown for a few hundred people is beyond me.

    Ever since Miriam Levinger and others took over the old Hadassah hospital in 1979, goverments, due to political pressure from the religious parties have not taken on this divisive group . To insist on the sacredness of Jewish presence while at the same time, oppressing a local population seems to be a complete contradiction.

    Is oppression and the culture of violence the price that Palestinians have to pay for the freedom of a few people? When does the obsession over rocks and caves become idol worship, rather than belief, wherever you happen to be that promotes justice and good deeds? At least in other streams of Judaism, such idol workshop has been put aside.

    And Anthony, we aren’t talking about Hamas here, we are talking about the Israeli occupation of the crudest colonial sort on a very tradtional Muslim community that has never like outsiders, Cave of Machpelah or not. In any case, there are extremists who celebrate Goldstein as a hero.

    I realize that a couple of other people have posted while I have been writing, but I will leave it at this.
    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict_in_Hebron

  • frosh says:

    Hi Larry,

    As problematic as the situation in Hebron is, the word “colonial” is hardly applicable. Please try and use adjectives that are more apt.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    The resemblance to what went on in Algeria with its casbah is too close for comfort.

    Israel has an occupation, it has settlements, it has invested in colonies, separate infrastructure, a whole separate world from that of the Palestinians. What is a better word: gated ‘suburbs’? ‘peri-urban settlements’.

    Colonization or variations of it, were certainly part of the discourse of the early Zionist movement as well as organizations to settle Jews in colonies in different parts of the world (eg. Jewish Colonization Association). And until 1957, there was the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association, and the JNF was involved in colonization activity.

    I realize today that the term has rather unsavoury notions, and as you know, I don’t appreciate the overblown rhetoric of some critics of Israel, but colonization and the assumptions that go with it, are part and parcel of Israeli history. Where I think some people get uncomfortable, is the critical examination of this proces of colonization–that it has not been on top of an ‘empty’ land–the great myth.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I would add, in response to Ant– is such behaviour in Hebron as supporting Goldstein or more generally, indulging in acts of violence or parades waving guns, or spraypainting Arab shops etc. an occasional aberrance, or it is in fact, a regular & deliberate characteristic of the settler community, combined with a failure of the IDF in its duty of care to protect all people from violence? And as you know, the settlers turn onto soldiers from time to time as well.

    The photo, film and interview evidence for this sort of behaviour over many many years is incontrovertible. Hebron,a very conservative Muslim city has never been a tolerant place, so why give them the opportunity to hate Jews who oppress them?


    The Israeli settlement points in Hebron, which were established in breach of Israel ‘s obligations under international law, cause severe and continuous breaches of international legal provisions intended to protect the human rights of persons under belligerent occupation. Israel contends that it is impossible to ensure the safety of the settlers without separating Palestinians and Israelis in the city, and without infringing the basic rights of the Palestinian residents, which has resulted in Palestinians leaving the City Center . The State of Israel has the legal and moral obligation to evacuate the Israelis who settled in Hebron and bring them back to Israel .

    Until the settlers are evacuated, the Israeli authorities must ensure their safety while minimizing the violation of the human rights of Palestinians. To accomplish this, the government of Israel must allow Palestinians to move about in the City Center and return to their homes, rejuvenate the City Center as a commercial area, enforce law and order on violent settlers, investigate every case of violation of the law by the security forces, and prevent settlers from taking control of additional buildings and areas in the city.

  • ariel says:


    you say “The resemblance to what went on in Algeria with its casbah is too close for comfort”

    Perhaps, except the comparison is disingenuous.

    France had no historical connection to Algeria. On the other hand, you have an unbreakable tie with Hebron.

    I don’t particularly care if there are 30,000 Palestinians and if there were only 5 Jews. Those Jews should be able to live there and go for a walk to the Machpelah to pray without fear of being lynched. Unfortunately, this is not the case, so they need to be guarded.

    You know, there are Muslim neighbourhoods(?!) in Sweden where the police won’t enter because they’ll be lynched. Is this an acceptable situation? Are the residents resentful of the Swedish occupation and provocation?


    Jews illegally occupying the land of another people can expect to be attacked. It is lawful under international law to resist occupation; it is absolutely illegal under international law for an occupying power to transfer population to the occupied land.

    Freedom of movement for all would result from lifting the occupation and negotiating in good faith for a mutually acceptable peace agreement. Seeking to impose terms by force will continue to expose Israelis to attack, and may I say, also Jews around the world.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ariel – that you and so many others dont particularly care about the indignenous majority is exactly the problem.

    I dont agree with Larry that the desire to visit ma’arat hamachpela is akin to idol worhsip.While I do not see myself as having an unbreakable tie with Hevron and wouldn’t care if never went there, I do understand and respect that its important to people.

    But Hevron has not been annexed by Israel and the Palestisnians who live there are refugees without rights and citizenship, and their lives are made insufferable by the illegal presence of settlers.

    If you think the divine rights of Jews trump everything here, we have run out of things to say on this.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    sorry Larry you didnt say its akin to idol worship – you asked when it becomes idol worship.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    thanks Mandi, I was trying to find a phrase to explain the exclusivist view–I think you have it.

    I’d be interested however, in hearing from someone who can defend policies towards the Bedouin?

    3,000-4,000 troops on constant guard in Hebron: the cost has to run into hundreds of millions if not a couple of billion of dollars a year.

    There are surely better ways to spend that money (aside from that issue of a colonizing occupation)– such as on health and welfare.

    If it wasn’t for the pressure from extreme religious territorialists and the foibles of the Israeli parlimentary system, Hebron would probably be a non-issue.

    And see what a rabbi who blogs anonymously thinks about the situation in Hebron: http://rabbibrian.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/two-visits-to-hebron/

    I could quote it all (read it), but what about this

    “Michael Manikin, our tour leader and one of the founders of Shovrim Shtika, Soldiers Breaking the Silence, pointed out that Hebron was no different from all the other settlements on the West Bank. The entire settlement project is based on the fundamental belief that the rights and lives of Jews are more important than those of the Palestinians. For him as a religious Jew, this reality was far more than just a political issue, it was a profound spiritual issue, that challenged the core of his beliefs. His Judaism was not about discrimination, it was about justice and equity. His courageous work in Shovrim Shtika was a spiritual witness and an inspiration to me. “

  • ariel says:

    Vivienne and Mandi – it’s your land; you are indigenous. Why did your grandparents cry for millenia to return there? Was it a practical joke?

    “Jews illegally occupying the land of another people can expect to be attacked”
    In that case, I patiently await being attacked by Aborignes when walking down the street! (Sarcasm apparent)

    Hebron is not occupied in the same way as Russia occupies parts of Japan (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4797701.stm) and France occupied North Africa.

    Perhaps Palestinians are having a hard time, but that doesn’t change history.

    Rav Soloveichik famously said that even if no Jews lived there, it would still be holy to us. But to deny our connection there is like denying any connection whatever to any part of Israel; if you’re not connected to Hebron, you’re not connected to Tiberias, Ashdod or Tel Aviv.

    Larry, I agree with you on the issue of the money being spent on soldiers guarding residents. It would be better spent on police patrols and arresting anyone who attacks anyone else (Jew or Arab) with the remainder going to repair the education system.

  • frosh says:

    VIVIENNE PORZSOLT (must it be capitalised?) wrote,

    “Seeking to impose terms by force will continue to expose Israelis to attack, and may I say, also Jews around the world.” [My emphasis].

    Vivienne, is that what you are worried about?
    Is this why I get several emails a day from you encouraging me to partake in all sorts of activities from attending anti-Israel rallies to lobbying my local member to support the Burqa?

    Don’t worry Vivienne, I’m sure that you possess enough ‘street-cred’ having attended anti-Israel rallies with Sheikh Hilaly, that even if they go after you, they’ll at least go after you last.

  • Steve Brook says:

    Put Richard Dawkins in charge! What would he say? “Listen up, you kids — no piece of land is more sacred than any other. It can all be analysed by geologists and soil scientists. Your theology is all bullshit, and bullshit is not worth dying for. Now go away and let Me go on creating universes.”

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ariel – I should clarify what I said. I dont feel an unbroken (I wrote unbreakable ) connection with Hevron. But I do feel some connection and if I’m really honest I probably would like to go there one day to visit. But for me, the cost now is too great compared to the value. I can live without it .

  • Larry Stillman says:

    What I am hearing in support of the occupation is exactly the stuff that gives haters of Israel all the facts they want to demonstrate that Zionists want to kick out Arabs/Jews are racists and only reinforces theologically based negativities coming out of imams or nationalist Palestinian politicians.

    Sometimes, biblical and rabbinical authority, including that of Solivetchick, Kook or Lubavitch can be way out of touch with the realities of justice for all.

    Even Fackenheim’s dafka principle (my summary of him)– we are there to spite the Nazis–doesn’t justify this sort of theology and practice of oppression politics. There is no place for blinkered theology.

  • ariel says:

    Could we please get a clarification of what “occupation” refers to?

    The Greens candidate for Wentworth told a Jewish audience that it means a return to the 1947 partition lines! (I admire his guts…)


  • Dane says:

    Ariel, I was at the forum with the Greens candidate for Wentworth, where he mentioned “1948 borders”. He didn’t specify if he meant 1947 partition lines or the 1949 armistice green line, although I strongly presume he was referring to the latter.


    Ariel,of course Hebron is occupied in the same way as, to quote an odious example, the Sudetenland was by the Nazis. The land of Palestine has been populated by a succession of peoples. This does not mean that there is not a strong connection of the Jewish people with that land; our people arose there and have maintained a religious connection with it. This does not of itself entitle us to reclaim it after 2,000 years and rule the Palestinians or kick them out. We cannot base a modern society on the Bible. I don;t believe in the Bible as a record of history and neither do the Palestinians and many other people.

    Of course the Aboriginal Australians were dispossessed, but they now have civil equality (which the Palestinians in the OT certainly do not.)There continues to be discrimination and dispossession under the NT Intervention, but I hope I can assume you are opposed to that. The aim is a society of equals which supersedes the colonialist origins. The same needs to occur in Palestine/Israel.

  • Aussiebattler. says:

    Remember this, if you are a Jew in Israel, and you don’t pass the “Jewishness test,” then you are not considered to be one of the tribe.


    And it is all very contradictory – all sorts of people have been declared ‘Jewish’ when it suits the State of Israel to use them to outnumber or displace the Palestinians; others,like reform Jews, do not pass the test for other purposes. And what about the children of contract workers, born and bred in Israel, are now threatened with expulsion because they are not Jewish, though this has been ameliorated inrepsonse to the outcry of the Israeli public. And Israelis go on for ever about the ‘demographic problem’ – the yukkiness of an ethnically-based state!

