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Why I Support the New Zionist Left

August 26, 2010 – 6:25 pm156 Comments

By Mark Baker

Since writing an article supporting the new Zionist Left, I’ve been asked what I believe about Israel and other matters. I’m not sure if the question that has come from numerous people is an accusation or an expression of interest, but I suspect it has something to do with a culture of delegitimisation that has spread from attacks against Israel to attacks against liberal Zionists. The problem is that I can’t easily answer the question about what I believe because my beliefs aren’t dogmas that can be reduced to a catechism. I have likes and dislikes that aid me in navigating my actions but like most people, my principles, attachments and ideas are part of my interior, familiar signposts that signal how to cross from one thought to another. But the question has set me thinking, and apart from my obvious attachments to family, fun and friendship, I’ve come up with the following short list of seminal ideas that make me recognisable to myself.

I start with humanism; to me, the word flows from the religious idea that we are all, each of us in our diversity, created in the divine image. All the rest is commentary, which includes a belief in democracy as the best political system to safeguard human dignity, and thinking twice and then several more times before we press the trigger and breach the human rights of an individual, a collective, or a people. The Talmudic verse that best captures this ideal is the one that regards the redemption or destruction of a single human life as a world created or destroyed. Each of us, in our singularity, is infinite, yet we so easily fall into the temptations of dehumanisation for the sake of self-affirmation.  Of late I have been trying to extend these feelings towards all creatures by limiting what I eat. This has been influenced by the ethical eating demanded of me through kashrut, the sudden death of my dog, and an encounter in Rwanda with a gorilla.

Holocaust memory; it’s a strange notion to include but it’s not out of choice. Born to Holocaust survivor parents, our generations have been witnesses to the antithesis of creation – a world of cremation where the human ideal, as embodied in the Jew, was ground to dust and ash. The moral legacies of the Holocaust command me (in the biblical sense) to uphold the very principles that were transgressed in Auschwitz. This means not being silent, standing up, speaking out.  It also means defending Jewish life when it is threatened. My questions about the Holocaust – about perpetrators, bystanders and victims; about ideologies of race and supremacy, totalitarianism and demagoguery, power and powerlessness, refugees and indifference, tolerance and exclusion, guilt and forgiveness, virtue and evil – extend to everything that has happened and not happened in the world after Auschwitz. Never Again can and has been manipulated as a slogan to justify Jewish racism and violence; for me, it evokes the activation of the principles of humanism which summons us to speak out on transgressions of human dignity and threats to life wherever and whenever.

Jewish life: I’m for chucking the fiddler off the roof and replacing sentimentality and ancestral worship with meaningful, deep Judaism. I respect pluralism and the thin or non-existent connections of Jews to their Judaism because in this age our identities are a matter of choice. The reward for being Jewish is being Jewish; there is no punishment for refusing to stand at Sinai. I revere and fear religion. Every religion is born in violence – a covenant of blood – while simultaneously empowering us to transcend and mend this world that is metaphorically and truly broken. When we surrender ourselves to a religion, we do not relinquish our free will and the difficulty of choosing between right and wrong. I believe in an interpretation of religion that affirms rather than diminishes or extinguishes the human dignity of men and women, and of peoples of other faiths or of no faith.

In my religious practice I seek sanctity, the holiness of the everyday things that we create through religious rituals of time and space, human deeds, and our mythical and real journeys. Sanctity is the opposite of sanctimony – it requires humility rather than moral certainty or claims to absolute truth. I love Jewish ritual, the Jewish Sabbath, the Jewish way. I appreciate the sanctity that all religious systems create – the kindling of light and scent, of food devoured in ritualistic ways, of sharing our offerings with family and friends, and building community through prayer and song.  The parts of scripture that most inspire me are the prophetic ideals of justice, peace and chesed (givingness), even as I know that reality will always leave these out of our grasp. I try to adhere to the extra word that distinguishes between love of peace and justice, and the relentless pursuit of it; as in, ‘Justice, justice shalt thou pursue’, and ‘Love peace and pursue it’. I also like the word, ‘Thou’ – its grandness, and Martin Buber’s philosophy of I and Thou, which speaks of the connectedness of all things animate and inanimate – us to our environment.

And Zionism; the legitimacy, morality, justness, enduring nature of Jewish national self-determination as expressed in Israel; not just as an idea, but as a place of vitality and creativity, division and dissent, ancient and renewed, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, majority and minority. I have always been a Zionist, and cannot escape its narrative and personal connections to the re-creation of Jewish life out of the ashes of the Holocaust. I have spent more than three separate years living in Israel, contemplated Aliyah, given birth there with my wife to our firstborn and encouraged each of our children to experience multiple programs in Israel so that they can become enchanted enough with the Zionist dream to develop a mature relationship with the responsibilities of power and sovereignty. I fear for Israel’s future, the consequences of a nuclear Iran run by an apocalyptic madman, the effects of the growing radicalisation of Israel’s enemies. I despise the orchestrated campaign that has turned the Jewish state into a pariah, thereby recasting elements of the nineteenth century Jewish Question into a contemporary Israel Question.

Yet it also follows from my principles that I don’t like the kind of Zionism that is narcissistic, that refuses to see the multiple narratives and complexity of the conflict, that does not accept responsibility for the consequences of Jewish statehood on its victims, that makes excuses for the occupation and minimises its devastating effects, that worships land over people, that generates a cult of the state and of the military, that treats humans as demographic ammunition, that believes peace is impossible simply because we say it is, that thinks that a Palestinian state is a generous concession rather than a moral obligation, that positions Jews as eternal victims of antisemitism while fuelling Islamophobia, that expects a partnership with the Diaspora but infantilises its supporters, that thinks a patriot can’t see through a lie, that measures loyalty by conformity and confuses love with complicity, that does not fight against the conditions that breed war and violence and then tells us we had no choice, that resorts to military daring in place of political daring, that has replaced the credo of Never Again with the pessimism of Never.

I believe, finally, that we must align our beliefs with our deeds as best we can; that is why I have dedicated my life to Jewish education; why I love the challenge of challenging a student, or travelling with them to landscapes of conflict and memory; why I have founded an Orthodox, feminist synagogue, a journal of critical Jewish thought, and a Jewish organisation dedicated to universalist social action; it is why I have consistently refuted in my writings those who demonise Zionism and treat Israel as a pariah amongst the nations, and why I will continue to speak out against the brutality of the forty year occupation and the moral imperative of ending it now; and why I believe that in the name of living up to our inner truths we must be prepared to surrender, if necessary, our scalp for the sake of preserving our mind and what it drives us to think, say, and do.

Mark Baker is Director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation and Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Monash University.

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  • Beautifully expressed! I’m all for “chucking the fiddler off the roof”, myself. Although (and I suspect this might go for you as well?), I do sometimes fall pray to the sentimental idealisation of our ostensibly pious past. I disagree with a number of your sentiments but, such is the nature of an opinion piece, have no cause to do so publically. You’ve written this so eloquently that I found myself nodding despite not agreeing with most of what you wrote.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Interesting Mark, because humanists like myself share so much in common but don’t have quite the connection to a divine spark, though we see connections–in a different sort of way–to our heritage.

    And that is why I think, as you well know, the Z-word causes so much trouble to those who have lived within it, and beyond it (the post-Zionists). Where the point of difference lays is that ‘we’ keep seeing a complete contradiction between the ideas of say a left or liberal Zionism and what consistently happens on the ground. Can it in fact, live equally in a democracy with another culture that shares the same land? Can the right of Jews from anywhere- such as Australians-to claim the right to live and possess ‘the Land’ over-ride the rights of its Palestinian inhabitants or Palestinians who remember their homes? Should Israel’s extra-territorial claim to represent ‘us’ continue?

    I think that by on wanting to reinvent Zionism that there is a danger of a sort of cultural narcissism devoids of context that avoids once against, the reality of the two cultures/societies that exist in the same place, and it is this myopia which infuriates Palestinians and their supporters I believe. It is not so much about ‘Jews’ per se as the politics of Jewish identify attached to real estate through a one-way transaction. Both sides share, as Kimmerling suggests, a fatal primordialism or essentialism about identity. The same applies to the new ‘orchestrated campaign’ mantra: is it much different to the orchestrated mantra that comes out of the hasbarah camp, engaging in exaggeration as part of a political war . I think labelling in this way does in fact make no differentiation between say, genuinely open human rights activists & ‘churchy types’ (something that I think many Jews have a problem with), idealistic leftists who engage in rationalizations, and going further to the extremes, those on the intolerant left or rejectionist Palestinians. Of course there are jerks and racists (and lately I have encountered more than I care to recall with their paranoiac classically anti-Semitic views about Zionist/Jewish conspiracies), but you well know there are a similar group on the Jewish right who get a lot of quiescent support.

    Thus, much as I dream (as I often do), about lovely streets in Jerusalem, the smell of pines in summer, golden sunsets, snowfalls, Hanukkah lamps shining through the raindrops on windows of bus through Jerusalem, my youth, all that, the reality of politics always intervenes. Thus for me, cultural Zionism is fine, but political Zionism has and is a constant danger because of what it has helped to provoke in the dance of death and seems unable to resolve. I’ve felt that ever since I first set foot in Israel in 1973, weeks after the Yom Kippur War. I always saw ‘the other’. It is quite amazing–Israel the ‘little Israel’ was only that for 19 years or so. For 43 further years, it has occupied and colonized and no, there is no need to present a ‘balanced’ picture of oppression here, or to ignore what went on before 67 as well.

    I think I also differ with you on another issue–or perhaps you are finger pointing at some people–that ‘delegitimizers’ has become a bit of a flavour of the week to brushing off deep criticism–thus would you call Baruch Kimmerling a delegitimizer for his work-or was he deconstructing a profound contradiction? Is what I do deligitimizing? As you know, this gets to bound up with paranoia and nationalism and perceptions of danger that it is almost impossible to unpack without taking sides. Or is it standing up for human rights for all, and a different sense of identity, one which does not accord with many people, but is part of a coat-of-many-colours view of the Jewish community.

    Is part of your discomfort that so many severe critics of Israel, do engage in strong rhetoric take you out of your comfort zone, because sometimes, they do raise issues that can’t be brushed away? Is it that the idea of a Jewish ethnos/nation/ people is so exceptional in so many ways that it makes us all edgy and culturally neurotic (in a constant state of existential incertitude as well as physical alertness to ever-present historical danger, however irrational the fear may be)? This cultural problem, I think, has been used as an explanation of why an edge or boundary community like the Jews has had so many people engaged in the avant garde and the creative side of things. But not all people are artists, and some are political, and their awareness of being on the edge has also led them to examine Israel as a society on the edge, using by and large, a more universal paradigm or ontology than a ‘Jewish’ one.

    Of course, what infuriates you (and me) is the pious denunciation of Israel as an exception to supposed sociological rules about what a real nation is supposed to be–not like the Poles or Germans, or other ethnic states, because religion is much more tied in AND someone else’s valid land claims are involved. To take this a bit further. There is intellectual dishonesty going on in this sort of critique (and/or very sloppy historiography) , because, so what if Israel doesn’t conform to particular sociological rules as to what a nation is ‘supposed’ to be. Rules are made to be broken. Human existence is incredibly diverse and what Jews believe or practice culturally should be by and large irrelevant to the problem. Let them fight about segregated trams between themselves but don’t use that do denounce Zionism (time to turn the clock on misogyny in the Arab/Islamic world).

    Thus, again, the key issue for me, is the contradiction of Zionism isn’t that it breaks some rule about nationhood , but that if one is committed to universal human rights, in practice, there are problems in the mix between ‘Jewish political needs’ and social rights which just don’t seem resolvable. As a political party, or cultural orientation, Zionism of all sorts is fine , but as the underpinning ideological construction for a country, not so healthy. I know that there are Zionists in Israel who believe that they can live with their Zionism without any sense of contradiction as they struggle for equality for all citizens, whatever their orientation. Good on them. But personally, I find the contradiction almost impossible to resolve and that is why I think we need to explore political options for alternative governance arrangements that bring an end to violence. But don’t lump me in with the haters and delegimitzers, either. But some of us do need to call a spade a spade and take action as well, even in small and symbolic ways.

    [PS I think you will find a whole different body of opinion on the current hysteria over Iran, but I will leave that to e.g. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2010/08/16/129230643/how-and-when-will-israel-attack-iran

  • Akiva says:

    Chucking the Fiddler off the Roof is a wonderful and oddly shocking phrase, and I have suprised myself with my agreement.

    For me, though, the rest of the piece is too fluffy, with little rigour. If there are inherent contradictions in what you feel and believe, then instead of ignoring them, you should grow a pair and face up to either the unpleasant truth that you emotionally support something that you believe is unjust, and which cruelly persecutes others and will continue to despite this and move on, or that you are obliged to lose some of your sentimental attachments and feel that grief in order to bring your emotions in line with your beliefs.

    It never fails to amaze me in dialogues of this sort which deal with the excruciating pain of conflicted beliefs and loyalties over and to Judaism/Jewishness/Israel, that the starting point of the whole thing is never mentioned – how exactly the modern state was founded – really how, the unvarnished truth, not the frank lies that we have mostly been taught, mixed in with some truth, whether this is acceptable, what the alternatives would have been, and so on. This is never EVER frankly discussed by those who seek to reconcile these differences, it is just tacitly set aside. and it’s the heart of the problem.

    I support Israel, I do – but not at the cost of being a good human. I would like to be a good human AND a good Jew, and believe that it is possible to be both. But if I had to choose, I would rather be a good human than a good Jew.

  • ariel says:

    “When we surrender ourselves to a religion, we do not relinquish our free will and the difficulty of choosing between right and wrong. I believe in an interpretation of religion that affirms rather than diminishes or extinguishes the human dignity of men and women, and of peoples of other faiths or of no faith.”

    Beautiful, Mark.

    I would like to seek clarification on where you stand regarding the rights of Israel’s minority citizens.
    Whilst Israeli law grants them full rights, many feel that obsticles are put in their way to exercising those rights, whether by private individuals/establishments or public.
    My view is that minorities in Israel should have all the same rights as I as a Jew have in Australia.

    However, there are some who believe they should have more than this. Such as, state recognition of Muslim and Christian holidays and sensibilities. Or changing Hatikvah (or adding a verse about minoroities). I vehemently disagree. Just as I would never in a million years expect the Australian government to recognise Jewish holidays, I don’t expect Israel to do so with non-Jewish holidays. So too with the anthem.

    So here it is: if a non-Jew in Israel want’s to time off for one of their chaggim, they should be allowed to use leave time to do so without fear of punishment from their employer. Just as we do here for Jewish holidays.

    At the end of the day, there will always be discrimination of some kind. How many of us have heard anti-Semitic comments? You can’t completely elimintate anti-minority sentiment in Israel, but you can legislate and educate.

    Mark, I’m interested to know your view here…

  • ariel says:

    I recently read Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ book “Future Tense”. In it he makes passionate cases for Judaism and Zionism as complete antitheses to imperialism and colonialism…I recommend the read.

  • Nomi says:

    You took the words out of my mouth.

  • Hannah says:

    I don’t feel that I can adequately express how refreshing this article was to read.

    When it comes to political ideology, my leanings are towards humanism and social democracy. In recent years struggled to align my general belief with the expectations of what a Zionist ‘should’ think. When I have expressed my concerns with mainstream Zionism and some of Israel’s choices, I have been written off as a self-hating Jew or, bizarrely, an anti-Semite. This, coupled with the elitist nature of Australian Jewry in general, has done little more than alienate me from involvement in Zionist activity.

    I, for one, am pleased with the increased popularity of Liberal Zionism – particularly because I feel that the suggestions it puts on the table are the only way forward for Israel at this juncture.

  • Michael says:

    Is there any truth in the Rumor that ACJC Director Baker is going to merge his Jewish Study department with the Arab /Islamic Study Department?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Mark, thanks for publishing this.

    Larry, what you say is very well written and obviously very deeply held but but but….
    I understand what you and others say about Jewish nationalism – that like all nationalism it sucks, or alternatively, that it may have been a good idea but that it was executed in the wrong place. But there was never any other place, and there was never any other “ism” that Jews could have had, or did have that could have revitalised Jewishness and Jewry in the way that Zionism did.
    Before the state of Israel there was Jewish life,in all its diversity and richness, and Jewish suffering , lots of it. Now we have the state of Israel, and vital and varied Jewish life and Jewish suffering, but less of it, and also through the Jewish state, the dispossession and suffering of others . So what is a Jew to do?
    And yes Akiva one thing might be to ‘sit’ with the facts of Israel’s origins much more than we ever have. We need to really ask ourselves and our parents and teachers and rabbis, as Henry Reynolds asked Australia in 2000 – “Why weren’t we told?” and internalise the answers and what they really mean. But of course, there’s no going back. The discussion has to be about what will happen from here.
    I posted Mark’s piece on my FaceBook page and a school friend now living in Israel made this comment: “Nice ideas but … here’s the thing, it’s 41 degrees today in the promised land, literally and figuratively. Nothing and no one survives here without dogma.”
    So those are the choices? Dogma and what goes with it – the creeping willingness to dehumanise in order to survive . And this: what Melbourne academic Ghassan Hage describes as the shift in the Israeli (and I could add Jewish) psyche that permitted the withdrawal from Gaza – whereby “an occupying force manages the trick of pretending that it is no longer an occupying force by simply reneging on its responsibility…” Is that what Israel has had to become to survive: outside of international law, and decency, and OK with it? I don’t accept that characterisation for lots of reasons. But if I did, is the only remaining choice is to admit that Zionism has failed.
    And what of the accountability of Jews like me who haven’t embraced it in the way that really counts – by living it?
    I won’t turn my back on Zionism, not least of all because of my deep affinity with the members of my tribe who do live it, whether by choice or circumstance, including in many cases, the circumstances of exclusion and displacement because of their Jewish identity.
    And I don’t accept that the talk of deligitimisation is just a way to deflect criticism. The singling out of Israel as a pariah among the world of nations with scant regard for the all the accountability – and by that I also refer to deeply embedded European anti-semitism and to colonialism, is a manifestation of the ongoing willingness to see the Jew as other and judge Israel by different standards – but I certainly don’t lump Larry in with those. Again from Hage, this time , in words more likely to please readers: ” Somehow trying to find some specificity for Zionism allows other nationalists to feel superior as if what Zionists are doing is so beyond the pale for the rest of us beautiful nationalist people”.
    So is there no possibility of a third way – is what Mark says a whole lot of ‘nice ideas’ but no match for the real challenges in Israel and to boot, irrelevant guilt appeasing by a wannabe Zionist, as another FB (and real life) friend of mine said in response to the article; or deficient by deed of Larry’s view of the inherent problems in the mix between “Jewish political needs’ and social rights which just don’t seem resolvable”.

    I don’t believe so. I think that what Mark and others like him do, and it doesn’t matter where they do it from, is they encourage us to grapple with this honestly, and they have the chutzpah to hope and to inspire others to do the same and maybe , just maybe, to mobilise that hope into support for something better.

  • Geoff Bloch says:

    Dear Mark,

    Attempting to define someone else’s beliefs is chutzpadik not least because presumptions may be made and conclusions drawn which are unfair and unwarranted. I agree with your observation that each of us is comprised of inner “principles, attachments and ideas” which are really known only to ourselves.

    However, once someone sketches their own beliefs (as you have in your recent “Baker Street” post) and publishes that sketch for all to see, responding to such “principles attachments and ideas” is perfectly fair if it serves a useful purpose.

    I have no idea (and therefore make no comment or criticism) as to why you considered it newsworthy for your beliefs be so openly and publicly displayed. Perhaps your post will be widely read. Perhaps your intention is to bring others within your sphere of influence to think as you do. You are certainly well known in our community and are in a position to influence many young minds at Monash University and beyond. But whatever your reasons or objectives, I think it is important that several of your “principles attachments and ideas” not remain unaddressed as I believe they are superficially seductive but damaging as I will endeavour to explain.

    Before I do so, I must first say that most of what you say resonates with me and, I would imagine, with the mainstream views of our community. Therein, however, lies the problem. Precisely because so much of what you say appeals and inspires, certain less helpful and damaging views may be difficult to identify, especially concerning Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.

    The plank upon which your principles and values are based, which you emphasise yourself, is your humanism. Unfortunately, you proclaim your humanism by invoking the biblical axiom that we are all created in the divine image. I say “unfortunately” because you clearly give the term “humanism” its modern meaning. That meaning connotes a secular ideology that espouses fraternity and benevolence by the use of man’s inherent power of reason coupled with his supposed innate ability to act ethically and justly, while specifically rejecting religious doctrines as a basis of morality and behaviour. So much is absolutely clear both from the tenor of your article and from specific statements you have made. I will give two examples (1) You say that the sanctity of religious ritual “requires humility rather than moral certainty or claims to absolute truth”. (2) You also say that “when we surrender ourselves to a religion, we do not relinquish our free will and the difficulty of choosing between right and wrong.”

    By this you clearly mean that each of us, not some higher moral authority, is the arbiter of right and wrong or good and evil and that we inherently understand how we should behave. Nothing can be further from the truth or more dangerous. That is because in the absence of an absolute moral code, there is no right and wrong…. everything becomes a matter of opinion and what is moral and ethical will simply move with the vagaries of the times and/or from society to society. This is easily proved, again by citing just two of a myriad of examples which could be given throughout human history. (1) The Arab mother who shepps nachas when her son blows himself to bits murdering innocent Jews hardly regards herself or her son as immoral or unethical. Nor does the society in which she lives. (2) The Nazi soldier who gassed innocent Jews didn’t regard himself as immoral or unethical. Nor did the society in which he lived. To the contrary. In both cases, if you grow up being taught that Jews are vermin and ought to be exterminated, doing so becomes not just socially acceptable, but a moral imperative. Ethical behaviour, as Judaism understands it, is not innate, it must be taught. It is not relative, it is absolute.

