“It breaks my heart to say this, but today I don’t feel I can call myself a Zionist any longer.”

I first got to know the philosopher Sam Fleischacker​ through his excellent work on theories of distributive justice and on Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (his discussion of Smith on value is among the best I’ve seen). I’ve since come to known him on Facebook and via email as a very principled and thoughtful liberal Zionist, with whom I’ve had some respectful disagreements about Israel, the two-state solution, and BDS. Earlier today he posted on Facebook this response to the election results in Israel. With his permission I reprint it here; it’s definitely worth your while:

At a discussion I ran at UIC [University of Illinois at Chicago] about 10 days ago, I asked the liberal Zionist participants what might be the point at which they would give up on the possibility of a Jewish and democratic state in Israel. For me, we have just passed that point. I have friends I respect deeply who think differently, but to me it is as clear as it is ever likely to be that the election on Tuesday marks the end of liberal Zionism. Consider: Netanyahu calls out just before the election that he will make sure there is no Palestinian state and the response – far from the utter rejection of this suggestion for which I and many others had hoped – was an overwhelming endorsement of him by the Jewish voters of Israel: and certainly by its Zionist voters. Set aside the Joint List, for which very few Jews (and virtually no Zionist Jews), voted. Of the remaining 106 Knesset seats, 67 went to parties that either actively agree with Netanyahu or are indifferent enough to his views on this issue that they are willing to sit in coalition with him. Which is to say: about TWO-THIRDS of the Jewish vote essentially said, “We are happy to end the peace process and instead rule over millions of Palestinians indefinitely; we are happy to have them have no vote, ever, either in their own state or in ours.” Which is to say, in what turned out to be as close to a referendum on the peace process and the two-state solution as we are ever likely to get, two-thirds of Israel’s Jews have just voted for the undemocratic version of the one-state solution: Israel has become, this week, the Herrenvolk ethnocracy its detractors have accused it of long being. We have long faced the possibility that we will have to choose between a Jewish but undemocratic Israel and a democratic Israel that is no longer a Jewish state. The choice is here now and I favor democracy. The thing to work for now is one person, one vote, from the river to the sea: voting rights for all Palestinians under Israeli rule. And if BDS will help bring that about – not sure that it is, but that’s a strategic matter, not a moral one – then BDS is a good thing. It breaks my heart to say this, but today I don’t feel I can call myself a Zionist any longer.


  1. Bill Michtom March 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm | #

    Thanks, Corey.

  2. BethanyAnne March 19, 2015 at 9:12 pm | #

    This reminds me of what Emily Hauser said about six months ago, when she finally gave up on Israel / Palestine peace. https://emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/on-hope-losing/

  3. Jeremy March 19, 2015 at 10:05 pm | #

    Pithy and powerful statement. I’m curious about this, though: “Set aside the Joint List, for which very few Jews (and virtually no Zionist Jews), voted.” Is there anywhere that has this sort of demographic breakdown of the election results? I think I’ve read that one of the Joint List’s MKs is Jewish, I’m wondering what the numbers look like for their supporters.

  4. Ronnie Tucker March 20, 2015 at 12:33 am | #

    He needs to re-read the quote from Netanyahu. He was not outright rejecting a two state solution He was rejecting it now, for from his vantage point, he does not have a viable partner for peace as the last thing Abbas did before breaking the talks off this past year was to mend fences with Hamas who wants to eradicate Israel. From that light, it’s a pretty reasonable comment from Netanyahu. When the other side gets serious to negotiate, then he will as well. If not, then it’s reasonable to call him out. While many who support BDS have their heart in the right place (and for many others who support the boycott, they don’t), it really exacerbates the tension between the two sides. Even Abbas has spoken against theBDS “movement.”

    • Malcolm I-IV-XV (@Malcolm_XS) March 20, 2015 at 11:43 am | #

      That argument about Hanas became tired very quickly.

      Admit the truth, the ugly truth that Netanyahu and the far right CANNOT allow anyone who can stand up to their tyranny that would threaten the worst-kept-secret in the world plan of ‘Eretz Israel with Jerusalem as it’s Capital’.

      Everything is geared towards this and to pretend otherwise is not just denial – its deceit.

      You know the MOSSAD motto..

    • thom March 20, 2015 at 7:17 pm | #

      RE: “Hamas who wants to eradicate Israel”. So whaat? Hamas has about the same chance of doing that as I have of winning the powerball lottery or beating the house over at Sheldon Adelson’s. Unless Hamas is the one with the nukes and Israel only has bottle rockets…?

