Episode 47 - Fools Rush InBad Faith
- 895 views
- 18 Feb 2021
Virgil & Brie take on one of the world's most cancelable subjects -- one which, ironically, is often ignored by the conservative cancel culture discourse: the Israel/Palestine conflict. Professor, author, and activist Marc Lamont Hill and his co-author ReThinking Foreign Policy's Mitchell Plitnick join us to discuss their new book Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics and explain why positions like BDS and human rights for Palestinians remain a third rail in American politics -- even on the left. But first, Brie and Virgil cover two recent deaths: entertainer Rush Limbaugh, and Joe Biden's political goodwill, which passed during Wednesday night's CNN town hall. Subscribe to Bad Faith on Patreon to instantly unlock our full premium episode library: http://patreon.com/badfaithpodcast Find your copy of Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics from Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books. Find more of Mitchell Plitnick's work at rethinkingforeignpolicy.org and mitchellplitnick.substack.com. Subscribe to Bad Faith on YouTube for video of this episode. Find Bad Faith on Twitter (@badfaithpod) and Instagram (@badfaithpod). Produced by Ben Dalton (@wbend). Theme by Nick Thorburn (@nickfromislands).
Good morning, fellow freedom likers, Burk's Barlowe, the fourth branch of government, the first state, you know, there are three things we're never going to get rid of here in Springfield. One, the butts in the public library to Mrs. McPhillips compost heap and three, are six term mayor.
The illiterate tax cheating, wife swapping, pot smoking spend, no creped diamond Drew Quimby. Now, why are we doing to this Quimby quagmire? You ask all reasonable listener, because this town is under the stranglehold of a few tiny tree huggers who would rather play hacky sack than lockable. And there you have it, Rush Limbaugh dead at 7:00 in the morning, there are something like that. He was a monster.
Terrible. She would be one of the worst out there as far as I'm sure you and the audience are aware of, which is why you are listening to a competing program, one competitor down, one more competitor down for bad faith.
Do you think there is even one overlapping listener between us and Rush Limbaugh?
There's a lot of weirdoes out.
There is a lot of the concept of audio content makes people deranged in some way.
Was this really rush or is that like a nickname or a stage name? What is Rush? I'm like I'm like saying the words Rush Limbaugh and hearing the syllables in my mouth for the first time as if they're new and they don't make any sense.
All of a sudden, you know what it is he named himself. It is a stage name. He named himself after the brand of poppers.
What what is there really a brand called Rush or something? It's the brand. Not only is it a real name, he was a junior. He was born to Rush Hudson Limbaugh the second he was rushed to the third.
Oh, well, his parents named him after the policy right here. Oh, OK. There you go. That's how he was. I mean, that's part of how he was conceived. Let's move on. It's my good faith for the week. I think you ought to back faith very well.
There was a town hall last night during which Joe Biden performed beautifully. OK, if you're a leftist who wants the world to see everything that you've been screaming for the last two years about why Joe Biden is the exact wrong person for this political moment, the most viral moment among many. Because, I mean, he did the thing where he repeated the remark about biracial commercials being proof that we live in a just an equal society.
If you want to know where the American public is, look at the money being spent in advertising. Did you ever five years ago think every second or third ad out of five or six you'd turn on would be biracial couples?
Yeah, there's a lot of biracial people on commercials nowadays. I mean, you know, fact check, each pretty's right.
There is a lot of people birdsell, that's your next gig. You're missing out on commercial pay a lot.
You get residuals. It's really that's good work if you can get it. But podcasters have not had a great track record of appearing on national commercials.
Relatedly, I actually worked with a partner once who paid his kids college tuition with a Colgate commercial that he did when he was a little kid, and ever since he told me that story, my only hope I will only hope the back of my mind of ever escaping the law firm was maybe I can get a commercial, maybe I can get a commercial.
I have an afro.
You know, you look like a campaign commercial, 35 year old mom, like in college, looking like a cool making laundry in a library. Yeah.
Yeah, like dancing is housewifery 30 track clothes again. Oh, that's all I can do. I'm ready. I was ready to go.
That's perfect. Like this. This is your audition tape. Just send it around.
Well, people who want another escape from there, a serious student loan debt. We're hoping for a different answer from Joe Biden last night. Then go do a biracial commercial. What they were hoping for was that he would co-sign this. Fifty thousand dollars of student debt relief that's been championed, of course, by Elizabeth Warren and now even Chuck Schumer. I think the writing was on the wall. The specter of canceling at all as Bernie was pushing was so scary and put enough pressure on that.
Even relative moderates were getting behind this. Fifty thousand dollars. So he got the direct question last night, will you support it?
And he said, we need student loan forgiveness beyond the potential ten thousand dollars your administration has proposed. We need at least a fifty thousand dollar minimum. What will you do to make that happen?
I will not make that happen. It depends on whether or not you go to a private university, a public university. It depends on the idea that I say to a community, I'm going to forgive the debt, the billions of dollars in debt for people who have gone to Harvard and Yale and Penn and the schools. My children, I went to a great school. I went to a state school. But is that can be forgiven rather than use that money to provide for early education for young children who are come from disadvantaged circumstances, the gag is first and foremost that we're talking about student debt cancellation.
The overwhelming majority of debt is is federally held debt. So when he starts talking about the price tag for this thing, there's no price tag. The only question is, is the is the government going to miss out on continuing to profit off of all of our student debt at an eight percent interest rate as they've been doing so far?
I think the number, something like one hundred and thirty five billion dollars over the last ten years, the government has earned off of our interest rates, too, he says.
What depends on whether you go to a private college or a public college, that is a very clear articulation of a policy. I think that even under his plan, he will cancel student debt for people who went to private colleges if they meet certain income thresholds, but only up to ten thousand dollars a year. So I don't even know what he's talking about.
But the people with the highest amount of student debt are actually people who want to these for profit, you know, degree middle style colleges who have an enormous amount of debt and they don't even get the marginal benefit out of their degree. So screw you guys.
I guess public or public colleges are not cheap either, though. I like how he mentions this distinction that goes on to say.
But actually, I don't want to cancel any of the debt right now until he starts to say something about his kids. The schools my kids went to shouldn't be free. So I guess I guess I shouldn't be have that cancel. So I guess only rich people whose dad were the vice president, United States should get to go to Harvard and Yale the right to work.
That's what's implicit in this whole line of argument is that, you know, this is you know, this is apparently true that when our universities are they're just, you know, playgrounds for the children of the elite so that they could reproduce their various privileges and network with each other.
But there is I mean, there is still there was a greater egalitarian ideal that we have that, you know, maybe we could have a meritocratic system of higher education, one that's not driven by money.
Right. And a good way to move towards that goal is to take money out of the fucking equation.
Right. So, look, obviously, we should have a bigger conversation about why we have such a hierarchical education system and why it is that we live in a world where even extremely affluent people are like cheating to get their kids, you know, like the full house lady, like cheating to get their kids into school, even though, like, y like you're already rich. What is it like that speaks to how messed up our system is and we shouldn't have such a different outcome in your life if you go to Harvard versus if you go to another school.
But we also still do live in a world with those hierarchies. And the idea that you only want people who already have wealth and privilege to have access to the wealth and privilege that can come with getting into those schools is outrageous. What it's going to do to beat a boy, it's like too bad about your student loans. You went to Harvard, your parents might. Enslaves, but, oh, well, yeah, and, you know, that's what I want to comment on, is this idea that we have to make a choice between early childhood education or paying out student loan debt or providing free college education for higher education.
Like it's like, OK, you want your kid to go to college. You want to go to preschool.
You got to pick just right. Yeah. It's so bad faith and suggesting that there's this finite pot of money to pay for these things.
And it's like, well, I mean, we've had a trillion.
So the deficit in the past year and nobody asked where that money's coming from and that's enough was enough money to pay off all the student loan debt.
So providing free college education trumps tax cut was one point seven trillion. I think the total amount of student debt outstanding is one point six trillion. Again, that's not something we have to pay for the government. You know, if I owe you twenty dollars, I can just you can just decide, hey, Brianna, you don't owe me 20 dollars anymore. That doesn't mean you have to spend twenty dollars. It just means you cancel the debt. Like that's what we're talking about here after a decade of quantitative easing and deficit spending.
Well, you know, it's all funny money at this point. Like this is like the balance sheet of the federal government is permanently fucked. Yeah.
And I 100 percent remember what quantitative easing is because Greece basically just explained it to me. OK. I said we're going to end up doing an episode about cryptocurrency where you're just going to ask what is Bitcoin?
I mean, it's just going to it's kind of it's going to be like, what is the block chain?
And relatedly, on this episode, I basically asked so. Israel and Palestine, what is a deal? What is Israel just wants a little quick point. This is the conclusion. My last point that, you know, he repeats this canard that I don't want to pay for the riches college education.
Well, the thing is, nobody's ever explaining where the money comes from, in any case, for any of this.
