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Sanders statement on Palestinians ‘could not have been spoken anywhere in Dem Party, ever, in 60s’ — Khalidi

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Nearly 70 people crowded a room at Columbia University yesterday to hear a talk on historical divisions on the left over Palestine, and the news of the day was celebrated. Rashid Khalidi enthused over Bernie Sanders’s unprompted embrace of Palestinian rights to the Democratic debate the night before as a sign of progress. And Dorothy Zellner celebrated Benjamin Netanyahu’s indictment that morning as a “happy day,” and teachable moment about Israel in the United States.

The gathering at the Center for Palestine Studies was for an important new book by Michael Fischbach,“The Movement and the Middle East,” about how the Israeli Arab conflict divided the American left in the 1960s and 1970s.

Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies, introduced Fischbach by telling of protesting when Golda Meir spoke at Yale University Law School in the 1960s. “There were four of us,” he said. Fischbach’s book reports that American public opinion was then 95 percent in favor of Israel. “I think that exaggerated support for the Palestinians in the 60s,” Khalidi quipped. He went on:

Things are obviously very different today. You heard a presidential candidate last night on network television talking about things that could not have been spoken anywhere in the Democratic Party, ever, under any circumstances in the 60s. And things are happening on college campuses. Things are happening in churches. Things are happening in the Jewish community, which paint a very different picture than the United States in the 60s and 70s.

Today we can talk about matters on campus that were “completely off limits 20 years ago,” Khalidi said.

In his talk, Fischbach also emphasized the importance of Bernie Sanders’s comments on Palestine in opening the floodgates on a progressive discussion of Palestine inside the Democratic Party. The number of Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than Palestine has been falling, to about 27 percent in recent polling. Liberal Democrats in surveys are twice as sympathetic to Palestinians as they are to Israelis.

Fischbach warned against allowing this divide to weaken the party’s battle against Trump. The strongly pro-Israeli party bosses are not listening to the very constituencies it needs to win, constituencies that are solidly pro-Palestinian, women, youth, and people of color. And those three are pretty clear about their sympathies, with Palestine.

Progressives fighting back against the agenda of Donald Trump and his ally, the now-indicted prime minister, would do well to consider the weakening of the left five decades ago due to its infighting over Israel Palestine as a cautionary tale, if they seek to create a united front among progressives against 21st century reactionaries in America. With Trump so deeply connected with Netanyahu and his policies, and with the left both within and outside the United States virtually unanimous in support of Palestinians, strongly pro-Israel progressives’ ability to make common cause here in America with Palestinian activists as part of a wider anti-Trump coalition appears to be a major stumbling block. Like American politics, Middle Eastern politics are internal, and they present American progressives with the same kind of challenges they did five decades ago, particularly related to the Arab Israeli conflict.

Dorothy Zellner

Dorothy Zellner, the activist with Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No, and formerly with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s (SNCC), said the divide may not be resolvable.

This division does not surprise me. This is an ethical division. It didn’t start in 1967, it started in 1948 and it’s connected with the Nakba…. What we are looking at is the result of the Nakba. There is no way we can be united on this, friends. This is an ethical political division. It’s foolish to think there’s a united front. Either you are going to support the right of the Palestinains to be human beings or you’re not. I don’t see any kind of unity on that. I think the way forward is to work like we’re working, like JVP is working, to convince people that there is an ethical dilemma. I think that’s where that 27 percent [figure in the Democratic Party] comes from…

Now we have a happy day when their prime minister is indicted for bribery!

 

Event for Fischbach’s new book at Columbia’s Center for Palestine Studies.

 

 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.

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13 Responses

  1. echinococcus on November 22, 2019, 3:56 pm

    “Fischbach warned against allowing this divide to weaken the party’s battle against Trump. The left needs to respect the Pro Israel progressives.”

    This despicable, vomitive message fits very well with the newfangled acception of “Left” and “Progressive” as socially fashionable causes for liberals. No surprise there.

    What kind of “progress” can be pro-Empire, colonial invasion and genocide?

    The message is exceedingly clear — this Fischbach person seemingly does not care about camouflaging the fact that the only reason he (or Sanders) is (or has just become) interested in “Palestinian rights” is that it is good for their sheepdog operation: pulling all that have been nauseated by the imperial Single Party operation back to the Dim voting fold!

    This is the dead giveaway. Go along with whatever genuinely worries the people about the imperial party policy, but at the same time draw limits that prohibit seriously questioning the foundations of imperial aggression.

    Fischbah is openly telling us what is afoot.

