Dear Josh Kalman,
Thank you, first and foremost, for listening to the episode and preparing the response that you have. Thank you also for your patience in waiting to hear back from us. We’ve tried to pick out the most important points of your review and have responded accordingly. As I’m sure you are aware, although you may not be, it is often the case that one cannot get across all of the points they want during a podcast episode and it is often the case that you forget to mention things and they come to mind after recording has finished. Further, if we were to mention everything we could about this particular topic it would be infinitely longer than 1.5 hours; not the most preferable outcome for a podcast. These are things that should naturally be kept in mind.
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism – the conflation
On the clear conflation of the issues of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, there are the following points to consider. Zionism is a nationalist political ideology that has its roots in the 19th century. It originally came out of Christian Zionism in the 1820s before becoming a Jewish project under Theodore Herzl. Zionism is a political, settler colonial ideology that has manifested itself in the form of the current right-wing government regime in Israel.
On Settler Colonialism – The Basel Program of 1897 was the eventual manifesto of the Zionist Movement, adopted at the first Zionist Congress in Basel. It sought to secure for the Jewish people a publicly recognized, legally assured homeland in Palestine. This ideology, when manifested, resulted in the 1948 partition plan, and the creation of the State of Israel. What followed was the Great Catastrophe (the Nakba), which was the displacement of 750,000+ Palestinians from their homes and the destruction of over 500 villages. The Nakba was a violent, brutal ehtnic cleansing of the land, which has been ongoing as can be seen in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan below (East Jerusalem) – which is the same situation in other regions across occupied Palestine. This is settler colonialism, this is the violent, forced displacement of the indeginous population, the attempt to break the Palestinian’s bond with their land, most exemplified by the continuous denial of their Right of Return, the ethnic cleansing and seige of Gaza.
The Israeli government is an occupying military power that is open about its discrimination towards Palestinian people and seeks to privilege the Jewish population over the Palestinians and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in the region. To equate anti-Zionism to antisemitism is to suggest that the Palestinian people who are oppressed in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel are either racist or have to support the ideology of their oppressors. It implies that all the people in the world who are critical of Israel are racist. This conflation is used to delegitimise people and even cause them to self-censor and not stand up to and speak out against clear human rights abuses. That is something we will not do.
Further, there are many Jewish people who are anti-Zionist. Are those people also antisemitic? Are the likes of Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Ilan Pappe, Norman Finkelstein, David Graeber (I could go on) antisemitic? There was an open letter signed by prominent Israelis and Jewish scholars in 2018 that decried the conflation of the two. They, rightly, warned about the rise of antisemitism throughout the world but also stated that “the fight against antisemitism should not be instrumentalised to suppress legitimate criticism of Israel’s occupation and severe violations of Palestinian human rights.” They further write “many victims of the Holocaust opposed Zionism. On the other hand, many antisemites supported Zionism. It is nonsensical and inappropriate to identify anti-Zionism with antisemitism.” Your position conflates the two and does a disservice to freedom of speech and critical thought, holding governments to account and fighting for human rights and justice in the middle-east. Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism.
As discussed already, antisemitism is a real problem and one that is on the rise amongst far-right groups and governments across the world. Strikingly, those governments are the ones that Netanyahu has been cosying up to such as Hungary’s Victor Orban. The threat of antisemitism comes, not from the left, but from right wing extremism in all its forms. The late (and great) Jewish anthropologist, David Graeber, wrote about how he was afraid for his own safety as a Jewish person in the modern world because people are weaponizing antisemitism against the left (something that you are doing here). It is powerful stuff and I encourage you to look into it.
From the historical perspective, antisemites were staunch supporters of Zionism. Take Arthur Balfour, the author of the Balfour declaration. He was a staunch Zionist because he was a white supremacist and thought of Jewish people as “an alien and hostile race.” He sponsored legislation to keep Jewish refugees out of the UK. A member of the government at the time was a man named Edwin Samuel Montagu. He was Jewish. He was staunchly opposed to the Balfour Declaration and to Zionism and said “it seems to be inconceivable that Zionism should be officially recognised by the British government.” He was acutely aware of the links that existed between antisemitism and Zionism itself (especially Christian Zionism at the time by which Balfour was influenced). When Balfour was Prime Minister he instituted the Aliens Act of 1905 to stop Jewish people from entering the UK. Moreover, Theodore Herzl himself knew all too well that the staunchest supporters of Zionism would be those who were antisemitic. He says, “the governments of all countries scourged by antisemitism will be keenly interested in assisting us to obtain the sovereignty we want.” Christian Zionists believe that facilitating the Jewish return to Palestine will bring about the second coming of Christ, which will then lead to the judgement condemning all Jews to eternal suffering unless they convert to Christianity.
