Naomi Klein: Arguing for justice is not a call for revolution

Israel/Palestine
on 35 Comments

Naomi Klein responds here to Eran Shayshon of the Reut Institute, writing that her criticisms of Israel are beyond the pale of legitimacy. I hope that Reut will post this response to its study, as we posted Shayshon here.

Is that really the best an entire think tank can come up with to support the claim that I am out to destroy Israel and should be stripped of my free speech rights? 

First, I have to say that I find it hilarious that in points one and three, Eran Shayshon resorts to quoting an article I wrote for my student newspaper when I was 19. I’m almost 40 so it’s oddly flattering. As I said the last time this article was dug up, I don’t respond to this kind of slime: "The article in question was written when I was in first year university. I look forward to the follow up exposé revealing that, in that very same year, I wrote college essays about books I had not actually read.” 

 As for the quote from my Ramallah speech, I did not advocate for a particular political solution but for a wide spectrum of debate on the subject. Here’s the quote in context:

"I don’t really think that Obama is FDR, but I can tell you this: he needs us to make him do it. He needs that mass movement, that global mass movement, putting pressure on him because boy is he getting pressure from the other side. And when he takes this tiny little tentative stand – ‘no more [Israeli] settlements [in the Occupied Palestinian Territories]’ – suddenly this is a crazy progressive position. How about no settlements? We need to move the bar. We need to put really radical positions out there. How about a one state solution? How about a no state solution? Let’s get out there and make a lot of noise and build a mass movement for peace and justice in a way that is totally unapologetic, that doesn’t cater to the racists. That doesn’t apologize for itself. That knows that it is within the greatest traditions of anti-racism whether they are in South Africa in the liberation struggle, or whether they are in the Jewish community." 

I fully stand behind the statement; it’s why I like this website so much.

Shayshon claims that I have written that Israel should face BDS tactics “not because it is the only state which deserves it, but because it is the only state where such punishment would ‘actually work.’” For this, he points to an op-ed I wrote in the Guardian. Please do follow the link. You’ll see that the article didn’t say that Israel is the only country that should face these tactics, it said this: “Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the strategy should be tried is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.” 

Plenty of countries fit this description, and I have supported boycotts in other national contexts when they have been called for and when they had a chance at being effective, starting with the South African anti-Apartheid campaign in the eighties.

Shayshon has clearly been poring through my public statements but he appears to have missed this interview I gave to Democracy Now! in the midst of the Toronto International Film Festival uproar. It directly addresses the “double standards” accusation: 

“To just give you one example, imagine that this year the Toronto International Film Festival had decided to have a cinematic spotlight, a cinematic homage, as Ha’aretz described this program, on the city of Colombo, with the full blessing of the Sri Lankan government, overwhelmingly Sinhalese-dominated, not a single Tamil director, just as there’s not a single Palestinian director in this spotlight. Now, Toronto has a huge population—a huge Tamil population, very active. They would have been protesting outside, because it would have been perceived as a sort of a whitewash in a year that the Sri Lankan government rightly stands accused of war crimes. 

For some reason, Israel is supposed to be the exception, and we are accused of singling out Israel. But, in fact, what we’re doing—and when you look at the people who have signed our letter, like Howard Zinn, Harry Belafonte, Eve Ensler, these are people who have devoted their lives to applying human rights standards across the board. They’re not singling out Israel. What they’re saying is, we insist on applying the same standards that we apply to every other country to Israel, as well. And just as we wouldn’t celebrate another country that stands accused of war crimes, we don’t believe it’s apolitical to celebrate Israel.”

Shayshon may also be aware (who knows) that I am currently supporting a campaign using BDS-style tactics against my own country, Canada, because it has flagrantly violated its Kyoto Protocol commitments, increasing emissions by 35 per cent. You can view a recent clip from a speech in which I compare Israel and Canada here.

The rest of his points are even thinner. To support the slanderous claim that “Klein frequently presents Israel as being systematically, purposefully, and extensively cruel and inhumane” not to mention “evil,” all he’s got is that first-year university op-ed. And to support the claim that “Klein frequently describes Israel as a colonial country born in sin” all he’s got is a bland quote from me saying that Israel "can only properly be understood in the context of the history of colonialism." Yet he concludes from this that: “The obligation to dismantle such as a state naturally derives from this logic.” This is crazy talk. I can (and do) say the same things about my own country, about the U.S., about Australia…. The purpose is not to call for the dismantling of those settler states but rather to recognize historical truths and to argue for justice and reparations for indigenous people in all those lands.

