| Racial Justice: Zionist fear-mongering is anti-semitic!

Racial Justice:  Dave Kersting: Zionist Fear-Mongering Is Anti-Semitic ~ Dave Kersting.

No one’s ethnic or religious “distinctiveness” or “identity” are infringed by living as equals with others.

Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism ? or 

Zionist Fear-Mongering Is Anti-Semitic? 

In “Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism” (The Guardian UK Saturday November 29, 2003) Emanuele Ottolenghi pinpoints a crucial lie in the Zionist effort to fool the Jewish people and frighten them into further “need” for Zionist “defenders.”

Mr. Ottolenghi says, “Anti-Zionists are prepared to treat Jews equally and fight anti-Semitic prejudice only if Jews give up their distinctiveness as a nation: Jews as a nation deserve no sympathy and no rights..”

In this, Mr. Ottolenghi skips past the fatal flaw of Zionism – that it demands official “Jewish” dominion in Palestine, despite the fact that such dominion requires perpetual ethnic crimes against the ethnically unsuited original population, which had to be ethnically-cleansed, in order to make lebensraum for the “Jewish” state.

What is so grossly false about Mr. Ottolenghi’s statement – a standard Zionist pretense – is it surreptitiously denies the crime in question: an undisputed and crucial fact of history, THE ENTIRE POINT of anti-Zionism, and what the fighting is all about in the first place. Zionism cannot win support, even among its own constituency, without lying to them or inducing them to share in the lie.

No progressive anti-Zionist doubts the legitimacy of “Jews as a nation.” It is simply absurd to pretend that such legitimacy requires or excuses terrible crimes against the ethnically unsuited families in a region expropriated for a “Jewish” state. In the Zionist lie, opposing racist crimes, in themselves, is falsely equated with declaring that Jews should “give up their distinctiveness as a nation” and that “Jews as a nation deserve no sympathy and no rights.”

No one’s ethnic or religious “distinctiveness” or “identity” are infringed by living as equals with others.

If we oppose armed robbery of grocery stores, we are not saying that the robbers have no right to eat. But that is exactly the error the robbers and the Zionists, like Mr. Ottolenghi, would like us to make. Civilized people simply require each other to find fair – and sustainable – ways of exercising their human rights.

Every anti-Zionist I have known in thirty years, including the Jewish anti-Zionists, has been way more than “prepared” – “to treat Jews equally and fight anti-Semitic prejudice..” It is silly to claim that this long-standing commitment awaits Jewish rejection of Zionist crimes. It is easy to oppose ethnic prejudice, without mimicking it and becoming preoccupied with the ethnicities of the racists.

Only a racist has difficulty with that point. No doubt, that is why Zionists are so commonly – and rather too obviously – fixated on the “Arab” ethnicity of their victims and regional adversaries. And the special Zionist definition of “self-determination,” as invoked by Mr. Ottolenghi – not a human right of geographic populations, but an ethnic right, which can override human rights and justify ethnic-cleansing – is as virulent a doctrine of aggressive racism as one can find.

As public attention is increasingly drawn to the realities of Zionism, the Zionists can defend themselves only with transparent efforts to muddle the key questions – efforts which require a degree of stupidity or fear effective for a rapidly shrinking portion of the population. Decking silly lies in academic claptrap is just another transparent facet of the trick.

Meanwhile, people of normal intelligence see such efforts among the proliferating red-flags of Zionist criminality.


Testimony by Dr. Ilan Pappe on Genocide in Palestine by Israel

The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal Hearing on Palestine–Testimony by Dr. Ilan Pappe.

On November 22, 2013, the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal (KLWCT) went into the third day of the hearing on genocide and war crimes charges against the State of Israel and Amos Yaron, a retired Israeli army general.

The tribunal heard the testimony of renowned historian and socialist activist, Prof Ilan Pappe, who informed the tribunal about the systematic ethnic cleansing via expulsion and killing of the Palestinians from their homeland since 1948. Three witnesses from West Bank also gave an account of their trials and tribulations under the Israelis.

The testimony of Dr. Pappe was an interesting and revealing account of the Israeli leadership strategy to rid the Palestinians from their homeland since the 1940s. He testified that the expulsions were not decided on an ad hoc basis, as other historians have argued, but constituted the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in accordance with Plan Dalet drawn up in 1947 by Israel’s leaders then.

He testified that the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 constituted ethnic cleansing, as the Zionists movement was not concerned with the native people. He revealed that it was as early as in the 1940s when it began deliberating the fate of the indigenous people of Palestine and that they wanted to take over Palestine with as little Palestinians in it by having them leave voluntarily or be forced out.

