Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Zionist Bounds

Sheldon Adelson is organizing an anti-BDS campaign, drawing in the usual big names from the middle and right of the Jewish community (while naturally excluding the left). Now, we can ask ourselves "is Sheldon Adelson really the best person to combat BDS?" But there is a bigger problem here that Ali Gharib raises quite fairly: this team-up is more than a little hypocritical coming from groups like the ADL, JFNA, and Hillel which have long held out a two-state commitment as the litmus test for what "pro-Israel" means:
Take the Anti-Defamation League, for example. In its backgrounder on the BDS movement, ADL offers some “key points to make against BDS campaigns.” Among them: “The global BDS movement, as clearly stated on its website, does not support a two-state solution and the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state.” (Individuals and groups that support BDS — even those who support one-state themselves — insist that the movement as an organized force takes no position on the one- or two-state solution, pointing to the participation in the BDS movement of many pro-two-state Palestinian groups.)

But if opponents of a two-state solution are the enemy, what is a group like the ADL doing palling around with Sheldon Adelson?

Adelson, The Forward reported on Monday, is hosting a secretive summit of Jewish organizations aimed at combating the BDS movement on American campuses. The ADL is one of the groups attending. But Adelson’s record on two-states is just as clear as that of BDS advocates like Ali Abunimah or Omar Barghouti — except, instead of calling for a democratic state, the single state Adelson wants would be one where millions of Palestinians live under Israeli control but are denied the right to vote.

Remember that Washington conference where, in November 2014, Adelson said, “[God] didn’t talk about Israel remaining as a democratic state… Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what”? Still not convinced? Recall his constant warnings that the two-state solution would be “ suicide or “a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people

The ADL is not alone in the apparent hypocrisy of seeking out Adelson hospitality and largesse. Other groups participating in the anti-BDS summit, too, oppose BDS because some of its leaders advocate a one-state solution. (“BDS advocates routinely oppose a two-state solution,” wrote Jerry Silverman, head of the Jewish Federations of North America, in an op-ed last year .) Some of these groups, like Hillel, are participating in the summit despite their own ban on partnerships with groups or individuals who “deny the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders.”
This is a recurrent problem for mainstream Jewish groups who want there to be boundaries on what "pro-Israel" means. Now, I have no problem with boundaries. I don't think anyone actually wants a free-for-all; we all accept that there should be certain positions which just lie outside the borders of the communal Jewish conversation, and I think "opposition to a two-state solution" is a perfectly reasonable line to be drawn. The problem, though, is that it has to be consistently drawn. It cannot be the case that one-statism is beyond the pale when asserted by a leftist Jew (or Palestinian, for that matter) but a-okay when promoted by the Jewish right. More broadly, pro-Israel can't only have a leftward boundary.

The choice is clear -- you either let all the one-staters in or none of them. I vote none, because I think one-statism is genuinely dangerous no matter who is proposing it. One can disagree with me on that front, of course. But if you're going to do it, one cannot distinguish between its leftward and rightward variants. They're two sides of the same coin, and groups like the ADL lose credibility every time the grant special dispensation to right-wing Jewish voices espousing positions that are supposedly beyond the pale.

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