Friday, February 05, 2010

Urgent action: support the New Israel Fund

That’s what happened last week when a new organization made a big splash in Israel by accusing the New Israel Fund and its grantees of being behind the Goldstone Report. Timed to capitalize on the anger many Israelis feel about the Goldstone conclusions, and personalized with a particularly despicable attack on NIF President Naomi Chazan, the attack was the latest salvo in a coordinated attempt to de-legitimize civil society, repress the activities of the human rights community and weaken Israeli democracy. It comes as no surprise to discover that this new group is funded by the same abundant money that flows to extremist settlers’ organizations, including a sizable contribution from John Hagee’s “Christians United for Israel” – a group that once stated that “Hitler was carrying out God’s will.”

To our many friends and supporters who have already leapt to our defense, thank you. To those of you who know the New Israel Fund as the leading organization advancing democracy and equality in Israel, with a thirty-year record of serious accomplishment, we ask you to support us as we combat the increasingly authoritarian and extremist ideology taking hold in Israel.

This is the latest in a series of attacks on the social justice community in Israel.
Read the rest. (H/t Arieh)

UPDATE: Read this excellent post at Greens Engage, on defending democracy in Israel and defending Jews outside Israel.

UPDATE 2: More links: The attacks against NIF and why J Street could use a little schooling from Peace Now (Ron Kampeas, h/t Judeosphere); Centrist Organization Im Tirtzu Decried as “Fascist” By Israeli (and Jewish) Left (The New Centrist); and several from Meretz USA: "Im Tirtzu" - a creature of John Hagee?, Meretz MK Horowitz: Inquiry Committee against the New Israel Fund is "political persecution", Chazan, Burg, Indyk at NIF forum. See also the comments thread below.

43 comments:

Ben Murane, New Israel Fund said...

Thank you for your support!

We’ve asked all supporters of NIF and democracy to email Prime Minister Netanyahu to put a stop to the right-wing ministers trying to defund NIF in the Knesset. Please share this link far and wide: http://nif.org/bibi

Judeosphere said...

The smear campaign against NIF has been disgraceful. Take a look at this full-page ad that appeared in the Jerusalem Post:

http://blogs.jta.org/politics/article/2010/02/02/1010448/the-nif-smear-and-why-j-street-could-use-a-little-schooling-from-peace-now

Mira said...

Cheers Bob. (And I think 'Jews outside Israel' is much better than 'non-Israeli Jews')

News Service said...

I have learned something about democracy from NIF. When I was in high school, I was taught that democracy was a system of government in which citizens voted for representatives, and the representatives made policy. Likewise, citizens of a country could form groups to bring about social change.

Silly me. I believed that. It seems that democracy, as defined by those who know and applied to Israel, is a system of government in which rich Jews from the United States - of various extremist persuasions, aided by European governments and the philo-Semitic Ford foundation, decide policy for us ignorant Israelis. This is a good system, much better than my silly idea. Clearly American Jews understand the Middle East much better than we do. Likewise, Europe's unblemished record of support and aid to the Jewish people attests that they always have our best interests at heart.

What I do not understand however is this: If Mr. Murane, or Mr Moskowitz for that matter, are so concerned about Israel, and think they know what is best for Israel, why don't they come and live here and help bring about change as citizens?

TNC said...

My perspective (if you are interested) is here:

"Centrist Organization Im Tirtzu Decried as “Fascist” By Israeli (and Jewish) Left"

http://newcentrist.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/centrist-organization-im-tirtzu-decried-as-fascist-by-israeli-and-jewish-left/

The Contentious Centrist said...

Norm Geras, in response to the recent AI kerfuffle, says:

"It's that a human rights organization, rightly regarding no one at all as other in that sense, rightly regarding everyone as being a bearer of human rights, should make common cause with others who may be less than friendly to human rights and be somewhat indulgent towards a movement that is very unfriendly towards them. No one should be othered who is a human being. However, if 'to other' someone meant to regard him as an unsuitable ally, then there are others whom supporters of human rights should certainly want to other."


I see a principle here that may apply to the NIF case:

If some of the organizations which the NIF supports do not recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish democracy, then it is possible that these organizations should not be NIF's allies enjoying its financial support to promote ideas that delegitimize Israel and Israel's right to defend its citizenry (who, though being mostly Jewish, are still considered as fully human and deserving of the right to life) against the genocidal objectives and practices of Hamas.

One such organization is "Zochrot" which actively promotes ROR.

Now no one is preventing these organizations from their activism but the question I ask is why an organization like NIF that defines itself as Socialist-Zionist associates with and finances the activities of an organization which works hard to deny and destroy the Zionist project.

bob said...

Thank you for all your comments. I'll try to reply to them in turn.

First, News Service, I completely disagree with you. What you are saying is analogous to saying that if I want to complain about the rise of antisemitism and anti-Roma racism in Hungary I have to move there first; that I have no right to oppose the Iranian regime's repression of the reform movement because I've never been there; that my anger at the suffering of the people of southern Sudan is not worthy because I have no plans to move to Sudan. This is nonsense. I have every right to hold Israel to the same standards as I hold other states, to be concerned for social and environmental justice there as I am for social and environmental justice elsewhere.

Even in Zionist terms, your point is wrong. Zionism, at least historically, was meant to be the national movement of the Jewish people, and not simply of Israel. If the diaspora have no right to be involved in Israel's development, then Zionism is effectively dead.

bob said...

This is the comment I just read at TNC's post, which I have also now linked to in the body of this post:

1) You cannot complain about the guilt by association tactic of the left and support the same tactic from Im Tirtzu. Either both are right to function like this, or both are wrong. Personally, I think that there is nothing wrong with the guilt by association tactic. The question is what is the nature of the association. Who you are funded by or who you fund is a very important sort of association. John Hagee is a very, very bad ally to have.

