Israel’s Left should stop seeking refuge in the American Jewry, and start dealing with its racist nature
This article was originally published in Hebrew in Haokets
By Lior Vaknin*
A week ago, The Washington Post published an Op-Ed article by Ami Ayalon, former commander in chief of the Israeli Navy and former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, titled “The occupation is tearing Israel apart. We need the United States’ help to end it.”
In this piece, adapted from a speech Mr Aylon gave at a J-Street conference this past October, the former Navy commander in chief seems to be reading the global political map quite well, by joining a growing number of voices from around the world, calling to end the Israeli settlement complex, and pleading for help from the United States, to lead us back to the path of the righteous.
Mr. Ayalon seems to be making a comeback to the public life arena, and my guess would be that some strategic adviser recommended him to speak at the J-Street event, and then translate it into an Op-Ed in the Washington Post, so that he could win some extra points with the American Jewry community and perhaps even take on a role as a CEO or Chairman at one of the richest Jewish-American organizations, as the executive salaries in these NGOs tend to be in the high 6 figures and sometimes even 7 figures, meaning salaries of over a million dollars a year!
I do not know what Mr Ayalon’s real motives are, nor does it matter. Whatever the fact may be, beside cheap populism, this article had no real value whatsoever, that will help push for a long lasting peace with the Palestinians, and here’s why:
1. The problem is not the settlements, the problem is a Jewish state:
Two years ago, shortly after I began my journey to all 50 states of America, I was hosted in New England for Shabbat by a former federal judge who turned religious. On our way to the synagogue, we began to discuss the question “what is the solution to the whole Palestinian issue”. At the time, I thought that a two-state solution was the right answer, and the issue of the settlements was the main obstacle on the way to peace. “We both saw the rift in the people that the evacuation of settlements created in 2005, and I can assure you that today, no prime minister will evacuate settlements any more, certainly not in this size and scale. By just looking at the map, you will notice that the settlements are scattered all over the West Bank. Understanding that settlements are not about to be evacuated, where exactly will you build a Palestinian state?”
Today I can say he was right. According to “Yesha” data, there are now nearly half a million Jews living in more than 150 legal and illegal settlements in the West Bank. And if we add that number to the ones living in East Jerusalem, we will reach over 800,000 Jews! Whoever thinks these people will simply get up, leave their homes and resettle at some convenient point within the 67’ borders, or alternatively, that any Israeli leader will force the evacuation of almost 10% of the population, is seriously delusional. The settlements are not the problem, even though Zionist-left organizations in Israel and around the world like to present it as such (as for example, Peace Now who chose to post Mr Ayalon’s article on their Facebook page). I’ll even go on to say something more radical that may sound puzzling or peculiar for a large section of the population, especially among the Zionist left — In my humble opinion, the settlement enterprise brings us closer to resolving the conflict than distancing us.
In fact, the only viable option that there is, if indeed Israel wants to exist as a democratic state, is the One-State option. From the Jordan River to the Sea. Any other constellation will simply postpone the inevitable and increase the number of unnecessary casualties on both sides in this ongoing conflict. You cannot continue with this lie called a “democratic Jewish state”, you cannot continue with the racist laws that allow anyone whose mother’s grandfather was half Jewish that never been to Israel and has no roots in the place to immigrate to Israel and receive citizenship under the Law of Return, yet dismiss over 700,000 Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 48’ war, and deprive them and their families from entering the country (even when we’re talking about a US Congresswoman).
The Israeli military government in The West Bank might foster the hatred and sense of racial superiority of Zionist Israelis, but even if you did not serve in the Occupied Territories and see how the Palestinians at the checkpoints are being treated as if they were filthy animals in iron cages, it is sufficient to examine the number of Israeli-Arabs who pass the admission committees for living in Israeli communities, or the fact that there’s only one seat allocated for Arab in the Israeli Supreme Court, to understand that racism is at the roots of Israel and if we really and truly want to achieve peace with our Palestinian neighbors, we will have to shuffle and restart the whole thing from scratch, only this time do it the right way.
2. Pleading for the international community to help in resolving the situation is an act of cowardice:
How convenient it is to come and say “Oh America, if you just save us from ourselves, everything here will be fine”. Zero responsibility taken, zero effort made, yet raving applause from the American Jewry and a sense of self-righteousness that helps sleep at night. There’s only one problem with that — It doesn’t work that way.
As any addict can attest — “No one can help you unless you first help yourself.” Unless we see some popular uprising like the one happening now across the border with our Lebanese neighbors, who were tired of the existing system and wanted to see social justice spread across ethnic and religious classifications, no one will come to save us from ourselves. So maybe the EU will decide to boycott products made in the settlements (which is nothing but a slap on the wrist), the US Jewish community would restrict its public support of Israel as it would be labeled an apartheid state (but would still quietly invest in Israeli bonds or donate to leftist organizations, because the fear of anti-Semitism in a pre-World War II scale is always there, and a Jewish state is the best insurance policy), but other than that, nothing. China is annihilating its Muslim population as we speak and no one lifts a finger, Turkey is exterminating its Kurdish minority on the Syrian border and no one says a word, and the same will happen with Israel. It’s a high-tech powerhouse that provides spectacular returns for American VCs on the one hand, and particularly sophisticated spyware that help dark regimes fight activists on the other (here we ought to give credit to Unit 8200 for all their work), so as long as Israel continues to deliver the “goods” on the manufacturing level, no one will care about the millions of Palestinians whose human rights are violated (or at least won’t care enough to actually do something about it).
3. If you want to ask for help from the international community, the US should be the last country you should contact:
I find it a little hard to believe that the former Shin Bet chief is unaware of the irony of seeking help with resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from the Americans.
A nation that for the last 200 years, killed and destroyed populations in numbers that equal or even surpass some of the most brutal empires in human history. Take for example the US aspiration to “bring democracy to the Middle East” post 9/11. In the last two decades, the United States has invested more than $6.4 trillion in wars in the region, that took the lives of more than 800,000 people. Not to mention the colonialist holds of the modern empire, from Guam in the West Pacific, through Hawaii in its center to Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. And that’s without even mentioning its ugly foothold in Latin America, with the support of right-wing military coups in socialist countries (Evo Morales in Bolivia 2019, Salvador Allende in Chile ’73, Isabel Peron in Argentina ’76 and more), CIA backed mercenary trained, designated to kill Marxist or Communist leaders (Nicaraguan Sandinist movement the 1980s, Fidel Castro’s failed assassination attempt in Cuba and more) and imposing economic sanctions on socialist countries, bringing an entire country to a near bankruptcy and sending Millions of hungry people to the streets (Venezuela’s Nicholas Murdo 2019). Even if Trump didn’t announce that the settlement enterprise is legit, asking the United States to lead the way in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a paradox in its purest form.
To conclude, enough with the slackness and flattery for Uncle Sam in hopes he would simply come and save the situation. It’s time we, Israelis, take the responsibility into our own hands and work to bring justice and peace for all.
Lior Vaknin is an Israeli columnist and the host of the online Podcast The Lior Vaknin Show. Lior’s personal story is quite remarkable, as he was a leading Israeli tech figure in New York City who decided to go on a 50 States Journey in order to combat the BDS movement and share (what he thought to be) the truth about Israel. During those 22 months on the road, Lior experienced a total transformation with his political views, and from a Center-Right Israeli advocate, he become a strong opponent of the Jewish state and a loud voice fighting against inequality, racism and neoliberalism worldwide.