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We all know about Israel bashing, demonization of Israel and anti-Semitism. Those are sad facts of life and part of free speech, democracy and pluralism. Organizations like PSM can lobby for boycotts of Israel, Jimmy Carter can compare Israel to South Africa, and Mr. Ahmadinejad can hold Holocaust denial conferences in Iran. Of course, Zionists and Jewish organizations can usually have their say in defending Israel too. That's also part of free speech.

However, the Israel bashing game has apparently become so fashionable that even supposedly Zionist organizations participate. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency tells us about a controversy over "Tough Love" for Israel.

"Breaking the Silence" is a group of former IDF officers who assembled a rather one-sided photographic exhibit of IDF human rights violations in the occupied territories. When it was shown in Israel, it was certainly part of legitimate debate and perhaps provided a needed wakeup call to the Israeli government and the IDF. But Breaking the Silence apparently isn't interested in reforming the IDF or improving human rights conditions. They made their exhibit the centerpiece of an anti-Zionist campaign, going on tour in Europe and the United States. Who would sponsor such a tour? Perhaps Palestine Solidarity Movement or International Solidarity Movement, you might think.

If that is what you thought, you would be mistaken. In the USA, Breaking the Silence is apparently sponsored by the Union of Progressive Zionists and Hillel!! Ameinu, which means "our nation" - let's remember that, has this to say about the tour:

Their insight recalls a statement by the black South African poet Dennis Brutus. When he was in prison under apartheid, a jailer said to him, "The African National Congress will never win, you know why--because the U.S. is on our side." ...The Israelis have placed a similar wager on our endless support for their injustices. They have been enabled so far by a stiffnecked, fearful and obedient Jewish leadership here. (source: http: //www. ameinu.net/news/newsarticles.php?newsid=117 )

No, that is not taken from Electronic Intifada, or Mr. Carter's book. Believe it or not, this article that refers to "the Israelis" as an alien and separate people, was published by a "Zionist" group. That is what the "fearful and obedient" Jewish leaders of Ameinu choose to publish at their Web site! What do they fear, and to whom are they obedient? That is how the Breaking the Silence material is being used - to support the odious comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa. Ameinu dissociates itself from Israel and "their" injustices.

While we each may have different opinions about what Israeli policy ought to be, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa, and sponsoring a one-sided exhibit, goes beyond the confines of Zionist debate.

Ameinu calls itself a Labor Zionist movement, and UPZ insists it is Zionist as well, and it is sponsored by Labor Zionist groups. I am a Labor Zionist. I have always been a Labor Zionist. I cannot understand how a Zionist organization could write in that way about Israel, or support a campaign to delegitimize Israel. We may want to end the occupation. We may find fault with the IDF. But do we want to end Israel? Do Ameinu, Hillel and UPZ really believe that Israel is like South Africa? If so, why should they complain when the UN passes resolution after resolution condemning Israel? And why should they be angry when right wing Zionists call them "leftist traitors?"

If you think this is wrong, you can comment to Mr. Jamie Levin at executive(@)ameinu.net (take out the parentheses).

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000313.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 10 Comments

I wrote about the RHR/BtS tour here and here and here.

Note the response of Bassam Eid. I would be curious to know what you all think of him.

I think all this bowing and scraping is an indulgence of self-righteousness, at the expense of real people's lives. Both Israeli and Palestinian. It doesn't help the Palestinians to condone or ignore the visciousness of their leaders, by constantly beating up Israel for not being perfect while giving the Arab bloc and its European fans a slap on the wrist.

I hear this defended as "We are being righteous by criticizing our own first, and/or more than those who are not us."
I find this pernicious. Are we not to pursue justice? Doesn't Torah teach us to mete out judgment without regard to social standing or wealth? Where on earth does anyone get the idea that it is moral to have different standards for your own and others?

And they don't even follow this precept. It's okay for others to hold mass demonstrations about the US and Israel, but not criticize their own governments. I never hear these activists instruct Europeans to leave the US alone and instead hold rallies criticizing Blair, Chirac, Mubarak, etc. They may mention criticzing other leaders out of the corners of their mouths, but they LOVE it when people around the world criticize us.

And of course they do this out of "love" for Israel. If you treat your loved ones worse than your enemies, if you never give your loved ones the benefit of the doubt while excusing their enemies, then I would hate to be in a relationship with you.