2) I am not convinced by your description of Im Tirtzu as centrist. First, just because they say they are centrist doesn’t mean they are. It seems to me that they are trying to redefine where the centre is – and move it somewhat to the right. This seems to me part of a wider global mainstreaming of the hard right by attempting to claim a centre ground. For example, Berlusconi and his supporters try to define PdL as “centre right”, when clearly (although it includes centrist elements) it is more accurately described simply as right-wing, containing post-fascist and ultra-nationalist elements too. Or the new Conservative and Reformist Group in the European parliament, which also contains post-fascist and ultra-nationalist, claims to be centre-right when by any reasonable standard it is hard right. I will go and read the “reviatalization of centrist Zionist ideology in Israel“ text now and see what I think.

3) However, the word “fascist” is also subject to considerable inflation in (especially leftist) discourse these days, and I do not claim Im Tirzu is fascist or that J Street and others are correct in the sensationalist tactic they are using to defend NIF.

bob said...

I just left another comment at TNC, of which this was one paragraph:

Beyond Im Tirtzu, there is a wider trend towards the right in Israel, as there is in many other places. Im Tirtzu represents a less offensive side to the Israeli hard right, and is probably not fascist. Shoval says his model is Peace Now, who took marginal ideas and made them mainstream in Israeli politics. Im Tirtzu is part of a trend that is taking marginal ideas, from the hard right of the Zionist movement, and making them mainstream. This is redefining the centre, and being actually centrist.

--

Finally, CC.

I agree that some of the activities and organisations which NIF has funded it may well have been wrong to do so by these standards. I don't want to endorse every aspect of NIF. Your criteria in general terms ("to promote ideas that delegitimize Israel and Israel's right to defend its citizenry (who, though being mostly Jewish, are still considered as fully human and deserving of the right to life) against the genocidal objectives and practices of Hamas") sound right to me.

I am not sure, though, that I agree with you about the particular application of them. I don't know enough about Zochrot to pass judgement on them, but if their crime is support for the right of return that this is completely different from "delegitimizing Israel and Israel's right to defend its citizenry". Zochorot's main activities, the activities funded by NIF, are positive: the signposting project, the tours, the dialogue projects. I am willing to be convinced Zochorot are anti-human rights, but I need convincing!

Incidentally, does NIF define itself as Socialist-Zionist? I know Chazan is Meretz, but does the organisation as a whole define itself this way?

The Contentious Centrist said...

"I don't know enough about Zochrot to pass judgement on them, but if their crime is support for the right of return that this is completely different from "delegitimizing Israel and Israel's right to defend its citizenry"

Anyone defending ROR as a matter of human right and not a limited political objective is de facto advocating the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state. It has become a code word, a politically-correct way of taking up the eliminationist cause in the disguise of universality. If Zochrot cared about the rights of refugees they would be just as active on behalf of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands or the rights of refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

We are at this point in the conflict way past the stage where we could pretend that "support for the right of return... is completely different from delegitimizing Israel".

You take the rational denouement of such a "right" being enacted and the only place you up in is death, more death, destruction, expulsion and dhimmitude. And it's not the Arasbs who are in danger of this outcome.

"When Prof. Neomi Chazan repeats the mantra of “human rights" or "freedom of expression" she misses the principal issue, she insists on misunderstanding the criticism [against NIF]. The haters of Israel have the right to disseminate poison and adopt the ideology of denying Israel’s right to exist. The question is why does the fund need to underwrite these efforts? And another question is: who is exactly concerned with basic human rights here? Those who deny the Jews the right to their own statehood or those who expose this agenda, and are supported by NIF moneys?"

(This is translated from Ben Dror Yemini's article, here:

http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/050/546.html)

With all respect, it appears to me that you Bob, are suffering from the same blinkered vision.

The Contentious Centrist said...

Sorry. Correction:

"When Prof. Neomi Chazan repeats the mantra of “human rights" or "freedom of expression" she misses the principal issue, she insists on misunderstanding the criticism [against NIF]. The haters of Israel have the right to disseminate poison and adopt the ideology of denying Israel’s right to exist. The question is why does the fund need to underwrite these efforts? And another question is: who is exactly concerned with basic human rights here? Those who deny the Jews the right to their own statehood and are supported by NIF moneys or those who expose this agenda?"

The Contentious Centrist said...

"Incidentally, does NIF define itself as Socialist-Zionist? I know Chazan is Meretz, but does the organisation as a whole define itself this way?"

From NIF's website:

"The New Israel Fund (NIF) works to strengthen Israel's democracy and to promote freedom, justice and equality for all Israel's citizens. For 29 years, NIF has been a leader in building a just and strong Israel, believing that Israel's strength depends as much on its commitment to democratic principles as on its ability to defend itself against physical and military threats. Not only are these principles guaranteed in Israel's Declaration of Independence, they are central elements of the Jewish tradition."

These are the key elements of the fund's political identity:

'..Israel's strength depends as much on its commitment to democratic principles as on its ability to defend itself against physical and military threats. Not only are these principles guaranteed in Israel's Declaration of Independence, they are central elements of the Jewish tradition."

Namely, democracy, social justice, self defense, Declaration of Independence, Jewish tradition.

bob said...

I have to think about this further. It seems to me that, objectively, de facto, many of those who defend or advocate "human rights" do so as a politically correct way of the undermining the human rights of certain groups. This is obviously the case with CagePrisoners, or the Islamic Human Rights Commission, groups who use a liberal, universalist language of rights hollowly, as they also support acts of genocide against Jews, violence against women, and so on. Many of the supporters of certain Amnesty and HRW reports do so cynically, in this way. The Goldstone report has been taken up in this way too. And, although I don't know enough to say this, perhaps this is also the case with some of the groups NIF funds and of some supporters of NIF.

The Right of Return (for the descendants of Palestinian refugees), specifically, is no doubt particularly used in such a way, as "a politically-correct way of taking up the eliminationist cause in the disguise of universality".

