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May 20, 2014 6:22 pm

Opinion: Shame on the JNF for Honoring Tzipi Livni

avatar by Paul Leslie

Saeb Erekat and Tzipi Livni, chief Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in the now-defunct peace talks, are pictured on Jan, 31, 2014 at the Munich Security Conference. Photo: Marc Müller via Wikimedia Commons.

In an August 2011 interview with James Bennett, editor of The Atlantic, and Jeffrey Goldberg, a prominent American Jewish journalist, Tzipi Livni explicitly justified the exertion of pressure by the Obama Administration upon Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government. She also opportunistically raised the spectre of dual loyalties by implying that American Jews were compromised by being forced to choose between support for the American and Israeli governments: “the Prime Minister, deliberately or not, puts Americans into a very complicated situation… in which they need to choose a side, and they don’t want to be in this situation. … it’s a nightmare because we are actually on the same side…We cannot afford this. This is something new. It forced American Jews to take sides.”

Instead of sticking up for the values of free liberal democracies and in particular for rights of Jews to express opposition to specific policies of their elected representatives, Livni was ready to run the risk of giving credence to anti-Semitic “Israel-firster” propaganda. She has also shown herself willing to join defamers of Israel by legitimizing a less unsubtle variant of the apartheid slur – that if Israel does not give in to the Palestinian Authority’s (initial) demands to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and acquiesce in the creation of a Palestinian state in the evacuated territories, it could be forced to become an apartheid state. Such false claims have in recent years been expressed not only by the Israeli extreme left, but also by certain mainstream Israeli political figures, like the corrupt and opportunistic Ehud Olmert and the equally opportunistic Ehud Barak.

It should be recalled that the system of apartheid as it developed in South Africa saw the adoption of laws bringing about segregation in all areas of life – with separate hospitals, buses, etc., for black and whites being ruthlessly imposed. Hence an official definition of the crimes of apartheid – “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Neither the current status quo in which the Palestinian inhabitants of the disputed territories do not have political rights at a national level, but do at a local level, while enjoying extensive protections of their civil rights – nor a possible future situation where Palestinians don’t have full political rights would in any way be comparable with an apartheid system.

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Two weeks ago, I spoke to a representative of the JNF to ask if anyone had complained about the invitation made to Tzipi Livni – who was the guest of honor at a U.K. dinner on May 15. I was told that I was the only one to have raised the matter. I was also told that the JNF is not politically partisan. There are, however, different ways for pro-Israel organisations to avoid being accused of party political bias.

Instead of seeing itself as duty bound to defend whatever Israeli government may be in power, it would be enough – so it seems to me – for a truly pro-Israel organisation to make clear its commitment to defending general positions based upon the Israelis’ rights to live in peace and security, as well as to refuting anti-Zionist lies and false accusations. Whatever differences of opinion may exist within these organisations’ ranks concerning the political or constitutional arrangements to be made for the currently disputed territories, any public stances should take account of the consensus that Israel cannot withdraw to the 1949 lines, that it is not an apartheid state, and that Americans don’t have dual loyalties.

In cases where Israeli party politicians, including those who have had enough political skill to get themselves appointed to ministerial positions, cross certain red lines, they should not invited to be guests of honor.

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