(with the subhead: "Promoting Israeli democracy, exposing secrets of the national security state") might be friendly toward progressive Zionists like ourselves, but think again. Since this is the Internet, and its subject relates to Israel, you don't get civility either.
Wikipedia reports that Richard Silverstein, this Seattle-based blogger, has published a number of news scoops, but:
Yossi Melman, a veteran security and intelligence reporter for Haaretz argues that Silverstein "spreads rumors without checking them" and "is an ideologue, not a journalist." He adds, "[Silverstein] is speculative. It is like at the casino: Sometimes he gets it right, and sometimes he doesn’t." Nonetheless, Melman writes that "Silverstein’s blog is important because he exposes the security services and the courts in all their nakedness. They use the instruments of the 20th century to protect secrets which aren’t really secrets in the age of 21st century technology."As for Silverstein's view of Israel, this Wikipedia article continues:
... he believes Israel is a Jewish homeland, that he hopes to see equal rights provided for Jewish and Arab citizens in the country and though he is "agnostic" toward the two-state solution would ultimately prefer that outcome.I remember Silverstein from the first J Street conference; he was a leading organizer of an unofficial session of bloggers there, which J Street graciously facilitated by providing them with a room and a free lunch. The only participant I recall being really positive about J Street on that bloggers' panel was the Palestinian-American Ray Hanania.
A "Partners" colleague prompted me to visit Silverstein's site, when she noticed his harsh critique of Peter Beinart's recent NY Times op-ed --- "Beinart’s Buy Israel, ‘Zionist BDS’ Reverse Boycott." Beinart argues for much the same position as "Partners" does: to distinguish Israel's legitimacy
within its pre-June 1967 borders from its expansion beyond this internationally-recognized 1949-'67 armistice line, by boycotting products made in the settlements of the West Bank.
Yet Silverstein blows up at Beinart for not endorsing a Palestinian "right of return" to what is now Israel, something Silverstein sees as a necessary expiation for Israel's "original sin" of exiling Palestinians in the course of the 1948 war. To Silverstein's credit, he is not seeking to undermine Israel's majority-Jewish character, but--in contrast to Beinart--he takes it on faith that most Palestinians would choose alternatives to a physical "return" to Israel. One point of Silverstein's caustic critique that we can actually concur with is Beinart's poor choice of terms in calling Israel within the pre-'67 border, "democratic Israel," as opposed to "undemocratic Israel" beyond that line. Regardless of the terminology, the settlements beyond the old border are in occupied territory. But this is where our agreement with Silverstein ends.
Silverstein's Beinart post had drawn 77 comments from readers. I sent in three; commenters often post multiple times as they agree or argue with each other and with Silverstein (who argues back); Sliverstein attacked me in nasty terms when I pointed out that he had kept my comments "awaiting moderation" longer than he apparently had for others (the time & date of submissions are indicated): "Stop bitching & moaning Seliger. If there’s one thing I hate is lib Zionists whining about how mistreated they are. ..." But what really bothered him was my progressive brand of Zionism, stating inexactly that "Seliger works for Meretz USA & represents the last dying gasp of apologist lib Zionism."
This is the initial comment I left at his site, responding to Silverstein's and others' comments on the Nakba (what Palestinians call the disaster they experienced with Israel's birth):
A problem with the “Nakba”/”right of return” argument is that it ignores the fact that the Arab side not only rejected the UN General Assembly vote to partition the Palestinian Mandate into two states–one predominantly Jewish and the other overwhelmingly Arab–but also launched a two-phase war to destroy Israel at its birth. In fact, the first phase, the Palestinian Arab effort to destroy the Yishuv, was launched 1/2 year before Israel declared its independence. If the Palestinians had closely coordinated their attacks with the outside invasion by five Arab armies in May 1948, the Arabs might have won that war, and we’d be talking about the great massacre and expulsion of Palestinian Jews in 1948.He responded with a rebuke, as well as his version of history:
So Israel’s “original sin” was a response to the Arabs’ “sin”–or at least their error–in going to war in the first place. If they hadn’t done so, there would not have been a massive exodus of Palestinian refugees. The refugee problem needs to be fixed, primarily in terms of voluntary resettlement and compensation as outlined in the Geneva Accord, but not with a massive “return” to Israel, mostly by people who were never born there.
First, your comment is off topic. The goal of this blog is not to be a soccer match with cheering fans on either side of the pitch. Nor is it to score pts in a propaganda war. Nor is it to fight the battle of Zionist history over again to ensure your side wins the argument. So if you want to comment here read & follow the rules.Silverstein alludes to some online disagreement we've had previously---apparently a no-no on my part. As I've indicated previously, the Nakba is central to Silverstein's critique of Beinart. Having been forbidden to comment further on this "thread" online, I emailed my reply:
The Nakba is a historical event in its own right which cannot be mitigated or excused or explained by any other historical event. The fact that Arab states rejected Partition has absolutely no bearing on the Nakba. The 1 million or so who were expelled did not personally reject Partition & the Arab states who did, do not speak or act as agents on behalf of the Nakba victims. The fact that Israel was at war defending itself against Arab armies in no way excuses a deliberate policy of ethnic cleansing in violation of international law.
Rejecting Partition was not a sin. It was a political decision. We can argue it was a wrong decision or one we wish would've turned out differently. But just as Arab states rejected Partition, Israel rejected strenuous efforts at negotiation & warnings that declaring statehood would bring war. If the war had gone against Israel, then now we'd be blaming Ben Gurion for not taking that advice as others blame the Arab states for not accepting Partition. Nakba was a national Original Sin. Rejection [of] Partition was not.
You also misconstrue the Geneva Initiative which calls very specifically for return of refugees to Israel.
I am NOT prepared to get into a knock down drag out fight with you about anything. You are done in this thread. You may participate in other threads. But do not respond to this comment. I will be monitoring yr participation because of major issues you & I have had in the past. [My emphasis added.]
.... You're telling me, an enthusiastic supporter of Geneva, what it says about refugees: some refugees should return to Israel, at Israel's sovereign discretion. I could quote this exactly, but it's easiest for you to look at this two-minute video summary from the Geneva-Accord.org site; "refugees" is the second issue summarized.He did not respond. There was a bit more sparring between us, online, on whether the NY Times is fair in representing pro-Palestinian views, with me arguing yes and he asserting no. I'll spare you the one-sided, anti-Israel hysterics from some of his readers.
If you really believe in Tikkun Olam, Richard, you'd cut the nastiness with someone like me, who disagrees with you, but not as much as you think.