We know that Biden doesn't want to raise taxes on the wealthy beyond what was before the Trump tax cuts. We know that because Neera Tanden, his pick for OMB, just said last week to Congress, like no one doesn't want to raise taxes on the wealthy about thirty nine point four percent.
And there's a reason why Bernie Sanders campaigned on free college, he said, and the wealthy will pay for it.
Yes. And the rich will pay for it. Yes.
I made it crystal clear that this is a redistributive policy, because if someone if you're wealthy and you send your kid to college and they get one hundred thousand dollar student loan that you could pay and you get that wiped out by the federal government, but you end up paying two hundred thousand dollars in taxes, you're obviously coming out worse for that.
And if you and if you are someone who's less well, who's very working class, lower income and your kid goes to college, has ordered thousand dollars in debt and your taxes don't go up and that that gets wiped out, then, yes, you're objectively doing better. So it's a net positive and it's Joe Biden. So, I mean, I think that's intuitive in people's minds. That's clear.
But of course, Joe Biden is not a class warrior, is not a redistributor redistributionist.
Yeah. In fact, he said he wasn't going to raise taxes a penny for anybody earning up to 400 thousand dollars a year. Four hundred thousand dollars a year.
So as long as as long as he and the other guys are going to be evasive on actually raising revenues, then it's going to be completely cloudy and contradictory in people's minds how free college entitlement would function. And that is the point.
Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of other really amazing stats about this. I remember from that campaign, I think it was something like this equates to like a three thousand dollar stimulus for everyone. I mean, there's a lot of ways you can structure a stimulus, but Republicans have no problem selling. The idea of this trickle down stimulus is where the tax credits go to the top one percent. And we're all supposed to think that it's going to make the economy better.
The idea of giving some thousands of dollars to ordinary people suddenly is deeply authentic because they very intentionally try to pit one group of the 99 percent against another group of the 99 percent, completely obscuring that we could just raise taxes on the one percent and get her done. But that's why we have us to spread the message, to keep the faith and to keep the faith.
And that's not the end of the episode yet. But it sounds like the end of this segment.
Why don't we when we get our gas? I had a dream that I got I overslept this recording, and you got so pissed at me, me and. Yeah, and you chewed me out. I'm so happy going in the dream.
You know, there's alarm going off. And I was with this person who was like, what's that awful noise? I don't know what that is. And I realized, oh, I had to record this thing with Bree. And I realize it's two hours later and we just got really pissed.
And so then then I realized, oh, that's my alarm in real life. And I woke up and then I came to like time to do this this real life thing. So she doesn't get pissed at me. So I'm here. So I kind of think I should get a reward.
Like anxiety dreams can be your friends because they keep you from doing the thing that would have given you anxiety.
Also, in the pantheon of best recording this podcast, I'm the only one who's actually overslept and interview famously the like interview. And you guys are both very kind about it, so.
Oh, yeah, that's true. So I get one. I get one. I get one the. OK, all right. Good. That's how we make it work. That's that's principles. That's principle of fairness. Let's meet our panelists today.
He is a professor of media studies and urban education at Temple University, host of Upfront on Al Jazeera English and author of the forthcoming Except for Palestine The Limits of Progressive Politics, Marc Lamont Hill.
Hey, thanks for having me on. It's out now. It is out now. It's no longer forthcoming. It as forthcoming as it is now. Go with Mark. He is the president of Rethinking Foreign Policy, former vice president at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, co-author of Except for Palestine, Mitchell Plotnick.
It is great to be here and great to be back again with Marcoux. I'm just saying way too much lately.
Okay, well, I'm really happy to have both of you here. We've been wanting to talk about more foreign policy issues, generally speaking. But in light of the recent events of the past couple of weeks, we really especially wanted to talk to you. The events that I'm referring to are that friend of the show, Nathan J. Robinson, founder of Current Affairs magazine, kind of Hot Water with The Guardian for a couple of tweets. And they terminated his contract for tweets that they deemed to be anti-Semitic.
Obviously, this is perceived by the left as part and parcel of a broader trend where criticism of US foreign policy toward Israel seems to be bracketed, separate and apart as something that's worth condemnation.
And outside of this whole Cancer Council culture free speech issue and that there's still a certain level of risk involved in making those kinds of critiques. Mark, you've experienced this firsthand.
So we want it to open this conversation about why the left doesn't talk more forcefully about these issues. But to first start with getting a little bit of background on the book and the project that you guys are working on together. So what is the thesis? What are you writing about in this one?
We are very much interested in all the issues you're talking about and trying to get at a a real solid answer to this question of how is it that the left and I'm using left in quotes, there are competing ideas about what constitutes the left there.
There are people who are liberal Democrats who say they're the left. There are people who are who identify as progressives or people who are radicals. And we may have disagreements on what constitutes the left, but all those folk oftentimes will articulate a set of values, a worldview, a set of ideals that are fairly consistent and steady. And then when the question of Palestine comes up, somehow those things fall short. It's one thing to say that people are afraid.
It's one thing to say that people don't know enough about the issue or both of those things are true. But sometimes other times it seems like there's an inconsistency that is much more challenging to account for. And so what we want to do in the book is figure out sort of how do we get to a place where people are, as we say, in the activist community, Pep's progressive except for Palestine. And what are some of the forces, some of the structures, some of the laws, some of the norms, some of the cultural practices within American politics that normalize that?
And our best?
I think we do that when we're highlighting, you know, key issues where we see those contradictions. And I let Mitchell talk about some of these things. But like I give you one sort of quick example when we're talking about the boycott, boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and you have someone like a Cory Booker who would identify as a progressive and he would say, you know, oh, my God, he in fact. No, no, not he would say he has it right.
We need to fight to make sure that that American companies can live out their values and exercise their values and not be sort of challenged by by these popular boycotts. He was saying that specifically in response to this kind of growing discourse around criminalizing BDS, around challenging people who oppose the. Yes, even in some states like Texas, you know. People who are applying for school district jobs and they have to sign waivers in order to get jobs. All this stuff is part of the backdrop.
So when Cory Booker says that, it's like, OK, that doesn't seem very progressive. But when you look at when you ask yourself what he said about Hobby Lobby, what do you say that about Chick fil A?
What do you say that about Wal-Mart?
The answer is hell no. Would he object to boycotts of those things? Exactly. Exactly.
And not only would he not, he may even join them and take photos of himself there.
So what's different about this? And lastly, what I say is because I don't want to there's this there's this implicit thing that's hanging there that I'm that I'm not saying for some reason, for some nefarious reason, this is not a conspiracy. This is not a cabal of Jewish power. This is not any of those anti-Semitic tropes that too often loom large in these conversations. And they should not they must be dismantled. It's about how American politics works. And it's and we're trying to wrestle with that stuff.
Mitchell, I want to ask you, what is the argument for why BDS is different? The people who are framing BDS as something to be criminalized, something that is kind of an active hate hate movement, all of the kind of rhetoric that you hear about it.
What is their good faith argument for that? And what should people understand about the origins of the movement and kind of what what it really is?
I think one of the things that is important to consider when we're looking at this right, the first almost every argument that demonizes criticism of Israel, whether it's BDS or something else, any kind of criticism of Israel, the first part of that argument is always, well, Israel is the only Jewish state and it's getting singled out and it's getting attacked in this way.
So that that is something that immediately puts people on the defensive.
So years ago, just just actually just before I met Mark, I was working at the Foundation for Middle East Peace. I was the vice president. The president at that time was Matus, who is currently Bernie Sanders foreign policy adviser and met one day, was called to testify at a House subcommittee hearing about actually about BBB's.
And before Matt could even get through his testimony, a Republican senator I'm sorry, representative, who forgetting his name, Russell, I believe his name was he was from Oklahoma. He's no longer in Congress.
Basically tore into Matt based on a scurrilous article that a right wing newspaper had written about his family.
So he was attacking Matt's father. He was attacking Matt's brother and also Matt himself. And I'm watching this on C-SPAN. And my chin just hit the floor, basically.
Steven, that Steven Russell. Yes, that was Steve Russell. He basically was saying your entire family of antisemite. And then he said, I have nothing to hear from you and got up and left the hearing. I called some folks, friends of mine, who had been working in Washington for many, many years, not just on this issue. And no one had ever seen anything like it. It was unprecedented. It was unheard of. I mean, and it was something I think straight out of.
I think you'd have to go back to the McCarthy hearings. So this scares people. Right.
And it becomes also a very powerful weapon. I think if you want to argue against BDS, you can you can argue against any boycott movement. I am old enough to remember, you know, I was in my twenties in the nineteen eighties in the Reagan years. I remember the arguments against boycotting South Africa. They were many, they were not quite the they were not exactly the same ones that you hear now about Israel.
