Thanks for your comment. I would like to stress that I would certainly not want to identify the views of Jews in general – and certainly not of Jews in my own country, Britain – with those of the current Israeli government. It seems to me clear that attitudes among Jews here are ihn flux, and are also commonly conflicted. It is also quite difficult to be clear as to what is going on – particularly as people are often imperfectly candid about what they think, and even with very old and close Jewish friends I have found myself engaging in oddly elliptical conversations.What however I think is happening is that very old issues concerning Jewish identity are resurfacing, often in a very painful way. How far the position in the United States is or is not different from that in Britain is I think an interesting question.Since writing my original comment, I have read a discussion of the recently disclosed documents by Alastair Crooke – the former MI6 officer who created an organisation called Conflicts Forum – which draws heavily on the analysis of Professor Mushtaq Khan of the School of Oriental and African Studies here. I am not putting either forward as an unbiased observer, but I think their views give food for thought.(The Crooke article is at:http://english.aljazeera.net/palestinepapers/2011/01/201112412224387862.html;
the talk by Professor Khan to which he refers is not available on the net. But an earlier version of the analysis is at
http://mercury.soas.ac.uk/users/mk17/Docs/Security%20First.pdf )The key argument made by both is that the policy alike of the Western powers and of the Palestinian leadership has been based upon what seemed a plausible realpolitik argument, which however is wrong. The underlying assumption has been that a key Israeli objective is to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel – and that particularly given the obvious demographic trends, this would lead the Israeli government sooner or later to acquiesce in a Palestinian state, providing just enough for the Palestinian leadership for them to be able to sell it to their own people.Accordingly, the central problem has been perceived as being to overcome Israeli distrust – a conviction reflected in the approach both of the Western powers and of the Ramallah leadership.However, both Crooke and Khan argue, the Israeli government is seeking to perpetuate not simply a Jewish majority, but the state based upon the conception of differential rights for Jew and non-Jew. This is how Crooke glosses key passages from the newly disclosed papers:An angered Tzipi Livni, in a pre-Annapolis negotiating session with Ahmed Qurei, spells out Israeli motivations: “I think that we can use another session – about what it means to be a Jew and that it is more than just a religion. But if you want to take us back to 1947, it won’t help. Israel is the state of the Jewish people -- and I would like to emphasize the meaning of “its people” is the Jewish people -- with Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of Israel and of the Jewish people for 3007 years....”Two months later, Livni tells Ahmed Qurei and Saeb Erekat, “Israel was established to become a national home for Jews from all over the world. The Jew gets the citizenship as soon as he steps in Israel, and therefore don’t say anything about the nature of Israel…The basis for the creation of the state of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people. Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians including refugees. Putting an end to claims means fulfilling national rights for all.”What Livni is saying is clear: She never mentions ‘Jewish majority’; her objective is a Zionist state. A Zionist state is one, she emphasises, that is open to any Jew who knocks at the door. It follows therefore it is a state that must conserve land and potential water resources for the new arrivals: ‘Jews from all over the world’. Israel in this conception cannot be a multi-cultural state: It is fundamentally a conceptualisation of differential rights for Jew and non-Jew. Minorities claiming equal political rights within a Zionist state represent an internal contradiction, a threat to this vision of a state based on special rights for Jews.Drawing on Khan's analysis, Crooke goes on to spell out reasons why establishing a Palestinian state may quite correctly be seen by the Israeli leadership as making the problem of sustaining a state based on differential rights for Jews more difficult, rather than less so – on this issue Khan's paper is very well worth reading.What however I think Tzipi Livni is implicitly assuming is that the Holocaust definitively vindicated one side in arguments about Jewish identity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Britain, perhaps the most significant representative of the other side was Edwin Montagu – who was passionately opposed to the Balfour Declaration. The Memorandum 'On the Anti-Semitism of Present (British) Government' he submitted to his Cabinet colleagues in August 1917 is available on a Zionist website.(See http://www.zionism-israel.com/hdoc/Montagu_balfour.htm )The introduction on the website combines a very cogent point – that Montagu had what turned out to be a grossly over sanguine view of the prospects for Russian Jews – with a peculiarly silly argument. The 'fear of Zionism' evident in the Memorandum, it suggests was 'was animated, apparently, by the ancient Jewish desire, the desire of all persecuted minorities, not to be "noticed" and not to provide any possible excuse for persecution.'Given that at the time he wrote the Memorandum, Montagu had recently been appointed Secretary of State for India – and so was holding in wartime one of the most crucial and sensitive positions in the administration of the British Empire – the notion that he did not want to be 'noticed' is absurd. In fact, it comes close to turning the truth on its head. As with other prominent Anglo-Jewish families, the Montagus had taken exuberant advantage of the opportunities opened up by the elimination of barriers preventing non-Anglicans gaining entry into the British elite.It is certainly clear from the Memorandum that Montagu feared that a conspicuous – and conspicuously successful – Jewish minority could be very vulnerable to anti-Semitism. A condition for their acceptance, he believed, was a wholehearted commitment to their native land. But it would be a mistake, I think, to attribute too much cynicism to him. In a private letter Montagu wrote to the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, the sense of outrage is palpable: 'The country for