Tuesday, October 30, 2007
University of Michigan Press to Continue Publishing Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Zionism" After Initially Dropping Book Due to Rightwing Criticism
With Amy Goodman
"Last week the University of Michigan Press voted unanimously to continue distributing books from the London-based independent publishing house Pluto Press. The controversy began earlier this summer when the university press initially decided to stop distributing Joel Kovel's "Overcoming Zionism: Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine.".......
The press dropped Kovel's book in August after receiving a series of threatening emails from a rightwing pro-Israel group called Stand With Us. But faced with a growing campaign led by fellow academics and civil libertarians, the board overturned its earlier decision regarding distribution of Kovel's book. Last week's key decision to continue ties with Pluto Press came in the midst of a series of events organized around what rightwing groups called "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week."
Joel Kovel is an antiwar activist and former Green Party candidate for Senate. He is the author of over ten books. "Overcoming Zionism" is his most recent book. He joins me now in the firehouse studio in New York....
AMY GOODMAN: Joel Kovel, as a Jewish activist and scholar, talk about this issue, this idea that you are proposing, creating a single democratic state in Israel/Palestine? Of course, it’s not only you; among others, it’s Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, and others. But explain what it is. And also, how does it relate to your own religion, to Judaism?
JOEL KOVEL: Well, to take the second part first, I grew up in a very conventional Jewish home, except for the fact that there was a lot of division on this subject, so I think from an early age I learned to take a certain distance from it and to think critically about it. And I detail in the book certain incidents of my childhood, which sort of made me somewhat estranged from what was going on. But in any event, as I grew up, I felt that the Jewish people have been, you know, very largely deprived of a real opportunity to look at what’s going on in the state of Israel, you know, because there is such a frantic effort to establish Israel as a Jewish state, as somehow the destiny of the Jewish people, are using all of the history of the oppression and the persecution that Jews have suffered over the centuries.
And I feel that the notion of Zionism, as that there is this kind of destiny of the Jewish people to have their own state, is just the wrong idea. And it’s an idea that requires signing onto imperialism. It means signing onto ethnic cleansing. It means -- despite everything that has been said about it, it means basically becoming a racist situation, where you’re oppressing an indigenous population and depriving them of their right to existence and then thinking that somehow you can go ahead and have a decent life on that basis. Now, you can’t, in my view. And I join hands with those people who feel that the time has come to basically think of Israel in the same category as South Africa, as a state that just has gone wrong and needs replacement, OK? Now, that’s a way-out idea. On the other hand, a lot of people around the world think about it, and it should be openly discussed......"