Sunday, December 14, 2014

Articles and responses to the SIP statement calling for personal sanctions

The SIP statement has gathered some press interest, as well as denunciations from right and left. To begin with the news articles:

A good article by Debra Nussbaum Cohen, published both in Haaretz and the Forward:
Anti-BDS academics urge 'personal' sanctions against 'annexationist' Israelis
Zionist professors, including renowned political theorist Michael Walzer, say U.S. and EU should restrict visas and freeze assets of Bennett and three others who entrench the occupation.
NEW YORK –A nascent group of well-known academics is calling on the U.S. government and European Union to impose personal sanctions on four prominent Israelis “who lead efforts to insure permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and to annex all or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law.”

Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP) a group that describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace” is asking the U.S. and EU governments to impose visa restrictions and to freeze the foreign assets of Economy Minister and Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin and Ze’ev “Zambish” Hever, a former Jewish Underground member who heads the Amana organization, which oversees the settlement enterprise, including illegal outposts.

“We chose four Israeli leaders and public figures to start with because they stand out by working to make the occupation permanent and irreversible,” said Gershon Shafir, a professor of sociology at University of California San Diego, who came up with the concept.

These four “were particularly dismissive of Secretary of State Kerry’s peace-making efforts, and explicitly call for and work towards the formal annexation of the West Bank or part of it, and thereby push Israel in the direction of violating international law. They are the ones who cross particularly sharp red lines,” Shafir said in an interview initially conducted by email. The approach is being invoked for the first time in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, he said later by telephone.

The call’s 20 signatories include several well-known academics from UCLA to Boston College and Columbia University, including renowned political theorist Michael Walzer, professor emeritus of social science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. All the signatories to SIP’s call are Zionists, Walzer said in an interview, and are deeply opposed to academic boycotts.

The signatories are all members of a group called The Third Narrative established in 2013 by the Labor Zionist group Ameinu as a Zionist-progressive response to far left attacks on Israel – including BDS. One who signed the new call for personal sanctions, Columbia University sociologist Todd Gitlin, published an article last month asserting that broad anti-Israel BDS is a “legal and moral disaster.”

The new SIP call, which is titled “Israel: A Time for Personal Sanctions,” was also published on the Third Narrative website, though it was not endorsed by the group as a whole.

Its backers say that it is completely distinct from the BDS resolutions being fought on campuses nationwide, which would effectively ostracize all Israeli academics. This, in contrast, targets some of the individuals most personally responsible for expanding the occupation. It is similar to the approach adopted by President Obama earlier this year when he signed an executive order freezing the assets of seven top Russian officials for their involvement in the annexation of Crimea, they claim.

“All of us are very engaged in opposing the academic boycott and other boycotts,” said Walzer in an interview. He is author of numerous books, including “In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible,” (Yale University Press) and last year retired as co-editor of Dissent magazine. “But at the same time we always insist we are against the occupation. This seemed to be a usefully dramatic way of focusing attention on where it should be focused and not where some of the BDS people are trying to put it,” Walzer said.

In their petition, the academics detail their reasons for choosing the four targeted individuals. Bennett is cited for “leading the struggle” against the 2010 settlement freeze during his tenure as director of the Yesha settlements council, for advocating the annexation of Area C, which constitutes 62% of the West Bank, and for “pressing strongly for a policy of creeping annexation” as a cabinet minister. Ariel is blasted for issuing housing tenders across the Green Line and thus undermining Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace efforts and for calling for the establishment of a Third Temple on the Temple Mount. Feiglin is targeted for his “straightforward and undisguised extremism” and anti-Arab statements, while Hever “has been one of the most persistent and influential organizers of settlement construction.”

Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology and longtime participant in protest movements, said that he signed on because “I felt it was time to move the conversation to a different plane.” He first supported a boycott of apartheid South Africa in 1965, he recalled in an interview with Haaretz.

“The call to condemn right-wing governments is insufficient to get their attention,” he said. “We are holding Israeli figures whose declarations are inimical to a just and peaceful settlement to account,” Gitlin said. “They undermine American policy and security in the Middle East. We think it’s a matter of American policy to say we do not consider these people to be friends of America, but adversaries.”

Eric Alterman, Distinguished Professor of English at Brooklyn College, is a Third Narrative member who elected not to sign onto the new call for personal sanctions. “I don’t believe in politics that are purely symbolic,” he told Haaretz. “Some people do, and that’s fine. But I only believe in politics when I can see how what I’m supporting might actually happen.”

Indeed many of The Third Narrative’s Academic Advisory Council’s members did not sign on to the new personal sanctions effort, though Shafir, Gitlin and other signatories to the new call are members of that body as well.

