My last day as a guest blogger! I want to thank the Feministe regulars for sharing your corner of the interwebs with me. Thank you to the readers who read my posts, and especially thank you to those of you who posted thoughtful responses to them.
Like many guest bloggers before me, I leave you with many thoughts un-posted. I have a half dozen half finished posts on my hard drive, posts on subjects ranging from Arabic hip hop to Zionism, veganism to 9/11. Etc. I’m gonna mash a few thoughts into this goodbye post.
First, I really want to talk a little bit about Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine while I’m here. I specifically want to talk about being a Jew who does anti-occupation activism and opposes Zionism.
When I say “Zionism” I am referring to a nationalist ideology holding that Jews have a right to a Jewish-majority nation state/”homeland” in historic Palestine. Although over time there has been much debate about the definition of “Zionism”, I am using the meaning that carries currency currently on the global political stage. Some Jews have more personal definitions of Zionism that are different; some may have nothing to do with nation states and refer instead to an important religious/spiritual connection to the land; I may not share such sentiments (I feel that Brooklyn and the Lower East side are enough of a homeland for me), but I certainly don’t object to them. Such definitions are not being referred to when most people across the globe express objections to Zionism.
Along with anti-Zionists in general, I do not question the right of Jews to live in historic Palestine. Jews have always lived there, often in peace with their neighbors. There’s no problem there. The problem is with the belief that Jews have more of a right to be there than anyone else, and that the “right” of a state with an artificially maintained Jewish majority to exist trumps the rights of all the people in the region. These beliefs are racist, though it’s taboo to say that in most public spheres here in the United States. Since the ‘67 war (when the IDF proved itself to be very useful as military muscle), we’ve had a special relationship with Israel, supplying their military with an unprecedented amount of aid. The US government also has a long history of supporting Jewish migration to historic Palestine, at least in part as an alternative to a feared massive arrival of Jews on our shores.
The US stands apart from world opinion in our official, unyielding support of Zionism and our active participation in the conflation of anti-Zionism and anti-Jewish politics. I’m old enough to remember being appalled in 2001 when reps from the US and Israel walked out of the UN World Conference against Racism rather than discuss the relationship between Zionism and racism, slandering participants from every other country as anti-Semites. Similar dynamics played out when the US pulled out of participating in this years conference because Israel’s crimes were on the table. This should raise red flags for those of us committed to fighting racism. It is US and Israeli exceptionalism.
I view anti-Zionism as a logical piece of a broader anti-imperialist, anti-oppressive politic. Of course I abhor anti-Semitism, but I am also disgusted at Jews (and fundamentalist Christians, and assorted other pro-Zionist factions) who exploit the historic persecution of Jews for their own political ends. It in no way diminishes the horror of the Nazi Holocaust to suggest that the expulsion and murder of Palestinians in 1948 does nothing to honor its victims. It is not anti-Jewish to resist Jewish colonialism. The refugee crisis and ongoing oppression of those living in the Palestinian territories are not going away soon, and no amount of righteous anger at Hamas will shift the balance of power in the situation. Those of us in the US-Jewish and not–are directly implicated, as our tax dollars fund the ongoing occupation.
The number of Jews who identify as anti- or non-Zionist is growing. A 2006 study sponsored by The Andrea and Charles Bronfman philanthropies found that among non-Orthodox Jews under 35, only 54% are comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state. (as opposed to 81% of those 65 and older. ) Last year saw the launch of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network as well as an increasing amount of Jewish organizing against the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine within a specifically anti-Zionist framework. In 2008, I participated in the nation-wide No Time to Celebrate: Jews Remember the Nakba campaign, which sought to counter celebrations of Israel’s 60th anniversary with events commemorating and spreading awareness of the correlating “Nakba” (or “Catastrophe”) of 1948 which resulted in the death or displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. This is a shift-it’s often controversial enough to criticize Israel at all, let alone dispute Zionist ideology. But this controversy comes not from some kind of Jewish “consensus” on the matter (there never has been any such thing) but from which factions hold institutional power and the lengths they’ll go to silence their opposition.
I also want to plug my new favorite movie, Slingshot Hip Hop, a documentary chronicling the emerging Palestinian hip hop scenes and movement. It is particularly interesting from a feminist perspective, as the consciousness around the need for women’s voices in Palestinian hip hop displayed by both male and female musicians in the film puts to shame the gender analysis of most music scenes I’ve ever been around. Please, order it and watch it if you haven’t yet. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll probably learn things, you’ll be left both angry and inspired.
It’s a little early, but September 11 is next Friday and I won’t be blogging here then. This year I hope to get tickets to the big Jay-Z 9/11 benefit concert thing at Madison Square Garden. That would be nice. Not that most years I do anything, other than reflect. It’s still a date on the calendar that provokes a visceral response from me. On the morning of September 11 2001 I was at work at a phone sex call center in Manhattan. I was on a call when the first plane hit the tower and yes, caller, you really will always be very special to me. On 9/11 I thought I was maybe gonna die at various points. Not to be dramatic, I wasn’t near the towers. There were initially rumors reported on the news that there was a third plane headed towards New York, and I was near other famous NYC stuff that people speculated might be a target. Obviously the third plane didn’t exist. No one I knew was hurt or killed. Some I knew lost friends and family.
It was a really, really fucked up day.
The thing everyone says about the city coming together was true, in my experience. I was unlike anything I had experienced before or have experienced since. From the women at my job banding together and helping one another through those early, awful hours to just about everyone I saw after wards. Strangers talking to strangers, asking each other how we’re doing, offering whatever aid or comforts we could. I don’t have the words to express the power of experiencing that this is what happened to my city when hit with a crisis of such proportion. We didn’t know what to do but try to help one another.
And then Bush and Giuliani got on TV and told us we needed to shop and “smoke out” the terrorists. And suddenly the horror was constant and everywhere. Attacks on Mosques and random people perceived as being Arab and/or Muslim. The looming war. A lot of us started having anti-war strategy meetings, back when opposing the war on Afghanistan was a fringe wingnut thing to do. Now the majority of the country opposes it.
And yet, we’re still there. In fact we’re sending 14,000 additional combat troops, on top of the increasing number of contractors from firms like Blackwater (excuse me, I mean the re-branded “Xe Services LLC.”) We’re still in Iraq, too, despite the popularity of Obama’s anti-Iraq war platform. The horror marches on. I wish I could see an end.
And on that cheery note…I guess I’m out? You can follow my pop culture critiques, short videos, vegan recipes and political griping at my blog. Hope to see you around the internet.