Image: Shibley Telhami (Photo: Dina Telhami)
If you know activists, you know they are action figures with a clear
theory of change. You push on your issue because it’s the right thing,
even when it’s way outside the margins of acceptable debate, and you
just keep pushing and even preaching to the choir when the New York Times treats
you like garbage. And because you’re right, you slowly build your
movement outside the establishment, and reach the hearts and minds of
the young, and then their parents.
The short version is: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
Well, I know it’s Sunday, and I’m a bible-thumper, but it’s actually
happening! The Palestinian solidarity movement is shifting the debate.
And terms that were once unacceptable are getting mainstreamed.
Most notably, this week, four very mainstream scholars led by Shibley Telhami published an essay in Foreign Affairs saying
it’s a one-state reality in Israel and Palestine, the “apartheid label”
is appropriate, and it points the way toward a struggle for equal
rights in the entire land.
Analytically, what matters is that the apartheid label accurately
describes the facts on the ground and offers the beginnings of a road
map to change them.
Many people have said this before, of course. Ali Abunimah, Tony
Judt, Virginia Tilley, Richard Falk, Ian Lustick, Peter Beinart, to name
a few. And Nathan Thrall did a long piece saying just what these
scholars say, that it’s a “delusion” that there is a military regime to
the east of the green line and a democracy to the west. No, it’s one
The difference this time, though, is that it’s being said in the
Mainstream, and at this tender moment the Mainstream seems open to
hearing the news. Maybe because the two-state solution is now so
shopworn and motheaten no one is buying. And the Zionist gatekeepers are
surely losing their power to marginalize the discussion of One state
and apartheid by branding such talk as antisemitism. Ted Deutch, Jonathan Greenblatt, Martin Indyk are all still here, but they’re getting hoarse.
Mainstream voices are getting bolder by the minute. Amna Nawaz of PBS News Hour had the temerity to grill Naftali
Bennett, the former prime minister, about how Israel can’t claim to be a
democracy when 5 million Palestinians can’t vote. Nawaz was familiar
with the new one-state discourse and also cited Israel’s tanking image
in the Democratic Party. She doesn’t appear to believe that Israel and
the U.S. have “shared values,” the talking point for the Israel lobby to
“justify inaction about Israeli crimes.”
The establishment consensus is wearing thin, thanks to two factors:
the tireless work of the Palestinian solidarity movement, and Israel’s
behavior. Years ago, Jeffrey Goldberg said activists had the “wind at
their backs,” because Israel refused to liberalize. And Goldberg had the
good sense to get out of the Israel business, early, like a rat leaving
It only gets worse over there. Apartheid gets more naked all the time. Netanyahu’s new consul general in New York brags about being a racist. Palestinians suspected of resistance are executed in broad daylight in the street by undercover Israelis in a manner straight out of the pages of European fascism. And Gaza’s starvation economy echoes the Warsaw Ghetto of sacred Jewish history.
And these two big-time pro-Israel rabbis talk about how many Nobel Prizes Jews have won and why Jews are the light unto the nations.
The other side just keeps playing into the activists’ hands. It would be a cause for celebration– but the reality is a source of sadness, and continued action.
Thanks for reading,