16 thoughts on “Israel Palestine Forum Seeks Progressive Community Discussion – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Richard,
    As you may know, I’ve been reading thinking and writing about this issue for some 15 years. Many ideas have changed, as I’ve gained new knowledge, and my position evolves. One idee fixe has been this:
    In any debate, intelligent rational honest people can reach a point where they discuss what they disagree about. Civilly.
    It has seemed to me that this is a hallmark of what it means to be human.
    I have long yearned to find a mind whose view is different from mine in small but significant ways. And then slowly..gently..push and pull..remove the layers which consist of ‘I’m right’, ‘you hurt me’, ‘you don’t hear me’ , etc. until we would arrive at this spot which is the point of disagreement, leaving all the baggage aside.

    My position is that I don’t think the state of Israel should exist. I don’t think the US should exist either. I don’t wish to push all the people of either country into a sea. Rather certain ideas should be eliminated.

    You identify yourself as a Progressive Zionist, and obviously you have the right to identify yourself as you choose, altho to me that is an oxymoron. I have such respect for you because of your reasonableness, your even-handedness, and especially your courage in taking on the “bad guys” and never giving an inch, and in so doing, and in the manner in which you do so, I’m sure you educate more people than you may realize.


  2. Dear Rubino,
    I make the point that to be against the existence of a particular political entity is not the same as being against a people. A better example than the US would be the Soviet Union during the cold War. Many people who wished for the dissolution of the Soviet Union, presumably did not wish for the extinction of the people.

    I would argue that the creation and continued existence of the Jewish state is both a result of and an embodiment of unresolved and unresolvable contradictions in Zionism. Further that criticism of Israel also embodies these contradictions. This is obviously a huge topic, and I can only briefly touch on some points.

    The creation of a Jewish state required the dispossession of the people already living there. The Zionists knew that and were perfectly happy to make that sacrifice of the Palestinian people.
    The idea of a Jewish state (or Catholic state, or Baptist state) negates all the struggles of the Enlightenment to bring about pluralism and the separation of church and state, ideas which have always benefited Jews in America.
    Zionist critics of Israel like Michael Lerner wring their hands at the atrocities visited upon the Palestinians, but are unwilling to face the inherent contradictions.

    Yes, they say, torture, aerial bombardment of defenseless people, cities closed down, medicine not allowed, assassinations, electricity cut off, people dying at checkpoints, yes it is awful, but it is necessary in furtherance of the state. How prophetic was Einstein when he warned about the dangers of a nation-state.

    Some Jewish leftists want to be for justice and they want to preserve the state of Israel. But you can’t do both. Keeping the state Jewish requires racist practices such as the Wall and denying the Palestinian Right of Return.

    Benny Morris at least was honest in calling the founding of the Israeli state “ethnic cleansing”. We had no choice, he said, in order to have a state. Recently an Israeli “liberal”, Yosef Lapid, said in a similar vein, “We all bear responsibility for the suffering of the Palestinians, but it would not have been possible to establish a Jewish state without causing them some harm.”

    So is it possible to have a Jewish state and have justice for the Palestinians? Apparently the two are mutually exclusive. And between the two I easily pick the latter. I was raised to be on the side of those whose bones are broken, not on the side of the breakers.
    Many people forget that Judaism was once a religion of universal values, not one of loyalty to a particular state. All the socially forward movements in the US from trade unionism to civil rights to feminism have been supported by Jews.
    How did we get to become the head-crackers? I agree with Seth Farber, Marc Ellis, Douglas Rushkoff, and others, who see Israel as a betrayal of the deepest values of Judaism.

    I’d like to know what you think, Rubino. And if you want to read more about any of these ideas, I can reference articles.


  3. Yes, they say, torture, aerial bombardment of defenseless people, cities closed down, medicine not allowed, assassinations, electricity cut off, people dying at checkpoints, yes it is awful, but it is necessary in furtherance of the state.

    That is most definitely NOT what Michael Lerner believes. Michael Lerner believes that the Occupation including all the practices you mention must end and a Palestinian state must be created. I don’t want to speak for him since I don’t always agree w. him. But to use Lerner as a punching bag for yr view of Zionism isn’t fair.

