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Documenting Palestinian invisibility for 40 years — an interview with James Zogby

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Mondoweiss is excited to announce that we have partnered with the Arab American Institute to republish Jim Zogby’s important book Palestinians: The Invisible VictimsThe book is a critical examination of the ideology and practice of the movement of Political Zionism and its patron, British imperialism, that together were responsible for the denial of Palestinian rights and the subsequent campaigns of disinformation and repression against the Palestinian people.

Palestinians: The Invisible Victims was first published in 1975 as a paper for the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, and then published as a book in 1981. Since then Jim Zogby co-founded the Arab American Institute, of which he is president, published several other books, and took a leadership role inside the Democratic Party. On the 70th anniversary of the Nabka, Palestinians: The Invisible Victims is just as timely now as when it was first published over 40 years ago.

Palestinians: The Invisible Victims will be available on June 1, but you can pre-order it now here

In conjunction with our publication, I interviewed Zogby by phone on May 8, to learn about how this book came into being. 

Q. You were in your late 20s when you were a grad student and undertook the research that became this book on Palestinian invisibility. Why was it important to you, and who were you in 1975?

I have to give you a long answer. I grew up in the antiwar and civil rights movements in the 60’s and 70’s, and I remember in ‘67 when the war [in the Middle East] happened being not fully aware of the issues but instinctively questioning the arguments that were being made at the UN by the US ambassador. It just didn’t compute when I put it up against Vietnam. I said there is something that we are not being told about this.

I had done some reading, of course. I mean I wasn’t totally unaware of the Palestinian issue, but at that time what I found most troubling was the role of the US in the region.

What compounded my concern was something that occurred in the antiwar group that I was part of in Syracuse, NY. The kids who were my age who were Jewish stopped coming to meetings at the time of the war. And I thought, Wait a minute, I’m opposed to all war and they are opposed to only this war [Vietnam]. That bothered me.

I remember that after the ’67 war, Life magazine had a cover of shoes they said had been left by fleeing Egyptian troops in the desert. I was so horrified by the glorification of all of that, I found it troubling.

Then I went to graduate school, and my first day at Temple University in 1967 I saw a sheet hanging out the window of one of the fraternities, that said, Go Israel, Beat Arabs. This is not going to be fun, I thought. I got involved with the civil rights and antiwar stuff on campus, but almost by reflex, I became “The Arab”. I remember I was speaking at a rally and someone said, “Why are they letting the Arab guy talk?” I thought, “Who is the Arab guy?” I was of Arab descent. To me, Arabs were people over there. I was an Arab American. No one had ever done that to me before. Having grown up in an ethnic environment, I’d never had anyone single me out for that or experienced that type of discrimination.

A few years later, I was studying comparative religions. I was doing my dissertation, preparing for my masters comprehensive and my wife was reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee [An Indian History of the American West, by Dee Brown] and was just infuriated by what she was reading. And the next book she picked up for some reason was, George Antonius’s, The Arab Awakening. She said, you should know more about this. This is about your people, and it’s exactly like Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee. It’s about broken treaties, broken promises, people being dispossessed of their land.

So I read Antonius’s The Arab Awakening, and the parallels between that and the Native American experience were striking.

I was at the religion department at Temple, and then went over to the University of Pennsylvania for a year in their anthropology program, and started preparing a dissertation proposal thinking I would work on revitalization movements in African American religion – on how stress or societal pressures impact religious ideas and religious consciousness. I was intending to work either with Black Muslims or with the Father Divine movement, a powerful social movement that erupted in the 20’s and 30’s – how the social dislocation of that period between the two wars and the Depression impacted African American consciousness, from the Back to Africa movement of Marcus Garvey, to the Father Divine movement, to the Moorish Institute and the Nation of Islam.

The professor I had said to me, Everyone’s working on that stuff. Do something that no one is working on. He suggested, you should do something on Palestinians. This was Anthony Wallace, at the University of Pennsylvania.

I thought that would be fascinating. These are people who went through social dislocation, political dislocation, deprivation of all sorts, and obviously there were social movements among them too. I got a grant to spend the summer in Lebanon, and I spent time in a camp, collecting everyone’s stories. I still have my notebooks from it. I was taking stories down faithfully. At one point, I met with a Palestinian novelist who was also helping advise me and he said, “You are actually wasting your time in the camps. The people who are going through the biggest transformation are not in the camps, it is the Palestinian people in Israel. The refugees are freezing their traditional identity. The ones among whom it is being transformed are the Palestinians in Israel.” He introduced me to Mahmoud Darwish and Tawfiq Zayad, and I actually focused my dissertation on them.

Through that experience, I got to know Felicia Langer, who was the civil rights attorney in Israel, and she sent me some cases of people whose rights were being violated. I went to Amnesty International, and they said, we don’t take these cases here in America. If we do, we’re afraid of losing support and there will be pressure on us.

I went to other folks and I couldn’t get them to do it either. So a group of us decided we would do it on our own. I was in the Association of Arab American University Graduates at the time. They authorized me to start a human rights campaign. We started adopting Palestinian house demolitions, prisoners, victims of torture. By ‘76 we actually branched out on our own and started the Palestine Human Rights Campaign as an independent organization.  That’s how I came into it.

It came out of the civil rights and antiwar experience, but it gravitated toward the Palestinians as an extension of both sets of values and concerns that I had been applying in the broader sense of American policy, domestic and foreign, where I saw the same civil rights concern and also the antiwar concerns at play.

