Listen to this man
I love Ken O’ Keefe. I love the way he looks. I love the way he sounds, I even love his accent. But most of all I love his courage and his righteous, truthful anger.
But when I hear this I’m nervous.
I’m nervous because, as Ken says what must be said and when he says it how it should be said and when his audience respond properly and appropriately to what is said – I’m nervous
I’m nervous because I know that when the anger gets just too much and when people look to put right those things that must be put right, I know that the people who’ll get hurt won’t only be those Jews who deserve to be hurt, but also those Jews who maybe don’t deserve to be hurt.
So, I’ll say it again. To my fellow Jews: Please, please, please look into the eyes of the other. Look at how you are reflected there and stop before it’s too late.
A talk given in Toronto at The Islamic Society of York, Canada 24.2.12
I was asked to talk to you today about the on-going dispute within our ranks between those who support the One State Solution for the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and those who advocate Two States for the two people.
Interestingly enough, this is a topic I hardly comment on, and not because I am short of vision, opinion or ideas, but rather because I do believe that the fate of the people in Palestine and Israel should be decided by the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. I, for instance, fail to see what qualifies a NYC Jewish academic or activist to determine how people should live in Palestine or anywhere else. Furthermore, I have never seen a Palestinian trying to advise Western solidarity activists how to run their life. I argue then, that our ‘interventionist’ enthusiasm to preach to others on how they should live is actually slightly pretentious.
But the subject is obviously deeper: in spite of the fact Israel is an organic sovereign State — it is already recognised as a one State by the nations, it has a single sewage system, one electric grid, one pre-dial international code – many Western world leaders insist that it should actually be divided into two. But don’t you think that it is pretty unusual for the ‘international community’ to blindly follow the Zionist ideology and draw a racially inspired line between the two people on the land?
So, rather than entering an endless and futile debate here, I propose that we should begin from a point at which we all agree: I presume that we all accept that Israel is currently a one State, yet it is dominated politically and spiritually by an ethnocentric discriminatory political system.
Israel defines itself as the Jewish State and the practical meaning of it is pretty devastating. It is racially driven. Israeli laws favour the Jewish population over the indigenous people of the land. Israel is impervious to universal and ethical thoughts. It is basically set to serve one tribe at the expense of the people of the land.
I would insist that in order to tackle any subject to do with Israel/Palestine conflict resolution we must first understand; what is Israel is all about? Surely, we must ask what the Jewish nature of Israel entails. We should, once and for all, grasp the relationship between Zionism and Jewishness.
Zionism presented itself initially as a Utopian promise to bring to life a new ‘authentic ethical and civilised Jew’; it promised to make Jews into ‘people like all other people’. But the Israeli reality has proved to be the complete opposite of that aspiration. Zionism has totally failed. The Israelis have been proven to be the most unethical collective in the history of the Jews. One may wonder, why, where and when did it all go so wrong? Why did Zionism fail? If Zionism was a unique moment of Jewish reawakening and self-reflection, then why didn’t it provide on its promises? I believe that the answer is devastating. Zionism was doomed from its very beginning, for in spite of its pseudo-secularist agenda, it was entangled with a quasi-religious ideology, and inevitably, it transformed the Bible into a land registry, and turned God into an estate agent. It was the Jewishness of the Jewish State then, that prevailed over the early Zionist utopia. It is the Jewishness in Israel that has lead to ethnic cleansing, segregation, isolation, and ultimately , the resurrection of the European ghetto walls.
In order to contemplate a prospect of a peaceful future then, we must be able to understand the complicated relationship between Jews, Zionism, Israel and Jewishness, and we have to ask whether there is any lucid vision of peace within the Jewish ideological and cultural discourse.
But are we even allowed to ask these questions? I say certainly yes, we must – after all, Israel openly, consciously and even proudly defines itself as the Jewish State. Its air-planes drop bombs on densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods whilst decorated with Jewish symbols. Surely then, we are entitled to ask what Jewishness means and what is its role within the Jewish psyche and spirit.
In my book The Wandering Who I have attempted to untangle this knot. I have tried to understand what is Jewish identity politics all about? I have exposed the continuum between Zionism, Jewish anti-Zionism and some elements within the left. In the book I try to find out, what is the meaning of Jewishness and how is it related to Jewish politics and Jewish political power?
In the last few pages of the book I elaborate on a fictitious peace scenario in which an imaginary Israeli Prime Minister who grasps, pretty much out of the blue, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved with just a single statement.
