Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

January 16, 2021

‘Til Kingdom Come

Filed under: Evangelicals,Film,zionism — louisproyect @ 7:42 pm

At the height of Tulsi Gabbard’s popularity with the “anti-imperialist” left, I was buying none of it. I had been following her pro-Assad propaganda since the civil war began, the main attraction to Grayzone, et al. What seemed to escape their attention was her close ties to the pro-Israel Evangelical movement that was on full display when she was a featured speaker at John Hagee’s July 2015 Christians United for Israel Conference. Just six months later, the Evangelicals took advantage of Trump’s election in order to put into place the facts on the ground that simultaneously satisfied Likud’s expansionist goals and the Messianic fantasies of Hagee, Pat Robertson, speaking-in-tongue madwoman Paula White and every other bible-thumping, white supremacist piece of trash.

Directed by Maya Zinshtein, an Israeli opponent of Netanyahu, “’Til Kingdom Come” lifts up a rock and exposes all the creepy, crawly Christians and Jews involved with the Evangelical/West Bank settler alliance. Although she is heard grilling some of her subjects in the film, she mostly allows them to hang themselves on their own petard. The documentary was written by Mark Monroe, who directed three terrific documentaries: The Cove, The Biggest Little Farm, and Icarus. This new film is up to his usual high standards.

The film begins with some guy hanging a metal target from the limb of tree and taking practice shots at it with a semi-automatic rifle. It turns out that he is Boyd Bingham IV, the son of Boyd Bingham III, the pastor of the Binghamtown Baptist Church that is a much smaller and much poorer version of John Hagee’s Cornerstone mega-church in San Antonio, Texas. Located in Middlesboro, Kentucky, a town long abandoned by the coal industry, Bingham feels sorry for the misery of his unemployed, poverty-stricken, drug-addicted townspeople but continues to urge them to donate money to the Evangelical project in Israel.

In addition to Boyd Bingham IV, the other chief subject is Yael Eckstein, the president and CEO of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews—the most important wheeler-dealer in promoting settler interests within the Evangelical world. Her late father Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein founded the Fellowship in 1983, clearly anticipating the geopolitical forces that would reach fruition during the Trump presidency. She is loathsome.

One of the more eye-opening scenes—one that reflected the depth of research that went into the film—has Boyd Bingham IV visiting Israel where he sits down with a Palestinian Christian priest who tries to explain why Evangelical Christians are harming the interests of all Palestinians, Muslim and Christian alike. Afterward, Bingham rants about how the priest was anti-Semitic. Hung on his own petard, indeed.

Virtual Live Premiere – 8 PM EST – February 25, 2021

Nationwide Watch Now @ Home Cinema Release – February 26, 2021

October 11, 2019

Martin Monath: A Jewish Resistance Fighter Among Nazi Soldiers

Filed under: Counterpunch,Fascism,Jewish question,Trotskyism,zionism — louisproyect @ 9:08 pm

Recently, Pluto Press came out with Nathaniel Flakin’s “Martin Monath: A Jewish Resistance Fighter Among Nazi Soldiers.” It pays tribute to another Jewish Trotskyist who displayed incredible heroism and dedication to proletarian internationalism. Like Leon, Monath was a left Zionist starting out, but became convinced that Zionism was a hopeless illusion. And like Leon, he was caught by the Gestapo in his youth and died at their hands.

Flakin has performed a yeoman’s service by digging through archival materials, the few letters that Monath wrote, and memoirs by his contemporaries to help bring this obscure figure to life. While there is virtually nothing in this biography that refers to the current period, we cannot help but consider the parallels to Trump, Orban, and Modi’s persecution of the “other”. If being a revolutionary in 1941 France or Belgium required enormous courage, there are other difficulties we face today. We have few worries about being hauled off to a torture chamber in countries like the USA or England. Instead, we have to swim upstream to defend a revolutionary socialism that has become unfashionable. Our problem is indifference rather than repression. We are grateful to Nathaniel and his comrades at Left Voice for having the iron will so necessary to defend the ideas of Karl Marx in a period when the spirit of compromise and pragmatism infect so much of the left.

The first paragraph of Flakin’s Introduction sets the tone for the rest of the book:

It is late 1943 in Brittany in north-western France. For three years the population has been suffering under the Nazis’ increasingly brutal occupation regime. In the city of Brest, however, there are astounding scenes of fraternization: Young French workers and equally young German soldiers greet each other with raised fists. An illegal newspaper reports from Kerhuon, ten kilometers from Brest: “On August 6, German soldiers marched through the city and sang the Internationale,” the anthem of the revolutionary workers’ movement. Between 25 and so German soldiers from the Brest garrison had organized themselves into illegal internationalist cells. They obtained identification cards and weapons for the French resistance. They felt so confident that they began to ignore the basic rules of conspiracy. They met in groups of ten. “It was madness,” recalled their comrade Andre Calves, decades later.

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April 29, 2018

Palestine and Israel

Filed under: Brian A. Mitchell,Palestine,zionism — louisproyect @ 10:44 pm

Palestinians fleeing their homes during the 1948 Nakba – ‘the great catastrophe’

A Brian A. Mitchell guest post.

The power and importance of original quotes cannot be stressed enough. It is most revealing and undeniable, especially to the incredulous, to let Presidents, Prime Ministers and military leaders speak for themselves. Through tutoring, speaking, articles, debates and general argument, I have always found that original quoted statements have the most powerful impact; far more than any dialogue from me or any journalist or academic could ever have; and were an integral part of my political education. Many of these quotes are not widely known, some not at all. So please do spread them widely so that many more people can know what really goes on in this troubled world in our name. Although some of the quotes may be dated, the ideology of capitalism remains more inhuman, predatory, warlike, not only murderous but more genocidal every day.

Why You Will Not Find Israel On Any Pre 1948 Map: How the US Stole Palestine.

Ever wondered how Palestine became Israel? If a religion can claim a homeland, a state; I am atheist but was brought up and educated a Roman Catholic, so where is my homeland? Perhaps Rome or the southern half of Italy? And what about Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Baptists, Anglicans, Confucians or Rosicrucians, where are their homelands or states? If a foreign peoples came to occupy your country with “proof” of ownership from ancient papyrus scrolls, wouldn’t you resist them with all means at your disposal? As for the Bible: (the Red Sea parting so the Jews could return to their homeland, not mentioning how they crossed in the first place): if in thousands of years time, archaeologists digging in what was Hollywood find Walt Disney’s manuscripts, is that proof that Mickey Mouse existed?

Zionists considered settling various countries as a Jewish homeland or state since the first Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, including British East Africa, Madagascar, British Guiana and Birobijan. Palestine was chosen under US pressure and is undoubtedly less a state, more a large piece of US military real estate (Israel has nuclear weapons) on the edge of all the oil of the Middle East and North Africa, and that is why Israel was created. After all, look who consumes the largest amount of the world’s oil resources.

Isreal was then settled by millions of Jews from all over the world, mainly the US, USSR and Europe. Israel’s Right of Return law (aliya) permits any Jew or anybody who becomes a Jew anywhere in the world Israeli citizenship. This is remarkably similar to Nazi Germany’s Blood Law permitting anyone in the world regardless of nationality German citizenship. Isreal ignores UN Resolution 194 which stipulates that refugees can return to their land and compensation for loss or damage of property to those choosing not to return. But Palestinians who were expelled from their land do not have any right of return. Israel has only to declare any Palestinian land a closed military zone and confiscates the land. It is a demand of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Palestinians recognise Israel as a “State of the Jewish People.”)

NOTE that it is essential to be aware that any support for the Palestinians and anything said against Zionism (the creation of Israel) is erroneously claimed to be anti-Semitic (meaning only anti Jewish) by over defensive Zionist apologists, ignorant or more likely deliberately distortive of history, anthropology, palaeontology, ethnology, languages and culture. Anti Zionism is not anti Jewish or anti Semitic. For a start, the Semitic peoples included Caucasians, Arabs, Sumerians (Iraq), Hebrews, Assyrians, Phoenicians (Lebanon, then part of Turkey and previously the former Ottoman Empire), Syrians, Persians, Jordanians, Ethiopians, Egyptians and other Middle Eastern and Northern African peoples. The Semitic languages are part of the Afro-Asiatic group of languages. In some cases the Semitic peoples and languages even precede the Bible, Christianity, the Torah and any Jewish religion.

Elected to my college Student Union because I was popular with foreign students, among them Palestinians, Israelis, Jews, non-Jews and atheists; who worked together in an anti Zionist organisation, all agreed that Israel was created for US geo-political-military purposes to control Middle Eastern oil resources. These quotes are all thoroughly verified and almost all are from Zionist, Israeli or Jewish politicians and authors.

See especially:

“Israeli Apartheid. A Beginner’s Guide.”
(Ben White. Pluto Press, London and New York.)

“Against Our Better Judgement. The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.”
(Alison Weir. Published by If Americans Knew )

“The Invention of the Land of Israel.”
(Tel Aviv University Israeli Emeritus Professor Shlomo Sand. Verso. London and New York.)

How to Steal A State: First Find “God’s Promised Land” in an Ancient Manuscript, Then Occupy It as Quickly as Possible and Eliminate the Existing Arab Population.

“This country exists as the fulfillment of a promise made by God Himself. It would be ridiculous to ask it to account for its legitimacy.”

(Golda Meir, Le Monde, 15 October 1971,)

“The Oslo agreement is very important for the Palestinians since it is the only official agreed-upon document they got. We have another document, a much older one … the Bible.”

(Ariel Sharon, speaking at a Washington symposium, 8 May 1998.)

“When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that received us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country. … Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly. Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us something far more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.”

(Hungary born World Zionist founder Theodor Herzl, in his diary June 12 1895.)

“Palestine is a country without a people, the Jews are a people without a country. … If you wish to give a country to a people without a country, it is utter foolishness to allow it to be the country of two peoples. … The Jews will suffer and so will their neighbours. One of the two: a different place must be found either for the Jews or for their neighbours. … We must be prepared either to drive out by sword the Arab tribes in possession as our fathers did or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population, mostly Mohammedans [Muslims].”

(British Zionist leader Israel Zangwill.)

“The settlement of the Land of Israel is the essence of Zionism. Without settlement, we will not fulfil Zionism. It’s that simple.”

(Israeli Prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.)

“At Basle, I founded the Jewish state… If not in five years, then certainly in fifty, everyone will realize it.”

(Hungary born World Zionist founder Theodor Herzl, in his diary September 3 1897.)

“His Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which shall prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by the Jews in any other country.”

(British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, in a letter called the Balfour Declaration, (not to be mistaken for the Balfour Memorandum, below) to billionaire Lord Walter Rothschild and the Zionist Federation of Great Britain, November 2 1917; supporting Zionism – the creation of Israel as a state in Palestinian land.)

“For in Palestine we do not propose even to go throught the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country… Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, for far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

(British Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour in a private memo to Lord Curzon (called the Balfour Memorandum, not to be mistaken for the Balfour Declaration, above), August 11 1919; supporting Zionism. What part of humanity is it that can support something seen as “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” just because it is “rooted in age long traditions,”?)

“Accept my congratulations on this splendid conquest… We are all proud of the excellent leadership and the fighting spirit in this great attack… you have made history in Israel … Continue thus until victory. As in Dier Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou hast chosen us for conquest.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion. The Irgun under its leader Menachem Begin bombed the King David hotel in Jerusalem which was the British army headquarters in 1946. Over 200 Arabs were massacred in Deir Yassin in 1948.)

“The past leaders of our movement left us a clear message to keep Eretz [Biblical] Israel from the Sea to the River Jordan for future generations, for the mass aliya [Jewish immigration], and for the Jewish people, all of whom will be gathered into this country.”

(Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, November 1990.)

“The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates. It includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.”

(Jewish Agency for Palestine member Rabbi Fischmann to UN, 1947.)

“For thousands of years, we Jews have been nourished and sustained by a yearning for our historic land… I believed and to this day still believe in our people’s eternal and historic right to this entire land.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.)

“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion.)

“Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever.”

(Menachem Begin, on the UN vote to partition Palestine.)

“Here, in the Land of Israel, we returned and built a nation. Here, in the Land of Israel, we established a State. The Land of the prophets, which bequeathed to the world the values of morality, law and justice, was after two thousand years, restored to its lawful owner, the members of the Jewish People. … we have built an exceptional national Home and State.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. So before the “prophets” humanity had no values or morality, law or justice?)

“Jordan is a part from Eretz Israel in history.”

(Israeli Prime minister Ariel Sharon, 2000.)

“We should prepare to go over to the offensive. Our aim is to smash Lebanon, Trans-Jordan, and Syria. The weak point is Lebanon, for the Moslem regime is artificial and easy for us to undermine. We shall establish a Christian state there, and then we will smash the Arab Legion, eliminate Trans-Jordan; Syria will fall to us. We then bomb and move on and take Port Said, Alexandria and Sinai.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, May 1948. So the Moslem regime is artificial but the Israeli regime is not?!)

”The present map of Palestine was drawn by the British mandate. The Jewish people have another map which our youth and adults should strive to fulfill – From the Nile to the Euphrates.”

(Ben Gurion.)


Occupying the Palestinian Land.

“A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only the beginning. I am certain that we can not be prevented from settling in the other parts of the country and the region.

(First Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, in a letter to his son, 1937.)

“…there can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60 per cent.”

