I am constantly amazed at how the Israeli narrative of self-defense is never challenged in the media, particularly since the Palestinian narrative, that they are fighting a war of independence, is so much more accurate and compelling.  So here we are again, fighting has erupted between the Palestinians and Israel.  Thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza, and Israel has responded with a massive air and ground assault that has killed over 1000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, with thousands more injured and made homeless.  Three Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets and at least 43 Israeli soldiers have died in combat.  At least 10 West Bank Palestinian demonstrators have been shot dead by Israeli soldiers during demonstrations against the Gaza war.

Israel again is claiming it is fighting a legitimate war of self-defense against Palestinian rocket fire which it labels as terrorism.  But that justification ignores the underlying cause of the conflict: Israel’s 47 year illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian land and its refusal to allow the Palestinians to have a nation of their own in the West Bank and Gaza.   The Palestinians are fighting a war of independence from Israeli occupation.


During the past 47 years, the Palestinians have tried both violent and nonviolent resistance with no success, while the UN, the US, the EU, and other European nations have tried for decades to negotiate a two-state solution to the conflict.  Despite those efforts, no Israeli government has been willing to withdraw completely from the occupied territories to allow the Palestinians full independence and a state of their own on the remaining 20 percent of Palestine. 

Instead, Israel has continued its oppressive military rule over the Palestinians, increased its illegal land seizures and evictions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and built hundreds of Jewish settlements.  According to a recent statement from Israel’s Housing Minister, there are now 700,000-750,000 Israeli Jews living illegally on Palestinian land and that number is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2019.  Based on recent statements from the leaders of its major political parties, including its prime minister, Israel has no intention of withdrawing from the occupied Palestinian territories which it considers to be part of the Greater Israel it inherited from Biblical times.


Palestinians are fighting Israel because they are fed up with broken promises, failed negotiations, and half a century of Israeli oppression.  Palestinians are firing rockets at Israel because 1.8 million Gazans have been trapped in what is often described as the world’s largest open-air prison, a result of Israel’s total blockade of that began in 2007.  

When the victim of a violent crime fights back, the perpetrator can’t use self-defense as a justification for doing even more physical violence to the victim.   Israel can’t claim claim self-defense as justification for invading and bombing Gaza to stop Palestinian rocket fire since it is the perpetrator of the underlying and ongoing crime, it’s half-century occupation and theft of Palestinian land, and oppression of its people. 

It is the Palestinians who have the right of self-defense, the right to fight back against their occupiers.  People suffering under illegal occupation by a foreign power have a legitimate right to violently resist.  Lacking tanks, planes, and well-equipped modern armies, they typically use the only tools available: bombings, assassinations, and other tactics of asymmetric guerrilla warfare. 


Israel and the US are quick to label violent resistance by the Palestinians as terrorism and have labeled Hamas a terrorist organization.  But Hamas is little different than the Haganah, Irgun, and Lehi, factions of the Zionist resistance against the British who also used asymmetric guerrilla warfare tactics. Their campaign of terror against the British and the Palestinians from 1939-48 included assassinations of British military and government officials and Count Bernadotte, the UN mediator, hanging of British prisoners of war, and terror bombing of Palestinian communities, and British military, government, and private facilities, including the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 

Zionist terrorism was highly successful and a major factor in Britain’s decision to withdraw from Palestine, making it possible for the Zionists to declare their independence in 1948 and create the nation of Israel.  The violent resistance of the Palestinians against Israeli occupation of their land has the same aim, to force the withdrawal of a brutal occupying power to gain independence and nationhood.  This is no different from dozens of other wars of independence in which the colonial powers also accused the insurgents of being terrorists.  While the brutality that accompanies guerrilla warfare is horrific and regrettable, it is the only tool available for weak, oppressed people fighting powerful  occupying armies. 


Israel has always responded savagely to Palestinian violence, and has used all the tools typically employed by colonial powers attempting to maintain their hold on valuable colonies. These oppressive measures, which violate international law and can be called state terrorism, include random arrests, torture, assassinations, indefinite imprisonment without trial, house demolitions, mass detentions, collective punishment against civilian populations, strict military rule, and more.  Demonizing Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, while excusing Israeli violence that does far greater harm to the Palestinian civilian population is one-sided and hypocritical, particularly since Israeli violence is aimed at maintaining  the illegal status quo of occupation, settlement, and continuing theft of Palestinian lands.

The Palestinians are fighting a legitimate war of independence and have been since 1967.  Israel’s attack on Gaza isn’t an act of self-defense but just another of its many massive military actions aimed at crushing Palestinian armed resistance to its occupation while it also inflicts an unnecessary and ghastly toll on thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians.

It’s time for politicians, pundits, and the media, to get this story straight, and time for the rest of us to insist that Palestinians get the independence and nation of their own they have long sought and so richly deserve.


Posted in Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, West Bank, Zionism, Zionists | Leave a comment

BANALITY IN THE PROMISED LAND: Admitting and Rationalizing Zionism’s Evil Deeds

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel is a personal account
of the history of the Jews in Palestine (later Israel) by Ari Shavit, a liberal and
influential Israeli journalist and writer who was at one time a leader in the Israeli
peace movement. While Shavit’s recounting of that history is Israel-centric, it is
also brutally honest. Shavit describes Israel’s ethnic cleansing and forced expulsion
of some 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from their homes in Israel-conquered territory in
1948 in graphic detail including the massacres of civilians and massive, systematic
looting by Israeli troops. Shavit not only admits it all happened, but he provides
details through the mouths of both perpetrators and victims that allow the reader to
see how horrific it all was and how much Palestinians have suffered as a direct
result of the Israeli terror of 1948 and after.

My Promised Land is history recounted by individuals experiencing each
critical point in the history of Palestine and Israel. The reader learns first-hand
about the original Jewish settlers in the 1890s, the Kibbutzim, the clashes with the
Palestinians, the war of 1948, and the experiences of holocaust victims both in the
death camps and in Israel after they immigrated as shaken but determined refugee-survivors.  Shavit shows the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, the
experiences of over one million Russian immigrants, and the revival and rise to
power of Israel’s Arab Jews, all through the eyes of the participants he interviewed.

He describes his own experiences as a young soldier in the Israeli army
having to guard thousands of imprisoned Palestinian demonstrators who were kept
without due process and subjected to torture, and whose screams still haunt him.
He describes the post-1967 war settlers and settlements, and the peace movement
that developed in response to the settlers and Israel’s continuing occupation and
oppression of the Palestinians. Shavit weaves in his own and his family’s history as
he travels from one end of Israel and Palestine to the other doing interviews of the
many major and minor figures that make up this complicated history.

Shavit is most effective in his framing of the conflict. While admitting to all
the horrors of 1948 and the continuing horrors of occupation, he says the conflict
cannot only be seen as the story of what the Jews did and are doing to the
Palestinians; it must also be seen in the context of what happened to the Jews, to
the existential threat and fear that Israeli Jews face and experience. His
realization of the duality of the conflict drove him away from the peace movement
which, in his mind, failed to balance its valid condemnation of Israel’s occupation
and oppression of the Palestinians with the existential threat faced by Israeli Jews.

The essence of Shavit’s argument is that this existential threat justified the
expulsion and oppression of the Palestinians. Shavit believes that if Israel’s
founders had not ethnically cleansed Israel of its Palestinian population neither
Zionism nor its Jewish State would have survived. The end, saving Zionism and its
Jewish state, justified the brutal means of removing and oppressing the Palestinian
people. In essence, Shavit says the brutality, “…the dirty, filthy work…” of
massacre, forced expulsion, terror, looting, was necessary if Jews were to have a
state of their own.

