I spent my day in downtown Boston in and around the Occupy Boston encampment. Appropriately, the protesters bivouacked across the street from The Federal Reserve Bank here; the image they’ve conjured is a symbolically potent one.
My main task for the day was to lead a Palestine teach-in. About twenty people – from a variety of backgrounds – sat in a circle to offer comments and ask questions. Significantly, the teach-in was organized at the request of the Occupy Boston leadership.
I have to admit that I was surprised at the new baseline that’s emerged in recent years. People took it for granted that America and Israel have been working to undermine Palestinian human rights for decades now. Anyone who remembers talking about Palestine in 2003 knows that the goalposts have shifted. I just wasn’t aware by how much.
The recession has done its part to change perceptions I think. Americans react like normal people when they read that despite everything cash transfers to Israel are unaffected by their economic straits. Moreover, the effect that Dan Levy describes here has had a domestic impact in the past two years. Finally, Israel is breaking on the Left-Right divide, but it’s also about 1% versus the 99%. The moneyed elites and the lobbyists are all about Israel.
One other thing that struck me about the Occupy movement – which saw one or two thousand people march today – were the resonances with Tahrir. The tents, the reliance on community expertise (medical services, a prayer space, etc…) the chants and the positivity all underlined the universality of the experience for me. I wonder if we overstate the impact of culture on social movements sometimes.
I left the protesters feeling good about the movement’s goals and diversity. But I do have one major concern: Unlike Tahrir, the Occupy movement runs a very real risk of being co-opted by a range of establishment Democrat bandwagoneers.
Nothing will bury this nascent American movement for social justice more effectively than the Democratic Party. I hope that enough of the leadership knows that.