In a press conference, the imaginary Israel PM announces to the world and his/her people:
‘Israel realises its unique circumstances and its responsibility for world peace. Israel calls the Palestinian people to return to their homes. The Jewish state is to become a state of its citizens, where all people enjoy full equal rights’.
Though shocked by the sudden Israeli move, political analysts around the world would be quick to realise that, considering Israel is the representative of world Jewry, such a simple Israeli peaceful initiative won’t just resolve the conflict in the Middle East, it would also bring to an end to two millennia of mutual suspicion and resentfulness between Christians and Jews. Some right-wing Israeli academics, ideologists and politicians join the revolutionary initiative and declare that such a heroic unilateral Israeli act could be the one and only total and comprehensive fulfilment of the Zionist dream, for not only have Jews returned to their alleged historical home, they also have managed, at last, to love their neighbours and be loved in return.
But don’t hold your breath – as much as such an idea is thrilling, we shouldn’t expect it to happen any time soon, for Israel is not an ordinary state and such a scenario doesn’t fit into its Jewish ethno-centric ideology that is driven by exclusiveness, exceptionalism, racial supremacy and a deep inherent inclination toward segregation.
The meaning of it is very concerning. For Israel and Israelis to fulfil the initial Zionist promise and become ‘people like other people’, all traces of ideological superiority must be suppressed first. For the Jewish state to lead a peace initiative, Israel must be de-Zionised – it should first stop being the Jewish State. Similarly, in order for an imaginary Israeli PM to bring peace about, he or she must be de-Zionised first.
As things stand, the Jewish State is categorically unable to lead its people into reconciliation. It lacks the necessary ingredients needed to think in terms of harmony and reconciliation — at present, Israel can only think in terms of Shalom , a term which, in reality, only means ‘peace and security for the Jews’.
But what about world Jewry; can they push their Israeli brothers towards a reconciliation? I don’t actually think that they can. I recently came across some devastating statistics gathered by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR). The poll studied ‘The attitudes of Jews in Britain towards Israel’. It revealed that “the vast majority of (British Jewish) respondents exhibit strong personal support for, and affinity with, Israel: 95% have visited the country; 90% see it as the “ancestral homeland” of the Jewish people, and 86% feel that Jews have a special responsibility for its survival.”
Though some Jewish ‘progressive’ voices insist to tell us that Diaspora Jews are drifting away from Israel and Zionism, the JPR report reveals the complete opposite – Nine out of ten British Jews feel close affinity towards a war criminal, ethnic cleanser, racist discriminatory state.
But what about the one out of ten Jew who openly opposes Israel? Is he or she going to speak out and help us to get the message of peace across? I am not so sure either. It is more likely that he or she are going to do any thing they can to prevent us from from talking about Jewishness and the fact that 90% of their brothers identify with the Jewish state. Ahead of my Toronto appearance, the organisers of tonight’s event were subject to endless harassment by various Jewish ‘anti’ Zionist organisations and individuals. Like their Zionist brothers most Jewish anti Zionist are largely concerned with Jewish tribal matters– they will fight anti Semitism, ‘Holocaust denial’ or any attempt to understand Jewishness from a universal perspective. Yet, as the JPR poll reveals, they will achieve very little within their respective communities.
But the situation may not be totally grim. I am actually slightly optimistic. For more than a while I am convinced that the only people who can bring peace about are actually the Palestinians, because Palestine, against all odds and in spite of the endless suffering, humiliation and oppression, is still an ethically-driven ecumenical society.
So what do we do for the time being – should we fight for one state or two states? I guess that you gather by now that I am a strong supporter of a one State. I would love to see Israel being transformed into a state of its citizens. I would also openly admit that I do realise that this State won’t be a Jewish State. It will be Palestine. It is about time to say it openly–Israel belongs to the past. And yet, I contend that it is the facts on the ground that would determine the future of the region. And what we see on the ground maybe encouraging.
In spite of the, pain, animosity and distrust between the two people, there is one principle both Israelis and Palestinian would agree upon, namely “Two People, One Hummus”. It may sound frivolous, banal or trivial to say that, but it is actually far more profound than just a culinary suggestion. Israelis are gradually becoming the minority on the land. As I once heard Palestinian Ambassador to Britain Manuel Hassassian commenting, ‘Israel has many lethal bombs, the Palestinians have only one bomb, the demographic one’.