    You’re also muddying the waters a bit by mixing issues of the Occupation with the nature of Israel as a state (though with many anti-ZIonists there is no distinction).

  4. I recently saw a film dealing with the conflict in Middle East – To Die in Jerusalem. It’s a powerful and amazing film that really opened my eyes to the reality of the situation of unrest between Israel and the Palestinians through a personal perspective. It follows the journey of two mothers – one an Israeli, who lost her daughter to a suicide bomber, the other, a Palestinian mother whose daughter was the suicide bomber. At the premiere screening in NYC last week, I saw Ambassador Dennis Ross talk to the filmmaker, Hilla Medalia, and he said that he would like to see the film shown at schools in Israel and Palestine, with a moderator present, who would ask the students to try and understand the other side of the story- to induce empathy amongst the youth. I think Ambassador Ross has a great idea, and I think all viewers of the film should try to understand both sides of these mothers’ very personal stories. If you want to watch it, it’s showing on HBO.

  5. Richard,
    You misunderstood me. I am saying that Michael Lerner opposes the occupation but not the state of Israel.
    I don’t think I’m mixing issues of occupation with issues of the nature of the state. I’m saying {and it is hard to be absolutely clear on a complicated subject in a short space} that one of the contradictions -to my mind- is to be opposed to the occupation, but to maintain support for the state of Israel.
    That is the typical position of progressive Zionists, would you not agree?


  6. You identify yourself as a Progressive Zionist, and obviously you have the right to identify yourself as you choose, altho to me that is an oxymoron.

    First, Ellen let me apologize for not seeing yr first comment in this thread till just now. I don’t know how I missed it but I did.

    Anyway, thanks for yr compliments about me and the blog & I appreciate them very much.

    Perhaps I’m not a Zionist in quite the way you’re used to thinking. I support the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination. But how do you define this? By a sovereign Jewish state of current vintage which fails to fully recognize the rights of 20% of its citizens? No. But I think you can still be a Zionist and come up with a model for a state that recognizes, affirms and protects the rights of all citizens and gives none superiority over any other. My model is Switzerland or possibly Canada in which peoples with separate ethnic, linguistic and religious identities would live in a single state, but with their rights guaranteed.

  7. Richard,
    Your comment helps me understand your views better. I’m not used to seeing the views you expressed being called “Zionist”. It does depend on how one defines the term.

    It seems pretty idealistic (unrealistic?) these days to imagine a state in Palestine/Israel in which all citizens’ rights are respected. It sounds good. If I were directly involved, which I’m not, being neither Palestinian nor Israeli, I would advocate for a state which did not recognize ethnic, religious or national identities. I think we (all) need to identify ourselves as citizens of the world, as members of a common humanity. That sounds even more idealistic or unrealistic I realize. But I think as long as we identify ourselves by what divides us, the world will continue to be torn by strife.

    Getting back to the point, I am reminded of some early Zionists who spoke about a national homeland, not a state. The issue of Zionism is so complicated. There are many different strands among Zionists. I have a quote somewhere by one early Zionist, pre-statehood, who beseeches his fellow Zionists – ‘We must share this land with our Arab brethren’. And in the early days there were attempts to form workers cooperatives of Jews and Arabs.

    To think: if this type of thinking had prevailed, as opposed to exclusionary thinking, we might today have an entity in the Middle East of peoples of different faiths and nationalities living together in peace, serving as a model for the world.


  8. Curious,

    I can’t give a ‘yes or no’ answer to your question – do I think there should a Palestinian state.

    Should there be bantustans, where the “state” is fragmented, where the Palestinians have no control over their air space, where they have no access to water, where they can’t build up their economy, where they can’t interact with the international community?
    No, of course I am not in favor of this. [Unfortunately, most Americans do not realize that when so-called peace negotiators say ‘state’ this is what they envision.]

    To me the question of a Palestinian state is very abstract. Right now I call what is going on in Gaza genocide. Consider that several years ago the UN Food Specialist described starvation in certain parts of Gaza as “worse than in the worst areas of Africa”.

    Every year since then conditions worsen. There is no disagreement about this. The discussion on the media when it touches on the area, talks about Hamas-Fatah fighting, talks about rockets into Israel, never about the conditions in Gaza. How do the people manage to survive?

