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Commentary :: Human Rights : International : Politics
Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
02 Dec 2004
As an Israeli immigrant living in Somerville, I strongly support the Somerville Responsible Investment Resolution, which urges all investors in the city to divest from companies involved with Israel's human rights violations and from Israel Bonds. I am sad to see my country of origin hurling itself down a path of self-destruction and I feel a responsibility to stop it. The Israeli people are good people, you just have to shake them up and awaken them to the fact that they are heading in the wrong direction. And this is what this divestment initiative will do.

[Update: The Somerville Divestment Initiative failed to pass a vote by the city's Board of Alderman.]
As an Israeli immigrant living in Somerville, I strongly support the Somerville Responsible Investment Resolution, which urges all investors in the city to divest from companies involved with Israel's human rights violations and from Israel Bonds. I am sad to see my country of origin hurling itself down a path of self-destruction and I feel a responsibility to stop it. The Israeli people are good people, you just have to shake them up and awaken them to the fact that they are heading in the wrong direction. And this is what this divestment initiative will do.

In the wake of the Oslo Accords, Israel had everything going for it: billions of dollars in foreign investment, trade and diplomatic relations with Arab states and with countries such as India, China and Indonesia, with whom it previously had no official contact.

At Camp David, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made his so-called generous offer to the Palestinians. Of the territory offered, he insisted on retaining 69 Jewish settlements (declared illegal by the World Court) constituting 10%of the West Bank. Another 10%of the West Bank, along the Jordan river, was to be kept under “Temporary Israeli Control”, thus denying Palestine its border with Jordan. Finally, Israel would retain control of checkpoints and Jewish-only bypass roads that criss-cross the land being offered, swallowing up another 2%of the future state. These holdbacks would have severely disrupted daily life for the Palestinians living in the remaining discontiguous cantons. And this doesn’t even begin to address the issues of Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

I believe Barak decided, after the Taba negotiations that followed the Camp David debacle, that the price for peace would be too high. It would entail the West Bank and Gaza becoming an independent state with most of East Jerusalem as its capital (excluding the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City), Palestinian sovereignty over Al Haram al Sharif (the Temple Mount) and the resettlement of a substantial number of Palestinian refugees inside Israel. So, rather than make these "painful concessions," Barak started a war. He allowed Sharon to make his infamous trip on September 28, 2000, accompanied by an entourage of armed bodyguards, to Al Aqsa mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites and a national symbol of Palestine. When unarmed Palestinian demonstrators protested Sharon’s provocation by throwing stones, the Israeli army responded with indiscriminate force, showering stone throwers and innocent bystanders alike with live bullets. Four Palestinians were killed and more than 200 injured.

Since that day, thousands of innocent civilians on both sides have died. The Israeli economy is now in ruins; the social contract is falling apart, and the poverty level is rapidly rising. Israel has become more isolated than ever. The entire world, the U.S. excepted, opposes its policies toward the Palestinians. Israel’s foreign ministry has warned that the country is approaching the pariah status once held by apartheid South Africa.

As I write this, I think about some of the incidents of just the past few weeks, each in itself a reason to divest from Israel. An Israeli army officer emptied his rifle at point blank range into the body of an already critically wounded 13-year old girl to “confirm the kill”. Israeli soldiers mutilated the dead body of an enemy, posing for photos with his decapitated head, a cigarette poised between his lips. Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint forced a Palestinian youth to play his violin for them, an image that recalled for Israelis across the political spectrum memories of Jews themselves playing violins at the orders of Nazi officers during the Holocaust.

As an American taxpayer, I want my tax dollars to support the many Israelis and Palestinians who want to live together in peace, either as neighbors of two separate states, or as equal citizens of one democratic country. I do not want them to feed and perpetuate a bloody conflict that will drain Israelis and Palestinians of their resources and bring about their total, mutual destruction.

Iftach Shavit, Somerville
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Israeli divestment resolution in Somerville nears vote
01 Dec 2004
In order to remain consistent with the city's commitment to international law and human rights, 8 out of 11 Somerville Alderman have co-sponsored this resolution to be voted on, on December 9th, 2004. These city officials have come under intense pressure by increasing numbers of divestment opponents and supporters of the current Sharon government's policies.

Please contact the aldermen today (even if you do not live in Somerville) to encourage them to support this resolution for peace and justice in the region.

