Opinion

How liberal Zionism hurts us more

A community’s encounter with a so-called “progressive”
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On Sunday, September 13th, 2020, Democrat congressional candidate Georgette Gómez spoke to ten members of the San Diego Anti-Zionist Coalition in a virtual meeting. Many of us on the call had organized with her to advance local progressive politics for over a decade. Many of us had supported and volunteered for her successful 2016 San Diego City Council campaign.

All of us on the call are proud anti-Zionists, thus encountering a puzzling situation: the Georgette Gómez we knew as “progressive” was now running on a loud Zionist platform, likely to attract donors. Jewish Insider reported in April, she “received individual contributions from pro-Israel heavyweights including philanthropist Stacy Schusterman as well as former AIPAC presidents Amy Friedkin and Mort Fridman.” 

According to FEC filings, Georgette has received over $75,000 in out of state campaign donations from donors who contributed at least $2,000. She also received a $2,000 donation from a new Zionist political action committee that funds Democrats, DMFI-PAC. About 70% of Georgette’s campaign is financed by large individual donors who contributed over $200, and another 20% comes from PAC contributions. Under 15% comes from small individual donors. 

Georgette’s opponent is frontrunner Sara Jacobs, heir to the Qualcomm fortune who self-financed nearly $3 million for her campaign. [Jacobs is also a Democrat.]

In January, Georgette published an op-ed where she disagreed with reducing U.S. aid to Israel. She described conditioning aid as an action that “jeopardizes Israel’s ability to defend its security, promotes instability and extremism and undermines U.S. credibility.” 

In the same editorial she confirmed her support for a two-state solution, and stated that BDS is “not something I support.” BDS is a grassroots strategy for initiating some measure of accountability for the unimpeded, systematic colonial violence that has been meted out to the Palestinian people since the founding of Israel through ethnic cleansing until today. And when a progressive politician is questioned about it, all that she could say was that it is “not something I support”?  

This general framework reveals how disposable Palestinians are to this allegedly progressive vision. The Palestinian people and their land, which Israel continues to steal, ethnically cleanse, and colonize, are barely an afterthought.

By actively expressing non-support for BDS, a political act and free speech, Georgette and all politicians like her are actively reifying Zionism and the repression of anti-Zionist activism here in the U.S. They are as culpable as their counterparts who actively present anti-BDS legislation and work anti-BDS clauses into law. 

Furthermore, BDS is a grassroots, nonviolent initiative, so when liberal Zionists condemn it and simultaneously promise to continue aid to Israel, it becomes undeniable that their commitment to “both sides” is entirely performative. To condemn BDS and simultaneously fund Israel’s military, one that bombs, imprisons, and tortures Palestinians, speaks for itself. (This is before even addressing Israel’s prime minister’s intent to annex parts of the West Bank.)

At our coalition Zoom meeting, we were hoping for some kind of clarity. Was Georgette genuinely unaware of the hypocrisy of her positions, or did she seriously believe that unquestioned support for Israel is consistent with progressive values? Unfortunately, we did not receive an answer. 

Throughout the entirety of the meeting, she either demonstrated her complete lack of knowledge of both the history and current reality in Israel-Palestine, or she echoed propaganda talking points. As someone running for Congress, this woeful lack of political education is unacceptable but entirely normal in representational politics. It is indicative of the limitations of the electoral system. Candidates like Georgette accept financial support in exchange for adopting an ideological stance that has harmful material impacts around the world, all without knowing the basics. 

Georgette also appeared to have no understanding of the important distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, insisting that her positions are rooted in support for the Jewish community. Collapsing the two is incorrect and completely dismisses the significant and growing number of anti-Zionist Jews. She repeatedly claimed to support both “Israelis and Palestinians,” but without any clear rationale for how her views, which emphasized material support for the Israeli state, benefitted (or even acknowledged) Palestinians. While Palestinians continue to be deprived of social and political autonomy as well as land, how does she plan to support them? How can she maintain an “equal” approach when such vast disparities of power and privilege, that of the colonizer and the colonized, are at play?   

