by Muhammad Abu Nasr, Free Arab Voice
Between 10-12 May 2013, a group of Arab, Western, and Jewish activists and writers will convene in Stuttgart, Germany, under the auspices of the so-called “Anti-imperialist Camp” to promote a platform of “One Democratic State for all its citizens in historical Palestine”, as the invitation called it.
Besides mutilating a struggle of national liberation into a globalist liberal-type campaign for “democracy” and “human rights”, circumventing the core issue of the conflict, which is the Arab identity of Palestine from the river to the sea, and transgressing over the main precepts and guidelines set by the (un-amended) Palestinian National Charter, this conference and its message represent an exercise in “soft” normalization with colonialist invaders, both politically and intellectually.
However, the most contrite aspect of this Stuttgart Conference, pushing for a “One Democratic State”, remains the sense of pandering and inferiority pervading the mindset of Arab participants, and the mindset of Arab liberals in general, towards fellow Jewish liberals, when the issue of Palestine is raised.
Palestine aside, just think about any other national liberation movement. Or even a civil rights movement. In the US, if somebody suggested, or even hinted, that Black militants had to be represented by Whites in order to get ‘balance’, such a person would be denounced as a total racist. “Who says Black people can’t speak for themselves, or need to have some White guy keep them moderate?” You can imagine the outrage that everybody to the left of the Ku Klux Klan would express. And that’s talking about the Black/White issue in the USA – an issue that has been restricted to the liberal reformist arena for half a century! Try to impose this, and if some Black activist suggested getting White guys involved, s/he’d be denounced as some kind of Uncle Tom. (Unless there was some specific tactical matter involved. And even then it would be debated like crazy.)
If a lefty publication wants to do a Latin American issue for Cinco de Mayo for example, they’ll go out of their way to find Latinos to write in it, not to find Gringo moderates. The reverse would just be insane. And would be put down as reactionary – contradicting the fundamental precept of self-determination.
But when it comes to Palestine, the same lefty magazine will find some guy with a Jewish name to write their stuff. Or it will at least make sure that the Palestinians are balanced by some Jews – just to prove that they’re not “anti-Semitic.” And this in the context of an occupation that’s gone on since 1948 – even before, actually, if you talk about when the colonization process began under the auspices of alien colonial powers.
Incidentally, it shouldn’t make a difference even if the lefties in question believe that “Israel” is a legitimate state. In fact, most colonialism has historically been implemented by states that were legally ‘legitimate.’ Viet Nam and Algeria were colonized by the French, and France is a state recognized by everybody. But who on earth would say that some French leftist is needed to legitimize an article on the the Vietnamese or Algerian national liberation struggle?! The rules of the anti-imperialist discourse say logically that the Vietnamese and the Algerians, respectively, are the ones who set the tone of that discussion, not the French, not even French progressives.
But when it comes to the Zionists, it’s all upside down and backwards. The left wants to get clearance from Jews to say something against “Israel” and Zionism. There’s this shamefaced approach where you have to say: “Yes to Palestine, no to anti-semitism.” Why bring this hogwash into the issue? Where does ‘anti-semitism’ come in? How is it relevant, even in some remote way, to a struggle against an obvious case of settler colonialism? Nobody insists on coupling “no to reverse-racism” to every call for rights for Black people, and that is a liberal discourse even. How come radicals suddenly are so shy about being anti-colonialist just because in this case the colonizers are Jews?
And the result of this isn’t just that the discourse has been inhibited; it is that Jewish nationalists – call them Zionists or closet Zionists, or quasi-Zionists or whatever – have put themselves into a position of exercising a veto over the Arab struggle. They set the ceiling. And if we look at where the Arab struggle is today, in comparison with where it was 30 or 50 years ago, one can’t help but think that this Jewish-nationalist maneuvering has been a big part of the obstruction and destruction (so far) of the Arab/Palestinian national struggle.
In fact, it’s disgusting how some Palestinian and Arab activists and writers can’t just assert Palestinian/Arab rights but have to join hands with colonizers. Where else does this happen? Yes, in many cases individuals from the colonizing nationality cut themselves loose from that colonizing society and joined up with the national liberation movement of the oppressed. But it was the national liberation movement of the oppressed, it wasn’t a joint-venture ‘liberation’ movement serving the oppressor and oppressed communities on an equal-opportunity basis! If people from the oppressor nationality joined the struggle, it was on the terms set by the oppressed people’s national liberation movement. Like there were Portuguese Whites involved with the Angolan struggle back in the 1970s. But there wasn’t any of this joining hands to jointly set the agenda for Angolan liberation to make sure that the colonialists didn’t lose out after ‘liberation.’
Colonialism everywhere else has been understood as sufficient cause for the emergence of a national liberation movement, but not when the Jews are involved. When the colonizers are Jews, then suddenly leftists start to get nervous, hesitant, and suspicious of any national liberation movement. The left recognizes the principle of self determination for all oppressed peoples – except those peoples whose oppressors are Jews. And so then the national liberation movement is forced to back track, to speak ‘diplomatically,’ to ‘prove’ that it is ‘pure’, to partner with Jews and make sure that their national liberation program meets with the Jewish activists’ approval. And in that way the national liberation struggle is undermined and reduced to less than a civil rights movement that must always remind its listeners that it is not opposed to the colonialists as such, but only to their most extreme representatives. And thereby the ceiling is lowered and the ‘maximum program’ ceases to be national liberation and is transformed into one of campaigning with Jewish liberals for a more liberal colonial regime.