by Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri
Introduction by Gilad Atzmon:
Dissident Voice’s chief editor Kim Petersen and B.J Sabri have published a piece debating my positions. I welcome the challenge, as not a single liberal Jew has been courageous enough to do the same.
In the following piece, Petersen/Sabri dispute some of my recent observations about the corrosive impact of the Jewish solidarity movement. Their article is three times longer than my original piece. I will keep my introduction short but I want to elaborate on issues that need clarification.
In my article, The Jewish Solidarity Spin, I deliberately referred to two fictional Palestinian characters. I did so because I expect my readers to put their imaginations into play. Instead of referring to ‘statistics’ or interviewing real Palestinian characters, I expect solidarity enthusiasts to think empathically; putting themselves in other’s shoes. Obviously, I could delve into the actual lives of various Palestinians from the West Bank, the Western Diaspora and Israeli Palestinians. But I did not do so for a reason. I intentionally used characters who, in my eyes, exemplify the Palestinian plight – the refugees in the region. It is these people who are totally ignored by the solidarity movement for good reason. In the eyes of the Zionists and their Jewish opponents, the solution to the plight of the Palestinian refugees endangers the existence of their Jewish State. This is what the Jewish solidarity merchants are determined to prevent.
It is important for me to mention that unlike Petersen and Sabri, I am not convinced that granting Palestinians the right to return is more expensive than funding Israeli genocidal militarism and keeping the region in a state of constant war. I would recommend the invaluable work of Salman Abu Sitta on The Refugee Question. According to ABU Sitta, the return is a viable and desirable option.
Most of Petersen and Sabri’s issues with my Jewish Solidarity Spin paper are addressed in my paper itself. But some crucial questions raised by Petersen and Sabri beg for answers.
The DV article suggests that I did not offer concrete examples how The Palestinian Right Of Return was diluted by Judeo-centric duplicitous terminology. I don’t agree, in fact this is most of what I do in my paper. I point out how the terms ‘end the occupation,’ ‘colonialism,’ ‘apartheid’ and even the newly morphed BDS have become means to legitimate the Jewish State at the expense of the Palestinians and their plight.
Petersen and Sabri argue that expelling the indigenous population, replacing them with new outsiders, expropriating land and then configuring a process and a government to sustain the theft of the land by the settlers amount to “classical colonialism.” Again, I don’t agree. The above is an institutional plunder by means of State terror and policies commonly associated with ‘ethnic cleansing’ or Hitlerian racially driven expansionism. While Zionism and Jewish nationalism exhibit some colonialist symptoms, their actions far exceed and definition of colonialism. As a thinker, I strive to identify the syndrome, rather than conflating the symptoms with the disease.
I am not against BDS ideology or practice. I believe that Israel and its lobbies must be subject to the most severe sanctions. I do have some issues with a cultural and academic boycott. I do differentiate between an artist and a tomato. I see a difference between an academic and an economic entity such as a soda drink factory. I believe that solutions can come from the free exchange of ideas. I’ll talk to anyone who is willing to engage in an intellectual or ideological discussion. If BDS accepts the Two State Solution, as Petersen and Sabri suggest, BDS should admit that openly, publically and in Arabic instead of changing its goal statement in English only in a clandestine manner without informing the Palestinian people.
I thank Kim Petersen and Sabri for the time and the effort they spent on my work. I believe that if JVP and other Jewish solidarity organisations had taken a similar approach, they might have saved themselves from the tsunami of resentment they have managed to bring upon themselves in the last few weeks.
Debating “The Jewish Solidarity Spin”
By Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri / May 28th, 2015
Gilad Atzmon has written a significant essay with no holds barred. He takes on the Jewish solidarity with the Palestinian cause and its implication for the Palestinian Resistance. With solidly constructed arguments, Atzmon opens the floodgates for attentive debates. After introducing his subject with three thematically connected arguments: The Nabil Test, Why Palestine?, Palestine Cause vs. Jewish Solidarity, he goes to the core of matter by identifying the terminology used by the solidarity movement, specifically: Jewish Solidarity; End Of The Occupation; Colonialism; Settler Colonialism; Apartheid; Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).