  2. annie on November 22, 2019, 4:49 pm

    With Trump so deeply connected with Netanyahu and his policies, and with the left both within and outside the United States virtually unanimous in support of Palestinians, strongly pro-Israel progressives’ ability to make common cause here in America with Palestinian activists as part of a wider anti-Trump coalition appears to be a major stumbling block.

    it’s not a major stumbling block for me, let them stumble until they figure it out. there’s no such thing as a pro israel progressive because israel is an apartheid state.

    i agree w/zellner.

  3. brent on November 22, 2019, 6:20 pm

    I wonder to what extent leftist ethical considerations are influenced by tactics tolerated, at times celebrated, in working toward justice and human rights. Likely for some, violence distances concern for justice and human rights. I find it difficult to characterize the advantages of rocks or rockets.

    • echinococcus on November 22, 2019, 9:14 pm

      While we don’t even “characterize the advantages of” jet planes, flechette missiles, iron domes, machine gun robots, drones, phosphorus bombs, nuclear bombs, etc.

      So why don’t we give a little of those to the Palestinians? Just asking.

      • brent on November 23, 2019, 1:39 am

        @echinococcus… Perhaps I’ve been wrong but I’ve judged its more accurate to say Israel works the system and “takes” more so than America” gives” in this system of competing interests.

        I see an America that seldom “does the right thing for the right reason”, but respond to the competition of ideas. I’m of the opinion building a bridge to humanists, especially Jewish humanists, due to the perceived competence and creativity I see, is the most efficient route to achieving peaceful coexistence in Jerusalem. Evaluating the advantages, disadvantages of tactics makes sense to me. How else to turn around the patterns we’ve observed for ever so long. Removing hindrances in the name of effectiveness seems reasonable to me. What are rocks and rockets likely to achieve? Celebrating or rewarding behaviors that can be counterproductive doesn’t make sense to me.

        When an opponent has nuclear weapons and uses robot machine guns, I say its time to consider tactics.

    • Donald on November 23, 2019, 12:10 am

      Don’t do this.

      I don’t support attacking civilians, but rocks? Seriously? I remember Kristof raising that point once. It was gross. He barely ever mentions Palestinians and when he does he criticized them for throwing rocks.

      And even rocket fire from Gaza is pretty trivial stuff compared to what is fired at Gaza.

      Here is the central point. You seem to be implying there is this mass movement of Westerners who were just waiting for Palestinians to shape up and protest in an ethical manner. It is nonsense. Western liberals for the most part go along with what the press tells them, and the press always uses double standards on violence. Unarmed Gazans get gunned down and the NYT runs several opinion pieces defending this and what do NYT readers say? Nothing.

      Westerners who support Palestinian rights have to get over this notion that Palestinians must reach some state of moral Gandhian perfection that none of us dream of applying to ourselves. I still don’t praise rocket fire, but the US helps Israel murder Palestinians, often citing that rocket fire, so it seems like a bad idea to pander to American hypocrisy on this subject.

      • Elizabeth Block on November 23, 2019, 12:15 pm

        Some years ago I asked Margaret Macmillan, the historian (“1919” etc.), whether she thought that if the Palestinians had adopted, and stuck to, nonviolent resistance from the beginning, they would have gotten any more than they have gotten using violence. She said no, they would not.

        Consider how their nonviolent demonstrations have been met – with violence, often lethal violence. And consider how, when there is a cease-fire, the Israelis break it, provoke them over and over again until they retaliate.

        I’m also thinking of a scene from the movie “The Battle of Algiers,” where a captured Algerian leader is allowed to meet the press (before he is killed). They ask him about planting bombs in women’s handbags. He says, “We fight with what we have. Give us your guns and planes and artillery, and we’ll give you our women’s handbags.”

      • genesto on November 23, 2019, 3:17 pm

        Elizabeth Block- Not only would complete non violence have failed, it would have led to more violence against the Palestinians. Non violent leaders and activists are perceived by the Zionist masters as posing the biggest threat to the existence of the Jewish state and, therefore, must be ‘defeated’ one way or another.

        If you need an example of this, look at how Israel responded to the peaceful, non violent Gaza Freedom Flotilla of 2010. 10 dead and dozens injured was the result – and all were unarmed!

  4. Misterioso on November 23, 2019, 3:49 pm

    @Elizabeth Block

    “Some years ago I asked Margaret Macmillan, the historian (“1919” etc.), whether she thought that if the Palestinians had adopted, and stuck to, nonviolent resistance from the beginning, they would have gotten any more than they have gotten using violence. She said no, they would not.”

