Tuesday, September 17, 2013

J Street can reason. The Anti-Defamation League merely emotes

Whatever the merits of Ian Lustick's argument in last Sunday's Times that the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine is all but dead and that it's time to start imagining long-term alternatives, letters in response from two Zionist organizations, the Anti-Defamation League and J Street, form an instructive contrast.  The letter from the ADL's Kenneth Jacobson is an emotional diatribe.  The justice and need for a Jewish state is assumed rather than demonstrated. Lustick has violated a taboo merely by raising the prospect of a single state in which Jews are neither a majority nor a ruling class:
Anyone who cares about the Jewish people and takes into account both the wonderful aspects as well as the immense tragedies of Jewish history must shudder at Mr. Lustick’s willingness to dismiss the existence of the first independent Jewish state in 2,000 years. His argument about what will ensue after the abandonment of the goal of two states is a fancy version of a one-state solution that ends the concept of Jewish self-determination.

The founding of the modern state of Israel is a profound historical development. Its safety and survival must be nurtured and protected...
That's a catechism, nothing more.

The rebuttal by J Street's Alan Elsner, in marked contrast, is entirely fact-based. In short space, Elsner makes three points: 1) colonial analogies are off base, because the two-state solution envisions separating the Palestinians, not ruling over them from the colonial center; 2) Israeli Arabs do not consider themselves "Arabs," as Lustick suggests they might; and 3) neither Israelis nor Palestinians want to be united in one state.

I can imagine Lustick's rebuttals. The colonial examples were not presented as perfect analogies, only as warnings that unjust arrangements that seem eternal often explode suddenly.  Elsner did not engage with Lustick's bid to demonstrate that Israeli actions and attitudes have made clear that they will not make the course reversals necessary to make a two-state solution possible. Most importantly, Lustick never suggested that the change of heart he envisions on both sides, enabling true coexistence probably within one state, will happen any time soon.

Letters to the editor must be short, and my point is not that Elsner wins the argument with Lustick. It's that he made a real argument, responding to distinct points in Lustick's, and that such an exercise is apparently beyond the ADL's powers.

Under Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League has devolved into a special pleading center. The erosion of its moral core became plain when it opposed the planned building of an Islamic Center two blocks from the World Trade Center site, as if the 9/11 attacks created a self-evident need for an Islam-free zone in America's densest urban core. These two letters signal that if Zionism can be logically and ethically defended in the U.S., it will be by next-gen organizations.

1 comment:

  1. '
    I think you meant that Israeli Jews from Middle Eastern countries don't consider themselves Arabs not that Israeli Arabs don't consider themselves Arabs.