“This proposal would take us down a route of increasing hostility that can only further isolate Israel from the world community and undermine efforts to build the cooperation necessary to a negotiated settlement,” said Cary Nelson, Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “While I support condemning the views these politicians hold, I cannot support sanctioning them for exercising their free speech rights,” he wrote by email from Israel, which he is visiting.

The SIP’s call for personal sanctions very specifically opposes wide boycott efforts and its backers are not worried about being lumped together with the BDS proponents who are widely regarded as working toward Israel’s destruction.

It is “utterly different than anathematizing an entire category of persons like the academic boycott efforts,” Gitlin said. “In this case there is a proper target, people whose activity is toxic and we think they need to be named.”

“This would provide a way of mobilizing votes against blanket boycotts but equally against the attempts to make the occupation irreversible,” Shafir said. “It would allow us to find a place in the middle and remain distinguished from but remain part of the ongoing dialogue in a productive way that is protective of Israel’s ties with the U.S., the world and liberal intellectuals.”

“We really are fighting on two fronts,” said Shafir, who was born in Ramat Aviv and began his career at Tel Aviv University, before moving to California in 1987. “That is our identity.”....
An article in the Times of Israel:
US academics urge sanctions against Israeli ‘annexationists’ 
Anti-BDS professors want US, Europe to impose punitive measures on Bennett, Feiglin and others pursuing ‘destructive’ policies 
BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF December 13, 2014, 9:38 am 
A group of Americans academics issued a call for the US and Europe to impose personal sanctions on Israeli politicians who promote the Israeli annexation of the West Bank and further settlement activity 
Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP) published a call, on the website of the anti-BDS organization, The Third Narrative, for punitive measures “on a cluster of Israeli political leaders and public figures who lead efforts to insure [sic] permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and to annex all or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law.” 
SIP points to four prominent Israeli figures who fit this description: Economy Minister and head of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett, Minister of Construction and Housing Uri Ariel from Jewish Home, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, and the head of the settler movement of Gush Emunin “Amana” and former Jewish Underground member, Zeev (Zambish) Hever. 
The four are singled out by SIP for pursuing “unjust, unlawful, and destructive policies in their most extreme and dangerous form.” 
“Annexationist policies pursued by these four individuals, and others like them… slam the door not only on peacemaking at present but for the foreseeable future. It is not sufficient to reiterate calls for negotiations. It is equally and urgently imperative to oppose the occupation itself, and especially those policies that seek to make it permanent and irreversible. It is necessary for the U S and the EU to go beyond verbal protest… [and] take active measures to penalize lawbreakers,” the call read. 
The petition goes into detail, explaining the choice of individuals. Bennett is cited for continuing to “press strongly for a policy of creeping annexation” and leading the struggle against the 2010 10-month settlement freeze when he was head of the Yesha Council. The freeze was called by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an incentive to the Palestinians to negotiate. It failed. 
Ariel is criticized for promoting a one-state solution, also known as a binational state, being a “consistent advocate of accelerated settlement building,” announcing construction tenders at inopportune times and calling for the building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount. 
Feiglin is blasted for his “straightforward and undisguised extremism” and for an “annexationist program [that] goes beyond Bennett’s,” while Hever is described as “one of the most persistent and influential organizers of settlement construction,” and is accused of building homes in outposts even the Israeli government considers illegal. 
The 20 signatories of the petition include distinguished professors from UCLA, Columbia, Syracuse, Stanford and Princeton. Among the mainly Jewish academics is the renowned political theorist Michael Walzer. 
The academics propose “personal sanctions as elements of a larger campaign to preserve and advance the possibility of a negotiated peace, resulting in Israeli and Palestinian nation-states coexisting side-by-side.” 
SIP is affiliated with the Third Narrative, founded by the progressive Labor Zionist group Ameinu, which blasts the “morally indefensible status quo in the Palestinian territories” but posits that “too many of Israel’s left-wing critics cross the line that separates legitimate, productive criticism from polemical, inaccurate and unfair attacks.”
“The American left  — Jewish and non-Jewish — could use a third narrative, one that neither reflexively attacks nor reflexively justifies Israeli policies and actions,” they say.
An article in Israeli Life USA (in Hebrew, with my rough translation):
"Naftali Bennet, Uri Ariel, Moshe Feiglin, and Zeev Hever are enemies of the United States."

