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News & Analysis > All
News & analysis from Proletarian Internationalist Notes—news, reviews and analysis from a global perspective
Beyond language: more anti-Americanism needed on Palestine
August 25, 2016
Mondoweiss published a widely-read article several days ago calling for a change in language.(1) Written by a Scottish psychotherapist, the article touches on the “psychological” and expresses concern about the tropes supposedly dominating discourse around the I$raeli-Palestinian issue. There is too much reference to antisemitism in an attempt to avoid it – too much worrying about antisemitism, preventing people from “expressing their feelings openly” – it is suggested, and not enough attention to the settler-colonial aspect of oppression of Palestine. Many use “occupation,” but the word doesn’t specify what’s truly going on, at least not fully, making it easier to take positions supporting oppression of Palestinians or limiting struggle against it. The author also addresses frequent use of the words “conflict” and “peace,” associating those words and “occupation” with “peace talks,” a “fictitious and fraudulent phrase in the reality of Palestine-Israel.”
“Conflict” connotes moral equivalence, equality of power, or two parties coming into prolonged disagreement, each for their own reasons. Since conflicts eventually end – after what may be a given, long period of struggle – and occupations can end and peace be achieved between countries whose future existence is taken for granted, use of those words helps Israel finish an eventually-irreversible or insidiously-gradual settler-colonial project after which there is no homeland for the Palestinians or possibility thereof. “Settler colonialism” better-expresses the totality of what’s happening and properly limits or orients discussion in a way that leads to better solutions, which the author doesn’t detail in the article. Zionism is an instance of settler colonialism, it is said. More use of “settler-colonialism” would help the Palestinians’ liberation struggle by revealing the deceptive nature of anti- “occupation” Zionism, supposedly.
The present writer uses the words “occupation,” “conflict,” and “peace,” because of the necessity of doing so when supporting the two-state solution (TSS) – even as a temporary step, which many Palestinians who support the TSS consider it to be. (This writer is open to the possibility of supporting the TSS without using such language, but it is hard to argue for such if one doesn’t clearly support the TSS.) The BDS movement is officially neutral in regard to “two-state” and other “state” solutions and overlaps with diverse perspectives, but some in the BDS movement may be uncomfortable with words like “occupation” and “coexist” because they actually support integration with/within an empire dominated by settlers – whether the situation envisioned is called “Greater Israel,” “Isratin,” or something else – rather than a separate country for Palestinians. Regrettably, the United States provides the example of some Mexican migrants who think they oppose white settlers by waving the AmeriKKKan flag and seeking to join in imperialist privilege and exploitation as U.S. citizens. The “browning of America” has been discussed in the media globally.
No doubt the Amerikan “peace process” is phony,” but the United $tates doesn’t actually want peace in the Middle East, and the two-state solution isn’t limited to the so-called “peace process.” Activists and countries are struggling to pursue a two-state solution independently of the united $tates. If the united $tates did really want a two-state outcome with relative peace that isn’t the status quo, it would exist already by now, or one would have more reason to be suspicious of two-state solution efforts in general as representing what the Amerikans seek. The united $tates is the greatest obstacle to stopping settlement growth in Palestine, dismantling settlements, and building a sovereign, unified Palestinian state, so to allow the united $tates to claim the two-state solution and conspire in its demise after failing to support non-Amerikan leadership is misleading in the extreme.
In other ways, the “language trap” article on Mondoweiss seems to speak to this writer among many others. It happens that this writer criticized a reference to “Jewish pro-Israel money” appearing in another Mondoweiss article, written by the site’s founder (“As Dems vote against Palestine, Cornel West warns it is the ‘Vietnam War’ of our time,” July 10, 2016).(2) Both Democratic and Republican platform writing committees had difficulty with the word “occupation,” and the Republicans explicitly rejected the two-state solution while there is evidence many Democrats and young Amerikans just don’t know or care enough about the issues involved to have an opinion on the matter.(3) Even people in Scotland can see that, and being Jewish doesn’t make it acceptable to deny non-Jewish Amerikans’ independent interests sometimes putting them to the right of even Amerikan or Israeli Jews as a group in the context of Palestine.
The Amerikan-dominated Middle East Quartet released a report almost two months ago expressing grave pessimism about the two-state solution – obstructed by the Amerikans themselves – as if the united $tates wasn’t playing a key role in difficulties, while many others were declaring the TSS to be already dead. It is hard to see how any pro-Palestinian activist could have not noticed that. The “language trap” article then deals with the residual language of a supposedly dead solution, but “American,” “United States,” “European Union,” “United Nations” and other pertinent words don’t appear in the article whatsoever, not even an obligatory “U.S.-backed.” The article itself is a good negative example. It is as if the issue really were just the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” a conflict between two groups roughly the same size (non-Arab Israelis and Palestinians), or a conflict between Jews and Palestinians/Arabs – not a situation sustained by an extremely exploitive and powerful country with hundreds of millions of people. The united $nakes is the main force opposing progress in the Israeli-Palestinian issue, to the point where if there is a conflict it could be called the “American-Palestinian conflict.” That is an extremely important part of “what is really going on there.” Those who don’t understand that will get in the way, “act in an irrelevant way,” or apply “wrong solutions” – regardless of strong rhetoric against Israel.