When I was doing my dissertation. I called it Arabs in the Promised Land: The emergence of a national consciousness among the Arabs in Israel. Through Felicia Langer, I got to know so many other victims of torture, and I had gone to interview them when they were released from prison, and dealt with a whole range of other cases.  So it became somewhat personal to me: I knew the people, I knew the victims. I knew this incredible woman who was defending them. And I knew Israel Shahak, a guy I worked very closely with in that period. So that’s how I came to this.

Q. Your family came from Lebanon. But were you raised with an understanding of the Nakba and Zionism?

No not completely. I grew up with a mother who was deeply passionate about issues of justice and women’s rights. I remember at one point coming downstairs and my mom was sitting at the table heartbroken. I could see her really saddened by something and I said what is it? And she told me it was the Rosenbergs. She said, “They just killed these two people. They had children as old as you and your brother.” I asked “Why did they kill them mom?” She responded, “Well they say they did some very wrong things, but I think they killed them because they were Jews.”

Order Palestinians: The Invisible Victims here.

That was the kind of awareness she taught me of injustice. I think there’s a general consensus these days that the Rosenbergs probably were guilty. But I never forgot that story. She was a woman who cared about issues of injustice. She couldn’t deal with the parents of two boys being executed.

So one of my proudest moments in the Bernie Sanders campaign was leading the platform debate on ending the death penalty which is  one of the few issues that we actually won.

I grew up with that more than a specific issue.

My mother’s brother wrote a letter that she was proud of because it was in the Lebanese American Journal. He organized a petition among Lebanese Americans in 1948 to the UN calling on Palestine to be independent and free and not to be partitioned. He also advised in that letter that the Palestinians should have formed a government before the partition in order to circumvent that. So it was an issue that we knew about. But I would not say that I was steeped in that history.

Q. There’s a lot in this paper that anticipates later discussion of this question. It’s ahead of its time. The awareness of settler colonialism. The understanding that Palestinian citizens are third class citizens. The racialist trends in Zionism, that make it clear it’s exclusivist. And finally this is all about human rights, regardless of the national state structure. How much clairvoyance did you have? And how much resistance was there to it? From the ideological opponents?

Look, I wasn’t clairvoyant, there were people saying and writing about this. Certainly Israel Shahak understood that. I used to distribute what we called the Shahak Papers, back then, his translations from the Hebrew press. So I think his sense of the way that political Zionism as opposed to Buber’s Zionism or Ahad Ha’am’s and others like that obviously had an impact on me. I also think that the work I had done in civil rights had an impact on me, and the South Africa parallel and the Native American parallel were part of my own personal experience and upbringing in the movements that I’d been involved with.

There were Palestinian intellectuals who had written about the parallels between South Africa and Rhodesia. When you’re reading that history and the name Cecil Rhodes pops up, you say “Oh wait”, then you think there’s something here. It’s strange to me that people don’t make that connection more often. When you read Arthur Balfour– not the declaration itself, but his comments saying that the attitudes of the indigenous people mean nothing to him. That classic colonial mindset is something that should make anybody take pause and say, “wait, this just isn’t right”.

So I don’t think it’s clairvoyance, but it’s there to behold if you have the eyes to see it and if you have the sensitivity to feel it, and if you don’t then I really question how you deal with information, period!

Q. Did it cause a reaction?

Yes, it did. I know I got a lot of negative feedback from people. There was a dean who I studied with at Temple University who called me a neo-Nazi. Actually, he called me a “neo-Bolshevik neo-Nazi”. I wasn’t quite sure how the two went together!

I heard “antisemite” a lot, but it wasn’t me who was imposing this ideology on Jewish people and putting them at risk. It was that movement that did that. And so I was just pointing it out.

Now in recent years I’ve started seeing articles appearing in the Hebrew press saying pretty much what I was saying back then and maybe a little more. But, I have to ask, “How could you write an article in Haaretz on the clearing of the Mughrabi quarter, clearing it for the Western Wall plaza in 1967 – and not feel compelled to do something about it?”  It’s one thing to write that story, and it’s another thing to say, “holy god, a grave injustice was done to 1000 people and there should be some compensation for that”. I know that they’re writing about that stuff today, but without a sense of a connection to the grievance that leads us to where we are and the justice that is due to the people who paid the price for those actions.

Q. You took a fundamental stance as a young man. What became of this work personally to you, how did it affect your career, politically?

There were little things—invitations to do interviews that were cancelled, invitations to speak at a university that were challenged. Organized efforts when you got on campus to shout you down, or people handing out brochures. I made the ADL and the AIPAC hitlist. I find it interesting that they have sort of farmed this defaming work out to Campus Watch and Canary Mission and the like, but this is what they did themselves, the main organizations. The ADL, the AJC, and AIPAC all did it. I have all of their books and memos that were sent out to defame us. When you get written up as the propagandist for the Palestinian or a PLO propagandist, which I’m not, but when you get written up that way, you save the stuff. I have the evidence.

Did it have an impact? Of course it did. It locked me into a career track. Do I regret it? No I don’t. I didn’t want to ever be a podiatrist or a dentist and I never had an aspiration to run for office. I’ve always wanted to pursue the line of work I’m in. I wanted to be an advocate and an activist, and this made sure that’s what I’d be.

