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Friday, February 03, 2012

Answering a typical slur in 500 characters

Ramzy Baroud, in Ma'an, goes over some well-worn ground:

It goes without saying there should be no room for any racist discourse -- Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, or any other -- in the Palestine solidarity movement, which aims at achieving long-denied justice and rights for the Palestinian people.

A racist discourse is predicated on racial supremacy, which is exactly what Palestinians are resisting in Israel and the occupied territories.

But the "Jewish and democratic state" of Israel is riddled with so many contradictions, the kind that no straightforward narrative can possibly capture.

Many scholars and rights groups have discussed the way in which irreconcilable values defined the very character of Israel from the onset.

According to Adalah (meaning 'justice' in Arabic), the legal center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel: "Israel's Declaration of Independence (1948) states two principles important for understanding the legal status of Palestinian citizens of Israel. First, the Declaration refers specifically to Israel as a 'Jewish state' committed to the 'ingathering of the exiles.' (Second)…it contains only one reference to the maintenance of complete equality of political and social rights for all its citizens, irrespective of race, religion, or sex."

...The controversy is embedded in the purposeful intellectual and political elasticity by which Israel defines, or refuses to define itself. It claims to be Jewish as well as democratic. It claims to embody religious ideals but also to be secular. It claims to be liberal, while it is militarily oppressive. It claims to uphold 'equality' for all, while it is racially exclusive.

And if you dare to challenge these irreconcilable contradictions, you are termed an anti-Semite or a traitor -- or both.
Ma'an only allows 500 character responses. So here is mine:

This is a straw man argument.

The tension between being a Jewish and democratic state is well known, but it is not a contradiction. It is certainly no more racist than every single Arab state declaring themselves as such (implying discrimination against non-Arabs), and most saying they are Muslim, in their constitutions. Including Palestine's.

It is anti-semitic to deny the Jewish people, and only Jews, the right to self determination. That is where Israel's critics sometimes cross the line.

Of course, those points can be expanded considerably. Maybe Ma'an will ask me to write my own op-ed.....