Larry Derfner and I are about to embark on a new blog (not replacing Tikun Olam in case any of you are worrying–or hoping!) in which we will debate from a left-Zionist perspective the Israeli-Arab conflict. Larry is one of the few remaining progressive commentators at Jerusalem Post and has written very courageously in an Israeli context about the evils of Israeli policy concerning Occupation and the wrongheadedness of Israel’s approach to Palestinian people. He made aliyah a few decades ago and, unlike me, made the commitment to live the Zionist dream in Israel. Though he has seen the dream sour, he still maintains a strong commitment to Israel and trying to be a voice of sanity in the English language media there.
There is a difference in our voices and that is where we hope the richness of a possible debate/dialogue will make itself felt. Though Larry calls himself a post-Zionist, I think he retains some of vestiges of the attitudes and approaches of liberal Zionism. Or that he’s to my right on some aspects of the Israel debate while still remaining progressive. I too was raised as a liberal Zionist. Though I now call myself a progressive Zionist, I’m probably to Larry’s left on a number of these issues (though I too like the term post-Zionist). While Larry and I are probably both critical of the Israeli left and liberal Zionism, we think there is much that may be gained by turning over these issues to ensure that the left stays relevant to Israel and Israel stays relevant to the world (both phenomena that seem increasingly unlikely). We also hope to debate issues from a left point of view to determine whether there is a way that this perspective can reach outside itself to impact the broader debate and dialogue.
I’m not just thinking here of the debate within Israel or the Jewish community. I’m also thinking of the growing number of progressive non-Jews who understand the centrality of the resolving the Israeli-Arab conflict to overall stability in the region and to world peace. How will such readers react to the clash of our ideas.
I’m flattered that Larry thinks that despite my sharp debating style in the comment threads here, that I’m a principled, decent representative of my brand of political discourse. We hope to incorporate that principle in our new blog. It will be a strong, sharp debate, but one between two individuals who respect each other even when they disagree. I should also note here that this is my own articulation of our joint project and Larry may describe himself or our project differently.
We have general ideas of subjects we’d like to debate: some historical questions like Nakba/1948; the Jewish nature of the State vs. democracy; Right of Return vs. Law of Return. We’ll probably take one idea or issue (or perhaps two) every week and write a post about it and then allow readers to weigh in. In this way, we hope it will become a running diary of our concerns and interests.
Larry and I have come up with scores of possible blog titles, but none of us yet are sold on any of them. I invite you readers to contribute your own ideas if you have them for such a title (jokes are allowed–but no snark please). Titles should try to incorporate the fact that the blog will be a debate between two writers on the left of the Israeli spectrum who are arguing about the fate of Israel.