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A twitter debate on Israel/Palestine and racism

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This past weekend saw a spirited and sometimes angry debate on twitter over racism, Israel/Palestine, and BDS (Phil referenced it briefly here). The discussion was touched off by a critique of BDS from The Nation‘s Ben Adler, which was responding to Kiera Feldman’s report on the Park Slope Food Co-op boycott vote. In his article Adler wrote:

And Israel’s destruction is indeed what BDS seeks. Calling for a Palestinian “right of return” is, as Feldman acknowledges, calling for the demographic abolition of Israel as a Jewish state. A lot of people have fled persecution over the years. I have no right of return to the Eastern European countries where my ancestors feared pogroms, nor do Israelis. Native Americans cannot reclaim the land in Brooklyn that the Park Slope Food Coop currently occupies.

The ensuing exchange lasted for nearly 26 hours, with many chiming in (including me tweeting under the Mondoweiss account).

Below are snippets from the discussion (see Adler’s twitter page for the full discussion).  

Ben Adler’s tweets on BDS

Storified by Mondoweiss · Mon, Apr 02 2012 11:42:13

The Problems With BDS | The Nation http://www.thenation.com/blog/167146/problems-bdsBen Adler
For the record, when one (eg @badler) refers to Palestinian bodies as "demographic" threats, that’s racist. More serious response to come.Kiera Feldman
@kierafeldman how exactly is referring to a demographic reality that would end Israel as a Jewish and democratic state racistBen Adler
@kierafeldman Israel is a Jewish state. It’s not the same as calling, say, Latinos a demographic threat to the U.S.Ben Adler
@kierafeldman can you tell me what Israel would be like for the 6 million Jews there if they lived with 8 million Palestinians?Ben Adler
@Mondoweiss if you think believing that Israel should be allowed to exist within the Green Line as a Jewish state makes me a racist, fineBen Adler
@badler please explain y that isn’t clear? Do U think it’s right that U can move 2 Israel 2morrow, but a refugee forced out in 48 cant?Mondoweiss
according to @Mondoweiss if you support Israel’s right to exist you "support racism." So he must see racists everywhereBen Adler
I support Palestinians having their own state alongside Israel. @mondoweiss opposes Israel’s right to exist. but HE’s calling ME racistBen Adler
@Mondoweiss Looking fwd to your posts saying I have right of return to Hungary, Russia, Lithuania & calling anyone who disagrees a racistBen Adler
As someone who wants Israel to disband settlements and withdraw from West Bank, I find ppl like @mondoweiss who demand 1 state v unhelpfulBen Adler
Is there a stupider analogy than "it wd be racist to oppose latinos in US for demographic reasons so it’s racist to oppose right of return"?Ben Adler
so I guess @mondoweiss is an anti-filipino bigot for not boycotting Saudi Arabia over their immigration policy http://mondoweiss.net/2012/04/jewish-food-fight.htmlBen Adler
@kierafeldman @Mondoweiss can i see your pieces calling for boycotts of the Gulf states for their racist immigration policies?Ben Adler
By @mondoweiss’ logic, Israel can’t have a different founding purpose than U.S. Funny how he’s never said that about, say, Saudi ArabiaBen Adler
I’m not calling @mondoweiss an anti-Semite for wanting Israel’s Jews to be ruled by Hamas. Bc I’m not a mud slinging hack like he isBen Adler
@kierafeldman @JoshuaHol but that’s precisely my point! convince bernie sanders to introduce a bill cutting off Israel … 1/2Ben Adler
@kierafeldman @JoshuaHol …. 2/2 that would generate more influential discussion that a losing vote at a food coop not to buy 6 productsBen Adler
.@badler But that’s my point, you refer to people wanting to "abolish Israel as a Jewish state," demographics is a racist argument.Remi Kanazi
@Remroum for the record, i think if birthrates created arab majority within israel they could democratically alter it’s Jewish natureBen Adler
.@badler You’re excusing mass ethnic cleansing. People have a right to return. It’s NOT immigration, they were expelled from their homes.Remi Kanazi
@Remroum there’s a diff btwn allowing immigration policies to shape demographics and ethnic cleansing of ppl already there.Ben Adler
@Remroum just bc filipino guest workers in Saudi aren’t refugees from 60 yrs ago doesn’t make those ethnocentric policies non-racistBen Adler
.@badler Who is commending disgusting Saudi policy? Object & work against both. That’s the point. Stop deflecting.Remi Kanazi
@Remroum what exactly are you doing to change Saudi policy? Where are your posts calling Saudis & anyone not boycotting Saudi racists?Ben Adler
.@badler If Saudis or Filipinos called for boycott, I would sign on. Palestinian civil society, the oppressed, called for boycottRemi Kanazi
@badler It’s not "disrespectful" 2 point out what demographic fear means. It’s not progressive to say ‘but my demographic fear is DIFFERENT"Kiera Feldman
@kierafeldman it’s simply dishonest to equate demographic fear wrt Israel to anti-Latino sentiment in US. It’s not abt fear of Arabs … 1/2Ben Adler
@kierafeldman … 2/2 but rather any non-Jews. It’s not inherently more racist against Arabs than, say, Swedes.Ben Adler
@kierafeldman of course I’m not denying presence of horrible anti-Arab racism in Israel. Like you, I want to stop supporting thatBen Adler
.@badler Isnt racism when u say it’s ok to treat different groups differently? Would u deny right of return 4 any other refugee group?Kiera Feldman
@kierafeldman Yes and so do you, unless you’re moving out of your house so a Native American can move in.Ben Adler
.@badler Calling for justice for one dispossessed people doesn’t preclude justice here. BDS works w/First Nations groups here too you knowKiera Feldman
@badler I’m just saying if u want 2 call yrself progressive u should own up to the fact that yr definitions of citizenship are anything but.Kiera Feldman
@kierafeldman A) I don’t "Want to call myself progressive." I call myself a liberal and I’ve been writing for lib mags for years …Ben Adler
@kierafeldman … I’ve written FAR more than you about immigrant rights, civil rights, voting rights in U.S. where I live …Ben Adler
@kierafeldman Yes, I do apply a different standard of citizenship of Israel than US. Just as you apply diff stand to Saudi v IsraelBen Adler
@MaxBlumenthal @mondoweiss Ben’s asking good questions, should read Omar’s book and meet more Palestinians. @badler :-)Tiny Dancer
@DianaValerie @MaxBlumenthal @mondoweiss I would love to meet more Palestinains. I’m waiting for my junket invite!Ben Adler
@youngcollier hahah. remind me never to write about the middle east again. they think im a terrible person bc of this: http://www.thenation.com/blog/167146/problems-bdsBen Adler
Hoping tonight’s episode of Mad Men is more awesome than last week’sBen Adler

