Why anti-racists should stand with Palestinians on June 18th at Government Center
June 16, 2006
By Noah Cohen
We support a unified movement against racism and colonialism. Such a movement requires active opposition to racists who attack indigenous people, immigrants, New Afrikans, and other oppressed and colonized people.
Both as material reality and as ideology, white supremacy shows itself across the entire spectrum of US life--from KKK and Nazi groups at the "right-wing" margin, to Minutemen, to racist police and Homeland Security, to the current inheritors of a doctrine of "manifest destiny" who sit at the very center of economic and political power in the United States. Viewed from the radical lens of the indigenous people of this continent, the same ideology shows itself in large portions of the "left" who still cling to European ideas of "progress" as a justification for colonialism, or who fail to recognize the magnitude of colonial crimes against indigenous people here and around the world. This same racism can be seen in the refusal to recognize the legitimacy of resistance to settlers, whose colonization of land means genocide against the indigenous people.
The history of Palestine offers a good window for understanding how, in the history of colonialism, the extreme right, the liberal center, and the radical left often take positions that overlap so completely as to be objectively the same for indigenous people. In Palestine, Zionist followers of Jabotinsky in the Revisionist Movement--a movement that was allied with Italian fascism in the 1930s, had training camps in Mussolini's Italy, and that offered support to Hitler on the grounds of a shared ideology around the concept of the totalitarian organization of society to enforce racial or ethnic purity (the movement of Israeli Prime Ministers Menachim Begin and Yitzhak Shamir), worked hand in hand with "left-wing" Zionists (including those Marxist and anarchist currents who took part in the Kibbutzim) in eradicating Palestinian villages in 1948 and dispossessing some 80% of the population. The groups differed in their concepts of how Zionist society should be organized; they were nearly unanimous in their policies toward indigenous Arabs.
On June 18 in Boston, a group of Zionists will march through the streets in a blatant show of support for the colonization of Palestinian land and the eradication of the Palestinian people. Their march, billed yearly as "Boston Celebrates Israel," implies public support for their show of racism. It implies that the people of Boston support the foundation of the Israeli state--called by Palestinians the Nakba ("catastrophe"), the mass killing and expulsion of the indigenous Arab people--and the creation of "nationality" laws allowing Jewish people born anywhere in the world to occupy Palestinian land taken through military aggression, while depriving native born Arab Palestinians of their rights to live and build on their own land. Currently, it means support for the construction of 450 miles of prison walls surrounding Palestinian communities, an economic blockade of enforced starvation against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, aerial bombardment of Palestinian cities, assassination of Palestinian
leaders, and the imprisonment of more than 9,000 Palestinians for political reasons.
Although Zionist racism is currently accepted as part of mainstream US politics, its fundamental tenets are as "extreme" as those of any group of white supremacists. These tenets are well articulated in the infamous statement of Winston Churchill in support of British sponsored Zionist colonization before the Peel Commission in 1937:
"I do not agree that the dog in the manger has the final right to the manger, even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit, for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."
For the past five years, Palestinians in Boston and their supporters have called for a protest on this day. By the act of protest, it is possible at least to reveal the political nature of the "Celebration of Israel" and to demonstrate the history of genocide that has been silenced in promoting the event as a "cultural festival." For this protest, members of the Palestinian community have paid a high price: in 2001 Amer Jubran was arrested on bogus charges by police who were in the pay of the celebration organizers; in 2002 Jaoudat Abouazza was arrested a week before the protest and then passed on to INS and the FBI for interrogation based on protest flyers found in his car. He was ultimately tortured in INS custody. Several members of the same community of immigrant activists were visited by members of the FBI and Homeland Security, and ended up being deported or taking "voluntary departure" to escape from long term political detention.
For the past few years in Boston, a small group of Nazis also comes out to protest the Israel Day celebration. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators have forced the Nazis out and refused to allow racists to co-opt or infiltrate their anti-racist protest. Were it not for a heavy ring of police protecting the Nazis, it would be difficult for them to stand anywhere near the Palestinian protest, since the protestors have consistently opposed all white supremacists who gather in Boston on that day.
But the NECDP also maintains that our focus on June 18 should be on the several thousand Zionists marching through Boston, who assembled last year under the protection of dozens of "special operative police" in riot gear, and with full support of the local political leadership, and not on the handful of Nazis protesting behind a ring of blue helmeted cops at the perimeter of the event. Zionist genocide against Palestinians should be reason enough to protest. There are many other reasons: Zionists have been active in calling for war against Iraq, Iran, and Sudan; locally, the Boston Police Department, who routinely attack people of color and immigrants, receive training in "security" (code for police brutality) from Israeli occupation forces; Zionists have also been very
involved in the Homeland Security apparatus which continues to attack people of color, immigrants, and activists; and finally, the "state of Israel" currently receives billions of dollars per year from the government here.
For people who are sincere in wanting to oppose all forms of racist oppression, the contrast between responses to the two groups of racists is striking: a gathering of a handful of neo-nazis provokes calls for a militant protest aimed at kicking the racists out; a major Zionist mobilization in the center of Boston requires--at best--a weak
statement of support for Palestinians in a protest focused on the neo-nazis.
We believe that this sense of priority has been shaped by the history of settler racism on the left. Millions of people on this continent, in Africa, in Asia and in the Arab world have been subjected to policies of systematic genocide perpetrated by the US, by England and by European powers. The left in these countries nevertheless has a history of calling for colonized people to unite behind an "anti-fascist front" that prioritizes the struggle against Nazis, because Nazis have historically targeted some groups who were European. In the current context of US politics--in which the US government and Israel manipulate the history of Nazism in Europe into support for US and
Zionist colonialism in the Arab world--a focus on organizing an "anti-fascist front" around opposition to neo-Nazis functions directly as a shield for the Zionists.
Is this really anti-racist solidarity? Is it anti-racist solidarity to mobilize people to protest a handful of Nazis in Boston, when the US government is right now killing thousands of Iraqis every month, and supporting the Zionist colonization of Palestinian land that aims at the total eradication of Palestinians as a people?
At a time when Arabs and Muslims are being subjected to extraordinary methods of repression to suppress their political voice in opposition to the escalated assault on their homeland--methods that have included mass detentions, secret evidence proceedings, detention without trial, rendition to foreign countries for the explicit purpose of torture--is it anti-racist solidarity to focus popular protest against a handful of neo-nazis, while Zionists are marching in Boston under the protection of Homeland Security?
We need an anti-racist movement that puts colonialism not at the periphery of the struggle, but at its center. It's with this focus that we should oppose all the racists who are assembling in Boston on June 18.
We hope to see you at Government Center this Sunday June 18th at 11 AM.