[News] Embracing Palestine: How to Combat Israel’s Misuse of ‘Antisemitism’

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Thu Jan 2 06:28:13 EST 2020


https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20200101-embracing-palestine-how-to-combat-israels-misuse-of-antisemitism/
Embracing
Palestine: How to Combat Israel’s Misuse of ‘Antisemitism’
Ramzy Baroud - January 1, 2020
------------------------------

At a talk I delivered in Northern England in March 2018, I proposed that
the best response to falsified accusations of antisemitism, which are often
lobbed against pro-Palestinian communities and intellectuals everywhere, is
to draw even closer to the Palestinian narrative.

In fact, my proposal was not meant to be a sentimental response in any way.

“Reclaiming the Palestinian narrative” has been the main theme in most of
my public speeches and writings in recent years. All of my books and much
of my academic studies and research have largely focused on positioning the
Palestinian people – their rights, history, culture, and political
aspirations – at the very core of any genuine understanding of the
Palestinian struggle against Israeli colonialism and apartheid.

True, there was nothing particularly special about my talk in Northern
England. I had already delivered a version of that speech in other parts of
the UK, Europe and elsewhere. But what made that event memorable is a
conversation I had with a passionate activist, who introduced himself as an
advisor to the office of the head of the British Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn.

Although the activist agreed with me regarding the need to embrace the
Palestinian narrative, he insisted that the best way for Corbyn to deflect
anti-Semitic accusations, which have dogged his leadership since day one,
is for Labor to issue a sweeping and decisive condemnation of antisemitism,
so that Corbyn may silence his critics and he is finally able to focus on
the pressing subject of Palestinian rights.

*Read: ‘The concept of Islamophobia’ is anti-Semitic claims pro-Israel
commentator
<https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191217-the-concept-of-islamophobia-is-anti-semitic-claims-pro-israel-commentator/>
*

I was doubtful. I explained to the animated and self-assured activist that
Zionist manipulation and misuse of antisemitism is a phenomenon that has
preceded Corbyn by many decades, and will always be there as long as the
Israeli government finds the need to distract from its war crimes against
Palestinians and to crush pro-Palestinian solidarity worldwide.

I explained to him that while anti-Jewish racism is a real phenomenon that
must be confronted, “antisemitism”, as defined by Israel and its Zionist
allies, is not a moral question that is meant to be solved by a press
release, no matter how strongly-worded. Rather, it is a smokescreen, with
the ultimate aim of distracting from the real conversation, that being the
crimes of military occupation, racism, and apartheid in Palestine.

In other words, no amount of talking, debating or defending oneself can
possibly convince the Zionists that demanding an end to the Israeli
military occupation in Palestine or the dismantling of the Israeli
apartheid regime, or any genuine criticism of the policies of Israel’s
right-wing government are not, in fact, acts of antisemitism.

[image: Carlos Latuff's cartoon - Criticisms of Israel labelled as
antisemitism [Twitter]]

Criticisms of Israel labelled as antisemitism – Cartoon [Carlos
Latuff/Twitter]

Alas, the activist insisted that a strong statement that would clarify
Labor’s position on antisemitism would finally absolve Corbyn and protect
his legacy against the undeserved smearing.

The rest is history. Labor went into a witch-hunt, to catch the “true”
anti-Semites among its members. The unprecedented purge has reached many
good people who have dedicated years to serving their communities and
defending human rights in Palestine and elsewhere.

The statement to end all statements was followed by many others. Numerous
articles and arguments were written and made in defense of Corbyn – to no
avail. Only a few days before Labor lost the general election in December,
the Simon Wiesenthal Center named
<https://www.timesofisrael.com/jewish-group-names-uks-corbyn-top-anti-semite-of-2019/>
Corbyn, one of Britain’s most sincere and well-intentioned leaders in the
modern era, the “top anti-Semite of 2019”. So much for engaging the
Zionists.

