Trying to discern the politics of different news sources that cover Israel-Palestine is sometimes like trying to read tea leaves. I have been studying the media related to that landmass for several years now and find it sometimes aggravating but do believe it is key to understanding political currents.
Arguably the most famous news source in the West and certainly among the liberal/progressive young people that have found Palestine as their generation’s cause is MondoWeiss, the site founded in 2006 by Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss. It has a pretty impressive layout and agitates in favor of a one-state solution while having previously hosted a series of exchanges and slight debates between those who say the two-state solution based on the pre-June 1967 borders is the most immediately tenable solution, most notably being Dr. Norman Finkelstein and Mouin Rabbani.
However, it is not a perfect group. Last year, Jewish Voice for Peace engaged in an abhorrent game of mud-slinging against Alison Weir, the journalist who founded If Americans Knew, and MondoWeiss hosted their show trial on its pages. Not only did Philip Weiss participate in this behavior, he tried this stunt previously with Weir regarding a documentary film titled OCCUPATION 101. What was done to Alison Weir was nothing more than guilt-by-association and neoliberal identity politicking run amok. For him to take the stance of a victim of white supremacy when American Jews are perhaps the most successful minority demographic in American history while failing to call out his kinfolk for systemic racist practices like gentrification of black neighborhoods or the bigotry of the 1968 New York City teachers’ strike, the episode that birthed Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League, is bad comedy.
Jewish Voice for Peace, on closer inspection, is engaged in the type of solidarity one would expect from a professional stool pigeon during the McCarthy days. Both organizations also have some rather uncomfortable ties to parties that advocated for the destruction of Libya, most notably by way of the Blumenthal family. The actions of their leadership are tremendously detrimental to the cause of Palestine and there is little to be gained from this sort of “activism”.
Another site I visit regularly is Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency that has a tendency to be a bit more laudatory than I am comfortable with regarding that detestable pack of collaborators in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority. It was founded by Scandinavian offices at the PA, which means there are potential ties to Oslo and the debacle that has been the “peace process”. Ma’an has only carried a few stories that mention BDS, but they recently did carry one in relation to a trade agreement that will further consolidate the illegal settlement venture’s domination of the land.
My own feeling is that this is perhaps indicative of a shift in the power structure related to BDS. It could very well show that Abu Mazen and Saeb Erekat have seen how the BDS organizational goals might be complimentary to their own agenda. Under the auspices of a one-state solution, Fatah might be able to argue that they must be kept in power so to appease the Israelis, something not unlike the situation in South Africa. A one-state solution would also probably fail to entail the vital step of economic justice by radically reshaping the ownership of the means of production, such as key banking structures, while also creating an allowance for the persecution of the various parties that are put under the heading of Hamas in the name of “anti-terrorism”.
It also bears mentioning that Israeli society has gone completely insane in the past five years, if that is at all possible in comparison to before. The ascendancy of the megalomaniacal hasbara powerhouse Benjamin Netanyahu and the media domination of Sheldon Adelson, mirrored here in the United States by how the GOP lines up with bent knee to kiss his ring, is demonstrative of a regime of terror. Unless a radical communist program that expropriates the expropriators and turns the region upside down in the process takes place, something I doubt given the firepower of the IDF and the nuclear arsenal at Dimona, it would seem logical at this point to say that forcing the Palestinians to spend one minute more with a people that traffics in that much bigotry is tremendously problematic. Would you like to be forced to live side-by-side in a state of neoliberal “equality” that has little resemblance to justice when you know these are the same folks who celebrate things like the abominable price tag incidents where a baby was literally burned to death? The morality of such a proposition seems dubious.
On February 19, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, of whom Dr. Noam Chomsky told me in private correspondence has done more for Palestinians than anyone else, carried a new piece on his website by Jamie Stern-Weiner titled On Boycotting Palestinian Workers that I highly encourage serious advocates of justice to read. The author makes clear in no uncertain terms that, as was told to Frank Barat several years ago by Dr. Chomsky, the consequences of the BDS campaigns are actually proving to be detrimental to Palestinians due to a variety of factors, most prominent being a lack of a cohesive leadership within the Palestinian population. He writes:
One of BDS’s most high-profile victories to date came in 2014, when, under pressure from BDS activists, SodaStream withdrew its factory from the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim and relocated to Israel proper. This left hundreds of Palestinians unemployed, at no doubt crippling cost to themselves and their dependents… Solidarity boycotts which harm, in the first instance, the people being oppressed might be justified as contributions to a struggle whose success is expected to yield collective gains that outweigh the individual costs incurred in waging it… In South Africa, representative organisations with genuine roots in a broad popular movement publicly endorsed the boycott, notwithstanding fears that it would harm black workers. An argument could therefore be made in its defence. Unfortunately, no comparable Palestinian movement or leadership now exists. It is true that the BDS National Committee (BNC) presents itself as representative of Palestinian opinion on these matters… [A] March 2014 survey found that the vast majority of Palestinians in the occupied territories hadn’t heard of the BNC, and while the salience of BDS within Palestinian civil society has perhaps increased since then, that civil society is not rooted in, and has no claim to represent, a broad public.
This is a vital point that serious allies of the Palestinians and advocates of justice must consider with great maturity and gravity. To ignore these complications, as BDS leader Omar Barghouti does, is not just tantamount, it indeed is using the cause of one of the greatest tragedies in our epoch as an excuse to be in the spotlight. This is morally despicable and the Palestinians deserve so much more in allies. Those who are unaware of these problematic issue with BDS and JVP are certainly to be respected and should be encouraged to continue their advocacy with better company.
Nevertheless, I would encourage agitation for Palestinian justice. I personally avoid Soda Stream beverages and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream due to their complicity in the settlement enterprise. I am a man of meager means, riding a bicycle outside Providence while we are in the midst of sub-zero temperatures, but I refuse to buy Israeli unless I can help it. The only thing I cannot personally help is the fact that my generic medications, provided for free under the Affordable Care Act’s widening of eligibility for Medicaid, are produced by Israeli pharmaceutical corporations. But there are a million other things I do not buy or patronize. These sorts of moral compromises are part of the way the world actually works, the only things that are absolutist in nature are death, taxes, and CounterPunch. So activists should think about Palestine. In order to be well-informed, be mindful of the news sources, and watch for the shifts in the political line of those who have exploited this tragedy for their own gain.