13 November 2015

Magnes Zionism and Magnes Zionists

First of all, I have to thank Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber aka prof Charles H. Manekin, due to whose blog The Magnes Zionist* I learned (albeit very little, but still) about a fascinating person, Judah Leon Magnes, a prominent Reform rabbi, a leader in the pacifist movement and a one-stater (or a supporter of a binational Jewish-Arab state in Palestine, if you will).

I have to explain why I am dedicating this post to a person I don't know. I stumbled on a comment by Mr Haber (since he prefers this name, I shall stick to it for now) on a Facebook post by a Facebook friend:

Israeli incitement to violence and terror a.k.a. the occupation, oppression, extrajudicial killings, theft of land, burning of olive trees, lack of justice system, etc., etc. -- that's SO much more effective than posts of facebook and Palestinian textbooks. But you know the Israelis -- they can't believe that the Palestinians have any cause to hate them except incitement and anti-Semitism. That's because they have the galus mentality that Jewish actions are not efficacious, Zionism didn't return the Jew to history; it just gave guns to folks in the ghetto and made the ghetto bigger.
Since there was a slight dissonance (ahem) between the friend's general attitude to the issue and this comment (which is rather copied from an Electronic Intifada page), I have decided to dig around that comment and this commenter a bit. Thus I came upon Mr Haber and, after learning that he is a professor of philosophy in two respected institutions, one of which is Hebrew University of Jerusalem, I have dug a bit deeper, hoping to learn something new. Some pearl of wisdom that will teach me about a new way to get out of this deathly embrace we and our Palestinian cousins are locked in for so many years. Even if my beliefs are contrary to what I might find in the learned philosopher's writings, I thought, it would be at least possible to ascertain some of these beliefs, arguing (even if in absentia) with a man of such caliber.

Yeah, but I have to add, that respecting philosophy as a queen of sciences, I would expect (as a minimum) its practitioner to employ cutting edge logic, which would be fool-proof and not a subject to counter-argument by a mere mortal.

Unfortunately, my quest for pearls of wisdom and a spirited intellectual argument descended into a rather disappointing fisking of the mundane kind. But I have to share at least a small portion of these "pearls", so bear with me.

A pearl of a personal manifesto (inspired, no doubt, by the teachings of Judah Leon Magnes):
Zionism — Jewish nationalism — was a noble cause until the Political Zionists, in great haste, and with the best of intentions, founded a state in 1948 that was neither substantively Jewish nor democratic.
A person familiar with he textbook definition of Zionism might be confused. As I am, thus here comes this definition:
Zionism, Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews (Hebrew: Eretz Yisraʾel, “the Land of Israel”).
But let's continue the quest for pearls. Pearl of sectarian (in this case religious orthodox) thought like this:
Israel is not Jewish in any serious sense of the term because the three forms of Judaism that have developed there — secular Judaism, haredi Judaism, and religious zionism — are either devoid of Jewish content (secular Judaism), bigoted parochial, and isolationist (haredi Judaism), racist and ultranationist (religious zionism), or a combination of the above.
So secular Judaism is devoid of Jewish context, while still being called "Judaism"? Hm... a bit hard to figure out, although it fits the normally condescending attitude of an orthodox Jew toward all of us secular shlemazls, for some orthodox folks being worse than Satan.

Pearl of logic and historical authenticity like this:
Zionism teaches us that the Palestinians have much more to fear from the Zionists than vice-versa. Only one side has ever actually wiped the other’s country off the map – and it wasn’t the Palestinian side.
Where exactly on the map was that "other's country", if I may inquire? And where is that map, for that matter? Mighty strange.

And something absolutely mysterious for desserts:
I simply don’t see how any American who believes in democracy can accept Israel as essentially democratic. Even Latvia is better in this regard.
Latvia? Normally people that share Mr Haber's set of beliefs use South Africa at the times of the apartheid, Nazi Germany in a pinch (or at the end of their anti-Zionist diatribe). But Latvia? What does Mr Haber have against this poor fledgling member of the EU? Unless he confuses Latvia with, say, Zimbabwe?

