Here is a comment made on Facebook in response to my open letter Keir Starmer, and the exchange that resulted from it. It is as classic a piece of Hasbarist gaslighting as I have yet come across.
My friend comes across as a rational man putting forward a halfway rational answer.
It is an answer, however, which contains many clues as to the writers true meaning, despite his eventual claim that he and I largely agree. The first clue is the first sentence; the rest I’ll leave interested readers to find. And his responses to my own comments gradually make his intention clear.
He claims towards the end that he is trying to debate with me; but what becomes plain is that his contributions with not too much subtlety are switching from discussing the issues to questioning my knowledge and understanding; he even towards the end questions my right to hold to my first opinion! He is the one who wants to debate, I, in my desire to end the increasingly pointless debate, reveal my unwillingness to acknowledge the validity of views I do not share.
I let him have the last, excruciatingly condescending word: I even let him call me ‘comrade’ without comment, since that is also a give-away. Not for the first time has a Hasbarist used this word with me to imply that we are both really on the same side, the implication being that the problem is my errors of judgment, not any deep-seated political agreement.
All part of the ‘gaslighting’ process.
I put this out as yet another, and excellent, demonstration of how the Habarists work: not just by answering argument with argument, but by attacking the character and integrity of those who dare criticise the policies of Israel’s ruling regime.
—-‘Are you saying Israel has no right to exist?
If so, that leaves you with some version of the single-state solution: a proposal for a supranational, rather than two states (the traditional socialist and communist programme) or a binational, state; for not only the political, but also the social elimination of both the Hebrew/Israeli and Palestinian/Arab identities and its replacement with a new, previously nonexistent nationality.
But even this, in all its unreality, bears only superficial resemblance to that which the Palestinian nationalist and resistance movements have in mind. They still fashion their orientation, around a secular-democratic Arab state. That is, the Palestinian solidarity movement fancies itself not merely an anti-colonial movement, seeking to free the occupied territories and Gaza. It is a movement that foundationally sees Israel as an illegitimate, hijack, imperialist imposition—a crusader state. The only case for denying Israelis the right to self-determination is by denying that they are a nation.
That is not merely the viewpoint of Hamas, of the “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea” crowd. The objective was restated clearly by Omar Barghouti, a founder of the BDS movement. “Bi-nationalism today, despite its variations, still upholds this ahistorical and morally untenable national right of the colonial-settlers.”
The secular democratic state of their imagination—the imagination of the Palestinian resistance — is an Arab chauvinist state, the chauvinism of the oppressed, in Lenin’s language, in all the same ways that a Zionist Israel, with a large Arab minority, is a Jewish chauvinist state, save one. Zionist two-staters recognise the Palestinian right to self-determination on territories exterior to the 1967 Israeli state.
The left now defers to the consensus viewpoint of the Arab people — a people whose roots are in the Arabian peninsula, not the Levant — whose fourteen hundred year old conquest and colonisation of the Mashreq and Maghreb is seen as their manifest destiny, challenged by the upstart return of an indigenous and marginalised people to the land that gave birth to them as a nation, to their language and to their religion. From a Jewish nationalist perspective, it would be like accusing the Lakota or the Cherokee nations – if they were to seize back land stolen from them by Europeans—of being racists and colonialists for daring to challenge “American” sovereignty, of being “ethnic cleansers” if they were to eject those recruited to a genocidally-imbued war against their return and for being intransigent and non-repentant in their refusal to abandon their “facile” claim to nationhood.
Zionism, in contemporary terms, is not the “national liberation movement” of the Jews. The Jews were/are not oppressed as a colony, were not exploited as a captive nation, and did not they have their resources plundered to enrich a colonial overlord. Jews experienced their oppression in exile and dispersion as a racialised “other”: hated, hunted, slaughtered and finally driven back to Palestine, the only corner of the earth they could possibly retreat to. Zionism did not create Israel, history did. Zionism kicked the door open. And it is Israel — not Gaza, not the West Bank — that remains the largest refugee camp in the world. What Zionism prematurely invoked, and what it had the desperate right to invoke, was a form of Jewish nationalism based in indigenous rights theory, the very theory that Palestinians now so obliviously subvert to the frothy joy of their left-wing amen corner.