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Israel is Jewish and democratic because it is Jewish and democratic, and I am a liberal because I am a liberal.

You can’t argue with that sort of logic. Seriously, you can’t.

Was it racist of Arabs in Palestine to oppose Jewish immigration in the 20s? Was it still racist of them to oppose allowing Jewish refugees to escape Germany in the 30s? Was it racist of them to oppose allowing Jewish concentration camp survivors to come to Palestine after WWII? Actually no. Communities have a right to craft demographic policies that serve their own national interest. Even if it harms the interests of outsiders. That said,… Read more »

Weiss covered the way you can outright racist and nativist stuff like “demographic abolition” under the cover of Zionism. And Beinart even tweeted his approval of Adler’s piece on his twitter feed.

That should give some here pause.

RE: “I have no right of return to the Eastern European countries where my ancestors feared pogroms, nor do Israelis.” ~ Ben Adler CHRIS HEDGES, 3/05/12: (excerpt)…The Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai, in his poem “Rypin,” translated by Peter Cole, examined what power, force and self-worship do to compassion, justice and human decency. Rypin was the Polish town his father escaped from during the pogroms. These creatures in helmets and khakis, I say to myself, aren’t… Read more »

following a lot of this on ‘real time’ i was actually astounded at alders tweets. that he could reveal this level of myopic-ness and shifty/twisty word games to make his ‘pts’. all about ot scoring and he wasn’t bashful about his immaturity, he just splayed it all out there for the world to see. i was surprised he was writing for the nation i suppose because i hold then to a higher standard, or did.… Read more »