Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Our Eyes Turn Eastward....

Occupy Judaism bigwig Daniel Sieradski analogizes the eviction of Occupy Wall Street to Jewish exile, noting, of course, that "As Jews we know: Exile is not nearly the end." Yet all I could think of was that, having been exiled, perhaps Occupy Wall Street will share too in the Jewish experience of having many folks believe that exile was just, proper, and should be permanent, and express outrage and fury if Occupy Wall Street ever tries to return to New York or, indeed, exert any sort of political influence whatsoever.

In related news, the JTA has a good piece up on the continued marginalization of anti-Zionist groups as they attempt to hijack Occupy Wall Street for their own agenda. You can sense their frustration: one anti-Israel OWS member was furious that Stuart Appelbaum (president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and of the Jewish Labor Committee) was coordinating efforts to connect OWS with organized labor, and another complained of how "[v]ocal members of what many know as the 'progressive except Palestine'* demographic take over and obstruct expressions of solidarity with the Palestinians even when the majority in the larger group supports it."

This, of course, is simply self-aggrandizing -- Americans of all political stripes tend to consider themselves supporters of Israel, and the more radical one gets in opposing the Jewish state, the more one's positions tend to approximate those held by, well, about 1% of the population. When the claims are more modest (e.g., supporting the creation of a Palestinian state side-by-side Israel), they maintain much greater support -- but that includes the very mainline Jewish organizations these groups claim to be acting against (like the AJC). It is a bit of a shell game -- redefine radically polarized and fringe positions (like one-stateism, or support for BDS, or belief that the entirety of the present conflict is Israel's fault) as generic "criticism of Israeli policies", and use that to try and claim sweeping popular support. In reality, the third camp still dominates amongst Jews, and is disinclined to support the agendas of, much less be co-opted by, those inhabiting the radical left or right.

Obviously, the entire "99%" mantra is somewhat of a fiction, but OWS has done a decently good job of keeping its focus on issues that are directly related to the massive wealth disparities in this country and the effects that has on equal opportunity and achievement (the metric by which "the 99%" is measured), which carry with them consensus in the movement. There is no such consensus around the notion that Jewish self-determination is a radical injustice, nor is it clear that the 99% are particularly interested in obstructing that project, which diminishes any argument that either OWS or its Jewish subset should feel compelled to step aside on these issues.

* I really do love this term, mostly because I think the same thing about the speakers as they of me. Since we agree on things like "Palestinians deserve a state of their own", my so-called heresies are things like thinking that there should be both a state where Jews are the majority and one where Palestinians are, and that unique (and uniquely strident) opposition to Jewish self-determination (or even wrongs committed by Jewish institution) can be signs of anti-Semitism. In all other cases but Israel/Palestine, they recognize such standard anti-racist tropes like "letting historically marginalized groups define their own experience" and "minority groups can rightfully claim spaces of their own where they're in charge of their own destiny." When the topic turns to Jews, though, that progressive understanding magically evaporates.

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