He further revealed that from 1948 until 1949, the plan was enforced by Israeli forces to cleanse villages and towns of Palestinians by encircling the villages/towns from three flanks to intimidate the residents into leaving by leaving one flank open. Some 530 villages were wiped out physically. Under the partition plan, 56% of the land was to be handed to Israel wherein the 2/3 of the population was Palestinians. In the end, 93% of the land came under the control of Israel and 750,000 Palestinians were left out as refugees in neighbouring countries, in Gaza and West Bank. After the 1967 war, Gaza and West Bank were occupied.

He added that having taken over most of Palestine territories, the policy changed from expelling to destroying the Palestinians. Hence, the Sabra & Shatilla massacre was an attempt to destroy Palestinians in Lebanon.

He told the tribunal that the use of military action against Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank was considered genocidal against people who cannot defend themselves. Military operations such as Summer Rains, Autumn Clouds, and Cast Lead were just to kill the Palestinians and destroy the economy, culture and their spirit.

In cross-examination by Amicus Curiae Jason Kay, Prof Pappe agreed that his view of history is a minority view and that while he is grateful that the Zionist movement had saved his parents from the Nazi holocaust for which he is grateful; however, the moral way is to live together with the Palestinians, not expel and kill them.

| Israeli leaflets ask US Jews: are you loyal to Israel or the USA?

Israeli leaflets ask US Jews: are you loyal to Israel or the USA? ~ Redress Information & Analysis.

Jewish dual allegiance – the notion that Jewish citizens of, say, Britain, France, the United States or some other country could be as loyal, or even more loyal, to a foreign state, Israel, than they are to their own country – is understandably a sensitive and inflammatory subject.

The idea that some of your compatriots are potentially traitors creates distrust in society, undermines social cohesion and, in the worst cases, could lead to religious and racial strife. Consequently, to encourage dual allegiance among Jewish citizens, or to sow doubt about the loyalty of the Jewish citizens of countries whose populations are predominantly non-Jewish, is not just amoral but criminal.

Yet, this is precisely what Israel has been doing for decades through its absurd claim that it is the state of all Jews – a claim that allows it to confer rights on Jews who are not actually yet citizens or present in Israel.

Recently, in what seems to be a concerted attempt by Israel and its Zionist American backers to create a ghetto of disloyalty to the United States among American Jews, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, acting through the Israeli American Council (IAC), has been distributing tens of thousands of leaflets to Jewish Americans asking them to indicate where their allegiance would lie in the case of a crisis between the two countries.

The IAC is a private non-profit group established in Los Angeles in 2007. In September it announced plans to expand by establishing new branches throughout the United States, funded by Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, one of the biggest financial backers of both Binyamin Netanyahu and failed US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Why, you might ask, would Israel want to promote disloyalty among US Jews or sow disharmony and hatred between Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of the United States?

The answer is simple: to create anti-Semitism in the US and thereby back its fallacious raison d’être argument as the haven of last resort of Jews the world over.


Ethnic Cleansing for Dummies 2


| Continuing Apartheid: Institutionalised discrimination in Israel!

Institutionalised discrimination in Israel ~ Khaled AmayrehAl-Ahram Weekly.

The Israeli Supreme Court has further cemented discrimination in Israel against non-Jews in a decision that highlights the non-democratic basis of the state, writes Khaled Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem.

A recent decision by the Israeli Supreme Court that asserted “Jewish nationality” over “Israeli nationality” has further alienated Israel’s large Arab minority and rekindled the old question of whether it is possible to really reconcile parochial Jewish laws with broad democratic principles.

The court rejected a request by 21 mostly Jewish Israeli citizens to be registered as “Israeli nationals” rather than Jews or Arabs.

The rejection of Israeli nationality by the Israeli state, the petitioners argued, was utterly undemocratic and exposed the state’s non-Jewish citizens to institutionalised discrimination.

Critics, both Jewish and Arab, described the decision as an undemocratic move with a disingenuous legal façade, aimed at perpetuating the status of non-Jews — particularly Israel’s Palestinian citizens — who comprise about 20 per cent of the population as inherently lesser or inferior citizens.


Israeli officials and supporters of the court decision, however, argue that it is vital to maintain Israel’s “Jewish character”, regardless of the import of democracy and equality as the basis of citizenship.

PR-savvy Israeli spokespersons contend the decision has no impact on the issue of discrimination against Israeli non-Jews, adding that Israel’s Jewish identity shouldn’t collide with the civil rights of ethnic and religious minorities.


JEWISH AND DEMOCRATIC? Israeli officials often claim that Israel is both Jewish and democratic in nature. Critics, however, argue that this is “an empty slogan” devoid of truth since Israel can’t be both Talmudic and democratic.