Interestingly enough, when Israelis want to feel authentic, they do not speak in Yiddish or Aramaic, they actually swear in Arabic and eat hummus. The meaning of it is simple, deep in their hearts the Israelis know that Palestine is the land and Israel is just a state. When Israelis want to bond with the Zion they actually plagiarise the indigenous people of the land, for deep inside the Israeli knows that the sky, the sea, Al Quds, Mount Olive, the Sea of Galilee, the Wailing Wall, the Arabic language and the Hummus belong to the land. They also grasp that oppression, exceptionalism, supremacy belong to the State — their own Jewish State.
‘Two People one Hummus’ is my image of peace and reconciliation. The Land will Stay forever – the failing Jewish State is already subject to historical research. The two people will dine together — and they won’t just share the hummus: they may even share the pita bread between them.
Politics is supposed to be “the art of the possible,” the means by which a citizenry debates and discusses the best way to govern itself. This art presupposes a free society where knowledge is respected, debate is rational, dissent is encouraged, and truth is the property of no single interest group. Only in a closed society, like a police state or theocracy, do the opposite conditions prevail.
Much of the reaction on Facebook to my column “Will Canada’s social-democratic party be able to prevent a leadership coup?” reinforces my conviction that Canada now belongs in the latter category. As usual, my detractors resort to insults and misrepresentations to try to discredit me, but they fail to address the substance of my argument. Their inability to find any errors of fact in my writing is a kind of compliment, I suppose, but character assassination, however inept, is still odious and needs to be called out.
It is therefore my dubious honour to introduce to you Michael Laxer, whose inept attack on me typifies our police-state mentality and the bankruptcy of political discourse. Laxer, a self-proclaimed leftist, posted his diatribe on the Facebook page of Sid Ryan, the courageous leader of CUPE Ontario, who in 2006 endorsed the anti-Israel boycott.
In the event that any NDPer found Laxer to be the least bit convincing, or still doubts that Thomas Mulcair represents a threat not only to the NDP but also to Canada allow me to respond. Laxer’s citations from my article and his comments are in italics.
1. “The NDP, therefore, is the only apparently ‘Canadian’ governing choice that voters have, but even this modest fig leaf will be blown away if the blatant Israel-firster Thomas Mulcair becomes party leader.”
They put an emphasis on Canadian??? So as a supporter of Israel (which I am often not) he is now not Canadian? In what sense? Are those who are sympathetic to, say, Vietnam, not Canadian [sic]?
First, Laxer’s claim that he is often not a supporter of Israel is hard to take at face value given that his language throughout reflects the same non-cognitive hysteria one would expect from the most dedicated hasbarat.
Second, Laxer quotes me out of context. The “therefore” in the first line refers to the previous paragraph where I contrast the NDP leadership with those of the other two major parties: “As it stands, the NDP is the only major national party not led by an avowed zionist. Stephen Harper leads a cabal of governing ‘Likudniks,’ who value subservience to Israel above all else, and the interim leader of the ‘Labour-Zionist’ Liberals, Bob Rae, is on the board of the Jewish National Fund, an organization so criminal that it has been condemned in Israel as racist.”
My comment had nothing to do with Mulcair, as Laxer implies.
Third, Laxer engages in misdirection and dissembling. The equation of sympathy for another country is not relevant to the issue of Mulcair’s self-confessed uncritical support for Israel. It is Mulcair’s dual loyalty that I condemned, not innocuous “sympathy.”
2. “How this walking advertisement for sedition found a home in a left-of-centre, social-democratic party is bizarre. The NDP, after all, still cleaves to the quaint notions that the federal government should defend the Constitution, uphold the rule of law, oppose military aggression, stand up for victims of human rights abuses, and generally serve the public good. Such high-minded ethical standards clearly distinguish it from both ‘Likud’ and ‘Labour,’ which are financially and politically indentured to the Israel Lobby.”
So now he is a seditious traitor? Really? And a dupe of the “Israel Lobby”?
Yes and no—“yes” Mulcair is seditious; “no,” he is not a dupe. I never said that. Mulcair gives every indication of being a willing agent of the Israel Lobby, which is why his dual loyalty should disqualify him from running for the leadership. Putting words into my mouth is another zionist tactic that Laxer commits time and again. I guess he couldn’t find any errors in my essay so he had to inject his own. Note, also, that Laxer does not comment on my careful distinction between the NDP and the two Zionist parties.
