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Thinking About Zionism, AntiSemitism, Human Rights…Publicly (2)

January 23, 2019

(Yesterday at the “Marade” – Denver’s annual march to honor Martin Luther King II’s legacy, now in its 35th year – I took a picture of someone holding a sign “Fox News Lies; Folks Died.” That triggered a discussion with Nancy who was marching with me despite some pain in her hip. We both agreed that it was not only Fox News that lies, but also the NY Times… of course the latter does it far more eloquently and articulately – not quite lies, but what could be called “gray propaganda”.

It is a question of not lying outright but by emphasizing certain aspects of the news while de-emphasizing others. Occasionally, as was the case of Judith Miller and Michael Gordon in the build up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, actual falsification of the facts did take place, and on Page 1 of that esteemed paper.

The reporting of the NY Times on Israel, on its Occupation of Palestinian Territories, has been, over the past 74 years since the end of World War II, in a word, dismal. Israel could hope for no greater apologist, ….Mondoweiss had a fine analysis of the Times’ sorry history on the subject.

And then three days ago, in an apparent change of direction, the Times published an op-ed by Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, recently hired as an editorial writer; it is entitled “Breaking The Silence On Palestine.” This comes after a string of “incidents” nationally in which Israel’s more zealous supporters in this country attacked, undermined or discredited critics of Israeli repression against the Palestinians; more on what I think is going on later. Along with the defense of Angela Davis by the city of Birmingham, Alabama, this article could be a watershed event in US journalism and a shift in the Times shameless covering – or lack thereof of the Israeli Occupation. It is well argued, building on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.; Nothing as clear cut, as humane, has EVER appeared in the pages of the NY Times, nor given such attention, at least not to my knowledge.)

Three cheers for Michelle Alexander. 

We all need to show her the kind of solidarity that her courage and principle demand.

More attention will be given to Alexander’s article in further blog entries. 

1. Zionism, British Settler Colonialism in India, French Settler Colonialism in Algeria
What follows below is Jewish Voice For Peace’s analysis on the nature of Zionism…It is a fine statement that puts the whole issue of Zionism within its historical context – a movement of Eastern European Jewry, faced with extremes of AntiSemitism that saw as its mission the creation of a Jewish state – a kind of settler colonialism – on the model of British colonialism in India. It is well done. After the initial statement there are several questions about Zionism that are addressed, again useful.

