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'The Third Narrative,' and Michael Walzer and Todd Gitlin, Join the Fight Against Israel

By RONALD RADOSH AND SOL STERN

Michael Walzer, the distinguished political philosopher who writes on topics as varied as the theory of just war and Judaism, is now one of the leading lights of a group of academics called The Third Narrative, which recently issued a statement calling for “personal sanctions” against right-wing Israeli political figures whose views are allegedly so beyond the pale of acceptable discourse about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that they should be turned into non persons.

For starters, Walzer and his fellow “liberal Zionists” are demanding that the United States and the EU impose visa restrictions and freeze bank accounts for such dangerous Israeli politicians as Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Housing Minister Uri Ariel, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin and Ze’ev Hever, head of a group called Amana, which oversees Israeli settlements. These four right-wing activists were chosen, a scholar told The Forward, “because they stand out by working to make the occupation permanent and irreversible.”

The group’s members include sociology and journalism professor Todd Gitlin, historian Michael Kazin, sociologist Alan Wolfe and other self-proclaimed center-left academics, some of whom are social-democrats affiliated with the journal Dissent. Most of them are proud members of the “democratic Left.” They also proclaim themselves liberal Zionists who oppose academic boycotts such as those advocated by the BDS movement.

Some years ago, Michael Walzer wrote a penetrating essay titled “Can There Be a Decent Left?” But by signing on to these destructive and hypocritical demands, Walzer himself has provided strong evidence that the left (including even the social-democratic left) has become indecent about Israel. Having taken on those he called the “Blame America First” leftists, Walzer has himself joined the “Blame Israel First” crowd.  His group says it distinguishes itself from the BDS extremists who hate Israel. Rather than ostracize all Israeli academics, they stress that they are only targeting individuals whom they see as most responsible for the “occupation.” As they say in their Dec.8th statement, these individuals pursue “unjust, unlawful, and destructive policies in their most extreme and dangerous form.”

Walzer and his colleagues believe that these perfidious individuals do not have the same rights of free speech as the “good Israelis” who favor a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state. Bennett should be virtually criminalized because he favors “creeping annexation, Ariel for advocating a one-state solution, and Feiglin for his “undisguised extremism” and for his advocacy of annexationist policies, such as building homes in outposts considered illegal by the Israeli government.

The new liberal Jewish censors have an entirely different standard for Palestinian leaders. They know that Mahmoud Abbas’ government on the West Bank has demonstrated again and again that it will not acknowledge Israel’s permanent right to exist as a Jewish state, has done nothing to stop the rampant anti-Semitism throughout the school system and the PA itself, and that Abbas has never agreed to give up the “right to return,” which if implemented means the end of the Jewish state.

Since Abbas and his comrades support extreme positions that prevent a peaceful solution of the conflict, Walzer and company should logically be in favor of personal sanctions against these anti-peace extremists in the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately the liberal, pro-peace Zionists  have never protested the destructive, anti-Jewish statements emanating regularly from PA headquarters in Ramallah. Like the BDS movement whom they claim to oppose, their proposals are aimed only at Israeli political leaders they disagree with.

Consider, for example, the logic Todd Gitlin uses in urging academics to follow their lead rather than the BDS movement.  Writing in Tablet Magazine and published on The Third Narrative’s website, Gitlin inadvertently reveals that his disagreements with BDS are essentially only tactical. He calls BDS advocates guilty of issuing “apolitical tantrums in cases of right versus right.” But a close reading shows Gitlin guilty himself of very similar tantrums.