The Mask Is Off

The newly elected Netanyahu government will include bigoted, intolerant, and violence-advocating ministers

Dr. James J. Zogby, Arab American Institute, December 5, 2022

Since its founding, Political Zionism has had two distinct and contradictory personas. One portrayed it as a national liberation movement that was liberal, democratic, tolerant, and inclusive. This was the face its adherents saw when they looked in the mirror, and it was the way they presented themselves to and wanted to be seen by the rest of the world. 

In reaction to antisemitism and the resultant ghettoization and pogroms that victimized European Jewry, Political Zionism promised an alternative for Jews in which they would be free to realize their full potential as a people while practicing the values and fruits of liberalism in a home of their own. 

The problem was that the European liberalism on which Political Zionism was modeled was, itself, based on a contradiction in that the benefits and progress it provided for Europeans were based on the colonial subjugation of Asians and Africans and exploitation of their conquered lands. As the early Zionists were immersed in that same European culture and worldview, it was without any hesitation or embarrassment that they saw themselves as an extension of the European colonial enterprise. That was why Theodore Herzl sought guidance on how to secure support for his proposed colony from Cecil Rhodes; or why he would write in the Jewish State that the enterprise he wished to establish would serve as “a rampart of Europe against Asia…and outpost of civilization against barbarism”; or why he proposed using the natives that his followers might find in their new colony to clear the land and engage in menial labor and then evacuate these natives to other lands. 

Political Zionism was the dream of Jewish liberation, but its implementation was to be the nightmare of Palestinian dispossession. These two sides of the same ideology coexisted, with the upside acknowledged and celebrated, and its reverse ignored and/or denied. This was true not only for the founders of Zionism but also for its most recognized “liberal” champions: Chaim Weizmann, David Ben Gurion, and Golda Meir. Even Benjamin Netanyahu made his name in political circles as a proponent of the cause of “liberal Western democracy” versus the authoritarian, savage, terrorist Arab World. 

Because such a worldview was so ingrained into Europe’s dominant sense of itself, the two faces of Zionism (the liberal and the racist) never raised an eyebrow. It was, if anything, understood and embraced by the British and French (and later by the US) who saw the need for, as Herzl had envisioned it, a civilized outpost to protect Western values and interests from the barbarians.

Maybe this is what is meant when Israeli and US leaders speak of our “shared values”—the fact that we both have been able to mask the “dark side” of our behaviors with the outward facing veneer of our “claimed values,” values that apply to “us” not to “others.” And we’ve both gotten away with this game, until recently.     

For the US, it was the Iraq War and its attendant horrors, the epidemic of mass killings, systemic racism, and the emergence of the anti-democratic, racist, and xenophobic Trump movement that began to unravel the mask of our claim to be the bastion of “liberal ideals.” Despite Israel’s record of abominable behaviors toward Palestinians, it has taken much longer to peel away the veneer of liberalism from Israel’s image. One reason is that their propaganda machinery has been quite effective, and another has been the fear that pointing out the obvious (i.e., that Israel is engaged in oppressive and racist subjugation and dispossession of Palestinians) will result in the accusation of antisemitism. 

In this context, it may be considered ironic that it was Israel’s own democracy that has finally exposed for all to see its underbelly of intolerance and racist violence. By electing a far-right coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline Likud party and including fanatic nationalists and intolerant ultra-religious parties, the most recent Israeli election served as a clarifying moment for the Political Zionist movement. 

The newly elected Netanyahu government will include bigoted, intolerant, and violence-advocating ministers and deputy ministers who will oversee police, settlements, administration of the occupied territories, finance, and “Jewish Identity.” They include ideologues who advocate expulsion of Arabs from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories; support rapid settlement expansion and annexation of the West Bank; back settler violence against Palestinians to demonstrate who’s boss; adhere to a theology that maintains that while Jews are full human beings with souls, Arabs are not; claims that human rights organizations pose an “existential threat” to Israel and therefore want them banned; maintain that only their rigid interpretation of Orthodox Judaism is true religion, and deny other Jews their rights; and insist on altering the status quo at the Haram Al Sharif, turning Jerusalem into another Hebron. 

With ministers and policies such as these, the mask is off.

This is Political Zionism, without the frills. It is intolerance, bigotry, repression, and aggression without the accompanying rhetoric of “liberalism” to smooth things over or put on a pretty face for the world. 