This conclusion leads Shavit to what he sees as the crux or conundrum of the
conflict: that the Palestinians, so grievously harmed by the Israelis, so justified in
their claims for a right to return to their stolen homes and lands, can never give up
those claims. Thus, Shavit says, the conflict is not about the occupation and the
settlements, it’s about Israel’s very existence. Ending the occupation and removing
the settlers will not solve the conflict because the Palestinians cannot give up their
claim to return to homes and lands stolen from them that are now a part of the
Jewish state. In essence, Shavit is saying peace with the Palestinians is impossible
because it would threaten the Jewish state, and that the existential threat and
fears of Jews have a higher moral standing than the rights of Palestinians to return
and reclaim their stolen land and homes.

Despite his honesty, Shavit’s conclusion is chilling because his rationalization
of Israel’s horrific actions of 1948 could easily be applied to a complete cleansing of
Palestinians from the entirety of the land between the Mediterranean and the River
Jordan, the promised land of Greater Israel. While this would require more brutal,
dirty, and filthy conduct by the Israeli army, if Shavit can justify Israel’s 1948
conduct, it is difficult to see how he could reject a modern version of the same
conduct since it is aimed at the same end, the building of a powerful, invulnerable
Jewish state.

Ultimately, Shavit’s rationalization fails. Israel’s massive war crime of 1948
wasn’t necessary. Israel could have created a Jewish state that included a high
percentage of Palestinian citizens as envisioned by the UN Partition Plan of 1947.
Or, it could have accepted the Arab League offer of a binational state in which the
Israelis would have had almost complete autonomy in their portion. Either would
have been a moral choice that wouldn’t have required the sacrifice of the
Palestinian people to gain a homeland exclusively for the Jews.

As Israel’s new historians have shown, Israel was never the weaker party in
the 1948 conflict and never under any significant military threat. It had manpower
advantages of at least two to one and its forces were far better organized, better led,
and better motivated from 1947 through the end of the conflict in early 1949. By
April of 1948, Israel had decisively defeated all Palestinian military opposition and
was invading the portion of Palestine set aside by the UN for an Arab state.
Ultimately, it would conquer, cleanse, and keep for itself half of the Arab state’s

By mid-May of 1948, on the eve of its declaration of independence, Israel’s
army had already expelled over 300,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands,
forcing them across borders into Lebanon, Syria, and the West Bank. By August it
had stopped and defeated the combined but outnumbered Arab League forces that
had come to the aid of the Palestinians in May of 1948. Israel would have been able
to easily conquer all of Palestine and Egypt’s Sinai in 1948, and had plans and
forces in place to do so. However, it decided that such an aggressive action coupled
with the ethnic cleansing of another million or so Palestinians would have created a
great deal of international condemnation so it postponed its planned invasion until
1967 when it captured all of the Sinai and all of the land west of the Jordan, the
fabled land of Greater Israel.

Israel’s easy capture of Egypt’s Sinai in the 1956 Suez conflict, and its
overwhelming six day vanquishing of the combined armed forces of Egypt, Syria,
and Jordan in 1967 demonstrated how hapless the Arab forces remained. Even
after the surprise attack by Egypt and Syria in 1973, Israel quickly recovered,
handily defeated both countries’ armies, and was threatening the capture of both
Damascus and Cairo when a ceasefire was imposed only 20 days after the start of
the conflict. Today, Israel’s military superiority is unmatched and its neighbors are
in disarray, riven with internal strife. Israel’s only remaining threat is from the
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and those in the West Bank
and Gaza who continue to live under the boot and oppression of the Israeli army
and the 600,000 violent Jewish settlers it protects in the Palestinian territories it
has occupied since 1967.

Despite his immense pride in Israel’s many accomplishments, Shavit remains
fearful of the future. While he admits to all the horrors of 1948 and the continued
oppression of the Palestinians, he cannot offer a solution and sees the prospects for
peace as distant at best. Despite having identified the moral failings of Zionism,
Shavit cannot bring himself to offer a moral solution for Palestinian suffering which
he knows is unsustainable. All he can see is more of the same with the wonders of
his modern, sexy, start-up nation living blissfully and oblivious to the nearby
horrors of Israel’s continuing oppression of an entire people.

Shavit’s fear is justifiable. The Jewish State, with all its wondrous
accomplishments, was founded on a war crime of immense proportions which
continues to this day. Israel and Zionism’s one great failure was moral, and its
failure to stop and atone for the continuing immorality of its conduct may
ultimately lead to the failure of the Jewish State that Shavit so loves and fears for.

My Promised Land is a good read and essential read for understanding the
mindset of a prominent Israeli liberal Zionist. It is also a well-written, easily read
history of Palestine and Israel as seen through the eyes of its participants. Most
important, Shavit’s brutal honesty in describing the horrific conduct of the Israeli
army in 1948 and its continuing oppression of the Palestinians since then puts an
end to the false narrative created by Israel’s hasbara masters that convinced many
in the West that the Palestinians left their homes and lands voluntarily, and that
the Israeli army scrupulously obeyed the laws of war.

Shavit’s brutal honesty may have opened a Pandora’s box. His admission
that Israel committed a massive and continuing war crime against another people
cannot stand on its own, nor can his rationalization that is was all really necessary
if Zionism and the Jewish State were to survive. His admission has left his beloved
Israel swinging in the wind, naked for all to see. Once the reality of his admission
becomes well-known, the former widespread sympathy for a weak Israel David
beset by a savage Arab Goliath will dissipate as its now disillusioned supporters
angrily react to Israeli duplicity, intransigence, and continuing atrocities and

In the meantime most Israelis, and most American Jews remain largely oblivious to Israel’s past and continuing war crime against the Palestinian people.  This almost banal acceptance of a massive ongoing war crime by decent, thoughtful, and influential Israeli and American Jews, their unwillingness to make critical moral judgments, their refusal to recognize the awful, continuing plight and suffering of millions of Palestinians, harkens back to Hannah Arendt’s famous statement about the banality of evil, and how ordinary and normal the perpetrators and apologists for evil often are:

“The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were
like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that
they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the
viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of
judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the
atrocities put together.”

Most banal and terrifying of all is Shavit himself, a thoughtful, decent, liberal Zionist who concludes that no peace is yet possible and that the decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people must continue indefinitely while Israel seeks a more perfect solution to its amorphous but ever-expanding existential threat.

Posted in Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, Uncategorized, West Bank, Zionism, Zionists | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A TIME FOR ATONEMENT: Will this Yom Kippur Bring Justice for the Palestinians?


Will this Yom Kippur Bring Justice for the Palestinians?

by Gil Maguire

On September 29 American and Israeli Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah.  The ten days following Rosh Hashanah are days of reflection and repentance for Jews culminating October 8 in Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, the most important and solemn of Jewish holy days.  This year, American and Israeli Jews alike should reflect on the plight of over 8 million Palestinians who, some 63 years after Israel’s formation, remain estranged from their homeland, deprived of self determination and freedom and imprisoned in a limbo-like oppressive existence that reflects terribly on Jews.  It is an existence that American and Israeli Jews are jointly responsible for and for which they have a moral duty to change.  This season of Yom Kippur is the time to reflect and a time to commit to that change.