If you live in Somerville be sure to mention it and give the person you contact your address.

They are accepting comments until tommorrow, December 1, 2004.

Talking Points:

1) I support divestment, not as a means to single out Israel, but rather as a strategy to hold U.S. corporations accountable to human rights and international law. I believe that the implementation of international law and human rights is the only path to a just resolution in which both Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and security together.

2) The wording of the Socially Responsible Investment Resolution is NOT anti-Israel or anti-Jewish, but is clearly pro-human rights and justice.

3) The City of Somerville has been taking a side in this conflict for over 10 years (Israel is the only country whose bonds the City is invested in) and in keeping with its commitment to human rights should adopt this resolution.

Contact information for the Somerville City Clerk and Board of Aldermen

City Clerk John Long
JLong (at)

Denise Provost At-large, President
denise (at)

Bruce Desmond At-large, Vice-President
BruceMDesmond (at)

Dennis M. Sullivan At-large
AldermanSullivan (at)

William White At-large
william.a.white (at)

William Roche Ward 1
aldermanroche (at)

Maryann Heuston Ward 2
mheuston (at)

Thomas Taylor Ward 3
TFTAld32 (at)

Walter Pero Ward 4
WPero (at)

Sean O'Donovan Ward 5
sod (at)

John Connolly Ward 6
jconnolly (at)

Robert Trane Ward 7
RobertTrane (at)

The wording of the resolution:

Note: Co-sponsored by 8 out of 11 Aldermen, this resolution is now before the Board of Alderman, who will vote on it on December 9th, 2004. The Board will be accepting comments until December 1st.

Whereas, Israel is currently militarily occupying land seized in the Six Day War of 1967, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242; and

Whereas, during this occupation, Israel has, and continues to, violate the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rules of War of 1949, of which it is a signatory, by engaging in acts against Palestinians including

* Blocking humanitarian aid
* Engaging in collective punishment such as demolishing homes, destroying olive groves and curfews
* Using excessive force on demonstrators
* Acquiring land illegally across the Green Line
* Repopulating land in the occupied territories (settlements)
* Using Palestinian homes as army military stations
* Blocking ambulances
* Detaining individuals without charge
* Use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners and

Whereas, the City of Somerville abhors and unequivocally opposes all attacks, by either Israelis or Palestinians, where civilian casualties are likely, whether the attacks are aggressive or retaliatory; and

Whereas, the Board of Alderman of the City of Somerville, in order to remain consistent with its commitment to human rights, is against contributing to and profiting from the above violations of human rights by investment in companies that sell equipment used directly in these violations, and by investment in Israeli Bonds, which are part of the funds from which Israel finances these violations;

Therefore be it resolved that:

1. The Board of Aldermen of the City of Somerville urges all investors in the city to divest from companies involved with Israel's human rights violations and from Israel Bonds.

2. The Board of Alderman of the City of Somerville specifically recommends the divestment of funds currently invested in the following:

a. Israel Bonds, which help fund Israel's violations of human rights,
b. Caterpillar Inc., which profits from bulldozers that are used by Israel to illegally demolish homes
c. United Technologies, which makes the Blackhawk helicopter that is used for illegal attacks involving civilian populations

d. General Electric, which produces parts used in Apache helicopters that are used in illegal attacks involving civilian populations,

e. Boeing, which sells AH64 Apache helicopters used in illegal attacks involving civilians,

f. General Dynamics Corporation, which produces weaponry used on F16 fighter jets used in illegal Israeli attacks in civilian areas,

g. Northrop Grumman Corporation, which produces high energy lasers used by Israel in its military occupation
h. Lockheed Martin, which produces missile systems used by Israel

and all companies that manufacture military equipment used in Israel's illegal military occupation.
See also:
Re: Israeli divestment resolution in Somerville nears vote
02 Dec 2004
is there any chance of this happening in Boston?
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
02 Dec 2004
if you want to make it happen, yes...
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
02 Dec 2004
I think this divestment campaign is misdirected.

It targets a bunch of American defense contractors: United Technologies, General Dynamics, GE, Boeing, Lockheed Martin.

Let's say that hypothetically a hugely successful divestment campaign forced these companies to stop doing business with Israel. Then Israel would just buy weapons from the Russians, French, or Chinese.