Much discussion of potential antisemitism could be avoided by having a stronger anti-Amerikan position, and also recognizing the important roles of Britain and Germany, for example, in the failure of certain peace efforts(4) and acknowledging when various non-Jewish Amerikans are to the right of Amerikan and Israeli Jews. Singling out Jews, even Israelis, while maintaining a positive view of Amerikans or whites internationally is counterrevolutionary when the united $tates and western Europeans play such a major role. Antisemitism is disastrous not only globally, but also in the Middle East and neighboring countries where collaborator regimes don’t recognize Israel but tolerate Amerikan military bases in their own country.
Deficient language doesn’t explain the lack of action – or the reactionary action – of Amerikans. The united $nakes is the already-dominant exploiter-majority country that takes advantage of contradictions not only in the Middle East, but also in East Asia, to benefit its own strategic economic and political interests. The Amerikans falsely play the role of peacemaker/peacekeeper to varying extents in the context of China (cross-Strait relations), the Korean Peninsula, the East Sea of Korea (relations between Japan and Korea, and Japan and China), and Palestine, but stands in the way of reunification, peace or reduced militarism in each case, partly for similar reasons. One might think this wouldn’t be the case in the context of Palestine because of Amerikan revolutionary history or so-called racial or democratic progress. The Amerikans fought for their own independence and now dominate mostly through trade and diplomacy in a neocolonial world. Unfortunately, a history of opposing the British to pursue one’s independent settler and colonial interests is common to both the Amerikans and the Israelis as some discussing settler colonialism acknowledge. The united $tates remains a settler state to this day, in addition to being an imperialist state and a patriarchal state of a country with mostly exploiters or oppressors regardless of identity. So, with Amerikans who know a little bit about the history of “Israel” or Jews in Palestine, there is the possibility of identification, not just opposition to settler colonialism.
For many non-Amerikans frustrated with two-state solution efforts, the united $tates serves as a confusing example of a rich multinational country (including the Brown, First/Red and New Afrikan/Black nations) promising its citizens eventual equality despite its settler history and ongoing (re)settlement, with virtually total international legitimacy. Almost all of the countries that don’t recognize Israel, or do recognize the State of Palestine, have normal or semi-normal relations with the united $tates. The question arises how does one properly oppose settler colonialism in Palestine, in this context. If there are going to be sanctions against Israel, there should be sanctions against the settler united $nakes for its many and various crimes related to Palestine or not. Otherwise, notions of colonialism become incoherent, or what one is saying is that settler colonialism becomes acceptable the longer it survives. Failure to treat the united $tates at least similarly to Israel undermines the struggle against Israel.
Scotland is already a country with a high GDP per capita that it gained chronologically after uniting with England centuries ago, but Scotland may provide a useful contrast in the sense that there is still an independence movement there opposing further unification. Those fantasizing about some binational state in Palestine should think about that. The relative economic equality of England and Scotland may not prevent Scottish independence. Also, the idea of Scottish independence is looking good right now with Scottish support for Palestinians and overall-British obstruction on Palestine. If it is true that the EU is giving up on the Palestine question, and Scotland’s influence as part of the United Kingdom can’t prevent that in a positive way, Scottish independence will be more attractive as will other European countries’ going their own way. Alternatively or concurrently, Russia can play a larger role as this writer suggested might happen.(5) Half of the European Jews in Israel, whose father was not born in Israel, are of Russian or former-Soviet descent, and Russian is a major language there with many Russian settlers not interested in learning Hebrew.
With regard to the interests involved, there is no denying that self-interest plays a role in the convergence or potential convergence of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Turkey, and even Iran and Israel to a degree, relative to the past behavior of pursuing increased ties with the united $tates with more opposition to each other. There is a danger of selling out the Palestinians, or bypassing the issue of Palestinian sovereignty, as is often said, but the vast majority of countries in the world already have or want normal relations with the united $tates in the short term, and recognize both Israel and the united $tates, and the listed countries plus China have more interest in Middle East peace than the united $tates does. Not all economic self-interest is a bad thing, notwithstanding sanctimonious atheists in the West supposedly influenced by Marxism but acting like they are offended by such base motivations. The fact that Amerikans have little interest economic interest in the two-state solution, except maybe from the point of view of their retirement incomes involving global investment portfolios, doesn’t make other countries’ economic interests vis-à-vis Palestine contemptible. The word “projection” comes to mind in the context of so-angelic Western activists with so-radical language criticizing the actions of people struggling in stages to overcome Amerikan dominance in accordance with their own interests, which many Westerners lack because they are exploiters and oppressors in bed with the Amerikans.