From this, you should be able to see that Zionism is not a “simple belief” in a Jewish homeland at all. To you I’d ask, what about our Jewish brothers and sisters who are opposed to Zionism? Are they antisemitic? Those who I’ve heard speak at protests supportive of the struggle of the Palestinian people… are they antisemitic? There are Jewish people alive who are older than the state of Israel itself; Shatzi Weisberger for example. A beautiful human being who makes appearances at black lives matter protests, who stands up for human rights and justice and someone who is older than the state of Israel and who has renounced any Zionism she had before. The same is true of Noam Chomsky; is he an antisemite? He is fiercely critical of Israeli policy, indicating (in comparative analyses between apartheid South Africa and Israel) that in the occupied territories the situation is much worse than apartheid! He used to identify as a Zionist in the sense that he believed in binational working-class cooperation between Jewish and Palestinian people in the region. He was strongly opposed to a formation of a state of any kind. There is no left in Israeli politics advocating for such democratisation of the society in Israel at present. There is an overwhelming consensus to maintain the Jewish majority, maintain the illegal siege on Gaza and continue to annex more of the West Bank.
In the podcast, we are fiercely critical of Zionism and the manifestation of that political ideology in the current Israeli regime. We condemn all forms of racism including antisemitism. We championed the voices of Jewish people in our episode. We have had Jewish guests on to contribute to previous discussions as we seek to promote justice and equality for all people. We are not afraid to speak out against a state that has been branded an apartheid state by Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem (have you read these reports?). Are the people from B’Tselem anti-Semitic? Is Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian who has served in the IDF and who describes Zionism as a settler-colonial movement, an antisemite? Or is he someone challenging the status quo in the area and the geopolitical scene, standing up for the rights of the people who lived there and who have been displaced and persecuted? What about IDF soldiers who have come forward and talked about their roles; even calling themselves terrorists?
The conflation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism is a tactic pursued on purpose by Israeli officials and propagandists to quell criticism of Israel; Abba Eban made this clear in 1972. Anti-Zionism is to be made the new antisemitism. Senator Bernie Sanders has called for an “evenhanded” approach to the situation between Israel and Palestine and has further stated that the argument made over Israel’s right to defend itself lacks sufficient context. He also asked why the question “what are the rights of the Palestinian people?” is almost never asked. He said that Netanyahu had “cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism.” Why do you think that the question is always of Israel’s security? Never is the question asked what are the rights of the Palestinian people.
We support the right to self-determination, but self-determination does not always arise in the form of statehood. Look at the Kurds, the Catalans, the Scots and the Druze. Do you support an independent Druze state in Israel? Do you support their right to self-determination? If you believe so much in the self-determination of the people of Israel, is it so difficult to understand why the Palestinians want their own self-determination? What have you done to agitate for the self-determination of the Palestinian people? When the self-determination you speak of takes the form it has in Israel, people have to speak up. Israel is committing violations of international law and it has to stop. The form that self-determination takes is an important distinction and it cannot come at the expense of the people that lived there. As a staunch supporter of self-determination, I take it that you are in support of Native American and indigenous self-determination in Canada (potentially arising in statehood) and have taken the steps to educate yourself as such now that you live there? In fact, what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people is not too dissimilar from what the colonists did to the indigenous people of Northern America. Expel them from the majority of the land and force them into reservations where they have limited authority over themselves. But no state obviously. Every person is free to their beliefs so long as they don’t translate into direct action resulting in the encroachment of another person’s human rights. Zionism does just that- conflates religious beliefs with politics and then uses that to legitimize apartheid, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment and other human rights violations.
Further evidence, from history and to the present day, shows that Israel is supported by the world’s greatest settler-colonial powers. The US and UK. It is therefore not untenable to suggest that Israel represents the interests of the UK and US in the region. In fact, if the US were to properly sanction Israel or put conditions on Israel (something that every president until Obama did) Israel would have to bow to US pressure for fear of being a pariah state. Israel can only act in the way it does because the US allows it to. Netanyahu has previously boasted about knowing America and being able to manipulate American opinion. Therefore that is why we called for civil disobedience and to put pressure on our own governments (holding them accountable) for what is happening in Israel. Applying the same measures we do to the US and UK (who provide weapons and legitimation etc) as we do to Israel.
On the freedom of movement issue inside Gaza. First of all, are you saying that Hamas does limit freedom of movement, or not? That is unclear. Israel has control of Gaza from the outside. It subjects the people there to a siege that is inescapable. They calculate the caloric intake it takes to just avoid malnutrition and impose it on the people. Even though Gaza and the West Bank are viewed as one territory they are treated very separately and there are endless bureaucratic measures in place to make it difficult for people in Gaza to visit the West Bank and vice versa. They are separated by a short distance but most people who want to travel between the two have to go via Egypt and Jordan – that is dehumanising and humiliating. The Gaza Strip is often called the world’s largest open-air prison. Do you contest that?