*Read: UK to ban local councils, public bodies from joining BDS
<https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191220-uk-to-ban-local-councils-public-bodies-from-joining-bds/>*

It doesn’t matter whether Corbyn’s party lost the elections in part because
of Zionist smearing and unfounded anti-Semitic accusations. What truly
matter for me as a Palestinian intellectual who has hoped that Corbyn’s
leadership will constitute a paradigm shift regarding the country’s
attitude towards Israel and Palestine, is the fact that the Zionists have
indeed succeeded in keeping the conversation focused on Israeli priorities
and Zionist sensibilities. It saddens me that while Palestine should have
occupied the center stage, at least during Corbyn’s leadership years, it
was still marginalized signifying once again that solidarity with Palestine
has become a political liability to anyone hoping to win an election – in
the UK and anywhere in the West as well.

I find it puzzling, indeed disturbing, that Israel, directly or otherwise,
is able to determine the nature of any discussion on Palestine in the West,
not only within typical mainstream platforms but within pro-Palestinian
circles as well. For example, I have heard activists repeatedly questioning
whether the one-state solution is at all possible because “Israel simply
would never accept it”.

I often challenge my audiences to base their solidarity with Palestine on
real love, support, and admiration for the Palestinian people, for their
history, their anti-colonial struggle, and the thousands of heroes and
heroines who have sacrificed their own lives so that their people may live
in freedom.

How many of us can name Palestine’s top poets, artists, feminists, football
players, singers, and historians? How familiar are we really, with
Palestinian geography, the intricacies of its politics, and the richness of
its culture?

Even in platforms that are sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle, there
is an inherent fear that such sympathy could be misconstrued as
antisemitism to the extent that Palestinian voices are often neglected, if
not completely supplanted with anti-Zionist Jewish voices. I see this
happening quite often even in Middle Eastern media that supposedly
champions the Palestinian cause.

This phenomenon is largely linked to Palestine and Palestine only. While
the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the civil rights struggle
in the United States – as was the case of many genuine anti-colonial
liberation movements around the world – have strategically used
intersectionality to link with other groups, locally, nationally or
internationally, the movements themselves relied on black voices as true
representatives of their peoples’ struggles.

Historically, Palestinians have not always been marginalized within their
own discourse. Once upon a time, the Palestine Liberation Organization
(PLO), despite its many shortcomings, provided unified Palestinian
political discourse which served as a litmus test for any individual, group
or government regarding their position on Palestinian rights and freedom.

The Oslo accords ended all of that – it fragmented the Palestinian
discourse just as it has divided the Palestinian people. Since then, the
message emanating from Palestine has become muddled, factionalized and
often self-defeating. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS)
has done a tremendous job in bringing about some clarity by attempting to
articulate a universal Palestinian discourse.

*Read: Labour’s ‘anti-Semitism crisis’ will continue until all
pro-Palestine members are silenced
<https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20191216-labours-anti-semitism-crisis-will-continue-until-all-pro-palestine-members-are-silenced/>
*

However, BDS is yet to yield a centralized political strategy that is
communicated through a democratically-elected Palestinian body. As long as
the PLO persists in its inertia and without a truly democratic alternative,
the crisis of the Palestinian political discourse is likely to continue.

Concurrently, the Zionists must not be allowed to determine the nature of
our solidarity with the Palestinian people. While true Palestinian
solidarity requires the complete rejection of all forms of racism,
including antisemitism, the pro-Israel camp must be sidelined entirely from
any conversation pertaining to the values and morality of what it means to
be “pro-Palestine”.

To be anti-Zionist is not always the same as being pro-Palestine, the
former emanating from the rejection of racist, Zionist ideas and the latter
indicating a real connection and bond with Palestine and her people.

To be pro-Palestine is also to respect the centrality of the Palestinian
voice, because without the Palestinian narrative there can be no real or
meaningful solidarity, and also because, ultimately it will be the
Palestinian people who will liberate themselves.

“I am not a liberator,” said the iconic South American revolutionary
Ernesto Che Guevara. “Liberators do not exist. The people liberate
themselves”.

For the Palestinians to “liberate themselves”, they have to claim their
centrality in the struggle for Palestinian rights everywhere, to articulate
their own discourse and to be the champions of their own freedom. Nothing
else will suffice.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not
necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.


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