Larry Stillman vs Juan Cole

Really, Stillman should be more careful, especially in a post ostensibly devoted to the McCarthyism of the right. He writes:

Of course, Judt is entering into a discussion of post-Zionism or neo-Zionism and the one state/two state issue about which he has been written and been pilloried in the London Review of Books some years back, but to call his discourse ‘deligitimizing’ is going to far. We need to distinguish, I believe, is between Israeli politics, and the preservation of Jewish safety, cultural rights etc. in whatever solution emerges in the future. This is difficult from efforts which aim to negate the ‘Jewish presence’ for want of a better term in historic Palestine.

Thus Judt is being too generous to some (but not all critics) of Israel. One only has to look at a selection of left or strong critics of Israel (for example Juan Cole, or the strange Gilad Atzmon) or some writers for the website Counterpunch, some Palestinian websites, and particularly Islamist websites, to see that there is often little tolerance for a solution which might include the continued existence of even a state of Israel because the concept of Israel, in their eyes, is too tied up with a history, as they see it, of racism, violence and exclusion, an integral part of colonialism, imperialism, the US global strategy etc, and ethnocentrism to boot. There is certainly an uncritical adoption of this viewpoint by many people not because, I suspect, they hold such virulent views, but because they are angry over the occupation and so on.

I think this is unfair, and not even consistent. Why doesn’t he criticise Tony Judt for having “little tolerance” for “the continued existence of even a state of Israel”? More importantly, I think there’s good reason to think Atzmon is anti-Semitic, but Juan Cole is nothing of the sort, and not even slightly radical. He opposes the occupation, and (I haven’t read his blog in a while, he might have changed his mind) may reluctantly support a one state solution, but only because he thinks a two state solution is becoming increasingly unviable due to Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank. He has favoured a two state agreement for a long time, and has written on his blog and article/s against boycotting Israel.

2 Responses to “Larry Stillman vs Juan Cole”
  1. Larry Stillman says:

    I think you have it wrong.

    Some of Cole’s rhetoric is intemperate and stereotyping, notwithstanding some of his excellent critique. Some people can’t distinguish between the good and the bad when they read such work. Judt doesn’t go for that sort of stuff.

    I also don’t approve of his ‘denialist’ line of Jewish history in ancient Palestine, which is a tactic of showing how short a time the Jews actually ruled as a way of dismissing their contemporary rights–of course, just because you didn’t run the place doesn’t mean you live there, and he also quotes Shlomo Sands books that has been slammed by scholarly critiques. In any case, because so much ancient and first millennium history is contested, nobody really knows what went on.

    The fact is that Jews have ended up in Palestine because of some modern nationalist-religious ideology that has come into competition with another group who have equal claims to the real estate. That’s all. Historical insults don’t help, because you can start taking apart the Koran or Islamic history if you want etc., but people stay away from that.

    Whether it’s one, two, three, four or no states, I don’t like that sort of language. See my post at, largely quoting from one Palestinian organization which I think calls a spade a space for a change.

  2. Michael Brull says:

    Larry, if you want me to take what you write seriously, you can’t just throw slurs around without substantiating them. I remember, for example, reading this by Cole ages ago. It hardly seems so radical or terrible.

    On Shlomo Sand – what you say is also unsubstantiated. I haven’t read his book, and the issue raised seems to me unimportant (I think claims based on history 2000 years ago are irrelevant anyway, and I don’t think nationalism confers rights either). However, I understand from reviews that his critics grant that he is simply popularising what scholarship already knows in the specialist literature. If you agree that no one knows what went on so long ago, then you should hold that there is no serious evidence, and certainly no serious and relevant evidence, that grounds any Jewish right to Palestine. I mean, Zionism could be justified on different grounds (and in my view, political Zionism in Palestine at least is not), but that’s separate from evaluating Sand.

    And I understand American Task Force on Palestine is a pro-Dahlanist lobby. I couldn’t care less what they say. (though it’s hard to read your post, it’s cut off on the right

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