Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Conversation with Felipe Luciano about apartheid toward Palestinians

Listen to the tape of my half-hour interview on Wakeup Call last Friday on WBAI in Manhattan with Felipe Luciano here.

The whole hour is worth listening to, on debt slavery and jazz (Sonny Stitt, Cuba, Mexico), and the conversation with me is the second half hour.


Felipe asked about resistance among Jews to apartheid in the Occupied Territories and in the United States, and invoked the injunction to treat strangers decently, "as you were once a stranger in Egypt," from the Torah. He rightly felt that there is a long tradition of protest against injustice and solidarity with the oppressed among Jews historically.

There are many who protest, here and in Israel – see here and here – against these policies. Hilary Putnam sent me a heartening article in Haaretz below about the new DA'AM party led by Asma Aghbariah-Zahalka. There is hope, there and particularly here (the nomination of Chuck Hagel also bodes well for a comparatively intelligent and decent American policy on Iran and perhaps the settlements).


This contrasts with the imagining of Kings (see Open Zion for an interesting post on Netanyahu’s Biblical babblings about conquest here) and a Judaism/Zionism which identifies with the Europeans who oppressed Jews and identifies, as settlers, with murderous racism.


It is often true among the once oppressed that some take on an identification, psychological and spiritual, with the oppressors. Scott Bain, principal of the Open School to which my son goes, told me a lively story about counseling the rare children who had bullied others at the school who had, in turn, been bullied at public schools elsewhere. See here.

Scott asks them what they like about the Open School - usually the absence of bullying - and then, why they bring with them the very thing they, rightly, object to when it happens to them. This often works.

Would that the similar case of the current Israeli elite were as simple to resolve...


America still gives $3 billion in military aid to Israel (for the purchase of American weapons, from the silver tear gas canisters and rubber bullets which murder nonviolent demonstrators behind the Wall – see here, here, here and here – and Apache helicopters, all the helicopters used by the Israeli army). But the recognition that America and the world do not need a new aggression against Iran and that an apartheid state and new “transfer” in the Occupied Terriotries is the deadliest threat to peace and decency in the Middle East (Assad is a bigger killer currently as the Israeli government's hasbara ("public relations") insists, but a) that is no excuse for Israeli oppression, particularly in so horrific a form (“yes, we are terrible, but not as bad as the Nazis…”) and b) the dangers to the world of larger Middle East war, particularly given the shift to authoritarianism and racism in Israel as well as its possession of several hundred nuclear weapons, need to be curbed.


In the program, I didn't finish the thought that Ben-Gurion and the others did an ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Their founding slogan denied - "A people without land for a land without people was untrue. They drove out or murdered the people them. See Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

T The extenuation of this first crime is the thousand years murderousness of Europe toward Jews, culminating in Hitler. They were not, however, as Felipe hoped, democratic socialists but national socialists (the Histadrut, the union organization, forbade Arab Israelis/Palestinians to join).

Israel is now established, a fact on the ground. But a second ethnic cleansing - the attempt to create a greater Israel - will either destroy Israel as a democracy (Jews will soon be outnumbered by Arabs). Or this attempt to create "greater Israel," if apartheid is defeated and further Middle East War and Israeli use of nuclear weapons avoided and the human rights of everyone recognized, render Israel/Palestine a democracy - perhaps federated - but no longer a Jewish state.


The rights of Palestinians need to be honored, and there has to be, after the genocides of Europe, a place where the Jews who live there need not fear for their lives (Sami Awad of the Holy Land Trust is particularly good on this point – here). Mass nonviolent resistance to “greater Israel” from below and where possible, even in the elite is the way to go. That was the point of this spirited conversation.


Haaretz Opinion
In an Arab woman, a new hope for Israel's left

Asma Aghbarieh-Zahalka is creating a new political discourse in Israel: revolutionary on one hand but non-radical on the other.

By Avner Cohen | Jan.06, 2013 |

Something fascinating, innovative, authentic and hopeful is happening on the Israeli left and it has happened almost overnight. Though this something is still embryonic, a small bud not yet on the opinion poll radar, those following the left's dire situation can't miss it. For the first time since perhaps the death of Jewish-Arab communism of the 1950s, a new Israeli left has been born here, a left that carries hope and a new kind of vision.

This new left has a name and a voice and, to be precise, it's the voice of an Arab woman. Her name is Asma Aghbarieh-Zahalka and she is the leader of the Da’am Workers' Party. Da’am (Arabic for "solidarity") is unique both for its joint Jewish-Arab slate of candidates and for a platform that isn't sectarian or ethnically specific but integrates and embraces many diverse communities. These dual characteristics are something the old Israeli left lost ages ago.

Until a few weeks ago, the upcoming election lacked any spark of hope. Mostly, this stemmed from the expected victory of the right, which would give a democratic seal of approval to the transformation of Israel into a racist-fascist state, a benighted and bullying ghetto state fulminating against the world and ensuring its continued existence by the sword alone.

The election looked like a requiem for the little that was left of the Israeli enlightenment of the past. The insufferable political conduct of Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich – for whom the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is insoluble and social justice stops at the separation fence – only increased the left's despair. Even Meretz, the standard-bearer of the old Israeli Zionist left and a kind of default choice, looks pathetic in its weakness. Case in point: Hatnuah and its head, Tzipi Livni, for whom social justice means nothing but opportunism, are grabbing all the leftist votes that Yacimovich has lost by ignoring the diplomatic issues.

But then, at the beginning of December, I discovered Aghbarieh-Zahalka and the Da’am party via Facebook and YouTube. I found a new breed of Israeli leader. Aghbarieh-Zahalka was one of the authentic leaders of the 2011 social-justice protests and one of the few who understood that if a protest aims to be effective, it has to be political. Aghbarieh-Zahalka was also perhaps the first to understand that a mass social protest has to extricate itself from the binary pattern of the old Israeli political identities (Arabs vs. Jews, Ashkenazim vs. Mizrahim) since social justice must be built on what unites, not on what divides.

I discovered a courageous, intelligent and eloquent Israeli leader, unlike anyone else on the political stage today. Aghbarieh-Zahalka is creating a new political discourse: revolutionary on one hand but non-radical on the other (no, these are not contradictory). If the prevailing Israeli political discourse works in the spirit of divide and conquer, Da’am’s political discourse is built on the desire to connect and lead and the ability to empathize and be relevant to nearly every constituent of Israeli society.

In the darkness of contemporary Israel, Aghbarieh-Zahalka's enlightened voice may be the last spark of Israeli hope. Those who are not prepared to stay sheltered in the Tel Aviv bubble and forgo the struggle for the country’s image, those who still believe in the possibility of a better, fairer and more just society, and those who believe in the possibility of Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation in our lifetime should vote for the candidate that best expresses the values of Israeli enlightenment: Aghbarieh-Zahalka.

To those who say a vote for Da’am is a wasted vote (because of the risk the party won’t cross the electoral threshold), I say any ballot that is cast must reflect one's political conscience. And if Aghbarieh-Zahalka and Da’am become better known in the short time left until the election, they will make it into the Knesset. The Knesset – and Israel – needs leaders like them

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