Are we less critical of #occupywallstreet than the Israeli tent protests?

During the summer of protest in Israel it was quite common for activists concerned about the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state to be explicitly critical of the fact that the tent protests did not take a stand on the occupation. I think this was fair – Israeli life is bound up with the occupation, to the point where if you think you are not connected to it – it is simply because you have stuffed your eyes and ears with cotton. And people do actually do this – my friend met in Tel Aviv a girl who had not visited Jerusalem in 24 years, despite it being a 3$ and 45 minute bus ride away. This “bubble” mentality is itself something blameworthy, so, I don’t have a problem with people saying ignorance and/or neutrality is a form of culpability for an immoral situation.

However, myself and I think most activists concerned with the Palestinian situation believe that America, not Israel, is the primary cause of Israeli war crimes and the occupation. Without approval of the hegemonic force to act otherwise, Israel would withdraw to its ’67 borders, and modify its internal politics to make the return of the refugees politically possible. If Israel needed to make peace on its own terms with the Arab League, it would not negotiate from a position of extreme strength, and the “compromise solution” would be much better for Palestinians, much worse for Zionist extremists who want to create a “Jewish State” on more and more of the land of Palestine.

So, what is the stance of #occupywallstreet on the occupation? Do we expect there to be a clear one? Or, do we expect #occupywallstreet to use the same big-tent, coalition building strategies that Israelis used – not to take a stand on controversial issues, to concentrate on what holds people together, rather than what separates them. And, if you know anything about popular perceptions of middle eastern politics in the US, you know the Palestine/Israel question divides like no other.

But, if we allow and support this – are we not guilty of an extreme hypocricy? If ignoring the occupation in Israel requires you to blind your eyes, is it really any less blameworthy here to be ignorant of Israeli crimes? Are the arguments made by the Zionists trying to convince you to support Israeli, even unconditionally, actually persuasive? Or do they require a measure of self-deception similar to the self-deception required to ignore the occupation while in Israel?

I hope that #occupywallstreet comes out with a consensus against the status quo in Israel, even if it is not a position as strong as I would like (right of return) – even to support the statehood bid would be a strong step against the US rejectionist position. If they do not, if they remain strategically silent on America’s imperialist position in Palestine, it will be very difficult for me to support them with a clear heart.

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2 thoughts on “Are we less critical of #occupywallstreet than the Israeli tent protests?

  1. Without approval of the hegemonic force to act otherwise, Israel would withdraw to its ’67 borders, and modify its internal politics to make the return of the refugees politically possible

    We know that’s not true. There have been in the last generation presidents who strongly disagreed and sharply punished Israel for colonization of the West Bank and they have totally failed to prevent Israel from doing it. Look at US, Israeli relations in the 1970s was the settler program started.

    As far as the return of the refugees it is a total non starter. Even in the early 1950s when Israel was terribly weak, Israel was willing to suffer tremendous international pressure and attacks that were drawing it towards a new war with Egypt and Jordan rather than readmit the refugees. In a country that was rather humane, refugees caught attempting to return were killed with 0 public dissent. Since then, in the entire history of the Israeli state no one in a position of power has ever supported return, the public has always completely rejected it. America pressured Israel but found that they had almost no ability to move them on this issue at all, it was a total non starter. And they were right. Israel has indicated multiple times through their acts they support war over return of the refugees.

    What if America didn’t support Israel is an interesting game. Mostly Israel is generally willing to serve the interests of countries that supply it with arms. So you end up with another sponsor. A sponsor with less friendly relationships with middle east countries and thus even less amenable to pressure.

    1. No American presidents ever sharply punished Israel for settling the occupied territories.

      Israel was not terribly weak in the 1950s – perhaps weaker than after strong US support post 67, but still a super-power of the region. On this subject I suggest reading Shlomo Ben Ami’s book “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace”.

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