It’s been fascinating to watch how the major pro-Israel US groups have responded (or failed to respond) to this challenging situation. There were immediate protests over the ultra-Orthodox push to change conversion law, to outlaw LGBTQ rights, to restrict which “legitimate” Jews could immigrate to Israel, and to require the segregation of Jewish women at prayer. But these same leaders have been silent in reaction to the bigoted anti-Arab beliefs being espoused by key members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition and the policies they seek to implement that will further dispossess Palestinians.  

It’s true that many of these ugly attitudes and policies have shaped the Palestinian reality for decades, but they were always covered by the pretty words and the outward face of Zionist liberalism. But now the mask is off and those who, for decades, have been covering for Israel have the responsibility to acknowledge the ugly reality their silence has allowed to fester.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Arab American Institute. The Arab American Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan national leadership organization that does not endorse candidates.

December 11, 2022
Film: Come and See; Go and Tell

Online Film & Panel Discussion
2:00 pm Central

So many people travel, take tours, and make pilgrimages to the “Holy Land” each year. What are the ethical, political, and personal implications of a journey to holy sites surrounded by 30-foot-high concrete walls, where soldiers patrol the streets and residents live under military occupation?

Three recent, short documentaries present a variety of perspectives through the eyes of people living there today. Post-film discussion features Rifat Kassis of Kairos Palestine, Palestinian-American Sam Bahour, and Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon of Churches for Middle East Peace.

Complete info and registration here

Love Football. Hate Apartheid.

Score a goal for Palestinian rights

The men’s World Cup starts in just a few days. 
The world will turn its attention to the largest sporting event on the planet. 
Major sporting events, organized by corrupt sports governing bodies and fed with dirty sponsorship money, are often used in an attempt to mask human rights abuses or push through unpopular policies.

Let’s turn that on its head.

As social movements across the world take advantage of the visibility of the men’s World Cup to call for justice for all, let’s shine a spotlight on Palestinian rights and on companies complicit in Israeli apartheid.

Score a #Goal4Palestine!
Score a #Goal4PalestineScore a Goal for Palestinian rights on InstagramShine a light on Palestinian rights on Facebook

Throughout the men’s World Cup, let’s keep the attention on Palestinian rights and call out the complicity of sporting bodies and companies like FIFA and PUMA in Israeli apartheid. Make sure the Palestinian flag is flying high. Hang it alongside the flags of teams you support and share it on social media.

Remind fans to #BoycottPUMA over its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association, which governs over and advocates to maintain teams in illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land.

Take action: Love Football. Hate Apartheid.

Stay tuned for more actions throughout the men’s 2022 World Cup. 

DONATE

The nonviolent BDS movement for freedom, justice and equality is supported by the absolute majority in Palestinian society. BDS rejects all forms of racism and racial discrimination.

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Tell Marvel Studios: No Israeli Apartheid Superheroes

MPower Change

As salaamu alaykum, 

Marvel Studios is out of touch. They’ve announced a new film featuring an Israeli Mossad agent named Sabra.

Mossad agents are notorious for carrying out targeted assassinations of Palestinian leaders. They should not be held up as heroes — even in the fantasy world of Marvel.¹

Tell Marvel Studios to do the right thing: No pro-Israeli apartheid superheroes in the next “Captain America” movie.

The cultural impact of Marvel Studios films can’t be overstated. Marvel movies are seen in huge numbers — over 100 million people worldwide saw Avengers: Endgame.

If Marvel goes ahead with its plan to feature a murderous, pro-apartheid “superhero” named Sabra in its next Captain America movie, over 100 million viewers stand poised to see Palestinians dehumanized and vilified on screen.

The character Sabra has a long, disturbing history in Marvel Comics.² As written in the comics, the character Sabra is an agent of the real-world Israeli spy agency Mossad, who have an infamous track record of assassinations, torture, and numerous other egregious human rights violations.

The land theft and violent suppression of multiple popular Palestinian uprisings against Israel’s occupation have led to real tipping points in U.S. discourse. According to recent Gallup polling, progressives have now “fully crossed the threshold and now sympathize more with Palestinians” than with Israelis.³

The backlash against Marvel has already begun. But we need your help to ramp up the pressure.

Take 15 seconds now to tell Marvel: No Israeli apartheid superheroes.