But, you know, we look back now and we ask, how could you possibly argue against that? Even conservatives wouldn't try to make that argument any more. That fight has been lost. But people you can make those arguments. And I think it's you know, I may disagree. I may even think it's it's bigoted. But you can legitimately make those arguments. Yet they're not trying to. And the reason I feel like the opposition to BDS, rather than making an argument about why Israel should not be boycotted, attacks, the movement and the people behind it is because that is just a much more effective argument, because if you try and actually attack the reason for BBB's and the idea of BTX and defend Israel, you have to defend Israeli policies which deny people's rights.
And of course, the other part of that is you also get to a point where very quickly in these arguments, it immediately becomes about you want to destroy Israel, you want to kill all the Jews in Israel, you want to do all of these horrible, horrible things that bring up terrible images in people's heads. And that's actually not true. What what this movement is about. And certainly there's a lot of angry rhetoric and it's not limited to the pro-Israel side at all.
But the BDS movement, again, oppose it or support it. But it's about. Palestinian rights, it's not about framing the argument as being anti-Israel, it's not anti-Israel unless you believe that the basic civil and human rights of Palestinians is by definition anti-Israel. And I reject that. I do not think that the rights of Palestinians need to be can only happen at the expense of the rights of Israeli people. But certainly, yes, Palestinian rights have to be achieved through some major changes to the way Israel does business.
One of the framing ideas that you interrogate at the start of the book is the way that this notion of, you know, this question of does Israel have a right to exist in that being kind of an initial question that starts all of these arguments in this kind of defensive territory. And you walk through this history of both Zionist, including Zionists, who said, well, why do I even have to defend that by even making me ask that question or talking about it in that way, you're kind of presuming there's a world in which Israel shouldn't exist.
And I think that as a disempowering statement. But now it feels to be the predominant view is that by putting out there, it's starting with a question acknowledging Israel has a right to exist. It presumes that there are people who don't and that the fight is about this kind of existential issue as opposed to sending a conversation about Palestinian rights separate and apart, as though it's not a Zero-Sum game. Can you talk about that a little bit? Yeah.
I mean, there's a lot of layers to this. I'll take a slice of part of it. I mean, the first question is, what does it mean for a nation state to have a right to exist? That's the first question. Do states have a right to exist in general, not Israel in particular? Because I think if we only isolate Israel, if we only spotlight Israel, that's a very different and somewhat dangerous territory to enter. But if we ask a broader philosophical question, which is, does do states have a right to exist or do or rather do people have a right to exist?
I think we have a particular a different question. And then the second question is, do people two states have a right to exist in a certain way? For example, do we have the right to exist as a republic? Does the Saudi Arabia or Iran have a right to exist in its particular sort of formation? Right. That is, you know, what does it mean to be a constitutional monarchy? What is it mean to be a Jordanian state?
Right. Do they have a right to exist in those forms? Do they have a right? When we say that, are we talking about respecting their territorial integrity and their sovereignty? Right. Those are different questions. The other pieces, who gets asked this question right. The state of Israel is not on a regular basis asking Switzerland to affirm its right to exist or asking the United States to affirm its right to exist. It's a question largely placed squarely on the shoulders of and at the lips of Palestinians.
And again, if you're asking, do Israelis have a right to exist, I would say absolutely. They Israelis, Arabs, Palestinians, Jordanians, Libyans, Liberians, South Africans, Mexicans, we all have a right to exist in peace, dignity, safety, freedom and self-determination. And our Jewish brothers and sisters are no exception to that question. But the question becomes really, when people say a right to exist, what are they talking about? They talk about the right to exist as a Jewish state.
Another question then becomes, do you have a right to exist in that form? And what's what's at stake when you do? For some, it's a question of Jewish self-determination. And again, I think Jewish people, like all people, have a right to self-determination.
Well, that that phrase is is lobbied around a lot. What is meant by that?
That's just it. That is the right question. That is the perfect question. And in many ways, that's why we say in the book this then becomes a referendum or at least an analysis or demands an analysis of Zionism, because as a political project, as an ideological project, sometimes as a religious project. But the question is, when people say we have a right to exist with our right to self-determination in this particular iteration of Zionism, right. Political Zionism, which has been the dominant iteration of Zionism, there's been there all sorts of Zionist, Peter Beinart, the cultural Zionist.
There are there are liberal Zionist, but the dominant iteration of Zionism has been the settler colonial project of political Zionism that emerges and really begins at the end of the 19th century with the first aliya and continues throughout the twenty first century. And that that issue of self-determination has often been conflated not just with creating a Jewish nation, a kind of Jewish nationalism, but it's also been connected to the belief in forming a state and a state where there is already an indigenous population there.
Now, again, I'm not saying that there's not a Jewish presence in historic Palestine. There is, and there always has been long before 1880, too long before the first Alaei, long before the World Zionist Convention, its conferences and all of that. Right. But we we're talking about the major emigration into historic Palestine throughout the late 19th and then throughout the 20th century with 20th century. We're talking about not just a self-determination, the sense that we can define our own identity and we can live in a state of our own people.
But it's also a formation and a political project that has impinged on the. Rights of other people who are there. So when we talk about self-determination, that becomes, again, a very complicated and fraught question.
I at risk of, you know, cancellation, it seems to me at bottom is the tension between, I think, what is a very kind of American ideal of a separation between church and state. The idea that one's religion or ethnicity shouldn't have bearing on the rights that you accrue under the law, obviously not lived up to an America. But this ideal, like this abstraction is something that's really ingrained and.
There is something a little uncomfortable about these moments where what was it, the twenty eighteen, this is the nation state law.
The nation state law. Yes, sorry.
When you have things like the nation state law that really foreground the extent to which there are differences between how and Arab-Israeli population is going to be treated versus the Jewish Israeli pop or a Muslim, Israeli or Christian Israeli population is going to be treated and a Jewish Israeli population is going to be treated. That really kind of chafes at the sensibilities of an American ear.
And yet articulating that feels very controversial and necessarily somehow antagonistic to the notion that there certainly are very deep seated historical reasons for Jews in particular to want a Jewish state. And that seems to me to be the central tension around which a lot of these conversations tiptoe. Am I wrong?
I wouldn't say you're wrong, but there's a few different things in there that that actually need to be pulled apart.
OK, let's explain for the audience. Yeah. So Zionism and this is this is something that I think is going to be really important. Zionism was a movement. It started as a 19th century movement to create a nation out of the Jewish people, a modern nation in the same sense that so much of Europe at that time was undergoing the same sort of sort of national birth, if you will. And so it's not right now, it's strictly a religious group that we're talking about.
Israel, the the idea of being Jewish in Israel is not necessarily right in most many, many, many Israeli Jews have are completely secular, have no they never do anything that that's any more Jewish than some folks.
People here in the United States do Christmas or even if even that it became a nationality. Now, your nationality is Jewish. So it's a different although, you know, Israel blurs that lines.
And that's the line that's blurred as well, because religious authorities in Israel do government things like marriages, funerals and things, things of that nature. So it's not a hard and fast line. But, yeah, we are we're talking more about a nation at this point than we are about a religious group. So in that sense, it's a little different. I think what that tension that you're correctly identifying is how we and this is actually a central theme of our book.
How is it that we in the West can put together the idea that one nation, one ethnicity, one people in what we accept as a democracy, what we constantly you know, what we welcome into the the International Club of so-called democracies, which is a broad enough idea in and of itself. But we accept that Israel has a democracy along the same lines as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada.
If we are going to look at it that way, how do we square that with the idea that it is by definition, especially now with the nation state law? Its clearly stated that one ethnicity is privileged over all others.
I don't think we can I don't think we can actually square that circle for for those who don't know, this law, which was a 2010 law, does three things. One, it states that the right to exercise national self-determination in Israel is, quote, unique to the Jewish people. So back to this national self-determination, which I'm still like. What does that mean? I don't know what I don't understand what that means. Let's just take that first law.
The right to exercise national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people. What do we mean by that? That's a great question.
I mean, I would say that that secret agent talk for settlement expansion. But what would you say?
I mean, I think that's I think that is certainly a major part of it. But I think there's also there's a more there's a more, I don't know, sort of Zeit case think about that.
Is that that Israel ultimately is a place for the expression of Jewish national identity.
You know, because part of that bill also is that Arabic is now diminished as a state language.
Number two is it establishes Hebrew as Israel's official language to downgrade the Arabic language, widely spoken by Arab Israelis to quote, special status.
Mm hmm. So there's more to it than just settlement expansion? It is certainly the big thing. And not only settlement expansion. Also, how do you allocate resources within Israel, not in the West Bank, but within Israel proper, behind the green line, the sort of 1948 Israel some people refer to it. How do you allocate resources for new neighborhoods? How do you deal with Bedouin communities within Israel? That are right now called unrecognized villages in many cases and are filled now with people who can be displaced in virtually a moment's notice.
There's a lot actually in that in that law that privileges Jews above others. And, you know, it raises questions about sort of exclusive communities. There are communities in Israel that whether it is explicitly stated or not, they will not rent to anyone but Jews. They will not lease space to anyone but Jews.