3. “Outremont has a substantial Jewish population, more than 20%; in the larger Labour riding of Mount Royal just to the south, represented by Israel-firster extraordinaire Irwin Cotler, it is 36%. If the NDP expects to make inroads into Quebec it is logical for it to compete for the Jewish vote, but how far is the NDP prepared to go to mortgage its principles for electoral advantage?”
This is race baiting…plain and simple.
Hardly. I present simple statistics about Montreal’s voter demographics, but Laxer ignores them so that he can accuse me of endorsing something that doesn’t exist. Jews do not constitute a “race.” Israeli professor Shlomo Sand has even shown that the very idea of a “Jewish people” is a manufactured illusion. Laxer is doubtless unaware that the idea of a Jewish “race” was invented in 1873 by Wilhelm Marr, an anti-Jewish German journalist. To denigrate the Jews as a people, Marr had to re-invent them as an ethnic, not a religious, group; hence, he coined the term Semitismus, based on the linguistic term “semitic.” By this linguistic corruption, Marr was able to attack not only Jews but the larger concept of Jewishness.
What Laxer wrote is stupidity, plain and simple.
4. “1) Can Mulcair be trusted to put loyalty to Canada and the NDP ahead of his loyalty to Israel?”
This is a disgusting comment. Beneath contempt. Does anyone really want to pursue its implications and undertones?
Actually, it’s a simple question based on Mulcair’s own words and actions, and it’s implications and undertones must be pursued. The whole point of my original essay was to call NDP members’ attention to Mulcair’s dual loyalty and the threat that he would pose to Canada if elected leader. I’m beginning to think Laxer might also have a dual loyalty to Israel. It would explain his febrile, non-cognitive ranting.
5. “If you answered 1) no; 2) yes; and 3) yes, then you can proudly claim to be a member in good standing of a national, Canadian political party.”
This appeal to nationalism makes me sick. What the fuck are you talking about? Opposing Israel makes you a good “Canadian” and a member in good standing of a “national” party? WTF? A “Canadian” party is what…a party with no Jews? And if you do not agree you are…what exactly? This is anti-semitic nonsense.
Laxer commits a standard zionist deceit: presenting a true statement in a negative light to make it appear false or morally unacceptable. Yes, opposing Israel is what good Canadians have to do. Canada is (theoretically at least) a democracy based on the rule of law; Israel is built on a contempt for humanity and for everything Canada is supposed to stand for. My belief that a Canadian national party should place Canadian law over Israel’s self-interest somehow offends Laxer. I wonder why.
Second, I never said a Canadian party should have no Jews. This is sheer fabrication. Third, invoking the canard of “anti-semitism” (see above) amounts to an admission of defeat.
6. And BTW, the photo comparison in the article is vile and worthy of Julius Striecher [sic] in trying to create a “look”. Really? In this day-and age? To put up a photo whose sole intent seems to be to say he looks like a Jew? Disgusting!
The photo comparison he refers to is here. Let me be clear: whenever I see a picture of Mulcair I instantly think of Avigdor Lieberman, and the equation is entirely valid. After all, Mulcair supports anything Israel does, so he supports Lieberman’s well-known criminality. By the way, I did not “create a look” and certainly did not imply that he “looks like a Jew.”
7. And then the author…
Here you get his anti-semitism in pure form…including putting ‘orthodox’ beards on the faces of politicians to show what ‘Jews’ they really are and his ‘book’ about how Jews are ‘Parasites’ within the ‘host’ of America. As leftists, we should know better!
Based on this passage I could sue Laxer for libel since it is entirely erroneous and malicious, Where he got the idea I put orthodox beards on politicians to turn them into Jews is anyone’s guess. I have never done so and have no idea what he’s talking about. My book does not claim that Jews are parasites preying on the American host. The parasite is the Israel Lobby, which includes Christians as well as Jews, as my cover demonstrates.
By having nothing relevant or rational to say by way of criticism, Michael Laxer ends up reinforcing my depiction of Thomas Mulcair as an Israel apologist whose dual loyalty would bring shame upon the NDP and pose a threat to this country.
If the NDP opposes Stephen Harper’s disgusting servility to Israel, it makes no sense for the NDP to elect its own servant of Israel, regardless of how well some might think he would do against Harper. Canadians need at least one Canadian party to vote for. As I asked last time: “How far is the NDP prepared to go to mortgage its principles for electoral advantage?”
If you are an NDP member planning to vote at the convention, how do you answer for yourself?