 The scope of the harm American and Israeli Jews have created is immense.  Stephen Robert, a Jewish-American investment banker, and long-time Israel supporter, who is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former chancellor of Brown University, described the situation in the West Bank as “apartheid on steroids” after his most recent fact-finding visit to Israel and the West Bank this past summer.  In a long and detailed article in The Nation, he concluded,

 “How can Jews, who have been persecuted for centuries, tolerate this inhumanity? Where is their moral compass? How can this situation be acceptable to Judaism’s spiritual and political leaders? I don’t have that answer; except to say that Israel’s biggest enemy has become itself.”

There are about 4.5 million Palestinians living and confined in the West Bank and Gaza occupied and controlled by Israel since 1967.  There are another 4 million or so living as unwanted refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan.  Over 1.5 million Palestinians still live in the squalor of refugee camps, all some 63 years after they or their forebears fled or were ethnically cleansed from Israel in 1948.

Every day that goes by is another day of squalor and oppression for 8.5 million Palestinians which will compound to over 3 billion individual days of additional squalor and oppression in the coming year alone.  During the coming year, more and more Palestinians will be illegally evicted from their lands and homes which will be confiscated to allow thousands more Israeli Jews to move to illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas set aside by the United Nations in 1947 for the planned but long-delayed Arab State of Palestine.

This is not to say that the Palestinian leadership and extremists are blameless.  Palestinian tactical and strategic errors and violence against Israeli civilians over several decades are inexcusable and have contributed to the continuing pain and isolation of 8.5 million of their fellow citizens.  But, the major culprit in the continuing oppression of millions of Palestinians is Israel and its ongoing occupation and settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  From 1967 on, Israel has always had the ability to turn over the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians to allow them to create the Arab State of Palestine promised them by the United Nations in 1947.  It never did so, despite internal recommendations that this would be in Israel’s long-term best interest, and that the settlement of the West Bank with Israeli Jewish citizens would violate the terms of the 4th Geneva Convention.  It never did so because of greed and a religion-based desire to create a Greater Israel including the entirety of the West Bank.  The responsibility for that immoral policy and its horrific results is ultimately on the shoulders of American and Israeli Jews who support and condone it.

Unfortunately, Israel’s 44 year occupation and settlement of the West Bank is on the verge of destroying  the possibility of  a two state solution because Israeli settlements now control so much of the West Bank that a separate Palestinian state may no longer be viable and acceptable to the Palestinians.  When that happens, Israel’s occupation of the entirety of the West Bank (and by default, Gaza) will become a de facto illegal annexation of the entirety of original Palestine into a Greater Israel (the dream and goal of many American and Israeli religious Zionist Jews).  That reality will leave Israel with three stark and unacceptable choices:

It can create a democratic state of Greater Israel in which Palestinians and Jews alike have equal rights, including voting rights.  This choice would not be acceptable to Zionist Jews because these demographic changes would deprive Israel of its status as a homeland for the world’s Jews and as a predominantly Jewish state.  While initially, the Jewish and Palestinian populations of this Greater Israel would be about equal, there would be intense international pressure to allow the remaining 3-4 million Palestinians still living as unwelcome guests and refugees in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to return to their homeland in this Greater Israel.  Since Israel would refuse to allow their return, it would never have peace and it would remain a pariah state in the eyes of the world.

The two remaining choices are even less palatable: apartheid or ethnic cleansing.  Israel could refuse to give the Palestinians in Greater Israel equal voting and other civil rights possessed by its Jewish citizens, but that will make Israel truly an apartheid state rather than one having apartheid-like qualities as it is now.  Or, Israel could attempt to remove all or a major portion of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to insure a dominant Jewish majority.  But, to do so would be  ethnic cleansing.  Either choice would be an unacceptable  major violation of international law and norms  and would subject Israel to international sanctions and a status equivalent to that of South Africa during it apartheid period.

The only acceptable choice, if Israel is to remain a democratic Jewish state and have peace with its Arab neighbors, is for Israel to accept the 1967 borders as its eastern boundary and give up its illegal settlements and annexation of all of Jerusalem, including Arab East Jerusalem.   Ten years ago, in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, 22 Arab states offered Israel peace under those terms.  Israel has yet to respond even though Palestinian negotiators have shown a willingness to accept only a modest return of refugees to Israel proper and accede to reasonable Israeli security concerns.

The issue of security is vital to Israelis as the distance between the West Bank and the heart of Israel is less than the commute to work for most Americans.  But, the highest threat to Israel is no longer tank warfare.  Instead, it is the threat of missiles from well beyond Israel’s borders, which in large numbers can overwhelm any missile defense system.  The current Israeli government stresses the importance of “defensible borders” and claims a return to the pre-1967 borders would put Israel at risk.   Yet, those very borders withstood the test of time, two decades, and two major wars.

What are the legitimate security concerns of Israel, and what would be acceptable defensible borders?  Many high-level US and Israeli military and security experts feel Israel’s 1967 borders are defensible.  Martin van Crevald, Israel’s preeminent military historian and theorist, recently analyzed this issue in the Jewish Daily Forward on December 15, 2010 in an article entitled: “Israel Doesn’t Need the West Bank to be Secure”.  He concluded that an invasion of Israel from Jordan through the West Bank would be suicidal for the attacker,

“…since the West Bank itself is surrounded by Israel on three sides, anybody who tries to enter it from the east is sticking his head into a noose. To make things worse for a prospective invader, the ascent from the Jordan Valley into the heights of Judea and Samaria is topographically one of the most difficult on earth. Just four roads lead from east to west, all of which are easily blocked by air strikes or by means of precision-guided missiles. To put the icing on the cake, Israeli forces stationed in Jerusalem could quickly cut off the only road connecting the southern portion of the West Bank with its northern section in the event of an armed conflict.”

As his article demonstrates, Mr. van Crevald is not in any sense a hand wringing liberal Israeli Jew with unrealistic views of Israel’s security concerns.  For instance, he approves of Israel’s security wall as well as the extreme violence of its invasions of both Lebanon and Gaza as effective means of deterrence.  Nonetheless, van Crevald views the Israeli settlement movement as the major threat to Israel’s security and feels Israel needs to withdraw totally from the West Bank as it is fast becoming an apartheid state.  His conclusion is both powerful and persuasive:

“… it is crystal-clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank. Strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible. What is not negligible is the demographic, social, cultural and political challenge that ruling over 2.5 million — nobody knows exactly how many — occupied Palestinians in the West Bank poses. Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions. To save itself from such a fate, Israel should rid itself of the West Bank, most of Arab Jerusalem specifically included.”

Unfortunately, accepting the 1967 borders is no longer a politically viable choice for Israelis because of the strength of its right-wing religious parties who believe Israel has an ancient right of ownership in the West Bank.  Nor is the US government able to influence or force Israel to accept that solution, even though it would be in both countries’ best interest.  The influence of Israel’s US lobby has become too powerful.  To paraphrase the recent words of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, a moderate and influential American and Jew, the U.S. government has become a hostage to Israel because its powerful US lobby is capable of forcing the US to defend Israeli policies that are neither in American interests nor in Israel’s.

It is a lobby that quite apparently controls Congress, and even the executive branch, on all matters involving Israel and US foreign policy in the Middle East.  It is not a Jewish lobby but more the lobby of Israel’s right-wing Likud and religious parties who seek their dream of a restored historic Greater Israel including all of ancient Palestine.  Noted commentator Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast has accurately described  it as the pro-Greater Israel lobby.  Ironically, this powerful lobby doesn’t speak for either the majority of Israeli or American Jews who generally support a two-state solution and see Israel’s settlements as a major obstacle to that goal.

