"Replacing" the Palestinians

The ADL stumbles into an unfortunate parallel with white nationalism

Tucker Carlson, a blatant and unapologetic white nationalist, stirred up some controversy by giving his full backing to “replacement theory,” the idea that Jews, people of color, and leftists (and, presumably, all the ways in which those groups overlap) are working to “replace” white people in America.

In response, Jonathan Greenblatt, president of the Anti-Defamation League, called for Carlson to be fired. Unsurprisingly, FOX stood by Carlson. The statement was hardly off brand either for FOX or Carlson.

The far-right Daily Caller, supporting Carlson, tweeted: "After the ADL called on Fox News to fire Tucker Carlson after his segment last week on demographic change and political power in America, Tucker points out that the ADL made the same argument that he did when it came to Arabs in Israel."

In response, Palestinian scholar Yousef Munayyer tweeted: "Uh, no. The ADL didn't make an argument to defend an ethno-majoritarianism from immigrants. It made an argument to defend it against *refugee repatriation*. This is objectively worse. Palestinian refugees are not seeking to immigrate but return to their homes. You guys both suck."

The problem, Jonathan Greenblatt, is that Yousef is right. And it's not limited to the ADL.

How is it any different when Israelis like former Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked say, “There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights?” And is it really better when pro-Israel forces, like the ostensibly liberal Israel Policy Forum wring their hands over the prospect that, “If they (Palestinians living in the West Bank) become equal citizens, they would command immense political power, making up almost 40% of the population and changing Israel’s Jewish character.”

Carlson, in his rant that was so widely understood for the white nationalist diatribe it was, said, “Now, I know that the left … become literally hysterical if you use the term ‘replacement,’ if you suggest that the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate, the voters now casting ballots, with new people—more obedient voters from the third world. But they become hysterical because that’s what’s happening, actually. Let’s just say it: That’s true.”

Carlson also said that immigrants “dilute the political power of the people” and that “Every time they import a new voter, I become disenfranchised as a current voter.” Carlson was talking about immigrants, while demographic gatekeepers for Israel are referring to people who have lived in the region for many centuries.

It's all cut from the same cloth. And it's all wrong.

Palestinian dispossession and the denial of Palestinian rights, as well as the ongoing insecurity of Israelis, are largely rooted in the Israeli drive to permanently ensure an overwhelming Jewish majority, a goal that is absolutely incompatible with human rights, justice, and peace in a country that has an extant population with a long history in that place. Indeed, such a goal can only possibly be realized through ethnic cleansing, as happened in 1947-1949 and again in 1967, and ongoing brutality, dispossession, and widespread human rights violations.

There is no other way to maintain the ethnic superiority of one group over another, without which there are no tools to ensure the demographic majority. Concomitantly, without clear demographic superiority, there is no way to maintain the veneer, much less the reality, of a democratic structure in a self-identified ethno-nationalist state like Israel.

There are other ways to ensure Jewish security and safety and ensure that there is a place for Jews to flee antisemitism to (something we did not have in WWII) without such monstrous and inhuman methods. For many years, I have advocated a constitutional system in Israel, guaranteeing equal rights to all and enshrining a guarantee that the country is obligated to grant citizenship and asylum to any Jew or Palestinian (I note here that this would only be possible after a resolution of major issues, like the Palestinian refugees’ right of return) who is facing persecution for being a Jew or Palestinian anywhere in the world.

The trauma of the Holocaust has convinced Jews, with good reason, that they cannot trust others to keep their doors open should we need to flee again. The recent resurgence of far-right ideologues in Europe and the United States reinforces that threat, despite the open embrace of white nationalism by the right wing of the Jewish community and leading figures like Benjamin Netanyahu.

A constitution can address that issue without dispossessing anyone else. And it has the added potential benefit of addressing the trauma of the naqba and the difficulties Palestinians have often faced trying to live their lives in other countries.

It is intolerable for the crucial goal of Jewish safety and security to be achieved by *replacing* the Palestinians. Yet that—however one spins the narrative—is what happened dramatically in 1948 and again in 1967 and has continued gradually ever since. And it is intolerable that Americans have not only ignored this but have bankrolled it and enabled it through our diplomacy and political cover. Yet it not only continues but remains a difficult subject for us to even debate.