    The media never talk about the cancer patient who died because she couldn’t get her medicine. Or the city-wide lock-downs in which people cannot leave their house, no matter if they are in extreme medical circumstance.

    Nobody denies these facts, they are undeniable. So they just don’t talk about them.
    How can Jews in particular let this happen?
    Aren’t we the ones who said – how did the world let the Holocaust happen and pretend they didn’t smell the burning flesh
    BBC, which occasionally does a good job, once had a reporter inside a Gaza hospital. The camera focuses on two children hooked up to some electrical machines. The reporter asks the doctor, what happens if Israel shuts off the electricity? The doctors answers, they die.

    So, to return to your question, I’ll leave that discussion to others. My job is to let people in America know what is going on in Palestine, and to refute the extraordinary media and cultural bias. Can’t say I’m having a big effect [grin], but I keep trying.


  9. My Zionist heroes are Ahad Haam (who might’ve been the one who said the quote you mentioned), Martin Buber, Judah Magnes, etc. And not Jabotinsky, Ben Gurion, etc. Alas the cultural Zionists & Brit Shalomniks did not have the political savvy of the other political Zionists who organized rings around them.

    But in the end I think that major elements of the vision of the former group will have to be incorporated into whatever state does emerge when there is a final peace.

  10. Ellen: I think what Curious was getting at was what he saw as a contradiction bet. yr view that nations are a bad thing & the Palestinian goal of having their own nation. I don’t think Curious was interested so much in what kind of nation it was, but more in the question of whether or not you thought the Palestinians should have A nation of their own. In other words, what system do you want to see there? If the rest of the world seems organized around nation states, how can there be anything diff. in Israel-Palestine?

  11. Richard,
    I think the kind of confederation that Jeff Halper and others have discussed would be the next step in evolution from the nation-state.
    Like I said I don’t get into these kind of conversations in any detail because the subject is too academic for me.

    I think Palestinians and everybody else have the right to self-determination, political as well as spiritual. To food, to medicine, to art, to all the potential that human life offers us. To a garden, to have a family or not, to practice a religion or not.

    As far as the concrete steps to bring about a political entity which provides these things, I’m afraid I have little to contribute.
    Perhaps someone could link to Jeff’s piece, I didn’t find it.

    My point is that if the boot of Israeli oppression over every facet of Palestinian life is lifted, than the Palestinian people can decide how they should be organized. I don’t really have an opinion about that.

    In general I think that the nation-state needs to go the way of the dinosaur. It has outlived it’s usefulness, if it ever had any.
    Considering that the human race faces the possible end of its reign on this earth, Is it not advantageous to us to stress cooperativeness rather than nationalism?


  12. hi for all israeli went to menemize our untol

    human call
    Date: Sun, 16 Dec 2007 16:22:32 +0200

    dear mrs

    Number of Palestinian families in deferent area facing terrible living circumstances which making their life some times inconceivable and increasingly miserable and on going tragedy’s u know what make situation worst is heavy financial commitment such as electricity ..water invoices also teaching ..food expenses and others they went medicine…milk powder ..clothes

    but sources is so lack.

    indeed i wittiness with great sorrow their condition during my filed work as facilitator for Palestinian NGOs in varying actives amide at women empowerment and raising awareness of civic education ,,democracy… especially in RAMAllA..NABLUSE ..SELFEETTALKURAM villages

    at first meeting and during discussion about this issues i sensed deep sigh of sadness because of their case but lately they informed me frankly its difficult to deal with you and to concentrate on civic education workshops under heavy financial problems.

    after long discussion for this problems .complement we together reach this idea

    the most active way to solve part of this problems is to soled their product of olive oil. worth to mention they lost many olive trees in building separating wall upon their lands

    so i decide to turn to Israeli friends who i know to cooperate with them to help in this human crisis by buying olive oil produced by these poor ..needy families.

    I wish you cane help in drown smile over faces in al adha fest which going to be at coming Wednesday 19.

    families ready to buy 1 kg of olive oil by 35 new sh.

    plase distribut this email for freinds

    transferring olive oil cane be arrange by calling me on following numbers :

    0545893146 or


    be well

    thanks in advance


    ed suffering i addressed this petition

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