“This is a big lie. Israel can either be Jewish or democratic; it can’t be both, pure and simple,” says Hanna Issa, a prominent legal expert in Ramallah.

“And we all know that whenever there is the slightest conflict between the ‘Jewish’ and ‘democratic’ aspects, which comes first.”

Issa said Israel intended to achieve two strategic goals by “invoking the Jewish state mantra”.

First, the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of the two million strong Arab community. Second, preventing the repatriation of Palestinian refugees who fled or were expelled from their homes when Israel was created in 1948.

Issa adds: “When non-Jewish citizens in Israel demand equality as citizens they are confronted with the ‘Jewish state’ mantra, but when the international community criticises Israel for the often brazen discrimination against its non-Jewish citizens, the democratic state mantra is invoked. So, we are effectively talking about a totally dishonest discourse.”


NORMAL NATION-STATE: Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, denies any contradiction between his “reassertion of Israel’s national Jewish character” on the one hand and possible discrimination against the state’s non-Jewish citizens.

“Israel is Jewish in the same sense that France is French and Norway is Norwegian. The two European countries maintain their respective national identities despite the existence of ethnic and religious minorities in both countries,” Palmor says.


Palmor argues that despite the existence of the Kvens in Norway, Norway remains Norwegian although the Kvens are not Norwegian. (The Kvens are a group of people who originated from the northern Baltic Sea areas of Finland and Sweden but who immigrated to Norway).

“And in France, there are millions of French citizens of North African origin, but France remains French. And the same thing applies to Israel more or less. There are some non-Jewish minorities, but Israel remains a Jewish country. It is the state of the Jewish people. This is exactly what the Supreme Court’s decision tried to assert.”

Palmor’s comparisons are strongly disputed by Jewish as well as Arab intellectuals.

Hasan Jabarin is the head of Adalah, the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. He describes Palmor’s analogies between Israel and France as “corrupt, scandalous, utterly mendacious and insulting to people’s intelligence”.

“In France, once you are granted French citizenship, you become a full citizen. They don’t ask about your ethnicity or religion or about the genealogy of your mother. In Israel, your Israeli citizenship doesn’t help you if you are not Jewish,” argued Jabarin, a veteran lawyer, in interview with Al-Ahram Weekly.

He added: “The French-ness of France and the Jewish-ness of Israel are not the same thing. To claim they are is an insult to truth and common sense. In France, one can become a French citizen without having to convert to Catholicism or Christianity in general, but in Israel one can’t become Jewish unless one has a Jewish mother or converts to Judaism according to Jewish Orthodox rituals. These are the proscriptions of Jewish religious law.

“Besides, France is a state of all its citizens, but Israel is defined as the state of the Jewish people, as the Israeli Supreme Court repeatedly refused to define Israel as a state of all its citizens.”

Jabarin argued that Israel’s “brazenly discriminatory laws” are aimed at achieving two main goals: denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes and villages in what is now Israel, and curtailing the demographic growth of Israel’s Arab community, even by way of expulsion and ethnic cleansing if need be.

“That is the reason [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu keeps demanding that the Palestinians recognise Israel as an exclusively Jewish state.”

WHAT IS JEWISH? Palmor and other Israelis don’t claim to possess a unified or monolithic definition of who is a Jew. But, arguably for public relations purposes, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) spokespersons would claim that being Jewish means belonging to “the Jewish ethnicity”.

However, according to a recent survey as many as 50 per cent of Israeli Jews define being Jewish as observance of Jewish religious law.

For Gideon Levy, a veteran Israeli journalist and intellectual, mixing “nationality with religion is the mother of all problems”.

“If being Jewish means religion, then secular Jews like myself can’t define themselves as Jews. But if it is nationality, then I am an Israeli national first and foremost.”

Levy labels as hypocritical many American and European Jews who support institutionalised discrimination against non-Jewish Israeli citizens, whereas in their respective countries they aggressively and doggedly defend secularism and the principle of equality, irrespective of ethnicity and religion.

“Israel can’t be both Jewish and democratic. And under existing conditions, a non-Jewish citizen in Israel has no chance of having real equality with a Jew,” Levy says.


Ada Ravon, a prominent lawyer from Tel Aviv who deals with civil rights issues, concurs: “There is no chance for a non-Jewish citizen in Israel to obtain full and complete equality. This is at least how I see it under existing circumstances.

“According to the Law of Return, Israel is a Jewish state, and non-Jews can’t be equal citizens.”

Responding to cwritics, Palmor admits, “there might be problems here and there,” but “there are sufficient laws in Israel that guarantee basic equality.” He adds: “Politics is politics and not every law can pass in the Knesset.”