I got to nominate Jesse Jackson for President of the United States and I got to lead the platform debate in 1988 on Palestine. Each time in my career they say, “You’re not going to go anywhere in politics”. Well, I’ve been on the Democratic National Committee for 26 years and on the executive committee for 12 and was a platform drafter for Bernie Sanders. So I think that more is made of the other side’s ability to block us than is true. You can be for Palestinian rights and be for justice and you can still do pretty well. I’m very thankful that I’ve had lots of opportunities to do good things and I’ve never had to forsake my principles to do them.

Q. But the central theme of your paper is Invisibility. It’s not a conspiracy, but it’s an ideological commitment that pervades our political culture. And this won’t change till people get to know Palestinians. That invisibility hasn’t gone away. That’s a big problem, even if you have had a special career, and you have high likeability personally.

Here’s the thing. Look at what Bernie did in 2016. He came to an issue that he had not ever addressed before, he embraced it, he doubled down on it, went to the platform and fought for it, and the numbers among millennials and among Democrats and among minority communities continue to rise. And so I think that yeah, the pressure that comes from the other side is still determinative, it’s still decisive. The string of people who cover this issue from Israel and the occupied territories is still a really problematic crowd– the journalists who get that assignment have not been good. They help shape the issue. We still have not cracked the industry that creates popular culture from film and television programming etc. And the fear that is so pervasive among politicians in Washington, they don’t even want to know the issue, don’t want to talk about it, and when they do talk about it they want to roll their eyes back up in their heads and just embrace what they feel is the most comfortable position– we have not changed that. But I have to believe that change is coming, that we’re going to make a break.

What is helping to create the space for this and give me some confidence is what’s happening on the Jewish side.

When I started the Palestine Human Rights Campaign, there was a group in the Jewish community called Breira. They were demolished by incredible pressure that came down on them. The New Jewish Agenda went through the same experience.

Now look at what exists today and AIPAC and company has no ability to stop them. And I think that’s quite significant. There is now an open rebellion within the ranks and an awareness of what is right and just. People are acting on it and that’s creating opportunities for people in my community as well, to now come forward and speak out, in ways that we could not before.

Change is afoot. Back when Breira were operating they literally were alone. I mean there were a handful of people in Israel. Sure, the Labor party was strong. They were the dominant group. But they were the group that was imposing an incredibly brutal occupation on the West Bank. Back in the 70’s, if you made a Palestinian flag you were in jail. You got expelled for membership in an illegal organization, you were tortured to confess that you were a member of Fatah. And entire communities were placed under curfew for long periods of time.  Men were corralled into the center of town and forced to stay in the hot sun and then in the cold of night separated from their families while searches went on. The occupation today and the checkpoints today are humiliating and god-awful, but the sheer naked brutality of it back then, run by a Labor government, was quite a different story.

And the extensive use of torture, and the forms of torture that were used– I have way too much documentation including from American consular officials who collected it and wrote it all down for me, I still have that stuff. Sure Labor could win, but the so called left back then began the practice of the brutal and dehumanizing occupation. And they had the veneer of being the social democratic party, so it almost made the invisibility worse. They’d say “How can you attack Golda Meir?! She’s a remarkable woman”. But this woman said some of the most outrageous and dehumanizing things about Palestinians and defended policies that were grotesque.

When Likud took over, the settlements began to be built in the interior, and the confrontations got worse.  But the expulsions– they rounded up mayors and university professors– there were 1000 leaders expelled during the Labor period. Expulsions stopped in the late 70’s. Felicia Langer and Israel Shahak were part of a very small group of people – Uri Avnery and Uri Davis and very few others actually had the wisdom and had the courage to speak out. There was no B’Tselem back then. All of the things that exist today didn’t exist then.

Q. Some will say, You are privileging Jews. Or you are assigning a special place in terms of unlocking progress in America to Jews. I agree with you, but I would like you to justify that discrimination or selection.

Look, everything that we have today we had back then. Back in the 70’s Jack O’Dell was a former aide of Martin Luther King and a former aide of Reverend Jackson, and he and I wrote a book together called Afro-Americans Stand Up for Middle East Peace.

Back in the late 70’s during the Andy Young affair at the UN, we got tremendous support from African Americans.

When I started the human rights campaign– look at our founding board, it was every civil rights leader who had been with Martin Luther King who was still living. All the anti-war leaders, Don Luce, David Dellinger, Pete Seeger. Major Protestant church leaders. Etc.

What was missing was a forthright and courageous stance from American Jews who were going to speak out on this issue. There were a few individuals but there was no organized force in the Jewish community.

That’s the change that has occurred. Acknowledging it and giving recognition and tribute to it is important. I’m not privileging it. I could say, “Gee, it took you guys time. Thank you for joining this.” I don’t want to say it that way, because it sounds chiding; and I know how difficult it is to make a break within your own community. When people talk to me about a Jewish state, why can’t you support a Jewish state? I say, I’m a Maronite Christian from Lebanon who opposed a Christian state in Lebanon. I oppose a Muslim state, anywhere. Why am I now going to support a Jewish state? Especially in a complex environment you don’t want to support one religion over another, because then the religion becomes doctrinaire dogma and the state tends toward becoming an absolutist regime and an authoritarian regime that uses god language to justify its behavior. I can’t support it for any religions.  But I know how hard it is when I say that in the Christian community, how they react, so I can understand how hard it is for Jews to do that in their own community especially when the experience of the Holocaust is so there and such a decisive factor in shaping people’s opinions. When you get people willing to stand up and to speak out and develop a different approach– that’s why I was so impressed by Breira.  For a generation people said, “There is no alternative” – that was the justification for political Zionism. Breira meant [in Hebrew], there is an alternative. For them to march with us and to work with us, and then to be brutalized as they were– by the establishment. It takes a lot.

