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Once we were embattled, now we are insurgent

Activism
on 19 Comments

A year ago, many of us struggled to cope with the sure knowledge of an unfolding atrocity in Gaza. We watched as the men of the Israeli army – and the society that ejected them into that ghetto – extinguished the lives of 2,200 people. One presumes that the young men, a casual “threat,” were easier to do. But indifference may have been the rule; it’s hard to know the mind of a killer.

At that time, it was also hard to see out of the hole. It’s a cycle many readers know from experience. It starts when Zionist army regulars begin to pulverize the camps. Pictures of gray, badly gnashed people with misshapen skulls and bloodless wounds are circulated. Despair, wedded to the knowledge of an impending escalation, follows. The reservists are summoned…

The sense of loneliness and impotence that accompanies every Israeli attack varies in how long it lasts. During an assault a thick layer of petroleum coats everything and the act of seeing becomes impossible. We are left only to feel things, viscerally or deeply and only as a reaction.

A year later the sense of bewilderment and muddled cognition has eased. The distance from the facts permits the emergence of vision through clearer thinking. Ultimately, it allows the development of a cogent political analysis. And that analysis produces one idea: That Israel is a leaderless place, lurching from one crisis to another along the arc of a grand existential crisis – by definition, one that it cannot survive. It’s an analysis that emerges from the twin conditions of Zionism’s congenital failure – racism – and the accelerating rate of change in America. It relies on a set of immutable assumptions: that Israel depends on America for its continued existence; and, racism in Israel is elemental rather than incidental.

The anecdotal evidence for the argument is everywhere, but it is mostly visible in interactions with college-aged people. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside undergraduates who currently study at American universities. I’ve also interacted with a number of others through a language program created by a friend of mine here in Jordan. The students I’ve met are all sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view. Many are conversant on the history of the region and root causes. They understand BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, as a moral imperative.

It’s true that the observation itself doesn’t indicate very much – it may be the outcome of either confirmation bias or self-selection by the students or both. But what is notable is how uncontroversial the point of view they hold has become. Every year, being pro-Palestinian seems to require less courage than the one that preceded it. My own experience, first as an undergraduate student at Penn and then five years later as a graduate student at Harvard confirm the trajectory (together, an eleven-year boundary). Activists were embattled at Penn; at Harvard they were insurgent. The difference is greater than can be accounted for by institutional culture I think.

But one need not rely on anecdotal evidence, which is unconvincing on its own. Recent data indicate that foreign direct investment in Israel is down 46% on a year-over-year basis, likely a direct outcome of the massacre last year. Taken together with the fact that support for Zionism is waning among groups whose influence is increasing in America it becomes hard to see how Israel can survive in its current form.

Finally, the Iran deal provides further evidence for the thesis. The agreement is paradoxically both an outcome and driver of the accelerating isolation of Israel. A highly-regarded Israel would not have sought to block the deal – its position would be securely within the international consensus, a necessary condition for being highly-regarded. And yet by showcasing the extremely depleted state of its national hasbara reserves, Israel’s defeat provides forward momentum for arguments that until now shied warily from the public sphere. More fundamental questions, like the right of one people to exist in a state of permanent political and material supremacy over another, can now be asked.

How long will the transformation take? When will we see the end of institutionalized Zionism? As with the anti-Apartheid or gay-rights movements it’s impossible to know.

Yet the truth remains: The velocity of ideas in America is increasing. The propagation of liberalism is an unavoidable consequence of that fact.

About Ahmed Moor

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American who was born in the Gaza Strip. He is a PD Soros Fellow, co-editor of After Zionism and co-founder and CEO of liwwa.com. Twitter: @ahmedmoor

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19 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    July 27, 2015, 3:59 pm

    Looking carefully at the sign in the upper left corner of the main photo, I tend to think that it probably says “Zi(star of David)nism” is racism. I can’t think of any normal letter in English that would match the shape of the bottom of the letter right over the “red i” in her sign.

    What else could it be? “Occupation is racism”?

  2. just
    July 27, 2015, 4:57 pm

    Absolutely superb article, Ahmed!

    “They understand BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, as a moral imperative.”

    Absolutely true. When the world ‘leaders’ aren’t willing, then the citizenry must act.

    As so many quote here:

    “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

    Thank you.

  3. K Renner
    July 27, 2015, 10:45 pm

    I don’t think one has to be decidedly “left wing” in all things to unequivocally condemn Israel for things like last year’s assault on the Gaza Strip or otherwise see things from the Palestinian standpoint in general.

    I know that I’m “moderate” or “independent” or some such thing when it comes to the left-right spectrum and I (and my family) have always been pro-Palestinian, because the facts are in tune with being pro-Palestinian as far as this festering , drawn out situation is concerned.

    I do think that last summer’s assault on Gaza constituted a “breaking point” for even a lot of people who say that they “don’t know enough” about the situation to really talk about it. I’ve talked to randoms before about just that and they certainly don’t dispute me when I talk about how utterly insane, how ridiculous the Israeli actions were last summer.

    • CigarGod
      July 28, 2015, 10:10 am

      I don’t worry about looking at things from a Palestinian point of view, too much. I just try to have all the tools in my Liberationist Toolbox, clean and in good working order.
      That way, I can just grab it and go…to: Palestine, the American Indian Nations, Women’s Rights…any Human Rights topic (I include rights of every thing on the planet) The basic principles apply to all.

