Friday, January 09, 2009
Back in 2005, when Chicago JVP was still called Not In My Name, Finkel had a conniption over Paul Eisen's essay "Jewish Power." Finkel was so mentally impaired by that bout with the truth that, among other things, he was apparently rendered incapable of understanding that "a single state 'between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, one country with equal citizenship for all' " is fully compatible with Palestinian "national aspirations." Palestinians--not including millions of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere--already comprise a demographic majority 'between the river and the sea' and it is Jewish opposition to equality and democracy that comprises the primary obstacle to the realization of Palestinian national aspirations.
Recently, Finkel was set to frothing over the 12-27-08 vigil report from Henry Herskovitz of Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends. On January 3rd on the Chicago JVP e-mail list Finkel writes:
Henry is a reactionary fool. As a critic of the vigils outside the synagogue during Sabbath services, I never claimed that these desecrated the Sabbath. The issue is that the message that is given to the public is that Jews--religious Jews--are guilty of the crimes of the Israeli government. This message is false and incites anti-Jewish sentiment, which is exactly what it is designed to do.In fact "Jews-religious Jews" are guilty of Israeli government crimes especially those Jews in the Israeli government but also those who freely lend their support to the Jewish apartheid state. According to a poll conducted by an Israeli organization, 95% of Israeli Jews support the Hanukkah Massacre in Gaza and you can bet that includes a lot of religious Jews and reflects the attitude of, probably, millions of American Jews.
The synagogue that JWPF holds vigil in front of has publicly declared itself in support of Israel. In 2006, as Israel devastated Lebanon, killing hundreds and wounding thousands, Beth Israel waved the flag (Israeli, that is) and prayed "for those who defend Israel and for the three kidnapped soldiers." Beth Israel attendees have assaulted JWPF members because of their criticism of Israel. Like Finkel, Beth Israel spreads lies about the vigils. They send their children to Israel and pose them with armed Israeli soldiers. And Rabbi Dobrusin has offered a halachic justification of torture from the bima. Yet, to Finkel, none of this justifies public protest.
Are all Jews guilty of Israel's crimes? Of course not, and JWPF has never claimed otherwise. The blanket guilt is the phantom of Finkel's fevered imagination.
Secondly, Henry believes that anyone who, in any way, speaks of solidarity with Israelis is necessarily a Zionist. This is a right-wing view that betrays a deep-seated loathing for international solidarity. It is a view that is as reactionary as Zionism itself. It is of little wonder that Henry’s group is widely despised within the Palestinian community in the Detroit area.The question I've heard Henry ask again and again is "Do you support Israel's claimed right to exist as a Jewish state?" That is Henry's test: Do you support an outlaw, exclusivist apartheid regime? I remember the American movement in support of the struggle against South African apartheid and the internationalist position is the same now as it was then--solidarity with the oppressed, not with the oppressor class. In the 1980s people of conscience supported the Azanian/Black South African people and today's internationalists stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Henry is a living example of such solidarity, which is why he has hosted visiting Palestinians (and anti-Zionist Jewish Israelis) in his home.
As for "Henry's group" being despised, sure, some Palestinians probably despise JWPF because it shows them up as compromised defeatists. But when opponents of the vigils waged public campaigns against JWPF they couldn't find a single Palestinian, other Arab, or Muslim individual or group to publicly oppose the vigils. And four months ago when the Arab American News profiled JWPF none of Finkel's imagined "Palestinian community" members had anything to say against them.
As for me, I was proud to carry a sign, which read "Solidarity with the families of Gaza and Sderot," at our demonstrations in Chicago. A Palestinian man, who had spent 20 months in Israeli prisons before being deported, asked if he could help me carry the sign. The only people who objected were the right-wing Hamas supporters, who surrounded us and tried to intimidate us with chants of "God is Great," "Long live Hamas," "Long live Hezbollah," and "Down with Israel." But, as we expected, the overwhelming Palestinian response was to thank us for being there.It was undoubtedly people like Finkel whom Emerson had in mind when he wrote: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." Finkel is proud to equate the situation of Gazans with that of the colonizers in Sderot as if that grotesquerie made sense anywhere but in the racism-addled minds of Finkel and his ilk or to a few broken, desperate Palestinians abasing themselves for crumbs fallen from the master's table. Of course, as an Arab friend points out, it is possible that Finkel has also exploited and distorted, for his own political agenda, simple expressions of kindness and generosity, the type for which Palestinians are renowned. That is, Finkel has solipsistically spun a charitable indulgence of his absurd comparison into a ringing endorsement of it.
As in an earlier paragraph, Finkel invokes "right-wing" as a sort of bogeyman. I mean, who else would say "God is great," uphold Hamas and Hizbullah, or worst of all say, "Down with Israel"? No, poor old Joel Finkel has drunk so much Trotskyist-Zionist kool-aid that the can't even imagine that progressives might express solidarity with such popular (and in the case of Hamas, democratically elected) indigenous liberation movements as Hamas and Hizbullah, let alone denounce the blessed Jewish state. It is a measure of the decrepitude of the American Left that, when it comes to Hamas and Hizbullah, they are mostly on the same side as the US government.
Finkel closes as follows:
In the end, Henry’s little group, which has successfully isolated itself from the Peace and Justice movement, will not even be a footnote in history. And that is just fine with me.It's clear that Finkel is whistling past the graveyard here. His deepest fear is that Israel is headed for the garbage heap of history and that JWPF is playing a small but significant role in hastening that inevitable conclusion and exposing Jewish complicity in the crimes of Zion.
Jewish Voice for Peace – Chicago
American Jews for a Just Peace
On JVP, see also: A Special Invitation to Progressive German Activists.