The strength of Atzmon’s observations comes from his comprehensive understanding of Israel’s origins, the mentality and ideology of its American and European Jewish supporters, and of the propagandistic infrastructures built to support the Zionist state. No surprise, therefore, that his concise analysis of certain aspects of the solidarity movement has shaped his reasoned convictions whereby he sees that such solidarity hides ulterior motives. Still, and considering all the good arguments he made, did he cover all angles of the situation? Are there gray areas in the many topics he discussed? To what extent can one dismiss or accept solidarity with the Palestinians—be it genuine or conditional? Is he suggesting that the Palestinians forgo Jewish solidarity actions because they are tainted?
A major issue that Atzmon seems to strongly contest is the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) initiatives endorsed by the solidarity movement. He sees the BDS as reneging on the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees. Since he did not discuss the wider scenario, are we to assume that he approves of the BDS as long as it does not come from Jewish concerns? Or is he convinced that from whatever quarters it comes, the BDS is a bad idea for the Palestinian cause? Before we debate this and other views, we state that we agree with Atzmon when he questions the motives animating the Jewish Solidarity Project with the Palestinians. Without a doubt, when such solidarity comes from Western Jewish organizations and individuals, we have every right to treat the offer with skepticism and ask what is the catch, who is giving it, and why.
Why is skepticism warranted?
First, the power of Israel (and Zionism) in the West, the entrenchment of the Zionist ideology amidst not a few Western Jewish groups identifying with the Israeli project, and the ceaseless manipulation of Nazi atrocities against Germans of Jewish faith are all factors that shape the attitudes, political thinking, and ideological approach to the Palestinian issue. It is not expected, therefore, that these groups deviate from deep-seated beliefs and side with the truth about the fascist nature of Israel and the racism of Zionism1 ] as developed from Herzl to Jabotinsky to Begin-Sharon and to Netanyahu. Second, agendas of groups or individuals seeking to solve the Palestinian Issue (or express solidarity with the Palestinians) but without touching the policies of the Zionist state are not only antithetical to Palestinian interests but also deceptive in that they perpetuate through orchestrated duplicity the role of Israel in decapitating Palestinian dignity and inalienable national, social, cultural, and personal rights.
One must also realize there is a strong vocal minority of progressivist secular Jews (or those who no longer identify as Jews) who oppose Israel, Zionism, or both out of intellectual experience and disillusionment with the Zionist experiment and its genocidal bent. The problem is that in such cases, we are dealing with individuals, not organizations. That is, whereas an organization can extend its spheres of actions to many sectors of society and media, an individual often remains a wise voice screaming in the wilderness. Other Jewish groups that side with Palestinians do exist, of course, such as Jewish religious groups. Our strongest impression is that these are ineffectual in putting up much fight with Zionists because throughout history, ethical values rarely, if ever, prevailed in any conflict. Consequently, legitimate suspicion over the intent of solidarity donors is warranted in order to separate the genuine from the bogus.
Let us examine what Atzmon wrote:
The Nabil Test Argument
Delving into the Palestinian and Israeli psyches may be a way to explore the subtle emotional realities assumed to govern both the relations between occupied and occupiers, and their respective expectations. Atzmon did this job well. However, due to its limited dialectical validity—it is farfetched to think that most Israelis and Palestinians think in the same way as Nabil, Yusuf, and Avi—, such an argument cannot be taken as a universal model to implement revamped behavioral responses leading to practical changes on the ground. Neither could it be considered as a litmus test for how things would work versus the Jewish Solidarity Project (JSP) purported to induce Israel to change its genocidal policies and ideological conduct toward the Palestinians. In addition, the 100 years of Zionist encroachment on historic Palestine and the history that passed since then cannot be reduced to imaginary dialogues meant to show the complexity of the situation. Let us examine some of Atzmon’s statements:
Atzmon: “Nabil’s interests lie in the Right Of Return. He may not necessarily want to return to his land. But he wants his rights to be recognized once and for all. He wants his children to have citizenship and enjoy the prospect of a better future.”
Comment: The thesis that Nabil wants “his rights to be recognized …” does not resolve the serious, if not insurmountable, problems that lie ahead. That is, even if the Israelis were to give the Palestinians their natural rights fully and in every respect, the societal, juridical, economic, political praxis, and ideological configurations of the Zionist state would certainly impede the emergence of any genuine Palestinian political identity and institutions, be they independent from Israel or integrated with it.
Atzmon: “Yusuf knows that the ‘End Of Occupation’ has nothing to do with him. Gaza is not under occupation; it is, in fact, an open air prison.”