Plus, what's up with Catepillar being on the list? They're guilty of selling bulldozers?
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
02 Dec 2004
Yes, these are US companies whose products are used for nefarious purposes not only in Palestine but also in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the world. I would also support initiatives to divest from all US companies producing weapons. Because it is the largest recipient of US aid, Israel's human rights abuses and illegal policies should be closely scrutinized. We should also divest from the companies whose products are used to carry out these illegal and immoral policies.

In the case of Caterpillar, the bulldozers they send to Israel are systematically used to demolish Palestinian homes built without permits (because Israel will not issue permits to Palestinians to build on their own private land).

Bulldozers are also used to uproot olive and other fruit trees. Almost 400,000 trees have been uprooted in the past four years.


Uprooting of fruit trees is a form of collective punishment. It also occurs as a result of land confiscation for the Separation Wall (being built on Palestinian land miles inside the West Bank & not on the internationally recoginized Green Line between Israel and the West Bank) and for ongoing Jweish only settlement building and expansion.

Caterpillar is aware that its products are being used for these illegal purposes. A campaign of Caterpillar stockholders has been urging the company to stop selling bulldozers to Israel.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
02 Dec 2004
caterpillar makes a specific armored bulldozer design specially for the israeli military.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
03 Dec 2004
Catepillar was a major target of the anti-apartheid movement's divestment campaign against South Africa, too.

No innocents they.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
03 Dec 2004
I think that if this works in sommerville, then we should start in Boston. Are there any plans for that already?
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
04 Dec 2004
...and please, don't anyone forget to show up in person at the meeting on 12/09 to urge them on in person and to react to the decision taken.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
07 Dec 2004
You miss the point.

Divesting from a bunch of US companies isn't going to mean a damn thing to the Israelis. If US companies stop selling to them, they can buy their weapons and bulldozers elsewhere.

Don't think for a minute that the Russians, French, or Chinese would have any hesitation supplying Israel with arms in our place.

If you want an effective divestment campaign, you need to target publically traded Israeli businesses.
Not Quite...
09 Dec 2004
"If US companies stop selling to them, they can buy their weapons and bulldozers elsewhere."

If the U.S. stops sending Israel billions of $$$ for weapons every year, Israel won't be able to afford buying weapons from anyone. Hey, I boycott Israeli products every day. Here's a fine web site with more information:
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
10 Dec 2004
This resolution, unfortunately, is racist. On the one hand I want it to pass b/c it is a political swipe at Israel, on the other hand, it maintains the racist underpinings that the conflict arises from.

It gives legitimacy to Israel, which was founded via terror and theft and continues to have racist apartheid laws within its 1948 borders. Why can't that be mentioned? (I know the answer, because the Zionists in the so-called solidarty movement won't allow it - they set the "acceptable" limits on how much we can challenge Israel and too many of us let them.) Can we really build a movement for justice in Palestine if the justice clock somehow mysteriously starts in 1967 and the legally codified racism that began in 1948 and continues to this is not challanged?

This campaign seems to be a battle of kinder gentler Zionists vs the more blatant and direct Zionists. Instead, we should be building campaigns of people who reject racism against ALL the Zionists, because Zionism is fundamentally a racist ideology, just like the folks at Durban, South Africa said five days before Sept. 11, 2001.

Colonial conquest is ALWAYS wrong, and Palestinians have the right to resist by any means necessary.

Shame on a sham solidarity campaign that tries to dictate terms for the resistance and equates violence of the genociders with those resisting genocide... people here are tricked enough, real solidarity requires not further muddying the issue.

BTW, where are the Palestinian voices on the divestmentproject homepage? There is a "voices from Israel" section. How about a "voices from Palestine" section and a "voices from the Palestinian diaspora" section? Or do only Jewish and Israeli voices matter? Sad, but all too common... and I suppose men are going to end sexism and white people are going to end racism... sure.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
10 Dec 2004
Actually, I know Jews who support the existence of the state of Israel who are perfectly willing to acknowledge what happened in 1948. While they don't support a full right of return for Palestinians, they do support reparations. They way they understand the conflict is as one between two national liberation movements, with Zionism being the Jewish national liberation movement. I haven't probed them in detail about it, but I'd guess that they'd be perfectly willing to acknowledge that Zionism as a national liberation movement was deeply marred by colonialism and racist attitudes towards Arabs--just as many other national liberation movements have been deeply marred by patriarchy or Leninist authoritarianism. They see a Jewish state as just as necessary as a Palestinian state, given that Jews have been a historically oppressed people--they need a homeland to protect them.

