Monday, March 14, 2011

A Look Inside BDS

You may remember Jew Guevara for giving us a look inside the peace industry. He's back, writing again on Jewschool, this time with a focus on the BDS movement. What makes JG's perspective unique is that, besides devoting much of his life to achieving a peace with the Palestinians, his politics are about as left as one can get and still call oneself Zionist, except that he won't call himself a Zionist, but he is. Take my word for it, but if you won't, read his:
The Palestinian solidarity movement, especially as it has coalesced around the strategy of BDS, has two faces. One face is warm, friendly and intelligent. It says that BDS is a tactic not a preferred political solution. It doesn’t require B, D and S, and it can be directed at the occupation or at Israel in general - no coercion. It makes Gush Shalom feel right at home.

The other face is quite clear that the one state solution is preferred and the two state solution is dead - and good riddance. Anyone in support of an Israeli identity is a Zionist. Anyone seeking compromise with Zionists is a Zionist. Anti- or non-Zionists who refrain from calling for an end to Israel are ’soft-Zionists.’ Israelis are ‘butchers’ who commit ‘massacres’, their peace camp isn’t really for peace except for a handful, the Palestinian Authority is not only corrupt, it is ‘only corrupt’, lacking in any other attributes or identity. It’s everything awful about the 90s campus culture wars/identity politics madness, with the eager pleasure in despising whatever isn’t politically correct.

Everything I used to hate and fear about the Israeli right wing: the extremist language, the eagerness to demonize the other, the closing of ranks around a narrow set of ideas, the very harshness of the voice and tone. It’s the flattening of every nuance into a slogan or holy truth. It’s the utter impossibility of dialogue with people who feel differently.

I used to be part of that first group. Some days, I still am. But… I keep running into that second group and it turns my stomach. Sometimes it’s the same person displaying one face or the other, depending the audience. It’s as if all the experiences I have growing up in Israel and ‘putting myself out there’ as a refusenik, participant in militant demonstrations, getting arrested, working inside of majority Palestinian political organizations - count for nothing. Because I’m insisting on the slogans of my youth (Arab/Jewish unity, two states for two peoples, down with the occupation, negotiations yes/war no) somehow I’m excluded from the cool kids lunch table at the Palestinian solidarity middle school. Back in Israel, that’s who I sat with. Now they sneer at me.
My few regular readers know well how much I dislike copying and pasting large blockquotes of other people's writing into my blog. For Jew Guavara, I make exceptions. He may never love the settlers, he may campaign for the violent uprooting of settlements until pigs fly, but despite our differences, he's honest with himself, and with the rest of us. Sometimes, in the course of our comment exchanges on Jewschool, I don't know if I want to smack him or hug him, but that difficult, painful honesty, which is so missing from much of pro and anti Israel advocacy, ground in values, and not subject to the opportunism of victory, I respect.

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