Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘existential threat

Kafr Kanna isn’t Ferguson, it’s much worse

Imagine that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, President Obama — or any other American official — had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut.

An existential threat is far worse than normal racist and apartheid behavior.

By Seraj Assi and Lawrence McMahon

Israeli police shot dead a young Arab citizen in the town of Kafr Kanna in the lower Galilee this past week.

Numerous reports have suggested that the victim, Kheir Hamdan, was shot simply because he was an Arab.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemingly conceded the same conclusion when, prior to any investigation whatsoever into the incident, he issued a statement scolding Arab youth.

In the meantime, local journalists rushed to compare Kafr Kanna to Ferguson, Missouri, invoking the shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown as a parallel example of a racial divide.

Kafr Kanna, however, is not Ferguson, and here is why:

The conflict between the Palestinian minority of Israel and the State is not truly an American-style “civil rights” struggle.

Palestinians in Israel cannot be classified as second-class citizens when senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, continue to portray them as enemies from within, a demographic time bomb, and a fifth column population.

While the “Arabs” in Israel experience exclusion and brutality just as African Americans do, they also face — to use a popular phrase — an existential threat.

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel, November 8, 2014. The protests took place after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel, November 8, 2014. The protests took place after a Palestinian man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The so-called Liberman Plan, named after the foreign minister, proposes transferring territory in Israel populated by Arabs to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for territory in the West Bank populated by Israeli settlers.

Liberman grumbles that it makes no sense to create a Palestinian state devoid of Jews while Israel has turned into a bi-national state with over 20 percent Arabs.

In other words, the Israeli foreign minister wants an Israel completely devoid of Arabs.

This week, Netanyahu echoed the Liberman Plan.

In response to the shooting and the protests it sparked, the prime minister publicly challenged Palestinian protestors to go and live under Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Gaza. To justify his position, he invoked what he described as their lack of loyalty to the State of Israel.

In a radical move, Netanyahu also ordered his interior minister to look into whether Israel could strip citizenship from those Arabs who dared to speak out in support of a Palestinian state. Before Netanyahu, Liberman had already proposed loyalty tests for the Palestinian minority, threatening to deny citizenship to those who failed.

Of course, there is no chance whatsoever that similar statements would ever be directed at Jewish citizens.

Now imagine, for comparison, that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, U.S. President Barack Obama—or any other American official—had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut.

There are plenty of reasons why such a scenario is unimaginable. Even at moments of great racial tension in America, nobody is going to threaten the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

American history may be littered with both white-sponsored and black-sponsored “Back to Africa” movements, but in the year 2014, they don’t hold much sway in either the White House or Congress.

In Israel, though, these are the exact sort of measures that authorities are debating, right here and right now.

This brings us to the key difference, namely Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish democratic state.”

Naturally, and regardless of what happened in Kafr Kanna, a state cannot be both Jewish and democratic, unless by “democracy” you mean an exclusively “Jewish democracy.” Israel’s basic laws and policies are predicated on Jewish exclusiveness and privilege.

In other words, Israel is a democracy, but it is a democracy for — if not exclusively of — its majority Jewish population.

(Just as the USA constitution was fundamentally meant to white males during and after independence)

It should come as no surprise, then, that many in the Arab community view their Israeli “citizenship” as a mere political fiction. And when the State of Israel kills its Arab citizens in cold blood, one is left to wonder exactly what moral mandate it has to demand their unconditional loyalty.

Seraj Assi is a Palestinian citizen of Israel. He is currently a PhD candidate in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Lawrence McMahon is a historian-cum-labor union staffer living in Baltimore. He is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Georgetown taking a hiatus from his dissertation, working as editorial assistant for the flagship quarterly publication of a major U.S. labor union.

Read also: The difference between Israel’s racist cops and America’s

Read also: Why are Palestinian citizens expected to be loyal to Israel?

End of Israel Lobby?

Iran deal passed, but Reports of death of Israel Lobby is greatly exaggerated

The pro-Israel lobby was never the shadowy, government-controlling entity portrayed by its most paranoid critics. It was, however, an important influence on American politics.

Zionism is to Jews what the civil-rights movement is to African-Americans, a political program organized to protect basic survivalist concerns.

Jews participate disproportionately in political life in every way: voting, intellectual debate, donating, and organizing. The pro-Israel lobby organized an important constituency in American politics that shared a relatively unified understanding of its collective self-interest.