The whole pose falls apart when you look at it for 5 minutes.

Yehudit, Saturday, December 23rd

First Clare, Arabs CAN attend and DO attend the Ariel collage http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3179514,00.html

Second I did include the Palestinians of the territories, they have the right to appeal to our Supreme Court, and nothing prevents them from suing Israelis on civilian or criminal matters. Palestinians from the territories receive medical services in Israel and welfare benefits from our government. More then once broke out a story about terror activists who committed heinous crimes but received a regular allowance from our government, paid for by our taxes, including those of the people they slaughtered. And Palestinians from the territories have access to our media, and take part in our public debates.
Do you know how absurd is your comparison of my examples with those apartheid petty enforcers? Are Arab elected officials more vicious to their fellow Arabs then Jewish elected official? Are Arab voters more vicious? (And what happened to keeping the accusation outside the green line?)
As for Michael Ben Yair statement: I have found no other mention of it other then Carter’s claim. Since his entire book is grossly inaccurate, I wont be surprised if this is something that was taken out of context. Ben Yair quite possibly wanted to bring attention to the differences between the civilian legal system and the military one, which Palestinian in the territories are subjected to. But this exist because the war exist, the Oslo process transferred the Palestinians from an Israeli Military legal system to a Palestinian civilian legal system, but when Arafat resumed warfare and mass murder activities this process reversed. When tension exists between our two legal systems it’s the civilian one that gets to override the military one, unless these are cases of immediate threats to ordinary Israelis.
Either way, Ben Yair proves what I told Greg - that over ritualizing the discussion of Israel’s faults, (by powerful words like apartheid), makes people lose the ability to separate between criticism and dehumanization. And now Ben Yair’s words are used to deny us any form of self-defense. Ironically, he helped a lot to improve that situation. And that is another key critical difference between the situation in the territories and apartheid SA. Apartheid SA persecuted those who wanted to improve things, harassed them, jailed them, murdered many and exiled others. For the situation in the territories to be similar to apartheid SA, our military will needs the means to persecute critics also inside Israel proper, and Ben Yair would have been either jailed, exiled or dead. Our military is not doing this even to critics inside the territories, which is why there are a lot of PSM demonstrations there, hundreds of press and cameras, and loads of injunctions and appeals on every activity the IDF does.

dvar dea, Saturday, December 23rd

"“The continued resolve of the U.S. and Canadian administrations and the North American Jewish community to hold Israel – and its advocates – to the values of democracy, social justice and pluralism” "

How about holding Arab nations and the nascent Palestine to "to the values of democracy, social justice and pluralism”? And if not, why do they get a free pass? Is it because they are the inscrutable "Other," who we must accept as is, or be accused of racism?

So they get to do anything they want, no matter how depraved, because any criticism of them is racist. (Thus leaving their brave dissidents in the lurch. But Israel and Jews and America and the West must be perfect, and continually be criticized for not living up to the highest ideals of whatever all the time. And those "ideals" leave no moral reason to fight back (some of us think that fighting back when attacked IS moral and that a people does not live up to its ideals if it lets itself be used and abused and lied about).

Lest you think my characterization is a caricature, check out this thread.

Sounds to me like a deliberately stacked deck. My question to Dan and friends - is that how you behave in your personal relationships? Like a masochist?

Yehudit, Saturday, December 23rd

Dvar Dea -- it's all very well to talk about Israeli politics inside the Green Line as if the territories don't exist, and you even invoked them by bringing up Ariel college, which Palestinians from the territories cannot attend. listing the places where Arabs are intergrated into Israeli society is like claiming the South African apartheid regime was not racist because it had black policemen, some of whom were more vicious to blacks in the townships than white policemen (read: Druze).

Carter’s apartheid claim is backed up by a former Israeli attorney general, Michael Ben Yeir, who served in the position from 1993 to 1996. In 2002, Ben Yair said that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands after 1967:

“was the product of our choice. We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, [and] engaging in theft. … We developed two judicial systems: one progressive, liberal — in Israel and the other — cruel, injurious — in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime. … This oppressive regime exists to this day.”

