Defeating or Aiding Racism?

Respect the earth, respect the plant people, the animal people, fish people, even the stone people.

– Wequash1

The wisdom of the Wampanoag — what should be commonsense and common decency for everyone — holds that all people deserve respect despite their differences.

That wisdom has importance for all social justice movements, movements that often are represented by a kaleidoscope of humanity. The pro-Palestinian movement also contains a cross-section of humanity, but recently it is beset by internecine carping. Zionists must be beside themselves in amusement at the spectacle of anti-Zionists sniping other anti-Zionists.

Wise heads should agree on an important first principle for all anti-racists: racism and discrimination are anathema in all forms.

Second, any fight against racism and discrimination must scrupulously observe the first principle. Racists fighting racism is hypocritical and is guaranteed to undermine the legitimacy of the anti-racist racists.

Third, fidelity to the first two principles is essential to maintaining the solidarity needed to defeat racism and discrimination.

Assuming that the three principles espoused are sound, then a logical target of racists would be to undermine the first and second principles. If a group were being assailed for its racism and discrimination, then, in true divide-and-conquer fashion, sowing seeds of dissension among its anti-racism opponents is the obvious tactic. Since it is such an obvious tactic, one would think that an anti-racism movement would not to be taken in by such flimflammery.

Despite intellectually effete protestations to the contrary (by a nonetheless powerful and resourceful lobby), the racism and discrimination at the core of Zionism is so in-your-face that it is irrefutable to any sane human being. Colleague BJ Sabri and I wrote a 12-part series “Defining Zionist Israeli Racism” in 2007-2008 that laid the racism bare.2 The Zionist-Israeli racism has not diminished an iota in the years since; it would appear rather that Zionists have become more emboldened. Israeli Jews are aware of the deep-seated racism within their state, as Jerusalem-born Miko Peled, the son of an Israeli general and a staunch Zionist, revealed in his speech in Seattle (see video).

The examples of racism and discrimination continue to be numerous and myriad. Usually, among conscionable people, special consideration is made to spare children from the calamities meted out by adults. Israeli Zionists seem unfazed by such a morality.3

Thus, the education of Palestinian learners is disrupted.4 Most recently Palestinians were prevented from taking SAT tests.5 And when Palestinian learners excel, their achievements are disregarded. Two young Palestinian Israelis who placed second in an international Physics Competition were conspicuously omitted from a report on the winners in Israel Hayom.6 Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli police,7 and in Israeli jails, the children are abused.8 Most egregiously, Palestinian children are used by Israeli forces as human shields, a practice that attests to the lack of courage (and morality) of such warriors.9

The racism of adults is passed to Israeli children. Israeli school textbooks inculcate the racism.10 The Palestinians, however, approach their children’s education cognizant that there is often more than one side to a story.11

Given the context, is it any wonder then that Israeli girls could engage in such hateful acts as desecrating the Koran?12 Defilement of Islam is a recurring theme of Israeli Zionist racism.13

Even Jewish rabbis take part in the discrimination.14

Underlying all the racism and occupation is annexation of territory.15 East Jerusalem is being de-Arabized16 and Jewish colonists (euphemistically referred to as “settlers” to disguise the fact that they are encroaching upon Palestinian territory [which all of Mandate Palestine may legitimately be argued to constitute]).17 The crimes of the settlers are among the most hateful, even to the extent of honoring racist crimes that beggar the imagination (e.g., Jewish “settler,” Zvi Struck, was well received by Israeli officials although convicted of brutally beating, tying up, and leaving a Palestinian child naked at the side of the road.)18

The violence by settlers is rampant.19 Jewish colonists steal the soil,20 steal the water21 while Palestinians are bereft of potable water.22 The colonists are very generous with waste water though.23

Destruction of graves is yet another Israeli violation against Palestinians. Ironically and sadly, Palestinian graves were even reported to be in the way of building a Jewish museum of tolerance.24

Israel has also forbidden Palestinians from commemorating their slain and others who were driven into exile.25 Is this what one would expect from a people whose mantra is “Never Forget”?