As we have recently seen, no US president dares diverge from pro-Israel policies, even when those policies are doing great harm to US standing and influence, for to do so would be a political death sentence.  This is a situation that is dangerous to Israel and to the US.  It is a situation for which American Jews are directly to blame for allowing Israel to pursue policies that were both immoral and self defeating to Israel, and for failing to support their own president and country when Israel and its US lobby’s conduct were doing grave harm to American interests.   More ominously, it is a situation that will not change until some major tragedy occurs that will open the eyes of the American public to the harm done to American interests by Israel, its US lobby, and by American Jewish citizens who either supported Israeli misconduct, or stood silently by and did nothing when faced with that evidence.

The situation in the West Bank and Gaza is as much apartheid as was the treatment of black Americans in the South, or blacks in South Africa.   It is a practice that must be ended for it reflects badly on American Jews.   As the remaining short days and hours before Yom Kippur tick by, American  Jews should reflect on what it would be like to be a Palestinian for each of those days, each of those hours.  Each must answer the question posed by Stephen Robert:  “How can Jews, who have been persecuted for centuries, tolerate this inhumanity? Where is their moral compass?”  I hope the answer for the vast majority of American Jews will be that continued Israeli oppression of the Palestinians is not tolerable, and that they can and will no longer remain silent.

Thousands of courageous American Jews standing up and insisting that both the West Bank settlement folly and oppression of the Palestinians be ended would represent atonement in the highest spirit of Yom Kippur and the noble Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, working to make the world a better place.  Unfortunately, many Jews will reflexively dismiss these comments as the blatherings of a likely anti-Semite, and will seek refuge in the old tired narratives in which Israel can do no wrong, the and for which the Greater Israel is their historic birthright.  Neither choice will be accurate or help Israel.

Sometimes, to paraphrase the ending in today’s article by New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof, “Is Israel its own Worst Enemy?“, the best criticism comes from concerned friends.  As Israel has few friends left in the world, it might be wise for its Jewish citizens and American Jewish supporters to heed these warnings and begin to question the validity and morality of its assumptions and actions.

Hopefully, this Yom Kippur will cause the vast majority of American and even Israeli Jews to reflect, repent and move forward in the spirit of atonement.  This may well be the last Yom Kippur season they will have the opportunity to do so before the door for a two-state solution slams shut and Israel hurdles further into the abyss.  We can pray that won’t happen.

Shana Tova, and, for Saturday, G’mar Chatimah Tovah.

Gil Maguire practices law in Ventura, California

and blogs on the Israel-Palestine issue at

Posted in apartheid, East Jerusalem, Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, Jeffrey Goldberg, lobby, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, Turkey, Uncategorized, West Bank, Zionism, Zionists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slaughter on the Golan


By Gil Maguire

      As recently reported in the media, at least 12 unarmed Palestinian and Syrian demonstrators were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers on May 15 and perhaps as many as 22 more on June 5, along with scores of wounded after hundreds of Palestinian and Syrian refugees demonstrated at the Golan Height border with some attempting to cross the border into Israeli occupied territory.  In the May 15 incident, some demonstrators managed to get across the border where they talked to local villagers then returned home.  One enterprising Syrian lad managed to hitch-hike to Jaffa where he looked around for his grandparents’ ancestral home then surrendered to Israeli authorities and was deported.  In the June 5 incident, none were successful in crossing the border; those killed and wounded were all still in Syria proper.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to justify the killings saying, “Nobody should be mistaken. We are determined to defend our borders and our sovereignty.” An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovitz, blamed the latest protest on the Syrian government, said that Israeli forces aimed at the protestors’ legs, and that “We have to protect our borders like any other country.”

These protestors are largely refugees evicted from their homes and villages by Israeli soldiers during and after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war or during and after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel conquered and occupied all of the West Bank of Palestine and the Golan Heights portion of Syria.  Today, some 63 years after the 1948 war, there are still about 3.5 million Palestinian refugees, of which about 1.5 million continue to reside, unwelcome, in squalid refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza.  They are protesting their living conditions and Israel’s failure to allow them to return to their ancestral lands, villages and homes, as well as Israel’s failure to allow them a country of their own as promised by the United Nations in the 1947 Partition Plan which was intended to divide the then British Mandate of Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State.  In the entire Arab world, only the Palestinians have never received their independence from European colonialism.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 were specifically enacted to prevent the types of war crimes, atrocities and oppression committed against Jews and many other populations during and prior to World War II.  Under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to which Israel is a signatory, a country which takes over and occupies the land of another during hostilities is restricted in how it can govern the territory it has occupied after hostilities have ceased.  Article 3 prohibits the use of deadly force against civilians.  Article 47 prohibits an occupying power from annexing or taking for itself all or part of the territory occupied.  Article 49 prohibits the occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it has occupied.  Article 49 also prohibits the permanent transfer or expulsion of civilians out of the territories occupied, and requires any civilians transferred to be returned to their homes and villages.  Article 53 prohibits the destruction or misappropriation of real or personal property of civilians by the occupying power.

Israel has violated and continues to violate all of these provisions, all of which are considered breaches so grave that they are considered War Crimes under the 1949 Geneva Conventions.  These grave violations include Israel’s mass deportation of almost 1 million Palestinians and Syrians from Israel and the occupied territories in 1948 and 1967, its refusal to allow the return of those deported to their villages, lands and homes, its mass destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages in Israel, the West Bank and the Golan Heights, its annexation of the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem into Israeli territory, its de facto annexation of the entire West Bank, and its transfer of 650,000 of its own Jewish citizens to “settlements” throughout the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.  These unarmed Palestinian and Syrian refugees who are the victims of Israeli war crimes have every right to demonstrate.

While Israel claims it is protecting its borders and sovereignty, in fact it is not as the Golan Heights, captured by Israeli forces during its 1967 Six Day War, is Syrian territory that Israel has unlawfully annexed.  Moreover, using deadly force against peaceful, unarmed demonstrators, or even border crossers is an illegal and barbaric practice which President Obama and other world leaders have justifiably condemned when used by various Arab and other governments such as Egypt, Yemen, Iran and, most of all, Syria. By using deadly force against unarmed, peaceful demonstrators and border crossers Israel is violating Article 3 of the 4th Geneva Convention, again a war crime.

The United States has a major problem with illegal border crossers from Mexico.  Millions of undocumented border crossers now reside illegally in our country.  Yet, we have never resorted to using deadly force to prevent these crossings.  It would be outrageous and barbaric for us to do so.  Nor do we use deadly force to control peaceful, unarmed demonstrators.  Instead, our police and military are trained to use non-lethal crowd control methods that are invariably successful without causing unnecessary injuries and loss of life.

Criticizing Syria, Libya and Iran for using deadly force against peaceful demonstrators while ignoring Israel’s resort to the same tactics is hypocrisy in the extreme, particularly since Israel’s military is funded by billions of US tax dollars every year.  It is one thing for US citizens and US Jews to support US guarantees of Israel’s security, it is quite another for us to support Israeli war crimes and wanton killing of unarmed demonstrators.  It is high time we learned to distinguish between the two and told our Israeli allies that there are limits to our patience.