We actually got invited to speak at Hillel and Briera couldn’t get invited to Hillel. The Hillel would be told that they could not invite the Breira people. The Breira people would say to me, we can’t go but you can. Be sure you say this. I’d say Sure. The same with New Jewish Agenda. They were the principal target of attack, we were secondary. The focus of the Jewish community establishment was to snuff out any alternative information in the Jewish community. They can’t do that anymore. That’s big, that’s new and that’s important.

Q. You write that Americans don’t know Palestinians as people. That’s so important. It took me meeting Palestinians to remove my fear of them. They were other. Where are we in that American process?

I think more has been done clearly in that regard. And the Palestinian community in several parts of the country have helped make that happen. And I think that needs to be recognized. But the story is actually larger than that. I say that when most Americans think of the Arab Israel conflict, they think of it as an equation. It’s Israeli people versus the Palestinian problem. One is a people, the other is an abstraction. When given a choice between people and an abstraction, they take the people.

Go back to the negative stereotyping, which actually began in the 60’s. It didn’t begin before that. Edward Said showed they were portrayed as exotic, and sometimes as a danger. But never in the one-dimensional way as just pure evil, as they were in the 60’s and 70’s. A lot of that had to do with the Arab Israeli conflict.  And the movie Exodus has never been given the credit for distorting all of this that it richly deserves. It was funded and made as a piece of hasbara, and it did its job. It was a cowboys and Indians story transposed to the Middle East. So it became the pioneers trying to carve out a place for freedom in the wilderness and being confronted by the angry savages who were denying them the right to live as a free people. That stereotype stuck in people’s minds. When Americans hear, “Israelis” they could see faces. Their stories were in the newspaper. There is the disparity of when an Israeli child is killed, there’s an interview with the parents, and when a Palestinian child is killed, there is a mention in 13 lines just noting that a Palestinian child was killed. No name, no sense of tragedy, no interview with the parents. But even before that, you had the stories in the paper about the Israeli doctors doing the great thing, and the Israelis in the Galilee raising Arab horses and saving them from extinction, and the Israelis botanists– they are human people who are very complex and have a whole array of qualities, which we understood and respected.

Palestinians on the other hand, the American press doesn’t give you their stories or anything to relate to. They remain an abstraction. And that comes from this ideological approach that Zionism and British imperialism adopted. The Arab indigenous people mean nothing to us. They’re trees on the frontier that we have to chop down to make progress. Like the Native Americans. That was what I was looking to explain in the book: “How did this happen?”

Sure it was politics and power, and the ability to manipulate images and have an effective propaganda program. But what was the grounding for that? It was the ideology of political Zionism saying, “We’re important, they’re not. We count, they don’t. And British imperialism had the same mindset.

Look what they did in South Africa and India.

In 1971 my wife and I stopped in Britain for about a week on our way to Lebanon. It was the first time I’d ever been out of the country. That was an eventful summer, and while I was there, Northern Ireland was flaring, there was an uprising in Nigeria, something going on between India and Pakistan, something in South Africa, and something happening in Sudan. Reading the British commentary on it was in effect, “These savages were this, that and whatever.” At one point, my wife and I looked at each other and said, “Wait a minute, These bastards created every one of these problems.” I mean it was the British hand that divided and colonized South Africa, pitted the indigenous people against the settlers, created the problem with India Pakistan. They were the ones that colonized Nigeria and pitted one group against another. The same thing with settler colonialism in Ireland. Now they were saying, “Look at the savages, they can’t get along.” I saw that playing out in Palestine. The west created the problem and sided with the group that they identified as the human side. And the inhuman side was cast aside and forgotten as a matter of secondary importance.

Q. Oslo is dead, you write, but isn’t it still a requirement, that to be in the Washington establishment, you say, I’m for the two state solution.

What I find intriguing is that the support for the two state solution has now become accepted wisdom at the very point in time that it’s no longer possible to implement because politicians are unwilling to consider the steps that would have to be taken to implement it.

So if they say, “You have to be for the two state solution,” I say, “Are you willing to do what it takes to get there?” They say what’s that, and I tell them. They say, “Oh no we can’t do that.”

I say all you’re doing is using it as a touchstone, using it to absolve you from having to deal with anything more complex. I actually do think a two state solution would be a desirable end. I’d rather have that than condemn the Palestinian people to decades more of brutal occupation and dehumanization. No one in their right mind would want to wish that on people, to meet some ideologically pure end of one state with equal rights for everyone. The reality is that it’s not going to happen any time soon. It’s going to be a long bloody struggle, and I would not wish that on people.

But I also know that as much as Israelis and Americans want to impose a civil war on Palestinians to get them in a position to accept two states, they’re unwilling to impose the same pressure on Israelis to get to a two state outcome. How are you going to get 100’s of 1000’s of settlers out of the West Bank? And if you don’t, how do you construct a two state solution that is anything other a protectorate or a Bantustan?  How are you going to change the politics of the Israeli government any time soon to get a government that will surrender the Jordan Valley;  that will not insist of total security control over the entire territory. If they have security control, then there are no two states. It’s a reservation. Does anyone consider Native American reservations as separate states in America. Palestinians aren’t willing to accept it.

