Avram Burg has written an opinion article in today’s Independent where he makes the absurd claim that even he, a Zionist, supports a settlement boycott.
In order to understand the absurdity of Burg’s claim, one first has to understand Burg himself. The short bio at the end of his article correctly states that “Avraham Burg was Speaker of the Knesset (1999-2003) and Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization“. However, these illustrious titles do not give anywhere near the full picture.
Back in 2007, Burg said that “Defining Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end“. This is possibly the strangest statement that any Israeli official, never mind a former Knesset Speaker and Chairman of the Jewish Agency and WZO, could make. Read some of his other “Zionist” observations here:
Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker and former head of the Jewish Agency says “to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It’s dynamite.” In an interview in Haaretz Weekend Magazine, he said that he is in favor of abrogating the Law of Return and calls on everyone who can to obtain a foreign passport.
Burg, who was interviewed on the occasion of the publication of his book “Defeating Hitler” said “the strategic mistake of Zionism was to annul the alternatives. Israeliness has only body; it doesn’t have soul.”
Oh, where does this concerned Israeli “Zionist” live now?
“Judaism always prepared alternatives,” says Burg, who three years after leaving Israeli politics is now a citizen of France and a successful businessman.
Isi Leibler took Burg to task for his dangerous views after Burg published his book “Hitler’s Victory”.
…the Hebrew version of Burg’s book caused barely a ripple, for the simple reason that most Israelis simply wrote him off. His tirades against his country and nation were so primitive and offensive that Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit roasted him, alleging that his book reeked of “loathing of Israeliness.” Even Burg’s leftist allies like Yossi Beilin dissociated themselves from him.
However, this English edition will doubtlessly embolden Diaspora Jews already engaged in anti-Israel campaigns. And it is significant that in contrast to their Israeli counterparts, radical American Jewish critics of Israel like J Street proudly identify themselves with Burg. It is also disconcerting to observe the favorable coverage Burg’s book is receiving in some trendy Jewish media publications, which treat his defamatory musings as serious contributions worthy of discussion.
FOES OF Israel seeking a Jewish imprimatur to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state will be able to find what they are looking for in this diatribe. More importantly, they will not just be quoting another post-Zionist hack. Burg is the scion of one of Israel’s most renowned religious Zionist families, a son of the late revered Dr. Yosef Burg, who headed the National Religious Party for many years. His mother’s family was butchered during the 1929 pogrom in Hebron. More importantly, Burg was a former speaker of the Knesset, as well as former chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization.
The British site Engage, who monitor racist antisemitism, also excoriated Burg for another Haaretz article of his:
Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg has written an article of a Eurocentric bent to the effect that antisemitism shouldn’t any longer be thought of as racism against Jews but as a bad-faith accusation made by Israel’s advocates against honest critics of Israel. He argues that for Jews to give any particular attention to antisemitism is both right wing and falls short of the kind of Jewishness to which he aspires.
So now that you have the general picture of Avram Burg’s post-Zionism, if not outright anti-Zionism, you will understand my intense discomfort (to put it mildly!) at the Independent article he wrote today. I am doubly discomfited by the fact that he chose to write davka in one of the more anti-Israel media outlets, rather than an Israeli newspaper or any other more neutral media.
Let’s take his arguments one by one:
Amid the darkness surrounding the Middle East peace process, we now see a ray of light. Since 2009, the United Kingdom has been taking measures, in accordance with European consumer protection rules, to ensure that settlement products – goods you might find on your supermarket shelves that have been produced in the occupied Palestinian territories – are no longer labelled as “made in Israel”.
After a meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers last month, several European member states now appear ready to follow the British initiative. …
Contrary to what you may think, EU member states which take these measures act in Israel’s interest.
This tough love “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you” attitude is intensely condescending and patronising towards a sovereign state. As if they know better than us what is good for us.
Burg goes on to contradict himself twice before breakfast, in consecutive paragraphs no less.
They do so because they take steps that defend and reinforce the Green Line, the pre-1967 border between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Green Line is of decisive importance to achieving Middle East peace. It is the line that was drawn in green pencil on the maps that were on the table at the time of the cease-fire agreements between Israel and the Arab states, signed in 1949. Regrettably, this line survived only until the 1967 war.
Is the Green Line the border between Israel and the Palestinian territories or is it the pencil-drawn ceasefire line? He also does not give any logical reason why it is “regrettable” that the ceasefire line only survived until 1967. The line was never an internationally recognized border, so what is so holy about it that it should not be moved as a result of a defensive war? He makes no mention of Abba Eban’s accurate description of pre-1967 Israel’s effective borders as “something of a memory of Auschwitz”, commonly summarized as “Auschwitz borders”.
During this war, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ever since, efforts of consecutive Israeli governments to blur this line and, ultimately, to erase it have not ceased.
This is nonsense and Burg knows it. How would he describe the evacuation of Gush Katif in Gaza, the northern Shomron settlements, Migron and now Givat HaUlpana? “Blurring the Green Line”? How would marking it in thick felt pen look? Burg makes no mention of the ceaseless offers to the Palestinians of land withdrawal by Israeli governments from both sides of the political spectrum – offers which have all been rejected.