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Vivienne – The philosophy behind, and legal basis for Israel as an ethnically Jewish country is more complex than the tag “yukky” allows. I heard Professor Ruth Gavison from the Hebew University speak about this last week. She was able to go beyond tags and draw from jurisprudence and depth of knowledge of comparative law to support her view that there is a sound basis for Israel as a dominant ethnonationalist state according full equality to its minorities. One might add that perhaps that it is anomalous in the region where most countries only accord rights only to one religion and persecute minorities.Even if one accepts that Israel was in part the creation of colonialism, world guilt, racist disregard by the West for the present (indigenous is not really a helpful word, I regret using it earlier) population – how is that so fundamentally different to how so so many other countries came into being, in conflicted and very less than perfect circumstances. But the vitriole and contempt for Israel is in a league of its own. I believe that some of the strongest anti Israel sentiment is very much motivated by a real ambivalence about a strong, living Jewish presence in the world. You implicitly support that when you describe the basis for Israel as a Jewish state as “yukky”

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I heard Ruth too, and have read several of her essays. I see some fundamental faults in her argument, particular that her ‘ontology’ that is, the ‘world’ from which she makes her assumptions is not neccessary true when put to the text.

    –she assumes that there is such a thing as a Jewish nationality equivalent to say being a Pole. Many don’t agree. I see it as a cultural/religious label not a de facto one. It is the same argument as the one put forward by Shlomo Avineri in this week’s Haartetz.

    – she justifies this position on the ‘existential’ position of Jews: yet there are many different views on this, partiuclarly if Israel is necessary the safeguard for Jews

    — what I didn’t hear and what makes me uncomfortable, is the assumption that this nationality also extends to me, whether I consent or not.

    –most egregiously of all, it is built on a house of cards; the non-recognition of Palestians other than being a tolerated minority. The past 60 years haven’t demonstrated that Israel is capable of developing effective open democracy for minorities,except on limited terms, and the future, with a –let’s say– ultra-relgious dependant class who push things to the right– are going to make things worse. Ruth was explicit in the talk I heard–she wouldn’t accept a Palestinian-Israel Prime Minister. To her it was a Jewish State. Could you live with that? I was astounded that she could even make that statement in front of the Palestinian-Israeli academic who was there. I found it well, just amazing.

    Without accepting full equality for all, as Israeli citizens (as has been proposed by Adalah for example), nothing will get solved.

    If I had lots of time to develop a critique of Gavison, but I don’t.

    –my solution lies in the a situation where there are full cultural rights for Jewish diversity in all its craziness(i.e. no orthodox domination) under a secular constitution. It’s an old idea, some called it ‘Hebraism’ (Kallen) .I have no issue with that. But in addition, why should you, I or someone from Iowa have more rights than a Palestinian (particularly one who still has the titles to the house they can’t visit?) Brutal, but I think we need to deal with such a proposition if it will bring around peace.

    I also realized that in fact, even Israelis like Gavison have little experience of effective multiculturalism and this may be why she is relunctant to contemplate other alternative.

    Notwithstanding this, I would appreciate some commentary from people about the situation of the Bedouin, and where is AUJS or Chabad on the Birthright issue?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Another recent account about Birthright from a participant who is less than impressed with the techniques and orientation of the program: http://mondoweiss.net/2010/08/birthright-travel-diary-batmitzvahd-in-jerusalem.html

    “Birthright plays into our legitimate desire for community and exaggerates emotional reactions to people and places due to the high-intensity experience. Even I had to continually remind myself that what we were experiencing, we were experiencing as people, not just Jews. And then we’d all go out and get trashed.”

    Dunno, is this what imparting Jewish identity comes down too–a Gen Y version of hasbarah? Is that ‘our’ identity comes down to? That or being a ba’al teshuvah (neo-religious)?


    Hi, Mandi, insofar as Israel is constituted on a Jewish ethnic majority (as opposed being a state for all its citizens) it runs into the ‘yukky’ manifestations I referred to in my post. I can still conceive of a Jewish homeland which is not based on these problematic principles. Sometimes we get stuck on the solution instead of the underlying need which I would say is a secure place for Jewish national self-determination. There were bi-national visions of Zionism and I cannot see any peace with justice unless we revisit those visions.

    Israel’s colonialist origins and current state are not in the least extraordinary, but that is no reason why we should not identify them. The other colonialist nations such as ours are on a journey to transcend that. With its most recent manifestations, Israel is tragically going in the opposite direction. I say tragically because in my view it will almost certainly not survive if it pursues its current course. And it will not deserve to.

  • Larry & VIVIENNE,

    Your comments reek of hypocrisy and double standards.

    You blindly accept the Palestinian narrative but at every point, challenge the Jewish one. Theirs is based on less than 100 years and is riddled with falsehood; ours spans over 3000 years.

    You speak up for the rights of Palestinians but only inasmuch as they are “oppressed” by Israel, totally ignoring the way Arab countries treat them. Have any of the human rights organizations you fondly quote investigated the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and the appalling conditions there?

    Arabs live in the State of Israel and enjoy a standard of living and rights there unparalleled in the entire Middle East, but that’s never good enough. For you, Israel needs to be a utopic example of a democracy far exceeding any standard achieved by any other country, both in its formation and current operation.

    And yet you support a Palestinian state where a Jew would not be allowed to set foot? (the term Judenrein is more appropriate than apartheit) Arabs live in Jewish towns, but Jews cannot live in an “Arab” town like Hebron?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Larry I did not intend to start a debate on Ruth Gavison – I am no expert but the contrast between her erudition, and Vivienne’s dismissal of the desire for sustainable Jewish national and cultural self expression as “yukky” was compelling. As I say I am not an expert in the jurisprudence of government but it was really interesting to to hear these ideas articulated by someone who is.

    In any event my own thoughts:
    1 Ethnonationalism is not unique to Israel and is not inherently undemocratic or inherently discriminatory.
    2 Whether it is discriminatory depends on elements of governance – I have far more faith in the robustness of Israle’s political system, judiciary and freedom of the press than you do. And the examples you give in fact credit my faith – the decision to deport migrant families looks unlikely to be implemented because of political agitation. Similarly the recent bill proposed by Yisrael Beitenu to be tabled in Knesset to give full jurisdiction to the Chief Rabbinate to determine conversion and in other ways differentiate between Jews by birth and Jews by choice and potentially cause rift in the Jewish world, was not even tabled because of political opposition
    3. The double standards of this discussion are extraordinary. Before you accuse me of defection, let me say you made the comment that Israel wold not deserve to survive because of the way that it implements its ethnonationalist ‘mission’, with no recognition of the fact that it is surrounded by countries that are not democratic by any measure, and discriminate against religious and ethnic minorities and in some cases are full blown theocracies. What is deserved may have nothing to do with political reality.But this purports to be a discussion on principles. So while I do not support everything that goes on in Israel I find your expression of the idea that Israel would not deserve to survive, to be the worst kind of double standard. Earlier you made the comment that the conduct of Israel causes anti-semitism. I think that’s highly simplistic and very incomplete – pretty much wrong. But one could say that the flippant dismissal of the aspiration for Jewish self determination causes the unhelpful ‘bunker attitude’ as many describe it. The growing awareness in the world of Palestinian suffering In the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan can only be a good thing but the demonisation of Zionism as an unusual and hateful kind of ethnonationalism, at the same time as the world develops real empathy for Palestinian ethnonationalism will create a a whole new raft of injustices.

  • Larry Stillman says:


    First, are you serious that Palestinians have only been around for less than 100 years? How do you explain nearly 1300 years of Arab presence in historical Palestine? Where did there ancestors come from? Just Arabia? The fact is that it is almost impossible to decide who came from where once we get a few hundred years back or old family records, and we have to deal with what is: there were hundreds of villages in Palestine that no longer exist and/or were built over by Jewish colonies, and lands and buildings were seized through very unfair absent owner provisions (http://tiny.cc/sgnqh).

    I think the sooner that you, and others from let’s say a national-religous perspective meet face to face with highly educated, rational Palestinians, people just like you and me, the better it will be for your consciousness of what the occupation and the mypoia and ideology that goes with the Land of Israel movement. You will see what does to people who are as human as you and me. They have a story to tell as well, and a life to live too. While many live in the diaspora (through exile and other circumstances in the age of globalization), their hearts are in their villages and history.

    But of course, I well know ancient Jewish yearnings –what did Yehuda haLevi say– לבי במזרח ואנוכי בסוף מערב My is in the East, and I am in the West.

    But of course, before those Arab villages, there were Byzantine, Roman, Jewish, Samaritan, Phoenecian, ancient Greek, Canaanite, Hittite ete etc settlements of all sorts. The Bible only records one part of the settlement story of the land of Palestine. that is why I don’t like to use the word ‘indigenous’ except for the Beduin who most resemble indigenous tribal people of other countries.

    I know you will claim but that P. is only a modern label, but in much the same way that Zionism arose, so did Arab and Palestinian nationalism, with all its localisms. Populations grow, people migrate, it is a fact of life, as much as with the Jewish population, as with the Palestinian population.

    Second, I have said nothing about Judenrein Palestine. What I am arguing for is mutural cultural rights with realism.

    Hebron is occupied: it is not Israel, Jews from where ever have no automatic right of settlement. This is in clear breach of international law. Someplaces like Hebron, are so wracked up in ‘memory’ and trauma that they be best left alone. In the same way that the Haram as-sharif is explosive,so is Hebron. Best to stay away.

    You will also find in Palestinian writing the same sort of admission, that direct access to everything is not possible, and at the same time,a readiness to live with Jews as equal citizens. They recognize that a secular consitution is the only way of dealing with the multiplicity of ethnic-nationalisms at play. There is also a dreaming about a Palestine that of course no longer exists. Reality hurts.

    Fouth, the situation of Palestinians in places like Lebanon continues to be explosive and many agencies are aware of this. Many Lebanese do not want to give them citizenship rights and feel they have no obligation because they are refugees, even of 3,3,4,5 generations now. The Arab world should be held to account for its treatment of them, and many P. hold them to account–that is why they are not liked.

    As for the treatment of Palestinians in Israel: many Israeli Palestinians and even mainstream institutions like the Israel Democracy Institute which is very close to government know that there are major structural problems of inequality and racism. Arabs cannot live where they want, have great problems in purchasing property outside of villages etc etc.