Chaim Cohen, a Jewish intellectual, tried to coin a personal, non-controversial definition of who is a Jew. He argued that a Jew is one who feels Jewish. The vast majority of religious Jews rejected the definition, calling it diluted, ambiguous and too abstract.


Portrait of a boy with the flag of Palestine painted on his face

pizza last slice1

| Apartheid Israel to define itself as ‘national state of Jewish people’ – despite Arab population!

Israel to define itself as ‘national state of Jewish people’ – despite Arab population ~ , Jerusalem, The Telegraph.


Israel’s new government plans to pass a controversial new law defining the country as a “national state of the Jewish people” despite the presence of 1.5 million Arabs within its borders.


The move is likely to be denounced as weakening Israel’s democratic principles while triggering accusations of official discrimination against Arabs, who form around 20 per cent of the population.

The legislation is being proposed under an agreement between Benjamin Netanyahu‘s right-wing Likud Beiteinu bloc and the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, who will form part of a new governing coalition along with two Centrist parties.

It will be enshrined in Israel’s Basic Law – the country’s equivalent of a constitution – and lay down that The State of Israel is the National State of the Jewish People.

“Such legislation won’t be seen as democratic by universal standards,” said Tamar Hermann, a senior researcher with the Israel Democracy Institute. “But the people arguing for it will say that as long as the non-Jewish citizens have rights from an individual point of view, it’s Kosher.”

A similar bill introduced in 2011 by Avi Dichter, a former head of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, was shelved amid an outcry over provisions that included recognising Hebrew as the sole official language while depriving Arabic of its equal status.

It also strictly defined the country’s flags, emblems and national anthem while requiring the state to promote Jewish settlement in all areas. No such requirement applied to other groups.

Proponents argued that it was aimed at preventing Israel becoming a bi-national state. Critics countered that it prioritised Israel’s Jewish identity ahead of its democratic values.

In a sobering message for President Barack Obama ahead of his arrival in Israel on Wednesday, the Likud Beiteinu-Jewish Home deal made no mention of peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Jewish Home party’s leader Naftali Bennett opposes a Palestinian state and instead favours annexing large parts of the West Bank.

The new government, which will be sworn in at a ceremony on Monday in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, also includes two parties in favour of renewed talks, Yesh Atid and Hatnua, led by the former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni.

But its official guidelines do not mention the “two-state solution” advocated by the US and EU countries, including Britain. Instead, they state: “Israel will seek a peace agreement with the Palestinians with the goal of reaching a diplomatic agreement.”

It was confirmed on Sunday that Moshe Ya’alon, a former army chief-of-staff who supports a hard line on the Palestinians, would become defence minister, replacing Ehud Barak.

Mr Ya’alon, 62, is a strong supporter of Jewish settlers in the West Bank but has urged caution on the possibility of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities, in contrast to the more hawkish stance taken by Mr Netanyahu.


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| Barack, A Few Travel Tips!

Barack, A Few Travel Tips ~ Amer Zahr, The Civil Arab.

Mr. President, I hear you are traveling to Israel next week.  As a concerned patriotic American citizen of Palestinian descent, I have some pointers for you.

Now, I assume you’ll be flying into Tel Aviv.  Usually, when non-Jews arrive there, especially if they are a little darker-skinned, they are asked to wait in a… let’s call it a “VIP Room.”  Incidentally, the room is quite nice. There’s a water cooler, comfortable chairs, and a soda machine.  It’s probably the only place in the world where you can be racially profiled and get an ice-cold Coca-Cola all at once.

To avoid the room, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

You may get strip-searched.  Saying you are an American doesn’t help much here.  I’ve tried.  I even sang the national anthem last time an Israeli soldier was looking down my pants.  Right after I said, “Oh say can you see,” he said, “Not much.”

To escape this embarrassment, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

In case they don’t already know, you might not want to tell Israeli security you are half-Muslim.  As a fellow half-Muslim, I can tell you they don’t really care about the percentage.  Any bit of Muslim freaks them out. And I’m not sure if you heard, but the fans of one of Israel’s soccer teams, Beitar Jerusalem, actually protested when the club signed two Muslim players.  When one of them scored in a game last week, hundreds of fans actually walked out of the stadium.  One of the fans later stated about the Muslim players, “It’s not racism. They just shouldn’t be here.” Hopefully, they don’t know your middle name is “Hussein.” Maybe they didn’t watch the inauguration.