Comment: Stating that Gaza is an “open air prison” is correct and widely known among those who attempt to ascertain the facts of the situation. But that Gaza is “not under occupation” is a flimsy technicality. Like neurosis or paranoia, Israeli military occupation of Gaza need not be physical to be noticed. It should not be an argument to confirm that the hermetic blockade of Gaza—by air, sea, and land—is the physical demonstration that the occupation exists and it is proceeding by other means.
Atzmon: “Yusuf could correctly argue that colonialism is a theoretical notion that has zero significance to him and his people. Yusuf may well think that when Palestine was subject to the British Mandate, Palestinians were better off. So as far as he is concerned, genuine colonialism might actually improve his situation.”
Comment: The statement that Yusuf could correctly argue “colonialism is a theoretical notion, etc.” is farfetched because Atzmon has already hypothesized that Yusuf is educated; hence, it is certain that he knows what colonialism means exactly and even knows its equivalent Arabic term, although he may consider it in a way not categorized according to Western political lexicon. It is also farfetched because the practical manifestations of colonialism and subjugation are such that adhering to precise definition to identify it is superfluous. Therefore, it cannot be deemed by Yusuf, as Atzmon hypothesized, a “theoretical notion”. Of course, colonialism, as a specialized term in the political dictionary of the West, could be re-named in countless ways by occupied peoples. Yet, however colonialism is defined, the unadulterated meaning is unmistakable. It is either the progressive elimination of a nation to make a space for groups coming from different origins in order to form their own nation as in the classical colonialization of Turtle Island (colonial designation: North America). Or as the forced sharing of land and resources, but with the colonizer maintaining absolute preponderance in everything while reducing the occupied people to meaningless appendages of the occupier—the colonization of South Africa is an example. Where does Zionist colonialism stand? We will discuss that shortly.
Atzmon: “Yusuf may well think that when Palestine was subject to the British Mandate, Palestinians were better off. So as far as he is concerned, genuine colonialism might actually improve his situation.”
Comment: Attributing grades of preference between “genuine” colonialism (British Mandate) and Israeli Zionist colonialism is a non sequitur. It suffices to say that such mechanistic rationalization presupposes that colonized peoples are either predisposed to slavery, incapable of deciding their own destiny, or cannot find the third alternative which is to fight their way out of the shackles of the colonizer. We reject, therefore, a comparison whose inevitable interpretation means a choice between two themes both antithetical to freedom and emancipation. In addition, Atzmon left this comparison to dangle in one regard: how does it work vis-à-vis the solidarity project?
Atzmon: “Yusuf may think there is no Apartheid. He is locked behind walls because he is a victim of Jewish racism or Jewish exclusivism, you decide. Yusuf is not very happy with BDS, to start with it only applies to Israeli products produced in the occupied territories. BDS doesn’t address his plight as a refugee, and like many Gazans, etc.”
Comment: This is another non sequitur. It presupposes that Yusuf has reached the point of intellectual dereliction that he cannot define his situation. We argue: since Yusuf is educated and with good knowledge about history and the conditions of the Gazans under Israeli plans of slow genocide, that he also knows what Apartheid is without the need to look up its Afrikaan’s meaning. He may have other names for it, but he knows what the deprivation of basic human rights is, and he knows very well what the destruction of homes means. Yet, as we stated in the previous comment, Atzmon left this comparison to dangle in one regard: how does it work vis-à-vis the solidarity project?
Atzmon: “[Like Nabil] he wants his rights enforced. For Yusuf, the Right Of Return is the core of the solution to his plight.”
Comment: We agree that he wants his rights enforced. We beg to differ on specificity. We think that Yusuf knows that he would never give up his Right of Return. Yet, he also knows that this is not the core of solution to his plight. Whether he would be living in an independent Palestinian state, or in a dependent but nominally “independent” economic entity tied to the Israel as proposed by Netanyahu, he knows that the plight of Palestinians requires gigantic investment and astronomical, free financial aids that no one will be willing to contribute in the amount needed for a successful, self-sustaining society. He also knows that the Zionist state and its electorates, more than ever prone to extremist fascism,2 have long passed the point of political compromise with the Palestinians. Yusuf, therefore, knows his options are very limited. He also knows that the only thing that he could do at this point, considering the balance of military forces with Israel and U.S. imperialistic objectives in the region, is to wait and see whether the genuine Palestinian Resistance, not Mahmood Abbas and his cronies, could bring about changes to the stalemated liberation of what remains of Palestinian lands.
