October 11, 2011

Leftist Activists and Palestinian Rectitude

Happened to come across a great post at Harry’s Place today. It helps show, at least in my mind, where the so-called left in the USA is heading. I refer to the “so-called” left because one can rightly question if much of their behavior is liberal. Indeed, the left-right paradigm can often be just a means to oversimplify and label, rather than deal with the substance of issues and actions.

Cross-posted was a short essay entitled, “More Palestinian than the Palestinians?” by Professor Alan Johnson, Director and Senior Research Fellow at the Britain Israel Research and Communications Centre. A member of Labour Friends of Israel, he was writing in a personal capacity.

Johnson sets the stage by positioning two sides, as set forth by Ernest Bevin, the British Foreign Secretary, who in 1947 spoke about the Jewish desire for "the creation of a sovereign Jewish state" and the Arab insistence on resisting "to the last the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in any part of Palestine."  Bridging the gap is what peace and the two state solution is all about.

For many years, Labour worked with progressives in Israel and Palestine to create confidence building measures essential to a peace agreement. But at the party conference this year Johnson saw signs that many in Labour have forsaken the strategy for something much more dangerous:

becoming a kind of ultra-left Trotskyist external faction of the Palestinian movement; an isle of rectitude, always on the look-out for a "sell-out" by Abbas, always thinking the revolution is around the corner, if only a particular set of demands would be adopted.

He provides illustration:

At a packed Labour Friends of Palestine meeting in Liverpool, Fatah's Husam Zomlot  said that the full, untrammelled right of return for every Palestinian refugee ‘to their homes and farms' was ‘absolutely beyond negotiation.' He was cheered to the rafters.  When he promoted the idea of a reconciliation between Fatah and the fascistic Hamas, and was cheered again.  And when the chair of the meeting, New Statesman political editor Mehdi Hasan, opposed Abbas' UN application as a sell-out of the "9 million or so" (!) Palestinian refug­­ees who have the right of return, he met no challenge.

He makes the main point:
By encouraging Palestinian rejectionism and maximalism, by echoing the obstructionism of the pro-Iran Hamas, by stoking the fantasy of a full untrammelled right of return for every last Palestinian refugee, and by finding no place in its heart for the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination, these activists are more Palestinian than the Palestinians.
Rather than support progressives in both Israel and Palestine, they want to ban and boycott. Seeing only a morality play of innocent victims and cruel oppressors they propose to break links to the Israeli labour federation, the Histadrut (despite the federation's groundbreaking agreement with the Palestinian unions in 2008). By deploying polarising rhetoric these activists harm the ability of either side to move towards the other.
It goes without saying, the approach Johnson prefers is to foster conditions for a two state solution, listen to concerns across the board, and challenge those who seek to delegitimize Israel. He wonders which approach his party will choose.

The same is so for progressive activists in America. Will they choose to support the difficult road to peace and reconciliation based on the call to universal human rights for all, or the simple one with less obstacles where it’s easy and cool to be more Palestinian than the Palestinians? Because it looks like the latter, some among us must speak out.


  1. Nicely said, School.

    See, that's the thing. So long as the Lefty Coasters of the world are more Palestinians than the Palestinians it encourages Palestinian intransigence and the desire to fight on forever.

  2. Yes, I find Mr. Coaster much like a caricature. Not just more Palestinian either. He puts the rest of us to shame.

  3. Y'know, I have to say, I like the work that you are doing here,

    I would be happy to have you cross-post material.

    Send me an email.

    The address in on the top of my page.