In any case, I would mention that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

This next one might be a little tough.  Maybe you didn’t hear, but lately there has been a little “African problem” in Israel.  Over the past several years, tens of thousands immigrants from Africa, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered the “only democracy in the Middle East.”  Most of them are looking for work, and some are political refugees.  Israel has recently rounded up many of them for deportation.  Oh, and by the way, they don’t call them “refugees” or “migrants,” they call them “infiltrators.”  Israelis have held numerous demonstrations in Tel Aviv, where most of the migrants live, to demand an African exodus from Israel.

And the refugees aren’t the only Africans Israel seems to have a problem with.  About 150,000 Israeli Jews are of Ethiopian descent.  A number of news organizations reported early this year that Israeli government doctors had been giving Ethiopian Jewish women contraceptives either against their will or without their knowledge.  The Israeli government admitted the practice and decided to stop it once it was reported on.  See, Mr. Obama, many rabbis in Israel have questioned the “Jewishness” of Ethiopian Jews.  And if you’re not Jewish in Israel, well… I’d be glad to give you the full story on that someday.  So they’re not too crazy about their own Ethiopian citizens, and last year, Benjamin Netanyahu warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state.”  I know, “Jewish” and “democratic”? It’s confusing.  I’ll try to explain that one to you one day too, but I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to.  But I think one thing is clear.  Israel does not seem to like Africans too much.

Now I know you’re not from Eritrea, Ethiopia, or Sudan, but I probably wouldn’t advertise too strongly that your dad was from Kenya.  This might be really hard, given your skin tone and everything, especially if you’re bringing Michelle with you.

To avoid any dangers of getting deported to Nairobi, I would just keep mentioning that you are the President of the United States.  It might help.

OK, finally, when you leave, Israeli security officers are going to search your bags.  And they don’t do it casually with a smile like our airport security here.  They go through your stuff like a wife looking for evidence of an affair.  You might remind them that you, as the President of the United States, sign their checks.

And they’re going to strip search you again.  Yes, on the way out too.  Strip searches in Israel are “buy one, get one free.”  They perform the strip search in a section of the airport aside from where the normal operations are conducted.  You’ll run into a few of your Palestinian-American constituents when you’re there.  I know it’s a weird place for someone to ask to take a picture with you, but to us, it’s just part of visiting home.

You don’t have to mention to us that you are the President of the United States.  We already know.  We supported you, twice.  Maybe you can return the favor.




| Rejecting BS: Why I am no longer a Zionist!

Why I am no longer a Zionist ~ WAYNE MYERS, The Independent.

In this highly personal guest contribution, a British and Jewish blogger reflects on his youth membership of Zionist movements, the recent conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas, and how his relationship with faith changes as he gets older.

I’m a nice Jewish boy from North West London. I was brought up in a family that was never particularly religious – we belonged to a Reform synagogue, not an Orthodox one – but where my Jewish identity was considered extremely important, and where support for Israel was an absolute given. Not blanket, unquestioning support, but support nonetheless.

As a teenager I was heavily involved in RSY-Netzer, the Zionist Jewish youth movement affiliated with the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain. In 1987, at the age of 16, I spent a summer in Israel with RSY, and two years later took a gap-year there. Half that year was spent on Kibbutz Lotan, one of the two Reform Synagogue affiliated kibbutzim, and the other half was spent on a course known colloquially as ‘Machon’, at the Institute For Youth Leaders From Abroad in Jerusalem, run by an arm of the Israeli state known as the Jewish Agency.


On Machon, along with dozens of other young Jews of my own age from a range of different Zionist youth movements, I received training in youth leadership skills, Jewish history, and what is known in Hebrew as ‘hasbarah’. Hasbarah literally means ‘explaining’, but it has another meaning, which is essentially ‘propaganda’.

RSY-Netzer was at that point one of the three most left-wing Zionist youth movements – the other two are the explicitly socialist Habonim-Dror andHaShomer HaTzair. We were encouraged – and at the age of 18 or 19 we needed no encouragement – to spend much time discussing and arguing the fine points of Zionist ideology and Israeli politics both among ourselves and with members of the other movements.

The left-wingers among us were highly critical of many of Israel’s actions from the War in Lebanon to the whole of the Occupation, and we all argued strenuously that it was a fundamental necessity for Israel to behave ethically at all times; moreover we left-wingers argued that it was of prime importance that we as Zionists stood up and criticised Israel when it did not do so.

However, none of that criticism was ever allowed to cross the red line of rejecting the idea of the Jewish State itself. We did not go so far as to accept the idea that Zionism was racism or that Israel ought not exist – indeed we had special sessions on Machon where we were explicitly taught strategies for arguing against these ideas. The concept of a democratic secular one-state solution for all inhabitants of the Holy Land, under which Jews and Palestinians would be equal citizens in the eyes of the law, was not at any point on the table.