      • Ronnie Tucker March 20, 2015 at 9:31 pm | #

        So according to that logic, Israel should revert to pre-1967 lines and still get bombarded with thousands of missles but from a much closer launching pad to its major population centers. Admittedly, I do not speak for the Israeli government, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that it will not agree to these terms.

        • Will April 11, 2015 at 4:37 am | #

          Yeah, you definitely don’t speak for the Israeli government. Yawn. Maybe you live in one of those new developments in East Jerusalem. If you think a two-bit corrupt bunch of rentiers like Hamas is bad wait till ISIS shows up. But the Israelis can fend them off from that moral high ground.

    • Robin Messing March 21, 2015 at 8:46 am | #

      Ronnie Tucker, your gullibility in believing that Netanyahu really wants a two-state solution knows no bounds. His own father scoffed at the idea that he wanted a two-state solution that any Palestinian could live with.

      Haaretz reported on March 10 that Likud activist Moshe Ifergan “described Netanyahu’s Bar-Ilan speech as ‘a brilliant way of thwarting [U.S. President Barack] Obama . . . ‘Netanyahu presented tough conditions on the subject of Jerusalem and demilitarization – conditions that the Palestinians are in effect unable to accept . . . Netanyahu proposed autonomy while the Palestinians want a state, and in so doing he stopped the pressure on Israel.’ ”

      For more info on Netanyahu’s double talk see


      Of course, it isn’t just the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that Netanyahu lies about. After Netanyahu gave his speech before Congress, Former Mossad leader called Netanyahu’s claims “Bullshit!”


      If Netanyahu REALLY wanted to preserve the 2-State option he would have said the following:

      “In 2009 I promised to strive for a two-state solution with the Palestinians, hoping the two sides could live together in peace. Unfortunately, we have had no peace. Hamas has attacked us with rockets, and who knows how deeply they will be embedded in a future Palestinian State? If Hamas ever controls Judea and Sumaria we may be subjected to attack from there as well. So there can be no two-state Solution ….for now. Conditions might change again in the future. Hamas may collapse or its views may change with time. I want us to keep our options open should the conditions become ripe one day for peace. That’s why I am ordering a permanent settlement freeze until that day comes. The more we build, the less contiguous land the Palestinians will have for their state, and the more painful it will be for us to give up parts of Judea and Sumaria for that state. We should have stopped settlement construction long ago, because any hope that there is enough contiguous land available for a Palestinian state is hanging by a thread. I will not allow more building! I will not be the one to cut that last tenuous thread of hope. ”

      But he never made that speech. Why didn’t he make that speech? Why did he raise a middle finger when the rest of the world asked again and again for a real, lasting settlement freeze? Because he never intended to implement a two-state solution in the first place. It’s become increasingly clear that he has been dangling the prospect of a two-state solution before the world just to get it to back off from pressuring Israel through U.N. sanctions while buying time for Israel to build more settlements.

      If you were a child I’d say your blind faith in Netanyahu’s words is adorable. But since you are an adult, I can only shake my head and wonder. How many times does Lucy have to pull the football away from Charlie Brown before he wises up?

      Netanyahu once bragged that “America is a thing that is easily moved.”


      I hope that the rest of America has a better bullshit detector than you do. Otherwise he will be proven right once again.

    • annie March 25, 2015 at 2:19 am | #

      the last thing Abbas did before breaking the talks off this past year was to mend fences with Hamas who wants to eradicate Israel.

      ronnie, abbas did not break off the talks, israel did. abbas agreed to enter into negotiations and not proceed w/palestinian plans to go to the ICC for 9 months under 1 condition, that israel agree to a prisoner exchange (up front). israel reneged on that deal and agreed to release the prisoners in 3 stages during negotiations. they released the first batch at the beginning, the second in the middle, and then, prior to israel agreeing to any ‘framework’ (remember, at israel request the negotiations for a plan [BORDERS} reverted to a negotiation for a framework for a plan – sans ANY proposal from israel – palestine had put forward their plan already) they refused to carry out their end of the bargain and release the third batch. they said they would do that only after palestine agreed to another 9 months of negotiations.

      abbas said no, that was the deal and set a deadline and warning. release the prisoners by this date or we apply to join the ICC. netanyahu refused to release the third batch of prisoners. so, abbas entered into a unity agreement w/hamas as a first step towards moving forward w/the ICC (because only united could palestine take up that initiative. however, they did not break off talks. in fact they reiterated they were wiling to continue the talks. just not under the condition they not go to the ICC.

      it was israel who broke off the talks when palestine sought for unification as a prelude to taking action w/the international courts. also, hamas agreed to go to the ICC with the understanding if palestine joined the courts they would be subject to prosecution by the same courts.

      so really, your allegation is BS.