A growing chorus of international human rights groups, from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to Israel’s B’tselem are finally echoing what Palestinians have said for decades: Israel is an apartheid regime.

Join us in telling Marvel Studios: Don’t endorse Israel’s apartheid regime with a pro-apartheid superhero.

We have the power to win this. 

In solidarity,
Granate, Linda, Lau, and the team at MPower Change


Sources:
1. ”A Secret History of Israeli Assassinations”, Newsweek, February 2, 2018
2. “Disney’s new Israeli superhero film hits a raw nerve with Arabs”, CNN, September 16, 2022
3. “Key Trends in U.S. Views on Israel and the Palestinians”, Gallup, May 28, 2021

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ACTION ALERT: The Israeli army closes Youth Against Settlements Community Center

Friends of Hebron (FOH)

Dear Friends,

The Israeli army showed up and closed our community center! The house belongs to Human Rights Defender Issa Amro, who is now left alone and isolated while under threat from the nearby Israeli settlement and army base. Tell the U.S. State Department to act now!

While Americans were celebrating Halloween, Israeli soldiers enforced a special closed military zone order onto Issa’s house, which doubles as the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) center.

A closed military zone order (CMZ) means that no one can enter—no journalists, volunteers, family members, or medical personnel. Issa is left alone, isolated, and fears for his safety. He has already received multiple death threats from settlers and soldiers.

The CMZ order specifically targets Issa’s house, as this satellite image shows.

Please sign the petition and don’t forget to donate! 

Israel Hayom‘s lies were the same lies about Issa that have often been perpetrated by the Israeli settlers in Hebron who terrorize the local Palestinian population on a daily basis in the city. These lies show that the newspaper had gotten used to publishing slander promoted by settler populations about Palestinians without any consequences, promoting these narratives without any actual journalistic standards or investigation.

The house is a meeting point for international and Israeli delegations, a training center for local volunteers, and a community center for Palestinians living in Hebron’s most restricted areas.

YAS were in the middle of a campaign to help local Palestinian famers harvest olives from their trees. Israeli settlers assaulted and harassed the farmers and volunteers multiple times during this period. Mr. Amro attempted to file a complaint at the local Israeli police station, but was refused. His house was closed the following day.

Help us call on the U.S. State Department to pressure Israel to lift the closure!

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Mazin Qumsiyeh: Palestine Is a Climate Justice Issue

Join us to learn the environmental reality in Israel/Palestine today, what is being done by the land’s indigenous protectors. and what we can do to support their efforts.

We are honored to have one of Palestine’s leading voices on Palestinian activism and resistance, Mazin Qumsiyeh, an authority on the natural world of Palestine and environmental justice. Dr. Qumsiyeh is the founder and director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History and the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability at Bethlehem University.

The world’s climate and environmental crisis touches every corner of the globe.The most vulnerable and marginalized populations of the world are bearing the brunt of climate change and suffering daily environmental injustice. Nowhere is that more true than in Israel/Palestine. For Palestinians, climate change is not just a natural phenomenon, but a political one. Israel‘s regime of occupation and apartheid, which denies Palestinians the right to manage their land and resources, greatly heightens the impact of the climate crisis for Palestinians, making them more vulnerable to all climate-related conditions.

Yet Israel cultivates an image worldwide as an environmentally conscious, “green” society. It is even considered to be an environmental leader for the world. The reality is dramatically different.

He is also the author of several books, including Sharing The Land Of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle and Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, and he has been called “the most important chronicler of contemporary popular resistance in Palestine.”

When we gather online with Mazin Qumsiyeh, representatives from around the world will be meeting in Egypt for the United Nations’ global climate conference, COP27. As we will see on November 9th, the fight for climate justice for all is directly connected to the Palestinian struggle.

Sponsored by Methodist Federation for Social Change and United Methodist Kairos Response.

“You Can Be the Last Leaf” by Maya Abu Al-Hayyat

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat directs the Palestine Writing Workshop on the West Bank. She’ll read poems & be in conversation with poet Deema Shehabi.

    A Virtual Book Celebration!
    October 29, 2022, 1 PM CT
    Benefit for the Palestine Writing Workshop, Tickets $10
    RSVP and share!