If you lose your apartment as as a as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, if you lose your apartment, it is hard to find a new one.
It is very, very difficult. A lot of places just won't rent to you. So there's the different levels of discrimination and those get a grounding. Those existed long before the nation state law, of course, but they get a grounding in what is what is basically the Israeli equivalent of constitutional law because of this 2008 bill.
So Arabs are one fifth of the population in Israel. So how does one square one's citizenship to a country that states that the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people with 20 percent of your population whose identity isn't Jewish? I feel like I'm just being extremely pedantic.
They think it's the right it's the right question. And this is the question again, which when you look at it at a philosophical level, I mean, one of the questions is, can you have a true democracy within the context of a religious state, right. That has ethnic minorities? Can you have a true democracy in the context in a non secular state? Now, you could argue again, to Mitchell's point. I mean, Israel in many ways is a secular state.
But again, Israel definitely has a Jewish character, even if it's not a religious state. Right. And that's part of what the nation still is enshrining. Right, is that it's saying that that it's the national home of the Jewish people and it fulfills not just political rights, but natural, cultural, religious and historical rights to self-determination, which means. And so that's how you justify having all the Hebrew, all the signs in Hebrew and Arabic being given have a special status of priority language, but not being a national language.
But to answer your question, I don't think you can square that circle. I think that's a that's a fundamental problem. What they would say is our Arab citizens and I think it's seventeen point five percent now of the seventeen point five percent of what they would call Arab citizens of Israel. You know, Palestinians would say they're just they're Palestinian, the Palestinian citizens of Israel. They would say the Israelis say, oh, they have their full rights. They have all the same rights that we have.
They can vote, they can live where they want. They can do what they want. And while the country has a fundamentally Jewish character that doesn't lead to the deprivation of any civil or human rights, that we also have to understand that there's something called there's there's national identity, citizenship, there's nationality. You know, there are these different levels of kind of collective and state sort of sanctioned identity that we think about within the context of a Jewish state.
So even if I am a Palestinian living in Lyd or Rumbly or Haifa or Haifa, I'm not exactly the same as someone who is a Jewish Israeli in terms of in terms of how we understand our kind of state identity. But at the end of the day, and I would tell everyone to go to a wonderful resource idealogue adds a fig where you can sort of see how even though Palestinians who have Israeli passports, they are Israeli citizens, even though they have they are at the superficial level, equal.
And even though the laws are facially neutral, there are more than 60 laws on the books that play out in ways that lead to a lack of equal rights. It would be like saying black people can vote, too, in 1920, right? Yes. So 20, 20.
How about that? So, so, so. So, for example, if there is what we call a Nakba. Right. Or a law that that makes it illegal to commemorate in a negative fashion. The Arab-Israeli war of nineteen forty eight, again, let's look at that in the context of the civil war. Imagine if there was a law that said that it was illegal to commemorate the civil war as anything but a lot, but a devastating tragedy.
You know, the victor of the north, but a devastating tragedy. Right? There's a political thing in that. Right. So telling Palestinians, seven, over 700000 of whom were forced out of their homes and villages, people who are disconnected and killed, et cetera, to tell them that it's illegal for them to celebrate or rather to commemorate that war of 1948. Arab-Israeli war, the first one, there's a Nakba as a catastrophe that's essentially said you can't it's illegal to commemorate your history.
But but that's more and more after the war, more think about admissions committees in the Galilee. Just this is in other places, but just the Galilee's is one place a couple of years ago where we began to see it expand. There are committees that can decide whether or not you can move into a neighborhood. Again, these are facially neutral. They could they could decide that Mitchell can't move in. They could decide that Brianna can't move in. They could decide that Virgile can't move it.
Right now it's a problem.
But the problem, of course, is other than that, is that the criteria for admission is what that that you sustain the social and cultural fabric of the neighborhood or of the area. So any black person in the world, any Jewish person in America, any black person in America knows what those any Italian in America from from the early 20s that you could tell you those types of calls, they may be facially neutral, but ain't a whole lot of wasps getting kicked out of American neighborhoods for not keeping the social and cultural fabric.
It's not a whole lot of folk who are doing that. But what happens to the Palestinian Israeli to use their language when they try to move into that neighborhood? What happens maybe to the person from Israel, the Ethiopian Jew who came over in Operation Solomon or Operation Moses in the 80s? What happens to them when they don't meet the social and cultural fabric of the neighborhood when that injera starts bubbling up and they smell them? You don't know Tibs and they like, yo, what's going on?
This is not what this is supposed to look like, right? It's a different world. And these are examples of how you can't square that circle.
One of the things that I like to try and explain to people is that what we're talking about, the stuff we're talking about levels of discrimination. There is a certain amount of discrimination that Palestinian citizens of Israel face. But on the other hand, Palestinian citizens of Israel can vote.
They can vote for the Knesset as well as their local municipality, municipal elections, etc. is something that Palestinians living in, for example, in East Jerusalem can vote locally for the local Jerusalem government, but they can't vote for the Knesset.
And people in the West Bank can only vote in Palestinian Authority elections that really don't affect their lives in any substantial way.
But understand, under international law, Israeli is the national identity. But in the context of Israeli law and practice, Israeli is not the national identity. Right. Citizens are registered as Jewish, as Arab, as Druze and as a US citizen. Right. And so that's how you're identified within the thing. So if you're identified as Jewish, that's a different circumstance. And this other stuff, the problem is, if I'm a Palestinian convert to Islam, excuse me, to Judaism, which is possible, I guess, you know, rare in the context of of of what's happening.
The question would be, is the state reading you as as Jewish now or are you still Arab? Because, again, citizenship is not about the juridical purely right. You know, one of the things we talk about, particularly anthropology is and sociology is, is this idea that citizenship is not just about what the law says you are. It's about everyday ways of belonging. It's everyday ways that you navigate the state. And so as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, yes, you are juridically a citizen, but fundamentally, it's like you're a passport holder, but you're not Jewish and this is a Jewish state.
Will you defend the Jewish state? And so these types of ideas are many are part of the many ways that that you have these minorities populations within the context of an Israeli state who don't have full full citizenship, although the laws are facially neutral. And although the the the the treatment on its face may look a different way, this is also the difference between citizenship and nationality.
Yes. So all all of the folks, everybody citizen of Israel is obviously a citizen of Israel. So on your passport, that's that's your citizenship is Israeli.
But you cannot identify in Israel when they ask for your nationality. You cannot identify as Israeli. There is no such thing within Israeli within Israeli jurisprudence. There's no such thing as an Israeli nationality for exactly the reason that Mark just just described, because there are many different nationalities within Israel and for purposes of records and how basically how you're going to be treated and how the law, how how the government is going to look at you, whether you're Jewish or some other nationality, be that be that you know, your nationality could be Muslim.
You can't say. I don't want to I don't know for sure. I don't believe you can say Palestinian. I'm pretty sure that that that is not allowed.
It is. It is absolutely verboten. Right. The Arab you can be Circassian, you can be Druze, you can be Jewish. And those are the different nationalities that make up the citizenry of Israel. But you cannot and this is actually been fought over in Israeli courts. You can you cannot put down that your nationality is Israeli. There have been Jews who have tried to do that. Exactly. To to to sort of strike a blow against all of this stuff.
And the courts have struck them down. That's brain breaking for me.
I got to say, I know I sound like I'm like a fifth grader, that I really apologize, but my dumb American brain is really having a problem processing a gap between citizenship and nationality because you're a citizen of a nation. And that traditionally and the idea of I mean, the things are popping in my brain are like Japanese Americans during World War Two being perceived with suspicion when fighting and people like, you know, what's a space? Who has bad politics now on the Internet?
George Takei. Yeah, it's like heartbreaking stories of his childhood and people in the internment camps and people really wanting to fight to show, no, I am a real American and like, let me prove my mettle, because, you know, all the prejudice we're experiencing and the idea of. Service as a way to kind of bridge some of the racial division that we've experienced and the country, some of the first integration happening in the military context, all of these kinds of things, we can critique that.
We'll put that aside for a second. But like that just is such a different kind of filter for how we think about nationhood and kind of a group cultural identity of citizenship as what you're describing.
And I'll tell you, yeah, I'll tell you a neat story. I'm working on a film called Black in the Holy Land and an image scene seen is one of like five people that I've let see. I'm like Billy Walsh from Entourage.
I'm like just a complete maniac when it comes to my I felt for that done.
But the Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Right. These are black these are black folk. These aren't the sort of extremist like on the Southern Poverty Law Center website, black Israelites.
These are a very reasonable, tame, very beautiful community of of of black folk who moved from Chicago to Liberia and ultimately to to to Demona, the southern in the Negev of of of Israel. And they move there as Hebrew Israelites. They were very intentional about saying that we are not going to identify as Jews. We have the tribe of Judah. You know, we say we stem from Judea, but we don't use this we don't use this language.