By David Harish
December 12, 2014 
A small new academic organization, the initiative of an Israeli-American professor from San Diego, makes waves. Instead of placing sanctions on the entire country, the professors propose to sanction Israelis who destroy peace. 
The exceptional call for personal sanctions on four Israelis - the leaders of the Jewish Home (party) Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, and the general secretary of Amana, Zeev (Zambish) Hever – was not issued by a pro-Palestinian organization funded by Arab money, but by a group of well-known American academics, among them Jewish Americans and Israeli Americans. 
“A knife in the back,” a senior emissary in Washington said of the initiative. 
“Bennett, Ariel, Feiglin, and Hever….subjects of the sanction, are not friends of America, but its enemies,” responded Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, one of the members of the new organization. 
This is a small organization – Scholars for Israel and Palestine, SIP - which Professor Gershon Shafir initiated. He is a native of Ramat Gan, former professor at Tel Aviv University, who has lived in California since 1987, and has a chair in sociology at the University of California at San Diego. 
The organization presents itself as “pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, and for peace,” and it opposes the pro-Palestinian boycott and sanctions movements, which call for the academic, cultural, and economic boycott (operating under the umbrella organization BDS). 
Instead of general sanctions against Israel, SIP proposes to sanction those “guilty” of preventing the advancement of Israeli-Palestinian peace, and aims at the outgoing ministers of economy and housing, the extreme right-wing Likud MK, and the individual who is responsible for knowing about most of the illegal outposts in Judea and Samaria. 
The organization calls on the US government and the EU governments to place visa restrictions on the four individuals and to freeze their assets in the US, if they have any (apparently they do not)…. 
Bennett, Ariel, Feiglin, and Hever are only the beginning, says Professor Shafir, who has recruited about 20 senior academics, who have positions at UCLA, Columbia University, Boston College, Princeton, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and others. 
One of the participants in the new organization, Michael Walzer, political science scholar, from Princeton University, insists that this is definitely a Zionist initiative. An academic boycott of Israel does not seem reasonable to him, but to sanction these men, who in his eyes are directly responsible for destroying chances for peace in the Middle East – yes. 
“We actively oppose the academic boycott or any other boycott of Israel,” Walzer said. “But at the same time we oppose the occupation. In our opinion, this new approach is an effective way to concentrate the attention in the right place and not to the place that the boycott movement is trying to lead.”
Additional news articles

i24news: "Academic initiative seeks to sanction Israeli far-right individuals" (based on Haaretz article, also discusses UAW teaching assistant union vote in California in favor of BDS).

Boruch Shubert, "‘Anti-BDS’ Leading Academics Call For Personal Sanctions on ‘Occupationist’ Israelis."

A French article on "Oumma.com," taken from Haaretz: "Des sionistes américains demandent des sanctions contre 4 ministres israéliens."

An article on the Palestine News Network site, using the Haaretz article and adding some inaccuracies: "Israeli and American Academics Launch Campaign Demanding Washington and Europe to Impose Sanctions on Israeli Leaders."

The Wikipedia article on Naftali Bennett now has a paragraph about the SIP singing him out as one of the four Israeli leaders who should be subjected to personal sanctions.
In December 2014, a group of academics who are against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and members of The Third Narrative, a Labor Zionist organization, have called on the U.S. and E.U. to impose sanctions on Bennett and three other Israelis "who lead efforts to insure permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and to annex all or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law." These academics, calling themselves Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP), and claiming to be "pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace", are asking the U.S. and E.U. to freeze Bennett's foreign assets and impose visa restrictions.[34]Bennett was chosen in particular as a target for proposed sanctions because of his work in opposing the 2010 settlement freeze while he was director of the Yesha settlements council, actively supporting annexation of over 60% of the West Bank and "pressing strongly for a policy of creeping annexation."[35]
The Wikipedia article on Moshe Feiglin has a similar paragraph:
Petition by "Scholars for Israel and Palestine"[edit
In December 2014, a group of academics who are part of the anti-BDS movement and members of The Third Narrative, a Labor Zionist organization, have called on the U.S. and E.U. to impose sanctions on Feiglin and three other Israelis "who lead efforts to insure permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and to annex all or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law."[87] These academics, calling themselves Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP) and claiming to be "pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace", are asking the U.S. and EU to freeze Feiglin's foreign assets and impose visa restrictions.[88] One of the signatories was quoted inHaaretz as saying the four leaders were chosen because they "were particularly dismissive of Secretary of State Kerry’s peace-making efforts, and explicitly call for and work towards the formal annexation of the West Bank or part of it, and thereby push Israel in the direction of violating international law. They are the ones who cross particularly sharp red lines."[89] The group of mainly Jewish academics blasted Feiglin for his "straightforward and undisguised extremism" and "annexationist" agenda.[90]

Assessments/Attacks from the left and right

Zak Braiterman, who signed the statement, writes in support of on his blog: "Against the Occupation – Time for Individual Sanctions in Israel."

