Yousef Munayyer writes: Peter Beinart’s New York Times op-ed, “To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements,” is an example of the increased volume voices described as ‘Liberal Zionists’ have garnered in the discourse on Israel/Palestine. But liberal Zionism is a contradiction is terms.
Peter’s piece expemplifies the “Liberal Zionist” narrative; “Liberal Zionists” cling to three central illusions to avoid confronting the reality that they are walking contradictions.
First, “Liberal Zionists” construct an artificial dichotomy between the state and the settlements; they pretend that the Israeli State and its settlements are somehow separate or separable. Beinart typifies this when he suggests renaming the West Bank ‘undemocratic Israel’ to distinguish from 1948 Israel. In reality, one cannot, in any serious way, separate Israel from its settlement enterprise.
The settlements were developed, continue to exist and grow precisely because of Israeli state policies. These policies are formulated by the government of Israel (all of it, not just the settlements). The settlement enterprise is not directed from the hilltops of the West Bank which it dominates, but rather from the central corridors of Israeli power which allocates resources to them, builds settlement infrastructure (and destroys Palestinian infrastructure) in and around them, supports the usurpation of Palestinian land and natural resources for them, and deploys Israeli military for support in this effort. This is why there is a strategic imperative for BDS to target the state, not just the settlements.
Further, as part of this self-inflicted deception, “Liberal Zionists” often attempt to mitigate the problem presented by settlers and settlements by dishonestly diminishing their numbers. Beinart excludes the residents of occupied Jerusalem (which the Israeli government has annexed), and cites 300,000 settlers in the West Bank. But as even the Israeli Prime Minister told Congress, 650,000 Israelis live beyond the green line.
Second, “Liberal Zionists” talk about an always-approaching-yet-non-existent deadline for two states. Beinart writes that Israel is “erasing” the green line; he worries what will happen “if Israel makes the occupation permanent…” and says that “we are closer to that day” than many may admit. But that day never seems to come for “Liberal Zionists,” it is always somewhere off in the undefined distance, although, we are told, it is approaching.
But by never defining a deadline, by never demarcating a point of no return, that day never has to come and “Liberal Zionists” never have to confront the contradiction inherent in their views. Rather, by failing to draw a line (which in reality we have probably long passed) and by failing to make a serious effort against the Israeli state for its colonialist policies, what “Liberal Zionists” are effectively saying is that there is no Palestinian minimum (or Zionist maximum) they would not accept – there is nothing “liberal” about that! [Continue reading…]
“Liberal Zionism”: A contradiction in terms