In this “Arab Spring”, hundreds of thousands of Arabs, with our support, have been demonstrating for freedom and justice in Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Syria and other countries.  Palestinian Arabs have been deprived of freedom and justice for 63 years.  US citizens, including US Jews, need to support justice for the Palestinians and insist that Israel accept the terms of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which would give Israel 78 percent of Mandate Palestine and peace with the 22 nations of the Arab League and allow Palestinians to finally have a state of their own.   It is time we support the  Palestinian Spring.

Posted in apartheid, East Jerusalem, intolerance, Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, West Bank | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Defensible Borders for Israel: The 1967 Lines are Just Fine

Gil Maguire

            In his Middle East policy speech last Thursday, President Obama said,

   The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

This unremarkable statement is consistent with prior  negotiations between the parties, including 2000 Camp David, 2001 Taba,  and the Erekat-Olmert negotiations of 2008-2009.  Moreover, UN Security Council Resolution 242 specifically requires Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 armistice lines from the territories it conquered and occupied  during its 1967 Six Day War.

Despite the banality of President Obama’s statement (which was quickly and universally endorsed by the Quartet, Germany, France, the UN, etc.), Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately condemned it as requiring Israel to retreat to “indefensible borders”, even though  Israel had survived three wars under those borders from 1948 through 1967.  The principal of defensible borders has become the mantra of the Israeli government, the US Israel lobby , and is quickly and predictably being adopted by many members of the US Congress, not to mention Republican presidential candidates, and is apparently aimed at maximizing the amount of land and settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that Israel will be allowed to keep under any future settlement with the Palestinians.

At a minimum, Israel insists that it be able to keep large blocks of West Bank territory – along the Jordan River in the east and along Israel’s border in the west, from the north-central settlement of Ariel to the Gush Etzion settlements south of Bethlehem, as well as all of its settlements in East Jerusalem.  It also demands early-warning stations on high ground near the Palestinian cities of Nablus, Ramallah, and Hebron and a permanent military presence in the Jordan Valley.  This package of arrangements would create, in the words of Israeli negotiators, a “protection envelope” surrounding the new Palestinian state.  Needless to say, these requirements are unacceptable to the Palestinians who want secure and recognized borders in a sovereign and contiguous state of their own.

What are the legitimate security concerns of Israel, and what would be acceptable defensible borders?  Martin van Crevald, Israel’s preeminent military historian and theorist, recently analyzed this issue in the Jewish Daily Forward on December 15,
2010 in an article entitled: “Israel Doesn’t Need the West Bank to be Secure”.  He concluded that an invasion of Israel from Jordan through the West Bank would be suicidal for the attacker,

…since the West Bank itself is surrounded by Israel on three sides, anybody who tries to enter it from the east is sticking his head into a noose. To make things worse for a prospective
invader, the ascent from the Jordan Valley into the heights of Judea and Samaria is topographically one of the most difficult on earth. Just four roads lead from east to west, all of which are easily blocked by air strikes or by means of precision-guided missiles. To put the icing on the cake, Israeli forces stationed in Jerusalem could quickly cut off the only road connecting the southern portion of the West Bank with its northern section in the event of an armed conflict.

As his article demonstrates, Mr. van Crevald is not in any sense a hand wringing liberal Israeli with unrealistic views of Israel’s security concerns.  He approves of Israel’s security wall as well as the extreme violence of its invasions of both Lebanon and Gaza as effective means of deterrence.  Nonetheless, van Crevald views the Israeli settlement movement as the major threat to Israel’s security and feels Israel needs to withdraw totally from the West Bank as it is fast becoming an apartheid state.  His conclusion is both powerful and persuasive:

… it is crystal-clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank. Strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible. What is not negligible is the demographic, social,
cultural and political challenge that ruling over 2.5 million — nobody knows exactly how many — occupied Palestinians in the West Bank poses. Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its
control by means of repressive secret police actions.

To save itself from such a fate, Israel should rid itself of the West Bank, most of Arab Jerusalem specifically included.

Van Crevald’s views are not unique.  In a January 24 article from the
Jerusalem Post entitled “Encountering Peace: What does Netanyahu want?” Gershon Baskin, head of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, concludes the

ALL THE security experts I have spoken with, including several US generals and senior NATO officers, have said there are real military and security answers that would effectively guarantee security along the Jordan River. The Palestinian leadership, including President Mahmoud Abbas, has said in public and in
private, that they are willing to find a way to meet all security demands, including direct IDF involvement in patrols and monitoring missions that would be established based on Israeli security standards.

… In other words, most security experts, including a significant number of current and former IDF officers, Mossad and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) officials, believe that the security risks from peace – including a withdrawal from the West Bank based on the June 4, 1967 border with agreed-on territorial swaps in the order of around 3%-4% – pose no real strategic or security threat that cannot be answered.

On the other hand, failure to reach peace raises some real unanswerable existential threats that not only empower extremists locally and regionally, but also put an end to the
two-state solution, which is a death blow to the Zionist enterprise.

In early April, a group of former Israeli defense chiefs and heads of Israeli intelligence agencies including Mossad and Shin Bet, as well as former Israeli political leaders, created the Israeli Peace Initiative based on the 2002 Arab Initiative which calls for Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders except for minor land swaps.  It is difficult to imagine that such a distinguished group of Israeli defense and intelligence officials would make such a recommendation if it would put Israel at risk by creating indefensible

The most likely motive for Netanyahu’s insistence that the 1967 border not be used as a basis for negotiations with the Palestinians is that he, his government, party, and right
wing Zionist supporters in Israel and the US, fully intend to keep as much of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as possible.  The massive increases in illegal settlement building in both areas provide the starkest evidence of that motive.  Since its capture and occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem after its victory in the 1967 Six Day War, Israel has transferred over 500,000, of its Jewish citizens into Jewish-only settlements throughout the lands intended by the UN for the creation of an Arab state of
Palestine.  These transfers, amounting now to about 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population, constitute war crimes and are direct violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel has no legal right to continue to occupy and settle those territories and oppress the Palestinians who are the lawful owners of those lands some 44 years after conquering them.

Israel should not be allowed to legitimize its unlawful occupation and settlements on Palestinian lands and “negotiate” a permanent seizure of part of those lands under the guise of providing itself more “defensible borders”.  Israeli and US Jews, as well as US citizens in general, need to inform their politicians that Israel must agree to a two-state solution with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines.  In the words of President Obama, “The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their
potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”  A first priority of the Arab Spring should be freedom for the long-oppressed Palestinians, and, at long last, a land of their

Gil Maguire practices law in Ventura and blogs on the Israel-Palestine issue at

Posted in apartheid, East Jerusalem, Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, lobby, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, Turkey, West Bank, Zionism, Zionists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Morning Musings: Israel as a 44 Year Old Apartheid State

This issue of Zionism has been a major topic and area of debate in the Israel-Palestine blogoshere.  Professor Jerome Slater has been a major contributor on this issue.  Here is my earlier posting on one of his pieces: “Comment on What’s Wrong with a Jewish State?”.

Professor Slater recently posted a very readable, detailed and scholarly 9000 word treatise on the topic, “The Jewish State Controversy: Can Zionism be Reconciled with Justice for the Palestinians?” on his blog which is a must bookmark for anyone interested in the Israeli-Palestinian issue.  He is one of the major voices in this area and provides well-researched, very cogent arguments.