Philip Weiss at Mondoweiss:
Liberal Zionists seek to strip Naftali Bennett of freedom to travel in hope of saving two-state solution
A group of liberal Zionists has called on the United States and the European Union to respond to the “genuine emergency” that settlements pose to the two-state solution and issue “personal sanctions” denying the freedom of travel to four Israeli leaders including finance minister Naftali Bennett because they support the occupation of the West Bank. 
The group of 20–which includes historian Steven Zipperstein, moral philosopher Michael Walzer, former SDS activist Todd Gitlin, and Alan Wolfe, author of the new book At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews– says that the U.S. and the EU should adopt “personal sanctions—visa restrictions and foreign asset freezes” against Finance Minister Naftali Bennett, members of Knesset Uri Ariel and Moshe Feiglin, and settlement activist Zeev Hever. All serve the occupation– “unjust, unlawful, and destructive policies in their most extreme and dangerous form.” 
The posse calls itself Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP) and says that permanent occupation, “large-scale” settlements, and creeping annexation of the West Bank all violate international law and lead “toward catastrophe.” But SIP is part of The Third Narrative, an outfit that arose a year ago to try and drain the impact on campus of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), and it opposes generalized boycotts and sanctions “that indiscriminately target Israeli society and Israeli institutions.”...
His evaluation:
Myself I tend to welcome any efforts to hold Israelis accountable for their actions; and there is no question that stopping Naftali Bennett from traveling to the U.S. and Europe or freezing his considerable assets (he brags on how much he made with his tech startup) would be a blow to rightwing Zionism. But this feels a day late and a dollar short. Todd Gitlin tells Haaretz: “We are holding Israeli figures whose declarations are inimical to a just and peaceful settlement to account.” There are many, many such figures; countless Israeli governments have served the occupation; Avigdor Lieberman the foreign minister now lives in occupied territory and has an openly-racist plan to pay Palestinians to leave Israel. So why are these four the only bad guys? Peter Beinart and Peace Now’s settlement boycott ideas have greater consistency/force and have been around for a while. Maya Wahrman of Princeton sees a larger emergency than these folks do, the country has reached “such a level of injustice” that she has all but endorsed BDS as a means of transforming the place. 
Also, if the occupation is so unjust and destructive, what about occupied Gaza? Is there to be any personal accountability for the killings of more than 300 children six years ago and 500 children last summer, sporadic onslaughts that would seem to represent the Israeli government’s solution for the fact that it has denied 1.7 million people rights? Gitlin has said that ExxonMobil and apartheid South Africa deserved wholesale boycott because they have/had no “right to exist,” but he has not a word to say about the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians. Even Marcel Ophuls is talking about collective punishment, and he’s 87. It would seem that the thrust of this measure is aimed at BDS– emulating BDS in a very limited way because SIP recognizes the effectiveness of BDS and is trying to come up with an alternative. 
Signatory Alan Wolfe’s book on diaspora suggests strongly that BDS is an example of “Jew hatred” and avers that the movement promoting BDS expresses itself “in the language of support for supposedly oppressed people such as the Palestinians.” Supposedly oppressed? I do not believe this Scholar for Israel and Palestine has any real sense of Palestinian conditions.
Steven Lendman, in an article on his blog. He does not think that the SIP statement went far enough.
Netanyahu was noticeably omitted from their target list. Instead of top-featuring him. For crimes of war, against humanity and genocide.... Why he's excluded from SIP's list, signatories must explain. Plus numerous other Israeli hardliners. Lawless extremists. Belonging in prison. Not high office. Along with SIP's four targets.... Crimes SIP signatories ignored. Targeting too few Israeli officials. Omitting culpable previous ones.
Seth Mandel at Commentary.
Putting Lipstick on the BDS Pig