which I worked ever since I left the University – England – the country for which my family have fought, tells me that my national home … is Palestine.'So what the Memorandum represents is a quite coherent definition of Jewish identity, which explicitly repudiates the argument which Tzipi Livni makes to Ahmed Qurei. After the failure of his attempt to stop the Declaration, Montagu commented bitterly in his diary that the Government had 'endeavoured to set up a people which does not exist.'Clearly, the Holocaust changed the situation radically, tilting the balance heavily towards Zionism in Jewish arguments. However, my suspicion is that both Israelis like Livni and leaders of the American Jewish community exaggerate the extent of the change – and some of the potential risks of the positions they are taking up.If for example I try and think of my various Jewish friends and acquaintances as belonging to a coherent 'people', whose capital has been Jerusalem 'for 3007 years', in most cases I am struck by a sense of absurdity. For example, my wife's god-daughter, a very beautiful and sweet-natured girl, whose grandmother made it over here from Vienna shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, and whose father is American, says she would like to live either in Surrey or San Francisco. She is certainly Jewish, I really cannot see that her 'national home' is Israel, a place in which she has palpably no desire to live – what would it mean to say this?A bedrock among many Jews is an identification with the potential vulnerability of fellow Jews, which derives from the Holocaust. But beyond this, is there really a coherent Jewish people today any more than there was in Montagu's time?A further point is that some of the traditionally strongest allies of Jews in Britain have had what one might call Dreyfusard attitudes – as Montagu did. If a Jew demonstrates his commitment to his country of birth or adoption by being prepared to fight for it, according to this pattern of attitudes, it is iniquitous to treat him as an outsider – and also, from a pragmatic point of view stupid, given that Jewish intellectual curiosity and energy can be immensely valuable national assets, not least in wartime.(So for example, when in May 1940 a Jew from Vienna collaborated with a Jew from Berlin on a memorandum on the possibility of an atomic bomb, they did so for the British Government, not the German. And – to revert to the Montagu family – Edwin's nephew Ewen was a key figure in British intelligence in the Second World War, being a principal architect of Operation Mincemeat, the ruse by which the Germans were fooled into believing the Allies would land in Greece and Sardinia, rather than Sicily.)It was precisely the fact that so many of the German Jewish refugees from Hitler were people who had never conceived themselves as being anything else than German which helped many British liberals in the Thirties, to grasp that National Socialist racism was something uniquely evil, and radically different from either traditional religious or indeed, if to a lesser extent, ethnic prejudice.A consequence of all this is that in post-war Britain Edwin Montagu's apprehensions about the implications of 'dual loyalty' have seemed beside the point. It has in fact been very common for many Jews to have a genuine and deep loyalty both to Israel and to Britain. The latent conflict between the identification of Jews here with Israel and their identification with Britain has not seem a practical problem either to Jews, or to essentially 'Dreyfusard' philosemites.However, for this situation to be sustainable, it is necessary that the entrance of Israel, as perceived by the government of that country, are not judged by many to be radically incompatible with those of Britain.The 'Global War on Terror' has thrown the whole situation open. It appears to be the view of some neoconservatives, both in the United States and in Britain, the opposition to this has commonly been related to anti-Semitism. In fact, the very different grounds on which many of us have opposed American and British policy since the attack on the World Trade Center commonly have nothing to do whatsoever with attitudes towards Jews. However, there is a very real reverse causation, which operates in different ways.Among the five members of the panel in the inquiry into the Iraq War currently being chaired by Sir John Chilcot are the historians Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman. Twenty years ago it would simply never have occurred to me that the fact that either of them were Jewish was remotely relevant to their suitability for an inquest into a major British foreign policy failure. Today I among those who think that neither should have been appointed to this inquiry, and certainly not both. Despite what the Jewish Chronicle would have one believe, there is nothing inherently anti-Semitic about this view.What is also happening – and this brings me back to Tzipi Livni's comments – is a growing sense among a lot of people that they have been played for suckers by the Israeli government: and that the persistent attempts to claim they have no partner for peace, and that the absence of a settlement is purely due to reasonable fear, are in very substantial measure a pretext. There is, once again, nothing inherently anti-Semitic about this view. However, it is quite clear that perfectly reasonable objections to the actions both of Israel and its sympathisers among Jews outside the country are eminently capable of spilling over into very unpleasant anti-Semitism – and indeed are doing so. The fears of Edwin Montagu look less irrelevant than they did.All this, I think, leaves many Jews in Britain pulled in many different ways – and in particular, torn between an identification with Israel and the increasing difficulty both of believing that the Israeli government is seriously interested in any meaningful two-state solution, and of justifying, both others and to themselves, the brutalities which, absent such a solution, are going to go on and on with no prospect of ending. And in addition to this there is the fear of awakening anti-Semitism, which pulls people different ways.As to the crucial question you raise about whether there is any prospect of a radical change in Israel, I confess to being pessimistic. However, if there is to be a change, it will need to start with a radical change among Jews outside the country – particularly in the United States. I think that may well come – but is liable to come too late to keep us from the 'precipice' and 'deep and dark chasm' to which you refer.