A month ago, that lobby was gearing up for a massive national campaign to block the Iran nuclear deal, using every medium at its disposal: television ads, face-to-face lobbying, impassioned pleas from the bimah and in the Jewish press.

The campaign has not only failed, it has appeared almost completely ineffectual, and its failure has left its members stupefied. The deal’s anticlimactic success shows that the world has moved beyond them, and they fail to understand how or why this happened.

The miscalculations by opponents of the Iran deal began with a poor grasp of public opinion.

They imagined they could foment a broad public backlash, and opponents frequently, and triumphantly, cited opinion polls showing more respondents disapproved than approved of the Iran deal. But the results of these polls varied widely.

Small changes in wording produced wildly varying results, reflecting the fact that few people knew or cared much about the issue.

Turning a foreign-policy issue with no immediate salience to American security — even a nuclear-armed Iran, a worst-case scenario, would not involve an attack on Americans at home or abroad — into an issue Americans would actively care about was never realistic.

A Republican leadership aide, speaking to the Los Angeles Times, blamed Donald Trump’s candidacy for distracting the public. (“The GOP leadership aide, granted anonymity to discuss the setback, said billionaire Donald Trump’s attention-grabbing presidential campaign, along with scrutiny of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email server, overshadowed all other issues this summer, making it harder for the Republicans’ message to attract attention.”)

Their plan could have worked! If only the atmosphere had been, as they apparently assumed it would be, completely devoid of a presidential campaign or other news. (Was the deal signing postponed to fit into this campaign period?)

The deal’s opponents not only misjudged public opinion as a whole, but more astonishingly, they misjudged the state of American Jewish opinion in particular.

Congress might have been moved to oppose the Iran deal if the American Jewish community had viewed it as an existential threat to Israel. But Jews did not, on the whole, take that view.

A detailed survey of American Jewish opinion by The Jewish Journal found that American Jews support the deal, 53 percent to 35 percent. How could that be? Well, this chart shows how Jewish opinion breaks down:

Photo: Jewish Journal

Liberals like the deal, and conservatives don’t, by roughly equal margins. But most Jews are liberals. Rising polarization of American life has cleaved in two everything in its path. There is no more “Israel lobby”; there is a red Israel lobby and a blue one.

The implications of this cleavage made blocking the Iran deal hopeless from the outset.

As a simple matter of political mechanics, acquiring a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress meant hawks needed liberal Democrats to take their side. But they did not have arguments that could appeal to liberals — even liberals with a deep emotional connection to Israel.

Non-proliferation experts strongly supported the agreement as the best way out of a difficult circumstance.

Even Israel’s security establishment disagreed with Benjamin Netanyahu and the pro-Israel right. The technical case for the strength of the inspections and the enforcement mechanism was strong; the case against leaned heavily on apocalypticism.

And this underscores the most important tectonic forces moving beneath the Israel lobby’s feet.

Over the last 15 years, the foreign-policy debate in Israel has moved steadily rightward. (In the last election, left-of-center Israeli parties relied on domestic issues, rather than appealing for territorial compromise.)

The Israeli right favors either permanent occupation of the West Bank, or an occupation that lasts until such time as the Palestinians produce a pro-Zionist government, which is functionally the same thing.

That perspective has become increasingly coterminous with the American “pro-Israel” view.

At last year’s AIPAC conference, some 65 percent of the attendees were Republican. That skewed perspective has pushed the American Jewish establishment to the right of American Jewry as a whole.

Jewish Republicans have always believed that forcing Jews to pick sides between a conservative Israeli government and a liberal American one would leave them with the larger share.

Elliott Abrams, a former Bush administration Middle East adviser, today defends the Israel lobby’s choice to launch an existential fight it could not win.

“If AIPAC would not fight on this issue,” he concludes, “many of its supporters would wonder why it even exists.”

Launching unwinnable fights — and then retroactively justifying the decision in spite of failure — is, of course, an ingrained neoconservative tactic. This is a movement that has no language to express the concept of a counterproductive fight on behalf of a worthy cause.

But there is more at work than simple pigheadedness or habitual aggression. Many conservative supporters of Israel do not necessarily regard the crack-up of American Jewish opinion as a problem.

In their view, diplomacy with Iran is the prelude to Israel’s annihilation, and support for Netanyahu’s permanent occupation is the sine qua non of genuine support for Israel.

