It seems quite problematic to call for opposition to all forms of racism while defending the If Americans Knew principle that we should be willing to accept any speaking platform provided to us, including those provided by racists, for the purpose of promoting our positions on Palestine while not prioritizing explicitly opposing the racism under girding the platform being used.
Sure Zionism is racism and our movement is about opposing Zionism with the aim of supporting Palestinian efforts to achieve their rights, but that does not mean not engaging with Zionists. Equally, anti-racism doesn’t mean not engaging with racists.
How many of us in this movement who are not Palestinian started from a position free from Zionist opinions? Understanding that the conflict as not merely an eternal conflict between Jews and Palestinians, seeing it as tied to settler colonialism and as being about racism and Jewish Israeli privilege, understanding the centrality of return – these are not positions most of us naturally hold. They develop as a result of our engagement in the movement and through people who challenging our acceptance of mainstream Zionist narratives.
I hear people support Alison by saying that we must be a big tent and not only talk to the converted but then say that we must keep out all Zionists. Engaging with Zionists is not necessarily a sign that you are embracing or endorsing their views. It can be part of a process of challenging and trying to change their views. Engagement can be part of a direct process of challenge to Zionism. The distinction should be how you engage. Rejecting all engagement with Zionists is calling for a small tent.
If an organization, like JVP, embraces right of return, equality for Palestinians, an end to the occupation, opposes Israeli policies, receives support from broad swaths of Palestinian civil society, etc. it does not make sense to call them Zionist. The place where they have natural reach is into the mainstream Jewish community which does hold Zionist opinions. They do important work in pulling liberal Zionists away from Zionism and challenging their opinions. Should we demand that they stop that work and only focus on the already converted? How is that useful? How does demanding that JVP not engage with Zionists help build our movement?
Demanding absolutely no engagement with Zionists is counter productive in a movement devoted to challenging the reality of how Zionism has been lived out in historic Palestine.
If Alison were saying that she will continue to use platforms provided by people like Clay Douglas to explicitly challenge their racism and anti-Semitism and as a part of dedicated activism towards those ends then many of us would not have a problem with her actions. However, that is not what she says her goal is and it is not how she has used past appearances on these platforms. She has used her appearances to promote her work on Palestine. That is not showing a dedication and commitment to challenging all racism.