While Professor Slater makes a powerful argument why Zionism and justice for the Palestinians are compatible, ultimately I don’t agree with his conclusions.  Basically, I think things have gone too far downhill in Israel and that hard core Zionists in control of that country have made a two state solution virtually impossible.  My personal view has evolved quite a bit over the past few months and I now see Israel as a largely irredeemable long-established apartheid state.   These strong feelings are clear in my following comment I made in response to Mondoweiss article by David Samel, “Zionism’s History, Real and Imagined” concerning Professor Slater’s treatise.  I’ve added the title:


Good analysis.

The one point I take issue with is the inaccurate but very common dualistic description of outcomes as future events: single or two state. This seems to presume there is currently no state in place and won’t be until some decision between the two possible solutions is finally made. In fact, a single apartheid Jewish state solution has been in place for 44 years.

Israel conquered its Greater Israel in 1967 and almost immediately began moving its civilians onto the conquered lands into exclusive Jewish “settlements”, showing its clear intent to permanently include so-called Judea and Samaria into Greater Israel. It did so in direct contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits such population transfers as well as territorial annexations by an occupying power. It did so in full knowledge of the illegality of such steps as demonstrated by the famous Judge Meron secret legal memorandum.

So, please, if you want to discuss and debate the remote impossibility of converting the current single apartheid state of Greater Israel into two states, one Palestinian, have at it. I have come to see such arguments as little more useful than debates about how many Zionists can fit on the head of a pin. Why don’t we all just cut to the chase and apply Occam’s razor to trim as much non-reality (i.e. bullshit) as possible from our arguments. Here are my first proposed two Occam-like issue statement simplifications to be used to better frame our arguments:

1. Is it possible to modify the current single apartheid state of Greater Israel such that the former Palestinian possessors/owners could gain either a separate state of their own, or a modicum of basic and essential human rights that would allow them to share equally in the benefits of Greater Israel?

2. Are Jews entitled to an apartheid state of their own to protect them from perceived future dangers of anti-Semitism, or do past crimes against Jews provide sufficient justification alone for a Jewish apartheid state?

3. If Jews are entitled under international law to an apartheid state of their own for either or both of the above reasons, shall this be a generally applicable international legal precedent for oppressed peoples or is it exclusive only to peoples specifically chosen, such as Jews?

The clear reality is this: a single, apartheid state of Greater Israel has existed since 1967, now 44 years. 10 percent of Israeli Jews now inhabit 40 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and have asserted total oppressive control over the lives of the remaining Palestinians who live there. The numbers of illegal settlers and settlements grow rapidly with no end in sight. Ethnic cleansing and violence toward Palestinians, with the protection and enablement of the Israeli government and military continues and expands in parallel. Arguments need to be framed around that existing reality, not hypothetical future outcomes.

The only remaining question in my mind is what steps can the international community take to reduce the apartheid conditions the Palestinians live and have lived under so that they can have some basic civil rights and liberties within the existing single apartheid state of Greater Israel. It would be nice to see that happen this year as they have been waiting, mostly patiently, for some 44 years (some would say 64 years).

The threshold question in this debate was: Is Zionism compatible with justice for the Palestinians? The experience of 44 years of post-1967 Zionist policies and practices (not to mention the happenings of the prior 19 years) strongly suggest not. The revelations of the Palestine Papers, the failure of President Obama to have any positive effect on the recent negotiations, coupled with his feckless veto of the UN resolution on the illegality of settlements demonstrate how pontless, fruitless and corrupt that whole peace process aimed at achieving a two state solution and justice for the Palestinians really is.

The only remaining question for Israel’s Zionist leaders seems to be how they can best go about cleansing their beloved Judea and Samaria of the remainder of those offensive Arabs, or at least pushing them into the least desirable Bantustan-like sectors of the West Bank and out of sight and out of mind of the heroic Jewish settlers and prosperous Jewish settlements.

The question to me is not whether there should be a one or two state solution, but what should be done about the current apartheid state of Greater Israel that has existed since 1967. Instead of Mandate Palestine becoming an Arab state and a Jewish state, as intended by the United Nations in 1947, it became the Zionist apartheid Jewish state of Greater Israel in 1967. It remains that today and we should describe as such in our arguments.

The question is not what to do to prevent Israel from becoming an apartheid state, it is an apartheid state. The question is can Zionist apartheid ever be stopped. I am not optimistic.

One final caveat: when I refer to Zionism or Zionists, I am referring only to the hard core variety who believe in and are committed to a Greater Israel at the expense of the Palestinians, not to the moderate versions which I see as largely powerless and now think of as Zionism-lite. Those with moderate views who believe in some form of justice for the Palestinians and even in a two state solution are welcome to identify themselves as Zionists but please don’t accuse me of including you in the excesses of hard core Zionism.

To the extent my growing frustrations with this issue may have resulted in some rhetorical excess, I apologize, but the 44 year old apartheid state of Greater Israel is what it is. We need to quit beating around the bush.”

Gil Maguire

Posted in apartheid, East Jerusalem, Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, lobby, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, West Bank, Zionism, Zionists | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Morning Musings: More on the Transformation of Jeffry Goldberg

Here is an entire thread that I commented extensively on (hijacked might be more accurate).   It is an important development from my earlier piece:

It involves the further metamorphosis of conservative neocon Atlantic commentator and media figure Jeffrey Goldberg.  It is a big deal when conservative neocons with the stature of Jeffrey Goldberg show they are fed up with Israeli and Lobby policy and start talking about how it is hurting Israel and hurting this country.

Goldberg embraces J Streetby Philip Weiss on March 28, 2011

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Jeffrey Goldberg embraces J Street at his blog. (Thanks to Ali Gharib) He says they’re right in line with the George Washington of Zionism, Ben-Gurion.

[In 1967] Ben-Gurion said that Israel cannot be an occupier of Arabs. He was right then, and J Street is right now. If Shimon Peres is to be considered a Zionist; if Rabin is considered to have been a Zionist; and if David Ben-Gurion is to have been considered a Zionist, well, then J Street is Zionist as well. It is not heroic in the manner of these men, but neither are most of Israel’s current leaders, and nor are the leaders of American Jewry today.

Couple comments. This is significant in terms of Israeli opinion, which Goldberg has the ability to affect. Goldberg, who attacked the settlers in the New York Times 2 years back and then did nothing to follow up, is catching up. David Remnick and Peter Beinart have already claimed this territory, as writers. Note the jab at American Jewish leadership; this was Beinart’s theme of a year back which Goldberg challenged at the time.

Also note the embrace of Zionism. Old school. Jewish Voice for Peace’s Cecilie Surasky said two weeks ago, We avoid the word Zionism. We don’t see the point in getting in fights over the term. We focus on human rights. This wisdom is bubbling up in American progressive life and American Jewry and Goldberg and Remnick are surely hearing it from their own children, or their kids’ friends. Ben-Gurion of course approved ethnic cleansing of the nascent Jewish state so that it would have a large Jewish majority.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

MRW March 28, 2011 at 10:10 am

Ben Gurion called Menachem Begin a terrorist and despised him, hated him. Ditto Yitzhak Shamir, hated him as well.

Wonder who gave Goldberg his marching orders to embrace J Street? And for what reason?


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irishmoses March 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Back in January I wrote a long piece on what I perceived as the slow metamorphosis of Jeffrey Goldberg:


Phil didn’t pick my piece up for Mondoweiss and others seemed to feel it was too early to tell. My personal view is that Goldberg is so seen from this side as the Neocon arch enemy, that he is cut no slack for signs of moderation. That is unfortunate because he has incredible influence and a transformation by him is truly earth shaking for the I-P movement.