Mind you, I don't agree with this position (I would call myself anti-Zionist actually), but I have found it worthwhile to understand it--to try to understand why people of good will, committed to social justice, support a position I don't in the least agree with.

As for the "Voices from Israel" link, I would guess it's there to convince people that the divestment campaign is not anti-Semitic, always a problem whenever you make any criticsm of the Israeli government (never mind question the right of the state of Israel to exist).
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
10 Dec 2004
Often well-meaning social justice folks are also racist - often times without even realizing it, let alone meaning it.

It is racist to think you can make a state for Jews only in a multireligious/multi-ethnic society, and then it is obviously racist to implement this plan by force and with preferential laws. Just because some Jewish people feel they cannot be safe without a racist state to protect them and just because some Amercian nationalist scum think they cannot be safe unless every other country on the planet is invaded does not necessarily make it so and does not mean we should simply try and "understand" them.

There is no justification for colonial conquest and genocide EVER. PERIOD.

And yes, allowing Jewish and Israeli voices prominence to ward off claims of anti-Semitism (when Palestinians themselseves are also Semites - I guess the Zionists colonized that term as well?) plays right into the hands of the racists who think the suffering of Europeans who are Jewish is far more important than the suffering of Palestinians who are, after all, just lowly Asian Arabs, often Muslims to boot! This is European exceptionalism. It is racist. It is not consistent with valuing social justice.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
10 Dec 2004
I actually agree with much of your critique. Like I said, I'm an anti-Zionist. My main point was that there are people who support the existence of the state of Israel who are willing to acknowledge the wrongs done in 1948 and to try to grapple with them.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
10 Dec 2004
They were supposed to have voted on this today, weren't they? Did it pass? I couldn't find anything on-line.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
10 Dec 2004
I heard that not even one Alderperson voted for it in the end, even as it originally had 8 Aldepersons as sponsors...
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
10 Dec 2004
"My main point was that there are people who support the existence of the state of Israel who are willing to acknowledge the wrongs done in 1948 and to try to grapple with them."

You can't pay someone for their land when they still want their land, especially when they now live in a refugee camp and have no passport to any country.

The refugees must be allowed to return to their lands, homes and villages, Palestinians must have equal rights in their own land, and non-indigenous Jews who are living in Palestine and willing to recognize these rights and live as equals and neighbors are welcome to stay in Palestine. That would seem like the only reasonable way to "grapple" with the 56 year genocide against the Palestinians, and anyone who would agree to this would also be an anti-Zionist, so I am not sure how one can be both a Zionist and willing to atone for the conquest of Palestine... you can certainly be Jewish and anti-Zionist, you can even be an Israeli Jewish anti-Zionist, but you can't be a Zionist and also against racism... either you tolerate racism or you reject racism... you can't support the state of Israel, the manifestation of the Zionist project, that was founded on genocide and has always been about a state for Jews only on a land of people of many faiths and also be for "grappling" with the injustices of that state. The state of Israel is inherently racist - if you reject racism, then you will see that it must be dismantled.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
12 Dec 2004
I'm posting this link in response to your comment about Jews hijacking the term "Semite":

To summarize it, in the 19th century the term "Semite" was applied to both Jews and Arabs by (non-Jewish) European racists who wanted to lump the two groups together and dismiss both of them as inferior peoples. Back then, people proudly called themselves "anti-Semites". The term later became generally adopted as a term for anti-Jewish prejudice even by Jews. The author of the article also points out that the debate over who is and is not a Semite is a pointless one. The term is the invention of racists, and there is no real scientific avidence that there is a Semitic race--since there no scientific evidence of the exitence of any races. The ugly fact is that there is still quite real anti-Jewish and ant-Arab prejudice, call it what you will.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
14 Dec 2004
4ingigenism, based on your remarks here and on some other threads, I think you might want to read the following article "How to strengthen the Palestine Solidarity Movement by making friends with Jews" by two anti-Zionist Jews. They agree with you that Zionism is racism, but they also argue that if you want to build a Palestinian solidarity movement that includes Jews (which it's going to need to do to succeed), you need to be sensitive to the historical oppression of Jews and why this has lead many of them, even those committed to social justice, to support a Jewish state.

