Have a Good Time

December 27, 2015

“Turn the camera”: On fascism, racism, and Donald Trump

I have a long story about my decision to interrupt a Donald Trump rally and its aftermath. The story touches on upsetting subjects and contains details of emotional distress I’ve experienced in the last week, which has not disappeared. As I see it, though, there are two crucial larger points. The first is about historical ties and morphological similarities between antisemitism and Islamophobia, and the second is about Trump’s own willingness to harness these two forces together in what he might regard as the coalition that will return America to greatness. In any case, that willingness now seems to me undeniable.

I had learned about a week in advance that on December 21 Trump would be holding a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I’ve lived for several years. Protest events began materializing on Facebook right away. Some were more serious than others, but, as organizers of the local Black Lives Matter chapter remarked, all too many were set up by white people who were not averse to policing the tactics and tone of other activists. At least one page was shut down after heated arguments both among aspirant protesters and between them and the Trump trolls. News started coming in, too, about stringent measures to be adopted by the stadium hosting the assembly. There was no way to know what the evening would look like. Everything was a bit of a mess.

I wanted to play a role in responding to the rally, though, because, of course, I fear Donald Trump. To my view of him I would attach no particular claim to insight or originality. I think he’s one face of angry whiteness in a settler-colonial state founded on white supremacy and genocide, and in this sense I’ve tended not to read him as a pure anomaly, or as somehow external to American political discourse. At the same time, I believe it means something when a public figure of Trump’s popularity and influence abandons even the facade of liberal-democratic values and draws virtually the whole of his support from openly professed racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and militarism. However one feels about American electoral politics, I believe resistance becomes necessary against the specific discursive shifts enabled by such a figure—and, as W. Kamau Bell and Adam Mansbach have lately been arguing, I think the responsibility for such resistance rests in a distinctive way with white Americans, in whose name Trump acts, and whose energies he presumes to channel.

FullSizeRender

So I decided I would go to the Deltaplex Arena on December 21, quickly assess the protests outside, and, if I did enter the stadium, try to find an effective way of disrupting the speech. Drawing inspiration from Johari Osayi Idusuyi, I filled my bag with books by James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, and Junot Díaz, in case there was an opportunity to make myself quietly visible reading them. I also took a printout of a Brittney Cooper article that I might be able, I thought, to start reading aloud.

When I arrived outside the stadium just as the doors were about to open at 5, and saw for the first time how enormous the place was and how many people had already shown up, I knew that the books wouldn’t have much of a chance and that reading aloud from a paper would pose too much of a challenge. I stood for a few minutes in the light rain as a small protest got underway—which, following stadium policy, was situated a considerable distance from the building, by the entrance to the parking lot. Imagining that things there would stay relatively quiet, at least for a couple of hours, I walked toward the arena, waited in a fast-moving line that stretched up and down the lot, passed through the metal detectors in the lobby, and found a seat in the stands on the right side of the stage. For the next hour and a half I watched the stadium fill up, texted with friends, told them about the police on horseback outside and the Christmas music on the loudspeakers within, and fought off a panic attack.

The first interruption came about seven minutes into Trump’s speech, just as I was getting ready to say something. A young white man in the crowd in front of the stage got as far as “Trump, you’re a racist! You’re a bigot!” before the crowd shouted him down and shoved him out. After this it became relatively quiet as Trump started to discuss how it was only ever “one guy” crashing his rallies, so it felt like a good moment. I had been turning over endless things I could say, but I was grateful to have had “You’re a racist” as a kind of overture, and I decided to err on the side of specificity and to focus on one lie which, for the last month, had played a role in Trump’s myth-making that seemed to me axiomatically fascist. As best as I can remember, what I said from when I stood up at the railing in front of the stands to when I had been conclusively removed from the arena was something like:

There were not thousands of people cheering in New Jersey after September 11. There were not thousands of Muslims cheering on rooftops. That’s a lie and it’s racist. Donald Trump’s campaign is built on racist lies, it’s one of the faces of American white supremacy, and it’s our responsibility to fight racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. It’s our responsibility as white people to resist white supremacy.

I got a couple of words into the second sentence of this before someone on the stadium floor launched an impressive “Shut up” and a huge wave of boos followed, drowning out my voice. Around this same moment, the guard who had just reached me turned me around, gently but firmly placed his hands on my upper back, and began leading me down the stairs, back into the lobby (by which time I’d grown silent), and finally out of the building. I know some members of the audience near me heard more of what I said as I left, but, in the camera feeds I’ve found, what you can catch is mostly “New Jersey after September 11, there were not.” The video below has one of the clearest recordings of my voice, starting around the 9:00 mark, and it also briefly shows my exit.

