Sunday, August 26, 2007

Reclaiming a 'Rights-Based' Position on Israel's Moral Authority to Exist

Judea Pearl demonstrates why it is so important to challenge the calumnies and slanders that are so commonplace in academic and intellectual circles when it comes to Israel. Too often the moderates among us just take these outrageous and offensive comments on the chin. Yet it is vital that we reclaim a 'rights-based' position when it comes to defending Israel, and moreover, move away from our defensive, reactive postures to a more pro-active, assertive stance on Israel's immutable moral right to exist. We need to continually and consistently challenge all those who would deny that very right, and no longer give a pass to those who glibly refer to Israel as an "apartheid regime," Zionism as "an evil force." or any other of the commonplace slurs, demonizations, and deligitimatizations that are regularly hurled at Israel.
See also Dan Diker's piece below, "Why Israel Must Now Move from Concessions-Based Diplomacy to Rights-Based Diplomacy" and Moshe Ya'alon piece in today's L.A. Times.
david brumer


http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/searchview.php?id=18061


"I also noticed that personal indignation has the magic power of shifting the frame of discourse from arguing Israel's policies to the very core of the Middle East conflict -- denying Israel's legitimacy -- an issue where Israel's case is strongest and where Israel's adversaries find themselves in an embarrassing and morally indefensible position."
2007-08-17
You have the right to feel offended
By Judea Pearl
Like many of us, I am on the e-mail lists of friends and colleagues who occasionally call my attention to an article worth reading. So it was that on one of these bright California mornings, I received a message from a colleague with an article and a comment: "Palestinians, with all their suffering under the Israeli apartheid regime, have never been Holocaust deniers." It is, by today's standards, a rather commonplace remark -- one that could have been written by any of my friends from the far left or the Muslim community. I would normally either brush it off with a head shake: "There he goes again, the same old rhetoric," or start an argument on whether the comparison to apartheid South Africa is appropriate. I do not exactly know what it was that morning that compelled me to do neither of the two but resort, instead, to what I normally refuse to do -- take offense. It may have been the recent vote in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, calling for a ban on "religious insults" or it may have been the latest press blitz on the moral ills of Islamophobia. Whatever the cause, somehow an invisible force jolted me into writing my colleague thus: "The word 'apartheid' is offensive to me. In fact, it is very, very offensive. And, since I am not situated on the extreme end of the political spectrum, I venture to suspect that there are others on your e-mail list who were offended by it and who may wish to tell you that this word is not conducive to peace and understanding. It conveys anger, carelessness and a desire to hurt and defame. Hence, it shuts off the ears of the very people you are attempting to reach.

I realized that taking offense is a statement of conscience that shifts attention from the accused to the legitimacy of the accusation. It calls into question the accuser's choice of words, his assumptions, his worldview, as well as his intentions, and, thus, turns the accuser into a defendant, at least for a short moment of reflection.

A few weeks later, a similar incident occurred. This time, harsh anti-Zionist slurs were scattered throughout an essay authored by the sender -- a history professor at an American university. Essentially, the author blamed Zionism for being the evil force that drives Bernard Lewis' "anti-Muslim diatribes. "Emboldened by my previous experience, I sat down and wrote this man -- let's call him Mahmoud -- a message, this time a little longer. I explained that I had found his contempt of Zionism deeply offensive and that given that I consider myself progressive and open-minded, others may share my feeling but were too polite to say so."I hope," I said, "that as a writer who spends pages describing how offensive Orientalism and Islamophobia are to Muslims and Arabs, that you will be able to understand other people's sensitivities and accommodate them in the future." I then went further and explained to Mahmoud that, for me, Zionism is the realization of a millennium-old belief in the right of the Jewish people to a national home in the birthplace of their history, a right that is no less sacred than that of the Palestinians or the Saudis. Additionally, I wrote, it pains me to see my hopes for peace being spat upon. Such hopes require that all sides accept a two-state arrangement as a historically just solution, and anti-Zionist rhetoric, by negating the legitimacy of this solution, acts as an oppressor of peace.

I also noticed that personal indignation has the magic power of shifting the frame of discourse from arguing Israel's policies to the very core of the Middle East conflict -- denying Israel's legitimacy -- an issue where Israel's case is strongest and where Israel's adversaries find themselves in an embarrassing and morally indefensible position.

We, as Jews, have been grossly negligent in permitting the dehumanization of Israel to become socially acceptable in certain circles of society, especially on college campuses. Our silence, natural resilience to insults and general reluctance to confront colleagues and friends have contributed significantly to the Orwellianization of campus vocabulary and the legitimization of the unacceptable. Most of our assailants are even unaware of the shivers that go down our spines with utterances such as "apartheid Israeli regime" or "brutal Israeli occupation."But if we take seriously the moral basis for our right to take offense and exercise that right broadly and consistently, a reverse process of de-Orwellianization will ensue. If instead of avoiding confrontation, swallowing our insults or letting ourselves be dragged into defensive arguments, we simply halt the conversation and assert with honesty and dignity, "Sorry, this is offensive to me," or "This is unacceptable," we will reclaim the respect that our adversaries plan to trample. History and decency have given us that right. If we act on it proudly and resolutely, the word will quickly come around that good company no longer accepts smearing Israel with apartheid or bashing Zionism as a crime.
Judea Pearl gives commencement address at the University of Toronto, June 21
Judea Pearl is a UCLA professor and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation http://www.danielpearl.org. He is a co-editor of "I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl" (Jewish Lights, 2004). © 2006 jewishjournal.com


http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=2&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=375&PID=0&IID=1607&TTL=Why_Israel_Must_Now_Move_from_Concessions-Based_Diplomacy_to_Rights-Based_Diplomacy
Why Israel Must Now Move from Concessions-Based Diplomacy to Rights-Based Diplomacy
Dan Diker

