False Dichotomies


Racist Racist!

Unlike Omar Barghouti, I admire Ahmed Moor’s honesty, and I sincerely thank him for it. As he writes, the “BDS movement seeks to correct the effects of decades of imperial control and colonization of Palestine/Israel by Zionists.” If that wasn’t clear enough: “The right of return is an inviolable and sacrosanct principle which necessarily spells out the end of the Jewish state, as such…Many Palestinians, me included, would prefer to march alone than march alongside anyone who does not endorse our right to return, meaning Zionists.”  In a follow-up piece, “BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state.”  And: “Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself.” This honesty is to be admired. I think we’d both agree that it’s better we both know where our enemies stand.

The context of this truthfulness is an exchange with Jerry Haber on the role of so-called liberal Zionists in the BDS movement. In these pieces,  Moor seems to think that if you accuse somebody of racism enough times, then the allegation will stick. But argument by assertion does not make it so.

Exhibit A: “I’m inclined to focus on building a movement with a solid moral foundation [by which he means the destruction of Israel], rather than one that is fractured and part racist [referring to liberal Zionists]. If liberal Zionists want to disengage from the settlements for the sake of preserving their racist state they are welcome to do so. But I don’t intend to endorse their racist goal or assuage their Nakhba guilt by working alongside them.”

I – like the liberal Zionists with whom I once identified - want to disengage from the settlements. One of the reasons for this is so as to ensure that the State of Israel continues to exist (if we don’t disengage, it becomes more likely that the Palestinians in the territories will ask to vote in Israeli elections, thus ensuring the replacement of Israel with a Palestinian-Arab state of some kind). Why is this racist?  If Argentina were occupying a hefty chunk of Brazil, would those who wanted to return that land so as to maintain the predominantly Spanish societal culture of Argentina be racist? What is racist about the wish to have a space in the world to develop a national culture? Moor should tell us.

Exhibit B: “What happens to ‘Jewish self-determination’ when the prime minster of Israel is a woman named Diana Buttu? In America, the proportion of black to non-black people is less than that of Palestinian Israeli to Jewish Israeli. Yet, white Americans and others elected a black man. That’s because the principle of ‘white self-determination’ is a discredited orthodoxy in American civil discourse. That’s because it’s racist.”

First, let’s remember that it took America over two hundred years to elect a black man, and that’s after slavery, Jim Crow, and serious race riots across its northern cities. At no point during this period did anyone seriously suggest that America should not be permitted to exist. Second, there are very few countries that have a particularly good record when it comes to minority representation in the upper echelons of power. And when people do point out that Israel has had Arab cabinet ministers and the vocal participation of Israeli-Arabs/Palestinian-Israelis in the Knesset, we are told that this is irrelevant. So which is it to be? Regarding the principle of ‘white self-determination’, in Moor’s manic attempt to be human, he clearly has no knowledge or sympathy for Jewish history, particularly our attempts to maintain our right to be different and to develop our own national culture in a largely hostile world. That’s fine – at least he’s being consistent – but I would like to know what is racist about trying to avoid annihiliation, whether physical or otherwise. Are the Kallash racist too? 

These are just two examples, for now. No doubt there will be more.

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