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02 May 2007

Dan Fleshler’s “Realistic Dove” – Zionist discussion goes too far

So it is beginning to look like I might have somewhat jumped the gun with this original posting. As noted in Dan’s comment, he did indeed send me an email:

Hello, John. I just learned of your post on Internet Activist that complained that I had blocked your comment (s). In fact, the comment (3 versions) was just caught in my mysterious Web Press spam filter for some reason, and I didn’t discover that until just now. So I have tried my best of “unblock” hit and hope that it appears on the blog. I also did no receive any email from you, as far as I can tell. Please don’t give up on this dialogue. …”

As for why postings would have been caught in the spam filter - esp. since the same message was sent from different computers & connections and all of them had the “Realistic Dove” cookie installed (illustrated by the fact that going to the page the name/email/website data was saved) – I have no idea. However we all know that sometimes the Internet behaves in strange and mysterious ways. Also, I did send an email, but it was to the email address provided on the contact page of the “Realistic Dove” blog, which is different than the email he used to send me the above message, so presumably he just didn’t or doesn’t check the other email account.

So, though I did put forth a good faith effort to clarify the situation before reaching the conclusion that was subject of this original post, it would appear to have been a matter of a strange spam filter and a less commonly used contact email. That is, a combination of technical glitches and miscommunication. Therefore, I apologize for the apparently mistaken accusation that was the gist of the original posting. Having engaged in many of these discussions and knowing how acrimonious they frequently become, I admit a bit of prejudice in that after my good faith effort to clarify the situation failed, it was a quick transition to assuming the worst case scenario. So again, sorry about jumping the gun.

-- John S

======= Original ========

Dan Fleshler’s “Realistic Dove” – Zionist discussion goes too far

John Sigler, 2 May 2007

Despite the fact that an ever increasing number of people of conscience are beginning to the question the viability of a two-state solution for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as well as the ethnocentric political ideology of Zionism, in general passionate supporters of Zionism are having none of it. The two most common Zionist responses to any criticism is to either flatly ignore it, burying their head and sand and pretending that there is no critical perspective; or just hurl the tried and tired “Anti-Semitism!” libel at any and all comers. The standard line is that anyone is allowed to question or criticize any particular policy or practice, but to question the underlying ethnocentric and exclusivist ideology that spawns these policies and practices – Zionism – is completely unacceptable under any circumstance. That is, anyone may diagnose and try to remedy any of the particular symptoms, but to recognize the disease that causes the symptoms is forbidden.

There is nothing particular new about this flat refusal to even discuss the root of the problem, nevertheless the times and circumstances have changed. Specifically, those of us in the anti- / non- / post-Zionist camp have found our voice and reframed our arguments for one-state advocacy in terms that resonate well. This new reality has led to a crisis for Zionist/Israel advocacy as their old strategies, mentioned before, are no longer effective. The old “ultimate weapon” of silencing all debate by using the Anti-Semitism canard has fallen flat since it has been thrown about all willy-nilly at anyone – regardless of their actual track record of interaction with Jewish people – and has turned the entire charge into a nonsensical insult that no rational person could take seriously. Surely if people as diverse and progressive as Noam Chomsky, Jimmy Carter, Ilan Pappe, Desmond Tutu, Norman Finkelstein and John Dugard are “anti-Semites” what person of conscience wouldn’t want to join such august company?

Obviously the old tactics of protecting Zionist ideology from scrutiny and questioning are failing across the board and around the world. Therefore it can come as no surprise that Zionists of different stripes are experimenting with new methods of defending their political ideology. Among these, the notion of actually holding rational discussions with the opposing camp – a method that both allows the Zionists to make their case and to familiarize themselves with opposing arguments – appears perfectly reasonable and even useful. Thus we have the emergence of new projects like Dan Fleshler’s “Realistic Dove” blog website.

Upon visiting the “Realistic Dove” website (http://www.realisticdove.org/ ) it is immediately apparent that it represents the more-or-less standard perspective of the dwindling Zionist Left. People of the Zionist Left tend to be sincerely opposed to the worst extremes of the Israeli occupation and tend to view the continuing occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs, as distinct from the Occupied Syrian Golan) as the fundamental obstacle to peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people. This view holds that if only the occupation could be ended and a Palestinian state could be set up in the 22% of Palestine that constitutes the OPTs, the worst of the conflict would be resolved and the other issues could eventually be worked out.

At the same time however, the Zionist Left maintains that the fundamental concept of the ethnocentric and exclusionary “Jewish State” and the ideology that guides this principle – Zionism – remains a just, fair, reasonable, a noble idea, and (in some mysterious way) even compatible with secular Left-leaning humanism. The Zionist Left is a logical outgrowth of Labour Zionism’s concept of “constructive socialism,” a notion that truly supported basic socialist principles but only within the larger framework of Zionism. In the same way that Afrikaner socialists in the 1920’s framed their socialism within the context of white supremacy (“Workers of the World Unite for a White South Africa!”) so too did “constructive socialism” pervert socialist principles within the Zionist context (“Avoda Ivrit!” or “Hebrew Labour!”).