    The structural problems of Israeli democracy greatly limit its capacity to govern for all, particularly when relgion and state are so intertwined and the multiple party and electoral system is such a fragmented mess (at the recent Monash confence, the director of the Israel Democracy Institute had some revolutionary suggestions about how to make the electoral and parliamentary system more effecdtive). Personally, as you know, one solution is to ‘secularize’ the country constitionally without a system of privilege which I increasingly feel has been disastrous in practice due to the fact that the ‘land’ belongs to two people.

    These are points I have taken up repeatedly in different essays, so I am not going to rehash all the detail: some of it is elsewhere on Galus.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    ps excse splng

  • Ari says:


    You seem to have a problem with Israel dismantling illegal Bedouin structures and communities yet you don’t seem to have an issue with Israel dismantling illegal Jewish structures and communities in the West Bank – in fact you encourage it.
    What is the difference? It seems your human rights agenda is based more on your radical revolutionary tendencies than on true equality – But I guess equality didn’t stand in Stalin’s way either on his way to building a utopia. The same utopia you yearn for perhaps?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Larry – bad spelling is easily forgiven. I wrote defection instead of deflection in my last comment…

    I’m newish to blogs.I think generally people write in a more hurried, unrefined way on blogs. it makes the medium more compelling but also means there’s a lot of guff…

  • Ari says:


    You write: “and lands and buildings were seized through very unfair absent owner provisions (http://tiny.cc/sgnqh

    So I guess you also speak out against the left wing protests in Sheikh Jarra where Jewish “settlers” have moved, with British Mandate documents as proof, into houses owned by Jews prior to 1948? Or are in this case are some more equal than others?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Ari– I am not dealing with your stupid comparison to Stalinism. I also think you are wrong to say I have a radical revolutionary tendency–if you want to look at radical revolutionary stuff, then look at some of the drivel that comes out of the ultra left, which is not where I belong. In fact, I’d suggest not just you, but many critics of ‘the left’ have a very limited understanding of the subtantial differences of viewpoint and lump us all in the one boat (and that, in fact, is what hasbarah tries to do, as can be seen in documents coming out of the Reut Institute- see this blog post by me http://ajds.org.au/node/199.) Name calling isn’t the way to win an argument.

    The core difference between the Bedouin and the settlers is that the first are actually attested inhabitants and /or dispossesed people because of government policy and this causes their clan/kin structure to break down. Putting them in urban settings is linked to increases in crime and poverty. It is as complex a promblem as the urban/remote indigenous situation here from what I understand, even though some have taken part in the Border Police etc.

    The settlers have been well-financed and supported, whether by government or private donors as part of a policy of occupying or expelling the land,property, livelihood of either people in the interests of the permanent occupation of further land to be part of Greater Israel or with a fiction that they are a bargaining chip. The settlers came willingly (or people came because of cheap real estate). Thus, to call settlers who had to leave Gaza and elsewhere ‘refugees’ is a massive manipulation of the situation and an attempt to infantilize the Israeli population with a vicitmization/pogrom script which is risable. They are the spolit children of the architecture of occupation.

    The things I raise are the dark side of the dream and it is time that we came to terms with it and found a solution away form messianism, money, and oppression.

    Come up with a better argument please.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I think you know my answer on Sheikh Jarrah, another example of attempts to deny any Arab presence through manipulation of disputed titles.

    See http://ajds.org.au/node/189

    and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Jarrah#Property_disputes


    If Israel was serious about the protecting the rights of minorities, including the multicultural Jerusalem. Instead, the city wants to break up Arab neighbourhoods entirely.

    I also know a priest who lives not far away, and he is sickened by the encroachment on his rights to live a peaceful life instead of fearing religious zealots. Maybe you think that he doesn’t belong there as well? I suggest you look at the ancient mosaics in his Church and you will see that his mob has been there continuously.

    There is one law for Jews, one for others in these matters. It makes a mockery of all the talk of Israel being a democracy. It all smacks of the worst sort of patronization of people who you would much rather would just disappear.

    These sorts of disputes breed hatred, violence, and are a provocation, similar to those in Hebron.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Vivienne – here’s Shlomo Avineri on this, in a discussion that also transcends the yukky tag:


    “Anyone who rejects the Jews’ right to define themselves as a nation denies them a fundamental human right, to which Jews, just like the Palestinians, are entitled. Arab refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state attests to something very deep and troubling: unwillingness to accept the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.

    Because what is at issue is national identity, not religious identity, there can indeed be a Jewish democratic state, just as there can be an Arab democratic state. That, incidentally, is what is written in the constitution of Lebanon, an Arab state that, for all its problems, maintains a political system based on elections and democratic principles.

    Clause B of the Preamble to the Lebanese Constitution declares: “Lebanon is Arab in its identity and in its associations.” Clause D stipulates: “The people are the source of authority and sovereignty.” In other words, Lebanon views itself as an Arab, democratic state.

    The constitutions of Syria and Egypt also define their countries’ identities as Arab and their systems of government as democratic. While there are, to say the least, problems with the democratic aspect of these countries’ regimes, it is nonetheless clear that the drafters of the Syrian and Egyptian constitutions believed that, in principle, there is no contradiction in a state being both Arab and democratic.

    And so Arab and democratic is fine, but Jewish and democratic is not? In my dictionary, there is a whiff of racism in this distinction. ”

    I think “Arab” nationalism as distinct from say Syrian, Egyptian or Lebanese nationalism (which would each be purely civic nationalism) has the same mix of cultural, religious, and nationalist dimensions as is present in Jewish ethnic nationalism.

  • Ari says:


    So essentially you agree that there should be different laws for Jews and for Bedouins based on community circumstance? One group should be allowed to build freely without government interference and another should be demolished because the Bedouins the government interference hurts their communities but for the settlers it does not. Shouldn’t the law be applied equally?
    Your claim regarding the Bedouins is far from the facts on the ground. The Bedouins of the Negev are not forced to leave when dwelling impermantly in tents but rather entire villages have been built illegaly over vast tracts of land from north of Beer Sheva to very far south. It is difficult in such circumstances to understand your division in Law.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Mandi, the key objection, as it has been since the 1920s, is that Local Palestinians object to such a state being established on their turf–which they also have claim to. Any such legal dominance will affect their rights–as Ruth gavison made clear in her talk, Jewish interests come first.

    That is why a secular constitution that is neither Palestinian or Jewish is a compromise position. Subparts of it recognize the rights of each to its ‘home’ as long as it does not affect the rights of the others.

    Palestinians particularly object to the current situation as a fait accompli because they argue the legal and on-the-ground situation is completely unequal and will continue to be so as long as there is a confusion beween nationality and ethnicity/religion.
    Omar Bargouti speaks of both communities as ‘neither masters nor slaves’.

  • Larry,

    You sound like the shadchan who goes to the mother and suggests Prince Charles for her daughter (yes, it’s an old story). They argue for hours and finally the mother agrees to allow her daughter to go out with him. The shadchan leaves the house, breathes a sigh of relief, and says to himself “half done!”

    Who is less likely to accept your model of a secular, bi-national state? Jews or Palestinians?

  • Larry Stillman says:


    I’d much rather spend billions on building a relationship that ends up in a VACT kind of situation when it comes to property settlements than billions on war.

    Which ones will accept it? It appears there are plenty of Palestinian political types and intellectuals who support such a framework–and they are explict about Jewish rights. Palestinians have talked about a secular state for a long long time, but only recently (I could be wrong, have people dealt with details rather than slogans).

    The number of Israelis up front about this is small, but we see enough through the media to know that it is going around as a possibility.

    It takes bravery, that’s the point, to go though all the issues–and I think the key issue is security. If it can be demonstated that security is guaranteed for Jewish communities-an conversely, Palestinans don’t feel threatened, it may well appeal to many people. This is where the role of the international community is important as trust keepers and peacemakers.

    But I don’t know if it it will be one state or two states, that is not the point–the point is to develop equality and trust.

    Read the Geneva accords, including the annexes. http://www.geneva-accord.org/. there is internationally supported work going on all the time. But due to the wisdom of the community fathers, we never hear about this.

    I’d much rather in fact we could have local Ps &Js (!) talking about the accord.

    Perhaps Kevin Rudd could run the consultation?

    Accord principles:

    * End of conflict. End of all claims.
    * Mutual recognition of Israeli and Palestinian right to two separate states.
    * A final, agreed upon border.
    * A comprehensive solution to the refugee problem.
    * Large settlement blocks and most of the settlers are annexed to Israel, as part of a 1:1 land swap.
    * Recognition of the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and recognition of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
    * A demilitarized Palestinian state.
    * A comprehensive and complete Palestinian commitment to fighting terrorism and incitement.
    * An international verification group to oversee implementation.


    The Geneva Initiative is a model permanent status agreement between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine.

    The accord presents a comprehensive and unequivocal solution to all issues vital to ensuring the end of the conflict. Adopting the agreement and implementing it would bring about a solution to the historical conflict, a new chapter in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and, most importantly, the realization of the national visions of both parties.

    1. Mutual recognition:

    As part of the accord, the Palestinians recognize the right of the Jewish people to their own state and recognize the State of Israel as their national home. Conversely, the Israelis recognize the Palestinian state as the national home of the Palestinian people.

    2. Borders and settlements:

    * The border marked on a detailed map is final and indisputable.
    * According to the accord and maps, the extended borders of the State of Israel will include Jewish settlements currently beyond the Green Line, Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and territories with significance for security surrounding Ben Gurion International Airport. These territories will be annexed to Israel on agreement and will become inseparable from it.
    * In return to the annexation of land beyond the 1967 border, Israel will hand over alternative land to the Palestinian, based on a 1:1 ratio. The lands annexed to the Palestinian State will be of equal quality and quantity.

    3. Jerusalem:

    * The parties shall have their mutually recognized capitals in the areas of Jerusalem under their respective sovereignty.
    * The Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be under Israeli sovereignty, and the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be under Palestinian sovereignty.
    * The parties will commit to safeguarding the character, holiness, and freedom of worship in the city.
    * The parties view the Old City as one whole enjoying a unique character. Movement within the Old City shall be free and unimpeded subject to the provisions of this article and rules and regulations pertaining to the various holy sites.
    * There shall be no digging, excavation, or construction on al-Haram al-Sharif / the Temple Mount, unless approved by the two parties.
    * A visible color-coding scheme shall be used in the Old City to denote the sovereign areas of the respective Parties.
    * Palestinian Jerusalemites who currently are permanent residents of Israel shall lose this status upon the transfer of authority to Palestine of those areas in which they reside.