claire, Saturday, December 23rd

Daniel Sieradski, the plain fact is that your comment is outer patronizing nonsense.
Here are some of the differences between Israel and apartheid SA.
Israel is one person one vote democracy, equal say in government and law for Jews and Arabs, there are Arab political parties, Arabs members of Zionist parties, such as Meretz, Labor, Kadima and Lickud. The general director of the ministry of interior, the most powerful ministry in government, is an Arab, and until recently in the Supreme Court there was an Arab judge. Medical and welfare services are equal to all including non-citizens, such as foreign laborers and residents of the territories. The right to appeal to the Supreme Court is similar, and we don’t have the death penalty. There are minorities in all our universities, including Bar-Ilan and its extension in the territories, the Ariel Collage. In Haifa University 40% are Arabs, twice the share in the general population.
The ANC sought non-violence in the greater part of its existence, the PLO and its predecessors turned to violence from the very beginning, held on to it and choose the most brutal one available.
It is not idealistic heaven, but it is no way near the monstrosity of apartheid SA

dvar dea, Saturday, December 23rd

I find your first statement, “I find that often times Jewish youth are often told that the only way to support Israel is to support everything Israel does”, somewhat unlikely. Since the very beginning of Zionism, the political diversity of Zionism and that of Israel echoed in the Diaspora. I recall here in Israel meeting American Jews who were far left anti Zionists and far right Cahanne sympathizers. I recall discussions with my American relatives about Israeli politics, where they showed a great deal of knowledge, interest, and disagreements on various issues. However, I’m not there at your place, so you should know better about what is taking place there, still, my own old, second hand experiences are different.
As for the defining line between UPZ and anti Zionism, it is very important and I hope it gets the same weight in your activities as the defining line between UPZ and the Israeli right wing.
In my opinion, people comparing Israel to apartheid, nazism and the like should have their heart and conscience examine, not their heads. Such accusations are false and dehumanizing, by targeting any form of expression, sovereignty and self-defense, they are in fact anti-Semitic, because they are denying us life and liberty.

I followed your links and I do have some reservations: regarding the AMINU site http://www.ameinu.net/ it seems that AMINU includes a spectrum of views between the more left wing oriented views of Mairav Zonszein and the security aware center left oriented views of Elihau Davison. This spectrum represents the healthy contribution of the left and liberalism to modern society by discussing, confronting and amending the various faults of western societies. However, Zonszein approach tent to ritualize the dealings with Israel’s faults, instead of facing the whole complex reality, where there is plenty of blame to go around. When ritualizing takes place, perspective is lost and with it the ability to distinguish between criticism and dehumanization. That is why the defining line between UPZ and anti Zionism is important, it is not a matter of loyalty to the Jewish people; it’s a matter of awareness.

Your UPZ declaration of principles suggests that that awareness is lacking.
A just peace? Have you ever fully thought on that? Whose justice, theirs, ours? This conflict is so long, because each side is convinced its cause is just. Justice is subjective, peace – objective, for peace each side will have to compromise on what it believes is justifiably theirs. Justice and peace are great causes but they don’t fit together.
Economic occupation? What is that? Do you have any idea how complex the economic relationships between the 2 sides are?
And then there is the last part, and it is bad, vary bad.
“The continued resolve of the U.S. and Canadian administrations and the North American Jewish community to hold Israel – and its advocates – to the values of democracy, social justice and pluralism”
Shouldn’t Israeli citizens like myself hold our government account for the values of democracy?
What are you? A linchpin that holds together the U.S. and Canadian governments in the direction of pressuring Israel, over our heads and against our concerns? We are the ones living with terrorism as well as the most affected when our government losses democratic values.
“- and its advocates -”? interesting how it is put between 2 separating lines. Does UPZ includes itself among these advocates or distinguish itself from them?

dvar dea, Friday, December 22nd

While we each may have different opinions about what Israeli policy ought to be, comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa, and sponsoring a one-sided exhibit, goes beyond the confines of Zionist debate.

I couldn't disagree more.

The plain fact of the matter is that Israel's present policies towards the Palestinians is not too different from the policies of South African apartheid (and I can give you a line by line comparison of Israeli laws and South African apartheid laws in order to prove this point).

To engage in a discussion along those lines can obviously be viewed by Zionists as an attempt to delegitimize Israel. However it can also be viewed as a 'canary in the coal mine' call for immediate attention and action on this issue.

If you love and support Israel, and you see Israel engaging in practices that are not representative of your Zionist principles, it is totally legitimate to disassociate yourself from those actions and refer to the proponents of those policies as "the other." (Mort Klein, the king of staunch Right-wing American Zionists, constantly referred to Israel as "the other" while campaigning against the Gaza disengagement.)

