My critique of provocative article in NYRB

My critique of provocative article in NYRB

This recent NY Review of Books article, “What Future for Israel?by Nathan Thrallhas been brought to my attention by people who were very impressed with it.  While I see it as a formidable analysis, it ignores the more upbeat view of the Olmert-Abbas negotiations reported by Bernard Avishai in the NY Times Magazine and elsewhere.  (Please see my post on Avishai’s Times article: Avishai: ‘A Mideast Plan that Still Could Be’.)

Although not vituperative, I found Thrall’s article insidious for its anti-Israel tropes.  This is very much in keeping with the high-toned anti-Zionist viewpoint that the NYRB occasionally features, most controversially showcased nearly ten years ago with Tony Judt’s suggestion of a one-state solution.   Still, I don’t think that Thrall’s bottom-line conclusion is necessarily wrong.  A muddling along with ceasefires and further unilateral withdrawals does seem more likely than a negotiated two-state solution within the coming year.

But we should scrutinize some of the writer’s presumptions — for example, a misleading whopper when left with no further explanation that Jews and non-Jews cannot legally marry.”  This is 
not because of some Zionist version of Nazi Germany’s Nuremburg Laws, as readers may infer, but because there is no civil marriage authority in Israel; hence, people of different religions cannot intermarry, nor can Jews marry each other, in Israel, without an Orthodox rabbi presiding.  It’s not that I approve of this lack of civil marriage (au contraire), but interfaith couples can go to Cyprus or elsewhere, and return with legally recognized marriages.  Unfortunately, Jewish-Arab couples would have trouble integrating into either Israeli Jewish or Arab society upon their return.  
As for the unmet “need” for Israel to acknowledge its responsibility for expelling hundreds of thousands of Arabs in 1948, why not articulate what the author actually admitted in another sentence, that both sides were responsible for the violent events of 1948, beginning with the absolute Arab rejection of the UN’s partition resolution and their attacks on the Palestinian Jewish community in its wake? 

The unofficial Geneva Accord of 2003 did address the refugees issue in a compromise way that both sides could live with; and this is one of the issues that Olmert and Abbas were haggling over when other circumstances intervened, unfortunately, ending their negotiations in 2009 (just when they were really getting to their end point).  That there was meant to be a concluding round of negotiations, to be presided over by Bush and Rice in their final weeks in office in Jan. 2009, was confirmed by Yasser Abed Rabbo when I visited Ramallah last year with Partners for Progressive Israel.
By | 2013-08-26T09:36:00-04:00 August 26th, 2013|Blog|5 Comments


  1. Anonymous August 26, 2013 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    Yes Ralph, Thrall and The International Crisis Group are well known for their “insidious… anti-Israel tone.” NGO Monitor and Im Titrzu will, I’m sure support your analysis.

    That is why Thrall’s boss, Robert Malley, is no longer involved in peace negotiations – his insidious anti-Israel positions. So much so that the ICG is in a league with the LRB’s insidiousness, together promoting analyses that are in no way grounded in the realities of Israeli policies.

    Thankfully Meretz and its allies are there to expose institutions like ICG and LRB. I can easily see why Hadash and Arab parties would happily sign right onto a partnership with Meretz, when views like this are so frequently expressed by the party faithful.


  2. Ralph Seliger August 26, 2013 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    In his typically insulting way, Ted once again confuses my personal views with that of the Meretz party in Israel and Partners for Progressive Israel in the US. As it says at the top of this blog’s main page: “The views expressed in its posts, and the comments on them, do not necessarily reflect the organization’s official position.”

    My opinions fall within a range of views expressed within Partners. I would dare say that many, if not most, people affiliated with Partners would not agree with my specific view of Thrall’s article. As for the Meretz party within Israel, I’d likely vote for it if I were an Israeli; but if you read what I posted last Thursday on electoral reform, you’d see that I don’t always agree with Meretz positions.

  3. David Cohen August 27, 2013 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    I think it’s important to always make use of the letters columns in the NY Review. Thrall’s perspective, his nuanced distortions, need answering by credible people.
    David Cohen
    Washington, DC

  4. Anonymous August 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm - Reply

    Hi David,

    I look forward to those “credible people” writing about Thrall’s distortions and insidiousness.

    However, I suggest that your aim is contradictory as credible people won’t find distortions.


  5. Israel Horowitz June 2, 2015 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Does this element feel it has purpose to survive and before it is effectively absorbed by other asps that will show ‘love’.
    I can only think of a man called Paul Pollack [a Jew] that I met in a town called Rochefort Sur Mer in France when I was in the American military service ’57. Only now do I realize how wise he was.

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