    4. International Supervision:

    An Implementation and Verification Group (IVG) shall be established to facilitate, assist in, guarantee, monitor, and resolve disputes relating to the implementation of the agreement. As part of the IVG, a Multinational Force (MF) shall be established to provide security guarantees to the parties. To perform the functions specified in this agreement, the MF shall be deployed in the state of Palestine.

    5. Refugees:

    The agreement provides for the permanent and complete resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem, under which refugees will be entitled to compensation for their refugee status and for loss of property, and will have the right to return to the State of Palestine. The refugees could also elect to remain in their present host countries, or relocate to third countries, among them Israel, at the sovereign discretion of third countries.

    6. Security:

    Palestine and Israel shall each recognize and respect the other’s right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from the threat or acts of war, terrorism and violence. Both sides shall prevent the formation of irregular forces or armed bands, and combat terrorism and incitement. Palestine shall be a non-militarized state, with a strong security force.

  • Ari says:

    All of the accords in the world will not work unless there is trust and international backing of Israeli security. As time goes on, time and again, we are shown that the Palestinians cannot be trusted and that the world will not stand up behind Israel’s legitimate security needs.
    The reason that over the last 15 years there has been a large increase in the number of soldiers required to guard the settlements(I have friends who recall in needing only 3 soldiers and an officer to keep law and order in a Palestinian village and that now you don’t enter one unless you have 3 battalions) and essentially the citizens of the rest of Israel is due to the fact that the Palestinians were given weapons and freedom to train for attacks on Israelis. The old left wing argument that it takes many more soldiers to guard the number of settlers is unfounded for those reasons. 1. The soldiers guard the rest of Israel when they guard the settlers. 2. That number is required today due to the left wing governments of the past.
    And so we are stuck in a situation where there is no one on the Palestinian side who even has the agencies to rule, no who can necessarily be trusted and a world who denegrate our right to self defense. Unfortunately it seems like we’re a long way off and bantering about as though Yasser Arafat didn’t reject peace, as though there were never murderous suicide bombers and as though Hamas didn’t come to power after the disengagement is a waste of time.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Undermining a society under occupation breeds revolt. Baruch Kimmerling called it a deliberate policy of ‘politicide’ that has very little to do with Israel’s security needs.

    See also http://www.btselem.org/English/Publications/Summaries/201007_By_Hook_and_by_Crook.asp for what’s been happening on the West Bank.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ari, I started off commenting on this site, taking the position that settlements in the West Bank are a real obstacle to the peace process because I believe that Israel and Palestine (whatever that means) have to find a way to build trust and to reach agreement and I think settlements completely undermine any such trust.

    If you were a Palestinian trying to get on with your life in Ramallah or Nablus, in spite of the limitation of such a life, why would you have any trust in Israel’s intentions to honour a just settlement if you saw evidence of ongoing settlement activity well beyond Israel proper. Trust is a two way thing.
    Even the language of “freezing” settlement activity is problematic. I heard a Palestinian woman explaining how to her that implies that the time will come to “defrost” the stop order and restart settlement activity.I imagine that’s exactly the political intention behind that language.

    You speak of the need to “to keep law and order in a Palestinian village” – Israel has no place keeping law and order in Palestinian villages where the “disorder” is in response to an illegal Jewish presence in the village.

    And Palestinians are looking for non violent alternatives, because violence hasn’t worked for them either. And the world will support Palestinian non violent activity, including boycotts.

    I got distracted in the course of this discussion because of Vivienne’s flippant dismissal of the heart of Zionism. Wrong distraction.

    I am going to quote a friend who writes very insightfully about Israel and I think is spot on here :
    “The BDS movement is also inextricably bound with the language of binationalism, a double delegitimisation of Israel. Jews who make excuses for the status quo are feeding into this agenda.”

    I really believe this and I believe that when you make excuses for what is inexcusable (the subjugation of other people through use of force), you play into the hands of those who deny the very legitimacy of Jewish nationalism.

    Jews have always needed to be adaptible. Out tremendous cultural diversity is a testament to our ability to adapt without losing the essence of who we are.

    Many Israelis have long ago adapted to the idea that the idea of a greater Israel is unjust, not viable, and damaging to Israel’s democratic character. Its time for Zionists out of Israel to get honest about that.

  • ariel says:


    Sorry about taking so long on this, but I wasn’t at my computer all weekend…

    The Greens candidate in Wentworth – when asked what the fate of Jerusalem would be under Green’s policy – answered that “we support the 1948 borders as mandated by the United Nations with Jerusalem as an international city”.

    I understand this to mean the partition plan.

    When he was asked about how minorities are treated in Arab countries – especially homosexuals in Iran – he answered with an ambivalent “well, we’re concerned about it”.

    Would that the world would spend all its resources on fixing real problems rather than blaming the easy target of Israel for everything.

    I suspect they know that its because when they criticise Israel, there won’t be a fatwa issued against them and they won’t be burnt and beaten (c.f. mohammed cartoons, theo van gogh and many other situations).

    By the way, I’m still waiting for the rich gulf states to help the Palestinians in some way…

  • Steve Brook says:

    > Author: ariel
    > Comment:
    > Some good news for everyone…
    > http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=184838
    >Autonomy fine…between equals. But a separate health service? Does streptomycin work differently on Jews and on Arabs? How can sharpening the Palestinian sense of difference be “good news”? Can no-one even begin to understand why Palestinians resent what they see as the Occupation?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    In the old days, it was called enlightening colonialism. Then colonialism got a bad name, so it was not spoken of.

    The occupation was ‘marketed’ as benign and in fact good for its underdeveloped Palestinian subjects who were abandoned by other Arabs (who of course, had no legal obligation towards them, moral considerations aside).

    But in fact, the occupation had one key aim–permanent annexation of the west bank. The established of I think nearly 200 different kinds of settlement made absolutely no economic sense because of the infrastructure and security costs, but it made complete ideological sense.

    See Yiftachel

  • ariel says:


    to rephrase your own question:
    But a separate health service? Does streptomycin work differently on Australians and Papuans?

    The whole point is for them to become an independent, self-reliant entity!

    And if you had actually read the article, you would see that the entire project is spear headed by the Palestinian Health Ministry, in opposition to the Israelis!!!

  • Akiva says:

    no time to comment at length, dammit –

    but, Larry, Mandi – keep up the good work. I know how hard it is, but there ARE people out here who listen and agree with you, but are too often shouted down to speak out about their concerns.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Akiva, since you are a scribe, WRITE (to rip off an old label.

    I just came across this bit of writing in a long review of a book by Meron Benvenisti by Avi Shlaim (both of whom are considered beyond the pale by teh nationalists. It is from 1995 and discusses the first Indifadah and many other matters that we now forget —

    The whole text is subject to copyright by the London Review of Books unless you are a subscriber, but see this below [–http://www.lrb.co.uk/v17/n23/avi-shlaim/overtaken-by-events]. if anyone wants the entire text, find my email on the interweb.

    “Israel’s entire policy of building settlements in the Occupied Territories was always certain to lead to friction and animosity. Initially confined to the Jordan Valley in accordance with security imperatives and the classic Zionist doctrine of avoiding as far as possible heavily populated Arab areas, Labour’s settlement policy soon developed a momentum of its own. It also paved the way for the policy pursued by the Likud and the national religious parties from 1977 onwards, which was to build settlements everywhere in the West Bank, including the heavily populated Arab areas. Judea and Samaria in their view were not occupied territories but liberated territories. For them it was out of the question to prohibit Jewish settlements in places of Biblical resonance like Beit El, Shiloh and Hebron. Labour Governments established 34 settlements in the territories: the Likud Governments that followed Labour in 1977-85, and the National Unity Governments in which Labour and Likud were partners 32. The end result was a settlement map that significantly reduced the scope for carrying out the Labour Party’s original plan of territorial compromise.

    Benvenisti compares the Israelis’ attitude to the territories occupied by their army in 1967 to the idea of the ‘frontier’ in American history: as a border region beyond the pale of civilisation, inhabited by natives who did not constitute a society with political rights and were incapable of spiritual attachment to the land. Ethnic attachment to the ‘frontier’ region conquered in 1967 was, he claims, instantaneous and endorsed by all elements of the Israeli-Jewish political culture. This is an overstatement. The truth of the matter is that Israeli society was, and remains, deeply divided in its attitude to the ‘frontier’ region.”

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Perhaps the ‘silent majority’ would care to read Amos Oz’s words on the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev. It seems to me that the silence of so many who look at Galus on this issue is an endorsement of the Israel government–or you just turn your heads away and pretend it has nothing to do with you….


  • יהודי says:

    Part of Hebron has been liberated. It is the nation of Israel’s land- exclusively. If Arabs are suffering, it is because they don’t recognize that and fight against us.

    The irony of it all is that almost every kibbutz in pre-1967 Israel is built on land that was taken from the Arabs- that they still claim, and same with parts of Tel Aviv, including Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv’s Municipality, and the Kiryah (Israel’s Defense Ministry)- right next to the Azrieli towers.

  • Steve Brook says:

    Dear Yahudi:

    Which part of the “nation of Israel” owns part of Hebron? The wage workers? The businessmen? The dentists? The layabouts? The Believers? The Atheists? All of them? It all boils down to a bitter squabble over real estate — who got there first, whose God was the donor, who fired the first shot. Kindergarten stuff, except that real people are hurting and dying because of it.

  • יהודי says:

    This is what the Arabs of Hebron did in 1929; murdering 67 Jews, raping, pillaging- and would do again in a heartbeat if they could:

    Cafferata, not a friend of the Jews, testified:

    “On hearing screams in a room I went up a sort of tunnel passage and saw an Arab in the act of cutting off a child’s head with a sword. He had already hit him and was having another cut, but on seeing me he tried to aim the stroke at me, but missed; he was practically on the muzzle of my rifle. I shot him low in the groin. Behind him was a Jewish woman smothered in blood with a man I recognized as a[n Arab] police constable named Issa Sherif from Jaffa in mufti. He was standing over the woman with a dagger in his hand….

    (Bernard Wasserstein, The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict 1917-1929, Oxford England, Basil Blackwell, 1991)

    …Suddenly, just one hour before candle lighting, pandemonium broke loose. Window panes were smashed on all sides. In our building, they broke every window and began throwing large stones inside. We hid ourselves. They were breaking windows in all the Jewish homes. Now we were in deathly fear. As we were blessing the Shabbes candles, we heard that in the Yeshiva one young man had been killed. It was bitter, the beginning of a slaughter.