Atzmon: “When you suggest to Avi that Israel is a colonial state, Avi will giggle, ‘If Israel is a settler state, then I want to return to my mother state, just tell me what this state is.’”
Comment: Atzmon takes issue with the designation of Israel as a colonial state, and as per dictionary definition, he may be correct. Still, we find this to be eminently answerable and thus undermining his point: the state is the country from which Avi’s parents and grandparents emigrated. If his ancestors were citizens, then whether his familial lineage accepted this land as a homeland or not is another matter.
Atzmon: “Avi supports the call all his heart. Avi does not like the settlers, he has nothing to do with them … So far, Avi, a light Israeli patriot agrees with the entire new Palestinian solidarity terminology.”
Comment: First, BDS is a boycott of all goods made in Israel or by Israel in the West Bank. So whether Avi dislikes settlers or not has nothing to do with BDS. BDS cannot be boiled down to only a backsliding on the Right of Return. If the BDS reaches its theoretical maximum effect, then Israel would suffer economically and Avi, as an Israeli, would be equally affected. Israel could/would be forced to back-peddle on its intransigence to the Right or Return or endure the economic consequences. Second, Atzmon, being the scriptwriter for the Avi character, appears to think that settlers are the obstacles to peace. In reality, and for obvious empirical reasons based on how Israel came to exist, we consider that despite statehood, all Israeli Jewish citizens (with some exceptions for Mizrahim and the few hundred Samaritans), whether born in occupied Palestine or descendants of earlier settlers are settlers by logical definition and implication. As such, and considering the choices of Israeli Jewish voters during the past 64 years since the installation of Israel, most, if not a great majority of, Israelis are the obstacle to peace.
Atzmon: “The new Palestinian solidarity terminology is designed to appeal to Avi at the expense of Yusuf, Nabil and the vast majority of the Palestinian people. But the key difference is this: for Avi the Right of Return is a red flag; he sees it as an attempt to rob him of his ‘Jewish homeland.’”
Comment: We doubt this is the “design”; it seems more a byproduct of power politics. Nevertheless, we believe Atzmon is conflating the shifts in the border demarcation in the BDS’s call with the Right of Return. The BDS, as far as we understand, does not reject the Right of Return. It states:
There is hardly a right that is more morally urgent and more legally compelling than the Palestinian right of return. Regardless of who they are, where they came from, or when they became homeless, refugees the world over have an inalienable right to return to their homes. They and their descendants retain that right until the moment of its translation into reality – when they are permitted to return, and can chose whether or not they wish to do so. Far from being an abstract concept, this is a core principle of international law, designed to protect equally any individual or people from ethnic cleansing, dispossession, and national oppression. [Italics added]
The Why Palestine Argument
Atzmon: “Have you ever wondered what is it that attracts people from all over the world to Palestine and the plight of the Palestinians … One possible answer is that Palestine has been a symbol of gross and global injustice. As such, it provides a legitimate ideological, political and spiritual vehicle to criticize Jewish power; the Lobby, Hollywood, Jewish over representation in finance, politics, media and so on.”
Comment: Once the logical question and answer were posed in the premise, fallacy sets in the material that followed. People around the world are attracted to the Palestinian issue, not because of Jewish power, the Lobby, Hollywood, Jewish over representation in finance, politics, media and so on—these are indicators of power in the US and Europe. A logical and most congruent answer would be the Palestinian issue attracts people from around the world because of Israel, its continuous crimes against the Palestinians, and its unremitting will to eradicate them systematically. American and European Jews, like many other groups, covet power. This is a cross-cultural phenomenon denoting resistance to the concentration of power, wealth, and decision-making in few hands. However, when Zionists secure the backing of power attained in the United States and Europe for Israel, the attitude of much of the world toward so-called Jewish power assumes different political tones since the issue is no longer about Jews but about Zionism. And when Zionists use this power to finance Israel from American taxpayers’ money, reactions could follow from any source—American and international. Israel, on the other hand, is another issue despite its extensive network of connections with the Jews of the world. To conclude, people of conscience do not look at Hollywood or media empires and to whoever owns or controls them. Instead, they identify culprits and responsibilities when such owners clearly support Israel and deny Palestinian rights.
