Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Difference Over Israel Is Not A Difference Between Being Left Or Progressive.

I agree with Michael A. Dover's comment on Portside that
"It is important to recognize that what is progressive at any one point in history is not necessarily what seems most 'left'."
Many progressives and leftists have never attempted to discern the differences arising from their common ground of honest concern for the welfare of humanity over the welfare of the wealthy.

So how do we tell the difference? In a pinch, a leftist is more concerned about being on the "left side" than anything else. Leftists have the highest regard for their ideological position as a shared value and base their sense of personal integrity on remaining true to the team's point of view. Any deviation from their leftist positioning is seen as betrayal of "Team Left." This sense of honor and faith to the collective base is what makes leftists feel pride in their sense of selflessness. The ideology as a determining factor is always set within a social context in which the consensus about what is left approach is the most important. This high value on the group also places great stress on the group's cohesion, and leads to the fracturing of group identity, such as the well known stereotype of Stalinists verses Trotskyites.

In the same pinch a progressive will ask, "In this situation what will lead to progress toward the betterment of the human situation?" This is a coherent ideal rather than a consistent ideology. As an ideal, the progressive is moved by a guiding star rather than a leftist's guidebook, so that individual's orientation to the situational betterment of the human condition is the central concern. The progressive's main concern is about progress toward betterment of the condition of the most (rather than the conservative's concern for the betterment of the condition for the "best" and the "fewest", i.e., themselves), but the progressive's group betterment goal is set within the personal value of letting people personally define how they are guided by their own star rather than a group consensus upon which constellation to follow. Of course, the downside for progressives is that group integration in a common strategy is weakened as each person is led by the sound of their own drummer when stepping toward progress. The images of herding cats or carrying frogs into a wheelbarrow are appropriate stereotypes for getting progressives to actually do practical political work.

So while leftists and progressives instantly see their shared value of working toward the betterment of the human condition for the widest number of humans possible, they often move away from each other when it comes to putting boots, loafers, sandals, sneakers, and high heels on the ground to march, walk, hike, jog, or stroll toward this goal.

How does this apply to the Israel-Palestine situation? The leftist will have a rule and apply it, and here the general rule is that oppression is always bad and must be aggressively opposed. However, when Israel is the case to which the rule is applied the team factor comes into play. For the mainstream Jewish Left and those who are their close friends, Israel in its very nature is a product of left thinking and the very existence of Israel is a continuing living example of the fight against oppression generally and the oppression of the Jews specifically. Any act that undermines Israel is therefore seen as an act against the left view that fights oppression. Any charge against Israel is discounted on the basis that Israel is protecting itself against the oppression of the attacks on its existence. Of course on the other hand, there is an International Left that reads the current facts as trumping the historical facts, and finds the current oppression of Palestinians by the Israel government and its forces to be just one more example of oppression by the powerful against the weak that now also must be diligently opposed. In this situation, the two versions of what is the true left position will be at odds while both claim to be on the left against oppression.

Similarly, progressives find themselves at odds over how to respond to Israel's behavior. Mainstream Jewish progressives and their close friends will argue that the hope for the betterment of the most people in the Middle East rests upon the continued existence of Israel as a neighborhood example of democracy and human rights. However, progressives with no personal attachment to Israel see the situation quite differently and say that there is no human argument that can condone the current oppression of the millions of Palestinians, and that the progressive thing to do to better the condition of the most in the Middle East is to clearly oppose Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. In this view, Israel is only a sham democracy and is running a con-game when it comes to protecting "human rights" as opposed to merely protecting the economic and military power of Israel.

From the perspective of this analysis, the main difference is not between the left and progressives as between those Jewish Left-Progressives (and their friends) who continue to equate Israel as the protector of Jewish identity as being against oppression and the rest of the left and progressives who see the government of Israel as the central betrayer of Jewish identity and values. I see no way to avoid this very unpleasant and inconvenient conclusion.

I identify my position as being a radical progressive of the kind that says the government of Israel has betrayed the core values against oppression. (Of course it is an open question of history whether or not those values were ever really in play on the ground as Israel was created by the forced ethnic cleansing as the USA was also created, but that is not the issue here.) The international ideal that legitimatized the creation of Israel by the UN was the simple value of protecting people from oppression. Israel has now clearly betrayed that value by oppressing the Palestinian people through collective punishment, committing social atrocities in the building of settlements, and other such oppressions. It is now time that Israel as a government and a nation either (1) guarantee that value against oppression equally for the Palestinians or (2) cease to have any continuing international legitimacy to exist.

