Jonathan Chait

Mark Kleiman's Confusing Resignation

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I understand the emotional reaction Mark Kleiman is trying to express here, but the conclusion makes no sense at all:

Peter Beinart gave a very good talk – at once eloquent and morally and intellectually serious – at UCLA Hillel last night. The talk explored the complexity of loving Israel and yet disapproving of the pattern of ethnic subordination that characterizes Israeli rule over the West Bank. Beinart mentioned the fact that settler violence against Palestinians sometimes fits any plausible definition of “terrorism” – attacks on innocents to make a political point – and that very few of those attacks ever lead to law enforcement action against the perpetrators.

The response from part of the audience left me sick to my stomach. The basic theme – stated in so many words by one participant – was “they brought it on themselves.” To hear Jews talking about collective ethnic guilt in tones worthy of Der Sturmer was really more than I could handle.  I left after being personally accused of indifference to the Shoah because I refused to profess indifference to the suffering of Arabs.

And today I learn that Tony Kushner – whose views about Israel seem roughly to track mine – has been denied an honorary degree by a minority of the trustees of the City University of New York, based on a typical cowardly wingnut smear job, launched without warning in a way that gave Kushner no chance to defend himself.

I know most Israelis don’t deserve their worst American defenders, but if the result of having to defend Israel is that Jews start acting like bullies and sounding like Nazis, at some point the price gets to be too high.

Like Beinart, I support the continued existence of a democratic and Jewish Israel within, roughly, its 1967 boundaries; unlike him, I can no longer count myself a Zionist.* In the immortal words of Sam Goldwyn, “Include me out.” 

I'd like to engage with this idea, but I don't understand what he's saying. Zionism is the belief that there should be an Jewish state in some approximation of the land where it existed before the Diaspora. If Kleiman supports a Jewish state within the 1967 boundaries, then he's a Zionist, right?

I can relate to his shock and horror at elements of the Israeli and Zionist right that refuse to recognize any rights for Arabs -- I've experienced this as well. I likewise understand that these are very dark days for Israeli and pro-Israeli liberals, that it's frighteningly easy to imagine Israel following a path where it become totally unsupportable, and the resulting temptation to make some kind of symbolic break. I just don't understand why Kleiman is putting it in a particular way that seems plainly at odds with the definition of what he means. I suspect what he means is that he no longer considers himself "pro-Israel," but it would be better to let him try to clarify himself.

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