When will justice’s ‘thunderbolt’ come for Palestine?

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Even if you believe in the promise of the United States as much as I do, this week has been shocking. Today the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of marriage equality– a few short years after no reasonable observer would have said such a thing was possible.

Earlier this week another miracle: a wave of white southern politicians called for the removal of the Confederate flag from official buildings as a symbol that fosters murderous hatred.

“I don’t think god wants us to stop there,” President Obama said just now in a religious speech about equality at the memorial for a pastor killed in the Charleston massacre.

The president said that the nine murders in the AME church last week should cause Americans to go further, to consider what we’re doing “to cause some of our children to hate.” And he asked us to forgive tens of thousands of black youths in prison and change an employment system where “Johnny” gets called back for a job interview “but not Jamal.”

All those who seek equality in our society have a heady feeling today: the American story is not done yet, our country is going to keep struggling forward; and prison reform is before us.

After the Supreme Court ruling this morning the president said that some change is incremental and some comes as a “thunderbolt,” and of course both thunderbolts this week are still crackling for us activists on the Palestine issue. The flag’s removal and the Supreme Court decision raise two questions: Is Israel capable of the changes that we have witnessed here? And when is America going to shift to recognize Palestinians as human beings and not terrorists?

The first question is easy to answer. No. Israel has shown itself incapable of taking steps toward true equality; and it never will so long as it is constituted as a Jewish state.

For decades it was able to pull off the tension of being a Jewish democracy because of its Labor governments and the kibbutzes that Bernie Sanders and Tony Judt and Noam Chomsky went out to work on, or because of the shadow of the Holocaust, or its usefulness during the Cold War, or because it wasn’t regularly massacring people under its control or limiting their movements. None of these conditions applies any longer. It has rightwing racist leaders who sharply limit the movements of Palestinians under its governance. Its Jewish citizens overwhelmingly approve massacres. Its leaders and proxies in the U.S. demand an endless cold war with Iran that entails the United States in a clash of civilizations.

Any reasonable person must acknowledge that every step Israel has taken in recent years has been away from democracy. If the moral arc bends towards justice, Israel’s bends toward intolerance. Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark explained this two years ago:

Has Israel ever been a democracy? And if we add the reasonable caveat that no country lives up to the best ideals of democracy, then maybe it’s better to ask, over these 65 years has Israel been tracing an arc that bends toward justice, speaking of Martin Luther King, of course. If the answer is No, could it be because no matter the potential merits and good will of the founding plan, the effort to establish and sustain the Jewish character of the intended Jewish democracy doomed the democratic character from the start, and it’s been spiraling downward ever since? For whatever the starting point was, I think we mostly agree that Israel has become less democratic in recent years, and every time the separation between religion and state dwindles, free speech  is curtailed, or  minority rights are trampled, it is … in the name of preserving the state’s Jewish character– that is, Jewish hegemony.

Israel supporters sometimes say, “Well you had your Civil War 80 years into your democracy, we just need ours.” That may be the case, but the problem with that parallel is that Israel is the slave south. And a civil war of liberation would mean a society without slavery, where millions of Palestinians gain the right of consent over their government. I.e., the end of Jewish hegemony.
As for the second question, Will American thunderbolts come for Palestinians, and Arabs, too? The answer is Yes, and sooner than you think.
The LGBT community and the black community have been engaged in long and parallel struggles to make themselves part of the American community. The riots at Stonewall that the television networks were celebrating today as a precedent to the Supreme Court decision were violently suppressed 40 years ago. Those protests were encouraged by the feminist movement and by the downfall of Jim Crow the decade before.
Our understanding of human rights is continuous, and it changes in a hurry.
Watching the joy on Jen Psaki’s face today as she reveled in the Supreme Court opinion, I reflected that this is the same Jen Psaki who has had a stern face again and again when standing up for Israel’s human rights abuses at the State Department, and I reflected how many of us, myself included, met the idea of marriage equality with a stern face just a few years ago. But a conservative American majority has been radically transformed by social outcasts waging an idealistic struggle over several decades. A Reagan appointee wrote today’s uplifting majority opinion for the Supreme Court.
History is a form of blindness, Obama said. Then through grace, we see what should have been obvious to us before; and we discover “our best selves.”
When a black president broke into Amazing Grace from the pulpit in Charleston– no one could have seen that moment ten years ago. Just as no one today can see the American embrace of Palestine that is coming soon.
For all my American brothers and sisters who work tirelessly on behalf of a people whose oppression the U.S. is responsible for, today we issue a challenge to the country. Consider our cause. To paraphrase the Supreme Court, Palestinians also hope not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from civilization. All they ask is for equal dignity in the eyes of the law.

Fuel the Momentum


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Mr Weiss,
You write beautifully. The ending of your article is extremely moving.
May the Powers That Be listen and heed your words !
It’s been a long,long time a’coming !

Annie Robbins

omg phil, you’ve got me crying.


Don’t hog the tissues. Beautiful aspirations and beautifully stated. That day cannot come soon enough. Peace and justice for all in the region. Seems so impossible but that just means there is a need to work harder. Too overcome not only the lunatic fringe that is ISIS but also the… Read more »


So, let me understand: Is dealing with the Palestinian issue the natural sequel of the response to the killings in the Church? How exactly the 2 are linked – apart from abstract humane notions that in fact links it to a thousand of other issues in today`s world? And even… Read more »


I don’t recall the USA giving Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen and other countries $8.5 Million dollars a day; nor do I recall the USA immunizing their regimes from accountability under international law post Nuremberg at the UN SC. @ ivri, do you?