Maybe it is also the case that objectively, de facto, it is impossible to realise this right without effecting the dhimmitude or destruction of Jews in Israel/Palestine. I don't think that is the case, but I understand and am sympathetic to the argument.

But what would mean, wouldn't it, at worst, is you have two irreconcilable rights, rather than that one right is not actually a right? That is, is advocating the right of return as such advocating the dhimmitude or destruction of Jews? Isn't it possible to try and act for or think for ways of making Israel/Palestine a land for all the Jews and for all the Palestinians?

Much less importantly, but something I am more confident about saying, I think you are wrong to say "If Zochrot cared about the rights of refugees they would be just as active on behalf of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands or the rights of refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan." I don't agree with the idea that to take a position on one thing one must also take an analogous position on another thing, instantly and simultaneously. For example, can we say the Save Darfur people don't really care about the people of Darfur because if they did they'd also be campaigning about the people of Gaza/Tibet/Uyghuristan/delete as applicable depending on your political perspective. Each injustice is unique, and our motivations for getting involved in one and not another are complex and opaque, and prioritising injustices can lead to further injustice.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"I think you are wrong to say... I don't agree with the idea that to take a position on one thing one must also take an analogous position on another thing, instantly and simultaneously. For example, can we say the Save Darfur people don't really care about the people of Darfur because if they did they'd also be campaigning about the people of Gaza/Tibet/Uyghuristan/delete as applicable depending on your political perspective. Each injustice is unique, and our motivations for getting involved in one and not another are complex and opaque, and prioritising injustices can lead to further injustice."

I would be wrong had I claimed that if you take a position on the refugees of Darfur you would have to take a similar and simultaneous position on the refugees of Chechnia. The two would indeed be separate and unrelated cases of injustice. But I am not wrong in my position that to care about the injustice done to Palestinian refugees means you should also care for the injustice done to Jewish refugees for the simple reason that they are both related to the same conflict, taking place in the same geographical and temporal sphere. They are both related in some way to each other and you cannot decry the suffering on the one and not the other and still claim that you care about human rights.

After the partition of India there were refugees from both warring sides and no one pretends that they are not related.

Indeed, UN Resolution 194 which declared (amongst other things) that in the context of a general peace agreement "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so" was a formulation in attempt to forestall Arab countries' attempt to isolate the Palestinian refugee case from all other refugee cases that were formed as a result of the 1947-8.

I put it to you that hypocrisy and double standard are the two colours of Zochrot and other organizations whose blood boils at high temperatures exclusively for the PALESTINIAN. And that their promotion of ROR is fuelled not by compassion for the suffering but by the political objectve of wiping Israel off the map of the world.

NIF, as it proclaims itself to the world, had no business whatsoever associating with such NGO's. And it's not a case of "guilt by association" as you described it. It is a case of understanding that freedom of speech does not mean you are obliged to provide a platform and financial support for those organizations whose aims are completely at variance from your own declared aims. Furthermore, whose aims are in contravention of your own aims which you define as universal human rights.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"I am not convinced by your description of Im Tirtzu as centrist."

It depends on what distance you position yourself on the Left from the Center. From such as Zochrot or Adala, Im Tirzu is indeed far far away into the Right horizon and possibly beyond. For anyone who does not take Jewish legitimacy as an indisputable premise, then anyone who supports that legitimacy is considered too extreme.

From the mission of NIF as posted on their website, this is not the case of their identity. Im Tirzu differs from them in tone and emphasis, but very little in subtance. They are both Zionist, support a secure Jewish existence in Israel and care about democracy. Relative to NIF, then, Im Tirzu would be posited at the Center of Israel politics.

This is from IT Mission (selectively):

"Im Tirtzu was established as a centrist movement... Im Tirtzu was established as a centrist movement in order to... safeguard the future of the Zionist enterprise...Israel's crucial security interests, the demographic issue, the cohesion of the Jewish public and the Jewish-democratic character of the State of Israel".

bob said...

More later, but for the moment...

CC,
Good point about the Palestinian nakba and the Jewish nakba, if I may use those phrases, and Partition is an illuminating comparison. And that was the bit I was more confident of. But doesn’t it logically follow that groups like Point of No Return who are all about the Jewish refugees from Arab lands are guilty of what you are saying K. are? Highlighting the one but not the other, when the two are inextricably linked?

Interesting point about the surface similarity between NIF and Im Tirtzu, both apparently seeking to defend and make healthier a Jewish, democratic state, both apparently committed to centrist, mainstream values. Which relates to the comment I am just posting now to TNC’s blog.

I would not defend NIF on the “free speech” criteria you mention – I agree that free speech does not require giving a platform (let alone money) to hate. Nor would I defend all and any NIF funding choices. But I am still not convinced that most of the groups at stake are of the anti-rights hue in which they are being painted by NIF’s enemies.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"But doesn’t it logically follow that groups like Point of No Return who are all about the Jewish refugees from Arab lands are guilty of what you are saying K. are? Highlighting the one but not the other, when the two are inextricably linked?"

I did not say the two matters are "inextricably linked".
They are both related to the same event but the problem arises from the fact that Palestinians refugees, 60+ years after their displacement, are still mostly living as non-citizens everywhere in the Arab world, while Jewish refugees no longer bask in the warmth of that joyous deprivation. The problem of Jewish refugees, consequently, does not exist. The aptly named "Point of no return" does not define itself as an activist Human rights group. Its mission is:

"... dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, which can never return to what they once were"

How is this a parallel to the NGO's that work tirelessly on behalf of ROR?

The Contentious Centrist said...

"But I am still not convinced that most of the groups at stake are of the anti-rights hue in which they are being painted by NIF’s enemies."