By the way, if comparing Israel to earlier settler states is to call for its dismantlement, someone needs to quickly tell Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Here’s what he said to the New York Times back in September:

 “States are often created with great upheaval and pain, and Israel is no exception. The great excitement and challenge of living in Israel is that it is a work in progress. It’s like living in this country in 1776.”

As an aside, I found it harrowing to see Shayshon overtly make the claim that to “open the 48 files” is to deny Israel’s right to exist. He is literally saying that the enemy is history, study it at your peril. I hope others will address in greater depth the profound danger of this war waged on collective memory.

As for me, nothing Shayshon managed to dig up in any way supports his claim that I stand for a “rejection of a political solution that maintains a separate State of Israel” or an “abdication of the Zionist principle promoting the Jewish people’s right for self determination.”

In truth it is my belief in self-determination — for Palestinians and Israelis — that underlies my decision not to advocate for a specific political outcome (though I do have preferences, as we all do) but rather for principles of anti-racism and adherence to international law.

I look forward to the results of further frantic Googling.

 

35 Responses

  1. Citizen
    March 16, 2010, 12:36 pm

    Ball’s in your court, Shayshon.

  2. Chaos4700
    March 16, 2010, 12:53 pm

    LOL! Witty should feel flattered. This is veritably a written response to his BS as well.

    • Chaos4700
      March 16, 2010, 12:55 pm

      As an aside, I found it harrowing to see Shayson overtly make the claim that to “open the 48 files” is to deny Israel’s right to exist. He is literally saying that the enemy is history, study it at your peril. I hope others will address in greater depth the profound danger of this war waged on collective memory.

      That line, especially.

    • Richard Witty
      March 16, 2010, 12:55 pm

      I would hope that Naomi Klein would respond directly here, as she mentioned this blog.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 1:35 pm

        Don’t get your hopes up, Witty. I was only joking when I suggested she was responding to you. The only windmill to tilt at around here is your own ego.

      • Richard Witty
        March 16, 2010, 4:01 pm

        Chaos,
        I was only referring to her own comment. Yours I avoid.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 4:03 pm

        Yeah, we got the part where you’re a coward, Witty.

      • Mooser
        March 16, 2010, 1:36 pm

        And of course, if she doesn’t, we’ll know just what to think of her!
        In fact, anyone who has any criticism of Zionism better start lining up at Richard’s office, and they better have a adequate explanation for their views!

  3. Shmuel
    March 16, 2010, 1:32 pm

    This is the real double standard, and the reason Phil started this blog:

    For some reason, Israel is supposed to be the exception, and we are accused of singling out Israel. But, in fact, what we’re doing—and when you look at the people who have signed our letter, like Howard Zinn, Harry Belafonte, Eve Ensler, these are people who have devoted their lives to applying human rights standards across the board. They’re not singling out Israel. What they’re saying is, we insist on applying the same standards that we apply to every other country to Israel, as well. And just as we wouldn’t celebrate another country that stands accused of war crimes, we don’t believe it’s apolitical to celebrate Israel.”

    • Richard Witty
      March 16, 2010, 4:05 pm

      Some of those individuals have gone further than dissenting. They’ve actually worked to create something new.

      BDS is a danger. She is speaking as if that is nowhere the case.

      I’ve made and evaluated investment proposals in which no risk was candidly identified. In a flash, those investments were turned down, and should have been.

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 4:06 pm

        BDS is a danger.

        I believe Jack Abramoff said something along those lines, vis-a-vis his interests in South Africa back in the day.

        Good to see who you stand with, philosophically speaking.

  4. kapok
    March 16, 2010, 2:18 pm

    Shorter Shayson: Heads I win, tails you lose.

  5. VR
    March 16, 2010, 2:59 pm

    Those who will not acquiesce to justice are condemned eventually to revolution.

    • Avi
      March 16, 2010, 6:02 pm

      “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. ” – John F. Kennedy.

      • VR
        March 16, 2010, 6:09 pm

        Yes Avi, and criminals practice “self-determination” also, but that route is not acceptable.

  6. Sunyata
    March 16, 2010, 3:04 pm

    “Singling out Israel” is a canard.

    Not to mention, it’s practically an admission of wrongdoing.

  7. VR
    March 16, 2010, 3:40 pm

    “abdication of the Zionist principle promoting the Jewish people’s right for self determination.”

    How is the right claimed, to “self-determination?” Is self-determination invoked by extermination of another group of people, in order to establish the right of another group of people? Do you control your life by imprisoning others? This is the role of self-determination in colonial dress.

    • VR
      March 16, 2010, 3:49 pm

      Especially if your “self-determination” terminates on a weaker people; if your “self-determination” is contingent on the poor and the oppressed.

