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Struggle for Equal Rights for Palestinians Is ‘right Choice,’ and Will Lead to ‘significant Exodus of Jews’ — Henry Siegman
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Henry Siegman

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Everyone should read Henry Siegman’s long piece in the National Interest on the “Implications of President Trump’s Jerusalem Ploy.” Siegman is a great leader because he has bucked the American and Jewish establishment, of which he is a member, to declare that the two-state solution is dead and buried.

He is also a prophet inasmuch as he is counseling American Jewry to give up its attachment to Zionism as a dead letter, no different from a Christian state here, and so prepare itself for a future in which Israel is isolated as a pariah state and there is a “significant exodus of Israel’s Jews.”

His words are astounding because Siegman, a Holocaust survivor now in his late 80s, was himself a Zionist, and head of the World Jewish Congress. His bravery in renouncing the animating political faiths of his life– it’s inspiring.

His intervention is especially meaningful because this week Barack Obama came back for an encore, at a prominent NY synagogue this week, and trotted out his usual b.s. about being Israel’s best friend, and softening his good last blow– allowing the Security Council settlements resolution to pass– by saying that settlement construction had “rocketed,” so he had to do something. No vision at all, from a person who has some high degree of freedom in his life. Siegman knocks Obama hard in his piece.

Here are some crucial passages. Near the end of the piece, Siegman lays out the cruel delusion of Oslo and praises Trump for shattering “the illusion of a two-state outcome,” finally turning the struggle to one of equal rights no statehood. Notice how he aligns himself with young Palestinians’ hopes and idealism.

Nothing has been as harmful to the Palestinian struggle to end Israel’s occupation and unrelenting theft of territory intended for its state as Abbas’ insistence on the preservation of the Palestinian Authority and the myth that it serves as “a state in formation,” when it so clearly allowed Israel to solidify its occupation. Trump’s move on Jerusalem achieved what years of Israel’s settlements failed to do—shatter the illusion of a two-state outcome, and allow the Palestinian national movement to turn into a struggle for rights, which is to say a struggle to end Israel’s de facto apartheid regime, a course I have advocated for over a decade, and now increasingly embraced by younger Palestinians. What is particularly significant is that this younger generation is opting for a struggle for equal rights in a single state not because they despair of achieving a state of their own, but because it is their preferred solution.

Siegman then endorse the struggle for equal rights and the end of Zionism. This is his conclusion. Notice the clarity of his phrasing. There are no evasions here. And: notice the repeated references to an exodus of Jews.

It is the right choice, for their struggle for a state of their own is one Palestinians cannot win, while a struggle to maintain an apartheid regime is one Israel cannot win.

If after what undoubtedly would be a long and bitter anti-apartheid struggle Palestinians prevail, they will be in the clear majority. Having established the principle that the majority can impose on the minority the religious and cultural identity of the State, Israel will not be in a strong position to deny Palestinians that same right. That will lead in time to a significant exodus of Israel’s Jews.

If Palestinians do not prevail, then the undeniable apartheid character of the state and the cost of the ongoing struggle will lead to the same result—an exodus of Israel’s Jews over time, creating an even greater demographic imbalance between the country’s Jewish and Arab populations. Palestinians will not leave because they will have nowhere to go.

Next, no tears for Zionism. And a warning to American Jews to abandon Zionism.

The outcome is therefore likely to be the end of Israel as a Jewish state. If so, it will be an outcome brought about not by BDS movements but by Israelis themselves, not only because of their rejection of the two-state solution, but because of their insistence on defining Israel’s national identity and territorial claims in religious terms. A state that fast-tracks citizenship through government-sponsored religious conversion to Judaism, as Israel’s government now does, cannot for long hide that it privileges its Jewish citizens—just as the United States could not have claimed to be a democracy if conversion to Christianity were a path to U.S. citizenship.

Of course Palestinians have been saying this for a long time, idealistic democracy-loving Palestinians like Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti and Linda Sarsour. Yes, but it is meaningful that a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Zionist leader is saying so, folks.

Some other bits. The peace process is a lie and a scam.

Critics of Trump’s declaration warned that it will put an end to what prospect there may still have been for a resumption of the peace process. Apparently word that the peace process is dead and buried never reached them. The fiction of its existence served no purpose other than to provide Netanyahu cover for his lie that the reason Israel is not already an apartheid state is that he is waiting for the resumption of the peace process with a more accommodating Palestinian leadership.