It follows that the Iran debate essentially succeeded, by smoking out the fake Israel supporters. An almost giddy Jennifer Rubin concludes that the deal’s victory destroys “the myth of bipartisan support for Israel.”

The crack-up of the Israel lobby is, for its most conservative members, not a failure at all but the fulfillment of a longtime dream.

(I failed to comprehend the conclusion. What is the long-time dream of the conservative members?)

Josh Ruebner shared and commented

I sure hope that Jonathan Chait is right that the Israel’s lobby’s loss on the Iran deal signifies its demise. However, I’m also reminded of Mark Twain’s quip: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

There is no more “Israel lobby”; there is a red Israel lobby and a blue one.
nymag.com|By Jonathan Chait
 

Worse than USA Ferguson town uprising? Palestinian Kafr Kanna village intifada

Ferguson town is back in its uprising after jury of 9 whites and 3 blacks voted the policeman innocent.

Seraj Assi and Lawrence McMahon posted:

Palestinian town of Kafr Kanna isn’t Ferguson, it’s much worse

Imagine that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, President Obama — or any other American official — had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut.

 

Arab youth clash with Israeli riot police in Kafr Kanna, Israel, November 8, 2014. The protests took place after an Arab man from the village was shot and killed by Israeli policemen. (Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israeli police shot dead a young Arab citizen in the town of Kafr Kanna in the lower Galilee this past week.

Numerous reports have suggested that the victim, Kheir Hamdan, was shot simply because he was an Arab.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemingly conceded the same conclusion when, prior to any investigation whatsoever into the incident, he issued a statement scolding Arab youth.

In the meantime, local journalists rushed to compare Kafr Kanna to Ferguson, Missouri, invoking the shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown as a parallel example of a racial divide.

Kafr Kanna is not Ferguson, and here is why:

1. The conflict between the Palestinian minority of Israel and the State is not truly an American-style “civil rights” struggle. Arabs in Israel cannot be classified as second-class citizens when senior Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, continue to portray them as enemies from within, a demographic time bomb, and a fifth column population.

2. While the Palestinians in Israel experience exclusion and brutality just as African Americans do, they also face — to use a popular phrase — an existential threat.

3. The so-called Liberman Plan, named after the foreign minister, proposes transferring territory in Israel populated by Arabs to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for territory in the West Bank populated by Israeli settlers. Liberman grumbles that it makes no sense to create a Palestinian state devoid of Jews while Israel has turned into a bi-national state with over 20% Palestinians.

In other words, the Israeli foreign minister wants an Israel completely devoid of Arabs.

This week, Netanyahu echoed the Liberman Plan.

In response to the shooting and the protests it sparked, the prime minister publicly challenged Arab protestors to go and live under Palestinian rule in the West Bank and Gaza. To justify his position, he invoked what he described as their lack of loyalty to the State of Israel.

In a radical move, Netanyahu also ordered his interior minister to look into whether Israel could strip citizenship from those Arabs who dared to speak out in support of a Palestinian state.

Before Netanyahu, Liberman had already proposed loyalty tests for the Arab minority, threatening to deny citizenship to those who failed. Of course, there is no chance whatsoever that similar statements would ever be directed at Jewish citizens.

Now imagine, for comparison, that at the peak of the Ferguson protests, U.S. President Barack Obama—or any other American official—had issued a formal statement threatening to revoke the citizenship of African Americans who chose not to keep their mouths shut. There are plenty of reasons why such a scenario is unimaginable. Even at moments of great racial tension in America, nobody is going to threaten the citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

American history may be littered with both white-sponsored and black-sponsored “Back to Africa” movements, but in the year 2014, they don’t hold much sway in either the White House or Congress.

In Israel, though, these are the exact sort of measures that authorities are debating, right here and right now.

This brings us to the key difference, namely Israel’s self-definition as a “Jewish democratic state.”

Naturally, and regardless of what happened in Kafr Kanna, a state cannot be both Jewish and democratic, unless by “democracy” you mean an exclusively “Jewish democracy.” Israel’s basic laws and policies are predicated on Jewish exclusiveness and privilege.

In other words, Israel is a democracy, but it is a democracy for — if not exclusively of — its majority Jewish population. It should come as no surprise, then, that many in the Arab community view their Israeli “citizenship” as a mere political fiction.

And when the State of Israel kills its Palestinian citizens in cold blood, one is left to wonder exactly what moral mandate it has to demand their unconditional loyalty.

