The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland reconciles with the anti-Zionist left

The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland has evidently fully recovered from his jarring experience with vicious anti-Zionists at a debate on BDS in London with participants (including Omar Barghouti) who seek the end of the Jewish state.

According to The JC’s report on the debate, Freedland’s attempts to refute accusations that Israel is an “apartheid” state and that, therefore, BDS was a moral imperative were both repeatedly shouted down by pro-Palestinian activists, which led an evidently shaken Freedland to tell the audience:

“Tonight has been hugely revealing. I thought my disagreement with the boycott movement was because I want to see the end of occupation and you want to see the end of occupation and it was an argument about tactics.

“What has come through loud and clear is your motivation is not actually just the end of occupation but it’s with Israel itself – you have a fundamental problem with it.”

Just how revealing was Freedland’s jarring experience with rabid anti-Zionists? Well, not so jarring that he’s in any more predisposed to take on anti-Zionist such as Joseph Dana.

Joseph Dana, an American-Israeli, is a vocal BDS activist and proponent of the one-state solution, that is, the end of the Jewish state – a position which has endeared him to such vicious anti-Zionists as Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss. (In fact, Dana is a judge at something at Mondoweiss called the Mondo Awards – no doubt an award in great anti-Zionist achievements – a panel which includes Omar Barghouti)

Dana once wrote, “Why anyone, Jew or Arab, would want to see this [Israeli] state continue in its present form is really beyond comprehension.” 

And, he has even echoed the vile logic of CiF’s Slavoj Zizek that modern Zionists have come to resemble old style fascists, in an essay published at the viciously anti-Israel site, DesertPeace.

Recently, Jonathan Freedland Tweeted the following to his friend Joseph Dana (who Tweets under “ibnezra”)

The article Freedland links to, in Ha’aretz, reports on a group of settlers who vandalized an Israeli Army base as part of a “price tag” for the IDF’s recent demolishing of an outpost in Migron.  While the destructive actions of the settlers are of course indefensible, the shallow implication of Freedland’s Tweet encouraged me to respond in kind.

My reply

Beyond the Tweet itself (which was, interestingly, re-Tweeted by Seumas Milne), it’s dispiriting to say the least that Freedland has apparently learned nothing from his encounter with the anti-Zionist crowd in London.

In an essay about his experiences at the debate, published at the Zionist Left site, Engage, Freedland wrote the following:

“What [the debate] confirmed out loud was that the hard core of boycott campaigners do not merely object to the post-1967 occupation- even if that dominates their public rhetoric – but to Israel as Israel.”

Speakers from the floor repeatedly returned to the alleged ills of pre-1967 Israel and of Zionism itself. Indeed, Naomi Foyle, the activist who had acted as a “volunteer consultant” to the South Bank in organising the debate, later blogged a concise response to my claim that the boycott campaign was anti-Israel rather than anti-occupation: “Damn right.”

By finding common cause with one-state solution proponents who vilify Israel and her supporters at every opportunity, such as Joseph Dana, it’s clear Freedland – like many who maintain soft support for Zionism yet don’t want to get their hands dirty in the fight – is not willing to sacrifice alienating those in his progressive political circles for the sake of Israel’s survival.

While I’m a big believer in the idea of “Big Tent Zionism”, the key word in that phrase is, of course, “Zionism”.

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