    …On Shabbes morning, we saw that the situation was getting worse. Cars kept racing back and forth through the streets. They were filled with Arabs armed with long iron bars, long knives, and axes. The Arabs kept screaming that they were going to Jerusalem to slaughter all the Jews. Soon many Jews gathered in our house. We held a meeting and talked over the situation, but couldn’t think of anything we could do to protect ourselves, since none of us had any weapons. Many of the people remained in our house, because by then it was too dangerous to try to go home.

    Now let me tell you about the massacre. Right after eight o’clock in the morning we heard screams. Arabs had begun breaking into Jewish homes. The screams pierced the heart of the heavens….

    …we realized that we were still in danger because by that time the Arabs had almost reached our house. They were going from door to door, slaughtering everyone who was inside. The screams and the moans were terrible. People were crying Help! Help! But what could we do? There were thirty‑three of us. Soon, soon, all of us would be lost.


  • יהודי says:

    Steve Brook,

    The nation as a whole owns the land- not just Hebron.

    People died when we didn’t control our city.

  • יהודי says:

    One of the best posts going around the web is this:

    The simple fact is that the Philistines could have had a state in peace, but chose war on MANY occasions- INSTEAD:

    The Philistines would have had a state IN PEACE in 1937 with the Peel Plan, but they violently rejected it.

    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1939 with the MacDonald White Paper, but they violently rejected it (and Jews would have even been restricted from BUYING land from Arabs).

    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 1948 with UN 181, but they violently rejected it (and actually claimed that the UN had no such mandate!).

    They could have had a state IN PEACE in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza from 1948-1967 without any Jews- because the Arabs had ethnically cleansed every last one; but they violently rejected it. In fact, that’s exactly when they established Fatah (1959) and the PLO (1964).

    They could have had a state IN PEACE after 1967, but instead, the entire Arab world issued the Khartoum Resolutions:

    A. No peace with Israel
    B. No recognition of Israel
    C. No negotiations with Israel

    They would have had a state IN PEACE in 2000 with the Oslo Accords, but they violently rejected it- as always.

    The issue isn’t a piece of land. The Arabs won’t accept Israel as a sovereign nation in any part of the land of Israel.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Reading the comments from those who oppose even recognizing Palestinian as human being, and the use of an account of the Hebron massacre as a means of justifying oppression, I am reminded of the mirror image of these people in racist Jihadists and Islamists who will use accounts of what happened in Deir Yassin to say exactly the same thing.

    (I’m going to skip their ‘history’ of the conflict, and focus on their politics towards Palestinians)

    There is nothing we can do with these such fringe Jews, except withdraw, as much as we can, any support, particularly resources, for the venomous, intolerant and racist views of each group of people. They are opposed to democracy and equality.

    They are much the same as people who have justified racism and extermination of other groups of people throughout history-certainly, Yehudi’s views using the term ‘Philistine’ represent a religiously-based attitude.

    It is one of the worst things that the unresolved ideological tensions in Zionism and the occupation since 1967 have given some Jews the opportunity to think and act from such viewpoint.

    Yehudi’s name links to a website from the extreme, fascist right of religous politics in Israel (Moledet), which supports ethnic cleansing and has links to the extreme crazy Christian right in the US.

    Should we be pleased or disgusted that such people have joined in the conversation? I hope that even local relgious Zionists won’t have a bar of the racist garbage peddled by such people who are only a few steps away from the Kahanist Kach party.

  • יהודי says:


    Please don’t put words in my mouth. It should be beneath you to have to stoop to something so low. Nobody says that they’re not human beings.

    They try to oppress, so they suffer.

    As to Deir Yassin, by now you should know that it was a lie- that they themselves admit:

    Interviews: 50th Anniversary Of Deir Yassin Massacre

    In retrospect, Palestinians of today admit that one of the most terrible mistakes they made back in 1948 was to over-report the details of the Deir Yassin massacre. “The goal was to mobilize Arab support for the Palestinians who were slaughtered by the Zionists but what really happened was that more and more Palestinians became scared and left their country,” said Hazem Nusseibeh, a leading Palestinian figure who currently lives in Jordan. In 1948 he was among the key figures of the city of Jerusalem.

    …”True, there was exchange of fire with the Jews. Prior to the attack, they used to come to the village and distribute leaflets calling for the establishment of friendly and brotherly relations with us offering a formula of ‘do not hit us, we won’t hit you.’ Our youths confronted them and did not listen to them. Our youths used to go out to the eastern side of the village and beat up whatever Jew they saw.”

    …Mohammed Asaad Radwan Al Yassini, 70, who currently lives in the Old City of Jerusalem, confirmed that some of the men were dressed in women’s outfits.

    …Did they use speakers and what did they say?

    “They called on us to surrender, to throw our weapons and to save ourselves. But we did not imagine them breaking into the village.

    …Ali Yousef Jaber, Abu Yousef, is also 70 years old. He lives in Am’ari refugee camp near Ramallah. Excerpts below:

    “I would like to stress on the fact that no rape incidents took place. That was part of a big lie that some of the Arabs and some of our leaders invented but were refuted by our villagers. I was among a group of people who went to Saad Eddin Al Aref to talk to him about this. He told us he wanted to frame them and attribute to them a brutal crime. I said to him: if you want to frame them, do not use Deir Yassin, or our women. Do not attribute to us something that never happened, otherwise this is infamy that our village and its people do not deserve…


    And I see you have no answer to the fact that the Arabs violently rejected statehood in the Jewish homeland many many times. Either you are unaware of it or you cannot face the fact that the issue isn’t their “rights”: It’s them trying to deprive the Jews of their rights.

    Never let truth get in the way, Larry.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Larry I wouldn’t bother addressing the substance of what they say.you’re just inviting more ad hominem commentary which has no place in civilised discussion.

    One comment worth making – when you published this, comments were made that its not the biggest issue. I think this hateful commentary points to why tacit support of settler activity is such a big issue.

    I’m not saying all settlers share the views expressed here but readers who support a Jewish presence in Hevron might want to think about what kind of people could care to live in Hevron, where their ability to move freely depends on the thousands of residents who were born there, and whose parents were born there, being locked up in their homes under military curfew. What is the government of Israel doing supporting these people in any way,shape or form. And yes the residents of Hevron are unwelcoming, intolerant and all of that. They are also stateless refugees. Readers who are sympathetic to the view that the locals are ‘violent’ might think about what it means to live without citizenship and to live with your human rights curtailed on a daily basis.

    And the big brave Jewish settlers – accompanied by he might of the Israeli army, many of whose soldiers do not what to be doing that work – lord it over the locals, and then people ask “why do they hate us?”

    And Yehudi himself is one such brave fellow – hiding behind a pseudonym and hiding behind religion to avoid accountability for his inhumanity.

  • 1. Yehudi makes some challenging comments. Given the Palestinians’ record of time and again “missing opportunities” and rejecting every offer that could have led to improved circumstances for their people, it does seem reasonable to say that any plan that does not include the destruction of Israel will not be accepted (and bear in mind that now we have both the PA and Hamas to deal with). This makes much of the debate about different models for one- or two- state solutions a little moot. So assuming (for argument’s sake, if you like) that Israel is dealing with entities committed to its destruction, what should Israel do?

    2. There seems to be confusion between cause and effect here. Do they hate us because of “the occupation”, or have they always hated us, and “the occupation” makes it worse?


    Dear יהודי

    SOME Arabs in Hebron committed atrocities and massacred Jews in 1929. OTHER Arabs in Hebron actually protected and saved Jews. Let’s look at the whole picture!

  • ariel says:


    You’re actually right about the minority who protected Jews.
    I’ve always said they (and others since) should be made Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Anonymous Yehudi,

    Yes, the rapes were exaggerated, but you cut the entire article. There was a planned massacre.


    With respect to the non-recognition of Israel etc. Time after time, in multiple proposals for peace plans, neighbouring states have said they would recognize Israel.

    For example one of the most important of these is the Arab Peace Inititiative first proposed in 2002, reendorsed in 2oo7.


    As another example, Syria and Israel have come close to an agreement
    and Barack has said that this is still possible.

    What the right in Israeli, the US and elsewhere particularly objects to is that this means and end to the occupation and the subsidized lifestyle of Jews on the West bank.

  • ariel says:


    Both Arafat in 2000 and Abbas in 2007 refused to countenance any agreement with the clause “END OF CLAIMS AND CONFLICT”.

    That is what the so-called “right” has a problem with. An end to conflict sounds like a good old-fashioned left wing clause to me…

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Of course no one who takes a real interest in Israel could dispute that Palestinian leaders have wasted opportunities for justice – and while there are very different perspectives about what was offered at each intersection, it is fair to say that Palestinians would be a lot better off if they had accepted any of those offers. None of which changes that there is no excuse for the way Palestinians are frequently treated in Israel and far far far more so in the West Bank. Checkpoints which humiliate, roads which discriminate and divide up the West Bank to service settlers, and a wall (which I think has to be there) but which weaves around population and land, to get the most land with the least people and the best access to water and other resources – all in breach of international law and comprehensively documented by Israeli human rights organisations.

    And of course you are right on the issue of who Israel can negotiate with which is why serious commentators are not confident of the prospects of a negotiated settlement any time soon. The comments that Obama and Clinton are pushing Israel too far too soon make sense. But many believe that Israel needs to build ‘facts on the ground’ that are consistent with a just peace, and which ameliorate rather than increase the human impact of the occupation which also damages Israel, as it would any country or culture. The much publicised account of Israeli soldiers posting pictures on FB of Palestinian prisoners as trophies’ tells us that there is something rotten. Yes, they are isolated incidents and yes technology means that isolated incidents become world news. But we need to stop fooling ourselves – military occupation is military occupation. .

    And who cares what we think. Well, we do.What Zionism means among other things is that I have better rights to Israeli citizenship than Palestinians born in the West Bank. That’s not nothing. We have to be honest with ourselves about the creeping ‘annexation’ and Israel’s role in permitting the facts on the ground to become facts which suit expansionist policies and which undermine Palestinian entitlements – which I believe are not eroded by the rejection in the past of Israeli offers And we have to account to ourselves for the cost , for other people, of our tacit support for those policies and actions. The difficulty is doing that in a world which demonises Israel. I was struck by these words by Raymond Gaita (in the intro to the volume on Gaza which he edited) which express brilliantly why people are so unwilling to speak against the actions of the Israeli government – even though so many people in Israel share their dissenting views.