That combined with the fact that at that point, there weren't a whole lot of black folk there who identified as Jewish. Right. There were the Ethiopians hadn't made hadn't made the major sort of 19th in the mid eighties and maybe there may have been airlifted in like they weren't Moses and Solomon. And of course, the refugee sort of big refugee crisis of Sudan and Eritrea hadn't happened yet. And so they come there, they moved to Dimona, they overstayed their their guest passes and they're just hanging out.
And at some moment they said we're not going anywhere. And there was a standoff with their leader. Yaoi, not yet. We've been been I mean, Israel and the various prime ministers of Israel, ultimately the state said, look, you all a whole bunch of you all here don't bring no more. But if you all stay, we have to figure out a way to make this thing work. And you know how they made it work. They had their children join the military.
Because when these black children join the military, they got citizenship and when they get citizenship, their parents can get citizenship.
And so for them, it's just what you just talked about, their way of showing their willingness to be part of the Israeli state. Their citizenship was was indexed by their commitment to joining the military and allowing their children to join the military. So in that way, the kind of the way it very much is a model for what you're talking about, that they integrate into the military was a way of showing your bona fides as as a real citizen. I'm willing to kill for this country.
I'm willing to die for this country. But what's at stake when you do that? Right, the lives of Palestinians. And so at that moment, those black folks, Chicago, became settlers. So it's a very interesting conversation. And the politics of race shoot through all of that. And I think sometimes we don't think about Israel as a racial state, but we have to and we have to think about the way that various communities and groups are racialized.
And if you think about racial hierarchies, what does it mean to be Ashkenazi? Right. We have to be honest about when you talk to many African Ashkenazi brothers and sisters, they'll say, you know, that there are times culturally where people will brag about being Ashkenazi because of the particular features that that holds in terms of its connection to whiteness and how that plays out against, in comparison, someone who is right or someone who is based in Israel or what they call for.
So, so white immigrants from Europe to the region, as opposed to Jews of more Arab extraction that have been there or Latin American extraction.
Right. This is all part of the conversation of how we think of against citizenship. And I didn't that's not to say that that a Sephardic Jew or Mizrachi Jew doesn't have the same rights as an Ashkenazi Jew. But again, citizenship isn't just about that, just like here. And it's not just Israel. Right. When I look at Palestinian context, there's a very different reaction to Afro Palestinians than there are to someone who is not of apparent efforts in the United States.
We've got all kinds of skin color stuff, light skin, dark skin. This is an let me do this. Isn't this isn't this this is an exclusive to Israel. Israel is not an outlier here, but it is important to think about that. And in the particular ways that it plays out as part of an Israeli state project, in the same way you think about it, is it part of an American state or any other state project?
One of the ways that that Israel is a little bit different is that a lot of this we're we're trying. And I think, Brianna, you're struggling with trying to pull apart. Right. Citizenship and nationality, because in the modern era, we think of those two things almost the same way. In fact, we we we talk all the time about being part of this nation. This this how many times you hear a politician say this great nation, the greatest nation in the history of the world, what American nationality exactly is is pretty difficult to nail down.
It's constantly changing. We don't really have our a long history. What has been from the beginning, it's mostly been white supremacy. It's not not exactly something that that at least, you know, hopefully most of us are not proud of Israel actually, with the Zionist movement intentionally try to create a multi-ethnic nation that is a little unusual. And it does lead to a lot of the confusion that I think that you're experiencing. And not only that you're you're experiencing, you're looking at it.
But I think actually people who are within it can experience the struggle to belong to this larger nation for four Israeli Jews and certainly for non Jews who are still Israeli.
Right. How do you fit into all of that? How do you as if you're a non-white Jew, which the majority of Israeli Jews are not white. How do you fit yourself into a movement that originated and was based in Europe and completely developed and in Europe and created a new country before it really got this this broader integration that was largely based on bringing in Jews of color to be laborers, to be a sort of a sort of underclass still privileged about non Jews, but know sort of second class.
There's a lot here that's really, really fraught. But there's also the something I think that's worth all of us looking at. And how do you how could you build a multi-ethnic nation? Because globally, you know, I tend to be against nationalism in general. I don't like it. I think of myself, you know, I try to think of myself as best I can as a citizen of the world and and that a fellow American is no different than a fellow human anywhere else.
That's an ideal that I'll never be able to live up to. But it's something I shoot for all my life. And I think there is something in Israel that we can look at for how how could you build a multi-ethnic global comaraderie family, if you will, that that doesn't have to go where there's this particular project has gone to a place of supremacy and ruling over another people. But. But can be. More egalitarian, I think there's something here that's worth looking at, but it's also for right now incredibly confusing.
Yeah, the problem isn't it's not you know, I want there to be a nation. It's the idea that there seems to be and correct me if I'm wrong.
A bunch of nations that are hierarchical people, so if the proliferation of nations means that there are people like, you know, nationhood that are subjugated to others, then one seems better than lots. If you're able to have lots that it just means everyone gets to have, you know, individual self expression. And like there's less of like a statehood that manifests in, like American exceptionalism, all this other kind of crap, then hurray.
But that doesn't seem to be actually what's being described. It's not. But I also think I mean, this is again, to me, this is what lies at the heart of my work on Israel and Palestine for me.
And that is the one of the things I've said for a very long time, you know, in America in particular, but also throughout the world, there's this always argument, should there be two states to solve this problem? Should there be one state? I just don't care. First of all, I don't have a stake in that. And I don't think that's primarily the issue.
I think the issue is equal rights.
And I'm glad to say that I think in recent years that has become a lot clearer in the Palestine Solidarity movement, that it's about equal rights and whatever formulation that takes, I think should certainly be acceptable to those of us outside the region.
As someone who's neither Israel nor Palestinian, I think it's really important that that is the advocacy that that I pursue. And I think ultimately all of these are the questions, these questions of nationality.
I mean, we've spent a lot of time on it here, but ultimately, if we if we treat everyone's rights equally.
Then those questions become less important, they become the sorts of things you can deal with through everyday life and through a sort of, you know, communal discourse and in a much more peaceful way and much less toxic and harmful way.
So fundamentally, it comes down to that really simple principle. What we have not had here is is equal rights for every single person. I will use that term between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Every single person should have equal rights wherever within that gets out now.
And that gets people in trouble. That gets people in trouble. But, you know, that's I mean, that's simply first of all, plenty of Israelis have used that phrase. It only seems to get people in trouble when they're not Israeli and particularly when they're black.
But that basic principle seems to me something that we can all agree on. I think it's pretty difficult to disagree that everybody should have equal rights. And if that actually was moving policy, which it never has, I mean, it doesn't in any foreign policy, that's not that's not particular to Israel. It doesn't really even domestic policy, certainly, and even less so in foreign policy. Has that ever been a real motivator? But that's that's the movement, I think, that that I'm interested in building.
And that's the the contribution that I hope our book is making.
If we could transition things to domestic politics. Most people here in the US are not following the intricacies of Middle Eastern politics, but the majority of Americans side with Israel, according to Gallup. Why do you think that is? And you explain this at length so far over the course of this conversation. But I'm curious if you have a capsule argument that Israeli policy violates human rights both in the occupied territories and within the state of Israel proper, that you would make to people who are less informed on the matter on the fence?
Well, first, I'd say, you know, then it's shifting, the numbers are shifting and they're shifting fairly quickly. We sort of in the the book with some hope and optimism, which is rare for people who study Middle East policy to say, hey, things are moving in the right direction. You could look at it both in terms of public opinion polls or you could look at it in terms of in real life politics.
When you look at someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders who weren't as as far on this issue as I wanted them to be, but were light years in Bernie, in particular, light years ahead of all the other candidates to be a major presidential contender and to be able to have a position on human rights or to say that, you know, Netanyahu is not always right, a low bar, but high on this issue to be able to say, you know, a funding should be withheld based on the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.
That's major. And the fact that they did not win the presidency, but it had nothing to do with those stances is something extraordinary. What does it say? I think it says that that that things are moving in the right direction, but to your point, the reason why it's been so difficult to move the needle is because saying that I stand with Israel is like kissing a baby. It is the easiest political stance to take. It's the least controversial stance to take.
I remember watching Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in twenty eight at twenty sixteen. And you couldn't tell who you couldn't tell if I if I wrote down their comments politically after the second debate, you couldn't tell who was who. Hillary gave all the AIPAC talking points. You know, they could have chosen paradise. They chose Hamas, you know, I mean, literally point for point, all the talking points, Donald Trump actually and his first speech was like, I'd like to be a kind of like I'd like to, you know, I'm going to stay in the middle and not be a decider here and let them work it out.
I just negotiate by the second one. He had the talking points, right. And he was like everybody else. He started bragging about being, you know, in in the parades in New York. I mean, he took it to the Trumpy and level. But my point is there's a way that America, the average American voter, has not been given access to a different argument. What we've seen since Operation Protective Edge in twenty fourteen that that Gaza war.
