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Heartwarming holiday surprise: Philip Weiss praises liberal Zionists and Israel Policy Forum

In a post that recounts an Israel Policy Forum dinner that I also attended (hat tip to Richard Witty), Philip Weiss describes his joy at discovering what has been available for years, waiting for him to encounter it: a community of American Jews who care about Israel, who consider themselves part of the Israel lobby in its broadest sense, who abhor the occupation as much as he does, and therefore want to press for the kind of active American diplomacy that will rescue both Palestinians and Israelis.

Among other things, Weiss declares his support for a 2-state solution after remaining agnostic about it. That, too, is heartwarming news for those of us who’ve been squabbling with American leftists who keep encouraging the unrealistic dream of a single bi-national state, and, in doing so, prolong Palestinian suffering by keeping alive the delusion that somehow the Jewish state will vanish. Some of these people, who congregate on Phil’s blog, are wont to pour out venom against anything and everything remotely connected to Israel and American Jewry, and in some cases resent and reject the very idea of a Jewish people. Here is Phil’s holiday gift:

There was throughout the evening the strong feeling…that Yes there is an Israel lobby, and it is many of the people in this room, and the time has come to take your foot off the breathing tube of the Palestinians. It was a wonderful evening because here was a strongly Jewish and Zionist audience but it was willing to hear from Arabs and Arabists. There was no noxious whiff of stinking neoconservatism the whole night. God bless. There was also the strong sense that without the American Jewish community allowing Washington to become more independent, this moment will be lost. Israelis and the Palestinians cannot do this on their own, they require muscling intervention…

…I have been to many Jewish leadership events where I am angered and saddened. At this one I was in tears. What a glory to my community that it is capable of such recognitions. There was an atmosphere of worldliness and real leadership at the event, and a feeling that Jews know that they are powerful in American society, and that brings responsibility, not self-regard…

…I was converted to the two state solution, with an asterisk. I never imbibed the Zionist dream; and the dream..of maintaining a Jewish state in part of Eretz Israel…is not something I really care about, or that I think most Americans ought to care about…And yet the real dream that realistic Americans must seize now is an end to the cycle of violence, a dream of regional cooperation and interdependence, and this was the imperative of the IPF event. Two states are a necessary step. Once the states are up and running, and the Palestinian doctors are working in Israeli hospitals and trucks of oranges are crossing the borders, and a road runs from Damascus to Jerusalem that all can drive on, idealists like myself will talk about a federated solution, but the IPF event was about leadership and opportunity, and let us celebrate the initiative.

Guess what, Phil. I also think that, eventually, a federated solution would make perfect sense. It used to be a respectable idea among the Zionists in Palestine. In the unlikely event that we ever arrive at the juncture you describe, I’ll join you on the idealists’ barricades. In the meantime, welcome home, my brother!

20 thoughts on “Heartwarming holiday surprise: Philip Weiss praises liberal Zionists and Israel Policy Forum

  1. Heartwarming indeed! But, again, look at the responses to Weiss’ post. They are really taking him to task, accusing him of being taken in by “ZioShmooze” and Israeli leaders who are “criminal.” They are accusing him of being, well, Dan Fleshler. I guess there are worse things to be accused of…

    I wonder, Dan, whether you will lose support from most of the IPF types if you ever admit that, in your heart of hearts, some kind of federated solution should be the ultimate goal. Or is that the kind of thing they will not say publicly even if they believe it?

  2. It seems that Sneh and Ramon are urging that liberal Zionists express themselves/ourselves and assertively convey to powers (organizations, elected officials, etc.) that MANY (MOST) American Jews support the idea of a healthy Palestine living next to a healthy Israel, as good neighbors.

    That we oppose expansion, that we reject the objective of an annexed Palestine, even by increments.

    In that way, they can give voice to otherwise frail political leaders to act more assertively to firm compromise.

    Right now, Bush is still giving mixed messages, that encourage both annexation and compromise.

    They are different, and his “leadership” should pick one and pursue it, rather than stay on the fence.

    One advantage of being a “lame duck” is that one needs not play politics for the next election. This issue should be one that crosses ideological boundaries, and should be one that he could put his “lame duck” weight behind.

  3. Richard,

    Only short-term idea I have just now is to support organizations that have been trying to articulate what you articulate to key decsionmakers and the media for years: Americans for Peace Now/Ameinu/Meretz USA/Israel Policy Forum AND/OR American Task Force for Palestine AND/OR Churhces for Middle East Peace.

    These Jewish/Arab/Christian church groups have been increasingly collaborative. That it is a good sign. We need a lobby for the rest of us, which includes all Americans who support a 2-state solution. In particular, a visit to the Pres. candidates and key Members of Congress by a joint delegation of like-minded Arab and Jewish Americans would be very effective.

  4. I don’t have one shred of faith in anyone from the Israeli Labor Party. They are nearly as guilty as the Likudniks for the current mess because they refused to stop the creeping expanionism of the settlements when they had the chance.