    The seductive sentiment you have expressed that “when we surrender ourselves to a religion, we do not relinquish our free will and the difficulty of choosing between right and wrong” does not withstand closer scrutiny and, in fact, misses the point. Anyone can choose between their own subjective notions of right and wrong. That is a simple exercise of a preference or the expression of an opinion. It is rather more difficult to discern actual right from actual wrong as those polarities are traditionally understood, in a world which is progressively rejecting Judeo-Christian values as archaic and irrelevant.

    This brings me to a related point which rankles with me. You and I were raised by our parents’ generation which was steeped in Old Testament values if not religious observance. Some of us can therefore “afford” to profess our humanism when, in reality, we are simply a product of our upbringing and have been moulded to think and behave in a certain way. What we believe to be our own subjective thoughts are far more likely to reflect or at least be consonant with traditional Jewish values. The same cannot be said of the next and progressive generations who are and will be inhabiting a rather different world to the world which shaped you and me (admittedly perhaps more me than you but then again I have not been exposed over such a protracted period to the academic world where our universities have become temples of radical secularist thought). But the point is, over time, everything gets watered down in the absence of a higher moral authority.

    Another feature of your post was your ascribing moral equivalence to all religions. You state that “every religion is born in violence – a covenant of blood – while simultaneously empowering us to transcend and mend this world that is metaphorically and truly broken.” Reading this one might be excused for thinking that what you intend to convey is that all religions are morally equivalent and their respective adherents can equally justify the way they behave. That comes awfully close to an apology for Islamic intransigence and violence, especially as you lay a litany of unjustified allegations at Israel’s door from its responsibility for “conditions which breed war and violence” to “the brutality of the forty year occupation.”

    It is for these reasons that I have a feeling of unease at what your students might come away with after studying in your department. Doubtless they learn to think for themselves and understand all about the statelessness of the Palestinians. But do you expose them to and ask them to grapple with the reality that it is the Palestinians’ refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish homeland which is the main reason Palestinians have remained stateless over the years? Do you teach them about how successive Palestinian leaderships have fostered a criminal society in which shahids are revered? Do they understand the current Prime Minister’s axiom that if the Palestinians laid down their arms there would be peace but if Israelis laid down their arms there would be no Israel? Do they know about the United Nations General Assembly resolution of 29 November, 1947 which called for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Eretz Yisrael? Do they know the difference between Arab land and disputed land? Or are your students bequeathed the “benefits” of the humanistic perspective thus enabling them to become moral arbiters of how Israel should behave?



  • Michael says:

    What a wonderful response to Baker, Kol Hakavod Geoff if only Jewish Study Departments introduced some balanced clear thinking Jews like you.

  • Mark Baker says:

    Hi Geoff,
    I neither chose the Baker Street photo nor consider my posts to be any more newsworthy than the emails you send around to large lists. I will just make a couple of short dot points:
    1. Like you, I submit to a high moral authority and the values that flow from this but life does not present us with easy choices that allow us to discern right from wrong. How I wish it were true. You might have added to your list of examples those of the Irgun blowing up the King David Hotel. Was that right? Maybe it was given our situation in 1946? Maybe it wasn’t because it transgressed the taking of human life. How do you discern such things. THere is no prophecy in our day, the Rabbis rightly recognised, which means no moral certainty. It is therefore up to us to use the absolute truths we know, such as respect for human life, the dignity of all people, honouring your parents, to determine how best to implement these values. That is why we are shown the mountain of curse and blessing; sometimes it is hard to distinguish because life unlike principles are made up of moral greys. The Gaza war was one of them. Israel had a right to respond to rockets. But equally, Israel had a moral responsibility to protect human life. Did Israel strike the right balance demanded of us by the ‘higher moral’ authority from which our core values derive? In the absence of a God guiding military decisions, I can’t answer that question as easily as you can. I’m not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of the response; I’m only saying what I stated in my article, that religion does not take away our moral responsibility to make choices every second of our life. I am scared of anyone who thinks otherwise.
    Second, a reminder that I am not our department. I am a Director, which sorry to tell you means that my extra duties as an academic are primarily boring admin and financial tasks. Academia is made up of indpendent academics, amongst whom we have many thinkers and ideas, augmented by visitors who by and large have tilted more to the right than the left. But some people will refuse to see what they don’t want to see. As for my own views, I am committed to teaching my courses with balance rather than to score propaganda points. It’s insulting of you to suggest that I would do what you say I should do, ie, teach the class that the Palestinians are criminals, and equally insulting of you to think that I wouldn’t provide students with the critical tools to interpret the range of perspectives that will enable them to do what I believe is the core of being human – make choices about right or wrong in a world where most things we confront are not painted in black and white. True, sometimes evil stares you in the face and you have to call it as it is; I am one of those who happens to believe that the Arab-Israel conflict, unlike apartheid in South Africa, or the Holocaust, is not a case of victim versus perpetrator, of good versus evil but of a complex interplay of factors that requires balanced analysis in order to reach what I know from our scripture and liturgy to be our highest value, namely peace. Shalom.

  • Michael says:

    But don’t lump me in with the haters and delegimitzers, either.
    says..Larry Stillman

    hello!!!! most Jews would consider selected boycotts against Israel and Jews part of the the whole ‘DeLegitimization’ campaign by Palestinians, Socialists and the Jewish anti -Zionist Movement.. and AJDS which Larry Stillman is a prominent member support these racist Boycotts ..Give me a Break, not all readers of this blog site are that ignorant ..

  • george says:

    The exchange b/w Mark Baker & Geoff Bloch contains some wonderful prose. Each clearly expresses deep and altruistic sentiments. Both are men good and true.
    Neither however adequately addresses nor recognises that the virtues/traits of goodness, righteousness, kindness, truth, morality etc may also be held and exhibited by people of no religeous faith at all – including Secular Jews

    The pity of this wonderful exchange is that:
    1. The arguments will primarily only be read by Jews
    2. That we don’t seem to read/hear such vibrant exchanges coming from the mainstream Islamic world.

    Best wishes
    George Greenberg

  • Michael says:

    Unfortunately George you will only read such exchange of views on this Blog site because unless you subscribe to the ultra left wing doctrine that the Director of ACJC directs in his department no other views would be tolerated.

  • Michael says:

    You might have added to your list of examples those of the Irgun blowing up the King David Hotel. Was that right Says Mark Baker

    Is Baker trying to argue ”Moral equivalence” between the Jews Blowing up the King David Hotel a Military [not Civilian target] after first warning the Britt’s and the Palestinians and Islamists who take pleasure in blowing up civilian establishments and innocent civilians with out prior warning.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Michael, would you care to identify yourself by name and defend your accusations in your own name against me?

    In any case, details of my position on boycotts, which are nothing like the lies you peddle, should appear on this website in the near future and they are written from a humanist perspective.

    Or do prefer to just hide in the coward’s corner and engage in contumely (look it up in the dictionary, if you have one).

    Please do not engage in personalized attacks which seem to be your primary method of argument.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Michael – this site isn’t edited by Mark. I think that what makes this site interesting is that it publishes a range of views on all topics Jewish so not sure what you mean by that last comment…

    Also, did you actually read what Larry wrote? I don’t agree with where Larry lands on this but what he says is deeply considered. I hold very different political views to him but was very moved by what he wrote. I do think the AJDS boycotts are a bad idea – because I think that they add legitimacy to the idea of broader boyocotts without in themselves having any of the targeted effect they purport to address – that is on Israeli industry in occupied territories or, or using resources from the occupied territories. But I think throwing Larry in with the delegitimisers is wrong.

    Geoff – what do you mean by “Arab land”? I honestly don’t know what that means in the context you used it, or at all. .

  • Michael says:

    JCCV denounces Australian Jewish Democratic Society boycott decision

    Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) President John Searle has strongly denounced The Australian Jewish Democratic Society’s (AJDS) recent decision that some boycotts of Israel may be justified…and clarifies the link between the organisations.

    AJDS resolution on Boycotts, Divestment & Sanctions of Israel

    The Australian Jewish Democratic Society has become the first community-affiliated Jewish organisation to adopt the view that some boycotts of Israel may indeed be justified.

    The AJDS  has a elected committee, and is a registered Association in the State of Victoria, Australia
    Members of the Committee for 2009-2010


  • Larry Stillman says:

    I should add, George, if you look on the Bitter Lemons webite, or see what people like Samah Sabawi locally argue, you will see plenty of sophisticated Palestinian opinion.

    I may not agree with all the opinions, but there are the equivalents of Geoffrey Bloch, Mark Baker, or myself, as well as the mirror image of the settler racists and religious irredentists. In all likelihood, a lot is in Arabic as well that we never see.

    As examples of the differences of opinion, look at the views of the American Task Force on Palestine (http://www.americantaskforce.org/), strong proponents of 2 states, as compared to the views of Ali Abuminah on Electronic Intifadah (http://electronicintifada.net/v2/aboutEI.shtml). Partly too, it seems to be that the way some argument is expressed is as much culturally coditioned within the rhetoric of Palestinian nationalism, in the same way that Zionism determines the discourse of many people.

    Similary, contributions to peacemaking such as the Geneva Accords represent a consensus of Palestinian and Israeli opinion.

    Thus, it is a myth that there is no diversity of opinion, including a myth about a dominant Islamic fundamentalistism.

  • Michael says:

    With all due respect Mandy i fail to understand how you don’t consider racist and selective boycotts that Stillams radical group AJDS support part of the deligitimization campaign by Israel’s enemies.

    I notice that Stillmans group do not support any boycotts against Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, but hey there are so many inconsistencies in extremists doctrines.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    “Michael” – whether or not you respect what I say, matters not a whit to me.
    You have made stupid comments about Islam, made personal attacks on Mark and attacked Larry for his views without actually reading what he says.
    And all while you lack the decency and courage to identify yourself.
    And I don’t imagine Geoff appreciates your support.
    I’m done talking to you.

  • Michael says:

    I take it Mandi by not answering my question above , I take it you do not consider racist and selective boycotts of Israel and Jews such as Larry Stillman’s AJDS part of the deligitimization campaign of Israel.

    BTW Mandi, Geoff’s excellent response to Baker endorses completely my views about the lack of Bakers balance at his campus.

    I don’t think you can call responding to a persons personal political viewpoint like Baker has in his post a personal attack . How else can some one respond, unless by this you mean certain people that post their views on your Blog site can not be challenged ?

    You appear to be very defensive of you fellow travelers have I hit a raw nerve?

  • ariel says:

    Mark, will you respond to my earlier querie?

    Something interesting that Geoff alludes to was reported in the Israeli press today.

    I started reading a wonderfully optimisting report about how Salaam Fayad announced in a PA Cabinet meeting that they are on track to finish building insititutions of statehood in the West Bank as a foundation for a future state.

    My happy disposition was ruined when I read that the report he tabled included a clause reaffirming that everything was achieved despite Israel’s opposition and obstructionism and occupation and basically anything that may go wrong in the project is Israel’s fault.

    I’m wondering if they’ll ever accept Israel as the Jewish Homeland and one day look in the mirror at their own mistakes instead of behaving like spoilt teenagers…

  • ariel says:

    whoops: should have read “optimistic report”, not “optimisting”

  • Mark Baker says:

    Ariel, your question about minority rights. The situation is not like Australia in several respects. Arabs do have collective minority rights, which is foreign to Australia. The law Israel inherited is a combination of Ottoman and British mandatory, which maintained the millet system that recognised the religious rights of collective groups. Thus, recognition of Arabic, Islamic courts, separate school systems etc is part of Israel’s legal structure – very different to Australia. Is this good for Jews? For Arabs? There are problems. The system cuts in lots of directions and maintains the monopoly rabbis,and Imams, have on matters of civil status. It keeps the people separate in ways that we would not accept in Australia. But Arabs wanted this system though they might now be questioning whether it is good for their legal status, just as Jews are increasingly concerned about the ramifications of Ben Gurions religious accommodations with the rabbinate in the early days of the state.
    As for the Israeli flag and Hatikva, I am supportive of the idea of a Jewish state that gives full rights to a minority. I think there is a problem with an anthem that 20% of the population cannot sing. It’s not so much the Jewishness of it that concerns me, but that it is so exclusive. I think one day that the anthem and flag might be expanded to include other symbols that will make it more inclusive for all Israeli citizens while retaining its Jewish core. Where I have a real problem is more with the unfair allocation of resources by the state. eg, I think that the idea of Jewish national land has past its use-by date – it was essential for the establishment of the state but it is now discriminatory.

  • ariel says:


    Your points about the anthem and flag are very altruistic, but why should Israel be expected to do what other ethno-religious nation states are not?
    For example, should the Turkish flag and anthem have components of Kurdish culture in them? Or even Jewish?
    There are still African Americans who refuse to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Should it and the flag be changed?

    The legal system Israel inherited is problematic and should be changed to bring it in line with the Australias, Canadas and Americas of the world.

    Personally, I think the best solution out there right now is Avigdor Liberman’s; redraw the borders along ethnic lines. The one country can have the Magen David with Hatikva and the other can have the black-red-green combo without any guilt over offending sensibilities of minorities.

  • Akiva says:

    I have hitherto restrained myself from commenting further (bet you were all glad!), because there has simply been too much cognitive dissonance to wade through to get to any constructive argument, and I find being constantly negative painful, believe it or not.

    But the absurdity of the line Ariel’s taking – a very common one throughout our community – just drives me to distraction. Israel shouldn’t worry abo8ut it’s behaviour, as long as it’s not quite as ‘bad’ – whatever that means – as some other random nations. If another country does a heinous or unfair thing, any criticism of Israel’s behaviour is undue scrutiny or biased standards. If Turkey treats the Kurds awfully, then it’s ok for Israel to oppress the Palestinians in Gaza. If the mainstream media don’t report the finer details of a civil war in Chechnya, then coverage of the flotilla incident is just anti-semitism. It is morally just for Israel to get away with the bare minimum, and if it can get away with stuff without scrutiny, all the better. The medium is the message.

    When will you people grow up? This argument should embarrass the pants off anyone over the age of 5 and out of kindy. It not only dishonours the Israelis, it dishonours the very idea of and foundations of Israel as a whole. It does not even pretend to be trying for good or for righteousness. And, pragmatically, it is the main reason why the tide of public opinion really HAS turned and global support for Israel is falling away. No-one outside our community believes this spin any more.

    Is this the sort of attitude you want to foster and the sort of moral legacy you want your children to inherit?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ariel the comment that you make represents the a new and scary kind of Zionism that makes fighting for liberal Zionism so important. It may interest you to know that Jabotinsky had a vision whereby the two major ethnic groups in Israel participated equally and fully in civic life. He drafted a constitution which envisaged that every government would have a Jewish PM and an “Arab” vice PM, or vice versa. And he was on the right!

    And now Lieberman who advocates border shifting by ethnicity, without regard for the views of the citizens of Israel to be excluded from their state by that proposal. Anyone who supports that shows their true colours on democracy, human rights and demonstrates a complete lack of respect for principles of international law by which Israel derives its sovereignty.

    And at the same time, your support for those views, fuels the views of the loony left Israel haters.

  • ariel says:


    You should have kept to yourself.

    The point is not “it’s okay for Israel cos everyone else does it”.

    The point is “if it ain’t okay for Israel, then it ain’t okay for anyone else”.

    I’m sure someone as intelligent as you can figure out the difference between those statements.

    But just in case:
    If one criticises or comments about Israel for something it does or doesn’t do, then one should also list the other countries doing the same and call them on it too.

    I refuse to accept that it’s not okay for Israel to have a Magen David on its flag, whilst not saying it’s unacceptable for Turkey to have the Islamic crescent on its flag.

  • ABM says:

    But Mandi, another side of the coin is that of Jews who accept that the land on which they are currently living might be part of a future Palestinian state.

    Surely if you are advocating the respect of international law and human rights, then these Jews would have every right to become part of that state as an ethnic minority, just as Christian and Muslim Arabs are part of an ethnically diverse Israel? Not to mention women, African refugees etc…

    Surely you would not advocate that these areas become free of Jews, AKA Judenrein?

    Surely people of all backgrounds, religions, ethnicities and cultures would be welcome to live in peace and harmony, free to practice and worship as they wish?

    Cue Mark Baker’s argument, replacing Jew with Muslim: “I think there is a problem with an anthem that 20% of the population cannot sing. It’s not so much the MUSLIMness of it that concerns me, but that it is so exclusive.”

    So there you have it – an open, liberal, tolerant Palestinian state, with a flag and anthem that reflects their culturally diverse population. Isn’t the world a wonderful place when we can dream these ideas up based on our own expectations that the Jews should lie down and take what’s coming to them, just like they did prior to 1948?

    If so-called “liberal” Zionists claim to be so concerned with democracy and human right etc, it cuts both ways – you can’t demand a set of rules and principles from only one side. If you truly believe in them, then they must be applied to all, otherwise you risk being exposed as hypocritical and morally bankrupt.

    While that gross manipulation of Zionistic ideals is anything but new, it is the only one that really scares me, because they purport to be helping the continuity of Judaism in Israel, when in reality they are doing exactly the opposite.

  • ivan cher says:


    Neither The Peace envisaged by Israel’s 1948 Declaration, nor by Abba Eban’s famed 1967 acceptance of UNSC 242; neither by Barak nor by Olmert has that “other cheek” approach, been effective.

    Given the WAR, (Don’t mention the War), Israel hasn’t done a bad job with humanitarian efforts for the enemy at its gates, in catering for any restless minority, stirred against it by Arafat & Co. Especially as trivia are exaggerated and/or expressed as gross breaches of International Law, as by our acqaintances in the AFP.

    Does any classical Jewish text tell Israeli governments how to turn the other cheek in recurring wartime conditions? And if there is some such guiding text to which Jews should adhere, would Hamas or Abbas change their attitude and respond similarly?

  • Michael says:

    Mandi: who are the “loony left Israel haters” you’re thinking of?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    ABM I dont have time to reply right now but having entered into this disussion and seeing as you address your comments to me, I suppose I should respond (even though I think anything you say when you say it anonymously, ispo facto means what you say carries very little weight) but the problem is I dont understand most of what you said. So three questions and then I will respond when I can later – much later!
    1. When you refer to Jews “who accept that the land on which they are currently living might be part of a future Palestinian state”, are you talking about people living in the Occupied Territories who support the government’s current proposals for a negotiated settlement?
    2. When you refer to “that gross manipulation of Zionistic ideals”, are you talking as I was about Lieberman ? It seems unlikely in view of everything else I think you’ve said but I honestly can’t work out who you are referring to.
    3. When you refer to “our expectations that the Jews should lie down and take what’s coming to them” – whose expectations are those? Yours?

    I find you comments very difficult to understand.

  • ivan cher says:


    Somebody is distorting and inverting. It’s not Karsh.


    “1948, Israel, and the Palestinians — the true Story”.


  • ABM says:


    My post wasn’t entirely aimed in your direction, just the first part, but since you asked:

    1. There are Jews living in the Yehuda and Shomron (Occupied Territories is so… liberal Zionist/AJDS/Fairfax/ABC) who, while not supporting the Govt’s plan to relinquish land as part of a negotiated settlement, would prefer to be part of a minority in a fledgling Palestinian state (just as Arabs have done in Israel) than leave with their families just because the neighbouring Arabs and some diaspora Jews are upset about them living there.

    If it’s OK for the Arabs to live in Israel, why not for the Jews to live in the future Palestinian state?

    2. When I wrote “that gross manipulation of Zionistic ideals” I was referring to “liberal Zionists” who are nothing of the sort, just pretenders who have been duped into thinking that if we Jews play nicely and heed “world opinion” (another obfuscation), then maybe the rest of the world will wake up one morning and decide that that Israel, with all of its advances and inventions in the scientific, medical and academic world, is worthy of not being blown into oblivion, either by one suicide belt at a time, or a massive nuclear bomb.

    3. They are not my expectations, but it is the logical outcome if we are to follow the head-in-the-sand approach of many in the so-called intellectual academic world who might mean well but are completely detached from reality. The hardest part to accept is that it is not limited to their own thoughts, but disseminated as fact throughout various university degrees, with no opportunity for students to hear alternate opinions.

  • ariel says:


    I’m aware of what Jabotinsky said, because for him the integrity of the land was primary. Many right wing Israelis support this solution and it is similar to the far left who want a bi-national state in all the land. The difference being that the right want that state to be an extension of Israel – i.e. a state of Jewish character with a non-Jewish minority with full rights – and the left want it the other way around.

    The border shifting on ethnic lines was used successfully in Europe in the past without asking the people. One of the most successful cases was between Finland and Russia (and that involved forced population swaps in the middle of the night – not that I’m suggesting that here).

    We have two people at war with each other. It will take 2-3 generations to educate (especially on the Palestinian side!) towards mutual respect and peace.

    Until then, the two sides need to be separated so they stop killing each other. Then when they regain trust after several years of quiet, they can talk more about co-operation.

    I don’t see why it’s such a “scary” solution. Nobody will be forced to leave their homes; they’ll just get a new passport.

  • Akiva says:

    Ariel, the plan that you espouse is scary because it is yet another step to towards the politicide of the Palestinian and Israeli Arab population. A path which is foolish not least for the reason that the Israeli and Palestinian futures are so completely interdependent that destruction of the one will necessarily involve destruction of the other.