    “One can denounce as criminal the actions and policies of successive Israeli governments while not being an anti-semite. One can be an anti-Zionist while not being an anti-semite…As obviously true as all that is however, none of it tells us how often anti-Zionism is an expression of ant-semitism…”

    So bunker mentality versus relentless demonisation of Zionism and Israel at the UN, in the media and now with boycotts in the wind against Israel – and the world is silent and uninterested in the far worse conduct of so many obnoxious nations.


    Hi, Mandy, the Israeli soldiers’ group Breaking the Silence tells us that the contempt and humiliation shown in the recent Israeli woman soldier’s photographs are not isolated but typical. The 2008 onslaught on Gaza tells us that.

    Yes, the question of antisemitism is indeed complicated. As Professor Clive Kessler once said, ‘Antisemitism can manifest as anti-Zionism and anti-Zionism can appear as antisemitism.”


    Ariel, I think it was the thugs who committed the massacre in Hebron who were the minority. Most stayed in their homes terrified.

  • Mohan replies says:

    However moderate, birthright is problematic and discrminatory. These persons have little or no organic connection with the land. They are 10th or whatever generation Australians or Europeans or Americans, Canadians. It is promoting aparthied to say thay have some right “by birth” superior to that of the indigenous people of the land who cannot move freely or even return to the places they were displaced from.

    I expect the ususal torrent of abuse and slander. I would however be pleasantly surprised if there is a principled debate.

  • Steve Brook says:

    Indeed, Mohan, I wonder if birthright exists at all. I was born in Hackney, in London’s East End, but have never felt that this gave me any claim on the area, except as a source of memories and occasional boasting.

    What we have in the Middle East is something entirely different — one population in the process of being displaced by another, with both populations victims of an unchangeable history.

  • Mohan replies two says:

    Sorry Steve history is not unchanging. Things will change – for the better or the worse. probably for the worse because the lone superpower is openly or tacitly endorsing the expansion of settlements. The Palestinians will find their territory shrink further, the wealthier will escape to the West, the rest will become refugee camps in neighbouring countries, die fighting or end up like Native Americans or Australian Aborigines in small isolated pockets. The death od a nation is what is most probable unless there is some dramatic change in the situation – the left might re-emerge as a power in Israel, the US imperium might crumble and collapse – neither imminent, but sudden changes have happened and could happen.

  • Steve Brook says:

    Mohan — in my view, what has already happened cannot be changed, only perhaps re-interpreted. This is completed history. The future hasn’t happened yet, and of course is history in the making. Today’s Jews are the creation of their own history, as the Palestinians are of theirs. But these are not watertight compartments, and there’s been a lot of interaction between the two peoples, most of it tragically negative. The Palestinians did not come into being as a nation until the establishment of Israel gave them a common enemy, a basic ingredient of nationhood, along with language and religion. Only an agreed common territory is missing from the Palestinian equation, and this is at the root of the conflict.

  • Mohan replies two says:

    Hello Steve – ragrding “nationhood”, I am glad you make a distinctionbetween the modern usage and the ancient where it could mean a tribe, religion, village or a confederation of clans. Palestinian nationhood predates the formation of Israel – in the struggle against the mandate rule. There have been national clubs, assemblies et al which made a beginning. The sense of nationhood was probably heightened after the Balfour declaration and settlements.

    As for agreed territory, the 1967 borders are what most Palestinians would accept, as well meet the expectations of the Arab league offer of full diplomatic relations. But there is no need for Israel to accept it given the enormous power of the US behind it. So there is the continued game of talks, shelved agreements, agreements in principle, road maps, peace process etc while the facts on the ground settlements, land seizure, barrier, military structures, exclusive highways continue alongside the talk.

    Ten, twenty years down the line one cannot even visualise two states, unless it means a series of unconnected enclaves with no territoril contiguity.

  • frosh says:

    I never realised that Narendra Mohan was such a strong believer in the nation-state.

  • How intriguing that this discussion started up again during the weekend corresponding to the Torah reading of Vayetzei (Genesis 28:10ff), which relates Jacob’s dream of the ladder (which took place at the site of the Temple mount), and where God reiterated His promise to give the land to Jacob and his descendants. Now that is a birthright!

  • Marky says:

    “the 1967 borders are what most palestinians would accept”

    Even if this were true, the others that won’t accept would definitely continue violence e.g hamas and all the other lovely people, who have said so. So what would it help to return to 1967??

    And prior to June 1967, the arabs had all the so called “occupied territorries”. So they must have been truly satified. Maybe in your dreams. They were shouting for Tel Aviv.

    For anyone to say that to return to 1967 borders will fix it, is either living in la la land, or lying.

    The fact is Israel has never attacked anyone unprovoked, hence the Palestinians’ suffering is in their own hands.

  • Marky says:

    Thanks, David, for reminding us what is in the Parshe. Obviously, Mohan came late to Shul and missed that part of Krias Hatorah :-)

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Marky, your comment was meant to be flippant, but in fact, if reflects a deep part of the problem of the deliberate exclusion of others from a) their rights b) being able to have a common conversation. Think how upset you would be if sometime made N.T. or koranic insider jokes like that when talking to you.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    sorry, that should be someone made N.T. or koranic insider jokes when talking to you.

  • Marky says:

    Tut tut… typical brewing a storm in a teacup and THAT is the deep part of the problem. Maybe it’s you being too long in the African jungle…

    This is a Jewish blog and what I wrote was as you say-flippant- and I was not about to have a common conversation with anyone about that particular post.

    And yes, I do have conversations with other cultures and religions who do make insider jokes between themselves and vice versa, sometimes when talking to me. I have a lot of contact with them, and have never been insulted and in fact they enjoy backchat from me. I imagine your conversations with other cultures are very prim and proper and downright boring.

    So…..get a life(and no, you are not getting a smiley from me this time……)

  • Marky says:

    …….and what is N.T?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    That is my point. You have been using exclusionary language. New Testament is N.T. All the more reason for trying to see ‘the problem’ as a common issue that requires a political, not a religious solution. Actually, I really don’t know what a ‘Jewish blog’ means, because many secular Jews would not get your allusions. Care is needed.

    This site may have Jewish editors and writers, but I suggest being ontologically exclusionary in a way that others can’t participate is not the intention of the editors. Life isn’t just having conversations or funny jokes with other people, it is about going through a considerable and difficult process of consciousness raising about the ‘other’ and practicing respect and tolerance and the promotion of rights for all.

    It is something that my collegues in South Africa have at least gone through in moving from a racially structured society to one that is trying in a very difficult way to develop a non-racial path and it is something that many people in the Jewish community in Australia would benefit from paying attention to when they consider the situation in Israel and in Australia as well.

    So lay off the jungle jokes.

    It is not particularly funny on a public website, and my African colleagues would not find it particularly amusing either. Perhaps I am harsh on you but I suppose seeing beggars of all colours today in your alleged ‘jungle’ of Pretoria has made me realize once again, how insular, cosseted and protected is Jewish life in both Australia and South Africa , and how disconnected most of our lives are from the profound inequalities in the world. In pursuit and in defense of profit, we perpetuate that inequality.

    But that is another matter.

    I wish instead, you would take seriously the point I was making in the article that is what these postings are supposed to be about: that is, Chabad propogandizing to young people a form of privilege that depends on the the oppression of the population around them.

  • Marky says:

    Tell me, are all academics like you? Someone says something in humour and for that he gets bombarded with 3 sunday sermons!! Yes, there are serious things being discussed and I have also contributed in other posts. But to go on about a bit of humour, how stuffy can you get?

    And I wasn’t talking about the jungle of Pretoria with the beggars. I meant the Jungle with the lions and tigers and elephants, so stop finding new criticisms of me re politics of South Africa, which I never said.

    And I wasn’t the one who brought up the religious solution, but I am the one who all your wrath was unloaded on. Go figure!

  • Mandi Katz says:

    oi Marky – no tigers in Africa!

  • Larry,

    Your comment shows how little you understand of the extent of the view that “biblical” Israel is the God-given birthright of the Jews. This is not “Chabad propaganda”, but rather a mainstream Jewish viewpoint, and one particularly well articulated by Ben Gurion himself!

    Our privilege vis a vis the land of Israel is not dependent on the oppression of others. The suffering of the Palestinians is a problem hoisted upon Israel by the Arab world, who choose to use them as a pawn to destroy Israel. There was no global outcry between 1948 and 1967, when they were under the rule of Egypt & Jordan, and even today, no-one fights for the rights of Palestinians being kept in awful conditions in Lebanon, Syria, etc etc etc.

  • Marky says:

    Mandi, touche!

  • Larry Stillman says:

    But David, the privilege is dependent on the oppression of people who were born there and who have much more right than you or me. To cover this with any form of religious obfuscation (particularly in a place like Hebron) is deeply problematic. And of course, the attachment to the land of Israel can be interpreted in many ways as you well know. It is not absolute for all people, and many of course doubt its historicity and guidence as a platform for politics today.

    You know my POV, I know yours. The occupation is losing Israel its credibility as a democracy. If you are happy with Israel as a military theocracy then, well…

    Marky, if you are looking for stuffy academics you are looking at the wrong person. But think about your cultural jokes and references before going public.

  • Larry,

    It is no more dependent on the oppression of others than that of the indigenous people in Australia, USA, and so many other places. Does that delegitimize those countries as nation states?

    Look around the Middle East – what countries most resemble military theocracies? What country is the most democratic? Your proposition is quite absurd!

    Yes, we each have our views and come from a very different set of assumptions. You in your way, mine in His … ;)

  • Marky says:

    “Marky if you are looking for stuffy academics you are looking at the wrong person. Think about your cultural jokes and references before going public”

    Re the former, nothing you have said has yet convinced me otherwise. Re the latter I will take your advice when it pleases me.

  • Mohan replies two says:

    Frosh! Nation states exist wheter one believs in them or not. Like the weather, roads, buildings, the round earth etc. What are otherwise called facts.

    One can choose to disbelieve in gravity and jump out of window to prove one’s point.

  • Mohan replies Marky says:

    Who would join Hamas if there is a country, its own elections, legislature, economy etc. Hamas has commietd crimes, but it had alco observed an unilateral ceasefire. And the fourth biggest military power with the backing of USA, Germany, Australia et al has little to fear from a militia that will be compelled to transform into a political party contesting elections and the like in its own country. Afterall the Irgun, Lehi et al have converted into the Likud block.

  • Steve Brook says:

    Humor is not a laughing matter.

  • Marky says:

    Mohan, it would be nice if it was as you say. However, in real life it looks highly unlikely. I just think back to pre 1967 when the Arabs were not satisfied with what they had. Also with a hamas government in power the 1976 borders would not be enough for them. And even if they were not in government, no government could keep them in check. We have also seen strong armies with strong backing can not stop violence.