And to those who say, there’s no solution to the refugee problem, they’re going to have to stay there– What you’re doing is transferring the problem from Israel to Lebanon and Jordan. What right does Israel or the west have to impose that solution on Lebanon and Jordan when they are not equipped to deal with it? The issue here is let’s deal with what’s real. Politicians are unwilling at this point to accept reality. They’ve found a convenient way out by calling for two states. They don’t know what that is. There still is a willed ignorance about this. It’s not that they’re dumb people, but they don’t want to know. They would prefer to say, “Give me a short little answer that will get me out of having to dealing with this issue”.

That’s why I thought Bernie was so impressive, because he intuited that the shorthand wasn’t going to work. And he needed to know more. He didn’t know much a lot about it when he started, but he certainly has made a lot of headway now and is being quite challenging.

Q. Is this issue going to divide the Democratic base?

I think it’s not so much dividing the base as it is dividing the base from elected officials. Because elected officials still have this mindset  – ”I’m nervous how this is going to affect my reelection”. They still operate with that myth that AIPAC can beat anybody they want, even though that’s simply proven not to be true in case after case after case. And so I think that the problem is the base is moving in the right direction, it’s the elected officials who are stuck. I happen to believe that, we’re going to have a break on that at some point, just as we did on Vietnam and just as we did on gay rights.

There’s going to be a point where someone beyond Bernie is going to say “Guess what, this doesn’t play anymore.  They can raise all the money they want to beat me. There are too many people in my district who don’t agree with this.” That’s where, again it’s not privileging or segregating out the Jewish voice, but that’s where it becomes important that there is no longer a monolithic presence.

I can tell you the stories of politicians who would say to me back in the 80’s, “Zogby you know I’m really with you, but you know the Jews don’t take anything other than absolute obedience to their position, you know what the Jews are like, Zogby.” I remember saying back when, “Gee, there’s an antisemite in the room and it’s not me.” I called those politicians, Anti-Semites for Israel. They’d speak about the Jewish vote and the Jewish voice and the Jewish money and the Jewish this– and it was insulting to hear them.

Q. Maybe they were right.

No, they weren’t.  Because the issue was that, AIPAC never did control this. They controlled it with fear. Paul Findley raised more money than Dick Durbin in the Illinois congressional race [in 1982]. What happened was that the district got redistricted from a  Republican to a Democratic district, that’s why he lost. And yet it became convenient for AIPAC to say, we beat him. Chuck Percy raised more money than Paul Simon [in 1984]. I was with Percy a month after the election, and someone asked him, Senator Percy, why did you lose? He pointed across the table at me and said, “Because his friends didn’t support me.” Meaning that he lost the black vote. Harold Washington was mayor by then, and what happened was the whole time that Daley was in office, Daley would pick a conservative Democrat to run, figuring he needed that for down state, and the black vote would end up supporting the liberal Republican instead of a conservative Democrat. In that election Harold Washington asked Paul Simon the liberal Democrat to run, and the black community for one of the first times endorsed the Democrat in the statewide race and Percy lost. That was a month later that he pointed that out. But it was a couple months later that he figured out, that it would work for him to say it was the Jewish money that beat me. And that became a mantra for him. And actually Rudy Boschwitz [MN senator] used it with senators during the AWACS vote. He said If you don’t want the fate of Chuck Percy to be yours, you’ll get in line.

Then when Rudy Boschwitz ran, AIPAC tried to save him against Paul Wellstone [in 1990], they couldn’t. How many times did they try to beat Jim Moran [Virginia congressman] and couldn’t? There are so many people they tried to beat and couldn’t.  Betty McCollum [in Minnesota]. If you’re solid in your district, you’re safe. They can spend all the money they want. They make you spend more money, maybe. But they can’t beat you. The only ones who lose are like Cynthia McKinney who was losing it anyway [in 2002]. And look who replaced her, Hank Johnson, who is even better on the issue than she was. Earl Hilliard didn’t go back to his district to campaign [in 2002]. I remember talking to other members of the Black Caucus and they said he’s going to lose because he thinks he’s got this campaign won. AIPAC found a way to beat him.

More than anything, there is this myth of power that holds them in place, but that myth is now breaking down. J Street and I differ on some issues, but they have helped create space in this debate. That’s important. The more space that’s created, the greater the debate that will take place, and the greater the debate that will take place, the greater the opportunity that justice is going to win.

Palestinians: The Invisible Victims will be available on June 1, but you can pre-order it now here

About Philip Weiss

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

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30 Responses

  1. Blaine Coleman
    May 23, 2018, 12:24 pm

    Thanks for the interview. I hope that the latest slaughter in Gaza will convince people of the need for boycotting Israel. For an example, check out the May 21st meeting of the Ann Arbor City Council. The Mayor was unable to stop some pretty loud demands for a resolution to boycott Israel:

    See this video from the meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5exKO048dyk&feature=youtu.be

  2. Mooser
    May 23, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Wonderful interview!

  3. Boomer
    May 23, 2018, 1:45 pm

    “Invisible victims” . . . or at least inconvenient and ignored

    I’m looking forward to read it.

  4. Nathan
    May 23, 2018, 9:06 pm

    “And finally this is all about human rights…” Well, actually, it’s not about human rights. It’s true that in an armed struggle, people are killed, property is destroyed, and political or national ambitions are frustrated. One might want to present such tragedies as a violation of human rights, but in reality the issue at hand is war and defeat.