    And by politicide, I use the definition of Baruch Kimmerling, Sociology Prof from the Hebrew University – a process covering a wide range of social, political and military activities whose goal is to destroy the political and national viability of a community, its viability as a legitimate social and economic entity and thus deny it the possibility of self-determination. This process is typically accomplished by the elimination of leadership and elite groups, physical destruction of public institutions and infrastructure, land colonization, starvation, social and political isolation and – the shifting of borders along ‘ethnic’ lines which is in fact, nothing of the sort, because to make genuine states would involve the forced transference of people, which is in fact considered a preliminary to atrocities.

    The geographic boundaries that you propose are untenable. A Palestinian State would have no real way of supporting itself, no possibility of building an economy. No sovereignty over it’s water supply, for G_d’s sake! No prospects for building industry. No geographical unity. It will not reduce animosity towards Israel, and will not increase Israeli security. And it is immoral.

  • ariel says:


    You’re more hysterical than Leo Bloom! Quick, get your blue blanket!

    Everything you’re saying was predicted about Israel in the late 40s and look at it now.

    A Palestinian state with support from Jordan and other brothers would thrive.

  • SJa says:

    ABM’s characterisation of liberal zionism as a ‘gross manipulation of Zionistic ideals as pretenders who have been duped into thinking that if we Jews play nicely and heed “world opinion”then maybe the rest of the world will wake up one morning and decide that that Israel … is worthy of not being blown into oblivion’ strikes me as a bit tad unfair.

    It strikes me that the two primary concerns of liberal zionism (which in the current Knesset, seems expressed unfortunately by a minority)are:

    1. a viable two state solution (such as the Clinton parameters or something of that nature);
    2. ensuring that Israel’s minorities within Israel proper are treated equally, whilst still ensuring the Jewish character of the state.

    I don’t see how this can be described as a gross manipulation of Zionist ideals. It strikes me that preventing a viable two state solution from occurring by the actions of building ‘facts on the ground’ as the Israeli right encourage, and not entering in good faith negotiations with the Palestinians (as again the Israeli right fail to do), is what will lead to a binational reality and ensure that a Jewish democratic state is impossible. Can you honestly say, that the actions of building settlements over the last 43 years is consistent with ensuring a two state solution, and thus a Jewish democracy, albeit on a smaller area then you may hope.

    The fact that there have been unsuccessful attempts at negotiation in the past, which usually occur in the context of a weak government, near the end of their term (Barak in 2000, Olmert in 2008), does not mean that Israel should simply give up. Generally, as Mark points out the reality is far more complex and tired cliches of ‘exposing the Palestinian’s true face’ (Ehud Barak’s comments back in 2000)ignores the complex reality and dynamics of the situation.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Thanks SJa – this is all a bit exhausting and time consuming.

    And to Akiva’s early comment that he doesn’t enjoy being negative, here’s a good place to talk about the tremendous achievements of liberal Zionism in Israel proper and what us at stake: a democratic parliamentary system (not to ignore the position of those under Israel’s rule who don’t participate – but accepting for present purposes that responsibility for the resolution of that is highly complex); unions ; a truly independent judiciary; freedom of the press; academic freedom, universal health care, proliferation of human rights organisations.

  • ariel says:

    Are people aware that the original UN Partition Plan called for two DEMOCRATIC states, one Arab, one Jewish?

    Probably one reason why the Arab world rejected it, among other reasons.
    Of course they’ve come along way now with a democratically elected legislative council.

    SJa’s point #2 is all good and well. But will the Palestinian state grant the same rights for its minorities?

    This is not argument that Israel shouldn’t. It’s an argument about what kind of neighbour Israel wants and whether Jews who want to do so will be allowed to live in the Palestinian state with full rights. If not, then Israel has every reason to be skeptical.

  • Akiva says:

    Mandi – agreed about the Health Care, and that IS something truly worth celebrating, rarity that it is in the western world. (although I wish that doctors outside the army got paid adequately in Israel – but they’ll get there.)And I suppose a proliferation about Hunam Rights organisations is good….if one didn’t know that their main purpose there is because Israel is so dodgy in that area that it demands constant, regular bellringing.

    as for the rest, you have got to be joking. Freedom of Press? Tell that to Uri Blau. And Richard Silverstein. And a democratic parliamentary system? Tell that to – the list is endless – the east Jerusalem residents, Zoabi – do you actually believe what you have written? That Israel should be applauded for these things?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    There is structural inequality in Israel which undermines all the nostrums about equality. Many would claim it is in fact deliberate, others claim neglect or straight out ignorance.

    I am not entering into that space, but see what Israel Palestinians have to say: that the existence of two, separate and unequal society is endemic, despite all protestations to the contrary.

    As a number of recent cases also show, freedom of expression and the press, including the rights of Jews, is under challenge.



    The UN State Dept report on Israel and Palestine.
    Not only are critical remarks made about Israel, but Palestine, but Israel’s democratic claims are under challenge. This is of course, is a political analysis. One could go to Amnesty, but I assume this would be substantially challenged by many people.

    If you were looking at the issue of economic discrimination, look to acri etc.

    and http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/nea/136070.htm


  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hello Akiva – Actually I do. These things are incredibly complex.Israel is not just its state institutions.Its also its people and things like NGOs. Akiva-you have seen what I have written – I think a lot that goes on in Israel is shameful. But its hardly in the world’s most peace loving region. Israel is an extraordinary mix of things. The security issues are real. The security issues are part of why people support Lieberman. I think Palestinians are entitled to justice notwithstanding that they have collectively wasted opportunities for justice. But there’s also the matter of jihadist violence. And Hamas. And war. So how could you expect or believe that those things wouldn’t impact to a degree on freedom of the press. The occupation is not of Israel’s making. Nor is the ongoing failure to resolve it, all or even primarily Israel’s responsibility. So I believe the wall has to be there. But even its awful weaving ways have been challenged in the courts. And if the wall has to be there, the checkpoints have to be there. So all strength to the human rights organisations that monitor them.I don’t think Israel is a beacon of democracy, or a model of multiculturalism. But I do think its the closest thing to a liberal democracy in the region. Akiva – in sixty years Israel has has fought however many wars for its survival and faced terror against its civilians and dealt with challenges of rapid population growth through diverse waves of immigration. We’re not talking about the sunshine coast here. Yes academic freedom and freedom of the press are under threat – but there are people who are fighting for them. And the circumstances in which academic freedom have come under threat are extraordinary – state paid academics supporting total boycott of the state to undermine its existence. Not that I in any way support Im Tirzu or anything other than academic freedom but there’s not a lot of precedent for this stuff. And btw I think Richard Silverstein is obnoxious.

  • Akiva says:

    I also think Richard Silverstein is personally obnoxious, and he often jumps the gun, something I cannot abide in commentators – although I often admire his persistence and dedication to what he believes is just – but that is beside the point. His website is regularly interfered with by the Israeli powers that be. I do not believe Israel to have either academic freedom or freedom of the press.

  • ariel says:

    Akiva, I agree that Israel has no academic freedom.

    When students and some academics attempt to veer from the “Israel is a terrorist, colonialist, imperialist, occupier full of religious zealots who want to continue the “genocide” of Palestinians started in 1947″ they are vilified and have to move the US to be heard.

  • Morry says:

    As I look at these discussions I see two very major points of division. The first, one of narrative, is epitomised by Mark Baker’s “I don’t like the kind of Zionism that is narcissistic, that refuses to see the multiple narratives and complexity of the conflict, that does not accept responsibility for the consequences of Jewish statehood on its victims, that makes excuses for the occupation and minimises its devastating effects”

    It is undoubtedly important to see all narratives, but that is a world away from lending all narratives credence. Narratives should be judged against the objective evidence we have, and we should certainly not shy away from “your narrative is wrong here, here and here, because….”. That Larry Stillman advocates a narrative that is totally divorced from the reality ensconced in a wealth of documentation, freely available from such archives as the UN’s UNISPAL comes as no surprise,it does trouble me that Mark lectures in this subject, and that his own narrative appears similarly flawed, the product of what amounts to very recent PR. Little things like “The law Israel inherited is a combination of Ottoman and British mandatory…” pull me up like a sour note would a musician, because the issues of religious tolerance in both Israeli and Mandatory law are set out firstly the League of Nations San Remo Conference followed by the Mandatory requirements and those of the “Jewish Homeland” in the susequent “Mandate of Palestine”. Neither the British French nor Americans would have been concerned with Ottoman law. Where nobody in the region could get away from Ottoman law was in the issues of property, where Ottoman law was so very complex, that it had to be retained.

    The narrative people should be measuring other narratives against is that the Jews are indigenous to the area named “Palestine” by the Romans. In recognition of that connection, the League of Nations, in dividing up Ottoman state lands put aside a parcel for the Jews. In 1924, the Mandate of Palestine was divided between the Arab inhabitants and the Jews, the Arabs receiving 80% of the land east of the Jordan River, the Jewish homeland to be all of the land west of the river (including today’s WB and Gaza). There has been no subsequent agreement to supercede that one, so, to the best of my understanding, that land is still “the Jewish Homeland” … but Israel has made it very clear that for peace it is prepared to donate much of that land to become a “Palestinian state”. So, yes Mark, “a Palestinian state is a generous concession rather than a moral obligation”, and personally, as somebody who interacted widely with the Arab population, I would happily do my utmost to convince Jordan to to take the bulk of it. For me that reflects a time when the Arabs of the WB were eminently happy, before the extremist politics of groups like Fatah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other members of the PA took hold.

    In the widely accepted narrative “the Palestinians were dispossed by the Jews”. The reality, according to the definitive “British Survey of Palestine of 1947″ was that total private ownership of the land was around a meagre 20%, whilst “local Arabs” (what we would call “Palestinians” today) owned a mere 3.9%. Given that in Israel of 1948 and of today, Arabs own 3.3%, and given the demographics of pre-state Jewish and Arab settlement, it would be a huge stretch to talk of any significant “dispossession”. The anomallies in narrative are easily ironed out with an understanding of the place of “miri land” in Ottoman law, things I would have expected any self-respecting lecturer to have at his fingertips.

    The other thing that troubles me even more is how much we Jews really love beating ourselves up. No level playing field for us, if I understand postings by Mark, Akiva and Larry, amongst others. By all means boycott Israel, but not Sudan, it’s only right (/sarc). Let me make this abundantly clear. Israel has gone out of its way as no other nation ever has. Arabic is the official language of Israel alongside Hebrew, with all banknotes, street signs etc bilingual. I know of no other nation to have accomodated a minority group to that degree. You mention the King David hotel, but fail to mention that three seperate phone calls were made to warn of the bomb … how much more could they do? You mention Gaza, where Israeli forces made 250,000 phone calls to warn civilians and dropped millions of leaflets. I can’t think of anything they failed to do. We are back to narrative … the things you include, and the things you fail to include. Israel is far from perfect, but I expect Australia to judge Israel according to the same priorities it applies to other nations. When an Israeli diplomat is expelled, but our Foreign Minister can produce no evidence of culpability of passport abuse, yet Russia is forgiven proven excesses, my injustice antennae have a conniption fit. If we Jews don’t demand a level playing field, especially after everything we’ve been through, nobody will.

    At the bottom line, Israeli values and Australian values differ very little, what does differ is a matter of circumstance. If Australia was dropped into the midst of hostile enemies tryong to destroy it, I doubt that we would have a fraction of Israeli self-control. It is those happy to lose the context who worry me more than anybody. I do demand a level playing field, and an appreciation of the context … so easily ignored by so many writing here.

    Lastly, our lifestyles and our health are currently very dependant on Israeli products, and few appreciate the enormous extent of the benefits Israel brings us (because they’re largely ignored by our media). Before you advocate a boycott, perhaps a look at what you may be sacrificing would be worthwhile. They include, recently, amongst so very many hundreds, probable cures or early detection of diabetes and cancer.

  • Mark Baker says:

    Hi Morry, thanks for your post. It would be great for people to identify themselves. I just want to clarify one or two factual points. One: please don’t lump me into the group that are calling for a (selective) boycott. Two: You are right to say that collective minority rights were a product of San Remo which produced, for example, a Minorities Treaty in Poland. These rights were the flip side of the coin of the principles of national self-determination of the successor states after the breakup of the great empires. But in the case of Palestine, they were specifically linked to the Ottoman millet system which carried through the British Mandatory period into Israel. I can supply you with historical writing on this but you have already decided that I am not equipped to teach in this area so I’ll leave you with the certainty of your own factual account.
    Mark Baker

  • Geoff Bloch says:

    Hi Mandi,

    Sorry for not responding sooner to your query.

    By “Arab land” I meant land in Yehuda and Shomron actually occupied by Palestinian Arabs as distinct from unoccupied land in Yehuda and Shomron, which I termed “disputed land”. While religious Jews believe that the Jewish people have had the title deeds to ALL Yehuda and Shomron for the last three and a half thousand years, only a very tiny, unrepresentative minority argue that indigenous Arabs should be dispossessed and evicted from their homes and fields. As it happens, contrary to Palestinian propaganda, Jewish settlements in Yehuda and Shomron were built on disputed land, not on Arab land.



  • Mandi Katz says:

    Thanks for clarifying Geoff. So do you propose that the ACJC courses on Israel instruct university students on the distinction between “Arab land” (where the Torah as title , you say, is clear but most Jews, happily concede the point) and disputed land, where the Torah as title prevails and is not to be conceded?

  • Geoff Bloch says:

    Hi Mandi,

    You have attributed two statements to me which I did not make.

    (1) I did not say that most Jews would happily concede anything. What I indicated was that only a tiny, unrepresentative minority of religious Jews argues that indigenous Arabs should be dispossessed and evicted from their homes and fields. Conceding land has a political implication and I have offered no opinion as to how others may approach that complex issue.

    (2) I did not say that disputed land is not to be conceded. Again, you should draw no conclusion as I have offered no opinion on the subject. What I can tell you, however, is that I wrote an article which was published in the AJN way back in 1990 (long before the hitnatkut was on Israel’s political agenda) canvassing a unilateral withdrawal from most of Yehuda and Shomron and from Gaza to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state but also canvassing a unilateral annexation of parts of Yehuda and Shomron, avoiding the main Palestinian Arab population centres, so as to include the main Jewish settlement blocs within Israel proper (the main settlement blocs are located adjacent to the Green Line). But I hasten to add that so much has happened since then, most significantly, Israel’s disastrous withdrawal from Gaza which has demonstrated that Palestinian Arabs are less interested in nation building than in destroying Israel. I doubt I would write in quite the same way today.

    As to your mention of the ACJC courses, hopefully students are taught to question the Palestinian narrative that Israel is building on Palestinian land in breach of International Law.



  • Mark Baker says:

    How does the ACJC get into it? The ACJC is not an it, or an acronym that stands for an it, but a group of individual academics who have personal views across the spectrum and who I would hope teach responsibly, as academics should. I can speak for myself as a teacher, particularly one who teaches the Arab-Israel conflict, that I do my best to give students the tools to think critically about the issues, and to understand that our use of language is very loaded, so that words like occupied, disputed, indigenous, settler, Palestine, etc, are never objectively clear-cut concepts. So yes, I can say with complete assurance that my students would come out fully aware of the perspective you take on the definition of the territories, and of other perspectives as well that regard the territories through alternative prisms. What they do with this information I can’t control but I hope at the least they come out understanding how complex matters are, and that they should be suspicious of everything before forming an opinion. I often get asked how I can do this if I hold strong opinions on the subject; my answer is that I’m a teacher/educator and I know how to differentiate my views from our professional duties as educators. I hate when teachers use the lectern as a platform or pulpit.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Mark, hi Geoff

    Mark – I brought the ACJC into it, apologies. I was trying to couch it as a question about what a university or a department might teach, rather than what you might teach.

    Geoff – thanks again for clarifying. It wasn’t my intention to misconstrue what you said.

    The element I am most interested in is your comment that “religious Jews believe that the Jewish people have had the title deeds to ALL Yehuda and Shomron for the last three and a half thousand years”, and how you would expect that, as an underlying principle affecting political entitlement, to be taught in university courses.

    I have never studied the ME at university but have read widely on it and generally find that that view in journalism, or more academic works, is treated critically – in the pejorative sense.

    It is usually presented as one of many obstacles to resolution, because in more academic discussions on history and the status under international law, it is seen as an “irrational” claim. Is that unfair do you think? Would you expect a university lecturer to present it as an entitlement that deserves serious political consideration?

    I am really interested in this so would appreciate your thoughts – when you have time. I am interested in the issue generally, not as a discussion about Mark as I think he has answered how he teaches this and other perspectives.


  • Shira says:

    I am disturbed by Mark Baker’s response to the central point raised by Geoff Bloch (my dad) questioning the validity of human-derived moral codes. My dad gave 2 examples which are serious problems for humanist ethics – Nazi Germany and Islamic terrorism.

    Mark then suggested that he add to this list the bombing of the King David hotel by the Irgun in 1946.

    Equating this act of violence with the 2 examples suggested by my dad is blatant moral equivalence; but beyond this, I fail to see how it proves Mark’s point. My dad’s point was that in those societies certain types of murder, which we consider atrocities, are by definition ethical because they comply with that society’s moral code (and hence that humanism is a seriously flawed ideology). There is no contradiction – given certain conditions, the king david hotel bombing (especially in the way it was carried out, as an attack on a military installation, with prior warning) would be ethical too – and not necessarily only for Irgun members in 1946. Just because it involved a bomb doesn’t mean it goes in the same category of “things which other people consider ethical but we recognise as atrocities”.

    But either way, this example doesn’t fortify Mark’s humanist position, it actually strengthens my dad’s. What is Mark’s point in raising this example? If Mark is suggesting we disagree with the Irgun’s decision, then precisely – it goes in the same category as my dad’s examples, proving the vacuousness of humanism. (And if he is equating the Irgun’s principles with religious rather than human-derived principles, and dismissing them as immoral, it’s a pernicious attack on the morality of our own religion – which makes the whole issue circular – you’d have to be a humanist to claim that you know better than the divine code your own religion subscribes to!)
    If Mark is suggesting that we can agree with the Irgun but not with the Nazi and Islamic examples – then he’s not really a humanist, is he? From a humanist perspective, he would have to suggest that the Nazis were ethical, which would be ridiculous in any case, but especially because one of Mark’s stated tenets of faith is Holocaust memory! It fortifies my dad’s point, because the reason we might have different attitudes to different “atrocities” – ie. why we might consider the king david hotel bombing ethical, but not the other examples – is not because it complies with our self-derived moral code, but because it complies with the divine moral code.

    I assume Mark’s response would be that his human-derived moral code is not black & white, but builds in factors that allow us to have complex attitudes, eg. to agree with the Irgun but not with the other examples. In which case, what is the point of bringing up the king david hotel? And it still doesn’t answer – for a true humanist – why his complex moral code is superior to another society’s. It still comes down to something that transcends human beings.

    In any case, if we agree that the king david hotel bombing was the right course of action at the time, it doesn’t mean we have to be proud of it either. Mark seems to think that choosing the “right” thing to do means that it is absolutely right, in a vacuum, with no downside or regrets or adverse effect on anyone else, the kind of thing you can boast about from the rooftops and is immune to criticism.

    Most choices in complex situations involve some sacrifice that of course can be twisted out of proportion, but does not mean that another course of action would be better.

    As Mark said about the Gaza war: “Israel had a right to respond to rockets. But equally, Israel had a moral responsibility to protect human life. Did Israel strike the right balance demanded of us by the ‘higher moral’ authority from which our core values derive?” This is not a statement of belief; this is nothing more than sitting on the fence!
    Anyone can delineate the pros and cons on either side. In the various issues he raises, Mark makes no attempt to actually use his moral code to make a concrete decision on what the ethical course of action would be. In each case he simply describes the values that are in conflict, which is what creates the moral dilemma. I would imagine that the vast majority of people, excluding fundamentalist minorities, respect each of the conflicting values in each case. But an ideology or moral code must go further than that – it must enable you to choose BETWEEN conflicting values, instructing you which one is more important when they are pitted against each other; because we do not live in an ideal world where values we respect are only ever pitted against principles we abhor.

    I am troubled as to why Mark continually refrains from getting off the fence. Is it because he is afraid of the criticism that can inevitably be manufactured against you when you make a decision in a non-ideal world? Or is it because his ideology doesn’t equip him to do anything other than identify the issues?

  • Geoff Bloch says:

    Hi Mandi,

    You have asked me to comment on my previous post.

    The statement I made that “religious Jews believe that the Jewish people have had the title deeds to ALL Yehuda and Shomron for the last three and a half thousand years” is not an expression of an opinion. It is fact because it reflects the divine gift of the Holy Land (which includes all of Yehuda and Shomron) to Abraham and to his descendants, which is repeated several times in our Scriptures.

    It is axiomatic that the divine gift is in tension with the views of those who do not hold by it and who believe that Jews have no political entitlement. But on any reasonable view, the territorial claim on religious grounds cannot be characterised as “irrational”.

    The really interesting question is whether those Jews who DO make a territorial claim based on religious grounds are nevertheless prepared to countenance some form of Palestinian sovereignty or whether, by doing so, that might amount to a renunciation of the gift. It is a perfectly rational and legitimate view to hold that what is gifted by God is not for man to renounce or divide, however unsatisfactory that may sound to the secular ear.

    This is a complex topic which can hardly be addressed satisfactorily in a few lines (or by me, no matter how much space I had) but, as you’ve asked me, here, for what it’s worth, are some things to think about.

