Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flesh is Grass rocks!

Flesh is Grass has a Normblog profile up, which is, of course, witty and interesting and wise (and includes a nice compliment to me, which I appreciate).

I finally added me second lot of comments to the great discussion thread at her blog here (carefully timed to coincide with her being away) on a one-state solution, anti-Zionism, anti-racism and the Guardian's Comment is Free.

Totally unrelated, I also added my tuppence worth to a discussion about Jerry Wexler, Ray Charles and the birth of soul, and Willie Nelson's high and low points, at

(You might have noticed I have taken a leaf out of Noga's book: the comment trail.)


The Contentious Centrist said...

Because you are such a nice boy, Bob, I forget how very far to the left you are.

I just don't get your position.

Here is what Ami Isseroff, a Leftist-Zionist, says:

"Those who seriously consider this solution or threaten Israel with a one state solution if she does not accept Palestinian terms, are either trying to force Israel to accept humiliating and impossible conditions under the threat of extinction, or they are extremely naive. For there is no way that a serious person could imagine that at any time in the foreseeable future Jews could live safely in a state dominated by Palestinian Arabs. Surely, that is the only sort of state that Mr. Qureia and his followers contemplate, since they have already declared that they are unwilling to accept Israel as the national home of the Jewish people. It is not likely that, like normal citizens, they would be willing, for example, to serve in an Israeli army that fights enemy Arab countries, or to participate in all the duties of citizens in a state.

Ironically, the pro-Arab advocates of a one-state solution may find a welcome among Zionist extremists, who likewise advocate a single state. In their version of the single state, however, it is the Palestinian Arabs who would be perpetual underdogs. Each set of extremists imagines a "utopia" that would be a nightmare for the other side, and proposes it as a "peace" solution"

If such a solution were ever to be forced upon Israeli Jews, who do you think will remain in Israel? Only the poor and less advantaged, who also happen to be mostly those descended from Jews who had fled from Arab countries. In other words, the European Jews will be able to immigrate in relative comfort to Western countries where they will be integrated into the existing communities. It's the Mizrahim who will bear the brunt of this punishment. Some solution, some solidarity, eh? And once the better-educated, the wealthier and better connected are gone, what kind of a one-state will that be? A weak 23rd Arab Muslim country, whose destiny is more or less assured by Syrian historical claims. And what will be the fate of the remaining Jews in such a state, do you figure?

The one-state solution advocacy is de-facto an antisemitic project.

The Contentious Centrist said...

".. taken a leaf out of Noga's book:.."

fleshisgrass said...

You know what Bob, I wish I did rock. This is very lovely of you nevertheless.

bob said...

Noga, how did you guess what I look like?

Anyways, I don't advocate legislating one state right now. I don't want to force it upon anyone. What I want is it to be a kind of horizon, a hope or intent that animates the present. So, in that sense, I am happy with Ami I's "utopian" label. I want to open the possibility that states do not have to always everywhere be for one "nation" only but can be shared.

Clearly, there could not possibly be one state until there was a guarantee of safety for the people of both "nations" - and that guarantee cannot come until lots of other things happen, not least until the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians renounce terror (and armed struggle in general) not just in words but in their hearts.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Why the scare quotes in "nations" ?

I don't see the need for any such horizon.

As Ben Cohen said on Z-word today:

"Sovereignty can be pooled. Borders can be open. Trade can be conducted without barriers. None of these admirable goals is incompatible with the status of statehood. Indeed, statehood is perhaps a necessary condition of their flourishing. This is why Palestine needs to be conceived of alongside Israel, not instead of it."

What's wrong with this vision as the "horizon"?

bob said...

There's nothing wrong with Ben C's horizon: I like it. But the reason I like mine more is the reason I put scare quotes around nation.

The Palestinian nation is a recent invention. Right up until the 1930s, most "Palestinian" Arabs had little conception of Palestine as anything other than a region in a larger area that included Syria, Lebanon, and the land across the Jordan. The dream was a Greater Syria, rather than an independent Palestine. It struck me reading some of the 1948 coverage this year how the word "Palestinian" then was as likely to mean Jews (the Yishuv) as Arabs.

But the Jewish people has not thought of itself as a nation for the overwelming majority of its life. In the nineteeeth century, a tiny minority of Zionists saw the Jewish people as a nation, and highlighted the periods of Jewish history (especially the Maccabbeans) to justify this. But the default position was that the Jews were different from "the nations" ("gentiles"/"goyim" are, etymologically, national peoples, which the Jews weren't).

Israel had to invent a nation, just as all other nation-states had to. Israel did it more successfully than many others. (Britain's nationhood is older than most, so it is the most ill-defined.) But this project had an enormous cost.

I would not like to imagine a world where the Jewish nation has been dreamed away, and all the others remain - although this is a terribly easy scenario to picture, and I accept that it the horizon many one-staters have in mind today.

But I would like to imagine a world with no nations at all.

The Contentious Centrist said...

It would be a dull, flat and colourless world, Bob. Nations are epic stories, full of bravery, genius, individuality, life, music, colour. They are the spices and the gravy in your food. Will you like a pancake without the maple syrup? Pasta without marinara sauce? Sushie without soy and wasabi? In your imagined world, all music will sound the same, all colours will be faded, all tastes will be dull and all sounds will be muffed. Imagine only cities, no countryside, or only novels and no poetry.

bob said...

I don't think it would be a flat colourless world. Sure, a world without different peoples would be. (This was the proletarian dawn imagined by many (Jewish and other) orthodox Marxists and anarchists, who were called the "kosmopolitish" and, later, "red assimilationists" by the Zionists and diasporists: a world in which difference itself has vanished, which turns out to be German or English or French culture writ large.)

But peoples survive - and thrive - without nations. Baghdadi Jewish music did not need a Jewish nation; an Iraqi nation helped kill it. The Greek colonels outlawed "Oriental" chords and scales, in an attempt to kill of rembetika, as part of the nation-building project. Flamenco nearly died under Franco when he attempted to turn it into the expression of the Spanish nation, and was revived in the 1970s precisely by opening up to non-national difference and rediscovering localism. For example.

The Contentious Centrist said...

The examples you cite, Bob, only prove that the cultural-nationalist instinct for preserving uniqueness is a lot stronger than the fascist equalizing enforcement that tried to suppress it, but even they would not have survived for many more years if the singualar trend had become the highway for all nations.

bob said...

I don't see this as a cultural-nationalist instinct. I see it as simple human creativity - our incessant innovation - the constant proliferation and multiplication of culture.

The Contentious Centrist said...

I don't understand what you are saying. Don't you agree that difference is the beginning, the fountain of creativity?

bob said...

Absolutely. But I don't see the nation as a unit of difference that we should privilege. Nations (can) straitjacket difference.