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Parent Article: Rally Against the US Occupation of Iraq and the Siege of Falluja
Hidden with code "Duplicate post"
Re: Rally Against the US Occupation of Iraq and the Siege of Falluja
22 Apr 2004
I was expecting to start a debate, but nothing of quite this magnitude (although much of the debate seems to have moved beyond any of the points I was raising originally anyway). I'm afraid I can't properly engage in this debate and tend to the other things I need to deal with in my life, so this will probably be my last entry, unless someone says something really intriguing.

I feel like this debate about the peace conference is getting ridiculous. Some of you seem to have real trouble with the idea that people can have significant ideological differences from you and still be supporters of Palestinian rights. Some of the left-Zionist folks you denounce as racist have risked their lives helping Palestinians. Members of Rabbis for Human Rights, for instance, have consistently blocked Israeli military bulldozers with their bodies to try to stop them from demolishing Palestinian homes. Others have taken less militant actions, but organized joint protests with Palestnians. Why do you insist on seeing them as enemies of Palestinians? There are some real and difficult differences in perspective here that need to be grappled with, but this seems to me as though it would be best handled through dialogue not denouncement. Ideological purity is not going to help the Palestinians or change US policy towards Israel--building a large movement, which means building a large coalition, is what it's going to take. Certainly, there will be a lot of tensions within any such movement, including ideological ones, such as those between left-Zionists and anti-Zionists. But, as African-American feminist Barbara Smith has said, "If you're not afraid, it's not a coalition."

On all the issues you raise--Mitzna, the Geneva Accords, how to deal with the legacy of Jewish colonialism--it seems to me that there is room for honest differences of opinion between supporters of Palestnian rights. On Mitzna: I think a lot of moderate Jewish peace activists hoped he would be an Israeli deGaul, the "great" military leader who would end the military occupation. Apparently, he had a repuation from creating relative harmony between Arabs and Jews in the city he was then mayor of (I gather this analysis didn't really account for class differences). You may consider this naive (I was certainly skeptical at the time), but it was a position they held in good faith. And Mitzna may have regretted what he did (I have no idea)--people change.

At the time the Geneva Accords came out, I read left-wing arguments for and against them. They sound like a mixed bag to me. I don't remember the details of the agreement, but as I recall it compromised on the Palesinian right of return, something indeed problematic. On the other hand, it laid out the final resolution on a ton of important issues (with the notable exception of water rights), which was an improvement over Oslo. One of the problems with Oslo was that, because there were no final status agreements, the Israeli and American governments could keep stringing the PLO along, demanding ever more concessions. Even some folks critical of the contents of the Geneva Accords said that they were good in the sense that they might pierce through Sharon's propaganda that there was no one to negotiate with. Polls of Israelis showed that the majority supported peace negotiations in principle, but also believed Sharon that they were impossible at this point in time. Getting past this is important, because Palestinians will need a strong Israeli peace movement as an ally if the Israeli government is to be forced to actually negotiate in good faith.

Fifty-five years is a long time and several generations of Jews have now lived in Israel. While this does not erase Palestinian claims, Israeli Jews now have a claim on the land as well. There is no neat, perfectly just solution to this messy situation. The two state solution is one attempt to come up with a historic compromise--the binational state another solution. I think you need to distinguish between Israel's policies in the Occupied Territories--which certainly constitute apartheid--and those in Israel's internationally recognized borders. The laws privileging Jews over other ethnic/religious groups are problematic, but they are not apartheid nor are they unique to Israel--Germany and Croatia actually have similar laws. These laws are bad for ethnic minorities, but they are not some evil unique to Israel. Most left-Zionists oppose the discrimination against Palestnian citizens of Israel and would probably support a civil rights movement of Palestnians--something more likely to be possible after the establishment of an independent Palestnian state. You can't fight all your battles at once.

Rawan, where has anyone said that we are in a position to dictate to the Palestinians or the Iraqis what form their resistance should take? May be elsewhere, but not in this conversation. But Iraqis and Palestinians are not some homogenous mass. There are mutliple resistance groups in each country and I see nothing racist about supporting those groups with principles similar to ours. I would also point out that, while they can certainly see things we can't see because they are there on the ground, there may be things we can see that they can't, because we have some distance from the situation and aren't caught up in the (sometimes literal) heat of battle. Critical dialogue between equal partners seems like the best relationship to me. Tom Reeves actually has an interesting article on ZNet on this subject vis-a-vis Haiti. Basically, a lot of grassroots, progressive Haitian groups supported the coup against Aristide. They were so mad at him for the ways he had given into the World Bank and IMF, they didn't see that he was actually holding the line as much as he could (the Clinton administration agreed to return Aristide to power only after he agreed to abide by the dictates of the World Bank & IMF; he did this to stop the killing, but never fully complied--which is probably why the US backed his overthrow) or that the groups replacing Aristide were even worse than him. Reeves argues that American supporters of these grassroots groups were too uncritical in accepting their take on the situation and should have engaged them in critical dialogue.

Bringing the Palestinian voice to the US is important, but I actually think that the BCPR's vigils and models of the Apartheid Wall are more effective. At these events, people actually stopped, looked at the pictures, asked questions, engaged in dialogue. At the one NECDP protest I went to, people didn't approach us in the same way--perhaps intimidated by the militant rhetoric.

Everyone here agrees on the need for a cross-class, cross-race movement against the US occupation of Iraq and US support for Israel. This is precisely what UJP is trying to do with their outreach to military families. Most military families are working class, and people in the military are disproportionately people of color. I don't know how successful UJP has been, and the work can't be easy, but it's essential. There is evidence of growing dissent within the military and we need to do all we can to encourage this. If large numbers of the troops refuse to serve, the US government can't very well keep up its occupation. This means building the sort of uneasy alliances I talked about above. We won't be able to build those alliances if it sounds like we support the killing of American soldiers (whatever you may actually think of the matter). This militant rhetoric so many of you seem to think will help Iraqis seems like it will only hurt them in the long run. But I suppose I have beat that point into the ground.