PEP, and Why You Don’t Want to Be PEP

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Last week I had a great post written by Anne Silver titled, It is an awful and uncomfortable situation to encounter Jews who are progressive on every issue but Palestine. I thought Anne had put her finger on something we've all felt. Well, the other night I found out that others have already turned this rock over, and they have a name for it: "PEP." As in, He's PEP. Or, yo mama is PEP. And PEP means "Progressive Except for Palestine." My mama really is PEP!

The friend who told me about PEP says that this conference I'm going to Sunday is "the outer shores of PEP," meaning as left as you can go and still be PEP, conservative/religious-nationalist on Palestine. We shall see. I think there are some non-PEPpers there, such as Amy Goodman. But there are bound to be a lot of PEP talkers. Jerry Nadler is PEP. Ralph Seliger is PEP. J Street is kinda PEP. Obama: PEP.

I'm planning to accuse a lot of people of being PEP in the days to come. It feels as good as it used to to say someone was PC. Hey stop with the PEP, man.

There's actually a little more of a point here. The danger to the PEP crowd is the Nakba Jews like Hannah Mermelstein, Aaron Levitt, and Anna Baltzer. These people are truly a movement. They weren't here in any force 10 years ago, so far as I can tell; and now they're here, grieving for Palestinian human rights and digging up the Nakba, too. The American Jewish Committee saw the wave coming two years ago when it did its Anti-Zionism = Antisemitism paper. The AJC was trying to head the anti-Zionists off at the pass, and failed. They're growing in number. The great weakness of PEP is that it is hypocritical, and is out of step with the post-racial age. Kids always sniff out hypocrisy and want to smash it.

I want to suggest (and people should correct me if I'm wrong) that the anti-Zionist Nakba Jews, who believe in the right of return pretty much, are to the mainstream PEP Jewish crowd as the two-state Jews of Peace Now were to the mainstream 20 years ago. People derided the Peace Now types as crazies. Now of course the Peace Now position is adopted by everyone–except for the neocons, and the neocons are history (believe me). But if the consensus two-state types dither, and it looks like they will, then the Aaron Levitt's of the world, with their strong and poetic sense of justice, and real feeling for the Arab experience, are just going to keep growing, and valorizing a lot of non-PEP principles. For instance: A Jewish state is a very problematic proposition (especially when the world is dissolving in ethnic factional war, as Chris Matthews observed tonight). So the two-staters better act fast, and with a modicum of fairness too. Because: no justice, no peace.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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