    The palistinians would need to first prove themselves a lot more.

  • Marky says:

    I meant 1967

  • Mohan replies Marky says:

    Devid Werdiger you are mixing fact and religious doctrine – evne that doubtful as the ultraorthodox do not accept the creation of Israel. And the fact is that Palestinians – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Druze – already existed on the land. Using a religious doctrine to claim superior rights for people with no organic connection to the land is unteneable legally, morally or politically – as it has no universal validity.

    Osama bin Laden too could claim some such right for bombing New York. That will only make it right for bin Laden and his supporters but will not be universally valid.

    The Arabs did not choose to foist the problem, the British did it with the Balfour declaration.

  • Mohan replies Marky says:

    Hello Marky

    There can be peace or logic with your argument. Israel’s own actions shows it has little to fear from hamas. If it were feeling a threat from Hams, it would strengthen its borders and its defences, not expand territory and place its citizens in the middle of potential Hamas strongholds.

    The fact is that the West cannot win on other’s territory, can you visualise Hamas sending tanks into israel? And the Arab Leagu recognition will mean little support for such attacks and there is the sole superpower behind Israel. Raising unending fears of Hamas while expanding territory into the space of Hamas is irrational or dishonest.

  • Mohan replies Marky says:

    Hello Marky

    There can be no peace or logic with your argument. Israel’s own actions shows it has little to fear from hamas. If it were feeling a threat from Hams, it would strengthen its borders and its defences, not expand territory and place its citizens in the middle of potential Hamas strongholds.

    The fact is that the West cannot win on other’s territory, can you visualise Hamas sending tanks into israel? And the Arab Leagu recognition will mean little support for such attacks and there is the sole superpower behind Israel. Raising unending fears of Hamas while expanding territory into the space of Hamas is irrational or dishonest.

  • Steve Brook says:

    Yes, we each have our views and come from a very different set of assumptions. You in your way, mine in His.

    Thus David Werdiger, establishing his superiority over Larry Stillman through the miracle of typography. Thank G-d I’m an atheist.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Mr Stillman. In a time when Israel needs the support of the Jewish commmunity in the Diaspora the most, why is it that an educate man like yourself refuses to be even ambivilant in his opinion.
    You, like every other person in the world, are entitled to your opinion.
    You, like every other person in the world, are entitled to freedom of speech.
    You, like every other Jew in the world, are obligated to defend Israel; whether that be physically or verbally.

    To be perfectly honest Mr Stillman, I feel that you should spend less time trying to use unnecessary words like: ‘heterogenous’ and ‘antithetical’, and were more concerned about truly understanding the situation that you so calously talk about.

    If you feel that those are your opinions, keep them to yourself. Don’t, as you said, “provide impressionable young people with exposure to” extremist views which could damage their faith in their people.

    My mother always used to say, “if you have nothing nice, don’t say anything at all”
    In terms of speaking negatively in a most uninformed manner like you have done, i think that you should adhere to this notion when it comes to discussing Israel’s politics.

    If you want, come over to Israel and i would be more than happy to explain the situation correctly to you :)

  • Steve Brook says:

    As a semi-educated type of person, I’ve always said that L. Stillman uses too many big words. But here’s Kovi Rose saying that he shouldn’t be using any words at all, especially in relation to Israel. What would happen to this blog if we all took Kovi’s mum’s advice?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    OK, it is a crime to try to use precise language. But I will simiplify. Instead of heterogeneous let’s use diverse and antithetical, let’s say immoral or wrong.

    Then go back and read it all again.

    The point is, some of us think that what Israel does hurts its national interest and it oppresses other people. A lot of the defence arguments are fantasy and play off many convenient manufactured fears and deep and traumatic memories. Furthermore, many Jews confuse religous belief (and I mean here secularized religion as well) & simplistic and insular politics with all sorts of destructive outccomes. It is as simple as that.

    By not speaking out, we end up with military-religious dictatorships. Futhermore, Halacha or Sharia or not the way to conduct international relations, politics, or domestic relations.

    ‘My country /people right or wrong’ based on the unquestioned wisdom of the elders of all sorts is a very dangerous thing to absolutely believe in. I think we all know from history where that leads. Or maybe Kovi was joking.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Steve, i was not saying that we should all blindly follow my mums reasoning… i was, however, arguing that people who are uninformed on a matter as volatile as Israeli politics (especially jews who fit into this category), should think twice before saying anything negative. In other words Steve, Informed criticism = good, uninformed criticism – bad.

    Mr Stillman, i must say that i have absolutely no idea what you are referring to when you say that “A lot of the defence arguments are fantasy and play off many convenient manufactured fears and deep and traumatic memories”; PLEASE EXPLAIN.

    I do agree with you that the secularization of certain religious beliefs has led to a certain amount of fanatically zionism; however it is not simple at all. I personally feel just uncomfortable around fanatics as you seem to be Mr Stillman, however i am put at ease by the fact that the Israeli Knesset – as a democratic body – represents the views of all Israelis; right-wing, left wing, central, arab, and the list goes on.

    Mr Stillman, this time around i can see a bit more logic in your comments; i will not, however, concede that you are correct in your assumptions about the Halacha.

    Israel is a Jewish State, not a state for Jews. Because of this, Israel has been forced for 62 years to play a balancing act between being a democracy and theocracy; an act which i feel they have succeeded well in. In saying this, i feel that Israel has never been, and will never be a military or religious dictatorship.

    Secondly, to compare Halacha and Sharia law in a negative light is just silly. Halacha is twice as old, and is fundamentally based on the ability to interpret, argue and change (just read the Talmud if you don’t believe me).

    Additionally, you cannot assume that nobody in Israel speaks out against the policies – because that is untrue. And in the same way, you cannot assume that Israel conducts diplomacy purely based on the Halacha – because that also is untrue; the majority of the government is not made up of religious fanatics who base every decision on the Halacha.

    With regards to your last point Mr Stillman, i will address it very bluntly.

    You know that there is no law or tradition within Judaism, which requires Jews to blindly follow the advice of elders. As such, most Jews try to understand the meaning behind everything they do, question it, argue, hear different sources, then act.

  • Larry Stillman says:


    I am currently constrained by free time, bandwidth and time zones.

    Where has Israel actually in an unacceptable way military?

    Many argue that the Gaza invasion, as an example the implementation of a shock and awe doctrine was a political-military disaster for the country, and that ‘collateral’ damage is not accidental or incidental, but a deliberate policy thought to be effectual, when in fact, it does not ‘defeat’ a civilian population but only creates more hatred. The doctrine was covered by the ‘existential crisis’ argument: that the enemy (Hamas or rockets) will defeat Israel.

    Norman Finkelstein (who I otherwise find a bit hysterical for my tastes) has written a sombre and forensic account of the Gaza invasion and the ideology and manipulation behind it, but Haaretz has also made many articles in recent years critizing the confusion between justifiable defense, offense and whipping up public fear. Before everyone starts attacking Finkelstein, no one has attacked his book on the Gaza invasion as false.

    As another example, a treaty with Syria could have been signed years ago, but Israel has constantly pulled back despite considerable international support for such a move The issue there is not strategic, but political because increasingly, the Golan is regarded as an integral part of Israel and in terms of popular sentiment, has become linked to a physcial defense..

    To get back to my key point, there is a confusion between national-religious ideologies and real world politics that result in the oppression of other people.

    I know I have been pushing the point on religious influence in Israeli politics, but it has been a manipulative trump card for as long as the state as existed and secular parties have not had a majority. And with people like Lieberman around and other extremists who don’t hesitate to use violence, Israeli democracy is under stress (as the Israel Democracy Institute makes clear in numerous studies).

    I realize you have modified your statement about social responsibility, but you first came out with a statement that put group loyalty based on a religious position above all else.

  • Sam says:

    I have got to agree broadly with the sentiments of Kovi in her criticisms of Larry Stillman’s general point of view. Kovi’s first language is not English I presume, so that asking for simpler language from Larry is very reasonable.

    More importantly, Larry is not even ambivalent as Kovi points out with regard to Israeli politics. It is beyond our control to have to witness anti-Israel propoganda from many sources, but we should not have to endure being undermined from within our own ranks. Of course everyone is entitled to free speech, and this should never change, but if there is even a slight doubt, Jews do themselves and the rest of us considerable harm voicing statements such as this,

    “Where has Israel actually in an unacceptable way military?” and then elaborating.

    which does not read sensibly BTW.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I am sorry for the grammar error –Where has Israel actually in an unacceptable way military? should read Where has Israel actually acted in a miltarily unacceptable way ?

    But I cannot really retract the general thrust of my comments. The occupation demonstrates that the army and other authorities have been turned into instruments of oppression, not defense.

    To take the position “we should not have to endure being undermined from within our own ranks” of course is a complete threat to Israeli democracy and transperancy, and the rule of law over unquestioned military authority.

    To take this position means that even mainstream inquiries into military behaviour are to be seen as subversive or harmful, not to speak of the work of NGOs which reveal misrule and violence on the part of the military.

    I realize last night that what infuriates many people is that I do not preface or introduce by statements with some appreciation of the good things in Israel–which I do in fact believe there are-but I do not feel that is necessary in a discussion over negative aspects of the society, in the same way I don’t need to prove I ‘love’ Australia. I don’t think I should have to demonstrate ‘loyalty’ in such a crude way, particularly as I am not an Israeli citizen (and nor should Israeli citizens either).

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Firstly, thanks for your support Sam, although I have to correct you saying that I am male not female (yes I know that some may consider Kovi an ambivalent name). Also Sam, English is my first language (though I have been living in out of the country for the past year), my point in asking Mr Stillman not to use high language was an attempt to force him to use legitimate arguments, rather than rhetoric and flowery language.

    Mr Stillman, whilst Sam has understood the basis of my argument and summarized it down to a sentence – “We should not have to endure being undermined from within our own ranks” – you still seem a tad lost amongst several misunderstandings. Reading your most recent comment I saw that you seem to dislike this statement, however what you must understand is that neither of us are suggesting a ban on questioning or criticizing Israel; what I will say however, is that I feel you are in no position to criticize due you being neither correctly well-informed nor an Israeli citizen.

    Also to briefly comment on your question of “where has Israel actually acted in a militarily unacceptable way?”, I would suggest you brush up on your history before you ask such questions. To begin with, I too am heavily constrained by free time, lack of access to a computer, and time zones; not to mention a very sore thumb.