(Irgun terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, speech, December 3 1947, in his book “As Israel Fights.”)

“If the Arabs in Israel form 40 per cent of the population, this is the end of the Jewish state. But 20 per cent is also a problem… If the relationship with these 20 per cent becomes problematic, the [Israeli] state is entitled to employ extreme measures.”

(Tel Aviv born Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, December 17 2003.)

“During the last 100 years our people have been in a process of building up the country and the nation, of expansion, of getting additional Jews and additional settlements in order to expand the borders here. Let no Jew say that the process has ended. Let no Jew say that we are near the end of the road.”

(Ottoman Empire born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.)

“If there are other inhabitants there, they must be transferred to some other place. We must take over the land.”

(Russia born Zionist leader and Jewish National Fund chairman Abraham Ussishkin, 1930.)

“I don’t mind if after the job is done you put me in front of a Nuremberg Trial and then jail me for life. Hang me if you want, as a war criminal. What you don’t understand is that the dirty work of Zionism is not finished yet, far from it.”

(Ariel Sharon to Amos Oz, editor of Davar, Dec. 17 1982.)

“One certain truth is that there is no Zionist settlement and there is no Jewish State without displacing Arabs and without confiscating lands and fencing them off.”

(Israeli journalist Ben Porat, in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, July 14 1972.)

“after we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand into the whole of Palestine.”

(Irgun Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1938.)

“Ben Gurion was right … Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.”

(Israeli historian in Ben Gurion University Benny Morris, in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, January 9 2004.)

“This is only a stage in the realisation of Zionism and it should prepare the ground for our expansion throughout the country … The state, however, must enforce order and security and it will do this not by moralising and preaching ‘sermons on the mount’ but by machine guns, which we will need. … If we will receive in time the arms we have already purchased, and maybe even receive some of that promised by the UN [US dominated], we will be able not only to defend but also to inflict death blows on the Syrians in their own country, and take over Palestine as a whole.”

(Irgun terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1938. The arms were supplied largely by Britain and the US.)

“The transfer of the Arab population from the area of the Jewish state does not serve only one aim, to diminish the Arab population. It also serves a second, no less important aim, which is to evacuate land presently held and cultivated by the Arabs and thus to release it for the Jewish inhabitants.”

(Jewish National Fund director Joseph Weitz, to the Committee for Population Transfer, 1937.)

“Everybody has to move, run and grab as many (Palestinian) hilltops as they can to enlarge the
(Jewish) settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”

(Israeli Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, to a meeting of the Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, Nov. 15, 1998.)

“If I were a Palestinian, I would be a terrorist.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.)

“Let us not ignore the truth among ourselves … we are the aggressors and they defend themselves… The country is theirs, because they inhabit it, whereas we want to come here and settle down, and in their view we want to take away from them their country.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion. [Only in their view?!])

“Israel is the Jews’ land… It was never the Arabs’ land, even when virtually all of its inhabitants were Arab. Israel belongs to four million Russian Jews despite the fact that they were not born here. It is the land of nine million other Jews throughout the world, even if they have no present plans to live in it.”

(British Mandated Palestine Zionist Israel Eldad.)

“Before (the Palestinians) very eyes we are possessing the land and the villages where they and their ancestors have lived. We are the generation of colonizers and without the steel helmet and the gun barrel we cannot plant a tree and build a house.”

(Ottoman Empire Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.)

“By a Jewish national home, I mean the creation of such conditions that as a country is developed, we can pour in a considerable number of immigrants and finally establish such a society in Palestine that Palestine shall be as Jewish as England is English…”

(Zionist leader and first President of Israel Chaim Weizmann. Ignoring the obvious fact that the word Jewish refers to a religion, not a nationality, that English is a nationality, not a religion, nor is a country a race, and if England is English, then the nation Palestine is therefore Palestinian.)

“Jews have been entitled to simply show up and declare themselves to be Israeli citizens … Essentially all Jews everywhere are Israeli citizens by right.”

(Israel’s Law of Return (Aliyah), Jewish Agency, July 1950.)


An Israeli Genocide: Eliminating the Existing Palestinian Population.

“Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe should be left.”

(Director of the Jewish National Fund, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department, the Zionist agency charged with acquiring Palestinian land, Yosef Weitz in his diary, 1940.)

“It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.”

(Yoram Bar Porath, Yedioth Ahronoth, July 14 1972.)

“Our thought is that the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions: Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel and the resettlement of the Arabs of Eretz Israel in areas outside the country. The transfer of so many Arabs may seem at first unacceptable economically, but is nonetheless practical. It does not require too much money to resettle a Palestinian village on another land.”

(Ukraine born World Zionist Congress leader Leo Motzkin, 1917. Eretz Israel is loosely the region of Jordan, Palestine, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, and part of Sinai. Zionists claim it is Biblical Israel, that is if you believe the Dead Sea Scrolls
(the Bible), written by several people over many ancient historical periods, and which was never the title deeds to Palestine.)

“The most spectacular event in the contemporary history of Palestine – more spectacular in a sense than the creation of the Jewish state – is the wholesale evacuation of its Arab population which has swept with it also thousands of Arabs from areas threatened and/or occupied by us outside our boundaries.”

(Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok, in a letter to Chairnam of the World Jewish Congress Nahun Goldmann, June 15 1948.)

“There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family, we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. … there is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, in his diary, January 1 1948.)

“I don’t know something called International Principles. I vow that I’ll burn every Palestinian child
(that) will be born in this area. The Palestinian woman and child is more dangerous than the man, because the Palestinian child’s existence infers that generations will go on, but the man causes limited danger.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.)

“But the leaders … had foreseen this difficulty at the outset of the Zionist project in Palestine. The solution as they saw it was the enforced transfer of the indigenous population, so that a pure Jewish state could be established. On 10 March 1948, the Zionist leadership adopted the infamous Plan Dalet, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the areas regarded as the future Jewish state in Palestine.”

(Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe. Dalet was the Israeli equivalent of the Nazi holocaust.)

“We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, ‘What is to be done with the Palestinian population; Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!’?

(Yitzhak Rabin, New York Times October 23 1979.)

“Israel should have exploited the repression of the demonstrations in [Tiananmen Square] China, when world attention focused on that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, in Israeli magazine Hotam, November 24 1989.)

“We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.”

(Chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces Rafael Eitan, in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, April 13, 1983, and New York Times, April 14 1983.)

“We must expel Arabs and take their places and if we have to use force, to guarantee our own right to settle in those places – then we have force at our disposal.”

(First Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1937.)

“Even today I am willing to volunteer to do the dirty work for Israel, to kill as many Arabs as necessary, to deport them, to expel and burn them…”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.)

“We must do everything to insure they (the Palestinians) never do return. … The old will die and the young will forget.”

(First Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, in his diary, July 18 1948.)

“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.”

(Ukraine born Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, Sunday Times June 15 1969.)

“There is no more Palestine. Finished.”

(Ottoman Empire Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan.)

“What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred for us? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.”

(Ottoman Empire Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, 1955.)

“We are obliged to remove the Arabic names for reasons of state. Just as we do not recognise the Arab’s proprietorship of the land, so also do we not recognise their spiritual proprietorship and their names.”

(Zionist terrorist group leader and first Prime Minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, 1949. An Israeli government department Naming Committee has the sole purpose of “Judaising”
(renaming or Biblifying) Arab land and villages in order to hide their Arab origins.)

“We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. … There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”

(Ottoman Palestine born Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, to Technion University March 19 1969, in Israeli newspaper Haaretz, April 4 1969.)

“200 ARABS KILLED, STRONGHOLD TAKEN. Irgun and Stern [terrorist] Groups Unite to Win Deir Yassin …Jerusalem. April 9. A combined force of Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern group, Jewish extremist underground forces captured the Arab village of Dier Yassin on the western outskirts of Jerusalem today. In house to house fighting the Jews killed more than 200 Arabs, half of them women and children.”

(New York Times, April 10 1948.)

“[Israeli] terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village [Dier Yassin], which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants, 240 men, women and children, and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed… But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicised it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havok of Dier Yassin.”

(Letter from Albert Einstein and 27 other Jews, in New York Times, December 4 1948.)

“How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.”

(Ukraine born Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, March 8 1969.)

“Israel’s policy – in the last 60 years – stems from a racist hegemonic ideology called Zionism, shielded by endless layers of righteous fury. Despite the predictable accusation of anti-Semitism … it is time to associate in the public mind the Zionist ideology with the by now familiar historical landmarks of the ethnic cleansing of 1948, the oppression of the Palestinians in Israel during the days of the military rule, the brutal occupation of the West Bank and now the massacre of Gaza.”

(Israeli historian Professor Ilan Pappe.)

“A voluntary reconciliation with the Arabs is out of the question either now or in the future. If you wish to colonize a land in which people are already living, you must provide a garrison … for without an armed force … colonization is impossible, … Zionism is a colonization adventure and therefore it stands or falls by the question of armed force. … The Islamic soul must be broomed [swept] out of Eretz Yisrael. … it is even more important to be able to shoot … This is our policy towards the Arabs.”

(Russian born Zionist leader, Haganah founder and Irgun leader Vladimir Jabotinsky, 1923. The Irgun and Haganah were both Zionist terrorist organisations.)

“The state… must see the sword as the main if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may know it must invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation and revenge… And above all, let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space.”

(First Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett in his diary,)

“It lies upon the people’s shoulders to prepare for the war, but it lies upon the Israeli army to carry out the fight with the ultimate object of erecting the Israeli Empire.”

(Moshe Dayan (Israel Defense and Foreign Minister), Radio Israel, February 12 1952.)

Israeli Racism Against the Arabs – No Different From Nazism and Apartheid.
“Zionism [the creation of the Israeli state] is a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

(United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, November 1975. In 1991 Israel threatened non-participation in the Israel Palestine Peace Conference and under severe US pressure, the UN revoked Resolution 3379.)

“Hitler’s legal power was based upon the ‘Enabling Act’, which was passed quite legally by the Reichstag and which allowed the Fuehrer and his representatives, in plain language, to be what they wanted, or in legal language, to issue regulations having the force of law. Exactly the same type of act was passed by the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) immediately after the 1967 conquest granting the Israeli governor and his representatives the power of Hitler, which they use in Hitlerian manner.”

(Dr. Israel Shahak, Chairperson of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, and a survivor of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp, Commenting on the Israeli military’s Emergency Regulations following the 1967 War. Palestine, vol. 12, December 1983.)

“The Palestinians are like crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, August 28 2000, in the Jerusalem Post August 30 2000.)

“When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.”

(Chief of Staff of Israeli Defence Forces Raphael Eitan, New York Times April 14 1983.)

”We say to them from the heights of this mountain and from the perspective of thousands of years of history that they are like grasshoppers compared to us.”

(Isreali Prime Minister Yitshak Shamir to Jewish settlers, New York Times April 1, 1988.)

“We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters.”

(Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion’s special adviser on Arab Affairs Uri Lubrani, 1960.)

“Israeli lives are worth more than Palestinian ones.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.)

“The difference between a Jewish soul and souls of non-Jews … is greater and deeper than the difference between a human soul and the souls of cattle.”

(First Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine Abraham Kook.)

“The killing by a Jew of a non-Jew, i.e. a Palestinian, is considered essentially a good deed, and Jews should therefore have no compunction about it.”

(American born Israeli Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg.)

“There is a huge gap between us [Jews] and our enemies – not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbours here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.”

(Israeli president Moshe Katsav. The Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001.)

“Jewish blood and a goy’s (gentile’s) blood are not the same.”

(Israeli Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, Inferring that killing isn’t murder if the victim is Gentile. Jerusalem Post, June 19,1989.
(Goy: Goyim, Gentile Christian or non Jew.))

“Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.”

(British Mandate Palestine born Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.)

“Let us not be too familiar with the Arab Fellahin lest our children adopt their ways and learn from their ugly deeds. Let all those who are loyal to the Torah [Jewish scripture] avoid ugliness and that which resembles it and keep their distance from the fellahin and their base attributes.”

Haganah (Zionist terrorist group) commander Moshe Smilansky. Fellahin is a derogatory name for the original Palestinian inhabitants, meaning labourers or peasants, who collectively owned and farmed the land.)

“If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.”

(David Ben-Gurion.)

”If the General Assembly were to vote by 121 votes to 1 in favor of “Israel” returning to the armistice lines–
(pre June 1967 borders) Israel would refuse to comply with the decision.”

(Israeli Foreign Minister Aba Eban, New York Times June 19, 1967.)

“Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our time is the emergence in the newly created State of Israel of the Freedom Party (Herut), a political party closely akin in its organization, method, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”

(Albert Einstein and other well known Jewish Americans, New York Times, December 1948.)

“Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples.”

(Republic of South Africa Year Book, 1977, during apartheid.)

“The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived here for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

(South African Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd, 1960s.)

“The Intifada is the Palestinian’s people’s war of national liberation. We [Israel] enthusiastically chose to become a colonialist society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the Occupied Territories, engaging in theft … we established an apartheid regime.”

(Attorney General of Israel Michael Ben-Yair.)

Brian was born in the bombed out wartime East End of London and developed an interest in political books early on. He worked in various technical fields for 20 years, all of which thoroughly bored him. He entered academic life (History and Classical Economics) and became an independent journalist, worked for the ANC (secret at the time) until the end of apartheid, and was a trade union representative in a large hospital. He is now retired and still works (when able) as an independent journalist.


February 28, 2017

The Settlers; PS Jerusalem; The Last Laugh

Filed under: Film,Jewish question,zionism — louisproyect @ 11:30 pm

At first blush, the connection between two films about the loss of faith in Zionism and one about whether jokes can ever be made about the Holocaust might seem tenuous at best. However, without the Holocaust there would be no Israel. Furthermore, the director of that film, who is Jewish like the other two, might have something else in common. Once you begin joking about concentration camps, doesn’t that remove the sanctity that the state of Israel rests on? When British Labourite Naz Shah posted an image on FB of Israel superimposed on the USA, it was soon revealed that it was lifted from Norman Finkelstein’s website. Commenting on the controversy whether this image suggested that Jews be “transported” from Israel as they were to concentration camps, Finkelstein laughed at the comparison. The image was nothing but a light-hearted joke:

These sorts of jokes are a commonplace in the U.S. So, we have this joke: Why doesn’t Israel become the 51st state? Answer: Because then, it would only have two senators. As crazy as the discourse on Israel is in America, at least we still have a sense of humour.

“The Settlers”, which opens at the Film Forum on Friday, March 3rd, is as the title implies a close look at the settlements in the West Bank that cropped up after the Israeli victory in the six-day war of 1967. The settlements continued to grow under both Labour and Likud governments, no matter world opinion—least of all, the USA’s demand that they cease. For an understanding of American foreign policy, it is important to understand that actions count a lot more than words. When Obama said that Bashar al-Assad must step down, the blood-stained dictator must have figured out that this carried about as much weight as calling for a return to the 1967 borders.

The film is a mixture of archival footage of Israeli expansion into the West Bank and interviews with mostly elderly leaders of the land grab, who show about as much reflection on the injury done to Palestinians as a wolf does after consuming a rabbit. Maybe the wolf experiences great pangs of conscience.

The documentary shows Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook making a fiery speech to his ultra-religious followers a few days after Israel has defeated the Arab armies. He likens it to a biblical miracle and a mandate for creating a Greater Israel based on the ancient Judea and Samaria kingdoms. Today’s followers of Kook are even more ambitious. They envision a state that is bordered by two rivers: the Nile to the West and the Euphrates to the East. With Donald Trump in the White House and with the Democratic Party equally deferential to Zionist expansionism, who can say what Israel will look like a decade from now?

Kook was the founder of Gush Emunim, the fanatical ultraright vanguard of the settlement movement. His father was Rabbi Abraham Kook, who was the first Hasidic rabbi to connect the ancient theological belief in the Messiah with the modern Zionist project. He was the head of a sub-sect within the Lubavitcher sect that unlike their rivals in the quietist Satmars has been a virtual wing of the Likud Party and an abettor to its worst crimes.

As it happens, the shadow of the Kook family looms large over 20th century Jewish history. Hillel Kook, aka Peter Bergson, was the nephew of Abraham Kook and a leader of the Revisionist movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky and which bred Menachem Begin, who was Israel’s prime minister from 1977 to 1983 and a fanatical supporter of the settlements. To his credit, Bergson opposed the Zionist establishment during WWII, demanding that Jews be allowed into the USA without regard to the consequences of Zionist colonization. Even if Lenni Brenner remains one of Zionism’s sharpest critics, he respected Bergson’s efforts.

If Zvi Yehooda Kook provided the philosophical and political inspiration for the settlements, it was Rabbi Moshe Levinger who provided the muscle and the organizational skills. Shown strutting around with an Uzi or haranguing his followers to assault Arabs, Levenger led the Zionist incursion into Hebron, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, that is described in shocking detail in “The Settlers”. When Begin was prime minister, Levinger effectively became a pit bull unleashed by his master.

Director Shimon Dotan had unusual access to the elderly settlers who felt free to reveal their brazen disregard for Palestinian rights and their own self-justification based on biblical legends. A former Navy Seal in the IDF, Dotan moved to Canada in 1991 ostensibly for political reasons. When word got out that he was going to make a film about the settlements, the Internet became abuzz with stories about the plans of a “deep leftist” to make a film that might discredit them. While most of the film is devoted to allowing the settlers to hoist themselves on their own petards, there are several Israeli leftist academics who offer the sort of criticisms you might read in Haaretz. I was particularly impressed with Moshe Habertal, who is now a guest professor in the NYU Law School.

One wonders if Dotan and Habertal have ever been willing to grapple with the reality that is hinted at in this very powerful film but never articulated—namely the inexorable dynamic that leads Israel to create settlements beyond the 1967 borders in a lebensraum type permanent aggression against Arab peoples. That dynamic existed from the birth of the state despite its socialist pretensions. Someday an Israeli might make a film based on that premise but in the meantime, “The Settlers” will accelerate that process.

(“The Settlers” is on a double feature with “Ben Gurion: Epilogue” that I had a brief look at. It will be of less interest but might help to give you some insights into labor Zionism, a tendency that has about as much traction in Israel as Democratic Party liberalism has in the USA.)

“P.S. Jerusalem” is a virtual companion piece to “The Settlers” that opens at the Lincoln Plaza Theaters in New York on March 17. Directed by Danae Elon, the daughter of the late Amos Elon, it resembles a home movie that is distinguished by the honesty of the director and the willingness of her family to take part in what amounts to a much realer version of the sort of reality TV you can see on the Bravo Network, famous (or infamous) for shows like “Housewives of New Jersey” that has family members airing their feuds in front of millions of viewers.

Elon’s film is much less “dramatic” than the staged reality of Bravo’s shows but much rawer because the feelings expressed by Danae Elon and her husband Philippe—an Algerian Jew—could never be written in advance.

In 2010, Elon was living in Brooklyn with her husband and two young sons when she decided to move back to Jerusalem, where she grew up. Pregnant at the time with her third son, who would be born in Israel and named after his grandfather, she felt irresistibly drawn to the “Jewish homeland” even though her father—a long time journalist at the liberal Haaretz and author of many books—had emigrated in disgust. In a 2002 article for the New York Review of Books titled “Israel and the Palestinians” that hews closely to the narrative of Dotan’s documentary, Elon ends on a note of despair:

The vast settlement project after 1967, aside from being grossly unjust, has been self-defeating and politically ruinous. “We’ve fed the heart on fantasies,/the heart’s grown brutal on the fare,” as William B. Yeats put it almost a century ago in a similar dead-end situation in Ireland. The settlement project has not provided more security but less. It may yet, I tremble at the thought, lead to results far more terrible than those we are now witnessing.

His daughter came to Israel with the same trepidations with her film is focused on exposing Jerusalem’s inequalities. She trains her cameras on Palestinians being expelled from their homes, rallies against the expulsions and the profanity-laced and often physical attacks by the sorts of people profiled in Dotan’s film.

It is a bit difficult to understand why anybody with her convictions would want to return to Israel knowing full well that it was no longer the labor Zionist fantasy her own father had abandoned. I even wonder if she went there with the prospects of making a film that would likely have dystopian undercurrents.

For the three years she was there, her husband did the best he could to fit in but not knowing Hebrew and being unable to find work as a photographer made that difficult. Towards the end, he became fed up. In a profoundly dramatic scene, he tells Danae that she has to decide between having a husband or living in Israel. Her yearnings for Jewish identity clash with his desire to live in a society that is not so cruel and racist. It took quite a bit of courage for the two to reveal the conflict that was tearing them apart.

Finally, there is “The Last Laugh” that opens on Friday, also at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. This is a documentary that examines the question of whether you can joke about the holocaust but more generally taboos in comedy.

With a survivor named Renee Firestone at the heart of the film passing judgement on the efforts of various comics to extract such humor (largely unsuccessfully), the consensus is if you are going to make such jokes they’d better be very good. One commentator makes a shrewd observation: if you are going to use the holocaust as the basis for a serious film or play, that is just as true. As someone who has seen one too many treacly holocaust films, I can attest to that.

The film has lined up a virtual who’s who of comics who have either tried to make comedy out of the holocaust or Nazis. At one point, Mel Brooks, one of the interviewees, admits that is one thing to make jokes about the Nazis in a film like “The Producers” but he could never find humor in Auschwitz. In recent years, that taboo has been broken as well. The film shows a segment from the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” episode when Larry David inadvertently invites a “survivor” to meet a friend of his father who was also a survivor. The man turns out to be a contestant in the reality TV show called “Survivor” where people compete on a desert island or some other rugged outpost in stunts such as foot races in an obstacle course. He tells the old man that he had it rougher than him on the show since he had to wear flip-flops while competing.

Although the film is focused on the holocaust, it is much more about the art of comedy. Listening to people like Sarah Silverman, Mel Brooks, Rob Reiner and his father Mel discussing jokes analytically and soberly would be worth the price of admission since god knows that there is hardly anything to laugh at in films nowadays.

March 14, 2016

Censored Voices

Filed under: Film,zionism — louisproyect @ 6:04 pm

“Censored Voices”, now available on VOD (http://www.musicboxfilms.com/censored-voices-movies-126.php), is the latest in a series of Israeli films that rue the transformation of David into Goliath. Typically they feature members of the IDF or Mossad wringing their hands over the evil that circumstances forced them to do. This includes narrative films such as “Waltz with Bashir and “Zaytoun” or documentaries like “The Gatekeepers”. “Censored Voices” is based on tapes made in 1967 by veterans of the Six Day War who after returning to their kibbutzim recorded their disaffection over what they had done and where Israel was going. Up until recently, the tapes have not been available in their entirety. Once you hear them, you understand why. The IDF veterans come across as men disgusted by their own brutality in the service of venal goals having little to do with Zionist propaganda.

As a perfect symbol of their outlook, the film begins with famed novelist and liberal Amos Oz listening to his taped lamentations as a soldier just returned to his kibbutz nearly 50 years earlier. He sits there silently listening to his recorded voice, as do all the other men now in their seventies accepting that Israel’s depraved status today was sealed by its tarnished victory in 1967. What they probably are not willing to acknowledge is that its depravity was preordained by its first victory in 1948.

If you want to understand Amos Oz and others of his ilk, I recommend Lawrence Davidson’s CounterPunch article titled “The Dilemma of the Liberal Zionist”. He writes:

In truth the term “liberal Zionist” has never made much sense. The only way to explain its survival is to consider the survival of the Zionist storyline itself – the story of Israel as a democracy upholding the Western model in the Middle East. As long as one believed that this was true, one could dismiss Israeli brutality as just occasional slippage from progressive political and civil principles supposedly underlying the state. Within this context, there could be liberal Zionists privately decrying occasional Israeli bad behavior. But the Zionist storyline was not true. We never were dealing with just occasional slippage but rather with the inherent brutality of a state with policies and practices designed to bring about racist ends (a nation exclusively for one group)  – while conjuring up a remarkably durable cover story that it was, after all, a liberal democracy.

As a sign that the liberal self-justification might finally be breaking down, the film concludes with the words of the various IDF veterans as they reflect on Israel today. For the most part, they sound much more like CounterPunch contributor, IDF veteran and bold anti-Zionist Gideon Levy than spokesmen for Peace Now coming to terms with the reality that the creation of the state of Israel was neither progressive nor democratic—at least understood in terms of the rights of the people who had been living there for millennia.

As soldiers, they were first of all shocked by what it felt like to be a conquering power and an occupation army. Coming from the world of the “socialist” and secular-minded kibbutzim, they were left cold by all the messages they heard from rabbis, their officers, and government officials about how their victory fulfilled the “promised land” ideals put forward in Otto Preminger’s “Exodus”, a film that Dalton Trumbo would probably eventually have second thoughts about even though it helped him get a foothold back in the screenwriting business.

Since it would have obviously not worked in filmic terms to just play back the audio of the various statements made by the soldiers with a blank screen (even though the words are very dramatic), the film relies heavily on TV footage and other archival material from the period.

Never referring once to “Palestinians” and always using the word “Arabs” instead (a strategy to avoid recognizing them as a distinct nationality), the soldiers talk about their revulsion over forcing villagers to become refugees after blowing up their homes. They can’t help but to see themselves victimizing innocent people the same way their parents or grandparents were victimized in the 30s and 40s. As one soldiers says, “I had an abysmal feeling that I was evil.”

Mor Loushy, the young female director of “Censored Voices”, hopes that the film will help to restore Israel back to its ostensibly idealistic roots as she puts it in the press notes:

As an Israeli who is now raising a young boy, I believe it is necessary to expose these recordings to today’s audience. Because the Occupation has become an axiom and the settlements grow larger and larger, it is critical to stop and listen. Especially today, we should look back and see what society have we become in the 45 years following the war. I believe that returning to this authentic moment will teach us something new about this never-ending conflict. I believe these recordings are a piece of history that must see the light today, right now.

Given the increasingly reactionary tendencies of Israeli society today in which figures such as Loushy and Amos Oz are pushed to the sidelines by Likudnik politicians who would fit nicely into Hitler’s bureaucracy, it is doubtful that the film will have much impact on Israeli opinion. I do recommend the film for my readers outside Israel who are involved with BDS since it is a powerful testimony for the need to isolate and eventually break down the Zionist system that makes people like Amos Oz soul-sick and the disenfranchised Palestinians simply sick.

October 6, 2015

Steven Salaita: why I was fired

Filed under: Academia,Palestine,repression,zionism — louisproyect @ 12:51 pm

(Just got a copy of his book from Haymarket. This is an excerpt.)

Why I Was Fired
By Steven Salaita OCTOBER 05, 2015

In August 2014, I was fired from a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The firing made me a free-speech darling — or the world’s most violent person since Stalin, depending on your perspective. It also sparked a debate about academic freedom, faculty governance, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the role of social media in university life. That debate rages with no resolution in sight.

The story of my notoriety begins on July 21, 2014, when The Daily Caller ran an article about me titled “University of Illinois Professor Blames Jews for anti-Semitism.” With the brio and wisdom for which right-wing websites are known, the piece begins, “The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has continued its bizarre quest to employ as many disgusting scumbags as possible by acquiring the services of Steven Salaita, a leading light in the movement among similarly obscure academics to boycott Israel.”

The article, and subsequent coverage, focused on several tweets I wrote in the summer of 2014. One tweet read: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised?” In another, I wrote, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the fucking West Bank settlers would go missing.”

It has since become popular to call me uncivil. Or intemperate. Or inappropriate. Or angry. Or aggressive. It’s unseemly to describe myself, but because “unseemly” is an improvement over what many people now call me — why not? I am a devoted husband and a loving father. I never talk out of turn. I deliberate for long periods before making significant decisions. As is normal for somebody born and raised in Southern Appalachia, I call everybody “sir” or “ma’am.” I do not raise my voice at people. I am deeply shy and chronically deferential. That is to say, I am civil to a fault.

This exegesis on my disposition probably seems unnecessary, but it’s important to distinguish between somebody’s persona and his personhood, though in most cases one informs the other. This is the extent of my feelings on the matter: It is precisely because I am a loving person that I so adamantly deplore Israel’s behavior.

My tweets might appear uncivil, but such a judgment can’t be made in an ideological or rhetorical vacuum. Insofar as “civil” is profoundly racialized and has a long history of demanding conformity, I frequently choose incivility as a form of communication. This choice is both moral and rhetorical.

The piety and sanctimony of my critics is most evident in their hand-wringing about my use of curse words. While I am proud to share something in common with Richard Pryor, J.D. Salinger, George Carlin, S.E. Hinton, Maya Angelou, Judy Blume, and countless others who have offended the priggish, I confess to being confused as to why obscenity is such an issue to those who supposedly devote their lives to analyzing the endless nuances of public expression. Academics are usually eager to contest censorship and deconstruct vague charges of vulgarity. When it comes to defending Israel, though, anything goes. If there’s no serious moral or political argument in response to criticism of Israel, then condemn the speaker for various failures of “tone” and “appropriateness.” Emphasis placed on the speaker and not on Israel. A word becomes more relevant than an array of war crimes.

Even by the tendentious standards of “civility,” my comments on Twitter (and elsewhere) are more defensible than the accusations used to defame me. The most deplorable acts of violence germinate in high society. Many genocides have been glorified (or planned) around dinner tables adorned with forks and knives made from actual silver, without a single inappropriate speech act having occurred.

Academics are usually eager to contest censorship. When it comes to defending Israel, though, anything goes.
In most conversations about my termination, Israel’s war crimes go unmentioned, yet it is impossible to understand my tweets without that necessary context. My strong language — and I should point out that much of my language is also gentle — arises in response to demonstrable acts of brutality that in a better world would raise widespread rancor. You tell me which is worse: cussing in condemnation of the murder of children or using impeccable manners to justify their murder. I no more want to be “respectable” according to the epistemologies of colonial wisdom than I want to kill innocent people with my own hands. Both are articulations of the same moral rot.

In 11 years as a faculty member, I have fielded exactly zero complaints about my pedagogy. Every peer evaluation of my instruction — the gold standard for judging teaching effectiveness — has been stellar. Student evaluations ranked higher than the mean every time I collected them. Yet people affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have impugned my ability to teach.

Students are capable of serious discussion, of formulating responses, of thinking through discomfort. They like my teaching because I refuse to infantilize them; I treat them as thinking adults. I have never disrespected a student. I have never told a student what to think. Nor have I ever shut down an opinion. I encourage students to argue with me. They take me up on the offer. I sometimes change my viewpoint as a result. My philosophy is simple: Teach them the modes and practices of critical thought and let them figure out things on their own.

The hand-wringing about students is pious, precious claptrap, a pretext to clean the stench from a rotten argument raised to validate an unjustifiable decision.

Troublesome assumptions underlie accusations about my fitness for the classroom. It is impossible to separate questions about my “civility” from broader narratives of inherent Arab violence. This sort of accusation has been used to discredit people of color (and other minorities) in academe for many decades. Administrators and the public monitor and scrutinize our actions in a manner to which our white colleagues are rarely subject. It is crucial to train us in the ways of civility lest our emotions dislodge the ethos our superiors hold so dear.

When it comes to opposing colonization, there is no need for dissimulation, which is the preferred vocabulary of the cocktail party and committee meeting. I could make a case that dissimulation is immoral. It is undoubtedly boring. When I say something, I have no desire to conceal meaning in oblique and wishy-washy diction. This is especially so when I respond to the various horrors of state violence and the depravity of those who justify it. On campus, such forthrightness is unconventional.

But no tenet of academic freedom considers failure to adhere to convention a fireable offense.

Professors are often punished for disrupting convention in informal ways, however. My case is interesting because administrators ignored the de facto standards that regulate our behavior and exercised their power directly. This should be worrisome to any scholar who isn’t a sycophant.

People with doctorates who make claims unsupported by evidence and who uncritically repeat terms like “incivility” as if it describes anything other than their own dull prejudice are the ones most unfit to teach college.

Being called an anti-Semite is deeply unpleasant. Those who make the accusation should be responsible for providing evidence, yet it is I who has been saddled with the impossible task of disproving a negative.

The rhetorical incoherence of my critics is evident in their ever-evolving justifications for my firing. First I was anti-Semitic. Then I was uncivil. Then I was a bad teacher. Then I was too charismatic. Then I was too angry. Then I was too profane. Then I was too radical. Then I was too unpatriotic. Then I wasn’t really hired. Then I was unqualified in the field of American Indian studies. Then I benefited from nepotism. Then I was a poor scholar. Then my colleagues were incompetent. Then my colleagues were deceitful. Then my colleagues were ignorant. Then the American Indian-studies program required special guidance. Then the decision to hire me was solely based on politics. Then indigenous studies was illegitimate. Then the entire damn field needed to be shut down.

Part of our charge as educators is to encourage students to find the language that will help them translate instinct into concrete knowledge. It’s the kind of preparation we all need to survive the capitalist marketplace. While antiauthoritarianism may start as an attitude, it has infinite capacity to develop into an ethic.

Distrusting the motivation of institutions and their managers often means demotion or recrimination. But there is reason to distrust authority on campus. Universities are lucrative spaces; nothing is lucrative without also being corrupt.

As Thomas Frank put it in an essay in The Baffler:

The coming of “academic capitalism” has been anticipated and praised for years; today it is here. Colleges and universities clamor greedily these days for pharmaceutical patents and ownership chunks of high-tech startups; they boast of being “entrepreneurial”; they have rationalized and outsourced countless aspects of their operations in the search for cash; they fight their workers nearly as ferociously as a 19th-century railroad baron; and the richest among them have turned their endowments into in-house hedge funds.

Frank later pinpoints the reason for campus authoritarianism:

Above all, what the masters of academia spend the loot on is themselves. In saying this, I am not referring merely to the increasing number of university presidents who take home annual “compensation” north of a million dollars. That is a waste, of course, an outrageous bit of money-burning borrowed from Wall Street in an age when we ought to be doing the opposite of borrowing from Wall Street. But what has really fueled the student’s ever-growing indebtedness, as anyone with a connection to academia can tell you, is the insane proliferation of university administrators.

Universities are lucrative spaces; nothing is lucrative without also being corrupt.
The numbers validate Frank’s observation. Benjamin Ginsberg points out that in the past 30 years, the administrator-to-student ratio has increased while the instructor-to-student ratio has stagnated. The rise of untenured, or non-tenure-track, faculty exacerbates the problem; a significant demographic in academe lacks job security or the working conditions that allow them to maximize their pedagogical talent. Over a recent 10-year period, spending on administration outpaced spending on instruction. At American universities, there are now more administrators and their staffers than full-time faculty. In the past 10 years, administrative salaries have steadily risen while custodians and groundskeepers suffer the inevitable budget cuts — as do the students whose tuition and fees supplement this largess.

When so much money is at stake, those who raid the budget have a deep interest in maintaining the reputation of the institution. Their privilege and the condition of the brand are causally related. The brand thus predominates. Its predominance often arrives at the expense of student well-being.

Take the matter of sexual assault. Reporting rates have recently risen, but all versions of sexual assault remain woefully underreported. There are numerous reasons why a victim chooses to keep silent. One reason is that she may expect a wholly inadequate, or even hostile, response from her own university. In 2014, Columbia University fielded 28 federal complaints claiming the university had inadequately investigated reports of sexual assault. Florida State University, with the help of the Tallahassee Police Department, orchestrated a clumsy cover-up of a rape allegation to protect the star quarterback Jameis Winston. A different category of sexual assault infamously occurred at Pennsylvania State University, where the onetime defensive coordinator of the football team, Jerry Sandusky, was found to have molested various children, some of them on campus. The university’s complicity is but an extreme instance of a common phenomenon.

In this era of neoliberal graft, universities barely pretend to care about the ideals upon which higher education was founded. Sure, administrators and PR flacks still prattle about dialogue and self-improvement and the life of the mind, but not even impressionable 18-year-olds believe that claptrap. They know just as well as their superiors that college is really about acquiring the mythical-but-measurable status conferred to them by a crisp sheet of cotton-bond paper.

As universities more and more resemble corporations in their governance, language, and outlook, students have become acutely brand conscious. Guardianship of the brand thus predominates and overwhelms the primacy of thought and analysis to which the academy is nominally committed. Students no longer enter into places of learning. They pay exorbitant prices to gain access to the socioeconomic capital of affiliation with the most recognizable avatars, adorned magisterially with armor and pastoral creatures and Latin phrases.

Take that most sacred element of pedagogy, critical thinking. Many faculty don’t know how to do it, never mind imparting instruction in the practice to those trying to learn it. (My conception of “critical thinking” includes acting in some way on the knowledge it produces, if only in the formulation of a dynamic ethical worldview.) One of the greatest skills critical thinking provides is the ability to recognize and undermine bunk. In short, if critical thinking is to be useful, it must endow a reflexive desire to identify and understand the disguises of power.

This sort of focus is low on the list of what universities want from students, just as critical thinking is a terribly undesirable quality in the corporate world, much more damning than selfishness or sycophancy. Let us then be honest about critical thinking: On the tongues of cunning bureaucrats, it is little more than an additive to brand equity, the vainglorious pomp of smug, uptight automatons who like to use buzzwords in their PowerPoint presentations.

Critical thinking by faculty is even more undesirable. In research institutions, we are paid to generate prestige and to amass grant money; in teaching-centered colleges, we enjoy excess enrollments according to fine-tuned equations that maximize the student-teacher ratio. (In elite liberal-arts colleges, we pamper the kids with simulations of parental affection.) Critical thinking is especially harmful to adjuncts, reliant as they are for income on the munificence of well-paid bosses who cultivate a distended assemblage of expendable employees.

Nowhere in our employment contracts does it say, “Challenge the unarticulated aspirations of the institution, especially when it acts as a conduit and expression of state violence; and please try your best to support justice for those on and off campus who are impoverished by neoliberalism.” If we practice critical thinking, though, it is difficult to avoid these obligations.

Because of their high-minded rhetoric, it is tempting to believe that university managers care about ethics or maybe even about justice, but most managers care about neither. The exceptions, of course, deserve our praise — just don’t poke around the highly ranked schools if you want to find them. The key to a successful managerial career isn’t striving to be a good person, but developing enough instinct to cheat and charm at opportune moments.

Whatever independence can be acquired in academe requires a fundamental distrust of authority, be it abstract or explicit. There never have been pure epochs of uncorrupted democracy, but increasing corporate control disturbs greater sectors of American life, particularly on campus. There has to be a better way to conduct the practices of education.

What to do about injustice? I hear this question a lot since I was fired. I have no solid answer. My instinct, which I fully understand isn’t actually instinctive, is simply to tell people to do what they feel comfortable doing. I’m not big on demands or injunctions. Yet I recognize that as somebody who now exists in a public position I am summoned to analyze a set of dynamics in which I and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are embroiled. These dynamics are especially important to folks in academe who wish to pursue material commitments alongside theoretical and philosophical questions.

Graduate students and prospective graduate students are especially anxious these days. They are right to be. Decent humanities jobs are in decline. Grad-school slots have become more competitive. Any advantage is a great asset. Being deemed a troublemaker or a radical is no advantage.

Making trouble is precisely the function of the intellectual, though. And being radical is a solid antidote to boring work.

There’s always been repression and recrimination in academe. Anybody with an eye toward a career as a scholar has to internalize this reality. Aspiring and established scholars should not abdicate intellectual commitments in order to please the comfortable. This would be careerism, not inquiry.

And that’s the point. If we don’t examine relationships of power and highlight the disjunctions of inequality, then we’re not doing our jobs. (We will be according to the preferences of the managerial class, but pleasing its functionaries isn’t generally the mark of an interesting thinker.) Upsetting arbiters of so-called common sense is an immanent feature of useful scholarship.

“What can/should we do?” is not a universal question. Consider that the labor of minority scholars is already politicized. We have to publish more. It’s risky to be introverted because so many white colleagues cannot tolerate a minority who doesn’t pretend to like them. We have to act as diversity representative on all sorts of committees. We cannot be mediocre because our tenure and upward mobility rely on senior colleagues who reward only their own mediocrity. It’s hazardous for us to show emotion because we’re aware of the possibility of confirming to others our innate unreason. Adding “activist leader” to this list of tasks is a heavy undertaking. In many ways, simply deciding not to appease power is an active form of advocacy. It is the activism of survival.

Getting fired doesn’t make me an expert on anything. I’m doing my best to make sure something productive comes of it, though. My having a job changes nothing if the system that orchestrated my ouster remains intact. I am merely a symbol of the stark imperatives of the wealthy and well connected. We all are, really. Unless the system changes at a basic level, everybody is merely buying shares in a corporation with the power to dissolve our interests the moment we become an inconvenience.

Steven Salaita holds the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. This essay is adapted from his new book, Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom, just out from Haymarket Books.

September 22, 2015

Israel joins the axis of resistance

Filed under: Palestine,Syria,zionism — louisproyect @ 8:47 pm

As I pointed out in my post on Hungary last week, anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss had a profound insight into the way we think. Homo sapiens is susceptible to binary oppositions on any number of questions from good and evil to light and darkness. That is probably what explains the lingering appeal of Platonic idealism on the left, most particularly around the question of imperialism versus anti-imperialism.

On one hand you have NATO, the IMF, the EU and the White House—the guys in black hats. And on the other you have the Russian military, the BRICS Development Bank, the Eurasian trading bloc, and the Kremlin—all in white hats. This kind of binary thinking is poorly suited to explaining why a filthy, racist demagogue like Viktor Orban can line up with the Kremlin. If the criterion is opposition to the West, Orban is a “good” leader while Ukraine’s Poroshenko is “evil”.

But the difficulties reach a breaking point when it comes to Benjamin Netanyahu, who next to Barack Obama, is the most nefarious politician in the world according to the binary brigade. Just a day ago, I learned that Netanyahu and his top military advisers were making a trip to the Kremlin in order to discuss security concerns with Putin and his warmakers. Generally, this has been reported as the two leaders getting together to address Israel’s concerns that the latest shipment of Russian arms flowing into Syria will not get into the hands of Hezbollah, supposedly Israel’s mortal enemy as well as the continuing presence of Iranian troops.

The “anti-imperialists” have told us over and over that Israel is using the jihadists as a battering ram against Syria, which is supposedly the best friend of the Palestinians in the region. Every few months there is a new talking point like in June when wounded al-Nusra front “takfiri” were alleged to being transported to Israeli hospitals and returned afterwards to the Golan Heights battlefields after a full recovery. It did not matter to the Baathist amen corner that none of this could be documented.

Asa Winstanley, one of the Assadiist tools who write for Jacobin, went so far as to tell its readers that Israel was for an ISIS victory in the region:

Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, stated in an interview almost a year ago that Israel wants to “let the Sunni evil prevail” over the greater “evil” of Iran and its regional proxies. Speaking in the context of a massacre of Iraqi soldiers, he seemed to argue that Israel should allow the “Islamic State” to win.

Oren isn’t alone among the Israeli elite. Gilad Sharon — the son of the late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who once called for Israel to “flatten all of Gaza” — stated last month that Israel may actually prefer the “Islamic State” terror group (whose origins lie with the al-Qaeda in Iraq group) to Assad and its Hezbollah and Iranian allies.

Now that Israel is coordinating intervention in Syria with Russia, people like Asa Winstanley will have a major job on their hands explaining this but I assume that he is cynical enough to justify anything. Such people seem to be channeling the CPUSA’s support for the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact. That, of course, is what happens when you are reduced to cheap propaganda rather than radical journalism of the John Reed variety.

What makes a political pirouette all the more difficult for Winstanley and company is Israel’s apparent acceptance of the ongoing Russian-American-Syrian bombing campaign against ISIS, one that Russia and Israel have already begun coordinating as the Jerusalem Post reports:

In Russia, Eisenkot met with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov – the first time chiefs of staff from Russia and Israel held a direct meeting. Eisenkot also participated in part of the meeting held between Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Afterward, the two sides agreed to set up a joint working group led by the deputy chiefs of staff from each country. The first meeting will occur in two weeks, and the location will be decided in the coming days.

“It will coordinate air, naval, and the electromagnetic arenas,” the source said. The full composition of the working group has not yet been determined, he added.

“Everything will be raised there. The meetings in Russia were held in a good atmosphere,” the senior source said.

Nice to hear that there was a good atmosphere. I can just see the military brass from each side sharing vodka and pickled herring.

Haaretz, the liberal Zionist newspaper that tends to be less ideological than the Likudist press in Israel, had a shrewd assessment of the Netanyahu-Putin powwow:

And although Netanyahu only last week said “commentators” were wrong when they warned of a collapse of ties between Israel and the United States in light of the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu’s current visit to Moscow could be seen as an Israeli jab at Washington. The visit seems to reflect Netanyahu’s lack of faith in the ability or the intent of the United States to protect Israel’s security interests.

The visit cannot be considered good news in Washington, which led a campaign of condemnation and sanctions against Moscow over its involvement in the war in Ukraine last summer. (Israel did not take a position on that conflict and was duly rewarded by Russia which issued a moderate response to Israel’s actions in the war on Gaza shortly thereafter.)

The reference to Gaza is likely tied to Russian opposition to the Goldstone Report being taken up by the Security Council in 2009, a document that charged Israel with war crimes. Russia had voted to approve the report in the Human Rights Committee of the UN but shrewdly decided that relations with Israel should not be compromised by putting teeth into a report that might have led to Netanyahu and company suffering the same fate as Milosevic. In explaining their refusal to take up the Goldstone Report on the Security Council, the Russians made that connection clear:

Many of the recommendations of the report, including criticisms of the actions of Hamas-controlled security forces, as well as provisions relating to the observance of international human rights law and international humanitarian law in general, appear justified. However, a number of proposals in the document go beyond the scope of the mission. This applies particularly to the recommendations addressed to the UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court and the call upon states to prosecute the perpetrators of war crimes during the conflict in Gaza, under universal jurisdiction.

We oppose the referral of the report to the UN Security Council. We believe that it is the UN Human Rights Council that constitutes the platform in the format which this report should be considered. Nor do we believe it is advisable to draw international judicial bodies into the investigation.

So Benjamin Netanyahu’s worse fears were averted. There was no need to hire a lawyer to defend him against war crimes even if Ramsey Clark were still available. Bully for the most fearsome enemy of the West on the BRICS front.

So when did Russia make a “turn” toward Israel disavowing the “anti-imperialist” stance that had endeared it to people like Mike Whitney and Andre Vltchek? Unless you are victim to your own propaganda, the evidence was there from the beginning that the Kremlin considered Israel its good friend.

Keep in mind that Russia and Israel share a loathing for what they call Islamic jihadists. In 2000 when Russia was using the same scorched earth military tactics and the same “war on terrorism” rhetoric now being used in Syria, Israel’s foreign minister, the ultrarightist Natan Sharansky, stood behind Putin, comparing his struggle with Israel’s against the Palestinians. The Washington Post editorialized on the Russian-Israeli commonality of interests on April 29, 2002:

Ever since Sept. 11, Putin and Sharon have tried to convince the world that the Muslim national movements seeking to end the military occupations by Russia of Chechnya, and by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza, are indistinguishable from the terrorists of Osama bin Laden and deserve the same treatment. Both have had some luck — Sharon seems to have persuaded most of Congress and half of the Bush administration. But as a season of summits among Russia, the United States and Europe approaches, only Putin seems to have successfully merged the war on terrorism with his own scorched-earth assault on national sovereignty.

Finally, we must say something about whether Israel ever perceived Syria as a mortal threat to its interests, to the point that Asa Winstanley’s ravings could make sense.

Early on Israel took the position that Assad was the “lesser evil”, referring to him as “the devil you know” as opposed to the rebels who were an unknown quantity. As the war dragged on, however, Israel began to see the wisdom of imperialist intervention against ISIS and al-Nusra whether from the White House or the Kremlin.

A more important question is how Syria viewed Israel and the Palestinians. Despite Baathist rhetoric about solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, there is at least one Palestinian who does not buy the bullshit. I refer you to Tariq Al-Faluji, a Palestinian college student who describes himself as “raised to stand up for what’s right, whether it is in Palestine, Syria, Bahrain, or anywhere in the Arab World.” In an April 28, 2013 article for “Beyond Compromise”, he addressed the problem of Palestinian support for the Assad head-on:

First of all, the Assad family is no friend of Palestine. Before Hafez even became president of Syria, he was a commander of the Syrian Air Force. In 1966, when Salah Jadid took over leadership in Syria in a military coup, he was appointed a Defense Minister, effectively becoming the country’s second in command. In 1970, in the wake of Black September, Syria sided with the Palestinians, sending in armored divisions into Jordan. This marks the first occasion of Assad betraying the Palestinians. As commander of the Air Force, he refused to provide the air cover necessary for the Syrian aid to reach the Palestinians. Because of this, the Syrian forces were re-routed and the Palestinians suffered the consequences of losing. Assad used this particular defeat to discredit Jadid and take over via military coup.

That particular instant is not the first occasion and is certainly not the last. In 1976, at the height of the Lebanese Civil War, the Syrian army aided the Phalangist militia in besieging the Palestinian Tel Al-Zaatar refugee camp in Lebanon. After the Syrians and their Lebanese allies shelled the camp, 3000 Palestinians died. The Syrian army was instrumental in the siege of Palestinian refugee camps by the Amal movement, which left several thousand Palestinians dead. The Syrian role in the Lebanese Civil War would lead to many more Palestinian deaths. It should be telling of the nature of the Assad Regime; psychopathic killers with no friends.

Not to mention, Syria has been a perfect “enemy” to Israel for decades. Since 1973, the Syrian army has fired an illustrious zero bullets into Israel. Even with their territory occupied, they remained quiet even when Israeli planes went as far as flying over Assad’s palace in 2006. This illusion that the Syrian regime is the only regime fighting Israel is simply that, an illusion. There is no question that Assad is not by any means a friend of the Palestinian people.

Additionally, what is happening in Syria is a crime against humanity. Thousands are dying, the country is destroyed beyond repair, and millions are refugees. Which is why it is enraging to find Palestinians who support Assad. As a people, we Palestinians know exactly what it is like to be killed in the thousands, lose our country, and have to live our lives as refugees. A Palestinian who can’t see the parallels between what Israel did to Palestinians and what Assad is doing to his own people is simply blind.

If we as a people can be comfortable with the idea that Assad can get away with the murder of his people, then our 65 years under occupation have taught us nothing. Palestinians should be at the forefront of support for any people who are facing killing, forced to leave their country, and being repressed in the most brutal ways possible. The hypocrisy of a Palestinian who spends hours talking about the injustice in Israeli jails while simultaneously supporting a regime that has kept tens of thousands in much worse imprisonment conditions is astounding. How can we be taken seriously as advocates of freedom when we only advocate it when it suits our own purposes? How can anyone talk about Israel killing Palestinians while accepting and condoning the killing of Syrians? The answer is simple. Those two positions simply cannot coexist without hypocrisy.

I imagine sympathy for such an analysis among Palestinians explains why 315 of their number have been tortured to death in Syrian prisons to this point. It is an abomination that the Baathist amen corner tries to turn such murdering beasts into “anti-imperialist” heroes.

June 29, 2015

Response to EI article (Electronic Intifada)

Filed under: Syria,zionism — louisproyect @ 9:48 pm

Response to EI article (Electronic Intifada).


The failure of the Palestine solidarity movement in the West to follow the lead of the Palestinian movement inside Syria, the vast majority of whom oppose the government despite the costs, in offering solidarity to the Syrian uprising or at least the victims of the situation, is something that will be remembered badly in history, although there is still time to change course. (http://beyondcompromise.com/2014/01/23/declaration-of-a-shared-fate/http://beyondcompromise.com/2014/01/18/while-you-were-neutral-about-yarmouk/).

​The “Israel backs Jabhat al-Nusra” fairy-tale and its deadly consequences

Filed under: Syria,zionism — louisproyect @ 9:10 pm

​The “Israel backs Jabhat al-Nusra” fairy-tale and its deadly consequences.

June 25, 2015

The Jewish Voice for Peace Attack on Alison Weir: JVP Loses Its Balance

Filed under: Palestine,zionism — louisproyect @ 1:11 pm

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 5.45.38 PM

A guest post by Amith Gupta, NYU Law Student

Feel free to forward this widely. Contact me if you would like to publish some or all of it.

A personal note: I did not intend on sending this or discussing this any further. But, for the last three years, I have been pushed and pushed to speak about Alison Weir, not out of support for her politics, but out of alienation by those who have attacked her.

Below is a consolidated version of some of the things I have written to associates on organizing lists about the recent statement by Jewish Voices for Peace to malign Alison Weir, which was mass-mailed to various chapters and list-servs. I did not intend to write anything further, but I have had ten people contact me to tell me to spread this further in 24 hours.

These comments are NOT made out of support for If Americans Knew NOR out of opposition to Jewish Voice for Peace. These comments should NOT be read as a defense of any unnamed persons who have separately been accused of anti-Semitism, nor should they be interpreted to suggest that anti-Semitism is not a problem or that it does not exist.

These comments are ENTIRELY PERSONAL and do not constitute endorsement from ANY organization with which I have worked or currently work with, and do not necessarily imply agreement from any of the individuals mentioned or cited. They should not appear as an endorsement of any particular individual or group that shares or circulates them.

These are made for the movement, as a whole, which desperately needs internal criticism of its increasingly problematic and racist politics.

1) Disclaimer: I do not have any formal or organizational affiliation with Alison Weir or her organization, If Americans Knew.

2) My personal experience with the smear campaign against Weir.

3) JVP’s entire accusation against Weir is based on guilt by association and could easily apply to some of the most prominent voices in the movement for Palestine solidarity, including Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Dilip Hiro, Ilan Pappe, Jennifer Loewenstein, Ray McGovern, Joseph Massad, Norman Finkelstein, Glenn Greenwald, Pete McCloskey, Philip Weiss, Richard Falk, John Mearsheimer, Lenni Brenner, and Rachel Corrie’s parents.

a. Alison Weir has not endorsed nor agreed with the racist views expressed by those with whom she has been associated

b. It is unwise to expect Weir or anyone else to completely ignore the communities that are vulnerable to such racism (see below).

4) Inaccurate and hypocritical accusations of ethnic chauvinism

a. Losing Balance: While JVP alleges that IAK downplays the value of Palestinian voices, it is JVP which is constructed on seeing Jewish voices as “particularly legitimateaccording to the JVP website.

b. If Americans Knew and Alison Weir have been principled and expansive in working with Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinian/Arab-Americans, including the Al-Awda Right to Return Coalition and the Beit Sahour-based International Middle East Media Center; both organizations are run and staffed by Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans. The organization has publicly and explicitly supported the full Palestinian-led call for BDS since at least 2006.

c. JVP has not been principled in working with Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinian/Arab-Americans, barring its chapters from working with groups of any ethnicity that take overtly anti-Zionist slogans and politically vetting those Middle Easterners and Muslims with whom they work. It also took JVP ten years to endorse the full BDS call.

d. JVP ‘s statement appears to suggest that Jews alone can define anti-Semitism, despite knowing that such accusations can implicate racism and violence against Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian communities. This is a form of ethnic chauvinism.

e. JVP’s statement suggests that all Jews are somehow personally or familially connected to Israel, a restatement of Zionism

f. JVP’s statement suggests that American imperialism and warfare benefits Americans as a whole, undermining the American anti-war movement and contradicting prior stances that JVP has taken

5) JVP has taken at least 4 different positions on Zionism, implying a lack of any principle regarding racism and colonialism against Palestine in particular and the Middle East as a whole.

a. Open-Ended: JVP’s guidelines state a refusal to state their beliefs in terms of the word “Zionism”

b. Restricted: JVP’s guidelines state that their chapters are banned from working with organizations that use “anti-Zionist demands or slogans”, presumably including Al-Awda and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

c. Pro-Zionist: JVP interprets Jews, as a group, to be connected to the Middle East, which is Zionism (see above).

d. Anti-Zionist when condemning anti-Semitism: JVP has recirculated letters that explicitly argue that Zionism is a form of racism in the context of disavowing a British-Israeli author for his apparently anti-Jewish statements. The statement against this man is included in their statement against Weir. The implication is that condemning Zionism as a form of racism is acceptable, provided the condemnation is made while disavowing someone for anti-Semitism.

e. JVP’s statements imply a lack of principled positions regarding racism against Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims, while taking a staunch position against perceived racism toward the Jewish community. This is a racist double-standard.

6) Racism, Colonialism, and Identity Politics

a. Optics & the White Gaze: JVP and IAK are both “identitarian” groups that have sought to navigate the maze of racism in the United States.

b. The racist and colonial roots of anti-Semitism allegations against Palestine solidarity organizers per se.

c. While neither group has navigated perfectly, JVP’s position in particular is highly problematic and warrants serious criticism.

7) JVP has taken an inconsistent position on engagement with “the Right” and those who are in danger of being misled and exploited by xenophobic, right-wing racism.

a. My personal experiences with right-wing racism as a person of color and the son of immigrants.

b. The roots of “the right” and the dangers of ignoring their misguided flock.

c. JVP has not opposed engagement with right-wing elements of the Jewish or Israeli communities.

8) Other Resources that I consider informative.

a. Noam Chomsky on accusations of anti-Semitism within left-wing and anti-racist movements.

b. Joseph Massad: “Sartre, European Intellectuals, and Zionism”

c. Philip Weiss: “Conservatives for Palestine”

d. Norman Finkelstein on ADL anti-Semitism survey and what qualifies as anti-Semitism

e. Louis Proyect: “The Anti-Semitism Canard”

f. Lenni Brenner, “The Demographics of American Jews”

g. Jacobin Magazine: Checkered History of Palestine and the Left

9) Addendum: Spencer Sunshine’s PRA attack on Alison Weir and “Campus Anti-Semitism”

a. The original report

b. The attack on Weir

I) Disclaimer

I have no association with Alison Weir outside of meeting her a few times at activist summits/conferences. I recommended her website to others in the early 2000s when If Americans Knew and electronicintifada were the only pro-Palestinian news sources I knew of, and when I was in college I constructed a banner with the website on it. The last time I saw her, I believe it was when she was the keynote speaker at the convention for Al-Awda, the Right of Return Coalition, which is a large-scale, broad-based Palestinian anti-Zionist organization.

Nonetheless, I find JVP’s statement highly, highly problematic.

II) The Smear Campaign

I’ve never seen someone’s name dragged through the mud as with her. In the past, I worked with an organization at the national level. At the time, I did not know that there was any real controversy regarding how she was perceived; I had only ever heard one person suggest she was an anti-Semite, and I assumed it was just a personal difference. I had seen Alison Weir give a short workshop at the 2012 “Occupy AIPAC!” summit that was organized by Code Pink, so I contacted Weir’s organization about either giving a workshop or tabling at a conference with the organization I was working with. I let the other organizers know, some of them flipped out, claiming she was an anti-Semite. I asked why they believed so, and they responded by accusing me of lacking trust (even though I didn’t know any of these people except via internet), and it was a long, drawn out, angry battle from there.

I was never given any actual reason why they believed she was anti-Semitic. It honestly intimidated me that a people whom I barely knew were willing to label someone else I barely knew an anti-Semite, without being able to at least explain why they felt this way. It scared me, because it made me think that these organizers could have easily made the same accusations against me, no reasoning necessary. It reminded me of COINTELPRO.

After the episode was resolved, one of the organizers posted a link to the letter referenced in the JVP statement in which several Palestinians disavow racism, as if to suggest that those of us who did not agree with the accusations against Weir were ourselves guilty of racism.

III) Guilt By Association

So it is worth giving JVP credit for at least explaining why they feel that Alison Weir is bigoted. But I think the reasons they have given are problematic. JVP points out that Weir gave interviews to a right-wing extremist, and, in their view, failed to properly challenge racist and bigoted statements made by the host.

But appearing on someone’s radio show, including a bigot’s, doesn’t exactly imply an endorsement. Weir also claims that she did express disagreement when those bigoted ideas were voiced, but in either case, it seems like JVP is quite openly admitting that the entire claim is based on guilt by association.

Reading the transcript of her interview with the right-wing extremist, Weir sounds like she is doing her best answering questions from a person who does not sound as though he is “all there”. Interrupting this individual any time he made racist comments would require interrupting him virtually every other sentence. But that is not a reason to completely avoid this individual’s listener base, especially as that base is particularly vulnerable to the sort of racist and violent propaganda that is regularly pushed by both anti- and pro-Israel segments of the far-right against Arabs, Muslims, immigrants, and others (see section VII below).

The rest of the accusations are similarly based on association, pointing to writing and publications rather than radio interviews. With regard to publications, is it even Weir’s obligation to go around checking what seedy groups might have exploited her work and then disavow them?

Would JVP suggest that Norman Finkelstein is an anti-Semite, because many of his earlier works criticizing the exploitation of the Holocaust have appeared in genocide denial publications?

Would they suggest that Chomsky is some sort of anti-Semite because he has appeared on all sorts of right-wing media for odd reasons? Would they claim Noam Chomsky is a racist for “failing to disavow” people who have used his writing for nefarious purposes?

How about Joseph Massad, whose Al Jazeera piece “The Last of the Semites” has shown up in nasty places?

Weir has separately – and correctly — pointed out that JVP’s attacks would also implicate prominent American peace activist Ray McGovern; Palestine solidarity activist and journalist Jennifer Loewenstein; Israeli professor and author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Ilan Pappe; journalist Dilip Hiro; Edward Said; Noam Chomsky; and parents of slain ISM activist Cindy and Craig Corrie.

JVP’s statements also appear to implicate award-winning journalist and publisher of the Snowden leaks Glenn Greenwald, Jewish historian Lenni Brenner, MondoWeiss blogger Phil Weiss; anti-war Congressman Pete McCloskey; and a slew of others.

IV) “Ethnic Chauvinism”

A) JVP alleges that IAK and Alison Weir have expressed the nationalistic and chauvinistic view that only “Americans” who aren’t ethnically associated with Israel/Palestine can make meaningful or “objective” conclusions. It is a strange criticism to hear from a group calling itself “Jewish Voice for Peace”. But compare the positions the groups have taken: IAK has been expansive and principled in engaging and working with Palestinian and Palestinian-American communities — more so than JVP.

Here is what JVP said in their message about Weir:

“For example, in IAK’s “Our Story” on their website it reads:

[Alison Weir] founded an organization to be directed by Americans without personal or family ties to the region who would research and actively disseminate accurate information to the American public.

In other words, according to Weir and If Americans Knew, only non-Arab, non-Muslim, non-Palestinian, and non-Jewish voices can be trusted to speak the truth, based solely on their ethnic or religious identity.

Notions of objectivity are routinely used to discredit the experiences of those most directly affected by oppression. But no one is objective, least of all Americans who benefit from the U.S. government’s destructive interventionist and white supremacist policies around the world [emphasis added]”

Compare this with what JVP says on its own FAQ page:

“Q: Why are you a Jewish group? Can’t you just be a peace group?

“A: …

“Because we are Jews, we have a particular legitimacy in voicing an alternative view of American and Israeli actions and policies. As Jews, we can make the distinction between real anti-Semitism and the cynical manipulation of that issue to shield Israel from legitimate criticism. [emphasis added].

How is founding an organization directed by Americans who aren’t tied to the region any less chauvinistic than suggesting — and then exploiting — that Jews have a “particular legitimacy” in speaking out? Contrast that with JVP Director Rebecca Vilkomerson’s own statements on the matter:

“…So we have to be aware of the privileging of Jewish voices, and the racism and Islamophobia that underlay that privilege. It’s a balancing act and not an easy one. Its about an awareness of playing into notions of who is entitled to speak out about Israel and Palestine and making sure we are not replicating the very systems of privilege there that we are working so hard to break down, while also being willing to use our voices as Jews to change and challenge some very deep preconceptions.

In practice, both JVP and IAK are constructed on forms of identity politics, knowing full well that a thoroughly racist society would view their organizations with greater “legitimacy” due to their ethnic identifiers (“Jewish” and “American” respectively). Both groups have used such identifiers while also attempting to open spaces of dialog and speech for Arab, Muslim, and Palestinian organizations. How can JVP condemn IAK for pursuing the same “balancing act” that JVP works to navigate? There’s one easy answer: JVP has lost its balance.

B) In reality, If Americans Knew has gone even further than JVP in promoting Palestinian voices and organizations. If Americans Knew has embraced the Palestinian-led call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as one of its strategies of “resistance” since at least 2006:


“By Mazin Qumsiyeh

“…In July 2005, more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations issued a historic document. It articulated Israel’s persistent violations of international and humanitarian laws and conventions and called upon “international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”

The call stated that “these non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194”[emphasis added].

IAK’s Executive Director was also keynote speaker at the convention for Al-Awda, the Right of Return Coalition, which is a large-scale, broad-based Palestinian anti-Zionist organization. Finally, IAK’s primary source of news promotion is the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian media collective, the IMEMC. Even a brief perusal of the If Americans Knew website makes it clear that IAK’s media campaign relies heavily on promoting Palestinian and Arab voices, including the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, Qatar-based Al Jazeera, and various podcasts and live broadcasting from Palestine.

C) In contrast, JVP took over ten years to endorse the Palestinian BDS call. Here is what their “Guidelines” page currently states:

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) endorses the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real [emphasis added].

We join with communities of conscience around the world in supporting Palestinians, who call for BDS until the Israeli government…By endorsing the call, we make our hope real and our love visible and we claim our own liberation as bound with the liberation of all [emphasis added].

But here is the position JVP took prior to March 25th, 2015:

The boycott/divestment/sanctions movement (BDS) encompasses a variety of tactics and targets.  JVP rejects the assertion that BDS is inherently anti-semitic, and we encourage discussion both within our own community and outside of it of the growing BDS movement. JVP defends activists’ right to use the full range of BDS tactics without being persecuted or demonized. We support divestment from and boycotts of companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. This includes companies operating in or from occupied Palestinian territory, exploiting Palestinian labor and scarce environmental resources, providing materials or labor for settlements, or producing military or other equipment or materials used to violate human rights or to profit from the Occupation [emphasis added].

In other words, until a few months ago, JVP was willing to defend other people’s right to promote “freedom, justice, and equality of all peoples,” but they themselves were only willing to mobilize their resources toward the freedom, justice, and equality of some. JVP is invoking concepts like “freedom for all” but only when convenient. It is like saying “I promote equality all of the time, 60% of the time.

Furthermore, JVP appears to work almost entirely with left and liberal segments of the Palestinian-American community that are politically acceptable to them — for example, JVP bans its chapters from joining in coalitions with groups that use “anti-Zionist slogans,” which would presumably bar their leadership from working closely with Al-Awda.

JVP has also taken inconsistent positions on the subject of Zionism (see Section V).

D) JVP’s FAQ page also reads, “…As Jews, we can make the distinction between real anti-Semitism and the cynical manipulation of that issue to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.” What does this statement mean to imply, if not that Jews and only Jews are entitled to define what is anti-Jewish? JVP appears in its own statement to be fully aware that accusations of anti-Semitism can be used to “shield Israel from legitimate criticism”. Considering much of the “legitimate criticism” in question is about Israel’s racism against Arabs and others, this statement amounts to little more than ethnic chauvinism. Despite knowing that accusations of anti-Jewish bigotry can be used to shield racism against Arabs, JVP believes that Jews alone are entitled to draw the line with what amounts to legitimate criticism, as opposed to “anti-Semitism”. In the process, Arabs, and others who identify with the Palestinian cause can be muzzled if they disagree with the limits set by a Jewish group — which is what has happened here.

E) Note also that the JVP statement against Weir interprets the phrase “without personal or familial ties to the region” to imply the exclusion of Jewish voices. Is JVP suggesting that every Jew has personal or familial ties to Israel? This is Zionism.

F) JVP’s statement also alleges that “Americans” have benefited from the US’ interventionist and white supremacist policies. This is a very strange position for a peace group to take. While there is no comparison between the situation of American victims of imperialism and those of its citizens, American warfare abroad has resulted in thousands of Americans being maimed and killed; a massive increase in international threats to the American public; and the waste of billions of dollars that could have been spent on social resources. Indeed, JVP appears to be very committed to the notion that Israeli policies of aggression against Palestinians harm Israelis; so why does JVP feel differently about US policies, of which support for Israel is one?

It is also difficult to imagine that JVP can make any in-roads within the United States if they are opposed to policies which they mistakenly believe to benefit Americans.

V) JVP on Zionism.

JVP has taken at least four different positions on Zionism.

A) First, JVP refuses to condemn Zionism as a form of racism in order to pander to racist people within the Jewish community to form a “big tent”. While admitting that Zionism is a form of racism in other releases and admitting anti-Zionists as individuals, the group says the following about Zionism:

The terms, “Zionism” and “Jewish state,” are emotionally loaded and defined differently by different people. [JVP] do not articulate our positions in these terms, but instead in terms that affirm the values we endorse: equality, human rights, democracy, and respect for international law.” [emphasis added].

Despite condemning Weir for reaching out to groups with problematic and racist ideas, JVP’s own views on Zionism — the most obvious form of racism relevant to the Palestinian struggle — are explicitly based on pandering to racist people in order to form a united front. It is difficult to imagine that JVP can effectively promote “equality, human rights, democracy,” etc. while explicitly seeking to pander to those who identify so closely with the colonial enterprise of Zionism that they would refuse to work with JVP if it condemned Zionism as racism.

B) JVP even goes further to bar its chapters from working with groups that use “anti-Zionist slogans or demands”:

A JVP group may join in coalition with pro-Zionist or anti-Zionist groups.  JVP groups may not participate in a coalition whose demands or slogans are pro- or anti-Zionist.

That would presumably include principled organizations like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and Al-Awda, which condemns Zionism as a form of racism in its points of unity.

It is also difficult to imagine that JVP could ever work with any Palestinian organization that is remotely representative of the Palestinian struggle if it demands that its coalition partners effectively sanitize Zionism in their sloganeering or in any political demands that they make. The effect of this is that organizations cannot critically oppose the colonial ideology that underpins the ethnic cleansing of Palestine or stigmatize this enterprise in public fora. If JVP was around prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, JVP would not have been able to rally support behind the infamous and powerful UN resolution defining Zionism as a form of racism.

C) As noted above, JVP’s statement on IAK  also interprets Jews, as a group, to be personally and familially connected to the Middle East. This is a frank admission that JVP believes in and endorses Zionism.

D)  Ironically, while JVP refuses to use the term “Zionism” to articulate its message and bans its chapters from joining in coalitions with groups that use anti-Zionist slogans, it did not mind circulating a letter by Palestinians disavowing controversial British-Israeli writer and alleged anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon, which explicitly rejects Zionism as a form of racism. In other words, when disavowing people like Weir (or Atzmon), it is apparently okay to stretch these arbitrary rules.

E) JVP’s varying stands on Zionism, when contrasted with the group’s ideas of anti-Semitism, exhibit a racist double standard. With regard to racism and colonialism being carried out against Palestinians and Arabs, JVP will take varying stances depending on the circumstances, although it appears that the usual stance is to apologetically write off Zionism as a touchy subject while barring its chapters from coalition-building with groups that are both principled and more likely to be representative of Palestinian demands. In contrast, when discussing anti-Semitism, JVP will go out of its way to launch a behind-the-scenes “whispering campaign” before publicly disavowing a fellow activist, solely based on a guilty association with anti-Semitism. While there is pragmatism in reaching out to those with ignorant or apologetic views within the Jewish community, it does not make sense that JVP would go out of its way to attack others in this fashion except out of a failure to confront their own internal racism.

VI) Racism, Colonialism, and Identity Politics

Overall, this is not about disavowing racism, which is unfortunately pervasive in American society, including its activist organizations. It is about optics. Knowing full well that the “white gaze” of American society views only certain groups with ethnic legitimacy, JVP and IAK have charted out different political strategies in terms of how to navigate the maze. Accusations of anti-Semitism against Palestine solidarity organizing per se are entirely based on the colonial construction of Jews-as-civilized and Palestinians-as-savages whose rights and existence threaten the civilized (AKA Jews).

JVP appears to have taken the strategy of mobilizing liberal and left Jewish voices, even if it means pandering to racism within the Jewish community.

IAK has charted out a different strategy, based on a much wider tent for which the centerpiece is “national interest” and American-centric rhetoric that portrays Zionism as a deviation from the interests of the average American. JVP appears to think this is apologism for America’s crimes (see Section V). But American policy is largely undemocratic, driven by interest groups and donors, and disconnected from the average person. If anything, IAK’s position is a recognition that colonialism/imperialism are driven by elite interests, rather than the reductionist view that suggests there is something inherent about “America” that makes its regime support Israel in a vacuum, removed from the institutional interests of ruling elements (including lobbies).

In any case, without endorsing Alison Weir’s politics as a whole, I think JVP’s position is highly problematic for those reasons. I have removed myself from their list-serv. Personally, I do not find the idea of a distinctly “Jewish” organization that opposes Zionism to be problematic. I am a fan of groups like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. But JVP’s criticisms of Weir appear less to be motivated by any nefarious associations that Weir (or anyone else) might have and more based on their own highly problematic identity politics.

Additional subjects and resources below.

VII) Avoiding the Right — Sometimes

I think it is worth discussing a major organizing flaw that seems to permeate well past Palestine-organizing: not engaging the communities that are most likely to be exploited by the right:

“The enemy is laughing at you. You can wear a t-shirt with the hammer and sickle, you can even hold a huge flag, many, many feet long and go back home with your flag while the enemy is laughing at you because the people, the workers, prefer the enemy, they believe in the enemy. They understand the enemy when he talks, and they don’t understand you. And it’s possible that you’re right, and you can ask your children to put a placard on your grave: “He was always right, although nobody knew.” But when you study the successful experiences of the movements of transformation, you realize that the key to success is to achieve a connection between the reality you have diagnosed and what the majority actually feels and that is very difficult, that means engaging in contradictions…”

As far as I can tell, JVP’s statement correctly labels the radio host in question anti-Semitic. He appears to be a Neo-Nazi, supports former KKK leader David Duke, and appears to be primarily concerned with what he perceives as the decline of the white race. As a person who was raised in California to two non-white immigrant parents, I find that kind of politics to be, quite frankly, scary.

But I also know that in the past, many of the people who listen to such people are not committed to such hateful messages. They buy into it because those kinds of hateful people are the only ones that speak to their sense of frustration with real problems, like the economic crisis. It is very easy for a poor white person from the middle of America who sees the economic collapse take his job to start blaming ethnic cabals and conspiracies for his problems — you know, like that Muslim socialist President we have that was born in Kenya and is secretly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood? That is not because he is an avowed racist, it is because he is vulnerable to such messages from people like the radio host in question.

I know this because in my own personal experience of meeting people with, quite frankly, ignorant views on host of race-related subjects, I have found that many of them are not hateful or violent but simply misled. Properly engaging people in a way that they will actually understand and be placed on the right path is important, even if tricky. If even one person stopped listening to the radio host in question and started reading If Americans Knew, where they would hear not only from white American voices like their own, but also from Jewish voices, Palestinian and Arab voices, the United Nations, and the like, that is in my mind a small victory. That would not be possible if Alison Weir did not go on his bizarre radio show or interrupted him every time he said something racist, which was every other sentence.

Most importantly and ironically, it appears that JVP already knows this: that is why they have gone out of the way not to condemn Zionism, knowing (correctly) that to do so would immediately alienate Jewish people who have been brought up in communities where Zionism is a prevalent form of racism. There is wisdom is telling those segments of a society that are committed to various forms of racism to take a hike, but there is also wisdom in trying to put them on the right path, even if it means not always being able to shame them in the strongest terms.

As Weir pointed out, JVP would not be foolish enough to condemn Weir for appearing on Israeli right-wing radio shows, because they know as well as she does that there is at least some strategic wisdom in engaging the people who are most vulnerable to racist messages. There is plenty of historic similarity between poor white segments of American society and some parts of the Israeli settler movement which are also made up of poor and marginalized segments of Israeli society. It is no coincidence that the marginalized Mizrahi Jewish population of Israel also happens to be among the strongest of advocates for Israel’s proto-fascistic movements.

Finally, if the real issue is “justice for all,” then why did it take JVP ten years to endorse the boycott, and why do they bar their members from working with groups that use “anti-Zionist slogans” (see section V)? The answer is that they know that such decisions are not always easy to make when engaging a hostile, racist population. Alison appears to be aware of the same issue, albeit for a different population, and it is not right to publicly shame her for it.

VIII) Other Resources

A) Noam Chomsky speaking on accusations of anti-Semitism within left and anti-racist movements, mostly by left-liberals, SUNY New Paltz:

Q: “Incidents of anti-Semitism have come up at the Occupy protests. Why is anti-Semitism starting to rise among the left, and what is your advice to young Jewish activists?

Chomsky: As far as I know, it’s not true. [applause]

If you’re out to look for it, you can find things. When you take a big mass of people, you can find a little bit of almost anything.

On the other hand, this claim that there’s anti-Semitism on the left, just look at its history. Look at the early 1960s-70s. There was practically an industry of left-liberals, including the Democratic Socialists who were among the worst, trying to show that Dan Berrigan was an anti-Semite, that everyone who opened their mouths were anti-Semites. There were literally efforts — Seymour Martin Lipset well known sociologist, was running big studies to run through Black Panther newspapers to see if he could find a poem by a twelve-year-old kid which maybe had some anti-Semitic implications. Okay, that shows they’re all anti-Semites [sarcastically].

The cry of “anti-Semitism” is a good way to shut people up [applause] because nobody wants to be charged with that. I’d be pretty cautious about those charges. But if it’s real, then you respond to it. Whatever it is, anti-Semitism today isn’t even a toothpick on a mountain compared to anti-Muslim hysteria [applause].

A lot of the states in the Union here in [the United States] passing constitutional amendments to prevent the courts from using Halakha, Talmudic law [sarcastically]. If they did that, people wouldn’t even laugh. But there are states doing something equally laughable and ridiculous — except that it’s dangerous — which is trying to institute constitutional amendments to prevent the use of Sharia law. This is about as likely as an asteroid hitting the state [laughter]. But this is all over the place. That’s real.

The FBI is breaking into people’s houses and arresting them for what’s called “material support to terrorism” — meaning they said something favorable to Palestinian movements or something. Nothing like that is happening to the Jewish population. If there are any bits and pieces of anti-Semitism, then fine, shout at them or argue against it. But I think it’s extremely slight if it’s there at all, in comparison to major movements of hatred and repression, hatred of immigrants, blacks, racism, anti-Muslim racism which is an extraordinary and really major phenomenon. [applause]

B) Joseph Massad, “Sartre, Left Intellectuals, and Zionism”

“What is it about the nature of Zionism, its racism, and its colonial policies that continues to escape the understanding of many European intellectuals on the left? Why have the Palestinians received so little sympathy from prominent leftist intellectuals such as Jean- Paul Sartre and Michel Foucault or only contingent sympathy from others like Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Etienne Balibar, and Slavoj Zizek? Edward Said wrote once about his encounters with Sartre and Foucault (who were anti-Palestinian) and with Gilles Deleuze (who was anti-Zionist) in this regard. The intellectual and political commitments inaugurated by a pro-Zionist Sartre and observed by Said, however, remain emblematic of many of the attitudes of leftist and liberal European intellectuals today…”

C) Phil Weiss, “Conservatives for Palestine”

The national-interest crowd was traditionally silenced by the anti-Semitism charge. Scott McConnell showed how anti-Semitism charges were used to marginalize writers Joseph Sobran and Pat Buchanan when they took strong stands against Israel. Steve Walt said that the overuse of the charge by the lobby had helped undermine its power to blacklist speakers and arguments.

D) Norman Finkelstein, “Quick Thoughts: on the ADL Global 100, An Index of Anti-Semitism”

…I would also find it alarming if anyone except Abe Foxman (and perhaps the New York Times) gave a hoot about the poll’s conclusions [in which the ADL found that one quarter of the world is anti-Semitic]. Personally, I am alarmed by genocide and war, death from preventable diseases and from hunger, global warming and massive unemployment. I see no cause for alarm if not everyone loves by far the wealthiest and most successful ethnic group on the planet. Back in the day, most sensible people detested WASPs.

…is it even true that a quarter of the world’s population is anti-Semitic? I am actually surprised at how low the percentage is, in light of the calculated absurdity of the questions…

E) Louis Proyect, “The Anti-Semitism Canard”

There was a time when Jews suffered from institutional racism. At the turn of the century, Jews lived in the slums on the Lower East Side and could easily identified by their Yiddish accent. They suffered from discrimination and poverty on a level that matched that of Blacks or other oppressed groups historically. In Germany they were less oppressed despite the specious arguments of Daniel Goldhagen. It was only the Great Depression and the massive influx of Eastern European Jews into Germany that allowed Hitler to make use of the Jews as a scapegoat.

All that changed after WWII when Jews moved out of the tenements and into the mainstream. The second generation (my mom and dad’s) opened small businesses, went to colleges (most often state universities), lost their Yiddish accent, and even changed their last name to fit in. Bernard Schwartz became Tony Curtis and Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas. If you were fortunate enough to make big bucks on Wall Street, you didn’t even have to change your name.

To put things into perspective, the Anti-Defamation League issued a report on anti-Semitics attacks in 2013 that covered the entire world. Not a single death was reported. Most of the incidents were of the sort that turns up in New York routinely, a swastika scrawled on a Synagogue wall or a gravestone overturned. Compare that to the fate of Muslims who face racism and murder every where they look, from Burma to Kashmir.

F) Lenni Brenner, “The Demographics of American Jews”

In 1991, I interviewed Harold Seneker, then the editor of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, for an article in The Nation. I told him that I found Jews, 2.2% of the population, to be about 25% of the 400. He told me that he thought this a success story, both for American capitalism and for the Jews, and that he wanted to write a story on it. But Forbes wouldn’t let him. The then publisher had gone thru the Hitler era, when talking about Jewish money was an anti-Semitic specialty.

This mentality is still common on the left as well, and it is wide spread among elderly Jews. Forbes, much of the left, and old Jews share what must be called a ‘folk Marxist’ mentality. Despite the differences in their politics, they all believe that history repeats itself. Someday there is going to be another 1929 Depression. The capitalists will, once again, call up central casting and get another Hitler to smash the left.

This is fantasy. Its a projection of the past, and Germany’s past at that, into America’s future. In reality, journalists constantly turn out articles for Zionist publications about how Jewish campaign contributors play a major role in funding both parties and, very rarely, the topic is touched on in the mainstream media. “The Political Future of American Jews,” a1985 American Jewish Congress pamphlet by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, declared that “While there have been few reliable statistics on the subject — and some reluctance to gather any — the journalistic and anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that more than a majority of Democratic funds on a national level, and as much as a quarter of Republican funds have come from Jewish sources.” They were referring to private contributions, as was an article in the 1/5/93 NY Times announcing that “Jews contributed about 60 percent of Mr. Clinton’s noninstitutional campaign funds.”

G) Jacobin Mag, “Palestine and the Left”

VIII) Addendum: Spencer Sunshine & PRA attack on Alison Weir and “Anti-Semitism”

Although it was not a part of my original conversations with others regarding Alison Weir, a piece written by a CUNY Graduate student and anarchist, Spencer Sunshine, has found its way to me. The piece, attacking Alison Weir and If Americans Knew, was commissioned by Political Research Associates, a liberal think-tank affiliated with Chip Berlet, and released originally in a 2014 report about what Berlet, Sunshine, and the others at PRA believe to constitute “campus anti-Semitism”. While the piece was written in 2014, it has resurfaced on the front page of Political Research Associates, implying that the piece has been posted to double-down on JVP’s attack on Weir. Sunshine’s attack on Weir is tagged on to the end of the report, so it is worth discussing the report in full.

The Report

The report is largely stacked. From its beginnings, it appears that Berlet relies heavily on pro-Israel advocacy groups and Zionist ideologues to construct varying definitions of anti-Semitism, including  Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League, and the like. The report also spends much ink analyzing the varying and arbitrary definitions of anti-Semitism supplied by Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs Natan Sharansky. While the report is quick to point out dissenting sentiments, the underlying assumptions of these organizations’ views largely color the rest of the report’s conclusions, in which anti-Semitism is defined in such a way as to include various forms of anti-Zionist and anti-Israel activism.

Elsewhere, Chip Berlet gives a lengthy interview to UK sociologist David Hirsh, who has separately written that BDS is “arguably antisemitic in itself,” and that eyewitness testimonies of disgust with Israel’s massacre in Gaza or John Mearsheimer’s comments about the Israel lobby are “reminiscent of classic antisemitic blood libels or conspiracy theory”. Hirsh has written, “…if you organize an academic boycott of Israeli Jewish academics but no one else in the world, that is an anti-Semitic policy”. In his interview with Berlet, Hirsh argues that Nazi analogies made by campaigners against Israel are motivated solely by “Jew-baiting,” ignoring of course that there is a subversive element to reclaiming the Holocaust from a state which has never ceased to exploit its memory.

Hirsh, like Berlet and Sunshine, are often quick to emphasize that anti-Semitism does not necessarily require intent. Instead, they emphasize that anti-Semitism, like other forms of racism, can be institutional. The concept of institutional racism can be useful. The basic gist of institutional racism is “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin”. This idea is useful in particular interventions dealing with racism, in which discrimination is system-wide and it may be difficult or impossible to single out an individual’s personal prejudices.

But with so much discussion of institutional racism, none of the individuals in the report carry out any institutional analysis regarding discrimination against Jews at all. Indeed, those who have done so have found that Jews in the United States and Western Europe do not suffer institutional discrimination, but rather have the qualities and traits of the country’s most elite ethnic groups.

Instead, the three individuals have separately and concurrently misused this conception of institutional racism to engineer definitions of anti-Semitism that are vast, vague, and, overall, useless for anti-racist organizers and dangerous for Palestinian rights campaigners.

In the report itself, Berlet argues that any form of “othering” and conspiratorial or populist rhetoric, even when unrelated to Jews or Israel, is potentially anti-Semitic or dangerous to Jews. While the report contains many such examples, one running theme is that virtually any opposition to Israel that involves populistic rhetoric about Israeli power is conflated with anti-Jewish canards. Failing to look at historic, European anti-Semitism within any historical context, the authors instead conflate any discussion of Israeli political power in completely different contexts with canards about Jewish power from different times and places in a completely ahistorical fashion.

After smearing Alison Weir, Norman Finkelstein, and others alongside the likes of notorious racist and Islamophobe David Horowitz, the report closes with interviews with individuals praised for “challenging bias,” including, surely enough, a Hillel leader. But perhaps more troubling is the praise the report reaps on Temple student April Rosenblum, responsible for an anti-Palestinian propaganda pamphlet circulated on the left. The pamphlet, “The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere,” is appropriately titled, given that the pamphlet is devoid of any historical grounding. The pamphlet repeats the sophistry of the report, in which various incidents, commentaries, and the like revolving around Jews or anti-Semitism in separate parts of the world are knitted together as a sort of international anti-Semitism, which is apparently to be found any time anyone uses strong rhetoric against Israel. The pamphlet suggests that activists avoid suggesting that Zionism is racism, and that various kinds of strongly-worded or exaggerated criticisms of Israel are anti-Semitic. In order to give it credibility, the pamphlet is littered with cheap activist sloganeering and lip-service concerns about Palestinians.

In a separate, hour-long rant that Sunshine gave in Portland, in which he also attacked Weir, Sunshine elaborates on the rhetorical scheme found in the PRA report. Sunshine defines a vast array of varying types of commentary as anti-Semitic in nature, many of which are unrelated to Jews or Israel, including populistic rhetoric against financial capitalism, any sort of rhetoric about national self-interest in light of foreign lobbying, and the like. He suggests that anti-Semitism is a sort of exceptional racism, and as a result, he constructs it in such a way that it can be found virtually anywhere.

Bizarrely, Sunshine believes that referring to the Israeli consulate “the Zionist consulate” is anti-Semitic, that condemning normalization with Israel is anti-Semitic, that refusing to see Israel’s settler population as victims of anti-Semitism is anti-Semitic, that using the image of a “snake” in anti-Israel writing is anti-Semitic even when the artists’ intention was not anti-Semitic and the symbol shares no genealogy with anti-Semitic symbolism of the past, and so on. Sunshine manages to see anti-Semitism in condemnations of Zionism as a form of imperialism, and the like. He also cites fringe Marxist theorist Moishe Postone, the intellectual influence of the right-wing, anti-Palestinian and pro-war Anti-Germans tendency in Germany.

In tandem, it appears that Sunshine, like Berlet, have little expert knowledge of the Middle East itself.  At one point, Sunshine falsely repeats the cheap Western misconception that there “always has been” a conflict between Arabs and Jews, and that the veneer of anti-Semitism has been laid over the situation. Elsewhere, he suggests falsely that Israel did not invade Lebanon until the end of that country’s civil war; in reality, Israel occupied Lebanon for most of that country’s civil war and continued for ten years thereafter.

There is a running theme behind the rhetoric that Berlet, Sunshine, and other left-liberals who churn out witch-hunting propaganda about anti-Semitism. While managing to construct anti-Semitism as an ever-present, grossly exaggerated, abstract threat, found in various kinds of rhetoric and symbols, violence and inequality against Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are downplayed, misunderstood, or ignored, and attempts to address the institutions responsible are themselves reduced to part of the abstract specter of attacks on Jews.

The effect of this rhetoric is to whitewash one of the most blatant inequalities on the face of the earth, in which the Middle East’s foremost military power, armed with nuclear weapons, carrying on a decades-long protracted war of aggression against people under occupation, with the one-sided support of the world’s primary superpower, using blatant racism, is downplayed, and various forms opposition to this extreme situation are presented as toxic and threatening.

Attacking Weir

It is from this context that Sunshine has written a separate hit-piece on Weir. Sunshine has no problem citing rabidly anti-Palestinian propaganda organizations like CAMERA, which he writes off as a “watchdog group,” in order to condemn Weir. Sunshine also accuses Weir of promoting a blood libel by reporting on accusations of organ-harvesting by Israeli troops — a disturbing but real phenomenon in places of armed conflict. Sunshine also finds fault with Weir’s suggestion that Israel has started all of its wars except one [aside: she is correct].

To add to this, Weir has separately responded to my questioning by forwarding me a copy of the “interview” Sunshine carried out with Weir. Many of the questions are loaded, accusing Weir of suggesting that “the Zionists pushed the US into WWI and WWII”. Sunshine also suggests that Weir’s commentary about links between US reporters and Israel are an attack on those reporters’ families and Jewish identity. He attempts to bait Weir into describing Zionists as parasites, and to describe the organ-harvesting scandal as a Jewish ritual.

Sunshine makes it clear that his primary knowledge about the region is based on Zionist historiography. He chastises Weir for not making it clear that Arabs rejected the 1947 UN partition plan, a plan which would have in fact resulted in the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. He is doubtful that Israel attacked the USS Liberty on purpose, citing a lack of motive and ignoring the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. He also appears to believe, despite several decades of scholarship on the subject, that the early Zionists were concerned about the Holocaust when in reality many in their ranks took highly irresponsible positions with regards to the genocide in Europe.

The gist of Sunshine’s problem is as follows: “IAK’s criticisms of Zionism and Israel dovetail with traditional antisemitic narratives…IAK narratives are consistent with the antisemitic conspiracisms of the past century, including the claims that Jews are clannish and cabal-like, have dual loyalties, control the media and the government, steal the body parts of non-Jews, and start wars…”

None of these claims are accurate. Instead, Weir has consistently targeted Israel and its supporters. But due to the Sunshine’s ideologically-motived, ahistoric association of European anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, he manages to find blood libels, canards, and conspiracisms where virtually all of IAK’s commentary has targeted Israel’s state-sanctioned racism against its victims and the behavior of American institutions and communities in providing impunity.

It would be difficult to take Sunshine seriously if one were to see Palestinians as people. If that were the case, it would not be a surprise that Israel’s racist state institutions, its undue levels of support in the United States, its lobbying efforts, or continued racist support for Israel by Jewish community organizations, would come under fire from campaigners. But having refocused his attention on the alleged threats to the community associated with Israel’s campaign of colonization (i.e. Jews), Sunshine, like Berlet, is able to reduce anti-Zionist and anti-Israel rhetoric to canards from completely different time periods with no historical or institutional analysis whatsoever. Mired with dishonest questioning, cheap reductionism, and poor knowledge of the Middle East, the report as a whole, and Sunshine’s comments in particular, amount to sophistry.

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