On your point regarding the Gazans who go to Israel for work, just because a few Gazans can cross the border to work, does not take away from the fact that Gaza is under siege, it is the collective punishment of a population, which is a war crime. Israel controls the borders, the airspace, the water, the food, the supplies, the medicine, the electricity. Human rights organisations have even found it difficult to get humanitarian aid into Gaza. Further does that not create a situation whereby Gaza cannot create its own sustainable economy? Add to this the blockade that they are under from all sides and the banning of the entry of so-called “dual-use” products goes some way to explaining why they cannot sort out their own electricity and water situation. The fact that Gaza is under siege is something that can’t be refuted, neither is the humanitarian crisis that results directly from the siege. Whilst you have this collective punishment going on, you have a whole load of other human rights violations taking place (restriction of medicine, food, water, electricity, security etc) and then the bombing of that civilian population of around 2 million, around 50% of which are children.
With regard to the water situation, a billionaire helping besieged poor people with a few water aquifers is the very least that a billionaire can do (please see our episodes on capitalism and billionaires). Also worthy of note is the bureaucracy it took for him to get the aquifers into Gaza. Moreover, why can water from the West Bank not be sent to help Gaza? They are recognised as being part of the same Palestinian territory no? Israel, as part of annexation in the West Bank, includes the capture and control of resources in the West Bank including water. Perhaps it would help if the coastal aquifer isn’t continuously destroyed by Israeli bombardment and then recovery efforts hampered by the fact that dual-use items aren’t allowed into Gaza.
In response to your point on unemployment, the HRW report states “unemployment rates in Gaza have for some time hovered around 50% and are higher for young people and women.” The UNCTAD declared in November 2020 that Israeli occupation has cost Gaza $16.7 billion in the period from 2007-2018. Add into that equation the effects of coronavirus and Israeli military activity in the area this year (which destroyed critical coronavirus infrastructure and the head of Gaza’s COVID response) and sending vaccines that are on the brink of going out of date and you can see the painting of a pretty grim picture.
Israel also left Gaza for demographic reasons. Look at Sharon’s address to Israelis in 2005, he says this verbatim, “The primary reason was not to bring about peace at all. It’s done so they don’t have to include the count of 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip when ensuring the Jewish majority in Israel and the occupied territories.”
Do you actually think Israel has disengaged from Gaza? They still control Gaza externally. They bomb Gaza periodically. They kill unarmed Gazan civillians in the 2018 Great March of Return, which resulted in over 29,000 Palestinian injuries and around 270 fatalities. This was a peaceful march by the Gazans demanding their right to return. To disengage from Gaza would mean to end the illegal siege and collective punishment of a civilian population.
Rightly so perhaps, there was not enough talk on Hamas. We could have been more thorough in this regard but the time restraints for the podcast did not allow it. Let us be clear that Hamas are not our friends. However, they are the elected government, under democratic elections, in Gaza and so they have to be negotiated with. It is also clear that Israel helped to create Hamas whilst trying to institute divide and conquer techniques in Palestine. Take the account of Yitzhak Segev, a military governor in Gaza for Israel in the 1980s, he told the New York Times that he helped finance Hamas to counter the PLO and Fatah. Former Israeli Religious Affairs official, Avner Cohen also said “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation.” Israel helped to create it and now seeks to destroy it in the ways discussed in the podcast.
You also talk about the Charter of Hamas calling for the destruction of Israel, which is correct. It’s a vile document that has since been revised. It is also important to note that it hardly has an ounce of credibility or legitimacy. It is important to note that the Hamas charter was written at a time of high military intervention by Israel and so was most likely reactionary. It was also written by about 6 people and has since been revised. None of this is to say it isn’t a horrible document. Look at the Likud charter and you find similar evils no? The Likud platform for 1999 states, amongst other things, that it “flatly rejects Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem and that it flatly rejects a Palestinian state west of the Jordan river.” It also states that Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realisation of Zionist values,” and that “settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel.” Basically, there is no room for Palestinian people, that only Jewish people have unassailable rights to the land and there will be no self-determination for Palestinian people. This was the ideology of the governing party, now displaced by one that is even more extreme under Naftali Bennett.
The Palestinian case has been referred to the ICC by the PLO, and Hamas has agreed to abide by its findings whereas Israel opposes any such investigation- what does this say about Israel?
Just further to these points are examples of some of the rhetoric we’ve heard coming out of the Israeli government over the years. It is often rooted in racism, bigotry, violence and often dehumanises the Palestinian and Arab people:
– Netanyahu: “beat them [palestinians] up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up until it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable.”
“We must defend ourselves against the wild beasts.”
– Rabbi El Ben Dahan: Palestinians “are beasts, they are not human.”
– Avigdor Lieberman talking about Israel’s Arab minority: “those who are against us there’s nothing to be done – we need to pick up an axe and cut off his head.”
– Miri Regev: “I’m happy to be a fascist!”
– Ayelet Shaked: “they should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise more little snakes will be raised there.”
– Eli Yishai: “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”
– Naftali Bennett: “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that.”