12.11.2014 - 12:25 PM 
The BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement targeting Israel has had more success in the Kafkaesque confines of the modern American university than in the real world. Yet even in the academy, where both the rule of law and basic constitutional rights are heavily curtailed and anti-Semitism is tolerated if not fostered, it has begun to lose battles. That’s because a few principled American academics still support academic freedom, and make their argument convincingly. Yet now another group of leftist academics is offering a way to target Israel while maintaining a façade of academic integrity. 
The group is a leftist organization called the Third Narrative, which seeks to replace the prevailing anti-Israel narrative on the left with their own anti-Israel narrative, which they consider morally superior. It’s as though one Illinois governor is claiming to be less corrupt than one of his predecessors. Fine, but let’s remember just how relative your morality is here. 
The Third Narrative’s mission statement criticizes the overheated anti-Israel rhetoric of the left, but still wants the left to take aim at Israel: 
The Third Narrative initiative is our response to this situation. We hope to engage people on the left who suspect that it is wrong to lay all blame for the Arab-Israeli conflict at the feet of Israeli Jews…but aren’t sure how to respond to Israel’s most vitriolic critics. Some of what these critics say is true, some of their accusations are justified. Some of what Israel’s traditional defenders say is also accurate. When it comes to this conflict, the truth is rarely black or white; it resides in a gray area where advocates on either side typically don’t like to venture. That is where we try to go with The Third Narrative. 
In theory, it sounds good. A less hateful left is still thoroughly intellectually dishonest, but still an improvement. (It’s a low bar.) Once fiercely opposed to BDS, the organization now seems to have been opposed to the form the mainstream BDS movement was taking, especially the anti-Semitic umbrella BDS organization. The Third Narrative apparently thinks there’s a third way between BDS and no BDS, as it explained in an open letter titled “A Time for Personal Sanctions”: 
That response, we believe, should not take the form of generalized boycotts and other sanctions that indiscriminately target Israeli society and Israeli institutions. Such measures are both unjust and politically counterproductive. In particular, campaigns for boycotts and blacklists of Israeli academia attack the most basic principles of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange.  
Moreover, a response to Israel’s settlement and annexation policies should not suggest that Israel bears exclusive responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, or that, if pressured, Israel could solve it unilaterally. Achieving a just and durable negotiated solution requires constructive efforts by actors on all sides of the intertwined Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. However, if the door is to be held open to the possibility of a just, workable, and peaceful solution, one requirement is to prevent actions that would sabotage it. For this reason, we propose targeted sanctions to focus on political actors engaged in such sabotage. 
Although they single out four Israeli figures to sanction, the point is really to attack Naftali Bennett, the first politician on their blacklist and a rising star in Israeli politics, on the eve of a national election. (Uri Ariel, Moshe Feiglin, and Zeev Hever are the others.)
Signatories to the letter include Michael Walzer (Princeton), Todd Gitlin (Columbia), Alan Wolfe (Boston College), Michael Kazin (Georgetown), and Gershon Shafir (UC San Diego) among others. As you can see from the names, they are not only academics but also writers. And as you might expect from American academics and left-wing journalists, they have no idea what they’re talking about. A read-through of their open letter shows them to be ignorant of basic international law and deceitful about Israeli actions. 
They want to sanction Israelis whose opinions they disagree with, but since those Israelis are not professors at Tel Aviv University they can convince themselves they are better than those other BDSniks. This is their version of a kosher BDS. It is nothing of the sort.
Since their concern about political figures getting in the way of the two-state solution is surely genuine, I eagerly await the follow-up open letter detailing the Palestinian figures they’re also sanctioning: figures who support or encourage terrorism, those involved in Palestinian media who fuel incitement; etc. 
And why stop there? As they must know, the political figures who do the most to torpedo Israeli-Palestinian peace sit in Tehran. Which Iranian government officials–obviously President Rouhani, but there must be others–will Third Narrative advocate personal sanctions for? 
What’s dangerous about the Third Narrative’s supposedly kosher BDS is that it offers the legions of thought police throughout academia an outlet for their anti-Israel fervor that also flatters their unearned sense of academic integrity. But they can put all the lipstick they want on this pig, it won’t make it kosher.
Ron Radosh and Sol Stern at PJMedia: "‘The Third Narrative,’ and Michael Walzer and Todd Gitlin, Join the Fight Against Israel."

Seth Frantzman in the Jerusalem Post has a rather confusing article about "TERRA INCOGNITA: Our big fat Zionist civil war." In it he writes about the SIP statement:
On December 8 members of the group Scholars for Israel and Palestine and progressive Zionist group Third Narrative launched a call proposing personal sanctions, including visa restrictions and foreign asset freezes, against four Israeli officials who they claim support “unjust, unlawful and destructive policies... of permanent occupation and unilateral annexation.” They choose Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Moshe Feiglin and Ze’ev Hever, the latter being the head of Amana, which builds houses in the West Bank. 
Alan Jay Weisbard of the University of Wisconsin claimed the proposal was the “product of a group of progressive Zionists who have devoted decades to supporting the ideals of a Jewish and democratic Israel.” The list of supporters included such Zionist luminaries as Michael Walzer of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton. 
This is the new war for the heart of Zionism. In some ways it builds on the struggle elucidated in Yoram Hazony’s 2001 The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul. There is no discounting that these pugilists truly believe themselves to be devoted Zionists. In a 2012 article at The Huffington Post Walzer claimed he had been a Zionist since his bar mitzvah in 1948. He claimed that he had more friends in Israel than at home, and that he believed in the idea of “universal statism” by which each group should have a right to its own state. “My Zionism is a secular nationalism” he writes, explaining that he would prefer Israeli schools teach Jewishness, not Judaism. 
What is interesting about this “I am more Zionist than you” debate among the “true Zionist believers” is how little it has in common with other nation states. Despite claims that Zionism has some parallel among nationalism in other countries, it doesn’t. At one time one might have compared Zionism to Irish nationalism or the megali idea in Greece or the national awakening of Bulgaria, or even Ataturkism and Turkish nationalism. But those national movements have sobered over the years. Zionism is boiling over in its internal disputes. 
It is ultimately terribly self-destructive to Israel. The strife among the various sectors of Israeli society, particularly those claiming to be the “real Zionists” who should be holding the reins of the state, is not productive. There is a self-destructive exclusivist tendency to politics in Israel. 
The theory that if you don’t belong to group X or Y you are not a “true” member of society, not a “good” Zionist. The debate over who “sacrifices” more for the country is not a healthy one. It is a debate that is akin to the law of diminishing returns even though it poses itself in high-minded terms. 
The “personal sanctions” pettiness betrays how devoid of energy and ideas these groups are. They fear to draw a clear line between what they deem illegal and unjust, namely Israeli settlement over the Green Line, because they know that would require support for a real boycott of a massive number of people and governing institutions. 
After all, many Liberal Zionists were involved not only in settling the West Bank, but in annexing the Golan and east Jerusalem. So it’s easier to point a finger at Bennett; a few years ago Liberman was the bogeyman of Israeli politics. 
Diminishing returns because the debate over who is in the Zionist camp doesn’t really matter. When the central debating point is “they are not real patriots” is all that is left in the quiver, the archer should start to run for higher ground. After all, even Samuel Johnson understood that in 1775 when he noted “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” It isn’t that all these debaters on the Left and Right are scoundrels, it is that they haven’t come up with better talking points since the 1950s.
An attack (from the right) on the statement at the "Bloodthirsty Liberal" blog, called "BTL Going on the Lam."