Two particularly relevant paragraphs:

"Keep in mind that the vast majority of Jews who oppose the occupation are Zionists, that is, they believe that a Jewish nation-state is essential for Jewish safety and survival. You may disagree (and we do too), but your criticism of Zionism will be more effective if you show that you understand why it has such an emotional appeal to Jews. For example, the phrase "Zionism=racism" seems true to us. But in its simplicity, it says that the main or only motive for all Jews who came to Palestine/Israel was to exert supremacy over Palestinians, when in fact it was survival. Holocaust survivors, sitting in the Allies' displaced-persons camps in 1945, weren't privy to the diaries and letters of Zionist leaders who described their frankly racist and colonial intentions. When criticizing Zionism, we should always offer a compelling, radical, alternative vision of Jewish liberation, in which Jews would thrive safely as equal citizens, everywhere in the world, at all times.

"It may help to be aware that the word "Israel" was not invented by Theodor Herzl in the 1800's. Israel (meaning, struggle with God) is a word by which Jews described themselves for over 3000 years. So while we criticize nation-states and fight to end the occupation, we must understand that words like "anti-Israel," or stickers like "apartheid IS-REAL" sound like a personal attack to many Jews. Additionally, and regardless of Zionism, the concept of "the land of Israel" has been a profound part of our consciousness through history. A realistic approach to the future of Palestine would factor in this permanent, though not exclusive, Jewish connection to the land."
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
14 Dec 2004
I think your strategy and tactics depend on how you think this struggle is going to be won.

I don't believe that the bulk of the resistance will come from Jewish people the same way that I don't think the bulk of the resistance to sexism will come from men nor will the bulk of the resistance to homophobia come from heterosexuals, etc. It may be true that Euro-supremacy needs to be crushed once and for all for this struggle to succeed, but in that case, again, Europeans, Jewish or otherwise, will not make up the bulk of that struggle either.

The first priority, in my view, is to be sensitive to how the people *oppressed* by Zionism feel. My first concern is not what "Israel" might abstractly mean to Jewish people, but what it means in very concrete terms to Palestinians. I would expect everyone who joins a solidarity campaign out of genuine concern to end the oppression of Palestinians to have this as their first priority, even if they are themself Jewish. If they are in it to preserve Jewish privilege vis a vis Palestinians, then the idea that the feelings of and words used around Jews are more important than the actual bullets used on Palestinian children might have some sway, but such arguments don't move me.

That is what is so hard for people with privilege to see - that it isn't *about* the people with privilege, it is *about* the people resisting a genocidal campaign. To think that the feelings and fears of the people of privilege are much more important than the actual physical suffering of those facing annihilation is to *reinforce* the very racism that allows the genocide to occur in the first place.

Morally, Zionism and Israel do not justify hatred of Judaism as a faith or of Jewish people as an ethnic, cultural or religious group. But hating Zionism - a supremacist, colonial movement - and hating Israel, the manifestation of that supremacist, colonial movement is quite a different thing. Whatever their abstract meanings to some Jewish people, Israel has made a name for itself as a state, and that name is genocide.

Your point about the roots of anti-semitism are correct and well-taken. I just ask you to recognize that while there is really no such thing as a "white" race and a "Black" race either, that doesn't mean that there isn't a boatload of anti-"Black" sentiment all around us. That is because people are "perceived" to be different based on having origins in Africa rather than Europe (even as we all trace our roots to Africa.) So, we may find it useful to fight "white" supremacy, even when we ourselves know there is no such thing as "white people." Then there are the whole other topics relating to an oppressed group reclaiming a term of derision and "otherness." Points not entirely unrelated to the growth of Zionism. Language is a very imprecise instrument, but it is all we have.

Having said all of this, I think working to be as precise as we can in our language is a worthy goal. And if you are working on Palestine solidarity in a place like the US and you have Christian (particularly WASP) privilege, it is a good idea to thoroughly ground yourself by examining US history so that you don't accidentally start attributing the sickness of Europe to just Jewish people from Europe. Israel is only one drop in the bucket of crimes that the European continent has exported across the planet. And of course, Europeans have no monopoly on oppression, they simply have, shall we say, put it more at the center of their cultural projects than those in other continents seem to have...