Here are some excerpts from my January piece:
President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “If we’ve lost Walter Cronkite, we’ve lost the middle class”. If Benjamin Netanyahu has lost Jeffrey Goldberg, he may have also lost the American Jewish Middle Class

Jeffrey Goldberg is arguably the most important and influential main street media spokesman for the Israeli right wing. He has been predictably pro-Israel and has defended most of Israel’s military actions, usually on the grounds of self defense against an implacable Islamic terrorist foe. He was a vocal neocon supporter of the Iraq war and has strongly supported the idea of a preemptive US and/or Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nascent nuclear program. But something changed in Goldberg’s Atlantic blog in the past three weeks in which he has written seven blog articles on the Israel-Palestine issue. Perhaps it was the failure of the peace talks coupled with his end-of-year family trip to Israel. Whatever te cause, the change is profound and potentially earth-shattering in its effect on the Israel-Palestine issue and debate.

Goldberg’s change started with his December 23 Atlantic blog piece “Israel’s Self-Delegitimization Movement” in which he expressed his growing frustration with the Netanyahu government’s settlement policy:

“I would like someone in the Netanyahu government to please explain the plan here. It would make things so much easier to understand if we just knew the plan. Is the plan to continue settling Judea and Samaria so that there is no chance whatsoever of creating a Palestinian state? And if this is the plan, then what happens to those Palestinians who are being denied a state? Will they be absorbed into democratic Israel, thus bringing about an end to the idea that there should be a single small country on earth where Jews can be a majority? Or are they going to be denied democratic rights, in which case, well, Israel as we know it will cease to exist. Or is there some other plan? Or — maybe — there is no plan. Maybe these things just happenBut these settlements come with a price. I don’t believe that the Boycott-the-Jewish-State movement is motivated by the presence of settlements on the West Bank; it is motivated by something much, much darker. But the question must be asked: Why would Israel’s government acquiesce to the building of settlements that serve only to hurt Israel’s reputation among people who are on the fence? Put aside the arguments about what the Palestinians as a people deserve, and put aside the arguments about Israel’s demographic future. Even right-wingers agree that Israel’s reputation in the world is the lowest it has ever been. Why drive it even lower? So, again: What is the plan?”

Now there is certainly a lot of the old Jeffrey in this statement, like his allusion to the darker motives of those in the BDS movement, but this shows the beginnings or foreshadowing of an epiphany: that something isn’t making sense to him; that Netanyahu may not have a plan, that Israel, through its actions, may be delegitimizing itself.

His next piece, on December 27, “What if Israel Ceases to be a Democracy”, the epiphany emerges along with its devastating potential outcome for Israel:

“I will admit here that my assumption has usually been that Israelis, when they finally realize the choice before them (many have already, of course, but many more haven’t, it seems), will choose democracy, and somehow extract themselves from the management of the lives of West Bank Palestinians. But I’ve had a couple of conversations this week with people, in Jerusalem and out of Jerusalem, that suggest to me that democracy is something less than a religious value for wide swaths of Israeli Jewish society. I’m speaking here of four groups, each ascendant to varying degrees: The haredim, the ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose community continues to grow at a rapid clip; the working-class religious Sephardim – Jews from Arab countries, mainly — whose interests are represented in the Knesset by the obscurantist rabbis of the Shas Party; the settler movement, which still seems to get whatever it needs in order to grow; and the million or so recent immigrants from Russia, who support, in distressing numbers, the Putin-like Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister and leader of the “Israel is Our Home” party.

Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then? Do the courts come to the rescue? I hope so. Do the Israeli people come to the rescue? I’m not entirely sure. There are many Israelis who value democracy, but they might not possess the strength to fight. Does American Jewry come to the rescue? Well, most of American Jewry would be so disgusted by Israel’s abandonment of democratic principles that I think the majority would simply write off Israel as a tragic, failed experiment.

Am I being apocalyptic? Yes. Am I exaggerating the depth of the problem? I certainly hope so. Israel is still a remarkably vibrant democracy, with a free press and an independent judiciary. But on the other hand, the Israel that I see today is not the Israel I was introduced to more than twenty years ago. The rise to power of the four groups I mentioned above has changed, in some very serious ways (which I will write about later) the nature and character of the Jewish state.”

Here again, the old Jeffrey is clearly present, who, despite his epiphany, still describes Israel as “…a remarkably vibrant democracy…”, but the wheels are clearly coming off the bus. He now sees the grave threats from the religious factions, the Russian immigrants, and from the settler movement. Most important, he sees serious changes in the nature and character of the Jewish state that now make it not the Israel he originally encountered over two decades ago.

……. Finally, on January 11, Goldberg’s piece, “The Future of Jerusalem” brings his epiphany full circle:

” If a Jewish person’s only concern as a Jew is the acquisition of every square inch of biblical Israel on behalf of the Jewish people, then I suppose it is a Jewish interest. But if a Jewish person has other interests as well — such as in peace, or in the idea that Palestinians, though a much newer people than the Jewish people, deserve a state just as Jews do, or in the continued survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state — than the slow takeover of [East Jerusalem] is not in the best Jewish interest.

Peace will not come without the birth of a Palestinian state on the West Bank which has its capital in East Jerusalem. I’m as sure of that as I am of anything in the Middle East. Of course, peace may not come even with the birth of this state — I’m no longer quite so sure in the possibility, or at least in the availability, of peace — but it will surely never happen without it. This is why, of course, certain right-wing Jewish groups, aided and abetted by different factions in Israel’s chaotic government, are seeking to populate East Jerusalem with Jews: to prevent the birth of a Palestinian state. These particular Jews operate under the delusion that Israel can keep control of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem forever, and most of the West Bank forever, without negative consequences. They are drastically wrong. Eventually, something is going to give. At a certain point in the not-so-distant future, Israel will either cease to be a Jewish state, or it will cease to be a democracy. Attempts to abort the birth of a Palestinian state only hasten this moment of decision.

Israel will survive without the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. It will not survive if it becomes a pariah state, and, in this unfortunate world in which we must exist, Israel is in danger of becoming an outcast among nations.”

This is huge; this is the transformation of Jeffrey Goldberg from a highly influential near Zionist zealot and Israel-right-or-wrong Likkud apologist to a person who now realizes that Israel is in a death spiral and that influential Jews like him need to speak out strongly and speak out now if Israel is to survive.

The transformation of Jeffrey Goldberg is still a work in progress. Like many of us who have come around 180 degrees on in the Israel-Palestine issue over the past few years, we did and do so in fits and starts. It will be easy to snipe at him and take easy cheap shots at his past statements and occasional backsliding, to treat him as still the enemy. I think a better approach is to welcome him, to congratulate him on his metamorphosis, to help him in his transition, and to seek his help, allegiance and advice in helping bring this issue to the forefront of US politics. Jeffrey Goldberg is a new and late-coming ally in this struggle, but an ally he is and an important one at that. His transformation may be the opening of the floodgates; the Walter Cronkite moment of the struggle to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to save Israel from itself.

Jeffrey Goldberg is a late comer to our side of the I-P issue, and he continues to test the waters gingerly with one foot at a time. Yet, it is time to quit seeing him as the enemy incarnate and instead welcome him as a fellow Jew who has wandered a bit longer in the desert than most. If Jeffry Goldberg comes in from the desert he will bring with him the potential for millions more Jews who continue to wander in the Zionist desert, for a true sea change in the mainstream Jewish community.

