20 thoughts on “Haaretz’s Burston: Pain of the Liberal Zionist – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. Burston’s story is indeed a touching one. It reminds me somehow of Naeim Giladi’s story about the Jews of Iraq (which I sent you yesterday). It, too, is a story of disappointment; a summary of his book “Ben Gurion’s Scandals.” It is good to know that there are a few brave people from the inside willing to challenge the system.

    Those of us on the outside, Jews or not, who criticize Israel, still still have to suffer the insults of being referred to as self-hating, or anti-semitic.

    I disagree that if this conflict is ever to be resolved it will have to come from outside forces. Only Israeli society itself will be able to make such a reevaluation of its own consciousness. It came close with Rabin, a would-be Mandella. Alas. Today, Israel’s alignment with the U.S. will prevent it from accomplishing any compromise for peace. U.S. foreign policy dictates Israel’s, unfortunately.

    And finally, you should know that “liberal Zionism” is an oxymoron; a contradiction in terms.

      1. Maybe. Unfortunately, we’ll never know. But my estimate is based on the fact that he was the only one among the elite who had the guts to try something different. Perhaps not a would-be Mandella, but how about a LeClerk?

          1. I’m not a mind reader, nor am I in touch with the dead. But he was opening doors that looked promising. But that’s in the past. Gotta look to the future now, which doesn’t look promising. I see no “states person” on the horizon who could buck the Western oligarchy even if they wanted to.

          2. I never saw anything particularly appealing about Rabin, although many people believe that had he lived, there would have been an independent Palestinian state today.

            Israel’s mistake has not been in its choices of leaders but in its blind adherence to the zionist ideology that is destroying it as well as the Palestinians. Occupation, subjugation and inhumanity are not good for the occupier or the occupied, and this festering cancer has gone on for much too long.

          3. No Israeli leader is worthy of unalloyed adulation. But Yitzhak Rabin is the one, if any, who could’ve negotiated a compromise settlement of the conflict. It might not have been perfect, & Rabin certainly wasn’t. But he was head & shoulders above the rest & had the ability to step back fr. the political game to understand strategically where Israel needed to end up in order to protect its future. Every other Israeli PM has been only able to think in tactical terms, except possibly Sharon, who had even more limitations than Rabin.

          4. Thanks, Richard, for confirming my opinion of Rabin. Of course he was not perfect – remember his “break their bones” attitude during the first intifada. But he was the only one on the scene who had a sense of humanity and was willing to change his mind and attitude. On the other hand, I can’t agree with you about Sharon. His limitations were that he was an unreconstructed “Nazi”, like Begin.

          5. I don’t agree, as you noted, about Sharon. I always hated Sharon and never trusted him. But at the end he was turning on those who made him what he was. It was a fascinating political transformation. I didn’t know what it would lead to. It might’ve led to something not much better than he was when he was an unreconstructed pro settler fanatic. Or it might have led to somewhere near Rabin was heading. As I said, I never trusted him, but I thought something important & interesting might happen if he’d continued the withdrawal fr the W Bank. Alas, he died & we got Olmert & we all know where that led.

          6. I like your subtlety, substituting your “pro settler fanatic” for my “Nazi.” Guess I’m not as PC as you are.

            “….continued withdrawal fr the W bank”? When was that? Yes, hypocritical withdrawal from Gaza, but the W Bank? I didn’t know he died. Thought he was still in a coma. RIP

          7. Sharon is not dead unless being in a permanent coma counts as death. It works for me. I have nothing good to say about him or about any Israeli leader.

          8. I misstated. I meant to say that I’d hope he would’ve continued the Gaza withdrawal with a West Bank withdrawal which he’d intimated was next in his plans.

            As for “dead,” you’re right, he’s not.

  2. Bradley’s liberalism is itself a statement of hope, a faith in the power of individuals to learn (rather than only repeat), a faith in the power of reason.

    Its also a statement of distrust of opportunism and maliciousness when that pretends to be dissent.

    There is no pulling back from the cliffside, so long as defensiveness and partison ideological goals are valued more highly than integrity and compassion.

    I disagree with Richard about the desirability of Bradley Burston becoming so alienated that he can no longer live there, no longer call Israel home.

    I think that the only possibility of reform, of transformation, is if those that are committed to change remain, and do what they can in affecting public attitude, intra-community and inter-community relations, and nation’s policies.

    I believe that it requires remaining a Zionist. If Israel continues down its “loyalty litmus test” track, in a punitive McCarthyist approach, then that will become objectively impossible.

