The Blog

Daniel Levy's Israel Problem

And J Street's.

1:10 PM, Oct 12, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The blog Mere Rhetoric recently reported that Daniel Levy, one of the founders of the left wing, anti-Israel lobby J Street, made remarks that reveal his radical approach to Israel. (I followed up on this report here.) “Levy quite explicitly revealed that he thinks that Israel’s creation was ‘an act that was wrong,’” Mere Rhetoric said. “For good measure he added that ‘there’s no reason a Palestinian should think there was justice’ in Israel’s founding.”

Now J Street has fired back in the “Myths and Facts” section of its website, arguing that Levy’s comments have been “misreported”:

In an answer to a question on a panel he appeared on in Doha, Qatar, Daniel argued in favor of progressive Zionism. He did not call Israel’s creation "an act that was wrong.” He believes that the events of the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem included acts that were wrong, but that could be excused for him by the particular and unique moment in Jewish history that we were living through in 1948:

"I believe that where Jewish history was in 1948 excused, for me – it was good enough for me – an act that was wrong."

Daniel went on to say that he sees no reason why Palestinians would agree with his response to that history, "I don’t expect Palestinians to think that."

But J Street, in its defense of Levy, once again obscures the truth, by saying, “He did not call Israel’s creation ‘an act that was wrong.’” This is patently false. Here's video from the event:

Leave aside the fact that J Street’s “Myths and Facts” page has in fact been used for promoting myths rather than dispelling them. Let’s assume that Levy and J Street are sincere in their defense. If this is the case, then Levy is validating one of the worst, most poisonous arguments that one could make on behalf of Israel. 

For one, he seems to have his history of Israel’s independence backwards – it was, after all, the Arab states that rejected the UN partition plan and chose to launch a war of annihilation against the nascent Jewish state instead. This war created the Palestinian refugee problem – but Levy thinks the refugees are Israel’s fault.

More importantly, Levy is suggesting that the Holocaust – that’s what he’s referring to when he says “where Jewish history was in 1948” – rendered Israel’s creation justifiable. In other words, only because the Nazis murdered six million Jews in Europe a few years prior did the Jews have the right to commit the “wrong” of forming a nation-state in the historic Land of Israel.

Levy should explain to J Street’s supporters whether, by this logic, he believes that pre-war Zionism – that is, the attempt to establish the state of Israel before the Holocaust had entitled the Jews to their unique status of victimhood – was unjust. He would seem to be arguing that it was.

Levy’s is a defense of Israel that is actually an indictment. It is merely the tired leftist politics of grievance, with the Jews winning their state as a consolation prize for their victimhood. But what happens when the Jews fulfill the destiny of Zionism and are no longer victims? What indeed happens, as we see with the ideological cause Levy seeks to represent, is that the justification for the Jewish state grows weaker over time as the immediate sense of victimhood fades. And with Levy’s love of grievance politics, it is natural that he is most passionate today about advocating on behalf of the people who have best cultivated the appearance of victimhood – the Palestinians.

Levy’s argument – and J Street’s defense of it – help propagate the Palestinian myth of the “Nakba,” which, in the words of Sol Stern, “connotes a historical catastrophe inflicted on an innocent and blameless people (in this case, the Palestinians) by an overpowering outside force (international Zionism).”

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers