IN WASHINGTON, D.C. on April 20, a huge march for peace and justice combined a historically diverse array of opponents to the Israeli war against the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, some friction ensued. One flashpoint was picket signs showing the Star of David and the swastika connected by an equal sign, which angered or alienated many Jewish demonstrators.
This is understandable. The Star of David means different things to different people. For Arabs, it symbolizes Israeli brutality. For Jews, it signifies the Jewish people as a whole. For Israeli Jews, it stands also for their state.
Given these different perceptions, equating the Star of David and the swastika is a bad tactic for people who want to build the movement for justice for Palestinians, because it drives away Jews who should be a part of the cause. The Jewish people and the Israeli state are not the same — despite demagoguery to the contrary by Zionists (Jewish nationalists). Critics of Israel must be extremely conscious of making the distinction — especially now.
TODAY, THE PALESTINIAN RIGHTS upsurge is intersecting with the antiwar movement. In the U.S., people are becoming more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and more aware of the blood on the hands of Uncle Sam, Israel’s chief funder. This provides an historic opening to build broad opposition to the war crimes of both countries — the U.S. and its anti-Arab, counterrevolutionary junior partner. It’s a don’t-miss opportunity for winning U.S. Jews away from the lie that “it’s anti-Jewish to be anti-Israel.”
Some people who are anti-Zionist or anti-Israel are anti-Semites; fascists like the National Alliance, David Duke, and the Ku Klux Klan come to mind, as does rightwing nut Lyndon LaRouche. Any “support” to the pro-Palestine movement from these sinister types has to be rejected out of hand.
BUT THERE’S ANOTHER side to the coin. Some Jews who vehemently criticize the brutality of the occupation still defend Israel. They object to any banners or slogans that challenge its existence as a Jewish homeland.
But as Jewish socialist feminist Clara Fraser wrote, “Israel’s horrifying treatment of the Palestinian people is no aberration but the direct and inexorable product of expropriating Arab land for an exclusive Jewish state.” Those Jewish progressives who do not agree still should recognize this point of view as an honest political position and not the product of anti-Semitism or Jewish “self-hate.”
Neither the struggle for Palestinian rights nor the fight against anti-Semitism can be won without a united effort by people who share a hatred of oppression. So, no to anti-Semitism and no to Zionism — yes to cooperation for justice and peace in the Middle East!