And I remember I was still working for a cable news network. Then when you saw the bodies, when you saw evidence of disproportionate force, when you when you heard the stories, a lot of Americans were moved by that when we were on the streets of Ferguson getting tear gassed and we were getting messages from from the West Bank, you know, about how to wash tear guys out of our eyes and how to you know, how to protect ourselves.
It helped sway public sentiment. These days, all the stuff mattered. But if people are still not swayed and I think they are getting swayed by that, I will now answer your actual question. I don't have a singular argument because I do think that the West Bank, Gaza and inside of Israel are three very distinct sets of challenges. Although I think the fundamental thing and is what I said the United Nations, is that if we just appeal to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we see in all three areas a contradiction between what nation states at First World War Two were supposed to do and be and what they are not just in Israel, the United States and around the world, but on this question of Israel.
Absolutely. And so that would be the kind of big picture thing. But in Gaza, I'm saying there in an open air prison, it was predicted that guys will be uninhabitable by 2020. The predictions were correct. It's twenty twenty one.
What's the stat about drinking water that like 95 percent is not potable.
It's not potable. Yeah, no. I mean, this is this is where we are when I talk about forty inside of Israel, what some say inside of forty eight. For me it's I think that is much more. I want to talk to black folk and you know about, you know we do delegations and things like that around the country. You see people going on, you know, I look on the Internet, see people doing delegations and they often say the Palestinian condition is like black folk in America don't like.
In some ways, yes. In some ways no black. You know, being stateless is different, right? Being guys is different. Being enslaved is different. The context are different. But one interesting comparison for me is that the Palestinian inside of Israel who the Palestinian who has citizenship in many ways is a second class citizen. It's much more like an American apartheid situation. Right. It's much more like a South African apartheid situation. Not saying that the conditions are exactly the same.
Right. Not saying that Israel is just like apartheid South Africa, but that it satisfies the conditions of apartheid to the extent that there are differential set of experiences, laws, realities and outcomes given to different people based on a racial or religious or ethnic or national identity inside the West Bank, to be stateless, to be bound in that way, I think is a I don't have a capital argument and I don't have a necessarily a comparator as much as I talk about what it means to live under occupation, what it means to have to go through checkpoints, what it means to not have a state do not belong to a state, what it means to be in limbo, what it means to suffer the ritual humiliation of a checkpoint, what it means to have to be an internally displaced refugee, what it means to be in a place like like Tulkarem, for example, a refugee camp where, you know, they used to give you tents, but now they built concrete.
You've been people in refugee camps for seventy years. Like, what does it mean to be this? Mitchell, I'm sorry, I'm going on. And Mitchell, please.
I want to actually just boil down to if we want to if we want to have a capsule argument, as you asked for. I mean, I think it comes back to what I said before.
It's a question of rights. How is it that we sitting in the United States quite comfortably, relatively speaking, to people living in Gaza and the West Bank?
How is it that we tolerate and support through our our government's actions and our tax dollars the the complete denial of rights to millions of people? I mean, to me, it's that simple. When we talk about how do we resolve this conflict, it always starts with Israel's security. And I'm not, you know, Israel Israelis are entitled to live their lives without worrying about missiles and bombs and warfare and, you know, all the things that that Israelis do worry about.
I have been I was in Sderot about eleven years.
Two years ago during a rocket attack, this is a town in southern Israel that is very near Gaza. It was very frequently has rockets launched at it.
I was there. I know. I watched people with severe PTSD. I saw the effects of having literally missiles explode near you.
So I understand that not nearly as well as people who actually live it, but I get it.
And I was also there for the retaliation and I could hear, you know, for hours the Israeli artillery being fired into Gaza. The security is important. It's important for everyone, but it has to start with everyone's rights. If Palestinians have the same rights and responsibilities as Israelis, then we can move forward. If there's all these problems are still there. We have ways of dealing with it. But the way it is now, you have one side that is, for the most part, able to live their lives, albeit with some horrible disruptions.
But, you know, people who live in Tel Aviv, people who live in Haifa, people who live in Jerusalem can basically live their lives. And you have other people who have no lives. It is deprived of them. They cannot they can't get to work every day. They can't get school every day. They can't see their families. I mean, there's so many different stories for Palestinians. And just essentially speaking, they have no rights. They don't have civil rights.
They don't then their human rights are not respected. So that has to be the starting place. If we as Americans have any sort of values whatsoever, it's that we don't tolerate that sort of state of affairs. So if we start from there, I think everything else becomes much easier to resolve.
Well, what it feels like to me in part is that it's all you have access to is the mainstream narrative. Where to your point, Mark, saying just a flat declaration of support of Israel is the easiest thing to do, like kissing a baby, then it starts to kind of affect your consciousness like, well, what's the like? Why why would I argue for anything on the alternative? And in the absence of a more comprehensive understanding of how we got here, I think it's very easy just to default to the to the no narrative.
So it might it might be worth just talking a little bit about historically how we got to this place where we have these. I don't know. That seems like very basic, but I think that kind of lack of accessibility is part of why we end up in these arguments. Why is it that Palestine has an open air prison and what are the conditions that were placed on import export that made the conditions there so bad? You know, why do we have a West Bank and Gaza Strip?
You know, like, I think that's that's part of it.
Yeah. No, I mean, and it's a very long and complicated thing. And Mitchell and I spent many years, Mitchell, more than me reading and studying and understanding this in very nuanced fashion, because some of some of the little quibbles are the things that are so high stakes in this conversation.
Right. I mean, you know, Gaza to me is a very clear human rights crisis. It's indisputable the Israeli government would say this is a problem that Palestinians created for themselves, that that that the Jewish citizens left Gaza, the Gaza Strip in 2005, that Palestinians had free elections and they could have elected whoever they wanted and they chose Hamas. Now, we talk about this in the fourth chapter of our book, a little bit about the sort of the choice of Hamas politically in relation to the other parties, particularly Fatah.
But the Israeli that Israeli argument rests upon a false assumption that Palestinians have been able to engage in self-determination. That's when Mitchell talks about rights. He's absolutely correct. But I think we there's also the conversation about self-determination for Palestinians. Right. Which is something that often doesn't get talked about enough. So Gaza is bordered by land, air and sea by Israel. Israel still controls what goes in and out population registry, the Arab magnetics for all of it is controlled by Israel.
Palestinians have not had one day of actual autonomous rule in Gaza. And what's happening at the Egyptian border in Rafah isn't any better. I'm I'm not ignoring the question of Egypt. It's just a different conversation that we're having right now. But I need I want to make that clear as well. So you can't talk about what happened in Gaza, which is why we spent so much time on Gaza in the book. It's our longest chapter because you can't understand the crisis in Gaza.
To your point, if you don't drill down on how we got there, you can't understand what's happening in the West Bank since nineteen sixty seven. It's been under Israeli occupation from forty eight to sixty seven. It's under Jordanian occupation. These occupations matter. The context of these occupations matter. But but we also can't begin the story of Palestine or Israel in nineteen forty eight or even nineteen thirty nine. Or if we think about the beginning of World War Two, because what that does is it ignores the fact that the Zionist movement is one that precedes World War Two.
It precedes Hitler's rise to power. It precedes all of these things that were. And the reason why that's important is because, again, part of what Americans understand, part of the dominant narrative of Americans is that there was an ugly, vicious holocaust. Our Jewish brothers and sisters were were under threat and attack. And all that is true. The Holocaust was ugly. It's maybe the greatest atrocity in human history. And yet that's not what the Zionist movement begins.
So we have to understand what's happening in 1880 to. What's happening in 1897? I'm just picking dates of both the first major immigration, also Herzl's kind of, you know, the formation of the Zionist organization, which become the world's largest organization leader. These are all things that help tell the story right when there's conflict. And let me say one more thing. It's also important to understand that the Zionist movement is is is is emerging out of the hell of Europe and pogroms in Russia, pogroms in Poland.
I mean, Jewish people were under attack. And there's never been a moment in human history where Jewish people have not been under attack, which is precisely why the desire to have a state of its own people, a Jewish state, felt so urgent. That's why they looked at other places, other countries, historic. Palestine wasn't the only place, although obviously because there's a there's been a nonstop Jewish presence in historic Palestine and at the time was Ottoman Palestine.
That made sense. That made a whole lot of sense in their mind. But the question was what happens to the people who were already there? And for Americans to fully understand what it's called, the conflict, they must understand what is happening to Palestinian people at this moment. They must understand the role of empire, right. First the British and then the United States in controlling this because the British wanted what they call empire on the cheap. They want to be able to control strategically the Middle East, but without having to invest their own troops, their own people there.
And what better to do than have a people there? My sense and many historians would agree with this, and this is based on my reading of history, not like my hunch is the British were largely indifferent. To control that region, they just wanted to control the region. That's what that's what empires do, empires going to empire. Right. And there's a very particular way that that led to a set of political outcomes and policy declarations that only enhance the conflict, whether it's the Balfour Declaration of 1917, whether it's the Hussein McMahan correspondences, all of these things create a very complicated, messy arrangement in the Middle East that the British were largely indifferent to as long as they could control things.
