Long marginalised in Israel by an ascendant nationalist right, the so-called “Zionist Left” has retained significant moral and intellectual influence abroad. Author Amos Oz, who died aged 79 on 28 December, was perhaps the best-known embodiment of this political current and was widely revered internationally – as The New Yorker put it in 2004 – as “the godfather of Israeli peaceniks”.
Yet this image of the liberal artist or prophet, aided in no small part by political shifts in Israel that mean even mild critics are now denounced as “traitors,” is in stark contrast to Oz’s views on events past and present, and in particular on what Zionism has meant for the Palestinians. Read more
Israeli newspaper Haaretz this week published minutes of a secret meeting between then-Israeli premier Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres, who was head of the opposition at the time. The discussions took place on 31 August 1978, ahead of Begin’s talks with Egypt’s leader Anwar Sadat at Camp David, the US presidential retreat.
For Haaretz, the minutes “lay bare the hawk that peacemaker Peres once was”. In fact, the document gives a valuable insight into what shaped Peres’s world view to the very end: settler colonial racism. Read more
The Guardian published a review last week by Nick Cohen of a new book called The Left’s Problem with Jews. Cohen’s review was predictable enough, and the book itself, written by Dave Rich of The Community Security Trust, is not the focus of this op-ed.
Instead, I want to draw attention to a short excerpt from Cohen’s review, which is instructive in what it illuminates about the current debate on anti-Semitism and the Left, as well as broader questions about Zionism, anti-Zionism, and the Palestinians’ ongoing struggle for self-determination. Read more
On 18 August, a group of Israeli NGOs petitioned the country’s Supreme Court over the role of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in government decision-making regarding land usage.
The JNF was established in 1901 to obtain land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. Subsequently, the JNF was incorporated into the Israeli state’s land administration bureaucracy, while still remaining a private organisation. It holds some 13 percent of the land inside Israel’s pre-1967 lines. Read more
The so-called ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’ is not an ancient, tribal conflict, or millennia-old grudge match. Nor, as some propose, is it a tragic clash of competing nationalisms, or a cycle fuelled by religious extremism. The Zionist political project in Palestine has been, and is, a form of settler colonialism. Understanding it as such is important for three reasons. Read more
“[Israeli] settlement activity…is corrosive to the cause of peace,” the statement began, describing Israel’s recent steps as merely “the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution”.
Settlement construction and the demolition of Palestinian homes, it went on, “is part of an ongoing process of land seizures, settlement expansion, legalisations of outposts, and denial of Palestinian development that risk entrenching a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict”. Read more
The late Australian scholar Patrick Wolfe famously said of settler colonialism that “invasion is a structure not an event”.
These are words worth remembering, in this three-week period between Nakba Day and Naksa Day, which mark respectively Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947 to 1949, and the beginning of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip on June 5, 1967.
Anniversaries are important, but they can also mislead: the Nakba began long before the formal establishment of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948, and it has continued ever since. Read more
Etgar Keret, according to some, is “the most loved and widely read Israeli writer working today.” Hailed as “one of the most prominent Israeli writers on the international literary scene”, Keret has recently published a memoir, his first non-fiction book following five short story collections.
To mark its release, Keret is doing the media rounds, where a recurring theme has been, in the words of The Guardian, “the difficulties faced by the Israeli left.” In fact, the real ‘difficulties’ faced by the so-called Israeli left are all self-inflicted – as Keret himself ably demonstrates. Read more
In his speech to AIPAC last year, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu referred 18 times to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. A year on, and it is clear that for Bibi, BDS is the new public enemy number one. Denounced as an antisemitic “strategic threat,” the Palestinian-led, global campaign to pressure Israel into ending systematic rights violations is now very much in Tel Aviv’s cross-hairs.
Ironically, it is during Netanyahu’s time in office that BDS has made considerable headway. His ambiguity over Palestinian statehood (in public, veering between rejection and unreliable endorsement) is exacerbated by the unambiguous views of his hard-right ministers and coalition partners. Then there was the unprecedented bombardment of Gaza, also under Bibi’s watch, and a slew of anti-democratic, hyper-nationalist legislative initiatives. Read more