Earlier I quoted from Ben Dror Yemini's article. Yemini is not an enemy of NIF. His article includes some very beautiful words of praise for some of the wonderful and necessary work carried out by NIF within Israel's less fortunate, like poverty, women's rights, etc.

Yemini is of the leftist Zionist tradition himself. But unlike Chazan, he has not strayed from the vision.

bob said...

Not sure where the "K." came from in my comment; I meant Zochrot! A weird Kafkaesque infestation in my computer.

I have a very limited knowledge of Zochorot, of other groups that campaign on Nakba-related issues, and indeed of Israeli politics in general, so again remain tentative. From what I know of Zochorot, their main activities are around memory and memorialisation of 1948, and promoting knowledge of that history in Israeli society, through education, dialogue and through what I see as fascinating tourism and sign-posting projects. As far as I can tell, and I may be ocmpletely wrong, campaigning for right of return for Palestinian refugees is not their main activity.

It seems to me that a knowledge of what happened in the 1948 period is importan. Israeli knowledge and understanding of why Palestinians consider it a catastophe, and how that registers in their family and community memories and narratives is important in itself and as a step to the very possibility of peace, reconciliation and justice. Knowledge and undertanding in the Arab street (both among Palestinians and in the wider Arab/Islamic world(s)) of the Shoah, and also of what some people call the Jewish nakba, the exile from the Arab lands in the period around 1948, is also vital, again both in itself and as a step to the very possibility of peace, reconciliation and justice.

I would like to see people working on both of these simultaneously, and placing them in relationship to each other. But I also value people doing just one of these.

(Incidentally, I would also like to see more people placing the nakba alongside Indian Partition and the Greek and Turkish Nakbas of the early 20th century, which I think would illuminate it, but that's another issue!)

The Contentious Centrist said...

From what I know of ...Zochorot, their main activities are around memory and memorialisation of 1948, and promoting knowledge of that history in Israeli society,"


That's only part of their mission. This is explicitly expressed on their website, following the meorialization project:

"...to promote the implementation of the Right of Return of the refugees."

http://www.zochrot.org/index.php

Bob: if an organization promotes RoR it effectively denies Israel's legitimacy.

Describe to me one scenario in which RoR can be implemented without the consequences being destruction and massacres.

It might be beneficial to point to you to an interview with Hussein Ibish:

"There are two fundamental flaws with pro-Palestinian strategic thinking that focuses on the idea of abandoning two states and going for a single state. The first is the question of feasibility, and it's hard to argue with that. Obviously anyone who is familiar with this sees the difficulty, and I would be the first to say that success is not assured by any means. Even a two-state agreement looks, at the moment, like something of a long shot. The difference between the two-state solution and everything else is that yes, it's a long shot, but it would work. And if we could conceivably get it, if we did get it, it would solve the conflict.

The fundamental argument that the one-staters seem to be making, which is that we can't possibly get Israel to end the occupation and relinquish their control of the 22 percent of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza) but we will inevitably succeed in getting them to relinquish one hundred percent of the territory under their control. This is a problem of logic. The second thing is that once you've realized this, obviously what you've done is set yourself the task of convincing Jewish Israelis to voluntarily do this. The idea of coercing the Israelis into this through military force is absurd, and it could only really be done through voluntary persuasion. What the one-staters argue, actually, is that they don't have to do that. What they're going to do, they say, is bring the Israelis to their knees.

JG: South Africa style?
HI: Well, South Africa style, except we don't have a South Africa equation here.

JG: But they believe they do.

HI: They believe that through the application of what they call BDS - Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions - globally that they can crush the will of the Israelis and break the Zionist movement."

http://www.ibishblog.com/in_the_news/2009/11/03/hussein_ibish_fantasy_world_one_staters

What do you think Zochrot is about then?

News Service said...

Bob,
Im Tirtzu's campaign was idiotic, but the fact is that NIF is funding groups who want to destroy the state of Israel, not to correct some injustices. If you ask them, they will be quite frank about it - they don't think Jews have a right to self-determination. That has always been the only issue that matters in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

If you want to have an opinion, get the facts on which to base your opinion. Zochrot is an organization dedicated to the idea that Israel is an illegitimate state and must be overthrown. They want to memorialize a fictional narrative of what happened in 1948. Read Benny Morris's book, "1948" to find out what really happened in 1948, as opposed to the Zochrot/Ben Murane version. An escaped Nazi war criminal, Hajj Amin El Husseini, fomented a war in defiance of UN resolution 181, with the express goal of murdering the Jews of Palestine. Most of the Arabs ran away, either out of fear or because their leaders ran away or because they expected a quick victory. or because, as one guy explained when leaving Haifa, they didn't want to live under Jewish rule. That was their choice.

In Jaffa and Haifa British and Jews tried to persuade them to stay. In Safed, Mahmud Abbas's family and all the other Arabs ran away before the Haganah entered the town. Same story in Beer Sheva. Yes there were some massacres and injustice. About 100 Arabs were killed unjustly in Deir Yassin, but 1,500 Jews were killed in Jerusalem and over 2,000 were ethnically cleansed from the old city. 80 people - doctors and nurses and patients - were murdered in an ambush of the Hadassah convoy. Zochrot doesn't want to "memorialize" that part - only the part about Deir Yassin. Zochrot's mission is comparable to a Neo-Nazi group trying to replace British government with Nazi rule because the British fire bombed Hamburg and Dresden.

Here's what I don't understand Bob, about what you wrote and about the NIF. You admit that you do not know much about Israeli politics or about Zochrot or about what happened in 1948. But you insist that you have the right to tell us what to do, and if we don't do it we are no good. NIF likewise doesn't know, but gives money to various groups to meddle in things that are not their affair.

Suppose I live in Israel and am not a USA citizen. I say "Sarah Palin is for right to life." That sounds good - everyone has the right to life. So I will fund organizations that support Sarah Palin and organizations that bomb abortion clinics." How is that different from what NIF does, or from what you are doing?