Also from the right, Elliott Abrams, on his blog for the Council for Foreign Relations site, "Pressure Points," in an article named "The scholars who ban disagreement," also sharply criticizes the proposal to sanction the four Israeli political figures. The article was also published at Sheldon Adelson's house organ, Israel Hayom.

Jerold Auerbach also attacks Scholars for Israel and Palestine in an article entitled "Scholars for Undermining Israel." He writes:
One would need to return to the 1920s to find a similarly self-deluded cohort of academic celebrities prepared to jettison Zionism to preserve their own moral purity. The luminaries of Brit Shalom, including philosopher Martin Buber, Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem, and historian Hans Kohn were joined by Albert Einstein and Henrietta Szold. Standing outside the group, while avidly promoting its efforts, was Judah Magnes, first Chancellor of the fledgling Hebrew University. Their advocacy of bi-nationalism consigned Zionism to oblivion. But their dismal failure to persuade anyone beyond their tiny circle set a low bar for the moral preening of SIP. 
To be sure, SIP signatories exude moral purity when compared with some Israeli academics on the far Left who, in any other country, might be labeled traitors. The fictionalized history of Professor Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University has enabled him to flee “tribal Judeocentrism.” Professor Oren Yiftachel, a political geographer at Ben-Gurion University, identifies Israel as an undemocratic “ethnocracy.” Hebrew University sociologist Baruch Kimmerling explored the “colonialist” origins of Zionism. 
Whether or not intentionally, SIP signees have exposed themselves as collaborators in the world-wide campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.
While I may not not have agreed politically with the members of Brit Shalom, since I am a Zionist and believe that it was a good thing the state of Israel was established, I appreciate the good company that Auerbach is placing us with - Buber, Scholem, Kohn, Einstein, and Szold.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Progressive Zionist academics call for personal sanctions on leaders of the settlement movement in Israel

Members of the Scholars for Israel and Palestine, one of the faculty groups that belongs to the Third Narrative, sponsored by Ameinu, a progressive Zionist organization, have just issued the following call for personal sanctions on four leaders of the settlement movement in Israel: Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel, Moshe Feiglin, and Zeev Hever. Personal sanctions mean targeted actions against these particular individuals. The US and EU have implemented personal sanctions against some Russian figures for their role in the Russian annexation of Crimea - consisting of "visa restrictions and foreign asset freezes." These particular individuals have been singled out for their prominent leadership roles in the settlement movement and for their extremism. This is not a call for general sanctions on Israel, or for a boycott of Israel, or for divestment from any Israeli companies or companies that do business in Israel. The SIP and the Third Narrative, like Ameinu, are opposed to the BDS movement. I am one of the signatories of this call.

Scholars for Israel and Palestine (SIP)
Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, Pro-Peace

For More Information about this Declaration by Members of the SIP, please contact: Professor Gershon Shafir, gshafir@ucsd.edu