It seemed to us that Georgette was attempting to pass off this position as somehow neutral. The problem is that there is nothing at all neutral about this line of thinking. Liberal Zionists often claim that they are invested in peace and justice above all else as a way of deflecting from acknowledging  direct, material condition of Palestinians, who are systematically disenfranchised and dispossessed. The need for Israel to remain a “Jewish and Democratic state” is in fact a not-so-subtle reference to ensuring that the Palestinian presence upon Palestinian land is reduced, or politically disenfranchised. Secondly, this position is in fact squarely in line with what has been the de facto U.S. foreign policy stance since 1967: ensuring that Israel maintains as much asymmetrical military-colonial power over the Palestinians and neighboring regions. As Noura Erakat wrote in the Washington Post earlier this year, 

Since 1967, successive U.S. administrations have insisted that settlements are contrary to international law and counterproductive to peace. In practice, each has provided Israel with unequivocal financial, diplomatic and military support, enabling it to expand and entrench its sprawling settler-colonial enterprise.”

Peace, when deployed by the U.S. establishment, essentially means ensuring Israel receives minimal pushback for military violence and settlement expansion. This foreign policy position is one of the few points on which Republicans and a majority of Democrats actually agree. Even so, at this moment conditioning aid to Israel because of violations to Palestinian human rights is gaining momentum among some Democrats. It’s disappointing Georgette is not joining these voices. 

We see hypocrisy when Georgette opposed border wall funding on San Diego City Council in 2017, yet now she says nothing of the same company who built walls in Palestine. The U.S.-Mexico border wall uses surveillance from an American subsidiary of the Israeli company Elbit Systems, and Elbit is used by the Israeli military to monitor and prevent the movement of Palestinians. 

In a city like San Diego, with one of the largest refugee communities in California, the the impacts of Israel are everywhere: whether it is Syrian-Palestinian refugees or Iraqi-Palestinians who were twice displaced in 1948 by Israel and then in the 1990’s and 2000’s during wars in Iraq and Kuwait. There are Central Americans currently in detention who fled from nations where the militaries buy Israeli weapons. African American and East African communities are policed by officers trained by Israeli forces. Similarly, African American, East African, Arab, and Afghan populations are currently targeted by the Countering Violent Extremism program, a Department of Homeland Security operation that surveils and recruits informants in Muslim communities, criminalizing religiosity, political activism, and cultural pride. (CVE programming has long been backed by the ADL, which also sponsors training of US police forces in Israel.)

And so we recognize that this is about far more than Georgette Gómez. We represent a wide array of organizations involved in anti-oppression organizing. We believe in a world free of colonial walls, of capitalism and imperialism, and global Indigenous, Black and Brown liberation. These are the ethos that inform our principled opposition to Zionism.  As more and more politicians continue to try to cash in on a “radical” image, and Palestine becomes an increasingly public topic of political concern, we need to remain vigilant and make it clear that a radicalism or even “progressivism” that upholds Zionism is nothing more than colonialism in disguise. As such, it has no place in authentically liberation-oriented collectives and initiatives. Knowing that our communities will never be freed by deceptive politicians or a corrupt electoral system, we announce the formation of a San Diego Anti-Zionist Coalition dedicated to continuing to build power and bonds of solidarity and joint struggle across all of our causes. We will be a grassroots, non-electoral alliance of community organizations committed to Palestinian liberation, opposed to Zionism and all forms of colonialism. We must continue to agitate, Until Return and Liberation!

If you are a local organizer who would like to learn more about or join the San Diego Anti-Zionist Coalition, email: sd.antizionism@gmail.com. Note, our coalition does not officially endorse any candidate for public office. 

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At this point in time it is simply not credible that congressional candidate Georgette Gómez is unaware of the grotesque injustices Israel has inflicted, and is continuing to inflict, on the innocent people of Palestine. Equally, it is not credible that our current candidates for president and vice president are also so unaware. The clear explanation for all their dodging on this issue is that they are beholden for campaign money to Zionist misanthropists. This is a major… Read more »

Meanwhile: https://english.palinfo.com/articles/2020/10/4/The-Zionist-dream-has-become-a-nightmare “The Zionist Dream has become a Nightmare!” by Yvonne Ridley, The Palestinian Information Centre,  EXCERPT: “The future of Israel is hanging in the balance as the number of immigrants has dropped by more than a third, according to the latest statistics. While the coronavirus pandemic is being blamed for this, stories of a broken economy and general decline in living standards are thought to be behind the decrease. “Figures released by the Jewish… Read more »