My apologies if my arguments have been made by others — there are > 500 comments too many to read.
I want to respond to some of the more revealing charges thrown at Alison — that she has a white savior mentality, as revealed by the audience IAK tries to target–that this is about privilege. This is laughable, especially coming from JVP supporters. As a Palestinian, I am very glad that her group targets the mainstream (people with no connections to the region), and I do not consider that she is slighting Arabs or Arab Americans by doing so or saying that we need someone to come to our defense (an argument made on a Facebook thread). She is targeting the majority who should object to the stranglehold that Israel and its supporters (and unregistered agents) have on our public life. That is a very good thing.
Jewish activists on Middle East issues are privileged people (through no fault of their own); they are likely to be deferred to by others, and they are more likely to be heard than other activists (including Palestinian activists). This can be a problem–I know this from my own experience and from my conversations with Palestinian activists in other parts of the country. Yes, we want allies, but the baggage that they bring should not be considered a given. It might just be their (individual) thing. Yet we end up wasting a lot of time talking about anti-semitism, which is mostly a non concern for the purpose of educating Americans about the evil that US support for Israel makes possible.
In the first essay, I found it very interesting that the writer should conflate demonizing Israel and Jews. I don’t know who considers “demonizing” Israel to be a problem (and what does that mean, anyway?). Perhaps Jewish activists who worry about working in Jewish communities are concerned about demonizing Israel. I don’t think that this is an issue for anyone else. So again, examine your premises and do not assume that other activists share your concerns or should do so. I look at the amount of time and space given to “anti-semitism” (which is an automatic red flag as far as I am concerned that someone is being silenced, and the attack on Alison confirms my belief) with very little if any mention of Zionism. The JVP mission statement talks about anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. So even when it ostensibly stands in solidarity with others, first it has to bring up anti-Jewish bigotry, which is not really an issue for the people it claims to stand in solidarity with. No mention of Zionism. Yet if you are going to stand in solidarity with Palestinians, you really should take a position on Zionism. Because there is a straight line, and not a very long one, between setting up a state for Jews only and periodically bombing Gaza and burning Palestinian families.
The first essay referred to wanting to see peace between Jews and Palestinians. This is also problematic; I find it strange that the author didn’t specify Israeli Jews. Or did she think that peace would come with the Law of Return intact, that Israel would remain a state for world Jewry to hold onto as a spare state? Palestinians don’t need to make peace with Jews. We need to find a way to live with Israeli Jews under a single set of laws that apply to all citizens. This will not be easy, because (at the risk of demonizing Israelis, which doesn’t concern me), a sizable majority are supremacists who really don’t are annoyed by the presence of non-Jews in their midst and would run us out of the country if they could. That is what the polls tell us, that is what even a casual reading of the Israeli press tells us.
Yes, we need allies. I am grateful that Alison and IAK responded (and promptly) to the call of Palestinian civil society for BDS. If what I read is correct, JVP took several years to come around. I wonder what took them so long.
Thank you, Mondoweiss, for providing this space.