If Giving a Homeland to a People is Progressive, Give One to the Palestinians

In an interview with Bloomberg, NYC mayor Bill de Blasio laid out his views on Israel. This is what he said: “Israel is a fundamentally progressive concept. It is about having a homeland for a people who’ve been oppressed for millennia and who still have to wonder if they will have safety in the rest of the world. I don’t know what could be more progressive than a homeland for oppressed people.”

Well, let me tell you, Mayor, what could be more progressive. Ending the oppression.

This discussion is not new. Political Zionism began as a fringe movement, and for decades, an epic battle raged between its supporters who were gradually gaining ground and anti-Zionist Jews. The latter opposed Zionism either on religious or on progressive grounds. The progressives maintained that Jews are entitled to full equality wherever they live, and this is what they should strive for. Moreover, if Jews start positioning themselves as a distinct group that aspires to a homeland of its own, it could block their path to equality and fuel anti-Semitism. These arguments were widely employed by the anti-Zionist British Jewish elite during the fight for the Balfour Declaration.

Apparently, the more progressive vision of worldwide equality for Jews was unattainable back in the day, and Zionists were ultimately proven right in their quest for a safe haven. And yet, trying to end ethnic oppression by dividing the planet between tribes is by no means the most progressive thing one can think of. Moreover, it propagates oppression because the newly liberated people will apply the same ethnocentric paradigm to ethnic minorities in their midst. We, Jews, know it for a fact since this is what we did.

The concept of a Jewish homeland in Palestine was even less progressive because of a tiny catch: the territory on which this homeland was supposed to arise, had already been inhabited by others. Our liberation and salvation became another people’s nightmare.

It is beyond me, how de Blasio failed to see the glaring irony in his own words. You think that giving a homeland to an oppressed people is progressive? Give one to the Palestinians. It is their turn now. And they do not have to be moved anywhere, they just need the illegal occupation to end, which makes the solution quite straightforward. It is not enough to “believe in the two-state solution”, Mayor de Blasio. It is time to do something about it. Believing does about the same amount of good as “thoughts and prayers”.

Being the progressive he is, de Blasio added that he “consistently disagrees with Netanyahu and looks forward to the day when he’s no longer prime minister”. This has become an easy escape for American progressives. Just blame everything on Bibi. The minute he is gone, we’ll be back in business with the two-states solution. Really? Haven’t you seen the polls? Today, after years of relative calm, the Israeli public is more hawkish than it has been in a long time. Two of Netanyahu’s main opponents, Saar and Bennet, are trying to outflank him from the right, while Lapid is just mildly more moderate, not nearly enough to strike a deal with the Palestinians. The support for the two-state solution among Israelis is the lowest since the mid-90s. The Left lies in ruin with Avoda and MERETZ balancing on the brink of the electoral threshold. Ousting Bibi will do nothing without the US and Europe taking a stance and actively pressuring Israel back into the realistic mindset. To do this, one does not have to be overly progressive. Just talk to Jimmy Carter, may he live until 120, and ask him how he did it back in 1978.

About the Author
Arkadi Mazin began his career in journalism in the 1990s, joining the ranks of Vesti, the leading Israeli publication in Russian. As a freelancer, he collaborated with major Israeli media outlets, including Yedioth Aharonoth, Haaretz, and YNET. Today, he is a contributor to Re:Levant Israeli website in Russian and a staff science journalist at Lifespan.io, a leading source of news on longevity research.
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