Either way, this does not mean that socialists need bow down before any movement or any peoples’ national rights. There are higher forms of human solidarity: ones that arise out of the quest for an equal application of democracy and justice among nations; those that are based on national reconciliation and class solidarity. Rational people, who once included socialists among their ranks, understand that the attainment of these higher democratic rights necessitate a reining in of nationalist maximalism, of isolating humanity from its poisonous extremes. No nation can exercise their right to self-determination beyond the point where it precludes another nation’s equal right to self-determination.
Zionism as an indigenous rights rationale for Jewish self-determination is defensible on democratic grounds, regardless of whether it is also a necessary justification for Israel’s existence
Pre ’67 Israel consists of two nations: a majority Jewish and minority Arab nation. A Jewish democratic state — even if it were honestly implemented (which it never was) would grant Arabs as individuals complete equality,
A revolutionary and democratic alternative is the call for Hebrew and Arab self-determination within a de-Zionized Israeli state: to advocate, in other words, a state that grants Israeli Arabs an equitable distribution of state resources not only for cultural and economic development, but also to implement their full right of secession with an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories, if they choose.’
—‘The short answer to your first question is, No, I did not say Israel has no right to exist, and nothing I say can be interpreted as meaning that.
My argument, put very simply, is that Israel must give Palestinians and Israelis together equal rights under a common law.
Somewhere within the complexities of your response there seem to be hints that the Palestinians as a people are seeking for something different.
My understanding of Palestinian attitudes is that they are mixed. Of course, some want to see the state of Israel dismantled: but this has become a minority view, and not even Hamas realistically expect that to ever happen.
The majority view is a very simple one: Israel, please stop what you are doing and give us our lives back.
Depicting Israel now as a refugee camp is clearly mistaken: it was established as a state with its own independent government and independent social institutions which was made available for Jews to move to if they wished. Of course, many did, fleeing awful circumstances; but very many did not wish, as the strong and long-standing communities of Jews in many countries through-out the world testify.
In fact, a percentage of Jews came to Israel as refugees, not because they wanted to come to Israel in particular, but because the destinations of their choice turned them away: reluctant Israelis.
And what is sure is that it is Israel who for ideological reasons is setting out to commit great violence against the Palestinians, violence which makes violent resistance inevitable.
The proposition remains: if Israel was to offer a genuine peace without preconditions, was to negotiate with the Palestinians a system of rights which allowed the Palestinians to live securely and in peace on equal terms with the Israelis, the Palestinians would not turn their back.
But Israel has never made such an offer, and clearly has no intention of ever doing so. It wants an Eretz Israel and that is all it wants.
—‘ “My argument, put very simply, is that Israel must give Palestinians and Israelis together equal rights under a common law”: agreed, then. I presume you therefore favour either a binational state (despite all the practical difficulties that would involve) or two states, the traditional socialist and communist position?’
—‘I believe that is something that should be negotiated by the two parties involved, It’s not a question that can be answered now, and it is pointless to try and answer it before Israel and Palestine have had the chance to discuss the matter freely and without prejudice.
—‘Fair enough, but wouldn’t you say the internationalist left has a responsibility to at least consider the issue and at the very least propose some workable frameworks for a just settlement? Asking a people to simply give up their right to national self-determination, for instance is obviously not an realistic proposition: no people in history have ever done it.
—‘This is not about the self-determination of the Jews. Jews know who they are where-ever they live, and manage where-ever in the world they are found to live according to the laws of the land in which they reside and to their own laws quite easily. That is as true of Israel as anywhere else, and I am not suggesting things should be different.
But the Jews of Israel should recognise that if they have the right to live according to their own customs in the framework of their own culture, then so do the Palestinians. It is the attack on the Palestinians’ right of self-determination which is in question here.
Jews through-out the Diaspora understand the value of multi-culturalism: it is those such as the Nazis who have opposed it who have been their greatest enemies. Now the Zionists are trying to create a monocultural state which goes right against the reality of their situation, explaining why they are finding it so troublesome to do without using disproportionate force.
The idea in the end is for the international community to persuade Israel to give up this pointless and disastrous drive to monoculturalism – a virtual impossibility in any country which claims to be a modern international democracy – and allow the Palestinians a real and constructive say in their own future.’
—‘I’m not sure that we disagaree that much, but I would urge you to have a long, hard think about your statement “Jews know who they are where-ever they live, and manage where-ever in the world they are found to live according to the laws of the land in which they reside and to their own laws quite easily.” Errr … do you think that statement would apply throughout the twentieth century? “Quite easily”????? Have you really thought that through, Richard?’