On terrorist street names
Do Israeli neighbourhoods not also have streets named after people considered to be terrorists? In Jerusalem settlements captured after 1967, there are streets named after Jewish people convicted and hanged as terrorists by the British prior to 1948. This raises a discussion of groups such as Irgun. There are streets named after Jewish people who assassinated British Minister Lord Moyne in Cairo in 1945, who participated in the 1947 Acre prison break and the rest attacked British forces. The neighbourhood’s main area is called “Olei HaGardom” which means “those who ascended the gallows.” Other streets in East Talpiot are named after Shmuel Azar and Moshe Marzouk; they are Egyptian Jews hung in Cairo for bombing the American and British libraries. Therefore, technically Israeli settlements name some of their streets after terrorists too; namely the Zionist paramilitary forces of Irgun and the Lehi. So I guess one peoples’ freedom fighters are the terrorists of another? So Israeli settlements do exactly the same.
With regard to your reaction to my point about 50% of the population being children under the age of 18 and the threat they pose, I am quite taken aback by it. Here was a prime opportunity to show humanity with children who are killed, lose their homes, are subjected to prolonged trauma – that is never considered post-trauma – who are innocent in the midst of violence and the first thing you jump to is ideas of security and terrorism. This kind of priority of thinking is striking to me. It reminds me of the views of Israeli officials who have lacked empathy with children and basically called Palestinian children, terrorists (see the quote of Ayelet Shaked above and the tweet of Ofir Gendelman). The treatment they receive from the IDF is barbaric. I’ve seen videos of it and read countless testimony from those affected. The Secretary-General of the United Nations stated “if there is a hell on Earth, it is the lives of children in Gaza.” Yet, your response is completely devoid of any humanity in this regard. You haven’t uttered a word about what Israel does to the Palestinian people. It is all about, well look at Hamas over there and Israel is surrounded by those people over there, not once looking at Israel itself and condemning or even addressing the actions and policy that are detailed in the HRW and B’Tselem Reports. We’ve spoken at length on the podcast about looking at yourself and not blaming other people. What is Israel’s part in all that is happening? Yes, innocent Israeli’s living in fear is horrible, but what is the wider context that creates this cycle?
On Sheikh Jarrah & Silwan
Why are there legal property disputes in Sheikh Jarrah? This is arguably what kicked off the latest round of fighting. Why is the court of an occupying force making decisions about property rights there? East Jerusalem is occupied under international law. Transfers of the civilian population of the occupying power (in this case, Israel) into the occupied territory (East Jerusalem), is prohibited.
The settlements currently there and those being built are illegal. There should be no Jewish settlements in those areas. But of course, there are, because it is all part of Israel’s system of de facto annexation that is taking place in the West Bank. Netanyahu himself has declared that he intends to illegally annex more of the West Bank. Not only should Israeli law not apply in the occupied territories, the laws themselves are racist laws. They give rights to settlers and not to Palestinians. What is being termed as a legal dispute is a facade for ethnic cleansing and forcibly removing Palestinians. Palestinians fight it in court because they have no choice, but the outcome will always be for the settler. The application of Israeli law in Occupied Palestine is another representation of apartheid that exists in the West bank and East Jerusalem. In addition to, of course, the checkpoints, the persecution and segregation experienced by Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem
The forcible removal of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank is violent and illegal. When they protest, they are faced with brutality. They are left homeless in their own land. This is violence, plain and simple. Do the Palestinians not have the right to defend themselves from these land grabs? We’ve all seen the video of the Jewish settler who says to the evicted Palestinian woman “if I don’t steal your house then someone else will.” Why should this be a situation that we, as an international community, just accept? These are government-sanctioned acts of violence that must be resisted and stopped. If the occupying power is run by people who openly advocate for the annexation of more of the West Bank, what are the Palestinian people supposed to do? Not try and resist or fight back in some way? None of us were saying that the death of innocent Israeli’s is acceptable, but we do understand why Palestinian’s aren’t just sitting back and letting Israel continue on this path of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.
Similarly in Silwan, why is it the case that Israeli forces have moved to forcibly remove 1,500 Palestinians from such a culturally important area? These demolitions were demanded by Israeli courts also. Why are Israeli courts making decisions that demand Palestinians destroy their own homes, or face fines and even imprisonment, in occupied territory? This is not a legal matter.
Have you not seen the videos of right-wing extremist settlers chanting “death to Arabs” and warning of a second Nakba? Important to note here, this was on ‘Jerusalem Day’ the day that Israelis celebrate as the day Jerusalem was ‘unified’, in other words, illegally occupied. There are scholars such as Pappe who actually believe the Nakba wasn’t a single event but is in fact continuing into the modern day in the ways we see playing out before us. What are your views on Israeli extremism and the views of Pappe here?