    But I do agree with Dan if he is saying that joint delegations of Arabs and Jews calling for hardnosed American pressure on Israel would be useful. Just proclaiming support for 2 states isn’t enough. Because one of those states can’t possibly be viable and enduring unless there are drastic changes made by the Israelis (yes, I know the Palestinians also have obligations). If this “lobby for the rest of us” will push the U.S. to push Olmert or whoever succeeds him to agree to give up, for example, Ariel and Maale Adumim, and to relinquish the Jordan Valley so that the Palestinians will have a real state, then sign me up, my brother!

  5. In the environment of the Saudi proposal, I think it it would be possible for Israel to give up the settlements that infringe on Palestinian sovereignty.

    As Dan described, the situation is Gordian and must be skillfully untied, rather than just cut.

    I think that is why clear commitment and articulation of the commitment to peace in action, and confirming that commitment by the unilateral action of removing unnecessary outposts and settlements, would help to make the process firm and unstoppable (both in Israel and reciprocated widely in Palestine).

    It was a wonderful acknowledgement that the half-done annexation strategy was wrong, politically untenable, and impossible.

  6. Marco, just curious about something. What Palestinian obligations would that be. And what Palestinian leader has indicated any willingness to make a deal giving up the right of return and who has the power to make it stick. Who would that be exactly?

  7. Bill,

    Palestinian obligations include stopping the rocket attacks from Gaza and finding a way, somehow, to stop the cells that still want to send suicide bombers into Israel.

    Abbas and his crew, as I understand it, won’t ever give up the “right of return.” Nor should they. But the entirely theoretical question is: Could it be a right that is declared as a principle, but one that is implemented so that a certain number of Palestinians enter the country and Israelis don’t become convinced that the sky is falling, they won’t have to give up the homes that have been built in the destroyed and renamed Arab villages in the Gallil, for example…?

    Right now, no one has the power to make any of this stick except the U.S. I don’t know if you have been following this blog but I’m the non-Zionist gadfly here who thinks that what I described above and in my earlier post is impossible, because the Israelis would never tolerate making the kinds of changes that must be made for a viable Palestintian state to exist.

  8. Dan,

    Phil Weiss is going to come out with a bombshell column tomorrow explaining that he just discovered that New Jersey is across the Hudson River. He wants full credit for this discovery and for you to read all about it in his new book: The Accidental Commuter.

    Apologies for the snarkey comment, but is there a more pompous blogger than Weiss out there? By pompous I mean someone who will speak as an expert on something they know only a little about. And those commenters on his blog; creepy crowd.

    Well, I’m glad Weiss suddenly discovered that there is a wide range of views on Israel held by American Jews. Can’t wait to make some noise. Dan – please continue to let us know how we can organize and apply the pressure. You rock dude!

  9. But Marco, who returns to Israel, people from 1948 or their descendants. And why would Arabs want to live in the midst of the “Zionist beast”. And again, tell me the Palestinian leader who can make a deal stick with Israel. The “right of return” is the destruction of Israel and I have yet to see one Arab leader willing to concede on that. On an ancilliary note, there has been a spectaculat disregard for Jewish religious sites that have come under Arab jurisdication.

  10. I prefer the right to genuine due process.

    Currently, there is no due process for Palestinian direct or indirect land claims in Israel, due to the 1952 law that prohibits re-immigration of those that left their homes in geographic Israel in 47/48/49.

    Similarly, there is no due process for land taken in the West Bank.

    In democratic countries, there are eminent domain laws, but in the US for example, it is constitutional provision that all eminent domain takings must be FAIRLY compensated, and subject to public discussion and appeal both in the taking itself and in the compensation.

    Assuming that restoration of the actual title to homes and land is unlikely, that compensation is more likely (and more just to all parties), I’m not sure how many Palestinians would prefer to stay in Israel, even having been compensated.

  11. Bill, you answer you own question. I am hardly an expert on this and perhaps you will correct me, but when “Diaspora” Palestinians have been polled, haven’t most of them said they would not want to live in Israel (amidst the “Zionist beast?”) I have no sympathy for Jews who are terrified of having 50,000or 100,000 Palestinians gradually integrated into Israel, if those Palestinians choose to exercise the right of return to Israel rather than to a Palestinian state. That would not mean the destruction of the Jewish state. But you’re really asking the wrong guy, because I think it’s almost certainly too late for a real 2-state solution, so the point is moot. I take it you are glad about that. I am very sad because I once thought it had a chance.

    I volunteered to join Dan’s lobby if it would take stances that none of the American Zionist “peace” groups like Americans for Peace Now would be willing to push for.

  12. I meant “most of them said they would not want to live in Israel –e.g., the Jewish state– if they were offered compensation.”

  13. I meant –or should have written– “most of them said they would not want to live in the Jewish state if offered compensation.”

  14. Marco,
    In 2000 as Camp David was about to meet, a group of leading Moslem jurists on the West Bank issued a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from taking compensation in lieu of the right to return. This fatwa is presumably still in effect. To clear it would take quite an effort from Abbas et al.

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