    Our sages tell us that Abraham muzzled his flocks as he journeyed through the Holy Land so that they would not eat the produce of other farmers’ fields. Parashat Chayei Sarah records how Abraham purchased Ma’arat Hamachpelah from Efron Hachiti. Why would Abraham have done either of these things if he had already been gifted the land? Some religious Jews might therefore make the concession that being the beneficiary of the divine gift does not necessarily mean that one should not also recognise some form of proprietary or other right of indigenous peoples.

    No other nation in history has been so selfless in welcoming others within its borders. There is a reason why God chose the Holy Land. It was the land bridge in the ancient world through which everyone had to pass on the trade routes between the 3 continents. It was therefore the obvious place where our influence in the world could be maximised and where we could best fulfil our eternal mission of being Or Lagoyim (a light unto the nations). What is so miraculous is that it has worked, at least to a significant degree. Most civilised societies throughout the world are founded on timeless values and principles which the Torah revealed and which have echoed down through the ages.

    It follows that Jews’ territorial claims on religious grounds are defensible. The difficulty, of course, is whether it is possible to find a way which reconciles that claim with political reality and I would refer you to my previous post which touches on this.

    What does strike me as irrational in this whole debate is the world’s preoccupation with our tiny sliver of land. Our own vital interest and concern (and, yes, even our own self-criticism) is explicable, but how is the world’s obsession with it and with us to be explained? It defies all logic given the relative magnitude of so many other troubled regions in the world which attract no attention at all. Could this be proof positive, staring us in the face, of the divinity of our Scriptures?



  • michael says:

    What a wonderful piece from Shira who brought up the disturbing moral equivalence argument we so often hear from Baker when the taboo subject of Islamic extremism and violence is ever brought up . Why he can not condemn the scourge of Islamic Violence with out trying to water it down by finding other examples baffles me. What is he afraid of?

    Michael says:
    August 30, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    You might have added to your list of examples those of the Irgun blowing up the King David Hotel. Was that right Says Mark Baker

    Is Baker trying to argue ”Moral equivalence” between the Jews Blowing up the King David Hotel a Military [not Civilian target] after first warning the Britt’s and the Palestinians and Islamists who take pleasure in blowing up civilian establishments and innocent civilians with out prior warning.

  • Morry says:

    Hi Mark,

    You wrote “One: please don’t lump me into the group that are calling for a (selective) boycott”

    I was actually lumping you into the group that fails to advocate a level playing field. Whilst the flags of most of the Christian world sport their various crosses, from the single crosses of Sweden, Switzerland and Norway to the multitude of crosses that is the Union Jack, prominent on our own Australian flag, and whilst the Moslem world sports a multitude of crescents and greens, the one singularity you find offensive and unrepresentative of minorities is the single Magen David on the only Jewish flag in the world.

    I can supply you with historical writing on this but you have already decided that I am not equipped to teach in this area so I’ll leave you with the certainty of your own factual account

    Cute, if somewhat thin-skinned. But I did go back to the Mandate Document which is the one that sets out the various rights and obligations of a Jewish Homeland, and, of course, of the Mandatory itself. It’s freely available from UNISPAL (I have selected the relevant text for brevity, and have listed the articles that relate to the issue of laws. As you can see, whilst it does deal with the rights of existing non-Jewish communities (echoed in very similar language in Israel’s Declaration of Independence)there is no mention of Turkish Law or Millet).

    Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed … in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country; and

    Whereas recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country;

    Article 2

    The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.

    Article 7

    The Administration of Palestine shall be responsible for enacting a nationality law. There shall be included in this law provisions framed so as to facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian citizenship by Jews who take up their permanent residence in Palestine.

    Article 9

    The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that the judicial system established in Palestine shall assure to foreigners, as well as to natives, a complete guarantee of their rights.

    Respect for the personal status of the various peoples and communities and for their religious interests shall be fully guaranteed. In particular, the control and administration of Wakfs shall be exercised in accordance with religious law and the dispositions of the founders.

  • Morry says:

    I do note, Mark, that you chose to ignore most of my posting … the need to verify narratives rather than accept them unquestioningly, the issues of land ownership and dispossession, and perhaps most importantly, the issue of context. If Israel was blessed with Australia’s neighbours there would be no conflict, or conversely, if Australia found itself surrounded by the hostility Israel faces, the responses would be much like those of Israel, if not far less tolerant of constant rocket attacks.

  • Morry says:

    Hi Mandi,

    you wrote: The element I am most interested in is your comment that “religious Jews believe that the Jewish people have had the title deeds to ALL Yehuda and Shomron for the last three and a half thousand years”, and how you would expect that, as an underlying principle affecting political entitlement, to be taught in university courses.

    I think you would find that it was the 1924 allocation of the land to the Jewish homeland by its owner, the League of Nations, with no subsequent agreement to supercede it, that serves as “the underlying principle affecting political entitlement”.

    Clearly, we are only talking about Ottoman state lands (about 80% of the area), not privately titled land which is universally recognised as belonging to the title holder. The complication in both the West Bank and Gaza is that Arabs have chosen to settle, not only on Ottoman state lands that they do not own, but on Jewish-titled land, including hundreds of dunams of JNF land, where they clearly have no right to be with clear title belonging to somebody else, absent an Israeli agreement to abandon those lands (the Jewish lands purchased in Gaza in 1920 are probably considered so abandoned, though the title remains intact).

  • Mark Baker says:

    Morry, I actually don’t disagree with most of what you say. I have elsewhere and in all of my writings defended Israel against the charge that as an ethno-nationalist state it is somehow unique or anomalous when most European countries are constituted in the same way. My notion is not to take away from the symbolic imagery of the Jewish state, but to find ways of integrating significant minorities into these symbols by expanding them. I think this is a real challenge for Israel and addressing it will enhance its own claims to be a Jewish and democratic state. In general Morry, I won’t argue with people without knowing their identity which is one reason I prefer Facebook.
    Hi Shira and thanks for your comments. My argument with Geoff was to defend a line in my piece that advocated religious humility. I don’t have a hotline to God, and those who do usually use it to justify a politics of violence that stems from absolute religious certainties. When, for example, people say in Judaism, that we have a legal title to the land because they can point to a Rashi commentary in Genesis, I can point to many other sources that would suggest that we might not, under today’s circumstances, hold this title. How do we negotiate these competing ideas that stem from our reading of Torah which in Judaism is the channel through which we make moral judgments? Ultimately, there is no escaping our own free will and conscience which is why I believe that Judaism and humanism can be, and in my view should be, closely aligned. I also, by the way, recognise the tensions between humanistic ideals of autonomy and Judaism’s beliefs in collective obligations, or between particularism and universalism. These are all part of the negotiations one must make in response to all sorts of challenges.
    Only someone who wants to impute malevolent intentions to me would suggest that I introduced the King David hotel and the Gaza war to draw a moral equivalence between these events and Nazism or suicide bombing. These examples were introduced to argue the opposite, namely that resorting to a higher moral authority that prohibits murder does not absolve us of the responsibility to use our mind to draw distinctions.
    As for asking me to get off the fence, there are many things one can say about me Shira, but being a fence sitter is not one of them. I invite you to be my Facebook friend and read my views, or you can talk to me anytime and I don’t think you will find me parveh in my views. I prefer not to argue in this forum because I’m not interested in feeding the snipers who abuse serious nuanced discussion and then lift a sentence out of context in order to defame. Geoff and I, by the way, differ on many issues (though we both share core commitments around Judaism, Zionism, and religion) but he is always respectful and open to a good and fair discussion.

  • Morry says:

    I tend to agree with Larry’s “that the existence of two, separate and unequal society is endemic”

    Israel is locked into recognising and supporting minority rights to pursue their own culture, and to live in their own cultural enclaves, a natural outcome of multiculturalism that we see right here in Australia. Just as my own father always worked for Yiddish speakers, the cultural divide, quite logically, dictates where you will work, and hence your renumeration. In addition, there are obvious trust barriers firmly in place, so whilst Israeli Arabs can vote as they wish, attend universities, become politicians or High Court judges and obtain jobs in academia and research, more sensitive defence jobs may be limited. Ultimately, some barriers will disappear with peace, but most are self-imposed by the cultural divide … much like with my dad.

    I have to wonder what Larry’s response would be if Israel suddenly started demanding the Arabs integrate into a single homogenous culture, with all the benefits that could ensue. I think he would be livid. This issue seems more about demonising Israel than about simply recognising that multiculturalism isn’t necessarily a good thing.

  • ABM says:


    You claim that the ACJC comprises of “a group of individual academics who have personal views across the spectrum”.

    Excuse my ignorance, but to me a spectrum consists of more than centre/left all the way to greens-supporting Trotskyites.

    The recent panel you presented at the otherwise excellent Limmud Oz is just an example of your detachment from reality (the glass bubble common referred to as academia) and from what the general community expects from the head of a department that is at the forefront of Mid-East and Israeli/Arab discourse.

    You are well known in the community as an author, professor, lecturer, academic, columnist etc, and are respected as the intellectual that you no-doubt are. However, when a panel – to discuss Israel/Palestine, no less – is presented by the head of the Jewish department at a conference for Jewish thought, learning, introspection and ideas, one would think it appropriate to include a – spectrum? – of opinions.

    The fact that you were joined by a Palestinian academic was expected and appropriate, but to then add Samah Sabawi, a vocal supporter of the BDS movement and strident critic of Israel, was beyond the pale.

    Is this the type of spectrum you are referring to? Where everyone else is to the left of you? Why not sit in the centre (where you no doubt see yourself), and invite some of the more insightful minds of our community (Geoff Bloch, Colin Rubenstein, Sam Tatarka) to engage in spirited debate and discussion with the academics seated to your left?

    Fortunately, we Jews don’t disrupt, throw objects, or deny the voicing of opinions by guest speakers no matter how much we abhor their views (as is done in universities around the world when Israelis or their supporters come to speak). All we ask is for the chance to argue, complain, kvetch and disagree, then maybe have a cup of tea and a bissel of cake… but not too much, we’re all watching our weight.

    Hosting a panel of guests that the some would clearly have issues with is one thing, but not a problem in itself. Denying the stunned audience the right to challenge and reply to the fountain of unsubstantiated drivel masquerading as historical fact is inexcusable.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    What, I haven’t been involved in this thread for a white. The attempt at total assimilationist culture for the very different Jewish communities failed a long time ago in Israel and you are posing the impossible. I think you know that.

    So why even bother to ask?

    I have to ask for some time out as well for work reasons.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Morry

    I said I was most interested in the principle of entitlement as Geoff expressed it.

    I didn’t say I wasn’t aware of any other basis of claim to entitlement.

    I am familiar with the view that under under international law, the territories are not occupied territories as defined in the Geneva conventions in that they were unclaimed territory after the British abandoned Palestine and the Jordanians annexed them. That view I believe is that no country in the world other than the UK recognised the Jordanian annexation and that left the territories stateless, hence they are not captured territory from another sovereign state.Is that what you mean by no subsequent superceding agreement?

    Geoff thanks for your very response.I appreciate the time you took to respond and would like to share some thoughts in response when I have a little time (mummy duties beckon).

  • Larry Stillman says:

    ABM, you are no engaging in conversation but invective. Since you are doing so, I think it appropriate that you come out from your invisible cloak, name yourself, and justify your assertions. Until you do so, I suggest that Mar Baker go on strike.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    ABM, you are not engaging in conversation but invective. Since you are doing so, I think it appropriate that you come out from your invisible cloak, name yourself, and justify your assertions. Until you do so, I suggest that Mar Baker go on strike.

  • Mark Baker says:

    ABM: nothing about what you are saying is in good faith, in fact, it is worse than invective, it’s defamatory. Not only isn’t it an accurate description of that single panel, you deliberately don’t mention all the other panels I led, plus the fact that the ACJC is a partner with the whole of Limmud, plus the fact that the ACJC has a ton of visitors each year, currently including David Menashri, Emanuele Ottolenghi who is from a right wing think tank called Defence of Democracies. Were you not present when 400 people came to our Centre to hear a panel discuss the delegitimisation of Israel. Were you not there when Ruth Gavison, one of Israel’s most powerful advocates speak about Israel and democracy. I am now disengaging from this conversation because it is all in bad faith, intended to defame, mad in its accusations about Trotskyites, so full of distortions, lies and hatred that it is proving to be a waste of my time.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Hello Adoni ABM? Are you pleased with yourself with your bullying?

    It is clear you have absolutely no idea of what goes on in the ‘glass bubble’ and your and other bottom-dweller’s intention is purely to heap invective on people like Mark for the sheer delight of it. You and others like you actually have no commitment or understanding of what it is to explore different ideas.

    I often disagree with Mark. I have seen some very right wing people at ACJC, but no, just like those little s#*!s from Im Tirzu, your book burning zeal has no boundaries.

    Hello? Hello? I am waiting for signs of intelligent life.

  • ABM says:

    Hi Mark,

    I find it interesting that, while accusing me of being defamatory, you have failed to refute the accusations about the panel.

    And Larry, with supporters like you, I’m guessing Mark prefers to speak for himself.

  • michael says:

    ABM you should read Palestinian activist Sol Salbe’s piece on this Blog site. Salbe was in the audience at limmud Oz with Bakers special guests the two Palestinian activists, Salbe makes special mention that Baker handled them very lightly i.e he gave them free reign to say anything they wanted about Israel & Israelis

    Of course Baker didn’t think to invite two Pro-Israel guest speakers along side to challenge these Palestinian activists, why interrupt their anti Israel diatribe with pesky Zionists asking questions.

    Can you ever imagine an ARab/Islamic conference inviting Pro- Zionist speakers to vilify Palestinians unchallenged…We Jews are so accommodating..

    Perhaps you should listen to another ACJC academic who appeared on 3CR radio recently on a Palestinian program where she told her delighted Palestinian host how Israelis were inhumane she hated Zionists and made derogatory remarks about the Australian Jewish community that they were too Pro _Israel. She went on to really bag Israel. I don;t know if she is still at ACJC but her name is still listed on the ACJC website.


    make sure to listen to entire interview fascinating stuff…

    ABM, The Academics at ACJC are the best advocates Australians for Palestine have……

  • Mandi Katz says:

    these comments are ridiculous. I was at the session too and this what I wrote in response to Sol’s piece, after :

    “Mark Baker’s skillfully handled dialogue with Samah Sabawi and Maher Mughrabi was indeed given a respectful stage – even though it wasn’t easy for many (including me) to hear all that was said . I sensed an itch in the room to rebut, and the unallowed ‘yes buts’ in the air was palpable . There were grumbles after, that people didn’t get the chance to make their points. Not sure that everybody appreciated the difference between a dialogue and a debate.”

    Sometimes you talk and argue and sometimes you just listen. I don’t believe Bibi gave Mark any power to power to negotiate a settlement with Sabawi.

    Tip for you – next time you see the word “dialogue” – stay away if you’re in the mood for a fight.

  • michael says:

    ”Moderator Mark Baker, using a very light touch” says sol salbe..

    The context is the Moderator gave the speakers plenty of leg room ..

    Bottom line the audience were outraged and insulted!

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Geoff – thanks again or your response.

    I never called your view on divine entitlement to land an “opinion”. I called it a principle. I did use the term “irrational”, but placed it in inverted commas and I used it because I don’t have a better way to characterise how the secular world sees religious views.

    On this at least we agree: there is something irrational about the world’s interest in Israel, as there always has been something inexplicable about malevolent impulses that some people have about Jews. I read last night about anti-semitism in Lithuania – particularly troubling because there have hardly been any Jews there for seventy years – Lithuanian Jewry having been destroyed in 1941 and more personal for me because that’s where my family came from, and where, it is likely, my father’s mother’s family were murdered by Nazi collaborators in a forest outside the town of Rakishek.

    I suspect that you are right that a blog is not a satisfactory place to have a discussion on faith. My question was limited to your views on how you think a principle of faith should be positioned in a secular academic world . But this discussion morphed at one point into a discussion about faith in the context of Israel, so for what its worth heres my two cents.

    I dont believe that Jews have divine rights that are better than or different to those of any other people. It follows that much as I enjoyed reading those examples you gave (seriously), and while I believe they form part of the Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael because of the way we have identified with those texts over time, I don’t believe they confer rights which trump all others.

    Thee was a time in my life when I had no way to make sense of the world and questions of morality, except through religion. I immersed myself in Jewish practice and learning, living in a home that wasn’t religious while attending a school that wasn’t religious.

    I don’t know when it all fell away for me but I realised over time that I just didn’t accept in my heart that God cared about all the things and in the way, that Orthodox Judaism said God did, and I could not accept that every word in the Torah was essentially not negotiable. I do have a sense a lot of the time of a divine spirit, but I am not always able to draw on that sense. That’s just how it is for me.

    At the same time I can’t walk away from the rhythm and much of the practice of Jewish life. I cant imagine eating chametz on Pesach or missing the chagim, to go on a holiday. And absolutely my first port of call to understand my own existence and understand morality is the Torah, which I believe enlightened the world, but is not necessarily the last word, on ethical living.

    But having a less clearly defined framework of faith doesn’t mean I can’t form a clear view on what’s right or wrong.

    I believe the creation of Israel was just in its time and circumstances. I know that there were people living where Israel now is and I accept that by contemporary standards the UN would not confer statehood on one people over the rights of people you have described as “indigenous”. I also understand that the intention of the ideology that drove the creation of the Jewish state was to give Palestinians (whether or not that term was used then) equal and full rights in the new state, and that the war of 1948 was not of Israel’s making, however the war played out, village by village, hilltop by hilltop. And I also believe that the world had a responsibility to Jews which was honoured in undertakings made to Jews and in the UN resolution of 1947. I believe the world needs a Jewish state with an essentially Jewish character, and I believe those who seek to delegitimise it are motivated by much more than compassion for Palestinians. If you ask me how I reconcile that with other values I have, I can only say that balancing all the circumstances of that time and that place and the experience of Jews without statehood, and the decade of Shoah and Jewish displacement. I believe that it was and remains just. I don’t need deep religious faith to know that. And as your daughter Shira says, it doesn’t mean I have to be proud of every aspect of it, in order to make peace with it.

    But that also means that I need to honour that properly in the way I identify with and support Israel. Hearing people talk about excluding citizens of Israel from the state in the name of Zionism by changing its borders, without their consent, sickens me. And I am conscious of the enormous suffering of Palestinians under military occupation as I imagine you are. So I don’t support the aspiration for a greater Israel and I don’t support a Jewish presence where it is an obstacle to peace and causes injustice, as I believe is now the case in the occupied territories. I respect the religious beliefs that others have which are different to mine but I dont support the political aspirations based on those beliefs, because of the human cost.

    We all need to stand somewhere.

  • Shira says:

    Mandi – I appreciate your response to the religious basis for our title to Israel raised by my dad. I agree with much of what you say – that world events of the 20th century (and previous centuries of antisemitism) on their own are basis enough for our entitlement to a land of our own.

    However, I must disagree with you that this is basis enough for our entitlement to Israel per se. If it was only about creating a place with a Jewish character, where Jews can feel safe, then Uganda or the Kimberleys would have been fine. The only reason to davka pick the land of Eretz Yisrael was a religious/historical one. The fact that the UN recognised the legitimacy of establishing the Jewish state in the land of Israel, despite the major issues that were completely foreseeable back then (as Israel’s efforts to include other minorities in their society were not reciprocated in good faith even prior to 1947) suggests to me that the secular world too recognised legitimacy in our Torah-based claim to title. As the story goes, when David Ben-Gurion – himself not a religious Jew – was asked for our title to the land of Israel, he held up a Tanach.

    Regarding how this can be conveyed as a basis for political entitlement to a secular public with well-entrenched cynicism towards religious arguments in general – this is a much more difficult question to answer. I have 3 comments on this.

    1. Even if we cannot answer this question, it should not undermine our own conviction in our Torah-based title to the land. Being unable to adequately convey this to someone who has no reason to accept the divinity or validity of the Torah is essentially inevitable – it should not resonate with them anymore than the validity of kashrut or Shabbat.

    2. I believe there is some degree of sensitivity to religious arguments even among those who would prefer all modern day claims to entitlement to be purely political. For example, the Islamic dream of Dar-es-salaam, for all of the historical Islamic heartland to be inhabited only by Muslims and devoid of non-believers (as I understand it) is a religious belief which needs to be fully understood and accounted for in our modern-day political reality. Another example – the problem many people have with our request for sovereignty over the Temple Mount is that the Arabs also claim a right to sovereignty there based on their own history and the writings of the Koran. My point is not to argue whether or not these religious arguments are valid, or how valid they are relative to ours, or to draw any sort of equivalence between these and ours; I am simply pointing out that I think there are religious claims to entitlement which are recognised (even if not endorsed) by secular students, so the Torah-based claim should fare at least as well as those.

    3. Even if the religious claim to title is difficult to convey, it can be couched in historical terms for those who do not subscribe to the premises required to value the religious argument. The rights of all indigenous peoples – Aborigines, American Indians, etc – are all based in the historical reality of “they were there first”. If we can recognise that the Aboriginal dreamtime took place in Australia, we can recognise that Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov walked the length and breadth of Israel. The uninterrupted presence of Jews in Israel since 40 years post the exodus from Egypt, despite the fact that for much of that time it was not the most comfortable or secure existence, precisely because it was promised to us by God, at least provides a basis for tying the religious claim in with a historical one.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Thanks Shira

    What a pleasure it is to have civilized discussion based on the issues, even if they are difficult. It is a pleasant change also to talk to another woman ; perhaps we can by example influence some of the less civil participants in this discussion.

