Once involved with Palestinian Solidarity you have to accept that Jews are special and so is their suffering; Jews are like no other people, their Holocaust is like no other genocide and anti Semitism, is the most vile form of racism the world has ever known and so on and so forth.
But when it comes to the Palestinians, the exact opposite is the case. For some reason we are expected to believe that the Palestinians are not special at all - they are just like everyone else. Palestinians have not been subject to a unique, racist, nationalist and expansionist Jewish nationalist movement, instead, we must all agree that, just like the Indians and the Africans, the Palestinian ordeal results from run-of-the-mill 19th century colonialism – just more of the same old boring Apartheid.
So, Jews, Zionists and Israelis are exceptional, like no one else, while Palestinians are always somehow, ordinary, always part of some greater political narrative, always just like everyone else. Their suffering is never due to the particularity of Jewish nationalism, or Jewish racism, or even AIPAC dominating USA foreign policy no, the Palestinian is always a victim of a dull, banal dynamic – general, abstract and totally lacking in particularity.
This raises some serious questions.
Can you think of any other liberation or solidarity movement that prides itself in being boring, ordinary and dull? Can you think of any other solidarity movement that downgrades its subject into just one more meaningless exhibit in a museum of materialist historical happenings? I don’t think so! Did the black South Africans see themselves as being like everyone else? Did Martin Luther King believe his brothers and sisters to be inherently undistinguishable?
I don’t think so. So how come Palestinian solidarity has managed to sink so low that their spokespersons and supporters compete against each other to see who can best eliminate the uniqueness of the Palestinian struggle into just part of a general historical trend such as colonialism or Apartheid?
The answer is simple. Palestinian Solidarity is an occupied zone and, like all such occupied zones must dedicate itself to the fight against ‘anti Semitism’. Dutifully united against racism, fully engaged with LGBT issues in Palestine and in the movement itself, but for one reason or another, the movement is almost indifferent towards the fate of millions of Palestinians living in refugee camps and their Right of Return to their homeland.
But all this can change. Palestinians and their supporters could begin to see their cause for what it is, unique and distinctive. Nor need this be all that difficult. After all, if Jewish nationalism is inherently exceptional as Zionists proclaim, is it not only natural that the victims of such a distinctive racist endeavor are at least, themselves, just as distinctive.
So far, Palestine solidarity has failed to liberate Palestine, but it has succeeded beyond its wildest dreams in creating a Palestine Solidarity Industry, and one largely funded by liberal Zionists. We have been very productive in schlepping activists around the world promoting ‘boycotts’ and ‘sanctions’ meanwhile Israel trade with Britain is booming and Hummus Tzabar is clearly apparent in every British grocery store.
All those attempts to reduce Palestinian ordeal into a dated, dull, generalised materialist narrative should be exposed for what they are – an attempt to appease liberal Zionists. Palestinian suffering is actually unique in history at least as unique as the Zionist project.
Yesterday I came across this from South African minister Ronnie Kasrils. In a comment on Israeli Apartheid he said : “This is much worse than Apartheid..Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had Jets attacking our townships; we never had sieges that lasted months after months. We never had tanks destroying houses.”
Kasrils is dead right. It is much worse than Apartheid and far more sophisticated than colonialism. And why? Because what the Zionists did and are doing is neither Apartheid nor is it colonialism. Apartheid wanted to exploit the African, Israel wants the Palestinian gone. Colonialism is an exchange between a mother and a settler state. Israel never had a mother State, though it may well have had a few ‘surrogate mothers’.
Now is the time to look at the unique ordeal of the Palestinian people. Similarly, now is the time to look at the Zionist crime in the light of Jewish culture and identity politics.
Can the solidarity movement meet this challenge? Probably, but like Palestine, it must first, itself, be liberated.
Counterpunch, Weekend Edition March 8-10, 2013.
Gilad Atzmon’s latest book is: The Wandering Who? A Study of Jewish Identity Politics