Atzmon: “This explanation is consistent with the Zionist and Hasbara claim that anti Zionism is a ‘Jewish issue.’ Seemingly, Zionists and Hasbara merchants aren’t always wrong. Indeed, healthy and genuine opposition to Israel, Zionism and the Lobby entails an understanding of Jewishness, Jewish culture and Jewish identity politics. Zionism is a Jewish nationalist movement, Israel defines itself as a Jewish State, and the Israeli Lobby is a Jewish political adventure concerned primarily with Jewish interests. Bottom line- Israel and its crimes can only be understood fully within the context of Jewish racism, Jewish exceptionalism and Jewish culture.”
Comment: Conceptually, Atzmon’s thesis is sound. We have many reservations on a few concepts such as identity, etc. The subject though goes beyond the scope of this work. Having stated that, we think, with very good reasons, that besides Jewish racism, Jewish exceptionalism, and Jewish culture, Israel and its crimes can be fully understood when correlated to the unprecedented protection given to it by the imperialist system. Take this protection out of the equation, and Israel will shrivel like a dry leaf.
Atzmon: “Is the situation in Palestine more dramatic than malnutrition in Africa or the horrors in Syria and Iraq?”
Comment: This is an erroneous analogy. On the surface, it seems congruent to compare the Palestinian plight to Iraqis and Syrians thus intentionally leading to a possible NO as an answer. The Palestinian Issue is like nothing else in the world history. In summary: Jewish European Zionists working under the wings of scheming British colonialism gathered unrelated people (whose remote ancestors had never lived in what has become known as Palestine) from disparate places and origins and transferred them to modern Palestine under the pretension that the land they migrated to belongs to them based on assumed religious connections with an ethnically differently people who lived in the same area over 2000 years ago. Once the pretension came to fruition, the remaining objective was to replace the Palestinians with the intruders at a heavy price—to the Palestinians, of course. By contrast, Iraq’s devastation by the U.S. was of 1991, followed by 13-years of U.S. sanctions and blockade, and the invasion and occupation (2003) that are lasting until today under many guises. As for Syria’s devastation by American-Saudi financed, armed, and trained “Islamist organizations”, it cannot be compared (temporally, socially, economically, or politically) to the devastation that the Palestinians are enduring at the hands of the Israelis. And here we are pointing to the Israeli attempt to erase, permanently, the Palestinian identity, historical heritage, and rights.
The Palestine Cause vs. Jewish Solidarity Argument
Atzmon: The Right Of Return offers a clear course of action that unites Palestinians in the region and in the Diaspora, but it evokes fear amongst Israelis, Zionists and Jewish anti Zionists. Jewish solidarity has been shockingly effecting in subduing the call for the Right of Return. It was gradually diluted and eventually drowned in a tsunami of duplicitous terminology designed to appeal to Jewish supporters …”
Comment: This is a strong charge, and if it is true, then the anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist front has to take a clear position on the issue. However, Atzmon did not offer concrete examples how this is so and what are the dialectical investigations he made thereof to prove his charge?
The End of the Occupation Argument
Atzmon: “The ‘End of The Occupation’ is a legitimization of Israel through the back door – it confirms that the Jewish State within the pre-1967 green line borders is a valid and legitimate political unit. ‘End of the Occupation’ limits the solidarity discussion to the West Bank; it is nothing short of a spit in the face to 6,000,000 Palestinian refugees and a complete dismissal of their right of return.”
Comment: We endorse the statement without any reservation—he put strong teeth in the weak and paralyzed mouth of the truth. Further, if he sees Israel going back to the pre-1967 borders an act of legitimization, then the right thing to do, as per the original Palestinian National Charter of 1964, is to declare the entire Zionist influx to Palestine since the early 1900s, as well as the occupation that followed as null and void. The Charter also declares that regardless of the passage of time, Palestine will always belong to the Palestinians, and that Zionism has no claim on Palestine or for a state on it. What we just said is the meaning that the phrase, “The ‘End of The Occupation’ is a legitimization of Israel through the back door – it confirms that the Jewish State within the pre-1967 green line borders.” Agreed, but this is taking us back to square one. The issue would then become this: because the existence of Israel is illegitimate, then how to reverse it?
The Colonialism Argument
Atzmon: “But Zionism is not colonialism nor has it ever been… Zionism is a movement with no precedent in history. Can you think of another historical moment when people ‘returned’ to an imaginary ‘homeland’ after 2000 years and asked the indigenous population to move out to make room for the former ‘residents?’”