This first link you mention, Muskrat, didn't work, but if it is the Massad article, I have seen it. I agree, but it doesn't change the fact that it is ridiculous for a European Jew to accuse a Palestinian Arab of being "anti-Semitic."

As for this link:
I find this piece very problematic, and not only because it references the racist Michael Lerner's book. It assumes that the struggle is to end the 1967 occupation by cautioning not to condemn Zionism or Israel. So, what term are we to use to refer to those who think it is ok to bar the return of refugees (as Lerner does) and those who think it is ok to keep a Jewish state on a homeland for people of many faiths? I know the answer is not "Jews" because many Jews reject the Zionist project. But I think it is fair and necessary to name and then condemn both Zionism and Israel for what they are (unless Jewish people are just that much more important than Palestinians... a racist notion that I reject.)

Have you seen the movie "Gaza Strip"? The little kids refer to their oppressors as "the Jews" because that is who has privilege, that is who gets their land, that is who gets their water, that is who gets to use the "bypass" roads - all codified in Israeli law. After seeing this chilling movie about little children living life under siege, the first question that was asked of the director was "how did it feel to be surrounded by so much anti-semitism [sic: anti-Jewish sentiment]." This person was more worried about the people with privilege being identified as "Jews" by ten year old kids than the fact that these ten year old kids were getting killed... obviously respect for Judaism and people's historical experience of horrendous periods such as the Holocaust and resistance to Christian hegemony here in the US are all important, but "balancing" it to such a degree as the woman asking after that question after "Gaza Strip" or as the people writing the article you linked is highly racist against Palestinians...

Zionism is racism and some of the Zionists did collaborate with the Nazis. A swastika to point out these connections at a demo can not be confused with a swastika meant to make Jewish people feel afraid or hated. Context makes a big difference. I have seen many swastika's at pro-Palestinian Rights demos, I have never seen it used to indicate that the Nazis were in any way acceptable or worth imitating - on the contrary, the context has always been "Why are the Zionists copying the Nazis?" And this point is made time and time again by Israeli Jews in Haaretz...

I am sorry, but it sounds to me that the people who wrote that article don't really want the Palestinians to have any language with which to describe the crime of genocide that has been visited against them. I also find it interesting how those authors take away all agency from Zionists in forming the racist state of Israel. I suppose those Zionists in the terror gangs, Ariel Sharon, Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, and Baruch Goldstein of the "Hebron Massacre" fame are just poor victims as well...
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
16 Dec 2004
I am fully aware of the social construction of all races, white, black, red, brown and yellow. I would actually like to suggest an interesting piece of reading on that front, if you don't mind something a little academic--Racial Formation in the United States by Omi and Winant. It in, they argue that race is not biological, but social--specifically a social structure. Since it is a social structure (just like capitalism) it is very real in its effects on people's lives and (just like capitalism) it is an oppressive social structure. I've found this a useful way of wrapping my head around the subject--while affirming that race is not biological, it affirms it as something we need to worry about because it is real after a fashion--although because it is a social structure it is something we can alter and abolish. It also moves the whole discussion beyond individual attitudes, which--while part of the problem--are certainly not all of it.

As for being aware of how my own privileged social location influences my thinking on these issues, I'm very aware of that problem and try to be quite self-conscious about monitoring my judgments of things as a result. I try to put myself as much in the shoes of oppressed groups as possible when making sense of something--but I don't think that doesn't mean I can't make independent judgments.