Those Palestinians who remained in Palestine find themselves reduced to poverty.26 Such is the depravity of Zionists that Gazans are kept under siege and forced to survive on a minimalist diet,27, a “diet” that has had severe adverse effects.28 Why would a people enact a food blockade, and endanger the lives of people, especially their children? Why do such actions speak to? Why has the western world stood by?

Palestinian-Canadian activist Dr. Ismail Zayid noted, “Those people in Gaza are not allowed to have cleaning and bathing supplies, because clean Gazans constitute a real threat to Israeli security. Moreover, Hummus is a dangerous element and is not allowed in! Israeli democracy and concern for human rights are beyond description, and, hence, all these policies are fully supported by European and North American democracies…”

The poverty and desperate state of Palestinians has enabled some Israeli businesses to exploit the labor.29 A headline in the Israeli daily Haaretz emphasized how every last coin was being squeezed out of the Palestinians: “Israel is getting away with robbing Palestinian taxes.” Particularly insidious is theft of organs from people, including Palestinians.30

Polls make clear that the racism has a solid foothold in Jewish Israeli society.31 The racism is not confined to Arabs though. Another poll reveals racist attitudes toward Blacks.32 The racism goes beyond religious affiliation. It does not help much if you are a Black Jew. You will still be discriminated against.33

What kind of country would put a ban on Palestinian spouses as Israel does?

All this anti-Arabism, Islamophobia is carried out against a people who — according to one account — saved Judaism from the brink.34

I have endeavored to lay out in sufficient referenced detail the darkness of Zionism. That detail amounts to only a snapshot of the crimes; however, it does point to the depth, expansiveness, and coordination that lies behind the racism and discrimination. It is a willful strategy. Palestinians and other peoples have suffered at the hands of the Zionists. The occupations, oppression, racism, and discrimination demand immediate and sustained condemnation from all people committed to social justice.

Yet, a schism has appeared within the pro-Palestinian movement. Ali Abunimah, whose Electronic Intifada website is a bellwether of information surrounding the Palestinian struggle against Zionism, has questioned whether some persons are kosher enough for the pro-Palestinian movement. It caused activist Jeffrey Blankfort to ask, “… who in hell … commissioned you [Ali Abunimah] to be the decider of who is and who isn’t a part of this movement and the judge on high of his or her activities?”

It is entirely possible, and plausible, that some elements opposed to Zionism are not motivated by support for the human rights of Palestinians and other victims of Zionism. The amorphous pro-Palestinian movement is not a monolith (in much the same way that world Jewry is not a monolith). It is well recognized that Zionism does not reflect the views of all Jews. It must be equally recognized that any anathematic views held some people within the pro-Palestinian movement do not belong to pro-Palestinian supporters as a whole.

The commonest tactic used by Zionists is to deflect criticism and opposition to their racism and crimes by accusing their critics of being racist toward them; in other words, absurd as it is, opposing Jewish racism makes one anti-Jewish. It is an effective tactic because, as one can well imagine, what would be more appalling for anti-racists than finding themselves being labelled as racists?

*****

Adherence to the first principle of zero tolerance for racism is a sine qua non for social justice activists. However, it is not surprising that many otherwise well-intentioned activists may become over-exuberant in their repugnance after witnessing or being apprised of horrific Zionist Israeli crimes. People in the throes of shock, grief, or disgust may make remarks borne solely out of overwrought emotion that does not belie their humanitarian conscience. While strident criticism and name calling is expected from Zionists, that it would come from among pro-Palestinian activists — without seeking to clarify what was meant by the fellow activists — is a huge gift to Zionists. It is the dream Zionist tactic: splitting the pro-Palestinian movement.

It is reasonable that violations of core principles of anti-racism would cause dissension among dedicated anti-racists. I choose to distance myself from certain anti-Zionists because of violations of the first principle. However, I do not take it upon myself to initiate a “witch hunt” through the rank-and-file of pro-Palestinian activists to judge their wholesomeness. A few bad apples and infiltrators are to be expected within the ranks of a social justice movement. That untoward individuals exist within a movement does not undermine the legitimacy of a cause, the principles upon which a movement is based, nor the justice which is sought by a movement.

