Progressive Except Palestine–PEP. A term many of us know and have used to describe someone who has a commitment to progressive causes—civil rights, human rights, movements for justice–except when it comes to Palestine and Israel. It typically refers to Jews (though one definitely doesn’t have to be Jewish) whose support for Israel and/or Zionism doesn’t seem consistent with the rest of their politics. Calling someone PEP is also intended to highlight the extent to which pro-Israel propaganda is deeply ingrained within Jewish communities and US society. I understand the term and I also appreciate where it comes from.
But I have problems with it for the following reasons:
I believe one can’t be progressive except Palestine. That is, if you don’t support Palestine, you are not progressive. Being Progressive except Palestine not only means supporting Israeli brutality—it really does mean that—but it also means supporting US imperialism. If you support Israel, then you also support US financial and military support for Israel. It goes together. That is anything but progressive.
In addition, to say Progressive except Palestine makes it seem as if crimes against Palestine and Palestinians are an aside, not central to what makes someone a progressive, ethical person—as if you can say you adhere to principles of justice except for this “one small” thing. Let’s consider it for a moment. Would we say Progressive except Supports Apartheid? Progressive except Supports Massacres? Progressive except Supports Bombing Civilians and Demolishing Homes and Hospitals? Progressive except Steals People’s Land? Progressive except for Arresting and Jailing People Indiscriminately? Progressive except for Expelling the Indigenous Community from their Homes and Land? Progressive except for Support for Ethnic Cleansing?
I also honestly think that if we scratched a little deeper, those we call PEP are probably not so progressive on some other things either. If they make an exception for Israel, where else do their principles take them? How does their own sense of what are their “rights” and what they are entitled to–vs what are the rights of others—shape and inform their views? For example, how many “progressives” will do whatever they can to get their (“gifted”) kids into schools that are exclusionary and that privilege families who are white and upper income? That is, they are “progressive” except when it comes to Public Education and where they will send their child to school—even if that means stepping on the rights of someone else’s child.
That will only change if we prioritize a genuine commitment to what is just—without the “except”–at the outset. And I think it means being clear that being progressive doesn’t mean “except Palestine.”