Changes in mainstream beliefs don’t come easy. It took a Walter Chronkite to change mainstream America’s view of the Viet Nam war. Jeffry Goldberg could be the Walter Chronkite of the Israel Palestine war.

Gil Maguire


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Robert March 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm


I’ve had the strong impression with Jeffrey Goldberg that he is self-interested, and cynical in what he writes. He’s not a fearless truth-teller. He knows that his position, and ability to get big interviews, is critically dependent upon not coming out and saying all that he understands about the I-P situation. There are indications that he has private conversations with Andrew Sullivan about the situation that help inform Sullivan’s more blunt and truthful opinion, then Goldberg spars with Sullivan in public.


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irishmoses March 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I see what you are saying Robert. To a great extent Goldberg still plays to his neocon audience (or masters) which is very evident even in his latest piece of J-Street. Yet, if you carefully read the seven posts from his blog that I cite in my article, it is very clear he is coming around and beginning to use his immense influence to say “enough is enough”. The fact that he backslides may show cynicism or just the process of change, or both.

In any case, who would have predicted six months ago that Goldberg would become anti-Netanyahu, anti-settlement and inclusive of J-Street. To me, this is a much more profound change than that of Beinart and Remnick. Those two are speaking to the choir of a largely liberal Jewish audience and are latecomers to that party. Goldberg, on the other hand, speaks to the mainstream Jewish community which is the only audience that really counts in this debate. Once AIPAC loses the support of the mainstream Jewish community, they’ve lost the battle.

The mainstream Jewish community is the toughest nut to crack and will take the likes of Jeffry Goldberg types to crack it. The Beinarts and Remnicks will help at the margins, at the more liberal fringes. I suspect it will take the conversion of more than a few neocons to change the debate so that the mainstream Jewish (and non-Jewish) communities will stand up and pay attention.

I think Phil and others who have led the charge in the I-P issue are quite properly repulsed by the Jeffry Goldberg neocon types, but this repulsion makes them blind to the reality that conversion of neocons like Goldberg my provide the key to significant change in the political dynamics of the I-P issue.

Gil Maguire


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Pixel March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Thanks for the link to your piece. Fascinating.


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MRW March 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Gil, I don’t think Goldberg has the moral strength to be a Cronkite. He has too much baksheesh to lose, mainly because he does not have Cronkite’s stature to begin with. Goldberg is always going to cut along access lines. He’s no Phil Weiss.


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irishmoses March 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm

You are right, I remember Walter Cronkite and Goldberg is no Walter Cronkite. Still, he is a fairly major neocon player, at least in the media. In terms of having influence in the mainstream Jewish community which I view as still largely “Israel-right or wrong”, I suspect Goldberg (as odious as he is) has much more influence and access to that community than does Phil Weiss (as wonderful as he is) who I think is likely viewed as more liberal, more “J-Streetish”, more of a traitor to their cause because of his dissent.

I am fairly new to this community and issue and don’t run in this crowd so I may be way off base on this. It just seems to me that the mainstream Jewish community won’t change until significant players in that community, whom they listen to and respect first change. Goldberg is the first of those players to show significant change which to me is a true sea change.

The debates and discussion on Mondoweiss are largely among like believers and, as informative as it is, is not much more than dicking around at the liberal margins. The debates and discussion need to focus on the mainstream communities, both Jewish and non, because that is where the ignorance is and where the battle will ultimately be won or lost. The Vietnam war debate turned around only when a mainstream icon, Walter Cronkite, told mainstream America, “this war’s a loser.”

Goldberg ain’t no Cronkite, but he is a significant start.

Gil Maguire


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hophmi March 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

“Ben-Gurion of course approved ethnic cleansing of the nascent Jewish state so that it would have a large Jewish majority. ”

Couldn’t resist sticking that in there, could you?

Haj Husseini, of course, said “Kill the Jews wherever you find them.” The Arab states, of course, invaded Israel in 1948. The UN, of course, approved the partition plan by a vote of 33 to 13. The Palestinians, of course, embarked on a campaign of terror several times. The Egyptians and Jordanians, of course, did less for Palestinian statehood than the Israelis.

Of course, of course, of course. We can keep of coursing each other or we can actually make peace. Which is it, Phil?


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Shingo March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Haj Husseini, of course, said “Kill the Jews wherever you find them.”

Husseini was out of a job on 1937 and on exile.

The Arab states, of course, invaded Israel in 1948.

False. They invaded Palestine and attacked Israeli forces stationed there. No sovereign state was attacked.

Why ate you lying about this?


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hophmi March 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm

“Husseini was out of a job on 1937 and on exile.”

So what? Radio was international, and he made his statement on March 1, 1944. From Berlin. Why are you incapable of accepting this?

“False. They invaded Palestine and attacked Israeli forces stationed there. No sovereign state was attacked.”

You’re in la-la land. Egyptian forces attacked Israel from the South and bombed Tel Aviv. Israel was a sovereign state at that point. The UN Secretary-General described the invasion as “armed aggression.” What’s wrong with you?


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Shingo March 28, 2011 at 11:43 pm

So what? Radio was international, and he made his statement on March 1, 1944. From Berlin. Why are you incapable of accepting this?

So he was no loner the leader of the Palestinians and none of them honored his demand for Johad against the British – unlike the Zionists.

Egyptian forces attacked Israel from the South and bombed Tel Aviv.

They bombed Israel’s air force. They did not attack Israel. None f their forces invaded Israel.

Israel was a sovereign state at that point. The UN Secretary-General described the invasion as “armed aggression.” What’s wrong with you?

Armed aggression against whom? No sovereign state was attacked in 1948. Look it up. No UN Resolution was passed condemning the attack becasue there wasn’t one.


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DICKERSON3870 March 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm

RE: “Goldberg embraces J Street” – Weiss
MY COMMENT: He will catch hell for that. From Hagee and the Christian Zionists, if no one else.


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Bill NYC March 29, 2011 at 7:52 am

Ahhh, Goldberg embraces J Street. Some endorsement. As Norman Finkelstein says, J Street is “tepid,” so naturally Goldberg (for whatever reason) finds it within himself to confer upon them the label “Zionist.” How big of him. I’m sorry…maybe it’s because I’m cranky and tired and it’s early in the morning, but Goldberg and J Street deserve each other. I’m sticking with JVP.


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irishmoses March 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

While you are correct about J Street being tepid and Zionist-light, the importance of Goldberg’s support for J Street is that it opens a door for contrary (heretical) thought among the mainstream Jewish community (“MSJC”) which still largely sees Israel as beseiged and faultless. Getting the mainstream Jewish community (not to mention the non-Jewish version) to recognize and reject the apartheid nature of Israel would be huge. Neither Goldberg nor J Street yet admit what they are seeing is apartheid, but at least they are finding fault with it and noticing how ultimately it may prove fatal for Israel.

In my view J Street has little real influence in the MSJC. Goldberg, on the other hand, is golden to them. His conversion could have a major impact on the MSJC because he has such strong Zionist credentials. It is the conversion of the Goldberg types that will turn the tide. As much as I admire the efforts of JVP, Mondoweiss, and even J Street, IMHO they all operate at the margins of this debate and preach largely to a choir that has little real influence with the largest, most critical, and most ignorant player, the MSJC.

Gil Maguire

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