Unlike most of my colleagues on the Machon course, I made a particular point of learning Hebrew, and while in Jerusalem I met and fell in love with Ayelet, an Israeli girl my own age. She was not long out of basic Army training and had taken up a post as a remedial Hebrew teacher at an Israeli Army school. We spoke only in Hebrew and were for a while very much in love, though she thought I was a complete lunatic not just for being a Zionist – among Israelis the word ‘Zionist’ means something somewhat different to its meaning in the wider Jewish community – but also for being on the Machon course at all and for seriously considering moving to Israel permanently: her ambition at the time was to move to New York.

Sexual Zionism

I remember joking then that the most potent form of Zionism was not Religious Zionism, Revisionist Zionism, Political Zionism, or Cultural Zionism, all of which we had been taught about in class at Machon, but was rather Sexual Zionism, which we had not been taught about even once. Looking back, I now understand why hardly anyone, Ayelet included, found my joke funny.

As a Jew, despite being born in London, I had and still have the right at any time to move to Israel and immediately take up Israeli citizenship under the Israeli Law of Return. The only reason that I did not do so straight away was that I had a place at Oxford for which, as a state-school applicant, I had worked very hard, and on which I had no intention of missing out. My plan at the time was to get my degree from Oxford and move to Israel afterwards.

Once back in the UK, my obsession with Zionism continued. At Oxford I changed my degree from Maths and Philosophy to Oriental Studies (Hebrew), a course comprising Hebrew literature and Jewish history; on the history side I made a special study of Zionism up to 1948. It astonished me at the time that my parents were implacably against the idea of me becoming an Israeli, but I was 19 and – like all 19 year olds – knew deeply that I was as right about everything as my parents were wrong about everything.

Life at university was something of a shock for two reasons. The first was that as a state-schooler at Oxford, surrounded by the products of public and private school educations, the trappings of extreme privilege to which most of my contemporaries were so effortlessly accustomed seemed enormously strange and discomforting to me. Despite this I largely fit in well at my college, Balliol, which had a reputation for being very left-wing. The second shock was that for the first time in my life I was meeting both Jewish and non-Jewish anti-Zionists.

All my Hasbarah training came out.

I became involved with both the Oxford Jewish Society and the Oxford Israel Society, and ended up spending a lot of time arguing with people about Israel on all sides. With those on my right, I was arguing that Israel was not and had not for some time been behaving ethically, and that it was the absolute duty of anyone who called themselves a Zionist or a supporter of Israel to stand up and call Israel out on these ethical transgressions. With those on my left I was arguing that while Israel might indeed be as ethically dubious a state as any other state on the planet, nothing that it did in any way impinged on its right to exist as a Jewish State.

Many of my left-wing friends at Balliol were utterly shocked to find that I was a Zionist, but I continued to argue passionately for a position on the extreme left of Zionism; I was critical of Israel’s moral transgressions, critical of the Occupation, supportive of the putative Palestinian state, supportive of the idea that Jerusalem should be again partitioned de jure (as it already is de facto) so it could be both the capital of that Palestinian state as well as the capital of Israel, but at no point did I dare to cross the red line that questioned the legitimacy of the Jewish State itself.


While I was at Balliol, Ariel Sharon was invited to speak at the Oxford Union; this resulted in an extremely busy time for me. I was involved in organising the pro-Zionist counter-demonstration to the anti-Zionist demonstration outside the Union; as a Zionist critical of Israel, I was also involved in ensuring that strong criticisms of Israel in general and Sharon in particular were made during the debate. Later that evening, as a guest of the L’Chaim Society, an alternative Jewish student organisation then run by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, I ended up having dinner with Sharon, along with thirty or forty other people, and was astonished at how charming he seemed in person, for all that I strongly disagreed with all aspects of his politics.

I was also pleasantly shocked by Sharon’s stories of how his closest friends were not other Israelis at all but were rather Palestinians living in the West Bank for whom – he explained – hospitality and personal relationships trumped any notion of tribal hostility.

By 1993, when I left Oxford, things in my personal life had changed. Ayelet, quite reasonably unwilling to spend three years of her early twenties in a long-distance relationship with a complete lunatic, had left me, and I was now romantically involved with Abigail, a rather posh Jewish girl from one of the old established Anglo-Jewish families from before the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century that had brought my own great-grandparents to London. Abigail was about as likely to move to Israel as she was to grow feathers and a beak, and I found myself strongly reconsidering my decision to move there myself.