Ami Isseroff

bob said...

First, I noticed an error in my comment at TNC, which I copied a bit of above, where I said of Im Tirtzu, “This is redefining the centre, and being actually centrist.” I meant “and NOT being actually centrist”.

I see a one-state solution and the right of return as an impractical, unlikely way out, but also as a utopian horizon, an imagining of an ethical resolution. I see a two-state solution, in contrast, as a plausible possibility to work towards. But a two-state solution will leave injustices and create new ones. A two-state solution without the dismantling and removal of at least a large number of settlements is hard to imagine, for example, which will be seen as an injustice by many Israelis. A two-state solution will not restore Palestinians whose families come from the 78% of Palestine (according to Hussein Ibish’s maths) which will remain Jewish, which will be seen as an injustice by many Palestinians. And, of course, it leaves the question of Jerusalem/Al-Quds. Looking at Britain, with its four nations in one state, at Northern Ireland’s fragile power-sharing deal, at the US with its complex balance between federal power and state’s rights, at Switzerland or Canada with their multilingual democracies – all far from perfect to be sure, but then the perfect is the enemy of the good etc – surely it is not beyond human possibility to imagine alternatives for Israel/Palestine that are not either/or?

Luckily, I am not a politician, and I am not in the business of supplying solutions, which is why I tend not to advocate for them in my posts, but leave them for the comments box. Instead, I feel I (and people like me, whether in Israel or not) can make a contribution and support those who make a contribution in very limited, practical, concrete ways, without which no solution is imaginable: combating the antisemitism latent in much anti-Zionism; countering the false myths lodged in the anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist and also Zionist historical imagination; promoting dialogue and reconciliation; alleviating the misery of the people in towns where Hamas bombs rain down; helping the Palestinian kids who can’t get to their college classes because they are stuck for hours at arbitrary checkpoints; easing the plight of Sudanese refugees who make it through to Israel; combating the cruel and pointless destructions of unscheduled Bedouin villages; finding ways of more equitably allocating resources like water; raising awareness of the hurtfulness of racist chants at football matches. When NIF funds things like this, I support NIF. These things strengthen not weaken Israel. As a human, and as a Jew in the diaspora, I have every right to take a side on those things.

I appreciate that I am ill-equipped to rule on every NIF funding decision, on whether Zochrot is deserving of funding or not, and have therefore made it clear that I am not endorsing all of NIF’s funding decisions, and that I am not endorsing Zochrot or any other specific “human rights” organisation. I am willing to stand corrected on Zochrot, and made it clear from the start that I would be.

By the way, I have read Benny Morris’ books, and I would recommend them to anyone who wants to know about 1948. Ami, your reading of what he is saying is less selective than the anti-Zionists, but it does not do justice to the complexity of his account, or why scars remain so fresh on the Palestinian side.

Finally, I am aware that I have no answered CC’s good question about RoR, and will continue to think about this.

News Service said...

I need to correct disinformation - several sources point out that NIF doesn't fund Zochrot or New Profile, though they did fund CWP and do fund Adalah and Mosawa. They apparently support Zochrot in some way - probably by donor advised donation channel. They did support CWP in the past.

Never trust anything without double checking. The information appeared in Maariv articles by respected journalists and seemed "OK" - but they were not careful.

However, NIF can hardly be proud of their record. They do support Adalah and Mosawa. They did support CWP. If an organization wrote "Don't slander us as racists! It's not true. We did support the Ku-Klux Klan three years ago as well as the National Socialist Workers Party, but we stopped doing it" would you give money to that organization?

Benny Morris wrote several books. I cannot account for his shift in sympathies, which is obvious. "1948" is a book, not just a reference to a year - perhaps you didn't read it or did not understand my reference. It is profoundly different from most of what he wrote before. I am aware of the complexity of Benny Morris's message, and how it was partly distorted by others from the start. Benny Morris, even in his Refugee Problem book, would write one conclusion on one page and a different one on the next page, and selective quoters could choose what thy like. Baruch Kimmerling also remarked on that problem.

But I didn't have time or space to get into that in a blog comment. I was referring to one book, 1948, which is a fairly veridical account of what happened and his latest word on the issues. After that he wrote "One state two states" which seems to have a polemical anti-peace message. He has gone from one extreme to the other. I suspect you know all that, and your accusation that I don't understand the complexity of Morris's arguments is just meant to muddy things up.

(one of two - continued..)

News Service said...

(continuation of previous)
Justice - No solution is going to give justice to everyone. Perfect justice cannot be attained. The land that was developed by the Zionists and promised to the Jews as a homeland was divided by a partition (two actually) - that is not justice either. The Jews got much less than 78% of the land of the mandate, when Jordan is included in the calculation. And the Arabs got a vast land area in the post WW I division of the Middle East. The war criminal Arab regimes who perpetrated atrocities in 1948 were not punished. Hajj Amin el Husseini, a Nazi collaborator, never faced justice.

The solution for Germany did not do justice for Sudetens Germans either, did it? Did all the displaced Germans from Silesia and Danzig etc. get any compensation? How about those displaced in the India-Pakistan split? The justice banner is a false flag.

The Arab refugees who used to live in Palestine before 1948 won't get their land back and neither will the Germans, the Indians, Pakistanis etc. But they would be able to begin a constructive life instead of being used as pawns in a war to destroy Israel. Absent from your "humanitarian" concern about "justice" is any concern for 800,000 Jews from Arab lands who lost a lot more property than the Arabs who initiated the 1948 war. And the Jews of these countries did not start any war, and didn't want to destroy their countries. How do you account for that hiatus in your concern for "justice?"

The American Indians (Native Americans) didn't get their lands back either, but none of the crusaders for "justice" seem to be concerned. Neither are they concerned that the Kurds and Tibetans are deprived of their homelands, or the Basques or Chechnyans. Concern for "justice" seems to be applicable only to one country, and it is interpreted in only one way.