On the many wars and violence in the region
The neighbouring Arab countries tried to destroy “the young state” (or prevent its creation) because they saw it as a settler-colonial movement underpinned by a Zionist ideology. Palestinians were understandably afraid. Israel was also established with the aid of the British (a settler-colonial power); a country with history draped in colonialism and violence. The British divided the Arabs, Jews and Christians in the area (who had previously coexisted peacefully) by making separate institutions for them all. Classic divide and conquer. And low and behold, look what happened. The Nakba. Which you don’t mention at all in your response. What are your thoughts on the Nakba and the circumstances in which Israel itself was actually created as a state? What should happen to the refugees and their descendants that now total over 7 million people? Including Dalia…
In connection with the above, what does the conduct of neighbouring Arab countries have to do with the people of Palestine at the time? According to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, the Israeli army was better trained and more equipped than those of the neighbouring Arab countries in 1948 as well, and Trans Jordan could hardly get involved as they had an agreement for the West Bank. He also argues that the Arab countries reacted when they realised that they were receiving Palestinian refugees from Palestine after the ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Zionist movements. Therefore the 1947-49 war was not the sole reason for Palestinian refugees, the cleansing of the land was happening before the war that occurred at the end of the British mandate.
You do mention the 1967 war (again something we didn’t have the time to mention in the episode but really should have!) and you describe it as a defensive war. You fail to describe it as a preemptive war, which it was, with Israel attacking first under the justification of defence. Levi Eshkol, the Israeli PM in 1967 states after the war “the existence of Israel hung by a thread… but the hopes of the Arab leaders to annihilate Israel were dashed.” However, there is a different side to the story from a man named Matituahu Peled who was chief of logistical command during the war. He said: “the thesis according to which the danger of genocide hung over us in June 1967, and according to which Israel was fighting for her very physical survival, was nothing but a bluff which was born and bred after the war.” Another man, Mordecai Bentov, a member of the wartime government and a signatory to the Israeli Declaration of Independence made similar remarks: “this whole story about the threat of extermination was totally contrived, and then elaborated upon, a posteriori, to justify the annexation of new Arab territories,” (1971). Moreover, Israeli PM Menachem Begin, who was associated with the Israeli far-right and who was also a terrorist, stated in 1982 that Israel had a choice in 1967 and that “the Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” These are people high in the Israeli government and military during the time, talking about a moment in history that still has ramifications to this day. No doubt the escalations that followed in the years after were in response to this kind of action by Israel. Again, this action was supported by the US and UK, two former settler colonial powers and the action enhanced US interests in the region. You fail to mention any of this in your response. You also have made no reference whatsoever to Israel’s 54-year occupation of lands that do not belong to them; in violation of international law. The wars that flow from this event in the following years, the war of attrition and Yom Kippur war, are, I would suggest, directly in response to what happened in 1967. This isn’t to say it’s right, but it provides the contextual and historical understanding for those actions.
The Oslo Accords
Jewish historian Avi Shlaim has written about the Oslo accords and attributes their failure to Israel reneging on its part of the deal. After a Jewish fanatical terrorist executed Rabin in 1995, Netanyahu came to power and basically destroyed any hope of the Oslo accords working. He denounced the Oslo accords as being incompatible with Israel’s right to security and to the whole land of Israel. He expanded Israeli settlements into the occupied territories (as has been his and Likud’s mandate all along). These settlements were and remain contrary to international law as we said. Since that time the prospect of a Palestinian state has been shrinking to a point where Israel has made it almost impossible. The HRW report identified the Palestinian land in the West Bank as basically being an archipelago of islands. Israeli settlements, checkpoints and infrastructure basically bisect the West Bank and expropriate resources from it. They also separate Palestinians from each other. The Oslo agreement is at its essence a land for peace deal – the actions, with regard to settlements, by successive Israeli governments, have basically made it impossible and they reneged on these accords. In keeping with your pizza analogies, Avi Shlaim says with regard to Netanyahu that he is “the double-faced prime minister who pretends to negotiate the partition of a pizza while continuing to gobble it up.” Going back to our distinction between antisemitism & criticism of Israel (anti-Zionism), is Avi Shlaim antisemitic too?
Palestinian academic, Edward Said, called the Oslo accords an “instrument of Palestinian surrender, a Palestinian Versailles.” In the Oslo accords, Israel did not really concede anything at all apart from recognising the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people. That’s it. Amos Oz said the accords were the “second biggest victory in the history of Zionism.” In the accords, the main concern is for Israeli security; there isn’t much for the people of Palestine. These don’t sound like concessions towards peace to me.
As regards Dalia’s points about Netanyahu and Oslo, there is video evidence of his bragging about sabotaging the Oslo agreement with Jewish settlers. In it, he states “I de facto put an end to the Oslo accords.” While in opposition, he also campaigned and rallied against Oslo and drummed up right-wing support for the same. Many, including Yitzhak Rabin’s widow, place partial blame on Netanyahu for fuelling this kind of feeling towards Rabin. Once in power, he continued to support settlements in the West Bank and this was a major factor in the collapse of the Oslo accords.