Israel faces a painful paradox. Its generous territorial concessions climaxing in the 2005 Gaza withdrawal have not resulted in greater international support or sympathy, but rather a further deterioration in its international standing. Indeed, the very legitimacy of the Jewish state continues to be questioned in international circles including the West.
Israel unilaterally withdrew its forces from southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip expecting both peace and broad international understanding in the event that these areas would be used to attack Israel in the future. However, the condemnations of Israel only seem to be worsening. On May 15, 2007, Amnesty International condemned Israel for "war crimes" in its previous summer's defensive war against Hizbullah. Britain's University and College Union (UCU), the largest academic organization in the United Kingdom, accused Israel of crimes against humanity and apartheid.
Ironically, mounting criticism of Israel has occurred as Israeli civilians have come under repeated attack from Kassam rockets launched from the post-withdrawal Gaza Strip. The concern in Israel over ever-sharpening anti-Israel sentiment even brought the liberal daily Ha'aretz to conclude in its lead editorial of May 27, 2007, that "Britain has become the battlefield in Israel's fight for existence as a Jewish state, and . . . the anti-Zionist winds blowing in Europe strengthen the position [there] that the birth of the Jewish state was a mistake."

Misinterpreting the Mideast - Moshe Ya'alon

Some believe that "the Occupation" blocks agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. In the West, the term usually means the territories Israel conquered in the Six-Day War in 1967. But the heart of the problem is that many Palestinians -- Fatah and Hamas, in particular -- and even some Israeli Arabs use "Occupation" to refer to all Israel. They do not recognize the Jewish people's right to an independent state, a right affirmed again and again in the international arena.

Before any lasting on-the-ground movement toward peace can be achieved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, foreign emissaries, as well as some Israelis, will have to shake off some long-disproved tenets of the conventional wisdom about the dispute.
There are four main misconceptions that diplomats bring with them to Israel. Primary among them is the idea that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prerequisite for stability in the Mideast. The truth is that the region is riven by clashes that have nothing to do with Israel. For instance, the Jewish state plays no role in the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.
The second misconception is that Israeli territorial concessions are the key to progress. The reality is that Israeli territorial or other concessions simply fill the an ascendant jihadi Islamists' sails, reinforcing their belief that Israel and the West are weak and can be militarily defeated. The Mideast's central conflict is not territorial but ideological. And ideology cannot be defeated by concessions.
Some believe that "the Occupation" blocks agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. In the West, the term usually means the territories Israel conquered in the Six-Day War in 1967. But the heart of the problem is that many Palestinians -- Fatah and Hamas, in particular -- and even some Israeli Arabs use "Occupation" to refer to all Israel. They do not recognize the Jewish people's right to an independent state, a right affirmed again and again in the international arena.
Finally, some believe that the Palestinians want -- and have the ability -- to establish a state that will live in peace alongside Israel. But they are not being clear-eyed. The late Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, established a thugocracy that never improved the basic living conditions of his people. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not take responsibility for Gazans' welfare, which in part led to Hamas' electoral victory in 2006.
Shorn of these mistaken assumptions, the picture in the Middle East is disturbing indeed. So what to do?
For starters, Western governments and their emissaries must refrain from pressuring Israel for territorial or security concessions, which at best produces only short-term gains and emboldens the Islamist terror groups. Instead, they should try to persuade the Palestinian leaders to commit to a long-term strategy premised on educational, political and economic reforms that would lead to the establishment of a civil society that cherishes life, not death; values human rights and freedom; and develops a middle class, not a corrupt, rich elite.
Under no circumstances should emissaries attempt to open a dialogue with Hamas. For the sake of Palestinian society, Hamas and its ideology must be defeated. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the most significant today; it's the battle between jihadist Islam and the West, of which Israel is merely one theater.

1 comment:

John said...

Israel has to point out that 800,000 Jews had to leave the Mideast and North Africa after the 1948 War of independence; that many of them had no interest in Zionism but had to flee to Israel or the West to save their lives; that there are over a million Arabs in Israel today and only a few thousand Jews left in the Arab World; that the relinquishment of settlements and the relinquishment of the Israeli presence in Lebanon has not brought peace; that such words as apartheid and genocide are Owellian in their use when applied to Israel and that Leftists in West are oedipally fixated. They see Israel and the US as being "Daddy" and, of course, they always hate "Daddy."That's more important than any real sense of justice.

The disfunctional, barbaric nature of Arab/Persian society doesn't seem to affect their perceptions. Arab society is sick and produces mainly spiritual, material and intellectual poverty, which is not taken responsibility for. Instead Arabs blame the West and Israel for most of their problems. And the Western Left helps them do it.