    I will respond more fully but for now – when I questioned how the idea of how claim to land based on religion might be taught in universities, I wasn’t thinking that a good approach on that would resolve the merits of that argument. As you say – those beliefs either have merit or they dont, and that’s entirely subjective.

    I was responding more to what I thought was a strange expectation of a university lecturer, which I read as implicit in Geoff’s original post, when one applied the definitions for the terms “disputed and Arab lands” , which he provided in his subsequent post of on 1 September.

    To me there was then an implict suggestion that because the lecturer is Jewish he or she would have an obligation to ensure that students (and presumably regardless of whether or not they are Jewish) took away a perspective sympathetic to such a position rather than just aware of it.

    Shabbat shalom.


  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hello Shira

    To respond to the substance of yout post.

    I have no wish to tell you your belief in a religious connection to Israel is without basis. If that’s your faith, whether or not I am persuaded is irrelevant. I respect your religious beliefs. I also share your sense of a historical connection to Israel and I think that as a matter of historical fact – and I’m not analysisng the merit of the entitlement here – there would never have been a Jewish state anywhere else for many obvious reasons.

    But I do have an issue with religion as a political force, including religious nationalism – and I include religious Zionism in that.

    I am seriously wary of the risks which arise from the tendency of religious ideologies to put religious values ahead of democratic values in the way they seek to exercise the power of the state.

    In Israel in particular I also think that religious nationalism is more likely to be a zealous and therefore politically dangerous kind of nationalism that focuses on its own aspirations, over and above the welfare of all the people living in the state whether as citizens or under its military power.

    In real life Israel , I believe religious Zionism provides political obstacles to what all sensible commentators believe to be the only way Israel can survive as a country with democratic aspirations in the absence of a negotiated settlement any time soon – by building ‘facts on the ground’ that are consistent with a just outcome, and which improve conditons for people living under military occupation and not make it worse.

    So Israel and some of its supporters (but not all of its citizens and supporters) say Israel only wants peace and to that end, has time and time again offered to “give back” the occupied territories but really for much of 43 years of occupation – particularly since Oslo – has been going in quite a different direction in the way it deals with land and its resources. Trust is a two way thing.

    I am not naive about security and I fully understand what the security wall provides, and I don’t think I’m naive about the way Palestinians have wasted opportunities for better outcomes. But I also don’t believe that when it comes to democracy and human rights, it’s a “three strikes and you’re out” situation, and I don’t believe in collective punishment for all Palestinian people because Palestinian leadership has failed its people so badly time and again.

    I suspect I am more sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative than you are, but we don’t have to agree on the question of whether Israel has any responsibility for the radicalisation of Palestinian nationalism to agree that it is now without doubt the most serious obstacle to peace and to justice for Palestinians.

    The core of the discussion between you and me is whether you believe that a democratic Israel – and by that I mean also an end to occupation as soon as possible – is more important than a greater Israel ? I’d be really interested to hear your specific answer on that (I am prepared to accept that the political solution for that is not as clear cut as the commentators I mention above, say but I’m interested in the principle) and then we’ll have a better idea about whether or not, we do as you said in your post, agree on many things.

    In absence of a settlement from current talks, how Israel develops and implements policy on this, will of course be a matter for the citizens of Israel and their elected leaders but I believe that as Zionists outside of Israel we need to be clear and honest with ourselves and each other about what we’re aspiring for in our support of Israel, and whats at stake in those aspirations.


  • michael says:

    It’s lucky Mandi’s view doesn’t reflect most Zionists outside of Israel that wish for Israel to remain a state for the Jews just like the Muslims have 57 Muslim states [dictatorships, Kingdoms, etc ] which nobody objects to.

    Perhaps Mandi should have a read of charter of the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinians Hamas which calls for a ”Islamic State of Palestine’.

    Of course those Jews that believe a Jewish state is too ”exclusive” have no problem with a Palestinian Muslim state ,as usual the Jews are always the exception to the rule.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Previously on this post by me:

    I don’t accept that the talk of deligitimisation is just a way to deflect criticism. The singling out of Israel as a pariah among the world of nations with scant regard for the all the accountability …is a manifestation of the ongoing willingness to see the Jew as other and judge Israel by different standards

    I believe the world needs a Jewish state with an essentially Jewish character, and I believe those who seek to delegitimise it are motivated by much more than compassion for Palestinians.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Shira – someone just sent me an email asking me to explain what I meant in one sentence n my post! Apparently its not clear…

    So to clarify, when I say “it” is the most serious obstacle to peace, I mean radical and violent Palestinian nationalism is the most serious obstacle to peace. (I would hope in the context of everything else I wrote, that no other meaning was possible…)

  • Mark Baker says:

    Mandi, look how scared we’ve all become of our words. Did you mean this? Did you mean that? True, as the rabbis say, wise ones should be careful with their words, though there are too many rabbis this way who are being murderously reckless with their words. One of the reasons I like blogging is that it’s an opportunity to discuss and argue at an extended table. I want to be able to make mistakes, to express ideas that I might want to refine or take back because of something that someone else has said. But all of this requires good faith. Unfortunately, there is no good faith in an atmosphere where people turn words into knives to cut you down. Anyway, I say all this because I read your words and think that there are other major obstacles to peace, one of them being the absence of a Mandela-like peacemaker in the Israeli camp.

  • Shira says:

    Hi Mandi, thanks for your reply. I have plenty to say in response & will do so when I have a bit more time. But for now I just want to respond to one thing you said:

    “we don’t have to agree on the question of whether Israel has any responsibility for the radicalisation of Palestinian nationalism to agree that it is now without doubt the most serious obstacle to peace and to justice for Palestinians.”

    From the way you phrased, that sentence, I don’t understand what you are referring to as the obstacle – Israel itself or the radicalisation of Palestinian nationalism? (i’m asking this honestly, not cynically)

    In any case, what I consider the most serious obstacle to peace and justice for Palestinians, is the Palestinian leadership (not just the current leadership, but all the way back to the PLO). The leaders are the ones who have sponsored the growing radicalisation of the population, lined their own pockets with aid money, and refused to be serious partners in peace talks by making demands they know Israel can never agree to and by saying one thing to Arab media and another to Western media. In short, they are the ones who create, enforce and maintain measures to ensure that they stay at war with Israel because they cannot bring themselves to make peace.

  • Shira says:

    thanks Mandi – I must have been writing my reply when you answered the question for me! anyway, more later.

  • michael says:

    ”one of them being the absence of a Mandela-like peacemaker in the Israeli camp.”

    I presume mr Baker made a slip of the tongue and meant …

    ”one of them being the absence of a Mandela-like peacemaker in the Palestinian camp.”

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I must be on another planet, because I hear similar discussions from Palestinian advocates, making similar accusations about the Israeli leadership corrupt/blood hungry etc etc

    I’d like to point out, however, there are well-argued, good faith positions such as this one just put in the Washington post. Why should be seen as a lying, conniving etc etc? http://tiny.cc/3a7bl. Or is it that pride is in the way?

  • michael says:

    For the first time I agree with Larry from AJDS, there is no difference between what Baker writes and what Palestinian advocates write they are both in sync…..

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Well I’ll take on the responsibility to be more careful with my words – but I am taken aback that in a discussion about the future of democracy in Israel, and about concerns about the possible negative effects of the growth of religious nationalism on that, and where I have earlier defended Israel’s democratic culture and where I have been at pains to express my concern for the security of people living in Israel (including many many friends and family) that anyone could think I see Israel as worse than Hamas!!!!

  • Larry Stillman says:


    Whoever you are, please lay off the stupid remarks and engage in some serious thought here. I put a lot of effort into my writing, I and at least Mark I suspect and Mandy put care into what we right.

    BTW, for some insight into current Hamas thinking, and other matters drawing a parallel with the political and armed divisions of the IRA and how they were brought into the fold, listen to Ali Abuminah http://tiny.cc/mgv1h.

    Rather than just repeating nostrums, listen and read such people. You may not agree with them, but you need to be able to deal with quite sophisticated advocates of their strong position.

  • michael says:

    I can’t believe you are seriously comparing the IRA and Hamas you are way off the mark Larry.The aims of the IRA posed no existential threat to the British. This is not the case where Israel and Hamas are concerned, however. The objectives of Hamas require the destruction of the State of Israel. Moreover, whereas the political goals of the IRA were confined locally to the future of the island of Ireland, Hamas, by its own admission, is part of a global Islamist movement, known as the Muslim Brotherhood.

    Lets for the sake of the argument consider you are being serious, when and how would you expect Hamas ever to bring it’s ”military’ wing into the fold of it’s ‘Political wing’ and why would they?


    BTW As far as I am aware the IRish terrorists restricted their violence to Ireland and UK I don’t recall Irish blowing up Irish community centers in New York or threatening Irish citizens all over the globe and forcing them into a siege mentality ?

    I suggest you read up on the Hamas charter try to understand where these fanatical Islamists are coming from and are so different to the Irish and get back to me

    BTW since when are you he spokesperson for Baker , I suspected AJDS was close to ACJC but didn’t realize you were that close?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    O dear, the IRA were actively involved in bombing campaigns in the UK and caused mass terror and were engaged in terror operations and networks with other groups in Europe. If they didn’t cause existential terror in parts of N. Ireland. I don’t know what did. The analogy is supported by others who know the N. Ireland situation well.

    They were also actively supported with funding from the US and elsewhere.

    Hamas, from all accounts have several different streams (just like the IRA) and people attach themselves to extremism in desparation.

    I suggest you look at this item in haaretz which just appeared. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/palestinians-endgame-peace-deal-could-bring-hamas-ruled-gaza-back-into-the-fold-1.312264

    Please stop engaging in remarks such remarks about me and or Baker Why in any case, are you too chicken to name youself, or do you choose to hide behind some chicken wings like a scared little bird?

  • Mark Baker says:

    I was evacuated from a restaurant in Oxford St one year in the 80s when an IRA bomb exploded at Selfridges across the road. But the nature of terrorism has changed dramatically over time. In the nineteenth century, the Narodnoya Volya agonised about whether they had the right to assassinate Alexander 11 for fear of killing a single child. The terrorism of the Irgun and Stern Gang (they used the word to describe themselves) was also different to the terrorism of today; they only targeted representatives of the Mandatory administration but in the process killed civilians – not unlike the first century Sicaari. Today’s terrorism aims to create a spectacle of mass death and to sew fear into the heart of every civilian. But it’s also not so new and was used by the FLN in Algeria. The Tamil Tigers while practising suicide bombings generally target their victims. My point: while many organisations use the word terrorism, it means different things in different places and times. All terrorism ultimately taints the cause by its indiscriminate murder, which is why the mainstream Hagana rejected the tactics of Begin and Shamir.

  • michael says:

    The The Tamil Tigers and FLN in Algeria can not be compared to Islamist terrorists which Hamas, Al Quaida and the dozens of other islamist franchises fit into The islamists have a world wide goal, they are also anti -Semitic , take their terror all over the world not just localised to where their gripe is which none of the other above terrorist groups including others like ETA , Chechyans etc do.

  • michael says:

    Please stop engaging in remarks such remarks about me and or Baker says Larry….

    You are the one that is constantly defending or making remarks about Baker so I suggest you take your own advise .

    Lets stick to the topic….

  • Mark Baker says:

    The PLO certainly exported their terrorism internationally; that was their trademark but their target was not the West but to raise awareness about their cause which was local. Hamas, while being antisemitic, Islamist and more radical than the PLO, nonetheless focus on terrorism inside Israel, sometimes retreating behind the green line for tactical reasons (eg, right now they have announced that settlers behind the green line are legitimate targets, something which is obscene to me but shows how they are drawing limits to their terror). Al Qaeda of course has no limits because there are no limits to their goals – that is why they terrorise the west but also their own Islamic societies. I’m trying to think if there is an example of a Hamas attack outside the boundaries of the conflict as is true of ETA ETC… I’m ready to stand corrected on this. One could argue of course that Hamas is just the local branch of Iranian exported terror but that is a different argument.

  • michael says:

    Hezbollah have no boundaries to their terror attacks where ever Jews and Israelis are Sth. America etc

  • Sam says:

    I have got to agree strongly with Michael when he states

    “I presume mr Baker made a slip of the tongue and meant …

    ”one of them being the absence of a Mandela-like peacemaker in the Palestinian camp.”

    If this could happen, and it seems to be very much against all odds that it will, the quality of life for the vast majority of Palestinians would start to improve significantly and permanently within a few months at most.
    It is difficult to see how it is primarily the Israelis who are creating obstacles for peace as some are arguing very eloquently. Why should Israel make all the concessions? Shouldn’t it require genuine good faith on both sides of the fence?

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Hi Mandi, now to respond more fully.

    Before I begin let me just point out that my comments on how to convey the religious basis for entitlement to a university audience were not meant to be taken as an attempt to persuade anyone else to believe in a religious basis. I was simply trying to point out in #1 that my faith in a principle is not shaken just because I cannot convey it to a secular audience; and in #2 & #3 that there are other religious principles which I believe are addressed within a political context (in explaining the basis for claims made by certain parties involved in a political issue) and I think the Torah-based claim to entitlement could be included in the same way.

    Now to some of the points you raised in your post. I don’t think I ever mentioned my opinion on any issue other than why a Torah-based claim is essential to explain why Israel was established in its particular geographical location – and although I do in fact believe in the religious claim to title, I don’t think the argument itself requires this. So I am not sure what has caused you to guess, in your subsequent post, at other opinions I might hold. (I don’t mean this defensively by the way.) However I am happy to share my opinions on some of the issues you raised. I hope that after I elaborate, you will consider my views to be fairly moderate.

    Regarding your first comment: “I do have an issue with religion as a political force”:

    As a religious Jew, my first port of call in deciding what I think about any issue, including matters of state, is the Torah. Even though people who do not share this belief may be understandably wary of this (possibly because of mankind’s experience of other societies run along religious lines), I do think Torah values trump any others, including democracy itself. But I hope I can partly assuage your wariness with several qualifying remarks:

    1. I believe that Torah values do not fundamentally contradict the central values of modern civilised democratic societies (possibly because so many of these are actually derived from the Judeo-Christian tradition). Tolerance towards minorities & other religions, emancipation of women, freedom of speech, freedom of association, justice for the underprivileged, etc…each of these topics is a discussion in its own right, but the way these values are understood in the 21st century is not at odds with the Torah’s view.

    2. Torah may be my first port of call, but it is not my only port of call. Even though there is a Talmudic dictum that you can turn the Torah over and over and find everything in it – ie. that if you look hard enough you will find a source in the Torah for every idea and concept ever developed in the world – this does not mean we necessarily know how or where to find it! Many ideas and values in political theory may not be explicitly mentioned in the Torah, but they are perfectly valid and valuable as long as they are not explicitly rejected by the Torah. (This concept does not only apply to political theory – it has far-reaching ramifications and is a significant point of difference between the charedi and modern orthodox viewpoints.)

    3. A state run along religious lines does not have to degenerate into zealotry, bigotry and injustice. The Jewish commonwealth under King Solomon was a golden age in our history, an era of peace, prosperity and unprecedented literacy for all the Jewish people, and King Solomon himself was a highly respected statesman.

    It all depends on who is running the state and whether their motives are altruistic and idealistic or merely self-serving. True, it is easier to be a zealot than a moderate; if your views are extreme, decisions are easier, and it is also easier to whip your followers into a frenzy; but this does not have to be an argument AGAINST religion as a political force. In my view, it is an argument FOR moderation and self-reflection in the implementation of religion as a political force.

    Regarding another comment you made: “I suspect I am more sympathetic to the Palestinian narrative than you are”

    I’m not sure how to measure sympathy…but I do have a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian people. Not for their leadership (as I talked about in my post earlier this afternoon) and not for their narrative as they tell it, from the “Nakba” and onwards. But I definitely do sympathise with innocent Palestinians on an individual level and the ways in which their lives are made more difficult than ours.

    The responsibility for the radicalisation of Palestinian nationalism I lay squarely at the door of their leadership. Which is one of the reasons I feel sympathy for the general population, deprived of reasonable leaders who care about their welfare.

    Now, just because I don’t think Israel is truly responsible for the plight of innocent Palestinians does not mean Israel should not help alleviate the issue where possible. And they do – by sending huge amounts of aid, providing medical treatment in Israeli hospitals, etc etc. But however sympathetic I may be to their plight, I do not think it is Israel’s responsibility to jeopardise the safety of its own citizens in order to alleviate suffering which it did not itself inflict. To give an example, it would be nice if Israel could dismantle the roadblocks which cause Palestinians (and many Jews, by the way) long delays in travelling from one area to another; but given that roadblocks are deemed an important security measure, I would much prefer to see 1000 people delayed an hour than 1 person blown up by a terrorist who managed to slip across the border.

    Regarding your main question to me: “whether you believe that a democratic Israel – and by that I mean also an end to occupation as soon as possible – is more important than a greater Israel”

    Let me address this in 2 parts.

    Firstly, I don’t think a democratic Israel equals an end to occupation as soon as possible. It is quite difficult to even decide what “a democratic Israel” means.

    It is well known that the Balfour Declaration was quite schizophrenic on this issue. While on one hand it “view(ed) with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”, it also required that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
    The Israeli Declaration of Independence does the same – while on one hand declaring “the establishment of a Jewish state in the land of Israel to be known as the State of Israel”, it also pledges “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”.

    While it would be wonderful to be able to uphold all of the above values, it would be impossible in practice to maintain the Jewish nature of the state while affording equal rights to everyone should there be an Arab majority. This of course is the rationale behind “occupation” rather than “annexation”.

    Occupation is not a sustainable or desirable long term option, but it is not less democratic than the state would be if all of Yehuda and Shomron were annexed.
    I agree with you that the ideal democratic situation is for certain areas to be self-governed rather than annexed to Israel – ie the creation of a Palestinian state. However until the very serious security issues are worked out, I don’t think this democratic value should trump the safety of Israeli citizens – itself a value that should be guaranteed in a democratic society.

    Secondly, regarding the issue of whether an end to occupation is more important than a greater Israel. On this issue I probably agree with you practically, although maybe not in my rationale.

    Even though I definitely value sovereignty over every inch of the biblical Eretz Yisrael, I do believe the creation of a Palestinian state is more important than a greater Israel today. However I do not believe this purely out of democratic values or sympathy for the Palestinian plight; I believe in this out of security and self defence. The current situation is simply not sustainable, with “the occupation” being considered carte blanche for Palestinian radicalism and terrorism.

    As I said earlier, my first port of call is the Torah, and this is the basis which forms this opinion of mine as well. I believe that a greater Israel is valued by the Torah, but I don’t think it is “yehareg v’al ya’avor” – one of the mitzvot which we are commanded to uphold even in the face of a threat to our lives. (This principle only applies in very rare instances, such as idolatry and murder, which we are not allowed to transgress even at the risk of being killed ourselves. The vast majority of mitzvot are waived in life threatening circumstances, if they will not cause a public desecration of Judaism.) In other words, given that we already have a state, I don’t think we are commanded to sacrifice our lives in pursuit of an extra inch of land.

    This can be understood in 2 ways. The first way is that individuals should not risk their own lives by settling far flung areas of Yehuda & Shomron – this is not the sense that I mean. The second way, which is my intended meaning, is that if holding onto part of the land results in (even though it is not the root cause of) ongoing terrorism and murder, and that if giving up our claim to that area of land would put an end to terrorism, then I think we should give up that area, despite how painful it might be, to save Israeli lives.

    I am therefore in favour of a Palestinian state; however by this same rationale I would also reject the creation of a Palestinian state if it would not result in saving lives, if a new Palestinian state would simply be a launching pad for further terrorism and outright war against Israel. I am therefore much more cautious about peace talks in general, and cynical about peace talks in particular with leaders who do not even pretend to be genuine peace-seeking partners, rather than wanting a solution to the occupation just for the sake of ending the occupation.

    Now I am not saying that there is no merit in wanting to end the occupation for democratic or sympathetic reasons. I just haven’t yet investigated how these measure up against the Torah’s perspective on a greater Israel. I am sure there is much to say on this topic, as Jewish law is greatly concerned with the suffering of others.

  • michael says:

    It is highly unusual to read about concern for Jewish and Israeli human-rights on this web site what a wonderful response , Shira you will certainly put some noses out of joint here that’s for sure!
    What a marvelous and ethical piece of writing , well done……..

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Shira – thank you for your clearly very considered response. A lot to read, and to think about. I am unlikely to respond before yomtov as I will now be either at work or in the kitchen until then – so shana tova but I hope this conversation is not over.

  • Larry Stillman says:


    All the Palestinians I know of or have been in contact with would completely reject your idea of what they are or can be; in particular that you reject their narrative, their experience in 48, their leadership and their politics which don’t accept domination or patronization, particularly in the name of another religion. Remember that many Palestinians are also secularists and don’t want a theocracy (which explains in part, the split with Hamas)

    In essence, they would say that you require them to be separate and unequal without an assertive identity and that they cannot claim back what is rightfully theres at least in the territories. . It is not all about terrorism either; they see the reaction that some have undertaken in reaction to Israel as a justificable reaction to opression.

    I’m going to put challenging questions to you–

    Thus they might ask, in the interests of peace, how much of your narrative are you prepared to give up in the interests of peace? They would claim that the implementation of your faith based narrative (the historicity of which many Jews would also dispute, or the way you interpret it) has led to their oppression.

