Saturday, January 31, 2009
Dear Noor Ali:
In the Ann Arbor News, you write about Tamar Weaver, "a Jewish Israeli American who attends the Beth Israel Congregation" and her "concern for humanity." If Tamar Weaver has a "concern for humanity" then why is she a member of the Beth Israel Congregation where they affirm "without any hesitation or equivocation the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state," where they send their children to Israel and pose them with armed Israeli soldiers, and where the Rabbi explains to the congregation how to justify torture under Jewish religious law?
Noor, how about supporting the call by 171 Palestinian civil society organizations for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international humanitarian law? How about respecting the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel by boycotting and protesting the Israeli apartheid dance company coming to Ann Arbor in two weeks. See how long Tamar Weaver and her pals stay friends and in dialogue with you if you come out strongly in favor of those two nonviolent Palestinian campaigns (to see why it is wrong to have dialogue with Zionists read "When Dialogue is NOT our Hope" by Joseph Phelps in the Mennonite Conciliation Service's journal, Conciliation Quarterly).
You write that an "ongoing peace" lies in "mutual dialogue and respectful, honest and difficult negotiation." And you invoke the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. The Rev. King didn't spend a whole lot of his time in dialogue groups with KKK members and their sympathizers. Zionism is every bit as racist as the KKK's ideology ever was and Zionists have undoubtedly killed, maimed, and immiserated far more people. Most, probably all, of your Jewish friends in the Common Ground for Peace for Palestine and Israel task force (which replaced a task force that supported BDS) are Zionists, i.e. they support a Jewish state in +78% of Palestine.
No, the Rev. King wasn't focused on dialogue; rather, he organized and participated in direct action campaigns to confront racism and it supporters. Now, the Rev. King did engage in negotiation but his negotiation was not for negotiation's sake but it was based on making demands for justice. What demands are you making in the Common Ground task force? Here's something he wrote in the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" about the relationship between negotiation and direct action:
You may well ask: "Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.There are millions of Palestinians and their descendants living in forced exile from their homeland. 78% of Palestine was violently occupied in 1948 and the rest was occupied in 1967. So, my question to you is what are you doing to "create such a crisis and foster such a tension" that Americans can no longer ignore and silently abet the US government's wholesale support of Palestinian dispossession and misery? Are you working "to create a situation so crisis-packed" in the Common Ground task force, the ICPJ, or Ann Arbor that people will be compelled to accept and work for the just demands of the BDS campaign for full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to the occupation of the lands seized in 1967, and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with UN GA Resolution 194? If not then I suppose that Frederick Douglass described you aptly more than 150 years ago:
The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. ...
If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.Perhaps, you think I am an extremist. If so, I would wear the title proudly. Here's what the Rev. King had to say in the "Letter from Birmingham Jail" on that subject:
But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal ..." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?Noor, I hope you will aspire to be an extremist for love and for the extension of justice. The Rev. King didn't get labelled as such an extremist by engaging in interminable dialogue with White racists and their sympathizers and neither will you earn such a privilege by engaging in interminable dialogue with Zionists and their sympathizers.
Michelle J. Kinnucan