      • michelle
        July 29, 2015, 5:28 am

        .
        well stated
        equal footing for every & all +++++++++ to infinity and beyond
        .
        G-d Bless
        .

  4. Annie Robbins
    July 28, 2015, 12:30 am

    The sense of loneliness and impotence that accompanies every Israeli attack varies in how long it lasts. During an assault a thick layer of petroleum coats everything and the act of seeing becomes impossible. We are left only to feel things, viscerally or deeply and only as a reaction.

    A year later the sense of bewilderment and muddled cognition has eased. The distance from the facts permits the emergence of vision through clearer thinking.

    every word thru this part i was reading with a sense of trepidation as my recall summoned and activated. many times this summer i have recalled/visulized where i was (experiencing) last year – in lebanon – the moments all seemed to last forever. the fear, the knowing whatever i was feeling was magnified a millionfold for those there, experiencing the horrific. and yet, i was significantly alive, awake, engaged, there was no choice in that. the awareness of death, slaughter and survival/hanging on to life by a thread. the children.

    so, thank you for your writing ahmed. whatever accompanying impotence (omg i will not easily forget those moments; invasive needles of pain emersion) i knew we were growing deep penetrating mobile and unbreakable roots in rich fertile soil — for who could release this easily. it was a summer that would prove to leave an indelible generational imprint (our youth). and the lives that were lost and families of loved ones — whole families — i have to believe know were not in vain. so much pain and sacrifice and for how long. the sumud and strength of palestinians and in a twisted way i suppose we can perhaps thank israel for that. it gives me so much faith in humanity knowing palestinians will never give up and knowing the world will come to admire and embrace so much extreme endurance, bravery and integrity.

    anyway, as you can see your essay here has taken me back to that time. that time that has marked the changing of the tide — our tipping point. we won’t be going backwards — there’s no surprises going forward in terms of the direction we’re moving.

    anyway. thank you ahmed.

    The difference is greater than can be accounted for by institutional culture I think.

    yes, definitely. the tide — it’s not just a big wave — it’s a tsunami of consciousness. Palestine.

    • just
      July 28, 2015, 2:01 am

      Oh Annie~ you’ve captured so many of my own feelings, and have expressed it all so well. Thank you.

  5. Blaine Coleman
    July 28, 2015, 6:09 am

    Yes, there are now divestment resolutions launched in April of each year, on some campuses, right before the campuses empty out.

    Why not in September? Why the 7-month wait, each and every year?

  6. Susan A
    July 28, 2015, 9:37 am

    Why Blaine, when I saw your name come up, did I know that there was going to be a complaint about activists on campus? Why, each and every time?
    Students have to organise, welcome newcomers into their groups and, most importantly, as Chomski would agree, their arguments need to be informative, absolutely watertight and prepared to perfection.

  7. Susan A
    July 28, 2015, 9:37 am

    Thank you Ahmed for sharing your thoughts with us at this time.

  8. just
    July 28, 2015, 12:31 pm

    Not very O/T, still about activism! :

    “Pioneer Jewish South African freedom fighter calls Israel ‘apartheid state’ …

    Veteran Jewish anti-apartheid activist Denis Goldberg, whose release after two decades in a South African prison was aided by Israel, and who then lived briefly in the Jewish state before leaving in protest, told a Johannesburg gathering that Israel is an apartheid state, the Middle East Monitor reported …

    Noting that critics of this view protest that Palestinian citizens of Israel, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa, vote and serve in their country’s parliament, Goldberg said, “You don’t need to be like South Africa to be an apartheid state, there is a definition in international law through the UNESCO declaration on apartheid,” he said.

    Apartheid exists, he said, in states that enforce laws and policies that discriminate between people on the basis of race or religion, and this holds true in Israel proper as well as in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. He was one of a panel of anti-apartheid activists discussing the lessons that struggle holds for the Palestinian cause.

    Goldberg, 82, one of the original members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, was sentenced with Nelson Mandela and other activists to life in prison in the 1964 Rivonia treason trial. He was released in 1985 with Israel’s intercession, then went to live on a kibbutz, but moved to London months later, denouncing Israel’s war in Lebanon, its occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its close ties with South Africa.

    “There is no doubt in my mind that Israel is an apartheid state,” Goldberg told the gathering. “Having lived through apartheid in South Africa, I cannot allow in my name the same kind of oppression to go on.

    He added, “I have to be an opponent of the exclusionist policies of Zionism, but let me say straight away that I have to be opposed to the exclusionary policies of the feudal Arab states of the Middle East as well.””

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/world/.premium-1.668316?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    • CigarGod
      July 28, 2015, 12:43 pm

      “…the exclusionary policies of the feudal Arab states…”

      Which as we know, are supported by Israel (and others).

      Here come the Zio-kids reflexively saying we are picking on Israel.

    • lysias
      July 28, 2015, 12:49 pm

      Note that Goldberg said that there is apartheid not just in the Occupied Territories, but also in Israel proper.

  9. Citizen
    July 29, 2015, 8:44 am

    The tide needs a push.

  10. W.Jones
    July 31, 2015, 4:52 am

    I agree that we have seen a large change in the youth over the last twenty years on the issue, as you write:

    The anecdotal evidence for the argument is everywhere, but it is mostly visible in interactions with college-aged people. This summer I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside undergraduates who currently study at American universities. I’ve also interacted with a number of others through a language program created by a friend of mine here in Jordan. The students I’ve met are all sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view. Many are conversant on the history of the region and root causes. They understand BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, as a moral imperative.

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