Seraj Assi is a Palestinian citizen of Israel. He is currently a PhD candidate in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Lawrence McMahon is a historian-cum-labor union staffer living in Baltimore. He is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Georgetown taking a hiatus from his dissertation, working as editorial assistant for the flagship quarterly publication of a major U.S. labor union.

Related:
The difference between Israel’s violent, racist cops and America’s
How police lied about the deadly shooting of Khir Hamdan
PHOTOS: Protests in northern Israel after police kill Arab man
PHOTOS: Tear gas not the only thing connecting Ferguson and Palestine

Why Israel Fears the Boycott

OMAR BARGHOUTI published this JAN. 31, 2014 SundayReview

JERUSALEM — IF Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail because of Israel’s continuing construction of illegal settlements, the Israeli government is likely to face an international boycott “on steroids,” as Mr. Kerry warned last August.

These days, Israel seems as terrified by the “exponential” growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (or B.D.S.) movement as it is by Iran’s rising clout in the region.

Last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the “delegitimization” movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry.

But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.

The Israeli government’s view of B.D.S. as a strategic threat reveals its heightened anxiety at the movement’s recent spread into the mainstream. It also reflects the failure of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s well-endowed “Brand Israel” campaign, which reduces B.D.S. to an image problem and employs culture as a propaganda tool, sending well-known Israeli figures around the world to show Israel’s prettier face.

Begun in 2005 by the largest trade union federations and organizations in Palestinian society, B.D.S. calls for ending Israel’s 1967 occupation, “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,” and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and lands from which they were forcibly displaced and dispossessed in 1948.

Why should Israel, a nuclear power with a strong economy, feel so vulnerable to a nonviolent human rights movement?

Israel is deeply apprehensive about the increasing number of American Jews who vocally oppose its policies — especially those who are joining or leading B.D.S. campaigns. It also perceives as a profound threat the rising dissent among prominent Jewish figures who reject its tendency to speak on their behalf, challenge its claim to be the “national home” of all Jews, or raise the inherent conflict between its ethno-religious self-definition and its claim to democracy.

What I. F. Stone prophetically wrote about Israel back in 1967, that it was “creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry” because of its “racial and exclusion” ideal, is no longer beyond the pale.

Israel is also threatened by the effectiveness of the nonviolent strategies used by the B.D.S. movement, including its Israeli component, and by the negative impact they have had on Israel’s standing in world public opinion. As one Israeli military commander said in the context of suppressing Palestinian popular resistance to the occupation, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.

The landslide vote by the American Studies Association in December to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, coming on the heels of a similar decision by the Association for Asian-American Studies, among others, as well as divestment votes by several university student councils, proves that B.D.S. is no longer a taboo in the United States.

The movement’s economic impact is also becoming evident. The recent decision by the $200 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM to divest from the 5 largest Israeli banks because of their involvement in occupied Palestinian territory has sent shock waves through the Israeli establishment.

To underscore the “existential” danger that B.D.S. poses, Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

This unfounded allegation is intended to intimidate into silence those who criticize Israel and to conflate such criticism with anti-Jewish racism.

Arguing that boycotting Israel is intrinsically anti-Semitic is not only false, but it also presumes that Israel and “the Jews” are one and the same. This is as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, say, because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic.

The B.D.S. movement’s call for full equality in law and policies for the Palestinian citizens of Israel is particularly troubling for Israel because it raises questions about its self-definition as an exclusionary Jewish state.

Israel considers any challenge to what even the Department of State has criticized as its system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens as an “existential threat,” partially because of the apartheid image that this challenge evokes.

Tellingly, the Supreme Court recently rejected an attempt by Israeli liberals to have their nationality or ethnicity listed simply as “Israeli” in the national population registry (which has categories like Jew, Arab, Druse, etc.). The court found that doing so would be a serious threat to Israel’s founding identity as a Jewish state for the Jewish people.

Israel remains the only country on earth that does not recognize its own nationality, as that would theoretically avail equal rights to all its citizens, undermining its “ethnocratic” identity. The claim that B.D.S., a nonviolent movement anchored in universal principles of human rights, aims to “destroy” Israel must be understood in this context.

Would justice and equal rights for all really destroy Israel?

Did equality destroy the American South? Or South Africa? Certainly, it destroyed the discriminatory racial order that had prevailed in both places, but it did not destroy the people or the country.

Likewise, only Israel’s unjust order is threatened by boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

A Palestinian human rights activist and the author of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.”


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