Maya Abu Al-Hayyat is a Palestinian writer, storyteller, and mother based in occupied East Jerusalem. Each day she passes through Israeli checkpoints, like the infamous Qalandia checkpoint, to direct the Palestine Writing Workshop, one of MECA’s partner organizations. Maya and her team at the Palestine Writing Workshop have published award-winning Arabic children’s books and led hundreds of interactive workshops from Nablus to Silwan to Gaza for children, youth, librarians and parents on reading aloud, creative writing, and storytelling. Her work is grounded in the belief that art and literature can change lives and aims to improve Palestinian children’s literacy and also encourage their imaginations. She is a gifted storyteller who captures the attention of children of all ages (and adults too!). Maya also runs writing courses for former prisoners, helping them transform trauma into art.

She has published four collections of poems, four novels, and numerous children’s stories, including The Blue Pool of Questions. She contributed to and wrote a foreword for A Bird Is Not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Poetry, and she is an editor of The Book of Ramallah. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Cordite Poetry Review, The Guardian, and Literary Hub. Please join us to learn more about Maya’s work and life in Palestine!

Deema K. Shehabi is the author of Thirteen Departures From the Moon and co-editor with Beau Beausoleil of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, for which she received the Northern California Book Award’s NCBR Recognition Award. She co-authored Diaspo/Renga with Marilyn Hacker and won the 2018 Nazim Hikmet poetry competition. Her work has also appeared in Literary Imagination, the Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, Poetry London, and Crab Orchard, and has been translated into French, Farsi, and Arabic; she has been nominated for the Pushcart prize several times.

Cosponsored by Middle East Children’s Alliance and Sacramento Bethlehem Sister City. Info: meca@mecaforpeace.org, 510-548-0542.

PRAISE FOR “You Can Be The Last Leaf”

“The Palestinian poet’s U.S. debut gathers two decades of her intimate testimony about private life in a public war zone, where ‘those who win by killing fewer children / are losers.’”—New York Times

“Al-Hayyat’s latest devastating and courageous collection captures the precarious everyday lives of Palestinians with enormous empathy and glistening clarity . . . The vivid translations by Fady Joudah will jostle readers into discomfort and pin Al-Hayyat’s stunning voice into their ears.”—Booklist

“Abu Al-Hayyat explores the broader political and geographic aspects of Palestinian life under colonial rule while at the same time interweaving the quotidian aspects of life and loss in such settings. Within these frictions of exterior trauma and private contemplations, large constraints and small freedoms, these poems soar.”—Chicago Review of Books

This is no “terrorist wave,”
it is an uprising

Gush Shalom, October 18, 2022

The State of Israel is going
to general elections,
but in the election campaigns
there is virtually no mention
of the main, existential problem
facing all who live in this country.

The West Bank is on fire,
as are the neighborhoods
of East Jerusalem.

This is not “a wave of terrorism”.

This is an uprising
of young people
making a simple
and self-evident demand:
to be a free people
in their country.

Armed with stones
and a few light arms,
young Palestinians are facing
the strongest army
in the Middle East.

Many of them pay
with their lives —
and they are not deterred.
They continue their struggle.

Two soldiers were killed this week.
A young man and a young woman,
Israeli contemporaries of
the Palestinians they face.

These soldiers were not “murdered”.
They were not “victims of terrorist attacks”.
They fell in the battle to which
the State of Israel sent them.

They fell in an unjust war,
a war for maintaining
an oppressive occupation regime,
a war for the settlers
who steal Palestinian lands.

A war which is not worth fighting
and certainly not worthy
of sacrificing one’s life.

The real heroes
of Israel 2022
are the refusers and
conscientious objectors,
held behind bars
at the Kfar Yona military prison.

The prison to which the army gave
the Orwellian name “Abode of Justice”.

Young men who refuse to wear
the uniform of
an army of occupation and oppression
and prefer to go to prison.

Young women who reject with disgust
the distorted idea that for Israeli women,
taking part in the oppression of
Palestinian women and men
is some sort of
“Women’s Empowerment”.

They are the last remaining Israelis
in whom one can take pride.


Gush Shalom (Hebrew: גוש שלום, The Peace Bloc) is an Israeli peace group founded by Uri Avnery, a former journalist and Irgun and Knesset member. The organization has been controversial for sending a relief convoy to Gaza under Hamas administration, and the mainstream Israeli media has described it on occasion as “radical” and “extreme”. In 2010 the American Friends Service Committee said the group was “one of Israel’s most influential peace organizations”.