Though the human mind has an infinite capacity to rationalize, I see no rationalization that can overcome the plain fact that Israel and the USA are not permitting the people in the Palestinian territories to exist as a sovereign nation.

Honestly, the Palestinians themselves have made a shambles of trying to work together for their freedom, but their inability to do so is understandable when it is seen in the context of their captivity (figuratively and concretely speaking) by Israel. When people are in prison and divided by their captors and guards, it is very difficult to work together effectively. This is why we see ethnic gangs in prisons fighting each other rather than working collectively against the guards and wardens, and it is precisely why the prison authorities keep the prison factionalism alive in order to prevent a concerted action by the inmates against their guards who are vastly outnumbered.

Ultimately, what the UN gave, the UN should be able to take away. UN Generral Assembly Resolution no. 181 of 1947, and subsequent related resolutions, put into effect the previous intent of the League of Nations when creating the "Mandate for Palestine" in 1922. UN Resolution no. 181 recognized that the Mandate of Palestine should be divided into two nations one as a Jewish State and one as an Arab State. The context for the Palestinian request for recognition as a nation and continuing implementation of Resolution no. 181 and its progeny, should be the inherent power of the UN to pass a resolution under its parliamentary plenary power to amend or even repeal its prior resolutions including No. 181. In other words, if Israel and the USA continue to oppose and thwart the recognition of a sovereign nation for the Palestinians and continue to violate Resolution no. 242 by military occupation and blockade, then Resolution no. 181 should be repealed and recognition of Israel should be removed.

I continue to believe that the Palestinians have the best chance for a common sovereignty if they recognize the separate statehood of Gaza and the West Bank and form a federal connection as the expression of their unity rather than attempting to establish a single state with a single government. The fact of their territorial separateness cannot be ignored and just as the different states of the USA allow for a certain amount of both local control and local experimentation, so too will separate states in a unified federal system allow the Palestinians to have the best of local organization and common identity and citizenship. So far, I have not heard of any practical steps in this direction, though I am admittedly a world away from hearing what the insiders are planning in Palestine. However, if they want to have world opinion on their side when the question of their sovereignty comes before the UN, then it would behoove them to have a very practical plan for their nationhood status to present in order to inspire confidence.

At a minimum, their "Outline for Nationhood" should include the following proposals of trust:

1. Declare that the new nation of Palestine will consist of two states of contiguous geographical integrity, i.e., the West Bank and Gaza, bound together in a federal unity.

2. Affirm that there will be a federal constitution defining the powers of the federal government, including issues of legislative, judicial, executive, monetary, military, diplomatic, citizenship, etc., and there will be separate state constitutions for the functioning of the two states within their federal unity.

3. Establish a general timeline for the creation of the constitutions.

4. Ratify the importance of human rights with a statement of commitment to the principles spelled out in the UN's Universal Declaration on Human Rights and promise that the new Palestinian nation will protect the human rights of its citizens regardless of ethnic or religious identity.

5. Recognize the six basic principles of democracy: (1) The people are sovereign; (2) The people exercise their sovereignty by the rule of law not individuals, cliques, or juntas; (3) The people govern by majority rule; (4) The majority rule is constitutionally limited by minority rights; (5) The governance structure has a separation of powers so that no one branch or government function has all the power; and (6) The governance system has checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power between or within the branches from becoming tyrannical. And that within these "ground rules" of democracy the people of Palestine will create their constitutions and government structure.

6. Affirm that the new nation of Palestine will accept and abide by the unanimously approved UN Security Council Resolution no. 242 of 1967, and affirm that as soon as Israel withdraws its armed forces from the occupied territories as referenced in Resolution no. 242 and ends the blockade of Gaza, then the provisional government of Palestine will officially recognize the territorial inviolability and political independence of Israel according to Resolution no. 242.

If the Hamas and Fatah political organizations can agree on an Outline for Nationhood with a provisional governmental authority, then as soon as they have that agreement, and without waiting for the UN vote of recognition, they should send out diplomatic envoys to all the nations of the world asking for individual diplomatic recognition of Palestinian sovereignty and the provisional government. France has already recognized the Provisional Transitional National Council of Libyan rebels as the rightful Libyan regime. A transitional government of Palestine would have a much greater justification for receiving recognition. By demonstrating their ability to function as a sovereign nation and seek diplomatic recognition on their own without prior approval, the Palestinians would create greater pressure on the UN as a body to officially recognize the nation of Palestine and provide the necessary assistance for the nation building that will be required after the devastation wrought by Israel.

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