There is a certain notion among articulate opinion on the Israeli “new left” that Palestinians/Palestine solidarity activists should be patting their heads and chucking them under the chin for mobilizing politically against social injustice within Israel, or within Jewish Israel. Here’s what I think. This protest is good, and has caught the world’s attention, and even Palestinian attention (my dense sociological analysis is imminent, don’t despair, I will be contributing something productive shortly).
Palestinians are observing you with caution, optimism dosed or dissolved in pessimism. Most know that there is potentialfor transformation in these protests. But everyone, except for the gullible Anglo-American leftists to whom #j14’s interlocutors are peddling themselves, knows that what is occurring could well follow a not- unfamiliar script: the Zionist left asks for “solidarity” from the society it is murdering, explaining that the victim better note that the boot on its neck has been freshly cleaned, that its owner has the best of intentions and is trying hard to remove its foot and leg from the victim’s neck, it’s just that something in the quadriceps muscle is intractable – is that the gluteus, oh crap, is it the central nervous system, perhaps the brain??
Could the Zionist left, could even the anti-Zionist left be responsible for destroying Palestinian society? Yitzhak Laor wrote once that the over-riding sentiment he as an Israeli felt when confronted with Palestinian society was shame. That seems about right to me. And I don’t excuse myself from that feeling of responsibility and shame. It’s American tax-dollars that pay for the bombs that bombard Gaza.
Still, all this makes it particularly shameless that these entrepreneurs are wheedling for the solidarity of their victims and whingeing at prominent Palestinian intellectuals for support, sending them their sunny and semi-literate jottings about the prospects for change in the #j14 protests, bragging about their sole war-safari to Bil’in, miserably mocking Israel’s handful of genuine anti-colonial leftists, and so on. I am not naming names today. You know who you are. And you are not exactly comporting yourselves in a sterling manner, although I will keep things in perspective and note that it’s not nearly so bad as the Jewish “anarchist” entrepreneur who thinks early Israel was socialist, or the nitwit “leftist” who compared me to Netanyahu yesterday.
You are worth reproaching, they are just clowns. I am not much for communal Jewish responsibility or tribal identification but as a Jewish leftist you are kind of embarrassing me too. Barrington Moore once wrote that it is a sick society that cannot make a revolution. If you want respect for your revolution, go make it. Make BDS superfluous! Make our lives easier! But until you do so, please don’t bizarrely beg for political space to “allow you to operate.” It’s been a long time, and Palestinians decided that they were sick of waiting while you tore apart their society. So finally please do not write or act in ways that can blunt the perception of need for BDS and much more: open social disruption.
And remember, if the protests founder, please do not blame it on the lack of Palestinian “support.” People from across the Anglo-American liberal-left have their pompoms out for you, ready-as-always to believe in the possibility of Israeli socialism. Indeed if the protests fail or descend into right-wing populist warfare-welfare, it’s not exactly your fault. The course of Israeli history has been spectacularly over-determined. It is for that reason that so many Arabs and activists have so little faith in these protests. But history can surprise us and you can make history. Make it.