    • annie March 25, 2015 at 2:42 am | #

      reuters: Israel suspends peace talks after Palestinian unity bid BY JEFFREY HELLER
      JERUSALEM Thu Apr 24, 2014 4:50pm EDT


      (Reuters) – Israel on Thursday suspended U.S.-sponsored peace talks with the Palestinians in response to President Mahmoud Abbas’s unexpected unity pact with the rival Islamist Hamas group.

      “The government of Israel will not hold negotiations with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas, a terror organization that calls for Israel’s destruction,” an official statement said after a six-hour meeting of the security cabinet.

      Asked to clarify whether that meant the talks were now frozen or would be called off only after a unity government was formed, a senior Israeli official said: “They are currently suspended.”

  5. Mushin March 20, 2015 at 7:47 am | #

    A sad pathetic commentary destabilizing the entire world in apartheid based in arrogant economic political aggressive power. Vice rules virtue in regulatory capture of governance now and for the Palestinian’s there isn’t even rent control just continuous starvation in a holocaust. Religious idiots worldwide creating permanent imprisonment in predatory chaos claiming peoples have no right to live on their ancestral lands. Why not America was built using the same Occidental WASP theology with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other with American Natives.

    Israel Zionist philosophy has chosen the power of force over social interactive relations jurist prudence in negotiated order as being the truth of reality eternally for their own familial brothers and sisters. The consequence of this action is an horrendous calamity disregarding the virtue of leading any form of justice, equality and equanimity in the future of their own society. The implications is a world war over power.

    The 1st peace is always within oneself. As a Westerner witnessing this insanity based in spiritual elitist texts makes me sick to my stomach. I feel like a compassionate idiot for the Zionist claim for a homeland. I never want to have another conversation in regards to religious ideological belief systems as having any power in human affairs. I literally hate these coercive deceptive boys bullying in arrested adolescent immaturity on the patriarchal playground that are willing to destroy the entire world for their own regressive fundamentalism of narrow minded self hatred, self absorbed importance, and self deluded ignorance claiming they represent god’s chosen directives. The Zionist philosophy declaration is a hatred for the poor, powerless, strangers and all the children of tomorrow in a shared humanity.

    The ultimate emotional contradiction in this historic swept along drift’s myth of the Tree of Knowledge is the denial of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. How any leader in Israel’s can justify apartheid on one hand and claim compassion from everyone in the world for a Nazi Holocaust on the other, is a double bind where the Zionist philosophy is now the new Hitler and the consequences are devastation for the Jewish State even in the short run. Why, because history proves that oppression never works. Human beings will do anything and everything necessary to be free in requisite variety because the structural determinism in our humanness is a generative creative mechanism where victims become victors. In the end economic power of patriarchal cultures based in exclusion and appropriation eat their own children in the self hatred of others or disregard for the wholeness, maturity and presence of the goodness in our own humanity.

    In deep sadness for the human suffering this will unleash globally.

    • thom March 20, 2015 at 7:19 pm | #

      Nice turn of the phrase: vice rules virtue…and it also really applied to the US global empire …

      • Laertes March 21, 2015 at 1:12 pm | #

        One person’s “nice turn of the phrase” is another’s “Palinesque word salad.” The very first sentence announces that we’re reading a highly abstruse tone poem.

  6. Jeremy March 20, 2015 at 11:16 am | #

    BDS is not the answer. It will only drive the right further right. The pressure should come from within, from Israeli’s who seek a just solution. Eventually the worm will turn.

    • freespeechlover March 20, 2015 at 12:54 pm | #

      I disagree, having lived in Ramallah and traveling back and forth for years between Israel and the Occupied Territories. The most compelling reason why there will not be a two state solution is “from the ground up,” because where people are physically located, trumps all hope for a two state solution. I have watched year in and year out the entire physical landscape change, and for years, I’ve seen that it’s really impossible to separate the two peoples. Israel is about settler colonialism, and that means it was and is trying to replace one society with another. That worked in the 19th century, but in the 21st it does not. At the root of the problem is this inconvenient fact for Zionists, liberal or otherwise-20% of Israel’s citizens are Palestinian. Now it’s one thing to try to ethnically cleanse people who aren’t your own citizens, as abhorrent as that idea is, but it’s quite another to try to do it to your own citizens. Yet, that is exactly what is going on in Israel inside the Green Line today, forgetting the horror of Gaza and the separate road system, checkpoints, refusal to lift the boot at all going on in the West Bank and E. Jerusalem, all based on the fact that we have a defacto annexation policy that never calls itself that.