    If I had to respond in a word to your first paragraph take on Gaza, I would have to suggest the word ignorant or naïve. I’m not saying for even a second that the war in Gaza did not have severe political and military backlash. However, suggesting that civilian casualties were an intentional attempt to “defeat a civilian population”, is a ridiculous statement which shows little or no knowledge on the subject. Operations like Cast Lead or Summer Rain were not in any way aimed to “shock and awe”, but simply to destroy the Hamas infrastructure within Gaza.

    Also, in case you didn’t fully understand, Mr Stillman, Israel is in fact in an existential crisis wherein, 4 of its 6 neighbours openly want to destroy it; the other two are quite tentative.

    This brings me to your latter example of Syria, which in my opinion also seems demonstrate your lack of knowledge on the subject of basic military strategy. I’m not going to talk about the ongoing support that Syria provides the Hezbollah, and I’m not going to talk about the difficulties Israel has in making a treaty. Nor am I going to mention the fact that if Israel followed your suggestion of kowtowing to international pressure, it would probably not be here right now. What I will say Mr Stillman, and I will say it quite plainly, is that the Golan Heights is an essential strategic military location; your argument of its popularity with the Israeli people is simply irrelevant.

    To respond to your key point, and for the last time to raise mine, let me articulate one thing that I feel you do not understand. The “confusion between national-religious ideologies” that you speak about is no confusion; quite simply, we are the Jewish people, Israel is a Jewish state, and this has a hell of a lot more to do with our heritage than it does with our religion.

    I am not in any way justifying the position that the “Palestinian people” are in right now. However, to call Israel an oppressive nation is absurd, and to call Avigdor Lieberman an extremist – yet ignore the openly terrorist and genocidal nature of the leaders of those whose oppression you worry about so dearly – is even more absurd.

    Take an honest and objective look at Israel, if you can, and try to see what the purpose of its creation was. Was it to make life as happy and peaceful as possible for the Arabs living in mandate Palestine? Was it to ensure that the world was happy with us? Or was it simply to create a homeland and safe-haven for a people who have been persecuted since their creation?

  • Sam says:


    You posting the following in your most recent comment:

    “To take the position “we should not have to endure being undermined from within our own ranks” of course is a complete threat to Israeli democracy and transperancy, and the rule of law over unquestioned military authority.”

    You deliberately misconstrue my meaning, or you are so one-eyed that you genuinely think it didn’t apply to you. I will spell it out then.
    You are the one who is a Jew undermining our credibility and the clear moral right of the IDF to defend Israeli citizens. And this sort of discussion may be justified if you are in private, with a few people but never in a public forum.
    You just don’t get it, and I will have to accept that sad fact.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Mr Stillman,

    I think what Sam is saying, and that i tend to agree with, is that you are beginning to talk like the Noam Chomsky’s and Anna Baltzer’s of the world.


  • Larry Stillman says:

    No, not at all. I am not talking about the moral right to defence of Israelis citizens. I am talking about actions against Palestinians (and other israelis) that have nothing to do with defence at all.

    As for Chomsky–it was he who was arguing for 2 states in the 1960s and 70s. Don’t forget that. I now find him tiresome, however, but you forget that he has spent nearly 50 years speaking out against injustice in many countries, and I know, his words are very harsh when it comes to Israel.

    As for Balzer. I know very little of her. I haven’t heard her though I know she was in Australia. But don’t shoot the messenger, think about the message.

    Thus in light of your criticism of me what would you make of, for example, Rabbis for Human Rights who don’t just talk, but go out and protest against injustice? Or are they a threat as well to Israeli security? Are they to be put in the same boat as Chomsky.

    This is a story as old as Socrates and even older than that as well.

    I really have little more to say except two views of the place of Jews/Israel in the world are in conflict. You believe that Israel’s current position is sustainable and justifiable. I don’t.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    For those who don’t know, Socrates was accused of corrupting the youth of Athens for his relentless questioning of received wisdom. The account of his trial is one of the most exciting accounts of a trial of ideas ever written.

    I am no Socrates that is for sure, but if we are unable to challenge and assess what is claimed to be the truth and when so many people on both sides are killed and societies are militarized, then something is wrong with your basic assumptions.

  • Sam says:

    Larry you said

    “I am no Socrates that is for sure”

    I could not agree more, nor do I see any relevance. You are tring to attach the criticisms made of your (outspoken and inappropriate public) views, to the perceived injustices meted out to Socrates. You do believe that we are putting you in the same boat, or you wouldn’t mention it. That is pathetic! As an academic you should know that it is imperative that your arguments should be logical, and follow a clear train of relevant FACTS! leading to an obvious conclusion, without needing to incorporate a few red herrings along the way, in an attempt to make your critics feel bad. Well we don’t.
    Just consider an immutable fact. In 1948 after the UN legally declared the existence of the Jewish State, Israel was attacked by at least 5 Arab armies intent on completely destroying the population of Israel and all its infrastructure. Essentially the only thing that has dramatically changed is that Israel has become both an economic and military powerhouse, which is a powerful deterent. And YOU would like the Government to appease the critics such as yourself by taking a softly softly approach! Israeli society must be militarized to survive, and unfortunately people on both sides of the conflict will be killed from time to time, but there is no option. I amongst many diaspora Jews am proud to assist the defence forces and other deserving institutions within Israel.

  • Mohan replies Marky says:

    Sam Israeli supporters in JCPA et al never tire of pointing out that GA resolutions are un-enforcable. The resolution on partition was a GA resolution and was not supported by a referundum in Palestine. AS for the armies etc, Abdullah of Jordan had the only sizeable army and was secretly confabulating with Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan. The rest were poorly armed militia with no unified command acting on their own and often arming themselves with their own funds.

    Uri Aveneri who fought in the war had repeatedly said there was never any doubt about Zionist victory. The fact is that even before the declaration of the state Zionist forces were massacaring Palestininas and displacing them – Deir Yesin was before the declaration.

  • Steve Brook says:

    How do the Israel-right-or-wrongers explain the fact that around three times as many Palestinian Arabs as Jewish Israelis have died violently since 1948? Arabs are three times as aggressive? Three times as stupid? Reproduce at three times the rate as Israelis? Three times as evil?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Kovi – I think I understand what Larry means about trauma. The electorate is worn down by security fears, including young voters and people now coming to voting age who are still deeply traumatised by the second intifada. One in five Israelis lost a close friend or a family member to terror between 1993 and 2003. Israeli friends with offspring in their teens and early twenties tell me their ‘kids’ are still terrified of travelling on buses.

    That translates into an understandable but nevertheless problematic unwillingness or inability to look honestly at the facts and history and also at the reality of what might lie ahead for Israel . This is compounded when there is a religious lens – because a religious or ideological agenda uses facts and history for its own purposes, and also has reason to cling to a narrative of victimhood – no matter what damage that does to Israel and all the people who live there or under its control, and no matter what the facts of who has what to fear, as evidenced by the ratio of death (Palestinians to Jews – 7:1 since 1987 according to IDF and separately B’tselem figures, rather than the 10:1 ration cited by Mohan). Its not just a story of numbers because there’s a lot of ‘stuff’ in the detail behind the numbers but it nevertheless important to look at honestly particularly when you look at deaths of people under 18, where the ratio is even higher.

    The sense of victimhood on both sides is understandable. But in spite of the enduring legitimacy of Israel as a homeland for Jews, and the galling shame that so many still don’t accept that – and despite the obstacles to peace placed by extreme Palestinian elements – there is a compelling and terrible story of human suffering on the part of Palestinians, and racism against Palestinians Israelis. If principles count for anything, this should be addressed ahead of the agenda of religious Zionism and zealous nationalism. Politically that seems unlikely to happen.

    And ‘Sam'(if that’s your real name – gotta love your courage) it’s simply not for you to say who can say what where in this or any discussion. You may not like it but it’s called democracy and freedom of speech – and one of the things about Israel that should be celebrated and praised is its largely democratic culture and almost complete freedom of speech. So you can be angry at Larry but this Zionist supports his right to say it, and btw he’s not saying anything that isn’t said in Haaretz and other Israeli publications every day…

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Really dont wanna continue this argument because i think it’s going around in stupid circles.

    What i will say to mandy though is that Larry, unlike the writers of Haaretz and other ISRAELI publications, does not live in israel and hence automatically has a different and lesser understanding of the situation.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    But according to this principle, unless one lives in Israel, one has no right to comment.

    But then, if Israel Palestinians have reason for concern, do you reject their opinions?

    If foreign donors to Israel, such as the US object to Israeli policy, do they have no right to comment?

    What exempts Israel from the same scrutiny as any other country in the world if it expects people’s support?

    Does this mean for example, that I have no right to criticize the US or Iran because I don’t live there?

    It is a ridiculous principle. What Kovi and others object to is 1) we don’t agree with certain aspects of Israeli politics 2) the language used by some in that criticism which is conflated to mean that all peole are anti-Israel.

    Or are the theological/political principles that underpin a lot of what is held as the core principles that are used to justify Israeli action beyond any scrutiny.

    I was just listening to the radio in Johannesburg. Jesse Jackson is here to deliver a speech (I admit, that I don’t agree with all that he says about Israel btw and he has been incredibly insensitive in the past in his remarks about Jews in the US).

    However, he was talking about his involvement in the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s and the hostility of many whites, including Americans to his activity back then.

    A white Afrikaaner phoned in. He said that he remembered Jackson from 25 years ago and he had objected strongly to Jackson’s attacks at the time on the core premises of apartheid and his calls for change in the country.

    Now he says, he understands. He has been libertated through the changes that South African has gone through, and he understands the evils of the old system and how it held him back from being a full person in his own country. It was an amazing phone call to hear.

    I am not saying that Israel and the old South Africa are the same, but there are too many unconformable parallels in what is emerging. Many Israelis (and Palestinians for that matter) have a lot of personal demons to overcome in coming to terms with the ‘other’, but sadly, on this site, we see opinions from many people who are are attached to stereotypes, demons and destructive ideology which needs to be shed if peace is to be achieved.

  • Mohan replies Marky says:

    Kovi Rose

    Israel Shahak, Uri Aveneri, Jeff Halper, Tanya Reinhart, Illan Pappe, Adam Kellar, Amira Hass, Uri Davis all live (have lived) in Israel and hence should comment, while Colin Rubenstien, JNF, JCCV, Bren Carlil, Ted Lapkin and others should remain mute, or at least they should be priveleged against the latter.

    Is that is what you mean ?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Sam, Kovi, – if you are still interested – here is an analysis of Israel’s response to violence and trauma – http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/strenger-than-fiction/israel-s-post-traumatic-isolation-1.326582

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