Comment: Zionism is not colonialism is confusion made simple. Yes, they are different, but that is only semantics and the distinction stops there. Since Zionists defined Zionism as the “‘national” movement for the Jewish people to return to their mythical homeland in Palestine, the following was the practical consequence of that definition. The planning and implementation of that return could not have proceeded without 1) transformational action: expelling of the original population and replacement with new groups, violent intimidation to the Palestinians to leave, expropriation of land, buying properties from unsuspecting Palestinians, and 2) organizational processes to configure a sustained settlement of the new people to avoid potential return to native countries. What we just described cannot be but an organized, classical colonialization through material processes denoting the physical application of the colonialist theory through transfer (not immigration), encroachment on and the expropriation of land where the Zionist project wanted to install its state, pointedly—Palestine.
In his Iron Wall (1924), Vladimir Jabotinsky expressed the concept of colonialism as follows: “Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population. Which means that it can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population – behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.” For how Herzl outlined his colonialist plan for Palestine, read here. And to cap the issue, read this from JTA: “Invite American [sic] to Zionst [sic] Colonization Department.” If Zionism, besides its declaratory manifesto, is not colonialist, colonist, or colonizing, then what is it? Of course, one could substitute other terms such as dispossessing and annexationist, but the effect would be very much the same just with different terminology, so it seems unfruitful in this regard to be sidetracked in word play
The Settler Colonialism Argument
Atzmon: “Another grossly misleading term promulgated by the Jewish progressive solidarity campaigners is ‘colonialism.’ It seems a desperate attempt to further conceal the truth of the Jewish National project.”
Comment: Yes, it is misleading, but it could also be said that Atzmon is engaging in semantics. Yes, there is no motherland in the traditional sense, but there is an influx of settlers/colonists—driven by the purpose of colonialism (Herzl expressed this sentiment when he praised the vision of British colonialism in Africa (read here). We also agree on the attempt to mislead. As we argued above (under the heading The Colonialism Argument),we consider terminologies excogitated to differentiate between various forms of colonialism as a tactic meant to empty the original concept of colonialism by creating the impression that such terminologies are unrelated or have different meanings and whose acceptance has been rendered more propitious by the meaning accorded to it.
Atzmon: “But the term ‘settler colonialism’ does not illuminate anything.”
Comment: It illuminates that Ashkenazim are people from outside historical Palestine.
The Apartheid Argument
Atzmon: “Apartheid is a racist system of exploitation but Israel doesn’t want to exploit the Palestinians, it wants them ‘gone.’”
Comment: This is an excellent point. Countless writers pointed to the genocidal intent and nature of the Zionist state, but the point was made most effectively by comrade Gary Zatzman.3
Atzmon: “At least from an ideological perspective, Israel is a Hitlerian racially driven, expansionist ethnic cleanser.”
Comment: Does Hitler need to be dragged into this? There are no races; there is no such thing as Jewish people.4 This is a group-driven crime. Moreover, we find the term “ethnic cleanser” diversionary. Even Ilan Pappe has changed his stance; he now acknowledges it as genocide.5
The BDS Argument
Atzmon: “It is devastating that even the call for BDS has become an instrument to legitimise the Jewish State within its pre 1967 borders.”
Comment: Atzmon poses a direct challenge to BDS. Does it legitimize the Jewish state or does it cave into contemporary power realities?
Atzmon: “The Jewish world and Israeli society are focused on the West Bank and have no interest in Gaza or the sand around it.”
Comment: It is certain, however, that the dispossessors have much interest in the shores of Gaza as a maritime front for tourism but also, and most importantly, in the hydrocarbons that lay offshore from Gaza.6
Atzmon: “How did it happen to the Palestinians that their solidarity discourse is attuned to the voice of the oppressor rather than the victim?”
Comment: It is fair enough for outsiders (in this case defined as non-Palestinians who do not suffer the dispossession, occupation, and oppression) to question perceived injustices in resisting dispossession. But ultimately, the decisions must be rendered by the aggrieved people, the Palestinians themselves. One of us (Kim Petersen) has argued this point versus the supposed BDS skeptic, Noam Chomsky.7 Could this argument not be thrown back at Atzmon? It would seem prudent to make clear that Atzmon is merely raising the question and hopes that Palestinians do soul searching to arrive at their own decisions on how to resist dispossession, occupation, and oppression.
