Goodbye Goodbye

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.

What else.

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.


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12 comments for “Goodbye Goodbye

  1. September 7, 2009 at 1:15 am

    Constintina,

    Bye, and I really want to thank you for introducing me to Almeda Sperry. I’ve been reading bits and pieces and am interested in her story.

  2. September 7, 2009 at 7:00 am

    Constantina, you say very simply and clearly what I wish I had the guts to say to the OrthoJew community I grew up in. Kudos.

  3. sadie
    September 7, 2009 at 11:52 am

    thanks for taking about being an anti-zionist Jew. many of my living sheroes (people who I deeply admire who are alive and in my life) are anti-zionist jews, and my understanding and analysis of the struggle for Palestinian liberation has been shared by them, along with radical Arab and Palestinians here.

    I know there is an amount of risk for you speaking out that, as a non jew i don’t share, and i appreciate you doing it.

    Palestine will be free!

  4. September 7, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    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.

    In a debate that so often – and so quickly – gets polarized beyond recognition, this is one of the most eloquent descriptions of ant-Zionism I’ve read. Nicely put.

  5. September 8, 2009 at 12:47 am

    I stumbled across this blog. Well written; and I’m sorry you’re only a guest poster. I have one question and one comment:

    Question: What is “historical Palestine?” I’m going to guess you mean the country that immediately preceded modern Israel. If so, that country isn’t all that old. “Palestine” is a British invention, as is Jordan and the rest of the countries on the Arabian peninsula. If you’re thinking about the ancient Philistines, they have absolutely no connection whatsoever to modern day Arabs.

    Comment: On September 11, 2001, the country of Israel mourned. Israeli flags in Israel and around the world flew at half-mast. Arab children – in Paramus, NJ, and around the world – danced in the streets.

    Perhaps, as you say, Zionism equals racism. I still don’t know; and I’m old enough to know that I’m not as smart as I thought I once was. Compromise is always necessary and you have to choose your bedfellows wisely. I can assure you of one thing: the Islamic world is not interested in peace – how you or I would define it – with you, me, President Obama or anyone else.

  6. Constintina
    September 8, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    What is “historical Palestine?”

    The area of land now called Israel and the Palestinian territories.

    can assure you of one thing: the Islamic world is not interested in peace

    I’d say how, exactly, but I don’t really want to wade through a bunch of Islamophobic stuff, if that’s where you’re coming from on this. And I don’t think generalizations about an entire religion are appropriate on this blog.

  7. Anna
    September 8, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Sarah: Someone else might want to contest the factual basis of your claims about Palestine, but I’ll just take them at face value. Even if all of that is true, what does it have to do with the current situation? Regardless of who or what was named a Palestinian or Palestine, there were obviously people living there, and they’ve been displaced, and they and their descendants are still being subjected to human-rights violations.

    Regarding your statement about the September 11, 2001 attacks: Your comments about the Islamic world seem to be oversimplifying a very complex situation into a binary, us-versus-them worldview. This is the exact kind of worldview that might have led to the 9/11 attacks in the first place, since it is my understanding that the attackers viewed the United States and the West in just such a binary, us-versus-them way. Just as you presume to speak of the Islamic world’s interests, so too did the attackers view the West as equally monolithic.

  8. jak
    September 8, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I’m not sure what I think about this. I consider myself a Zionist in that I think it is a good thing to have a Jewish majority state of Israel (one can totally argue over whether it should have been founded where it is in the first place, but in any case, it’s there now, and I don’t think it should be moved).

    That said, I think the Israeli government’s policies regarding settlements are stupid, and that we need to come up with a reasonable compromise around east Jerusalem. And that there should be a Palestinian state that exists side-by-side (and probably very intertwined economically, at least) with Israel. I think that Israeli Arabs should have full citizenship rights, that the Israeli government should be doing more to make sure they have them, and that Avigdor Lieberman is appalling. I don’t believe the Arabic population of current Israel should have had to leave in 1948 (and accounts of the time are unclear on the reasons that they left- yes, some were definitely kicked out. some were definitely not. the majority? who knows?), and that having a Palestinian state would not make up for that, but would go some way towards repairing that wound.

    I don’t believe there is a contradiction between these beliefs.

  9. MannyJ
    September 8, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Constintina, I sympathize with your position, but I disagree. You make an intellectual error with real-world consequences. Zionism is not “racism,” because Jews are not a “race.” It is nationalism, or at worst tribalism.

    That’s not just an abstract distinction. Nationalism, the right to national self-determination, is the foundation of international law. You can’t join White, but you can become a Jew — and many ethnic Arabs are Jews. If every Arab in the occupied territories converted to Judaism next year, they would all be instantly eligible for Israeli citizenship.

    Absurd? Not really. Every nation distinguishes between members and outsiders, and most have stringent citizenship requirements (many people would find it harder to become a Canadian than to undergo Jewish conversion, for example). Just because the U.S. defines every person born in its borders as a citizen, does not mean Israel has to use that definition — much less grant citizenship to all people whose grandparents or great-grandparents lived in what is now Israel.

    You say that Jews should not elevate their interest in statehood above the needs of the Moslems in what used to be British Mandate Palestine. But what is the alternative? To live in an Islamic Palestine as non-Muslim aliens? Think of how poorly the Kurds or the Lebanese Christians have been treated. It is not “exploiting” the Holocaust to observe that living in other nations’ states got 1/3 of all Jews murdered in the 1940s. A Jewish State on historic Jewish territory was the practical, humanitarian solution. It still is.

    In your zeal for the underdog, you also buy into some myths. Why call the current Palestinians “refugees” from their (great)-grandparents’ homes? Am I a refugee from Ukraine because my grandparents fled the Cossacks? Why gloss over the Moslem anti-Semitic storm at the Durban conference?

    I share your outrage and horror at Israel’s very real moral failings and even war crimes. But I cannot agree that the solution is to void the Jewish right to national self-determination and idealize the enemies of Israel.

  10. Tam
    September 8, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    I cannot even begin to express how much I admire non-Zionist Jews, especially in the USA. For anybody to speak out against zionism is taboo, and I can only imagine how much of a taboo it must be for a Jewish person to do so. I’ve been called an anti-semite so many times just for opposing Zionism (both by Jews and non-Jews) that I am now literally afraid to speak out about the way I feel. I feel like I am weak for having that fear, but it hurts so much to be accused of racism when that is one of the things you dedicate your life to fighting. It is so comforting and encouraging to hear from and about anti-Zionist Jews. And the poll results about Jewish people under 35 are very encouraging too, as much as I know that polls can be deceiving. They really make me feel a bit better about the world. Thank you so much for sharing!

  11. PTS
    September 9, 2009 at 6:21 am

    I don’t see how Zionism can be a racist movement without declaring all nationalist movements racist. Was it racism for the Czechs or the Slovenes or the Bosnians to demand autonomy from the Austro-Hungarian empire? Was it racism for the Ukraine to demand independence from the USSR or the Kurds from Saddam’s Iraq? Or the Armenians from Turkey? If you want to condemn all those movements as racist, then okay but most people balk.

  12. denise
    September 23, 2009 at 8:02 am

    there has to be a place to take jews when other countries wont.
    for me, that is why israel must exist.

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