Two-state solution - The point you are missing is that groups like Adalah, Mossawa, Zochrot etc. are working against a two-state solution and against peace.

"Centrism' - Nobody could seriously argue that Im Tirtzu is a centrist group, even in Israel, but the problem of NGOs like Adalah has been taken up by MPs of a centrist party - Kadima - that is unarguably for peace.

bob said...

P.S. You might be interested in Martin M's call for a four-state solution!

I'll read Ami's comment now.

bob said...

Thank you for your clarification re Zochrot.

I was a bit unclear in what I said about 1948. Yes, I have read it, and a number of his other books. (I am currently re-reading Righteous Victims.) I found 1948 frustrating in a number of ways, not least because he does not make it clear where he is revising his earlier statements and where he stands by his earlier statements but is giving a different emphasis - not why he made the revision.

I think even in 1948, though, it is clear that the Israeli side had an utterly unblemished record.

I am not accusing you of not understanding the complexity and am not trying to be belligerent. I am not really "accusing" you of anything, but I think, although your grasp of the historical facts no doubt exceeds mine, that in your summary of what happened in 1948 in that comment you do reduce the complexity.

I completely take your points about justice. This is, to me, the tragedy of the situation, and of all the other situations you mention: that justice is impossible. The question is what is the least unjust solution, a question I don't have an answer to.

However, it is not true is this: "Absent from your "humanitarian" concern about "justice" is any concern for 800,000 Jews from Arab lands who lost a lot more property than the Arabs who initiated the 1948 war. And the Jews of these countries did not start any war, and didn't want to destroy their countries. How do you account for that hiatus in your concern for "justice?""

I think even in my comments on this post I expressed some concern for those 800,000 victims of what I referred to as the Jewish nakba, and I have made reference to them in some other previous posts, which I am happy to dig out if you don't believe me (in fact, I think I have made more references to them than to Palestinian refugees).

On the NIF fundees and a two-state solution. I'll defer to you on this, but I am sure that I have read both Adalah and Mossawa spokespeople specifically advocating for a two-state solution but I may well be wrong.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"...some concern for those 800,000 victims of what I referred to as the Jewish nakba"

I abhor this term "Jewish nakba". Borrowing terms from Palestinian mythology to describe the plight of Jewish refugees is a risky business in our times. It is the parallel of the egregious pro-Palestinian inclination to borrow from Jewish history and call their nakba the "Palestinian Holocaust". Using it in the way you do blurs the distinctions between the events and therefore blunts their importance and magnitude.

I don't see any reason why you should indulge Palestinian sense of historical grievance. They never reciprocate and any compassionate parallelism you offer them will be taken as re- inforcing their outlandish claims that they are the world's most miserable victims.

Furthermore, because Jewish refugees were taken into Israel and fully integrated, given assistance, shelter, food, employment, education, rights, there was no "nakba" for them. What they suffered was the painful upheaval of fear, flight, displacement, alienation, and the struggle that any refugee has to undergo in his adoptive country. There are no refugee camps in Israel and there are no Jewish refugees these days. The Palestinian nakba would not have become such a re-usable term if Arab countries had done their minimal duty by their brothers and sisters and helped them recover normal life rather than preserve them as museums of misery and hatred.

Any accounting for nakbaism should be addressed to the Arab league, not Israel.

Martin Meenagh said...

By the way--not altogether without its tongue in its cheek, I think, Haaretz has called for a six-state solution;

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1068057.html

News Service said...

Bob,
RE:
"...I am sure that I have read both Adalah and Mossawa spokespeople specifically advocating for a two-state solution but I may well be wrong."
***
The 2 state solution of Adalah and Mossawa, if they do advocate such, are 2 Arab states, since they too would insist on right of return for Arab refugees. This solution is a cynical deception.

Morris and 1948 - I can't possibly get the whole complexity of Morris or all of Israel-Arab history into a blog comment. I already wrote that once (and the blog comment turned into two) and you know it. So why are you repeating the same non-sequitor?

Nobody claimed ever that the Israeli army was or is without blemish, so you have set up a straw man. But the US, British and Soviet armies were not without blemish in WW II. Yet nobody advocates right of return for volksdeutsch to Silesia and points east or ROR for Sudetens Germans or dismantling the United States, Russia and Britain because they are apartheid imperialist colonialist war criminal regimes.

You continually plead that you are not familiar with Zochrot, not familiar with this and not familiar with that. But if that is the case, why did you write a blog "Urgent action: Support the New Israel fund" before you had enough information to judge whether they are worthy of support or not?

bob said...

The Jewish Nakba- I'm convinced; I will never use that phrase again. (In fact, I never used it before doing so tentatively in this thread.)

My urgent action post and my ignorance of the specifics of some of the groups. I think I know enough about NIF, from reading Ha'aretz articles and Jewish Chronicle articles over the years, from recommendations from people I trust (who ar not anti-Zionist), to strongly believe that the weight of the work they do and support is good, that what they stand for is good, even if I cannot and do not endorse all of their decisions. So, if they are being demonised in a way that goes beyond healthy disagreement, as in the infamous horn ad (although perhaps the "keren" pun mitgates this), then I feel I have te right and responsibility to speak up for them.

News Service said...

Hi,
I know enough about IDF, LAPD and the US army to know that the good that they do outweighs the errors. That doesn't mean however that the IDF didn't make mistakes, or that LAPD didn't beat up minorities and the US Army didn't commit a massacre in My Lai. To dismiss all complaints against NIF on the grounds that they do a lot of good or that the people making the complaint are right wingers is the same as dismissing all complaints against the US army on the grounds that they do a lot of good and the complainants are all communists.