    Or is a torah-based approach completely irreconcilable with the prinples of (yet I assume you are prepared to benefit from this in Ausralia where I think you are)?

  • michael says:

    As Usual Larry you are looking at the Conflict only through the eyes of the Palestinians… SOl Salbe your close comrade has been fighting for Palestinian rights for 35 years [so he says ] , how many years have you been fighting for Palestinian rights… and who is fighting for Israeli/Jewish rights?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Sorry, I did not complete this but I submitted by accident.

    Or is a Torah-based approach completely irreconcilable with the prinples of democracy and equality (yet I assume you are prepared to benefit from this in Ausralia where I think you are)?

    It seems to be that you are presenting a view of religious rule that is theocratic and bound to oppress others. Look at Iran, and the religious politics played out by the haredi community not just towards non-Haredi Jews, but towards each other. Would you resurrect literal biblical punishments (since you are resurrecting Solomon).

    Corruption linked to Jewish religious political groupings is rife, whether in the US or Israel with competing, courts, councils and sages that claim to represent authentic torah-true Judaism. Furthermore, various strange messianic streams have emerged, as well as extreme religious nationalism and racism in some groups.

    These seem to be an endemic part of a new religious/power culture that plays between tradition and the world of modernity with all its opportunities for new forms of domination.

    Solomonic wisdom is completely lacking: economic interests and power by an elite seem to be the driving force and this is covered by a veneer of sanctity.

    I really can’t see such a form of goverment acting in the interests of anyone except a selected view and it would in no wise be a democracy.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Michael – given that my last comment included the words “concern for security of people living in Israel (including many many friends and family)” and my first post in this discussion was about the importance of Israel and Zionism in part as a response to Jewish suffering, and also specifically mentioned Jewish suffering in Israel, implicitly referring to Jewish suffering because of terror and war, I am pretty offended by what you just said.

    But let’s take this a little more broadly. The article that started this discussion was about humanism with many ideas about human rights and the dignity of all people. If you choose to read that as exlcuding Jews, don’t load the reasons that might lead you to that bizarre conclusion, on others.

    There are many Jews who don’t give a hoot about the safety or human rights of Jews or Israelis, or they care a bit and kind of know that Israel is there, if maybe, ever they need it or want it.

    On this site are Jews grappling with the enormous issues facing Israel and the Jewish people. That you think they (we) do so out of anything other than a deep concern for the welfare of Jews and other people in Israel and the future of the Jewish people, is very troubling.

    I think that you are highly challenged and confronted by these discussions and would prefer it if they weren’t taking place. I am always troubled by people who prefer silence to confronting discussions.

    Either way your response is offensive and cowardly.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Michael whoever-youare – why not use your real name? Can you only conduct an argument through personalized insights.

    I am not fighting. I am arguing. I am arguing that we need to be aware of the effects of the conflict on both sides of the fence. Israel Jews are overwhelmingly not the victims of the conflict. It’s discomforting, extremely so, to recognize that something is really wrong and rotten.

    I have the same argument with Palestinians who accuse me of not standing up for them and that I am justifying Zionism–so I must be doing something right.

    Both sides need to give up a lot of their claims to truth. But I also argue that Israel has become the far richer and more powerful part through a helping to destroy and impoverish and embitter another community and in the process, engendered much more hatred than was necessary.

    It is one of the tragedies of modern times.

  • SJa says:


    It is all very well to say a state run along religious lines does not have to degenerate into zealotry, bigotry and injustice, and it all depends on who is running the state and whether their motives are altruistic and idealistic or merely self-serving.

    The difficulty as I see it when applied to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, is that all too often, there is little evidence of real moderation amongst the Religious Zionists. Yes, there have been moderate religious forces in the past – Meimad, Netivot Oz Veshalom, and a number of iconoclastic figures (Yeshayahu Leibowitz comes to mind), but on the whole, they have followed a rather narrow right wing path, encouraging and leading the most ideological of the settlements, and at times bringing to the fore the most xenophobic elements of the Jewish tradition.

    Interestingly, more recently some of the figures involved in groups such as Breaking the Silence and the protests associated with Sheik Jarrah are people originally from religious backgrounds, but on the whole, the religious zionist movement’s approach to the Israel/Palestinian conflict has been disappointing.

  • Mark Baker says:

    This is what I meant about Israel needing more than Bibi will offer. An Israeli Mandela is only one of the missing ingredients, which I added to the others that Mandi had enumerated, including Palestinian radicalism and division. (I hope no one is going to suggest that Barel is a traitor and anti-Zionist for writing this article.)

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Thanks Sja (why not real names)?

    Hasn’t this come to the core, that religious Zionism is heavily influenced by the thinking of Rav Kook, his son and others, that Land (Eretz Yisrael) was more important than human life of others, and this was part of ideology of Gush Emunim and others.

    Obviously I’ve got no direct connection to such communities, but my sense is that this sort of philosophy of Zionism has been heavily influential in Melbourne, and while Lubavitch are strictly speaking not Zionist, they are attached to Land at all costs as well.

    Secular leaders on the right, or those who were more traditional Begin, Shamir, Sharon, were able to play this Land card very well, with religious Zionists at the core of the settlement movement, linked to supporters abroad. I can’t remember all the politics of the settlements, but under Labour such people targeted areas that were regarded as historically sacred because they were potentially part of a future peace deal. Government of course would not expel them, and the Likud offered them everything.

    Thus, Palestinians are not even considered as part of this narrative–they are secondary occupants, and only regarded as temporary ones at that because of the belief in Jewish historical primacy.

    Any wonder that Torah-rule (such as that by a Sanhedrin) would not be trusted by Palestinians (and particularly secular Jews)?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    We could start talking about Marwan Bargouti Mark. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/israel-and-palestine/091230/israel-palestinian-prisoners

    And before we all start yelling, Begin and Shamir had plenty of blood on their hands, as did Jerry Adams.

    But on the subject of wedging, perhaps Bibi has taken lessons from John Howard? But isn’t Bibi’s behaviour true to Bibi’s psychodynamics, to destroy and claim victory, with a smirk of Schadenfreude?

  • michael says:

    Israel Jews are overwhelmingly not the victims of the conflict. says larry

    Oh I guess we should tell the Israeli Jewish residents of Sderot , the poor Jewish kids blown up by Muslim bombers in Discos , nightclubs, buses , cafes and shopping centers inside Israel they are not victims …

    Sorry Larry my number one concern is for the survival of Jews in Israel.. and by the way I have as much compassion for the Palestinians as does the Palestinian leadership in Gaza have compassion for Jews in Israel..

    The Palestinian plight is totally self inflicted if the Arabs would have accepted the original UN mandate in 1948 and accepted one state for the Arabs and one state for the Jews we would not be in this position.
    The Palestinians have had plenty of opportunities along the way to make Peace, they prefer to play the victim card and their Arab brothers also prefer them to be play the victim card .The Arabs can use the Palestinians as fodder or reason for Jihad and take the spotlight off their own criminal Human rights abuses.

    You can fight for Palestinian rights all you want perhaps you should change the name of your organization that has joined the Israel Boycott campaign to….

    ‘Australian Palestinian Democratic Society’ which would be more appropriate however the word ‘ Democratic’ may be out of place?

  • michael says:

    Calm down Mandi, take a chill out Pill …not everyone has to dance to your tune and follow your doctrine. it must be refreshing to have other views other than the same old same old..

  • Mandi Katz says:

    one more Michael – I don’t know whether or not you are orthodox in your Jewish practice. But if not, you might want to think about the ethos that you display when you describe as “ethical” a piece of writing which advocates resolution of a political conflict by reference to religious principles that you don’t value enough to comply with in your own life.

  • michael says:

    Mandi Katz says:
    September 5, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    one more Michael – I don’t know whether or not you are orthodox in your Jewish practice. But if not, you might want to think about the ethos that you display when you describe as “ethical” a piece of writing which advocates resolution of a political conflict by reference to religious principles that you don’t value enough to comply with in your own life.

    That’s interesting Mandi because although I am not orthodox I fully respect and acknowledge the right of my fellow Jews to follow their religion as they believe they should even if I don’t. Perhaps that’s the difference between us Mandi I am more tolerant of others.
    BTW I also admired her ethics for considering the real victims in this conflict the Jews as her priority and their Human rights.

  • Ann Fink says:

    Just to add another word re the IRA military wing and its tentacles. Both George and I were living in Oxford and then Edinburgh during it’s heyday. As head of a major biological research institute in Edinburgh, George became the target of the Animal Liberation Front. What’s that to do with the IRA military wing you might ask? Simple. They were working hand in hand and being supplied with their explosives by the IRA. Anything to cause mayhem on the mainland. At one stage, after a sweep in Scotland of suspected IRA terrorists, the police found a list of their 20 top targets. George being one of them. We never left the house without examining the underside of our cars with long mirrors supplied by the police. We had parcel bombs sent to us. Fortunately fake. But the worst was the constant harassment. Phone calls whenever we went out and left my elderly mother-in-law alone. “We are going to kill your son” etc. The police were amazing and many a night we came home to find a policewoman “babysitting” George’s terrified mother.

    The point of this story is that by criminalizing the military wing of the IRA, i.e. using the British police force to deal with it on the mainland, the way was left open eventually for the Blair government to differentiate between them and their political wing. The story is very complicated, but as Larry and Mark have pointed out, there are parallels with Hamas.

    Incidentally in a post some time ago, I pointed out that before Kenya achieved it’s independence for Great Brotain, the MAU MAU under the leadership of Kenyatta were considered the most vicious terrorists of all time!

  • michael says:

    Any body that understands the background of Hamas and judging by what I have read many here clearly do not would know there is no comparison between the IRA and Hamas and the one major difference between the two is ‘Religion’.
    Religion is not rooted in all facets of life for the Irish whilst it is with Hamas and Muslims.
    Religion in Ireland is more of a cultural and historical force whilst religion with Hamas/Muslims [ and Jews] ties them to the same land.
    Hamas being a religious organization claims religious justification for their aim at destroying Israel and the Jews and only exist until their job is done.
    Unlike the IRA Hamas can never be reformed and to think so is naive or wishful thinking.

    Israel can never be expected to negotiate with Hamas than we would expect America to ever negotiate with Usama Bin Ladden and Al Quaida.

  • ariel says:

    1. Re IRA/Hamas: The IRA’s political and military wings were always kept separate with separate banking accounts, separate leaderships and separate tactics.
    Not so Hamas, whose military wing receives funding and orders directly from the political wing. They don’t differentiate between themselves, so how can we? It’s ludicrous to say we’ll cut off the funding lines to Izzadin al-Qassam, but allow the cash to flow to Hamas polity; it’s the same bank account!

    2. The IRA’s aim was exclusively to get the British out of Northern Ireland, not to destroy England. Hamas’s aim is the destruction of Israel, nothing less. They must be destroyed in the same way as LTTE was in Sri Lanka recently. (And btw, where’s the Goldstone report on that one!!!)

    3. Larry asks “Thus they might ask, in the interests of peace, how much of your narrative are you prepared to give up in the interests of peace?”

    My answer is “none”. I don’t have to give up my narrative and beliefs in order to facilitate peace and a Palestinian state. I will always yearn for Hebron etc, even if under a Palestinian state I can’t go there. Palestinians who claim to be from Israel proper will have to give up their dream of returning too, even if they continue yearning.

  • Andy says:

    At the time when Israel did not occupy Gazza, did not occupy the West Bank, did not occupy all of Jerusalem etc etc., along came the Arabs and started a war with Israel. If giving all this back to the Arabs, what should make me think that they won’t come fighting for Tel Aviv, which they said the fight was for in 1967??

  • Your quasi-religious humanism rejects basic Torah principles. It sees the universe as self existing and not created by G-d. It sees mankind as evolved instead of created beings. Humanism, by definition, rejects the cosmic or supernatural aspects of the universe or Creation, and embraces a materialist view. It puts its faith primarily in mankind and not in Hashem. It sees human intelligence as supreme, and this is the complete opposite to the Torah view. I also believe that, while not intended to, humanism leads to immorality.

  • Shira Wenig says:

    I don’t know which part of my recent post gave rise to the ideas you obviously attribute to me.

    1. I never said anything about what I believe the Palestinians are or can be. I expressed sympathy for the innocent civilians and cynicism towards their leaders. That by no means says that I require them to be unequal second class citizens without an assertive identity. This is certainly not the case, as I would think would be clear from the fact that I said I am in favour of a Palestinian state.
    Your claims about the Palestinians claiming back what is rightfully theirs in the territories, and about terrorism being a justifiable reaction to oppression, I will not bother to answer, as by the way you have phrased these issues tells me that you are not really interested in my answer to them.

    2. I have already said how much of my “narrative” I am prepared to give up. I don’t think any narrative needs to be given up – it is intellectually dishonest to retroactively doctor history. But I am willing to give up certain areas of land in the interests of peace, and this is far more constructive and honest than changing our narrative.

    3. In my discussion of Torah-based politics I already discussed how well they coalesce with modern values of democracy and equality. They are certainly not irreconcilable. But you need to apply the principles of democracy and equality to all parties, with a view to everyone’s rights, not just the underdog as perceived by the leftist media and academia.

    4. I made it quite clear that I am NOT advocating “a view of religious rule that is theocratic and bound to oppress others”. This is precisely what I discussed in the first section of my post. The fact that you would suggest this implies that you did not read my post with an open mind. The extremist religious societies you bring as examples are exactly the type I had in mind when I said that people may be justifiably wary of religious politics, and when I specifically said we need to guard against this with moderation and self-reflection. And running a state according to Torah principles does not mean it has to be governed by a Sanhedrin- which does not exist nowadays in any case.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    As a worse case scenario, both believers and non-believers commit all sorts of crimes.

    As you probably know, there are observant haredim who are incarcerated or accused of pretty bad crimes, including sex abuse in the US and Israel, with all sorts of attempts to protect them from civil authorities. It also appears that (convicted) fraud is a crime in the orthodox community. ‘We’ have had a share of crime in this country as well.


    In the past year or so, I watched a video with with I think an orthodox American district attorney speaking to an audience of haredim with a table full of community leaders/ gedolim endorsing his strong line against fraud.

    If I am not wrong, one of the speakers had been involved in some massive fraud and served his time. The recent scandals in the Syrian Jewish community in New York are another example, with attempts to cover it up.

    And of course the same contempt for rule of law, fairness etc applies to people of other and no religious persuasion.

    Overall, of course the percentage of Jews incarcerated is far lower than other groups (with the exception of Israel), but the deliberate contempt for civil law amongst some group of haredim is well-recognised in the US and Israel.

    Religion, community piety and charity is no cover for lack of morality and illegal and criminal behaviour towards others in believing communities.

    We should defend the rights of all people to practice their religion as they want, but not when it abuses the rights of other people.

    There are bad people. It’s not nothing to do with creation or not.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ariel I am trying to work but read what you wrote and wanted to respond very quickly. I couldn’t agree more with the third part of what you say. I think you have expressed that beautifully.No one should ever be asked what bit of their story, or what element of their sense of people-hood they are willing to give up.

    I believe its about adapting to the reality of what’s possible rather than changing our identities. Its also important to recognise that these discussion involve very painful issues that concern very deeply held beliefs and values – that comes out very clearly in what you say.

    I think your comments show a degree of adaptability that is generally lacking in Palestinians political expressions . Maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Maybe that also comes with the security and maturity that Jewish statehood has given us – still well out of the grasp of Palestinians for reasons canvassed.

  • Ann Fink says:

    Dear Mandi,

    Yes, you are looking in the wrong places. I don’t know how many Palestinian writers/authors you are familiar with. But just to recommend 2-3 easy sources, Bitter Lemons (on-line), the Palestine-Israel Journal, and a careful reading of Haaretz daily will introduce you to current Palestinian political thought processes. Better still try to get to know some Palestinians. I somehow thought you lived in Jerusalem, but I must be mistaken.

    “Maybe that also comes with the security and maturity that Jewish statehood has given us – still well out of the grasp of Palestinians for reasons canvassed”.

    Mandi, my dear, Just how patronising can you get?

    Maturity with Jewish Statehood?????

    What, when a tiny minority of rabid rabbis can cost the state billions because they insist on putting the clocks forward in the middle of the summer so as to “ease their fast”. When the chief Rabbi and mentor of the Shas Political party (a member of our governing coalition can curse and rant and incite to murder against the Palestinian leadership. When the ultra-orthodox Slonim community are allowed to set up their own schools so that they can discriminate against the Sephardim. When in one Petah Tikvah school there is only one non Ethiopian student amongst the hundreds enrolled for this school year. Read about the mess in the Israeli army with the appointment of the new chief of staff, not to mention the corruption in all organs of government.

    Is this is a mature jewish state? The Palestinian people are no less and no more mature or adaptable than any other. Look how well they do in the USA and elsewhere. Go for a walk one day along 1st Ave New York and see how many delis are owned and run by Palestinians and Israeli Jews working in partnership together. The settlers are adaptable?

    I am afraid that anyone who believes that God is a real estate agent, and gave out title deeds to his chosen people cannot, by definition, be “adaptable”

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Ann, one of the difficulties for many people in the ‘galut’ is that they only hear negative messages and tropes about ‘what Palestinians think’ or what the Fatah or Hamas charter one, to, three, five years ago etc. It is essentially a backwards looking approach that ignore the huge amount of joint work that has been done (eg Geneva accords for all its faults. Maybe too it is because many people have never heard or met and ‘intelligent’ ‘rational’ Palestinian. The gulf is too wide and consciousness raising extraordinarily difficult.

    This is particularly the case in Australia where we are and there is, sadly, a strong push by hasbarah people to negate critical awareness that could contribute to a new view on things.

    You are certainly right: Bitter Lemons is a great place to start, as is Electonic Intifadah, but this stuff is not believed credible and for some, imposssible to digest, particularly because there is so much rubbish out there as well that is confused with the serious stuff. To read high-quality challenging material demands a capacity to be open to new language, new concepts and to take a deep breath.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Larry,

    The Bitter Lemons editors would probably ask you to refrain from mentioning them in the same sentence as Electronic Intifada.

    And Ann, with the level of selectivity you displayed in your little appraisal of the State of Israel, I’m thinking you will have a good chance of obtaining a position at Electronic Intifada.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hello Larry – could you be any more patronisng to me do you think…and yes I find a lot of what I read on the internet, implausible and vitriolic.

    Hello Ann – not sure why you thought I live in Jerusalem (remember we discussed the AJN?) – I well and truly live in Melbourne where while I have met “rational Palestinians” (Larry’s term) it’s certainly true that I don’t know many Palestinians .

    Im too tired to respond properly but will do so when I can think – and write.

    But you do make me smile as you tell me I’m uninformed and patronising….

  • Ann Fink says:

    Sorry Mandi, got you mixed up with someone else for a minute. A number of correspondents live in both Israel and Australia as we do.

    Any comment which generalises about a particular group’s “degree of adaptability that is generally lacking in political expressions” as compared with one’s own, for whatever reason, must be by any definition, patronising. You asked if you were looking in the wrong places. I merely assured you that you were, and suggested other places where you might find more information.

    All I get from all this discussion is a very unrealistic picture of Israel in the Galut. A picture that diaspora Jewry seems desperate to cling onto at all costs. Do you all fear so much for your “jewish” identity, were Israel to become the secular, democratic, “light unto the nations” for which it’s founding fathers fought so hard?

    Maybe time to resurrect Bundism. Leave Israel alone. Speak Ivrit or Yiddish amongst yourselves if you wish. Go to your various synagogues. Read the great literature, including modern Israeli writers, like Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, but forget Israel. Play politics in Melbourne. Israel no longer needs the Galut. Be like the Irish and Scots, the Italians, Greeks, Vietnamese, Chinese and all the other many cultures which have so well adapted to the Aussie landscape. Be grateful for your freedom in a secular democracy and pray that one day, Israel will join the other great secular democracies. That humanitarian NOT religious principle will guide the policies of Israel and not religious fanatics.

  • Larry Stillman says:


    It is important to read Bitter Lemons and Electronic Intifadah to see the range of viewpoints which exist-that is my point!

    I also encourage people to see the more conservative http://www.americantaskforce.org American Taskforces on Palestine which one-staters despise for an entirely different position one which I think reflects people close to the P.A. and a very strong pro-American position. While one may argue about its allegiance to the PA, it contains significant insights into the Jewish ‘narrative’ from a Palestinian viewpoint free of the usual invective and sloganeering. It is well worth reading and I wish many Palestinian advocates would show a similar degree of understanding.

    And that is a silly response to Ann. You could say the same to writers in Haaretz, but then, they are not popular amongst many Israelis.

    Mandi- I wasn’t writing about you in particular, but how hard it is for people to enter into the other viewpoints, even those which are not vitriolic.

  • ariel says:

    Ann, why do you live in Israel at all? If its so unappealing then stay in Oz and leave Israel alone.

    I agree with you on the corruption in Israel, which is one reason why I choose to remain in Australia for the time being. Besides, Bob Katter is providing me with much entertainment at the moment…

    If Israel becomes just another multicultural society though, then what right does it have to exist? What’s it’s purpose?

    If the choice were between Israel being another multicultural democracy or a halachic state (whatever you think that means), I’d prefer the latter. At least it would be a country with an identity.

    Ideally, I’d prefer Israel to be a secular democracy based on Jewish values, with a population of AT LEAST 93% Jewish. The problems are many and varied at the moment, least of which being that the current electoral system allows the Knesset and government to operate like some kind of Jewish communal council or synagogue board, rather than stable governance for a modern country.