My political position, however, did not change. As a Zionist I felt passionately that it was of prime importance that Israel’s moral transgressions – especially those in the Lebanon war of 1982 and the ongoing indefensible occupation of the West Bank and Gaza – be censured. I felt that the Occupation had to end, and end now, and that the Two State Solution was the only way forward. Since the idea of the right of national self-determination was at the core of my support for Zionism, I found it hard to understand how any Zionist could be against the two state solution.

If the Jews should have self-determination in Israel, I argued, surely it is only logical that the Palestinians should also have self-determination in Palestine. I simply could not understand how those Zionists to my right – which was basically all of them – could not see this.

On Jerusalem, I also could not understand the mainstream Zionist position. Having lived there for some time, and being well aware that the city was effectively divided into Jewish West Jerusalem, where you could safely go, and Palestinian East Jerusalem, which was dangerous and to be avoided at all costs, I simply could not grasp any of the stuff about the ‘unification’ of Jerusalem that I had been taught.

It might have been unified legally as far as a Zionist was concerned but it certainly wasn’t unified in any way in practice, and it seemed to me only right that a repartitioned East Jerusalem should be the capital of the forthcoming Palestinian state just as much as West Jerusalem should remain the capital of the Israeli state. I was sure that Palestinians felt just as passionately about Jerusalem as I did myself, and repartition seemed to me to be the just and reasonable answer to this question.


In 1994/5 I spent a further year in Jerusalem on the One Year Graduate Program at the Hebrew University. This was supposed to be my year to ‘check out’ whether or not I really wanted to go and live in Israel, before I made a final decision. Jerusalem is and was a miserable and tedious place for a young secular man in his early twenties; it soon became clear to me that I did not wish to live there after all, and I began drinking heavily.

Mostly this went on at a bar called ‘Mike’s Place’ run by a burned out Canadian ex-photo-journalist called Mike, and populated almost exclusively by Israeli leftists and members of the international press corps who were old friends of Mike’s. Abigail came to visit, and hated it all even more than I did. I began to make arrangements to go home early.

Before I left, however, I was befriended at Mike’s Place by a member of the press corps, an American called Stefan Ellis, who considered his time in Jerusalem to be basically R&R away from the really hideous places in the world he had worked before, like Cambodia. Stefan was horrified by my youthful ideological support of Israel. Life as a photo-journalist specialising in war-zones had inoculated him against all forms of ideology. As far as he was concerned, all sides committing atrocities, everywhere, were all as bad as each other.

It was his job as a journalist to get close to those atrocities in order to document them so that the rest of the world could see. Of course they wouldn’t – he was all too aware of this – but it was his job nonetheless.

I did not, at the time, remotely understand him.

Fast-forward to 2008.

I’d long split up with Abigail. I was still in London. I’d had two failed careers, first as a freelance journalist, and then as a computer programmer. Both had gone wrong as I’d also been trying to pursue music in a serious way; there are only so many hours in a day and as a result of pursuing multiple career goals I’d made myself seriously ill twice and (just) survived a complete nervous breakdown. I was at last pursuing music full-time and, as part of this, had finally received my London Underground busking licence. I’d finally recorded and released an album of original music, not that anyone had noticed. At least, I felt, I was now on the right path.

My position on Israel had not changed.

I had by this time met Daphna Baram, an Israeli journalist and Guardian contributor effectively in exile in London for her anti-Zionist views. Despite our differences of opinion over Israel we had become close friends, and spent many nights staying up late arguing in a mixture of English and Hebrew over the fine points of whether or not Achad Ha-am, the founder of Cultural Zionism, would have supported the actions of the current Israeli state, or whether the 1947 position of the Zionist youth movement Hashomer HaTzair, that British Mandate Palestine should be formed into a bi-national state for both Jews and Palestinians, had any relevance today.

Daphna was the first to put to me directly the astonishing proposition that the best solution for the Israel-Palestine problem was a single genuinely democratic state in which all citizens were treated equally regardless of ethnic origin. Currently, that is not the case. While the state of Israel makes just as reasonable a claim to be a democracy as, say, Belarus or Russia, the fact is that Jewish and non-Jewish citizens are not treated equally.


It is true that there are Israeli Arab Knesset members and that Israeli Arabs can vote, but it is also true that there are huge differences in the way that Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews are treated by the state, ranging from whether or not they are required to join the army at the age of 18 to whether or not their home town or village gets a reasonable annual budget to cover municipal requirements. It is painfully obvious from available statistics that Israeli Arab areas get substantially less support from the Israeli state than equivalent size Jewish settlements, and that in general, while Israeli Arabs may not offically be second-class citizens of Israel, that is certainly what they are in practice.

