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On the Way to Oblivion, Democratic Socialists Endorse BDS

Aug. 10 2017

At their national convention last weekend, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) voted to endorse the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS); after the vote, those present broke into a rousing chant of “From the river to the sea / Palestine will be free!”—suggesting that their dispute was with something other than Israeli policies. Paul Berman comments on the historical significance of this move by a now insignificant political party that once stood for Zionism and against anti-Semitism and Communism, and was very much shaped by its Jewish members:

The DSA resolution strikes me as a modestly sad event, . . . because of DSA itself and its meaning, faint but real, for American Jews. . . . [After its founding in 1972, DSA’s] leading intellectual was Irving Howe, the literary critic and editor of Dissent. . . . And DSA’s leading political figure was Michael Harrington, . . . who came from a fine Catholic background in the Catholic Worker movement. . . .

[Harrington] was. . . a valued participant in the Kennedy wing of the Democratic party—an influence on John Kennedy himself, if only indirectly. . . . And Harrington was, all the while, a reliable friend of Jewish causes, and a proper comrade of his Israeli counterparts. He was a friend of Jewish causes for all the obvious and normal reasons, but also because he stood for the historic socialist idea, which in [his mind] was distinctly hostile to anti-Semitism and sympathetic to the Zionist cause. . . .

Only, Harrington died in 1989, and Irving Howe in 1993, and DSA has been adrift ever since—capable lately of attracting young people out of a nostalgia for the class struggles of yore but no longer capable of generating a major leader. And now at last the organization has descended into anti-Zionism. Today the members of DSA chant about “from the river to the sea,” which is a rousing chant because it is a murderous chant, directed at any unhappy and terrified Jews who remain within those borders. A more pitiful development is hard to imagine. . . .

Earnestly I hope that, in 2020, DSA will run its own candidate for president, who will be this or that hero of the anti-Zionist cause, Linda Sarsour perhaps, or Cornel West, or Pat Buchanan, or Louis Farrakhan, or Angela Davis, or some guy with a sign board. [And] I hope that, in this fashion, DSA and its disgraced and chanting militants will float away ever more swiftly on the sea-waves of political failure—a not-unrealistic hope on my part.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, BDS, Irving Howe, Israel & Zionism, Louis Farrakhan, Socialism

The Threats Posed to Israel by a Palestinian State

Oct. 23 2017

To the IDF reserve general Gershon Hacohen, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would, given the current circumstances of the Middle East, create a graver danger for the Jewish state than either Iran or Hizballah. More damaging still, he argues, is the attitude among many Israelis that the two-state solution is a necessity for Israel. He writes:

Since the Oslo process began in the fall of 1993, dramatic changes have occurred in the international arena. . . . For then-Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, Oslo was based on the superpower status of the U.S. . . . At the time, the Arabs were in a state of crisis and aware of their weakness—all the more so after the U.S. vanquished Iraq in the First Gulf War in the winter of 1991. . . . It was that awareness of weakness, along with the PLO leadership’s state of strategic inadequacy, that paved the way for the Oslo process.

[But] over the [intervening] years, the America’s hegemonic power has declined while Russia has returned to play an active and very influential role. . . .

Something essential has changed, too, with regard to expectations in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere. At first, in the early days of Oslo, the expectations were of mutual goodwill and reconciliation. Over the years, however, as the cycle of blood has continued, the belief in Palestinian acceptance of Israel in return for Israeli concessions has been transformed in the Israeli discourse into nothing more than the need to separate from the Palestinians—“They’re there, we’re here”—solely on our own behalf.

The more the proponents of separation have honed their efforts to explain to Israeli society that separation is mandated by reality, enabling Israel to preserve its identity as Jewish and democratic, the more the Palestinians’ bargaining power has grown. If a withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state is a clear-cut Israeli interest, if the Israelis must retreat in any case for the sake of their own future, why should the Palestinians give something in return? . . . Hence the risk is increasing that a withdrawal from the West Bank will not only fail to end the conflict but will in fact lead to its intensification.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Oslo Accords, Russia, Two-State Solution