While early Zionist leaders did indeed base their vision of Israel on British colonialism in India, there is a better, more accurate model – French colonialism in Algeria. . Current Zionist political leaders and intellectuals have long been obsessed with the French colonial experience in Algeria and have followed both its evolution and its denouement – the expulsion of the French colonial population rather closely. It all ended in an ugly orgy of violence with the colonizers, pretty much down to the last one, jumping ship back to France from whence they came in 1832 onwards.
So much of Israeli counter-insurgency – the effort to neutralize Palestinian opposition and uprisings – is based on French counter-insurgency developed during the Algerian War of Independence – and made famous in the classic film, “Battle of Algiers”. Those counterinsurgency methods were then exported via French experts first to places like Argentina and Chile, then to Vietnam where French experts trained US Special Forces in this insidious form of political warfare…and then back to Israel where it has been used – and celebrated – in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Most recently, a whole slew of U.S. city police forces have gotten training in counter-insurgency methods in Israel, a program sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. One of the cities participating in this program – Denver, Colorado (along with the Colorado State Patrol)..
Back to Algeria, …publicly Zionists claim that the parallels between French colonialism in Algeria and the Israeli settler colonial experience in Palestinian are marginal at best, that the cases cannot be compared. Privately – in the halls of power, in intellectual and intelligence centers – they know otherwise. They fear an Algerian-type climax – one way or another – for Israel, maybe not today, or tomorrow – but not long into the future. If it happens, it will come as much from the spiritual rot within than from any outside forces.
How has the state of Israel responded to the danger of an Algerian-type denouement? They arm themselves to the teeth, engage in counter-insurgency against the Palestinians, committing nothing less than crimes against humanity against that community in Gaza and essentially making life unlivable, or close to it in the West Bank to pressure Palestinians to leave – In Gaza it amounts to incremental genocide, in the West Bank, incremental ethnic cleansing.
Let me say openly and unambiguously – in the long run, Israel in its current form is unsustainable. I don’t know if it can be reformed. Perhaps, but this is highly unlikely. If anything the more liberal trappings of its early days – the Kibbutz’s, its domination by more secular elements – has been replaced by a more hardcore – and brutal – kind of Zionism. “Liberal Zionism” – the kind that Hannah Arendt and Albert Einstein (and others) hoped would take shape, which so many good people in other ways clings to, has never been more than a marginal movement, more for domestic consumption in the USA than anything that actually existed on the ground.
Going way back, but in a most concentrated way in the aftermath of the 1967 War, different administrations, Democrat as well as Republican, have given Israel what amounts to as unprecedented, enormous support. While the nature of the U.S.-Israeli connection is too complex to analyze in detail here, what must be pointed out is that for different reasons, their interests converge. Forget the drivel repeated non-stop about Israel being “the only Middle East democracy”, “shared values’ – the relationship is essentially based upon common interests.
Following in the British (and French) traditions, the U.S. wants to keep the Arab World (and Middle East in general) divided; a divided region makes it easier to control the region’s great energy resources, to impose U.S. diktats on Arab energy policy. For its part, a weak and divided Arab World is, as David Ben Gurion noted (Israel needs to keep itself strong and its enemies (meaning the Arabs) weak), a pre-requisite for Israeli political influence in the region. However, recently its regional hegemony, if we can call it that, is weakening.
Following in the British (and French) traditions, the U.S. wants to keep the Arab World (and Middle East in general) divided; a divided region makes it easier to control the region’s great energy resources, to impose U.S. diktats on Arab energy policy. For its part, a weak and divided Arab World is, as David Ben Gurion noted (Israel needs to keep itself strong and its enemies (meaning the Arabs) weak), a prerequisite for Israeli political influence in the region. However, recently its regional hegemony, if we can call it that, is weakening.
2. Jewish Voice For Peace’s “Approach To Zionism” 
“Solidarity is the political version of love.”
– Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Jewish American feminist, author and activist (1945-2018)
Jewish Voice for Peace is guided by a vision of justice, equality and freedom for all people. We unequivocally oppose Zionism because it is counter to those ideals.
We know that opposing Zionism, or even discussing it, can be painful, can strike at the deepest trauma and greatest fears of many of us. Zionism is a nineteenth-century political ideology that emerged in a moment where Jews were defined as irrevocably outside of a Christian Europe. European antisemitism threatened and ended millions of Jewish lives — in pogroms, in exile, and in the Holocaust.
Through study and action, through deep relationship with Palestinians fighting for their own liberation, and through our own understanding of Jewish safety and self determination, we have come to see that Zionism was a false and failed answer to the desperately real question many of our ancestors faced of how to protect Jewish lives from murderous antisemitism in Europe.
While it had many strains historically, the Zionism that took hold and stands today is a settler-colonial movement, establishing an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others. Our own history teaches us how dangerous this can be.
Palestinian dispossession and occupation are by design. Zionism has meant profound trauma for generations, systematically separating Palestinians from their homes, land, and each other. Zionism, in practice, has resulted in massacres of Palestinian people, ancient villages and olive groves destroyed, families who live just a mile away from each other separated by checkpoints and walls, and children holding onto the keys of the homes from which their grandparents were forcibly exiled.
Because the founding of the state of Israel was based on the idea of a “land without people,” Palestinian existence itself is resistance. We are all the more humbled by the vibrancy, resilience, and steadfastness of Palestinian life, culture, and organizing, as it is a deep refusal of a political ideology founded on erasure.
In sharing our stories with one another, we see the ways Zionism has also harmed Jewish people. Many of us have learned from Zionism to treat our neighbors with suspicion, to forget the ways Jews built home and community wherever we found ourselves to be. Jewish people have had long and integrated histories in the Arab world and North Africa, living among and sharing community, language and custom with Muslims and Christians for thousands of years.
By creating a racist hierarchy with European Jews at the top, Zionism erased those histories and destroyed those communities and relationships. In Israel, Jewish people of color – from the Arab world, North Africa, and East Africa – have long been subjected to systemic discrimination and violence by the Israeli government. That hierarchy also creates Jewish spaces where Jews of color are marginalized, our identities and commitments questioned & interrogated, and our experiences invalidated. It prevents us from seeing each other — fellow Jews and other fellow human beings — in our full humanity.
Zionist interpretations of history taught us that Jewish people are alone, that to remedy the harms of antisemitism we must think of ourselves as always under attack and that we cannot trust others. It teaches us fear, and that the best response to fear is a bigger gun, a taller wall, a more humiliating checkpoint.
Rather than accept the inevitability of occupation and dispossession, we choose a different path. We learn from the anti-Zionist Jews who came before us, and know that as long as Zionism has existed, so has Jewish dissent to it. Especially as we face the violent antisemitism fueled by white nationalism in the United States today, we choose solidarity. We choose collective liberation. We choose a future where everyone, including Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, can live their lives freely  in vibrant, safe, equitable communities, with basic human needs fulfilled.
Join us.
Part One
3 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill conklin permalink
    January 23, 2019 3:51 pm

    Thanks Rob this article really sums it up and also I enjoyed the radio show last night.

  2. February 25, 2019 2:04 pm

    Rob, thanks, finally got to these — important but (I get criticized for abstraction as well as length) too cluttered with too much knowledge — still very good, keep it up


  1. Thinking About Zionism, AntiSemitism and Human Rights in Birmingham Alabama … (1) | View from the Left Bank: Rob Prince's Blog

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