Ali Abunimah, who runs the cheerily named Electronic Intifada website (makes you wonder if your computer will explode in your child's face if you go to the site, doesn't it?), has involved himself in a discussion taking place on Peter Beinart's Open Zion page at the Daily Beast. I've been following, and commenting on, the site for several months and don't recall seeing Abunimah make an appearance in the comment section; I'm assuming that he's not going to be posting any columns there as he's outside even the wide latitude that Beinart gives to writers there. Abunimah's work (and fundraising) has been nicely critiqued at Warped-Mirror.com.
The Open Zion column in question was Hannah Weisfeld's BDS And Anti-Semitism Revisited, in which Weisfeld (a British Jew active in Yachad, the UK's equivalent of J Street) attempts to defend the BDS movement from charges that it is inherently anti-Semitic while condemning certain instances in which blatant anti-Semitism has been manifested in the movement. Let's leave aside for the moment that her premise is, as the Brits would say, rubbish. The BDS movement starts from the principle that the Jewish people have no right of national self-determination and insists on the fictional "right of return" which has no basis in international law but would conveniently eliminate Jewish statehood.
Abunimah chose to involve himself in the comment section because Weisfeld's previous post on the topic was based on information from Ali's online nemesis, Avi Mayer at the Jewish Agency for Israel. (Anyone who is on Twitter who wants to keep abreast of issues should follow @AviMayer. He is the one who broke the story on the anti-Semitism spread on social media by Greta Berlin, the now discredited former head of the now even further discredited Free Gaza Movement.) When challenged by this writer in a comment post with the basic question ""Do the Jewish people have a right of self-determination in
[at least a portion of] their historic homeland?" he responded by linking an article he had written in 2010 . Normally I don't link to hate speech, but this is worth reading for an insight into the extremist anti-Zionist argument couched in human rights terms; people like Abunimah realize that the language of liberalism reads much better than the jargon of jihad, even if the end goals are the same.
My response to his article is posted on the site, but I wanted to share it here as well. If Ali wants to respond, I'll post it.
"Your article is a very clear renunciation of the right of the Jewish
people to our own national self-determination. And of course it is also
riddled with errors of history and fact.
Let's start with your
deliberately pejorative phrase "settler-colonial Zionist forces". They
of course were not colonialists in any way; they were not carrying the
flag of the countries from which they were fleeing, but rather seeking
to escape them by returning to their people's homeland. Quite different
than the Arab immigrants into the Mandate who came for improved economic
opportunity. And they were not "forces"-- they were individuals, mostly
peasants and working class but some middle class. Trying to recast the
Jewish people's return to their homeland as similar to the European
practice of turning Africa and Asia into outposts of empire, ruled for
the benefit of the home office, is a common rhetorical trick that you
and other anti-Zionists employ. It doesn't go far with any audience that
is familiar with history, which means that it's wasted on most readers
of this site.
You also refer to the "fundamental rights of
millions of Palestinian refugees". Those "rights" of course, do not
actually exist. Individual refugees, under international law (which is
made by treaties, not unilateral decisions of the UN GA, much less those
of UNRWA) have rights upon the settlement of a conflict. Perhaps the
only point on which we will agree is that this conflict is not anywhere
close to settled. Descendants of such refugees do not have similar
rights anywhere in international law.
Nor was Palestine, at any
point prior to the British Mandate, an "indivisible homeland". Since the
existence of the Judean kingdoms and then the Roman province of Judea,
there is no map of the region that shows Palestine as an individual
entity. Nor is there any mention of a people--aside from the Jews-- that
consider themselves indigenous to the region until modern times. Need I
remind you of the use of the term Naqba to describe the separation of
the Arabs of the British Mandate from what they saw as their countrymen
in Syria (under French Mandate)?
Yet while you insist that the
modern self-recognition of the Palestinians must be somehow applied
retroactively to all of history, you exclude the Jewish people-- the
only ones who are uniquely indigenous to that area and whose presence
for 3 millenia is literally engraved into that land-- from the same
By the way, I'm sure you recall that when Arafat
gave that 1974 speech from which you quote, the PLO Charter called for
the expulsion of all Jews whose families arrived after 1917. I know
that's an inconvenient fact which you would prefer to leave unmentioned.
comparison to Northern Ireland is fallacious. There is no "northern
Irish" people seeking their own national self-determination. But the
reference to Ireland is relevant. If someone who is Irish living outside
the Irish Republic wished to return to that part of his people's
homeland which is independent, he can immigrate to Ireland-- and the
country has laws that provide automatic rights of citizenship for those
whose parents or grandparents were Irish subject to certain
requirements. Similarly, Israel provides citizenship rights to members
of the Jewish people, and a future Palestinian state should of course
provide such rights to Palestinians wherever they may be residing.
call is very clear-- remove the Zionist (eg Jewish) character of the
state of Israel. This will of course result in the same phenomenon seen
throughout virtually all of the Arab world-- institutionalized apartheid
against Jews who will be subject to the dhimmitude under which they
lived prior to their expulsion, and the tyranny of the Islamic majority
against the infidels as we have seen in Iraq, in Gaza and now developing
in Egypt. Show me a Middle Eastern Arab state that treats all of its
Arab citizens with equal rights before you start trumpeting promises
that your 24th Arab majority state would do the same for its Jews."