    “Invisible Victims” is terminology that challenges the very foundation of abstract thinking. The whole world is focused on the plight of the Palestinians. The UN has passed countless resolutions, and it has dedicated extensive means to preserve the status of Palestinians as a unique community. There are so many conflicts in this world where someone might be regarded to be invisible, but surely the Palestinians are very visible. Actually, their visibility is the source of their political power.

    “Why am I now going to support a Jewish state? Especially in a complex environment you don’t want to support one religion over another…” Well, it’s quite okay to oppose the founding of a Jewish state, and indeed the entire Arab world tried to prevent the birth of Israel in the political and in the military spheres. However, it is really strange that someone so focused on Israel and on the struggle against her doesn’t even have an awareness of how his enemy defines itself. The adjective “Jewish” (as in Jewish state) describes an ethnicity (a peoplehood identity). The idea of founding a Jewish state was about founding a state for the Jews – just as the Polish state was founded for the Poles. The Arabs don’t agree that the Jews are a people, but one should at least be able to understand that the Jews do think that they are a people entitled to statehood.

    Anyway, to summarize it all, the Palestinians are very visible, and their struggle against Israel is very much on the agenda of the world community. Their plight is a result of their defeat and the frustration of their political ambitions. It would be helpful if they would be able to understand how others (i.e. the Jews) see reality. Most importantly, it would be a good idea to think in terms of reaching a deal (instead of yet another article that hints that Israel shouldn’t exist), thus achieving at least some of their objectives.

    • Annie Robbins
      May 23, 2018, 9:58 pm

      the issue at hand is war and defeat…Their plight is a result of their defeat

      palestinians have yet to be defeated. or haven’t you noticed.

      • Misterioso
        May 24, 2018, 11:03 am

        @Annie Robbins

        “[P]alestinians have yet to be defeated. or haven’t you noticed.”

        Right on!!!

        While throughout history their country has known many invaders and occupiers, as recent DNA evidence conclusively attests, its indigenous Palestinian habitants have lived there continuously for about 15,000 years.

        As is well know, Netanyahu’s greatest fear is that the Zionist occupation will be one of the shortest. He is obsessed with the worry that it will not last more than 80 years, i.e., the brief, less than a blip, life span of the biblical United Kingdom of Israel.

        Meanwhile, as is well documented, Jewish immigration to Israel is plummeting and emigration is soaring. Indeed, Palestinians, who have the world’s highest fertility rate, already outnumber Jews between the River and the Sea.

        If Nathan lives in Israel and is relatively young, he would do well to learn Arabic.

      • echinococcus
        May 24, 2018, 12:53 pm

        Misterioso

        If Nathan lives in Israel and is relatively young, he would do well to learn Arabic

        Bah. Did the Anglo–and-such invaders bother to learn Cherokee or Lakota? It was so much easier to exterminate all.

      • Nathan
        May 24, 2018, 1:30 pm

        Annie Robbins – It’s very interesting to hear your perspective that the Palestinians “have yet to be defeated”. I read a lot of anti-Israel websites and publications, and it’s so common to read the claim that the refugees have the right of return based on the logic that after the end of hostilities refugees must be allowed to return to their former homes. Now, suddenly, I learn from you that it’s not over until it’s over.

        Obviously the Palestinians are a defeated people. Their objective was to stop the immigration of Jews to Palestine. The intention was to prevent the founding of the Jewish state. They failed in these efforts. However, if you insist that this is not defeat (i.e. the struggle goes on), then let’s agree on the obvious that the conflict is not over. The whole claim of the “right of return” is therefore false – and the refugees will have to wait patiently until the end of hostilities. Actually, that is the essence of the Oslo Agreement (the solution to the refugee problem is an end-of-conflict issue).

      • Nathan
        May 24, 2018, 1:32 pm

        Misterioso – I haven’t yet met any “indigenous Palestinian habitants” who have been living in the country for 15,000 years.

        I sometimes wonder why anyone is busy with the span of time that the united kingdom (of Israel) existed. You claim that it’s just 80 years. You suggested that I learn Arabic, however you are a bit late with this advice. I studied Arabic many, many years ago, and I read Arabic really quite fine. I imagine that you don’t, because in all the literature published in Arabic, the claim is that the kingdom lasted only 70 years. The trend today in research is that there never was a united kingdom. There was a Kingdom of Israel and a Kingdom of Judah, both of which lasted for a few centuries during the first half of the last millenium BC.

        Since you find it important to mention the Kingdom of Israel of antiquity, I couldn’t help but notice that you didn’t mention the Kingdom of Palestine (united or otherwise) and how long it lasted. Is there any literature about it? Who founded it?

        Yes, I have heard the rumors that the Israelis are leaving the country in massive numbers. This phenomenon has been going on for about a century. The standard joke is that “the last one out is kindly requested to turn the lights out at the Ben-Gurion Airport”. There are only some 6.5 millions Jews still left in the country (down from some 60,000 in 1920), so indeed the situation is quite grim.

      • inbound39
        May 24, 2018, 10:06 pm

        Well said Annie. War is no different to a fight in the school yard or on the street. At the end the problem that caused the fight is still there and needs resolving. Israel refuses to resolve the problem by negating to allow resolution. It wants to dictate.

