Posts Tagged ‘East-West Divan Orchestra’

Norman Finkelstein and Elizabeth Baltzer on Young American Jews Rejecting Zionism: Part 2

May 27, 2016

Finkelstein and Baltzer also differ on whether the solution to the problem of Palestinian emancipation is the two state solution, articulated by the UN, or a dismantling of the mechanism of the systematic persecution of the Palestinians, so that they become part of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Israel, such as occurred in South Africa after the fall of apartheid. Baltzer favours the single state, post-Apartheid solution. Finkelstein supports the two state solution.

Finkelstein notes that the creation of a separate Palestinian state following the borders of the pre-1967 settlement is the solution favoured by the United Nations and international law. He argues that you may not like it, but you have to abide by it. He states that this would involve an exchange of about just over 1 per cent of land between Israel and the new Palestine. This would allow the Israelis to retain about 60 per cent of the settlements in the West Bank. He also describes how crestfallen Tzipi Livni, the Israeli minister in charge of this question, was when she was confronted by the Palestinians who proposed it. She seemed particularly dismayed looking at the maps they had produced, because, says Finkelstein, she found them convincing and didn’t know how to argue against the proposal. So she tried picking on some of the details. She would say, ‘What about that town?’, to which the Palestinians replied, ‘We know about that. You can build a bridge.’ ‘What about that village?’ ‘We know about that too. You can build a road here that’ll take you past it’.

He also disagreed with following the model of post-apartheid South Africa, because of the way the apartheid state had founded the Bantustans – special statelets for the indigenous tribes, which were officially recognised by the UN, despite the fact that they were part of the infrastructure of the apartheid ideology of ‘separate development’. I think Dr Finkelstein could be rather confused here, as this would seem instead closer to the idea of the two state solution.

Finkelstein also has some trenchant criticisms of the leadership of the mainstream American Jewish organisations, particularly J-Street. He says quite openly, ‘Their leadership is horrible. No, it really is. They think Tzipi Livni, who laughed about the conflict in Gaza, is a liberal’. This is a slight paraphrase, but it’s more or less what he said. He felt, however, that J Street’s grassroots membership were quite different, and said that they could reach out to 2/3 of them and win them over into a third party supporting the Palestinians.

Baltzer also said that the growing movement for the liberation of the Palestinians was diverse, and should include everyone. Finkelstein said that it shouldn’t, so she corrected herself, and said that racists weren’t welcome. It should be obvious, but unfortunately it does need to be said. There are real anti-Semites and Nazis, who attempt to gain a specious legitimacy by passing off their comments and stance as mere anti-Zionism. They shouldn’t be allowed entry into a genuinely anti-racist movement.

They also disagreed on the nature, extent and goals of the BDS movement. Both support it, but Finkelstein believes that the movement’s successes are about getting firms and individuals to sever links to the occupied territories, rather than about Israel generally. He also makes the point that their Zionist opponents were celebrating the fact that Daniel Barenboim, the Israeli conductor and founder of the East-West Divan Orchestra, had been refused entry to Qatar because he was a ‘Zionist’. Hence Finkelstein’s opposition to the use of the term.

At times the discussion got quite heated. Finkelstein himself made the point that no-one should go away from the event thinking that he and Baltzer were not friends, as they were, and he had immense admiration for her. After the talk had formally ended, and the three are packing up to leave the podium, Finkelstein turns and offers his hand to Baltzer. He can be heard saying, ‘I’ve got to offer my hand to you, otherwise people will go away thinking we’re enemies’.

It’s natural that on such a profound and emotive topic there should also be profound differences of opinion. Nevertheless, both sides of this debate need to be heard. Baltzer’s idea for a single state solution is shared by Ilan Pappe, while Finkelstein’s preferred solution is that of the UN and associated international bodies. What the reality will be, remains for the Palestinians and the Israelis to decide.

And there are also young Israelis, who are impatient with their nation’s failure to find a lasting, just peace with the Palestinians. Over a decade ago the Independent reported a series of protests held jointly by Israelis and Palestinians against the Israeli government and Palestinian authority. This took the form of ‘tea and cake’ parties. The participants issued a call for the British to come and take over the country’s government, as their own peoples were making such a terrible hash of it. And they chose tea and cake as the typical British meal to symbolise this.

Of course, they didn’t really want us back. It’s partly due to our misgovernment of the country and its seizure through the Mandate that Israel and much of the Middle East is in the terrible state it is. But it was heartening to see young Israelis and Palestinians meeting in peace and friendship, to demand a lasting people against the intransigence and incompetence of the politicos.

I have absolutely no doubt that one of the reasons why the Israel lobby – BICOM, the Labour Friends of Israel, and the other associated groups in Britain, and AIPAC in America – are actively trying to conflate Jewish identity with Zionism and criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is because they are acutely aware that that neither are necessarily the case. But they need them to be in order to deflect any and all criticism of the way Israel treats its indigenous people. I therefore believe that as time goes on and support for the Palestinians increases, more people are going to be accused of anti-Semitism, and more Jews attacked for being self-hating, even when they obviously aren’t. Miriam Margolies, the great British thesp, was one of those of who joined the criticism of Israel during the bombardment of Gaza. She described herself as ‘a proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. Baltzer and Finkelstein in this debate remind us how many others like her there are, often severely normal people, who are horrified at a gross violation of human rights. It ain’t just celebrities and actors.