Marching to Jerusalem

By Alex Joffe
Thursday, March 22, 2012

Protests, marches, sit-ins, boycotts—all these nonviolent techniques have been employed in support of the Palestinian cause, but violence has remained at the core of the enterprise.  For decades, well-meaning people have suggested that a wholehearted embrace of nonviolence would do more for the Palestinians than their continuing resort to terrorism.  Now comes word of the Global March to Jerusalem, scheduled for March 30.  Don't look to the event as the long-sought beginning of a Palestinian commitment to a strategy of nonviolence.

The March, say its organizers, will be a "renewed true effort towards ending the occupation through peaceful national movements inspired firstly by our convictions, secondly by the justice of our cause, and thirdly by the spirit of the Arab Spring revolutions and the determination of young people who were able to overthrow dictatorships."  

The stated goal of the March is to bring "millions" to Israel from around the world to "demand freedom for Jerusalem and its people and to put an end to the Apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and Judaization policies affecting the people, land, and sanctity of Jerusalem."  The plan calls for massive marches on Israel from Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza, all in the direction of Jerusalem, as well as coordinated protests in world capitals.

And the day scheduled for the March is "Land Day," long a date for anti-Israel rioting across the country.

Most of the March organizers are members of Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Britain, Egypt, and Gaza, including Hamas, and Islamist groups in Pakistan, India, Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia, Canada, and South Africa.  The funding appears to come mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran.  The effort is supported by a large network of Palestinian NGOs, including the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (which awarded a prize to a cartoon of a caricatured Jew standing over a dead Arab child holding a bloody pitchfork) and the International Solidarity Movement, "committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land."  These groups are supported by Western foundations and individuals. 

The European and American organizers include Code Pink, "working to end U.S.-funded wars and occupations," and include well-known anti-Israel campaigners like Gretta Duisenberg, Paul Larudee, Mazin Qumsiyeh, and Huwaida Arraf (Mrs. Adam Shapiro).  Most of the individuals are veterans of the International Solidarity Movement and have participated in various flotillas and "fly-tillas."  They are true believers in Israel's destruction.

Individual endorsers include the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Princeton Professor Cornel West, and Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, all of whom would doubtless deny that the goal of the March is Israel's destruction.  But the organizers assert that the "occupation of Palestine" began in 1948.  It is fatiguing to have to point out again that to support this claim and the claim of a Palestinian "right of return" (never mind the organizers' denunciation of "Judaization") is, simply, to support the end of Israel.

The Global March to Jerusalem is a transparent, self-evident provocation.  To pretend otherwise would be risible—were it not for the real possibility that the marchers will actually provoke, or directly cause, violence.  Indeed, for the March organizers, such a result would be the very definition of success: They will say, as Monty Python has put it, "Now we see the violence inherent in the system."           

As with the Gaza flotilla, the Viva Palestina convoy, the weekly separation barrier protests, and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, there is a fundamental asymmetry between the positions of the Palestinians and the Western participants in the March.  For the Palestinians, nonviolence is merely another tool on a spectrum.  Violence is almost never completely disavowed.  Indeed, stone-throwing is not regarded as violence at all, just free speech; and the "absolute right of people under occupation to resist" is inevitably paired with the phrase "by whatever means necessary," making protestations of nonviolence unpersuasive. In any case, the demand for a "right of return" carries the explicit threat of violence at all levels—personal, legal, and cultural.

But the logic of Western supporters of the March and other such "nonviolent" protests remains puzzling.  Once in Gaza or the West Bank, these "nonviolent" Westerners typically consult and consort with Hamas leaders who espouse genocidal intent toward Jews.  When in gay-slaying Iran, they modestly don local garb to show respect for local sensibilities.  They remind us again of the red-green alliance between the Western Left and Muslim groups, a complete unity of vision and method at whose core is the determination to see Israel destroyed.

Still, why the continued attraction of the Left to fascism?  Why do staunch secularists, Christian universalists, and a few Jews fawn over clerical fascists who are both forthright and experienced in their oppression of other religions and of women?  Why do staunch anti-imperialists eagerly follow the black banner of Islamists who loudly proclaim their pursuit of a global Islamic empire?

Stupidity no longer suffices as an explanation; perhaps only deep-seated self-loathing and desire for self-annihilation will do. Metaphorically, this is accomplished through the submergence of the self in the whole, or literally through extinction of that which is different. There is also the pursuit of strident ideological conformity, and there has been a continuing Western romance, somewhere between a dalliance and an embrace, with "revolutionary" violence.  All are features of fascism.

That Israel is the first target of this impulse toward revolutionary self-rectification is wholly predictable.  At one level, there are no contradictions in attacking Israel for being both theocratic and "ethnocratic," for both its capitalist modernity and cosmopolitan post-modernity; Israel is the universal villain, and the March supporters are just classical anti-Semites.  At another level, we see again that when there's annihilating to be done, self- or otherwise, Jews are expected to go first.

That anti-Israel protestors do not lift their voices against Syria, or Iran, or Hamas need only be mentioned in passing; such sanctimonious hypocrisy killed the concept of "human rights" long ago.  A decade after philosopher Michael Walzer asked, "Can there be a decent Left?" the Global March to Jerusalem shows how hard it is to answer in the affirmative.

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