I used to have attitudes similar to yours on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, taking a very pro-Palestinian position and very anti-Zionist (although I never embraced Hamas and Islamic Jihad the way you seem to have). I still consider myself an anti-Zionist, but my views changed a little after meeting and becoming friends with some Jews (some Israeli, some not) who were pretty clearly concerned with acheiving a just peace with Palestinians at the same time they were quite clear on the need for a Jewish state. You keep making the case that this is done out of racism. While racism doubtless tinges these people's thoughts, as it tinges all our thoughts in what is a deeply racist society, it's pretty clear to me that's not the main thing going on for them in their support of Israel. They are reacting to the centuries of oppression Jews have experienced, culminating in the Holocaust, and they believe in the need for a safe haven for Jews--and they see Israel as that safe haven. They are well aware of the grave injustices done to Palestinians not just in 1967 but in 1948 and earlier, during the time Palestine was a British colony. They don't seek to justify them--they believe in restitution. But they believe that since Israel has already been established as a safe haven for Jews, it should be preserved. Now, as an anarchist I don't agree with this--I don't think states are safe havens for anyone except small elites (although other groups may gain certain amounts of privilege, as Jews have in Israel and whites have in the US); indeed, states are the ultimate terrorist organizations. But, it's pretty clear to me that the main thing going on in many Jews support for Isreal's existence is seeking a refuge from oppression, not racism; indeed, the reason many Jews who support Israel's existence are involved in Palestinian solidarity activism is that they are horrified that what should have been a safe haven from oppression has become an oppressor in its turn. It's also become clear to me that since Jews in some cases have now lived in that area for a few generations, it has become their homeland as much as it is the Palestinians. They need to learn how to share it with the Palestinians. As I said, I don't agree with supprting Israel's existence, but because I have a good deal of respect for some people who hold that stance, I've come to have a certain amount of respect for the position.

I'm a little puzzled about why you think the authors of the second article are Zionists--they specifically say that they are anti-Zionist and they consider Zionism to be racist. Their concern is building a Palestinian solidarity movement that includes Jews. I agree with you that our main concern should be ending the oppression of Palestinians, not some sort of fuzzy sensitivity thing. I do, however, think that if the Palestinian solidarity movement is going to get anywhere in this country, it needs to include a prominent Jewish voice, precisely because this is a deeply racist country. Jews are usually seen as white (never mind complicating factors like Arab (aka Sephardic) and Ethiopian Jews) and Arabs as non-white. If the Palestinian soldiarity movement is to avoid charges of being anti-Jewish (and I'm going to guess that's part of what sunk the resolution the main article is about), it needs to include a prominent Jewish voice that can discredit AIPAC, the Anti-Defemation League and other such groups when they claim to be the sole voice of the Jewish community. (And polls show that most American Jews support ending the post-1967 occupation--they've just bought into the lies of the Israeli government that there is no one to negotiate with.) Certainly, we need to confront the racism in this country, including within the context of the Palestinian solidarity movement. I fear, however, it will take generations to undo the racism in this country--and I think we can achieve a just peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before then, but only if we make some concessions to the racism of this country at the same time we try to educate people about it. The Palestinian solidarity movement would not be the first one to do such a thing: When the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee decided to register blacks in rural Mississippi to vote, they realized most white Americans would not care if black students and farmers got killed in this process. They knew, however, white Americans would care if whites got killed, so they created Freedom Summer, inviting hundreds of white students South to register voters and essentially act as human shields. Were there problems with this? Yes. But it helped end Jim Crow, a price that seems worth paying.

Now, I know you want to end the occupation that started in 1948, not just 1967. In principle, I support a similar position, Edward Said’s suggestion of a binational state, decentralized into a number of cantons. (Well, actually my ideal solution is a no-state solution, but achieving an anarchist world order in which that would be possible will be a long time coming.) But I’ve come to the reluctant conclusions that that will not be possible without a great deal more human suffering, the bulk of it Palestinian. Some people have suggested that if the Israeli government keeps on setting up Jewish settlements in the territories occupied since 1967, a two-state solution will become impossible and there will be no choice but a one-state solution. In the mean time though, many more people--most of them Palestinian--will die. If we can achieve a two-state solution sooner instead of a one-state solution later, I’m willing to accept that. And polls show most Palestinians are too--they support a two-state solution, not out of some abstract support for Israel’s nonexistent right to exist, but out of a desire to be able to live normal lives, without having to deal with military checkpoints, having their houses bulldozed and their children murdered. We need justice, but we also need peace and to get the latter we may need to compromise on the former. Now, I am totally against a solution I once heard suggested of moving all the Palestinians to Saudi Arabia and carving state out for them there; that is not justice compromised, but justice utterly denied--and that is unacceptable. But to insist on a perfectly just solution in this case seems to me to be setting up an abstract ideal as more important than ending concrete human suffering--and presumably the reason for the Palestinian solidarity movement is to end the suffering of the Palestinians, not to champion abstractions. Justice is one progressive value among many as well, peace being another.

