[Marxism] Nada Elia: Time to Stop Celebrating Jewish Dissent in Palestine Solidarity Mvmt
amithrgupta at gmail.com
Thu Apr 28 10:36:31 MDT 2016
Nada Elia making precisely the point about Jewish privilege and chauvinism
that the assholes from Jews Without Borders (the cult that attacked Lou and
I over the Alison Weir debacle) keep trying to promote.
One of several very good articles by this scholar.
The list of BDS successes seems to grow longer every day. More
professional associations are endorsing the academic boycott of Israel,
cultural workers continue to denounce Israeli abuses, and labor unions,
churches, even cities are divesting from companies that benefit from
Israel’s illegal practices. These are all wonderful manifestations of the
advances we are making. Ultimately, however, BDS is not economic warfare.
If it were, we would be doomed to fail, because we can successfully boycott
every Israeli item in every grocery store in the entire country, we would
still not be making a dent in the US funding of Israel’s war crimes.
Indeed, the Obama Administration has just announced that it would give
Israel the largest aid package yet. Our biggest BDS victory achieved so
far by activists for Palestinian rights may well be the discourse change
that BDS has produced in the West.
Judged by that criterion, it is absolutely clear that we are winning. We
have not yet achieved our goals, namely justice for Palestine, and indeed
the situation on the ground in Palestine seems to have worsened as home
demolitions and extra-judicial executions are daily occurrences, even as
the siege on Gaza continues to choke that part of the country, reminding us
of the urgency of our activism here. But the change on the ground cannot
happen without a change in the global narrative that misrepresented
Palestine. And that change, the shattering of the once iron-clad Zionist
narrative, is happening, as we regularly hear and read denunciations of
Israel’s abuses in various forums. This was most obvious when US
presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke at a nationally televised
electoral debate about Palestinian rights, and Israel’s “disproportionate
response.” Only days later, Pulitzer Prize laureate Michael Chabon gave a
powerful interview in which he describes the horrors he witnessed while on
a tour of Hebron.
Chabon’s interview circulated amongst Palestinian-rights activists like
brush fire on a scorching day, most often prefaced with an explanation that
he is a “Jewish-American writer.” This information, certainly offered with
the best intentions, is nevertheless treacherous, in that it can uphold an
Jewish voices are welcome, of course, in the global denunciation of Zionism
as a racist ideology. Identifying oneself as Jewish when one speaks out
against Israel’s policies also helps dismantle the accusation that seeking
justice for Palestinians is anti-Semitic. Yet there is an inevitable risk
associated with the ongoing privileging of Jewish voices denouncing Israel.
This is because by privileging their voices, we are implicitly accepting
the Zionist narrative of Israel representing all Jews, with very few
exceptions. It is these “exceptions,” then, that Palestinian rights
activists place on a pedestal.
The privileging of Jewish voices is more serious than whites denouncing
anti-Black racism. Because when whites denounce racism, there is no
suggestion that they too are victimized by the structural system. White
allies generally acknowledge the privilege they are born into. Those
whites who claim “All Lives Matter” are not considered allies.
The dynamics between Jewish and Palestinian voices around the Question of
Palestine, however, are different precisely because of the attempt at
normalization that have plagued this issue for decades. The Zionist
discourse had started out as one of exclusive Jewish victimhood, as if the
Palestinians did not exist, were not wronged. This is different from the
black-white dynamics, where there was never a credible, widely-accepted
narrative of white victimhood. Similarly, there is no credible,
widely-accepted narrative of male victimhood when it comes to a discussion
of sexism. Even when one acknowledges the oppressive aspects of the
gendering of masculinity, there is general recognition that while men are
denied some emotional outlets, they are nevertheless the undisputed
beneficiaries of social gendering.
But when it comes to the Question of Palestine, we have been plagued for
decades with a narrative of Jewish victimhood that completely erased any
mention of Palestinian loss, the ongoing Nakba. When Palestinian voices
finally broke through the censorship, the dynamics changed. Because
Palestinian voices were no longer contained, a new development took place,
namely the concerted Zionist effort to make this into a “two sides”
issue—yes, the Palestinians have been wronged, but let us not forget the
centuries of anti-Semitism. Let us have “dialogue” about it, because there
are two valid perspectives that must be heard…
Except that the pain of the Israelis, born or choosing to emigrate into
institutionalized privilege, does not in anyway compare with that of the
Palestinians. There is no equivalency, no equal footing, no “we need to
hear from both sides.”
Because of this background, every time we continue to privilege Jewish
voices, we are empowering the Zionist narrative. Even those Jewish allies
who are doing stellar and effective work can unwittingly contribute to this
“normalizing,” when their narrative, their statements, their witnessing, is
given greater validity because they are Jewish.
BDS is a call for solidarity, and solidarity, by definition, hinges on the
participation of allies, rather than those whose bodies are on the line.
It is absolutely normal, then, that there would be more non-Palestinians
than Palestinians participating in BDS, in solidarity work, in organizing
and even leading campaigns. But the work must center Palestinian concerns,
Palestinian voices, Palestinian experiences. And because these have been
silenced, censored, dismissed as biased or even hateful for too long,
Palestinians absolutely must be given center stage now. When conferences
have an equal number of Jewish and Palestinian speakers (or, as is
sometimes the case, more Jewish speakers than Palestinians), something is
wrong. When criticism of Israel is given more weight because it is
expressed by a Jew than a Palestinian, something is wrong. As we privilege
Jewish voices, we are allowing them to eclipse the Palestinian ones.
We need a multiplicity of voices, a multiplicity of narratives. Jewish
voices play an extremely important role within that chorus. But if we agree
that the discourse has changed, that the Zionist narrative has been
punctured, then statements by our Jewish allies should not necessarily
begin with “As a Jew,” and the solidarity Jews offer us should not be
valued differently from the solidarity offered us by other communities.
Israel does not now, and indeed never did, speak for all Jews. It is time
we put an end to that myth by putting an end to the celebration of Jewish
voices denouncing Zionism as “exceptional,” or “heroic.” They belong with
all other such voices, and must magnify, rather than occupy, the
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