But you began to see clashes as Jewish emigration increased and the issues began to expand. The Zionist community prior to forty eight began to expand. You began to see more clashes, but the clashes weren't largely about them being Jewish. It was largely about immigration. It was largely about jobs. It was largely about land. And that's where you see these clashes. I'm not saying there was no anti-Semitism, but these were clashes over immigration for people who were already there.
And the more people and Metro police have been, the more people understand this history and these tensions and the role of the British and also the world of British and American anti-Semitism. Because the British didn't want Jewish people in the UK, Americans didn't want Jewish people here. It was it was as much about controlling the Middle East as much as it was their own anti-Semitism, both in terms of not wanting Jewish people here and their own anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish power.
Tom Segev and others talk about in their work that made them think that we that we should side with them. So in many ways, anti-Semitism birth's some of the stuff we're talking about. Anyway, I'm sorry.
I know that that's actually a really important point for me to pick up on, because the earliest days of Zionism in the late 19th century, I mean, it does it grows out of the anti-Semitism in Europe. It grows out of the pogroms. It grows out of the sense of constant persecution. And one of the flipside of that is that the focus on Palestine also then brings in a European view what was called back then, the quote unquote, Orient.
And that was one of the things that fueled Zionist leaders and also fueled British leaders who were working with them.
Lord Balfour, who wrote the famous Balfour Declaration that that that said that basically stated the UK's support for a Jewish homeland, by the way, not a Jewish state, his homeland in Palestine that grew out of a desire, as Mark said, to get rid of Britain's Jews, that that was part of a big part of the motivation.
Another part was also the idea that this would be a sort of western outpost in the Middle East, which at that time was becoming more and more important as as you know, as the globe was becoming smaller.
And, of course, oil and concerns like that would come up very soon.
I think the key point to understand why so many Americans are sympathetic immediately to the Israeli side of this story and frequently have a much colder heart toward the Palestinian side before necessarily getting into all the facts of the matter is because of Jewish history, because Jewish history is something that they are very, very aware of and on the other hand, a certain amount of racism against Arabs.
So those two things have come together over a great many years. And it's heightened by by the Holocaust. I mean, one thing I think it's important when people talk about how can Israelis do this? How can Jews do this? How can they support? How does that happen? You know, one of the things that I think people really need to understand about the Jewish people now, whether Israeli or otherwise, is the Holocaust wasn't just a genocide. It wasn't just for us.
It was not just a you know, this this this really, really horrible example of mass murder in a history that we have faced similar things.
It was more than that because for the first time ever in Jewish history, our pattern has always been hatred rises against us, gets too dangerous. We go somewhere else in World War Two, we had nowhere else to go. And that is scary. And people and it convinced many, many Jews, I think, you know, with some reason that that there has to be a state that we know we can go to no matter what. You know, that that under any circumstances we know there will always be open to Jews fleeing persecution.
And I think that's a big part of the reason that so many, so many people, not only so many Jews, hold on to Israel, but that so many non Jews support that desire because they recognize the same thing Jews need somewhere that they know. We know. I I have written about other solutions to this that I think that I think could work. But but it certainly is an understandable sort of impulse that that grows out of not only the Holocaust.
You know, Europe has a lot of guilt about the Holocaust. I'm glad they do. Quite frankly, the United States also has a lot of guilt about the Holocaust because the United States, with all of our, you know, able bodied men off to war, that was like this big thing. So many of our our our younger men were overseas and a lot of our skilled labour. Was overseas, so Jews fleeing Europe thought, well, hey, the United States could really use our help right now, that's what they expected.
Instead, they got no, no, no, we don't want you people here go back to Germany. And that is what happened. They went back to Germany and they were killed. So I think the United States has some justifiable guilt about this, too. And I'm fine with them feeling guilty. I am not fine with them trying to assuage that guilt on the backs of the Palestinians. And that's where I think part of the a lot of this argument touches a nerve for people.
That's why it gets so heated, among other reasons. It's certainly not the only reason, but that is one reason that this argument and this debate, this political issue that should be dealt with in a more rational way, it can't be dealt with in a more rational way because it touches on a lot of that history.
Well, speaking of third rails, I do want to ask you about this point you alluded to earlier, which is this I never heard of this before.
Mark, your controversy arose about the phrase that came up earlier between the over the seat.
Can can you explain why that is such a charged phrase?
Well, I could explain. That's a it's an interesting question. So when I called for a free Palestine from the river to the sea, I was referring to, as Mitchell said, a belief that we should have justice and equality in the entire region of historic Palestine. I say historic Palestine. I'm referring to that entire area, both in the state of Israel, what is now known as the state of Israel, founded in nineteen forty eight, also in the West Bank and also in Gaza, would have been seventy three years ago called Palestine of the British Mandate of Palestine and before that Ottoman Palestine.
For me, that entire region requires a kind of justice now. But sometimes when people talk about justice, they're only talking about the West Bank. They're only talking about ending the occupation. Some people are saying we've got to do something about Gaza.
Some people are saying, you know, inside of Israel is just fine or some people are only focused on what's happening inside the state of Israel. Right. My point was in that entire region, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, we need that for me. The way to accomplish that, I'm not agnostic on the one state to state question. I believe in a one state solution, both for practical reasons and philosophical reasons. However, however, I don't think it's up to me to decide.
I think it's up to Israelis to decide. I think it's up to Palestinians to decide. And ultimately, whatever they work out that they feel is just and fair. I'm down with I just want to see peace, not to stand in solidarity with whoever is on the side of justice. But the idea of a one state solution is also part of what I say. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free. There were people after I gave the speech who, of course, said, oh, no, this is a slogan from Hamas, right?
The ruling party in in Gaza, maybe soon the entire West Bank, who knows with these elections. Right. And they believe that it was a call for Judenrein. They could call for the elimination of Jews throughout history, throughout the region. There are a couple of things to that. One, I absolutely am. That was not calling for any harm to come to any Jewish. I do not believe in doing any harm to any Jewish people, I believe in a one state solution, one person, one vote, a secular democracy with provisions in place to ensure that Israel remains a safe haven for Jewish people, but also that make sure that Palestinians can live in peace, freedom, self-determination, dignity and with a right to return.
And so for me, that's what I was talking about. Hamas was created in nineteen eighty seven. Right. The idea the river to the sea is something that has been said long before nineteen eighty seven. It's been something that's been said by Palestinians is something that's been said by Jews. It's something that's been said throughout the region. The Likud Party, the party of Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, once used river to the sea as a platform slogan. I saw a tweet from is it yea yea yea yea yea yea Netanyahu yea yeah.
Netanyahu that said we need to work. He's a real piece of work. Who said that, that Israel should be free from the river to the sea. About six months after I gave my speech, no one accused him of calling for the elimination of Palestinians when in fact there is a much stronger argument.
His vision. Of the future would exclude Palestinians form with any poll or interaction with Palestinians or vote or legitimate political possibility, which suggests that the Palestinians, according to. Bush, Jewish people off the land at this point, it's about a shared peace. It's about a shared reality, but it's also about relinquishing oneself of the right to rule. So what I give a speech that is 20 minutes long with a whole bunch of words in it that is appealing to law and facts and data.
And the only thing that gets picked apart are the last eight words. Right. And really the last six from the river to the sea. It's partly because I can't say how people felt about I'm not saying people were sincere or insincere, but what I can say is in the context of the speech that I gave in the long and deep history of that phrase being used by by people in the left and the right of Israel, by people who are Palestinian and Israeli in Israel, by people who were calling for all sorts of visions of Israel.
I feel that in many ways it was disingenuous and a convenient and cynical play to say, oh, that's what Hamas is. And then everybody who doesn't know anything about this, as they read a headline and says Marc Lamont Hill used the Hamas slogan, oh, you know, you don't maybe use you know, people do the Wikipedia experts to Twitter explain.
We'll see if that seems like a trend. But like, I'm trying to get to this theme of pattern that seems to have emerged where there really does seem to be in the midst of all of the cancer culture wars that go on. Kind of the unsung canceled. Right. Do seem to be people who are on the left who are often canceled for this particular issue, for making some critique of American foreign policy toward Israel.
Yeah, I think that's the third rail, I think. And part of it is, let me be honest. I mean, part of it is that that sometimes, particularly those who are not steeped in the in the context can invoke language slogans. I'll give you a good example. After Ferguson, people talk about police exchanges with Israel right now. And it's true that their police departments, the United States, are being trained in Israel. Some and some Israeli departments are training in the United States.
Those are both facts. When we look at certain habits and types of policing in the States, we do see some similarities. When we look in Israel, we see some similarities. Right. But what ends up happening was as the narrative advanced in the states, it got flattened out and thinned out and twittered out. And before, you know what people were saying, cops in Israel are training police to shoot black people. Some people are saying that, which is not true and it ties into the blood libel.