The specific groups named are all poisonous and the fact is that NIF does support most of them. If you want to support the NIF then convince the NIF to do a thorough house cleaning, just as those who support the IDF should favor an independent inquiry regarding the Gaza war.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"...to strongly believe that the weight of the work they do and support is good, that what they stand for is good, even if I cannot and do not endorse all of their decisions."

All the more reason to try and dissuade them from making common cause with organizations that are diametrically opposed to NIF's core socialist-Zionist goals and achievements in Israel, wouldn't you say?

If you have a friend X you love and respect but all of a sudden you realize that he associates with some unsavory persons Y+Z who might abuse his trust and goodwill inclinations, wouldn't you attempt to intervene and stop these detrimental relationships? All the more so if your other friends Q+R stand to be harmed by those Y+Z persons whom your friend X shields and supports? Your friend X may decry that you are attempting to restrict his freedom to associate with anyone he likes. And rightly so, you should tell X. You may have acquaintances with whom you share a limited set of concerns but that does not mean you need to let them into your home, give them your bed and feed them while they use your telephone, computer and credit card in order to communicate and make plans to destroy your house or at the very least expel you from the premises. You first duty would be to explain to your friend X that this behaviour is self-destructive and quite insane. That would take precedence over criticizing and concentrating all the fire and brimstone of your rhetorical abilities on the people who found out about X's vulnerabilities and exposed them to the rest of X's family.

bob said...

Both very good points. This has been an odd experience for me, being held to account by people on the Zionist side of me, as I am far more used to it from anti-Zionists who think of me as a Zionist.

I have been thinking a little more about what CC said, specifically these two things.
1. They never reciprocate and any compassionate parallelism you offer them will be taken as re- inforcing their outlandish claims that they are the world's most miserable victims.

I am a little unhappy with the general, absolute nature of this "they" and "never". Is there no chink by which the light can get through?

2. Furthermore, because Jewish refugees were taken into Israel and fully integrated, given assistance, shelter, food, employment, education, rights, there was no "nakba" for them.

I broadly agree with this. But there is, isn't there, a tragedy, a Catastrophe, in the loss of a culture, even if the ultimate ending of the story, for the children of that culture, is a happy one? I am thinking of the loss, partly due to the Shoah, but also due to successful integration and assimilation of Jewish mmigrants into American life, of the Yiddish civilisation, surely one of the world's great civilisations? The wrenching of Jews from the Arab lands, like the cleansing of people designated as Greeks from Anatolia, was not just tragic in the sense of the uprooting of the people involved, but also because of the cultural loss, which is not the case (as far as I know) with Partition in the Indian subcontinent, where the human suffering was far, far greater, but the cultures remained intact. Just thinking aloud - be curious what you think Noga.

bob said...

P.S. Thank you for what I have decided to read as the faint raise for "all the fire and brimstone of [my] rhetorical abilities".

News Service said...

IMO regarding the Jewish refugees from Arab Countries I have to agree with Bob. I will invite several friends who are refugees or offspring of same to comment. It was a wrenching experience, if not a "catastrophe."

Likewise regarding compassion of Palestinians it is not true that there are no Palestinian Arabs who show compassion - if that was the claim. I know a few, among them Izzedin Abu el-Aish, who lost 3 daughters in the recent Gaza war.

Ami Isseroff

The Contentious Centrist said...

"This has been an odd experience for me,"

But surely, a good exercise? You didn't think that just because I like you I would let you off the hook, did you? After all, you and I are not in the same position at all. If things go wrong in Israel I stand to lose a lot more than just a few ideological comrades.

"I am a little unhappy with the general, absolute nature of this "they" and "never". Is there no chink by which the light can get through?"

I thought you might be unhappy, you being Bob.

I have been looking for some of that light you speak of in my own way on the blogosphere and found the situation to be darker than I had originally supposed. The only chink would be Sari Nusseibeh and he is nowhere to be seen or heard from in Palestinian (& pro-P) circles. I have to wonder where YOU, Bob, get your optimism from. A faith in the goodness and commonsense of humankindness?

As for the second point. Again, you are drawing inadequate parallels. The disaster for Jews from the Arab countries cannot be compared with the Holocaust. For the most part, they had been ethnically-cleansed (there were pogroms and public executions but not in numbers that threatened extinction) but for the most part succeeded in maintaining their culture within Israel's society, and refreshing it with new ideas, new fashions, new liberties and what have you. I'm not trying to diminish the suffering or injustice they encountered and some still do in Israel. This injustice is, will continue to be confronted by Israelis themselves. However, it cannot be turned into an ace card in the way anti-Zionists play on it in order to discredit Israel and Zionism. And it must be shown to prove how quickly the Palestinian refugee problem could have been solved had there been a genuine will to do so. Israel's resources in the fifties were nowhere near the amount of resources Arab countries had and still do during all these years.

I guess this is what I meant to warn about in refusing the Nakba analogy.

BTW, it wasn't a praise, faint or otherwise. It was a surprise at how readily you joined the madding crowds in this case of NIF when, by your own admission, you were not fully certain about the facts and factors.

I think this more than anything marks the difference between you and me. You probably feel bound by your loyalty to your cadre. I have no such constraints. I wouldn't join a cause just because some of my best friends are there and we usually share the same positions. A recent example was the case of Seismic Shock. I was late to join the support because I wanted to be sure that I expressed an opinion I fully understood and could defend before I did.

In fact in this discussion I realized how very far apart we were when it comes to Israel. (I can even understand better why Will was so furious with you for allowing my comments to appear on your blog).hiewsel

bob said...

Certainly a good exercise!

My optimism is quite attenuated, except in a general "optimism of the spirit, pessimism of the intellect" kind of way. I would like to think that there are always chinks of light. My view of human nature is that I never stop being suprised at our capacity for cruelty and hate and stupidity, and I never stop being suprised at our capacity for compassion and love and creativity.