    I’m sure that Ms. Macmillan said “no, they would not,” because she knew what the early Zionists’ grand plan for the Palestinians was:

    Israel Zangwill, the influential Anglo-Jewish essayist and Zionist, 1901: [W]e must be prepared to either drive out by the sword the [Arab] tribes in possession…or to grapple with the problem of a large alien population….”

    In May 1911, Arthur Ruppin, one of early Zionism’s leading figures proposed to the Executive of the Zionist Organization, a “population transfer” of the Arab peasants from Palestine.

    In 1918, Polish born David Ben-Gurion (real name, David Gruen), described the future borders of the Jewish state as: “to the north, the Litani River; to the northeast, the Wadi’Owja, twenty miles south of Damascus; the southern border will be mobile and pushed into the Sinai at least up to Wadi al-`Arish; and to the east, the Syrian Desert, including the furthest edge of Transjordan.” (Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs)

    In the February 1919 issue of the League of Nations Journal, Zangwill proposed that the Palestinians should be “transplanted” in Arab countries and at a public meeting in the same year he remarked that “many [Palestinians] are semi-nomad, they have given nothing to Palestine and are not entitled to the rules of democracy.” (Jewish Chronicle, Dec. 12 1919).

    Although its origins can be traced back to Herzl and other early Zionists, Plan Dalet (Plan D) began to take concrete form in 1937, when the Jewish Agency’s Transfer Committee was established by Yosef Weitz and others. The committee’s purpose was to devise a plan that would lead to the “transfer” of the Arab population out of Palestine so that Jews would become a large majority. This would be accomplished by “promoting measures designed to encourage the Arab flight.” Weitz did not mince his words: “…there is no room for both people together in this country….The only solution is a Palestine…without Arabs. And there is no way than to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighbouring countries, to transfer all of them; not one village, not one tribe, should be left.” (Yosef Weitz, My Diary and Letters to the Children, 1965).

    Ben-Gurion, 1937: “”[a] partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish state will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety.”

    In a letter to his son in 1937, Ben Gurion stated that “[w]hen the Jewish state comes into being, we will expel the Arabs and take their places.” He also declared in a speech to the 20th. Zionist Congress, on Aug. 7, 1937: “In many parts of the country new Jewish settlements will not be possible unless there is transfer of the Arab peasantry…. The transfer of the Arab population is what makes possible a comprehensive [Jewish] settlement plan.”

    During a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive on 12 June 1938, Ben-Gurion again advocated expulsion of the Palestinians: “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see in it anything immoral.” (Benny Morris, “Refabricating 1948”)

  5. Citizen on November 23, 2019, 4:46 pm

    Part of the Problem #511 – Jews Call Out Other Jews for Being Jews–Concerned Americans, please listen to this POV on the #AltRight, beginning at 1.05 hours into the video & continuing to its end. https://youtu.be/qReuHwRC2fo via @YouTube

    • Eva Smagacz on November 26, 2019, 2:30 am

      Hi Citizen, thanks for a link.
      I find Ben Shapiro unbearably arrogant and full of himself.
      Didn’t realised just how Islamophobic he was.
      Which makes his speech pretty precious – racist ranting about racism.

      Like Dave Smith though – thanks for introduction.

      • eljay on November 26, 2019, 7:20 am

        || Eva Smagacz: … I find Ben Shapiro unbearably arrogant and full of himself. … ||

        He’s an arrogant, bigoted fast-talker and Zionist hypocrite.

  6. brent on November 24, 2019, 12:38 am

    “Non-violent leaders and activists are perceived by the Zionist masters as posing the biggest threat to the existence of the Jewish state”….. genesto

    The central point is that “Zionist masters” would be especially vulnerable to Palestinians shifting away from rocks and rockets because that could in time change the political landscape. No doubt such a change in tactics would be most unwelcome and likely generate hostility from within greater Israel. Such a tactical shift is a politically pragmatic one and not about becoming “moral” or “ethical” to satisfy anyone.

    I think it makes sense because it removes psychological perceptions and impediments to a coalition with humanists, especially Jewish ones, who stand and will fight effectively and competently for fairness and justice, central tenants in Christianity and Judaism. No one wants to be seen as a hypocrite. Coalition building is a path to success in the game of politics.

    I look forward to arguments on behalf of continuing rocks or rockets.

    Misterio shared some very important and relevant points. That information would make excellent reading for American tourists to the Holy Land during their flight home, possibly in a hand out at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

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