Steven Salaita

Palestinian refugee Abdulrahim Saad, 82, holds the keys of his former house in the city of Lod as he sits at his home in the West Bank refugee camp of Askar, near Nablus, May 13, 2015. Many Palestinians keep the keys of their former properties as a symbol for both, of what they had to leave behind and to where they once intend to return. (Photo: Nedal Eshtayah/APA Images)

Steven Salaita: “I am happy, eager even, to affirm the right of Jewish people to live in peace and security, wherever that may be, a right all humans deserve in no particular order of worthiness.  But I won’t ratify Israel’s bloody founding or its devotion to racial supremacy. Ultimately, when Zionists demand that you affirm Israel’s right to exist, what they really seek is affirmation of Palestinian nonexistence.”

James Baldwin in Hyde Park, London, 1969 (Photo: Allan Warren/Wikimedia)

Steven Salaita reviews James Baldwin’s statements on Palestine and Israel which he says reveal a thinker of significant prescience and a skilled rhetorician who doesn’t allow audiences the luxury of comfort. “For Baldwin, Zionism isn’t an atavistic cultural or religious attribute, but the modern articulation of an age-old colonial logic,” Salaita writes.

When should anti-Zionists apologize to apologists for Israeli war crimes? Steven Salaita writes, “we know enough about Zionist rituals of forced atonement to understand that they don’t belong to the category of détente, but coercion.  Apology is merely a pretext, a simulation of penance that reinforces the primacy of Israeli life.  If Palestinians cannot verbalize sensibilities fundamental to their identity, then it means Zionists have effectively severed them from the insuppressible proclivities that comprise a human being.”

Steven Salaita on why ‘Progressive Except for Palestine’ is a lie: “a progressive or feminist (or socialist or anti-racist or whatever) with shit politics on Palestine isn’t somebody with an inconsistency; it’s somebody with shit politics in general.  Supporting Israel isn’t a respite from otherwise admirable ethics; it portends ethical flaws across a range of issues.”

An optimal anti-Zionism is a politics and a discourse, and is a commitment to unimaginable possibilities—that is, to realizing what arbiters of common sense like to call “impossible.” Steven Salaita offers some suggestions on what a principled anti-Zionism looks like.

A social media debate over the most effective way to discuss Palestinian resistance leads Steven Salaita to reflect on examine the uses of language in political activism: “Communicating to people in the West is important—even better if they decide to listen. I submit instead that it’s not the responsibility of dispossessed people to assure their oppressors’ comfort.  In the end, if arbiters of respectable opinion won’t accept Palestine’s national liberation movement as it actually exists, then it’s not because of language, but a fundamental difference of politics.”

Many of the people who defend Israel are consciously racist, but others dehumanize Arabs and Muslims by reproducing unexamined assumptions about Israel’s moral or civilizational superiority. Because so much time is spent debating when (or if) criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, we rarely get around to assessing how pro-Israel arguments and narratives exhibit anti-Arab racism. Luckily, Steven Salaita is here to help. Here are seven of the most common ways that defending Israel crosses the line into racism.

On May 18, Rabbi Jill Jacobs published an essay in the Washington Post suggesting that Steven Salaita is anti-Semitic. Here is the essay that he wrote in response that the Post refused to run. “Sloppy accusations of anti-Semitism betray visceral attachment to a country performing violence rather than empathy for those on its receiving end,” Salaita writes. “But it won’t deter us.  Indeed, it serves as fuel to work even harder so that we might one day enjoy the same freedom as those who appoint themselves chaperones of our anger.”

Steven Salaita on why Zionists should be excluded from left-wing protests: “The most important reason why ‘no Zionists’ is justified has less to do with strategy than with comradely spirit:  is the US left finally willing to respect Palestinian (and more broadly Arab) sensibilities?  Or will it continue to demand that Palestinians defer their liberation in order to assuage Zionist fragility?”