That is the reason Marc Lamont Hill and I wrote "Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics." Because most of us don't really think such things are acceptable. But for Israel, we make an exception.

That's obviously awful for Palestinians but it is also bad for Americans and, in the long run, for Jews everywhere.

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A few words on the Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz

It is very important that Americans understand the implications of the Netanyahu government’s decision to attack the Natanz nuclear facility last weekend.

Israel clearly did this to undermine the Biden administration’s efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. That’s not new.

But they did it while Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz. The timing cannot be ignored.

It was a calculated move meant to insult Joe Biden, reminiscent of the brazen way Netanyahu allowed the announcement of new building in the settlement of Ramat Shlomo back in 2010 while Biden was visiting the country. Biden, and the Obama White House, condemned the expansion of the settlement in East Jerusalem, but the matter was otherwise allowed to pass.

Biden cannot afford to be so conciliatory this time. Netanyahu provoked an escalation from Iran when, on Tuesday, it attacked an Israeli-owned vessel in the Persian Gulf and declared that it would be using its advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium up to 60% purity, a significant step. It is still a reversible one, but Netanyahu has now demonstrated that he does not feel restrained in provoking Iran.

On the contrary, Netanyahu has read the situation in Washington and noted that Democratic hawks, including the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, are indispensable to Biden’s domestic agenda. That gives them even more leverage than usual, and Netanyahu believes it will be enough to stop Biden from responding to Netanyahu’s effort to undermine the administration’s attempt to rejoin the JCPOA.

If Biden is not prepared to press Netanyahu to back off, there is little reason to think Israel will stop here. They will continue to push Iran, forcing the Islamic Republic to either refrain from responding thereby looking weak and granting momentum to hardline forces in Tehran, or responding forcefully and escalating the situation, which could not only sink the JCPOA for good but lead to war in the Gulf as well.

Netanyahu also has domestic political reasons to raise the heat on Iran, as a budding armed conflict would likely help him gather support from right wing parties that currently will not work with him or, at least, get a few Knesset members to defect to his side, allowing him to form a majority and avoid another round of elections. That would leave him in the prime minister’s office for another term, where, he will hope, he can manipulate matters to end his corruption trial.

There is only one way to avoid all of this and that is for the President of the United States to make it clear that he will not tolerate Israeli interference in American diplomacy. But Biden has not shown even a hint of willingness to confront Netanyahu on this matter,

If he continues to turn a blind eye to Israel’s actions, Biden will find it impossible to salvage this situation. And where Netanyahu might go from there is a frightening thing to contemplate.

Six years ago, Barack Obama used a combination of bribery (the new ten-year memorandum of understanding for U.S. military aid to Israel) and steadfastness in refusing to allow Netanyahu to dictate the course of negotiations with Iran.

This moment for Biden is the same as when Netanyahu conspired with then-Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner to address a joint session of Congress to undermine the initial signing of the Iran nuclear deal. It is time for Biden to similarly stand up and say that it is not acceptable for a U.S. ally to take steps like this to undermine U.S. interests and policy goals.

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My recent articles

At ReThinking Foreign Policy, I offer a reminder of just how good a deal the JCPOA really is. It represented very surprising, and completely unprecedented, concessions from Iran. Check out “Here’s a Reminder: The Iran Nuclear Deal Was a Very Good One” by clicking here. It includes a piece that Matt Duss and I wrote in support of the 2015 effort.

Also, at +972 magazine, I go into much more detail about how Biden is struggling to balance his domestic agenda and his need for absolute Democratic unity in the Senate with his foreign policy goals amid opposition from his own party. Check out “How hawkish Democrats are impeding Biden’s Middle East policy,” at +972.

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Recommended reading

After a good start, the Iran nuclear talks still have far to go

By Ali Vaez, Financial Times, April 14, 2021

To Revive the Iran Deal, Biden Must Remove Trump’s Sanctions

By Assal Rad, The National Interest, April 13, 2021

Progressives Call for Action on the Yemen Blockade

By Aida Chavez, The Nation, April 13, 2021

Iran Isn’t the Only State Making the Middle East a Rough Place (Think Israel)

By Paul Pillar, The National Interest, April 12, 2021

Thanks for reading the newsletter. You can always offer feedback or comments directly at http://mitchellplitnick.substack.com. And, please, if you find this as interesting as I hope you do, encourage your contacts to sign up.

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