Israel, Justice, Politics

Palestine Solidarity: Now Normative in the Left

This is my last post on Palestine activism at the US Social Forum. Thanks to everyone for being patient with me.
Palestine solidarity has woven itself into the fabric of the American left to a greater extent than ever before. Wandering the information and vending tables at the Forum, one could find tchochkes, books, articles within magazines and so on to a greater degree than any other left wing cause or movement. There were more workshops related to Palestine solidarity work, Zionism or BDS strategy than on any other comparable topic. In other words, more people were running and attending Palestine themed panels than on the wars currently being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan(!).
Naturally, left wing fashions are common at such an event. But the use of the keffiyah as a symbol representing a kind of left wing badge of honor is not matched by any other symbol. Just to recap: leftists have gone through stages, wearing Native American jewelry, African beads, Mao caps, berets with stars, Che T-shirts, etc.  Want to broadcast your super-leftism? It’s the keffiyah or nothing, buddy.
All of the left wing sectarian groups emphasize Palestine. Every newspaper thrust into my hands had an article referencing Israel, Zionism, or the Palestinian solidarity movement.
The only controversy surrounding a panel – resulting in that panel’s being shut down – was around a pro-Israel workshop submitted by Stand With Us. (Israeli shills.)
Activism around Israel and Palestine was once a tad more restricted to groups with an especially strong self interest, including Jews, Arabs, Muslims and anti-Semites. (L’havdil.) No longer. It is, in some ways, more pervasive than Nicaragua was in the heyday of Reagan’s proxy war, stronger on campuses than the fight against Apartheid was in the 80’s. This is not yet true in the mainstream, because that’s where supporters of Israel in politics and the media have greater sway. But it’s true inside the left proper. There’s a whole ecosystem now, and the center of gravity is more Dearborn than DC and more campus than house of worship.
Within that ecosystem, BDS is normative and growing. So is more explicit ideological combat with Israel’s right to exist, as opposed to fighting the occupation or a specific injustice towards Palestinians.
What do folks think about this? Does this match your experience? Is anything new actually going on? What will the results of this look like in two or five or ten years?
I think that the folks who warned Israel that ‘time is not on your side to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians’ were absolutely correct. There’s a corollary affecting American Jews. They gambled on Israel and Holocaust education, and we are seeing the results. It’s a strategy for hollowing out liberal Judaism and strengthening the orthodox, all the while donating to Israel’s one way ticket to hell in a hand-basket.
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9 thoughts on “Palestine Solidarity: Now Normative in the Left

  1. What’s interesting about it is that my lefty friends are all supportive of Palestinians, but to wildly varying degrees ranging from “Zionism=evil” to the more sedate, J Street-style two states.

  2. Jew Guevara,
    I liked your article and am glad to see you feel sympathy for occupied peoples. I especially liked your last paragraph. The State of Israel does not care what I think. But ethnic Jews around the world have the power to say to Israel “Not in Our Name”.
    I am not sure it is constructive for me to criticize your article since it is on the right track, but if you see it as positive, then ok.
    “Within that ecosystem, BDS is normative and growing. So is more explicit ideological combat with Israel’s right to exist, as opposed to fighting the occupation or a specific injustice towards Palestinians.”
    If you accept that South Africa and the occupation are analogous, then perhaps BDS is good. BDS could be a good way for us to say to Israel that we disapprove of its discrimination, like boycotting South African products. It doesnt mean that we will boycott them forever, but as long as South Africa discriminates.
    REGARDING ISRAEL’s RIGHT TO EXIST. Personally, I am okay with Israel existing as a country. I reject Zionism if it means expelling a native people and replacing them with a RELIGIOUS NATION-STATE. However, if Jews want to voluntarily return to a land they believe God promised them, have a non-racist, democratic state for all ethnicities, and live in peace with their neighbors that’s fine.
    Personally, I like Jews and like reading about Israel in the Bible. On the other hand, traditional Christianity believes that Israel is now all of God’s people, since in OT times, non-Jewish tribes joined Israel en-masse. As someone who believes in democracy and human rights, I am hard-pressed to accept alot of the Old Testament. And Zionism does come from a strict interpretation of the Old Testament.
    What I am saying is that Israel as currently defined actually may not be legitimate because
    (1) traditional Christianity and modern Democracy and views of human equality may not support setting up a Nation-State in the Holy Land to give official privileges to one ethnicity and religion to the detriment of Christians and Muslims.
    (2) According to Judaism, God promised to restore Israel if the Jews were loyal to him. I believe that international human rights are part of God’s laws. Killing thousands of civilians in Lebanon and Gaza and crushing the pre-1948 native population goes against God. The Prophets were Israel’s strongest critics and warned Israel that they could lose their state if they went against God. When Israel, created by the UN in 1948, acts with impunity despite the rest of the world and the UN itself, Israel delegitimizes itself!
    You have a duty like the prophets of old to WARN Israel in the clearest terms what it is doing!!!!!
    I am excited to see if you can rewrite the history before us. Blessings on your journey.

  3. Good.
    Jews have been too aligned with the left for too long.
    Just look at a comparison of the careers of two political Jewish women of the early 20th century, Rosa Luxemberg and Margheritta Sarfatti as examples.
    Let the childish childless left wither like the Detroit where they so love to meet.

  4. I don’t get it — is Dave Boxthorn’s comment supposed to be a joke?
    Is the lesson to take from it that Jews who decide to align themselves with the left end up being shot and killed by soldiers, while those who decide to become the mistress of fascist dictators end up living long, prosperous lives?
    I suppose, then, that if the Jews want to survive, they’d better get busy seducing Il Duce and his equivalents today…

  5. “Dave, I don’t think the point of the post is that Jews should now bail out of the left.”
    —David A.M. Wilensky · June 30th, 2010 at 9:47 am

    Of course not. Why would Jews ever want to bail out of a movement where “explicit ideological combat with Israel’s right to exist” is “normative and growing”. Sheesh, that would just be silly…

  6. So the Left scapegoats Jews to avoid looking at the civil rights abuses of the countries they think are so cool but are nasty tyrannies, and Jews who want to fit in abandon oppressed people which they claim to support, to suck up to the Left. So what else is new?
    You don’t exactly defend gay Muslims/Arabs here, or call out their oppressors. But of course you’re all about “social justice”, right? Whatever the hell that is. It certainly has nothing to do with denouncing oppression wherever you see it. The Glorious Socialist Revolution is way more important than human rights. As it has always been. Russia, Cuba, Cambodia, Vietnam, Zimbabwe, China….

  7. Gay and Lesbian Arabs and Muslims have been pretty clear: they don’t want the struggle for rights to be abused by supporters of Israel.
    See here for an example:
    Interestingly, the very sectors of Israeli society most responsible for incipient fascism and occupation are also the most intolerant of gays: the orthodox, ultra orthodox, and settlers. Which puts some hawkishly liberal zionists in a strange position: running around deflecting critiques of right wing Israeli policy in the name of a tolerance that right wing Israel’s don’t actually support.

  8. I’m inclined to agree with Yehudit.
    The far left-has pretty much betrayed the left’s past commitments to liberté, egalité, et fraternité and human rights in general. Their anti-Israeli stance is no longer about specific policies, but against Jewish aspirations for self-determination and is coupled with apologetics for some of the worst human rights abusers at large. The same people I see in Boston protesting Israel are also protesting in solidarity of Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan just like they were protesting in solidarity with Milosevic a decade ago.

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