I don't want to overstate my case about the Jews from Arab lands. I am not saying there is something at all comparable to the Holocaust, or that anyone has the right to use this as some kind of ace card. Also, I am aware that their culture has continued to grow and evolve within Israeli culture, as Yiddish culture has done within American culture. But, as with Yiddish culture, there is something profound lost to the world, that on one level is less morally weighty than the fate of the individuals at stake and their trauma, but on another level is more so. I've been thinking about this since reading about the death of the Bo language, and exactly what it is we lose when a language dies in that way. Not sure how to put this into words exactly.

The NIF issue (and the Seismic Shock issue is a good comparison) makes me rethink a little the way that blogging by its nature calls for "timely" kinds of interventions, the sense that reaching one's (in my case fairly small!) audience there is some duty to draw attention to things that seem urgent, to express one's solidarity - Gita Saghal, Selma in Tehran, Seismic Shock, NIF, the people of Haiti, and so many others make me feel the need to testify in some sense, I suppose. I have been wrong on one or two occassions when doing this, and I probably need to be more careful. I linked to the Seismic Shock material when Mod brought it up, as I trusted him enough to assume he was right, but I didn't really know whether he was or not. (I think he was!) I came to this NIF issue, I think, from Arieh of the Jewish Labor Committee in New York, source of a fair few of my posts.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"Gita Saghal, Selma in Tehran, Seismic Shock, NIF, the people of Haiti, and so many others make me feel the need to testify in some sense, I suppose."

My dear Bob, I wouldn't under circumstances put Selma next to Saghal, NIF or Seismic. I cannot even post a substantial comment on her blog for fear that it might draw the wrong kind of attention to her and her well being. SHE cannot express herself as fully as she wants and needs to, for fear of you know what.

I know what you mean but it is important to keep the perspective in correct angles.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"But, as with Yiddish culture, there is something profound lost to the world, that on one level is less morally weighty than the fate of the individuals at stake and their trauma, but on another level is more so. I've been thinking about this since reading about the death of the Bo language, and exactly what it is we lose when a language dies in that way."

I agree that there is "something profound lost to the world," in the loss of a language or its adjacent culture and I feel this loss profoundly since the culture of my grandparents has all but disappeared and what mostly remains are the stories, the songs, some of the foods. After me, it will be all but a quaint memory for my kids. For my brothers in Israel it has disappeared long ago. THEIR kids know nothing except some facts about their paternal origins. But Israeli culture is a quilt of many strings and colours and the most important achievement about the Zionist project is the fact that there is Israel that could offer a place of refuge to people who then carry on the memories and create new memories as the indigenous culture develops and evolves.

I may feel a personal loss for the Ladino but as I spent last summer in Israel I had very little time or inclination to lament that loss. I went to a David Broza concert in which Yasmin Levi sang a Ladino Romance and I went to a play about Hannah Arendt which among other things discussed the loss of the culture that German Jews felt after the Holocaust. In the morning show I saw a young Ethiopian girl who had just had a scandalous racist encounter with a bigoted bus driver and how the general public was outraged by it. And I saw a very funny sitcom episode about a young Israeli couple in which the bride warns her fiance that her Iraqi great grandmother was planning to make "kululu" noises at the wedding ceremony, much to his chagrin: "with all due respect to your culture" he says "we are now living in different times and different place. Enough with all that". Of course the kululu was done during the wedding ceremony, and probably for the last time...

Contrary to Eliezer Ben Yehuda's vision, Israeli culture does not break with Diasporic cultures. It continues them by adjusting to the realities, advantages and constraints of an independent people. These include the commonly shared experiences which are much more dominant and compelling than the nostalgia over a past that, as far as I know, no one wishes to re-live.

bob said...

I wouldn't under circumstances put Selma next to Saghal, NIF or Seismic

Quite right. But this is kind of my point in a way, badly expressed, because one is bombarded by so many pressing issues, each with its own claim to urgency, sometimes more trivial. If you only respond to the tsunamis and mass executions, issues like UK libel law or an anti-Zionist sax player pale away, but still these issues clamour.

Thank you for that lovely last comment too.

bob said...

I didn't express that very clearly either, but I think you know what I mean.

bataween said...

Very interesting thread, if I may leap in. The problem with NIF is that it has politicised social groups within Israeli society to the point where they have been radicalised against Israel.
I quite agree with CC and Ami that if Zochrot were genuinely concerned with displaced refugees, they would be conducting tours of the former Jewish quarters of Baghdad, Damascus, Tripoli and Cairo.
I beg to differ about the Jewish Nakba, however. I understand' CC's distaste. But the expression sums up the mass exodus and dispossession of Jews from the Middle East and N Africa in two words - it's a useful shorthand which anyone who has ever heard of the Palestinian Nakba will immediately relate to. The Jews experienced a Nakba, but that does not mean that history stood still for them as it did for the Palestinians. The Jewish Nakba also happened to be a blessing in disguise because the refugees became accepted and integrated into a society where for the first time they experienced what it was like to live as secure, free citizens with full rights. But the success of their integration into Israel does not detract from the brutality of their uprooting.
If anyone can suggest a better term than Jewish Nakba, I would gladly use it.Until then, I'll stick with it.
Bataween

The Contentious Centrist said...

"If anyone can suggest a better term than Jewish Nakba, I would gladly use it.Until then, I'll stick with it."

Pity. I was very impressed with Bataween's answer on her Normblog profile:

"What is your favourite proverb? > 'Mal nommer les choses, c'est ajouter au malheur du monde' (Not to call things by their correct names is to add to the troubles of the world) - Albert Camus."

..and used it on several occasions to illustrate how an inaccurate application of term can cause a great deal of mischief. If we can't find a catchy phrase to call "the mass exodus and dispossession of Jews from the Middle East and N Africa" then perhaps we should use this long phrase until we do. It's accurate, it's verfiable and it denotes a truth, not a myth.