issue is curious in part because it reverses a long-standing pattern.
Heretofore, the majority of American cities which try to carry out
their own symbolic foreign policies, in the style of the "People's
Republic of Berkeley," have done so by lurching to the
Left, with actions like twinning themselves with cities in revolutionary
Nicaragua or divesting themselves of companies doing business with
South Africa. Under Mayor David Dinkins, a visit by Nelson Mandela
brought New York to a virtual halt for three days, so that the South
African could avoid being inconvenienced by traffic lights as he
made the rounds of receptions and radical chic cocktail parties.
Because Mandela really was in a way a great man, most people made
a remark or two, smiled, and put up with it.
the Ze'evi affair is something else. Ze'evi was not your normal
right-wing Zionist who believes Arafat is a thug and no peace with
the Palestinians is possible any time soon. When he was killed,
he was in the process of resigning in protest from the Sharon government,
which he accused of appeasement of the Palestinians. Last summer
he created a small media stir by describing the Palestinians as
illegal aliens who ought to be gotten rid of "the same way
you get rid of lice." He was an open advocate of expelling
all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, so Israel could establish
an Arab-free state in the entire territory allocated to the two
the movement to name a New York street after Ze'evi represents not
just the feelings of a single city councilman, but the advance of
a current of opinion among American Jews that hopes to deny Palestinian
Arabs any rights at all in their native territories. Neither the
American Jewish Committee nor the Jewish Community Relations Council
– both heavyweight organizations – objected to the street-naming
idea. As the Forward,
a Jewish weekly put it:
enthusiasm of some mainstream Jewish organizations for the street-naming
proposal may be the latest sign of what communal leaders say is
a new era in which it is no longer verboten for American
Jews to discuss, or in some cases promote, Ze'evs platform of 'transfer.'
The term 'transfer' has come to refer to the mass removal of Palestinians
from the West Bank and Gaza to other Arab countries by means that
Ze'evi himself was often vague enough. Most mainstream Jewish groups,
from left to right, historically have rejected the doctrine as immoral."
is of course a euphemism for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,
the forcible removal of several million people. It is the kind of
thing the Serbs were accused of doing in Bosnia, which the United
States opposed, eventually by starting a war on Serbia and indicting
Serbian militants as war criminals before United Nations tribunals.
There is a serious argument that holds it is a form of anti-Semitism
to hold Israel to more rigorous standards than other countries.
What term should we then use for the phenomenon of honoring racist
advocates of ethnic cleansing when they happen to be Israeli?
several prominent Jews have spoken against the Weprin initiative.
Congressman Jerry Nadler had perhaps the sanest response; when informed
of it, he said simply "God forbid, God forbid." Eric Yoffie,
president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations stressed
the necessity of reminding Diaspora Jews what Ze'evi actually stood
for, saying, "We have to delegitimize him."
New York City as a whole, adoption of the measure would be an unmitigated
disaster; for a city that has developed something of a niche as
a world capital would be inexorably (and correctly) viewed as embracing
the narrowest kind of bigotry. New York would be saying to the world,
in effect, we support equal rights, national self-determination
for all people, except we make an exception for the Arabs who live
in Palestine. For them, we honor a man who called them lice and
wanted to uproot them up from their homes.
a moment when the entire Palestinian political structure is under
military occupation and near collapse, and Arab suicide bombers
are committing horrible crimes against Israelis (while doing nothing
to advance the Palestinian cause) it can seem futile to hold out
for a vision of peace in the Mid East. But a sharing of the Palestine
Mandate territory is the only possible decent solution, whether
it takes place this year or the next, or five years down the road.
The alternative is continued war and terrorism, which will inevitably
spread beyond the Holy Land. If the New York City council embraces
the bizarre Ze'evi street-naming proposal, it might as well put
up a sign that says, "Bring this ugly war here."
printable version of this article
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