Few days ago, Norman Finkelstein, a well known anti-Zionist activist, denounced the Boycott, Divestment andSanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Here is how Wikipedia summarized his criticism:
Finkelstein "launched a blistering attack" of the BDS movement, saying it was a "hypocritical, dishonest cult" that tries to cleverly pose as human rights activists while in reality their goal is to destroy Israel. In addition, he said: "I'm getting a little bit exasperated with what I think is a whole lot of nonsense. I'm not going to tolerate silliness, childishness and a lot of leftist posturing. I loathe the disingenuousness. We will never hear the solidarity movement [back a] two-state solution." Furthermore, Finkelstein stated that the BDS movement has had very few successes, and that just like a cult, the leaders pretend that they are hugely successful when in reality the general public rejects their extreme views.
Finkelstein did not suddenly change his views and became an ardent Zionist. He has been and remains a strong pro-Palestinian voice. He slams the one state solution, not only because it is impractical, or because Israel will never agree to it, but, because, if realized, it is the worst outcome of the Palestinians.
One-state solution implies that Palestinians do not have a culture of their own, that they are not a vibrant society with its own values. It assumes that by stroke of pen one can transform the Palestinians into a sort of mini Jews and that granting them equal legal rights will make them indeed equal. For all communities and societies the path into modernity was, and to many of them still is a difficult struggle. The 1,500 hundred years long persecution of Jews under Christianity, could be considered as a sort of apprenticeship for modern age success of the Jews. The belief that Palestinian aspirations for statehood could be achieved by becoming citizens in a state Jews created is a complete nonsense. In such state, notwithstanding equal legal rights, they would become refugees in alien culture.
The so called radical Left, which on the face of it supports multi-culture, in fact uses the existence of other culture only for its political ends. The other culture itself is never of any interest. In terms of the social scientist Pierre Bourdieu, the Left sees itself the owner of all cultural capital just like the colonial powers considered themselves in the past owners of all economic capital. The continual attack on America and Israel to certain degree stems from the Left's absolute lack of interest in what takes places in cultures it is unfamiliar with.
Edward Said was mostly right in his Orientalism, when he criticized the prejudices of the well known historians and sociologists of the Orient. Nietzsche, Bourdieu and many others had a similar views about social scholars and philosophers in general. Interestingly, every psychoanalytic practitioner is required to undergo analysis of himself or herself, but no such requirement for analysis of inbred preferences, and prejudices takes place in other areas of intellectual work. The orientalists of the past were however immensely superior to self declared present day intellectuals of the Left. The orientalists, even if prejudiced and non reflective, still were very much interested in the subject matter of their scholarship.
Every "progressive" blogger apparently knows what democracy is and how it should be implemented in Egypt, or Syria or Libya, or any other Arab country. Such blogger is also able in several hours to prepare a dratt constitution for those countries. She assumes that her own culture, politics and opinions are equally valid for places, cultures and people she knows nothing about. It is worthwhile to consider what G.W. Hegel thought about the attempt of leader he adored, Napoleon, to compose a constitution for Spain. The differences between Spain and France were minute in comparison to those between US and any Arab country. Here is what Hegel writes in paragraph 274 of Elements of the Philosophy of Right:
The state must in its constitution penetrate all relations within it. Napoleon, for example, wanted to give Spaniards an a priori constitution, something that went quite wrong. For a constitution is not something simply made; it is a work of centuries, it is the idea and consciousness of the rational, to the extent they have developed in a nation. ... The nation must have for its constitution the feeling of its right, if granted externally it has no meaning and no value. ...
The attempt of the Left to tell Arabs what is "good for them", is a sort of low level cultural imperialism. No wonder that the more America portrays itself as "pro democratic Islam," the more its support on the Arab mainstreet declines. The support for President Obama there is much lower than it was for the hated George Bush.
By itself, constant bashing of Israel by the radical Left does little damage. It may even be the main reason for the growing from year to year support of Israel in America. When main street America hears and reads what haters of Israel have to say, it likes Israel even more. The attitude of the Left however is damaging to Palestinians and to peace effort. For the Left, Palestinians exist only as victims of Israel. They do not have any existence of their own. Apart from being victims the Left has nothing to says about them, neither good or bad, as if they do not exist. It certainly keeps silence about peace.
Still, Israelis and Palestinians must engage in new thinking of their own and find ways and means for a discourse that will support their national interests. Perhaps a solution as defined by UN 181 resolution, two states with minority in each of the other is a possible answer. Israelis should learn more about their neighbors. Unfortunately newspapers in Israel ignore Palestinians, except in context of conflict. Reading Sari Nusseibeh might be a good start, not because he is an elitist moderate intellectual, but because he understand his community better than most. On personal level dialogue may be helpful too.