    Common cause with militant anti-Zionism beyond temporary and single issues for an actual Zionist, is really impossible. There is just no intersection of principles, only temporary intersections of positions.

    1. I disagree with Richard about the desirability of Bradley Burston becoming so alienated that he can no longer live there, no longer call Israel home.

      I can’t decide Witty whether you’re a willful distorter or whether there’s some sort of pathology at work with you. That’s not at all what I said. Not even close. I don’t want Burston to leave Israel. I want him to remain there & become an even more courageous opponent of this horrible regime. But the truth is that as Israel becomes worse & worse citizens will leave by their tens of thousands including many like Burston, the former best & brightest. They’ll take their skills & intelligence w. them & offer it to other western nations thus impoverishing Israel & leaving it to the settlers, the haredi & the poorest & least well educated, turning Israel eventually into a 2nd rate place.

      Common cause with militant anti-Zionism beyond temporary and single issues for an actual Zionist, is really impossible. There is just no intersection of principles, only temporary intersections of positions.

      That is beyond ludicrous & I’m living proof of it as I have good relations w. people who are Zionist & anti-Zionist. I would say it is you, Witty who can’t have any relationship w. an anti-Zionist & you’re confusing yrself w. everyone as egotists tend to do.

  3. If you want to know where Israel is heading, you may want to start with the fact the chief scientist in the Education Ministry does not believe in global warming or evolution

    Wherever the country was 15 years ago, there’s just no constituency today for any kind of an agreement. Short of international pressure I see no sign whatsoever that the Israeli public would ever change course.

  4. RE: “…Since he’s [Burston] such a powerful writer when his passion is engaged, I enjoy quoting him at length…” – R.S.

    FOR EXAMPLE: Fear of peace will be the death of Israel, By Bradley Burston, 02/03/10
    (EXCERPT) …The thrust of the piece, which Commentary Editor John Podhoretz understandably calls “groundbreaking,” is that Israel’s international standing has plummeted to an unprecedented low – and the number of Palestinians killed by Israel has concurrently soared – specifically because of Israel’s having done much too much for peace.
    “The answer is unpleasant to contemplate, but the mounting evidence makes it inescapable,” she writes. “It was Israel’s very willingness to make concessions for the sake of peace that has produced its current near-pariah status.”
    The essay has the seamless, compellingly elegant, hyper-lucid, parallel universe logic of a hallucination* – or a settlement rooted in the craw of the West Bank. Until I read it, it was difficult for me to comprehend the current runaway-freight recklessness of Israeli authorities and a certain segment of the hard right, bolstered by shady funding from abroad….
    * my emphasis, as this is one of the best lines I have seen in a long, long time!
    SOURCE – http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1147257.html

    Loving the column “a place in hell” by Bradley Burston – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=54391629611

  5. You say there is no Israeli de Klerk or Palestinian Mandela. But perhaps there are two potential leaders on both sides that could each save their people.

    One is Avrum Burg, if only he would get as many votes as he sells books.

    The other is sitting in an Israeli prison. Marwan Barghouti could unite Palestinians and would definitely sit at a table with Avrum Burg to draw boundaries and hash out a peace plan.

    Of course, I’m a romantic and an idealist. In the real world I agree with you 100%: “If this conflict is ever to be resolved it will only come from the forceful intervention of outside forces like the U.S., EU, UN and/or NATO.” BUT….that too might be unlikely, although the EU is working on an initiative to recognize a Palestinian state by next year, but the U.S. will probably oppose it as Israel is already doing.

    I happen to believe that God helps those who helps themselves. Grassroots movements pushing for boycotts, divestment and sanctions are gaining momentum and should be encouraged and supported because they may be the last hope.

    I’ve been following your blog for some time now, although, I never commented till today, but I thoroughly enjoy your opinions which are so incisive and written with so much conviction, and I was appalled when you were called a “moser”, but then you’re now in such good company with Goldstone and Burg!

    1. Kalea: Thanks so much for transitioning from “lurking” to joining the comment threads. I so enjoy when readers summon the courage to participate in that way.

      Burg, unfortunately has dropped out of Israeli politics though he remains an important & compelling figure. IMO he is one of the few leaders who might have the power & force to lead Israeli in a healthy direction. But the amt of compromise any decent leader needs to make in order to win an election & govern would transform even Burg into a parody of himself. It’s even worse than in U.S. presidential politics.

      1. Yes, precisely. Palestinian unity is the one thing that would end the occupation, that cannot be imposed from the outside.

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