A general observation: Mr Haber has a total control of dichotomy, in his case it translates to an effortless ability to produce a statement and its opposite in the same breath. Like in this article: Why Boycotting Matisyahu is Reasonable, Even if You Don’t Agree with It. You can see immediately, from this somewhat tortured headline, that Mr Haber tries to reconcile two opposites. To remind you, using a quote from the article:
The organizers push back against the BDS group’s demand to the artist to clarify whether he supports the three goals of the BDS movement. Instead he is asked whether he supports a Palestinian state...
I guess that if the idea of requesting a political pledge from an artist before letting him to the microphone is reasonable, then the McCarthyist practice of demanding a political pledge from a scientist, a writer, a poet etc should be declared reasonable and acceptable too. In a way, Mr Haber confirms this:
You cannot take a political stand and then say that your music is above politics.
But, being a master of dichotomy, he adds:
That is why I said that the local BDS group's position was reasonable, but one could disagree with it.
In this brilliant example of dichotomy, Mr Haber seems to be in a curious agreement with Mr McCarthy - or the infamous "loyalty oath" as proposed by Mr Lieberman. Go figure... especially since he allows one to disagree with it.

Of course, the fact that the subject of the above story, the singer Matisyahu, was a Jew and the only one whose "loyalty oath" was requested, doesn't seem to bother our hero. Oh well.

Another kind of dichotomy displayed quite generously by Mr Haber is the dichotomy of splitting facts in two halves: the one to be believed and the one to be ignored. To persuade his reading public that BDS movement, whose supporter Mr Haber happens to be, is a benign and non-threatening idea, he hails one Ali Abunimah, the founder of Electronic Intifada, as a person who supports two state solution for the resolution of the I/P conflict.

Here is what Ali Abunimah has to say on the subject:
First, the facts. The 2005 Palestinian BDS call makes absolutely no mention of one state or two. It is not a call for a political “solution.” It is a rights-based call with three clear demands of Israel:
(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.
Right, only the right of return - otherwise no problems, ladies and gentlemen.Oh, and that mention of "Arab lands" - Mr Haber will do himself a favor by checking this definition.

Only, not content with this benign demand for right of return (and only a very dim reader would wonder about the meaning of this demand), Ali Abunimah has his moments of one state solution delusions.  Quoting myself now:
  • Abunimah is a leading advocate of the one-state solution. To actualize this, he says “coercion is necessary,” and dismisses Jewish concerns of living under an Arab majority as “irrational, racist fears.”
  • He acknowledges that in a one-state solution “we couldn’t rule out some disastrous situation” (4:43) for Jews.
  • Labels PA President Mahmud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as “collaborators”, and PA participation in peace talks as “collaboration.” Collaboration is punishable by death in the PA and Gaza.
  • In a conference in Madrid on the one-state solution, Abunimah refers to Peace Now as a “right-wing Zionist racist group” (Arab World Geographer, Vol 10, No 1, 2007).
Well, what can I say? All in all, my random selection of Mr Haber's political views proved to be one big disappointment. The logic too ill, the beliefs too vague and there is hardly anything to sharpen one's beliefs against or to enrich one's understanding with.

I much prefer the refreshing straightforwardness of this gentleman. No dichotomy there.

It's impossible to finish this post without a reminder of the Magnes' brand of Zionism and its rather curious final moment:
Following the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Magnes ceased advocating binationalism, and accepted the existence of the state of Israel, telling one of his sons "do you think that in my heart I am not glad too that there is a state? I just did not think it was to be."

(*) I can't explain why prof Charles H. Manekin had chosen a moniker Jeremiah (Jerry) Haber, only to display his real name together with the moniker so prominently. But again, philosopher I am not. And this explanation didn't help either, it rather confused me.