‘Ready for a Tahrir moment?’ – Occupy Wall Street, the ‘Arab Spring’ and Israel/Palestine

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occupywallstreetThe Occupy Wall Street protests taking place in New York, and spreading across the country, continue to grow. If you haven’t yet, please check it out, and read these profiles of “the 99 percent” who are inspiring, and inspired by, the protests.

Although it has become a bit of a mainstream media cliche to say that the Occupy Wall Street protest is an American “Arab Spring,” it is undeniable that the Egyptian revolution, and other protests across the Middle East have inspired the protesters. In February Phil wrote about the coming American “love affair with the Arab world,” and while not all his predictions have come true (yet), the video above shows the inspiration lives on. Here is how the New York protesters describe themselves:

Occupy Wall Street is leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%. We are using the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to achieve our ends and encourage the use of nonviolence to maximize the safety of all participants.

And here was the graphic announcing the protests on the Adbusters blog:

adbusters blog occupywallst

There has also been some interesting discussion about Israel, anti-semitism, and Occupy Wall Street. You can follow one discussion on a protest website here, and Max Ajl has commented on his blog Jewbonics:

Daniel Sieradski [suggests] that a sign which reads, “End financial aid to Israel, end occupation of Gaza,” is going to scare off the “7 million” [sic] Jewish New Yorkers who support murdering Palestinian children. According to this line of thinking, if the Occupy Wall Street Protests are going to attract a broader base – like the mostly middle class or working class Arab communities in Bay Ridge, the Iraqi cab drivers, the Yemeni and Egyptian deli operators and the Moroccan kebab-stand proprietors of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the mostly poor or working Afghan, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi communities on Coney Island Avenue and Queens, all of whom hate the occupation, let alone the broader white, black, and Puerto Rican working classes whose tax dollars go, in yearly three billion dollar chunks, to Israeli Aircraft Industries in the holy land or straight to Raytheon and Boeing in America, in the process chopping up some Lebanese and Palestinian children into pieces – they have to drop issues like the occupation and military aid to Israel.

Explain to me how this works. An anti-capitalist anti-corporate movement for social justice should not also be antisemitic. That goes without saying. But apparently it should also, Sieradski seems to be demanding, accommodate Jews, not simply as Jews, on the basis of mutual respect for others, but as people whose identity is intimately bound up with occupying Gaza and ensuring that people shower in water filled with fecal residue. On its own terms this is ugly. Israeli war crimes are carried out with American tax dollars. Whose sensibilities are we offending by suggesting that a non-sectarian movement include those suffering in a different but related way from the same system? “Those other Jews”? Or Sieradski’s?

Sieradski engages with Ajl in the comments section of the post. It’s worth checking out for an interesting (albeit somewhat profane) discussion of the role of Israel/Palestine in broader movements for justice and accountability. 

Finally, the Forward‘s Joshua Nathan-Kazis followed Tel Aviv tent protest organizer Ronen Eidelman down to protests to gauge his reaction. He was not happy to see the Israeli example ignored, but it seems to be another indication that the “Arab Spring” inspiration goes beyond just tactics:

But while Eidelman held out hope for the Wall Street protests, the Tel Aviv-based demonstrations were conspicuously absent from the Wall Street protesters’ rhetoric. The protesters regularly cite the demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and the ongoing protests in Madrid. But Rothschild Boulevard is rarely name-checked.

“There is some hesitancy with proclaiming to be in solidarity with the tent protests in Tel Aviv, because there has not been a direct call from those protests to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” said Ari Cowan, 21, who said on September 26 that he had slept in the plaza all but two of the nine nights of the occupation.

The complaint, which is not uncommon, is one for which Eidelman has little patience.

“To look at a social movement only through the prism of the Palestinian struggle, that’s very limiting,” Eidelman said. “What do you expect, we’re going to change the whole system in two months?”

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