      The laws and policies that have been in place for over fifty years for Palestinian citizens of Israel that make them separate and unequal based on ethnicity have only increased over time. We’re talking about a long period of time that this system of inequality has been cemented. Brick by brick, mortar by mortar, Israel has put into place an apartheid system. Whatever Israel’s intentions or whatever its defenders say were and are its intentions, this is the cold hard reality.

      Given this reality, and the fact that it has been built up over time, I think this election just demonstrates something that’s been going on inside Israel for a while now, which is the comfort of living in an ethnocracy. All settler colonial states have this, and they all fall.

      In this case, any change that comes from within is already too late, given the facts that have been built on the ground, facts that are already changing with settlements being expanded for “natural growth,” as I write.

      Those facts cannot simply be “reversed,” as people wish. There was an enormous uproar in Israel over removing a few thousand settlers in Gaza; there are hundreds of thousands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Many of the Gaza settlers went to the West Bank, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem settlers are far more ideologically-driven and much more politically organized and internal to political clout in Israel.

      So, no. Unfortunately, it’s too late for internal change, even if it were to be forthcoming.

    • thom March 20, 2015 at 7:19 pm | #

      That worm aintagonna turn.

    • Stephen Lambert March 28, 2015 at 12:45 am | #

      Jeremy, how many more Palestinians will have to die, how many more wars will America start to protect Israel and how many more people in the Middle East will be “radicalised” while the world waits for this particular worm to turn?

  7. Rosalind Petchesky March 20, 2015 at 11:16 am | #

    This is marvelous and seems to echo many, who are disgusted with what Netanyahu represents and the pervasiveness of racism and widespread support for what is truly apartheid in the state of Israel. I just attended the National Membership Meeting of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), of which I am an active member. The overwhelming commitment of the over 600 participants–the majority American Jews of all ages but also many Israelis, Palestinians and non-Jewish people of color–is to a binational, pluralist, democratic state – yes, “from the river to the sea.” This will undoubtedly be a long, difficult struggle, including honoring Palestinians’ right of return and the civil and human rights of all résidents, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Africans, Arabs, whatever. But it’s the only positive vision. As Amira Hass said at CUNY on Wed., the idea of a “Jewish state” (or an “Islamic state” or a Hindu or Christian state) being a democracy is an oxymoron.
    Ros Petchesky

    • Ronnie Tucker March 20, 2015 at 2:59 pm | #

      Consensus thinking is that a single state would eventually turn into an Arab (possibly secular but could be religious) nation based on population demographics. However, such a society would actually occur much sooner as Jews (and Christians) would emigrate en masse the moment such a decision was made. I am a Zionist and admittedly not a fan of JVP albeit I can recognize the appeal of its Utopian platform to members and other progressives. Nevertheless, only a two state solution is viable. Settlers in the West Bank know inevitably that they will be removed inside pre-1967 lines minus agreed upon land swaps (offered in 2000, 2001, & 2008). The big sticking point has and always will be the Right of Return among the refugees. One side (Israel) cannot give up what the other side (Palestinians) are unwilling to concede. Until some middle ground can be found, this conflict will continue regardless of who the Israeli PM is or who leads the PA and/or speaks for the Palestinians.

      • Aaron Hamm March 20, 2015 at 6:20 pm | #

        Err… 20% of Israelis are already Palestinian (Arab, if you prefer). The boat sailed on an ethnically Jewish majority in perpetuity a long time ago considering the birth rate disparity.

        Lacking oppression of your own citizens, Zionism lost the war way back in ’48 when it failed to kick out enough indigenous people.