The large-scale and expansionist settlement enterprise erodes the Green Line every day. Residential communities, now housing more than 500,000 settlers, were established within occupied Palestinian territory in order to make us forget the Green Line’s existence and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It should long have been clear to every Israeli that anything located inside the Green Line is the democratic, legal, normative Israel, and anything beyond the line is something else: undemocratic, illegal, not normative. Not ours.
Burg gives no legal or historical background to any of his outrageous claims. First of all, the “large-scale and expansionist settlement enterprise” takes up no more than about 2% of the entire West Bank. Not very successfully expansionist for 45 years’ work. Secondly, by putting the settlers’ numbers at 500,000 (Halevai! If only!), he is obviously counting the residents of Jerusalem neighbourhoods. Every Israeli, and every diplomat involved in the “peace process” knows that Jerusalem has been annexed by Israel, and is not up for negotiation. It never was Palestinian, and it never will be. He claims it is “Not ours”. Wrong. It most definitely is ours, and is nobody else’s.
As for the rest of the “West Bank”, that territory is part of what should have become the Jewish homeland according to the San Remo declaration of 1922. The fact that the Jordanians invaded in 1948 and captured the territory is irrelevant. That occupation was recognized by no one besides perfidious Britain, Iraq and Pakistan.
Does Burg deny the existence of the Gush Etzion bloc which was overrun and destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948? If the Palestinian’s can reclaim all that Israel captured in 1967, shouldn’t the favour be returned and Israel be allowed to reclaim the land it lost in 1948? Does Burg deny the existence of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem which stood for hundreds of years until the Jewish residents were ethnically cleansed by exile and murder in 1948, its 58 synagogues blown up and the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives desecrated? Again, if the Palestinians can claim a return to their land, are the Jews not to be allowed the same?
Apparently not, for ethnic cleansing only works one way for post-Zionists and anti-Zionists.
Israel recaptured these territories, lost in 1948 to the Jordanians and Egyptians – not Palestinians - in 1967, and it returned to its rightful owners. Burg does not explain who were the sovereign owners of the West Bank or Jerusalem before 1967. What was its currency, its capital, what passports did its residents carry? The only Palestinian passports ever issued were to the Jewish residents of “Palestine”.
[...] This is precisely the situation in which civilised societies urgently need feedback and intervention from the outside: to mirror the absurdity of the situation created and to focus attention on the damage of human and political blindness. To tell Israel that it is impossible to be treated as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, while it is also the last colonial occupier in the Western world.
This paragraph is so risible that it almost comes across as Marxist parody. Burg has not heard of the Russian occupation of the Kiril Islands, the British occupation of dozens of territories worldwide, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, the multinational occupation of Kurdistan… would someone please buy Burg a geography and history book?
It is not anti-Semitic and not anti-Israel to convey these messages. On the contrary: the settlers, the conquerors and their political allies – including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel – are the real enemies of Israel’s future.
It is indeed anti-Semitic because Israel is the only country singled out for such treatment. This fits in perfectly with Natan Sharansky’s 3D test for double standards on Israel.
The first “D” is the test of demonization
The second “D” is the test of double standards
The third “D” is the test of delegitimization:
Burg goes on to sanctimoniously declare:
I have decided to not buy any product that comes from the settlements. I do not cross the Green Line, not to promote public causes and not for family events. Because everything happening across the Green Line is the dark alter ego of Israel. Its hidden personality is manifest there. Evil, aggressive and impenetrable. This personality threatens to take over the good and humane parts of the legitimate Israel. With international help, we must return these demons to their bottles, or rather to those positive domains for which this state was established.
The demonisation in these sentences are not even subtle. The sinister descriptions of dark forces echo similar sentiments written in hostile journals in the 1930s about the Jews in general. Burg may not feel this is antisemitic, but his words could have been written by the best (or worst) of them.
Contrary to what you may be told, this is not a sweeping boycott of Israel, but a subtle and moral distinction that marks the difference between Israel’s great potential and its destructive capabilities.
How would Burg boycott a product grown in the West Bank, packed in “mainland” Israel and marketed through a company based in Tel Aviv with a branch in Ariel? Or vice versa, how would he boycott a product produced in Tel Aviv but marketed via Gush Etzion? And if the company is based in Jerusalem, does he have a street map showing the Green Line and the Jordanian built wall and no-man’s land? What about if the Green Line runs through a particular house? Would he ask to inspect the bedrooms?
If, God forbid, the Green Line will be permanently erased, from consciousness and from the ground, then Israel will also be erased. The struggle for the preservation of the Green Line is the struggle for Israel. Anyone who defends and reinforces it is a friend of Israel and keeps hope alive.
Utter nonsense! If the cease-fire had taken place a day earlier or a day later, the green line would have lain somewhere else. There is nothing holy or internationally binding about a ceasefire line that has never been recognized by any of the parties. A 9-mile wide Israel is not a defensible Israel, and anyone defending those Auschwitz borders is no friend of Israel.
Avram Burg is a post-Zionist; he should proudly lay claim to that title to which he is entitled through his writings and observations. He should not try to take cover under claims to be a Zionist in order to give credence to his profoundly inimical views.