      • Avi
        March 16, 2010, 6:09 pm

        In Zionism, self-determination for Jews is determined by the survival of the fittest doctrine, dog-eat-dog.

        to “open the 48 files” is to deny Israel’s right to exist.

        Justice, morality, international law and basic humanity play no role in Zionist ideology.

      • VR
        March 16, 2010, 6:11 pm

        I have ofter thought of commissioning Carlos Latuff to create a cartoon, with an IDF soldier towering over a child stomping on it, saying “recognize my right to exist.”

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 6:33 pm

        I’m actually an artist. Do you mind if I run with that idea? It’s very resonant.

      • VR
        March 16, 2010, 7:14 pm

        Sure chaos4700, will you post it so everyone can see it?

      • Chaos4700
        March 16, 2010, 7:44 pm

        Sure, I should be able to do that.

      • MRW
        March 17, 2010, 7:10 am

        Chaos, take a look at this: “A Palestinian boy, center, is detained by plain-clothed Israeli policemen during clashes before Friday prayers in Jerusalem’s Old City, Friday, March 12, 2010. AP”
        link to cryptome.org

        Put the italicized words into Find/Search and it will take you to the right photo on the page. I can’t get the fear on the face of that little boy has out of my mind.

      • dalybean
        March 17, 2010, 7:39 am

        The New York Times yesterday also had a picture of a boy being detained by undercover policemen. The undercover policemen in these pictures raise a real alarm. Why would you need undercover policemen for civil disturbance patrol? Anyway, the picture of that little boy leaves me seething.

      • Shmuel
        March 17, 2010, 7:45 am

        The plainclothes are called mista’arvim – Arabic-speaking (and looking) police/soldiers, meant to blend with the crowd.

      • Chaos4700
        March 17, 2010, 10:54 am

        I’ve seen photos like that before. Sadly, they aren’t exactly rare, are they? Even with the IDF confiscating and smashing cameras whenever they can get their hands on them.

      • Mooser
        March 17, 2010, 12:06 pm

        ‘Self-determination” for the Jews, oph my, how the meaning of that has changed.
        Sorry, Witty, but Judaism as a political organising principle is a proven loser.
        Where, outside of religious legend, has it ever been sucessful?

  8. Cliff
    March 17, 2010, 5:26 am

    It seems like what the Zios want is for people to either ‘convert’ to Zionism or ‘die’ (extremize their positions) (as ‘terrorists sympathizers’, ‘loony Leftistis’, etc. etc. etc.).

    This notion of a ‘right’ to exist is preposterous. We rejected outright the ‘right’ of the Soviet Union to exist. We reject the ‘right’ to exist of plenty of States because we know that that means the STATE – the body politic.

    Israel has no right to exist. Inherent to it’s existence is the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. To create a Jewish State, when Jews were both a minority and owned something like 8% – 10% of the land/property – was ASKING for conflict.

    No one thinks to ask themselves how they’d deal w/ a Jewish State on top of them. Would they move? Fuck no.

    No one has to convert to Zionism. Do the Native Americans have to accept the ‘right’ to exist of the USA? Fuck no.

    States simply exist. Overwhelming power is the only variable that can change that.

    So maybe one day some bigger fish will seek to ‘free the shit out of’ the US and Israel. To ‘spread liberty and delicious freedom’ w/ bombs of course.

    This is boring. All Zionists end up saying the same bullshit. They may be intelligent but their ideological rigidity shows and no matter how they dress it up (‘The Reut Institute’ LOL) – it’s still Zionist.

    • Donald
      March 17, 2010, 7:36 am

      You’re right about the Reut Institute. Here’s a snip from Tom Friedman’s column today, where he embraces its President Gidi Grinstein for giving us these pearls of wisdom–

      “Iran’s strategy, explains Grinstein, is simple: Destroy Israel through a combination of asymmetric warfare — like Hezbollah’s war from South Lebanon and Hamas’s from Gaza; delegitimize Israel by accusing it of war crimes when it combats Hamas and Hezbollah, who fight while nested among civilians; “religiousize” the conflict by making it Muslims versus Jews, focusing on symbols like Jerusalem; and, finally, suck Israel into “imperial overstretch,” e.g., keep Israel occupying the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, which Iran & Co. believe will lead to “Israel’s implosion.”

      So anyone who accuses Israel of war crimes is carrying out Iran’s fiendish plan to “delegitimize” Israel. And Israel’s imperial overreach–well, that’s Iran’s plan too. Israel would not be building settlements if they weren’t being manipulated by those endlessly conniving Iranian mullahs.

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