“Ahed Tamimi is the Palestinian Rosa Parks” – Aljazeera headline for an article by David A. Love
One of the most illogical – indeed, embarrassingly stupid – ways to criticize Israel is to make an analogy between the “plight of the Palestinians” and the condition of blacks in America, to equate the “Palestinian struggle” to the US movement for civil rights.
And yet it has been highly effective among minorities and on college campuses. It has been used by intelligent and (sometimes) well-informed individuals like Condoleezza Rice, by dog-whistlers like Barack Obama, and by rabble-rousers like Jeremiah Wright. In the age of intersectionality, it is taken as a given that racism against blacks in the US and “oppression” of Palestinians by Israel are similar phenomena, and that opposition to one kind of oppression demands opposition to all.
Progressive ideology insists that racial strife in the US and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have similar root causes, like capitalism (somehow), colonialism, and racism (defined as racial animosity plus power). Progressives like to put the conflict under a microscope with a very narrow field of view, but by doing that they exclude the broader context in which the narrower struggle takes place. The Palestinian struggle is just a subset of the much larger Arab and Muslim struggle to rid the region of Jews and extinguish Jewish sovereignty. Israel has a degree of military power that has so far enabled her to defend herself, but the balance of power – in terms of numbers, financial clout, and even international support – clearly rests with the anti-Israel side.
There is certainly racial/ethnic animosity on both sides, but the hatred that drives Arabs to stab or run down random Jews is only rarely seen among Jews. Colonialism? Who is indigenous, the Jew whose ancestral culture, language, and religion developed thousands of years ago here in the Land of Israel, or the Palestinian whose ancestors most likely came to the land in the late 19th or early 20th century (even as late as 1946), who speaks Arabic like an Egyptian or Syrian, whose religion is the Islam brought to the region by Muslim colonialists from Arabia, and who didn’t even call themselves “Palestinians” until the late 1960s? If there is a “root cause” of the conflict, it is Arab rejectionism, deeply embedded in ideology and religion, and amplified by every input they receive from their media and educational system.
So now consider the black Americans, who were brought to the country as slaves in the most horrible fashion imaginable, and then when slavery was finally abolished, faced systematic oppression ranging from legal apartheid in the segregated South to multifaceted informal discrimination elsewhere. Unlike Palestinians, they are not part of a coordinated effort to ethnically cleanse white Americans from their homeland. Most of their families have been in America longer than many (most?) other Americans. Their struggle against discrimination has been mostly nonviolent.
Both struggles ostensibly aim to obtain human and civil rights for a particular minority group, and both struggles have been adopted by progressives as part of the intersectional framework that they live and breathe. That is the entirety of what they have in common. In reality, the aim of the Palestinian movement is the replacement of the Jewish state with an Arab state, and the ethnic cleansing of its Jewish population. And to a great extent progressive activists understand this, although many would not admit it even to themselves, and prefer to try to maintain the fiction that it is about rights.
The proposition that “all forms of oppression are interrelated” is on the face of it ridiculous, so the effort to convince people that it is true takes interesting forms. One of the most ugly arguments they present is that disproportionate police violence against black people is encouraged by exchange programs for American police officers to learn counterterrorism techniques from Israeli security agencies. Jonathan Tobin called it “an updated version of medieval blood libels.”
There is presently a campaign led by the anti-Israel group “Jewish Voice for Peace” called “Deadly Exchange” which has succeeded in getting several American police departments to cancel cooperative training in Israel. Tobin writes,
The conceit of Deadly Exchange is that such training is both inappropriate for Americans as well as indirectly responsible for outrages like “police murders,” “shoot to kill policies,” “extrajudicial executions” as well as “spying” and “deportation and detention.” The claim here is that Israeli police are a force that is primarily interested in repression and violence and those U.S. personnel that learn from them are more likely to kill Americans…
Treating Israel as a pariah state is both unjust and counter-productive to peace efforts. But by linking Israel and its supporters to disputes about American law enforcement, JVP is seeking to smear them as being ultimately responsible for the murders of African Americans. As crazy as that sounds, it should be eerily familiar to students of history. Blaming Jews for crimes, especially the murder of innocents, even though they had nothing to do with them, is a classic trope of anti-Semitism. In that sense, even though JVP presents itself as defending Jewish values, its campaign is merely an updated version of medieval blood libels, where Jews became the scapegoats for problems that were not of their making.
Blaming the Jews for everything has been a popular pastime since the days of the Black Death, when it was assumed that since no other explanation was forthcoming, the Jews must have been poisoning wells. In 2004, several politicians, retired military officers, and journalists asserted that Jews and Israel were responsible for pushing the Bush Administration into the Iraq War (although it is true that some of the Jewish so-called “neoconservative” officials and journalists supported the war, the primary responsibility has to fall on President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, none of whom are Jewish).
Even some politicians who are generally pro-Israel in their actions find it useful to attribute possibly unpopular decisions to considerations related to Israel. For example, President Trump said last week that “one reason [to keep US troops in the Middle East] is Israel.” Defending his decision not to punish Saudi Arabia for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, he said that “Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia.”
As I’m sure you know, Israel does not expect or want Americans to fight for her, although she is very happy to have an uninterrupted supply of weapons, and appreciates US diplomatic support in the UN. And Israel has no connection to the Khashoggi affair and wants none. President Trump’s decisions are made in line with American interests, not Israel’s. To say otherwise is “not helpful,” in diplomat-speak.
In case anyone needs a refresher, the Jews didn’t kill Jesus, we didn’t poison wells, we didn’t start all the wars of the 19th century, we didn’t stab Germany in the back, we didn’t cause the Bolshevik Revolution, we didn’t poison Arafat, we didn’t knock down the Twin Towers, we didn’t make Bush invade Iraq, we didn’t create ISIS, the PLO is not the NAACP, we aren’t responsible for the actions of American police – and certainly not for the choices made by Donald Trump.
And Ahed Tamimi, who has publicly called for stabbings and suicide bombings (video), is decidedly no Rosa Parks.