    You question the adaptability of “settlers” as though they are a demonic, monolithic entity.
    You should read the article I posted early in this thread which frosh has endorsed. Its about several Jewish-owned businesses in the West Bank that employ Palestinians and they often get together after work and days off for bbq’s and socialising. Sorry to shatter your disillusionment.

  • ariel says:

    Sorry Ann, the article I posted is in the other thread on boycotts

  • Ann Fink says:


    You hide your identity so I am tempted not to discuss with you at all. However your crass question about why I choose to live in Israel reveals a great deal about your intellectual limitations. Some of us believe that by critiquing and engaging in dialogue , we may help to change attitudes and policies. THAT IS WHAT A DEMOCRAT DOES!

    Your staying in Australia has nothing to do with corruption in Israel. There is corruption in Australia as well and when I am in Australia I critique that as well. Remember the Wheat Board scandal?? What happened to the Labour Party in NSW?

    “If Israel becomes just another multicultural society though, then what right does it have to exist? What’s it’s purpose?”

    What is the purpose of any state? To be a just and democratic society for all it’s citizens. I have no objection to Israel being a refuge for those persecuted elsewhere. For historical reasons, Palestinians and Jews being given priority.

    “If the choice were between Israel being another multicultural democracy or a halachic state (whatever you think that means), I’d prefer the latter. At least it would be a country with an identity”

    You obviously have no idea what a”halachic” state means. 30- 40% of all Israelis are no longer able to marry legally. For “halachic” substitute theocracy.

    “Ideally, I’d prefer Israel to be a secular democracy based on Jewish values, with a population of AT LEAST 93% Jewish.”

    What exactly are Jewish values? What are you going to do with the 25% of the current population of 7,600,000 who are not considered Jews. This figure will rise substantially if the advocates of a halachic state have their way and cancel all conversions performed by the army. See today’s Haaretz.

    Re Settlers and how “good” some of them are to their workers. Even under Apartheid in SA there were “good” employers who were kind and humane to their black servants. This does not mean that the system itself was humane. The conditions of inequality in the West Bank under military occupation are such, that Palestinians have enormous difficulty in realizing their full human potential.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Hi Shira – thank for your comments. My comments in response under three broad headings – the last to Ann, as much as to you. Apologies for the length. I do want to say I respect and appreciate your willingness to discuss these issues openly and honestly. Lots of people won’t – or do so under pseudonyms.

    1. Religion and state – having read your views on this, I am not persuaded that any state should ever regulate religious practice. Its not a question of how moderate your or anyone’s views are, Its a question of how that impinges on the freedom of people who don’t share those views.The live examples in Israel demonstrate that moderate views don’t prevail. The issue that vexes all but orthodox (Jewish) Israelis is the religious regulation of marriage in Israel. It is discriminatory because of the way that it is implemented (that is through a rabbinate which does not recognise and accommodate the diversity of Jewish religious practice) but also because people should have the right to secular marriage. Another troubling example just weeks ago was seeing Anat Hoffman physically removed from the kotel by Israeli police because the regulation of access to religious sites in Israel means that she, as a woman, is excluded from carrying a Torah or wearing a tallit at certain parts of the Kotel. I defy any person who is not orthodox in their practice and even those who are, to watch footage of that (google Anat Hoffman) and not worry about the emerging fault lines in the Jewish world. So while the idea of a Solomon’s kingdom type of religious rule is a nice idea, I don’t think that is the way things have gone or are likely to go in Israel.

    2. Religious perspectives on occupation – I respect that you look to religious principles on this but I don’t agree with where you get to.

    I take your point that one can’t measure sympathy but reading this sentence in particular is telling: ” While it would be wonderful to be able to uphold all of the above (democratic) values, it would be impossible in practice to maintain the Jewish nature of the state while affording equal rights to everyone should there be an Arab majority. This of course is the rationale behind “occupation” rather than “annexation”.”

    The readiness with which you seem to accept the demographic issue as a rationale for occupation, makes me question if you really have grappled with the moral issues at stake as a result of 43 years of military occupation and the way it is administered – what occupation really means for people: to be without citizenship, to have no political representation, to be without real freedom of movement and to be subject to military control. When you speak about Israel sending medical assistance as a matter of pride, it makes me wonder who else you think should provide medical assistance where the infrastructure of the PA is inadequate? I know that Israel didn’t choose to be an occupier, and that the resolution of this is highly complex, but I beg to differ with you when you say you “don’t think Israel is truly responsible for the plight of innocent Palestinians”. I think that as an occupier Israel is responsible for people under occupation. That is also the position under international law. Surely Israel is bound to exercise its power as an occupier as ethically as possible within its capabilities, including on things like medical assistance – doing so is not a philanthropic act.

    Perhaps your faith on the religious claims to Jewish sovereignty over the land makes it easier for you to make your peace with the suffering people experience through Israel’s military occupation in the name of demographics but I suppose that’s is where I absolutely don’t share your certainty and acceptance. And it is interesting that you have many sources at your fingertips about religious claims to the land and the importance of Jewish lives but you didn’t share any sources about Palestinians suffering under occupation, although you say (and I accept ) that the Torah has many views on such suffering.

    I note that you have been very careful not to criticise settlers. Here’s the line: “I don’t think we are commanded to sacrifice our lives in pursuit of an extra inch of land. This can be understood in two ways. The first way is that individuals should not risk their own lives by settling far flung areas of Yehuda & Shomron – this is not the sense that I mean.”

    To me the point is not only whether individuals risk their own lives but what it means for other people. And to Michael’s comment about the concern for Jewish lives and human rights, what of the safety and human rights of soldiers who are expected to protect settlers?

    And what about the rights of local Palestinians – and yes, I get that they aren’t exactly welcoming and if they accepted the Jewish presence in the first place there wouldn’t be an issue, but do you get that if they accepted the Jewish presence in the first place, Bibi wouldn’t be in settlement talks right now?

    If the current talks fail, what will Israel do about settler activity in the occupied territories? Palestinian violence will continue and Palestinians will continue to garner support for their political aspirations in non violent ways that will also be harmful to Israel. You acknowledge this and it may be what leads you to the conclusion you reach on support for a Palestinian state, but to me its also about acknowledging the principles involved and that Palestinians have legitimate rights. I think its wrong to express this primarily as a concession, for security and strategic reasons, as if the opposition to Israel’s presence in the occupied territories is not a matter of principle.

    3. Palestinian nationalism – I suspect I’m older than you. I was born in 1967 in the wake of the six day war and I grew up with a sense of the glory of that war . I also heard variations of “there is no such people as the Palestinian people” many many times before I was old enough to understand the concept of political identity. I suspect that was pretty typical in good Zionist homes as it was probably typical in Israel. I don’t really know, how can one ever know what is typical but it seems to me that as Israel developed its identity it couldn’t accommodate the idea of a Palestinian identity. This is a major factor in the deep Palestinian anger and hostility. You point out there were signs even before the state was established that the local population did not want a Jewish presence in the land. And yet, until not too long ago many didnt accept that as an indication of a national identity forming at the same time that a Jewish national identity was forming. Perhaps you still don’t.

    Which brings me to this comment to you, Ann. When I said don’t see much adaptability in Palestinian political expression in all honesty, I suppose I meant adaptability to what I hope can happen for Israel/Palestine which is two separate states with very secure borders, each working out its own character – and Israel retaining an essentially Jewish character. I know that you don’t share that vision. So you are right that my response on adaptability is more about what I hope for, for Israel. And by maturity I meant that it took maybe forty years of statehood before Israeli Jewish identity and Diaspora Jewish identity (and I know you don’t rate the latter as important), really accepted the idea of Palestinian national identity and aspirations. My sense is that very few Palestinians sympathise with the political aspirations of why Jews want and need a state that is essentially Jewish. I suppose that doesn’t trouble you as you no longer do either (if you ever did). And Ann while of course individuals vary, there are national, cultural and political traits for different people and I think that Palestinian have not – collectively and politically – adapted to a Jewish presence in Israel/Palestine and that there were many opportunities where a more adaptive cultural tendency would have meant than Palestinians would be a lot better off than they are now, starting in 1947 and so on. I understand why Palestinians didn’t accept those options along the way but I think they would be significantly better off if they had, and I stand by my view that it is about a level of adaptability . I think by comparison Israel has had a highly adaptive cultural and political identity since before the state was established.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    There are two discussions going here, so I posted this on the other, but I think it also belongs here.

    f you are wondering about intelligent Palestinian commentary, here is an example that just arrived, from a young Palestinian woman who writes frequently. Her reflections are worth reviewing. She is no monster, she is a person, I think a mum as well, a Jerusalem as well–who has more entitlement to be there frankly, than any of us in the diaspora. Why not? She was born there. She wants a resolution.

    It’s Not as Hard as it Seems
    By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH
    September 07, 2010

    See http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=22550&CategoryId=3

  • Ann Fink says:

    Mandi, I am not sure how to answer your random thoughts on what Palestinian attitudes to a Jewish presence in Israel was/is, since you give no hint of what your sources for these thoughts might be. I could give you a reading list to show how diverse these attitudes were and are.

    I do not understand what you mean by “highly adaptive cultural and political identity”.

    Without reference to the events which accompanied the establishment of the State, the forcible eviction of hundreds of thousands of residents, the raising of entire villages and the replacing of ancient place names with modern hebrew ones could scarcely have engendered a positive view of the new State.

    Despite this the Palestinian population that did remain after 1949, including the Bedouin and Druze, have remained loyal to the state despite constant predictions of them forming a 5th column intent on destroying the state. So what was not adaptive about them?

    Culturally, Israeli Palestinians are active in the world of Israeli cinema, music, literature, arts, sport and entertainment.

    Politically they have 10 members in the knesset (I wish they had more) but they vote in the same proportion as the general public. They vote for all the major Israeli parties as well as their own.

    Israeli Palestinians are well represented in the medical and nursing profession and increasingly in the legal. They are excluded from many high tech jobs on the often baseless grounds of security. Government departments also discriminate against them in terms of employment. (Illegally) When given the chance they succeed as well as other Israelis.

    It seems to me that the indication is that despite all the restrictions and discrimination, Israeli Palestinians have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to the Israeli state. That they might have issues with a “Jewish State” that sets out to deny them their history and to discriminate against them is another matter.

  • michael says:

    I think Ann Fink may really be Sonja Karkar ?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Ann – considering you didnt know how to answer, you didnt hold back!

    Ann my blind spot in this discussion is that I was so focussed on the conflict that I wasn’t even thinking of Israeli Palestinians and how they have adjusted in Israel proper – as I said I was thinking about the unwillingness of Palestinians to accept political solutions along the way.So I deserve the serve, and I know that a lot of what you say is right – that Palestinian Israelis have, like other Israelis including loads of immigrants got on with building their lives, adapted to new languages, all that.

    But I don’t accept what you say in the last line of your post. The fact that Palestinians have have been able to successfully get on with life in Israel despite the issues they face indicates that multiculturalism and democracy do work in Israel in their own muddled ways. Its hard to be a minority in lots of places! There’s no silver bullets on this stuff.

  • Ann Fink says:

    Michael, no wonder you don’t want to reveal your identity! Name calling might just lead to libel! Of course easier than to argue and discuss. You should be banned from this blog.

    Mandi, yes glad to see that you agree with at least the basic premise that democracy and multiculturalism are a good thing. The problem in Israel is that the trend is in the other direction and and that there are many forces at work which seek to destroy what has been achieved in the past. viz. attempts to displace civics from the curriculum, the taking away of the rights of Israeli citizens to marry anyone from the occupied territories, (this applies to Jews as well as Palestinian Muslims, Christians and Atheists). The forbidding of family reunification. Thus old, sick and dependent widows are left helpless on the West Bank and Gaza, when their families who live in Israel are unable to get them permits to rejoin them in Israel. By the way Jews and Arabs have intermarried in the past and this also poses problems for those who ended upon the West Bank and are unwilling to desert their families. This is a relatively recent phenomenon. Our foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has no shame in calling for large scale transfer of populations and the mentor of Shas, (a major political party in the coalition) the very reverend, Ovadiah Yosef can, with impunity, curse and incite to murder the Palestinian population. This is the nature of the present Israeli government!

    Please Mandi, you seem to be an intelligent person, try to think of the Palestinian population as a group as diverse as the Jews or any other group. If you start off at that point you might find the evidence to support that assumption.

  • ariel says:

    Thank you Ann for telling me what I mean and why I do what I do.

    Your comparison of Jews who employ Palestinians with whites in RSA “employing” black slaves is offensive.
    If you would actually read the article, you’d see how happy all employees and employers are.

  • Ann Fink says:

    Take offense, Ariel. I mean it. The situation in the OT is EXACTLY the same as in the RSA. Pass laws, duel wage structure etc. But I don’t think that there were separate roads for blacks and whites. And YES some employers were good the their black servants (NOT SLAVES) and there were often very warm relations between them. BUT THE SYSTEM WAS IMMORAL and to me very OFFENSIVE!

  • michael says:

    I’ve seen your views published on Australians for Palestine web site Ann well done…

  • Shira Wenig says:

    Mandi, thanks for your response. While there are many things you say which I don’t personally agree with, I’ve found your posts enlightening as well as respectful and I’m happy to agree to disagree. I just want to clarify a couple of my positions in response to your comments.

    Re religion & state – I stand by what I said but did not mean to imply that I am happy with the religious elements of the way the state is currently run. Quite the opposite – I am well aware of the shortcomings of both the Israeli Rabbanut and the religious parties who wield their political power destructively on many issues. Clearly a lot of improvement is needed. On the first count, I think organisations such as Tzohar are fundamental to healing the divisions within the Jewish population of the state. On the second count, as politics often attracts the less spiritual and altruistic members of the population, electoral reform is needed to allow the winning party to form a stable government (until recently I would have said “like we have in Australia”…) without having to pander to parties like Shas.
    But just because my ideal is hard to attain does not make me give it up, and I include all of the above in my requirement for moderation & self-reflection in a religious political system.

    The issue you raise of secular marriage is truly a troubling one for me. On one hand, out of concerns for halachic Jewish continuity, I appreciate the need for the status quo. On the other hand I sincerely appreciate the frustration this causes for those who don’t hold halachic Jewish continuity sacred; and while I think gentle and respectful encouragement of non-religious Jews to embrace this principle is appropriate, I don’t think it can be forced on anyone. I don’t know how to answer this fully. The best I can come up with is that at least the state recognises post facto secular marriages that have taken place elsewhere, so it is not totally impossible if someone wishes.

    Re demographics as a rationale for occupation – after describing this as simplistic, you did not actually counter what I said by providing a more complex rationale FOR occupation. All the moral issues you raised mitigate AGAINST occupation – and I recognise these issues deeply.
    There are 2 ways to dismantle occupation – annexation and disengagement (ie establishing a Palestinian state). What I meant was that the only good reason for occupation – as opposed to annexation – is resisting the massive demographic change which would result from annexation. The demographic issue does not come into the equation of occupation vs disengagement. (Reasons for occupation as opposed to disengagement include security concerns, the value of greater Israel, etc which I discussed in point 3 of my post – and I clearly did not favour occupation in that case.) So what I was simply saying was: the demographic issue is the rationale for occupation as opposed to annexation, insofar as we have not yet managed to dismantle occupation via disengagement.

    Re not criticising settlers for risking their own lives in settling far flung areas. I specifically desisted from discussing this as it was not the understanding of sacrifice relevant to my argument (and because my post was long enough!). When I said “this is not the sense that I mean” I was not saying that I agree with this wholeheartedly – I was saying that I didn’t want to get into a discussion of it at the time. But now that you have brought it up, I’m happy to discuss it.
    I was brought up, not only by my parents but also by Bnei Akiva, to idealise the mitnachalim (“settler” sounds so derogatory, even though somehow this is only in the Israeli context…) and in many ways I still do. However as I have grown up I have also come to question this from many viewpoints. It’s one thing to be OK with someone risking their own life for a principle. But do I agree with them taking their young children to far-flung hilltops? (I would take my own kids to certain “mainstream” areas of the shtachim, but certainly not everywhere.) Do I agree with them risking the lives of soldiers required to protect them? (Not an easy one, however if government policy is to encourage – not just tolerate or even facilitate – settlement of far-flung areas, then the risk to a soldier’s life guarding a yishuv is no different to the risk he faces on border patrol or in war – not a comprehensive answer, but food for thought.) Do I agree with them using up army & security resources in a fairly inefficient way, given the number of yishuvim requiring protection? I don’t have perfect answers to these questions. I can be grateful that someone else is willing to do something that I might not do myself (and I don’t think this is an inconsistent position) and I can take refuge in the fact that many governments’ policies supported the settler movement. But I agree this is definitely a complex issue.

    Re Palestinian nationalism – I have never heard the issue as you phrased it, that the resistance to Jewish settlement long before 1948 was an “indication of a national identity forming” among Palestinians. (I have always thought it started more or less in 1964 with the PLO.) This is a really interesting view. I’m not sure yet what I think about it.
    But whatever the origins of Palestinian nationalism, I don’t see the point in negating it. Other than it being interesting historically, I don’t see any utility in arguing the semantics of where or when it started, or whether Palestinians are justified in having a national identity. The point is that they do now, it’s not going to go away, and it’s patronising to think that it might – so I agree with you that whatever solution is proposed has to deal with that reality.

    Having a national identity does not mean that you MUST have your own country to go with it. Jews for centuries have managed to maintain a national identity while living in other countries. I wish it were possible to coexist in a Jewish state, with the rights of Palestinians and other minorities respected similarly to the way we enjoy our rights being respected in Australia. (Which is basically what the declaration of independence called for.) I have no desire to squash Palestinian identity per se. I have no problem with sharing the state as long as it remains Jewish in nature. I plan to make aliyah in a few years time, and in full recognition of the fact that Israeli Arabs and Palestinians are members of society likely to be encountered in Israel, I have been teaching myself Arabic to improve my dealings with them, particularly as patients (I’m a doctor). I also have an interest in Arab history and culture and like reading about these.

    But I recognise that full coexistence is just wishful thinking, particularly if Palestinian identity is founded on resistance to a Jewish state (which in fact you raise as the origin of Palestinian national identity). Only in Israel can you find a society self-critical enough to respect a minority’s right to hate their own state (which explains why Arab MKs can basically get away with treason and retain their seats)!

    My point is that I am perfectly willing to accept that Palestinians have a national identity, and I know that any solution will have to take this into account. I also recognise that this solution will have to be two states, given that the Palestinian identity is (at least partly) founded on their rejection of our own people. I guess my difference with you on this issue is that you seem to see the Palestinian identity as a positive reality that needs to be respected, whereas I see it as an offensive and sad reality that nevertheless needs to be respected.
    (By the way, when I say offensive and sad, I am referring to the fact that a people’s identity can be founded on their hatred and rejection of another people – I am not referring to the fact that the Palestinians have a national identity per se. If their identity was founded on other principles, it wouldn’t bother me at all.)

  • Josh Stein says:

    I came across this Blog site by accident I notice is attracts mainly like minded left wing and anti- Zionist Jews .

    I was in the audience at Limmud _Oz when ACJC Director Mark Baker hosted his two
    Palestinian chums and as some one on this Blog site quite correctly described Baker gave the Palestinian propagandists and easy ride.

    It is no surprise that Mr Baker is defended on this blog site by a Member of AJDS who are advocating boycotts of Israel, what do they say about the friends we attract ?

    Mr Baker says on this blog site he has a problem with the Israel flag as it doesn’t represent all religions and citizens in Israel I guess that means the Israeli flag should include a Muslim Red Crescent along side the star of David .
    Mr Baker also has a problem with the Hatikva as that also only represents Jews and a of course a Jewish state is too exclusive .

    I guess what Mr Baker is really advocating for is a one state solution everyone is equal and the Palestinians end up with a Islamic state next door..

    It appears Mr Baker has a lot of problems with Israel but no problems with the Palestinians or Arabs.

  • Mark Baker says:

    Wishing everyone on this post a Shana Tova with hopes for a year of peace that brings a lifetime of it. I hope that even when we disagree that we can all speak respectfully to each other so that we can learn from each other, open ourselves up to different ideas and the possibility of rethinking our positions – a very Jewish idea. Shana tova Mark

  • michael says:

    Very kind words from Mark lets hope he will be the first to open him self up to the possibility of rethinking his extreme views and postion on Israel>In fact perhaps he can enlighten us and give a few examples on how he has changed his opinion or position on things Israel .

    Shana Tova To all.

  • Jeremy says:

    Some food for thought in light of Mark Baker’s comments on Hatkiva:

    Biladi, Biladi – what’s in a name?
    Shlomo Avineri


    A radical Jewish leftist who supported the steps that led to the legislation turned to a head of an Arab organization and asked: “We did what you wanted, and you still aren’t satisfied. What should we call the country so you’ll really feel equal?” With a broad smile the head of the Arab association replied: “What’s the problem? The real name was and always will be: Falastin.”
    By Shlomo Avineri

    It won’t happen. But if it does happen, it will probably happen like this.

    One day, after many years of arguments and discussions, the Knesset, out of consideration for Israel’s Arab citizens and a desire to promote full and equal citizenship, decided to omit any reference to Israel’s Jewish identity. “We’re all Israelis, equal citizens in our common homeland,” declared the Knesset speaker. “Just as in France there are only Frenchmen, from now on in Israel there are only Israelis. Each community will of course be able to develop a separate identity for itself, but that will be a private matter without public standing.” It was decided that the listing for “nationality” on our ID cards would be “Israeli” only.

