Philip Weiss is an investigative journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, and Harper's. A controversial 2008 article, "The Affairs of Men," published in New York magazine, sought to explain why so many men pursue sexual variety. Weiss also writes the Anti-Zionism blog, Mondoweiss. He is the author of American Taboo: A Murder In The Peace Corps, and he's working on a novel.
Question: What’s wrong with Israel?
Philip Weiss: The problem with Israel is that it’s basically a colonialist state and it began that way in the 1800s. By 1948, there were 30% of the population who were Jews, 70% Arab. It wasn’t going to work and so a lot of the Arabs were expelled by the Zionists and the land grab has just kept going and going and going. So at the beginning of the century Jews owned 7% of the land and then after the partition in ’47 they owned- they were given 56% of the land and then they got 78% of the land and now they’re settling on the other 22% of the land. So it’s basically a land grab and you can dress that land grab out as a legitimate response to the Holocaust, Jews are unsafe in other parts of the world, but for me it’s just- that’s the problem. It’s a land grab and there is a lack of respect for Palestinian human rights.
Question: What do Americans need to know about the Israeli-Palestininan Situation?
Philip Weiss: I wish that Americans understood more the conditions under which Palestinians are living in the West Bank and in Gaza. I think that if Americans saw this on- in- if the journalism was honest about this they would be horrified and they would say, “We cannot support the Israeli government so unilaterally.” When we look at the Iraq situation and we look at suicide bombing in Iraq we say that that has a political component, that it’s a dispute over power and territory, oil, and we don’t say that it’s just religious or that it’s fanatics and extremism. And I think that we should be able to look at the Palestinian situation and while not excusing suicide terrorism saying, “If your land had been taken away from you on this consistent basis for so long, you also would be very desperate and if walls were going around, if they were uprooting your olive trees, pouring raw sewage on your land, poisoning your goats, you’d be pretty p.o.’d.” One theme I was going to suggest-- The one theme I wanted to bring in is I think that something very interesting is happening right now in the Jewish community, which is that younger Jews are having a different response to-- I’m atypical in my-- I’m obviously harshly critical of Israel and I’m atypical of American Jewry in that attitude. I don’t hold myself forward as being representative but what is happening is that my attitude is more widely shared among young Jews and that is because older Jews, my parents’ generation, which finds my ideas very upsetting, grew up with 1948 with 67, 70, with these very heroic images of young Israeli society and this making the desert bloom. And young Jews have grown up with accusations of apartheid which I find- accusations of apartheid. They see them-- They’ve seen the two intifadas. They’ve seen some level of Palestinian desperation. They’ve-- And it’s not a fun cause for young Jews and I think there has been a lot of defection. My sort of personal defection is one that is- there’s a lot of alienation among young Jews and this is a statement that even official American Jewry would agree with. There’s a crisis going on and I went to APAC last week, the major part of the Israel lobby, and they are very concerned about this. They are reaching out to others than Jews. They are spending a lot of money to I think indoctrinate young Jews in this but the sort of passionate belief in Israel that you see at APAC-- It’s very moving actually to see--excuse me--to see older Jews, how these people are-- They’re spending tons of money on another- out of a generous impulse. They truly are really concerned about these people on the other part of-- They’re not spending it on themselves. They’re not-- They’ve all done well but they’re spending it on their tribe but they’re just really generous, these APAC people, and they’re really concerned and- but and they love Israel. You just have to hand it-- These things are genuine and sincere and fervent but that feeling is not sustained in young Jews and that is a real crisis for those who support Israel.