Stu’s understanding (not condoning) of the use of violence
Palestinians are 54 years into a harsh and brutal occupation of their territories by a military occupying power who commit constant terror, intimidation and atrocities throughout the region and treat Palestinians as second class citizens. Should it be a surprise that from that sprouts resistance, animosity and ideas of vengeance? They could say we are under a regime of terror for 54 years therefore we have a right to defend ourselves with what we can? Do you accept this? Or does anyone accept this as being ok? If the answer is no, then the same applies to Israeli terror in the name of “security” and which often manifests itself in expansion into Palestinian territory. The Palestinians have the right to defend themselves under international law. Palestine isn’t occupying Israel, Israel is the military occupier of land that is not theirs. For more than 50 years now. Imagine if it was the other way round. Can you imagine it the other way round? Stu said the violence is understandable in the circumstances, not that it is to be condoned; that is why we suggested civil disobedience and the BDS movement.
“When you say you oppose Zionism, you say you oppose the right to self-determination of Jews in their historic homeland. That is, antisemitic.”
We oppose the manifestation of a political ideology that has given rise to a right-wing authoritarian government that is in breach of international law, is being investigated for war crimes, has been shown to satisfy conditions of apartheid and persecution, and treats Palestinian people as second class citizens. To stand up against such injustices is not antisemitic, it’s standing up for freedom and justice. It’s called having empathy, solidarity and humanity. We have discussed the distinction in the above paragraphs.
Palestinians with Israeli citizenship
Yes, Palesintinans with Israeli citizenship do become doctors and the like, and it is interesting to not just look at their positions in Israeli society and say look everything is fine but rather actually listen to their lived experiences. Many doctors in Israel are Palestinians and have been on the frontline in protecting Israelis against coronavirus. People who become doctors and nurses (no matter their religion or ethnic background) do so to help people. I dare say that it is an environment in which intersectional solidarity is most prevalent in Israeli and any other society. Nevertheless, there are reports of Jewish Israelis refusing to be treated by Palestinian doctors and nurses who hold the Israelis citizenship. The experience of Palestinian doctors and Palestinians accross the land, is that they are treated as second class citizens. Even within Israel, Palestinians experience apartheid, they are second class citizens, discriminated against, even by the legal system itself. 60+ laws that the Knesset have passed are discriminatory. The fact that Palestinians with citizenship are able to do something so basic as attain an educational/professional qualification is most definitely not the test to be applying here. Surely by the logic that you try to apply in terms of education/vocation being a test of oppression then the BLM movement is not a worthy cause because of how many successful black people there are? Again, to reiterate, the provision or availability of basic human rights such as education or the ability to have a profession, is not the test for apartheid or for opression of any kind.
A recent finding from the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel-Aviv called for the government to create a positive basis for full integration of Arab communities into the Israeli community and “end exclusionary and racist discourse and statements that call into question Arab loyalty.” This questioning of loyalty is part of a much bigger issue of poor political representation for Palestinians within Israel and feeds into the rhetoric of demonising and dehumanising Palestinains.
Likud has often sponsored billboards declaring that the Arab parties are “terrorist sympathisers.” Hassan Jabreen, director of the human rights group Adalah, says “what is taken for granted in democratic countries around the world – a state based on the principle of equality for all its citizens – is considered anathema in Israel under Netanyahu’s racist regime.”
The football player you refer to is Bibars Natkho, who is one of Israel’s best players, and has played in the Champions League against internationally renowned teams. I would argue that because of this experience & skill, there is a compelling case for having him as the captain and yet he is not. Again, you are saying look at this Palestinian without actually looking at their lived experience. He is often vilified for not singing the national anthem despite the fact the anthem excludes people like him because it makes no mention of his connection to the land. Moreover, football is a fantastic way to break down barriers of all kinds. It is a sport where you know the rules even when you speak different languages, have different ethnic backgrounds, views, religions etc and can bring people together. Look at Football for Hope for example, which brings Palestinian and Israeli children together to play football using the sport as a vehicle to importantly break down the barriers and stigmas associated with each other.
The right of return
With regard to the right of return, for the 7+million Palestinian refugees from the Nakba, where do you stand on it? Are you happy for them to return to their homes? Do you think it causes a “demographic problem”? The right of return to those displaced refugees and exiles is also enshrined in international law. Further, on the Jewish right of return do you think it is right that a Jewish person born in Brooklyn can go to Israel and get citizenship and all the related benefits, but someone born in Palestine cannot? That makes no sense whatsoever unless you look at it through a lens of racial supremacy and exclusion to maintain a Jewish majority.
On Israel being surrounded by enemies and being all alone
Israel is backed to the hilt by the world’s greatest military superpower, a superpower that along with Israel, vetoes UN security council decisions aimed to facilitate peace in the region. They are backed by a superpower that is consistently found in polls to be considered the world’s biggest threat to peace. (Gallup Polling, 2014 – pre-Trump!).
