June 11, 2011

Engaging with Engage

South African Jewish Report has recently published a response to David Hirsh by Ran Greenstein. The exchange began with an article by an Alison Goldberg. It's buried in here somewhere. But it's not really the article or Ran Greenstein's response that interests me. It's Hirsh's response to the response together with Ran Greenstein's response to Hirsh's response. Got that?

Here's Hirsh, from Engage but presumably as published in SA Jewish Report:
RAN GREENSTEIN wants to get us bogged down in the detail of wording and of who said what. But what is important is whether we choose to embrace the politics of peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine; or whether we choose the politics of siding with one set of ardent nationalists in their war against the other.
Greenstein does not support a peace between Israel and Palestine. He insists instead that Israel and Palestine should be thought of as one divided people who are ruled over by an apartheid regime.
He wants to dismantle Israel, like the apartheid regime in South Africa was dismantled, and he proposes instead a regime of individual rights within a new state.
But Israel is a nation, the nation descended from those who were driven out of Europe, out of Russia and out of the Middle East by 20th century anti-Semitism.
Israel is not an apartheid regime, it is a life-raft state, and it will not allow itself to be dismantled. Given this fact, Ran’s plan for treating Israelis in the way that the apartheid regime was treated, can only be a programme for conquest. The conquest of Israel is, hopefully, impossible and would in any case, never lead to a democratic outcome.
It is quite wrong to tell Palestinians that Israel must be finally defeated before they can be free, because it is like telling them that they can never be free.
But Palestinians can be free. Even the most terrible and entrenched conflicts between nations come to an end. They don’t come to an end with the final defeat of one or the other, but with a peace agreement between the two.
President Barack Obama was right when he outlined the deal: an Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and both nations to recognise the sovereignty of the other.
Greenstein’s “Boycotts, Divestments, Sanctions” slogan tries to exclude Israelis, and only Israelis, from the cultural, academic, sporting and economic life of humanity.
It is war by other means, it is not peace and reconciliation. And such a politics of exclusion, aimed at the descendents of the Jews who have already been boycotted and pushed out, is a politics which is insufficiently sensitive to the history of anti-Semitism which not only hangs over Jews, but over us all.
Ran Greenstein, who has given up on Israelis, has despaired of building the Israeli peace movement, imagines that peace in his homeland can be built by demonising them here, and in the UK and around the world.
He thinks that anybody who disagrees with him should be denounced as supporters of apartheid.
Instead of the politics of anger and desperation, we should back those in both Israel and Palestine who want peace and who stand against the demonisation of the other.
David Hirsh
Goldsmiths College, University of London
Funnily enough Hirsh failed to link to what it was he was responding to and refused to publish Greenstein's response to his response. He simply linked to the SA Jewish Report with his letter in it.

Well it so happens that the South African Jewish Report has now published Ran Greenstein's response:
David Hirsh does not think that “”wording”” and “”who said what”” are important. This is curious for an academic who deals with little else. But words do matter: contrary to his claims, I support peace between Israel and Palestine, conceived as democratic, mutli-ethnic societies, which guarantee equal individual and collective rights to all their people. I said as much at the UJ seminar and in my letter to SA Jewish Report, to which he was responding.
If words (and reality) mattered to Hirsh, he would understand that ‘’dismantling’’ apartheid meant the creation of a democratic state in South Africa, not the destruction of white people. Not only do I not want to ‘’dismantle’’ Israeli Jews, but I wish for them to live long and prosper as equal citizens, together with their fellow residents of the land. Why does the spectre of equality and democracy haunt Hirsh?
The real challenge facing us is to find ways to reach that goal. Certainly not by using violence to attack civilians (a practice employed to a far greater extent, resulting in far greater destruction, by the state of Israel than by Palestinians). Rather, it is by waging non-violent campaigns, peaceful protests, legal challenges, educational initiatives and, yes, sanctions as well. These have been used in many cases and constitute one important peaceful tactic, among others.
Are Israelis singled out here? Hirsh seems unaware that his own country has imposed severe sanctions and used violent means of censure against numerous targets in the last two decades: PLO, Hamas, Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Belarus, Serbia and, most recently, Libya and Syria, have been subject to sanctions and military campaigns far more aggressive and violent than Israel is likely ever to face. Israel has been singled out indeed, for receiving vast sums of military and financial aid that allow it to entrench the occupation, and diplomatic immunity by the USA for its acts of violence against civilians.
Instead of pursuing his campaign of manufactured hysteria and distortions against those working for justice and democracy, Hirsh could support the thousands of Palestinians and Israelis who protest peacefully in Bil’in, Ni’ilin, Sheikh Jarrah, and elsewhere in Israel/Palestine. These young activists do not support one national group against another, but campaign for members of both to unite in order to stop oppression and create a secure democratic future for all. This is my goal as well, and should be supported by all progressive people wherever they are.
This link to Jews for Justice for Palestinians is more reliable as the SA Jewish Report updates its letters page every week.  By the way, that means that Engage is currently linking to Ran Greenstein's withering response that Hirsh apparently didn't want his readers to see.

Of course Dr Hirsh has been mentioned in another dispatch by Antony Lerman, whose post on the demise of the Yale factory for the confusion of anti-zionism with antisemitism I linked to earlier. Here is a comment exchange between former American Jewish Committee employee, Ben Cohen and his host, Antony Lerman.

Ben Cohen:
 I specifically said that YIISA published some excellent papers and ran an exciting seminar series!
And here's Lerman:
you provide as your first example of ‘did produce some’—again, a comment that sounds like you’re really saying ‘did produce some, but not very much’—the Hirsh paper, which I briefly criticise in my post. If that paper had been submitted to me by an undergraduate, I would have given it back with the following instructions: ‘Start again, curb your verbosity, cut out the value-laden attacks on people for whom you clearly have an animus, work out precisely what questions you want to ask and proceed on the basis of a clearly worked-out structure. And no more than 30 pages maximum. There are some good ideas here, but they’re just not thought through.’
So the best of times and the worst of times for Dr Hirsh. On the one hand he is getting a bit of publicity. On the other hand, er, he is getting a bit of publicity.

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