    At the first Knesset session after the festive decision was made, an Arab MK demanded that Theodor Herzl’s picture be taken down from the wall of the chamber. He announced that if his proposal were not accepted he would turn to the High Court of Justice, “because the picture of the founder of Zionism in the legislature shared by us all hurts the feelings of the Arab citizens and perpetuates the discrimination against them. There is no place in the Knesset for this Austro-Hungarian journalist who never lived in the country.”

    At the same time, another Arab MK proposed a bill to change the state’s symbol, flag and anthem. “These are outright Jewish and Zionist symbols, and they no longer have a place in the country. The seven-branched candelabra, which did or did not stand in the Jewish Temple that did or did not exist, cannot express the equal citizenship of us all.” There was also a proposal to change the name of the Knesset, because of its origin in the term beit knesset (synagogue ) and Knesset Hagdola (the Great Assembly ), but it was rejected for the time being.

    In advance of the Hebrew month of Tishri, the Israel Broadcasting Authority aired several reports about preparations for the holidays, and as usual pointed out that “the multitudes of Am Yisrael [the People of Israel] are preparing for the holiday” and that “masses of Beit Yisrael [the House of Israel] will flood the beaches of Turkey on the Sukkot holiday.” An Arab human rights organization petitioned the High Court demanding that it order the IBA not to use the expression Am Yisrael in this connection. “The expression Am Yisrael may not refer in a public broadcast to the holidays of one religious group or another. There is only one Am Yisrael and it includes us all – Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of no religion. Any other use of the term is racist and discriminatory.” A panel of seven justices was appointed to hear the case.

    A group from the northern branch of the Islamic Movement petitioned the High Court demanding that it abolish the name of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. “It may be the chief rabbinate of the Jews, but not of Israel.” There was also talk of abolishing the Keren Kayameth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund and transferring it to the Finance Ministry.

    Arab spokesmen proposed in the media, and were joined by several Jews from the radical left as well as a veteran of the Canaanite Movement, that to avoid hurting the feelings of Arab citizens, the concept “the God of Israel” (Elohei Yisrael ) should no longer be mentioned in Jewish prayers. “In no way do we intend to limit the freedom of worship of the members of the Jewish religious community, but it’s clear that the use of ‘the God of Israel’ in connection with a specific Jewish prayer contravenes the spirit of the laws passed recently.” Use of the concept “the Land of Israel” (Eretz Yisrael ) referring to the Jewish history of the country was also criticized.

    A radical Jewish leftist who supported the steps that led to the legislation turned to a head of an Arab organization and asked: “We did what you wanted, and you still aren’t satisfied. What should we call the country so you’ll really feel equal?” With a broad smile the head of the Arab association replied: “What’s the problem? The real name was and always will be: Falastin.”

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Thanks Jeremy – I read that article a couple of hours ago – its certainly a strong piece.

    Shlomo Avineri and Mark Baker have at least this in common – they get us thinking – they take us out of our comfort zones and challenge us.

    Someone made the comment earlier in this discussion that there are two schools of thought in this discussion, and analysed it on the political views expressed.

    I think the more telling two schools of thought are how people react to challenging ideas – and that has nothing to do with political positions.

    Some people engage in civil exchanges where they discuss ideas, however challenging to and at odds with their own views. They find the process valuable because it helps them to refine their own position, they see things from a slightly different perspective and they may even shift a little on something. Or not.

    And others are so frightened by ideas that challenge them that they
    engage in name calling and personal attacks and avoid discussing the issues as soon as it gets hard.

    Why are people so angry with Mark? All all he is offering – for those who are interested – are some ideas about how we might think about and relate to Israel.If you don’t like what he says, don’t read what he writes. There are literally hundreds of commentators to read, who’ll validate your views if that’s what you’re looking for.

    Why are so many people so challenged and frightened by ideas?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Jeremy, please spare us from taking that piece seriously. It’s a bit sad that Shlomo Avineri has had to descend to a fictional parable as a predictor of what might happen in the future.

    Once again, it’s another example of denying a very true issue–that the country, for all the protestations and obfuscations of people at many ends of the Zionist spectrum–is in fact a shared place, with the other, the ‘Palestinian’ having equal if not more rights than Jews, particularly foreigners like myself. The piece by him is on the same level of fantasy about the granting of the equal protection of law to African Americans or blacks in South Africa. It’s an extremely negative form of writing in fact because it depicts or assumes Palestinians are intrinsically threatening to Jews or what Avineri sees as the ‘Jewish state’ or the ‘Jewish character’ of Israel (what that core should be, in a diverse, multicultural society is quite unclear to me in fact–other than legalistic definitions that become exclusionary of other people as tolerated minorities, it is pretty much indefinable these days).

    To use a bit of fantasy writing to imply a connection with Mark’s views on the future of Zionism is very strange. Mindd you, I don’t share all his views, but that is not the point. We want intelligent discussion.

  • michael says:

    Some food for thought in light of Mark Baker’s comments on Hatkiva:..

    A radical Jewish leftist …….

  • Mark Baker says:

    I should have confessed that the ideas I expressed about Hatikvah and the flag – maintaining them but one day in the future modifying them to make them more inclusive – were actually borrowed from Alexander Yakobson and Ruth Gavison, two of Israel’s most articulate defenders of Zionism. Ruth is hardly from the left; she’s actually more to the right and argues that Israel might need two anthems to accommodate the Arab minority who can’t be expected to sing about their Jewish soul; Yakobson has actually sugggested how a modified Israeli flag would look. Anyway, I’ve resolved (again) over Rosh Hashana not to engage with people who spew hatred, lies and libel. Let the malshinim amongst us – the slanderers – face God with their own conscience on Yom Kippur (there’s a special prayer for them). Mind you, the fact that even Terry Jones seems to have been convinced not to burn the Koran shows that the most hateful of people can recognise the error of their ways. Gmar Chatima to all of you. Signing out of this book so I can try to sign into the book of life.

  • michael says:

    I’m sure Marks comrades Walleed aly, Maher Mughrabi and Samah Sabawi along with Australians For Palestine lobbyists would agree with his views.

  • Jeremy says:

    I posted Shlomo Avineri’s article because I thought it was an interesting perspective. It wasn’t an “attack” on Mark Baker or anyone else. Interestingly, the responses (from all sides of the political spectrum) tend to define themselves by reference to others who hold similar views. I think this defeats the purpose of this blog.

    To Mandi Katz – Thanks for your note and I agree with nearly everything you have said. You asked me “Why are people so angry at Mark”. I don’t know why people are angry but I can tell you why I am a little concerned. It is less to do with Mark’s views than to do with the position that he occupies. His position is unique in that it is not strictly an academic role (I know Mark may view it as such but the reality is that is not how it is viewed by the community and many of his students). His role is also a communal role and I believe that certain responsibilities come with that. I don’t think Mark would disagree with the statement that he doesn’t mind being controversial from time to time (understatement) and likes shaking things up. I think that this is a good quality but the desire to shake up the mainstream needs to be considered carefully when occupying a communal role, especially when that role involves educating young students who are impressionable. I have not been in any of Mark’s classes so it is very possible that he is able to present all sides to the conflict so that students can make their own decisions. That being said, I still have concerns that the centre in general provides an unbalanced picture to students. However, I don’t think that this blog should be about Mark Baker or his role at Monash so that is all I will say but I thought it was important for people to be aware that are people who like and respect Mark but still have concerns about the centre. I think that is where the anger is coming from. These people do not fall into the “Michael” category of attacking anything Mark says or thinks. I believe that Michael is actually doing more harm than Mark Baker (if Mark Baker is doing any harm at all) because many students would simply be driven to the left after reading Michael’s comments to simply avoid being associated with Michael.

    To Mark Baker – Your response to the link I posted is also frustrating because you do the same as Michael does to you. You justify your views by reference others that hold them. I did not accuse you of being a self hating jew or anti Zionist. In my view, you are a clearly a strong Zionist who loves Israel. So you don’t need to defend your argument by saying that others who are considered Zionists or to the right also hold those views. Rather lets focus on the substance. I ask you this – Do you think we also need to consider changing Hatkiva for the Chareidim? They also constitute a large portion of the population. Perhaps they would be able to play a more productive role in society if we added some words about Torah to Hatikva or if they had their own national anthem that was relevant to them? Where does it end? Do you really think you can preserve the Jewish character of the state once you start having these types of discussions? In any event, I think that the debate would probably be more divisive to the country than any realistic outcome.

    Wishing everyone a Gmar Chatima Tova.

  • Mark Baker says:

    Hi Jeremy; I said I’m bowing out of this thread but I’m drawn back in simply to say that my words were not directed at you at all. I suppose this is yet another example of why we have to be careful with our words on a blog. I read the Avineri article as well and was challenged by it. I don’t like the tactic he uses, however, because it paints an extreme picture that adds fear to the questions people are asking about the place of Israel’s minorities in a Jewish state. Avineri, by the way, has written what I regard as one of the best introductory chapters on Zionism which I use in my courses.
    Let me be very clear about something: as a Zionist, I am not only committed to the idea of a Jewish state, but my main argument with the left is that they make an exception of Jewish ethno-nationalism when most nation-states are structured around hegemonious cultures/ethnicites, including our own in Australia. Anyone who has read my writings will know that I am a strong advocate of the Zionist idea and of Israel as a Jewish state. That is why, by the way, I will be on a panel tomorrow with Ghassan Hage, an articulate anti-Zionist in order to challenge him on his views. However, the delegitimisation of the Zionist idea is not only coming from external sources, but also from Jewish ultra-nationalists (of the religious and secular variety) who are eroding the principles that underlie Israel’s Declaration of Independence. I’m not going to repeat the arguments here, only to state that my positions on Israel come from a Zionist critique about issues that currently divide Israel (eg, should actors appear in Ariel?). Those who somehow regard my views with suspicion want to close down debate and the diversity of perspectives on the meaning of Zionism that have always characterised our community – indeed, the Zionist youth movements are an example of this diversity. There is nothing I say or have ever said that is not outside the Zionist mainstream. As for my role as Centre Director, I have personal views but anyone who would take the time to observe the range of speakers we bring out, most of whom come from the Right, would know that I never allow my views to interfere with my professional duties to create a space that stimulates discussion from a variety of perspectives. Our university, faculty and our Centre are also engaged in interreligious and intercultural discussions as part of a program we are proud to uphold. As you correctly say, you’ve never been to one of my classes so I appreciate you haven’t cast aspersions on my pedagogy even though you have. I think people should stop pointing fingers and just appreciate the imperative of debate within our community or else we will turn the things we love most into a stultified and empty credo. Anyway, I was referring to those who just generate hatred and slander; I would give up hope on them but on these days of teshuva we cannot despair of anyone. Thanks Jeremy – I would appreciate if you would use your full name. We shouldn’t speak behind anonymity and should be proud to stand up to our words, and take them back when they are wrong.

  • Mark Baker says:

    Above is the link to a panel I’m speaking on tomorrow about Gaza, which is sure to turn into a discussion on Zionism given that Ghassan Hage is speaking. Eltham is a shlep for Caulfielders (???), but I for one will be there because I have to as I’m speaking, and also because I believe in confronting the anti-Zionist challenges that are being thrown at us.

  • michael says:

    I’m bowing out of this thread………..

    There would be many students , ex students and members of the mainstream Jewish community that virulently disagree with Bakers
    nauseous claptrap . Of course it is up to them to stand up and say so however most would rather do the Jewish thing sit on the fence and not make waves, and to have the chutzpah to claim he and his fellow travelers at ACJC don’t push their own left wing agenda is an insult to anyone’s intelligence.
    So many examples of his and his departments left wing agenda have been given it is a waste of time repeating them.

    It appears with Baker it is his way or the high way when it comes to Middle East politics and Islamist extremism .

    If anyone is willing to publish their controversial views on line they should be willing to be challenged, however as we have all just witnessed at Limmud- Oz not everyone agrees to this concept.

    Baker can take his bat and ball and run home to mummy obviously he is embarrassed whenever he is quoted or examples given of his far left wing views and always quick to go on the defense.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Jeremy- just to be clear I think that by posting an article, you are adding value to the debate, and not engaging in name calling. As to your view on Mark as a representative of the community, I don’t know much about the governance of the ACJC and to whom it is accountable but I have certainly benefited from some of the panels it has hosted this year under Mark’s direction, including the recent series involving Ruth Gavison and other thinkers and academics on Israel which I think really encourage deep and critical understanding of some of the issues.

    So in the context of community concern about how such debate is positioned, where is the concern that those discussions weren’t even covered by the AJN? Where’s the outraged criticism of the AJN’s failure as a community newspaper to cover local efforts to grapple with these issues? (And I should disclose that my husband Ashley Browne previously edited the AJN although I also add that while we share a life we dont share a brain, or opinions on lots of these issues so I don’t in any way speak for him). The AJN also didn’t cover the recent address by Peter Beinart despite the fact that his article published in The New York Review of Books in May this year generated huge interest and discussion in the Jewish world and despite the fact that his address in Melbourne was attended by Jewish religious leaders, academics who write and teach about Israel/Palestine and by Jewish community professionals. Where’s the concern there?

    I am a member of the community. I belong to a shule. My children attend Jewish schools and I feel very much part of Jewish life in Australia in formal and informal ways. So in that capacity I’ll say I wouldn’t expect an academic or an academic institution to act in the interests of a broad range of stakeholders in the same way that I would expect a representative body or even the AJN to do. I have more issues with some of the things AIJAC says and does while purporting to speak on my behalf (it describes itself on its website as “the premier public affairs organisation for the Australian Jewish community”) because AIJAC goes well beyond commenting and critical discussion, into the space of influencing Australian foreign policy. How is AIJAC accountable to our diverse community? Where is the concern about that?

    As to Avineri’s piece – Larry- I don’t agree with where Avineri is going but I think its fair comment in that it gets people thinking. I have read your comments elsewhere on this site that sometimes the role of the artist/thinker/intellectual is to push the envelope.

    The irony is that I find some of what he says compelling – against his position.

    Why shouldn’t the assets of the Jewish National Fund be transferred to the finance function, or some other government agency that represents and is accountable to all Israeli citizens?

    And as to the rabbinate – can Avineri seriously be defending the idea of a rabbinate for all Israelis? It’s a ridiculous notion given that many Israelis are not Jewish, are not Orthodox (and committed Progressive and Conservative Jews suffer real discrimination in Israel at the hands of the rabbinate) or are secular and don’t want the rabbinate involved in their lives at all.Its not even trying to be a rabbinate for all Jews – much less all Israelis so why call it that?

    On the other hand – reflecting on my experience as an Australian citizen , I think some of the stuff about being a minority in a country with a dominant or formal cultural identity that you don’t share is not such a big deal and doesn’t necessarily impinge on democratic rights. Is it discriminatory for example that I have to take annual leave for Jewish holidays in Australia? I don’t think it is – although it would be if there were negative consequences to my doing so.

    And interesting reference to France – so often used in the past as the example of the truly inclusive state where all people become “Frenchmen”(and Frenchwomen?) – given the debate about regulating religious dress and symbols of religious expression in France in recent years.

    All of which is to say that multiculturalism is not about having no dominant culture. The balance in Israel is clearly not right and what is troubling, it seems to be getting worse evidenced by frequent court challenges to Knesset and policy decisions.

    But I don’t think the fact that a country has a dominant national culture and identity is inherently discriminatory.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    There’s a lot going on here, but I am only really take up the issue of Mark Baker’s position and criticism of him, from the perspective of a fellow academic. And can people stick to English and/or put explanations in brackets (eg malshinim)? Not everyone is observant/knowledgeable about Hebrew/Jewish matters. I am involved in a big conference in two days and part of the agenda is to bust jargon. We should also be jargon busters.

    There is no such thing as objectivity in academia and its applications, particularly in the humanities. Everything that is studied or measured, whether it is atoms or history is interpreted through some lens–feet and inches, centimetres, words, concepts. All of these at one time or other haver been questioned, developed, reinterpreted and so on (two examples: the increasing accuracy of the measurement of ‘time’ (as a particular measure) through atomic clocks; and ‘law’ is not a constant, but constantly reinterpreted. For students, at least at a tertiary level, to understand the nature of the world it is important that they learn about these lenses and how knowledge and information are constructed, otherwise they are just being trained as parrots.

    Now, when we get to the humanities, look at what’s happened with the study of religion or religion in society. Orthodoxies across the board have been challenged for about the past 150 years, which in part explains the split in Judaism. And the problems with ‘orthodoxy’ (not in the religious sense) are endemic to the humanities. The ‘facts’ of many issues are not incontrovertible. There have been vicious ‘wars’ between historians over causation issues to do with WWI and WW2 and similarly, the British philosophical establishment was riven by personal and belief differences in the 50s.

    Much the same applies to the particulars of the study of the Israel/Palestine conflict and related issues such as the nature of Jewish peoplehood. In teaching such issues it is virtually impossible to offer and ‘objective’ viewpoint on all issues when so much is contested. All a person can do is present as much as possible to stimulate thinking by students, whether it is by looking at issues of power and inequality or comparisons with other intergroup conflicts such as in Rwanda or Ireland. This is something far more complex than for example, being able to read medieval Hebrew poetry well and decribe its grammar. This is not to say that questions of morality and judgement are absent, but any honest academic makes it clear where he or she is coming from and I don’t doubt that Mark is capable of communicating this. Thus for a number of posters in this discus ion to attack him for an apparent lack of loyalty or bias is stupid and show very little insight into the job of teaching or researching difficult issues. Perhaps some critics are also offended because academics dare (!) to undertake comparative work by taking such questions out of a narrow circle of assumptions is much too challenging to many people who seem to see enemies and threats on every corner.

    And of course, the critics have so little tolerance of critical viewpoints that almost anything that is said that does not accord with a very narrow right-wing Zionist agenda is thrown in the same corner as radical anti-Zionism of the worst sort. Thus, as Mandy or Mark have noted, Ruth Gavison has expressed similar views to Mark’s on Hatikvah or the flag and she is as central to the Zionist intellectual establishment as one can get. But perhaps Israeli intellectuals are also in their cross-hairs. Furthermore, the monopoly press covers very little else than the narrow views of its proprietor these days so that diversity is not seen to exist.

    If anything, to my way of thinking, the holding up of people into having to play a ‘role’ is reflective of the mindset of the community and that it has never really supported free intellectuals –in the sense of being able to say what they think without fear or favour. Part of this is because institutions are dependent on donors, part is the personal price paid for speaking out. Thus, there is a sense I think that people think that the ‘community’ ‘owns’ the centre. This is a pretty retrograde viewpoint which quite negates the capacity for independent research, teaching and learning without fear or favour.

    Otherwise, we end up with the teaching or propogation of doctrine, which more properly belongs in a private religious seminary or institution with an explicit ideological purpose such as AIJAC. This at least, is not what higher education is about in Australia.

  • michael says:

    Otherwise, we end up with the teaching or propogation of doctrine, which more properly belongs in a private religious seminary or institution with an explicit ideological purpose such as AIJAC. This at least, is not what higher education is about in Australia.
    Says Larry Stillman..

    In a perfect world you may have a point however however in the real world [ ie not the world of academia] all the Arab /Islamic Study departments are openly and not surprisingly pro Palestinian/ Arab/Muslim and only look at the Middle East and Islamism through Arab/Muslim eyes.
    These study departments many of which are funded by Saudi, Kuwaiti and other Arab regimes use their influence to push their own Arabist doctrine.. When have we ever heard of Arab /Islamic study departments engage Pro Zionist guest speakers on a regular basis or expose their students to anything other than the Palestinian/Arab/Muslim narative.
    At the same time when you have Jewish study departemnts and Jewish Academics pushing their own left wing Zionist or anti- Zionist doctrine as we see at ACJC the studnets are only hearing and being exposed to one side. It is only natural if the academics have strong views one way or another these views will come across as we so often see.
    If you look at the names on Palestinian/Socialist instigated anti- Israel petitions, open letters to media and various propaganda you will find the vast majority of names are Academics. When has anyone seen a Pro- Israel petition, open letter to media or propaganda with any Academics listed supporting Israel’s case.Academics are obsessed with Israel and appear to be indifferent to all other conflicts around the globe.
    Larry Stillman is being ingenuous saying that is what AIJAC is for when it is well known and on the public record he and his AJDS along with ACJC are AIJAC’s biggest critics.
    Of course this is blatantly hypercritical when AJDS and ACJC promote Palestinian Lobby groups and Palestinian Lobbyists but= hey, who said the left were objective and rational?

  • Michael Lobel says:

    In your article you refer to Israel, Zionism and the Jewish State almost interchangeably. Why is it that you find the need to do so ?
    Israel is what it is for better or for worse in its triumphs and in its demises. Today Israel is made up of almost all types of Jews (and non Jews) you can find and its decision making apparatus reflects that fact.
    In my mind as one who was born in Israel and lived there as a child and recently as an adult, Zionism can no longer be interchanged with “Israel” since the struggle you and others encounter when trying to define and re-define Zionism is not synonymous with “Israel”.
    The “Jewish State” is what Israel aspires to be but it also talks about being “democratic” and as you know there is a defiant secular population in Israel who wishes it were only the latter (of which I am not one). As such I am not sure that calling Israel exclusively the “Jewish State” works either.
    Its time people realized that Israel is a country and a nation like all others and needs to be treated as such by Jews and by Non-Jews alike. If Jews start doing so maybe the country will mature the way we’d like to see it mature.
    Having said that I do believe Israel must find a way to actively involve non-Israeli Jews in some of its decision making processes like “who is a jew” and “marriage” related issue, but that’s another subject altogether.
    Michael Lobel

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