Another thing to note is that the ‘enemy’ of Israel tends to be those countries that are supportive of Palestine. What is notable recently is the silence from many of the Middle Eastern countries, because of the Abraham Accords which normalised relations between UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Sudan, Morocco and Israel. Brokered, of course, by the US.
“I can live happily with a Palestinian state next to mine.”
Great! What have you done to agitate for this to happen and to stand up against and speak out against the inhumanity of what is happening to the Palestinian people? It’s great that you can live happily with a Palestinian state next to your own, but unfortunately, the actions of your own state don’t seem to agree with you (for the many, many reasons stated above).
In the words of Palestinian academic Noura Erakat, “you can stay, you just can’t be our masters.”
What reconciliation do you think needs to happen with the Palestinian people?
“Demonisation by comparison” – or rather an association
I would again reiterate that Netanyahu has been cosying up to such characters as Trump and Orban and further, from history, you can see that there are myriad examples of antisemitism who are pro-Zionist for various reasons. There are those fundamentalist evangelical religious reasons and there are also political bigoted reasons born out of xenophobia and racism. I don’t think you can compare a lifestyle choice with a political ideology in the way that you have.
As for trying to extinguish this view with news that Barack Obama was a Zionist supporter, I couldn’t care less. Barack Obama was a president who could have done a lot more for people than he did. He fundamentally let down the African American community of flint, Michigan when they were being poisoned by racist republican governors, he greatly expanded drone programmes and remote killing and he was the first president in decades to not impose any conditions upon Israel. He was essentially a puppet for Wall Street and big business and so yes, still a huge red flag for me.
As for Mandela, he was considered a terrorist until fairly recently even in America where he has almost saint-like status. He was also a firm supporter of Palestinian Rights famously expressing solidarity with the PLO and stating “we know all too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” He called for Israel to withdraw from all occupied territories and even said “choose peace rather than confrontation. Except in cases where we cannot get, where we cannot proceed, or we cannot move forward. Then if the only alternative is violence, we will use violence.” Is this a call for the destruction of Israel? Or is it a call for Israel to stop oppressing the Palestinian people and occupying land in contravention of international law?
As for the MLK support you speak of, I would argue that he would not stand for what Israel is doing to the people of Palestine. MLK’s support for Zionism and Israel no doubt was attached to his promotion of democracy as the main tool to generate equality and justice for everyone. He said “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist. . . . Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world.” I would argue that he would look at Israel and the occupied territories today and see that there is no democracy for the Palestinian people. The basic law of Israel, the nation-state law passed in 2018, when subjected to legal scrutiny, appears to emphasise the Jewish character of the state as being the primary feature, even above democracy. The intention of this law is to “establish… the values of the state of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” In terms of the interpretation of legislation, the order in which things are expressed is of vital importance. As stated in the HRW report, the nation-state law “in effect affirms the supremacy of the “Jewish” over the “democratic” character of the state.” The law further states in Article 7 that Jewish settlement is something to be encouraged, established and strengthened. In March 2019, Netanyahu stated that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens,” but rather “the nation-state of the Jewish people and only them.” In our opinion, we would think that MLK, someone who was committed to fighting racism and inequality, would have been scathing in his analysis of the situation in Israel and the occupied territories. Not that any of us can know for certain, he’s sadly not with us anymore.
We haven’t chosen these prominent figures as examples for no reason; the association they have with Israel are red flags that should prompt further thought. Who funds Jewish settlements in the West Bank? How much control does Israel have over natural resources such as the water supply in the West Bank? Why does a Russian billionaire have Israeli citizenship? But Palestinian people can’t get citizenship? Who is Elad? And what business do they have in funding settlements in the West Bank? How do they relate to, and interact with the Israeli government?
Elad is a group that is intent on ethnically cleansing areas of the West Bank including Sheikh Jarrah. They are funded by the Clairmont Family Foundation and the Hertog Foundation.
To give an idea of who these ‘investors’ in Elad are, the Clairmont Family Foundation also funds (1) the Centre for Security Policy (which laid the groundwork for Trump’s muslim ban and is an orgnaisaiton funded by weapons manufcaturers, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin) and (2) the Middle East Forum headed by Greg Roman (a former employee of the Israeli Ministry of Defence) which funded the free Tommy Robinson campaign, it was also quoted by the far-right terrorist Andres Brevik after his terrorist attack in Norway 13 times.
The Hertog Foundation, the other ‘investor’ in Elad, also funds the Middle East Forum mentioned above, the Friends of the IDF and the David Horowitz Freedom Centre which employed both Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson. The Friends of the IDF have people on their board who fund Tommy Robinson.
So what they’re doing is funding domestic terrorism within Israel in the form of expanding illegal settlements in the occupied territories and spreading Islamophobia around the globe. Why do you think this is?
