July 08, 2009

Positive thinking

Phillip Weiss wants more positive thinking:

Let me try. The BDS statement defines the conditions for the normalization of the status of Jewish Israelis in Palestine and in the Middle East:
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. (B.D.S call)
And it also says what we need to do to get from here to there.

In a nutshell, first, Israeli Jews divest or our forced to divest from their privilege. Then, political negotiations between equals can establish concrete institutional expressions for the new polity/ies.

Is this not positive enough, not visionary enough?

Now maybe I get Weiss wrong and what he really asks is whether I "believe there should be a Jewish state?"

If Jewish Americans want a Jewish state, they should peacefully petition their government according to the First Amendment, to establish one such state in Idaho. Whether there should be a Jewish state in Palestine is none of their business. If Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, negotiating under conditions of equality, decide that a Jewish state is a desirable element of the new constitutional arrangement, then there should be one. I for once would not want one. I have a preference for institutional diffusion that fosters overlapping but out-of-phase identities, sliding "Hebrew" from beneath "Jewish" and deterritorializing both at an angle to the state, a state that I would want strongly socialist, defending all its citizens from international predation. But that is just my opinion, and we should not confuse that with what should be the focus now, ending apartheid in Palestine.

This distinction should be of particular importance for Jewish Americans. The struggle in the U.S. should not be the one between J-Street and AIPAC about "what is really good for Israel". This is a fight over influence that obscure the real challenge, which is for Jewish Americans to work through their fantasies and to come to terms with the dark side of their history as a U.S. identity group. Just as Jewish Israelis must come to term with the Nakba, Jewish Americans need to write their own history critically. They need to rub their own nose in the huge damage, the untold suffering, that their infantile infatuation with a wild-west Zion, with Jewish "manliness" and with fashioning for themselves a new "ethnic" particularity in multicultural America has wrought on people thousands of miles away. They should also ask themselves who stoke this infatuation, who funded it, and who benefitted from it. They should ask themselves how to make amends and to whom to make amends. And they should rethink the question of how to establish a communal identity in the U.S within the constraints of ethical coexistence, which means above all giving up the nihilism of the Holocaust Religion. Only after they have done this durcharbeitung can they come back to the question of what kind of relation they can have with a Jewish community in Palestine.

Debating the "Jewish state" in the U.S. is counterproductive unless it is done with this awareness of distance. Jewish Americans discussing the fate of the Jewish state without having done this critical work on their own responsibility are, to borrow an Americanism, "not helpful".

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