      • MHughes976
        May 25, 2018, 12:37 pm

        As to ancient Palestine I think, from the evidence collected by Mark Weeden, ‘After the Hittites’ SOAS Research Online 2013, that the first to use the title ‘King of Palestine’ was Taita I, based in Aleppo,, c. 1050 BCE. That Palestine was the surviving portion of the great Hittite empire, it even being possible that ‘Palestinian’ had always been the name used by the Hittites for themselves, which is not entirely certain. ‘Palestine’ clearly, but in ways hard to trace, began to expand or transfer its activities further south. The outcome or cultural impact was that ‘Palestine’ became the only clearly attested name for the river-to-sea peninsula from pre-Roman times, ‘Canaan’ being somewhat vague in application and somewhat archaic, as I argued in Ann essay here, June 23 2013.

    • Annie Robbins
      May 23, 2018, 10:19 pm

      Palestinians: The Invisible Victims was first published in 1975 as a paper for the Association of Arab-American University Graduates, and then published as a book in 1981.

      “Invisible Victims” is terminology that challenges the very foundation of abstract thinking. The whole world is focused on the plight of the Palestinians.

      I went to Amnesty International, and they said, we don’t take these cases here in America. If we do, we’re afraid of losing support and there will be pressure on us.

      I went to other folks and I couldn’t get them to do it either. So a group of us decided we would do it on our own. I was in the Association of Arab American University Graduates at the time. They authorized me to start a human rights campaign. We started adopting Palestinian house demolitions, prisoners, victims of torture. By ‘76 we actually branched out on our own and started the Palestine Human Rights Campaign as an independent organization. That’s how I came into it.

      nathan, and is it also your contention the whole world was focused on the plight of the Palestinians in 1975 when “Palestinians: The Invisible Victims” was first published in 1975?

      • Nathan
        May 24, 2018, 12:08 pm

        Yes, Annie Robbins, the world was quite focused on on the plight of the Palestinians in 1975 when “Palestinians: The Invisible Victims” was published. Mr Arafat made his very famous appearance at the UN in 1974. You might want to read this speech. He tells the General Assembly that there are other “causes labouring under imperialism and aggression” besides the Palestinian cause. And then he tells the world: “I call upon the General Assembly urgently to give their just causes the same full attention the General Assembly has so rightly given to our cause”. Yes, Mr Arafat is praising the UN for having given its full attention to his cause, and he is criticizing the UN for not having given its full attention for other causes. So, while Mr Zogby claims that the Palestinians are invisible victims, it turns out that Mr Arafat doesn’t agree.

    • Brewer
      May 24, 2018, 12:59 am

      @Nathan.
      The denial of Palestinian Human rights predates the “armed struggle”, continues during it and has never ceased.
      Their rights were traduced by Imperial forces who imposed a flood of immigrants on them against their stated wishes – an immigrant horde whose leaders boasted of making their homeland “as Jewish as England is English”.
      Their rights were denied when the Mandate imprisoned or killed one tenth of their able menfolk and confiscated their weapons.
      Their rights were denied when the well-armed immigrants drove them from their homes amid massacre and rapine.
      Their right to return to their homes and property remains denied to this day.

      It is enshrined in International law that defeat cancels no rights whatsoever.

      That these rights remain invisible to you, hidden behind a primitive and profoundly mistaken concept of War and its capabilities is testament to how apposite Zogby’s phrase is.

      • Nathan
        May 24, 2018, 10:12 pm

        Brewer – It’s a bit like the story about the “King’s New Clothes” where everyone praises the king for his wonderful new outfit, and some little boy has the nerve to spoil the game, stating what is obvious to everyone: “The king is naked”. Sorry, but it’s absolutely pointless to try and convince me that “these rights remain invisible to [me]”. There are those who don’t see the conflict as you do, but that shouldn’t be interpreted as invisibility.

        What is the next step? Should we moan and groan again and again that the immigrants shouldn’t have come to Palestine, that they had no right to found a Jewish state? That seems to be the point of so many articles and comments on this website, and the unspoken message is that it must all be undone.

        I think that it’s in the best interest of the Palestinians to end the conflict with Israel and to strike a deal. Moreover, people who care about the Palestinians should encourage them to seek an end of conflict. Once a year, a community can gather together and mourn their defeat – and all those who identify with them can join them in some solemn ceremony. The rest of the year should deal with solutions. The endless repetition of victimhood on a daily basis, the constant inculcation of the idea that all of this shouldn’t have happened and the figment of the imagination that the most talked-about international issue is “invisible” are really a pathetic waste of time. Strangely, for the sake of advancing the anti-Israel agenda, so many people here would prefer to keep the conflict going, even if it means maintaining the plight of the Palestinians.

        Ironically, I’m the only one here with a pro-Palestinian agenda. I really wish them the very best. I’d like to see them ending their conflict.

      • RoHa
        May 25, 2018, 12:55 am

        “the immigrants shouldn’t have come to Palestine, that they had no right to found a Jewish state? That seems to be the point of so many articles and comments on this website,”

        It is the point because it is true, and only by acknowledging that truth can the steps to justice be taken.

        “and the unspoken message is that it must all be undone.”

        Not from most of us. Most of us do not envisage all the Jews leaving Israel. Our message is that Israel needs to change, so as to stop persecuting Palestinians, give full rights to all Palestinians, and make as just a reparation for past wrongs as is possible.

        “I think that it’s in the best interest of the Palestinians to end the conflict with Israel…”

        Ending a conflict requires all parties to agree to end it, or for all but one of the opposing parties to be completely annihilated. Israel seems to prefer the second alternative. The seizure of land, of houses, the destruction, and the ethnic cleansing have not stopped. Israel is continuing the conflict.