Another reason I’ve come to see a two-state solution as the better of the two choices in reality is that I don’t think it will be a simple matter for the two peoples, Jews and Palestinians, to live together in the same polity after such a bloody conflict that has inflicted so much emotional trauma on both sides. There will need to be a couple of generations who work on the matter of emotional healing from this conflict before there can really be reconciliation between the two peoples. Perhaps the grandchildren of the current generation will be willing to create a united country that is a homeland for both peoples, but it seems unlikely to me right now. And once Israeli Jews no longer fear for their existence (this fear is unrealistic--Israel is a military superpower--but the fear is nonetheless a fact we have to recon with, the product of centuries in which Jews really did face threats to their very existence), a civil rights movement for Palestinians within pre-1967 Israel may be possible.

There is no perfect solution to this conflict. If a one-state solution proved to be feasible, I would be delighted--but I think a two-state solution is acceptable. This is hardly an uncommon position--I know anti-Zionist Arab-American activists who are willing to accept a two-state solution on pragmatic grounds. So, I’m willing to support two states, reparations to the refugees and some sort of regional settlement program, so that they can get on with living ordinary lives, not clouded by poverty and terror. Yes, we need justice, but we also need peace.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
16 Dec 2004
An addition to paragraph three--yes, there are certainly people who support a two-state solution who are profoundly racist and whose main concern is saving Jewish lives. Such people are disgusting. My point was that there are also good many Jews who support a two-state solution for whom that is not true.
Re: Why I Support the Somerville Divestment Initiative: An Israeli's View
24 Dec 2004
No other country in the region has gay pride parades. Name any other country in the region that has women in its millitary? (Women who train the men to shoot no less! Now that is hot!)
Name another country in the region that has a more liberal media?
If you were choosing birth control would you go to Israel or its neighbors?
Re: What a crock of misinformation
14 Jul 2005
You people are focused on your own internalized anti-Semitism, and are determined to try to rationalize that anti-Semitism by cloaking it with high-sounding ideals and by carefully selected facts which are mostly wrong, and when not wrong, certainly not correct when examined in the context you abuse them.

You talk about the seizure of Arab property, but never mention the much greater seizure of Jewish property in Arab states. You talk ad hominem about abuses which the media has gotten wrong regarding Israelis, yet totally ignore the much graver abuses committed daily by the Arabs who have been killing Jews (and Maronites, Copts, Christians, and each other) for centuries. You pretend that there is some inherent evil in Jews trying to escape your Christain Europe to a land which they bought and paid for, in a state they operate democratically (yeah, it's chaotic), a tiny island within a huge tract of absolute fundamentalists whose goals are to convert everyone to their way of life, and to oppress and kill those who refuse to see the world their way. What planet are you living on, to not be able to see this? Do you actually BELIEVE all the anti-Israel propaganda that's published? Are you incapable of a critical reading of the issues? Is your assimilation of the Christian culture (what an anomalous designation that is) so complete that you have absorbed your anti-Semitism with your mother's milk?

You anti-Semites, no matter how guardedly you argue, and how carefully you craft your slogans and your explanations, have totally failed to treat this situation with any real approach to justice. When 400 million Arabs and Persians manage to kill off the Jews of Israel, then they will have accomplished their goal. Those of you who facilitate this lopsided atrocity, where the Jews are outnumbered hundreds to one, from lands amounting to thousands to one, you will have your blood-lust anti-Semitism satisfied. But you will have been wrong, totally, bigotedly, factually, historically, and justicably WRONG. Bigots often succeed because they don't allow truth, morality, or human concerns to interfere with their pursuit of their own biased agenda. That is what is occurring here. The pretense of concern about "Palestinian rights" is just that - a PRETEXT. If anyone cared about Palestinian rights, they would have been confronting the Jordanians for the 20 years that the Jordanians controlled the West Bank and the camps. There wasn't a peep back then. As soon as Israel succeeded in defending herself after being attacked, the anti-Semitic lies begain, and they continue ever stronger.

You can't possibly understand the issues and still be pro-Arab. But you can legitimately be misinformed and believe you are supporting a just cause. In that case, you are dead wrong. Unfortunately, the Jews of Israel (and no doubt the rest of the world, if history is any guide) will pay for your warfare on behalf of the Arabs.