Why discourse matters

Leading Jewish blogger Phil Weiss kindly adds to the international debate started by my recent article in Haaretz:

…Where is Loewenstein’s argument appearing? In Haaretz, of course. Israel can hear these opinions. They are marginalized in my country, as the voices of Arabists, terrorist-sympathizers, appeasers. We are all morally inscribed and reinscribed in the Shoah here, but offered no education at all about the dispossession of the Palestinians. This is going to change! Young Jews, get on this moral train now! Be hip and be smart, don’t get left on a siding with the old stale generation while history moves forward! Toot-toot, hear that whistle blowin?

I love Loewenstein because he is always saying what he thinks and not caring who is upset. He just lets go with it. It’s wonderful. The scholar Marc Ellis wrote in Wrestling With Zion, the fabulous collection by Alisa Solomon and Tony Kushner, that the discourse among Jews over Israel is constructed in a narrow way. You are either for Israel or not really against it, i.e., there is a place to be critical of it, to be in the peace camp, to be against the occupation. To be a bold dissenter! Those are the two spots. Well the bold dissenter spot is actually extremely confined. You cannot be anti-Zionist or post-Zionist in that spot. If you think that Israel is a false prophet ala the Shabbatei Zevi, you cannot shout this out. You can’t be an Arabist or a member of neturei karta, the only Jews speaking loudly in one voice against atrocities in Gaza. You must always think of Israel’s existential crisis when you frame your criticism.

I think I have Ellis right. And the point is that if you question the moral framework of Israeli society, then the other dissenters distance themselves from you. It’s not a spot with any honor. So even the bold dissenters censor themselves. Well: Antony Loewenstein doesn’t care, and that is wonderful. He is helping to build a new Jewish moral tradition in the free western Jewish-empowered world.

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