        “and to strike a deal.”

        The Palestinians tried that. When they agreed to the Oslo accords, they bent over backwards to accommodate Israel. But Israel broke the agreement.

        Right now, it seems that the only deal Israel would keep is “Give us everything and go away, and we might let you live. Until we decide we want the place you have moved to, of course.”

        Do you have any ideas about what sort of deal the Palestinians could make?

      • Maghlawatan
        May 25, 2018, 2:51 am

        Nathan

        The key point is that the Zionists had no land of their own. They had to choose a site that was easy to seize and they had to do something about the people living there. And it was too much for them. So they failed. Now Israel is a Jewish state running Cossack law. It is a real pity the Bal Shem Tov can’t see it. If he and Hillel came on a tour they would find it to be hilarious.

      • Brewer
        May 25, 2018, 5:27 am

        “I think that it’s in the best interest of the Palestinians to end the conflict with Israel and to strike a deal.”
        Undoubtedly you do.
        tick…tock…tick…tock

      • eljay
        May 25, 2018, 8:20 am

        || Nathan: … Ironically, I’m the only one here with a pro-Palestinian agenda. … ||

        There’s nothing ironic about the fact that your “pro-Palestinian agenda”, which…
        – allows Israel to keep most of what it has stolen;
        – allows Israel to remain a religion-supremacist “Jewish State”;
        – absolves Israel of its obligations under international law (incl. RoR); and
        – absolves Israel of accountability for its past and on-going (war) crimes,
        …is nothing more than the standard Zionist “pro-‘Jewish State'” agenda.

      • Mooser
        May 25, 2018, 1:36 pm

        “Ironically, I’m the only one here with a pro-Palestinian agenda”

        The only one?

        “You want to know who helps Palestinians at the Coop? Jesse Rosenfeld does! He worked like hell to bring a new brand of Palestinian olive oil to our shelves” “JustJessetr”

        Don’t forget Jesse! He won’t.

    • RoHa
      May 24, 2018, 3:29 am

      “The idea of founding a Jewish state was about founding a state for the Jews – just as the Polish state was founded for the Poles. ”

      The Polish state was founded largely on land that had been occupied by a majority of Polish speakers for centuries.

      The Jewish state was founded on land that that had been occupied by Palestinian Arabs for centuries.

      (Both states did start attacking their neighbours as soon as they were formed, so there is a similarity.)

      “…one should at least be able to understand that the Jews do think that they are a people entitled to statehood.”

      We understand that. They are wrong. No “people” is entitled to statehood.

      “The Arabs don’t agree that the Jews are a people, but”

      they mostly don’t agree that Jews are more important than Arabs, that Jews are allowed to steal land and kill Arabs, or that they are allowed to lie about the whole business.

    • RoHa
      May 24, 2018, 3:33 am

      “It would be helpful if they would be able to understand how others (i.e. the Jews) see reality. ”

      should be

      “It would be helpful if they could/were able to understand how others (i.e. the Jews) see reality. ”

      The Palestinians know how Jews see the world. They suffer the results of that view every day. How can any greater understanding help?

      “Most importantly, it would be a good idea to think in terms of reaching a deal… ”

      How can they reach a deal with Israelis when the Israelis won’t keep a deal?

    • eljay
      May 24, 2018, 8:03 am

      || Nathan: … one should at least be able to understand that the Jews do think that they are a people entitled to statehood. … ||

      Only an anti-Semite would presume to know what “the Jews” collectively think.

  5. Yonah Fredman
    May 24, 2018, 3:32 am

    Regarding the Rosenbergs, the consensus seems to be that Julius was guilty but Ethel was innocent or maybe guilty of typing.

  6. Ossinev
    May 24, 2018, 7:29 am

    @Nathan
    “but one should at least be able to understand that the Jews do think that they are a people entitled to statehood”

    Does that include currently converted,historically converted and future converted Jews ?

    • Nathan
      May 24, 2018, 10:46 pm

      Ossinev – Identity is a tricky issue. It’s totally abstract, and out of our control. So there are millions of Jews who “think that they are a people entitled to statehood”. It doesn’t make any difference if you believe that this should or shouldn’t include converts. What you think that someone else’s identity should be is really irrelevant. Peoplehood identities are born in the collective consciousness of human beings everywhere, and no one is asking for your approval (and no one needs to pass a DNA test or present a pedigree).

      • Mooser
        May 25, 2018, 1:21 pm

        ” So there are millions of Jews who “think that they are a people entitled to statehood”. “

        Millions? Not “tens of millions”? Not “hundreds of millions”?
        Just a couple million? And, BTW, “Nathan” “entitled to statehood”? Yeah, you just go on thinking Jewish statehood is “entitled”

        “(and no one needs to pass a DNA test or present a pedigree).”

        Oh, I get it now, the identity of “Jewish” is ‘a like-minded group of people who are united by a plan to steal Palestine’!

        Thanks for clearing that up, “Nathan” That is an identity which should serve us well, far into eternity, especially now that religion is an individual choice, most places.

  7. Brewer
    May 24, 2018, 3:09 pm

    Important new mapping project:
    https://palopenmaps.org/?blm_aid=22581#/

  8. Citizen
    May 27, 2018, 7:45 am

    The United States is slowly forgetting it was ever committed to Palestinian rights. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/05/17/once-upon-a-time-america-supported-palestine/

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