Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Tolerance of diverging views: a request from Palestinians
Thinkpiece Bickering while Rome burns Appeal for unity within the Palestine solidarity movement
By Redress Information & Analysis 21 June 2005
Redress Information & Analysis deplores recent quarrels on the left of the Palestine solidarity movement and urges all genuine friends of Palestine to focus exclusively on the common struggle against the Israeli occupation.
Over recent days, weeks and months, we have witnessed with dismay recriminations within the anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian movements.
Allegations have been levelled back and forth within these movements. Among the allegations have been that some within these movements are anti-Semites in disguise, that others are Holocaust deniers and that others still are infiltrators. Interestingly or depressingly, many of the protagonists are of Jewish origin, and all of them are leftists of one variety or another. We shall refrain from naming and shaming those involved because we have no interest in inflaming an already inflamed situation.
The tendency of a vocal minority within the left, and also within the so-called "far left" and its Trotskyite variant, to become obsessed with the minutiae of nonsense and, eventually, to consume one another is well known. We may laugh at medieval Christians arguing about the number of angels that can be placed on a pinhead, but the tragicomedy of seeing self-proclaimed friends of the Palestinian cause smearing and assassinating one another's character is no laughing matter, for the sole reason that it weakens the Palestine solidarity movement and brings it into disrepute.
One can debate ad nauseum why the "far left" has so completely failed in every corner of the globe and why, where it continues to exist, it is regarded by many as nothing more than a self-obsessed and miniscule minority whose intolerance of any deviation from their dogma far exceeds their hatredof the common "enemy". But one sure reason for this failure is its chronic tendency to turn on itself over matters of trivia and ideology which, while possibly amusing to debate academically, are totally irrelevant for all practical purposes.
Being left-leaning ourselves, we lament this predisposition to triviamongering and self-destruction. However, as proponents of the Palestinian cause, we deplore the apparent willingness of ourself-proclaimed friends to divide the Palestine solidarity movement and bring the Palestinian cause into disrepute through their self-indulgence, futile knavel-gazing and point-scoring. With friends like these, who needs enemies!
It is a well-known fact that, from time to time, racists try to uset he Palestinian cause to promote the anti-Jewish aspects of their racist ideology, hiding for the time being the fact that they are frequently also anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, perhaps to a greater extent than they are anti-Jewish. Needless to say, there can be no place for these racists withinthe Palestine solidarity movement. However, accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are extremely serious and should never be made without hard evidence. Nor should the charge of being an infiltrator ever be levelled at anyone within the Palestine solidarity movement lightly.
Politics is a complex business and does not fall into little categories that can be neatly labelled. Our friends within the Palestine solidarity movement will know that the stigma of anti-Semitism has been one of Israel's most effective propaganda weapons, which it uses to bludgeon critics of its occupation and criminal policies. Our friends will also know that there is a high correlation between Israeli crimes in the Middle Eastand attacks on Jewish targets in Europe. Of course, some of these attacks are committed by racists, but many others are also committed by people who are angry at Israel's crimes and express this anger by attacking Jewish targets not because they are anti-Jewish, but because of the Jewish community's ill-conceived and unconditional support of Israel. To state this fact does not mean that one condones such attacks and it certainly does not mean that one is anti-Semite. On the other hand, just because someone may lack the sophistication to acknowledge this fact and, consequently, can see matters only in black and white does not mean that person is an infiltrator. It simply means that he or she has a simplistic view of the world or is ignorant.
Indeed, breaking taboos, for example, by asking whether something is anti-Semitic or a reaction to Israeli crimes and by questioning hitherto accepted historical "wisdoms" is something that should be encouraged and not deplored. For too long, Israel has hidden behind taboos, which have prevented many, especially among guilt-ridden Europeans, from debating, let alone condemning its crimes. Some years ago, the Israeli historian Benny Morris demonstrated what the Palestinians had always known, that is, that the Zionists did indeed ethnically cleanse Palestinians during the 1948 war. By doing so, he broke a taboo but, as a result of this, the rest of the world began to acknowledge this crime against humanity.
It has taken many years to build the Palestine solidarity movement to the point where, at least in Europe, public awareness of, and sympathy for, the Palestinian cause is greater than at any time, ever. This has been largely due to the success of the movement in drawing in people of different persuasions and beliefs: communists, conservatives, socialists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Islamists, liberals, atheists and even liberal Zionists.
If this movement is to make further progress, it must not only be inclusive but also tolerant - tolerant of people who have different diagnoses and concepts of a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and tolerant of people who have different levels of commitments to the cause.
Unity has always been the strength of the Zionist movement, just assedition, fragmentation and trivial quarrels have blighted the pro-Palestinian camp for decades.
Only by focusing exclusively on our common struggle against the Israeli occupation will we have any chance of success.