Friday, October 31, 2014

A Conversation with Jon Haber of Divestthis!

Divest This Logo New 300x80Jon Haber, of the influential and interesting Divestthis! blog and I have agreed to a public discussion around the question of the western-left relationship to the Jewish State of Israel.

Neither one of us, needless to say, know where this conversation might take us and we'll see just where our differences lie, but first we need to hash out the exact wording of the question.

This is the way Jon introduces the discussion:
Finally, a few weeks back I had an exchange with long-time reader and Times of Israel blogger Mike Lumish (who blogs at his own site) about how we could model some of the meaningful debate that is so lacking whenever the BDSniks show up to spout their accusations and then fly the coop whenever their prejudices are challenged with things like truth and logic. 
One of the areas that tend to create controversy within the community of Israel’s supporters is the Left/Right divide with regard to attitudes towards the Jewish state as well as the broader Middle East conflict(s).  And rather than avoid or paper over that issue, Mike and I are going to hash it out over the next several weeks in periodic exchanges that will take place on each of our sites (both articles and comments).
My bet is that when it comes down to "brass tacks" - as they used to say - Jon and I are considerably more in agreement than we are in disagreement, but we shall see.

What I want to do first is decide upon a proper framing of the question.

One possibility is this:
Has the western left, in its general approach to the Arab-Israel conflict in comparison to other conflicts around the world, remained true to its fundamental values of ‘social justice’ and ‘universal human rights’?
I obviously think that it has not.

In any case, this is a potential starting point.

Check here and there for developments in the coming days and weeks.


  1. It's a wild assumption and one that's misplaced to state [it's] fundamental values [are] of ‘social justice’ and ‘universal human rights’. And even if that's somewhat true you first have to get rid of the communist left, the Marxist left, the anarchist left, the Muslim left, and all the other lefts which as foundational elements in their belief systems endorse and embrace Jew hatred as well as genocide, the destruction of modern civilizations and the 'west' itself. Make no mistake, it's not only the Noam Chomskys of the world who literally want to sit atop a heap of bloody skulls. They in no way and say they don't, embrace any notion of social justice any more than did, say Pol Pot or Stalin.

    1. Perhaps, Trudy, but wouldn't you say that, at least in the American context, the progressive movement, as it was derived from abolitionism, through 19th century progressivism, into the New Deal and the movement for Civil Rights in the middle of the 20th century, was grounded in ideals of social justice and universal human rights?

      Would not social democratic liberals of the type that inhabit the Democratic Party see themselves as standing up for social justice and universal human rights within a political tradition that emphasized such values?

    2. Only if you also include all the 'Rockefeller Republicans' and Jon Huntsman Republican types as well. Let's not forget that Martin Luther King was a Republican and Hillary Clinton was a Goldwater Girl.

  2. Note that today Soda Stream is closing their factory in Yesha. BDStards will claim this as a victory. Soda Stream is opening another larger factory in Israel. 450 'palestinian' Arabs just lost their jobs.

    1. One thing that I think that we agree upon is that the pro-Palestinian movement has virtually nothing to do with promoting Palestinian-Arab well-being.

  3. Funny thing here.. I find myself agreeing with you Mike on both of your comments, and I would say that the answer to your "question" (framed as it is) is "No it has not, particularly with regards to it's paternalistic treatment of every other culture outside of the Euro-American Left.

    That said, while we agree on that question, there are other questions that arise which involves the fact that the Western Left does not exist in a vacuum and that to only discuss the Left's involvement opens the door to One sided analysis... Which in general is not helpful UNLESS you are trying to "demonize"one side or the other.

    1. Hey VB,

      I do not know how things will develop with this discussion with Jon Haber - and if it works out the way that I hope it will, it will be a long, slow, meandering conversation and I very much hope that you will join in it.

      My suspicion is that the pace will be a tad slower than the gunslinging on places like dkos.

      I just want an honest conversation among the small Jewish minority - left, right, and center - concerning developing threats.

      And I very much want you to know that I respect your intentions and your steadfastness for the Jewish people.

  4. The meaning of the terms have evolved in Orwellian fashion, which allows for both a negative and positive reply to the questions, so it's a place where the sides can argue theories.

    The Left is trapped in identity politics and has lost much of its moral compass. Even Clinton mentioned how destructive it is to continue along this path.

    I think people like Matti Friedman and Ali Salem are also worth considering.

    Friedman's article at Tablet is perhaps the best of the year. What he says about reporters also applies to academia and social activists, among others, who generally populate the Left.

    "[R}eporters generally cannot see the Israel story in relation to anything else. Instead of describing Israel as one of the villages abutting the volcano, they describe Israel as the volcano.

    The Israel story is framed to seem as if it has nothing to do with events nearby because the “Israel” of international journalism does not exist in the same geo-political universe as Iraq, Syria, or Egypt. The Israel story is not a story about current events. It is about something else.


    Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.

    When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.


    1. Salem says:

      Many of my fellow Muslims are trying to reform Islam from within. Yet our voices are smothered in the West by Islamist apologists and their well-meaning but unwitting allies on the Left. For instance, if you try to draw attention to the stark correlation between the rise of Islamic religiosity and regressive attitudes towards women, you’re labelled an Islamophobe.

      In America, other contemporary ideologies are routinely and openly debated in classrooms, newspapers, on talk shows and in living rooms. But Americans make an exception for Islamism. Criticism of the religion — even in abstraction — is conflated with bigotry towards Muslims. There is no public discourse, much less an ideological response, to Islamism, in academia or on Capitol Hill. This trend is creating an intellectual vacuum, where poisonous ideas are allowed to propagate unchecked.

      My own experience as a Muslim in New York bears this out. Socially progressive, self-proclaimed liberals, who would denounce even the slightest injustice committed against women or minorities in America, are appalled when I express a similar criticism about my own community.

      Compare the collective response after each harrowing high-school shooting in America. Intellectuals and public figures look for the root cause of the violence and ask: Why? Yet when I ask why after every terrorist attack, the disapproval I get from my non-Muslim peers is visceral: The majority of Muslims are not violent, they insist, the jihadists are a minority who don’t represent Islam, and I am fearmongering by even wondering aloud.

      The Wall Street Journal, October 26, 2014

      Perhaps more on the Left will start to see they mistake the true adversaries to their stated principles. It is hard harder, however when the top Democrat tolerates an environment where Israel's leader is impugned and Israel disparaged, opening the door for the more radical elements to come forward or harden their views.

      To point out these failures is not demonizing, just as to criticize Islamic behavior is not Islamophobia.