+972 is hands down the best, unflinching, most forthright site for left critical opinion in Israel. The other day, they ran an interesting suite of pieces in response to what was thought to be a joint Arab-Jewish protest in Jaffa. For many/some of the Jewish activists, their place at the protest was called into question by the nationalist and religious chants claiming Jaffa as “Arab-Palestinian” and expressions of anti-Jewish incitement culled, in part, from Islamic history. At the protest, Jewish activists objected that Jaffa itself was claimed not as Palestinian, but as Arab-Palestinian in particular. Yuval Ben-Ami, in his exchange with Mariav Zonszein, whose comments I post below, tries to distinguish between pragmatic Israeli-Palestinians versus young people who wanted to create a little havoc.
I’m not so convinced, and Palestinian activist Rami Younis was having none of it. Younis insists that you can’t separate Palestinians living in Israel from those living in the West Bank, Gaza, and refugees in the Palestinian diaspora. I’ve posted here at JPP similar thoughts, uncompromising in nature, by Omar Barghouti against binationalism. At +972, Younis makes the point perfectly clear that Jewish Israelis can participate, but not as partners, at least not for now, but perhaps never. While I would not recommend anyone drawing any definite or necessary political conclusion from one particular exchange between two groups of activists, the protest in question and the discourse around it shed light on critical fault lines and limits based on national identity, religion, and the politics of place that highlight serious problems with 1 state solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
As the march started, it felt really good to walk in unison against the destructive forces of both the settlers and the government that are damaging the fabric of this neighborhood. But as the protest progressed, it became clear that it was in fact not a joint Arab-Jewish protest, but rather two separate protests with two different messages. Chants of Arab-Jewish solidarity against racism and fascism were overtaken by chants of “allah is great,” “death to Haredim” and “Haiber Haiber ya’Yehud” which references the slaughter of Jews by the prophet Mohammed in a village called Haiber…As someone who has lived in Yafo, whose mail still comes here, who has felt at home here and often chooses to spend her free time here, I had a hard time with this. On the one hand, it is fair enough for the Palestinian residents of Yafo to have a protest and let loose their frustration, but it was disappointing that with Jewish Israelis marching alongside them, they did not feel the need to refrain from crying out chants that are hateful and hyper-religious.
The Palestinian activists must clarify that they are the ones leading the struggle, and that for now it includes Jewish participation. Why participation and not partnership? Because, as the recent incident described above shows, even the most dedicated Jewish activists refuse to acknowledge their history as colonial conquerers (even if some of their best friends are Arabs). As long as this remains the case, we are very far indeed from building a true partnership to end the occupation and establish equal rights for all people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
In reading Rami Younis’ piece on how the Israeli-Left can’t be a partner in the Palestinian struggle for liberty and democracy, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of democratic struggle excludes people based on their ethno-religious or national identities, and what kind of liberation is really possible when it concerns only one nation and its nationalism. In thinking about the Palestinian activist in Younis’ article who claims Jaffa for his nation – and his nation alone – I wonder what my or any other Jews’ place is in his Palestinian, Arabic Jaffa…This land that we all live in, from the River to the Sea, has political and economic realities shaped by over a century of colonialism, massive immigration, expulsions, warring nationalisms, violence, and an unjust distribution of resources. Our everyday reality echoes events such as the Jaffa riots of 1921, or the Irgun’s offensive on Jaffa in 1948. None of us, neither Israeli Jew nor Palestinian Arab, exist in a vacuum disconnected from our histories or our neighbors’ histories.