Atzmon: “When the call for Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions of Israeli goods was established in 2005 in Ramallah its first demand was for Israel: End[ing] its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantl[ing] the Wall…. But in 2010, its primary goal was changed significantly, it now reads: ‘Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall.’”
Comment: We agree. However, the BDS movement in the Jewish Solidarity concept is in line with the two-state solution that many Palestinians — out of desperation — have accepted. It is no surprise, therefore, that many European states, known for their open support of the Zionist state and accepting of its atrocities, are now recognizing a state called Palestine. Is that for the love of Palestine? No. We firmly believe that the European move would likeliest not have been made without collaboration with the United States, American Zionists, and Israel. Objective: to allow for two things: 1) give Israel the time to shape the configuration of the envisioned Palestinian “state” while taking notice of changes on the ground, and 2) the Europeans know that they cannot force Israel through the UN or other means to change its plans for Palestine. Is the BDS, therefore, playing games? Quite possibly, but that does not diminish other aspects of the initiative.
The Jewish Solidarity Pet Argument
Atzmon: “A decade of Jewish left hegemony within the pro Palestinian movement has reduced the Palestinians and their plight into a mere ‘solidarity pet.’ …”
Comment: Atzmon’s observation may be relevant, but only in the context of the Jewish left (western and Israeli), not the Palestinian cause. To be sure, this cause is not fought inside the corridors of the Jewish Left or any other Left, it is independent from it, and it is fought inside Palestine. Did the solidarity movement change anything on the ground? No; yet the Palestinians welcome any act of solidarity, especially from the Jewish Left to show that not all Jews are callous, fascist Zionists. Sure, this posturing is opportunistic. But what can the powerless Palestinians in the West Bank of the Jordan River (and Gaza) do about it, if Mahmood Abbas and his gang accept it? Besides, has any solidarity movement eliminated the Israeli genocidal blockade of Gaza? Interestingly, do the Palestinians buy everything they hear? We need to ask them! Our impression: notwithstanding the true motivations that drive the Jewish solidarity movement, the role it plays is decidedly relevant although of no special consequential or practical importance: it keeps the Palestinian issues from sliding into oblivion.
Atzmon: “The Jewish world and Israeli society have no interest in Gaza … But Israelis and world Jewry do care about the West Bank … It is this internal Jewish political debate regarding the West Bank that has managed to shape the entire Palestinian solidarity discourse diverting the attention from the Palestinians and their true cause.”
Comment: Let us agree with Atzmon’s conclusions but with reservations on the key idea that shaped them. He did not explain in which way actions or positions taken by the solidarity movement divert attention from the Palestinians. This seems to be Atzmon’s concern: as Palestinians and supporters are concerned with issues such the project of Israelis and American Zionist Jews to keep the West Bank of the Jordan River,8 expel its citizens to Jordan, or declare a still-born Palestinian state in Gaza, here come American Jewish groups preaching sanctions and divestments, all while leaving the core of the Palestinian cause largely untouched—the right of return, for example. Yes. We agree that such initiatives could potentially distract from fundamental issues whose importance goes well beyond incidental matters. Among such issues is the ultimate, logical goal (seeing that the two-state solution is no longer viable), which is to dismantle the Zionist structures of Israel and turn the Zionist state into a Palestine open for all its current peoples. Considering this argument, is Atzmon proposing to stop the solidarity movement and concentrate on this ultimate goal? We believe such a question is diversionary and inconsequential. The BDS is a plank in obtaining justice for Palestinians. The writers take it that Atzmon’s goal is that the BDS movement not sacrifice Palestinian territory or rights due to the rigors of decades of occupation. As the people most directly affected, morally, this is a decision for the Palestinian masses to decide.
Atzmon: Would Nelson Mandela allow a bunch of recovered Afrikaners run the Anti- Apartheid struggle on his behalf? …”
Comment: Excellent point! However, the Palestinians did not appoint JVP, IJAN, JFJFP, J-big, Mondo Weiss, etc. to speak on their behalf, and never asked them to run the struggle for them. Likewise, no one asked us to comment on Gilad Atzmon’s essay, but we felt that our unwavering commitment to fairness, to justice, to the struggle against imperialism, colonialism, Zionism, fascism, and violence is a very strong motive to participate in the discussion.