There are various problems with what’s happening right now. However, people need to accept in principle the need for diplomatic struggle based on national or international self-interest vis-à-vis u.$. dominance – not fantasize about secular socialist uprisings inside and outside Amerika (almost entirely a bourgeois and petty-bourgeois country) before the issue of u.$. hegemony has been resolved. So there is a push here for a certain perspective and understanding of basic concepts which many of those opposing or abandoning the two-state solution haven’t grasped. Those who support non-Amerikan diplomacy can be in a better position to support improvements within that diplomacy.
Economic interests are also involved in Amerikanism-influenced approaches to Israel. If the Palestinian Authority is a puppet to the extent some opponents of the two-state solution say it is, obviously there are people in the West Bank who are pro-Amerikan and seek or would agree to being Amerikan lackeys, either as Israeli or Palestinian citizens, as a condition of advancement. Amerikan neocolonial lackeyhood would, in a way, be better than the current situation of outrageous blatant colonialism, but there is only so much anyone can expect the world to go along with that. Willingness to whore oneself out to the Amerikans doesn’t mean they will be interested anyway.
Activists and people in various countries are anti-Israel but pro-Amerikan to varying degrees despite obvious facts of Amerikan ties and aid to Israel. An underlying reason may be a notion of Amerikan specialness, as opposed to Israeli or Jewish specialness. The belief, sense or acting as though it were the case that Amerika is special may reflect capitulation to the reality of Amerikan hegemony, or a perception that Amerika is of integral importance to the world’s economic growth and stability. Many Arabs and people in the West and the Third World have a stake in investments in the united $tates: government securities, foreign direct investment (FDI), and other kinds of investment. This coincides with a lack of investment – or structurally ill-advised investment(6) – in their own countries.
In recent years, the united $tates dropped in rank as a recipient of new FDI.(7) And, among First World countries, the united $tates’ FDI received per capita is among the lowest by this writer’s calculations though much greater than the per-capita received FDI in many large Third World countries. However, the united $tates remains a top recipient in terms of accumulated FDI. That is a reflection of Amerikan privilege despite the colonial character of much foreign investment in the past; most international exploitation today occurs through trade and unequal exchange. That is to say, there may be a few who don’t understand their lack of anti-Amerikanism is related to the success of foreign investment in the united $tates being entangled with that country’s economic and political interests.
Regarding Israeli economic and non-economic interests, the anti- “occupation” (Gaza and West Bank occupation) Zionists and anti-settlement-expansion Zionists seem duplicitous to many – and some are, though any two-state outcome acceptable to a plurality of Israelis would obviously involve an element of Zionism. However, it is hard to view them negatively in comparison with Westerners who don’t care, or who have deep problems with both Muslims and Jews as religious groups and are openly or secretly opposed to the idea of another predominantly monotheistic country anywhere. Some of the CIA-influenced people who support antisemitism and armed provocations in the Middle East are against Islamism generally or support violent struggle with Muslim movements. That is a clue as to the nature of their supposed radicalism. ◊
1. “The Palestine-Israel language trap,” 2016 August 19. http://mondoweiss.net/2016/08/palestine-israel-language/
2. “Amerikan privilege and illusions of Amerikan leadership on national oppression: what Black Lives Matter really has to do with Palestine,” 2016 July. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-07-13-news-Black-Lives-Matter-Palestine.md
“Boycott the United Snakes: Amerika standing in the way of the two-state solution,” 2016 July. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-07-15-news-Boycott-United-States.md
3. “Americanism and anti-Americanism in conflict: understanding public opinion on Palestine,” 2016 August. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-08-11-news-Palestine-public-opinion.md
4. An article barely touching on the European role in the lack of progress: “Is EU giving up on Israel-Palestine conflict?” 2016 April 22. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/08/israel-is-eu-giving-up-on-israel-palestinian-conflict.html “The first is the lack of enthusiasm among some prominent member states, primarily the United Kingdom and Germany, for the EU to be in the forefront of initiating a Middle Eastern peace process.”
5. “Russia’s Vladimir Putin offers to host Middle East peace talks,” 2016 August 25. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/russias-vladimir-putin-offers-to-host-middle-east-peace-talks/news-story/e168197a738402f767ecabaa81b513fd?nk=3a0c52ddd5fc34185a1888066989d765-1472090436
“Economic relations in a low-growth world: potential convergence of Iranian and Saudi interests, divergence from Americans’,” 2016 August. https://github.com/pinotes/pinotes.github.io/blob/master/_posts/2016-08-04-news-Iranian-Saudi-convergence.md
“Putin offers Mideast peace talks to wary Israel,” 2005 April 28. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2005-04/28/content_438355.htm
6. “First look inside Dubai’s $1bn indoor theme park,” 2016 August 23. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/middle-east/united-arab-emirates/dubai/articles/img-worlds-of-adventure-dubai-first-look/
7. “China overtakes US for foreign direct investment,” 2015 January 30. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-31052566