Right. Which is a which is, you know, this sort of longstanding cultural and anti-Semitic pattern of accusing and blaming Jews for the deaths of other people, you know, at one time was about children. And I mean, there's a whole long history with the blood libel means. But as a practical matter, it was it's accusing Jews of the kid. So now it's Israel or Jews, black people, America, how to keep black America by killing black people.
Long before Israel was founded, long before Herzl had an idea to move into and out of the Palestine, black people were getting lynched, killed, raped, enslaved, etc.. You had no stetting American eugenicist against and tips. Exactly. So so. So we didn't. And so I would not blame Israel for black people getting killed in United States. That's unreasonable. And I wouldn't blame American cops for the death of Palestinians or black Israelis in Israel.
But we can we can we can start there. But that doesn't mean we can have a conversation, as we do in this book, about rising authoritarianism in both countries, that we can't have a conversation about the expansion of a security state, what it means for for Palestinians, even citizens to be seen as outside threats and then to look at what happens when black folk marched on the streets as opposed to white people at the Capitol and how we get seen as outside threats who are not as citizens, who need protection, but as foreign threats who need to be contained.
That is a similarity. We look at the weaponry and exchange of weaponry, look at the types of war like weapons that are slightly scaled down. As Mitchell's written about this and I've written about it in my book, we still here. We look at weaponry. We look at exchanges, we look at tactics. We look at the security state where where human rights and the deprivation of human rights are acceptable as long as it keeps us safe. That's a post 9/11 American mentality.
Again, we just get it from Israel. That's George Bush in as well. But the point is that there are similarities. And as this country moves further and further to the right and as Israel moves further and further to the right, and up until November of last year, we had two leaders, a prime minister and a president who were extraordinarily corrupt, anti-democratic fascists and committed to a set of values that don't reflect the best interests of all the citizens.
When you have that, it's that resonates with these with these police exchanges. So so walk the tightrope, not just not because there's some conspiracy, but you walk the tightrope because we don't want to do harm. We walk the tightrope because it's the right thing to do. We walk the tightrope because we don't want to reinforce anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish power and cabals and all that. So we also have to hold power accountable, not Jewish power, American power, not Jewish power, Israeli power, government power, state power.
And if we do that, we can get the kind of freedom in the kind of outcomes we want. And that's what we're trying to do with, except for Palestine, the limits of progressive politics.
Well, that's a good time for us to close out. And indeed, Plug's had one more. Just told me not to ask it because it's got a long answer. He's right. He's right. So she's worried I'm going to throw it out to me at the end of these episodes anyway. And substantive.
It's going to be quick. Don't don't. If you just want to give me a yes or no answer, then that's fine, too.
But here's to the lightning round. You guys have both said you support a one state solution.
Well, I support whatever I support whatever Israelis and Palestinians can agree to. And I want to and I want to emphasize this point in a fair negotiation, which is not possible under the current circumstances. If Palestinians and Israelis can negotiate as equals and figure out how to move forward and find something that works for truly works for both parties, not that's being forced on one side or the other, then I support whatever they come up with. I just don't think it's my place to tell them what that is.
Sure, totally. It's the line we do with, you know, Puerto Rican statehood. And I'm with you in a universe of a one state solution. Is it tenable to have a one state that is also an explicitly Jewish state now?
It would have to. I mean, it would have to be bi national or or non national. It would either have to be a secular. There's two there's a couple of competing visions for a one state solution. One is a secular democratic state, something like in theory, what we have, what we're supposed to have here, where it's one person, one vote, and that's that's that.
And the other is a binational state. Where is where Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs would would be the two nations that would come together to make up this one country. And there would be a sort of federal government. And there there's a lot of different ways that that could work. I mean, there are countries now where something like that exists. Belgium, there's there's a few different I mean, many actually in Africa. Ethiopia comes to mind. Well, that where we're going.
Yes. And there's problems.
There certainly are countries where multiple nations exist and and come together for better or for better or worse, I think with with the right constitution, such a such a binational state could work. I think bottom line is, I think if there's goodwill, I think that it can work. And I think that there can be that goodwill despite a century of conflict. I think there can be that goodwill if the rights come back to the same thing, if the rights of everyone are treated as equal.
Well, it's just yeah. It just feels. Spicy, I mean, given the emphasis in the articulated importance to a lot of people of their being an explicitly Jewish state, that is a refuge for all the reasons that we've discussed, it does feel as though that's just not compatible.
I mean, I think, again, I think that's for Israelis and Palestinians to decide. I think and I've written about the idea that you create a you know, Israel does not have a constitution. It has a set of basic laws, but it does not have an actual constitution. I think if you write a constitution that has in it that that constitutionally Israel must accept Jews. And presuming that we've actually resolved the issue, Jews or Palestinians from anywhere in the world fleeing persecution because of being Jewish or Palestinian, I think if that's a fundamental piece of a constitution, then I think that addresses that issue.
That's something I've written about more extensively. People can find it rethinking foreign policy, dog.
There aren't going to be perfect solutions. This is a this is a very, very vexing conflict. These are two strong national Zionism and Palestinian nationalism are two strong national movements, people who are very passionate about them. I think one thing that is a tired cliche in diplomacy, but it is actually true that there's going to have to be some serious compromises. The thing is, is that what's never been accompanying that is the idea that those extreme those serious compromises have to happen.
And in an atmosphere of mutual respect for for equal rights, you know, and that that has to be the bedrock on which everything else is built. I think, you know, again, we come back to the fact that right now, almost all diplomacy, not just the United States, the United Nations has taken this approach. The European Union has taken this approach.
All diplomacy has started with Israeli security and Palestinian rights come second. And that is not ever going to work if we take a completely different approach. I think, you know, right now, I agree with everybody. You look at this and all of these things, how can anything possibly work on the ground?
A two state solution has been rendered pretty much unworkable, not just how can it work, but it's that central tension. And I know that we are spending a lot of time on this kind of unexpectedly, but that you would have expected that.
But that's central tension, which I feel like is sometimes, you know, very tricky to talk about between the idea of a state with an explicit kind of identity focus, that identity being a religion or a secular manifestation of that religion being incompatible with merging a group that is not possess that identity, that that's just fundamental.
I think it does come back to just the idea that nations, you know, there are know there are a number of European countries and actually also Western in the Western Hemisphere as well, where multiple nations make up one state that it can happen and it doesn't have to look like Yugoslavia. It can it can happen. It's difficult. And I think it's important to think of it in terms of national interest rather than rather than religious, because I think it's going to be I think it's a you know, here we have multiple religions and the state recognizes like four marriages.
Right. Different religion is practiced for marriages can all work together in their own religion. There's ways to make all of these things work. But again, it has to start with the goodwill. I think I think all of these things that look so vexing are an outgrowth of the fact that we're not dealing we're not starting from a place of equal rights.
Yeah, well, thank you so much for that. I know we've gone long over. Please tell people where to find your work, where to buy your book and any other thing that you'd like to promote.
So the book is Except for Palestine, The Limits of Progressive Politics. And you can buy it pretty much anywhere.
Books are sold. It's available as an ebook. It's available as an audio book. Wherever you buy those things, you will find it. But the best place to buy it is at Uncle Bob's Coffee and Books, which is you can find Uncle Bobby's online and if you buy it there, you'll be buying it from Mark's store, which means that you'll be buying it from an independent bookstore and a black owned bookstore.
So that's we want to Mark is all over the place. He's now hosting upfront front on Al-Jazeera. Among other things, you can find my work at rethinking foreign policy dot org. And you can sign up for my newsletter at Metropolitan's. That subsect dot com and my website will tell you where all my different articles published. So but but please, please, please buy the book and tell The New York Times that should review it.
You can find these links in the description to this episode. Thank you so much, Marc. Was there anything else you wanted to add?
No, I'm good. All right, you got me. Well, we did it. We solved Israel. It's all done at Patreon, dot com slash Bad Faith podcast. You can unlock premium subscriber only episodes that solve other enigmas. Last week, we solved the enigma of love with Rachel Rabid White. Before that, we solved the Byzantine Gobin relief bill process with very smart David Dayin.
Keep informed about your world.
I had a lot of fun last week. It was nice to have an episode. We let our hair down a little bit and I always love to peel a layer back from the mystery that the sexy mystery that is Virgil, Texas.
I would not say that was letting our hair down.
That was one of the tensest episodes I've ever done for you. But for me.
Yeah, yeah. Getting teased on my own show if you want to. I mean, if you want to hear what we're talking about, go to Patriot Bad Faith podcast. Listen to that whole episode. It's a very good episode. Also, this is a very visual episode, to put it mildly.
So if you want to see video clips from our interview with Rachel Maddow, you can find them at YouTube Dotcom Slash Matvey podcast. As you can find all of our video content. Stay safe, everyone. And as always, keep that they keep it.
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