Keith Ellison, Allan Dershowitz, and the American Left

After a crisis of authority–who am I to have a hiphop blog?–I’m back, trying to find my public voice again, trying to reclaim it from the din of Facebook where I’ve produced what I’m sure is a very detailed data profile of my political opinions without ever having to write them out for myself.

But I have a lot of opinions. Let me state some of them here. I might not cite everything. If you don’t believe me, get googling. Now let’s talk about the DNC electing Tom Perez as chair on Saturday.

For going on forty years, Israeli apartheid has poisoned the coalition-building of the American Left. As far back as the 1970s, as soon as U.S. Black folks started standing in solidarity with dispossessed Palestinians, the Black-Jewish cooperation of the Civil Rights era was over.

[Update 2/28: If you haven’t yet, read Bernie Sanders’s speech to progressive Jewish American PAC J-Street now.]

stokeley-carmichael1.jpeg

Stokely Carmichael speaking at Berkeley in 1966. Image via Radio Open Source.

Writing for The Hill last week, criminal lawyer and pro-Israel hawk Allan Dershowitz said that he would leave the Democratic Party if Keith Ellison was elected DNC chair, arguing that Ellison’s affiliation with folks like Louis Farrakhan and Stokely Carmichael made him an unrepentant anti-Semite. 

Farrakhan, maybe. But Carmichael, one of the great orators and organizers of the Black Panther movement?

I’m glossing over lots of context and history here–feeling my way into a looser, faster way of writing this blog–but suffice it to say that there is not a radical Black or Brown organizer in this country who has not criticized Israel’s documented, international-law-breaking policies of settler colonialism, occupation, blockade, and both de jure and de facto discrimination against Palestinians, Arab-Israelis, and Mizrahi Jewish Israelis. The continuing conflation by hawkish Jews like Dershowitz of critiques of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism–a sloppy conflation that makes it harder for us to identify and attack the rising tide of real anti-Semitism–brands the entire racial justice left as anti-Semitic, casting them outside acceptable bounds of mainstream U.S. political discourse.

In a recent piece for the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald considered why mainstream Democrats recruited Perez in the first place. The big story is that Israeli-supporting mega-donor Haim Saban wanted them to. But focusing on a single donor obscures the way Big Money’s support for Israel is intertwined more deeply with the fight raging right now for the heart of the Democratic Party–the fight between corporate interests and corporate donors, on one side, and a more radical, redistributive, social and economic justice movement on the other. And Big Money Democrats will always support the status quo in Israel–and will always be too aligned with the corporate Right–because Israel’s national security state, its perpetual warfare state, its demolition-and-construction economy, prints money for those people. It’s not about Jews. It’s not about religion. It’s certainly not about spirituality. Obama’s $38 billion commitment in arms aid to the Israeli government last year wasn’t just American taxpayer money going to the Israeli security state, it was also an egregious cash injection into the U.S. arms manufacturing industry. And the same private prison corporations Obama attempted to push off the scene int he U.S. with his now-reversed Executive Order on decreasing private prison contracts are making bank in Israel holding off African migrants seeking asylum and maintaining the vast border security infrastructure that mediates between Israel and Palestine.

I’m gonna stop here. But let me conclude with one thought: in the fight between uncritical support of Israeli state policies and solidarity with people of color at home and worldwide, more and more American Jews–myself among them–are choosing solidarity with people of color. Ellison may not be DNC chair, but the wind has shifted. Israel is not absolved from the people’s demands for human health and dignity over corporate profits and corporate-sponsored war.

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