—‘No of course I don’t think that, and yes, of course I have! Many Jewish communities went through hell in the 20th century! But not all of them: there were places where they were relatively safe from that kind or degree of persecution, the UK and the USA being notable examples. That’s why so many European Jews sought refuge in these countries, my family among them.
And the end of the Holocaust which accompanied the defeat of the Hitler empire left behind a legacy, a desire of the great majority of the people involved in whatever capacity with the war not to be associated with Hitler’s political philosophy or its practice.
Now, the world is a safer place for Jews than it has ever been; Jews do not face any greater degree of racism than, say, the blacks or the Muslims, and in places like the UK and the USA, something less. Of course, there are Jews in the Diaspora who have faced intimidation and threat; but such instances are relatively rare: we are no longer a prime target.
In fact it has been noted by many Jews, myself included, that we are more likely to be abused for being Jewish not by the traditional anti-Semites but by people who assume that we support Israel’s own abuses in Palestine, even though so many of us don’t.
It doesn’t help that anti-Zionist Jews also receive the most horrible abuse from Zionists because as Jews we are betraying our duty to support Israel.
It also doesn’t help when we are constantly told by Israel and Israelis that we would be much safer if we moved to Israel, that by not doing so we are placing ourselves in danger from an inevitable repeat of the Holocaust. Seriously. Every time I hear this from some Israeli or other I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
This from a country where Jews live in constant fear of what their neighbours in the region might do, as no other Jew on earth does!
—‘A quite incredible degree of complacency and historical revisionism, Richard: until I read this I thought we probably had quite a lot of common ground: now I’m really not so sure. To be frank, I find the views expressed in this comment seriously worrying and dangerous. I would urge you, Richard, to have a long hard think about what you are saying.’
—‘You are so far the only individual who has chosen on this or any other page to object to what I have said, and you have chosen to make it personal. That’s called gaslighting. Why you are doing it I can’t say and don’t really need to know. What I do know is that I’m sticking to what I say because after many years of long hard thinking it’s what I believe. This debate with you is over.’
—‘I’m really sorry you’ve reacted like this: I may be the only person to object to what you’ve said, but does that make me wrong? Did you not wish people to take you up and debate with you? Is that not allowed in your world? How is anything I’ve written “personal”, comrade? I’d really suggest you need to get a grip, calm down and consider the possibility that what you call “gaslighting” (which I understand to mean a sinister form of personal stalking, with the intention of suggesting that the subject is mad – something I have most certainly not done to you) is, in fact called “political debate and disagreement”: with all due respect, you should learn to live with it, comrade.’
—‘Well, if I don’t agree with you, then obviously I think you’re wrong. But I wouldn’t condescend to you personally because I don’t share your opinion. Questioning my opinion is one thing: questioning my intelligence is quite another. I really do now have no more to say to you.’
—‘Despite that, Richard, when exactly have I questioned your intelligence? Seriously, when? Please cite an example.’
—‘Richard: you and I both are long enough in the tooth, I would have thought, to understand the basic rules of political debate, ie: you put forward a position; I disagree; you tell me why I’m wrong; I reply and tell you why I now agree with you or don’t, in which case I elucidate my disagreement further; you then come back at me … etc, etc, etc… It’s called political debate. Ideally, we try to avoid personal abuse, which I think I’ve done. What is your problem, comrade?Do you consider yourself to be above criticism or challenge? When you put forward your statement did you not expect anyone to question it? What sort of political world do you live in, comrade?’
—‘And YOU should know that when some-one wants to stop talking about something, for whatever reason, then you stop. I said what I wanted to say about this issue, and I didn’t wish to continue saying it. Now, you have now become very personal, and I recognise the pattern. This is classic trolling, and I don’t have to put up with it. When I said enough, I meant it.’
—‘Sorry Richard, I will stop now. I made the mistake of thinking you wanted political debate.: obviously not: you want uncritical endorsement of of your opinions and anything else is, apparently “gaslightiing” and “trolling”. I’m so sorry, Richard: unlike you, I come from a political tradition in which debate, disagreement and discussion, conducted in a civil manner, is considered healthy. I didn’t realise that’s not your tradition.’