The Zionist Left is today primarily represented by groups like Meretz, Peace Now, and the supporters of the Geneva Initiative. In general, they mean well, really are concerned by the brutality of the Israeli occupation and basic human rights; but at the same time staunchly refuse to question the validity of the notion of an ethnocentric exclusionary “Jewish State” and its supporting ideology – Zionism.

Despite the fact that the “Realistic Dove” site makes it clear from the outset that it represents a Zionist Left perspective, it also gives the impression that it is open to discussion and debate of the issues it raises. In fact, at first glance, the description given by Cicilie Surasky over at MuzzleWatch (http://www.muzzlewatch.com/?p=172 ) looks quite justified: “a thoughtful, respectful, and interesting dialogue about Israeli policies and lately, Zionism, where people across the ideological spectrum can talk in a respectful and searching tone.” However, as it turns out, this is not really the case.

Being an avid and passionate anti-Zionist and one-state supporter ( http://www.onestate.org/ ), I decided to give Fleshler’s discussion a try. Hopping into the comment thread of what was then the most recent post, between April 26 and April 30 I posted some 23 comments (View comment thread: http://www.realisticdove.org/archives/102#comments ) Primarily debating with Richard Witty and Dan Fleshler, though a couple others participated at points as well, I tried to reasonably and comprehensively address all the relevant issues raised, the counter-points and objections, as well as relevant general inquiries. I like to think that I presented a fairly decent case and maintained a generally respectful tone throughout and in fact Dan appears to agree, later writing: “John is one of the more articulate defenders of the 1-state idea that I have encountered, and the fact that he insisted that his position is an extension of his Jewish identity is worth noting.”

To be honest, I rather enjoyed the exchanges and couldn’t help but be a bit impressed with an obviously proud Zionist who would actually listen to someone who was arguing against his ideology, quite the rarity. In fact, I even went out of my way to say as much in a comment over at MondoWeiss (http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2007/04/realistic_dove_.html ) whose owner had earlier been embroiled in an argument with Dan Fleshler. Further, though I hold no illusions about “winning anyone over,” I did have the impression that at least Dan and Richard found some redeeming value in our exchanges by their decision to keep the discussion going.

In view of this seemingly amicable exchange of views and ideas, it came as a bit of a surprise and disappointment to find myself blocked from further participation.

After the aforementioned discussion wound down, Dan created a new post entitled “More conversations about one state vs. two states” (http://www.realisticdove.org/archives/103 ). This new post specifically cited me and my earlier comments and also laid out a clear cut challenge: “So what do you want to do? ... So, how do you get there [to a one-state option], my lefty friends? What would it look like?”

Having given such matters a not inconsiderable amount of thought, I immediately composed an opening response to this new post and tried to add it, but it was blocked. Had I not been blocked it would have been the second response on the thread and did raise new aspects of the question that had not been discussed previously. Affording Dan and the “Realistic Dove” the benefit of the doubt that perhaps there was a technical issue or the like, I tried to post my response sporadically through the day, on different computers and through different connections. Failing in all attempts, though in some attempts WordPress indicated that the previous attempt had been received, I opted at last to just send Dan an email asking whether this was deliberate or not. He chose not to respond at all.

So given that I have been blocked, though no one else apparently has (there have been five new comments on the thread) and Dan has refused to say why either publicly or privately (he has had my email from the outset), I can only draw my own conclusions. At no point was I just rude or obnoxious – even by the standard set by fellow participant Bill Pearlman – so I must assume that the issue wasn’t one of tone. So absent any other sound reason, I can only assume that I argued my case too well or that it was too reasonable to be allowed to continue. Of course this sounds absurdly arrogant, but I really can’t come up with any other reason why I would be banned except that Dan felt the pro-Zionist side of the debate was unable to effectively counter my case. When you encounter people that hold opinions you don’t like, you can either discuss them or silence them; in general Zionists prefer the latter and apparently “Realistic Dove” is no exception despite the initial impression to the contrary.

Of course “Realistic Dove” is Dan Fleshler’s project and he has every right to ban whomever he wants for whatever reason he wants. However, I do believe the case should lay to rest any pretense that “Realistic Dove” is in anyway interested in any real discussion or debate about Zionism or the one-state/two-state issue. If you can actually articulate a cohesive argument against the continuation of political Zionism and the ethnocentric exclusionary “Jewish State” – or in favor of one state for both peoples – do not expect to be welcome at the “Realistic Dove,” at least not for very long. The whole notion of a “Zionist Left” is really something of an oxymoron and cannot withstand serious scrutiny from a Left advocate, you become EITHER a Left-leaning progressive humanist OR a Zionist, but you can’t be both without basing it upon an easily exposed hypocrisy. In view of this, it can come as no surprise that “Realistic Dove” chose to emulate their Rightist-wing fellows and just stop the debate as opposed to eventually being forced to confront the inherent hypocrisy of their own Zionist Left stance.

Dan Fleshler here. As I explained to John via email, I did not block his comment. It was caught in Web Press' spam blocker and I wasn't aware of that until someone alerted me to this post.

So it is now unblocked. Of course, John's post has already been picked up on another blog and that one, as well as the post on Internet Activist , will remain on the Web forever...But I do want to continue this conversation.
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