It is interesting too that the World Zionist Organisation acts almost as an arm of the Israeli government now, and deals with settlement in the occupied territories. In fact, the settlement division of the WZO operates under secrecy and is fully funded by the Israeli government, however as it is not an official public body, it is not subject to rules and restrictions in the way public bodies are. According to Peace Now, the settlement division “manages the land without any transparency, contrary to the rules of proper administration, without supervision, and sometimes with corruption and fraud.” No mention of organisations such as these in your response.
“If we were treating this podcast as a history lesson”
I’d encourage you not to do so. It’s a podcast episode entitled “Free Palestine.” I’d similarly encourage other people not to treat your response as a history lesson as it, similarly, leaves out plenty of historical facts. People should read about the history of the area and educate themselves about what is going on there. Our episode was putting forward an informed opinion and messages of solidarity with oppressed people. While we provided some history for context, it was not a history lesson. Neither was your response.
Education, education, education!
A final word on education. Education is of vital importance if there is to be any enlightenment out of this cyclical violence in the Middle East. We’ve spoken at length on the podcast about education and specifically the historical education we are provided in our home nations and who controls the syllabus of that education. The education of British history in the UK is mandated to be taught in such a way so as to build patriotism in my opinion. There is very little on Britain’s role in colonialism, we’re taught nothing of British concentration camps in Kenya, were taught that Winston Churchill is only a wartime hero and that there aren’t insidious sides to his beliefs and political views. With regard to slavery, it is thought of as being far away and something that is more to do with “America” than it is the UK. The Tory government was recently interested in quelling any academic teachings that were critical of capitalism. I’m sure that this kind of thing happens in every State, including Israel.
I note that Israel has previously told schools not to teach about the Nakba and have even threatened to pull funding from schools and organisations that do teach it. The ex-Education Minister of Israel, Shai Piron, said that students should be exposed to the Palestinian narrative that sees Israel’s founding as a national tragedy. He said this in 2015. There’s also research conducted in 2013 that shows that teaching the Nakba from the Palestinian perspective does not weaken students’ national identity, whereas the approach taken by the current Israeli government does perpetuate intolerance. Israeli academic Nurit Peled-Elhanan, professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found in her studies of Israeli school books that they contain significant bias. She has said that children in Israel grow up to serve in the army and internalise the message that Palestinians are “people whose life is dispensable with impunity. And not only that but people whose number has to be diminished.” She has studied hundreds of textbooks for her work and advises that she did not find one in which Palestinian people are represented as being “normal.” Her 13-year-old daughter Smadar was killed in 1997 by a Palestinian terrorist attack. In the aftermath, she is quoted as saying “Terrorist attacks like this are the direct consequence of the oppression, slavery, humiliation and state of siege imposed on the Palestinians.” She says that the killing of Palestinians in 1948 is depicted as something that was necessary. She highlights specifically Deir Yassin a Palestinian village where there was a terrible massacre by Israeli forces. In the textbooks, children are taught that this moment initiated the Arab flight from the land and enabled the creation of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority. From her work, looking at the status quo, she can “only see a path to fascism. You have 5.5 million Palestinians controlled by Israel who live in a horrible apartheid with no civil and no human rights. And you have the other half who are Jews who are also losing their rights by the minute [here, she is referring to attempts by the Israeli government to restrict protests and criticism of them].” She has said that “Everything they do, from kindergarten to 12th grade, they are fed in all kinds of ways, through literature and songs and holidays and recreation, with these chauvinistic patriotic notions.” She is also highly critical of the political left and says that there is no real left in Israeli politics. She is of the opinion that the education system in Israel contributes massively to the perpetuation of an unjust, undemocratic and unsustainable state.
This is an important aspect of everything that is going on. Education and who controls the narrative and the curriculum are vital things to question and analyse. We’ve done it on the podcast before with our own education and our own feelings about the socioeconomic and political factors that precipitate within our own countries. We are continuously criticising the UK, Australia and the US; the economic systems of these countries and the extreme inequalities they have there, as well as their complete disregard for the environmental destruction that we face at this very moment in time. As someone born and raised in Israel, who has served in the IDF, are you able to (and have you taken the time to) critically analyse your own education, feelings and identity and hold Israel to account for the crimes that have been committed?
Furthermore, as we’ve always said on the podcast, we are supportive of the democratisation of the economy, of life and believe this is where change will come from. Change will come from the working class, from ordinary people. From the Italian dock workers who refused to load military weapons onboard ships destined for Israel to the civil disobedience that has been used to shut down Elbit systems here in the UK. We stand in solidarity with these activities, with the people who are speaking out in a respectful manner and not remaining silent on this issue and we demand that our governments and the US government end military assistance to Israel.
Thank you so much for listening to the episode. Thank you for taking the time to respond even though we’re sure it is not what you wanted to hear. You have an open invitation to come onto the podcast and put forward your position and also answer the questions we’ve posed here and talk about the details of the HRW and B’Tselem reports.
All the best Josh,
Tom and Stu
P.S. You can listen to our episode here: