I spent much of winter break working on an analysis of the UAW 2865 BDS vote, where the movement in the US stands today, and how it’s already succeeded in shifting the terms of debate on Israel-Palestine – that article is now up on the Berkeley Journal of Sociology website!
As we prepared for this past weekend’s Block the Boat action in Oakland, I interviewed key organizer Lara Kiswani (who helped immensely with my last article for Jacobin) about BTB, direct action, worker solidarity, and the future of BDS.
An edited transcript of the conversation is now up on the Jacobin website – check it out!
It’s been over a month since my last post but I’m very excited that my latest piece, on Block the Boat, organized labor and the future of BDS, is now up on Jacobin!
I also had an op-ed this week in the UC Berkeley student paper, the Daily Californian, on the academic boycott of Israel and the anti-BDS bill that died in a student senate committee thanks to the work of Cal SJP and other campus activists.
More to come soon (but not too soon)!
I haven’t written since July 14 for two reasons: I can’t write about Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza when others (see: Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss) are doing it so well, but I can’t write about anything else while Palestinians are being slaughtered by a government that receives upwards of $3 billion a year in military aid from our own.
Yesterday President Obama made people mad with comments downplaying CIA torture and blaming Hamas for the astronomical civilian death toll in Gaza. I won’t link to them because I don’t really care what he said. I can’t believe we still have to convince people the Democrats are the worst of the worst.
More important than Obama’s speechifying are the actions of Congress, who (also yesterday) voted overwhelmingly to approve $225 million in additional funding to replenish Israel’s arsenal, depleted by a three-week-long offensive that has killed over 1600 Palestinians, at least 75% of whom are, according to the UN, civilians.
Let me repeat that: After the Obama administration single-handedly torpedoed a UN inquiry into Israeli war crimes, the Senate passed by unanimous consent (and the House voted 395-8) to rearm the Israeli military during an operation that its most tactlessly honest defenders admit is a genocide. This is a massacre that has prompted the governments of Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, and El Salvador to recall their ambassadors to Israel and the government of Bolivia to declare Israel a “terrorist state”.
What do those countries have in common? They all, to varying extents, have progressive governments willing to stand up to the US – a state sponsor and financier of terror if ever there was one. In taking a stand (however belated) against Israeli aggression, they stand in stark contrast to so-called progressives in the US government.
I recently argued that, should they run, candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (an “independent” whose independence from the Democrats is pretty tenuous) could pose a serious primary threat to Hillary Clinton, whose deeply conservative record is out of step with the Democratic Party’s “populist” base. On the issue of Israel-Palestine, a recent Gallup poll found that only 31% of self-identified Democrats think Israel’s actions in Gaza are “justified”.
Yet Sanders and Warren – along with every other member of Congress – voted not once but twice for symbolic resolutions endorsing Israel’s assault as “self-defense” and blaming the civilian death toll on Palestinians themselves. Both resolutions passed by unanimous consent: They were backed not just by mean old Republicans, not just by hawkish Democrats like neoliberal poster boy Cory Booker and Chuck “Bomb Iran” Schumer, but also by the party’s so-called left wing.
And now, leading House “progressives” like Barbara Lee and John Conyers joined their Senate counterparts (Ron Wyden and Al Franken, to name a couple others) to reaffirm yet again that, as Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz once put it, there “will never be daylight between the two parties” when it comes to unconditional support for Israeli militarism and apartheid.
The 8 members of Congress – 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans – who voted against the additional funds are, on the Democratic side, Representatives Keith Ellison, Zoe Lofgren, Jim Moran, and Beto O’Rourke, and on the Republican side, Justin Amash, Walter Jones, Thomas Massie, and Mark Sanford.
They took a serious political risk going against the pro-Israel lobby and their respective party leaderships. I’ve linked to the Twitter accounts of each above – if you’re on Twitter, tweet them a “thank you!”, and if you aren’t, their Twitter bios include links to their websites where you can do so.
Here’s the thing, though: That this many members of Congress voted “no” in such a rabidly pro-Israel political climate as Washington is a testament to how undeniably horrific the reports and images from Gaza have been. People on the ground say this attack is beyond anything they’ve seen in their lifetimes.
But Israel’s draconian blockade of Gaza, also a point of bipartisan consensus, had already made it an open-air prison that the UN projected would be “unlivable” by 2020. Israel counts calories to determine how much food can reach its prisoners, blocking everything but the bare minimum needed for survival: Items banned since the siege began in 2007 include shoes, paper, coffee, tea, wood, cement, and iron.
Despite the withdrawal of its Jewish settler population in 2005, Israel continues to control Gaza’s water, electricity, borders, airspace, coastline, and population registry. It has to approve (and often doesn’t) every person, every molecule of food or raw material, that goes in or out. Even during “ceasefires”, the so-called Israeli Defense Forces conduct deadly raids and airstrikes with no accountability.
Gaza is surely unlivable today, after Israel has bombed 4 hospitals, 2 UN shelters, and its only power plant. More than a tenth of Gaza’s 1.8 million people are now housed in the same UN shelters that have become targets for Israeli bombardment, and 1.2 million Gazans lack access to clean water.
As Americans, we are deeply complicit, and more and more of us are waking up to that reality. The politics of Israel-Palestine in the US are changing, as evidenced by the Gallup poll showing only 25% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 support “Operation Protective Edge”, compared to 55% of those 65 and up.
You can be on the right side of this 21st century struggle against colonialism, or you can sit idly by, congratulating yourself on how reasonable you sound talking about “both sides” and how hatred or religious divisions are the greatest obstacle to “peace”.
The greatest obstacle to peace in Israel-Palestine is apartheid, a racist system of segregation, discrimination, and expulsion. The greatest obstacle to peace is Zionism’s archaic project of an ethnically-exclusive state. The greatest obstacle to peace is the unconditional support of our government, including and especially its “progressive” darlings, for Israeli occupation and human rights abuses.
Empire rots from the inside out, and Congress will be the last domino to fall in the US-Israeli “special relationship”. Sooner or later, material support for Israeli terrorism will become a political dealbreaker. Make it sooner rather than later. Let your Congresspeople know: Enablers of mass murder and ethnic cleansing will lose your vote.
Whether or not you’re PEP – Progressive Except on Palestine – isn’t about ideological purity. It’s about whether you’re willing to stand up to evil when it really matters. Don’t call it evil if you don’t want to. Call it fascism, genocide – just don’t be silent. You’ll regret it.
Media coverage of this week’s ghastly terror attack at two Jewish centers in Kansas City (which claimed the lives of three people) has mostly overlooked a pretty revealing detail about the politics of alleged killer Frazier Glenn Miller:
As Max Blumenthal points out on Mondoweiss, the neo-Nazi and former KKK Grand Dragon has “advocated the formation of an ethnically-exclusive white state in the Deep South” – and in the introduction to his self-published autobiography, Miller praises Israel as the model for his proposed white supremacist state.
Blumenthal zeroes in on this passage [Emphasis mine]:
Our Race is barely 8% of the world’s population, and even that figure is dropping fast. And we produce only about two percent of the infants. We buy twice as many caskets as cradles. Great future, huh?
But, on the other hand, look at Israel, where four and a half million Jews are surrounded by a billion Muslims. Armed to the teeth with one of the largest (if not the largest) nuclear arsenals in the world, these Jews dictate their will upon their Muslim neighbors.
There is a big difference, however, between Jew Israel and White America. Jew Israel is racist. They stick together. They fight for their own people. And, more important, they have the will to survive.
Why can’t we be like the Jews?
Why can’t we have the same racial pride, racial unity, and the will to survive as a people?
If the Jews can have a Jewish state of their own, then why can’t we have a White Christian state of our own?
Well, Whitey, whatcha say?
Strange, isn’t it, that an unabashed anti-Semite like Miller – the rest of the introduction is spent railing against “the Jews”, “the Jews-media”, etc. – should be so sympathetic to the Zionist project of a state that privileges Jews?
Strange that someone who goes on to defend German fascism and trivialize the Jewish Holocaust would claim that Jews have a right to Israel as a haven of Jewish supremacy.
Strange that a man who seeks to liberate the “Jew-ruled western world” would see the need for Israel to be “racist” and “dictate their will upon their Muslim neighbors” (not to mention the indigenous population of the land they stole).
Strange that a neo-fascist vigilante who yelled “Heil, Hitler!” after murdering three people would be the one to ask, “Why can’t we be like the Jews?”
Is it so strange? As Columbia University scholar Joseph Massad has written, Zionism and white nationalist anti-Semitism have historically been allies: Zionist leaders like Theodor Herzl collaborated with anti-Semitic leaders as early as 1903. “Jewish anti-Zionism across Europe and in the United States,” Massad points out, “had the support of the majority of Jews who continued to view Zionism as an anti-Jewish movement well into the 1940s.”
Zionism and anti-Semitism shared a disturbing premise – that Jews, by virtue of their ethnicity, don’t belong in the West – and came to the same conclusion – that the only place Euro/American Jews have a right to be is a European settler colony in Palestine.
The ideology of Miller (and other white nationalists in the public eye, like Norway’s Anders Breivik) offers a key insight into the West’s rising far-right: They support Israel because they see it for what it is – a model ethnocracy.
Beneath the thin veneer of The Middle East’s Only Democracy™, today’s right wing in the US and Europe recognizes a warlike, unapologetically racist settler state that – in the 21st century – continues to deprive a non-white indigenous population of basic human rights, while openly declaring that “this country belongs to us, to the white man.”
Strange, isn’t it? Perhaps not.