Israel: A Time for Personal Sanctions
December 8, 2014

A central obstacle to a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians is the continuing occupation of the West Bank. Accordingly, we call on the United States and the European Union to impose personal sanctions on a cluster of Israeli political leaders and public figures who lead efforts to insure permanent Israeli occupation of the West Bank and to annex all or parts of it unilaterally in violation of international law.
There is a compelling current precedent for such moves. In response to Russia’s unilateral annexation of Crimea and its ongoing campaign of aggressive destabilization in eastern Ukraine, the United States and the European Union implemented, among other measures, personal sanctions—visa restrictions and foreign asset freezes—against government officials, public figures, and others who play especially significant roles in promoting and implementing violations of international law. (1)  We propose that similar personal sanctions be imposed on Israeli political leaders and other public figures who play central roles in Israel’s systematic, long-term violations of international law.
UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 allowed for a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories captured in the 1967 war, while calling for a negotiated peace settlement that would include Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories in return for recognition of Israel’s right, along with other states in the area, “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” These resolutions did not authorize permanent occupation, large-scale ongoing Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, or creeping annexation in the West Bank. Those policies plainly violate international law.
Continuing settlement and piecemeal annexation directly violate the Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention, which regulate the conduct of belligerent occupations, and also violate the ban on acquiring territory by force which is one of the foundations of the modern international order. In addition, they deliberately aim to prevent the kind of negotiated peace settlement envisioned by Resolutions 242 and 338.  These policies threaten to lock both Israelis and Palestinians into an inescapable path toward catastrophe. They demand an urgent response.
That response, we believe, should not take the form of generalized boycotts and other sanctions that indiscriminately target Israeli society and Israeli institutions. Such measures are both unjust and politically counterproductive. In particular, campaigns for boycotts and blacklists of Israeli academia attack the most basic principles of academic freedom and open intellectual exchange.
Moreover, a response to Israel’s settlement and annexation policies should not suggest that Israel bears exclusive responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy, or that, if pressured, Israel could solve it unilaterally. Achieving a just and durable negotiated solution requires constructive efforts by actors on all sides of the intertwined Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. However, if the door is to be held open to the possibility of a just, workable, and peaceful solution, one requirement is to prevent actions that would sabotage it. For this reason, we propose targeted sanctions to focus on political actors engaged in such sabotage.
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We single out four powerful Israeli political leaders and public figures who promote these unjust, unlawful, and destructive policies in their most extreme and dangerous form. These four explicitly support policies of permanent occupation and unilateral annexation. They reject efforts to negotiate peace and actively sabotage US-led efforts to promote them. They advocate and implement unilateral actions designed to preclude a negotiated peace. They are therefore legitimate targets for personal sanctions by the US and the EU.
1. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home Party and Minister of Economy, Religious Services, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs. From 2010 to January 2012, Bennett served as the Director General of the Yesha Council (the umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and previously in the Gaza Strip as well). He led the struggle against the 2010 settlement freeze. In February 2012, he published “The Israel Stability Initiative,” which flatly rejects any possibility of ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank or allowing the creation of a Palestinian state. Instead, Israel would unilaterally annex and bring under its sovereignty Area C, which constitutes 62 percent of the area of the West Bank; Palestinian autonomy would be allowed in Areas A and B, but under the permanent security umbrella of the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet. (2)  In November 2014 Bennett reiterated this program in a New York Times op-ed (3),  and as a member of the government coalition he has continued to press strongly for a policy of creeping annexation. (4) Recently he threatened to break up the government coalition unless Israel continues building new and expanded settlements. (5)
2. Uri Ariel, a Member of the Knesset from the Jewish Home Party and Minister of Construction and Housing. In the past, he served as the Secretary General of both the Yesha Council and the Amana settlement movement. He explicitly advocates having “just one state between the Jordan River and the sea, and that is the State of Israel.” (6) He has been a consistent advocate of accelerated settlement building. As Minister, he is responsible for issuing building tenders for housing east of the Green Line, such as the 1,400 housing units authorized this year to be built in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Moreover, Ariel sought to undermine US peacemaking efforts by announcing those tenders just four days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s January 2014 visit to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. (7) Ariel has also confessed to informing Israeli settlers about Israel Defense Forces’s attempts to evacuate outposts that are illegal even under Israeli law; thus he has worked behind the back of the government of which he is a member. (8)  Finally, in July 2014, in a dangerously incendiary violation of long-standing Israeli policy, he publicly called for a Third Temple to be built on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. (9)