Then, in late 2008, Operation Cast Lead began. Having previously largely withdrawn from Gaza in 2005 (though still keeping it surrounded and effectively cut off from the West Bank), Israel began in December 2008 to bombard it indiscriminately, in the name of ending rocket fire into Israel from within the Strip. For the life of me, I could not see how this was supposed to work. I could not see any way of defending this action. As the number of Palestinian casualties grew – far out of proportion to the number of casualties on the Israeli side – it just got worse and worse.

For the first time in my adult life I began wondering whether the Jewish State was actually worth defending at all on any level if this was the price. I was watching a blatant and brutal massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, utterly disproportionate to the attacks that had provoked it, which had in turn been provoked by earlier Israeli incursions, in an endless back-and-forth cycle, in order to defend what?

An Israeli State that would allow me – born in London – to become a citizen at a moment’s notice, while Palestinian friends of friends actually born in the Holy Land itself could never become citizens of anything anywhere? Exactly what convoluted justification would stand that up?

I couldn’t do it any more. On Machon, I’d had training in how to argue against the proposition that Zionism was racism, but no training in how to argue in defence of the indiscriminate massacre of civilian children. That one hadn’t come up.

I began to consider the possibility that I’d been misled.

It looked terribly plausible. It was horribly embarrassing and deeply painful, but it began to seem to me an awful lot as if Achad Ha-am, founder of Cultural Zionism, and a somewhat flawed but deeply ethical character, would have himself been implacably against anything calling itself a Jewish State that behaved like this.

Around the same time, I took up the saxophone, as part of an effort to give up smoking, and had a one-off lesson with the best local saxophonist I could find, who happened to be another Israeli exile by the name of Gilad Atzmon. This was an incredible stroke of luck, as without exaggeration I can promise you that Gilad is one of the best saxophonists alive anywhere in the world; he is also a lovely guy in person and a fantastic music teacher. Additionally, he is highly politically active as an anti-Zionist, and is considered so extreme that most other anti-Zionists consider him totally beyond the pale; he is widely accused by both anti-Zionists and Zionists alike of actual anti-semitism.

This is of course utter rubbish. It was clear to Gilad from the second he met me that I was Jewish – we even discussed the fact during my first pre-lesson meeting – and had he been a real anti-semite he would never have agreed to teach a Jew to play the saxophone.

His views are, nonetheless, extreme; for example he is against the concept of secular Jewish anti-Zionist organisations, and believes them all, along with any concept of secular Jewish identity, to be a stalking horse for Zionism itself. This stems from his deeply philosophical approach to the whole Israel-Palestine question, and his view that any secular expression of Jewish identity is inherently somehow supremacist; this has led him – as I understand it – to hold that any kind of Jewish identity itself is deeply flawed outside of the religious context.

Secular and positive

I do not agree with Gilad on that. I do believe that it is possible to be a secular Jew with a positive Jewish identity that does not in any way believe in Jewish supremacy. I do not even agree with his view that Zionism is inherently racist. For example, the pre-1948 position of the Zionist youth movement Hashomer HaTzair, which argued, as Zionists, for a secular binational state to be shared equally between Jews and Palestinians, puts paid to that.

In the 1920s Martin Buber, a humanist philosopher who had absolutely no truck with racism, developed a branch of Zionism centered politically around the concept of a binational state, and sadly, like Hashomer HaTzair, got nowhere. Today it is clear that the racist branches of Zionism have prevailed. But it does not take much more than a cursory view of the history to see that those were not the only branches.

Nevertheless, post 1948, it is very hard to argue that Zionism has not behaved, since Independence, in a de facto racist way. On that at least, Gilad, Daphna and I can all agree. Right now in 2012 we are watching aghast at yet another massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Yet again this comes just before the Israeli elections; this time we are hearing Israeli ministers such as Eli Yishai assert that “the goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

Not only can I no longer defend any of this, I can no longer defend Zionism at all, not even in an abstract philosophical sense outside of any context involving the actions of the Israeli state. The Law of Return, under which I – an occasional tourist who just happens to be Jewish – can claim Israeli citizenship at a moment’s notice, while a Palestinian actually born in, say, Haifa, but subsequently exiled cannot – that is a racist law. The notion of a Jewish state? That is – as far as it has been put into practice since 1948 – a racist notion.

Is Zionism racism? It didn’t have to be. There were historical strands within Zionism that were not racist. Martin Buber – Zionist founder, in 1925, of the Brit Shalom organisation advocating a binational state, was not a racist, and nor were the pre-1948 Hashomer Hatzair.

But right now?

It’s really very hard indeed to argue otherwise.

And it’s such a blessed relief to feel that I am no longer obligated to attempt to do so.

That relief does not, however, in any way reduce the anger I feel at the current massacre of civilians in Gaza.

This article originally appeared at conniptions.org