In that, Zionism has never been about maintaining a rank-and-file consensus. Mapai and the Revisionists used to duke it out with, not only words, but fisticuffs. Before the founding of the State, there was even a large contingent of Zionists who opposed sovereign statehood. No one questioned their Zionism.

Rather, the entire Zionist movement has moved to the Right and embraced Right-wing demagoguery as a means to silence dissent within the movement. Your remarks are only indicator of this rather evident state.

Finally, as per "one sided" -- take a look at the list of available speakers on the ICC website. How many speakers on that list can you identify that provide balanced, unbiased opinions and perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Caroline Glick and Daniel Pipes are neutral sources?

No one is up-in-arms over Right-wingers receiving funds to provide fanatic one-sided views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to college students. Yet the first and only time the lone progressive Zionist group in the coalition promotes a controversial program (and I say lone because I do not view even the Reform movement to be sufficiently progressive on Israel), everyone's heads explode.

It's an unjust double standard and it belies your claim to be a progressive Zionist, as the banner of this website suggests.

Daniel Sieradski, Friday, December 22nd

I find that often times Jewish youth are often told that the only way to support Israel is to support everything Israel does. We don't here about the debates that go on in the Israeli media. Most Jewish youth know very little about the Palestinian side of the story. For me the defining line between UPZ and anti-zionists is quite simple, UPZ's mission statement clearly supports Israel's right to existhttp://www.upzshalom.org/aboutus.htmif if an organization does not clearly support Israel's right to exist then I would never support it. I would also never support an organization that supports an academic or cultural boycott of Israelis or that supports divestment, even so called "selective divestment". There are quite Palestinian arguments that I disagree with. The occupation is not the root cause of the conflict, the barrier was not built because Israel felt like grabbing land but because Israeli's were sick and tired of terrorist attacks and were desperate for something to stop them. Zionism is not a racist or a colonial ideology. I believe that Israel is often unfairly criticized for its actions while nations like Russia, Sudan, and even the U.S. do much worse. I don't think every action Israel does to defend itself is a war crime, though I believe Israel resorts to violence far too often in trying to bring itself security. I believe that a person who thinks what Israel does is equivalent to that of the Nazis should get their head checked. The Palestinian population has done nothing but grow every since the Zionists arrived so no genocide is taking place. I am also appalled by the apartheid analogy. There are some similarities but it is a completely different situation from South Africa. The apartheid quote Ami used was taken out of context and I recommend you go to the Ameinu website so you can read the whole article.

Greg, Thursday, December 21st

Just a few clarifications Greg - If you may, please?

You’ve said: “Jewish youth are fed a load of crap about how Israel is wonderful and can do know wrong” can you elaborate on that please, especially that word ‘crap’? I’m asking this because I’ve seen this exact phrasing in anti Zionist material and commentary.
Where is the defining line between the group you defend and anti Zionists?
Is every action Israel takes to defend its citizens is automatically a war crime?
Where you stand about the comparisons between Israel, Nazism, apartheid and the like, which are so common in anti Zionists literature?
What do you know about the security barrier that had successfully reduced the success of terrorist mass murder attacks on Israeli civilians, by 80% to 90%?
And finally, what about criticism of the Palestinian side, its use of violence, it’s education for intolerance, are there any pro Palestinian arguments you view as ‘crap’?

dvar dea, Thursday, December 21st

As a person who attended the Union of Progressive Zionists Annual Conference(UPZ) and also attended Birthright with their former executive director, I believe you have a very inaccurate perception of UPZ. Unlike in Israel, there is no debate over Israeli government policies in the U.S. Jewish community. Jewish youth are fed a load of crap about how Israel is wonderful and can do know wrong. They then get to college learn that Israel is not perfect, and become anti-Zionists. UPZ allows Jewish students who feel torn between the support Israel no matter what mantra that emanates from the mainstream American Jewish community and the anti-Zionism that has infected much of the progressive left wing movement on college campuses a chance to express ourselves and advocate a progressive pro-Israel stance on college campuses. Furthermore, UPZ has shown that you can still be a Zionist and not support everything the Israeli government does. On a final note many members of Breaking the Silence are alumni of Hanoar Haoved (which for those not aware is the sister organization of Habonim Dror in Israel), they are not looking to make Israel look bad but to make it better.

Greg, Thursday, December 21st

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