        • walt March 23, 2015 at 9:12 pm | #

          Interesting how the most vicious racist notions of ethnic cleansing don’t raise any protests among readers of this blog. Labour historian Joel Beinin was not so morally blind:

          Morris now provides a moral justification for ethnic cleansing that he did not offer before the second intifada, arguing that “[e]ven the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians.” Native Americans and those with a sounder knowledge of North American history may demur. But in Israel, appeal to the authority of the US is the ultimate clincher in any argument. Yearning for the success of the American example, Morris now criticizes Israel’s first prime minister and defense minister, David Ben-Gurion, for failing to do “a complete job” because “this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake.” Palestine-Israel might also be quieter today if Hitler had completed his planned genocide of world Jewry. It does not occur to Morris that there might be a parallel between these two historical counterfactuals. The first is in the realm of acceptable speculation; the second is too obviously outrageous to consider.

  8. Malcolm I-IV-XV (@Malcolm_XS) March 20, 2015 at 11:44 am | #

    Well put. You sir are spot on.

  9. George Munchus March 20, 2015 at 12:09 pm | #

    I agree.
    Peace,George Munchus
    Professor of Management at UAB

    • Dan Rosenfeld March 20, 2015 at 12:53 pm | #

      Dear Corey
      As an Israeli I want to tell you that there is no such thing as “Liberal Zionists”.
      All Zionists “left” and right are racists.
      The Right wing Zionists want a Jewish State from the sea to the river with as less Palestinians as possible so they make their life miserable forcing them to leave or flee.
      “left” wing Zionists support the 2 states solution not because they support Palestinian right to statehood but because they want an only jews “Jewish democratic state” in their recent election campaign they warned Israelis that Bibi Netanyahu is leading Israel into a ,God forbid, Bi National state. So as you can see all Zionists are Racists 0the righr wing advocates open Racism (Bibi warning the Israeli public against massive Arab voting) while the so called “left” Zionists are advocating hidden Racism.

      • Yaniv March 21, 2015 at 9:10 am | #

        The claim against a “bi-national solution” is that Israelis and Palestinians are two very different populations with very different sets of values, religious beliefs, and very different ideas about how to run a state. A bi-national state would very likely deteriorate eventually into a state of a civil war like happened in Bosnia, Lebanon or Syria. This view is shared also by non-zionist Jews (as well as arabs) from Hadash (which is part of the Joint List).

        There is nothing racist about about the non-utopian view that this idea is unapplicable and dangerous. Also, being a zionist does not necessarily imply rejecting a bi-national state, as staunch zionists such as Martin Buber or Mapam party supported such a solution before 1948.

        So the equation between zionism and racism is utterly baseless.

  10. Joy Morby March 20, 2015 at 12:43 pm | #

    what wonderful and thoughtful views you have published here. Good to know that common sense does exist in Israel.Thanks so much for sharing

  11. zenner41 March 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm | #

    Hey, Mushin, how about telling us what you really think? 🙂

    No, I really sympathize with your point of view. As a non-expert on the Middle East situation who has long since pretty much lost interest in following it because it seems completely hopeless, I just feel very sorry for everyone in that area at this point. There is such a long, complicated history, with everybody stepping on each other’s toes until they are battered and bruised and about mashed into pulp, and then jumping up and down on them again, that there doesn’t seem to be any way forward at this point.

    It really seems clear to me that some sort of outside intervention would have to take place to bring about solutions to all the Middle Eastern problems, from North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean region to the Arabian Peninsula to Iran to Pakistan, but who would be able to intervene usefully at this point (certainly not the U.S.) and what kind of intervention would do the job? I don’t think there as been a mess of international problems this bad in all of history, including the WW II era and the Cold War.

  12. Bart March 20, 2015 at 2:03 pm | #

    Corey… perhaps it’s not so surprising that I reached the exact same conclusion this past week. A long time, 50 yr plus, committed supporter of a Jewish homeland my fervor has been extinguished. I suspect this has been a corner turned for many historically strident Israeli supporters. My blog article from the 18th —>


  13. Cina March 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm | #

    The post has been removed. Why is that? Did he get attacked for it?

  14. walt March 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm | #

    yes, given the origins of Zionism in blood and soil ideologies (shared with other Romantic Nationalisms such as the German variety) that sprang from the poisoned soil of MittelEuropa near the end of 19’th century, the notion of a “Liberal Israeli” would be laughable were the consequences not so ugly:

    …[T]he singular Myth of Liberal Zionism is Liberal Zionism itself. Like the beasts Behemoth and Leviathan, a Zionis liberalis is inconceivable to Laor, because whereas his Liberal believes in openness and the policies of empathy, his Zionist–more than a century after Theodor Herzl recalled Palestine as the Judenstaat–believes that millions can be denied their patrimony, dispossessed, abused, and even murdered in the name of Jewish statehood.


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