British analyst briefs Sydney’s Inner West community

May 23, 2013 by Judy Singer
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British Israel analyst,  Alan Johnson has presented to Sydney’s Inner West Jewish community a cutting-edge update on the latest developments in post-election Israel.

Professor Johnson on Skype

Professor Alan Johnson on Skype

Professor Johnson, who is a senior researcher with BICOM, a British-based authority on Israel and the region,  and editor of its new magazine Fathom,  appeared via a video hookup organised by new community group iwJAFA, which emerged in the Inner West as a local response to Marrickville Council’s BDS attempt.

Johnson’s information dense presentation, with a particular nod to a perceived Centre Left demographic in the Inner West,   included the latest on Israel’s security environment, the current status of the peace process, John Kerry’s role,  Israel’s global standing especially with reference to the settlements, changes in the Orthodox power balance ,  and the status of Israel’s social and economic base.

But it was Johnson’s optimistic reading of new developments in the Arab Peace Plan, just announced by the Prince of Qatar alongside John Kerry, which excited most discussion after the event.  In what Johnson described as “a big deal” even though not yet much discussed in Israel  “the Arab League reaffirmed its commitment to the Arab Peace plan (API) but made a very important amendment to it”.  The significance of this for Johnson is that it signals the league’s acceptance in principle of land swaps, thus “meeting the Palestinian need for Arab legitimacy in order to make that deal themselves”.  Citing a just published op-ed in Haaretz by former Shin Bet head, Ami Ayalon, Johnson said that the API “takes the “Right of Return”  from the individual right guaranteed by international law, and makes it a collective right for the Palestinian people,   to be negotiated by their political leadership. In contrast, “the BDS movement wants to make it an individual right, a backdoor way to overwhelm the Jewish State”.  But as Johnson personally reads it, the API “ is trying to register the historic narrative while making it soluble.”  While still retaining the Naqba narrative on the Right of Return, they have turned it into something realistically negotiable.

Of special interest to a leftist audience was what Johnson called the emergence of Zionism 2.0,  a response by the Left to its loss of credibility over  the “land for peace” process. While the  election result has given the Left a  much needed morale boost, the Right has succeeded in painting the left as anti-Zionist, unpatriotic, an agent for foreign influence, and out of touch with the new global economy.  As a result, the Zionist Left has to find its own language of patriotism, particularly regarding the settlements.  In a situation familiar to us in Australia, the Left needs to find a solution to widespread hostility among Israelis over a perceived disconnect between the notions of “Welfare, Solidarity and Contribution”. Conflict over divisive perceptions of “givers” versus “takers” allowed Yair Lapid to dominate the election agenda. Labor recognises it must work on finding a coherent message on these various contradictions in order to reclaim Zionism

According to Johnson, a person to watch as an examplar of Zionism 2.0  is new Labor MK, Stav Shaffir,  whom he interviews for Fathom in a piece titled “Occupy Zionism, the new politics of patriotism and protest.”

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