It was over in seconds. Walking out into the evening dark—aware of myself as someone congenitally disposed to avoid both stadiums and shouting, who had just shouted in a stadium full of thousands who, in turn, had shouted at me—I was overwhelmed with relief, adrenaline, and pride. I’d been trying to quit smoking but I shared a cigarette with two protesters ejected minutes later, and I stood in the parking lot watching what felt like the beginning of a steady trickle of others.

After another cigarette I decided to rejoin the rally by the lot entrance. I had been there for a couple of minutes—clapping at honking cars, exchanging good wishes with others who had interrupted, preparing to leave but still dazzled by what had happened—when a white man in his forties or fifties, holding a video camera, approached the group I was standing behind and asked with enthusiasm if anyone had been kicked out. Assuming his good faith, and thinking that it couldn’t hurt to assist in documenting the night’s events, I fought back my aversion to other people’s cameras and raised my hand. He approached closer and positioned himself so that the arena appeared in the distance behind me. He asked me a series of questions about exactly what I had said and how I had been removed, and I answered as best I could while the protest continued several feet away from us. The man told me he had come all the way from Los Angeles to do something just like what I had done, and I nodded with surprise and pleasure. He agreed with me that on September 11 there had not been thousands of Muslims cheering in New Jersey, and I nodded again. He then turned the camera around to capture his own face, adding that the only people who had been arrested for cheering on September 11, as he had just told Donald, were “five Israeli Jews.”

I froze. This would have been the moment to refuse to engage further and to leave. Instead, in shock, I struggled to recalibrate my sense of the person who had been filming my face, and to argue a position. I tried to say that this sounded to me like another racist myth, that I had friends in the Jewish anti-Zionist movement, and that I was very critical of Israeli policy but rejected antisemitism. He asked if I “agree[d] with the slur where they try to say anti-Zionists are antisemites,” and I reiterated that those two words were different but that I saw antisemitism as a real and dangerous force. He swung his camera around for a second to capture some loud chanting and I took the opportunity to stutter, “I think I’m going to head out, but.” He asked for my name, and in my vulnerable polite stupidity I said, “My name’s JR.”

I got some distance from the man and his camera. Trying to collect myself, feeling betrayed and violated, I called Daniel, one of the friends who had kept me company through texts as I’d sat in the stadium. We agreed that the only thing I could do was to find the man again, make it clear that I would never have spoken to him if he’d been honest about his agenda, and tell him to delete his footage of me. I doubled back toward the now-dissipating protest and looked for him, asking several strangers if they’d seen a man with a camera. He was gone.

Over the next twenty-four hours I tried to hang onto the traces that remained of pride or satisfaction in what I had done that evening. I shared the video of my disruption on Facebook without discussing the events that had followed, to which I still felt dizzyingly close. I said only that I might write more about it later, and I welcomed supportive comments and praise from friends. But I was already starting to regret having gone to the rally at all, and feeling a growing fury at myself for having failed to research the false claims of 9/11 celebrations carefully enough to know that one persistent variant replaced Arab/Muslim with Israeli/Jew. (Joshua Keating writes for Slate about five Israeli nationals who were detained after filming the attack, and later deported amid unproven rumors of ties to Israeli intelligence: “The lack of evidence hasn’t stopped the ‘dancing Israelis’ from being a fixture of 9/11 conspiracy theories, particularly anti-Semitic ones, ever since.” I’m tempted to amend this a little, considering the shapes of paranoid thought, and to say that it’s precisely the lack of evidence that has kept the theories going.) I knew that if I had been conscious of that predictable modification—if I had been, in general, less naive about who might be in the Deltaplex Arena that night and about how my voice could be heard—then I wouldn’t have shouted something related to September 11 in any way. I could have shouted “Refugees are welcome here,” or “Borders—what’s up with that?” I could have said “Black lives matter,” or “Abortion is a human right.” Instead I had been the first of two people to invoke September 11, and the second, I assumed, had shouted something about Jews.

It wasn’t until late the next night that I found his YouTube account, when I searched for “trump 9/11” and limited the results to videos from the past week. The video I found—then half an hour old, with fifty views, and now with more than 13,000—was recorded by the man from inside the Deltaplex, and titled “Front-Row Protester Tells Trump ‘ISRAEL DID 9/11!'” At that point I couldn’t bring myself to watch more than a few fragments of it. I confirmed that this man, Martin Hill, who had bitterly lamented the “smear” of antisemitism, maintained a large online collection of videos featuring David Duke, Mel Gibson, and Father Coughlin. He had posted a clip in August of himself running with his camera among the stelae of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, laughing and repeatedly intoning, “Six million Jews.” Looking at his more recent videos and at his website, I realized that he had effectively been following Donald Trump around the country attempting to convince him of Jewish responsibility for the attacks on September 11. There were other interviews with anti-Trump protesters he had tricked into talking to him.

I was sick at the thought of my image appearing in this space. Given that I’d been as vocal as I knew how to be during my real-time recognition that we weren’t on the same side, I spent one near-sleepless night and then another hoping that he would see no reason to post our exchange. On the morning of Thursday, December 24, I found that he’d put it up, under the title “Michigan Leftist Says Dancing Israelis is an ‘Anti-Semitic, Racist Urban Legend.'” There were already a few comments from his Nazi friends, calling me brainwashed, a loser, and a rash. I spent most of Christmas Eve reading about YouTube’s privacy policies and preparing to file a complaint that I hoped would get the video taken down. Complainants are asked to identify an offending channel and video and are given just 200 characters in which to “provide additional information” on the infraction, and I wrote: “This man began filming our conversation without revealing that he is a Holocaust denier and a racist. I don’t want my face and name on his channel, where white supremacists are already commenting.” I’m waiting for a response.

Over the next few days that clip of me saw little activity, but I watched the view count for Hill’s other video rise as it got around in online white-nationalist circles. I noticed that the user “fascist lemming,” who had responded to the video of me with “what a loser smh,” had published a video of his own, now with almost 3,000 views, titled “Trump doesn’t mind if you name the jew!!” I returned to the clip from Hill that I had found too painful to watch earlier, as well as to footage of the rally from multiple news cameras, and I came to the same conclusion that Hill, fascist lemming, and their supporters had now reached with delight: there is essentially no doubt that Trump, who is no more than thirty feet away from Hill and pausing to make direct eye contact, hears him scream, “Jews were arrested on 9/11.” It’s caught easily by cameras much further away than Trump is—in the video above, at 20:15; or here, at 20:10; or here, at 21:01; or here, at 19:27; or here, at 53:07. Following that shout, some others in the crowd around Hill start to voice their disapproval: there’s less noise than I was met with minutes earlier, for the purely negative statement that thousands of Muslims had not cheered, but there is some. A man yells, “Go away, go away.” Trump hesitates for a moment, shrugs, and points to Hill with an open palm. This is his subsequent response, in full:

… He’s all right. He’s OK. Relax. Relax. Relax. Take it easy. He’s very committed—relax. He’s actually a Trump guy, he’s just … [gesturing] … got a lot of energy. OK, shh. OK, shh. OK, OK, sit down, come on. Relax. Relax. He’s on our side. Who would know it, but he’s on our side, I think.

The description of Hill as “very committed,” of course, echoes Trump’s defense of the “passion” of two Boston supporters who had assaulted a homeless Latino man in August, and his refusal to condemn the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester in November. Moments later, when guards come to remove Hill in spite of Trump’s protestations, Hill confides to his camera: “I’m getting thrown out of a Trump rally for talking about Israel. Donald said it was OK. Donald said I could stay.” As Trump moves on with his speech, seeing the guards hustle out the man he just saluted as a fan and attempted to placate, he reminds them to “be nice” and asks the crowd: “Is there more fun than a Trump rally?”

That question marks a space for me where many other questions emerge. I find it hard to know how to respond to them or even to give them a full articulation, but here is a start. It isn’t quite enough to observe that the anti-Muslim persecution advocated by Trump structurally resembles the anti-Jewish persecution in Europe that culminated in the Holocaust (though the logic behind this analogy is clear). Recalling what Hamid Dabashi wrote a year ago about a German newspaper that had mistaken an antisemitic cartoon for an Islamophobic Charlie Hebdo cover, I want to stress that one form of racial hatred has not simply or tidily taken the place of another. The two forces persist, rather, in a state of conversation and co-mutation. Trump, then, responding to the world with his clarifying opportunism, organizes his public statements and campaign rallies around the tenets of mainstream American Islamophobia, and asserts collective Muslim responsibility for terrorism; and, at the same time, he actively welcomes people at those rallies who raise their voices to proclaim collective Jewish responsibility for the same terrorism. The difference seems not to trouble him. He praises their commitment and asks only that they modulate it, so that he can continue speaking.

The white supremacists in online communities who now know this, and who feel emboldened by it, recognize certain complexities. They know that Trump’s daughter converted six years ago to Orthodox Judaism, that she and her father view Judaism and Zionism as closely intertwined, and that Donald Trump has spoken many times in favor of the Israeli state, even going so far as to accuse Barack Obama of “hating Israel.” (David Duke himself, in a video also released over the weekend, qualifies his otherwise wholehearted celebration of Trump’s campaign with regret at Trump’s support for Israel.) The white nationalists are nevertheless impressed by Trump’s patience for their own views, and cheered by the discursive opportunities that other Trumpian speech acts open up for them. In a phone interview on Morning Joe from earlier this month, for example, Trump performs a kind of fascism of ambiguity. He warns Joe Scarborough that “some of our so-called allies, that we work with and we protect […] militarily,” are “sending massive amounts of money to ISIS.” When a puzzled Scarborough asks if Trump means “the Saudis,” Trump replies: “Of course they’re doing it. Everybody knows that. […] There are [others], but I’m not gonna say it, because I have a lot of relationships with people. […] And everybody knows that, and nobody says it.” When the antisemitic conspiracy theorists of the alt right boast that Trump is signaling to them here—as if to reaffirm that his defense of whiteness has room not just for antiblackness, not just for anti-immigrant violence, not just for Islamophobia, but for their particular concerns, too—can that claim be dismissed?

I’m not sure it can, but, in any case, I’m not happy to have arrived in the position of asking the question the way I did. I want to have not spent a full week monitoring online white supremacists who might have watched a video of me. And I never wanted to devote this much time to considering Donald Trump.

I find it difficult to write anything about Trump without falling into the rhythms of a kind of purely additive logic of offense, indexing every line he has comfortably crossed and every marginalized community against whom he invites further violence. And it is, needless to say, important to catalog these offenses, as a record not just of what some Americans want, but also of what America is; and the list is overwhelming. Trump’s hatred of women understandably became one of the most prominent headlines from his night in Grand Rapids, after a calculated series of grossly misogynist remarks on Hillary Clinton. With the luxury of online mediation, which is to say without a lying bigot’s camera in my face, I feel somewhat more comfortable venturing a complex thought and affirming that I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton while identifying Trump’s spectacularized contempt for her body as awful and dangerous.

As I’ve continued to reflect on my experience that night, though, and on what happened both inside and outside the arena after I was expelled, I’ve kept returning to another theatrical moment that resulted in slightly fewer headlines. This moment prompts questions for me about “fascism,” a frustratingly malleable but still necessary word, and about the historical memory which, whether explicitly acknowledged or not, shades the horizon of every discussion of the American fascism of Trump’s campaign.

About fifteen minutes into his speech—between my departure, then, and Hill’s—Trump complains that the media are against him. They never turn their cameras away from his face to show the size of his crowds. “Turn the camera,” he starts to instruct each photographer individually. Most of them oblige, sweeping up and down the crowds as if Trump were conducting an orchestra. (I don’t blame the camera operators here: faced with the sea of indignant Michigan whiteness they were now documenting, they might have agreed to do so for fear of incurring a riot.)

If only in aesthetic terms—that is, if only in the terms famously laid out by Benjamin in the epilogue to “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”—this is a classically fascist moment. With an air at once harsh and gracious, Trump gives his audience a chance to contemplate the beauty of its own magnitude. This is indeed about me, he’s saying, but I will make them admit it is also about you. I am indeed a great man, but I am great largely insofar as I command your respect and channel your power. Look at that power now. I’ve been haunted for a week, and will be for much longer, by the rhyme between the moment when Hill turned his camera around to spit into it the word “Jews,” and the moment when Trump assumed control of those cameras to honor the anger of a full stadium. He would confirm minutes later that such anger could incorporate, with no direct resistance from him, “commitment” to a politics that begins with the sentence “Jews were arrested on 9/11.” This has been noted.

January 23, 2011

Footnote on contemporary fans and their transnational affective communities

“Thus, insofar as power expresses itself as the violence of unbinding, compearing community foments its nonviolent resistance through an anarchist politics of immediate conjunction, coalition, and collaboration ‘between’ the most unlikely of associates.  Second, as ‘the appearance of the between as such’ (viz. of the space of relationality/conjunction rather than of discrete relational/conjunctive subjects), compearance requires of its agents a qualifying ethico-existential capacity for the radical expropriation of identity in the face of the other—a capacity, that is, for self-othering.”—Leela Gandhi, Affective Communities

“America, I want you to know that before I’m an American I’m a Britney fan.”—Chris Crocker on Maury, 20 September 2007

“If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.  Such a choice may scandalize the modern reader, and he may stretch out his patriotic hand to the telephone at once and ring up the police.”—E.M. Forster, “What I Believe”

“The alleged Wikileaks source, a 23-year-old American soldier called Bradley Manning, leaked the info by burning it onto CDs marked ‘Lady Gaga’, listening and lip-synching along to her mega-hit ‘Telephone’ as he did so, in the way that a 1950s cartoon character might whistle tunelessly to give an impression of benign innocence.”—Dan Hancox

June 2, 2010

“Wish I could take your tears and replace them with laughter/Long live Palestine, long live Gaza”

Filed under: anti-zionism,music,palestine,the revolution — by Daniel @ 12:52 am
Tags: , , , ,

Nothing should be unclear about the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla: we learned this week that the Israeli state is willing to massacre innocent civilians of all nationalities, not merely Palestinian Arabs,  in order to maintain the brutal siege on Gaza.  This was a terrifying moment for people in the Palestine solidarity movement because the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is made up of people like us (second letter).

I’m tempted to respond to some of the ridiculous Israeli hasbara (which means propaganda…but it’s worse, because it’s Zionist) about the flotilla, but I’m not eager to dignify it with attention.  If you’re reading reputable news sources, it’s clear that the Israeli line is a huge lie.  I also don’t think that it’s a particularly difficult question how we should respond to the attack on the Freedom Flotilla: we must deplore Israel’s actions, we must mourn and honor the martyrs, we must demand accountability, and we must hope–and work to ensure–that the bravery and sacrifice of the Freedom Flotilla activists will lead to the breaking of the siege on Gaza, to the further growth of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, and to the eventual liberation of Palestine.

I’m primarily posting, then, to draw attention to an excellent clip of the British rapper Lowkey at an emergency protest in London on Monday.

Lowkey starts by reminding his British audience of their complicity in the Israeli attack on the Flotilla and the Israeli siege on Gaza. “We were there through our taxes: our taxes were in the bullets that were fired into our friends and our brothers and our sisters…our taxes were there, our Balfour Declaration was there.”   But Lowkey transitions from this depressing reminder of complicity to a vision of solidarity.  “When they drop white phosphorous bombs on Gaza, they drop white phosphorous bombs on us…we must express our solidarity with those people, because they are us.”  We are not only the Freedom Flotilla: we are Gaza.  In addition to knowing that we cause harm to befall Gaza, we also feel that harm as if it affects us.

Identifying one’s  privilege and complicity with oppressive practices can so often feel like a deadly terminal object.  When, as privileged people, we learn about complicated systems of power like capitalism, imperialism and colonialism, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and patriarchy wherein no matter how moral we try to be, our actions, identities, and positionalities implicate us in the oppression of others whether locally or across the world, it is often disempowering and disheartening.  Hence it’s exceptionally powerful to find the call for solidarity in that very same network.  As we inadvertently cause oppression and violence, knowledge of that can inspire us identify with the victims of that violence.  Realizing I am causing Gaza to starve can make me feel that much more disempowered about working to end the siege: or it can heighten the urgency of ending the starvation I’m causing.  Lowkey’s point is that an analysis of complicity must also be a call to solidarity.  For those with white privilege in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, an analysis of complicity without solidarity is mere posturing or self-flagellation; but solidarity without an analysis of complicity can be a false and privilege-blind claim to victimhood.

Also, if this is the first you’re hearing “Long Live Palestine,” be sure to check out a proper version.  “There is nothing more antisemitic than Zionism:” true.

May 18, 2010

Atwood and Ghosh do not understand

Margaret Atwood and Amitav Ghosh decided to accept the Dan David Prize last week, disregarding calls from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and, movingly, from the students of Gaza.  And it wasn’t enough for Atwood and Ghosh to ignore the Palestinian boycott call: they also issued really obnoxious and self-serving statements justifying that decision.  I think that zunguzungu really hits the nail on the head about how gross and misguided their remarks are, but there’s one additional obfuscation by Ghosh in particular which really outrages me.  In his rambling reply to his critics Ghosh says,

You speak of encouraging civil society. It is evident to me that the people who wrote me these letters are doing more for Palestine and Gaza than any activist in India or the United States. It would appear that my work has had some influence on them. Is it really possible then for me to say to them: ‘Sorry, various people have instructed me to boycott you so I need to fall in line?’

This makes it seem as if the conversation is between a group of activists in the U.S. and India (and other parts of the world) about how people should or shouldn’t engage with the Israeli State.  But that’s just not right.  The call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions comes from Palestinian civil society–unions, cultural organizations, women’s committees, youth organizations, refugee groups.  Standing with the boycott call or not isn’t a question of what judgment Ghosh and others display about the situation in Israel/Palestine, it’s about respecting and joining a non-violent form of resistance to Israeli apartheid initiated by Palestinians.

As Naomi Klein has made clear, boycott is a tactic, not a dogma.  The question of boycott isn’t even about Ghoshwood’s attitude towards whether they can morally engage with the Israeli state.  Boycott is a Palestinian-initiated form of resistance that Ghosh and Atwood are contravening by their acceptance of the Dan David Prize.  By making boycott about them and about the North Americans and Indians who chastise them, Ghoshwood’s statements only add insult to injury in their disrespect of the Palestinian self-determination that is at the heart of the boycott call.

April 14, 2010

letter of support for BDS at Berkeley

Filed under: anti-zionism — by Daniel @ 8:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Below is a letter from the Chicago chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network to the Berkeley student Senate regarding their vote to divest from two companies that work for the Israeli military.  (I am a member of Chicago IJAN.)  The original divestment vote was vetoed by the Senate president, and the Senate is voting tonight on whether to overturn the veto.  See the Daily Cal for information, as well as the letters of support linked below (especially Judith Butler’s).

**

**
The Chicago chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network congratulates the Berkeley student senate for voting to divest from companies that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.  We encourage the Senate to vote tonight to overturn the president’s veto.

In voting to divest, the Berkeley senate honors the call by Palestinian civil society for an international movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the State of Israel until it begins to comply with international laws, ending the illegal occupation and dismantling the apartheid system.  The international BDS movement is a powerful nonviolent method of solving the crisis in Israel/Palestine and builds on the success of the international BDS campaign against South African apartheid.  Berkeley students were on the vanguard in that international anti-Apartheid movement, and we appreciate your courage in taking a similar role in the struggle today against Israeli apartheid.

The lopsided 16-4 vote in favor of divestment indicates that you have a grasp of these issues and the importance of divestment.  But the veto message from President Smelko and a subsequent statement by Zionist organizations attempt to challenge your actions with veiled accusations of antisemitism.  Particularly, we would like to rebut the claim by President Smelko that the divestment bill is “a symbolic attack on a specific community of our fellow students.”

It simply incorrect to imply that targeted divestment from companies involved in the occupation constitutes an attack on the Jewish community.  Chicago IJAN is one of many Jewish organizations who oppose Israeli apartheid and who support divestment.  The letters of support from Jewish Voice for PeaceJudith ButlerNaomi KleinNoam Chomsky, and others make this abundantly clear.

letter from a large group of Zionist organizations says that the actions by the Senate “marginaliz[e] Jewish students on campus who support Israel.”  We see this as a veiled accusation of anti-semitism, suggesting that challenging Israeli policies amounts to hurting Jews who support them.  But we find this argument far more anti-semitic than its supposed target.  To imply that Jews are marginalized by criticism of Israel only marginalizes those Jews, like us, who oppose Israeli apartheid from the Jewish community.  To deny our Jewishness and to associate that Jewishness with immoral and violent policies is anti-semitism.  Our criticism of the State of Israel is based on the illegal actions of the State, not the identity of the perpetrators.

Chicago IJAN would like the Berkeley Senate to know that Jewish groups like J Street, AIPAC, and the World Zionist Organization do not speak for all Jews.  As Professor Butler makes clear, there is a deep Jewish tradition of social justice and respect for co-habitation from which perspective the occupation is abhorrent.  Some of us call on this Jewish tradition in our support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions.  But more importantly, none of us are “marginalized” by the BDS movement.  In fact we are empowered and encouraged by it.  Chicago IJAN stands beside the Berkeley Senate in its support for BDS, and we look forward to continuing the nonviolent international resistance to Israeli apartheid together with you.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.