Each person is responsible for forming his own principles and remaining true to those principles. Whatever impure motivations that might guide one person belong solely to that person. It is fine to distance oneself from proclamations made by others or the tactics of others. Of course it is; the movement is not a monolith. What is not fine is to attempt to impose one’s conceptions about what is acceptable comment and views upon a diverse solidarity movement — especially when such impositions might endanger the cause that is the raison d’être for the movement.

Principle four: Principled activism would never undermine the solidarity required to bring about social justice.

  1. Manitonquat (Medicine Story), “Wequash’s World” in Wampanoag Morning: Stories from the Land of the People of the First Light before the English Invasion (AuthorHouse, 2006) Kindle edition. []
  2. “Defining Zionist Israeli Racism” 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12; Dissident Voice. []
  3. Israel subjecting Palestinian children to ‘spiral of injustice.’” []
  4. Palestinian children deprived of basic rights to education.” []
  5. Israel vs. No. 2 Pencils,” Harvard Crimson. []
  6. A Quantum of Racism.” []
  7. Rights group: Police making illegal arrests of Palestinian children.” []
  8. Abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli jails.” []
  9. See “Complaint lodged in case of 16-year-old girl used as a human shield” and “Two IDF soldiers charged with using 9-year-old ‘human shield’ in Gaza war.” []
  10. See “In Israel: ‘Textbook Warns, Associating With Arabs Is Dangerous’” and “Israeli textbooks foster hate, says author.” []
  11. PA adopts textbook, banned in Israel, offering both sides’ narratives.” []
  12. Jewish girls desecrate Koran in Hebron.” []
  13. Israeli soldiers in uniform stroll inside the Aqsa mosque.” []
  14. Rabbis signed a ruling against leasing to Arabs.” []
  15. “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is essentially a contest for control of the region’s resources, principally land and water. To the extent that these assets are used by one antagonist, occupation has been structured so that the other loses.” In “The Socio-economic Impact of Settlements on Land, Water, and the Palestinian Economy,” LeMonde Diplomatique. []
  16. Occupation approves expansion of settlement near Jerusalem“; “Holy Land: more than 1,000 Palestinians face eviction to make way for Christian theme park” []
  17. Jewish settlers plan takeover of Palestinian houses, says Peace Bloc.” []
  18. Israeli officials ‘honor’ settler who tortured Palestinian child, leaving him naked and bound.” []
  19. Graham Peebles, “Unsettled, Unlawful, Unresolved: Israeli Settlers in a Foreign Land,” Dissident Voice, 3 February 2012. []
  20. West Bank settlers stealing tons of soil from Palestinian land.” []
  21. Settlers taking over Palestinian springs: UN report.” []
  22. 90% of Gaza water ‘unsafe for drinking,’ says UN” []
  23. Flows of settler sewage into several Palestinian villages south of Hebron is a human rights issue.” []
  24. Row over plan to build Jewish museum of tolerance on site of Muslim cemetery.” []
  25. Israel criminalizes commemoration of the Nakba.” []
  26. Report: 78% of East Jerusalem Palestinians live in poverty.” []
  27. 2,279 calories per person: How Israel made sure Gaza didn’t starve.” []
  28. . “Israel’s Blockade Of Gaza Puts Palestinian Children’s Health At Risk: Report” and “Gaza’s Children — Falling Behind: The Effect of the Blockade on Child Health in Gaza,” Save the Children report. []
  29. West Bank resident Nazar Fukra says he was paid less than half the minimum wage and no social benefits from Solor Gas Industries.” []
  30. Israel admits to organ thefts.” []
  31. 50% against equal rights for Arabs.” []
  32. Poll: 52% of Jewish Israelis say illegal African migrants a ‘cancer.’” []
  33. See “Ethiopian immigrants earning 30%-40% less than Arabs” and “Israel’s treatment of Ethiopian Jews ‘racist.’” []
  34. See “So, what did the Muslims do for the Jews?” by David J Wasserstein. []

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kim@dissidentvoice.org. Read other articles by Kim.