3. Moshe Feiglin, a Member of the Knesset from the Likud Party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. Feiglin stands out for his straightforward and undisguised extremism. His annexationist program goes beyond Bennett’s. “The Feiglin Platform” of 2012 calls for complete annexation of both Gaza and the West Bank, and advances an unambiguous formula for permanent rule over a politically disenfranchised subject population. (10)  In July 2014, Feiglin also called for removing most Arabs from Gaza and replacing them with Jews to solve the housing crisis in Israel. To Palestinians “choosing to remain” there, and to Palestinians in the West Bank who have lived there their whole lives, he offers just “permanent resident status” – or citizenship on condition that they accept the supremacy of the Jewish way of life throughout the land. (11) Feiglin has already been banned from entering the UK on the grounds that his sweeping anti-Arab and anti-Muslim diatribes “propagate views which foment and provoke others to serious criminal acts and also foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” (12)
4. Zeev Hever, also known as Zambish, Secretary General of Amana since 1989.  Since 1978, Hever has been one of the most persistent and influential organizers of settlement construction. Amana taxes settlers to enable its subsidiary, Binyanei Bar Amana, to become the major builder of houses in outposts that even Israeli governments view as illegal. In 1984, Hever was arrested as a member of the Jewish Underground and sentenced to 11 months in prison for attempting to plant an explosive charge in the car of Dr. Ahmed Natshe, a Palestinian leader from Hebron. Since then, he has abandoned direct participation in violence, but not the path of systematic illegality aimed at rendering any negotiated peace agreement impossible. (13)
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Annexationist policies pursued by these four individuals, and others like them, have created a genuine emergency. They slam the door not only on peacemaking at present but for the foreseeable future. They rule out the prospect for any two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Therefore, it is not sufficient to reiterate calls for negotiations. It is equally and urgently imperative to oppose the occupation itself, and especially those policies that seek to make it permanent and irreversible. It is necessary for the U S and the EU to go beyond verbal protest. They must take active measures to penalize lawbreakers. Well-aimed sanctions can play a constructive role in this respect if they focus on figures who bear the greatest responsibility for policies that deepen and extend the occupation and render the march to catastrophe increasingly inescapable. Therefore we propose personal sanctions as elements of a larger campaign to preserve and advance the possibility of a negotiated peace, resulting in Israeli and Palestinian nation-states coexisting side-by-side. Only such an outcome can offer both Israelis and Palestinians the basis for a free, secure, and hopeful future.
The undersigned are members of the Scholars for Israel and Palestine, affiliated with The Third Narrative (14):
Gershon Shafir
University of California, San Diego
Jeff Weintraub
Independent Scholar
Michael Walzer
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Todd Gitlin
Columbia University
Sam Fleischacker
University of Illinois at Chicago
Alan Wolfe
Boston College
Alan Jay Weisbard
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Rebecca Lesses
Ithaca College
Joe Lockard
Arizona State University
Zachary J. Braiterman
Syracuse University
Irene Tucker
University of California, Irvine
Michael Kazin
Georgetown University
Steven J. Zipperstein
Stanford University
Jeffry V. Mallow
Loyola University Chicago
Ernst Benjamin
Independent Scholar
Rachel F. Brenner,
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Chaim Seidler-Feller
University of California, Los Angeles
Jonathan Malino
Guilford College
Miriam Kastner
University of California, San Diego
Barbara Risman
University of Illinois, Chicago
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(1)  http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/145571.pdf
(2)  “Naftali Bennett’s Stability Initiative”, 26 December 2012 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1oFOEY_6lM).
(3)  Naftali Bennett, “For Israel, Two-State Is No Solution”. New York Times op-ed, 6 November 2014 (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/06/opinion/naftali-bennett-for-israel-two-state-is-no-solution.html?_r=0).
(4)  David Remnick, The settlers move to annex the West Bank—and Israeli politics. The New Yorker (21 January 2013)
(5)  http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.622901
(6)  http://www.timesofisrael.com/housing-minister-no-more-settlement-freezes
(7)  http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2014/01/13/israel-announces-new-settlement-construction-amid-u-s-peace-efforts
(8)  http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/second-israeli-mk-admits-to-having-given-settlers-information-on-idf-movements-1.406191?localLinksEnabled=false
(9)  http://www.timesofisrael.com/minister-calls-for-third-temple-to-be-built
(10)  http://www.jewishisrael.org/the-feiglin-platform/
(11)  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/15326#.VH6HmJt0xej
(12)  http://www.haaretz.com/news/britain-bans-likud-s-moshe-feiglin-from-entering-country-1.241081 & http://website.thejc.com/home.aspx?AId=58606&ATypeId=1&search=true2&srchstr=feiglin&srchtxt=0&srchhead=1&srchauthor=0&srchsandp=0&scsrch=0
(13)  http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/the-organization-behind-illegal-west-bank-outpost-construction.premium-1.523823
(14)  http://thirdnarrative.org

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Senate report on CIA torture reveals our American shame

I feel ashamed to be an American today. Today, the executive summary of the Senate report on the CIA torture of prisoners was released. I've only read articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post, not the report itself (which is over 500 pages long). What we did was dreadful and shameful, and we should not allow ourselves to do it again. Torturing even vile criminals is morally repugnant, as well as useless, as the Senate report shows.

Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
The next time a group of Islamist terrorists succeeds in killing large numbers of Americans—and such an attack should be expected—it is important for those who are in positions of power (very much including the writers and commentators who shape popular thinking) to keep in mind that the goal of the United States is to neutralize the threat, and not to seek retribution for the sake of retribution. It is a terrible idea, both morally and practically, to allow hatred to shape counterterrorism policy, but that, I think, explains in part what happened at the CIA. In an atmosphere of comprehensive rage and loathing, bad ideas rose to the surface, and found their champions.