The leaders of Western democracies have yet to end their shameful collaboration with this Israeli scam. Not that they ever believed it, but they needed to pretend that they do, for otherwise they would have had to explain why they urged the security council to impose sanctions on Russia for its land grab in the Ukraine but refused to impose sanctions on Israel for its land grabs in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Obama was part of this longrunning scam:

This pretense was also what led President Obama to say in one of his speeches to the UN Annual Meeting of the General Assembly something that is outrageously untrue—that the UN is not the place to which Palestinians can bring their quest for self-determination and statehood because that can only be resolved in direct negotiations with Netanyahu. No one knew better than Obama that the UN was established exactly for that reason—to help populations under former colonial control achieve self-determination.

Those who tell the Palestinians to negotiate are cruel, and nuts.

It would be madness for Abbas to resume negotiations that both Israel and the self-appointed mediator have publicly declared allow Israel to grab Palestinian territory. For what do the powerless Palestinians have going for them in these negotiations other than international law?

Jewish liberals would not recognize Israel. Its culture is shaped by the brutality of disenfranchising people on a racial basis:

Israel’s dominant political culture is today far more reflective of Trumpian and similar mid-European authoritarian values. It is the predictable by-product of a culture shaped by the unrelenting repression and total disenfranchisement of millions of people under Israel’s military rule that is now in its fiftieth year. Virtually every young Israeli Jewish citizen spends three impressionable years of his young life looking at Palestinians through his rifle’s sights as potential targets to be eliminated.

Lacerating anecdote showing Israeli racism, emphasis mine.

I happened to be in Israel during a launch of a new book by an author and historian, Raphael Israeli, a professor emeritus at the Hebrew University. The event, which drew a large Likud crowd, including government ministers and Knesset members, reminded me—like nothing else ever did in my over sixty years of professional engagement with the Israel-Palestine conflict—of how woefully uninformed not only the American public but our government officials and academics are about the realities on the ground in Israel and in the Palestinian occupied territories.

The central thesis of this new book, titled “The Arab Minority in Israel” (published only in Hebrew), is that Israeli Arabs are a fifth column “who suck from the state’s teats” and cannot be integrated into Israeli society. Expressing admiration for the Americans’ internment of its Japanese citizens during World War II, the author advocates the confinement of Israeli Arabs in concentration camps. The author sees Israel’s failure to have taken such measures as a sign of “an enfeebled Israel that has lost its will to exist.” For “although the Arabs openly identify with our enemy . . . [n]ot only are they not incarcerated in camps, we allow them to stand on our platforms.”

These are not Palestinian residents of the West Bank, but Palestinian citizens of the State of Israel that he is describing.

There is also some excellent religious history about the non-attachment of Jews to Jerusalem as a place.

Muslims actually lived in Jerusalem and worshipped at the Noble Sanctuary for over a millennium. Most Jews did not make their lives in Jerusalem during these past two millenniums, even in times when they were able to do so…

In fact, the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem related not to its status as a capital city but to the location of the Batei Hamikdash, the two ancient Temples; Jerusalem was not known as Yerushalayim Habira (Jerusalem the Capital). When the second Temple was destroyed and the sages deferred its rebuilding and the resumption of its rituals to messianic times, there was no longer a compelling reason to live in Jerusalem. The small Orthodox community that continued to exist in Jerusalem considers Zionism a heresy and to this day does not recognize the religious or political legitimacy of the State of Israel.

The founders of the Zionist movement had little regard for the Messiah, and even less for Jerusalem….

I don’t understand why Siegman is not in all our leading papers and on the cable shows. The New York Times should be interviewing him; Chris Hayes should be hosting him. Because this is news. For the U.S. establishment it’s huge news. The two state solution is an illusion, the peace process is dead and buried, maintaining otherwise is a scam that serves Netanyahu, and Jews should prepare themselves for a “significant exodus of Jews” from Israel as it faces a future of acknowledged apartheid or– democracy.

Thanks to John Whitbeck and James North and Henry Norr.

PS. I originally stated that this piece appeared in the National, not the National Interest. A world of difference there.

(Republished from Mondoweiss by permission of author or representative)
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